It’s been a pretty cool year. I’ve learned a lot of things, changed a few things I’m doing, laughed a lot.
May 2013 be as fabulous as 2012 has been!Read More
The opening of Argo recaps modern history between Iran and America: we wanted their oil, we crapped on their politics in order to be sure we’d get that oil, and in 1979 the people had finally had enough and kicked our puppet dictator, the Shah, out. When Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to come to the US for medical treatment, furious Iranians took out their anger on the American Embassy, and we got the endless hostage standoff.
Argo is the story of the six Americans from the embassy who managed to flee during the takeover and hide out in the Canadian ambassador’s residence. The Iranians are very close to figuring out they don’t have all the Embassy employees they should have. If the Iranians find out the Canadians have the Americans, there’s going to be hell to pay. The Canadian government is going to close down their diplomatic mission anyhow, because the chaos is spreading and pretty soon all North Americans are going to be in the line of fire. The American government can’t do anything overt without inflaming the situation further, so the guys at State come up with plans to get the six Americans out. Such as, they can bicycle their way across Iran.
The experts over at the CIA — such as director and star Ben Affleck — tell the State Department those plans are DOA, and if they go through with it, the Americans are DOA too. At which point the challenge comes: “You have a better idea?”
Hollywood loves having itself portrayed as the good guy, so I expect that this movie has a good shot at being Best Picture next year. I haven’t seen Lincoln and I know perfectly well Big Epic About War And Race is always a lock, but Small Action Pic About Middle East Turmoil is pretty damn relevant too.
There are absolutely no surprises in this movie: there’s a Big Problem, there’s a Big Plan, nobody believes in the Big Plan except the little guys, there are hitches in the plan, but since we know to a T what the plan is we in the audience know how well it’s succeeding.
This movie works so damn well because of 3 things:
There’s no extraneous character stuff. There’s no derring-do at the CIA (talk about your office job). Argo is reminiscent of the political thrillers of the 70s in more than just art direction (which is awesome, and have I mentioned recently how much the 70s sucked?), and it’s a nice change of pace from the bloated, moronic “political” thrillers that we usually get.Read More
The best thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is: not only can you not trust what anyone else thinks, you sure as hell can’t trust what you think.
Except for that bit of wisdom. That, you can trust.
Yesterday, I went running. I think I’ve gone running three times this week. My running schedule has been sporadic since summer (read: if I run more than once a week, it’s an awesome running week), but I know I have to keep it up, because I learned something very, very important about running. It keeps my mood even. Running has worked better than any psychoactive drug for keeping me cheerful and upbeat.
I went running with Rob at Rancho, and we had a pretty good run and I felt great about it, both physically and in terms of endorphins earned.
Today, I used Freedom and turned off my computer for four hours. I got so much done in terms of applying butt to chair and getting stuff done that I realized I really have to make an Applescript that simply runs Freedom at 9am every weekday and turns off the Internet for four hours. I love it when I have a really productive writing day.
So, to recap: I ran yesterday, and I had a great writing day today. Anyone want to guess how I’m feeling right now?
That’s right: like crap. I have the voices in my head telling me…well, telling me all those things that your voices probably tell you. It can be summed up as “Everything you have ever done is wrong, and you’re a bad dancer to boot.” The kind of voice cacophony where it becomes hard to breathe.
The first thing I have to do is remember: You can’t trust your own thoughts. They’re just thoughts. Just because you’re having them doesn’t make them any more or less true than any other thoughts. There are days when I think I’m a damn snappy dancer, I’ll tell you that. (Those days are rare, because in point of fact I’m not a good dancer, and I’m okay with that, frankly. No part of my ego is dependent on my ability to feel the rhythms.)
The second thing I have to do is what I call a systems interrupt for my brain. I think various branches of psychology or pop psychology call this process by different things. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the mystery schools called it some variant on a spell or incantation. Which seems fair, because this technique works wonders.
Okay, so you’re having one of these bad days, where all you can do is focus on every single thing you’ve ever done wrong (or failed to do at all). What you say inside your head is:
Thanks for saying that, brain. Now shut the fuck up.
Say it out loud if you have. Say it a lot. Say it until the voice in your head shuts the fuck up. Say it every time the voice pipes up.
This process works. The first time I heard about it, I thought, Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I swear to you, since I started doing this a few years ago, since I began immediately talking back every time the voice said anything, bad days have gotten a whole hell of a lot rarer. (Which is why a day like today is really such a bummer — I’ve forgotten how to deal with them.)
You have to take control of your own thoughts. They’re not particularly true just because you’re having them, and they can be discarded.
And make sure you’re getting a decent amount of aerobic exercise. At least walk a few times a week. There really is something to the whole endorphin theory of emotional management.Read More
Basically, I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If he’s in a movie, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it more than I might otherwise. Brick, The Lookout, 500 Days of Summer (a movie that depended on you liking him, if Zooey Deschanel is not your cup of tea), 50/50, Inception.
Also, Bruce Willis: he’s smug, he’s annoying, and he’s been known to sleepwalk through a movie. But he’s still a movie star: his sleepwalking tends to be much more interesting than most actors doing their full-out acting.
Plus: a science-fiction story with time travel! Who wouldn’t love this?
In the future, time travel has been invented and then made illegal, which means only the Mob is using it. (Of…course.) They send people they want dead back 30 years in time to 2044, where Loopers kill the marks and then dispose of a body in a time period where no one would be looking for the body. Eventually one of the marks sent back will be the 30-years-older version of the Looper, at which point you collect a big payday and realize you now have 30 years to live.
Caveat #1: do not think about this premise too hard. You do have to allow them the premise, though, because that’s the whole foundation of the movie.
Caveat #2: there’s another element to this movie that I think waters down the premise a little. However, since the movie depends on both caveats being true, it’s not like they could change this.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a young guy who kills marks and then gets high all day. The dystopia of 2044 is pretty bleak, and you can imagine that you might spend all your time getting high if that’s where you had to live. His future self, Bruce Willis, gets sent back in time, and Joe doesn’t kill him. Chaos ensues.
Gordon-Levitt does an amazing interpretation of a young Bruce Willis. He’s not doing a full-on Bruce Willis imitation; there’s just a few things sprinkled here and there. I completely believed Gordon-Levitt would grow up to be Willis. He’s good. The other actors in the movie–like Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano–are also good, even in small roles. There’s one newcomer, Pierce Gagnon, who I thought was scary-remarkable.
It’s a good thing they got such good actors, because the characters are actually the weakest part of the movie. Every character has a good actor and some tics. Believe me: if a character has one tic, you are going to see it fourteen more times. I would have preferred a little more depth to any of the goings-on.
And be warned: This movie is ridiculously violent. I guess that goes along with the setup. Wow, did I close my eyes several times.
On the way home, Darin and I discussed the plot some and why we weren’t more thrilled about the movie (which is very good, but not the 10 we’d both been expecting). And I think it is because of the time travel elements that you shouldn’t think about too hard. Because the second you do think about them, the punch of the ending (I sure hadn’t known what to expect) fades away.
On the other hand, right now it’s a few days after we saw it and I can still tell you the whole story. I bet I’d miss few if any plot points. Which is a sign of a really tight story, and boy howdy, do we not see enough of those these days.Read More
As I’ve mentioned before, we no longer have a cable/satellite TV setup. We either watch older series on Netflix Streaming or we buy current series off of iTunes. (And the price for internet connection + TV shows roughly works out to the price for a monthly cable bill with HBO, and this way we don’t have TV flooding in our house unchecked.)
So we are always looking for new shows to watch together. if something sounds half interesting, we download a show or two, check it out, and then buy the series.
One that we started watching is Being Human, the UK version.
Being Human story of a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost (and eventually, the werewolf’s girlfriend) who all live together and the problems and/or hilarity this causes. Annie, the ghost, is too damn “nice” for her own good. Mitchell, the vampire, is at war with his own baser, bloodier urges. And George, the werewolf, is a regular guy who finds himself with a completely unwanted and brutal power. (Reportedly the original inspiration for this story was the writer wanted to have a sex addict, an agoraphobe, and a person with anger management issues living together. I’m not sure I believe this. It’s a great story, though.)
The actors were all pretty good without having that too-beautiful-for-you thing that American TV actors always have. We’d seen the guy playing George the werewolf, Russell Tovey, in a couple of other things and already really liked him — he has the likable everyman thing nailed down. And I adore Lenora Crichlow’s hair. In general, the show’s story lines were always interesting…although UK TV dramas can be deeply frustrating in a few ways. Possibly because they have to fill 57 minutes instead of 42. One thing you have to admit for Hollywood, they have cracked the damn formula for how to make satisfying TV and movies. British shows can be wildly uneven in their drama, coming up with interesting situations and characters, only to let them drop, or not really use them, or weaken them at the last moment.
(Or even worse, moments that are completely not earned by what’s come before. The end of the first series of Being Human made me crazy for exactly this reason: the ghost, Annie, has been completely victimized by another character. She has been a complete doormat. And at the end of the season, she whispers something in the bully’s ear that creates utter and complete terror. Um, no. Sorry, that’s not fair. You have to tell us what she said. And I think the writers know there’s nothing she could have said, and so they cheated by having her whisper something.)
Despite going back and forth on how much we liked the show overall, we bought and watched the first three series.
And then came the surprise at the end of the third series. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.
Followed by the related surprise at the beginning of the fourth series.
I’m being oblique for a reason (in case you haven’t seen it). Let’s just say that most shows would simply close up shop at this point.
But they didn’t. Instead, they added a few new interesting characters. Including this guy:
His name is Damien Molony, and if there is any justice in the world, you will be hearing his name a LOT in the future.
This is a show about a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire living together, right? I love SF/F shows but I accept that there’s a basic line of ridiculous in them. I am amazed at how the actors in these shows can deliver most of the lines without cracking up.
In episode two (I think) of the fourth series Molony, as the vampire Hal, said something that made no sense. If you read it in a book, you’d probably snicker about how completely ridiculous it was. But seconds later in our living room the conversation went something like this:
Who is this guy?
I have no idea. He’s amazing.
How did he do that?
According to IMDb, this is like this guy’s first job.
(According to this interview, it really is his first job.)
It’s actually a little unfair, when one of the actors in a show is so much better than everything else going on around him, but I swear to God, this one guy made Being Human go from “Well, okay, let’s watch this” to “I must see the next episode NOW.” I think it’s the only time I’ve been annoyed that there are so few episodes in a season of a British show.
And despite how the fourth series ended — let’s just say there was a setup in the overarching plot for the season that a US show would find a loophole in and then resolve very, very differently — I cannot wait for the fifth series.
The fourth series isn’t on Netflix Streaming yet, but the first three are, so you can catch up on them while waiting for the fourth to be posted.
I stumbled across this oh-so-familiar quote today, and thought: Yup, still true.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.