DVDs at our rental house: (500) Days of Summer

There is nothing wrong with the plot of this movie until about the end where it tries to make up for the pretend cynicism that we're supposed to take as revolutionary for a romantic comedy and tacks on a kind of fairy-tale turn, though the secondary character, the love-interest, is the one who learns the lesson that is clearly the perceived reality in the film: fate, coincidence, etc. Okay, that's fine but then why did I have to sit through the rest of it? Especially because. . .

The problem with this movie is all the trimmings. Ignoring the fact that we have to sit through another manic pixie dream girl who is free and independent and terribly cute, it was so twee that it was hard not to play indie rock/hipster bingo. Bond over music, check. Oh, the Smiths? Check. Cute frocks that, no, you can't actually afford? Check. I know hidden parts of this grand metropolis? Check. Architecture is just about drawing pictures of buildings, just like every dream job? Check. BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE CHECK. Funny looking friends? Check. These people are how old? Check. FABULOUS APARTMENTS CHECK. MORE INDIE ROCK CHECK!

Also, precocious child as commentator has never worked for me, and this doesn't buck the trend.

Okay, I did like the part where the male lead sees Han Solo as his reflections because I'm pretty sure most guys wish they were Han Solo.

But this movie is not made for people like me. It is made for a different demographic, which is fine. I knew it going in, but I had heard enough to suggest it would have, like, cross-subcultural appeal. It did not. I would almost rather watch a regular romcom/dramedy or whatever this was because at least it isn't trying to pretend it's all that different from the mainstream.

DVDs at our rental house: Step Brothers & Open Range

Step Brothers was bad. It was just plain bad. I had heard from three disparate sources that it was going to be good. It wasn't. It felt like a series of jokes that didn't make the cut for the other Will Ferrell/Adam McKay collaborations, strung together by a stretched-thin plot. I would actually warn people away from wasting their time.

Stars: 0/5

Open Range. I haven't seen this since it was in the theater, and I remember being pretty enthusiastic about it. I'm happy to say that it has survived the years as a well thought-out Western that avoids the usual brouhaha of action films. It is instead about older people whose misspent pasts ensure that they have more to lose if they continue to play out their time left-- lifetime-wise as well the time they have left in a changing world as land is bought up and cordoned off. The cast is superb, and I know people give Kevin Costner a lot of shit, as they usually should, but he does a good job in this film as a taciturn trailhand employed by Robert Duvall, who plays a gruff codger type that I don't get tired of seeing Robert Duvall play.

Especially appreciated is the film's ability to use social norms (women and men's relationships, especially) in a neutral way, rather than highlighting the differences between our times and "then." This ensures the film isn't focusing on creating a world meant to comfort our own temporal position; rather, the attention to detail without playing it for big laughs or shock means the movie can use those fleshing-out notes without distracting from plot, character, or narration. Also, the palette is muted and works really well. Maybe it's because they're still using that color scheme, but it keeps it from looking dated, at least for the time being.

Stars: 4.5/5


Slow-motion reaction shots: The Fellowship of the Ring is a goofy fucking movie

I decided to take another DVD off the pile of movies the homeowners left here, and this time it was The Fellowship of the Ring. This time I'm going to watch it with a mature critical eye; a fair, even-handed approach.

But all I can tell you is that this is one goofy movie. I think this is a result of turning what isn't an action-adventure film into one. Whether or not this is about respecting the source-material, the pitfalls of shoehorning the story into a PG-13 action film is that you get far too many battle sequences; a host of unnecessary suspense building plot points (will Frodo die? No. . . we're only halfway through the film. And yet we have to watch Arwen be totally bummed that it looks like he is dead. And then again when he gets speared in the caves: what feels like 3 minutes of everyone looking really concerned. In Slow-Motion.); bad jokes-- ack, quips, even!; weird and corny voiceover and fades; oddly amateurish special effects in the Mirror of Galadriel scene. . . the list goes on. It is a film that should have been a bit more measured, a lot calmer, and unafraid to pace itself; I think taking its time in a narrative sense (it's plenty long) would have packed a harder punch. Time gets compressed significantly so that events tumble in on the heels of one another, as though the filmmakers decided the audience would never believe that any of this could happen over a month rather than twelve hours.

What's good about these films? The sets are stunning, particularly the art nouveau-influenced Rivendell. Howard Shore's score is brilliant. It packs a higher emotional punch than any of the soft-lit, sappy this-and-that the script requires from the actors. The casting is great in general.

But for the most part, it is a silly film. Sure, the source material is a bit silly if you take a couple of very large steps back and forget that you ever had an imagination. But it isn't silly like this. Pod orcs and OKAY because seriously, guys, there is like an extra 15 minutes of Cont Dooku and Gandalf having some sort of completely misguided breakdance/Jedi/old guy beatdown. There is no way to watch it without wincing. The audience doesn't need those sort of hijinks to understand that Saruman and Gandalf are badass. They can tell. They are played by Christopher Lee and Magneto. They wear robes. Long beards. Big sticks. We got it. Also, I don't have the book in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that the passage doesn't read "And then Cthulhu ATE THEM ALL." Because that's what The Watcher looks like, something crossed between Lovecraft and the Sarlacc Pit. Sometimes less is more, and the more left to the imagination, the more the movie makers trust the audience, the better.

If Father Ted had ever made it to. . . Pope Ted

[via] Yes, I am one of those people who thinks old people and priests using modern technology is. . . cute. (Pixar does too, I saw Up.) Even though they're bound to be way more savvy than me. While the actual story is a bit less colorful, the image of a bunch of Vatican officials using an iPad is so Father Ted-core I can't help it.


Listen. I've seen Law & Order SVU so I know what I'm talking about.

The Village Voice, which I've never been crazy about because I'm boring, is up in arms over an anti-child prostitution campaign by Demi Moore & Ashton Kutcher that cites what they've uncovered to be unsubstantiated data. They're campaign says that 100,000 to 300,000 children are being forced to work as prostitutes or in some other sex-related capacity, the Village Voice has found that this oft-quoted statistic is from a study that was identifying the amount of children at risk.

They offer up as an alternative the averaged 827 arrests per year. While I'm all for correct information and the compilation of as much data as possible and a perfectly informed public and legislature, and while I have no love for either Demi Moore or Ashton Kutcher (actually, the most interesting part of the article is about the PR/charity firm that helps celebrities put together these public causes, confirming once again that even the "best" intentions are always commercial enterprises), the writers of the article so clearly have an axe to grind that it's hard to take them seriously. And it's not even an axe against underage prostitution. They clearly just don't like Ashton Kutcher. It's not even-handed or even well-informed, and certainly not convincing. It's a rant against a few groups of people (celebrities, conservatives, anti-prostitution politicians, anyone who doesn't like the Village Voice). Even if it does offer up new information, it is only going halfway. You cannot offer up arrest records as an alternative data source for something that is illegal and underground. Even their graphic is clumsily worded, saying "Advocates Insist 100,000 to 300,000 American Juvenile Prostitutes Annually" (do what, annually? I assume "exist"; the benefit of not specifying is because those advocates use the statistic in several different ways)-- there is a word missing there, especially if you're making the comparison, as they are, directly underneath, to "Actual Underage Arrests Yearly: 827 Across America." It is wishful thinking on the journalists' (...) part that the actual number of children in this situation is matched by the arrests each year, and a strangely optimistic assessment of the efficacy of the police in quashing this problem. I welcome a broad-minded look into the numbers, but this article is not it. It's like if I came up to you and told you that I've looked at the arrest data and that's how I know not only how many people smoke weed, but also that only blacks and Hispanics smoke. With a straight face.


i use amazon because it's cheaper. not because i think they're santa.

"It seems like a lot of people who shop at Amazon believe that the site sells books more cheaply than your neighborhood bookstore out of the goodness of their hearts."

Really? I've never met anybody who has expressed this belief. Nobody believes that stores reduce prices because it must have hurt when they fell out of heaven, the other day. Jesus.

"I know affordability is an issue. But sometimes I think we’re so obsessed with getting stuff cheaply that we forget what we’re losing in the long run."

Here's what I lose in the long run if I don't get stuff cheaply: food. A roof over my head. Electricity. Running water. Not having these sorts of things sucks balls. Anybody who says "I know affordability is an issue" and then goes on to ignore how much difference three or four dollars makes does not know exactly what kind of issue it really is. My husband, a student, has racked up massive debt because he has to buy school books-- if we had to buy these books full price, much less Amazon's discounted price, we'd have at least a credit card debt that is three times higher and would also be paying directly out of pocket, immediately, rather than, as we are unfortunately doing now, off-setting the cost at the expense of later interest. Amazon Marketplace, which I am well aware does not exist out of the kindness of the company's heart, thank you, is a fucking lifesaver. Not only are we able to find academic books that often sell for upwards of $100 for 200 page books (and not glossy or hardcover or anything), but we can also sell them back if need be, often at 60 to 100% of the original cost.

I like bookstores. I love bookstores. I spend a lot of time in bookstores, and have done so since I was young. I still go to bookstores despite the fucking ridiculous music they pipe in. If I live somewhere without AC or heat, I go to bookstores. I love used bookstores because they too are affordable and, if you have the time, a treasure to browse in. Big bookstores offer bathrooms; that's really great. But not everyone has the luxury to put money into a cause.

Generally, I shop at used bookstores or Amazon Marketplace. I prefer both these options to independent new book stores and large retailer bookstores; this is purely for reasons of finances. I don't feel bad about hanging out in bookstores without making a purchase. I don't buy things unless I really want them.

"There’s value in a bookstore that Amazon can’t offer."

Yes, as of this moment, I have yet to figure out how to shoplift from Amazon. I'm just kidding. At least I don't pull a Bogie and go seduce the store clerk and drink whiskey ALL WITHOUT making a purchase. The nerve of some people.