Friday, February 27, 2009

Nuggets o' Stuff


I had a big Oscar wrap-up post written but, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, it’s now gone. So, to sum up my post that was written and has now turned into a series of bizarre symbols and incoherent words, let me say that this year’s Oscar ceremony was pretty damn entertaining. I just wish it was shorter, but that’s never going to happen. Those people in California must love it; out there the show ends at 9:00.

Stephen Page says he quit Barenaked Ladies this week, although, if you read between the lines of the press release, it’s pretty clear he was fired. As you might remember, Mr. Page was arrested for cocaine possession in 2008, right after Barenaked Ladies released a children’s CD. Whoopsie! Firing Page is an odd move for a band that’s relies so heavily on his writing and performing to survive. I’m guessing BNL won’t be around much longer.

I’m probably going to buy a Wii this weekend. Because I need another silly toy, I guess. You’d think I’d want to save money since our country is rapidly approaching a depression, but I need to play Mario Kart, dammit!*

Speaking of the economy, last night I sat down and wrote up a budget to see if I could afford the Wii. Thanks to the Netflix-like game rental service Gamefly, I can. Cable, however, is going to have to wait.

I love this Napster service. I’m listening to all sorts of indie rock albums that I’ve read reviews of on the A.V. Club but have never had a way to hear before. Sure, the majority of them are twee pieces of crap, but it’s still nice to be informed. Plus I can listen to cheesy 70s music without having to explain to others what “I Love You” by the Climax Blues Band is doing on my iPod.#

Guess who’s finally seeing Ben Folds in March? That’s right, me. He better do “Song for the Dumped.” Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I’m also more than likely seeing The Eagles. For the third time. No, I don’t know why.

My new contacts are super-powered. I can’t see through walls or anything, I can just see. I guess my eye doctor was right when he told me I needed new contacts. I spent half the day today looking around the office, wondering in amazement at the textures and colors I hadn’t seen in years. Maybe now I can drive around at night without nearly killing myself.

My new glasses aren’t too shabby, either. The little glasses girl at the eye doctor squealed when I put them on and said, “Cute!” which I’m taking as a good sign.

I start working on the ten-minute play festival Sunday night. I am directing two of them and starring in three, not to mention I wrote one of the entries. My play has been selected to close the evening, which is an honor. The show has been cast with Off Main Street Players’ Greatest Hits. I’m looking forward to working onstage with a lot of these people again. More updates on it as it happens.

*Mario Kart = Money. Mr. Nintendo has got to be filthy rich.

#Although, to be honest, “I Love You” by the Climax Blues Band is a hell of a good song. I wouldn’t be embarrassed if it was on my ‘pod.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Few Days of Oscar, Day Something: Best Director


Tonight I’m only covering one category, Best Director. Here are the nominees:

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Let’s work backwards. I loved the choices Van Sant made during the first half of Milk, goosing the conventions of the biopic a bit and adding some visual flair to the proceedings. Unfortunately, he stopped doing that midway through the film, turning it into another life story. A very interesting life story, but predictable nonetheless. Ron Howard is always a sturdy film director, and nearly every film he makes is enjoyable, fun and ultimately pointless. Frost/Nixon is no exception. While I enjoyed it as I was watching it, I’m hard pressed to remember anything that wasn’t in the trailer. (Although I do remember those “modern day” interviews with the characters, something Howard should have cut early in preproduction.) David Fincher has made some brilliant movies – last year’s Zodiac was criminally ignored at last year’s Oscar ceremony – but Benjamin Button isn’t one of them. The whole thing came across as a means to get Fincher an Oscar instead of a film that came from his heart. And the less said about Stephen Daldry’s The Reader the better. I have no idea why it’s even here since there was nothing unique or exciting about it. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is the true winner of this category. It’s no secret that I found the film to be ludicrous, but you have to give credit to Boyle for what he accomplished here. He gave the film a feel that totally belied its fairy tale story. He also kept the movie running at a quick pace, never once lingering too long or overstaying his welcome in a scene. My problems with the movie ultimately don’t matter, and I’m fine with him winning this award Sunday night.

SHOULD WIN: Danny Boyle.

WILL WIN: Danny Boyle. I wonder if the people who loved Slumdog saw Trainspotting? Both of them featured their main characters diving into a toilet, after all.

IGNORED: Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler. The screenplay is pretty awful, when you think about it. A washed-up wrestler looking for one more chance. The stripper with a heart of gold that he loves. His daughter who hates him because he was never around. And then there are the stock situations you’d expect in a movie like this, like the main character being locked out of his trailer because he can't pay his rent. And yet, Aronofsky made it all seem fresh and original. He also invented some cool sequences, like when the main character got a job in a supermarket deli and Aronofsky’s camera followed him from behind, into the battle of slicing meat. He also managed to get a realistic performance from Mickey Rourke who, let’s face it, isn’t exactly subtle. Aronofsky’s achievement is even more amazing when you look at the other films he’s directed: Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain. Each of those films are excellent in their own way, but they’re also examples of epic moviemaking. The Wrestler is the complete opposite: small, quiet and profound. I’m sad he wasn’t nominated because he would have won the damn thing.

Nine - I Mean Eight - Days of Oscar, Day 3, er, 5, um...


(Note: I spent my lunch hour at work Thursday writing this post. It wasn’t finished, so I put it on my flash drive to work on it at home last night. My flash drive decided to jump out of my gym bag, however, because it didn’t make it home with me. Which is why the post is happening now instead of yesterday. If it reads weird, that's why.)

Yeah, I’m behind already. I know. I’ve been pretty lazy the past few days with this blog thing. So, let’s catch up. For one thing, I’m dropping the bottom ten movies of the year. I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that unless you want to drive to Warsaw, Indiana, to kick the crap out of some horribly self-involved teenagers, I’d stay away from watching the “documentary” American Teen. A modern-day Breakfast Club it was not.

To catch up, let’s just combine the four acting awards in this post. Here are my thoughts one each:

BEST ACTOR
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Poor Frank Langella. In another year he would have taken this prize, hands down. His portrayal of Richard Nixon humanizes the man and doesn’t play into our usual Nixon stereotypes. It’s a great performance and easily makes the film better. (Although he doesn’t hold a candle to my favorite onscreen Richard Nixon, Dan Hedaya in Dick.) Richard Jenkins is always a reliable actor and it was nice to finally see him land a lead role after watching him steal scenes as a supporting actor in other films for decades. Too bad The Visitor was a bland movie, a message film that took a weird turn midway through and became a love story. I liked Brad Pitt’s performance in Benjamin Button more than others, but I still didn’t think it was award-worthy. That leaves Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke. Both of these performances are jaw-dropping in how great they are and it’s tough to choose between them. In the end, though, I have to go with Sean Penn since his is more of a performance. Watching The Wrestler you get the impression that the character – a washed-up wrestler who gets a second chance at fame – is very close to Mickey Rourke’s actual life. He is acting, of course, but I don’t think he’s acting very much. Penn, on the other hand, becomes Harvey Milk. Midway through the film you forget you’re even watching Penn. Instead, you think it’s Milk. That’s great acting, right there.

SHOULD WIN: Sean Penn.

WILL WIN: Sean Penn. The Academy loves Sean Penn and they’re frightened of Mickey Rourke. (The man spent the majority of his Golden Globes acceptance speech thanking his dogs. The Academy really, really hates weirdness of any kind.) Plus Penn’s performance allows them to feel like they’re making a timely statement, what with all that Proposition 8 stuff going on in California right now.

IGNORED: Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man. Sure, he got a nomination for Tropic Thunder, but I thought Downey’s crowning 2008 achievement was his work in this early summer blockbuster. He alone made the movie fun, giving the film a sarcastic, light feel. Downey kept the movie on its toes, so much so that you didn’t mind watching lengthy scenes of him playing around in his lab, testing out his superpowers. I wish the film had had more of a point – even with his performance a superhero movie should still have, you know, conflicts and stuff – but watching him work was a lot of fun.


BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

I haven’t seen Leo’s performance yet – although I’m going to try to do that before Sunday night – so I can’t comment on it. But she doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning. Same goes for Angelina Jolie. I liked her performance more than most, but you could easily boil her character down to one line: “I want my son!” Anne Hathaway had a lot of buzz a few months ago, but then I’m guessing people actually saw the pretentiously awful Rachel Getting Married and changed their minds about giving her an award for it. She was good, yeah, but she wasn’t amazing. Plus, that movie…ugh. Kate Winslet’s nomination for The Reader is curious, since her work in Revolutionary Road was stronger and more deserving of recognition. Not that she was bad in The Reader – Winslet’s never bad – she just wasn’t as good as she was in Revolutionary Road. Of these four performances that I’ve seen, though, Meryl Streep was the one that moved me the most. As a nun on a manhunt for a presumed pedophile, she starts the movie as a caricature and ends it as a tragic, devastated human. There’s a reason people continually praise Streep and shower her with awards. It’s time to give her another one.

SHOULD WIN: Meryl Streep.

WILL WIN: Kate Winslet. The Academy really, really, really wants to give Winslet an award, having nominated her many times before. And I would normally be fine with that, except her role in The Reader isn’t her best work. But it’s pretty much a given she’s taking home the award that night.

IGNORED: Naomi Watts, Funny Games. The movie is very unpleasant, basically an art-house version of those torture porn movies that crop up in multiplexes every other week. It is a smart film, but it’s made especially tolerable thanks to Watts’ naked emotions on display throughout pretty much the entire running time. One of the reasons I love Naomi Watts is that, unlike many of her peers, she has no problem looking ugly onscreen if the film needs her to. She spends a lot of this movie suffering in fear, mascara running, tears streaming down her face, snot running from her nose, etc. Could you imagine Nicole Kidman or Halle Berry doing that? The movie came and went in the spring of ’08 and she’s received nothing for it. Which is too bad, because it’s easily one of the most haunting performances I’ve ever seen.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Here’s the weird thing: I loved Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight until I recently rewatched Some Like It Hot and realized he stole about 90% of his performance from what Jack Lemmon was doing in that movie. The smile, the hand movements, the hair, pretty much everything came from Lemmon’s Daphne. That said, it’s still a great performance and I’m glad to see him included. At the very least he’s made Jack Nicholson’s campy, over-the-top performance in the 1989 Batman film moot. Michael Shannon was decent in Revolutionary Road, but his character existed solely to verbalize what the main characters were thinking. He was shoehorned into the story and his dialogue made no sense, but the guy did what he could with it. I’m still surprised to see him nominated, though. Josh Brolin has had a hell of a ride the past few years, giving excellent performances in a wide variety of films. His work here was fine but the film had no idea what to do with his character. He felt stranded to me, and his director and writer weren’t exactly helping him out. (What the hell was with that drunk party scene? Talk about random.) Robert Downey, Jr., was funny in Tropic Thunder and I’ll always be grateful for his character adding the phrase “Don’t go full retard” into my lexicon, but other than a few moments – and a killer Russell Crowe impression – I didn’t think he was as good as he was in Iron Man. Philip Seymour Hoffman, on the other hand, was pretty much perfect in Doubt. You’re not supposed to know if his character is guilty or not and Hoffman plays it perfectly. At one moment he makes you think he is…and the next he convinces you he’s not. It’s a tricky role, and he nailed it.

SHOULD WIN: Philip Seymour Hoffman.

WILL WIN: Heath Ledger. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Heath Ledger is dead. And apparently now he’s the best actor of all-time, even though he’s only given one other excellent performance in Brokeback Mountain. Ledger has won every single supporting actor award this year, so look for him to take one here as well. Also look forward to a ten-minute standing ovation when he does win, as Hollywood’s elite will want to show their affection for the man who starred in A Knight’s Tale and The Four Feathers.

IGNORED: Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading. The movie was a mess, but Pitt’s performance was hilarious. As a clueless gym rat involved in a blackmailing scheme, Pitt hit all the right goofy notes to make his character hilarious and oddly sweet at the same time. The rest of the actors – save for Richard Jenkins – decided to pitch their interpretations to the highest level possible, making the film the equivalent of watching someone scrape their nails on a chalkboard for 90 minutes. But Pitt, man, he was funny. It almost rivals the funniest performance he’s ever given, in 1993’s True Romance. Almost.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marissa Tomei, The Wrestler

I have another one I’ve yet to see, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, so I can’t comment on whether Penelope Cruz’s performance is award-worthy or not. And while I loved The Wrestler, Marissa Tomei’s character was right out of the Stock Film Characters 101: Stripper with a Heart of Gold chapter. I am curious what scene they’ll use as her film clip, since she pretty much spent the entire movie naked. I liked Taraji P. Henson’s performance in Benjamin Button, but I liked it more when Sally Field gave it originally in Forrest Gump. That leaves the Doubt ladies. Amy Adams was miscast in her role as a skeptical nun. Any film that covers up her natural spunkiness is criminal and you could tell she was trying way too hard to suppress it. That leaves Viola Davis. I’d never heard of Davis before this film, which is surprising because she’s incredible. She doesn’t have much screen time in the film, but she definitely leaves an impression. This is the weakest category of the four acting awards, but I would have no problem giving Davis the Oscar.

SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis.

WILL WIN: Penelope Cruz. She seems to have the momentum at this point and people do like her. Since she’ll never win for one of her native Spanish films, winning one for a Woody Allen film will have to do.

IGNORED: Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married. As the titular character, DeWitt had to put up with all her drug-addicted sister’s antics in this movie. What I loved about her performance was how she never hid the fact that she despised the Anne Hathaway character. You’d think that would make her unlikeable but, in a film filled with insufferable characters and situations, she actually came across as the most sensible and level-headed of them all. Even late in the film, when she came to care for Hathaway, she played it very realistically. I hated the movie, but I loved her performance.

There you go. Up next: The screenplay awards.*

*Well, they would have been next, had I brought my flash drive home with me last night.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nine - I Mean Eight - Days of Oscar, Day 4 (I Think) - Best Screenplays


I swear to you, I have been working on this project. For example, I spent my lunch hour today combining the acting awards into one long post. But it wasn’t finished – I wanted to proofread it some more before I sent it out into the world – so I saved it to a flash drive and threw it in my gym bag to work on it later. At least I thought I threw it in my gym bag. When I got home, no flash drive. Hopefully it’s still at work, because I really don’t want to have to recreate it. It was looooooong.

So let’s get this thing back on schedule. Today I’ll go over my thoughts on the two screenwriting awards.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Frozen River
Happy-Go-Lucky
In Bruges
Milk
Wall-E

I haven’t seen Frozen River or Happy-Go-Lucky yet, even though I’m very interested in both. I didn’t think Milk was very unique at all – it was your standard biopic screenplay, which isn’t necessarily original – and I find it kind of suspect that anyone could craft an original screenplay that purports to be the story of someone’s life. The guy obviously did a lot of research on the real Harvey Milk. And it wasn't some fictionalized version of Harvey Milk we were watching, that was clearly his story. It just didn’t feel right, nominating it in this category. And while I love Wall-E, it’s more of a visual story than a wordy one, so I’m hard-pressed to root for it here. That leaves In Bruges, a film that was a lot better than it should have been. While the trailer made it look like yet another Pulp Fiction retread, the script itself dealt with some pretty unique issues for its gangster characters. Plus it was damn funny. And it found a clever use for what I like to call the Independent Cinema Dwarf. (Indie films do like their dwarves.)

SHOULD WIN: In Bruges.

WILL WIN: Milk. The zero-to-hero aspect of the screenwriter’s real life story is too hard to resist. Plus there’s that whole Proposition 8 thing again.*

IGNORED: The Band’s Visit. This Israeli film packs a lot of punch into its 87 minutes. You’d think with a premise as cheesy as the plot to this film – an Egyptian band is stranded in an Israeli town and all kinds of hijinks occur! – that it would be unbearable. But the film is less concerned with fish-out-of-water jokes and more concerned with healing lost souls. OK, there are some fish-out-of-water jokes, but they’re a bit more subtle than, say, Crocodile Dundee. Apparently this film was ruled ineligible for all awards due to some bizarre Academy rule, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t praise it.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire


None of these scripts do much for me. Benjamin Button was written by the man who wrote Forrest Gump and it shows. The movie may as well have been called Forrest Gump 2: This Time a Hummingbird Symbolizes Life Instead of a Feather. Both Doubt and Frost/Nixon are adapted from plays and, while I’ve read neither play, both felt too opened-up to me. There were too many characters in each film, characters that were there simply there to elongate the running time. (This was especially true with Doubt.) The Reader was a bland movie and its inclusion here baffles me. That leaves Slumdog Millionaire, a film I had severe issues with, but a film I can respect for the way it told its story. It’s already shaping up to be Slumdog’s year, and if I had to give it an Oscar, I would give it one for its screenplay.

SHOULD WIN: Slumdog Millionaire.

WILL WIN: Slumdog Millionaire. Again, it’s going to be a Slumdog night.

IGNORED: The Dark Knight. Are you kidding me? The best superhero movie script ever – one that actually challenges its characters and makes them agonize over their decisions – and it gets ignored? That’s a crime right there. I’m not sure why the Academy had it in for The Dark Knight, but their snubs once again prove that they’re clueless when it comes to rewarding the movies that genuinely deserve it.

Tomorrow: Best Director. (And, possibly, the acting awards, if I can find them.)

*This will make more sense when you read the acting post.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nine Days of Oscar, Day 1: Top 10 of 2008


So, here’s the plan: Over the next nine days I want to talk about the films of 2008. While some of that will be personal favorites, mainly I’m going to post my Oscar picks for the year. The schedule, if I can stick to it, will look like this:

2/15 – Top Ten Movies of 2008
2/16 – Bottom Ten Movies of 2008
2/17 – Best Actor/Actress
2/18 – Best Supporting Actor/Actress
2/19 – Best Original Screenplay/Best Adapted Screenplay
2/20 – Best Director
2/21 – The Remaining Categories, Except For…
2/22 – Best Picture
2/23 – Oscar Thoughts

Usually I take care of this in one big post, but I need daily content, so I’m spreading it out. Let’s just call it suspenseful instead of a cop-out.

Anyway, before I can give my thoughts on the various Oscar categories, I have to tell you what I really liked this year and what I really despised. 2008 was a weird year for films. For the first time ever, I enjoyed more multiplex movies that art-house films. The majority of the art-house movies fell flat for me. None of them were particularly bad, they just weren’t that great. It’s a weird phenomenon, that’s for sure. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my list for the best ten movies of ’08:

01. WALL-E. The plot to this movie sounds atrocious – two robots fall in love – so credit must be given to director Andrew Stanton and his crew for making it anything but. Not only is it moving and packed full of great messages for the kiddies, but it’s also hilarious. The timing on some of the gags is spot-on perfect, even more incredible when you consider the damn thing is animated and that each frame had hundreds of people working on it. Pixar has only released a couple of mediocre movies in my opinion – Cars and Finding Nemo are my least favorite, although I’m in the extreme minority on the latter – and they’ve easily done it again with this film. A treasure.

02. THE WRESTLER. Mickey Rourke gives a phenomenal and lived-in performance as the title character, an over-the-hill wrestler who has to decide whether to risk his life by continuing to do what he loves. Director Darren Aronofsky usually makes huge spectacles with his movies (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Pi) and it’s amazing the restraint he employed. I think professional wrestling is a crock of shit and I was very moved by the film. Plus it has a kick-ass mix of late 80s heavy metal hits as its soundtrack.

03. MILK. Sean Penn disappears in this film, a biography on legendary gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk. He’s amazing. The film benefits from some timely headlines, what with the whole Proposition 8 thing going on in California right now, but after you look past that you see a masterful biography of a man whose story needed to be told. The film’s not perfect – it bungles the handling of Milk’s killer Dan White – but it comes close. It’s a moving story and masterfully directed by Gus Van Sant.

04. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. Yes, it’s stupid. Yes, it’s predictable. But, damn, is it hilarious. Hands down, this is the most I’ve laughed at any movie in the past year. There were times I was laughing so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes. We’re talking stomach-hurting laughter here. A total surprise, but a good one. I just wish it was a little shorter. And that they had excised that entire Dracula musical at the end, which everyone in the world seemed to love but me.

05. THE DARK KNIGHT. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a Batman movie would crack my top ten. Especially when I thought Batman Begins, the film preceding this one, was ponderous and extremely overrated. But director Chris Nolan delivered a crackerjack film here, one with some pretty heavy themes (personal responsibility, good and evil residing in the same person, etc.) and excellent, clear action scenes. Much has been written about Heath Ledger’s performance, most of it true. He’s a revelation here, full of uncomfortable energy and creepy mannerisms. Jack Nicholson’s version of the Joker – once lauded for pretty much the same reasons – has officially been rendered moot. As has the 1989 film that started it all.

06. YOUNG AT HEART. A documentary about a chorus of elderly people who sing primarily rock and roll songs, this film was a lot more moving than I expected it to be. The trailer was funny in a let’s-poke-fun-at-the-old-codgers kind of way, but the movie deals with these chorus members as human beings, never looking down on them or condescending towards their love of singing. Being elderly, of course there are some health issues and some deaths involved, and each feels like a tragic blow. There’s also a tender performance of Coldplay’s “Miss You” that will make you sob. Hearing them sing various Talking Heads songs is a treat as well.

07. THE CHANGELING. Popular consensus is that Clint Eastwood’s other 2008 film Gran Torino was the better movie, but I strongly disagree. That film had some great scenes, don’t get me wrong, but The Changeling is strong from pretty much top to bottom. It’s also one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen. It’s brutal, this movie, and not for the squeamish. Eastwood handles the mixture of suspense and drama expertly, and he’s ably supported by his cast of (largely unknown) actors, all of whom perfectly fit their roles. And even though it’s not the most uplifting of movies, you still leave feeling satisfied and not depressed, an enormous feat given the plot of the film.

08. I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG. This French film contains an excellent performance from Kristen Scott Thomas as a woman recently released from prison after serving fifteen years for murdering her son. Usually movies like this go one of two routes: They either become shrill screaming fests where the characters shout their motivations to one another or they get bogged down in the reason why the ex-con did what she did. While there is some screaming towards the end, this film is mostly about a woman rediscovering her family after a long absence. It’s a quiet, believable film, and while it’s too concerned with wrapping everything up neatly, for the most part it’s a joy to watch. At the very least it makes me wish Thomas would act more. I rarely dislike her in anything she does.

09. FROST/NIXON. This film is worth seeing for the acting alone. Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon and Sam Rockwell are all fantastic with their respective roles. It’s a shame that only Langella was nominated for an Oscar, since I feel that any of the above listed actors deserved a nod. The film is opened up from a play and, while the seams show at times, it never strays too far from its source material. I could have done without director Ron Howard’s “present-day” interviews with the characters, but other than that the movie’s a breezy, interesting look at a bizarre moment in presidential history.

10. BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER. Another documentary, this one dealing with steroids. Filmmaker Chris Bell never takes sides on the issue, instead laying out the facts both pro and con on steroid use. What makes the film unique is that Bell has two brothers, both of whom actively use steroids and have no problems discussing their usage of them on camera. This personal, human touch invests you into the film, especially when Bell’s parents get involved and learn about their sons’ steroids use. While it isn’t as successful when it dives into Michael Moore territory – really, there was no point to witnessing him create his own line of supplements – at least those moments are few and far between. It’s also one of the best films to use clips from other movies to hilarious benefit. It makes a great companion to The Wrestler, that’s for sure.

Other films I saw in 2008 that I enjoyed were (in alphabetical order) Gran Torino, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Pineapple Express, U2 3D, W. and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It wasn’t a terribly strong year for movies, but at least that means it won’t be hard to come up with ten films I didn’t like for tomorrow’s list. Stay tuned for that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Party Time! Excellent!


What do you think of the new logo? Pretty cool, huh? It’s amazing what you can do with a DVD-ROM drive, a copy of Wayne’s World, and Microsoft Paint.

I wish I could get it to fit within that box, but I think it looks fine for now. Gives me something to fix later.

While I was uploading the image, I also upgraded my Blogger software to give me more control behind-the-scenes. I dabbled with changing the layout as well, but all the standard blogging templates just made my site look so…gay. Like “Oh, look at all the pretty green colors!” kind of gay. I know white-text-on-black-background is so 1997, but I like the look of it. Call it old school.

If you look on the archives list, you can now see how many times I posted each year. For example, it looks like I only updated 25 times in 2008. That’s twice a month. Pathetic.

I’m going to add a blog role soon. I figure since some of my friends have featured me on their blog roles – Andie, Samantha – I may as well repay the favor. Hopefully that will be done this weekend.

Big changes at Waye’s World. See, I’m trying to keep my promise.

Favorite Wayne’s World lines:

“Stacy, I don’t even own a gun, let alone many to necessitate a rack. What am I going to do with a gun rack?”

“Why do they come to me to die? Why do they come to me to die?!?!?!?”

“Hey there, Mr. Donut Head Man.”

“Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he dressed up as a girl bunny?”

“She will be mine. Oh, yes, she will be mine.”

It’s been ages since I’ve seen that film. May need to watch it again soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pinned Between A Bank And A Hard Place

For whatever reason, my bank cancelled my credit/debit card a few weeks ago because of a perceived threat to their database or something. The letter provided with my new card was pretty slim on the details. All I know is that my old card was immediately voided, putting me in the awful position of having to re-send my account information to everyone who needs it. Getting a new credit card ten years ago wasn’t a big deal. Now, with all the paperless accounts I have, it’s a freaking nightmare.

Anyway, as I said, the card functions as both a debit and a credit card. I use the debit card whenever I need to pull money out of the A.T.M., which I had to do today. I put the card in the machine and punched in my pin. DENIED! Thinking I typed it incorrectly, I put the card in the machine and tried again. DOUBLE DENIED! It was then I realized the fuckers had reset my pin when they issued me a new card. Would have been nice if they had told me.

So I went inside the one branch of my bank within a 50 mile radius of my house. (Note: This does not make going to the A.T.M. convenient. But everything is totally free due to a work benefit, so I don’t really complain. Although it is a bitch when I run out of cash on the weekend.) The teller was on the phone with a customer who was experiencing the same exact problem I was having. Thank God I wasn’t alone in this nightmare. Once she got off the phone, I explained to her that I was also having problems with my new card and pin…and she proceeded to not help me at all. Apparently, the bank can’t reset a pin number for their own bank-issued credit/debit card. No, instead I have to call some pin activation number. She did warn me that I might have to jump through a lot of hoops because I gave the incorrect pin twice in the A.T.M. Never mind the fact that I didn’t know my pin had been reset in the first place. Oh, and I have to call the pin activation center from my home phone or else they, you got it, stop my credit card. Thanks, bank!

Look, I’m all for protecting people from identity theft, but this is crazy. At least the credit portion of the card still works…for now. I’m sure they’ll find a way to block it soon, too, rendering me hopeless when I need to pay for something this weekend.

I’m hoping my bank gets some of that bailout money so they can buy some common sense.

On the plus side, I met with my deferred comp representative today and put more money into my 401(k). Only 30 years until I retire!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bronchitis In Pocket


My plan was to write about the Pretenders concert I was going to tonight at the Murat Theatre. I spent all day psyching myself up for the show, going over many Pretenders songs in my head. I also wondered how Chrissie Hynde would try to provoke the audience like she always does. (The first time I saw them she went on a five minute tirade against George W. Bush. Kind of an odd thing to do in Indiana and hardly anyone appreciated it. I thought it was hilarious.) I changed into more rock-show-appropriate attire after work - jeans, my Sketchers, a blue sweater I like that says, "I might be old, but at least I'm comfortable" - and went to grab some food at Moe's before heading to my friend's house to pick her up. When I was five minutes from her house, my phone rang. It was my mother.

"Did you know the Pretenders concert has been cancelled?"

Shit.

Apparently, Chrissie Hynde has bronchitis. She must have just contracted bronchitis here in Indianapolis, because had my mother not called I would have driven all the way to the Murat. Sure, when I got home I had many e-mails and automated phone messages from Live Nation telling me that the show had been cancelled (or postponed), but as of 5:00 I had heard nothing. You'd think if she was so sick that a cancellation might be neccessary they'd know a bit sooner, like, say this morning. I've never had bronchitis, but I don't think it suddenly appears, like the stomach flu.

As of right now they're saying the show will be rescheduled. It's a 50/50 crapshoot if that will actually happen. Looking at their tour schedule the earliest they could add dates would be mid-March. It's all going to depend on how many shows they shut down. Just our show? Not a chance they'll make it up. 5-10 shows? Maybe, but doubtful. With this economy, it'll cost them a small fortune to wind their way back here just to make up the missed date(s). I'm guessing I'll be getting a refund for those tickets.

At least I've seen them before, so I'm not terribly disappointed. Still, "Middle of the Road" kicks ass live and I was looking forward to hearing it tonight.

The night was not a total loss. Jeff, Aggie and I hung out at their place all night long. Having lived in Los Angeles for a few years, Jeff gave me many tips on where to find some cool sites off the beaten path. He also informed me that where I'm staying - Reseda - is where they shot many of the outdoor scenes from various Paul Thomas Anderson films. He gave me explicit directions on how to get to both the disco from Boogie Nights and the bar from Magnolia. There's a good possiblity I'm going to geek out a lot while I'm there.

Jeff and I are also thinking of starting a monthly film podcast since we're both extreme movie geeks. More on that later, if it happens.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Change Will Do Me Good


I've officially made 2009 a year of change. Hell, I figure if we can elect a president who promises to change this country for the better, the least I can do is make a difference in my own damn life. So I've made a list - with the help of the really cool site 43 Things - of goals I want to accomplish.

Let's start with why you're here: I want to update this blog more often. I feel like I keep jerking you guys around, posting like crazy for a week or two and then abruptly disappearing for months without a trace. And I know people read this thing, because I'll usually get 1-2 e-mails begging me to update when I stop. That's flattering, and the least I can do is oblige. So I'm really going to try to write more. Seriously. Even if it's just one paragraph, I'll try to keep it current. And if not, I'm electing my sister to keep me on my toes. Val, if I don't update after five days, you are now to harass me until I do. Remember those e-mails you used to send me in college, the ones that I never replied to? Remember how you would write stuff like, "Oh, I guess I don't have a brother anymore?" Yeah, start that up again if I vanish.

(Oh, and for whatever reason I had disabled the RSS link in the configuration settings, making Waye's World ineligible from being looked at in an RSS reader. That's since been fixed. All of you with Google Reader or Bloglines or whatever should now be able to add it as a subscription.)

I also want to travel more. I get four weeks of vacation each year and I always say, "I want to travel more." And then I use those four weeks to sit on my ass in Fishers. No more. I've already planned my first trip of the year, to Los Angeles in March. Even though I've been to L.A. twice in my life, it's been ten years since I was last there and, to be honest, I didn't really explore the city much at that time.# Hopefully I'll be able to update while I'm there, helping me tackle two goals at once. Synergy!

And then there's the money thing. This is kind of tricky, since, of course, setting a goal to travel more means spending money, but I think I have it figured out. My main "pleasurable" expenses^ are DVDs and CDs. I've decided that from now on I'll be buying - and selling - used DVDs on Amazon, saving me tons of cash in the process. And today I signed up for Napster. For $13 a month I'll have access to 7,000,000 songs that I can stream whenever and wherever I want. I figure I'll start doing that more than buying, although I'll still pick up discs from my favorite artists the day they go on sale.+

Of course, I still have the usual goals, like losing weight and learning how to play the guitar and all that. I've been working on the weight thing since the beginning of the year.* And even though I go to bed starving most nights, it's been worth it. I moved another notch on the belt this morning, so I must be doing something right.

Learning how to play the guitar...yeah. Haven't really worked on that yet. Hey, change is gradual! It doesn't happen all at once!

So, there you go. See you next update...in six weeks. I kid, I kid. Hopefully you'll hear from me tomorrow. Next day at the latest.

And, no, I don't know how that picture fits this post. It just makes me laugh. It also makes me hungry.

# I went to visit a friend who was living in Orange County at the time. We went to L.A. but our main destination was Vegas, baby, Vegas. Oh, and we also played that N64 Goldeneye game for hours on end.

^ Or, wastes of money.

+ No one's going to stop me from buying a new Bruce Springsteen CD the day it comes out, not even Mother Nature. I drove through a snow storm a few weeks ago to pick up Working on a Dream.

* I was forced into this after seeing some backstage Follies pictures from November. Christ, I looked like a beached whale. Never again.