Jul 17, 2010

Why would anyone want to dislike 'Inception'?

 (Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros.)

Why do I do this to myself?  What is the point?  I've seen the sort of hate that spews onto the internet when a professional film critic like David Edelstein publishes a negative review of a movie everyone is dying to see.  People want him dead.  Or at least fired.  He is an "unprofessional" "retarded" "arrogant" "pretentious" "school yard bully," about as "useful as a poopy flavoured lollypop," and—even worse—he's "worse than Armond White."  His sin is simple: he disliked Inception, and was brazen enough to say that he was frustrated by the near-fanatical Hype surrounding what he believes to be a "clunky and confusing" movie.

Also, he disliked The Dark Knight, therefore he must be bad.

The thing is, I thought Edelstein's review in New York Magazine was well-reasoned, honest, and articulate.  His confusion and frustration is clear, and I think it's appropriate (if not downright necessary) to address the Hype head-on; to ignore it would have been to pretend he wasn't aware of what was going on around him; namely, that Inception was quickly becoming the most talked-about movie of the summer (of this new decade?), long before it ever reached theatres. 

Who among us hasn't been in this position before, utterly baffled by the near-unanimous response (positive or negative) to a popular movie, a response that we simply cannot agree with?

I have not seen Inception.  I can't speak to the details of Edelstein's opinion of the movie (though I can admire his prose; when he marvels that Marion Cotillard is "clock-stoppingly gorgeous," it seems both an efficiently handsome and subtly informative phrase).  But here's the thing: when I finally do see Inception, I want to dislike it.

...I think.


It's not that I like being contrarian (a label that has lately been tossed in the direction of both Edelstein and Toy Story 3-hater White as if it were the greatest indignity).  The more great movies that exist in this world, the better.  And the more people that see and like those great movies, well, that's pretty great, too.  So with this fresh, new, and (possibly) exhilarating and inventive movie on a silver platter in front of me, why would I want to send it back?  Am I just a mindless part of the new New Media cycle, fulfilling the prognostications of an impending and inevitable backlash?

In a word, yes.

I want to have an honest reaction to Inception.  If it's thrilling, I want to be thrilled.  If it's mysterious and confusing but ultimately thought-provoking, I want to be provoked.  I don't want my reception to be skewed by some external force, as part of a shifting movement toward Hype (as represented not just by applauding mainstream film critics [like Roger Ebert—always level-headed] but more so by the zealous fans who so fiercely and single-mindedly attacked David Edelstein).  I don't want to be in a position where I've either got to align myself with one camp or another; I don't want to camp at all.

But the volume of both sides (though especially the fervor of fanboys and fangirls) is obstructing my non-partisanship, and making it impossible to enter the movie theatre open-minded.  I am actually weary of Inception without having ever seen it.  This seems an especially relevant problem for a movie that, for all intents and purposes, should be unabashedly new and unfamiliar.

I do not blame this on the fans—die-hard or casual—of Inception.  Nor do I blame the media, at least not directly—Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule intelligently dissects the Los Angeles Times' Patrick Goldstein's response to the Edelstein brouhaha, whereas Jim Emerson, on his Scanners blog, laments the release of a movie's reviews before the release of the movie itself, and the trouble this causes.

The blame, I think, lies squarely on the cash culture of Hollywood, where exorbitant advertising budgets for studio tentpole releases (some estimates I've seen put Inception's advertising budget well above $150 million) and the need for a big return on opening weekend have created a culture based around the bandwagon.

I don't want to speculate how many millions of dollars Inception is making right this minute, but it's a lot.  Hollywood feeds (and feeds off of) a culture that creates outsiders out of people who miss this weekend's Next Big Thing; to be sufficiently in the loop, I've got to spend $10 and see Inception NOW (the laws of Facebook and the trends of Twitter nearly demand it).

Is it such a bad thing to recognize this manipulation and actively oppose it?  No.  But... Who pays the price if I do?  Me, or Inception?

For several reasons, Inception has connected with a huge audience, and did so well before this audience even had a chance to see the actual film.  The Hype is huge; it just goes to show that $150 million spent correctly will get people's attention.  But the immensely positive response also suggests that maybe Inception is just a really good movie that a lot of good people (and some bad ones) really, really like.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

In a fair-minded and slightly bemused piece from NPR, Linda Holmes wonders how we've come to a point where we demand unanimous assent from our film critics.  That seems wholly misguided, she argues, because while art may not be entirely objective, by it's very nature it should allow space for "individual sensibilities" and personal preference.  When we get stuck on aggregate scores from sites like Rotten Tomatoes, we lose an important piece of the discussion.  "There's no destination that criticism is trying to reach," she writes, "where if we all get smarter and fairer and we all 'get it' (oh, how desperately we need to rid ourselves of the language of 'getting it'), we'll wind up rating everything either 100% or 0%."

My conundrum: If I enjoy Inception, I'm just like everybody else.  Which I don't like.  But if I dislike Inception because of that, I'm just a reactionary, intent on being unlike everyone else—which is just a bandwagon of a different color.  But if I genuinely dislike Inception because I find it's not very good, well, like David Edelstein, I must be an "idiot."

I'm lost in my thoughts.  This is a head trip worthy of Christopher Nolan.

Apr 16, 2010

Jedi Shmedi! Give Me Scum & Villainy!

In celebration of 30 years of The Empire Strikes Back and the galaxy's greatest Bounty Hunters (Boba Fett, Bossk, IG-88, 4-Lom, Zuckuss, and to a lesser extent, Dengar), here are the hired guns' best moments from Robot Chicken's most recent Star Wars special.

Apr 11, 2010

How I'd Spend My Summer Vacation (if I had one)

For every 10 minutes I spend playing a video game, six new games are being born (real statistic). Granted, most don't even catch my attention, but there's always a gem or two (or 8) I anticipate on a yearly basis. Most of the following are rooted in existing franchises, therefore, have the benefit of the doubt. Slap Castlevania or Metroid in front of something, I'll likely buy it on the spot (with a few exceptions). So in order of release date (that way you'll know when to buy them for me...or for yourself...AND me), LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Red Dead Redemption (May 18): Not sure how to feel about a western video game? Go watch 3:10 to Yuma and The Proposition then try to imagine a Quentin Tarantino remake of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Throw in this trailer of gals that would put Annie Oakley to shame, and pard'ner, you got yerself a customer.

Transformers: War For Cybertron (Jun 22): Now that The Transformers have been sodomized and will forever be synonymous with Michael "That's right, I fucked your childhood in the ass" Bay, I'm blown away to see a TF game that isn't a movie tie-in. Although, this could be trickery and upon loading the disc an image of Bay appears on screen with Optimus spread eagle in front of him. Watch this and mourn what a Transformers movie could have been.

Metroid: Other M (Jun 27): The Metroid Prime games are fun, but I'd take Super Metroid any day. So why not fuse the two? Oh wait, that's exactly what Team Ninja did! The look and feel of a side scrolling Super Nintendo game that's been given a Wii makeover. I'll take it!

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (TBA 2010): I mentioned I'd buy anything with Castlevania attached to it. Add Patrick Stewart to that list. This one speaks for itself. You either know Castlevania or you should know Castlevania.

If you're not thoroughly satiated, maybe one of these are more to your liking:

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (May 23), Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Jun 29), and for those seeking the beautiful marriage of retro and new, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Mega Man 10 (both available via WiiWare & Xbox Live)

Apr 2, 2010

Remember when Tom Cruise & Penélope Cruz were a thing?

Oh yeah. That happened.

But just because it really happened doesn't mean it makes any logical sense. It's like thinking about the Holocaust--I mean, you know it happened (unless you're one of those Holocaust deniers, but I don't think you are), even though it's nearly impossible to rationally conceptualize. Did I just compare the pairing of Cruise/Cruz to the single most devastating event of the 20th Century? Yes.

I mean, why on earth would this honest-to-God Spanish goddess ("it's French for goddess") and future Oscar® winner canoodle with that Oprah®-freak-outter? Look at Oprah®’s face!

(A Google search for Tom Cruise+crazy yields 1.75 million results, while Oprah+crazy turns up over 3 million. It's all relative.)

The world sure was a different place back in 2000-early 2004.

This now concludes your random thought of the day!

Not quite! I would totally have a threesome with any two of the following three:

Also, according to this "news" report, Cruz apparently went on to make a movie called Sahara. Story developing...

Mar 29, 2010

Owls, Dragons, and Iron Men...Oh My!

Can you remember seeing a movie trailer you weren't expecting to see? For example, it's 1994, you don't have the internet, and you see this:

Kirk AND Picard...together?! I feel that in the age of web browsing phones we know too much about movies going into them. Don't you kind of feel like you've already seen Iron Man 2? Like, twice?

I've been trying to limit myself with what and how much I read about movies online. In some cases, I don't even want to watch the trailer. That was the case with The Hurt Locker and it blew me away (pun very much intended). It's so rewarding to go into a movie completely fresh. That's what I did this weekend with How To Train Your Dragon (in 2-D, save your money). I went in with no reservations or expectations and left grinning. Maybe a tad underdeveloped, but thoroughly enjoyable, nonetheless. And my God, Toothless is the most adorable dragon I've ever seen! I want 10 of him. But I've always been a sucker for a good animated film. Problem is, they are a rarity. And they certainly don't come from DreamWorks. But this was a treat!

But to bring us back, two of the trailers attached to How To Train Your Dragon were The Last Airbender (the real Avatar) and Legend of the Guardians. Both trailers I had seen online (more than once) but I really wish I hadn't and was watching them for the first time on the big screen. However, I don't care if you watch them online (hence the links). But if you're planning on seeing Dragon this week, wait it out.

Mar 27, 2010

The "Everyday" Quote of the Day - Now For Everyday Use!

"Poison!" (Repeat.)

For use in situations involving:
  • A chicken, hidden, unbeknownst to you, inside a bratty girl's pumpkin-headed warrior-friend, dangling from the fingertips of the vengeful Gnome King, over his literally cavernous throat, seconds from a gruesome and unhappy ending, surprising everyone (the chicken--herself--included) by laying a single, solitary, and unbelievably TOXIC egg in a moment of penultimate fear, which the Gnome King has no choice but to ingest, thereby ensuring his (and your) shocking and agonizing demise (see: the gnomes in Return to Oz)
  • The unintentional and/or unavoidable consumption of oft-maligned foodstuff (esp. vegetables) during an otherwise pleasant meal--like when you've been putting off eating the carrots on the edge of your plate in a half-ironic/half-genuine attempt to avoid consuming anything healthy, until you finally relent and therefore feel obligated to make a big show out of the act by exaggerating every "disgusting" bite
Press PLAY below for a lesson in the "everyday" application of this handy quote!

Tell me: How did you use the "Everyday" Quote of the Day today?

Mar 20, 2010

How quickly would you become a supervillain? NOW

If you had superpowers--you and only you--what would you do with them?  How soon after you were gifted the power of invisibility (or super strength; or flight; or mental telepathy; etc.) would you find yourself abusing the power you were given for selfish reasons?

This is not a rhetorical question.  The answer is "Almost immediately."  Don't even pretend you wouldn't sneak into an opposite sexed locker room, or surprise everyone and win an arm wrestling contest, or help your beloved football team end the waffling and answer the eternal question ("Are you coming back?!") by just reading Brett Favre's damn mind.

I was at dinner with Garrett and Claire, and this question of superpower use (and abuse) came up.  (FYI, Garrett is a total supervillain.)  It would be sooooo easy to take advantage of your new sitch (short for 'situation') without the possibility of any real consequence; you could do almost anything without repercussion.

But this brings up a plethora of follow-up questions:
  • Which celebrity would you most want to see naked?
  • How much money is too much money?
  • Can I trust Hung Truong enough to let him in on my secret? (No.)
  • What is the best way to wreak havoc on Bryan Costilla's miserable life? (that is a question we all must answer)
The most intriguing follow-up question, though, has got to be: What superpower would you want?

Good thing we've already got the answer!  According to a very scientific Facebook poll (brought to you by the movie Kick-Ass), a majority of you would choose "Time control."  Okay.  Duh.  But it is far from unanimous.  Facebook user Joseph SquadUp Johnson writes, "damm i put fly i wanna fly shit fuck time control i live life to the fullest anyway."  But it clearly is a difficult choice; Brandyn Grabowski comments, "i picked fly cuz thats just bad ass but then i thought about it. id pick time control cuz id go back and invent all those crazy things like shamwow! and snuggies. and snuggies for dogs lmao!. and microsoft. AND apple. and then once i got like a billion bucks id go further back and put it in a bank then come back to present day and be like a qudrillianare lmao."  Dilemma!  I think the existential quandary this elicits can be summed up by Fertile, Iowa's own Zach Hermanson, who says (quite poetically), "time control. so I can pause time go behind your back stab you with a pencil. walk back to my seat and then start time again. 'WHAT HAPPEND??!??!' zach hermanson."  Preach it, zach hermanson.

But really, this mostly just reminded me of an episode of This American Life, based around the idea of superpowers, which featured Mr. "and I'm a PC" himself, John Hodgman.  He wanted to know: Which is better: The power of flight or the power of invisibility?  Look at how curious he is!

The Hodg's respondents are a lot more interesting (Going-to-Paris Man!) than the Facebook dredge.  In the audio link below, "Act One: Invisible Man vs. Hawkman" starts about 6 minutes in, and lasts about 13 minutes.  But, seriously, you might want to just listen to the whole show.  What is the opposite of a waste of your time?  Whatever it is, this is it.



(Click anywhere above to listen--for free!--to the complete Superpowers show. Read the episode guide or listen to a 30 second promo here--all for free!  Donate $ to TAL here--not free!)

Answer any and all of the above questions in the COMMENTS below, as well as in the poll above.  If I could be invisible, I would most want to see Jonah Hill nekkid, obvs (short for 'obviously') ...NOT!

Are you a fearful, crouching masturbator like I am?  Also, re: "Act Two: Wonder Woman"--would you marry Zora?  I would.

Feb 5, 2010

"Japonese [sic] Amazing Show"

What is the best part of this YouTube discovery: the succinct written description* of the video ("it's amazing what this japanese does"), the clearly audible (and enthusiastic!) sounds of a man screaming as the performer accepts her medal(!), or the captivating trick itself?

WELL??  What is the best part?  Vote in the comments below.

Also, only 895 views!  I am soooo ahead of the viral curve, I feel like this is my discovery!  But it isn't.  It was Roger Ebert's.

*Succinct, but possibly inaccurate.  There is reason to believe she's Thai.

Feb 2, 2010

And The Nominees Are...

The nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are..

To impatient to watch the video? Click Here for a complete list.

Jan 18, 2010

Walt "Backwards G"isney

Why is Disney all up in my face trying to make me be a better person?
I was going to write about Walt Disney Studio's collaboration with the Ad Council on a series of PSAs--Sleeping Beauty has teamed up with Smokey the Bear to prevent forest fires (logical!)! Fat bear Baloo is the poster child for healthy living (makes sense!)!--but when, long story short, during my research I ended up reading pages of "The Walt Disney Company's 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report," I kinda lost my mojo.  So instead I wanted to pose this thought:

As a child, whenever I saw the logo for Walt Disney Pictures, I never knew that it said Walt Disney.  Or, I guess I kinda did, on some intuitive level, because, you know, duh.  But as it's written in Walt's own handwriting, I never recognized the "D" in Disney for what it was.  It always looked like...I don't know, a backwards "G" or something.  (Hey, I didn't think about it that much.)  It was only years later that it hit me that it was, in fact, just a "D" with a little loop around the front.  Whoa.  Wacky Walt.

Even still, nowadays, I sometimes find my brain reverting back to my 7-year-old self and I just can't see the "Disney" in "Disney."  It's that damn D!  It has far too much going on around the straight line/the left side; it seems so...off balance.

I know I'm not alone on this.  Someone who shall remain anonymous* said she had a similar problem with, you know, reading the D in Disney.  I wonder: did anyone else ever misread or simply fail to recognize a popular phrase or logo because of the typeface?

This post is best read with musical accompaniment: SpinitLet'sbeginitBear'n'grinitWhenyou'reinitYoucanwinitInaminuteWhenyouspinitspinitspinit!

*It was Claire.