26 May 2009

Thoughts on Star Trek

So, as is usual for me, I'm not going to be providing you with a review, per se, of Star Trek. Instead, I have a few observations about the film. I'm not going to say that there aren't any spoilers here, but I'm trying to be fairly vague, and, frankly, most of the stuff I thought was interesting is actually about fairly minor details. If you are someone who enjoys something less if you have heard anything about it--then read at your own risk.

1. I am not a big Winona Rider fan. I think that Qwanty could probably attest to that. But I thought that she looked rather lovely in the film. I do think that the decision to cast a woman who looks like she could be a Vulcan herself as the full-human mother of a half Vulcan/half human child is strange. It would have been MORE interesting if they had chosen someone more like Jennifer Morrison (who, by the way, if I have not mentioned it before, is much less pretty as a blonde. Could someone get word to her about that? It makes her look older, and harder).

2. I was VERY skeptical about the casting of Simon Pegg as Scotty. And he doesn't look ANYTHING like he could grow into Jame Doohan. But when he started talking, I was TOTALLY amazed. Because he sounded, spot on, like Scotty. I thought he was brilliant.

3. What was with the obvious nods to Top Gun? I mean, I almost expected McCoy to start calling Kirk "Maverick" and for there to be some space-volleyball scene where the Enterprise Crew plays the Romulans, set to "Playing with the Boys." And if you haven't seen the film, and you are doubting me, then just wait for the scene where Kirk rides up to the transport vehicle on his motorcycle. Seriously, it is ripped directly from TG. (Not to mention the whole flight simulation scene--c'mon!)

4. Speaking of music, I am glad to hear that in the future, kids will still want to drive fast while cranking "Sabotage"--I have long been of the opinion that this is a song best listened to, really loud, in the car.

5. I don't get why, in space movies, the ships belonging to the "bad guys" always look like a crack den in space. Seriously. Am I really to believe that the Romulans are cruising around in space in a ship that has bad lighting, a sewer system running through it, and no discernible living or recreation quarters?

Evaluation: This was a much more entertaining film than I expected. I thought it was REALLY, REALLY funny and smart, and I was almost universally pleased with the casting and the acting. I am not a huge fan of the franchise, but I have seen all of the episodes of the original series, and probably most of the episodes of The Next Generation (Which was quite popular when I was in college). And we saw the films as kids. But I, admittedly, didn't walk into this film with any kind of expectations about the plot content. With all that said, I did have one critical question nagging me while I watched the film. (And I should add that previews for both the GI Joe film and Transformers II sort of put me in the frame of mind to think about this:)

Critical Question: As I was watching this film, I couldn't help but wonder what the deal is with origins films? Although the casting was REALLY good (in general) for this film, it does seem like a tremendous risk to go back in time with a narrative and have to cast the original characters with younger actors. There are so many ways that that can go badly. There are also ways in which it is very dangerous to have actors trying to recreate roles which are now culturally iconic. Why is there an impulse to go back in time, instead of going forward? As I hope I've intimated, this seems to have worked here, but I wonder why no one has learned the lesson from the second Star Wars trilogy? Are American audiences so lacking in imagination that we have to be fed the same story and group of characters over and over? Certainly this seems to be the attitude of Hollywood, who wants to give us origin films, remakes of television shows and films (Land of the F'ing Lost? Who thought THAT needed a film at this point in time?), and sequels.

I also saw the new Jarmusch film The Limits of Control this weekend. I want to write about that too, but I'm still gathering my thoughts. But here is a film that treats its viewers with a great deal of respect--that assumes that we can deal with silence, subtitles, complexity, ambiguity, new characters and situations, a slower pace. As much as I enjoyed the experience of seeing ST, it does make me a little sad to think about the new art and entertainment that isn't produced.

20 May 2009

Frustration, In a Sentence

My kingdom for a stapler that works reliably and doesn't jam! My kingdom, I say!

14 May 2009

on my TV watching habits

So, I have FINALLY started watching the second season of The Wire. I know, I know, I am WAAAY behind the curve here. (As in, the curve left me a long time ago.) But I watched the first season more than a year ago and then never picked up momentum on it. It isn't because it isn't a great show. It's amazing. But, as I remembered while watching 2.1 and 2.2 yesterday, it is a program that requires that you actually watch it. You know, that you pay attention.

It may seem as if I watch a lot of TV, but the truth is, I don't watch it very carefully. The same set of circumstances that allows my mom to watch Lifetime movies again and again and not remember that she has already seen them also operates in my world. We are both people who have a hard time dedicating our attention to the talking box in the room. In my mom's case, folding laundry and doing crosswords keep her from getting engrossed. In mine, it is writing emails, and grading papers, and sometimes even reading. (Yes, occasionally I read while watching TV. I'm not suggesting this. It is a messed up habit.) I actually get pretty antsy when I have to devote myself to watching something, which is why I've gotten a lot less patient with live theatre and with seeing movies out.

The result is that I can watch A LOT of pretty crappy and lite (and I do mean "lite" and not "light", grammar police) television. This is why I can watch 2 series of The IT Crowd in a weekend, but can't seem to watch more than a season of The Wire every year and a half. My brother also sometimes blames my viewing habits when I don't like a particular movie (he claims, for example, that I don't like Wet Hot American Summer and The Big Lebowski because I haven't really "seen" either one of them). I don't know. Maybe. Or maybe I just don't give something my full attention when I don't feel like it warrants it. Good television--that deserves actual scheduling.

10 May 2009

Thank You, Katrina

The greatest of all social activities (according to yours truly) is the dinner party. I love throwing them. I love attending them.

All good dinner parties go something like this: you arrive early--as one of the first attendees. You offer to help. Sometimes you cut things up. Sometimes you just pour a glass of white wine and eat bread or veggies and you keep the hostess, or the other guests, company. You tell some amusing stories. You listen to some amusing stories. You catch up with other people who tell you how things are going at work, or about their recent kitchen remodel. You pour another glass of white wine.

At some point you, and all the other attendees, move around the table. You all ooh and aww (sincerely) over the spread that has been prepared for you with love. You move onto red wine. There is confusion over which way to pass the bowls and platters. The hostess flits around and everyone tells her to sit down. The food is interesting and delicious, and there is too much of it. You make a mental note to ask for the recipe for the spinach and chickpea dish.

People start to migrate outside--smokers first. But everyone eventually. People break up into smaller groups, and conversation turns to larger topics. Everything seems more serious, more important. You begin to ask personal questions of the guy-you-don't-know-well, and he answers them without seeming self-conscious. You drink more wine and think about how much you like this person.

Someone brings you dessert that you can't possibly finish yourself, so you share it. And you begin to wonder where the person you came with has disappeared to.

Eventually you see someone stretch and yawn. She needs to get up early tomorrow; she's had a long day. There is a little exodus, and you are sad to see people leaving, but you are sort of happy that the party has become more intimate. The remaining guests gather together, joined by the hostess, who, finished with serving dessert, just wants to rest and drink a little. Conversation becomes more general again, but not trivial. Everyone is comfortable, and beginning to get sleepy.

The last remaining couple gets ready to leave--but this is your favorite part of the night. You can't leave the hostess with a mess. You, and your companion for the evening, bring in empties, scrape plates, fill the dishwasher. It doesn't take long. Your hostess seems pleased. You feel accomplished. You tell her what a pleasure it was, how much you enjoyed it, remind her that you want the spinach and chickpea recipe.

She walks you both to the door and turns off the outside light when you get to the car. You drive your companion home and you debrief. You talk about conversations you had, who you enjoyed, what dishes you really liked. You sit outside his house and talk about his recent dating life until he's ready to go to bed.

You drive home--tired (but no longer drunk) and full and happy. You listen to a mix of mellow, end-of-evening music (Sam Beam singing "you're the only shape I'll pray to") and you begin stripping. You take your hair clips out, your earrings out, your sweater off. You stumble through the door and throw keys down, turn out the lights on your way upstairs--kick off shoes and pull your dress over your head and fall into bed.

You close your eyes and see the climbing vine entangled with Christmas lights on the deck at your hostess' house.

06 May 2009

How Did I Not Know About THIS?

Alright. I'm losing whatever claim I ever had to being a cognoscenti. Clearly.

While listening to the Rick Emerson show this morning on my way to work, I heard a discussion of this.

Um. I was JUST in Bend over the weekend. No way now that I can't be one of those lookie-loos [by the way, I can't quite figure out how to spell that term correctly] that goes to take a look at this trainwreck.

Emerson's take on it is that THIS is exactly why Oregon is so weird. Maybe.

It also reminds me of this story that I've been telling a lot lately that seems to relate to a lot of what is going on in the world around us.

A few years ago I went to the Alamo (for those of you non-Austinites, the theatre--not the actual monument) with my cousin to see David Schmader do his now legendary commentary of Showgirls. David Schmader's whole perspective on the film can be boiled down to this: what is amazing about the film is that there are SO many people involved in the making of a movie with that kind of history and budget. And not ONE of those people, at any level of involvement, at any stage of the process said, "wow. This is a truly awful, awful film. We really shouldn't make it." It passed through hand after hand after hand, and it was STILL unleashed on world audiences. How can it be that not one person (and not everyone involved can be a complete idiot or totally crazy. That is just statistically improbable.) showed any sort of common sense at all?

It's that completely profound? Think of all the things around us that are examples of the Showgirls phenomenon: the reality shows on Vh1, the Pinto, the US involvement with the Contras, New Coke, the credit crisis. I mean, there are Showgirls (and Bend Shires) all around us.

05 May 2009

Further proof that the world is going to hell in a handbasket

I really hate to go back-to-back with GnR-related posts, but them's the brakes.

Yesterday morning on my way to work I heard the GnR version of "Live and Let Die"*. I love this song. I love this version of this song. And so I was shocked to realize that I had been missing, for all these years, one of the worst misuses of grammar in a pop song that I have ever heard. Do you know the line? Do you?

In fact, it was so bad that, for a minute, I convinced myself that Axl Rose had screwed up the lyrics. But it turns out that he did not. This is how the song is written:

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did, you know you did)
But in this ever changing world in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry

OK, now stop singing "You know you did, you know you did, you know you did" in your best dolce voce and pay attention! "IN THIS EVER CHANGING WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE IN"?! REALLY?! Not only is this grammatically W-R-O-N-G, but it is also stupidly redundant. AND that one sentence includes the offending word "in" no fewer that FOUR times. Again, REALLY?!

Don't we, as Americans, have the right to expect our brothers and sisters across the pond to uphold the standards of the Queen's English? Sir(?) Paul, indeed! Clearly QE too has taken a laissez-faire an attitude about the lyrics of Wings songs.

*I'm using all my willpower here NOT to write a long piece about my conflicted feelings about Wings. I will summarize: as much as I love Sir Paul (and I do), I theoretically hate Wings. I say theoretically, because the truth is that I love a whole bunch of songs from that period. I mean, I never turn the dial when a Wings song is playing. Never. Ever. "Live and Let Die" is a particularly great song.