Quondam Dreams

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Media Junk 2006, Part One: Movies and TV

I'm stating this right off the top: This isn't a "best of" entry. For all the time I've spent watching and reading stuff this year, I know I've hit only the slightest fraction of what's out there. This is a vaguely-grouped recitation of movies, shows and books that provoked some sort of reaction from me, and/or weren't so much of a waste of time that I mind revisiting them. Conversely, movies, shows and books which represent time I'll never get back aren't here, because, really, why bother? (Non-inclusion does not indicate a complete waste of time, however. Just means that they didn't stick with me as much as the others.)

Also not here: A slew of movies, shows and books that a lot of the year-end lists are extolling or slamming, but which I haven't forced myself to get around to quite yet. Sometimes it's a question of not having had the time, but at least as often, the reasons have nothing to do with my perceptions of their quality. I know that a lot of people liked Rocky Balboa, but Sylvester Stallone bugs the crap out of me. I'm not touching that one until I can consume it in small, widely-spaced chunks. I haven't read The Emperor's Children because, frankly, I've had my fill of characters in their late 20s-early 30s, Ivy league graduates who who are rarely employed but rarely short on cash, slouching through New York City at a very important time in our recent history, waiting for something to happen but not quite prepared to have the outside world intrude on their faux-slummy apartments. I think the real story is that we're far enough beyond 9/11 that we're ready to start folding it into the navelgazing genres.

So, having disclaimed, here's some stuff I watched that stuck in my mind. Books will be in Part Two, which I'm hoping to get up in a day or two.


See previous entry Borat: Cultural Learnings Of The San Fernando Valley.

Casino Royale
Yeah, you know: return to classic Bond, reboot, new take, blah blah blah. This pretty much came down to Daniel Craig advertising a video game, and I've got no problem with that. Especially when he's in Speedos. Ahem.

See previous entry Review: Idiocracy. The DVD comes out in a couple of weeks, by the way. Guess what you're all getting for your birthdays this year!

Let's Go To Prison
I think your reaction to this movie was going to depend on your particular affection for movie cliches, your tolerance for slightly forced social criticism and the amount of time you've spent at Upright Citizens Brigade theaters. Me, I love cliches, am willing to give screenwriters a little leeway if they're trying to prove a point that serves the plot and have spent an awful lot of time at UCB since they opened the Hollywood theater, so this was right up my alley. It wasn't great, but for what it was, I thought it was decent.

Snakes on a Plane
See previous entry Review: Snakes on a Plane.

Marie Antoinette
The Departed
I'm grouping these two because I think a given viewer's reaction to them is colored by their opinion of the director in question.

Granted, Sofia Copolla doesn't have much of an -- oh, help me, I'm getting pretentious here -- oeuvre, but Marie Antoinette fits right in there. It's historical biography as Impressionism. We all know how the story ends. Marie Antoinette is about one aspect of how it got there. Plus, it's a very pretty movie. Ooh, shiny things!

The Departed is, of course, A Martin Scorcese Film. Like so many Martin Scorcese Films, it's a gritty portrayal of men in tightly-choreographed circumstances, inviting us to try to sort out the morality involved when it's clear that every character has his own particular take on the matter. And I do mean "his": Martin Scorcese Films have this tendency to be devoid of women who aren't flat-out plot devices. (This doesn't mean that they're necessarily bad parts; fleshing out those roles certainly worked out for Jodie Foster and Cate Blanchett. They just seem to have to work much harder than -- and be seriously outnumbered by -- the dudes.)

I appreciate Martin Scorcese and his Martin Scorcese Films, but I don't always like them. My principal reaction to The Departed was, "I think I'm missing a point here".

Night of the Living Dead
I know, I know: We're a few decades past the original release. This year, I got to see it on the big screen at the Nuart. If you get a chance, you should see it that way, too.

It's so nice to be reminded that there are people as compulsive as I am.


30 Rock; Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
30 Rock is a Tina Fey-and-company show. Studio 60 is an Aaron Sorkin show. Tina Fey and company write comedy. Aaron Sorkin writes occasionally-funny dramas about work. Not everyone likes both genres. I do.

Or maybe I'm just hoping that sketch comedy will get enough industry cred that it will become a viable career path.

Heroes; The Office; Scrubs; Veronica Mars
You know that cliche about some things being more than the sum of their parts? Here are a few illustrations. The parts are good on their own. The results are even better.

Doctor Who
I went into full-on geeky glee when I heard that the BBC was producing a new version of Doctor Who. And then I blinked in amazement as it turned out to be.... well, good. It's still got the cheese factor, but there's this completely different undertone to it now, like the kids who wrote increasingly-complex Doctor Who fan fiction grew up to make television shows and run networks.

That's my theory, anyway. I don't think it matters whether it's accurate. This is just pure, solid, well-done television. If you didn't get a little choked up during the last few scenes of the season-ending "Doomsday," then you live a truly charmed life.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Very Special Holiday Message For The Drivers Of West Los Angeles

Leaning on your horn will not make the person in front of you move any faster.

This is especially true if they are holding off on their turn until those pesky pedestrians finish crossing the street.

This is even more especially true if the person in front of you has stopped at the instruction of a traffic cop, who is in the middle of the intersection in order to mirror what the traffic lights are indicating. That's all they're doing, you know. They're not saying, "Hey, there's [your name here]! We don't like [your name here]! Let's screw with her/him!" and randomly stopping traffic with the sole aim of annoying you. They're there because you can't be trusted to refrain from entering an intersection after the light turns red. (No fair claiming that you had already started your turn. You hadn't, and you know it.) By the way, they're only supposed to be there through the holidays, but if you keep acting like you own the freakin' roads, I don't think those nannies will be going anywhere in January.

And it's even more especially true when traffic around you has stopped and/or parted in order to make way for an ambulance... which you didn't hear, because you were focused on asking the person on the other end of your cell phone call to speak up, because you couldn't hear them over your horn. Not sure what an ambulance is? Keep driving like you're driving. You'll find out soon enough.

And it's even more super-duper especially true when I have a headache.

Whatever you're racing towards will still be there, even if your turn is delayed by twenty seconds. Really. I promise.

This concludes my very special holiday message to the drivers of West Los Angeles. Thank you for your attention. Don't make me come down there. You really don't want me coming down there, not with this headache. Trust me.

Peace and other concepts with which you are apparently unfamliar,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Hollywood Christmas Parade Jumps the Shark

Hollywood parade is a bit out of step --Los Angeles Times headline

It's been two weeks, and I still can't think of anything clever to say about the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

I'm used to the parade sucking. I'm used to loving that the parade sucks, because it's usually such a gleeful sucking: "We know we're not the Rose Parade -- hell, we're not even the Doo-Dah Parade -- but we're still going to get out there and shimmy our little butts off, even if the temperature dips below 60. Because we're the Hollywood Christmas Parade, dammit!" This year... not so much.

Some years, it seems that the parade is phoned in. This year, it was a drunken text message sent at one-thirty in the morning, reassembling itself the next morning as "Inky wood christmas spade". Which is actually pretty comprehensible for a one-thirty a.m. text message. Or, uh, so I hear.

I had a feeling we were in trouble when I discovered the Hollywood Christmas Parade Myspace page. Yes, the 75-year-old parade has a Myspace page, written in the first person but apparently designed and maintained by a fourteen-year-old intern. But, hey, I figured; they're trying to reach out to the kids.

Then they announced that there would be two grand marshals: George Lopez would be the main guy, and Regis Philbin would be the "Diamond Anniversary Honorary Grand Marshal". Well, that's a little odd, I thought. Either they were trying to ramp up the star power (relatively speaking), or they had two separate groups working on grand marshals. Still, give 'em credit for trying, right?

The real downhill tumble started with the parade's opening performance. Most years, that slot is filled by a scaled-down production number from whatever touring musical is in town. This year, The Lion King is back in town. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the conditions of their return was that they wouldn't be required to go through the performance agony again. So this year, instead of a bunch of costumed dancers trying to lip-sync and not bump into each other at the same time, we got Brooke Hogan trying to lip-sync and take her choreography cues from a bunch of costumed back-up dancers, all while trying not to bump into one Paul Wall, a "rapper" who looked and sounded like the improbable offspring of Kevin Federline and that guy you knew in high school who you thought was kind of cute until he opened his mouth. Though that guy probably didn't have a full set of grills.

Then a bunch of resigned-looking B- to C-list actors and overly excited politicians started coming at us, interspersed with equestrian groups, tartan-clad high school marching bands and floats meant to look like what you might find under the giant Christmas tree at Tinsel Emporium. The only person whose smile seemed genuine was Nicolette Sheridan, there to mock -- uh, I mean support -- Michael Bolton. The delegates from High School Musical and Dancing with the Stars -- you know, the smile-no-matter-what brigade -- were obviously sick of being asked why they weren't dancing. Even L.A. Mayor AntonioVillaraigosa, the man who usually projects sincere enthusiasm, seemed to be forcing it.

In the end, the most interesting part was watching the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the LAPD argue over the number of spectators lining the sidewalks. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce apparently realized that no one was going to buy theirpre-parade estimate of 500,000. The LAPD's initial estimate was 15,000. After some haggling, they settled on... uh, a couple-few hundred thousand, maybe?

Still want some HCP snark? Here are some pictures. Have at 'em. Me, I'm going to seek out properly sucky holiday stuff for our mutual amusement. If you have any suggestions, please do drop me a line. I think my schlock radar is still recovering from parade overload.

Reuters via Yahoo!
L.A. Times (search results page - scroll to the bottom for photos)
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
LFI (In the true spirit of the parade, Eric Braeden is identified as "Michael Bolton and Nicolette Sheridan")