Friday, January 2, 2009

Why I can't do dog movies

You can head to the movies with your parents to see some film you've been anticipating, that your friends all think is great and you know has something to do with Indian poverty and game shows. The cinema lobby can be crowded with people, all of whom have come to see a certain movie with a dog in it. And after you buy your tickets, you can spend the whole walk to Theater 11 scoffing, "I can't believe so many people are paying to see a dog movie. Of course there are going to be hijinks, and of course the dog is going to die at the end. There's no suspense. The dog always dies." And you know the dog dies, because the chatterbox sitting next to you on a flight home from Lake Winnepasaukee, New Hampshire spoiled it, but also because dogs ALWAYS get hit by cars, or contract rabies, or attack the mayor's daughter and have to be put down, or get eaten by wolves. And you can scoff that so many people will pay $10 a head just to say awww for a couple of hours and eventually cry.

And you can go into Theater 11 and be shocked that the theater is full, and that so many parents brought their children to see a Rated R movie that has something to do with Indian poverty and game shows. You can sit through the credits and wonder why 20th Century Fox thinks that your fellow foreign-films fanatics would ever want to see "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Hotel for Dogs" and "Bridezillas." Or that 20th Century Fox chose to release such an obscure and good film that you are certain this Indian film will be.

And then, after the credits, you can hear the distinctly American voice-over of a familiar broken-nosed actor who became strangely more attractive after his recent suicide attempt. OH GOD. OH GOD. It's that dog movie.

You can turn to your father and whisper, "I really don't want to see this. I can't see this. I really don't want to see this right now, we can still leave and get into the movie that we were supposed to see before this horrible mistake occurred, we probably only missed five minutes, I really don't want to see this, please." But the theater is packed, and to get out you'd have to push past several families and cause a huge stir, so your parents stay put and so do you.

And the film will undoubtedly unreel exactly as you expect. You want to take drink every time your fellow audience members say "Awww" at a wide-eyed puppy face. (You'd be plastered by the end of the first act.) The strangely attractive blond guy and his irritating wife inevitably settle into domestic bliss, conceiving round-faced blond children. They move into dubiously photogenic home after dubiously photogenic home, and along the way, their dog devours their possessions. Every time a new set piece is introduced, you try to guess how the dog will find some way to break, tear apart, or somehow ruin whatever it is. The dog tears across the beach and terrorizes the babysitter. Awwww.

And the whole time, you're thinking, "This dog is going to die. How is this dog going to die. When is this dog going to die. I do not want to be here when this dog dies."

After a suitable number of bland situations and jokes about humping and neutering and familial tribulations that are supposed to be affecting but just aren't--and these things happen without an ounce of style or artistry, naturally--you know it's time for that dog to bite it. The dog is too old to last much longer. And the blond couple finds the dog lying there and take it to the vet and you think, "Those bastards. They didn't have to wait through endless surgeries and radiation sessions. They are getting off so easy."

And then the broken-nosed actor performs his soliloquy about how the dog is a fighter, how he's special. He ate an answering machine. He sat with one of the characters during a moment of sickness.

And all you can think is, "You think that's special! Ha! I've got a fully digested racquetball and a sixteenth of a Nerf football and a three-legged piano that proves that his dog isn't special. His dog never comforted anyone through a four-hour panic attack. That dog isn't special until he stays smiling and well-tempered through months of chemo and pain pills and hurting and STILL lays his head in your lap while you cry over the latest terrible break up. That dog has no personality. It's not afraid of snow and it probably doesn't even have its own neurotic way of navigating under the kitchen table. No one ever walked that dog along the beach at Christmas, experiencing moments of blinding clarity. FUCK that dog."

And they put the dog to sleep, and you still cry like a bitch because even though that dog isn't the best dog that ever lived, he sure looks like him, and that actor got to say everything to his dog that you wanted to say to yours except you couldn't because you were a thousand miles away comparing Kafka's protagonists to archetypes in Freud's "Civilization and its Discontents." And that you hate that beautiful music is swelling because in real life, it doesn't. And you realize that your dad is weeping, which to your knowledge he doesn't do, and your mom is weeping, which to your knowledge she only does sparingly. And the fat lady in front of you sitting so far back in her seat that your knees are squashed is weeping, but she can go to hell because she doesn't understand this like you do.

And finally the credits are rolling and all you can do is turn to your dad and exclaim tearfully, "I told you I didn't want to see that!" Because the movie SUCKED and you still gave the holiday box office the satisfaction of getting emotional over it.

Mountain Goats - Golden Boy (mediafire) (to apply this song to the post above, pretend it is about your beloved dead dog and not delicious snacks)


Friday, November 28, 2008

Momentary Greatness: The Walkmen - "In the New Year"

Do you like your face? Do you wish it to remain in the front of your skull, presenting a somewhat more pleasant/less visceral view of your head? Would you view it a shame if this face were torn, ripped, torn, sawed, smoked, torn, blasted or - dare we say it? - rocked off? Then, simpleton, please move on. Remove yourself from this moment, forget we ever met. Blog? What Blog? What's a blog? Sounds like someone wrapped bacon around some summer sausage and lacked creativity!

Those who wish to part with said face, proceed.


Song Name: "In the new year"
Band Name: The Walkmen
Moment in Question: 0:40
File Under: Cardiac arrest

Today at the record store, I was choosing between three albums - The Hold Steady's Stay Positive, Okkervil River's The Stand Ins and You & Me by The Walkman. I picked the last one, even though I wasn't sure if I'd ever heard a song off it. I could be positive of only one Walkmen song in my life, "New Year's Eve" off of Bows and Arrows, and I know that because I was a lonely teenager and downloading songs after a blanket search of "New Year's Eve" seemed like the prudent thing to do. Conversely, I just paid over $50 to see The Hold Steady open for the Drive-By Truckers, and The Stage Names has made me ejaculate on myself numerous times. Then I previewed You & Me track four, "In the New Year." Based on the 20-second clip that was made up almost wholly with the tortured clangs from the intro, I bought the Walkman album. And then I didn't even KNOW man!

(If you suck and don't buy this album after reading this article, there's no good live video of it on youtube, but there are a few fan vids. Do NOT - NOT - watch any of these without reading the whole article! Because you might want to buy it, and the only true way to experience this song the first time is to have the biggest fucking can headphones on and just listen to it ABSOLUTELY MASSACRE EVERY BIT OF YOUR MIND.)

I'm a firm believer that art mediums can touch each other and get all hot and bothered, rolling up against some intersecting experiences. That said, that single organ riff tells a story with much more force than any novelist could ever hope for. It sounds the deeps of the human soul with more veracity than any poem and represents the gambit of human emotion with more stark vivid light than any film. It plunges from your ear drums down a long fucking tube, bursts through that bitch, sinks into your muscle tissue, your blood cells and your sinew, into the very essence of who the fuck you thought you were 40 seconds ago and it cleans you. You feel absolutely dazed. It has, in affect, sucked you dry but with music. Hamilton Leithauser wails like a lost banshee, like Grace Slick and Robert Plant got fucked shitfaced and did each other for a lark. The whole thing feels loose and gummy and like terrible doctors who dress up real nice for the funeral. It is a destructive force. It destroys you with its perfection.

Welcome, love. The canon hopes you enjoy your stay.


Review: Rachel Getting Married

About halfway through watching Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married I couldn't remember how it began. Literally, I plunged into my mind and came up with nothing, nothing save the scene where recovering addict Kym (played by Anne Hathaway) departs from the mental institution and some tiny clips of the opening credits. This is absolutely 100% not a bad thing; RGM may be a non-stop blitz of emotional turmoil, awkward family situations and beautiful music, but that is not to say things did not blend. If anything, as exhibited by my momentary amnesia about the beginning of the film, the film could have used a little less blending.

Essentially, the title of the film says it all; the entire film revolves around a week's worth of festivities in preparation for the wedding of Rachel (Kym's sister, played delicately by Rosmarie DeWitt) to Sidney (featuring TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe bringing real warmth to the role). More to the point, however, is that Kym has just been released from a rehab clinic, bringing a couple of truckloads worth of emotional baggage to add to the already mounting stress of the event. The film represents that stress particularly in the supporting cast of Kym and Rachel's father, Paul (an absolutely defining performance by Bill Irwin); Sidney's best man, Kieran (Mather Zickle); Rachel's initial maid of honor, Emma (Anisa George); and the sister's single mother, Abby (hey everyone! It's Debra Winger!)

From the moment we see Kym and Rachel existing in the same space, with Kym quickly making a stab at a joke about (of all funny topics available) an old eating disorder, we are lead to understand that this is a train wreck just dying to happen. Hathaway does some truly provocative emotive contorting with Kym, bringing some of her latent Princess Diaries spunk to such an emotional meltdown. The effect, particularly when combined with Rachel's coexisting urges to be patient and stubborn, creates a toxic air around almost any situation where the two are seen together. It is in these scenes where the movie pulls out its heavy artillery, with so much shouting and pouting that it's a wonder the whole things comes off as anything but shrill. Rather than stir the pot, Demme's camera observes these events with an amount of intimacy that blurs the line between viewing this as a creation and as something much more real.

Whether it's real or not makes no difference, because Demme's sense of pacing and assumed urge to place these events on their stunted emotional timeline gives the audience just enough time for that to not matter. Not once in my viewing did I feel as though this break-neck speed was too fast for the film; the difficulty for each scene in succession ramps up so violently that the speed is the ultimate helper. After a truly excruciating wedding rehearsal toast, a scream-filled confrontation, an accidental reminder of Kym's particularly troubled past (it's a bit of a spoiler, but it comes up quite a bit) that knocks Paul for a loop, a car accident, etc., etc., the feeling of wanting to know the what the next mode for the film was shouted down by the sheer thrill of it all.

Speaking of thrill, this film is fucking filled with it. Outside of the truly meaty Kym and Rachel scenes is an essential weaving of the other aspects of preparing such a monumental event as a wedding. There are numerous scenes of the combination of the two families (particularly one involving a dish-washing contest) that illicit a true and saccarine form of joy. There are several scenes of people simply performing, simply dancing, simply existing in the excitement for these two people. In a scene where Rachel reveals that she's pregnant (a scene that is actually shoved right in the middle of a massive fight between Rachel and Kym), Paul reacts by dervishly prancing and screaming, succumbing to a jubilant atmosphere that tends to exude from the pictures' more hopeful moments.

For all the great side characters, for all the momentous moments of music, of movement, of worry and excitement and union, however, any talk of this film would be a mistake if it did not give special note to Hathaway's performance. Kym, who exists in essentially a one-dimensional void, is a character that deserves to be shrill and unlikable, and would have been so in the hands of almost anyone else. With her telling thrown glances, her perfected exasperation, just the simple pain that is visible in her eyes throughout, Hathaway decides to fuck with an understanding of what she's supposed to be almost right alongside those almost blatantly damning moments. When Kym complains to Paul that Rachel cheated by bringing up her pregnancy in the middle of a heated fight, hatred doesn't pour in. Kym is hateable, but she is never evil. Many other films and actresses have sorely missed that distinction.

Rachel Getting Married does not exist among a genre of slice-of-life films; it ascends immediately to the top of that genre's highest mountain. It is a film of dominating, relentless energy, of a human vitality far beyond most films trying to present true family strife. I don't remember the beginning, but I also have come to believe that I don't have to, because forcing my way back works against a current this film builds, a current that every character gets swept up in until the very end of the film. This film deserves endless praise and Hathaway deserves an Oscar nomination not for a performance, not for a representation, but for a display so nuanced that it seems exhaustingly alive.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yahoo! Headline Madness: More Election Silliness

As someone who regularly "surfs" the "web" for extended periods of time only to run out of interesting websites to go to and end up back at Yahoo!, it is becoming more and more apparent that Yahoo! is the nadir for online headline writing. Relatively speaking - I'm sure there's some website with "OMG OBAMA IZ TERRORIZT" featured prominently, but Yahoo is one of the big boys, and they should know better. Some pained sticking up for McCain after the jump.

From today:

Now, sadly, unlike our in-house madame, I lack the technical capabilities to outline things with my mousepad thing. But take a look at the McCain headline. Looks pretty damning, right? Seems dangerous that a president would want that plan.

News flash, fuckos: that's Congress' plan as well. In last week's absolutely essential episode of This American Life, we learn that that bailout plans' main function is to completely based around buying all of these terrible mortgages. Everyone is using this plan. It's stupid and ridiculous, but it's stupid and ridiculous for everyone. There, I defended John McCain. I'm gonna throw up for about three days.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Piling on the big boys

(INT. Backstage on the set of Death to Cardboard)

(KID COMBUSTIBLE is toweling off after a set)

Well, we sure have had a lot of fun at the expense of Yahoo! in the past weeks. Obviously they are a little quick to flip headlines (not just in this specific incident - I can't count the number of times that they have flipped a headline to mean essentially the opposite of what it did, but sadly at these times I was not co-running an omniblog). Yahoo! is the popular kid of the internet, but for very little reason. Their "news" is nothing but AP wire pulls, and their mail service is good but very average. Yet it remains the most visited site (or something close to that. I'm not looking that shit up). But what makes this popularity even more baffling is the almost single-minded suckocity provided by their headlines. Such as:

Now, the article is pretty lackluster, but it shares its' main problem with the headline itself. What we're supposed to think of, according to this article/headline/Yahoo!'s first goddamn thing you see, is that the plane crash that didn't kill Travis Barker and DJ AM is similar to the plane crashes that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Richie Valens, Jim Croce, Otis Redding, Patsy Cline, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Glenn Miller, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Rhodes, Aalyiah, Ricky Nelson, and John Denver. Which makes sense, of course. Stevie Ray Vaughan was arguably one of the most accomplished blues guitar players of all-time; DJ AM has been on TMZ a few times. Otis Redding had one of the most singular voices in the 60's soul scene; Travis Barker sometimes is in the Aquabats! I don't care if the relationship is tenuous - these people don't belong in the same lame Yahoo! article together, no matter how much steel and fire it took to kill them.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creative design with Yahoo! News

After Sarah Palin's speech to the Republican National Convention, I noticed that the front-page headline on Yahoo! News went from "Palin bashes community organizers, Obama campaign" to "Palin dubbed 'Rock Star' of RNC" in less than five minutes. I was willing to give Yahoo! the benefit of the doubt, write it off as a fluke, until the following image appeared on the page today (emphasis is my own.)

*slow clap*

Yahoo managed to turn a fluff piece on fashion sense into an (at first glance) expose on Fer "Notorious for Her Drug Abuse" Gie and Michelle "Not Tyra Banks" Obama shooting up in an alley on the south side of Chicago. Does anyone say "high marks" anymore? Wasn't there room for the word "marks" on the first line? No and yes, respectively.

Funny, since Michelle isn't the addict involved in this year's election.

Just sayin'.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Broke-ass hoes, broke-ass hoes, broke-ass hoes, broke-ass hoes

Attending a private liberal arts college made me hate feminists for a while. That's the opposite of what's supposed to happen, isn't it? You're supposed to become deeply ensconced in women's issues, go vegetarian and develop an in intense love of short-haired indie rock chicks while protesting endlessly the use of the word "chick" to describe WOMEN because I am a WOMAN and I will not allow myself to be DENIGRATED by the heteronormative, chauvinistic corporate automaton and be told that I am a helpless baby bird that subsists on PREMASTICATED CORN NIBLETS and possesses no control over my UTERINE. CONTENTS.

People at private liberal arts colleges actually talk like that (well, sort of.) Which raises the question, if you're not a bird, why are you so fucking shrill?

Don't get me wrong, the women who devoted most of their time to the campus feminist group tended to be nice, reasonable people on a regular basis. I just couldn't listen to them talk about feminist issues because after a while, my ears would start to bleed mysteriously. Which is not something I'm proud of. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to learn about the raping penis and modern ways to hate it. I wanted to give my vagina a big cuddly hug. Unfortunately, my arms just weren't long enough, and confusion gave way to resentment. I retreated to the frat house to shake shake shake it to the dulcet tones of "Ass 'n' Titties" by DJ Assault.

But in Spring Term 2008, something amazing happened. Our own Kid Combustible pointed me to the blog Jezebel, and I've been obsessively refreshing the page ever since. The magic of Jezebel is that the site sells itself as "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion For Women. Without Airbrushing." Essentially, it's a pop culture blog that happens to be pro-women. Even better, it's a pop culture blog that I consistently agree with (and that doesn't happen often.) And they're feminists, so I guess that makes me a feminist too.

So. What's the point of this diatribe? Mostly, I've been galvanized by Jezebel's recent coverage of the Sarah Palin debacle. (That's not a Jezebel article, but it should be read nonetheless for reference.) Anyway, they dared to ask the question that has been on my mind since we first heard of Tina Fey's horrible evil twin: why does Sarah Palin blind normal, reasonable women with rage? Personally, I think it's because her spokesman is named Tucker Bounds. What the hell is up with that. Also, I have a hard time enjoying the company of people who are cool with torturing wolves with helicopters and then shooting them to death. Doesn't anyone collect bottlecaps anymore?

And if you're badass enough to aggressively interrogate lupine beasts from the skies, do you need a guy named Tucker Bounds to man your spokes?

But seriously folks. The pros did a good job of explaining why exactly I react so violently to the mere thought of Sarah Palin. And by react violently, I mean I could get pretty into an episode of CSI wherein the team investigates charred remains found in a deserted Alaskan woodland near a business that rents helicopters and AK-47s to wolves and librarians who are fired for allowing people to take out banned books.

I'm just saying, that episode of CSI sounds rather engaging. Think about it, CBS!!

Enough hate, though. The point of this post is to declare my love for Jezebel. For the aforementioned reasons, and also because they introduced me to the video series Target: Women with Sarah Haskins, which in turn led me to one of my favorite shows (albeit one that I can only watch online) InfoMania. Thanks, guys!