Saturday, January 29, 2005

Napoleon (not-so) Dynamite

Friday night, Tegan had a get together with a few of her girl friends. They hung out and did girlie things. After I got Ruth to bed, I went over to the house of one of the abandoned husbands. We talked for a bit; I watched his boys get ready for bed, and then we watched Napoleon Dynamite.

How to describe it? Well, the titular character is all knees, elbows, and about a foot taller than most kids in his high school. He is best described as an extremely nerdy mouth-breather. His mouth is always open and he is EXTREMELY goofy looking.

He is one of those nerds that is so nerdy that he is not aware (or simply doesn't care) that not many like him. He, therefore, has no fear talking to people how are (in the high school world of cliques) his "social betters."

The plot? Not much of one. This is a modern day Diner. A movie that occurs in front of a camera and you are just there watching the boredom unfurl. ND has its moments, but it is mostly a movie that you watch and are always wondering, "How did the director convince someone to fund this?"

Much was made during ND's initial theatrical run that this movie was made by Mormons. It is set in Idaho in what must be late 1990s or 2000s, but always feels like it should be 1984. The main characters may or may not be Mormons--a bit deal is never made about it in the film, but there are subtle clues that lead those of us in the know to suspect they are.

One of the best things that I can say about it--the penultimate line "I caught you a fresh bass" (delivered from Napoleon to a girl) is indeed memorable. Other than that? . . . meh.


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Friday, January 21, 2005

I didn't much care for "Garden State"

That's right--you heard me. Kev and I watched it last night and I was a bit underwhelmed.

The good:
I really like Zach Braff and think that he has a lot of potential. This movie, while not original, was at least derivative of a great movie. I liked the leisurely pace of it. I also liked the shots--very spare, very realistic, and he nailed his post-high school friends. Tidy! The music was good, too.

The bad:
This is just me, but I don't have much patience for 20-something angst. It's not that I think it's stupid or trivial or mundane. It's more like I've been through it and I'm glad it's over. If you are currently in your twenties, mark my words--no matter how original you think you are, you will come to realize that the issues with which you struggle so mightily in this decade are remarkably similar to what many, many other twentys people struggle with. And then you get REAL issues. (I'm just kidding!) I say this with the full realization that people younger and older than I am are reading this and saying, "30-something angst is just as, if not more, tedious." Fair enough! As I told Kevin after the show, "I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more 14 years ago." The issues just don't span the decades. Oh, let's hope they don't, anyway. (If you want to see a similar genre film that covers people in their 30s and 40s, especially people without kids, see Sideways. Especially if you're a sodded p-hound.)

The major, major bad, bad aspect was Natalie Portman. I think she's the most boring thing! She came across as a run-your-fingers-down-the-blackboard annoying 15 year-old. She was completely unbelievable as a love interest for Zach. She's pretty and all, but she wore double French braids and little cargo pants and had a pink room and a wittle bwankie and, really, is that sexy? If it is, get thee to a therapist pronto. There are so many actresses that I would just want to take a love bite out of--what's her name from Titanic (Winslet!), oh who else . . . I can't think of anyone right now! Dangit! But I know they're out there. Maybe my problem is that I'm not attracted to much younger people, and there's probably a dearth of really good and sexy--not just pretty--young actresses out there, but Natalie Portman is about as sexy and talented as a bale of straw. To me. And try as I might've to overcome my prejudices, she darn near ruined it for me.

So there ya go.


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Oh so bright

Night 2 of "Concert Going with Spec and Jack" was even better than night 1. First off, we were accompanied on our outing by the lovely Cordelia (a fact which would make any night that much better). Secondly, we were able to sit down on comfortable chairs. That may not seem like much, but after many hours of standing/sitting on a wooden plank at Little Brothers on Monday, some cushy seats were very welcomed. The three of us headed on another brisk walk into the cold Columbus night, nearly slipping on the snow and falling to our fine behinds, before ending up at everyone's favorite used music emporium Used Kids. While I did end up buying two CDs, they (sadly) didn't have the bands I was looking for. I guess the obscurity of the bands hurt my search.
With packages in hand (Cordelia also made a purchase, thanks to yours truly) we walked down to the Wexner, excited for the concert we were about to see. Ahead of us, stumbling, laughing, and nearly falling over, were four very drunk kids (probably 16-18). They brilliantly displayed the invention of anti-lock breaks as they ran into the road as oncoming traffic beared down on them. Four cars squealed to a halt as the kids stumbled across the road. So close. As we crossed after them (waiting until the blinky guy on the light told us we could) we saw one of them lean over and throw up whatever he had been drinking. It was quite gross and burbley (that's the only word I could think to describe it) and set a trend for the entire night.
After checking our coats at the coat check and our urine at the bathrooms, we headed into the theater. Jack had done a wonderful job with the tickets and we were right up front (only about 9 rows back). Thanks Mr. Thunder for your good work. After a little while, the lights went dim and the concert began. It was promptly 8 o'clock and (because punctuality is so unlikely at concerts) only half the seats were filled. People milling about outside the theater were probably surprised to hear the crowd cheering and music playing as Tilly and the Wall took the stage. Tilly was great, as we all knew they'd be (having seen them in Cleveland with Rilo Kiley and Now It's Overhead not too long ago). There was singing, clapping, and (of course) tap dancing. While their set was rather short, it was passionate and fun-filled. The audience filled in most of the seats by the time the set was finished, making us all eager to hear the next band.
When CocoRosie took the stage there was a slight hesitation in the audience. All that could be seen was a pull down movie screen and the shadowed outline of three figures on stage. The band began and the wonderment continued. They were an interesting combination of guitar, keyboard, and vocal instrumentation (along with a bevy of electronic toy sounds). I liked the music (as did Jack and Cordelia) but, unlike the others, I was put off by one of the lead singer's voices. If anyone knows Victoria Williams, you'll know what kind of voice I am talking about. Bad voices aside, I was entertained by the band (especially when the other female lead singer was singing). They were talented, but made me a little sleepy. That sleepiness, however, was shocked out of my system when the guy sitting in front of us (who looked about two inches from death) threw up after CocoRosie left the stage. Once again, it was a lovely experience, full of chunky peach-smelling fluids. It wasn't until about 10 minutes later that anyone said or did anything (no one but me seemed to notice). When the janitor came and finally cleaned up the mess, the smell had permeated the air and everyone could tell that someone had puked.
With that wonderful odor floating around us, Bright Eyes took the stage. This was what we were here for, and no amount of teenage vomit would deter us. Connor Oberst (lead singer, songwriter, all around amazing guy) was nothing short of brilliant. Jack, Cordelia, and I were all expecting a very short set, with few (if any songs) that were not from the new album but we were wrong. The set was not Bob Schneider length, but it was plenty. Oberst opened with the first three songs from the new album "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" (which worried me since I feared that he would just play the whole album, in order, then walk off stage). After that, however, he stepped away from the mike, put down his guitar, and sat down at the keyboard to play "A Scale, A Mirror, and These Indifferent Clocks" from an earlier album. After that the set was a nice mix of new and old stuff. Connor sang with a clarity that is sometimes missing from the recorded albums, which pleased us all. Having listened to the new album repeatedly in the past week, I was able to recognize most of the new songs he played, which is always a good thing. The whole band was very focused, able to ignore the idiotic chants and shouts from the audience. After playing for a while, they took their bows and walked off stage. A few minutes later Connor returned and played a song or two before being joined by the rest of the band for a raucus finale which ended in Connor standing on the drum set while playing his guitar. As the song ended he stepped/fell off of the set, tossing his guitar to the ground and knocking some of the drums over. It was very rock and roll. And there was no vomiting.
All in all it was a kick ass night. Thanks again to Jack and Cordelia. And to Tilly, CocoRosie, and Bright Eyes.


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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Other entries from Claire's diary

Day 2:

Dear Diary,
We are still recovering from the awful plane crash.
And when I say awful, it is not as awful as that southern guy . . . I think I heard someone call him Sawyer?
Anyway, he is really amazing, that guy. If you turn your back on your stuff for two seconds, he is pawing through it like he owns it! I mean, really, how does it help him?

If I don't hide you carefully, dearest diary, he will probably try to nick you as well. But, why? Does he really need to claim every little thing on the island?

Day 4:

Dear Diary,
I am still watching everyone around me, trying to find out what makes all these people tick.
Like Michael (the one with the young son). I tell, you--my most delicious diary--that when my baby is born (any time now . . .) I won't be going to HIM for any parenting advice.
I have seen how he just orders that boy around without any explanation.
I did hear someone saying that he hasn't been around the boy very much, so he may not know much about parenting either, but well . . . he needs to work on it, in my opinion.

Also, diary . . . that cute English bloke with the beard . . . Charlie, I think his name is--the one that spent the first several days nattering on about his band named Crankshaft (?)--well, he is turning out to be a pretty decent fellow.

More later, diary. . .


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Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Jack Thunder and I went to Little Brothers last night for a very fun and rockin’ concert. We saw Austin, TX singer-songwriter-rock god Bob Schneider, who put on quite a show. JT went along without much knowledge of his music, but had a good time nonetheless, which is always a sign of an entertaining musician. Bob came on stage at about 10 and played about a hundred songs (I may be exaggerating slightly) until 12:30. He and his band went non-stop, with no breaks the whole time. What I liked best, and JT seemed to agree, was Bob’s transitions from one song to another. He would play a slow acoustic tune and follow it up with a mambo number, or go from a bawdy rock song about his genitals to his desire to be like Captain Kirk (which, when I think about it, isn’t that far off). I had a blast and highly recommend Bob Schneider both live and on CD. Plus he has one of the coolest websites I've seen in a while. Check it out by clicking on his name above.



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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Let's Blog About Sex

Last Saturday, Jackspatula and I finally managed to leave the house on a weekend night and go see "Kinsey," which finally opened in Columbus after playing for weeks in New York. (I've never understood that system, but whatever.) I've wanted to see it ever since seeing previews for it back in August, and after a bunch of right-wing groups starting protesting it, I wanted to see it even more. All I can say is, it was worth the wait.

I won’t go on and on about the charm and wittiness of the movie, of the fantastic character portrayals by Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, and others, of the utter believability of the situations and dialogue. I also won’t summarize the plot. You’ll have to see it for yourself. The politics, of course, are what fascinated me the most.This movie is not for everyone. Also, I wouldn't go see it with your parents. Its subtitle is "Let's Talk About Sex," and for two straight hours that's pretty much what they do. I consider myself a fairly enlightened, open-minded person on the subject, but there were times when even I was thinking, "Can you please just change the subject for one minute? Can you please not talk about masturbation with your children over the supper table, just this once?" But the fact that the focus is never taken off the subject is key to understanding the movie and, I think, the man. Kinsey was obsessed, and it just happens that the subject he was obsessed with makes a lot of people uncomfortable. His obsession, however, did not stem from perversion, as some would believe--as a scientist, he was simply dumbfounded by the misinformation and utter ignorance floating around in the world at large and either ignored or perpetuated by his fellow scientists. He also recognized the problems this ignorance caused for people, the fear, the unhappiness, the ruined relationships, the sometimes devastating consequences of not understanding a very basic facet of human existence. Once he recognized this problem, he had to do as much as he could to enlighten and hopefully help people. At least, that's the way the movie portrays him, and that's the story I'm buying. The controversy over this movie, as far as I can tell, stems from claims the right-wingers make that are simply false or really don't matter in the big picture. Let’s break down some of the big ones, shall we? (I’ll try not to give too much away.)

1. Sugarcoating. The right-wingers’ core complaint is that the movie sugarcoats Kinsey and holds him up as a hero while ignoring controversial aspects of his life and research methods. Keep in mind, the vast majority of these people did not actually see the movie, and I can assure you, anyone who has seen it can attest that there was no sugarcoating going on. It was all pretty much laid out there, especially inasmuch as Kinsey, his wife, and his research team were themselves subjects as well as researchers over the course of their projects. Everyone has his or her own line to establish, along with their partner, on the subject of sex, and whether or not lines were crossed is a matter of interpretation. Many in the audience no doubt felt that lines were crossed—and that’s certainly their right to feel that way. However, we need to keep in mind that we’re talking about the behavior of consenting adults, which brings us to . . .

2. Ignoring issues of alleged child molestation. I’ve done a lot of research (that is, Web surfing) on the widespread claims of right-wingers regarding Kinsey using children in his studies—and not only in the interview format. From what I can tell, it’s a bunch of bunk. Everything Kinsey published dealt with adult sexuality, and his formal research consisted of interviews only. Granted, it’s difficult to find the truth when there is so much information out there defending each side, but I couldn’t find any hard evidence put forth by Kinsey’s accusers on this subject. It’s far more likely that the fundies took a line or two Kinsey may have written dealing with child sexuality and blew it way out of proportion in an effort to try to discredit him.

3. The 10% Issue. Many people have heard of the Kinsey scale. If you haven’t, you can check it out here. It’s not surprising to me that right-wingers are offended by the idea that most people are not exclusively heterosexual or homosexual. (Anyone who doubts this should sit in with my group of friends at the lunch table on any given day.) What really steams the fundies, though, is that Kinsey was one of the first scientists to publicly validate homosexuality and bisexuality as legitimate orientations rather than horrible diseases from which one might (and probably should) spontaneously die at any moment. What they have fixated on in this whole debate, however, is the famous “10% figure.” Somewhere in Kinsey’s research, apparently, he quoted 10% as the percentage of the population that is gay, based on what he derived from his studies. Right-wingers love to toss out this figure, claim it is way too high, and then use that claim to call into question the reliability of ALL of Kinsey’s research. Where did this figure come from, originally? Was Kinsey including people who merely fantasized about homosexual encounters without actually engaging in them? Was his figure too high because he concentrated his studies in urban areas? Was he factoring in folks who had had homosexual encounters in the past but now lived as heterosexuals? Would this number actually be accurate if people were honest with interviewers? Since I don’t know where to find the original reference to this number, I simply don’t know, and maybe this was one facet of his work where Kinsey could have been clearer. To me, the most important question is, WHO CARES??? Who cares if the figure is 10% (probably a bit high), 2% as claimed by the right-wingers (definitely too low), or 7-8% (probably pretty close). Should the percentage total of a minority population determine how many rights the minority is granted? If African Americans made up 2% of the population instead of 12%, should their rights be scaled back? O.K., I’m digressing here. The point is, Kinsey’s detractors take this one part of his research (which hasn’t even been definitively disproved) and use it to discredit basically everything he’s done.

Let’s just say, in sum, that if you hate sex, you’ll hate this movie. If you wish that everyone in the world still believed that masturbation will kill you, you’ll hate this movie. If you believe that it’s best for human beings to live in ignorance and never ask questions, you’ll hate this movie. If you believe that homosexuality is a “disease” that can be “cured,” you’ll hate this movie.

Everyone else will love it.


Blogger David said...


What a wonderful entry and so well written that I really want to see the movie now.

I was interested before, but this makes it sound like a real winner.

(Now if only I could find the time to actually go see it . . .)

2:36 PM  
Blogger Spec said...

Masturbation won't kill you?
Somebody get me some hand lotion...

3:51 PM  
Blogger lulu said...

There's lots of hand lotion in the stinky 3rd floor women's restroom. We have "sharing baskets" now. Isn't that nice?

As for me, I just finished watching the last 4 episodes of Sex and the City last night! I know it doesn't seem like a show that I would like, but I loved it!

Why does everything that I love end, yet Ashlee Simpson goes on?

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I think the film briefly discussed the topic of "sharing baskets"? If I recall, the practice was discouraged unless using protection.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Sven Golly said...

As always, your work has informed and entertained me, made me want to take action, and pulled me kicking and screaming into whatever century this is. I hated the previews, but I respect Liam Neeson and Laura Linney and your opinion, so Gven Golly and I should definitely see this film, but not at Easton, which can ruin any movie experience. Re: the 10 percent issue, I think their need to quantify and desire to minimize means the Religious Right is "winning" the culture war and has fewer degenerates to exterminate when they get permission to implement the final solution. Have a nice day.

10:25 AM  

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

This space reserved . . . for Flipper's promised (but unwritten) post on something



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Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Gushing Review of The Producers

Hi! I just saw The Producers at the Ohio Theater last night, and I can now say that "I Get It." I get why people see Broadway shows.

It seems like all my life I've heard critics tear King 'O Broadway Andrew Lloyd Webber and all of the fools who see his schlock a new one. After seeing some scenes of various Broadway musicals acted out on shows like Rosie O'Donnell, I found myself wondering "why do all these people see this crap?" It got to the point where Broadway seemed to my completely unexperienced brain not much better than, say, Nascar--thousands of bloated mid-American people in kitty and sports sweatshirts packing in to see what is supposed to be entertainment.

How high-brow I was! How humbled now.

It could be that The Producers, which won numerous Tonys (a distinction that I never cared about, by the way), is just much better than the average Broadway show. As it was my first show of this type, I don't know. But I can say that if they are mostly all like this, then I need to start buying tickets.

It was great! I would go see it again, it was that great. The performers seemed dead-on accurate, with strong voices and amazing control of their stagecraft. (Ach! So talented!)Of course, it helps to have a Mel Brooks script. He had a bevy of ballgown and tux-wearing singers, after seeing one of Max Bialystock's crappy shows, cheerfully and operatically bellow, "We've seen shit but never like this!" in the first number.

Despite my otherwise intriguing writerly talent, I am a bad reviewer made even worse by the fact that I have nothing but love for the show. It was a thoroughly entertaining evening made even better by front-row seats in one of the prettiest rooms around.


Blogger Sven Golly said...

What is it about a show about a show? Half a lifetime ago - I remember this clearly because it was my birthday - Gven Golly and I went to see A Chorus Line at the Schubert Theater in Chicago, our first big splurge after moving to the city that works. I had seen a couple of musicals before - Man of LaMancha in Detroit, Mame in New York, Hair in Atlanta - but this was different somehow. I can still hear one character tap dance (da-ta-ta-tah, da-ta-ta-tah) while singing "I can do that, I can do that" and another reconstruct the audition experience in the song "Tits and Ass." The ensemble cast of relative unknowns, the comedy and tragedy of talented people trying to make it by doing what they love to do. Have I become a regular theater-goer? No. Why not? I dunno. I saw my friend Rick perform the lead in The Music Man one summer in Schiller Park, and, come to think of it, he was in Oliver, too. I won't list the ones I should have seen but didn't beginning with Rent...maybe they'll come around again.

6:18 PM  

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

David Edelstein's Top 10, Top 12 whatever . . .

(click on the post title for link to story).

Does this list meet anyone's approval or is just a requrement of critics to churn these things out?


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