Derelict Junction

Providing missile launch codes for foreign cryptographers everywhere.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Movie Time!

Okay, here we go...

Academy Award Nominations came out last week and the only thing that excited me was the omission of The Passion of (what the) Christ. So the bulk of my satisfaction was for something that didn't happen, rather than did. Looking at the list, I can't help but think what a weak year for movies it had to have been.

Although I've only seen two of the films up for best picture (Million Dollar Baby & Sideways), it seems there would be very safe and conventional rationales behind all the nominees. Both Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator are by award-heavyweights Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, so they're in. Ray qualifies by being a bio-pic of a recently deceased American icon. Sideways is one of those movies that's gotten so much critical praise, the academy would appear as vastly out of touch as they actually are by not nominating it, so that's a go (besides, it was a great film). And (I may be completely wrong here, and I'll apologize after seeing it if I am) Finding Neverland looks like one of those feel-good, "Let's all remember Frank Capra (and forget his movies sucked)" films, à la Chocolat and The Green Mile, so that's in.

But! this year is completely saved from the damnation fires of mediocrity hell by the sole inclusion of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That film is one of the most poignant, accurate, creative, and flawless movies I have ever seen. Even if, after it opened, there was nothing but Frank Darabont films for the rest of the year, its mere inclusion would greatly elevate the year's significance. I've seen it multiple times and I can't find a single blemish. The cast is amazing (and I went into it hating Jim Carrey), the screenplay is both creative and moving, while never feeling clichéd (quite an accomplishment for a romance), and the directing is astonishing.

Every once in a while, a director comes along who celebrates the basic visual medium of film and we're left thinking, "Wow, how come so many directors put out standard bland visuals?" I could go on and on about how ridiculous it is that Michel Gondry wasn't nominated for best director, but I just assume it's a bit too fresh and "newfangled" for many of the aged academy's taste. -The straight-forwardness of Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman competitively grumbling their lines to each other is more their speed.

With that behind us, here's a few more reflections on the nominations:
  • Good to see Don Cheadle nominated for Hotel Rwanda. On the Daily Show he said he had to wait until Will Smith declined the role because he had first shot at it. Good thing he decided to help Kevin James dance and pick up women (Hitch) rather than tell the story of massive human genocide. Hopefully, Don will win so we're spared, what we all know is inevitable, watching Leonardo DiCaprio walk to the podium to pick up his Best Actor Oscar. When that happens, feel free to join me in a national anxiety attack.
  • How much would Annette Bening hate Hilary Swank if she loses the Oscar to her again? (Swank in Boy's Don't Cry & Bening in American Beauty in 2000.) Predictably, I'll be pulling for Kate Winslet, merely because her performance was the best and she deserves it.
  • Jamie Foxx, nominated for both Actor and Supporting Actor will have to win at least one. If the Academy decides Clint Eastwood's acting career is still short of recognition, look for Foxx to take the supporting award. My sentimental favorite would be to see Alan Alda get up there and thank Jamie Farr for all his support.
  • Virginia Madsen up for an Oscar? You've come a long way from Electric Dreams!
  • In the "Making up for Missing the Boat" category, Mike Leigh is nominated for best director again. This has happened to Mike two other times as well, Topsy-Turvy, and Secrets and Lies. All these films are vastly inferior to his 1993 masterpiece, Naked (a film that's still yet to be released on DVD!). I like to believe the academy is trying to make up for that gross oversight (it's fun to use your imagination!). -Kinda like the way the art world is still coping with not appreciating Van Gogh until after he died. If it happens though, Mike, don't remind them of their past mishap like Errol Morris did, or you'll never be heard from again!
  • It would be nice to see Alexander Payne get the award for directing Sideways, but I would still insist Citizen Ruth and Election are his best films. Not his most mature, but his best.
  • The writing awards are the only ones that really matter, of course. Most likely, Payne will pick up the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but I would like to see Richard Linklater get it for Before Sunset. Still, that has its own set of problems. For, if Linklater wins, his co-writer Ethan Hawke does as well, and it might be too much to stomach to watch DiCaprio and Ethan Hawke get awards on the same night. Oh, the pain!
  • As for the Original screenplay award... Setting aside The Aviator and Vera Drake, which I'm still yet to see, how in the world can Eternal Sunshine and Hotel Rwanda be nominated side-by-side with The Incredibles? Let's see, a creative examination into the effects of coping with painful memories, systemic genocide, or a family of superheroes saving the world. What the fuck?! I saw The Incredibles and thought it was completely bland, but I've always been skeptical of films that are promoted as fun "for kids and adults". All that meant in The Incredibles was watching the superhero mother tell her superhero kids to put their superhero seat belts on while they rocket off to save the world. Get it?! Maybe if I had a family that would be hilarious, so I'll just chalk that up to cultural differences. Nice Edith Head reference, though, who the academy loves.
  • The Passion of (what the) Christ isn't up for adapted screenplay, but that's not politics, it's simply that the original material wasn't that good to begin with.
Prediction: I will hate Leonardo DiCaprio even more after this year's awards.
Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 27, 2005

We all have our weaknesses.

Quick, what do you think of when I say Siberia?

Well, forget about that. Move over debatably extinct tigers and gulag camps, make room for Siberia's latest claim to fame, the absurdly underrated Andrei Kirilenko.

When I was last in New York, a friend of mine (after a few beers) admitted to having a "man-crush" on Cleveland prodigy, LaBron James. As a basketball fan, this is understandable, but I still managed to think to myself, "Boy, is that screwed up! He's really confused." It wasn't until I found myself on did I realize the hypocrisy of my judgments and the extent of my affliction.

For some strange reason, I've grown to love foreign basketball players. Not only do they provide a global character to the game, but the path they've taken to the NBA must have been more difficult than the American players. Many of the Eastern European players came from war-torn former Yugoslavia. In fact, when the fighting began there, some of the pro players stopped talking to each other because of their affiliations (specifically, the late Drazen Petrovic ended his friendship with Vlade Divac because Vlade's a Serb.)

Maybe it's easier for some of the Western European players like Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, since their countries aren't in war turmoil and their professional leagues are stable, but think about the path Manu Ginobili had to take from Argentina, Arvydas Sabonis from Lithuania, Yao Ming from China, Hidayet Turkoglu from Turkey, Dikembe Mutombo from Congo, and Andrei Kirilenko from Siberia, all to become some of the best players in the NBA. It would be the equivalent of playing soccer here and wanting to play for Manchester United (like Tim Howard did).

So, may hat goes off to these guys. Not that it's any easier for American players to make it, but the foreign players don't seem to benefit from hype as much as young American players (I'm looking at you Felipe Lopez and Kwame Brown!).Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

No Hope for Television.

I've forgotten who suggested to me that I watch the show "Freaks and Geeks", but whoever it was, you have my gratitude.

Here's a little background: The show only lasted one season (1999), and might be mistaken as another, predictable high school comedy, but it's so much better. In stark contrast to the likes of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "The O.C.", where pouting James Dean flunkies and swimsuit models burden the audience with their dismay over not having more useless shit than the next, this show is believable in look and in situation. Maybe that's why it got cancelled, I can see some obnoxious television producer sitting behind his desk saying, "Freaks? Geeks? These people aren't good-looking enough to be on my network! There's not one person in that cast I'd have sex with!"

Since it's cancellation, the list of actors, writers and directors has become a "Who's Who" of young, talented Hollywood. For instance, directors include Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) and Jake Kasdan (Orange County). Producer Judd Apatow went on to produce Anchorman with Will Farrell and writer Mike White is better known for penning Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl. Even a minor character actor, Seth Rogen, went on to write for one of the most genius television shows still in production, "Da Ali G Show".

The pilot of the series is the best pilot I've ever watched. Some of the later episodes are mediocre, but only a couple, most are worthy of repeated viewings. The characters are written so well, with such depth and complexity, you'll find yourself immediately connecting with their plights, even if you miss some of the 1980 pop culture references. The acting is superb, but the way the writers weave in tense, uncomfortable situations is its real accomplishment. Unlike any teenage, coming-of-age show I've seen, these characters finally portray high school the way I remember it, painful, confusing, and wonderful. Compared to the overly-stylish work of John Hughes, this show looks like a documentary. -A very funny, honest documentary.

So why is there no hope? Immediately after watching the first episode, I was reminded of something Sean said when the "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" show was cancelled after one season. He said, "If a show that good gets cancelled, there's no hope for television." Now, I don't think Sean had any hope for television in the first place, but his point is still dead-on.

So, I urge you to rent the "Freaks and Geeks" DVDs, and enjoy them. Enjoy them right up until the point where you find yourself shaking your head and saying, "That show gets cancelled?! -But Charlie Sheen and Jim Belushi get to have their horrible shows renewed?!"

Also, the show provides me the giddy pleasure of watching the great Canadian comic Joe Flaherty of SCTV fame chew out his kids as the square father. He's one of those comics (like Fred Willard) who's funniest when he tries to be serious. Here he is as Count Floyd on SCTV:


(And the gym teacher is played by Biff, of Back to the Future fame!)
Posted by Hello

Monday, January 17, 2005

Smilin' Again.

Okay, I'm not going to gloat about the Patriots pounding the Colts last weekend after all the "experts" picked them to lose. Believe me, reading all the coverage this morning was gratifying enough without gloating.

I would like to point out someone no one factored in before the game, but ended up dictating it once it started. Without talking about his performance yesterday, which was the best game he played all year, let me just point out his season is all about getting a second chance (or third, or fourth...).

Corey Dillon had never made the playoffs with his former team, the Cincinatti Bengals, but on a personal level, he was very successful. He even set the single-game rushing record there, until it was broken the next year by Jamaal Lewis. Ultimately, though, the losing took its toll. In an article on Dillon's wife said she hadn't seen him smile in six years, until he started playing for the Patriots.

Here's a guy who at age 15 was arrested for selling crack cocaine in his hometown of Seattle. He had a rocky college career, once even accusing his former University of Washington coaches of bad-mouthing him to pro scouts. In Cincinatti, he was branded with the nick-name "Corey Villain". When he publicly asked for a trade from the Bengals after last season and someone asked him where he'd like to play he said it didn't matter. "I'd rather flip burgers" than play in Cincinatti. When told he was traded to Patriots and asked if the Bengals made a fair trade, he said "They could've traded me for a pizza, it wouldn't have mattered to me."

Suddenly, he was on a team that required its players put the team first and their egos second. There was much speculation whether he would be able to buy into the Patriots' "team philosophy" after causing so much trouble in Cincinatti. But he did. In fact, he became an instant leader. What was initially thought of as selfishness in Cincinatti, turned out to be mere frustration with losing.

Whether he wins again this weekend, and goes onto the Super Bowl, or bows out to the Steelers, he's finally gotten a taste of winning.Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tales from Days of Yore.


Way back, if the Age of Employment, I was flown to L.A. for a "Business Meeting" with a brand. This basically consists of going to dinner and allowing someone else to pay for it. Little did I know it would turn out to be a lesson in perspective.

I arrived at the restaurant and my manger walked over, grabbed me by the arm and said, "You won't believe who just came in, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas!" Unfortunately, the excitement of our good fortune soon faded for me. While everyone at our table was giddy with enthusiam to be sitting across from the said couple, my interest was soon reduced to wondering if her real name was Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas, and if there's a limit on hyphenated names. If she gets married again, can she keep the "-Douglas" and just add more names like legos?

I will say this about being awe-struck by the couple: When I first saw CZ-J, I said the exact same thing Charlie Murphy said when he first saw O.J. Simpson. Which was, "That's Catherine Zeta-Jones. Man, she's got a big head!" Big. Head. I'm reminded of Merv Griffin (often), who supposedly had a very strict policy with his television shows to only hire personalities with large heads because it translates better on the screen. The most famous examples being Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Maybe Merv was right. Maybe the struggles of finding extra-extra-large head gear can be made up in the form of an acting career.


So I sat there all night, ate expensive Asian-Fusion food, and listened to the table gush about how talented that particular Hollywood couple is. Now, I love movies and pop culture, but I'm also a cynical indie film geek, so hearing how underated CZ-J is was a bit sickening. Maybe it was because some of the people at our table never see Hollywood personalities, or that one of our diners was a recently no-longer-struggling actress, since landing a role on LAX (that's right, the show about an airport. I missed the episode where that luggage goes missing!), but the praise was non-stop. It wasn't long before I started to believe something was seriously wrong with these people.

But then it happened. With all the energy of a smacked out junkie, I gazed towards the entrance and saw Tony Delk walk in. And then Chris Mills. "Holy shit," I said aloud, "That's Tony Delk!"

"Who's Tony Delk?"

"And Chris Mills!"

"Who's Chris Mills?"

"Who's Chris Mills!? He used to come off the bench for the Warriors!" And with that outburst whatever potential dignity I mustered up at the table was gone. Suddenly, the people I pitied were actively pitying me. O' Cruel Fate! I must have been so viciously looking down my nose at my company that the gods of humility had to step in and push Tony Delk into the room. -Just to remind me that being a geek is all a matter of perspective. Touché!

As the saying goes, "One man's trash, is another man's Tony Delk."
Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Farewell Sweet Sports Year!

As you probably know, I enjoy the world of professional sports competition. Not only has it proved entertaining and exciting, it's always been an effective tool of discourse in the male world of poor communication skills. That's my sociologigal excuse, but the truth is I simply enjoy it.

Last year for me, being a hopeless Boston Sports fan, was a gift from god, all the gods. Like, if there's a Justice League for Deities (like there is for Super Heroes), they all sat down and said, "Maybe Jeff would like to see the Red Sox, the Patriots and the Connecticut Huskies win national championships this year? -And let's throw in the Pistons creaming the Lakers in basketball, too." So I thank you all for your generosity.

A few years ago, Lisa and I were talking about Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series. For those who don't know, Gibson was playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were heavy underdogs to the Oakland A's that year. Gibson had an injured knee and was questionable to play ot all. In the first game, he hobbled up to the plate in the last inning, hit a ridiculous home run to win the game, limped around the bases, and never batted again in the Series that the Dodgers easily won. Lisa, being from Los Angeles and a huge Dodger fan pulled her shirt sleeve back and said, "Look. Goose bumps. Even now. -Over 10 years after it happened. Goose Bumps."

It's amazing to me that just the mere memory of an event could effect someone so much. I now know how it feels. The other day ESPN was doing an "End of the Year" sports review and when they profiled the Red Sox winning 4 games in a row to come back from an 0-3 game deficeit to beat the Yankees, I pulled back my sleave, and there it was. Goose Bumps.
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Welcome to Oz!

Ya know that scene in the movie where the hero gets sent to jail and he meets his new Cell-Mate? Well, that's what this is like. I heartily apologize for my lack of posts in the last month, but fear not! Word has come down and I was unable to stay on at my Zappos job, so I've come into a little free time. Therefore, if you're reading this, just imagine you've just been escorted into a jail cell, and I'm standing there looking at you. Ready to get intimate?

That reminds me of a prison joke- A little guy gets sent to jail for tax evasion. When he enters his cell he realizes his cell-mate is a mountain of a man, twice his size. The cell-mate says to him, "I've only got one question, do you wanna be the Mommy or the Daddy?" After thinking about it the man says, "Well, if I have to choose, I guess I'll be the Daddy." And the mountain replies, "Okay. Now get over here and suck Mommy's dick."

So me being laid off is kinda like that story. Aren't you excited?

Things I've done in my 3 days of being unemployed:
  • Cataloged about 4,000 songs on my computer (Reminiscent of John Cusack in High Fidelity, reorganizing his records to create the illusion of structure in his disorganized life.)
  • Cleaned the cat's box (An event not to be unappreciated.)
  • Watched Anchorman twice.
  • Made pancakes (another event not to go unappreciated.)
  • Applied for unemployment on-line.
  • Had my first of many Bored Meetings with unemployed comrades at World Sausague on Market St.
  • Redefined my world through the help of my IPod Mini. This is clearly the greatest gift I've ever received (Thanks Mom!). Not only does it improve your mood, build resiliency against the weather, but it makes all the homeless people in my neighborhood sound like Husker Du. Magnificent!
So I'm looking forward to our time together in the future. If anyone bothers you in the cafeteria or courtyard, you just tell them you're mine and they'll know not to touch you. Okay, little buddy?
Posted by Hello