Archives for the Month of November 2009 on Cereal Monogamist
Movie reviews: More Stuff I've Seen Lately
Buster Keaton Shorts (1920-1922)
The program was One Week, The Play House and Cops, and One Week was my favorite. Silent films often impress me with how epic they are; it's easy to think of old movies as stagy, cramped drawing-room type stories with tons of talk and not a lot of moving around, because that's the kind of movies that were popular in the 1930s. The reason for that was that sound recording systems were still pretty primitive and the actors couldn't move around much (see Singin' in the Rain for a reenactment). For silent films though, before sound was an issue, they were going wild, having car chases, destroying houses. Have you ever seen Keaton in The General? The guy is jumping from one train to another like he's in Die Hard. And it's funny, too, totally deadpan. Watch One Week below, courtesy of Google video, and enjoy.
More reviews after the jump, some spoilery!
My God, Did You See That?
I've missed the last few weeks of Saturday Night Live, but I tuned in last night simply because I happened to finish a book right around 11:30. I'm glad I saw this episode because host Joseph Gordon-Levitt kinda brought the house down. (In case the name's not familiar, or that picture's too small, he was the kid on 3rd Rock from the Sun; now he's 28 and making indie films. The Lookout was good; I hear Brick is great but it's been in my queue for about three years.)
It's a pretty regular occurrence for hosts to sing and dance in their monologue; Gordon-Levitt chose to emulate the "Make 'Em Laugh" number from Singin' in the Rain. If you have seen that movie, you know the insane physicality involved. If you watched the show, you know that he 95% pulled it off, and that's an incredible achievement.
This link to an Entertainment Weekly recap helpfully provides clips of both Gordon-Levitt's number as well as the original from Donald O'Connor. The writer of the recap, Ken Tucker, is very crotchety about the whole thing, huffing that he was not impressed because Gordon-Levitt didn't make it look as "effortless" as O'Connor did. Not to deride what O'Connor did back in 1952, but he had a cushion that Gordon-Levitt did not have: edits.
Gordon-Levitt did the whole damn thing live! He landed BOTH runs up the wall! So he was huffing and puffing a little by the end. Tucker complains that the thing "wasn't funny," but I think he's missing the point. It wasn't meant to be funny, and it wasn't meant to be better than the original; it was meant to be an incredibly bold gesture by a guy who's just been hovering on the edge of superstardom for the past fifteen or so years, and who I expect will be much-talked about for the rest of the week. It was a calculated move saying, "hey, don't underestimate me," and my prediction is that it will work.
(If you want funny, see the last skit of the night, also playable on the EW page. Gordon-Levitt played Lloyd Dobler doing the boombox serenade and Jason Sudeikis played the neighbor who just couldn't stop ruining it with questions. "Hey, whatcha doing? Is that Peter Gabriel?")
Anyway, it impressed me. Watch those clips--O'Connor's first, so you know what the standard was, and then Gordon-Levitt's--and tell me you didn't have at least a little bit of admiration for the kid. (Who is, incidentally, exactly my age but still seems like he's twenty, only because he's been on TV since he was like four.)
Fast Food and Fashion...
...for a Friday night.
from Grub Street New York: Flowchart Helps You Determine What Crap to Eat
"Is your name Jared?" (if yes: Subway) if no: "Do you have more than $3?" (if no: Taco Bell) if yes: "Are you drunk?"
Question for Science Types and/or Those With Knowledge of Home Improvement
I am currently being driven mad by the front entryway to my house.
Here's the set-up: living room, wooden door, 3-4 feet of entryway, another wooden door, screen door, big bad outdoors world.
Here's the problem: there's this wind tunnel effect being created between the two wooden doors. The one on the outside closes and bolts and everything like it's supposed to, but somehow it traps a bunch of air in the entryway space. The indoors door doesn't latch very well, and as a result, the wind causes it to open in a ghostly manner. It also takes 3 to 10 slams to close in the first place.
It's not a security issue, of course--I do have a properly-locking door--but having the inside door hanging open makes the room kind of chilly, plus Skylar has taken to hanging around in the entryway so she can make sure no one with bad intentions is stepping on our porch. As far as I'm concerned, she can do that from the window.
So, my question is, how do I show this door who's boss? Physicists? Meteorologists? Just the generally handy? Advice, please!
The Lure of Lost (and TV in the Modern Era)
I am one evening marathon away from finishing the fourth season of Lost—I say this as a person who just started watching it, from the first episode of the first season, in September. I’m averaging approximately two weeks per season; at this rate, I will be more than caught up when the sixth season hits broadcast television in February.
I’m not sure I will watch it, though.
Netflix Instant View has been my source for catching up the first five seasons of Lost. Any episode is viewable as quickly as I can connect to the Internet. (For those of you STILL not on board with Netflix, ABC.com has all the full episodes as well.) I can watch twelve episodes in a row while on the couch, but I can also watch one in the library between classes, and I can watch two in bed before going to sleep. In short, I have integrated Lost into just about every aspect of my daily life.
I’m hooked. I liked the story when it was smaller—the forty-odd plane crash survivors trying to build a life on this mysterious island that is both tropical and riddled with polar bears. Then things spread out—there were bands of scientists that had died of some mysterious plague, there were murderous, mysterious “Others,” there were a whole group of people on the other half of the plane who somehow crashed on the other side of the island. This crew fought that crew, that side kidnapped this person. People were continually knocked unconscious while someone escaped. The “others” began to mix with the castaways, then a whole new crew swept in on some ship with a whole new set of loyalties.
And THEN they started mixing flash forwards in with the flashbacks, and now they're suggesting that the island which we already knew had healing powers also appears to be set in some kind of time warp. (Comparable to the one in my living room? Maybe...)
But here’s the thing—a lot of people who stuck things out from the start of the show were really tiring of this show by the third and fourth seasons. I like to read old episode recaps from Television Without Pity, and while these episodes were airing, people were really getting cranky. The show had been on for more than three years, and people were getting impatient, needing answers. Watchers were also frustrated with what was then the standard TV airing schedule: a handful of new episodes scattered across September, reruns in October, sweeps eps in November, reruns through December and January, another sweeps in February, and so on. Two weeks, six weeks between episodes and people were forgetting what was supposed to be keeping them on the edges of their seats. (It’s worth noting that now networks recognize what they didn’t know in 2006: shows like Lost and 24 are now airing mostly uninterrupted for half seasons, lengthening the time that passes between seasons but shortening the time that passes between new episodes.)
Experiencing a show when it’s new, you get to be a part of the cultural phenomenon. I can talk to people about Mad Men the next day because Joan hit her hubby over the head, or jump on the Internet and read everyone’s reactions to the guy who got his foot run over by a lawnmower. (I didn’t write about that episode, but the AV Club did!) You think there’s anyone who wants to talk to me about Lost now? It’s like I’m walking around saying to people, “Can you believe these iPhones? Fan-cy!”
But watching with the broadcast, you also have to deal with those problems. Everything that bugged people about Lost back then has not bothered me at all. I am impervious to cliffhangers—I just click “Play next episode”! I’ve not tired of the layering of the mystery yet because it’s still all new to me. This past summer, I watched season two of Mad Men in just a couple weeks. This fall, I watched season three, but it took thirteen weeks. You get less immersed in a TV show when it’s a short weekly appointment than when you spend an entire week watching it every night (especially a show like Mad Men, which builds up steam SO SLOWLY, although the last three or four episodes of the season were incredible).
I vividly remember my first experience with TV on DVD, when the Best of Friends video discs (not even DVDs yet!) came out, Christmas of 1999 or 2000. My parents bought my sister and I each our own set, because we were spoiled. I…watched all twelve episodes in one night. Really. I don't know if at that time I had seen those episodes recently—it’s possible that Friends was already in syndication, airing at 6pm on TBS or whatever—but having the ability to just pop a tape in and watch “The One Where No One’s Ready” was incredibly novel. (I also brought those videos back to college with me, where on one occasion my roommate and I watched “The One Where Everyone Finds Out” three times in a row.)
It’s fun to think about how much the experience of TV viewing has changed, even just within my lifetime. They didn’t even have VCRs when my parents were kids! TV shows aired, and then what? They dissipated into the air? The other night, I set up my DVR to record The Office while I was in class, but it didn’t pick it up for some reason or another. I shrugged it off, because, you know what? I knew I could watch it on Hulu the next day.
Talk about being spoiled!
Time Warp at Erin's
I changed the battery in my wall clock yesterday, but since that time the clock has been wrong. Somehow, I managed to mash down the hour hand and jam it, leaving the minute hand untouched.
The end result? Since yesterday, the time in my apartment has continually been some time past six. 6:05, 6:20, 6:45. It flows from 6:59 right back into 6:00 again.
I'll eventually fix it, but for now I'm enjoying the oddnesses, such as taking a long nap yesterday afternoon and waking up 20 minutes before I originally fell asleep.
Ah, To Be This Clever
From McSweeney's (the sometimes too too clever hipster publication which in this case got it just right):
by Ernest Hemingway
"It's a mighty sorry business, Sarge being blown up like that," Beetle said. The other soldiers in the café nodded silently. He ordered another bottle of vermouth and drank the vermouth. It was a good vermouth.
Check out the others, including Peanuts by Jane Austen and Dilbert by Charles Dickens. Garfield by James Joyce is also a highlight.
Movie Reviews: Stuff I've Seen Lately
This movie was a real strut for Warren Beatty—throughout he’s the smartest, craftiest, stealthiest, studliest guy around. When his character—a journalist—literally won a barfight, I gave up expecting anything else. That made the movie sort of silly, in addition to the narrative, which was quite obscure and impenetrable for an action-thriller. Also, the last section went on for ages. There are some really great suspense movies from the 70s, but this isn’t one of them.
I saw the remake, with Jude Law, way back when, and thought at the time that it felt old-fashioned. The refrain of, “What does it all mean?” was, I think, by 2004, a question that people born in the era of self-help were a little more used to asking themselves. I was interested, then, in seeing the original, with a youthful Michael Caine, to see if it made more sense in a historical context. The answer is, yes, it does. The incredibly shallow journey to selfhood really should belong to a guy with sideburns, who calls women “birds.” I could quibble with the sexism in the movie, but it was positively quaint, with Alfie having a moment of realization that his victimized girlfriend “has feelings! Just like me!” As a period piece, it was fun. (It seemed weird, though, to have Shelley Winters in a glamorous role—could Roseanne’s Nana Mary really ever have been a sex symbol?)
Click ahead for five more films (but only two produced in my lifetime!)
Sky is hilarious
Sometimes my dog cracks me up. When she's been alone for awhile--while I'm at school or out running errands--she gets really excited to see me come home, and sometimes she channels this excitement into chewing on one of her toys. Thus, she'll often meet me at the door with a stuffed animal clutched between her teeth. (Or maybe I'm misinterpreting this; maybe it's actually an offer. "I'm so glad you came home! Here, have a frog!")
Anyway, I always let her outside to relieve herself after I've been gone for a few hours, and she usually she carries her friend outside with her. So today, I did not consider it unusual that when I got home from the grocery store, Skylar met me at the door with a little teddy bear dangling from her mouth.
Then she decided to do something new: she raced outside, trotted over to the grass, spit out the bear, turned herself around to look at me, and excitedly peed all over the bear.
If for no other reason than that they are sometimes so stupid, dogs are a joy forever.
The New York marathon happened over the weekend. Noted celebrity participants (usually the only ones I care about) were 90s icon Alanis Morissette, the guy who played Dr. Green on ER, and thinking woman's heartthrob Edward Norton, who finished with a legitimate athlete's 3:48:01. Also, people you probably haven't heard of, but who are famous in the Runner's Universe, spent less time running their 26.1 miles than it takes me to make a sandwich.
But the real news is that "proudly average" has triumphed over Hollywood. Personal challenge-setter (and Cereal Monogamist commenter!) Tim Reid successfully trounced Ryan Reynolds' race time by 11 whole minutes, coming in at 3:38:46.
See confirmation of Reid's race time here and his site here. He deserves hearty congratulations, both for meeting his personal goal and for raising a bunch of money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. And also because he visited my blog, and so I consider him my close friend.
Eat a pizza and put your feet up, Tim! You deserve it.