December 31, 2008

2008 Year-End Wrap Up

This was not a swell year for movies. The best superhero movie of all time was released, but beyond that, it was pretty weak. The granddaddy of them all (almost literally), they finally made another Indiana Jones movie this year, much to everyone's disappointment. Harry Potter 6 was ready to be released, but they decided to wait until next July. The new James Bond was good but not great. In good franchise news, the new Hellboy and Hulk sequels were both better than the previous movies. And last and least, the funniest man of the 1990s, Mike Myers, tried a live-action comeback in The Love Guru, and no one cared. Thank God 2008 is over!
BEST PICTURE I saw in the theater: The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie ever, and should be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy. I haven't gotten my ballot yet- I feel like they're missing an important voice!
BEST PICTURE I did not see in the theater: WALL•E After I got my neck belched on at Ratatouille, I could not bring myself to go to another children's movie. In December 2008, I watched WALL•E on DVD, and now I wish I had seen those amazing visuals on a big silver screen! Sigh.
MOST ENTERTAINING MOVIE: Iron Man was too short. How often do I say that?
BEST COMEDY: Pineapple Express, way funnier than Tropic Thunder, which cost ten times as much to make.
TEARJERKER AWARD: I cried copiously at Young At Heart. We were just getting to know those nice old folks when they started dropping like flies! Sniff.
REDEMPTION AWARD: Colin Farrell in In Bruges. Who knew that I would care about him ever again?
WORST PICTURE: I saw some of but not all of MAMMA MIA! on DVD. Enough to find Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried's mother and daughter team to be repellent. Who treats their mother or daughter that way? Enough to find the "plot" beyond ridiculous. Enough to wonder why you'd pay to hear those great ABBA songs butchered like bad kareoke. Ugg.
NOTE: These awards may be changed pending any movies I see in 2009 which came out in 2008.

Eleven Movies I Almost Saw In The Theater in 2008
  • Baby Mama: A pleasant romantic comedy, with a cast all 35 plus, including Greg Kinnear as the love interest. I love Tina Fey, and I loved the movie on DVD. No need to spend $10 for this mildly amusing comedy.
  • Charlie Wilson's War had no plot to speak of. It was like a documentary brought to life.
  • Get Smart: let's be serious, I was never going to see this in the theater.
  • Ghost Town: Another mild DVD-level rom-com starring 35+ actors and Greg Kinnear. This time, the beloved cult comic who isn't a big enough star to make me go to the theater is Ricky Gervais.
  • Hancock: Two-thirds of a really good idea. Terrible too-short ending.
  • Leatherheads: Tries to hard to do too much. Could have been better.
  • Prince Caspian: The plot is badly f**ked up. Not recommended.
  • "W": I haven't seen this one yet. I will update this posting once I rent it.
  • WALL•E (see above)
  • X-Files: I Want to Believe: I was a huge fan of the TV show (while David Duchovny was on it), and I quite liked the Fight The Future movie in 1998. I felt it was important to tell you that before I revealed how much I Want To Believe sucked. In this blog, I normally do not review movies I didn't see in the theater, but I want to warn X-philes to stay away. Wow. I can hardly believe that Chris Carter had ten years to write another X-Files movie and this was the result. Avoid this movie at all costs. It has no redeeming value. How can I explain?
    • There's no supernatural elements at all. It's a serial kidnap-killer movie.
    • There's no good reason for Mulder & Scully to reunite to solve this case.
    • They only follow around FBI agents and bicker.
    • They do not really investigate anything.
    • They only find a couple clues.
    • I hate movies where women are kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
    • Did I mention, it's not an X-file at all?
    • It would have been OK as an episode of the TV show, but not good enough for a movie.
  • Zack & Miri Make A Porno: I haven't seen this one yet. I will update this posting once I rent it.

December 12, 2008

Yankee Swap 2008: "The Future"

The theme of this year's Yankee Swap was THE FUTURE. I was very pleased when a CD-R of my mix got "swapped" several times around the party!
When I first thought of this idea, all I had in mind was "In The Year 2525" by Zager & Evans, "Mr Roboto" by Styx, and "The Body Electric" by Rush. I had an OK first draft done when I asked my lovely wife for her perspective. She thought it was too focused on robots and spaceships, and she started suggesting songs about "things that will happen someday" which are NOT sci-fi oriented. Her ideas vastly improved the mix, as you will see...
  1. Battlestar Galactica Theme: My brother used this song (from the classic 1970s TV show) as his wedding ceremony recessional theme. I kid you not.
  2. "1999" Prince: A 26-year-old song, about partying 9 years ago, IS about the future.
  3. "Fly Like An Eagle" Steve Miller Band, aka "Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin... into the future!"
  4. "Until The End of the World": My wife thought of this U2 song.
    Fascinating movie,
    great original soundtrack.
  5. "Robots [live]" From the Flight of the Conchords THE DISTANT FUTURE: 'It is the distant future. The year 2000.'
  6. "The Body Electric" Rush
  7. "Someday I Suppose" I found this Mighty Mighty Bosstones song because it's next to "Someday, Someway" in my iTunes.
  8. "My Science Fiction Twin" Elvis Costello: Another suggestion from my wife.
  9. "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" Timbuk 3
  10. I found the Leonard Cohen song "The Future", from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, by searching for FUTURE in iTunes.
  11. I bought The Flaming Lips song "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" especially for this mix,
  12. "Robot Chicken Theme" The show Robot Chicken isn't actually about the future per se, but this Les Claypool instrumental is short and fun.
  13. This painting would look bitchin'
    on the side of my van
  14. "Pets" by Porno for Pyros song is perfect for this mix. I first heard this song as Beavis & Butthead were watching the video for it on MTV!
  15. "In The Year 2525" The words to this Zager & Evans hit are kinda weird!
  16. "Robot Parade" There were many They Might Be Giants songs to choose from.
  17. "Mr. Roboto" Styx
  18. The Jetsons Theme: I could not find the original theme song on iTunes, so I settled for this barely-better-than Casio keyboard recording.
  19. "Attack El Robot! Attack!" Calexico
  20. "When I'm Sixty Three and a Half" After The Beatles recorded "When I'm Sixty-Four" in late 1966, Paul McCartney, intending to make his voice sound "younger", asked producer George Martin to speed up the master tape, just enough to shift the key of the song a half-step sharp. To undo this change, I have pitch-shifted the song a half-step down (flat), to match the key in which McCartney originally sang it. The tempo has not been changed.)
  21. "Someday We'll Know" New Radicals
  22. "Someday, Someway" Marshall Crenshaw
  23. "My Flying Saucer" Billy Bragg & Wilco
  24. Star Trek Theme
  25. "Tomorrow Never Knows" The Beatles
    "We don't look like Daft Punk"

December 8, 2008

Two Minutes, 42 seconds

As I write this, I am listening to a mix of songs which only have one thing in common- they're all 2 minutes, 42 seconds long. There's this internet "meme" going around which says that 2:42 is a "magic number" for great songs, so I'm putting it to the test. I sorted my entire iTunes library by length (13,000 songs). Then I selected ALL the songs which clock in at 2:42. Then I weeded it down to about 30 songs, down to a small group of songs or bands I especially like. I haven't sequenced this group at all. Here's the result:
  • "Under The Boardwalk" The Drifters
  • "Streets of Fire" New Pornographers
  • "Lighten Up" Beastie Boys
  • "Oceans" Pearl Jam
  • "September Gurls" The Bangles
  • "The Way You Do The Things You Do" The Temptations
  • "In My Room" Grant Lee Buffalo
  • "Divine Hammer" The Breeders
  • "Sheila Take a Bow" The Smiths
  • "Revolving Dora" Fountains of Wayne
  • "Leggy Blonde" Flight of the Conchords
  • "Lovely Rita" The Beatles
  • "Poison Ivy" The Coasters
  • "May Queen" Liz Phair
  • "Come See About Me" Supremes
  • "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" Nick Lowe
  • "Don't Worry Baby" Beach Boys
  • "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)" Bruce Springsteen
  • "Pictures of Lily" The Who
  • "I Second That Emotion" Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  • "You Never Can Tell" Chuck Berry
  • "Go Home" Barenaked Ladies
  • "California Dreamin'" The Mamas & Papas
  • "Teen Beat" Fleetwood Mac
Not surprisingly, the mix leans heavily on the early 1960s, and the 1970s and 1980s are barely present!

December 6, 2008


milkA great American story about civil rights, politics, and community organizing, the story of Harvey Milk has finally been told. The movie is super-gay and super-1970s, but in 2008, the year of Proposition 8, this story of civil rights seems more universal and timely than ever. The screenplay seems a little too well groomed at times, but the direction is deft, the use of archival footage is clever, and most of all, the performances are superb across the board.

MILK stars Sean Penn as we haven't seen him since Jeff Spicoli: having fun. Penn plays Milk as a nerdy prankster, charismatic and quick with a joke. Josh Brolin is fantastic as Dan White, a unstable rival politician. White plays the part of a successful American father and husband, but wound so tight that we wonder what's wrong with him. James Franco continues to impress me: first Pineapple Express, then this part, the "political wife" role.

NOTES: This is my second movie in a row with a gay director: first Australia (Baz Luhrmann), and now MILK (Gus Van Sant). Both movies prominently feature Judy Garland singing "Over The Rainbow". Coincidence? (Kendall Square Cinema with my wife, plus Eve & Brenda)