Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Continuing my summer plan to spend as much as possible indoors sequestered away from the gorgeous weather, I went and saw the new Woody Allen movie Whatever Works this weekend.
The story is basically about a misanthropic former physicist turned chess teacher named Boris who, despite his general distaste for people, takes in a young woman from Mississippi who ran away to New York. They eventually fall in love, despite their age difference, and get married. And then life happens. I won’t ruin the ending for you in case you want to see it (if you like Woody Allen then you should).
He originally wrote the script in the early 70’s and wrote the leading man for Zero Mostel, who died before they could make the movie in 1977. The script was shelved until just recently, when Allen pulled it back off the shelf in the hopes of getting a movie in before an actor strike pops up.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the main plot point of the story (younger woman and older man fall in love) would seem to be a result of Woody Allen’s own personal life as he married the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow. However, the script was written in the 70’s and the whole Soon-Yi debacle didn’t happen until the 90’s. So that weird dynamic predated his own weird personal life.
The second reason this is interesting is where that places the script in the Woody Allen canon. The early 70’s would put this script after the earlier raucously funny but emotionally shallow days of Bananas and Sleeper but before the emotionally more rich romantic comedies like Annie Hall and Manhattan.
The story really reflects that transition. It’s a romantic comedy and it deals heavily with relationships and the nature of love and life and death, but it doesn’t have the same emotional depth to the characters as his later work and it still has those jokey moments I love from the very early stuff. There are even structural hints that suggest this transition, as the movie begins with a monologue directly to the audience from Boris, who is completely aware of the audience’s existence, even though the rest of the characters on screen are not. “Who are you talking to, Boris?” (I love that kind of stuff, by the way – the meta sort of acknowledgement of the audience’s existence.)
So, in a sense, it is almost like finding the missing link in the Woody Allen evolutionary chain of film making. And if you love the two periods of film that Whatever Works straddles, you will most likely love this movie too.
This includes me. And I’m a sucker for misanthropes, which Larry David does perfectly well throughout. It's hard for me - and this may be a function of my lack of Zero Mostel exposure - to believe Mostel could have done a better job. Although David could probably have benefited from a little more monologue coaching at the top of the movie. Once he gets in to the scenic work, though, he’s great. And his style compliments Woody Allen’s style very well. They’re similar enough to make this comfortable material but different enough that you still enjoy that unique Larry David ability to call shout at little children, call them idiots, take their money and still remain likable.
The remainder of the cast is strong, most notably Patricia Clarkson who plays a great conservative southern matriarch turned New York hipster photographer.
I think my one qualm with the movie, and what prevented this in my mind from making the jump from good movie to great movie, was that it was just that little bit of emotional shallowness I mentioned earlier. Boris is presumably the main character of this story, however I don’t really feel like he’s changed by the end of the movie. He begins a bitter, disgruntled but somewhat lovable old man consumed by his own genius, and he ends pretty much the same guy. Maybe just more convinced that he’s right and that he’s a genius.
In fact, there’s a scene where his young wife basically tells him that she’s met someone else. The character’s response is more or less “well, I knew this was going to happen anyway because I’m such a genius.” It’s a funny scene, but it felt hollow to me somehow.
Apart from that, though, Whatever Works is definitely worth seeing, particularly those of you who wouldn’t mind a quick trip back to the earlier works.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
(Which is code for no time / too lazy to write a real blog entry)
For lunch, I went to a local Italian grocery store and got myself a nice 9-inch meatball sub. I've always been a fan of the meatball sub; not only for the plentiful phallic jokes waiting to be made, but also because they are delicious. Today's was particularly good. And as a result of this, I have spent the rest of my afternoon thinking about sandwiches and how delicious they are. So...
MY QUESTION TO YOU IS: what is your favorite sandwich, and where did you get it?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It’s a story about a young Belgian lass who fell asleep in the chair of a tattoo artist only to awake with fifty-six (as in fifty, plus six) starts tattooed into her face. Here’s a picture of the poor innocent dove featuring a very classy rhinestone encrusted “SEXY” belt buckle:
The poor lady asked for only three stars and then promptly decided that it was time for a nap. However, she seems to think that the tattoo artist may have “misunderstood her French and English” and thought that she asked for fifty-six. Do three and fifty-six sound similar in French? I don’t speak it, although the differences in English seem to be pretty distinct.
But whatever; be that as it may fifty-six stars she now has plastered across the left side of her face. And, according to her upset father and upset boyfriend, she is apparently also upset enough to sue. Despite having witnesses on hand at the time of the tattooing claim that she in fact specified that she wanted fifty-six stars. And despite the fact that fifty-six stars would be an obscenely random ‘mistake’ for someone to make. And despite the fact that the tattoo artist is a respectable gentleman, as evidenced by this picture.
I think the glasses really pull that look together.
It would be easy to sit back and assume that this young lady is lying, that the evidence against her is too great and also by the way HOW DO YOU SLEEP THROUGH THE PAIN OF SOMEONE TATTOOING 56 STARS ONTO YOUR FREAKING FACE? it would be easy to rush to that kind of judgment. But we here at Clever Title (we being me) believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.
This particular instance hits close to home, as I managed to sleep through the pain of having my hand underneath a radiator only to wake up and find a gigantic eighth degree burn on my freaking hand (with the scar as evidence). Of course, I may or may not have enjoyed an excessive amount of fermented beverage that evening, but this is not the point.
The point is… where was I going with this? Oh yes. Don’t trust the Belgians.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I think I’m starting to get Quirk Fatigue.
What the hell am I talking about, you ask? Let me explain.
I had an English professor in college who taught that there was such a thing as aesthetic fatigue. Basically, after a certain amount of exposure the general populace will grow tired of a certain genre, at which point the genre either dies out or alters in some significant way so as to maintain interest.
I mention this because I think I’m starting to get to that point with these off-beat quirky movies. I don’t know if it qualifies as a specific genre, but you kind of know what I’m talking about, right? They’re movies about smart, liberally minded yet nonetheless unsuccessful slacker types who are trying to make their way through life and, as a result of the movie’s journey, come away at the end of it with some sort of bittersweet lesson about life or love or family or what not.
Away We Go is one of those movies. And, truthfully, this is the type of movie that I have liked quite a bit in the past – the Wes Anderson ilk, the Little Miss Sunshines of the world, the descendants of Harold and Maude. That type of movie.
And Away We Go is definitely a good one of this type, with a lot of great performances for a lot of really good characters. Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Daniels and Maggie Gyllenhaal come to mind. And I admit, Maya Rudolph was actually quite good, and John Krasinski was quite charming.
And there was certainly some great comic writing, and it was structured well and it was shot in that Indy-ish way had the good yet kind of off-beat Rushmore-esque soundtrack.
But at the end, the point where the audience is supposed to have their love of life reaffirmed and then leave with a warm and gooey brownie center, I just felt kind of cheated in a weird way. Weird because I knew what the movie wanted me to feel and, instead of melting at my core and then whistling the credits music on the drive home, my response was, ‘Yeah, ok. That was what I thought it would be.’
But, I don’t know, man. I guess I’m starting to get tired of people dealing with their existential crises in charmingly offbeat ways. And, if the previews are any indication, there are more coming. I’m curious if anyone else is starting to feel that way.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
I know, I know. I talk about weather like I was an old man. But have you Chicagoans looked outside lately? Two Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, a Flash Flood Warning. I think if we get the Tornado Warning too then we get some sort of prize.
And me without an umbrella. Awesome. What could be worse? I don't know, maybe...
POSING LIKE HITLER AT A RALLY MEANT TO DEFEND HILARIOUSLY FABRICATED ELECTION RESULTS?
Yikes! Way to win the people's hearts, buddy. Before you start threatening people for peacefully protesting, how about an explanation first as to how you counted 40 million ballots in two hours? Maybe then you can get away with the incredulous, "Eleven million votes difference? Sometimes there's a margin of 100,000, 200,000, or 1 million maximum. Then one can doubt maybe there has been some rigging or manipulation or irregularities."
Which translates to "This election looks so cartoonishly rigged that it couldn't possibly be really rigged, right?"
Maybe if you weren't Iran, buddy.
Great, now I'm really in a bad mood. What could possible pull me out of this funk? I don't know, how about...
VIDEO OF A MASCOT SHARK HUMPING THINGS?
You read that right. Watch the below, my friends. I promise you will not be disappointed.
I don't speak Spanish, but even I know that's hilarious. There's a part of me that wants to be just like this shark. Is that weird?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
What makes me think that? It's the fact that, despite have an "election" in what amounts to a dictatorship last Friday and despite the fact that the highly unpopular incumbent was proclaimed "winner" immediately after the elections ended and despite the repeated threat of physical violence and death, people are still protesting the results.
They have a right to be royally pissed off. I mean, I haven't seen one this rigged since Chicago's last election.
But seriously, you have to wonder why Iran bothered. Here they are, a dictatorship controlled by the Grand Ayatollah who has all the power, holding elections for a guy whose job it is to shout a lot. The people get to pick from a bunch of candidates who are preapproved by a government council, so everyone is already basically on the same side. And then they hold the damn thing, which produced record turn out at 45 million paper ballots cast, and then announced a winner within two hours of the polls closing and, surprise surprise, the winner is the guy that the Grand Ayatollah liked the whole time. Unless Iranian's are blessed with superhuman mathematical abilities, there's no way in hell they counted 45 million paper ballots in two hours. Oh, and he won by a ludicrously made up margin of victory.
Looking at that, you almost have to wonder why the hell anyone would bother voting.
But they did. 45 million people did. And when it became so blatantly obvious that the majority of people were ignored they wigged out. And then, when the state basically shut down the media and started beating people and setting college dorm rooms on fire, they wigged out even more.
You have to respect them for that.
It's at times like this where I like to take a moment and be thankful. Sure, the economy is falling apart around us and then the government and media and damned Sammy Sosa and so on, but there are some good things about this country. Namely:
- Candidates for high office aren't chosen by a group of ten government employees but by a long drawn out primary process whereby the candidates are forced to spend millions of dollars raised through fund raisers
- Large amounts of people weren't killed last time there was an election
- The media, by virtue of sensationalism and ratings, will blow everything out of proportion such that it's hard to get away with rigging an election
- Even when elections are rigged, they at least have the decency to draw the process out for weeks and make it appear as though all the votes are going to be counted
- We don't live in Iran
Keep it up, Iranians! One day, if you're lucky...
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
This post is work related. I try not to mention any specifics when talking about work – I don’t want people searching the web looking for my company only to stumble across this blog – and as a result this post may be a little vague at times. So, I guess this is a ‘sorry in advance’ in case I lose you. Check back tomorrow! Maybe I’ll find a funny picture somewhere.
Anyway, a certain company that employs yours truly was recently invited, along with a couple of other companies, to a big Chicago business breakfast at a certain hotel to be recognized by a certain publication for certain achievements in the realm of making money. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I was offered the opportunity to represent our company along with some of my fellow employees and to attend aforementioned breakfast event, which took place at 7:30 AM this morning.
‘Free breakfast…,’ I thought to myself, ‘yeah, what the hell.’
Our company is very casual. Casual like we have meetings to discuss using the bathroom and then everyone makes jokes casual. Casual like the C.O.O. wears flip flops and white t-shirts to work casual. Casual like I haven’t worn a tie in years casual.
But today we were showcasing ourselves to the business world. So I rolled out of bed early and I hopped in the shower and then put on a shirt that requires buttoning and, after searching desperately through a pile of forgotten clothing, found a tie that requires tying. Then I shuffled off to the El and went down to the loop, a place where I almost never go, and arrived at the hotel.
I found a sea of people in business suits, exchanging business cards and talking business while waiting in line for some free Starbucks Coffee. It’s weird how different people are when they’re wearing their different hats. Everyone was clean shaven, the ladies were made up, the men had their hair combed. It was kind of incredible looking around at all of the people talking seriously about serious things. I don’t know, I guess I’m just not used to it now. I mean, even their jokes told seriously and in serious tones.
In short, I was out of my element.
But I had my breakfast – luke warm scrambled eggs and a slice of cold ham but, you know, free – and got some swag out of the deal – a wireless mouse and then some random stuff I’ll never use – so I had just enough to keep me interested in the speeches and panel discussions. It was rough going there for a while. One guy – a writer for this publication – had a well written speech but not idea how to deliver it. Another guy – can’t remember who he was or why he was there – knew how to deliver a speech but not how to write one.
The general topic of discussion was how America needs more entrepreneurs (pronounced by many with a ridiculously overstressed last ‘r’ sound) to take advantage of these difficult financial times. This was a good point, although I thought that it was a message better served for somewhere other than a hall full of people who are already entrepreneurs.
‘Hey Everybody! We’re awesome!’
The highlight of the panel discussion was the Irish guy who came over and started his own construction company. He was actually personable, entertaining and possibly a little bit drunk. Gotta love those Irish.
The rest of the speakers? Eh. I kind of zoned out for a lot of it and played with the coffee cream on the table. Then I started looking around the room full of respectable business people in their serious business suits and casually pictured what the room would look like full of apes.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The first time I ever heard it was when Bush the First was about to be elected. I was sitting in a crappy Mexican restaurant with a grade school friend and his mother, who was a big Dukakis supporter even though he was a funny looking dude. The implication was that if Dukakis was not elected, life in America would become so awful and untenable that she would have no choice but to uproot the whole family and move to a foreign land.
Looking back, it seems odd to me anyone would try to talk politics to someone else's kid who, at that young age, was more interested in getting to the Ninja Turtles machine in the arcade.
I've always thought that sort of empty threat was a stupid threat to make, particularly in a Democratic Republic like ours where public opinion is so pandered to and so simultaneously ignored and where we need only wait four more years until we can elect someone else.
Really, threatening to leave the country basically amounts to poor sportsmanship.
So I've generally ignored such comments from others and try to avoid making such idle threats. But here I am twenty years later, about to do the same goddamn thing. Not about the President, but about this.
Apparently these people are in such a fury that they don't have the time to proof read their own Mission Statement.
I'm not a huge Letterman fan. I've watched him before. I think he's funny, but I'm more a Conan kind of person.
But if David Letterman gets fired from his job for making a joke about Sarah Palin's daughters - a joke for which he has already apologized despite the fact that IT'S A TINY LITTLE JOKE TOLD ON LATE NIGHT TELEVISION INTENDED FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS ALREADY HAD ONE CHILD OUT OF WEDLOCK - then there is no hope here. We as a country will have completely lost our damned minds, and it will be time to move on to a country that can take a freaking joke without flying into a furious uproar over something trivial.
If that means learning Swedish, then so be it.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Hey everybody, it's Friday! And you know what Friday means around here: time to throw out some random links and show plugs and see what sticks.
Could Be Worse. Having a bad day? Things just don't seem to be going your way? Well, at least your house wasn't accidentally bulldozed today, am I right?
Some guy's house was completely demolished, apparently because the demolition experts were given coordinates and not, say, a postal address.
Does the act of finding this somewhat amusing make me a bad person? Or does it make me German? And which is worse?
In The World of Comedy you don't have to apologize for every little freaking thing. Sarah Palin must think differently, as she turns up the heat campaign '08 style on David Letterman to apologize not just to her 14 year old daughter (not the one who has already had a child) but to "young women" as a group. Because a joke that specifies a Palin would obviously offend everyone everywhere.
Hey, remember during the campaign when everyone was constantly apologizing for everything that their advisers said to the point where the campaign became a needlessly bloody slap fest of ridiculousness? Take a moment to be grateful that process is over. For another two years or so.
In related news, Sarah Palin's children have sex out of wedlock.
What Would Friday Be Without some good old fashioned pluggery.
Measure for Measure. Last two shows are tonight and tomorrow. Information is in the post below.
And On a Personal Note today is my birthday. I am 27 years old. I'd like to take this birthday opportunity to thank all of you for spending some time with me by visiting this little old blog.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Measure for Measure closes this weekend, and I would love to see you all there. If you're interested and can let me know in advance, I can get you 2-for-1 tickets. Click the link for more information on the show.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Hey, let’s waste some time, shall we?
Twelve Year Old Nat Says AWESOME! One of my cast mates from the show was talking about this television show on Spike TV called Deadliest Warrior. I do not have cable, but shows like this make me desperately want it.
I ask who among you has never wondered who would win in a fight between a Spartan and a Ninja.
Here’s A Bizarre Little Detail from an article about the shocking death of actor David Carradine:
“A member of the emergency crew… told CNN that a yellow nylon rope was tied around the actor's neck and a black rope was around his genitals.”
I’m going to suppress my urge to make a joke about that out of deference to the principle of “too soon” but I’m pretty sure that little detail rules out suicide.
Also, not to self. Avoid Bangkok.
Speaking of South East Asia: A Quick Note to the browser from the Philippines who found this blog by searching “2009 swine flu monkey pirate wikipedia:” welcome. Here you will be loved.
And, Speaking of Blog, I was looking at my list of favorites on the left handed side bar and notices that the last link is from 2007. Which is kind of sad. So, hey readers, if you have a favorite, or a post that you remember mildly liking, or at least one that you don’t hate, leave me a comment and I’ll add said post.
Unicorn Tattoos? This might be entertaining, right? Let’s click.
Maybe more disturbing than entertaining.
Oh wait! I know!
Lest I Forget My Obligatory Plug, I have shows tonight, Saturday and Sunday. You have this weekend and next weekend to come see yours truly get his Shakespeare on. Details are in the side bar to your left.
That’s all I got for you. I’m going to get to work figuring out how to make the planet spin faster. Wish me luck.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Today's inaugural RFC is inspired by the fact that it's early June, which always causes me to get nostalgic about summer vacation. You remember summer vacation, right? It's that time of the year where you're between school ending in the Spring and beginning in the Fall and you don't have a damned thing to do. So here goes.
RFC: Your favorite thing to do on summer vacation when you were a kid.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
...sometimes, you just have to write something and hope that there's something - anything - redeeming in the big steaming pile you may or may not have just heaped onto five previously innocent pages.
So we'll see how that works out.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
As part of the continued humiliating collapse of the American Automobile Industry, General Motors (who recently declared bankruptcy) has agreed to sell their ass-kicking, gas-guzzling, Hyundai-crushing HUMMER brand. You can find what details are available at this link, but as you’ll notice the actual purchaser of the brand is unknown.
A mystery buyer!! Ha!!
GM was considering three serious buyers for the ultimate Man-Brand. The Clever Title staff investigative team has managed to uncover the names of those three serious buyers.
Check it out, people. Because GM is now owned by one of the following three parties.
The HUMMER brand offers Arnold plenty of room to store his phallic symbols. And yes, the prospective buyer is Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1982 and not the modern Governor incarnation.
It's apparently that good of a deal for Richard Simmons.
Oh God, those cold icy eyes. They’re so cold.
P.S.: If you're wondering how long it took me to come up with that title, the answer if 23 minutes, 15 seconds.