This new one? Well, the good news is that it’s tied into an 80th anniversary celebration, so it’s a safe bet it won’t be seen after this year. The bad news is that it introduces a new type of “ugly” NFL uniform. Let’s look at the types of ugly uniforms that are currently out there:
There’s “modern does not always equal good” ugly: the prime offender being the 2000s Bills, with their non-white monochrome uniforms, inexplicable paneling, yokes, and a general sense of “this is over-designed.” Less egregious offenders: the Cardinals and Falcons.
There’s “why did you have to break something that was perfectly nice?” ugly: the current Jaguars uniform isn’t particularly… well, it’s not particularly anything. It just exists, devoid of any character. But, it replaced one of the best modern uniforms without improving it in any way (except maybe gimmicky color-change helmet). Another example would be the Vikings current uniforms.
There’s “old teams used weird colors” ugly: the 2007 Eagles throwbacks (yellow and light blue – together on a football uniform at last!) were harmless except for the ridiculous (though historically accurate) color scheme. It’s still funny to see these in the stands, serving as proof that Eagles fans will buy and wear anything associated with the team. Lesser offenders: throwbacks worn by the Packers in 2010 and 2011 (not to be seen in 2012, though).
Until yesterday, the last type of “ugly” was “so bad it’s good” ugly: I like the Bengals orange alternates, whether paired with white or black pants. There’s a lot not to like there, but somehow it works. Sue me. (I know that liking the orange over black combo isn’t particularly philosophically sound given my previous opinions about odd color combos, but somehow that one is passable. Maybe due to my love of Halloween.)
The Steelers have managed to create a new kind of “ugly.” Welcome to “so bad it should be good, but it’s just bad” ugly. Everywhere you look, there’s something that would be noteworthy (possibly in an endearing way, more likely in an annoying way) if it were the only abnormal feature on a uniform.
Horizontal stripes like you’d see on a rugby shirt.
Putting the numbers in a box, then filling that box with white like it’s a letter on Wheel of Fortune
A non-color (light beige?) color for the pants, probably in an attempt to mimic an olde timey fabric like canvas or whatever real men wore (probably loosely woven burlap or similar) when they played real football.
They’re going with their normal black, logo on one side, helmets. It’s actually nice they’re not trying to match a leather helmet by going with brown (like the Packers did to middling results) but at least use a solid black helmet without a logo. I may even approve of the use of matte black for this special case.
Striped socks are good. Alternating stripes the entire length of the sock? Not good.
The 2009 Broncos AFL Throwbacks are thought to be in this category due to their vertically striped socks, but notice that aside from the socks and the jarring colors (see above about olde timey colors), the uniforms are pretty ho-hum.
It’s a ballsy move on the Steelers part to choose this look as their alternate uniform this season. Sure, it’s hideous (and is actually technically a “Pittsburgh Pirates” uniform from before the name change), but it’s the type of risk that gets fans engaged and the type of risk Eagles management would never take. The Eagles won’t even wear their black alternates which are about as safe as can be in terms of rocking the boat. Sure, these are just uniforms, I get that, but as Kyle detailed previously, they’re one more component of a team which, since the trade of Donovan McNabb, has gotten complacent about almost every facet of the organization.
Well, I was wrong for last week’s game, too. 3-8. Of course, there was nothing right about the Eagles on-field performance, either.
There’s an all-new format for the UniDiction section which I think you’ll like, so let me know what you think in the comments.
Week 12 Round-Up
The Chargers wore their very nice Powder Blue throwbacks. I think the color’s odd enough that it shouldn’t necessarily be their primary uniform (and the Titans use light Blue, though in a very different way), but the Chargers normal uniforms are among the least notable in the league (neither good nor bad…they just…are), helmet with electricity on the sides notwithstanding, so file the “should the powder blues be the Chargers’ normal uniforms” under “let me think about it.” I covered the Thanksgiving uniform happenings in last week’s article.
Eagles vs Seahawks UniDiction (new format!)
click to enlarge
No full write-up for the Eagles this week because of the new format, but they’re in White over Midnight Green, and that looks awful and needs to be removed from their locker room. BUT, the Seahawks uniforms are awful.
Seahawks – 12
Eagles – 13
Some random Seahawks uniform info:
They’re strongly rumored (with the Panthers) to get more than just a tailoring and template update when Nike gets the NFL contract next year. My money’s on it looking like their pre-2002 uniforms.
Their current uniform set includes two combos which have only been worn for one game ever (Blue over White and Green over Navy). See above.
They have two different Blue pants. Again, see above.
I don’t hate the Neon Green (derisively called “Neon Snot” by much of the online uniform community – yes, there is such a thing), mainly because it’s only used on the uniforms as a trim color… except on those unfortunate alternates.
Pirated video that shows clearly what the monster really is.
It’s been a while since we’ve posted… I know.
To put it simply, Cloverfield is effin’ scary. I would venture as far as to say that it was the most viscerally affecting movie I’ve seen since Children of Men. This isn’t just a monster movie; it’s a movie, that, like The Mist and I Am Legend before it, plays on our greatest unthought-of fear, that something so disastrous could happen that all manner of government protection would be rendered moot. Mass chaos with no way out, and nothing to keep you alive but your own strength of will in circumstances that you’d never imagine yourself in. Cloverfield is so effective at what it sets out to do, reminding us that our modern “civilized” society is one catastrophic event away from being reduced to nothing more than bickering people who’ve been taken over by primitive “fight or flight” survival instincts.
The way the reviewers have talked about it, I’m sure you’ve all heard complaints ad nauseum about the “lack of story”, the “unlikeablility” of characters, the illogical choices made by certain people, and that it didn’t make sense for someone to keep recording through the whole thing. Honestly, I didn’t care about any of those things at all, and it’s a testament to how involving the movie is that I only once stopped to think about the fact that a camera battery wouldn’t last as long it does, and only one other time to think about how long it would take them to walk in a subway tunnel the distance that they said they did. Despite the rich, hipster vibe that the characters exuded, I didn’t really find them all that grating, even though it was basically as if Godzilla interrupted an episode of Felicity (with good reason; both the executive producer and the director were co-creators of that show). If they indeed go ahead with a sequel to be shot in the same style, telling a different story from the same night, I would love to see people from the opposite end of the spectrum and how they managed, how different their priorities were, and just how they would differ in their actions in general.
More often than not though, I found myself sitting in my chair, with my mouth wide open, totally enraptured by what was going on. Would I too be able to climb across a roof of a forty-story building that was leaning at a sixty degree angle from the ground, only being held up by the building next to it? Would I have gone back to save someone from a giant killer spider-crab in a pitch black subway tunnel? Why was this monster movie the first one that ever made me question the lengths I would go to survive? As intense as it was, The Mist, never made me feel this way, despite the fact that the subject material was quite similar. In my opinion, it goes to media theoristMarshall McLuhan‘s statement from his book “Understanding Media:Extensions of Man“, that “The Medium is the Message”. To put a very long and convoluted series of the oftentimes contradictory thoughts by a raving Canadian lunatic into a simplistic summary, the method by which a message is sent from one person to another is oftentimes more important to the delivery than the message itself. The best example of this is the famed Nixon-Kennedy debate where the majority of radio listeners seemed to think that Nixon had won, while the television viewers, able to see Nixon’s body language, sweating, and poor make-up job, were convinced that Kennedy won. On a side note, I always wondered if the people who did that study took into account the differences in politics between the people who listened and people who watched, and if that played into their answers to the question.
How this idea of medium applies to Cloverfield is that we’ve been programmed with the language of film over the past one-hundred years. Even if we aren’t aware of it, we’ve come to expect a certain syntax. We don’t notice it though, until a reverse angle of a shot doesn’t match, or an edit isn’t smooth. The Mist lives by these rules, and the whole time it tries to invoke this question of “what happens when the world goes to hell?”, while also playing it like a 1950s B-horror movie creature feature. Issues with the unfocused nature of the plot set aside, it’s the fact that the movie’s presented in the language of Film that makes you step back and realize how preposterous the story really is.
Ironically, it’s the movie inspired by the crude and incredibly repetitive Godzilla series that has effectively transcended this medium and broken out of the box, leaving genuine lasting emotion. The same way that we’ve been trained to understand that movies aren’t real and that we shouldn’t feel anguish when Jason Vorhees, “an unstoppable killing machine“, hacks someone up with a machete, we’ve been trained to recognize video as infallible. Which affects you more: watching an alien pop out of someone’s chest killing them in a movie, or watching a video of a skateboarder falling fifty feet to a hard wooden surface and seeing his shoes explode, but then being able to walk off, relatively unharmed? We haven’t yet learned to apply the same reality filters to video that we currently do to film, and this is what Cloverfield exploits.
No matter how many times you try to tell yourself this movie isn’t real, the medium that the message is delivered in contradicts your thoughts and plays to your instincts. What would happen if you took this movie over to undeveloped parts of Africa (as McLuhan puts it, a place where people have not been “immunized” to this medium) or if someone years down the line saw this without the context to put it in? It’s very likely that they might think it actually happened, especially if they’ve seen the 2001 attack footage. Critics (used literally, not film critics) of the movie have been saying that it exploits September 11th imagery, but I would argue that it successfully uses those scenes we have committed to memory to scare us in a very real way, much more than any slasher flick or monster movie has done before. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been spending a large amount of time in the area that was directly affected in the movie. It’s more likely that I was less able to discern the difference between the two because when the twin towers fell I was watching it on a movie screen in a film auditorium. Watching Cloverfield, it was hard not to think back to this moment and relate the two, drawing all that emotion out.
One of the most harrowing scenes in the whole thing is the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which I’ve walked over a few times. It may very well be the most frightening destruction of a major landmark ever to be created in a movie, far scarier than anything in the modern classic Independence Day or its red-headed step-brother The Day After Tomorrow, completely because of its realism and the point of view of the person delivering the message.
Here’s where the debate rages though. Should a movie be judged on how effective it is at making you feel a certain way, or on the quality of story and characters? If it uses the story and characters as well as technically impressive work to achieve this emotional effect (such as in I Am Legend), then it’s obvious that it’s a good movie. What happens though, when the two aren’t mutually exclusive, when character development and a tight story take second chair to exceptional method and incredibly well-realized scenes? Is it still a good movie? This isn’t to say that Cloverfield offered no cohesive story or successful characterizations (the realism in the actors’ portrayals ” not so much film acting, but moreso being in the situation with a natural intensity that you would expect of someone living out this unthinkable scenario””certainly drives the moments and carries the film as much as the technique), but it’s a chase movie in the most basic sense. Something’s attacking, nobody knows what it is, but we’re running from it. There’s really nothing more to it than that, and I would be hard-pressed to say the movie had an effective story to tell, instead opting to give you a few character dynamics and letting them provide the motivation for an hour’s worth of recorded events. I’ve heard completely mixed reviews from friends and film critics in regards to this movie, and it seems as though this question of how to judge is where the basic disagreement lies. For me, the movie was incredibly effective at what it set out to do, and was plenty enjoyable from start to finish (and I loved the epic “Cloverfield Theme” that scored the credits) and that’s all I can ask for in a threatrical experience.
One last thing. If in my diatribe about the presentation of the movie I left out the success of The Blair Witch Project, which this movie couldn’t have come about without, it was because that was not a successful movie. Where the difference between the two films lies is that while The Blair Witch created a very real found-footage aura, it was overly-long and for the most part, boring and whiny. Think about it. The bulk of the movie was about kids wandering around the woods and arguing with each other. It took on the found-footage medium and while it succeeded at creating a realistic portrayal of what one might look like (as in “normal people are generally boring and spend a lot of time fighting and talking about nothing at all”), it completely failed as entertainment for all but about 15 minutes. It had a few interesting story elements, but needed to pad out its runtime with lame characterizations and nothing really happening. It was also completely visually uninteresting, giving you nothing to fall back on when you got tired of all the complaining going on onscreen. Cloverfield takes a look at the mistakes of this film and basically imports action movie beats into the style in order to fix its problems, never stopping to let us take a breath or think about all the implausibilities. The people behind this movie have brilliantly created a hybrid “found-footage/blockbuster action movie” medium, and by doing this, it skews our perception of its events, leaving our common sense to duke it out with our basic media instincts, and that is why it truly succeeds.
Cloverfield is not only a genre-redefining movie, but a medium redefining movie that uses the language of video and film together to confuse our perception of events. You know it isn’t real, but once it wraps you up in its swift pace, that notion leaves your mind, making the horror of the scenario all the more genuine. The entire group of people involved were committed to making you believe that this had really happened, and they succeeded admirably at doing it. Now next time, give us some better characters and a more plausible story arc for them.
While I’m at it….
I really wanted to love it, but it completely tears itself in two directions, trying to be a giant killer insect horror movie, and a bold statement on how far our civility falls when we’re presented with dire circumstances. Not only that but characters are either underused (Andre Braugher) or completely over-the-top crazy (Marcia Gay Harden), and though Tom Jane gives a strong performance (before he brings it on a little too strong at the end) he can’t keep down all my hatred for the main antagonist, the crazy religious nut-job who wants everyone to repent or die. If it’s supposed to be allegory, it takes a very ham-fisted approach that really turned me off. Subtlety isn’t this movie’s strong point. Visually, it’s spectacular, but unfortunately a great premise is undermined by story issues, probably stemming from the source material. Much like most of the movie, the end sort of rips off of “Night of the Living Dead” in its painful irony, though it may have one of the best “downer” endings I’ve seen in a long time.
I Am Legend
Visually, the most realistically drastic transformation of any actual location that I’ve ever seen put to film, I Am Legend decides to “show” us, and not “tell” us about the collapse of humanity, unlike The Mist . By that I mean that while the previous movie spends its time preaching to you about how everyone will turn on one another to survive, this movie shows the result of that, in a devastatingly real fashion. You are left to create your own account of how it all went down, only giving us brief glimpses into society’s fall in flashbacks that serve more to develop Will Smith’s character’s personal story. It was completely refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t give you every detail and leaves some things open to the imagination. Will Smith’s character and portrayal are perfectly subtle in the ways that his past, his loneliness, and his obsession with curing the sick have taken its toll on his sanity, but the critics are correct that unfortunately all of this strong set-up seems to devolve with about twenty-five minutes left into some more action-oriented, less suspenseful version of Signs, right down to the “oh, it all makes sense now, God has a plan for me” revelation. I Am Legend is a completely haunting vision of what life would be like if you were the last person on earth, Zombie storylines aside.
My review of “Step One” by Steps. Wow, that was easy. I didn’t even have to sit through the CD!
When you read a review, you expect certain things. You want to hear some insightful positives and negatives regarding the thing being reviewed. You don’t want to be talked down to. You hope to have an overall idea of whether said object is worth seeing/listening to/buying/reading/visiting/eating/doing/throwing things at. And after you’ve done any of those things, you want to come back and read that review again to determine whether you agree or think the reviewer is out of his mind. Basically, you expect reviews like this and this. Then you go to a website whose supposed specialty is reviews, and you see something like this. This “review” only manages to fit one of those criteria, that being the last one” that this reviewer is totally out of his mind.
A long time ago, when the second Franklin movie was being planned, our discussion took a long detour, with us arguing over the definition of the phrase “cop out”. There were numerous e-mails sent back and forth trying to determine if an idea that I came up with was something that constituted this. You can read highlights here. This argument was never really solved, but I stand here today telling you once and for all, that this “review” is the definition of “cop out”.
I can gather by the video clip shown here that the “reviewer” doesn’t like Shine On, but I was interested in hearing some actual insight into what makes it good or bad. Granted, the CD wasn’t that great (there were three songs on it that I thought were really good, but the rest was kinda mediocre), but it doesn’t deserve to have its review have nothing interesting or meaningful to say at all. I don’t know how a high-fallutin’ website like pitchforkmedia decided that that was representative of their organization, but recently, they even put up a similar video, claiming it was a JET music video. Obviously, the pretentious music-lovers have a thing against the Aussies rockers, but I really can’t figure out what it is.
The review of their first album, Get Born, gives us a little more understanding, but I use the word “little” literally. It’s presented in the form of a discussion between the band and the owner of a venue where they’re supposed to be putting on a concert. Things go wrong at the concert and the fans turn on the band. Sure there are opinions presented about the band, but I’m sure they’re all completely over-the-top exaggerations from someone who’s never seen them live or met them. I can’t imagine a band (aside from the Flaming Lips or Ozzy Osbourne) actually demanding [thirty f%$&in’ angry alligators with top hats on, Iggy Pop shooting out of that cannon, and midway through sending in the kid from the iPod commercial.] It may work as a review of the band, but as a review of the album it fails miserably.
It only mentions three songs from the CD (very briefly) and it only has two points that I gleaned from the whole thing. The first is that all their songs sound like other bands (citing AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Wallflowers, Oasis, Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones). The second is that they have “insipid love songs that sound like wedding band covers” and “insipid lyrics, we say ‘Come On!’ and ‘Oh Yeah!’ every five seconds”. So basically the guy only knows one insulting adjective. You know, there’s a thesaurus feature in MS word, and I’d assume there’s also one on the trendy Mac you also probably use. Insipid: dull, bland, wishy-washy, characterless, colorless, trite, tame, unexciting, uninteresting, boring. Maybe none of those words sounded smart/insulting to readers enough, though I’m partial to the word “trite”
Here’s the thing that the review is missing. The music is fun. It’s not meant to be high art. It’s not meant to be genre-pushing. It’s meant to be music with easy-to-learn lyrics and melodies that you can put in your car CD player, turn the volume way up on, roll down your windows and shout at the top of your lungs and have a good time. And it completely succeeds at that, something that this reviewer was competent enough to pick up on. There’s a good mix of fast and slow songs (so the whole CD doesn’t sound the same, a huge pet peeve of mine), and I like most of the slower songs. I understand that a lot of the faster songs sound similar, but they’re catchy enough that it doesn’t bother me (a problem that the second CD had), much like with critically lauded Franz Ferdinand. As far as the words go, I’m not expecting poetic lyrics, so why should I complain that they’re not there? Did people who went to see Pirates of the Caribbean complain that there wasn’t a deeper meaning in the dialogue, or that it wasn’t a British period piece about some queen from the 17th century? I would hope not. They should be expecting to have fun. That’s all I expect out of it. That’s not to say that I shouldn’t hold the band accountable for bad music, I just don’t think that criticizing lyrics for this kind of music is really the way to go. Do critics complain about the lyrics to “SHOUT” or “MONY MONY”? Some of the songs on that Fountains of Wayne CD, Welcome Interstate Managers had TERRIBLE lyrics, but critics dismissed them because of how fun the melodies were.
Now some of you who are familiar with Aaron Copland’s book, “What to Listen for in Music“, would say that I’m only listening to this album on a “sensuous”, or maybe an “expressive” level, and that to fully understand why music is good or bad, I have to be listening to it on a “sheerly musical” level as well, combining the three. Well, in response to that I would claim that there isn’t too much to it on a musical level, but my musical knowledge is limited. I’m learning to increase what I hear when I listen, but I want to understand what makes this a musically good or bad album. That’s why I went to a site where I knew I would find a harsh but intelligent criticism of the CD. But there was none of that there. Instead, all I got was a poorly-written, profanity-laced diatribe against the band for mimicking other bands. Personally, since there really isn’t any truly popular band playing right now that sounds like them, I don’t have too much of a problem with it, but I’m reviewing the review, and not the band or CD, so that doesn’t really matter.
Zero stars for the cop-out Shine On so-called review.
½ star for the creativity to write a review for Get Born as a dialogue. Minus four and a half for not having any substance to it at all, not talking about the songs, and basically complaining because Jet has songs that sound like bands that lots of people like.
Update 3 (1+ weeks later): The ad during tonight’s SNL 90’s retrospective billed this week’s episode as “only three episodes until the season finale. I guess that’s that.
Update 2 (four days later): So, it looks like NBC is advertising this week’s Scrubs as being the first of “the last 3.” Hmm. They even emphasized the “last 3” section. Heck, they made mention of characters making the “biggest mistake of their lives”, then showing Elliot and Keith’s wedding scene then JD looking emotive (as usual).
Update (ten minutes after posting): I guess I should check Wikipedia (of all places) before I start posting things I think are facts. Looks like NBC has yet to officially renew the show, but according to Zach Braff himself, ABC is willing to air the last season if NBC does not renew it. Media watchers, don’t worry, I’ve added the “journalistic integrity” category to this entry. Regardless, I stand by my comments about this season.
I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else online (yet), but during a teaser for tonight’s episode of Scrubs during The Office, the voice over announcer said something like, “the first of the last four Scrubs episodes.” It was said that the show’s status was up in the air, then there were stories about NBC throwing huge sums of money at Zach Braff to get him to come back for one more year. Well, I guess that didn’t turn out so hot. And that’s a good thing.
You might remember my epic review of Scrubs last year as being one of three notable parts of “the current TV landscape,” so me thinking that the show might be capital “O” Over might not make any sense. Simply, if you’ve watched the show at all this season, you understand. Not just “not quite the same as older episodes,” the first 10 or so episodes were awful. Dreadful, painful-to-watch TV. Mind you, this isn’t like the-Simpson’s-were-better-back-when thinking, where old episodes are more thought of as a collective period of time rather than individual examples of the series strengths. Just last season could be considered “classic Scrubs.” Who knows why, but this season didn’t get watchable until about episode 13, with one of the first twelve episodes being a brutal clip show and the other being a show about the newer Iraq war which served only to get politically simple people to say, “Wow, they really brought a new voice to the argument.” Oh yeah, one of the pre-13 episodes was a highly hyped musical episode. It was tedious, so say the best.
Last year, I wrote that with Turk and Carla’s baby and JD’s impending fatherhood, the characters and show were growing up, and the show wasn’t about grown-ups who acted grown-up. This should’ve been an occasion to use this season to wrap things up, but instead, Carla got an after school special version of post-partem depression, recovered from it, then the baby all-but disappeared from the show (a fair move – the show’s not about babies). Also, JD’s impending fatherhood/implied-eventual marriage was thrown out the window with the good, old-fashioned “tell the long distance dad-to-be that mommy had a miscarriage, but actually lie about it” move. It’s like putting drama in a piggy bank.
All that said, the recent episodes have been solid, but the show’s been on since 2001 (yikes, that’s a long time for a show most people have never watched), doesn’t have many viewers, became self-aware about how limited the main character was last year, and gave a potential setup for a season-long arc about JD “growing up” at the end of last season, then blew it. Of course, Scrubs is practically the template for wrapping things up efficiently and poetically (with indie music playing in the background, of course), and the series finale would pack a doozy, I’m sure [not sarcasm]. Considering that the writers did one of the tidiest jobs ever of removing a “Ross/Rachel” relationship from a show in a gutsy, (female) viewer alienating move at the end of season three, the slight (maybe unintentional) tension between JD and Elliot was a bit out of place on tonight’s episode, who knows if they’ll go that route, though Elliot’s boyfriend proposed to her to end of the episode.
The End of Scrubs gets four stars because it’s about darn time, but loses a star because it could’ve been setup better considering how last season ended.
I’m thinking about it some more, and maybe the voice-over lady during the promo meant they were the last four episodes of the season, but one can hope. Still, the show is responsible for one of the best ever TV moments, so I guess they’re entitled one more season…
This year, the movie that I chose to not see, but still complain about is “Dreamgirls”, a movie that wasn’t even nominated for best picture… and I’m not really even complaining about it… which makes me feel real strange.
The academy awards nominations came out this morning. And for some reason I decided that I don’t really care this year. It’s weird because I don’t know why. In fact, I wrote most of this review on Sunday, before they were even announced. I’ve become jaded to the whole celebrity scene this year, and I’ve stopped seeing this show as an affirmation that the movies that I enjoyed over the past year are good, and more as a means of keeping up the guise of celebrity importance. (review of the near future: celebrity feuds)
Maybe it was seeing people argue about which movies deserved which awards the way I used to, and thinking, “Wow, do these guys see how completely stupid they look, rooting for something that they think they have partial ownership in, just because they kinda liked it? Did I look that stupid, phony, and in over my head when I was complaining about how undervalued “The Man who Wasn’t There” was, or how that ridiculous “THEY MAKE THE RAIN AND SAY IT’S RAINING!!!” rant from Cold Mountain won good ole squinty-eyed Renee Zellweger her academy award? Well, chances are I did for the last one, because I totally used to do an impression of that was intentionally unintentionally hi-larious, and which has since failed the test of time, seeing as how nobody even remembers the movie a mere two years later. This also goes to show the unimportance of these awards, because I highly doubt that all the people that argue about these sort of things could even tell me without looking it up, who hosted the 2001 awards (held in 2002), let alone who won best actor and actress. Whoopi Goldberg hosted by the by, and I don’t even think I could tell you what movie won best picture ( Chicago maybe?) let alone the acting awards. The only reason I remember Whoopi is because my friends and I were watching in a TV lounge filled with people who actually thought she was funny. We couldn’t take it and ended up leaving in a huff. That’s beside the point.
All this is not to say that I’m not going to look and see who’s nominated or who wins. I’ll probably even watch the show. But at this moment, writing this review, do I think it’s worth having an Oscar “party” or doing an awards pool (in which I have participated numerous times)? Not really. Do I find that a little disheartening? Of course I do. Three years ago at this time, I was in the center of celebrity culture. I was in the bleachers for the Screen Actor’s Guild red carpet. I stood by the limo security checkpoint at the Golden Globes to get a glimpse of anybody relatively famous. I can’t say for sure if I would do it again. Maybe just to say I did it. Then again, I never really got “star-struck” to begin with. Most of the pictures I took of people were either for bragging rights, or because I knew friends might want them. But still, even the following year I went in on an Oscar pool.
What’s my point in all this? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that at this specific minute of this specific day, I’m thinking to myself “Don’t we have enough other things to be interested in or worry about than awards for millionaires (I know that the tech award winners are mostly non-millionaires, and the people who make the shorts and documentaries are probably even less well-off) we’ve never met and mostly think they’re better than us anyway?” I suppose you could argue the same of sports, but to me the difference is that football and baseball are designed to be competitions, and film isn’t, or at least shouldn’t. Why should it matter to us if a movie we like wins an award? Shouldn’t liking it be enough? Maybe it’s the validation that comes with being behind something that is regarded by professionals to be the best. Maybe it’s the ability to say to our friends “I totally knew Marcia Gay Harden was gonna win for Pollack, even though I’ve never even heard of the movie because it sounds boring and was only playing in 8 cities”, thereby coming off as knowledgeable, even though you just got lucky or read a newspaper article. Maybe it’s just that feeling that you know a lot about a subject, even if you really don’t, but just know a little bit more than your friends. Besides, ten years from now, “Saving Private Ryan” will be remembered even though it lost to the completely forgettable “Shakespeare in Love”, which was lauded by the pretentious set.
This pretentiousness is something that the Oscars and other awards do spur on, and I guess this is where my whole complaint starts. Soon enough, the debates will rage over which arthouse movie that nobody was able to see was more overrated, which one deserves more attention etc. And all these people will be arguing over the fact that we love a movie that we haven’t even seen, just because of the talent attached to it. And that “you’re” (the royal “you”) stupid and less important because you’ve never even heard of it. And that’s just wrong. I really don’t want to do that again. (Update: I was flipping through the morning shows today to see if anyone was talking about the noms, just to prove my case, and the new FOX morning show had on their two Oscar Experts… two women who looked to be a mere few years older than I am. Of course there were raving about how great Helen Mirren was in “The Queen”… and to make matters worse, the audience erupted in applause. Now, you have to be sure that in this situation, maybe 25 percent of the audience at most has seen this movie, and the rest are either being egged on by the stage manager/audience warm-up guy, or just don’t want to seem like they don’t know anything about anything. Strangely enough, I’m looking at the box-office tallies for this weekend, and “The Queen” is actually playing in more theaters than “Children of Men”, “Alpha Dog”, and “The Good Shepherd”.)
And maybe I’m upset that somehow I’ve grown to see something that I used to see as the Holy Grail of Film-making achievement now as a way to sell movies that otherwise wouldn’t have an audience. I mean, would anyone have gone to see “The Last King of Scotland” otherwise? It’s all part of the self-promoting hype machine, and I don’t know if I’m still down with that. Maybe in a case like this, yes, but that silly red carpet image stuff always seems to undermine the gravitas of the “talent-based” awards.
As for the specific nominations themselves, they seem generally fine across the board, as far as the movies that I’ve gone to see, and those are really all that I can discuss.
The 2006-07 Academy Awards Nominations get two stars for being a way to generally promote smaller, higher-quality movies. As far as awards competition goes, I’m not really a fan of how devisive it makes people, including myself, about movies we like, versus ones we aren’t planning on seeing, but dislike just for the sake of it . As far as this year’s specific award nominees go, I’ve got no major complaints, other than the lack of “Children of Men”, but I can live without it, knowing how the voting process, and awards campaigning go. Oh… and the fact that THREE freakin songs from Dreamgirls are nominated…. now that’s something genuine to dislike… but still, does it really matter?
Look, we have a new design! If there are any issues with this new layout, please (please, please) leave a comment so I can fix it. It looks fine on my computer, but maybe it doesn’t on yours. Please let us know what you think – Positive, Negative, Who Cares – in the comments section for this review.
What with my mom using a computer relatively regularly these days, she’s made a habit of writing a Christmas letter every year to stuff into Christmas cards. I’ve long been on the record about the, well, “impersonal-ness” of Christmas card letters, but at the end of the day, is a general letter any more impersonal than the simple signatures at the bottom of any Christmas card? Eh, not really. Two (three? – maybe four? – god, I’m old) years ago, I actually made a deal with my mom that I would write the letter for the cards, mainly because I had complained about the content in years past. She sent my letter out indiscriminately with the cards, so I’m sure that my tale of how my brother had become an unsuccessful comic artist/writer probably fell upon many a “not getting the joke” ear. Anyway, that’s in the past, so here we are at 2006’s letter.
Nate still hates Christmas.
First, let it be known that I don’t feel bad reviewing my mom’s letter – as my mother, she should expect no less from me. Whatever the star rating I assign, she should simply say, “well, that’s Dan for ya.” In her defense, this the first year that both my brother and I have been completely out of her hair, both having completely moved out years and (almost) a year ago.
On to the letter (note: my comments are in pop-ins, so be sure to hover over what look to be links):
Our business went through a few slower months again this year, but Gordon keeps busy. We were fortunate to have work, while other shops were extremely slow or dead. We’re dinosaurs. Dealerships, as you know, give huge, extended warranties on new vehicles. There are dealer-only repairs due to technological restrictions. The trend is for repair information to be restricted or unavailable- e.g. our ’97 Volvo wagon.
The 2006 Fuller Christmas Letter receives three stars. There was nothing patently untrue or unnecessarily subjective in it, though the details which make my life more difficult (such as the whole putting the ‘works in China’ part before ‘for a few weeks each year’) makes my Christmas season filled with too many conversations that start with “So, Dan, I hear you’re in China most of the year” then me following with, “well, I’m there less than two months per year…I’m in the US most of the year.” Minor grammatical quibbles aside, it provided a fair update of the Fullers for 2006AD.
I’ve never been known for my punctuality, so I cannot deduct any points for the fact that the cards will be going out during Epiphany instead of Advent/Christmas.
The first in a series of end of the year lists. Sorry for no star ratings, but all of these would fall between zero and one star.
“Are you aware that we have a sketch about Commedia dell’arte?” “Sure. I love the works of Moliere and his contemporaries” “Since most of them aren’t familiar with 17th Century French theatre, we should maybe do something our audience might actually enjoy, or find funny?” “It’s Italian, and you know, you should really stop dangling your modifiers like that” “HAHAHAHAHAHA. You’re an hilarious writer who is a thinly veiled representation of our show’s creator.” “God I hate reality shows.”
Fox cancels ‘Arrested Development’– Granted the ratings were bad, and viewership was leaking due to mishandled promotions/timeslots and the overall nature of the show, but it was still sad to see it go.
Oprah making a big deal over the fact that that guy’s memoir wasn’t real, even though it still was an inspirational story.
Megan Mullally upstages Meat Loaf – Megan Mullally has a talk show… a really annoying one, and when Meat Loaf came on to perform from ‘Bat Out of Hell 3’, she had to jump in and sing the last part of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with him. If it was anyone else, it might not have seemed that bad, but she did it in a way that screamed “it’s all about me!”. Talk shows should be about making your guest look interesting, not feeding your huge ego. It just came off as incredibly awkward.
The finalists… in no particular order.
‘My Super Sweet 16’– The new king of hated television. Why should I watch rich, obnoxious people demand things of their parents in a manner worse than Veruca Salt? Because I’m supposed to root against them? It doesn’t seem that way, instead encouraging kids to be ungrateful and rude.
Nancy Grace– Any single show will do, but I’d go with the one where she accused someone of killing their own child during an interview (Nancy accused her during the interview; she didn’t kill the kid during it), leading the woman to shoot herself. Way to go Nancy . You inadvertently killed someone.
Gwen Stefani performs at A.M.A.s ” From the moment they said she would be debuting her new hit, I knew there was gonna be trouble. Sure enough, there was yodeling, there were Asian girls in lederhosen with blonde wigs, there were sheep. Completely strange, and completely awful.
Chevy Chase on ‘Law and Order’ ” RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!! Chevy Chase plays a washed-up star of some sort who gets arrested for killing a Jewish person. The writing is awful, the story was awful, and even the acting was atrocious. Not only that but it made the Mel Gibson story out to be a lot more than it actually was.
Connie Chung Goodbye Song– Connie Chung and Maury Povich apparently had a show together. Take a guess how long it lasted. On her last show, she got up on top of a piano like a lounge singer and began to wail (and I mean wail) out a rendition of ‘thanks for the memories’. It became a moderate internet phenomenon because of how awful it was.
Any episode of ‘The War At Home’– Just plain awful” they took Arrested Development off for this?
Roger Daltry as the Makeup Killer on ‘CSI’– On thanksgiving night, I watched CSI for the first” and hopefully last, time. Roger Daltry played a mobster who these four guys thought was dead. Then years later he got his revenge on them by dressing up in fat suits and disguising himself as women in order to kill them. Not sure why one of the greatest frontmen in rock history would decide to do this, but I guess the royalty checks he gets for them using his songs is probably a good bet.
‘Celebrity Duets’– Take ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and mix it with ‘American Idol’. What do you get? This craptacular hour of awful celebs singing awfully was thankfully over after only a few weeks. I guess that’s what you get when your judges are Marie Osmond and Little Richard
Tony dies on ’24’– Unlike Edgar’s death, this one was handled incredibly poorly. Tony was the only character besides Jack Bauer left from the first season. He was universally loved by this point, as Jack’s right-hand-man. He spent half the season unconscious and then he gets up to try and kill the man who killed his wife. He lets up for national security reasons, and gets stabbed with a hypodermic needle of death. He falls over dead, and nobody mentions him ever again. Completely unnecessary, not as dramatic as it should’ve been, and ambiguous to the point where the audience doesn’t even think he’s dead. Why keep him alive but unconscious for all those episodes if you’re just going to kill him as soon as he wakes up?
Zayra on ‘Rockstar: Supernova’ ” Strange vocals from someone who wants to be a rock star. I can’t believe the producers picked her over someone more qualified, even though she makes for great, yet horrible TV. ‘Studio 60’ tells us we’re idiots ” It seems like every week, ‘Studio 60’ is talking down to the mainstream public and treating Hollywood like the be-all-and end-all of civilization. I’ve been to California . People there aren’t all that smart.
Dane Cook returns to ‘SNL’– If you didn’t think his first time (a mere months earlier) hosting the show was funny, you won’t be surprised at the results of this show. Another long “stand-up” set as his monologue, more gay voices, and one of the worst sketches I’ve ever seen. It went so far as to try to explain away it’s awfulness at the end, with a self-aware “lantern“, but that’s like using a suction pump to stop the bleeding.
‘Seventh Heaven’ returns from the dead– it was finally cancelled. That awful show about the perfect and huge family with a one-parent income”. Until the CW executives saw the ratings for the series finale. Now, with almost the entire original cast having moved on, the Camdens have 4 random street-teens living with them for some reason. Just have the second series finale already.
‘High School Musical’– The biggest phenomenon in all of TV this year saw awful acting and writing manage to hypnotize “tweens” everywhere into making the soundtrack the year’s top-selling CD. Every time it airs, it’s in the top 20 cable shows of the week, even though these people have seen it 20 times each.
It’s well known that aside from some misinformed old-cootedness about video games, we hold Roger Ebert in pretty high esteem around these parts. His cancer-surgery-turned-surgical-complications has taken him out of the reviewing game since mid-summer, and though no announcements have been made, I’m guessing he won’t be back until “Oscar season” starts in mid-November. Regardless, I’ve taken issue with very few of his reviews, though his “thing” for Angelina Jolie’s lips awarded both of the Tomb Raider movies three undeserved stars, even looking at those movies in the “brainless action” genre. That tick of his aside (a soft spot for threatening-looking women), the only other time I’ve not taken his side was when he decided the original Jackass wasn’t worth reviewing. Unfortunately, I can’t find the actual article that includes the quote that I think I remember, but it went something like this (notice the single-quotes – journalistic integrity is listed as a category for this review) ‘I am a movie critic. I review movies. As funny as Jackass is, it’s not a movie.’ In short(er), just being a collection of skits, none of which tells any sort of traditional story, it’s more accurately a “video” as opposed to a movie. I couldn’t find that quote, but I could find him answering a reader’s question about why he didn’t review it. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ebert said, “If I laugh, I have to tell you it’s funny. I went to see ‘Jackass,’ a shameful movie. I laughed all the way through it. I mean, I have to tell you that.” At the end of day, instead of giving Jackass a positive review (what with it being a successful movie, one where the audience is entertained) and being on the record as having condoned something like that, he chose to not review it at all.
I don’t get it.
Now, speaking as a principled person myself, I perfectly recognize the need to occasionally throw all principles out the window if there are extenuating circumstances. Ebert simply didn’t want to be someone associated with a movie like Jackass. Luckily, his on-screen partner in reviewing all things cinematical, Richard Roeper gave probably the best critical quote about it: “Jackass: The Movie is a disgusting, repulsive, grotesque spectacle, but it’s also hilarious and provocative. God help me, thumbs up.” Hallelujah. That’s even more positive than my review would’ve been. (for the record, having seen both of the movies, I’d say that I could do without the poop and the pain for the sake of pain stunts)
I’m not one to find profundity for the sake of profundity, but my stance on the movies is this: they’re not profound, but there’s something to be said about the sociological aspects of what a bunch of suburban-ish white guys found to entertain themselves and the business acumen it took to make what they were doing marketable outside of the skater community.
The issue I do take with Ebert’s (lack of a) stance is that his book of “The Great Movies” (quotes because that’s the actual title of the book) includes the 1929 short film, Un Chien Andalou, notable for its lack of coherent structure and (more so) co-creation by one Salvador Dalí. I won’t compare work by Salvador Dalí to the content of Jackass, nor will I insinuate that Jackass somehow deserves to among “the great movies,” but I will say that for someone who is very quick to condemn the supposedly increasing closed-mindedness of the American movie going public, not giving a movie you liked the critical time of day because it was “different” isn’t the strongest philosophical ground to be standing upon. (I know, it’s sort of lazy of me to not include links to examples of “very quick to condemn…” but, in short, look up any of his Adam Sandler reviews other than Punch Drunk Love.)
The loose thread between the “Once Again Being One Up on the Mass Media…” and the movie itself is the fact that in the AP review, the writer actually invokes a comparison between Jackass: Number 2 a scene from Un Chien Andalou. There’s not much more to it than the fact that I said the same thing in 2002. And, I was reasonable enough to give the comparison with a bunch of qualifiers instead of trying for some sort of faux-intellectual comment.
Once Again Being One Up on the Mass Media Or The Critical Reception to Jackass: Number Two receives four-and-a-half stars due to my thinkin’ brain and its whooping of the critics by four good years. In actuality, the whole mess with Ebert’s take on the first movie is sort of unrelated to this, but it does serve as backstory as to why I had done any thinking on the subject. If you’re thinking about seeing the movie, it’s as simple as this: if you think you’ll like it, you will. If you think you won’t like it, you won’t. If you’re not sure if you’ll like it, you’ll like it.
Late-breaking, sort of related reviewing: Jim Emerson, the sort of backup on rogerebert.com has his own blog (aside from the corner he gets on the Ebert webpage). On his blog, he has a cute little entry entitled, “Aint-It-Cool-Times” (his emphasis) bemoaning the Los Angeles Times for including a script review section on their website. He’s so put off by it that he says the newspaper has “jumped the shark” (and I thought Emerson was a movie critic! buh-ZING!), becoming yet another head of the hydra that is the modern movie industry (my metaphor, thank you very much). There’s a bunch of resentment of the “traditional” journalists (print, TV, radio) towards the “new” “journalists” on the internet. Sure, any schmuck can run a website and spout off whatever nonsense he wants and claim to be a journalist (note: Nate and I don’t claim to be journalists. Adam? Maybe.) What with journalism degrees being real degrees, the “old guard” doesn’t like the instant credibility that the internet offers. Aintitcoolnews, the target of his sort-of pun of a title is one of the more successful “home made” websites, and in fact, in the years it’s existed, it’s sort of a “real” site, though it does seemingly serve as a mouthpiece for the studios marketing departments sometimes.
He goes on: “No. It’s not. Fernandez [the writer of the script review section of the Los Angeles Times] isn’t a journalist and he isn’t a critic [and this just became a run-on sentence]; he’s a leech, on the level of those self-aggrandizing amateur web trolls who think their premature, uninformed opinions about an unfinished work are ‘news.'” Amateur web trolls? eh. Premature, uninformed opinions? meh. Self-aggrandizing? MR. EMERSON, YOU HAD ME AT ‘HELLO!’ We here at the Bookshelf® … wait, hold on, I like seeing that with the registered mark after it…. wait….yeah. We think you’re wrong and are probably just bitter that you had zero web recognizability until you became Roger Ebert’s second-in-command. Consider yourself called out by the Bookshelf® (you join such luminaries as the New York Times, Humanity, that horse, and Pitchfork Media).
So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.
The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?
Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.
October seemed to be us finding our footing.
November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.
November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.
December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.
Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.
June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.
July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) NavelGazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5
This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.
In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”
Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.
For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.
And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.