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February 27, 2008
Still Swamped, But ...
... if you have time to kill, you could read this short story I am working on for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and give with the constructive criticism. You could totally do that. It would be swell.
At 6,500 words its of a print-out-and-read-on-the-bus length, but y'all provided such great feedback last time that I thought I'd return to the well.
Update: Ha! Yeah, okay: the New York Times Sunday paper doesn't have a comics section. You got me there. See, this is why I run things past you guys first.
A big thanks to everyone who provided feedback. Those who missed it--well, with any luck it will be in print someday ...
February 18, 2008
February 15, 2008
After zealously shielding myself from spoilers for seven straight months, I finally watched the final episode of The Sopranos, knowing absolutely nothing about what would happen or how it would end.
Thoughts in the comments.
AFI 100: Yankee Doodle Dandy
So far in the AFI 100 project, the two films for which I had the lowest expectations--the silent movie and, now, the jingoistic musical--have been my favorites. Having never seen James Cagney in the role of a tough-guy, the skill with which he "played against character" was lost on me, but it hardly proved necessary to enjoy this biography of song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, who, along with the rest of his family, entertained legions around the turn of the (last) century. But the story of the showman's life is really just bookends for the film's second act, which is essentially an hour-long montage of Cohen's greatest hit, including "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Over There," "Give My Regards to Broadway," and "Grand Old Flag" (I had no idea one guy wrote all of those). Though there is some wincable acting and a couple of scenes that max out the corn-o-meter (the bit with the teens, 10 minutes from the end, is like a rejected Hee-Haw sketch), the bulk of the movie is so thoroughly delightful that you're willing to forgive a lot. Even the blackface.
And holy smokes, that Cagney can dance.
My rating: 9/10, best so far!
Next up in the AFI 100 Project: The Bridge on the River Kwai and Nashville.
February 14, 2008
Three Things That Made Me Laugh This Morning
February 12, 2008
How To Be Hated
Mrs Clinton still has the edge among super-delegates, not least because Bill Clinton is calling in all the favours he has done them over the past 16 years ...Dear Mr. Clinton: please consider the following:
Just a thought!
Clip 'n' Save!
The November election is a long ways away. So, here: I made you a little cheatsheet!
P.s. I TOLD YOU FOOLS TO VOTE DODD!
Only after he dropped out of the presidential race, admittedly ...
February 11, 2008
AFI 100: The French Connection
The French Connection wasn't next in the AFI queue, but, earlier today when I heard that Roy Scheider had died, I decided to watch it anyway to honor the man.
A thoroughly entertaining film, but I'm a bit mystified as to how it wound up with the 1971 "Motion Picture of the Year" Oscar, but less inclusion (albeit just barely) on the AFI 100 list. Apparently it is famous for its "renowned car chase scene" (as the back of the DVD calls it), but it was bound to have at least one given that 50% of this movie involves one person following another. Seriously: there are cops stealthily tailing suspects on foot, cops running full-bore after suspects, cops slowly trolling behind suspects by vehicle, cops barreling after suspects at breakneck speeds, etc. At one point in the film there are two chases going on simultaneously: a security guard saunters after a suspect inside an elevated train, and, at street level, Gene Hackman races after the train in his automobile. It's, like, they had so many chases slated for the film that they had to start scheduling them concurrently.
Anyway, none of this detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. I'm a sucker for 70's-era stories set in inner-city America (see also: Rocky), and The French Connection illustrates why: the combination of grainy film-stock, openness about racial tensions, and devotion to method acting make them seem more authentic--even when they are big-budget and largely preposterous thrillers such as this one. 8/10, and RIP Roy Scheider.
February 08, 2008
The Bad Review Revue: The Siege of Paris
Critics are raving over The Hottie and the Nottie!
"Preposterous, disingenuous, remarkably unfunny and genuinely distasteful." -- Maitland McDonagh, TV GUIDECurrent Rotten Tomatoes composite score: 7%.
February 07, 2008
February 06, 2008
During the holidays I use my Good Gateway Games lists to promote family games; that is, games that bring people together for a fun and relaxing time, and strengthen the bonds of comradery between the participants.
Of course, now that the holidays are over ...
Matthew,Ah, yes. The friendship-enders.
I'd recommend a good negotiation game, but you already own one of my favorites. In I'm The Boss, each player is an investor, willing to throw their support behind a variety of projects in the hopes of reaping a windfall. On a turn a player either draws Influence cards, or becomes The Boss and tries to cobble together a deal. Each deal requires the involvement of two or more of the players and pays out a specified amount of money; to complete the deal, The Boss will therefore need to entice the other players to join him, by offering them a share of the profits. Sometimes a deal needs a specific investor, but other times it will permit The Boss to select from a subset of players, allowing him to play them off one another in an effort to keep as much money as possible for himself.
All this could get real nasty were it not for the Influence Cards, which inject a healthy does of chaos into the game. Wielded at the right time, a well-played Influence Card could send a key Investor on vacation and scupper a deal, allow someone to become The Boss of a deal previously managed by someone else, and even steal an Investor from another player entirely. All this--plus a rapid-fire pace, short playing time (60 minutes), and element of randomness (no one knows when the game will end, for instance)--make it hard to get too worked-up over I'm The Boss, even when the others actively conspire against you. And they will ... of yes, they will.
But maybe you're in the market for something that will wreak complete and irreparable damage to your hard-won friendships. If so, might I suggest one of the following?
Of course, if you want to play a negotiation game you really can't beat the great-grandpappy of the genre: Diplomacy. Imagine Risk if, instead of winning battles by dice rolls, you had to do it by convincing the other players to gang up on your target. Diplomacy will be re-released by Avalon Hill early this year; if you can't wait, or like your wheeling-and-dealing with a bit more theme, check out Game of Thrones, a similar game set in George R. R. Martin's fantasy world.
February 05, 2008
Tuesday Afternoon Scratchpad
Building A Bridge to the Late 20th Century
An excerpt from Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday speech, delivered a moment ago:
I hope all of you will join our campaign at double-you double-you double-you dot hillaryclinton dot com. Because you know that politics isn't a game. It's not about who's up or who's down. It's about your lives, your families, your futures.Seriously, though: anyone who still includes the www when mentioning a URL is unfit for office.
Romney, meanwhile, did best among "self-described conservatives." This despite the fact that, until recently, Romney was pro-choice, in favor of stem cell research, a proponent of gay rights ("All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preferences."), and busy instituting Universal (or, at least, Massachusettsal) Healthcare. This guy is so phony it's as if someone Photoshopped him into reality. Apparently "self-described conservative" is pretty much synonymous with "least likely to do the research."
If McDonald's "Happy Meals" are named after the emotional state children are in while consuming them, shouldn't the adult versions be called "Self-Loathing Meals"?
I may have lost to you 2-15, but at least I didn't bellyache like an affluent toddler every time I missed a shot. So, between your admittedly superior athletic prowess, and my ability to stoically endure misfortune, I think we both proved our masculinity today. Except for you, ya fucking craybaby.
I started my linkblog (did you know I had one? It's over there ------>) about a year ago because, at the time, my favorite linkblog--that run by Andy Baio of Waxy.org--was only updated sporadically, leaving me to search out more time-killers on my own. Well, now Mr. Baio is blogging full time, and his linkblog typically features so many great links a day that I am spending less and less time on my own (not that I ever devoted more than 40 seconds a week on it ...). So if you like the stuff that I post, you owe it to yourself to check out Waxy's Links or subscribe to Andy's XML feed.
AFI 100: Sophie's Choice
Yesterday was Superbowl Sunday, so Pa Baldwin and I spent the afternoon as so many fathers and sons do around the nation: gathered in front of the big screen TV, drinking beer, and thrilling to the emotional rollercoaster that is Sophie's Choice.
All I really knew about the motion picture ahead of time was The Scene; from that I extrapolated that the whole film was set during the Holocaust. I was therefore confused when the film opened in 1947, with the eponymous Sophie safe and childless. Okay, thought I, it's a framing device: we'll get 10 minutes of this, an hour and a half of the main narrative, and then a brief epilogue. Wrong again, chief. The bulk of the film is a John Irvingesque relationship drama with genuinely funny moments, thanks to the comic styling of Kevin Kline (in his first movie!) and an extended sequence involving a reformed prude that can only be described as hilarious (an adjective I was pretty sure would not appear in this review). All this was good but not great. Without The Scene, I'm confident that Sophie's Choice would have long since been forgotten.
And, I must admit, the punch-in-the-gut impact of The Scene was somewhat muted by my (a) foreknowledge of the event it depicts, (b) familiarity with Streep's acting prowess, and (c) having previously endured Schindler's List, The Pianist, Into the Arms of Strangers, and probably a few more, the memories of which I have suppressed. Not enough to keep me from tearing up, but I didn't end the evening rocking in the corner, either. Definitely a haunter, though: The Scene has popped into my head half a dozen times since last night, and I keep watching the clip on Youtube*, seemingly against my will.
I'm finding it hard to assign a rating to Sophie's Choice, mostly because it was so unlike what I had expected. I think I'd need to watch it again to really form an opinion--maybe Pa Baldwin and I will do that on Father's Day. For now, 7.5/10.
Next up in the AFI 100 Project: Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
* A warning to those who have never seen Sophie's Choise: watching this will not "ruin" the move, but, as I have said, will undoubtedly lessens its impact to some degree. If you ever expect to watch the film in its entirely, I'd strongly recommend foregoing the clip.
February 01, 2008
The Bad Review Revue
Meet the Spartans: "Hey, guys, when you repurpose a disco hit to poke fun at gay men, not only do you look like assholes, you look like assholes who rip their jokes off of YouTube." -- Kimberley Jones, AUSTIN CHRONICLE
Hitman: "Like watching someone stupid play a bad video game." -- Shawn Levy, PORTLAND OREGONIAN
Strange Wilderness: "The funniest part of Strange Wilderness is the trailer for Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay that's running before it." -- Ty Burr, BOSTON GLOBE
One Missed Call: "If your cell phone vibrates while you're watching One Missed Call, go ahead and answer, because even a wrong number will be more exciting than what's happening onscreen." -- Chuck Wilson, LA WEEKLY
Over Her Dead Body: "Is to romantic comedy what Spam is to meat." -- Wesley Morris, BOSTON GLOBE