Baby-feeding media roundup 2: A survey of four Titanics

Titanic (1953)

  • Plot: A melodrama with two stories. A woman and a man who’re having a troubled marriage face an icy trip across the Atlantic. A middle-class young man (Robert Wagner) who goes to Purdue romances their high-class daughter. Also, a defrocked alcoholic priest redeems himself by rushing into the boiler room to comfort the dying.
  • Blame: None to speak of. Sure, there weren’t enough life boats, but shucks, that’s a bummer.
  • Bravery: The entire mass of people who were dying stood together on the ship, sang “Nearer my God to Thee,” and slipped silently into the deep.
  • Cowardice: Sleazy card-sharp Harold Meeks slips onto the life boat disguised as a woman.
  • Accommodations: Steerage dances and jigs, First-class passengers dine and play cards.
  • Class Warfare: The ignorant steerage passengers just won’t leave their below-decks ghettos.
  • The Californian controversy: absent.
  • Mysterious cracking noise: Many witnesses reported hearing an unbelievably loud cracking noise. Before the ship was found in the 1980s, the consensus was that the boilers exploded. This film supports this evaluation.
  • Molly Brown: Thelma Ritter as “Maude Young,” clearly a Molly Brown doppelganger.
  • Best moment: Gif teaches the first class girl to do the dance that all the kids are doing these days: the Navajo Rag. (Includes the delightful use of the word squaw.)

A Night to Remember (1958)

  • Plot: A clinical repetition of Walter Lord’s famous novel, a diagnostic of the events with real, named people and plenty of nautical stuf. Lots of concentration on the nautical elements and communications. Some human drama but all in the service of telling the story “accurately.”
  • Blame: Plenty of blame is heaped on J. Bruce Ismay, the president of the White Star Line, who is well known as having prodded Captain Smith to go faster than was prudent. Of course, there’s plenty of blame heaped on the “unsinkable” idea. And the Californian gets a big heap o’ scorn.
  • Bravery: First Officer Lightoller comes out looking great, having rallied the two dozen men who huddled for four hours on the upside-down collapsible boat and kept them from tipping or drowning. This is fact and the film depicts it quite nicely.
  • Cowardice: J. Bruce Ismay skulks aboard one of the life boats. This is both true and a common theme.
  • Accommodations: The wealthy folks dine and relax in elaborate fashion; the steerage passengers dance a reel.
  • Class Warfare: Much more vicious this time around–the third class passengers are locked in decks below and prevented from going above. The early lifeboats were not loaded fully (the most famous being Lady Duff Gordon and her 12 crewmen), thus leaving many third-class women and children to drown.
  • The Californian controversy: There was lots of testimony in the trials following the disaster about a ship that was very close but unresponsive to signals and calls for help. This boat, decided based on testimony, to be The Californian, gained significant notoriety in the months afterward, and the captain found his career speedily and ignominiously ended.
  • Mysterious cracking noise: Not addressed at all. Ship sinks as a single piece.
  • Molly Brown: Tucker McGuire, the least memorable of the Mollys.
  • Best moment: A crewman gets plastered and stumbles about the boat drunk. He goes into the water and is one of the very few who survive the swim. He’s found by one of the life boats, paddling around in the water. This really happened.

Titanic (1996 tv miniseries)

  • Plot: A melodramatic production with a bit of the nautical stuff. We have a petty thief who starts off intending to help the purser rob the wealthy folks on the ship, we have a family of missionaries doomed to the fate of steerage passengers, their comely convert is destined to survive alongside the reformed thief. The movie also chronicles the love affair between Catherine Zeta-Jones and her former boyfriend, Peter “Eyebrows” Gallagher.
  • Blame: This is the only movie I’ve seen where the captain and his crew squabble about who’s to blame for the ship sinking. In every other movie, you get a snide comment to someone (usually J. B. Ismay), but in this movie, the captain bawls out Ismay for demanding that they go too fast, then Murdock for trying to “port around” the iceberg instead of crashing right into it. (One popular internet theory suggests that a head-on collision would have harmed the ship less badly than the ripping effect of running alongside the berg).
  • Bravery: Our young thief throws off the tyrannical porter and runs to the aid of his girl.
  • Cowardice: Lots in this movie. The old lady’s husband most cravenly makes his way onto the life boat.
  • Accommodations: Once again, first class passengers dine in elegance, steerage passengers have a rowdy hootenanny in the bowels of the ship.
  • Class Warfare: The crewmen most viciously lock the third-class passengers belowdecks and our favorite family of missionaries arrives on deck too late to get the children aboard lifeboats.
  • The Californian controversy: Echoing A Night To Remember, this film heaps scorn on The Californian. This highlights the poor research done by the filmmakers, since the discovery of the wreck in 1985 proved that the Titanic had drifted far from its reported position and the ship its passengers saw could not have been the Californian. The best current guess is that both the Californian and the Titanic were looking at a ship between them, likely a Norwegian whaling ship fishing illegally in the waters. This explanation would resolve many of the discrepancies in witness testimony surrounding the Californian. Shame on the writers of this miniseries.
  • Mysterious cracking noise: This film refers to the exploding boilers, but makes no mention of the ship splitting in two.
  • Molly Brown: Marilou Henner, jauntily.
  • Best moment: Tim Curry plays a vicious porter with a wicked mustache who threatens his lifeboat full of people with a gun. I really want to know what he thinks was going to happen next.

Titanic (1997)

  • Plot: Working class stiff falls for wealthy but rebellious debutante. Ship sinks.
  • Blame: A softer touch with the blame, but Ismay gets a heap, as do the money folks who wanted faster runs and fewer lifeboats.
  • Bravery: Various bits of helping one another. Not nearly as much as…
  • Cowardice: Lots of human frailty here. Specifically, steerage passengers locked below and panicking people trying to get aboard lifeboats.
  • Accommodations: Again: the wealthy eat nicely, the poor dance in smoky rooms (with Guiness, though).
  • Class Warfare: Lots of reference throughout the film to Jack’s poverty and his missing status among the wealthy. Worst moment: when Rose comments that “half the people aboard this ship are going to die,” Cal replies, “Not the better half.”
  • The Californian controversy: Absent, and rightly so.
  • Mysterious cracking noise: The boat splits in half, and rightly so.
  • Molly Brown: Played by Kathy Bates.
  • Best moment: The last 30 minutes, when the boat is sinking, are the best. Some dude falls off the back and brains himself on a propeller on his way down. Brutal!

See also: Baby-feeding media roundup

Job hunting, Not!

So last week I started getting offers from insurance companies to apply for their jobs.  I assumed these were spam, so I ignored the first couple.  Then, I noticed that one said something about seeing my resume on Monster.com.  I looked through the huge volume of back-email that accumulated during my paternity web-blackout and found enrollment emails from monster.   Apparently someone signed me up for monster.com (or more likely signed themselves up and typed the wrong email address).

So I emailed monster and they were lickety split about taking down my resume:

Discussion Thread
Response (Sarah) 08/28/2008 01:00 PM
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I have removed your email address from our system. Please let us know if you receive further communication by or through Monster.
Customer 08/27/2008 03:48 PM
I have received several suspicious emails reporting that my cv has been posted on Monster. I suspect these are scams, but they were followed by several inquiries from employers (which might also be scams). I’m posting the information for the email. I did not create this account and DO NOT want my CV listed. Thanks. Brendan Riley briley@colum.edu (forwarded to briley@curragh-labs.org)

And then I faced a strange conundrum: do I alert my department chair about this?  At first I decided it was darn silly to worry about, but then I imagined a conversation at a tenure-decision meeting next year:

“I saw that Brendan Riley has his resume on Monster.com.  He must not be committed to Columbia.”

Is this foolishness, or reasonable worry?  Either way, I emailed my chair to disavow this spurious job listing.

Baby-feeding media roundup

The 70-minute middle-of-the-night baby feedings are giving me plenty of time to watch movies. Here’s a list of the movies I’ve watched since my last post about this:

  • The Good Shepard: Matt Damon’s acting direction for the whole film must have been something like you have deep, conflicted feelings about this, but you can never show your true feelings so you bury them deep behind a mask of seriousness.
  • 50 First Dates: Funnier than I remembered. Sean Astin is hilarious.
  • Inside Man: A pretty great heist film, with good acting and some clever stuff. Spike Lee laments that the film’s success has not bought him much leeway in terms of getting films made, except if he wanted to do another heist film.
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer: Perhaps I’ve seen too many movies making fun of this movie for it to be worthwhile, or perhaps it’s just unbelievably stupid. Unlike Scream, which I think holds up pretty well, this film is just terrible. The deaths aren’t even scary, and the villain could hardly choose a less creepy outfit than the fisherman’s smock. Look out, here comes the Gorton’s Fisherman.
  • Hellboy: I’ve been hankering to watch this since we saw H2 in the theater. Rasputin is a cool enemy. My only beef is with the icky monsters that double when they die. The solution is to kill all of them at once, but it doesn’t explain how that works — wouldn’t they all double?
  • The Bourne Identity: I want to see more movies with Franka Potente. Best car chase since Ronin.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: Even better than the first, though with less Franka Potente. A higher volume of Joan Allen though. Car chase not as good. I don’t understand the title.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum: Are you sensing a pattern here? Even better yet, since it has David Strathairn. And brings back the death of the assassin in the first movie with Bourne’s line: “Do you see what they make us give?” Just enough Julia Styles to offset the Non-Potente. I wonder if Franka gets some money because they use her picture from the previous film?
  • Batman Begins: Another one I’ve been itching to re-watch since we saw The Dark Knight. Really good. My favorite discovery? The no-name actor who played Bruce’s dad went on to replace Sam W. on the now defunct Law and Order.
  • A Mighty Wind: The vibrato in Christopher Guest’s voice on the word “Weelllll…” makes the whole movie work. Other favorite lines: “I would love to see Crabbeville in Autumn” and “This candle represents the darkness and the eternal light. It represents life and divinity. And it also represents a penis.”
  • X-Men: I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’ll say this came shortly after Spider-Man in the revitalization of superheroes.  I enjoy it, but have seen it enough times that my email was more interesting than the movie.
  • X-Men 2: Highly enjoyable as well, with plenty of histrionics and excitement.  Two thoughts, first–that the metal nails given to the Wolverine-type girl look darn fragile to me.  Second, the evil scientist is also the guy who played the evil scientist in the third Bourne movie — he’s getting typecast.
  • X-Men 3: Not as good as the other two, with a ludicrous ending that makes Magneto look like a chump.  Why wouldn’t he, you know, just destroy the building with the bridge?  LAMEO.

I watch each of these movies in pieces (usually three to four sessions) at low volume with the subtitles on. It’s interesting to see the difference between subtitles and subtitles for the hearing impaired. The latter include bracketed notations on sounds and sound effects. Another bit I like about subtitles is that you can often catch bits of dialogue coming into or going out of scenes that you wouldn’t normally hear.

Next up? Four (count-em, four) movies about the Titanic.

Recent book roundup

Cover of Black Hand by Will ThomasThe Black Hand by Will Thomas

The fifth book in the Barker / Llywellan mystery series. I haven’t read the third or fourth book, which my book club seemed to think were just like this book, but as a solitary text, I enjoyed it. Barker continues to delight, as does his indefatigable assistant. Thomas’ London feels authentic without being overdone.

See also: Some Danger Involved and Kingdom Come

Cover of Darwinia by Robert Charles WilsonDarwinia by Robert Charles Wilson

An excellent book that starts out like an alternate-history sf story and melds into something strange and interesting. The brief premise at the beginning of the book is that one day in 1912 the continent of Europe as we know it is swapped with the continent of Europe from a parallel universe where evolution took a different route (and is thus populated with an entirely different set of flora and fauna). America becomes the de-facto world power because all the European countries are suddenly gone. A really solid read; delightful.

cover of California Fire and Life by Don WinslowCalifornia Fire and Life by Don Winslow

A crackling good read. Jack Wade washed out as an arson-investigator for the Sheriff’s department who now works for the eponymous insurance company. The story zips along and reads quick and smart. The dialog rings true and the characters are well crafted. The narrative voice has a “hey buddy” feel to it that works really well. For example, after it introduces a key character, the next chapter will start with something like “Now here’s the story on Jack Wade.”

The only thing that didn’t quite work for me (though this shifted as the story went along) was that the main character was just a little too awesome. He’s quippy to the point of action-movie status, and the gimmick that he just surfs and does arson investigations feels a little rpg-character-sheet-y for me. (You know: my half-elf was orphaned at a young age and got into woodcarving, so whenever he’s not practicing his double-sword arts, he whittles small figurines to leave on the corpses of his enemies.) These are quibbles, though. Overall it’s an excellent book.

A Wizard of Earthsea

“I like Shakespeare, but he’s so cliche.” — A Woody Allen movie ( I thought it was Annie Hall, but the Internet fails me here).

Reading Le Guin’s classic upstart wizarding story, I had to keep Allen’s joke about the clueless patron of literature in mind.  The story of young Ged and his journey toward sorcerousness reads like a Joseph Campbell / Karl Jung joint, hitting all the sweet spots right on the nose and leaping on to the next with minimal fuss.  It is compelling, but one must remember that in the 1960s, the fantasy genre had not become the Anne McCaffrey/ Neil Jordan juggernaut that it is today.

A few minor thoughts:

  • I like the way magic is both inborn and varies in strength depending on place.
  • Like her scifi, Le Guin writes “soft” fantasy that only lightly touches on the hows of Ged’s magic, focusing more on the whys and wherefores.
  • She crafts a solid world with consistent characters and themes.

I look forward to reading future installments.  That is all.

Some lessons from director commentaries

So what with something better than sleeping to do in the middle of the night, I’ve been watching movies, movie extras, and audio commentaries.  After watching the commentaries on The Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black, I’ve decided to compile some advice for all you folks who might someday be part of an audio commentary, either making one or engineering one.

Most of this is in response to Vin Diesel’s frustration toward the end of the Pitch Black commentary, when he says, “But what’s the deal with these critiques anyway?  Who came up with them?  What’s the point?  And isn’t it kind of insulting to the film to talk over the whole movie?” and later, “But really, what are you supposed to say?” My list is for you, Vin.  Feel free to use this advice on the commentary for Babylon A.D..

Chronicles of Ridiculous

  1. You Can Only Have One Favorite/ Hardest/ Best/ Worst; and you have to explain why it earns that title. I’ve seen numerous directors and often actors (in Pitch Black, Twohy and Hauser were teasing Diesel for making this error a Riddick-ulous amount of times) proclaim “This is my favorite shot in the movie.”  Only to say the same thing again a few minutes later.  Or, as Diesel did, they claim they “love” this shot, or that one.  Or all of them.
  2. Your Listeners enjoy pointed or funny or interesting anecdotes about producing the movie. Please note: pointed or funny or interesting.  “She was really cold that day” is none of these.  Pitch Black does this badly.  William Friedkin’s discussion of Linda Blair’s bed-thumping scene does this well in The Exorcist, as does Mel Brooks re: casting Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles.
  3. Your Listeners know the plot of the movie. So don’t narrate. I’m talking to you, Ahnold.
  4. Your Listeners appreciate discussion of artistic intent, but can smell bullshit. David Twohy does a good job talking about lighting decisions and arguments with DPs.  William Friedkin reads too much into his images.
  5. Silence is not golden. Don’t leave us sitting quietly.

The best audio commentaries are the ones clearly planned and/or somewhat thought out before they’re shot.  They mix anecdotes with narratives and explanations, oscillating between big discussions and little details, and putting relevant ideas next to key moments; OR, the best audio commentaries get a bunch of the folks involved (at least three, preferrably more) together and let them talk it out.  This can result in an amusing secondary camaraderie between the listener and the filmmakers, or it can backfire and leave the listener out.

My favorite organized commentaries:

Criterion Collection Robocop. They did three different commentaries as interviews and then edited them together so the relevant bits went with the relevant moments.

David Koepp on Stir of Echoes. Koepp hits all the key notes and does an excellent job giving insight into how the film was made, his goals, and his effort.  An excellent commentary.

Ghostbusters.  Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Dan Ackroyd talking about the movie.  Funny and informative.

My favorite group commentaries:

Criterion Collection This Is Spinal Tap. Commentary on the film starring the three members of Tap in character.  Like a whole additional Tap movie.

Cannibal, The Musical. Trey Parker and Matt Stone gathered the cast and got drunk while they watched the movie around a tape recorder.  Really funny.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

I Was Told There\'d Be Cake cover

by Sloane Crosley

I picked up this book because it looked amusing and because Jonathan Lethem told me to.  Well, really, he said SC was someone who wrote from the Sedaris/ Vowell world, and I couldn’t resist.  Her writing reminds me much more of Sedaris than Vowell, mostly because Vowell tends to write about herself a little and about the world (history, particularly) a lot more.  She infuses personal perspective and humor into larger questions of life and the world.  Sedaris tends to be more introspective, working in personal anecdote and sometimes making larger points but often not.  My description of Sedaris describes Crosley’s book precisely.

The Crosley sketched by the book reminds me a lot of Elaine Bennis.  She’s got good intentions much of the time, but she’s also a bit selfish and a bit lazy.  She would rather be herself than be polite (not a bad quality, necessarily), and is pretty unapologetic about who she is (also not bad). In that regard, she also reminds me of the narrator in I Just Want My Pants Back; this latter connection might have more to do with her single- young- hip- New-York lifestyle than any personal habits.

But Crosley is funny and unpretentious about her foibles, which makes me think she’s often presenting the worst of herself.  The opening essay worries about how her apartment will appear to her family if she dies today, and later essays touch on the challenge of complicated desserts, weddings gone out of control, and being a healthy member of a disease-prone family.  She uses amusing language and snarky comments, which link her most closely to the Sedaris / Vowell style, and make the essays worth reading.

And finally, there’s no Portal reference.  Alas.

See also: In Which I Become that Annoying Customer; The Challenge of the Unlikeable Protagonist

Spider-Man 3

Emo Spider-ManI watched Spider-Man 3with my family Friday evening.

The film was fine, with lots of razzle-dazzle, but I didn’t really like it very much.  Like Harry Potter 5, the doom and gloom turn of the likable protagonist is hard to swallow, and when it carries none of the large-scale portent that Harry’s depression did, I just cahn’t stand it.

By far, the best part were the few moments they let Thomas Haden Church do some acting (as opposed to the sand fx creature that played Lou Ferrigno to his Bill Bixby).  The sequence in his ex-apartment was particularly moving for me.  And man that guy has some blue eyes.

The action sequences were as enjoyable as the ones from the other films, and the advances in computer tech meant there were even fewer moments where I found myself sputtering at the CGI.

My other favorite part, as always, were the sequences with J. Jonah Jameson, played by one of my favorite character actors, J. K. Simmons.  He had all the funniest bits, and in a movie as dour as this one, that gives him oodles of influence in my book.

Some more impromteau thoughts below the fold.

Continue reading Spider-Man 3

The Alienist

The AlienistCarr’s book is pretty great. It’s the story of a serial murderer in New York in the 1890s.  The main character is a reporter who’s friends with Teddy Roosevelt (the chief of police) and with Lazlo Kretzler, an alienist (the term for a psychiatrist in the 1890s).  Because the murderer is picking out people he doesn’t know, the police are completely unequipped to catch him, and Lazlo builds a team to find the murderer by building a composite sketch of him based on his behavior and actions.  It ends up being a prototype of the killer profile we see in television police procedurals.

  • The writing works very well.  The characters are really solid, the environment skillfully crafted, and the story well-paced.  The mystery doesn’t feel forced, and the details fall into place nicely.
  • Carr does an excellent job with 1890s New York.  He chooses details that sing: the bar where people gather to bet on whether pedestrians are going to get run over by street cars, the houses of “ill-fame” where the young murder victims are kidnapped and about which the police do nothing, the immigrant tenements seethe with decay and grime.
  • The murders are very gruesome.  Not light reading.
  • The corruption in the city fits the historical record as far as I know, as does Roosevelt’s character and actions.

What actually interests me more is the method the characters use to catch the villain.  They develop a dossier of the criminal by exploring the traces of his crimes and looking for evidence of what he might be like.  Not only do they examine the evidence of his crimes, but they also interview other murderers to find out what drives them and how they differ from the subject of their investigation.

This method strikes me as a good metaphor for the way I am seeking the electrate detective: a sort of shadow effect, using the light from the other detectives to define the edges of the electrate detective, and defining pieces of their method by the evidence of their work.

The book also provides some insight into how I might use the methodology I used in my dissertation  toward this book: the story provides the method for evaluating it.

It also feels like there’s something going on in the time period and the method.  The prevalence of psychoanalysis in the story feels like a calling card. The book has lots of developing technologies: photography, retina imaging, fingerprinting.  But it also has the burgeoning craft of psychoanalysis.  Kretzler anticipates Freud in key ways.  The convergence of cinema and psychoanalysis yield Surrealism, an essential early perspective of electracy.  The traces of these ideas throughout the book made my antennae tingle.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with this book yet, but I’ll certainly do something.

On language and other thoughts while parenting

  • Avery says “my” instead of “I” or “I’m.”  This puzzling linguistic development became clear once I figured out its boundaries.  Here’s how I figure it emerged:
    1) We would say something about a posessive: “Have you found your shoes?”
    2) She would say “Avery found your shoes.”
    3) We would correct her, “You mean to say “I found my shoes.”
    4) She learned that and now says “Avery found my shoes.”
    5) But sometimes we use the same 2nd person word as a contraction for you are, to whit: “You’re going to the pool today.”
    6) She makes the same first person substitution and says things like “My go to the pool today.”
  • We’re still waiting on Finn’s first word.  He does not make the same “eep eep” sound that Avery made when she was eating, though.
  • Avery has already given Finn his first nickname.  At home and at her daycare center (which we call “the corner”) she has been calling him “Dolphin.”  If he’s as interested in swimming as she is, it will be fitting.  I can already see it on the back of swim team jackets: FINN “DOLPHIN” RILEY, or DOLFINN.

Baby media roundup

As y’all know, I’m currently at day 6 of double-fatherhood. It’s pretty awesome, as expected. But I’m sure you miss all the commentary I spew on what media I watch. We had Finn at an excellent local hospital with nice delivery rooms that have AV setups so you can do whatever the mommy wants, be it Enya and candles, be it new-agey stuff, or in our case, movies. So here’s a rundown of the media I’ve seen since Finn came along.

  • The Goonies, a perennial favorite of Jenny’s. This time around, I particularly noticed the amuzing malapropisms of the group’s Asian member, “Data.” I also noticed how unlikely his “pincers apparel” is–the ability to shoot a set of plastic jaws that can latch onto a rock and stop the fall of a 50-80 pound boy is pretty amazing, and unbelievable. I was also amused by the use of the phrase ORV to refer to the Ford Bronco (SUV not yet being part of the common parlance). Finally, I noticed for the first time the regular reference to Chunk’s jewish-ness. I’m curious about whether the “Hebrew school” and “matzah ball” references were just a way to give his otherwise one-dimensional character some heft, or if the writers saw this dimension as another way to mark him as an outsider, a “Goonie.” Finally, Jenny and I commented on the very subtle explanation of the film’s title–the characters all live in a run-down part of town called the “Goondocks.” Oh, one more thing, I also remembered that the town where this movie takes place is also the town where Ahnold takes his job as a Kindergarten Cop.
  • After a short break to read (I was reading the cheery boy-prostitute serial-killer book The Alienist), we watched another favorite, The Wedding Singer. Jenny and I have a long history with this movie, having watched it “over the phone” during our two years dating long distance. Nothing much new this time about the movie, but the nurse enjoyed it quite a bit. The hospital wasn’t too busy, so we weren’t sharing our maternity nurse. She was bustling about preparing for delivery and glancing up at the screen occasionally. We chatted about how we liked these movies and she said she did too. Then she pulled up her stool and watched the last 20 minutes with us. Then we called the doctor and got ready to push.
  • That evening, before bed, we watched Clue, another favorite of mine. All the performances in the film are amazing, and the small jokes kill me every time. This time, I was particularly tickled with the moment when Evette, the busty maid, said “But it is dark upstairs and I am frightened. Won’t anyone go with me?” Four of the men said “I will,” while Mr. Green — the avowed homosexual — murmured “No thanks.” But really, every moment of that movie is funny.
  • At breakfast time we watched Bridget Jones’ Diary, not one of my favorites, but not a movie I despise either. Colin Farrell is pretty funny here, as is Jim Broadbent.

At this point, we were out of movies and had 36 hours or more to go. Jenny was still pretty uncomfortable to read (and it’s hard to read while nursing), so I wandered down the hall to the two big drawers of VHS tapes the ward had on offer. I skipped over the half-dozen copies of Die Hard (though I would have relished the line about men’s fashion, Jenny would have pulled a veto), and pulled some movies I thought we’d both enjoy. Over the next day and a half, we watched:

  • Evolution, a moderately amusing alien invasion comedy. A b-movie Men in Black. The kind of movie you’d leave on if it came up on the Saturday afternoon matinee. Or you’d pick out of a drawer filled with mostly eighties action films (Hard to Kill and Speed made appearances too).
  • Three Men and a Baby, a not-very-amusing fish out of water comedy, with peeing. We’d both seen it before, but rose colored nostalgia duped us into watching it again. I still don’t understand why the reign of Steve Guttenberg ended.

Now that we’re home and nursing, the bleary-eyed middle of the nights give us time to watch some more films. When Avery was born, we worked our way through the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy, but this time we’re being less orderly. So far:

  • Music and Lyrics. I don’t care what other people say, I like Hugh Grant movies. There, it’s out. This one’s got some particularly amusing eighties jokes.
  • Best in Show. This was my pick. Good ol’ Christopher Guest and crew. I never get tired of these films.

And finally, I’ve had a couple nights of walking and rocking in the living room during the wee hours (the morning of the 5th found me up at 2am and rocking a wakeful kid until 7). I’ve worked my way through my TiVo’d backlog of Law and Order and Numb3rs. So I’m caught up for the new seasons now.

Whoo aaa!

Hellboy opens with an exciting battle between American forces and the Nazi super occult squad of evil.  At one point, some dude gets thrown into a trans-demensional portal and screams.

The portal that makes you Wilhelm

That is all.

National Treasure 2

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

I enjoyed the first one moderately enough, and the second is decent too (though, like most sequels, at best about 80% of the first one).

  • The first bit of the movie that sticks with me: why does Nicholas’ girlfriend get to keep his house when they break up?  That pisses me off.  Also?  Riley implies that their share of the treasure was $5mil each.  That house costs demands way more than a one-time payoff of $5mil.
  • It’s amazing how they manipulate the beginning of the story to set up the same circumstances that made the last movie so entertaining.  To whit: in the first movie, he needed to solve the puzzle to prove his family isn’t crazy; in the second, it’s to prove they aren’t traitors.  In the first, he has to steal the Declaration of Independence; in the second, he has to kidnap the president.  In the first movie, they make him adversarial with Abby through his theft; in the second, it’s their defunct romantic past.  Finally, the first movie has an evil set of treasure hunters; so does the second movie.
  • I love the idea that all these ancient cultures were masters of secret gizmos and sliding rock doors.  Have there ever really been documented structures like these?

The best part is the Book of Secrets itself — the idea that the president has a secret book that helps him know what he needs to run the country.  If you like that idea but were disappointed with the result, I highly recommend the Warren Ellis novel Crooked Little Vein, though its debauched jaunt through America’s hives of scum and villainy challenges even the most jaded reader.

Damn you, marketing survey folks!

I can understand not minding poor punctuation, but forcing it? Come on.

Bad Punctuation

Always the rebel, I tried using the shift key and was blocked by a pop up that says “This feature has been disabled.”

Mama Mia!

Mama Mia

Jenny reminded me that we’ve seen plenty of “boymovies this summer (though only movies that she happily agreed to see), and then reminded me that she is nine months pregnant, and then declared that we were going to go see Mama Mia! today.

  • Like the musical, it’s enjoyable because of the Swedish musical cotton candy of ABBA. Also like cotton candy, you will come away with a stomach ache.
  • The Entertainment Weekly review was spot on in several regards: the choreography is terrible, Pierce Brosnan’s singing is unfortunate, and the music is enjoyable.
  • Meryl Streep gets the most credit for her graceful age in the first half of the film. They let her look her age, red eyes and all. My only complaint is her blue jumper thingy (as above). I know it’s the outfit she wore in the musical, and it fits the narrative, but I think it looks unbelievably bad, and spent a big part of the movie irritated that she was wearing it.
  • Like the musical, my favorite bit was when Christine Baranski sings “Does Your Mother Know” to a saucy young bartender. (If you didn’t know the original song, it started as a man singing to a young strumpet.) I also really liked Julie Walters, who played Donna’s other best friend. She was spunky and entertaining, and had all the best slapstick gags. In looking her up, I realize that she looks shockingly different, but sure enough, it’s Molly Weasley (Ron’s mom) from the Harry Potter movies; this is rare for me, but I honestly had no inkling that I’d seen that actress before. Usually I’m bothered by such overlaps, and have to look them up to settle my hash.
    Julie Walters in Mama Mia! Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
    On that note, I absolutely cannot wait for her smack-down of XXXSPOILERBLOCKEDXXX in Harry Potter 7.
  • I felt bad for Pierce Brosnan, as the first song they gave him to sing didn’t suit his vocal range very well. He came off as being a bad singer when I think he just had a bad song. I was reminded of an interview I saw with the guy who sang “Man of Constant Sorrow” in O Brother, Where Art Thou! for George Clooney.
  • There’s something about the American male identity–or mine at least–that cringes at exuberant female camaraderie. In particular, the sequences with the three older women rocking out in Donna’s bedroom (as above) would likely send most men scurrying for the popcorn counter. I wonder if I’m imagining that and if not, where the feeling of discomfort comes from. It might be generational — I wasn’t at all weirded out by the sequences with the daughter and friends acting goofy; my Mom’s peers, though, yeesh. I’d also be curious to see what the female equivalent of this discomfort is. OR, is feminist media scholarship correct to suggest that women are trained from early on to enjoy the “man’s” movie, but that men are not trained reciprocally.