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Statistics, Lies, And Videotape

In Film on September 11, 2009 at 10:16 AM

I’ve always been fascinated with statistics. Especially everyday life statistics. Such as the amount of time every year the average person spends waiting in line. Or the number of times we blink. Or the amount of a certain food we eat. I love when we are able to take a step back from ourselves and view our habits through the prism of cold, hard, truth-telling numbers.

In fact, I wish I had a statistician. I think everyone should have a statistician assigned to them. Just to follow you around and keep track of what you’ve eaten, where you’ve gone, how much time you’ve spent doing something, how many times you’ve worn that outfit, how far you’ve walked, how many times you’ve yawned, how many bathroom visits you’ve made etc. etc.

And, as we all know, the knowledge of being observed changes behavior so the statistician would have to be invisible. Maybe God (if he/she/it exists) is doing just that. And when reach heaven he pulls up an Excel spreadsheet and says, “Alright, let’s take a look at the numbers here…”

But there is one statistic measuring my actions that I think I can recount accurately: Most Watched.

We all have a certain handful of movies that we watch much, much more frequently than others. Sick days, rainy days, you name it. The type movie we feel it is our mission in life to show to anyone who hasn’t seen it. The type of movie we not only know all the words to, but every single sound effect, music cue, cut, angle, facial expression etc.

Because of my affinity for film I have can think of many movies that fall into that category (The Blues Brothers, The ‘Burbs, Apollo 13, Tremors, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, A Few Good Men, almost all of M. Night and Spielberg’s work etc.)

But there is one film I know for fact I’ve spent more time watching than any other:

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

I’ve seen it countless times (well it would be counted if I had a damn statistician…).

For a span of two or three years I actually had a New Year’s Eve ritual that involved T2. I was never very big on New Year’s Eve as a holiday or the parties than resulted because of it. And often times I’d just as well stay home, watch the ball drop and hit the hay. But when I was in middle school (I think it was) I made it a habit that every New Year’s Eve, as soon as the ball dropped, I’d pop James Cameron’s masterpiece into my VHS, in order to ensure that the first film I watched of that new year would be non-other than T2.

Alright folks, now I want to hear from you. Shout out your most watched movies in the comments section. I’m really interested to see what kind of mix we get.


Actual Blogging: Sept. 4th Edition

In News, Television on September 4, 2009 at 12:39 AM

So it’s late at night and I’m staying the night on a friend’s couch. Currently I’m typing whilst watching Letterman and I felt the need to write a bit. Mostly because the site hasn’t seen a new post in days and it was about time something went up here.

I figured I’d take the time to do some actual blogging and discuss what’s going on this weekend for me because I’m excited about it and technically it’s preventing me from posting anything else.

For any of those who may not know, I live in Western Mass and work at the Apple Store in Holyoke. I’ve recently been given the opportunity to become a ‘mentor’ in the store. Part of this responsibility involved going to Boston for training at our corporate office there. That training occurred earlier today (technically yesterday I suppose) and it was fantastic. I really enjoyed it and took a lot out of it.

Meanwhile, I have today and tomorrow off from work and a friend from New York will be in Boston tonight so I decided to stick around in town and spend some time with my friends, which I see far less than I should.

Tomorrow (technically today) I will have the morning/afternoon to myself in the city (until the friend from NY arrives). So I’ll get a chance to do whatever I want in Boston and I just planned my day.

I’m going to head into the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a great way to spend some time and I’ll be able to do it at my own pace, a luxury I’ve never before experienced. On top of that, there is a showing of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Something I’ve never actually seen but have always had an interest in. I can’t wait. Expect plenty of twitpics.

Then I’ll reconvene with everyone for a night out. So anyway, that’s what’s up.

Have I ever told you my feeling about late night TV by the way? I’m a huge Letterman and Ferguson fan at this point in my life. i used to be a big Conan  advocate, and I still believe he has the best bits, but his interviews are starting to feel canned and he has lost his edge. Meanwhile, Letterman and Ferguson have the most interesting, fun and unpredictable interviews. And Fallon… well… he’s trying. But yea, CBS all the way for me.

That’s all.

UPDATE: Didn’t get a chance to see the movie at the MFA. But the trip in and of itself did not disappoint. And I did end up going to the top of the Prudential and it was amazing. Once I get home and get the pictures up on my MobileMe gallery, you’ll be the first to see ’em.

UPDATE 2: I’ve updated my MobileMe gallery with pictures from the trip. Including a video you can hear me being told to stop taking at the end of. Make sure to check out the stuff from the top of Prudential in particular and the Boston Harbor misprint that I submitted to the fail-blog HERE.


In Film on August 29, 2009 at 8:56 PM

Tony Gilroy’s film Duplicity was released this week on Blu-ray / DVD and I could not let the occasion pass without saying something. It is one of my favorite movies of the year as evidenced by the review I posted on my previous web endeavor ( Because that review came in the waning days of the site and because my love for this movie cannot be overstated, I submit to you my full review of Duplicity:

Tony Gilroy wrote and directed this spy comedy about two former espionage experts attempting to pull off a major con job in the private sector. Gilroy’s name may sound familiar because his directorial debut, Michael Clayton, garnered rave reviews and more than a couple Oscar nominations. Clayton was easily one of my favorite films in 2007 and Duplicity is now one of my favorite films of 2009.

Gilroy once again focuses his story on the cutthroat world of business and corporate moguls. In this case, the always fantastic Paul Giamatti and Clayton veteran Tom Wilkinson run rival corporations in the home pharmaceutical industry (think Johnson & Johnson). Meanwhile, stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play former spies (of the C.I.A. and MI6 respectively) with a complicated past who now find themselves reunited working counterintelligence for the companies.

Going too into depth summarizing the story would ruin the experience so I’ll leave it at that. Sufficed to say, Gilroy’s writing is as sharp as ever and the constantly twisting and turning story proves both smart and rewarding. Another part of the film’s success is its editing. Pieces of the present are intersected with moments from the past, blending together seamlessly like chapters in a novel. It’s not linear and that is to the film’s advantage. Gilroy tells us exactly what he wants us to know, when he wants us to know it. Trying to put the puzzle together keeps the film constantly engaging.

Owen gives a fantastic performance in a role that, just like the film itself, is smart, charming and always entertaining. Roberts is no slouch either but she does feel a tad more dispensable. She could have been replaced with someone a little younger, with a little more charisma and the movie may have been better served.

But as is, the film just works. When it is firing on all cylinders it is devilishly clever and thoroughly absorbing. By the end I found myself completely caught up in the action and on the edge of my seat waiting to see if my predictions were accurate. Now that’s a feeling every good thriller should evoke.

BOTTOM LINE: Pure enjoyment for the crime and/or spy movie buffs out there.

You Magnificent Basterd

In Film on August 22, 2009 at 8:57 PM

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Deathproof was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life and I still have not forgiven Quentin Tarantino for putting me through it.

And please, spare me the “he was trying to do” this or that. Don’t bother telling me in what light I should view it. It was a waste of my time. Plain and simple. I don’t care if it was a throwback or homage. I don’t care if he made it slow and excruciating on purpose. It was terrible and I’ll never get that time back.

My history with Tarantino has always been checkered. I really love Reservoir Dogs.  Pulp Fiction I’m lukewarm about. Jackie Brown left no impression on me whatsoever. Kill Bill pt. 1 I loved while pt. 2 felt played. His style is often a turn off for me, but the performances in his films and his writing keep me watching.

His latest work, Inglourious Basterds, is his best film to date. I say that without a doubt in my mind. He shows the kind of top notch director he can be when he focuses… but at times he still gets in his own way.

90% of the film is a fictionalized World War II drama about a group of Jewish-American soldiers and German double agents attempting to destroy the Third Reich, and it is phenomenal.

The other 10% is Tarantino being Tarantino: Over the top musical flourishes. Absurd typefaces. Random voiceovers. Unnecessary flashes of imagery, etc. Because his presence is felt so rarely, it proves only to distract rather than enhance.

But the rest of the movie makes up for it and then some. Tarantino has always had a gift for dialogue, but in the past that dialogue has been in a context that is usually fairly entertaining (opening scene in Reservoir Dogs) or worthless (girls in Deathproof).

This time, Tarantino pairs his gift for dialogue with some real substance. The outcome is some of the most riveting exchanges I’ve seen on screen in a long time. I cannot stress this enough: Inglourious Basterds is one of the most compelling movies I’ve ever seen.

A great deal of that has to do with the fantastic performance of Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. He carries the film and is one of the most interesting and watchable villains Tarantino has ever brought to the screen.

As a warning, all the parts of the film I’m raving about (and also can’t stop thinking about), are subtitled and star no name actors. While the advertisements play up the Basterds and the star power of Brad Pitt, their role is actually fairly small in the scope of the story. Don’t go into the film expecting a constant bloodbath. This is a thoughtful and methodical tale of espionage with some occasional action.

The more I relfect on it, the more I want to see Inglourious Basterds again… right now.

It is the least Tarantino-y of his films and I feel it’s his best. That may say more about my taste than anything else, but believe me when I tell you that this movie is something special.

District 9 Sleeps Alone

In Film on August 18, 2009 at 2:36 AM

I like to go into my movies fresh. I mean really fresh. I’ll watch a teaser for something, if there is one, or the first 30 seconds of a full trailer. If I’m watching the trailer online, I’ll simply stop it once I get the idea. If I’m watching the trailer in the theater, I’ll actually close my eyes after a certain point and do my best to ignore the sound.

Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut District 9 was no exception. I watched the initial teaser trailer and went on a media blackout from then on. But I tell ya, that teaser stuck with me.

It didn’t depict exactly what the movie would be like, but it conveyed the premise and my imagination did the rest. Now I’ve seen the actual film and I’m having trouble reconciling what I saw on the screen and what I saw in my head.

I can’t help but judge this movie two separate ways. It succeeds in terms of execution but also fails by limiting itself to being a pedestrian action flick.


The film begins by getting the audience up to speed, documentary style, with the events of the past twenty years. An alien mothership has been hovering over Johannesburg and the aliens that occupied it now live in a contained slum known as District 9.

All of this is great, great stuff. The effects are fantastic, the story is gripping, and faux-documentary is always a winning style choice if you ask me (Death of a President anyone?). It begins to scratch the surface of all the sociological questions raised by these visitors… Then we start to follow around one alien affairs officer who begins to mutate into an alien.

Enter 30 straight minutes of running, hiding and screaming. (Lots and lots of screaming.)

Then, in the third act, our protagonist teams up with an alien in a sequence reminiscent of Aliens vs. Predator. Yes, this movie reminded me of AVP. (That’s never a good thing.) Together they proceed to run and gun. And gun and run.

Is it entertaining? For sure. Well done? Absolutely. Original? Eh, not particularly. Unforgettable? Hardly.

I suppose my overall gripe is with the filmmakers’ content selection. I found myself much more interested in the complexities of the mass relocation of a hostile alien race than in a pencil pusher going through a Fly-esque transformation. The vision they present to us in the beginning is worldwide in scope and its ramifications are on a macro scale. But by the end of the picture we find ourselves following a guy and his alien buddy trying to reclaim a MacGuffin.

Speaking of the finale, did I miss something or did it not seem to make much sense? So the ship’s fuel also has the interesting property of causing genetic mutation in humans? And is the fuel just for the drop-ship or the mothership or both? Did he need all that fuel just to fire up the tractor beam (which apparently is all that was really required)? Did he really just fall to his knees and give a ‘go on without me’ speech?

And so I stand before you a conflicted man. I love action as much as the next guy but some more depth would have been appreciated. Lord knows I’m not asking for an intergalactic Crash here, I just want some more effort put into the plotting of the second half. Read the rest of this entry »

To Beep Or Not To Beep

In Society on August 14, 2009 at 9:12 AM

I honk my horn at other drivers probably once or twice a year. It’s a rare occurrence to say the least. Meanwhile, I know people who are constantly laying on the horn every chance they can get.

What accounts for this disparity?

Part of it is the fact I generally assume positive intent. If someone cuts in front of me or does something that impedes my driving, I try to take a second to re-live the experience from their perspective and find out if there is a rational explanation for what they did. And I reflect on the occurrence as a whole to make sure I was not the one at fault. Then I try to determine if I actually have the right to beep at them. In other words, instead of “beep first, ask questions later,” I like to decide if the situation is beepable (or ‘beepworthy’ if you will) before applying the horn.

Problem is, by the time I reach a decision, the moment has passed. Beeping too late is empty and pointless. We’ve all moved on. There’s no effect.

Those few times I do beep, is because the situation occurs slowly instead of spontaneously. And 9 times out of 10, it involves trying to get through the ‘Fast Lane’ of a toll booth.

It seems many people in our fair commonwealth forget the first part of the term: FAST. It is supposed to take less time going through the ‘Fast Lane’ than waiting for a normal toll. And don’t give me the “it’s listed for 15 mph” nonsense. We all know they can pick up on that transponder even if you’re doing a good 40.

When it comes down to it, ‘Fast Lane’ passes should be mandatory. It shouldn’t be an option anymore. Everyone should just be issued one. And the dividers between booths should be removed and we should just drive under an overpass filled with sensors like they do in New Jersey. No real need to slow down. Our goal is to keep moving and the state’s goal is to collect money quickly, so we all win.

Back to the discussion at hand: car horn honking. We should discuss, in an open forum, what makes an offense beepworthy.  What action by another driver do you find yourself consistently beeping at? Do you only beep at individuals, or at a situation as a whole? Must it be at someone because of something they do? Or do you beep at the fact that there is a hold up ahead of all of you?

I’m very curious to hear some varying points of view on this topic.

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

In Film on August 13, 2009 at 12:11 AM

Stephen Sommers’ end of summer blockbuster G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was my first experience with the G.I. Joe franchise… ever.

Yes, it’s true. Growing up I never saw the show, I never owned the toy, I never so much as touched any Joe paraphernalia. It was not a conscience decision by any means. It’s not as though I actively avoided it. It just never became a part of my pop-culture lexicon for whatever reason.

So going into this film I was a blank slate. After I heard it used in the film I distinctly recognized the line, “Knowing if half the battle.” But otherwise, any and all inside jokes or references were lost on me.

But I have to say, as an ambassador of the series, Rise of Cobra did an admirable job. I now find myself much more interested in the story and its characters. And I certainly will watch the plethora of sequels that will stem from this opening act.

The story followed the loose outline I would expect from an action figure based film: bad guy wants to take over world, good guys must prevent it from happening. Any semblance of depth comes from the characters in the elite G.I. Joe unit and their histories/connections.

Other than the occasional flashback to break up the action and fill in the gaps, the film barrels full speed ahead at all times. It also has a distinct beginning, middle and end, all while laying down a foundation for future installments.

What I’m trying to say is: G.I. Joe knows exactly what it is and what it wants to do, and it does it well. It excels at being an entertaining action film. It succeeds everywhere that Transformers 2 failed.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. Some of the flashbacks are a bit hammy and the humor is at times forced. And they never seem to take into account all the civilians that presumably lose their lives during all of the breathtaking action sequences…

After the abysmal Transformers 2, Rise of Cobra redeems the movie based on a show based on a toy genre. Check it out if you are looking for some mindless entertainment.

Oh, and if you see it and don’t like it, you’re probably a communist.

I Love America.

Say Uncle

In Society on August 11, 2009 at 6:26 PM

“Uncle Bill.”

Everyone seems to have one.

Well, now I’m going to be one.

At a press conference this morning my sister announced that she was indeed pregnant. Sources close to her confirm that she has been aware of this for some time now, but the information was not disclosed to the public until today.

So that means I can now discuss with you how excited I am.

Because let’s face it, what better relative role is there than the aunt/uncle?

You get to spend time with the kid. You can spoil him or her. You can take credit for stuff he or she does, but receive zero percent of the blame for foul-ups (instead just throw your sibling under the bus (which at this point in life is standard operating procedure)). You don’t have to give out money every time you see them like you will with grandkids. And while the grandparents are still around, you are less likely to be asked to babysit.

It’s the perfect blend of benefits and responsibilities (heavy on the former, light on the latter).

… So this is where I thought I’d search for the most famous ‘Uncles’ in history and comment on the list and we’d all delight in a good time… Unfortunately, my searches yielded no such list. The best result I came across was Uncle Sam.

Speaking of which, do you know the origin of that iconic character? According to Wikipedia:

A businessman from Troy, New York, Samuel Wilson provided the army with beef in barrels during the War of 1812. The barrels were prominently labelled “U.S.” for the United States, but it was joking said that the letters stood for “Uncle Sam.” Soon, Uncle Sam was used as shorthand for the federal government.

The man himself looked nothing like the gaunt, steely-eyed patrician of popular lore. The Abe Lincoln look, along with that fantastic star-spangled outfit, was a product of political cartoonists like Thomas Nast.

Interesting, no?

I Love America.

Okay, enough of that. Any Uncle’s or Aunt’s out there? Have any advice? Anecdotes? Thoughts at all?

Leave ’em all in the comments below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Band: Do You Have One?

In Music on August 1, 2009 at 11:20 PM

I don’t know if this has happened to you but I seem to be continuously taking part in the following scenario: I meet someone new or are becoming better acquainted with someone. We discuss pop culture, tastes, interests etc. They ask me what my favorite band is. I stare at them blankly.

Truth be told: I don’t have a favorite band.

Don’t get me wrong, I love music. (I must, seeing as I have 46 gigabytes worth of it.) But I’ve never fallen in lockstep with one band and considered them the be all, end all. There will be spats of time where I only seem to listen to one band. But then I get tired of it and move on to another. Only to rediscover that first band again 9 months down the road and realize (again) how amazing they are. Then get tired of them (again) and move on. And so the cycle continues over and over again, band after band, artist after artist.

But I’ve never had one band or artist that is it. I’ve never had a group that defines me as a person. That sums me up. That I see every time they are playing in the area. Whose website I check daily. I don’t really have any shirts with bands on them. Growing up I never really had posters for musicians etc.

On the other side of the coin, I know people who live by a certain band. That band and their music is everything to them. They have the shirts, they go to the shows, they subscribe to the newsletter, it’s always playing in their car etc. To the point where if someone mentions that band, you immediately think of that person. There is a direct association between that person and the band that they worship.

I’m not one of those people. And, you know what, sometimes I wish I was.

I’m envious of the stability of that relationship. Whatever happens in life, that person has that band. That person is secure in the knowledge that they share a special bond with that group (in their mind at least) and always will, whenever times are tough.

But simultaneously, I can’t help but feel the idea of a favorite band, or complete devotion to one artist, is a bit short sighted. One dimensional even. There is so much music in the world. And I’m sure these people like other music but to be so tethered (or so they make it seem publicly) seems unnecessary. Maybe that is how these people really feel, or maybe they just like having that stand-out characteristic that helps define them. I’m not sure.

All I know is, I don’t have a single favorite band. Never have. And I imagine, never will. Anyone else with me on this one? Or should I just pick one I feel comfortable naming if someone asks and be done with it?

Clint Eastwood Ruined My Life

In Film on July 20, 2009 at 8:26 PM

America lost (yet another) icon recently in the form of Mr. Walter Cronkite, who passed away just a few days ago. The legendary anchorman of the CBS Evening News was considered the “most trusted man in America.” I grew up watching clips of his show and hearing about him through my parents and through references within popular culture. I very much admired and looked up to this man.

So when I saw a tribute special yesterday on CBS, I cried on at least three separate occasions. And sitting alone in my apartment wiping away my tears caused me to reflect. When did this start happening to me?

There was a time in my life when I had never cried at a movie or TV show or documentary or anything. No form of media had made me cry. And I prided myself on that fact. It made me feel more together and I actually bragged about it. “Nothing has ever made me cry,” I’d say. But I’ve changed dramatically since then. So I thought to myself: when did this happen? How?

Answer: Clint Eastwood‘s Academy Award Winning drama, Million Dollar Baby.

Yes, I can pinpoint the exact film that did it to me. Something happened to me in that theater back in 2004. A switch was flipped. And it’s one that can never be turned off.

I sat in that theater, literally sobbing, trying to hold the tears back as much as possible to save face in front of my sister and father. They may have been crying as well, I don’t know. I didn’t have the courage to turn and look for fear they’d see me in my horrific state.

For some reason it was that film alone that caused me to finally internalize trauma that I see on the screen and make it my own. And ever since then, frankly, I’ve been a mess.

Now, I bawl at almost anything. There are certain things that are guaranteed to do it though: 9/11. JFK assassination. Moments of heroism and self-sacrifice (especially during WWII). Underdogs overcoming unthinkable odds. Great speeches (especially listening to MLK). Anything tragic or unjust. If somebody else starts to break down while talking about something, I’ll break down with them.

[I still am unaffected in general by pure romance. A couple finally getting together at the end of a movie after all they’ve been through – nothing. I’m happy for them and all, but it doesn’t bring it out of me.]

What I’m wondering is if this has happened to anyone else. Shouldn’t emotional maturation be more gradual? I had an instant transformation that I can pinpoint with certainty. Is that weird? Am I alone? Share your experiences in the comments and please speak freely.

Million Dollar Baby Poster