Saturday, January 30, 2010

Zooey & Adam (Spoilers)

I just got home from the Cinematheque, where I went to see Zooey & Adam.

I enjoyed it. A lot. One of the first things I noticed while watching the film, was the lack of a score. I can't recall if I have ever seen a film that did not use a score. I am sure I have, but none come to mind right now. But it didn't need it to create emotion. The main actors (Tom Keenan and Daria Puttaert) do a fantastic job themselves. They had great chemistry, and played every scene with a fantastic realness. One scene that really stood out for me was the scene where Zooey told the police officers that she had been raped. She said it very offhandedly, and even laughed a little bit. People might be shocked that she gave her line in that way, but I wasn't. I find that when people talk about traumatic or painful experiences, they often try to sound casual, and even laugh about it. You know, cracking a joke so you don't burst into tears?

Another scene that felt really human to me was when Zooey did burst into tears in the supermarket. I am sure most of us have either had or witnessed moments like that in their lives. When the emotional burden is so heavy that you just have to let it out, even if you're in public. I had a moment like that last spring, so that scene resonated heavily with me.

The way the film progressed actually really surprised me. I had assumed that the film would end with the birth of Carl, and that it would be about her pregnancy. Therefore, I was very surprised when Zooey went into labour so early in the film...for the first few minutes after that scene, I found myself wondering if this was Adam's fantasy of what the future would bring.

I've heard people talk about the movie as if it were just about the rape that occurs at the beginning. It isn't about that. To me, it's about trauma, and about relationships. Zooey and Adam deal with the traumatic event very differently, and serve to contrast each other. These two characters, who love each other very deeply, end up feeling very differently about the event, and the after effects of it. One character refuses to allow themselves to be defined by the trauma, but for the other, it does become the big defining moment of their life. It made me understand just how easy it is for a relationship to be ruined by a trauma. Human beings react differently to bad situations and if you're spouse or loved one has a different way of coping that you do not like, it really can cause damage to a relationship.

I found myself thinking about how one would react when placed in the situation these two characters were placed in. But how can you know how you would react until you're in it? The position they were placed in is not one I'd wish on anyone, but one obviously makes the best of it, and the other tries, but ultimately, fails, to move on from it. Everyone has events that are traumatic to them and that help define them as a person. But I think there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with trauma, and in this film, we saw an extreme example of a very bad way of coping with a traumatic event. I'm curious about how common such an extreme reaction is. There must be fathers out there raising children that may be the product of a sexual assault, and I wonder what that must be like.

I stayed behind after and listened to Sean Garrity and Arthur Schafer, an expert on ethics, speak about the film. I found it fascinating, though it did focus a bit much on abortion which, to me, was such a small part of the film. A member of the audience asked an interesting question, "what if the roles were reversed?" As in, what if Adam had wanted to keep the child, and Zooey had wanted to abort. Schafer did mention a court case where the woman involved wanted an abortion, and the man didn't want her to have one...and the man lost. It's an interesting thing to think about, but I believe that a woman should have the right to choose whether she wants to carry a child to term, regardless of what the contributing party believes. Certainly the father has a right to voice his opinion, but in the end, it is the woman's decision--as it should be.

Am I glad I saw it? Very. It is not an easy film to watch by any measure; and it made me very emotional, but I like movies that are hard to watch. I was in the car with my Mom afterwards and she brought up the fact that film festivals have refused to screen it. I told her that it did have some controversial subject matter, but it generates discussion and it wasn't explicit in anyway. I recognize that I am a fairly open minded person, but I did say that the people who "banned" it had to be a little closed-minded. Garrity explained that they thought the decision Zooey made was not one any woman would make, but he also quoted a statistic that said that 36,000 women in the States get pregnant from a rape, and from those, half carry to term, and most of those women do keep and raise their babies. So perhaps there was a little bit of misunderstanding on the parts of the festival organizers, but I wish they would reconsider the film. It's fantastic and well worth a viewing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Did You Hear About the Morgans? And Romantic Comedy Talk

Yes, I saw this film. You can laugh all you want, but I had a really good reason to see it.

I went with my Mom, who really enjoys light hearted comedies, particularly of the romantic sort. When my Dad and I got home, she asked my Dad if they could go to a show tonight, but my Dad had to attend a convocation, so was unable to. I immediately offered to go with her, since I have not had time with just her in quite awhile. I'm really blessed, in that I have a close relationship with both of my parents, and I am not embarrassed to be seen in public, with either of them. She asked me if I would be willing to go see it, and I agreed, because that was the movie she wanted to see. It has been something like six months since she last saw a movie in the theatres, since she has a hard time getting around, so I was happy to take her out. And you know, I even would have gone to see Valentine's Day with her, if it was out and that was what she wanted to see. I'll do a whole lot out of love.

It was not as bad as I thought it would be, but it still was not anything special. We went to the second run theatre, so it only cost something like a dollar fifty for each ticket. So I don't feel like I lost anything by seeing it. I got a giggle or two throughout the movie, but the real satisfaction was hearing my Mom laugh hysterically throughout it--she loves stuff like that. She said she knew she loved the movie when she got out of the theatre and didn't know what time it was, because she hadn't looked at her watch once.

I wrote briefly in my previous entry about my dislike for most romantic comedies that are made now. I feel like they are too predictable and formulaic, and that if you've seen one, you have probably seen them all. Did You Hear About the Morgans is no different. Going into the movie, I knew exactly what would happen, and had the entire plot arc in my mind...and I really was not very far off. Another problem I have with many romantic comedies is that the characters are paper thin. They rely on stereotypes (in this movie, they are: the "charming" British man, the pampered New Yorker, the Republican, the hunters, the redneck, et cetera), because it seems that it would take too much effort to create fully formed, original characters.

I must say though, that I am glad this movie did not turn to the oh, so standard stereotype of the "sexist pig with a heart of gold". I see that in movies (or in trailers of movies) way too often, and it kills me to know that the female protagonist (who is portrayed as a "strong" woman) ends up falling for him in the end. Sexism is desperately uncool, and the thought of a strong, independent woman falling for someone who is perhaps one step away from demanding she camp out in the kitchen makes me sick. Why does Hollywood feel that characters like that are likable, or even charming? Maybe it is just me, but I do not find the idea of being treated as anything less than an equal to be sexy, so I would never find myself rooting for a "happily ever after" with a character like that.

All in all, I am glad I saw the movie, because I know it made my Mom really happy. And I know it could have been a whole lot worse. I just remembered Bride Wars, which came out last year at about this time. I never saw it, but the thought of two grown women turning against each other over something as frivolous as a wedding day and location made me want to weep for what "entertainment" has become in this society.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some "Bad" Previews I've Seen Recently

I haven't actually been to the theatre at all this year, which is rather unusual for me. This Friday I'll be going to see Zooey & Adam, however. I did want to bring attention to some really poor trailers I've seen recently (let's face it, I just want to mock something).

Valentine's Day



Here's a checklist:

-Knock off of Love Actually-check
-Padded cast for no real reason, other than being able to say "look at all these FAMOUS people"-check
-Stupid movie about an even stupider holiday-check

When I first saw the trailer, I thought of the deplorable He's Just Not That Into You, which I wrote about here. Clearly, they're aiming at the exact same audience. Here's another thought: Bradley Cooper is a pretty funny guy. Why is he doing movies like these? Give me more of The Hangover and less He's Just Not That Into You, please.

And Hollywood, please churn out some intelligent and witty romantic comedies. Stop making drivel like this.


The A-Team




You will notice that Bradley Cooper is in this one as well. I understand this one a little better, because the guy's career is on fire right now, it's a major blockbuster, and he's probably getting a decent paycheque for it. Same with Liam Neeson. This movie looks like it will be similar to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which I have not seen (and don't intend to, unless I'm making some sort of game of it). I didn't know a lot about The A-Team before I saw the trailer, and my parents told me the basic premise after I told them a movie version was being made. It sounded like campy fun to me, but I find that many TV to movie adaptations fall flat. Generally you have to recast the roles, and most actors can't capture the "magic" of the original actors.

The new Star Trek is an obvious exception though, but it was placed in the expert hands of J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost; the best show on television.


Clash of the Titans




I don't much care for trailers that are merely a display of all of the "action scenes" to be contained within a film. I find this one cuts from clip to clip far too fast, so it's difficult to follow, and I had difficulty concentrating when I first saw it before Avatar. That being said, I might actually see this one. There are a lot of movies out there with terrible trailers that have ended up being fantastic. The cast is what makes it seem a bit more promising to me. I like Liam Neeson, and Sam Worthington probably has a great career ahead of him. I think Avatar will do for him what Titanic did for Leonardo DiCaprio. Worthington was also pretty good in Terminator: Salvation.

And here is one that I shouldn't find enjoyable...but I just can't help myself.

MacGruber (this is the 'Red Band' trailer, therefore it is not safe for work)

It looks enormously stupid, but I'm a sucker for the MacGruber sketches on Saturday Night Live, so I'll be going to see this. At least it'll be rated R, which means they can go farther with the humour than they ever could on the show. I'm not overly familiar with Val Kilmer, but I've liked everything I've seen him in, and he was very funny in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

The movies based off of SNL sketches have had mixed success. Wayne's World is legendary, but there is also It's Pat!, which bombed magnificently at the box office. I have hopes for this one, it looks like it will be dumb fun at the very least.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Tribute to Conan O'Brien

Conan and NBC have signed a deal.

I knew this was coming, and I have been more than a little opinionated this past week about this entire situation. I've been taping every episode of The Tonight Show this week, and while it has been consistently hilarious, it has also gotten very bittersweet. I'm going to be watching the episode from last night sometime this evening, and it makes me sad to know that I only have three more episodes of The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien left to watch. I know I've made it clear numerous times just how much I respect Conan, but I just wanted to write a bit of a tribute.

Just before getting into it, I was searching Conan, and Canada, and found this opinion piece, in which Matthew Hays calls for the CBC to hire Conan. It'd never happen, but if it did, I'd be the happiest woman on the planet.

I was 14 years old when I first really "discovered" Conan. He did four shows from Toronto in 2004, and I watched three out of the four. I'd watched a bit of late night television at that time, and a talk show host doing his show from Canada seemed like a big deal to me. I watched--and I laughed. I was still far from a regular viewer though, I'd say that started when I was 17 or so. Even then, as a student, I could only watch his show daily over the summer. While I was in University, Friday nights were the nights I'd sit down and watch Late Night With Conan O'Brien, at least on the nights I was home. Even if I only watched the monologue, I always got a good laugh, and he was my favourite of the late night personalities (far, far above the boring and tired Jay Leno).

I remember being thrilled in 2004 when it was announced he'd be taking over The Tonight Show. This came after he did his shows in Canada, and I was still very impressed with him. That, and I was happy because it meant he was on an hour earlier. On June 1st, I sat eagerly on the couch upstairs and watched the brilliant cold open with glee. He had been off he air for three months, and I was happy that he was finally back on the air. I had a rough summer last year, and I was often feeling a little down on the nights I was at home. Since I never had any reason to wake up early, I'd watch Conan, and he never failed to bring a smile to my face.

When I started school again, obviously I was not always able to stay up and watch the show. I rarely taped it, because I thought he'd be on for years and years, so catching it twice a week would be enough. Had I known NBC would do what they've done, I'd have taped every episode. Some nights, I'd be really stressed out from homework, and I'd tear myself away from the computer at 10:35 to watch The Tonight Show, because it was the best way to unwind for me. I don't know what I'm going to do to unwind after Friday, but I'll find something.

I'm sure Conan will find work on another network, but apparently he won't be able to start up again until after September 1st. Wherever he lands, I'll be sitting on the couch the day he starts, watching. After I graduate, I'm hoping to fly down to the States to catch a taping of whatever his new show is.

Here are some great clips:

Conan in Finland, knocking on Forss Fagerstrom's door. From Late Night

Tom Hanks gets hit by a meteor.

Conan's Na'vi assistant.

One of the many great Norm Macdonald interviews.


And part 2 of that interview.

From behind the scenes: Macdonald ruins the promos.

So here's hoping Leno crashes and burns in the most epic way possible. Surely he won't find success...so many people have made it clear they're on "Team Coco", so why would they choose to appear on Leno's Tonight Show after he helped shove Conan under a bus? I'll maintain what I've said before: I will never watch an episode of The Tonight Show that is hosted by Jay Leno.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another List: 5 of the Saddest Movies I've Seen

As many of you know, I've faced a bit of a set back in my life in the past few days. As a result, I'm feeling rather down, but I'm a strong woman, and will bounce back from this. Plus, it has only shown me that what I am doing with my life is absolutely the right thing. I'm right where I want--and need to be.

But since it is on my mind, here are 5 really sad movies that will either bring you right down...or remind you that your life really is not that bad. I always find it cathartic to watch sad movies when I'm down, because for a time I'm crying about something else, instead of whatever is bothering me. Though sometimes, what I really need is a good laugh--but that's for another list.

I will note where there are spoilers.

5. Osama

Trailer.

I saw this years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. It is the story of a young girl who must disguise herself as a boy in order to work to feed her family in Afghanistan while it was under Taliban rule. It made me think, how many young girls had to do what she did in order to feed their families? The entire situation presented in the film, and the tragic ending make it a downer, but it really puts your life into perspective. We live in a free and democratic country, and hopefully we'll never have to live under oppression. But at the same time, it's depressing that people in this world have to live like that...I just can't imagine it. I suppose that's a very good thing.

4. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (will contain spoilers)

Trailer.

I first saw this in Florida when I was 11 years old. My parents took us to it because they thought it was a light hearted movie about robots. Boy, were they wrong. I was traumatized by the "flesh fair" scene, and found it overly long, and boring. Thankfully, several years later I watched it again and loved it.

I do feel that the movie goes on a bit too long, and should end with David repeating his wish to the Blue Fairy until the end of eternity. But the "real" ending has grown on me somewhat.

This movie is full of tragedy. From Monica abandoning David, to the aforementioned "flesh fair", to the ending, it's essentially a "feel bad" movie throughout. The part that gets me the most is the last twenty minutes, when David is with the robots of the distant future. They take a lock of Monica's hair that Teddy had been keeping, and restore her for a single day. In that day, David colours with her, and falls asleep in her arms. But to me, it's merely an illusion created by these advanced robots, and it's a sort of...false happiness. It just served to remind me of the happiness David was deprived of earlier in his "lifetime".

3. Edward Scissorhands

Trailer.

My favourite movie. This one takes me back to my years as a high school student. Back then (and now, to an extent), I related to Edward. I didn't have scissors for hands, but I might as well have. It's a look at suburban existence, conformity, and rejecting those that are "different".

Johnny Depp is perfect in this film. Edward IS the movie, and it scares me that Tom Cruise was originally considered, but wanted it to have a "happy ending". Thank God he didn't get it, because the message would be ruined if an unnatural happy ending was tacked on. I've seen the movie countless times, and once I counted how many lines Depp uttered...it was something like 30. Therefore, this is a role that required a lot of physical acting, and emotion. He does it magnificently, he becomes Edward, and makes the movie what it is.

2. Atonement

Trailer.

I always tell people that if they want to really cry, they should watch Atonement. It's part love story, part war movie, and part coming of age story. It's a lot of different things, but to me, it works. Primarily, it is the love story between Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James McAvoy), and the fallout caused by an accusation made by Cecilia's sister, Briony (Saoirse Ronan).

It also contains an excellent five minute tracking shot that rivals the one in Children of Men.

1. Grave of the Fireflies

Trailer.

I don't watch a lot of anime, but a few years ago, I was told by numerous people that this was the saddest movie they'd ever seen. I took that as a challenge, and bought it. It's the story of two siblings, Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi) and Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi) in Japan during World War II.

It was just as sad as everyone told me. I watched it two and a half years ago with my boyfriend at the time, and I was inconsolable by the end of it. I still have it, but have been unable to watch it since, not for lack of wanting to, but because it was just so painful. I have been really wanting to see it again lately, so it's just a matter of bracing myself for it, and maybe having an understanding friend watch it with me so I can cry on their shoulder.

***

Writing has always been a very cathartic thing for me. It "centers" me, and being able to keep busy and concentrate on something else, especially something I enjoy so much, is very useful. I also want to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been there for me, by listening, offering their love and support, giving me hugs, texting me to check up on me, and getting me out of the house. It really means the world to me to know that so many people care about me. Thank you.

What's the saddest movie you've ever seen?

Friday, January 15, 2010

In the Chamber 2010

Today I attended "In the Chamber", where two plays were shown, "Last Man in Krakendorf", and "Last Man in Puntarenas". It was certainly an interesting experience.

I liked "Last Man in Krakendorf" by Gordon Tanner better. It was a very dark monologue performed by a character who is feeling anger about factory farming, and the hog barn fire in a Manitoba community. He spent twenty years of his life working in the farm industry, and was appalled at the way the hogs were treated, and the horrible deaths all 15,000 pigs suffered. It was dark, but often times very funny. That being said, the humour pushes boundaries at time and could potentially be offensive to some.

Tanner, who also performed in the play is filming a sort of plea to an unseen character, and uses a power point presentation during the play. On at least one occasion, he stood very close to the wall it was being projected on, and his face was drowned out. I would have liked to have been able to see his face at that moment, as he was reacting in a fairly emotional way. The power point presentation was a good addition to the play, but the logistics needed to be worked out better so Tanner's face is not washed out at any point.

I liked this play, but it was overly long. A good twenty minutes could have been cut without losing anything. In fact, it would have added impact to the story, since by the end, I felt a bit tired of it, and was ready for it to end.

***

I really disliked Steven Ratzlaff's "Last Man in Puntarenas", however. It was about a man giving a speech at a dinner in his honour. He's celebrating quitting his job in the medical field, and is telling the story of how he got involved in the bureaucratic position he held. Throughout the play, the (unseen) members of his audience leave one by one, because they are alienated by this man's rant. Quite frankly, I felt the same way the invisible audience did. Maybe I just could not relate to him. But mostly, the story felt grating, and by the halfway point, I was checking my watch every five minutes (never a good sign).

I interpreted Ratzlaff's story as being one of refusing to let go. His marriage to his wife ended after the death of their son, who died at 16 months of age. It could have been a really touching story, but I think, again, because of the length of the monologue, it went on much too long, and it became boring. There were some attempts at humour within this play, and the odd time I did chuckle, but it seemed to fall flat most of the time.

***

Monologues can be a great way of performing theatre, but it has to be able to hold the attention of the audience. These two (mostly) one person plays did not have enough material to warrant the 50 minutes each were given, so eventually both become dull and tired. Both would have worked much better as half hour plays.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome to the Dollhouse

I watched Welcome to the Dollhouse tonight on Kenton's recommendation. It was really great--and very different in the sense that it deals with a pre-teen girls social "difficulties". Most films that tackle the story of the social outcast obviously use high school students. The comedy was very dark (just as I like it), and I laughed, and laughed.

I thought about why that is the case, and have come up with a few thoughts. The first thing that came to my mind is that if a film takes place in a high school, they can cast actors that are either already adults, or near adulthood. Heather Matarazzo, who played the protagonist, Dawn Wiener, would have been about 13 years old at the time of filming. That's really young to be tackling such a complex role, and many young actors would not be able to do such a part justice. Matarazzo was fantastic though, as was the entire young cast. If you're able to cast slightly older actors, and place them in a high school environment (where people are still known to be cruel).

Another thought that came to mind is the thought that most people are not comfortable with the idea of pre-teens rebelling, or experimenting in any sort of way. "Pre-teenhood" is tough in the sense that you're generally seen as a slightly older child (at least, that's how I was seen), and rebellion is not supposed to start occurring until high school. I remember when I was in 8th grade, a couple of my peers were caught smoking a cigarette on school property, though outside of school hours. The principal banned them from all the school dances (oh no!) as a result. Of course I'm not saying that kind of thing should be happening, but it does anyway. People just tend to like to plug their ears and ignore this fact. And since many stories like this one do involve some level of rebellion, filmmakers tend to keep it high school aged.

But I, for one, really appreciated the fact that Todd Solondz set it in a junior high school. Because as I said, it's not a perspective you often see. And it reminded me SO, so much of my middle school experience as the "unpopular girl" (a label that, unfortunately, stuck through high school, as I mentioned in my last post). Even Brandon (Brendan Sexton III) reminded me a little of several of the boys I went to school with way back then. Brandon's sympathetic portrayal made me really think about life back then. You can never really walk in another person's shoes, so you can't always know what causes someone to treat you the way they do. Maybe these boys had a difficult home life? I'll never know, and I don't need to know, but I hope that wherever they are, they're living in a way that allows them to sleep at night.

The dynamic of junior high, and high school is also completely different. I thought the character Mark Wiener (Matthew Faber) said it best: "High school's better than junior high. They'll call you names, but not as much to your face." I really couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The First Time I Received Recognition for Being a Film Nerd

I was thinking last night, and remembered a rather amusing story that I thought would be relevant to tell. Just a bit of background:

I started really watching movies when I was 13 years old. That's when I started blogging, and have been doing it off and on ever since. At first, many of the movies I watched were ones that starred Mr. Johnny Depp, but slowly I branched out further. I started posting on a movie forum, Rotten Tomatoes at that time as well. Despite still being a kid, I started watching all these movies...and I loved them! So since then I've watched as many movies as I can, and my love of film really only has grown since then.

This story takes place a few years after I first started really watching movies. I was 16 years old. I had this really awesome Sociology teacher who didn't feel we should be working on the last day before Spring break. So he brought in Scene It?, split us into two teams and started playing.

When I was in high school, I was either ignored by most, or bullied relentlessly. As a result, I was very quiet in social situations (but never hesitated to speak up in class), and knew few people in the class. So people didn't know that I was a film nerd. When we had our turns, my teammates would look stupefied by the question, and I'd lazily give the answer (they were EASY questions to me!), and people started to wonder how I had all this knowledge. We easily doubled the score of the other team, and halfway through my teacher put me on the other team...where I promptly got us in the lead. My teacher had to step in to prevent it becoming a "Sociology class versus Jennifer Hanson" game.

I couldn't help it. Games like that are fairly easy to me. I hadn't even seen all the films we were questioned on. But a prominent screen shot would be included, and since I'd spent 2 and a half years on movie forums by then, I could tell what movie it was by an image or vague description, even if I hadn't seen it. Plus I have a weird sort of memory for trivia, I can remember the smallest details about something or someone if I set my mind to it.

I wish I could say that my performance permanently earned me the respect of my peers, and rose petals were tossed at me whenever I entered classrooms...but that was not the case. Spring break meant everyone promptly forgot about it, and when we got back to class, I resumed the position of the quiet, weird, rather plain girl who was either never noticed or mocked incessantly. But that's okay, because for just one day...I out smarted 24 other people, and felt really good about myself for doing so. I was a very proud nerd that day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Latest on the NBC Late Night Drama

Conan O'Brien has released a statement.

Essentially, he won't be moving to 12:05 am, because it would damage the integrity of The Tonight Show. He also stated that he has not yet received an offer from another network, and doesn't know where to go to next. What a classy guy. Some have said he could stay quiet and take his huge pay cheque but he recognizes that some things are more important than money. By releasing this statement and taking the stance he has, he's telling NBC that he won't tolerate being pushed around. He's also attempting to protect The Tonight Show, which is very admirable. I agree with him when he says that moving it to 12:05 am will be irreparably damaging.

This leaves NBC in a difficult position. Conan has stood his ground (as he should be), and NBC essentially has two options: Jay Leno or Conan. I recognize that I'm biased, but going with anyone but Conan would be unbelievably stupid. Leno is older, had The Tonight Show for 17 years, and is probably fairly close to retirement. NBC needs to have faith in their new host, instead of trying to hold onto the past. Trying to keep Leno by giving him The Jay Leno Show was a huge mistake. Now that it has failed, they have two people to try to satisfy, and try as they might, they won't be able to make both happy, and won't be able to retain both. Even if they do decide to let go of Leno, Conan's confidence in NBC will be shaken. Why should he want to stay on a network that kept the "old guy" around? It's like they were just waiting for Conan to fail, so they kept his predecessor in their back pocket.

I wish Leno had half the class Conan does. Give someone else a chance at hosting, and retire gracefully. Go back to performing stand-up full time. From what I gather, Leno seems to be a workaholic, and his entire "identity" is likely attached to his work. But he can do other work until he is ready to retire. I'll bet he won't even leave the spotlight, even if he is not on television anymore.

I'm not worried about Conan. He's well respected and he'll find work somewhere. But for selfish reasons, I'd be rather upset if he didn't find another television gig. I love watching him. I always told myself that, after I graduate, I'd go to a taping of The Tonight Show. I definitely won't be if he's not the host anymore, but whatever he is doing after I graduate, you can bet I'll be there in the audience at some point.

NBC should be looking at Twitter though. Under the trending topics, this drama has almost all of them. Most specifically have to do with Conan (or "Team Conan"). From what I've read online, most people are supporting Conan. I just can't get over the idiocy of this network. They're living in the past, instead of looking to the future. And Conan didn't get the time he deserved to make his incarnation of The Tonight Show a complete hit. He was set up to fail.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Simpsons

Tonight is the 20th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, so I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate a blog entry to it. I have not watched any of the "new" episodes for several years now, but I may tune in tonight to reminisce a bit.

The Simpsons was THE show of my childhood. Every Sunday, my brother, Steven, my Dad and I would gather around the TV to watch it. It didn't matter that I didn't get a lot of the humour back then, I laughed at all the silly stuff Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie did, and marvelled at the fact that, no matter what happened, they were and would always be, a happy family. When my Dad would laugh at the jokes that went over our heads, I'd look at my Dad with a blank stare and he'd try to explain just what was so funny, but it was years until I really "got it". I've seen every episode up until about season 14. Seasons 1-8 are the best, but 9 and 10 are very good as well. After seasons 14, I stopped watching regularly because it had just become a shadow of its former glory, in my opinion.

That hasn't stopped me from watching the "classic" episodes. I have several of the earlier seasons on DVD, and they get near constant viewing from me. I get all of the "adult" jokes now (the day I started to get them as a teenager was the day I felt "grown up"), and take a lot of joy in rediscovering the sometimes very subtle humour of the show. Just over the winter break, I was watching "Mr. Plow" from the 4th season, which I hadn't seen in years. In this episode, Homer buys some very cheap late night advertising to promote his new snow plow business. The commercial was so obviously terrible, (look at the production values!) but that's why it's so funny. It's a send up on awful late night advertising and the people who think they can write and produce their own commercials without any prior experience in doing so. Of course the commercial brings Homer wild success...for the time being.

Another great advertising parody is for the Canyonero, in the season 9 episode, "The Last Temptation of Krust." Here's the audio of the commercial, though it really must be seen with the picture as well, if possible. There's another great song from the season 9 episode "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpsons". It's obviously a parody of Robert Downey Jr's substance abuse problems, but as a kid I didn't know that. Again, it wasn't until I revisited it about two years ago that I figured it out.

Since I've seen the early ones so many times, I have a full arsenal of lines that I pull out fairly often. Sometimes I'm given the same blank stares I used to give my Dad, but occasionally someone will catch what I'm doing and (hopefully) laugh. Just the other day I used "they have the internet on computers now" in a conversation. I was doing a bit of googling and found a list of lines that can be put into every day use produced by A.V. Club. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit to using every single one of them at least once in conversation, and some of them are used very regularly.

It may not be as good as it once was, but 20 years is a serious achievement. Congratulations to the creators of The Simpsons for creating a show that's still loved and talked about after all this time.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Balloon Boy Hoax

We were discussing pseudo-events in PR class, and I thought it would be fun to discuss one of the more recent and well known examples.

I’m sure everyone now knows about the “Balloon Boy” hoax of 2009. On October 15th, Falcon Heene was reported missing, and it was reported by his parents that he had “floated away” in a weather balloon. Media swarmed to Fort Collins, Colorado to offer live coverage of what would seemingly be a tragic story. Things took a turn for the worse when the balloon landed without little Falcon inside, leaving the world believing that he had fallen out. Luckily, he was found to be safe and hiding in his attic.

The world media was amazed by this story, and obviously there was a lot of coverage of the event. Suspicions arose when Falcon said in an interview that "You had said that we did this for a show." Was this a hoax planned to generate media coverage? Eventually, it was decided that yes, it was.

Richard and Mayumi Heene, Falcon’s parents eventually pleaded guilty to all of the charges laid against them, and both were given jail sentences. Richard Heene wanted publicity to try to sell his reality TV show idea, The Science Detectives. Because of this hoax, no network would dare touch his proposed TV show, and they are not allowed to make any money off of this hoax for four years. This essentially means they won’t make any money off of “Balloon Boy”, since I can’t see many people caring four years from now.

I would say that the Heene’s have only lost money from this hoax, and damaged not only their lives but the lives of their children. They now have lawyer fees, fines, a criminal record, and a loss of potential work to contend with. Their children spent time in the spotlight, which can be considered damaging, especially for Falcon. For the rest of his life, Falcon (an already uncommon name) will always be known as “Balloon Boy”. Creating a pseudo-event based on exploiting a child, and having the world media thinking said child is in danger is a remarkably stupid idea. Of course the media and emergency officials are going to be mad that the child was never actually in danger in the first place. What a waste of their time, and money! The general public are going to be annoyed that they wasted so much time following a story that ended up merely being a poorly orchestrated hoax. Not to mention being angry at the exploitation of a child.

Richard Heene claims that he pleaded guilty to protect Mayumi, who could have been deported if she was convicted of a felony. He says that he really thought Falcon was in danger, which I don't believe for a second. I think he's just looking to stay in the spotlight for as long as he possibly can. By making these outlandish statements, stories will be written about him, and he'll be talked about for another week or two as he starts serving his 90 days in prison.

I think the Heene’s got “addicted” to the idea of fame and fortune. They had appeared on ABC’s Wife Swap twice, were fan favourites on that show, and were seen as being a fairly eccentric family. The longing for more money and more attention created desperation. Maybe they thought nobody would find out it was a hoax, but that’s a rather na├»ve thought. The media is ruthless, and will almost always find out the truth. That, and you never want to trust a six year old boy to keep a secret.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Updated: Leno and Conan

This New York Times blog states that Leno would return to late night with a half hour version of his show, essentially moving Conan back a half hour, but leaving him with the hour long Tonight Show. I'd rather Leno disappear completely, but if this is the case, at least The Tonight Show will remain intact. Though it does mean that I'll have to stay up a good half hour later in order to watch it, which is an annoyance, considering I'm in school and all.

I just thought I would provide the update to keep my entries relevant to the current developments. But, here's a link to one of my favourite Conan O'Brien moments ever, 1864 baseball!

Leno's Show is Nearing its End

...According to CBS news. Generally I'd say 'good riddance' because I've made it clear that I do not care for Jay Leno--he's unfunny, and tired, but as I've written previously, it's likely to affect Conan O'Brien. TMZ, has also reported this story, which is hardly confirmation (I'd still place it in the realm of speculation), but it's not sounding good at all.

However, I'm not sure this will be happening as immediately as it is being reported. After the Olympics is in a month or so. What will NBC do about prime time programming? They'll have five hours a week that is not dedicated to any particular TV show, and you know advertisers won't want to touch that with a ten foot pole. Unless they rush out a new series, or have one waiting on the back burner, it'd be even more foolish of NBC to pull the plug on Leno right now. He's dead weight, but it's better to have dead weight than no weight.

Of course, Conan has had the replacement threats, and rumours swirl around him in the past. Maybe it is all just talk. Since the beginning of this "experiment" there have been these exact same rumours. I believe that NBC pressured Leno into stepping down in order to keep Conan for the long term. Leno is not going to be around forever, and since Conan is younger, and has a younger demographic, in a number of years, they'll have a hot commodity. Clearly I think they already do, but Leno did have bigger ratings...the point I'm making is that perhaps they should have let Leno keep The Tonight Show for a few more years, until he was ready to retire. That way, they wouldn't have had to try this dreadful The Jay Leno Show experiment. It was set up to fail, because when I watch late night television, I'll watch one of the shows, maybe part of a second if there is a particularly good guest. I'm not going to sit down, watch The Jay Leno Show at 9 pm (central time of course), then The Tonight Show at 10:35. It will either be one or the other. Therefore, it was stupid of NBC not to anticipate a ratings drop for The Tonight Show, and crummy ratings for The Jay Leno Show. Many Leno fans would have shows they already watch at 9 pm, so instead, they've stopped watching late night TV, or switched over to David Letterman.

Primogeniture, a poster on a movie/television/Lost website, Icine.org, had the following thoughts:

"If this happens, I will fight someone.

It is difficult to see NBC canceling 'Leno' mid-season, considering the gap that would leave in their primetime schedule. And it remains near unbelievable that the network would fire a 'Tonight Show' host after only half a season on the air. The reason for the switch to Conan was, or should have been, a look to the long-term. You place Conan in that position because he can go for 10, or 15, or even 20 years, something that Leno could not do. Letterman isn't going to be around forever either. To slay Conan's 'Tonight' and return Leno to the show displays the same cunning mental prowess that placed NBC in this predicament to begin with.

In the interest of quality, you know, comedy, and not necessarily business, I only hope that this is simply another one of the litany of firing scares Conan has endured since he entered the business. If not, hopefully he gets 40 million in his pocket and ABC or FOX picks him up before we have time to blink."


I'll maintain what I said a few weeks ago: NBC is going to need a restructuring, and it will probably be happening in the next few years. I have not heard anything more about the Jerry Seinfeld rumours, so that does make me think that this is all just talk. Who could take NBC seriously if they threw away a long term talent like Conan? He'll probably be working longer than Leno will be. And if they do throw him away, he'll be snatched up again immediately.

One thing I do find interesting is that so little is being said about Jimmy Fallon. I haven't watched his show since the first night it aired, but I have heard he's improved since then. As I mentioned in a response to Chris's comment on my prior entry, Fallon's and Conan's demographic is very similar, which also doesn't help ratings.

Of course, to be completely fair, it's easy to be judgmental of a television network while you're sitting on the couch watching TV. I certainly wouldn't ever want to have any part in running a network or making decisions like these, because it must be very stressful. If The Jay Leno Show does go belly up, someone in charge of managing NBC will probably be getting fired as well. It has been rather amazing to watch NBC go from ratings greatness (Seinfeld, Friends, ER), to a floundering mess of a network. They need to get themselves a serious hit, and fast.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Movie Magazines

Movie and entertainment magazines are fairly commonly seen on the magazine racks. As one of the more common genres, it’s not surprising that there are “free” movie magazines commonly available out there. One that can be found easily in Canadian Cineplex theatres is Famous magazine. Famous also has a version for children, called Famous Kids . It’s free and available in theatres, as well as being available for download on the Cineplex website.

The magazine is also interactive, in that it publishes the opinions of readers every month in a segment called “Famous Last Words.” I was published in this segment once, in fact, in the December 2008 issue. I see publishing this magazine as being a good marketing move for Cineplex, since it offers another draw to the theatre. It’s almost a reward for going to a movie at a Cineplex theatre—you get a free magazine to read before the show starts if you choose to pick it up. Plus it serves as a way for Cineplex to make money, by selling advertising in the magazine.

I’m interested by the move to online content with magazines. Like newspapers, magazines have to keep up with the times, and offer online content, such as breaking news stories, videos, pictures, online only features, etcetera. While Survivor is airing, I visit Entertainment Weekly’s website every week to read Jeff Probst’s Survivor blogs. This is an online only feature, and it draws me to the website, and while I’m there, I’ll read other articles that catch my eye. I rarely, if ever, read Entertainment Weekly in print form, but I’m often at the website. I think in many ways, online readership is just as important as print readership, perhaps even more important. Entertainment Weekly must be making money off of its website, since it has such a complete website, with a ton of content. I’m thinking that the advertisements on the page help generate that revenue.

I am, perhaps, old fashioned enough that I don’t want to see the death of print magazine or even print newspapers. But I do believe, that in order to keep on competing with blogs, Twitter, and news websites, magazines MUST maintain some online content. I do think it is easier for magazines to generate web content than it is for newspapers, as many newspapers are local—meaning they reach a smaller demographic. Magazines are often national, or even international, making readership that much larger. Most magazine websites have “web only” content, but they also have “print only” content, which encourages readers to not only buy the magazine, but to visit the website. Newspapers should be following this example. Create a print version, but also create web only content, that is paid for with the help of advertising. Put the print only content up on the website…but have the reader log in using their subscription information, or charge people a web subscription. I am aware that the Winnipeg Free Press does have a subscription only portions, and an online version of the newspaper that you can subscribe to, which is a step in the right direction. However, progress can be slow, and I do believe magazines have been way ahead in the online game, and for that, I commend them.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cinema Paradiso

Note, this entry will have spoilers for both versions of the movie: the original and extended cut.


****



I loved it. On Kenton's recommendation, I bought the original version of the film, which is slightly shorter. I found the relationship between Salvatore (Toto) and Alfredo to be incredibly moving, and I found myself in tears during the final scene. In the original cut, the final scene was rather simple: Alfredo created a montage of all of the love scenes he had to cut, because Toto wanted them as a child. I felt it served as a reminder of his childhood, and all that he had left behind when he left town to create a future for himself. This version felt like a coming of age story, and a story of two individuals who love each other like father and son.

I viewed the extended cut today, and it complicates the original cut considerably. It adds another element to the young love story shared by Toto and Elena, the woman he loved when he was young. In the original cut, she simply disappears, he leaves town, and never settles down. The extended cut brings them back together while Toto is in town for Alfredo's funeral. He sees a young woman that resembles Elena, and through this, manages to be reunited with his long lost love. She reveals that her parents forced her to leave town suddenly, but she went to the Paradiso to say goodbye to Toto, and give him a way to contact her. Alfredo is in the projector room, and convinces her to disappear, and never speak to him again. "Out of the fire of love comes ashes" is what he said. Toto is destined to become a great director, and to be with him will only hold him back. Elena agrees, and leaves, only to write a note that Toto never finds. They make love that night, but nothing more comes of it.

Clearly the extended cut changes things. In this version, Alfredo is not portrayed as favourably, because he had a great hand in keeping Elena and Toto apart. One could argue that perhaps it was for the best, because he became a great director, and thus, a great success in life, but was it worth it for him...spending a life time waiting and wondering about the one woman he could ever truly love? The very ending itself is changed. Sure, what Alfredo created for Toto was still a sign of great love, but it felt almost like a taunt to me as well. I saw pain in Toto's (Jacques Perrin) eyes that I had not seen the day before. Watching scenes of true love on film, while knowing that the man who created this helped keep your true love from you...it just made the ending that much sadder.

Plus, finding out such a secret is a great way to tarnish the memory of the dead. It's a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that the man you thought of as a father convinced the woman you love to go away. I feel like the decision should have been Toto's, and that Alfredo shouldn't have meddled. So I suppose for that reason, I prefer the original version. It keeps the character untarnished. Plus it felt nicer just assuming that Elena was forced to leave by her parents and simply moved on, than knowing that they could have been together, but Alfredo meddled, and Toto never found her note. But at the same time, I really loved the more bittersweet tone that Alfredo's actions gave to the extended cut's ending.

All in all, excellent film!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A List: My Favourite (and Least Favourite) '09 films

Just a note: I count any movie I saw in theatres (or on DVD that was released in '09) as an '09 movie. My ten favourite, and five least favourite (yes, this means I watch a lot of films):

Favourite:

10. Gran Torino: I was amazed by just how funny this film was. It has been reported that this will be Clint Eastwood's last work as an actor, and it is hard for me to think of a better way to go out. I found this movie didn't get the attention it deserved, especially because it didn't receive a single Oscar nomination. I thought it presented an interesting dynamic: a very prejudiced man being admired by his Hmong neighbours for saving the son of the family. The young actors aren't particularly strong, but the relationship between Walt and Thao (and his family) was moving. How I wish it had gotten more attention.

9. Amreeka: Palestinian mother and son who come to America after receiving green cards. It tells the story of adjustment, and racism with a fairly light touch, and despite a rather weak ending, it remains moving and fun.

8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: I'm a Harry Potter fan. And this was a great adaptation, and a real improvement on the one prior to it, The Order of the Phoenix (though to be fair, that was the weakest of the books). It actually feels like a movie, instead of an adaptation of a book.

7. Milk: The story of late politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man elected to office in California. Sean Penn does a fantastic job playing Harvey Milk, a character very different from the other characters I've seen him play. I full expected Mickey Rourke to win the Oscar last year, but I was pleasantly surprised when Penn got it. He deserved it. James Franco and Josh Brolin also gave excellent performances, and this was my favourites of the Oscar nominated movies of that year.

6. Star Trek: What I respect about this movie is that it brought a whole new audience to the Star Trek series. Before I saw it, I wouldn't have watched the TV show, but now I probably would if I saw it on. If they come out with a new TV series, I'll be watching it. It's fun, and worked great as a summer movie. I have it on DVD.

5. The Soviet Story: I caught this documentary at the Cinematheque in late August. I didn't know what to expect when my friend told me we were seeing it, but it was one of the most interesting documentaries I've ever seen. It's about Communism, and how Russia and Germany collaborated prior to 1941. I've studied European history in University, including some Russian history, but I didn't know a whole lot that I learned during the film. Some of the footage shown was shocking, but used to good effect.

4. Inglourious Basterds: I'll admit that I have not seen a lot of films by Quentin Tarantino, but I intend to rectify that one day. I'd heard about this project for years, and was not disappointed when I finally saw it. I love World War II history, so obviously WWII films are of great interest to myself, even ones that present an alternate history. I sure hope Christoph Waltz is nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hans Landa, because he played the best villain I've seen all year. And I figure it's probably harder to play an "evil" character than it is to play a hero. I picked it up on DVD today.

3. District 9: I love science fiction. I especially love it when it has a heart as strong as this film did. I was amazed by how much was done on such a low budget--it looked like it should have cost at least three times more than it did. This is the type of movie that NEEDS good special effects to work. If the aliens didn't look convincing, it wouldn't have been moving, and I wouldn't have bought into it as strongly as I did. Some people I talked to thought the CNN style used on occasion in the film was distracting but I think it gave an added boost of realism, when I really think about it. Also picked this one up today.

2. (500) Days of Summer: This was my favourite of the year until I saw my number 1, and it is still the one I can relate to most. I'm sure we've all had a "Summer"; someone you love more than they love you. While seeing it, I found myself laughing and crying, sometimes simultaneously, because it hit so close to home. Joseph Gordon-Levitt really made it for me, he's very heartfelt and a really great actor. I hope he goes far in his career, because I've consistently been impressed with his work. I grabbed this one as well, and can't wait to watch it again.

1. The Road: I've made very clear how much I love this movie by my review of it. The saddest, most depressing movie I've seen all year, and even over a month later, it has stuck with me. Most interesting, is how much the unnamed apocalyptic event didn't matter. I don't wonder what happened, because it's a movie about human nature, about love, and relationships. How does one maintain hope when there is no hope to be had? Do you give up when it is easier to do so than fight? Like Gran Torino, it breaks my heart that it's not getting very much attention. I've recommended it to anyone who asks what to see.

I also picked up Cinema Paradiso today, and am hoping to watch it tomorrow, if not maybe next weekend or during the week in the evening if I get a quiet night. I just want to note that I have not seen the following movies, but would very much like to: The Hurt Locker, Moon, Precious, Nine, The Last Station, A Single Man, Invictus, An Education, or A Serious Man, as well as many others. It seems you never see all the ones you want to.

5 worst:

5. Bruno: I really liked Borat, but Bruno just proved that the concept can only work once. I found it tired, and rather unfunny for the most part. I wasn't expecting much, so I wasn't necessarily disappointed, just rather...bored when I saw it.

4. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: It's kind of my own fault I didn't enjoy this. I only saw the first Underworld, so I didn't really understand a lot of it. But even then, I thought it was rather stupid anyway. The only really awesome bit is Billy Nighy, who's just an all around cool guy. Michael Sheen was pretty good as well. All in all...pretty mediocre and completely forgettable.

3. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian:
My friend and I saw it one day because we were bored and wanted to do something. Complete waste of time, amazingly enough...worse than the first one!

2. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: I was curious about this one, because I saw the first one (and had the book forced on me). It slightly improves on the first one, but it's still trash, and I found many elements of the movie to be quite awful. This is a series directed at tweens, but some of the stuff that is justified disgusts me. Young women are so easily moldable and I think some themes and elements of the series that are seen as being "okay" will give women the wrong impression of what a healthy relationship is. So I found it to be sickening, but slightly amusing because all the tween girls squealed when the men took their shirts off.

1. He's Just Not That Into You: The only entry I saw on DVD, and only because I own it. Yes, I own it. I won it off a radio station over the summer, after swearing I'll never see it, because it looked like pathetic, stereotypical trash. But after winning it, I accepted that the world just wanted me to see the movie, and I watched it, only to confirm my suspicions. I have friends who swear that I am just like Gigi, and afterwards, I wanted to give them a good talking to, because how can I be like a character so stupid? I'll admit that as a single girl, I wasn't all that great with men, and did hold onto hope when hope wasn't there, but I found her character to be abrasive, bland and nothing but a stereotype. Actually, all of the characters were hollow, and I didn't care for any of them.

The only reason I still have it is because my Mom expressed interest in seeing it. Her and my Dad watched it over New Years and neither of them liked it. My Dad summed it up by saying: "it wasn't quite a comedy, it wasn't quite a drama, but it sure was dumb." Now that nobody has any interest in watching it again, I'm hoping to get rid of it. Does anyone want it?

And that was my '09. I think it was a decent year, but other than The Hurt Locker, I haven't been overly interested in many of the movies getting Oscar buzz. But it has still been a good year, with many quality movies being released.

And if you haven't seen The Road, see it at the earliest opportunity. Really. I'm doing all I can to get it seen by people.