Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Academy Awards: A Bitter Individual's Recap

After spending some time really cramming for the Oscars (I know the awards don't mean all that much, but it's fun, so quit being a joyless wet blanket), I felt very empowered by what all I'd seen. Although I was unable to see every nominee (or even every Best Picture nominee), I did see several good films that were featured prominently throughout the evening's broadcast. In fact, I even saw a couple of great ones.

Before watching really anything, I was fully aware that the night would belong to indie powerhouse Slumdog Millionaire. Hell, I think everyone with a pulse had Slumdog down to take home Best Picture and a half-dozen other awards whether they'd seen the film or not. Regardless of anything else, this particular bit of celluloid contains a feel-good story with a built-in romantic element, takes place in an impoverished nation, and pulls at the heartstrings liberally. This is the sort of stuff that mainstream award shows get off on. I mean really get off on. It's indie enough to please the hipsters, but it's not so far out there that your average American family isn't going to enjoy it thoroughly. Simply put, Slumdog Millionaire is very easy to like, and subsequently, very easy to root for. The only problem is that it certainly was not the best film released in 2008.

It's hardly news to point out that the academy got a major award wrong; they do it all the time. The show is a spectacle and celebration first and a true measurement of accomplishment second. And I'm seriously okay with that; it's entertainment. But everyone seems so swept up in Millionaire mania that I just wanted to take a moment to shed light on a few other films that received various nominations and really deserved a better fate.

First up is the absolutely outstanding Doubt, a story based on a Pulitzer-winning play that centers around a priest, two nuns, an eighth grade boy, and the boy's mother. One nun, Sister James (Amy Adams), believes something strange is going on involving the priest, Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Shy and naive, she approaches the rigid and stern Sister Alloysius (Meryl Streep) with her dilemma. What ensues is a story of human nature, morality, twisted perceptions, faith, and, um, doubt. All of the major performances in this film are dead perfect, and I probably wouldn't have a problem watching these characters unfold their story several more times. So much subtext and depth exists in each line of each performance that it's hard not to miss something important if you step away for even a minute. I highly reccomend this movie, and it currently stands as my favorite of 2008.

That $500 million The Dark Knight reigned in is probably enough that the lack of Oscar love doesn't sting so bad, but still, I'd like to give the film its due. It's merely the finest superhero movie ever made, and at its core that really isn't even what it is. It's yet another very complex story of morality, the human condition, and how blurry the lines of right and wrong can be. Some of the choices Batman has to make here aren't the lighthearted ones you might read in a comic book. Chris Nolan's Batman is some serious stuff. When you're a superhero and you face a daily choice to either reveal your identity or see an innocent civilian killed, things aren't so easy.When you have to choose between saving the life of a public icon who might be your city's newfound savior and saving the life of your one undying love, you have an awful duty. When you have to deal with the fact the madman behind everything at the heart of your city's unraveling can be appeased by absolutely nothing, that he's just doing it to create chaos and will literally never stop until his life is taken, you have the hardest job in the world. That's the point. Unlike any other superhero movie, The Dark Knight places Batman in a world where everything doesn't have a solution. Not everyone can be saved and not everything can be fixed. And the things that can be fixed aren't going to be fixed overnight. This is a brilliant film that didn't get its due with the academy. Its success was probably its undoing during this awards season. Heath Ledger did, of course, nab the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and he deserves it. His portrayal of the joker is a haunting one, one that will stay with us forever as a reminder that evil isn't always cut and dry, and that the world is never going to simply be fair. While they're different interpretations, anyone who thinks Jack Nicholson's joker holds a candle to Ledger's is an idiot.

Another excellent release of 2008 is Gus Van Sant's Milk, the story of former San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, who became the first publicy gay man to be elected to major political office. Milk is beautifully told, and the atmosphere of the film captures a time and a place elegantly and admirably. Then you have the performances. Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk with a liveliness and a determination that make it very easy to see why he rightfully took home Best Actor honors last Sunday. He becomes the character so fully that it is seriously hard to believe Penn is married to a woman when you're done watching his work. Penn has five times been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and he's won twice. Thankfully, the academy understands how truly talented he is, personality malfunctions aside. James Franco is excellent as well, playing Milk's longtime lover Scotty Smith. Scotty is the tougher, younger half of the relationship, but he and Harvey share a great deal of soft moments together as well. The scenes that Penn and Franco share are consistently great, documenting a couple going through life-altering events and just trying to come out the other side of it unscathed. I recommend this film to everyone, but if you aren't in favor of gay rights, please watch this and then try to tell me why. This is as moving a story as you're likely to see, and it's every bit as inspirational as Slumdog claims to be. I'd argue even more so.

What's my problem with Slumdog Millionaire? I seriously don't have a problem with Danny Boyle's Best Picture-winning effort, it's just that it is certainly not 2008's best. It's a good film with an upbeat message and characters that are really easy to pull for, but it just wasn't the life-altering experience for me that it was for others. It's certainly worth seeing, it just didn't give me the goose bumps it gave others. Soon I hope to watch a few more highly-regarded movies from last year in hopes of finalizing my opinion on what the year's best really was. Doubt is currently out front, but a few more contenders lie in wait.

It's very late/early. I work at 2:15 PM now. It's sort of great (I get an extra $1.00 an hour), but also sort of awful (I'm there until 11:00 PM). Anyway, have fun everyone. I'm downloading some things I'd like to talk about soon. Also, get ready for a 2009 Major League Baseball preview. I wish all of the important free agents would hurry up and find a home so I could completely and thoroughly evaluate teams. Okay, it's mainly just that Manny Ramirez needs to hurry up and sign with the Dodgers, as he's the last remaining player that can really make a huge difference. Good night, and good luck. And George Clooney.

Friday, February 13, 2009

To Brian,

I'm posting this publicly for Brian to find. I figure I should let everyone know how awesome my guy is and how much I appreciate him. I don't have a whole lot to offer as far as a gift goes, so I thought this might be at least halfway decent to find:

:), *deep breath*...

It is Valentine's Day -- the holiday I pretended not to give a rat's you know what about my whole life in an effort to avoid disappointment. But...

This year, I'm not going to say, "It doesn't matter, honey," or, "It's just another day." I'm actually excited about this one; and I'm not afraid that I'll get some lock of hair or bag of toenails or a pack of gum (...actually got the pack of gum, once). I am confident that this year I'll have a good Valentine's Day, even if it rains, because I have a really good man standing beside me for this one.

Now, I'm not a sappy person and I'm usually very cynical. Today, I'm going to be honest, though, because Brian deserves it for all that he does and for all that he puts up with (me, my family, and my mood swings).

I might not always find the time or right way to show you how much you mean to me, Brian, but I really do love you very much. You're everything I've ever wanted in a man and I'm super proud that you're being the person I always knew you could be. I hope that I make you as happy as you make me. I know I seem like a hard-ass bitch 99.9% of the time but I promise that I mean well. I only ever want the best for you and always will.

I want to sit on a bench together and make fun of people when we're 80 and steal those wheel-chair, auto-powered, shopping carts from Wal-Mart and chase people together. I know you're the one I'm supposed to be with because we mesh so well. People might say that we haven't known each other long enough or that we moved in together too soon or blah blah blah; but whatever "Joe-Shmo" says, we know each other better than most people who have known each other for years do. I don't think it's a coincidence that we finish each other's sentences and think the same things at the same time. I don't at all, for one second, think that anything we have ever gone through has been detrimental to our relationship. I think that everything that has happened has strengthened us and that we will be stronger in light of all of it.

I love you and look forward to Valentine's Day together, not because it's just some day, but because it's a special day that I can let my guard down and be romantic because I know that you would never do anything to hurt me on a vulnerable day like today.

Love you<3,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Taking the Time to Shit


I've decided to make Brian's day and be the first person to post something because I love Brian this much! you didn't know, that's me inexplicably stretching my arms out to their full width.

Eh eh hmm. Let's get straight down to it; shall we?

I watched my 9 month old nephew stand smack-dab in the middle of the living room and grunt the hell out of a shit the other day. He didn't give a fuck. Before I went to kindergarten I didn't care who knew I was pooping, either. Once at a family reunion I went to the front door of my grandparents' house, leaned outside, and yelled over the mass of people, "Mom, I'm gonna go poop!"

Now, I ask you...just how many times have you gone into a public restroom and held 'it' just so the people in there wouldn't know what you were doing? I have. It doesn't make sense, though. Do we honestly think that if people don't hear it, they won't think that we do it? What do we want people to think?...that we just reabsorb poop into our bodies like some sort of photosynthetic plant? According to that logic, we must also think that if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there that it doesn't exist.

We're all mental, self included. We could learn a lot from babies. Why do we care so much about what others think?

Kids have stupid ideas about things. I think they get bits and pieces of them from their parents and then go to school and throw them at each other. For the most part, the things I threw at other kids weren't as lethal as what some of them brewed up. Some kids' parents must have shown them a sort of meanness I never understood and still don't. I grew up playing with my mom and sister and learning things about sharing and counting and about Muppets and how to love each other. I learned to treat animals like people and to laugh and imagine. Other kids learned to pinch and pull hair and judge others. I blame Church.

I went to Church until I was about 6 or 7 before I decided it just wasn't for me. All it took were two failed attempts at getting baptized for me to totally bail on that scene. The preacher told me that the devil was around at all times and if I didn't get baptized in the name of Jesus the devil would come up out of the ground from Hell and tie me to my chair with chains and take me to Hell with him. I was five. (I couldn't sleep for days.) So, I finally decided to get baptized.

At the first attempt, the preacher screamed, "the devil is among us!" at a snake in the creek and everyone scattered. After that nasty incident, the church started baptizing people in a cattle trough to avoid that whole devil-snake problem. I remember watching as they held Brian the retard underwater in that thing, kicking and flailing, to baptize him. He didn't know what was going on. For all he knew, the preacher was trying to drown him in a cattle trough for being retarded. (Hell, he might've been.) Southern Baptists can be fucking insane.

This was the same church where they had the preacher's daughter ask for forgiveness in front of the church for her black son because she got knocked up by a 'darkie.' (She also had a daughter by the same father but she looked like chocolate milk rather than a Hershey bar like poor Georgy so no-one cared about her.) Georgy wasn't aloud at church. I'm sure that's what God wanted...

I wonder whatever happened to Brian the retard or Georgy? ...on another note, can you save a retarded person? I mean, they don't understand that they're sinning, do they? They probably don't understand how to ask for forgiveness either. I'm so confused about the whole thing.

The way I understood it as a kid was: Jesus was pretty cool and God killed him for it. I still don't understand how that gets me a get out of jail free card.

Do I get my two hundred dollars?

Who the F is the Holy Ghost?

It's a wonder I turned out relatively normal at all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

News and Notes and Thunder

It's thundering outside at the moment, which is really cool except for the part where my dogs will go outside and come back inside with mud caked in their hair. I figured I'd take a moment to touch on a few things currently occupying my mind.
  • With rumors circulating all day that the Dodgers might soon ink Manny Ramirez and Orlando Hudson to contracts in the very near future, the team did in fact complete a pair of signings. That's right; Jeff Weaver and Eric Milton can now call themselves Dodgers. It appears that the focus on scoring runs has been at least temporarily shelved in favor of a newfound focus on losing at baseball.
  • The Mariners are getting their britches wet about the possibility of signing Ken Griffey, Jr. or Garrett Anderson. Now is certainly the time to nab either or both of these guys. Both are youthful, exuberant, and extremely durable. Act now, Mariners! Quickly! Before it's too late!
  • Speaking of Griffey, I am currently staring at a Frosted Wheaties box from 1995 with Junior on the front. And yes, the cereal is still inside.
  • Has anyone seen Ricky Gervais's show Extras? It's really fucking funny and features guest spots from the likes of Kate Winslet and Samuel L. Jackson. Watch it so that we can then proceed to talk about it. I don't think it's airing anymore, but that shouldn't stop you. What would stop you is if you didn't have a television or a computer. Of course that would also stop you from other things, such as 'having fun' and 'being normal.' Freak.
  • So there's a new Mastodon record called Crack the Skye coming out on March 24. I haven't head banged and steering wheel drummed nearly enough lately, and I'm counting on this album to aleviate such a drought.
  • The Brewers have decided to cut ties with Ben Sheets "no matter what" and are currently pursuing the services of free agent righthander Braden Looper. I've created this thought-provoking illustration to best exemplify my thoughts on where this could mean for Brewers general manager Doug Melvin's career.
  • I wish No Country For Old Men could win an Oscar this year, too.
  • Kimmy and I watched TV On the Radio on SNL last weekend. The mixing was really terrible while the band played "Golden Age," but the sound crew must have realized they ruined several minutes of my life and made up for it by fixing things for TVOTR's second song, "Dancing Choose." I'd like to write solely about how much I love "Dancing Choose" and, in a broader sense, how much I love TV On the Radio. Watch this, and if you don't love them too, then I don't know what I can do for you. Other than hurt you, or poison your Campbell's vegetable beef soup. (
  • I'll return soon with a much more proper post. Maybe some of you lazy people will even do the same. And I don't want to hear excuses about jobs (Bryan) and kids (Brad) and school (Mandy) and Three's Company-themed sex parties where everyone wears a Don Knotts mask and asks for last month's late rent (Brent). I just want results! Later.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yankee Doodle Dandy (What?)

From the mid-90s to present day, it's been quite fashionable to hate the New York Yankees. While there are plenty of reasons, most of it sort of boils down to a thinly-veiled jealousy. What's been different about the Yankees when compared to your favorite team? They have and will spend money on whatever they feel they need to contend. Yankee players must be clean-cut and check their personality at the door. They seem to be better looking. And, of course, they always find themselves in the running for yet another World Series title.

But something has seemed different for a few years now. The club hasn't taken a trophy home since 2001, their bulbous payroll has been largely squandered on useless bullshit, the Red Sox have established themselves as the new and true consistent force in the American League, and every other day a Steinbrenner family member makes an ass of himself in a very public manner. All of these factors have made anti-Yankee sentiments take something of a tempered hiatus. Until right

A very high percentage of baseball fans like to get their kicks by whining about how much money the Yankees have at their disposal due to their deal with the YES Network and, well, their tendency to win baseball games. Be as it may, I'd like to present to you a brief comparison. The following are payroll figures from the past seven seasons. The first number is the payroll of the team on the left, the second is the Yankees payroll.

2002 Los Angeles Angels $61,721,667 vs. $125,128,583
2003 Florida Marlins $48,750,000 vs. $152,749,814
2004 Boston Red Sox $127,298,500 vs. $184,193,950
2005 Chicago White Sox $75,178,000 vs. $208,306,817
2006 St. Louis Cardinals $88,891,371 vs. $194,663,079
2007 Boston Red Sox $143,026,214 vs. $189,639,045
2008 Philadelphia Phillies $98,269,880 vs. $209,081,577

So yeah, the Yankees sure do spend a lot of money. But what have those seven teams on the left column done with lesser payrolls that the Yankees haven't? They've won a World Series in the past seven years. The Yankees have even gone so far as to miss out on the postseason entirely (2008) in spite of all that money they're forking over. During the past seven seasons, the only team to even come relatively close to spending as much money as the Yankees has been the Boston Red Sox, who have enjoyed the most success in baseball during that stretch (World Series wins in 2004 and 2007). As the years pass, it seems like the Yankees have forgotten that their reign of terror over baseball during the Joe Torre era (I don't care about his book at all) was accomplished because of homegrown talent (Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada) and thrifty acquistions (Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez), not giant splashes in the free agent market. The Yankees used to utilize their financial heft to merely keep around the good players they'd managed to develop. As of late, they've been using that same money (and then some) to keep those same players happy (even if they're well past their prime or even functionality) and to sign free agents with very little in the way of a successful track record.

All of this misdirection has slowly quieted the anti-Yankee lobbyists. Over time, baseball fans have learned just to snicker at Yankee misfires, realizing that they can spend all the money they want if they're going to spend it on the likes of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Tony Womack, and even an aging Johnny Damon. So why, all of a sudden, have the media and fans reverted back to turn-of-the-millennium mode and begun Yankee hating at the speed of sound? Because the Yankees appear to have stopped merely spending and started thinking. If you're going to spend a ton of money, why not spend it on the very best players available, even if it's going to cost you just a little bit more? After all, if you have the money, and you're going to spend it anyway, why overspend on a fish fillet sandwich at McDonald's when you could just head across the street and have lobster?

Yes, the Yankees are going to be good again. Not that they've really ever been what one could call bad (they've not once been the Royals or Pirates), but they're more than likely going to be a lot of trouble for the Red Sox and Rays. In a very strong free agent class, New York has nabbed three of the top four free agents available. And they've occasionally been linked to the fourth member of that group (Manny Ramirez). A team that needed another bat in light of an aging lineup added Mark Teixeira, arguably the gem of this offseason's free agent crop. Teixeira will benefit from hitting behind Alex Rodriguez, and it's not like he ever needed a strong supporting cast to hit anyway. This same team had a pitching rotation littered with holes. So what did they do? They didn't bother with giving big money to Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez, who could, if everything broke right, succeed. They gave bigger money to C.C. Sabathia, easily one of the game's five best starting pitchers, and A.J. Burnett, an excellent starter in his own right who possibly has the best raw pitches in all of baseball.

This is why you hate the Yankees again. Maybe you never stopped. But even if you didn't, get ready to hate them more. Get ready to tell all your friends that it'll all be okay, because they're just as stupid as they ever were. C.C. Sabathia is going to wear himself out after all those innings he's pitched. A.J. Burnett's going to happen upon another horrible injury that results in his ultimate downfall. Mark Teixeira is going to, um, turn into a pumpkin. And as for the great players the Yankees already possessed, like Alex Rodriguez, well, screw them too. After all, he took steroids or something. Shame on him! He's a bad person. He's also going to hit more home runs than any player in baseball history. It's okay if you want to shout out all these tired, boring, explanations of why the Yankees will fail to your friends. Just have your backup tirade ready for when you're wrong.

Hi, my name is Brian and I like soda.

Over the past five or so years, I've made several attempts at keeping a steady writing project going. All of those attempts have failed, whether these failures be gradual or immediate. I've started several blogs dedicated to several different subjects. I've chronicled my opinions on baseball in extreme, painstaking detail on the now-defunct I've bowled a 300 game on the Nintendo Wii. I've eaten a Digiorno pizza. I've strayed far off topic.

Whoa. Anyway, what I'm here to say is that this space is for me to spew my thoughts all over the world. What's going to make me adhere to regular updating and constant dedication? I have no idea. But I sure want to. Something slightly different about this particular attempt at achieving an effective literary venue for myself is that it isn't just for myself. I'd like for this project to be much more inclusive, thus presenting a wider diorama of opinions and talents. I know I can rope a few of my creative friends into participation, and I'm counting on that to push the content here above monotonous and beyond predictable. I'm also counting on that to keep me entertained. I love my creative friends. So before I do anything else, I'm going to call people out. Here is a short list of people whose help I am requesting (more will be added as I think of them):

Kimmy, Spencer, Bryan, Brad, Justin, Kevin, Casey, Mandy.

So anyway, chop chop. Get to it. I know I will. Seriously, everyone, Get going.