Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Mama Jean's turned out to be one of those places. People wearing deliberately strange clothes wandered the aisles plucking obscure oils and roots off shelves so they could make sure that only natural things straight from God's teat entered their mouths. Grown adults were picking up cereals with names a seven year-old would mock. Hell, there was even this teenage kid wearing all black to counteract his washed out blonde hair who was waving his arms about in time with a Pet Shop Boys song. When they were done, they all marched in lockstep to their gigantic gas-guzzling SUVs and hopped in, ready to really give it to the very earth they claim to dedicate their lives to. Fuck them. Anyway, you get the point. You can see it. So here are a few products I managed to take pictures of, along with a quick synopsis of each. Needless to say, I didn't buy any of this shit.
Don't you just hate it when you get up to eat breakfast in the morning and your waffles and pancakes taste good? Guess what, everyone! Mama Jean's has the answer to your conundrum! It's Organic Buckwheat Waffle and Pancake Mix! No longer will you have to endure another morning of honest-to-God "delicious" waffles or pancakes, because this product will ensure that anything you make tastes like chalk and has a nice, turdy aftertaste. Thanks, Mama Jean! You're the best!
Is your baby putting his mouth on everything to try and cut his burgeoning teeth? Well have we got a solution for you! It's Earth's Best Barley Teething Biscuits! After lil' Bobby puts his budding chompers on this, he'll never have the desire to chew on anything ever again (assuming he lives)!
Whoa! Straight from Barbara's, the makers of Shit Loops, comes Organic Wild Puffs, the tastiest thing to ever grace your spoon in the morning! I mean, just look at that crazy-ass bird on the front of the box! His beak didn't turn unnatural, harmful colors on its own! Go get your own box
Long day at the office? Need a snack? Also need to make sure your movements are regular? Bobo's Coconut Oat Bars are sure to take on all your daily hunger and poo managing needs! Just down one in a hurry (you don't want to actually taste it), and you won't drop a number two for months, maybe even years!
Have you ever wondered why there are so few reported murders in France? Have you also felt the deep yearning your tummy has for a delicious dessert snack? Kill two birds (or ladies, wink wink) with one cookie by buying French Lady Fingers! Made with real French lady fingers,
French Lady Fingers are sure to stave off hunger and fulfill that cannibalism fantasy you've always had but never admitted. So head on down to Mama Jean's and bite the hand that feeds!
Poor hermits. They're so reclusive. Not! You just never see them because you're too busy fucking eating them, asshole!
Do you ever finding yourself wishing you had a delicious breakfast cereal that smelled strongly of throw up and birdseed? And don't you wish that once you had such a cereal you could share it with a 42 year-old mother of three that fantasizes about Pat Sajak and a 56 year-old Asian man who's been to jail a couple of times on misdemeanor charges? From the same minds that brought you Honey Nut Nuts 'n' Blood comes Good Friends, the cereal that delivers on that pungent order you so desire, AND lets you stare at those aforementioned citizens you so badly wish you knew. It's a win-win!
Shudder. My solution to all of you savvy shoppers out there? Don't spend big bucks on Mama Jean's overpriced "gourmet products. Ask yourself: what would Clint Eastwood consume? I know I did, and the answer is below. For those playing at home, I give you Spaghettios and beer. Everyone enjoy your Tuesday.
Gran Torino (2008)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)
Clint Eastwood is such a man. Everything he does exudes blatant manliness, and his angry Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino is no exception. Kowalski hates everyone. He doesn't like his neighbors, he doesn't like his priest, and he doesn't like his own family. He feels like his sons are good for nothing, his grandchildren are good for less than that, and that his best friends in the world are his dog and his never ending supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The only thing constantly by his side is his shotgun.
As the movie opens, we learn that Kowalski's wife has just passed away, leaving him all alone in a world he very much dislikes. In a few early scenes, we quickly see that Walt doesn't want anything to do with anyone he doesn't respect (everyone). His sons are ready to take off as soon as they can after the funeral, his granddaughter spends her time "mourning" over text messages, and his priest just wants him to come to confession. Walt can't be bothered with anyone of this, and he also can't be bothered in any capacity by his Hmong neighbors, who he resents simply because they aren't white and he doesn't understand them.
Eastwood comes up with racial epithets for his character I swear I've never heard at all in Torino. It's downright over-the-top how frequently Walt tries to insult his Asian neighbors, even if there appears to be no reason at all to do so. Left alone in the wake of his wife's death, Kowalski begins to interact with these neighbors, and takes a legitimate liking to Sue (Ahney Her). He sees her as spunky, intelligent, and interesting. Gradually he also sees the good in her quiet younger brother Thao (Bee Vang), who winds up working for Walt after being forced by his gang-dwelling cousin to try and steal Walt's most prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino.
The quick, somewhat surprising ending is sort of appropriate. I'm obviously not going to flatly say what it is, but it's sad and faintly disappointing. But it also makes sense, and there's sort of a build up to it once you recap what you've seen in your head. I mean, was there another way?
It's rather obvious that Gran Torino's intention is to show that we're all on this earth together, and that we all need to get along. Racism is stupid, petty, and ignorant, and if a guy like Walt can get past it, can't we all? The film adeptly follows Walt and Thao's simultaneous transformations. Walt becomes the loving, tolerant man he has always been capable of being. Thao becomes the confident, sharp kid that has always been bubbling beneath the surface. The key is, they really need each other to make this happen, and their journey is an inspired one. Gran Torino is emotionally involving, and all of the principal actors turn in satisfactory performances, even if this isn't anywhere near Eastwood's best work. After all, he can play a mean-ass son of a bitch in his sleep. While Gran Torino is a bit formulaic and preachy, it's also a very good film that is enjoyable to watch and know how to manipulate the audience's emotions. It also really drives home the notion that anyone is capable of what they allow themselves to become, for better or worse.
So I totally used to write tiny lil' review nuggets on MySpace every time I saw a movie. I've decided I might as well throw those up here, along with adjusted ratings for the new system. Here you go, salt shakers.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
Thursday, March 19, 2009
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Detroit Tigers
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
1. New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Terrible
1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
Go ahead, readers! Comment away! I would very much enjoy to hear what others think. It's very possible someone might think I have a Missouri bias, but I have my reasons which I'll get into in each team's individual preview. Oh, and the Angels were the most fake 100 win team ever last year, and that was with a couple of months of Mark Teixeira. So the A's taking over shouldn't really surprise anyone. Who wants to see predicted individual award winners? I do! I do!
MVP: Mark Teixeira
He's long been a very good player, and this is the year he gets recognition for being something more, even if maybe he isn't. Teixeira will hit like he always does, and he'll play very good defense at first base. The difference is that he'll be playing in New York for what I think will be a playoff team, and he'll probably drive in more runs with Alex Rodriguez in front of him (well, here in several weeks). Hell, if he'd been an Angel for all of last year, MVP voters would've had a much tougher time casting their ballots in the name of lil' Dustin Pedroia (who did have a fantastic season).
Cy Young: Francisco Liriano
Fuck it. I took the longest making this pick, and I decided to go completely rogue and pick Liriano, who very well could flame out with more health problems before he gets a chance to be the dominant force he started to be two seasons back. I'm going to put my eggs in his basket (not a euphemism) and say he stays healthy, wins 18 games or so, and strikes out the earth. I very nearly took the easy way out and selected C.C. Sabathia. I also almost took Zack Greinke. Only time will tell whether this decision will be a good one.
Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters
This may have been the easiest pick of the lot. Wieters is almost senselessly talented and advanced for his age. He has power, patience, and a great glove at baseball's most difficult position (catcher). Assuming Wieters is given a chance, he'll prove himself a star very quickly. And if I'm wrong? Hey, you couldn't really blame me in believing in a guy who hit .365/.460/.625 in Double A during his first year as a pro.
MVP: Albert Pujols
I mean, really, who did you think I was going to pick? Pujols is a perennial candidate, and he's the best hitter in the game without much room for dispute. He's also an outstanding defender at first, 29 years old, and apparently healthy. Albert could take home the award every season and no one could reasonably complain. Expect another season right in line with his stellar career rates from the best hitter of this era. If the Cardinals get a little better, that will only help his cause. And if Pujols gets any better, then God help the National League.
NL Cy Young: Rich Harden
Look at that disgusting strikeout rate from a year ago! Look at the disgusting numbers that have been the story of Harden's career! Well, they would be the story, but Harden gets hurt all the time. I'm going to gamble and say he stays intact for 2009, and that he'll fend off fine efforts from the usual suspects (Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Zach Duke) to take home the hardware.
NL Rookie of the Year: Cameron Maybin
This one is tough. Unlike the American League version of this award, there is certainly no go-to guy. I selected Maybin because, well, he projects to be very good one day. I don't see him having an earth shattering year in 2009, but there's no reason he can't go 15-15 and win an award for it as a result of besting the competition.
As for the managers of the year, who really gives a shit? I sure don't. Later, kids.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The Reader (2008)
Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)
I'll confess to being fairly ignorant in regards to what The Reader was about prior to viewing it. All I really knew was that a very young boy does nasty, nasty things with a much older woman. Seriously. That's all I knew. Why? Because that's the sort of thing that people remember a movie by, so that's the way it was described to me (thanks, Andrew). While this is certainly true, there is a lot more to this movie in terms of plot.
The Reader functions by darting back and forth between various years in the past and 1995. After beginning in 1995 by seeing mudnane moments in the life of adult Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes), we flash back to 1958, where Berg is 15 years old and played adeptly by David Kross. (It should be noted that David Kross has much more hair than David Cross does, and that he is significantly less funny. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.) On his way home from school, Berg is stricken with illness (scarlet fever, as it turns out) and is helped out by a woman in her thirties who stumbles upon him. The woman (Hanna Schmitz as played by Kate Winslet) helps nurse Michael back to health and he returns back home to his family.
Michael fondly remembers Hanna, though, and upon recovering his health three months later, he returns to thank her. His "thank you" turns into a torrid affair between the two, and Hanna becomes Michael's first lover despite being twice his age. Winslet wisely makes sure that we see Hanna as strange and a little bit harsh. She has a bit of a temper, maintains strict rules about most things, and often asks Michael to read to her from his school books if he wants to have sex with her again. The two grow to really care about each other, but one day Hanna disappears from Michael's life, perhaps out of guilt, or perhaps to spare Michael the inevitable end to what they were doing. He doesn't see her again until eight years later, when she is on trial for terrible crimes she committed earlier in life as a guard at Auschwitz.
From here on out, the movie focuses on Hanna's trial, her attempts to deal with what has happened, and Michael's attempts as a young man to sort things out for himself. It's obvious to us that Hanna has done some awful things, and that by comparison of her negligence at Auschwitz, her relations with Michael are a secondary offense. It can also be seen that Hanna has a lack of real world understanding and education that wasn't fully revealed to us at the outset. Looking back, though, Winslet's performance subtly hints at it. It makes sense for a woman like Hanna to be prone to giving in to impulses, and it makes sense that she has repressed her wrongdoings until she is brought face-to-face with them.
This is all difficult for Michael, as well. While it's easy to look at Michael and Hanna's relationship as dirty and wrong, Michael doesn't see it that way at all. He never did, and you can tell that he never will. In some way, he loved Hanna. She was the first female he ever felt anything for and who had ever felt anything for him. This makes it extremely hard for him to know how he's supposed to feel as he learns of her past. A scene near the film's conclusion between adult Michael and a holocaust survivor's daughter brings front and center Michael's conflicted feelings, even all these years later.
The Reader is certainly worth seeing, but it isn't as good as Oscar built it up to be. It's solid, well made, and well acted, but it doesn't represent anything earth shattering. What we have here is an intelligently crafted drama built around a peculiar relationship and set against a historical backdrop. I guess what I'm trying to say is, The Reader is good, but it doesn't by any means transcend good into great.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Before I go, here's an awesome quote from Washington's newly departed GM: "I have become a distraction. Unless you are Manny Ramirez, there is no place for distraction in baseball."
Well, Jim, I think I know why things have worked out better for Manny. Manny Ramirez is good at baseball. You aren't.
A quick mathematical equation: Manny Ramirez>Jim Bowden.
Wait, here are some more:
Brian Vaughan>Jim Bowden
Desi Relaford>Jim Bowden
Fingernail clippings>Jim Bowden
Bat urea>Jim Bowden
Richard Gere< Jim Bowden
You probably already know this, but here are the first five movies you'll see us give "the treatment" to:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Since I'm here, and since I'm talking about movies, why not review one? I saw The Wrestler. Here's what I thought. Oh, wait! Before I start, I'll explain my rating system. After all, I've made a little revision to what I normally do. I used to simply steal Pitchfork's rating system (1-10 with every decimal in play), but I've decided to change course. Sort of. From now on, things will still be given a rating between one and ten, but there won't be any more crazy decimals, with the exception of half points. Basically what I'm trying to tell you is that the only possible ratings now are whole numbers (i.e. 5.0) and half numbers (i.e. 5.5). No crazy '5.7' shit.
Why the change? I feel like my ratings before were a little half-assed, like I was merely assigning a rating that felt right. I think this will help me to truly assess the value of what I'm reviewing. After I've written my review, I can reflect on the subject of my writing and ask myself, "does this deserve an 8.0 or an 8.5?" This just seems more practical than trying to decide between 8.0, 8.1, 8.2,8.3, 8.4, 8.5, or jumping a few points below or above either end of the spectrum. This puts pressure on me to really decide if what I'm reviewing transcends a certain level into the next realm. I've rambled enough.
The Wrestler (2008)
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky knows the human experience very well. His excellent Requiem for a Dream detailed the lives of drug addicts, showing us their day to day lives, their relationships, and their feelings. By the end of the movie, we find ourselves really understanding and caring for people we might be likely to look down our nose at in the real world. In a way, what Aronofsky accomplishes with The Wrestler is quite similar. Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) isn't someone we would likely befriend on normal terms. He's a professional wrestler whose heyday is two decades expired. He sports nappy, bleached blonde hair, wears flannel jackets and sweat pants, and can frequently be seen at strip clubs. He's reliant on steroids and growth hormone to keep his career alive. He's been a terrible father to his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and he doesn't shy away from cocaine and strange women. In other words, if you saw him on the street, your first impression wouldn't be a postive one.
By the time The Wrestler's end credits roll, though, you will absolutely feel for Randy. Mickey Rourke does a fantastic job portraying a man who was once king of his domain and has since fallen from grace. The intricacies of his performance here are stunning. His facial expressions of heartbreak when he's disappointed, his headbanging when he hears an '80s hair metal song that reminds him of his peak in life, his smile during his last-ditch attempts to save his relationship with his daughter: these things all feel effortlessly real.
The Wrestler documents Randy 20 years after his brush with greatness. Where is he now? He wrestles on a much smaller scale for much less money, works part-time in a grocery store, and spends his free time visiting Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a stripper who he has gradually fallen in love with despite her obvious reluctance to fully embrace him. Randy's life is a shadow of what it once was, and Rourke makes sure you can always see that on Randy's face.
With too much of his money going toward various drugs and lapdances, Randy is unable to pay his rent and has to spend a night in his van. This prompts him to look for better paying wrestling gigs on the weekends and ask for more hours during the week at the grocery store. All of it leads to him taking a job in a hardcore wrestling match that has dire consequences and forces Randy to rethink his life.
The thing is, no matter how bad Randy's choices are, we're still rooting for him. We see him as a legitimately decent person, but one who almost always does the wrong thing. We know that his love for both Cassidy and his daughter are real, but we also completely understand that his daughter's revulsion toward him is deserved. It's truly a credit to this film, its makers, and its lead actor that we can feel so attached to this man.
It's really not hard to see how Mickey Rourke received an Oscar nod for his turn as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler. His work here is astoundingly real, and it hooked me in from the very first scene. The real tragedy is that a film of emotional heft, of this power, was ignored by the academy in favor of much inferior work. The Wrestler is easily among 2008's very best, and it isn't the type of thing you're likely to forget anytime soon.