Daniel Carlson

About movies, mostly.

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Month: October 2006 (page 1 of 3)

This Is Always Amazing

I haven’t been able to stop watching Brian Atene.
I posted the video a couple days ago, but here’s another link. It’s easily the best video to ever hit YouTube. Screw OK Go, screw trailer mash-ups, screw Brokeback parodies.
Brian Atene rules them all.

An Online Exchange Involving The Disposal Of Human Remains

Sis: i’m pushing for a biz centerpiece on a business that cleans out skulls
hehe
some of the pictures are seriously just rows of human skulls
me: awesome
AWESOME
Sis: yes
they have some freaky pictures on the exhange
like gross. we don’t want people throwing up on the paper
me: haha
Sis: man, what if that was your job?
the company takes human and animal skulls, strips them of tissue, sanitizes and sells them
me: i’d hire a big guy and make him wear a zippered mask like the gimp in Pulp Fiction. i’d point to him and say “percy brings in more skulls than any other employee”
and it would freak people right the crap out
Sis: hahahahaha
percy?
me: i don’t know
it’s a creepy name
Sis: haha
me: especially for a GIANT IN A ZIPPER MASK
Sis: i laughed out loud and then my boss walked up
love it
now i can’t stop giggling
me: haha
awesome

It’s Impossible To Kill Jason. Completely Impossible. It’s A Fact.

In honor of Halloween, when normal girls dress slutty and slutty girls wear things that blow you away; when kids run wilder than normal; and when there’s nothing better to do than tossing back a cold one and watching a truly awful movie; in honor of all that and more, we present the following:
Pajiba’s Favorite Craptastic Horror Films.
Eat up.

“Studio 60″: Conflict Shmonflict

I know, I know: Most of you think I should lay off “Studio 60.” But let me reiterate that I’m not out to bash the show, which I still think is better than most other programs on the air (it certainly beats people yelling at briefcases). It’s just disappointing that the show is having trouble finding its voice. Granted, it could likely find it in time; “Seinfeld” wasn’t even “Seinfeld” until its third season or so, all Chinese restaurant trips aside. But TV is a horribly numbers-oriented business, and I’m afraid NBC execs aren’t willing to let shows grow anymore. But anyway:
Somebody a lot smarter than I am figured out that all great dramas have three players. Whether it’s two men and the woman between them, or any one of a dozen other stories, the three players can ultimately be boiled down to two opposing forces and the conflict that defines their relationship. That conflict is a vital thing, since it drives the characters to interact and influences their decisions, while also acting as its own storytelling element. Aaron Sorkin’s first show about TV, “Sports Night,” has this in spades, and it’s another in the list of things missing from the new “Studio 60″ that, if things continue unabated, will keep the latter show from reaching the heights of the former.
“Sports Night” dealt with a sports news show on a third-rate cable net that was constantly trailing Fox Sports and ESPN in the ratings. From the get go, the producers and anchors struggled to do their show while putting up with interference from their corporate owners. Sorkin set the tone in the show’s second episode, “The Apology,” in which Dan Rydell gets a slap on the wrist from corporate after supporting the legalization of marijuana in an interview with Esquire. Sorkin’s druggy moralizing aside (and believe me, I’ll get to that another time), the episode highlighted the opposition between the heartfelt aims of the creatives and the ratings-oriented world of the corporate chiefs, and the role that executive producer Isaac Jaffe played in mediating the demands of both. For his public misstep, Dan is forced to issue an on-air apology to his viewers, and in the process reveals crucial elements of his emotional backstory. In a series full of great episodes, this one’s still one of the best.
The second season upped the stakes, thanks to Sorkin’s willingness to let the show reflect some of the offscreen struggles he was having with ABC. The fictional world of “Sports Night” had to deal with a ratings expert, played by William H. Macy, who was hired by the show’s corporate owners to shake up the program and bring in more viewers. It was a great story arc precisely because it drove home the conflict that had been brewing since the show’s inception. The resulting drama worked because the consequences felt real and immediate.
But “Studio 60″ exists in a world without these consequences. The pilot episode dealt with executive producer Wes Mendell’s on-air breakdown, and the subsequent hiring of Matt and Danny to turn the show around. Yet after that, things seemed to settle down at the show-within-a-show. Steven Weber’s appearances as network exec Jack Rudolph have been sparse at best, and his threats have been rendered toothless by the show’s apparent ratings growth (though how a cold open featuring a horrible Gilbert and Sullivan rip-off is supposed to bring in viewers is beyond me). That’s the problem: The fictional “Studio 60″ is having too much success. There’s no conflict, no battle to overcome small odds and big foe to achieve something great. That’s not to say “Studio 60″ can’t or won’t change. But with nothing to fight for or struggle against, the show will have nothing to do except revel in its own apparent glories. I’d rather see a good fight than an easy victory.

Sunday Recap

• The reviews:
“To work as the historical-political thriller it aspires to be, The Last King of Scotland would require the nearly impossible: viewers unaware of Amin’s atrocities, so that those horrors are revealed to the audience at or near the same moment they’re revealed to Nicholas. As it is, we’re in the position of watching a slasher movie set in a glass house. We don’t have to guess if the killer is standing outside the door — we can see him plainly the whole time.”
“But Ryan Murphy (‘Nip/Tuck’), who adapted and directed Scissors, apparently didn’t read the same book the rest of us did. Burroughs’ memoir was funny and at times touching, but it never sought anyone’s pity. If you wept while reading it, it was because you were laughing too hard to breathe otherwise. But Murphy must have misread it, because his adaptation not only bastardizes the spirit of the memoir, it deeply disrespects it.”
“I admired the performances of Luke, Robbins, and the supporting cast; the cinematography is both handsome and lively; and many elements of South African life, such as the chanting of protesters during toyi-toyi, are used with beauty and expressiveness. Yet never did I feel the full moral urgency of Chamusso’s struggle or the complex set of motives driving Vos; it all remained a bit distant for me. Perhaps this fire is one I’ve just seen burn too many times.”
Saw III manages to improve on its predecessor in both critical terms and as raw entertainment. Theatergoers moved by the spirit of Halloween to sit through a grisly and unpleasant movie will not be disappointed by the buckets of blood and inventive means of human disposal.”
I’d like to add on a personal note that I wouldn’t see Saw III if it was playing on Heidi Klum’s back.
• I’m not outright bashing “Studio 60.” I’m just saying, Sorkin’s done a lot better.
“Veronica” is still great, though some seem to dislike my “Gilmore” opinions. Deal.
• I’m really hoping to break 20 comments, or anyway I’d thought the mass hysteria for “Grey’s” that’s infiltrated the nation’s women would at least inspire more responses. Come on, tell me what makes the show so good.
• Kids are stupid. And adults can be even stupider.
• If Colt McCook is out there, he should know that I think of him every time I see Colt McCoy. Also, if I had decided years ago that creativity and the arts were dead-end streets and that my life would be better spent chasing leather up and down a field, I totally would have become a placekicker. Good grief, what an awesome job: You still get the uniform and all the hedonistic perks (read: free hooch and esteem-deprived sorority girls), and you only have to do like 2% of the work. This is maybe the best idea anyone ever had, right after penicillin and carpool lanes.
• I went to school with people who actually liked Rush Limbaugh. They’ve probably already bred by now, so there’s really no stopping them. Which is sad.
• I have no idea if this video is real or not. In favor of its being a fake: YouTube is a notorious breeding ground for crap like this (lest we forget the lessons of LonelyGirl); it’s not that hard to shoot something now and make it look 20 years old (even these morons know that); the odds of a kid in the ’80s having the foresight and developed sense of irony to make this are somewhat slim; the monologue is waaaay over the top; and why is the clip showing up now, anyway?
Then again, in favor of the video’s authenticity: Theater kids can be f***ing wackos. See for yourself.

• Last, but certainly not least: The porcupine race track. Enjoy:

So This Is Why Those Clips Disappeared

Comedy Central has finally gone to the mattresses against YouTube. (BoingBoing reacts here.)
That sucks. YouTube was probably making money from the clips, but second-hand, through ads and a hugely inflated sticker price in the Google sale. And Stewart/Colbert clips were probably my favorite part of YouTube.
Screw you guys, I’m going home.

I Vaguely Remember The Talking Trash Heap

What a weird show.
Anyway: The Pajiba trade round-up.

The Rare Open Question; Or, Someone Please Feed Ellen Pompeo

I want every girl that reads this to tell me what’s so appealing about “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Don’t forget to sign your name in the comment if you’re posting anonymously.
Thanks.

Believe It Or Not, George Isn’t At Home

Be sure to check out Seth’s look at TV theme songs in Pajiba’s Guide to What’s Good For You.
Also, this is worth checking out. Mighty enjoyable for something so short.

Going Away To College: Or, Why We Should All Cut Riley Finn Some Slack

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In case it’s escaped the notice of even the dullest reader out there, I’ve got a pretty special place in the black rock I call my heart for “Veronica Mars.” Now cruising gamely along in its third season, despite low ratings and a network dumb enough to pair it with “Gilmore Girls” (a show about absolutely, positively nothing at all), “Veronica Mars” is still one of the best shows on TV. But after two full years of exploring high school life, Veronica up and graduated, and is now attending Hearst College. Her matriculation mirrors not just the show’s transfer from the defunct UPN to the new CW, but also the fact that the show itself is at a crossroads, namely, the elimination of its premise — high-school private eye — and a gradual change in its mission statement.
This is bound to be a polarizing time for the show’s hardcore fans, and it’s reminiscent of the similar struggle faced by what some have called the show’s ancestor, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Granted, I think that comparing any two shows beyond a certain point is unwise, and most people are just linking “Buffy” and “Veronica Mars” out of a well-meaning laziness: Both shows were centered around a strong, flawed, complex female character in high school; both shows placed a premium on witty dialogue and interpersonal relationships; both shows are on low-rated pseudo-networks; etc. But the shows do have their similarites, primarily their ability to explore the hell of growing up through the archetypal lens of high school, the one experience that unites us all in common misery. After its third season, “Buffy” went through the same growing pains now working their way through “Veronica Mars,” as Buffy went off to college and the show struggled to find its larger purpose even as its core dynamic was forever altered. More than just having key characters removed and assigned to a spin-off, the “Buffy” universe had to deal with its very own existential crisis: What happens when the teenage superhero starts to grow up?
The show dealt with the inevitable problems the only way it knew how: By pushing through them. The first episode of the fourth season features another pack of vampires led by one of the lamest ringleaders the show ever came up with, but the villain of the week did one thing right: She broke Buffy’s umbrella, a symbol of the good work she’d done in high school. It was a crushing, visceral way for the show to proclaim that the times were changing in a big way.
The fourth season, though certainly not a favorite of some fans, nevertheless turned out some great episodes — the experimental “Hush,” the crossover “Pangs,” the enjoyable one-off “Superstar,” the excellent “Fear, Itself” — and, much more importantly, broadened its worldview. College is a world of gray tones next to the starkly defined areas of high school, and Buffy interacted with a greater variety of people with more darkly human (as opposed to demonic) traits, including Parker, who slept with Buffy and never called her again. He wasn’t supernaturally evil, just a tool. It was in important step for the show, and one that paved the way for more complex relationships in the characters’ collective futures. The fourth season was radically different from the first three because it had to be.
That’s the problem, and possible solution, facing “Veronica Mars.” The show’s first two seasons delved into the dark sides of class warfare between the haves and have-nots of the small town of Neptune, smartly recognizing that cash is the biggest dividing line between the lunch tables in the cafeteria. But university life is rarely that stratified, and the only people who cling to such dated notions of how to define themselves are the jerks who seem to think college is basically Grade 13. “Veronica Mars” is going to have to figure out how to let go of the rich-poor struggle that so often defines the stories.
Veronica used to be a high-school snoop, and but she’s going to have to transform into a bigger, more nuanced character to get the show over the tough bumps coming out of two solid years of stories. The show should set about trying to define Veronica in grander terms, like what kind of person does she want to be, in order to work. The central group of characters has been altered — Duncan’s gone, Beaver’s dead — and the remaining ones aren’t what they used to be, none more than Weevil, who’s gone from ruthless gang leader to the equivalent of wacky sitcom neighbor in only a few months (seriously, making Weevil the janitor at Hearst was a low blow, especially after offering up the tantaloizing possibility that he might work with Keith). But “Veronica Mars” can and will succeed if it pushes the characters to grow, and if it becomes comfortable with somewhat redefining itself. You don’t go back; you go on to the next place, whatever that is.

“Studio 60″: Man Love

I think I should point out that I don’t hate “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” despite my previous observations of its flaws. It’s still one of the better shows on TV, despite the fact that the old Sorkin spark seems to have gone missing. These periodic posts about the show aren’t meant to disparage it, but to take a closer look at just where things started to go wrong, to pull it apart in the hopes of putting it back together.
“Studio 60″ does have its strengths, chief among them the interplay between Matt and Danny. Sorkin writes good dialogue because he understands how friends relate to each other and is gifted at creating a quicker, wittier, more coversationally nimble way of communicating than the fumbling half-sentences and vocalized pauses that most people use. Like the post-grads of Kicking and Screaming, Sorkin captures the way we wish we talked. This is nowhere clearer than in the endless banter between the men on Sorkin’s shows.
On “The West Wing,” Sorkin relied heavily on the interplay between Josh, Sam, and Toby, whose rapidly paced conversations lent the show a boys’ club air, as if these guys got really carried away at pretending one day and wound up running the country. (Even C.J., for all her intellect and skill, was forever the outsider, and not because she wasn’t smart, but because men on their own revel in the strong clique-ish vibe they naturally produce. It’s a long story.) But it was Sorkin’s first show, “Sports Night,” where he had the most success exploring the ups and downs of modern male friendship.
In the truest sense, Casey McCall and Dan Rydell were that show’s anchors, giving the stories an emotional center and resonance. Their relationship was the driving force for the show, whether it was dealing with interference from the corporate level, counseling each other about women, or acting as the protective older brothers for everyone else at the show. I could go on about the amazing ways these guys played off each other and dealt with their own faults and strengths with love and humor — the “hip-deep in pie” exchange at the end of “Dana and the Deep Blue Sea” is never less than moving — but the best example was the story arc in Season 2 where Dan struggled with depression and a personal breakdown. Dan and Casey’s strained relationship was the most powerful way to upset the balance of the show, to underscore just how high the stakes had gotten. When Dan begins his atonement by leading a seder and apologizing to Casey in “April Is the Cruelest Month,” the sense of healing is palpable.
So why bring all that up? Because “Studio 60″ is missing some serious man love. Matt’s position as head writer and Danny’s role as executive producer means they will inherently spend more time apart than any other male pairing in Sorkin’s history, and that’s bad news. They work at the same place, but they rarely work together. There are precious few opportunities for Matt and Danny to be around each other and riff back and forth on the palpable fun of just being themselves, and that’s going to take a toll on the show’s chemistry. Casey and Dan wrote together, and the Josh-Sam-Toby team were constantly in each other’s offices and feeding off the energy of the group, but Matt and Danny are by their nature separated for most of each episode of “Studio 60,” and that will only have negative effects for the show in the long run. Sorkin’s men need to be around each other, or else it just won’t work.

Sunday Recap

• The weekend at the movies:
“Anyway, Katy, clearly unhappy with the situation, rubs some charcoal on her face, dons a cowboy hat, and pulls a ‘Twelfth Night’ in order to win her mustang back by riding Flicka in the wild horse competition, which leads to an unexpected result: Katy is thrown from the horse, Flicka stomps her to death, and Luke Perry runs in off the set of 8 Seconds and shoots the equine to save the day. Actually, that last part was just in my head, but it would’ve offered a far more entertaining ending than the one we’re given, which involves the reappearance of that mountain lion, a 105 degree fever, and Tim McGraw trying his damndest to convince us he’s weeping.”
“Though his heart and head are in the right place, it’s hard to really connect with a film in which the empathy is divided among so many: The soldiers who fought and died, the politicians who used them, the families who found hope and encouragement in them, and the nation that mythologized them, all united by a powerfully ambivalent symbol that, as Eastwood has it, polishes over the truth of the real heroes.”
“Nolan has necessarily altered several aspects of Priest’s novel, notably confining the action to a specific time period instead of stretching it into the present day. But he retains the story’s heart, particularly it’s surreal flirtations with the border between illusions and actual magic. Yes, the film is built on deceptions, and yes, it features a series of interconnected twists, but like all good movies and magic tricks, it doesn’t lose any glory in a repeated performance or viewing, only gains it.”
“Coppola’s view of Marie Antoinette is historically debatable — other historians continue to take a hard line against her frivolity and lack of real understanding of the French people — but it’s a convincing portrait of a person in distress, thrown into a situation she can’t control and can never escape.”
• Down is up, black is white, and dogs and cats are now living together: I like The Sports Guy, and Aaron Sorkin forgets how to bring the funny.
• I act so all the time. So.
• A good piece about a great strip.
• Am I the only one that thinks Tia Carrere got much hotter in the interim between Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2? It’s like they hired a new actress altogether.
• Iceman is one murdering bastard.
• “Bend over, Abigail May!” Watch and enjoy:

I’ve Made My Stand, I’m A Top Gun Man

I’ve seen Top Gun a few too many times, but it wasn’t until a recent viewing on cable that I realized a powerful truth:
Iceman killed Goose.
It was Iceman’s jetwash that played hell with Maverick’s plane, causing it to spin out to sea. Yes, we could debate all day about the freak nature of the accident, including the F-14’s physics-defying canopy that stayed around long enough to crack Goose’s neck but somehow spared Mav’s life. But Iceman was the one flying selfishly enough to cut off Maverick and go for the kill shot instead of letting Maverick snag the easy victory, and it was Iceman’s sudden maneuvering that led to the accident. It was his selfishness that killed Goose, and instead of owning up to it or at least just letting it go, he kept rubbing it in Maverick’s face. Iceman was a douche, and he was the one who should ultimately be held responsible for Goose’s tragic, untimely death.
Seriously.

Review: The Prestige

A good book, a good movie:
Clickety-click.

I’ve Got All Five Senses And I Slept Last Night, That Puts Me Six Up On The Lot Of You

Because you know you’ll click it:
The Pajiba trade round-up.