Archive for December 2007
In reverse chronological order, starting with “Juno”:
Elvi and I caught the late show of “Juno” last night. I’ve read much praise of the movie, and rightly so. It’s a superb story of human emotion crafted with the right mix of comedy and a little pathos. I’ve also read much praise of first-time screenwriter and ex-stripper Diablo Cody, but I have to disagree in part with that assessment.
Cody’s dialogue and characters deserve all the praise, but the plot was fairly simple and predictable. The story holds no surprises, except perhaps in the relationship between Juno and her stepmother. What brings the movie to such a high plane is the acting. J.K. Simmons is brilliant in a supporting role, Michael Cera knows his befuddled teenagers, and Jason Bateman has that middle-aged guy trying to be cool down pat – it was, at times, like watching a new episode of “Arrested Development”, and that’s a good thing. My only quibble was with Jennifer Garner, who was wooden perhaps because she was trying to play Vannesa as cold, which was a mistake because that then betrays Juno’s actions at the end of the story. I’ll steer clear of details, but Juno wouldn’t do what she did with Vanessa as played.
Despite supporting performances she could lean on, “Trailer Park Boys” veteran Ellen Page as Juno puts this movie on her tiny shoulders and carries it across the finish line.
“Juno” reminded me a lot of “Little Miss Sunshine”, with its comic chops, well drawn characters, and, frankly, weak plot – but the plot doesn’t matter. You barely notice it, because the character studies draw you in. Ellen Page is so infectiously charismatic, you barely register anything else. I think I’ve said this before, but this movie is a testament to the power of acting. You’d think as writer, I’d push the writing, but this cast could take any piece of crap to a higher level.
(When Elvi asked me what I thought of the film upon exiting the Katy Mills mall, I said, “Ummm, I dunno.” I guess it takes me a while to percolate.)
“No Country for Old Men”:
What an oddly structured film – par for the course when it comes to the Coens. It reminds me of “Fargo” with interweaving stories and developments that stem from an initial crime and its loving vistas of American desolation. In both films, all of this falls into the jurisdiction of a small-town police chief – although with diametrically opposed outcomes.
“No Country for Old Men” doesn’t succeed as well as “Fargo” because it’s not as tidily integrated. More of the loose ends hang unresolved. Who exactly was the Stephen Root character? The assassin Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) exists for two purposes, structurally: to show Moss that he’s not safe in Mexico and to show that Chigurh is extra evil, even for an assassin. Wells also discovers the suitcase, but that discovery becomes pointless as he never recovers it. We don’t need to Wells to counterpoint Chigurh and the element of danger in Mexico easily could have been handled some other way.
Some critics have complained about the plot, but it holds together. A few have criticized the movie for being slow, but I prefer to call it languorous. Were it not for seeing “Juno” a half-hour later as part of an impromptu double bill, “No Country for Old Men” would have been one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Hmmm – that makes no sense; it still is.
“Bender’s Big Score”:
Surprisingly, an extraordinarily convoluted plot of time travel does not detract from the movie. What does detract are the lame jokes, unbelievable alien scammers, and a desire to cram in every “Futurama” bit character (on Earth, except, I think, Calculon and Flexo). The lack of good, old fashioned humour is shocking – didn’t these writers have two years of jokes pent up inside them? And they came up with this? Where’s the memorable dialogue? I can only remember a single line two days later: “I’ve managed to save the universe and forty percent of your rectum.” And that doesn’t even make sense, because the operation in question took place on the outside of Fry’s butt.
I hate to say it, but it was simply dull. Let’s hope for better in the world of tomorrow.
My mom got the kids a Wii which we’ve been putting through paces for the last three days. My shoulder aches, my bicep twinges, my forearm cramps, and my wrist is numb. Good times…. I think the kids have played, too.
So far, we have the sports games, Boogie, Super Mario Galaxy, and Lego Star Wars. he sports are still the best. I have to keep an eye open for a more mature games. Is there a WWII FPS sort of game?
My mom also got me “Bender’s Big Score”. I had a hunch, so I deliberately avoided it until now. I’ll report after I watch it. I’ve read mixed reviews.
During the expected layover in Philadelphia (not my extended, self-imposed one), Child Three decided to draw. The result was no doubt meant to pique the locals:
I had what was called a cheesesteak but sized like half of one. Just because the half was cut in half into quarters does not make it a whole. It came with 15 fries and a diet Pepsi. After tax and tip: slightly above $13.
The place I ate at was fairly deep into the B concourse. I’d hung out at gate C22, our original Houston gate, all day until I went in search for food.
I trekked back to C26 for my 7:45 p.m. flight and was not there more than 15 minutes the agent announced that our flight would be delayed until 8:25 – and that it was overbooked and the airline was looking to reward volunteers with a flight voucher should they give up their seat. Five minutes after that, they announced a gate change to B3.
So here I sit at B3, and the agent here just repeated the call for volunteers, but this time she announced that the next confirmed seat to Houston is tomorrow night at 7:45 p.m. – but that US Air would provide a hotel voucher and meal vouchers for tomorrow.
Nobody is lining up. They need to sweeten the pot. (No, not for me – I’m getting out of here, free wireless or not.)
I’m at Gate C22 of the Philadelphia airport. We drove to Albany last night, slept at a hotel, and left our van there as we caught a shuttle to the airport at 5:45 a.m. We fly here, and discovered that US Air was offering round-trip vouchers to volunteers who surrender their seats. I sent Elvi and kids ahead and took the voucher. I’m on a flight that leaves at 7:45 p.m. today.
I did not tell the ticket agent, “On the whole, I’d rather stay in Philadelphia,” but I should have. How often will that opportunity, fraught with comedic potential, come again?
US Air overbooked the flight, but ultimately that’s not why I was not on it. It was a weight issue. The passengers had too many bags. In addition to the free ticket, US Air provided a $10 meal voucher. In airport terms, that’s a slice of pizza.
– Not that it implies causation or even correlation, but very single person I’ve seen in a Santa hat at airports today has not looked like the sharpest point on the rack.
– This stuttering laptop is driving me *@^#$*(@# crazy. No obvious cause shows up in the Task Manager, neither in CPU or memory usage. It’s not the network card, because it happens with the card removed. Virus scans show nothing. The only straw left for me to grasp is a horribly fragmented hard drive.
– A very cute flight attendant just walked by, talking to another flight attendant: …”You’ve never been to Montreal? Really, an above average number of really attractive people.”
– Free wireless in airports is awesome.
– A man came up to me to ask me about WiFi because he just bought a computer in the airport. He peppered me with questions, which I was able to answer. Only after he left did it occur to me that that might have been the perfect scam, because he had my complete attention. Fortunately, my carry-on bag is still on the floor beside me.
– When US Air offers return-trip vouchers, it’s for travel within the 48 contiguous American states only.
We’re off to Houston at the end of the week, where we’ll meet with old friends, new family, and this old fossil at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Guess which I’m most excited about?
I used to lug real dinosaur skulls and mammoth tusks around the lab, and I’ve sorted through the remains of Native Americans but Lucy is a whole other bag of bones.
As Elvi drove us in Minivan One to her aunt’s place for our postponed Christmas-y dinner Monday night, she and I chatted with Children Two and Three while Child One read in the back seat.
I don’t remember what we were discussing, but Child Two mentioned that when she’s in a car, she chooses a spot and makes it jump. Child Three said he did, too. Elvi was confused, but without ever having discussed this before with the kids, I knew exactly what they were talking about.
I explained that you can choose a speck of dirt on the car window and, using parallax, you can make it “jump” over bushes, cars, fences, or any feature of the scenery you’re driving by. I did it too when I was younger. I was right.
I welcomed my darling children to the world of mild OCD. I didn’t tell them I sometimes softly click my teeth between streetlights – although, curiously, only when I’m a passenger, never when I drive. There’s time enough for them to adopt that habit by themselves.
Elvi was flabbergasted that the three of us had this game in common. It has to be a function of neurology and not nurture, because all three of us developed the habit independently.
The wife took some photos this morning while doing carpool. I think the Children Two and Three’s school is the only one open on the Island of Montreal.
Meanwhile, the wife’s aunt’s Christmas dinner has been pushed to tonight, meaning there’s a good chance I won’t make Alex’s industry schmoozefest tonight.
Bonus photo of a gingerbread-cookie mock-up of my dog:
We have about a foot of snow so far today, and expect another half foot to come. My hockey players played their first game of a the NDG-hosted tournament this morning and the drive home at 11:00 was certainly hairier than the drive in two-plus hours earlier as visibility had dropped to about a long block.
We lost 5-1 to Greenfeld Park, more specifically to #66 on that team, who scored four goals. Child Three in net let in two goals in the first period, one of which he definitely should have stopped, but played well in the latter two periods despite the score.
Yesterday was another hockey day, as I was coach for an all-star team of western Montreal players against eastern Montreal. We hopped out to a 2-0 lead but lost 8-2. Despite the loss, the goalie from our NDG team won an award for best goalie and a skater won for hardest shot (30 mph or so) during the skills competition before the game.
There was another skills competition yesterday at the tournament and our representative won fastest skater there.
We were supposed to go do Christmas-y things at my wife’s aunt’s house in the West Island (we’ll be out of town during the actual holiday), but the weather has kept us home. We might get out there tomorrow.
I’m writing a biographical screenplay about a fascinating author, a true giant in his field. He had his share of reversals in his life but frankly overcame them rather handily.
He had a love affair with an older married woman, but he broke it off. He argued with his publisher over the editing of his second book and severed the relationship – but quickly found another publisher to take him on and succeeded there without a hitch. Everybody in his hometown hated hi – but he quite happily lived far away.
This writer had some fascinating issues that manifested in his actions, but he took no real risks. If he hadn’t been published, he had gainful employment to fall back on. He wasn’t a tortured soul, just a capable one.
This story is there, waiting to be told, but it’s not going to be easy. It may be the hardest task I’ve bitten into yet.
“Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem….”
Here’s more, from Regret the Error, a blog devoted to entertaining newspaper and magazine corrections. The site presents Crunks ’07, its list of top corrections over the past year. Don’t miss the link to the same site’s 2007 Plagiarism/Fabrication Round-Up.
The Get It in Writing Blog offers us a similar selection of unfortunate juxtapositions in online media and outdoor advertising. I love the lickable dumpster.
The Gazette has an article on union reps who addressed the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on
xenophobia accomodation of foreign cultures in Quebec. One union president, representing 150,000 workers, suggested Quebec needs a fundamental law that sets public institutions, laws, and governments are neutral with respect to religion. She told the commission that such a law would mean that employers and schools would not have to permit Muslim attire. I wonder how she and her members would react when they realized that such a law would raise the question of the official government holidays of Christmas and Easter (the government long ago changed Fete St. Jean Baptiste to the Fete Nationale…). To its credit, the anti-English Societe St. Jean Baptiste is against the idea.