Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Happy Holidays' ... there, I said it

I swore to myself that I wasn't going to talk about Christmas on my blog this year. I respect the fact that it means different stuff to different people. And that's OK. What I don't appreciate is the fact that all people don't have such an understanding attitude. Exhibit 1: one of my Facebook "friends":

"Please don't tell me 'Happy Holidays'. There is only on reason that I celebrate right now and it is because of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. 'Merry Christmas' is appropriate:)"

Hey, I celebrate Christmas because I like seeing family and friends, having good food and maybe just a little drink. I enjoy seeing the magic of Christmas in my son's eyes. And 99% of that magic has nothing to do with Christ, even though my son is currently a Christian. But if your enjoyment of Christmas relies on others kissing your sanctimonious ass, then you can kindly kiss my heathen ass.

It's not about being politically correct for me. I don't care if you say 'Merry Christmas' to me. I won't be offended. I've been known to say it myself on occasion. But don't tell me what to say or to think.

I'm beginning to really hate Facebook and if this continues, I will hate 90% of my friends and my family. But, then, maybe they are really not my friends. The people that I know really care about me and that I respect in turn would never post something like that. Maybe my friends list just needs some housecleaning.

Some other atheist takes on Christmas:

Richard Dawkins on Christmas

Christopher Hitchens on Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Political Song of the Day - Annihilation by A Perfect Circle

From dehumanization to arms production,
For the benefit of the nation or its destruction
Power is power, the law of the land,
Those living for death will die by their own hand,

Life's no ordeal if you come to terms,
Reject the system dictating the norms

From dehumanization to arms production,
To hasten the nation towards its destruction
Power is power, the law of the land,
Those living for death will die by their own hand,

Life's no ordeal if you come to terms,
Reject the system dictating the norms

From dehumanization to arms production,
To hasten the nation towards its destruction
Power is power, the law of the land,
Those living for death will die by their own hand,

Life's no ordeal if you come to terms,
Reject the system dictating the norms

From dehumanization to arms production,
To hasten this nation towards its destruction,

It's your choice, your choice, your choice, your choice,
Peace or annihilation

Song originally by the American hardcore band Crucifix. Movie clip is Lord of War.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Movie Review: 127 Hours

I saw a great movie this last weekend ... sure to be one of my year end Top 10, Danny Boyle's 127 Hours about adventurer Aron Ralston. For those that don't know, Ralston is the climber/hiker that found himself between a "rock and a hard place", literally, a few years ago and made a decision, to save his life, that most of us could not do in a million years.  Hiking in a remote canyon in Utah, he becomes trapped in a crevice with his arm pinned between a large rock and the side of the crevice.  "127 hours" is the amount of time that he spent in that position with minimal food and water and no warm clothing.  Resourceful and with a sense of theatricality, he had both a still camera and video camera to document his trials.

127 Hours appealed to me because of the aesthetic of the subject of the film, much like one of my favorite films, Into The Wild. That aesthetic of the beauty and harshness of nature without sentimentality.

The comparisons to Into the Wild are inevitable and appropriate. Both Ralston and Chris McCandless (of Into the Wild) were intelligent loners who escaped civilization willingly even though they would have been successful in the business world. They both took a perverse pride in their independence. On many occasions, each would disappear without even telling their family or friends. During their last moments of despair, they came to appreciate others more than they had before. That crisis-caused clarity also revealed to them that their predicaments were culminations of the paths that they had set for themselves.

Ralston is played by the great young actor, James Franco. Franco's acting is largely solo with one encounter with some attractive female hikers.  A lesser actor could make this film unwatchable but Franco manages to add levity and depth to a performance that will be compared to Hank's in Castaway or maybe this year's Buried with Ryan Reynolds. I haven't seen Buried yet, but I think Franco is much better than Hanks, at least for these two performances.

The scenery is gorgeous, shot on location in Utah. Boyle, as is his wont, is a bit unconventional and used two different cinematographers.  The scenes in the crevice have even more realism to them largely because Franco and Boyle were privy to Ralston's own video diary.  Prior to them viewing it, only family and friends had seen the video and, to the best of my knowledge, the Ralston family has no intention of ever releasing it.

Like a lot of Boyle's movies, most notably Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours sometimes plays like a music video with flashy editing and jumpin' music. 127 shares Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman with Slumdog, and he does a great job in this movie as well.

Now, if you don't know the climax of the real-life story and have not seen the movie yet, then stop reading as I'm going to discuss the "money" scene, as it were.


In real life, Ralston, to save his own life, cut off his own arm. How to portray that on screen had to have been an interesting problem for Boyle, but I believe he did it perfectly. It has both technical fidelity and emotional fidelity. Considering the graphic nature of the dismemberment, you would think it was gratuitous. But, because you are so invested in the story and Ralston's fight for life, you not only want to see him do it, you NEED to see him do it. That's a a remarkable achievement by Boyle and Franco.

127 Hours is not a depressing movie, despite what has to happen. It is funny, sad, and uplifting without being a Hollywood "happy ending" cliché. I love the effect that the most successful foreign directors have had on the film industry (Boyle, Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, etc.). Grade: A

Also, check out Reel Fanatic's great review and discussion: Review: Danny Boyle's exhilarating "127 Hours"

Thursday, December 09, 2010

In Her Defense, I'm Sure the Moose Had It Coming

By screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing) at the Huffington Post

"Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather chair or eaten meat, save your condemnation."

You're right, Sarah, we'll all just go fuck ourselves now.

The snotty quote was posted by Sarah Palin on (like all the great frontier women who've come before her) her Facebook page to respond to the criticism she knew and hoped would be coming after she hunted, killed and carved up a Caribou during a segment of her truly awful reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska, broadcast on The-Now-Hilariously-Titled Learning Channel.

I eat meat, chicken and fish, have shoes and furniture made of leather, and PETA is not ever going to put me on the cover of their brochure and for these reasons Palin thinks it's hypocritical of me to find what she did heart-stoppingly disgusting. I don't think it is, and here's why.

Like 95% of the people I know, I don't have a visceral (look it up) problem eating meat or wearing a belt. But like absolutely everybody I know, I don't relish the idea of torturing animals. I don't enjoy the fact that they're dead and I certainly don't want to volunteer to be the one to kill them and if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn't do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart.

I'm able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don't watch snuff films and you make them. You weren't killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I've tried and tried and for the life of me, I can't make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I'm able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.

So I don't think I will save my condemnation, you phony pioneer girl. (I'm in film and television, Cruella, and there was an insert close-up of your manicure while you were roughing it in God's country. I know exactly how many feet off camera your hair and make-up trailer was.)

And you didn't just do it for fun and you didn't just do it for money. That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain. You knew there'd be a protest from PETA and you knew that would be an opportunity to hate on some people, you witless bully. What a uniter you'd be -- bringing the right together with the far right.

(Let me be the first to say that I abused cocaine and was arrested for it in April 2001. I want to be the first to say it so that when Palin's Army of Arrogant Assholes, bereft of any reasonable rebuttal, write it all over the internet tomorrow they will at best be the second.)

I eat meat, there are leather chairs in my office, Sarah Palin is deranged and The Learning Channel should be ashamed of itself.

The language is a bit harsh, but so is the offense. I'd go even further and say that the comparison to Michael Vick is unfair ... to Michael Vick! Michael Vick served his time and by all accounts is remorseful, humbled and genuinely apologetic. Sarah Palin will never be remorseful, humble or apologetic about anything. And instead of going to jail (or at least back to obscurity), she makes us serve time by having to witness her tired and disingenuous act daily.

"Cruelty and fear shake hands together." -- Honore de Balzac

"One of the ill effects of cruelty is that it makes the bystanders cruel." -- Thomas Fowell Buxton