Sunday, June 01, 2014


I saw some kids today holding signs for a car wash.  The signs' message:  "Help send us to Bible Camp."  Strongly fighting the urge to pull over and give them some money with which to help save them FROM Bible Camp, I instead reflected on the institutional child abuse that they are being subjected to.  Children are not born Christian.  They are indoctrinated at an age where they have little choice.  These children's plight reminded me of a couple of great documentaries:


"Tell people there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure." -- George Carlin

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Top 10 Movies of 2013

Before I get started, just wanted to say how sad I was to hear about Philip Seymour Hoffman passing away today.  A great actor.  Probably my faves of his would be Magnolia, The Master and Capote.

Finally, here they are ... my top 10 movies of 2013:

(10) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Though this is ranked lower in my list than the first Hunger Games was in last year's list, this is the better movie.  Darker, and with a more tangible sense of the loss of life, it's a worthy sequel.  I particularly liked Jena Malone and, sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

(9) Now You See Me - This one surprised me a bit.  The commercials for the movie were interesting enough, but the movie was a bit deeper than they let on and the storyline more clever.  About a group of magicians recruited for a project by a mystery benefactor for a goal that is not as obvious as it may seem.  A great cast which includes Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher.

(8) Star Trek: Into Darkness - I think fans and critics are torn on this one.  Either giving director JJ Abrams credit for putting a twist on what is generally considered the best Star Trek movie (Wrath of Khan), or criticizing them for unoriginality for the same reason.  I believe it works because of who they chose in the role in question ... Benedict Cumberbatch.  Both charming and threatening, he is the heart of the movie.  I also liked how the relationship between Kirk and Spock was advanced.

(7) Ender's Game - I didn't want to like this.  I wasn't even sure I was going to go because of my deep disagreement with Orson Scott Card's personal politics.  But ultimately, the book and the movie stand on their own.  And Card had no involvement in the movie.  The filmmakers do a great job of distilling the main points of the book into a more manageable time frame.  And the young leads:  Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Abigail Breslin are well-cast.  The  training battle scenes are how I envisioned them when reading the book.

(6) The World's End - Brought to you by the makers and cast of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this movie is funny, irreverent, yet poignant.  Pub crawl, end of the world sci-fi, social commentary, and nostalgia trip all rolled up in one. Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman are both great.

(5) Sound City - Former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl made this documentary about the famous LA studio that produced many of the classic rock albums of the 70's, 80's, and 90's including Nirvana's Nevermind and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.  I wrote a bit more about it here.

(4) American Hustle - I just saw the movie this last weekend.  Very funny and evocative of many Scorcese movies, to whom director David O. Russell is often compared.  The acting is universally outstanding ... probably the best ensemble acting of any of the movies in this list.  I especially liked Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence.  She is a fireplug and hilarious.

(3) 12 Years a Slave - A hard watch.  Much like Schindler's List, this movie is not intended as a comfortable watch.  There are going to be moments that have you squirming.  Moments that have you convinced that the human race is not worth salvaging.  But also with moments of unlikely beauty.  Director Steve McQueen, and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, Serenity), Michael Fassbender  and Lupita Nyong'o are all deservedly Oscar worthy.

(2) Rush - I wrote fairly extensively about this here.  A movie about racing, but not really.  Rush is more about the things that motivate us in our lives.  Sometimes they are external, but often they are internal.

(1) The Wolf of Wall Street - 5 minutes into The Wolf of Wall Street and several older couples exited the theater.  Perhaps it was the frequent f-bombs.  Maybe it was the snorting of cocaine off of naked breasts.  But they apparently had enough.  Me and the 85 year old lady sitting next to me who howled with laughter throughout the movie couldn't get enough.  Like the best of Scorcese movies, you revel in the debauchery and almost root for the bad guys, yet you never lose sight of the fact that these are morality plays.  The movie is a metaphor for the financial gluttony of the 80's (and now) and the belief that there will be no negative consequences for wantonly fucking people over and elevating the accumulation of money above all else.  DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have never been better, and Australian newcomer Margot Robbie is fantastic.

Honorable Mention: A few indies:  Upstream Color, Prince Avalanche, Drinking Buddies, Side Effects and The Europa Report.  Some big budget films that were good ... just not quite good enough:  The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Gravity and Pacific Rim.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Top 10 movies of 2012 ... yes, I said 2012

I just wouldn't feel right presenting my top 10 of 2013 if I didn't put a tidy bow on 2012, which because of laziness, I never got around to.

(10) The Hunger Games - I thought this was faithful enough to the book, while understanding that you can't put everything on the page on the screen.  The best thing about the movie is the main character, wonderfully played by Jennifer Lawrence.  Woody Harrelson is also very good.

(9)  The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey- Not as good a movie as any of the LOTR movies, but it is of admittedly lighter material. Martin Freeman is well-cast as Bilbo and I think Peter Jackson does a good job of capturing the humor and roughness of the dwarves.  We saw this in the high-frame-rate 3D and it was an interesting experience ... almost hyper-real.

(8) The Dark Knight Rises - The previous film, with Heath Ledger, is probably better.  But this one, has plenty of acting talent, most notably Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy.  I think it wraps up the trilogy well.  The plot twist is well-done.

(7) Looper - I'm a sucker for time-travel movies because of the way they twist your noodle.  Causality, timelines, the nature of existence ... all good stuff.  This stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (also of Dark Knight) and Bruce Willis and the always stunning Emily Blunt.

(6) Prometheus - A flawed movie.  But also beautifully shot.  It succeeds when director Ridley Scott lets the scenes breathe and show off the vastness and loneliness of space.  A good cast highlighted by Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Michael Fassbender as a truly creepy robot.  I will forgive more in sci-fi movies because they frequently delve into bigger themes.  In this case - where do we come from and why are we here.

(5) The Avengers - Director Joss Whedon makes a movie that works because of his trademark dialogue and humor and a plot that allows each of the characters to develop.  Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk is an improvement over the previous actors who have been in that role but the true standout is Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  Because of his wonderful British charm, you can't help but root for the villain.

(4) Skyfall - This is the best of the new Bond films.  An origins movie of sorts, delving into a bit of 007's past.  The cinematography by my all-time fave Roger Deakins is incredible.  Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) deftly weaves nods to the past Bond films into a new narrative that sets up well for future films.

(3) Argo - A deserving Best Picture Oscar for a an entertaining movie.  Ben Affleck continues to show that he will be a director worth following in the future.

(2) Lincoln - If there is a better actor working today than Daniel Day-Lewis, I'd be amazed.  He so completely immerses himself in every role that you can't imagine another person playing that role.  I was most impressed with the script of this movie and how it made the minutiae of political wheeling and dealing into suspenseful (and funny) theater.

(1) Life of Pi -Well, you can color me surprised that my favorite movie of the year ended up being one that is largely about the nature of faith.  Why that works for me is because it was visually stunning and ultimately it is about any kind of faith ... not necessarily religious.

Honorable Mention: Wreck-It Ralph,  Bobby Fischer Against the World, Frankenweenie, The Muppets, The Master, Room 237, Lorax

My 2013 list will be up by Wednesday.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Film is incredibly democratic and accessible, it’s probably the best option if you actually want to change the world, not just re-decorate it.


 Just finishing up my watching of some of '13's best flicks.  I'll be posting my top 10 in the next few days.  Since I've been lazy for awhile now, I might even give a best of '12 list since I skipped right over it before.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Political Song of the Day ... Come Join Us by Bad Religion

Come Join Us by Bad Religion

so you say you gotta know why the world goes 'round
and you can't find the truth in the things you've found
and you're scared shitless 'cuz evil abounds
come and join us

well I heard you were looking for a place to fit in
full of adherent people with the same objective
a family to cling to and call brethren
come and join us

all we want to do is change your mind
all you need to do is close your eyes

so come and join us
come and join us
come and join us

don't you see the trouble that most people are in
and that they just want you for their own advantage
but I swear to you we're different from all of them
come and join us
I can tell you are lookin' for a way to live
where truth is determined by consensus
full of codified arbitrary directives

come and join us
all we want to have is your small mind
turn it into one of our own kind
you can go through life adrift and alone
desperate, desolate, on your own
but we're lookin' for a few more stalwart clones

so come and join us
come and join us
come and join us

we've got spite and dedication as a vehement brew
the world hates us, well we hate them too
but you're exempted of course if you
come and join us
independent, self-contented, revolutionary
intellectual, brave, strong and scholarly
if you're not one of them, you're us already so

come and join us

I like almost all Bad Religion songs, but especially those that touch on religion.