Category Archives: movies

100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know

I’ve been thinking about doing this since I first saw it at Byzantium’s Shores a few weeks ago. It’s a list of 100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know. I will reproduce the list as follows: ++ for quotes I not only recognize but can cite by the character who says it (if it’s a line of dialogue), and + for quotes I recognize by source but can’t recall who said it. All others will be left as is. You can play along, then check the source attributions.

1. “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.”

+ 2. “Three rings for the Elven kings under the sky, seven for the Dwarf lords in their halls of stone, nine for the mortal men doomed to die, one for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie. One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring the bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.”

++ 3. “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

++ 4. “Spock. This child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth. Now, what do you suggest we do……spank it?”

++ 5. “With great power there must also come — great responsibility.”

6. “If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you oughtta go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.”

7. “Five card stud, nothing wild. And the sky’s the limit”

8. “If you think that by threatening me you can get me to do what you want… Well, that’s where you’re right. But – and I am only saying that because I care – there’s a lot of decaffeinated brands on the market that are just as tasty as the real thing.”

9. “We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog.”

10. “If I’m not back in five minutes, just wait longer.”

11. “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”


13. “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

14. “Bill, strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”

+ 15. “Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.”

16. “Didja ever look at a dollar bill, man? There’s some spooky s*** goin’ on there. And it’s green too.”

17. “Alright, alright alright.”

18. “Heya, Tom’, it’s Bob from the office down the hall. Good to see you, buddy; how’ve you been? Things have been alright for me except that I’m a zombie now. I really wish you’d let us in.”

19. “Never argue with the data.”

20. “Oooh right, it’s actually quite a funny story once you get past all the tragic elements and the over-riding sense of doom.”

21. “Fantastic!”

22. “I must not fear. / Fear is the mind-killer. / Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. / I will face my fear. / I will permit it to pass over me and through me. / And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see
its path. / Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. / Only I will remain.”

23. “This is the way society functions. Aren’t you a part of society?”

24. “Okay. You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we’re not back by dawn… call the president.”

25. “No matter where you go, there you are. ”

++ 26. “Do you know of the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space.”

+ 27. “Ray, if someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES!”

28. “Greetings, programs!”

29. “I guess you picked the wrong g**-damned rec room to break into, didn’t you?!”

++ 30. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

++ 31. “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no substitute for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

++ 32. “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

33. “It’s a moral imperative.”

++ 34. “Talk with your mouth full / bite the hand that feeds you / bite off more than you can chew / dare to be stupid”

+ 35. “Well, let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. Based on this morning’s reading, it would be a Twinkie thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”

36. “This episode was BADLY written!”

37. “Worst. Episode. Ever.”

+ 38. “Goonies never say die.”

+ 39. “Nothing shocks me–I’m a scientist.”

40. “Bright light! Bright light!”

41. “The Road goes ever on and on/Down from the door where it began/Now far ahead the Road has gone/And I must follow, if I can/Pursuing it with eager feet/Until it joins some larger way/Where many paths and errands meet/And whither then? I cannot say.”

++ 42. “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

43. “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

++ 44. “Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?”

++ 45. “Don’t call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight blob of grease!”

++ 46. “I’d just as soon kiss a wookiee!”

47. “But one thing’s sure: Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible.”

48. “I know kung fu.”

49. “This is your receipt for your husband… and this is my receipt for your receipt.”

50. “Your soul-suckin’ days are over, amigo!”

51. “I don’t believe there’s a power in the ‘verse that can stop Kaylee from being cheerful. Sometimes you just wanna duct-tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.”

52. “Would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?”

+ 53. “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

54. “There is no Earthly way of knowing… which direction we are going. There is no knowing where we’re rowing, or which way the river’s flowing. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is a hurricane a’blowing? Not a speck of light is showing so the danger much be growing. Are the fires of hell a’glowing? Is the grisley reaper mowing? YES! The danger must be growing for the rowers keep on rowing AND THEY’RE CERTAINLY NOT SHOWING ANY SIGNS THAT THEY ARE SLOWING!!”

55. “Time…to die.”

56. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”

57. “Check, please.”

58. “So say we all.”

++ 59. “After very careful consideration, sir, I’ve come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks.”

60. “I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”

++ 61. “No matter what you hear in there, no matter how cr
uelly I beg you, no matter how terribly I may scream, do not open this door or you will undo everything I have worked for.”

62. “Ahh, a bear in his natural habitat: a Studebaker.”

++ 63. “He’s dead, Jim.”

++ 64. “Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint – it’s delicious!”

++ 65. “Bring out your dead.”

++ 66. “My name is Inigo Montoyo. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”

67. “Why a duck? Why-a no chicken?”

++ 68. “Redrum.”

++ 69. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

++ 70. “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

71. “Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming.”

72. “Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.”

++ 73. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

+ 74. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

++ 75. “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”

++ 76. “You maniacs! You blew it up! Oh, damn you! Damn you all to hell!”

++ 77. “Klaatu barada nikto.”

78. “Monsters from the Id.”

++ 79. “ET phone home.”

80. “What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

81. “We thought you was a toad!” – Delmar, O Brother Where Art Thou?

++ 82. “Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot!”

+ 83. “You don’t have to be a gun.”

++ 84. “Danger Will Robinson! Danger!”

+ 85. “Yeah, well. The Dude abides.”

86. “All things serve the beam.”

87. “You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause!”

88. “Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

+ 89. “And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…”

90. “Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.”

91. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”

92. “Gimme some sugar, baby.”

93. “Well hello Mister Fancypants. Well, I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things, right now: Jack and sh*t… and Jack left town.”

++ 94. “Kneel before Zod.”

95. “Shall we play a game?”

96. “Daddy would have gotten us Uzis.”

+ 97. “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” “Hit it!”

++ 98. “Make it so” / “Engage”

99. “Ya Ta!”

100. “End Of Line”

I really need to see the movies referred to in #73 and #85. I’ve seen clips, so I could figure out the quotes.

So do I get booted from geekdom?

MOVIE REVIEW: It's Complicated

I am fascinated how much certain people loathed this movie, sight unseen. Back on Christmas Day, Ken Levine (cited recently in this blog for his sagacity re: Up in The Air) listed several well-known bad movies he’d see before he’d see It’s Complicated, including HOWARD THE DUCK, CATWOMAN, and STAYING ALIVE. I’ve seen that same antipathy elsewhere. what is it about this Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin rom-com that has engendered such vitriol without actually being viewed?

My wife for one was wary about seeing it because of the mixed reviews (57% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), but a couple weekends ago, we went to see it and enjoyed it. Now, I’m not saying it’s high art or that it’s not pretty lightweight; also, it was too long by about 15 minutes with one too many subplots. But our expectations were so dampened that it turned out to be more than a passable experience.

Streep and Baldwin had chemistry that made the fairly absurd scenario almost believable. The real surprise was John Krasinski as the fiance of one of the daughters of the Streep and Baldwin characters; he was not just another variation of Jim on the NBC sitcom The Office, which his characters in movies usually feel like. And the scene near the end with Baldwin, Streep and Steve Martin did make me laugh. Indeed, we chuckled throughout the movie,. though not constantly. There’s also a poignant scene earlier with Streep that I could definitely relate to.

There were some problems. One, not the movie’s fault but the trailer’s, is that Streep’s very best line in some dialogue with some friends appears in the trailer and so when actually delivered in the movie is not as funny as it might have been. Stoned adults are far less funny this century than last. The trophy wife of the Baldwin character (Lake Bell) seemed unnecessarily unsympathetic. And the three adult children of the Streep/Baldwin marriage were rather pathetic.

So, partly because I’ve had my own complicated relationships, I deem it one of your basic 2 1/2 out of 4 stars, B- movie. We both enjoyed it enough to recommend it, despite its flaws.

So Now The Oscar Season Begins

Being a movie fan, I try to see as many of the nominated films as possible before Oscar night, which this year is back in the month of March, where it belongs. March 7, to be precise, which happens to be my birthday.

I am shocked, really, that, in what I consider a paucity of movie viewing on my part, I managed to see six of the ten nominees for Best Picture, and at the cinema:


*“The Blind Side”
*“District 9″
*“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
*“A Serious Man”
*“Up in the Air”
Of course, I haven’t seen the behemoth that is Avatar yet, and I was accused of losing my geek cred this week. I didn’t know I HAD geek cred; in any case, I’ll probably see it in the next four weeks. Precious I actually had a chance to see, but passed, in favor of The Blind Side; I’ll still try to see it. But the two war movies will be harder to come by.
I’m really curious how the instant runoff voting will affect this race. A lot of early backlash against Avatar.

Best Direction
“Avatar” — James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” — Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” — Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Lee Daniels
*Up in the Air” — Jason Reitman
If there had only been five nominations for Best Picture, would these have been the five? We’ll never know, but, based on the other nominations, I tend to think so.
Right now, I’m guessing The Hurt Locker for both Best Pic and Director. Bigelow vs. ex-husband Cameron? A Hollywood dream.

Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
*George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
*Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”
Crazy Heart just started playing here, so I can see that, but Invictus is gone. Will it be available on DVD this month? Doubtful.

Actress in a Leading Role
*Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
*Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
*Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”
I had to ask about The Last Station, which I totally missed hearing about. Turns out, it won’t make it to Albany’s Spectrum Theatre until February 26. Still have a chance.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
Just wasn’t up for seeing The Lovely Bones. But The Messenger is playing currently.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
*Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
*Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Nine is leaving Thursday; wanted to see for Cruz and Sophia Loren, but ain’t gonna happen soon.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
*“District 9” — Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
*“An Education” — Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” — Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
*“Up in the Air” — Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Totally forgot about In The Loop. Did that play here?

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The Hurt Locker” — Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” — Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” — Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
*“A Serious Man” — Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
*“Up” — Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Love the fact that the animated story got a nod.

Animated Feature Film
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
*“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”
Logic would suggest Up should win here and lose in the Best Picture. But it could theoretically get shut out of both.

Art Direction
“Avatar” — Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” — Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
“Nine” — Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes” — Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria” — Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray
I’m less concerned about seeing the movies for the techie awards; a good thing, too.

“Avatar” — Mauro Fiore
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” — Bruno Delbonnel
“The Hurt Locker” — Barry Ackroyd
“Inglourious Basterds” — Robert Richardson
“The White Ribbon” — Christian Berger

Costume Design
“Bright Star” — Janet Patterson
“Coco before Chanel” — Catherine Leterrier
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” — Monique Prudhomme
“Nine” — Colleen Atwood
“The Young Victoria” — Sandy Powell

Documentary (Feature)
“Burma VJ”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc.”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
“Which Way Home”
Will the popular Food, Inc. win, or will the Academy work hard to avoid the popular, as they’ve done in the past? My wife DID see Food, Inc. and recommends it.

Documentary (Short Subject)
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
“Music by Prudence”
“Rabbit à la Berlin”

Film Editing
“Avatar” — Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
*“District 9” — Julian Clarke
“The Hurt Locker” — Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
“Inglourious Basterds” — Sally Menke
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Joe Klotz

Foreign Language Film
“Ajami” — Israel
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos” — Argentina
“The Milk of Sorrow” — Peru
“Un Prophète” — France
“The White Ribbon” — Germany
The White Ribbon comes to Albany February 19.

“Il Divo” — Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek” — Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow

The Young Victoria” — Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Music (Original Score)
“Avatar” — James Horner
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” — Alexandre Desplat
“The Hurt Locker” — Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
“Sherlock Holmes” — Hans Zimmer
*“Up” — Michael Giacchino

Music (Original Song)
*“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
*“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36” Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Of the two, I’d pick Almost There; more anthemic.

Short Film (Animated)
“French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
“Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
“A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park

Short Film (Live Action)
“The Door” — Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
“Instead of Abracadabra” — Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
“Kavi” — Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish” — Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants” — Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Sound Editing
“Avatar” — Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
“The Hurt Locker” — Paul N.J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds” — Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek” — Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
*“Up” — Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Sound Mixing
“Avatar” — Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker” — Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
“Inglourious Basterds” — Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
“Star Trek” — Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” — Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
Thank goodness Transformers was nominated for SOMETHING, he smirked.

Visual Effects
“Avatar” — Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
*“District 9” — Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
“Star Trek” — Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

So, the realistic goal is to see Avatar, Crazy Heart, and when it comes out, The Last Station by March 7. Maybe The Messenger, Precious (if it’s around) and anything I can find out on DVD.


January Rambling

Busy month coming. Black History Month at church, and I’m doing two adult ed sessions. One will be helping to hone my presentation at the Underground Railroad Conference in Troy, NY at the end of the month.
The one weekend I won’t be doing BHM stuff, I’ll probably be here.
Finally gave blood on January 18. I was scheduled to donate two or three times before that, but just didn’t feel up to it. The four months between donations is the longest I’ve gone since I had to pass for a year when I got rabies shots. The weird thing is that twice in a row, I got reminder cards about my donation six to eight days AFTER I was scheduled to donate; unhelpful AND a waste of money.
I was in the home office. There was this thin book that was falling off the shelf. Turned out to be The Connoisseur’s Guide to the Contemporary Horror Film by the late Chas Balun, an item I hadn’t thought about in years. When I was working at this comic book store called FantaCo, we sold many, many copies of the item. I went over to Steve Bissette’s site to let him know about this, and wouldn’t you know, but that he had just written about Chas and that very booklet! How odd.
ABC-TV is plugging this new show called The Deep End, about some young lawyers. The voiceover says, “From the network that brought you Grey’s Anatomy”, as though network affiliation is a reason to watch the show. Yet it DOES remind me of Grey’s in that there’s a guy under water; Meredith Grey practically drown a couple seasons ago. I shan’t be watching; hey I got 85% of my DVR capacity used up.

This reminds me of a poster SamuraiFrog wrote about, the text of which was “from the studio that brought you THE PROPOSAL.” as though anyone would go to a film for that reason. Goofy.
This incredible machine was “built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of the machines components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa.
A resource guide re Haiti.
Anyone know the shelf life for amoxicillin capsules? Wayne John wanted to know.
Another SF-found piece, on gay marriage, a satire.
Thom Wade reminds me why I’m not a Mormon
The Brand Identity Guru says The Bachelor and Bachelorette Brands Can’t Be More Racist. I don’t watch, but I’d be interested in the thoughts of those who do.
Was Jack Benny in the movie Casablanca? Mark Evanier doesn’t think so, but he’s not sure.
What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2010 under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1953.
Hard to find music and movies.
Salon finally figured out the joy of the Kennedy Center Honors. See also Kennedy Center Honorees at the White House.
Scholar Ladies a video response to Single Ladies by Beyonce.
Finally, the wife is trying to keep the daughter away from aspartame, the stuff in Equal and the other little blue packets, at least in the US, at least it is most of the time. And the stuff shows up in the darnedest places, such as packaged fruit cups one sends the daughter to school with.
But I’ve discovered that the DelMonte fruit cups, e.g., uses sucralose, the substance in Splenda and the other items in the yellow packet. Anyone aware of health issues for children with sucralose?



Ken Levine, Emmy winning writer/director/producer declared Up In The Air his pick for movie of the year. I saw few enough 2009 movies that I couldn’t say. I will posit, though, that the movie is the best 2009 movie I’ve seen thus far.

What I don’t know is what I can tell you that you don’t already know without revealing spoilers. I’m particularly cognizant of that, because when I saw it back on January 9, right after the opening of the new Delaware Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library, I went home and told my wife what I thought was an obscure piece of information. But the next day, after she went to see the film, she declared that my tiny mention helped her figure something out that I regret that she sussed out.

Surely, you know that the film stars George Clooney as a guy emotionally at arms length, who hates his 43 days a year at home, being much happier being a VIP on planes, car rental places and hotels. His job is to come into towns, fire people because the management of the companies are wussses, and move on. Vera Farmiga is his detached near-equal. Writer/director Jason Reitman had previously made Thank You for Smoking and Juno, both of which I enjoyed, and he has adapted the screenplay from Walter Kirn’s novel of the same name, which I did not read.

You may have read how real out-of-work people were filmed talking about their laid off experiences, not knowing initially that they were being recorded for a movie. It was quite an effective technique. However, J.K. Simmons, a character actor you’ll likely recognize as J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies, Chief Pope from The Closer, or Juno’s dad, is also compelling.

I should mention that Vera Farmiga was featured in a story in the local paper because she lives in not-that-far-away Ulster County, NY.

A review wondered if a family event was necessary for the film, and decided in the end that it was. Whereas I thought that event was critical. (That was vague.)

Ultimately, I think two additional factors, other than the writing, directing and acting, really wowed me. One is that the current economic downturn made this movie just right for its time, much the way The China Syndrome, coming out just before Three Mile Island in 1979, made it very topical. The other thing, probably counter-intuitively, is that while George Clooney played a character named Ryan, he also was George Clooney, noted movie star. And some part of my brain wondered if Ryan would AND George will end up alone; somehow this made it even more interesting.

MOVIE REVIEW: Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Squeakquel

When i was about six years old, I remember that we owned the single The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) by David Seville and the Chipmunks on Liberty Records; it had a greenish label. I loved that tune, and i could do a reasonable imitation of the holiday song.

Somewhere along the line, Alvin and his brothers became television stars in both the 1960s and 1980s. Still, I was mildly surprised that there was going to be a movie, starring Jason Lee, Earl of NBC’s now canceled My Name Is Earl. The 2007 movie was a big hit, grossing over $200 million in domestic sales, despite reviews that were tepid at best. I didn’t see it.

This meant, naturally, a sequel. When I took the daughter to the Princess and the Frog, Lydia laughed at the previews for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. She had such a lousy time at the Disney movie on January 2 that we went to see Alvin 2 on January 9.

It was terrible. My daughter loved it.

Basically, the story finds a way to write out most of the David Seville character, stuck in a French hospital, putting the rodents (voiced by Justin Long as Alvin, Matthew Gray Gubler as Simon, and Jesse McCartney as Theodore) end up under the care of a slacker nephew (Zachary Levi of NBC’s Chuck) who plays video games constantly. Meanwhile the Chipmunks are sent to high school. The principal (Wendie Malick of the former NBC show, Just Shoot Me!), who has a chipmunks tattoo, is counting on the group to win the big prize so help save the school’s music program.

Meanwhile, the Chipmunks’ former manager has discovered three female chipmunks, dubbed the Chipettes (voiced by Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate), to compete against Alvin and his brothers. And they look remarkably like the Chipmunks.

There’s more, but not worth retelling. When I say the film was bad, I don’t mean the picture was out of focus. I mean that there was little care taken in creating a coherent, interesting story. Cynical cinema making. Yet, this movie is bound to hit $200 million in less than a month.

The appeal for my daughter, I suppose, was the music, retreads of popular songs such as Single Ladies. There were only four people in the theater when we went, and the other two had left, so the daughter got to literally dance in the aisles. I’m glad she enjoyed it, though a rodent imperiled briefly made her nervous.

Oh, and for you completists, I should note that there’s a scene at the very end, after the credits; it is NOT worth waiting for.

How long will it be before the daughter regrets this post?

Oh, one more thing. Why is it Alvin and the Chipmunks? Is Alvin NOT a Chipmunk? Or is this like Diana Ross & the Supremes, somehow?


MOVIE REVIEW: The Blind Side

Seems that I either don’t see films, or I do see films and don’t seem to have time to actually review them.

Way back on New Years Day weekend, the wife and I got a babysitter and went to see The Blind Side, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, based on the Michael Lewis book I did not read. I HAD been getting a lot of information about this film quite a bit, though as much in Sports Illustrated as I did in Entertainment Weekly. Incidentally, The Blind Side refers to a quarterback getting hit while he’s not looking and the import of an offensive tackle protecting the QB’s vulnerability.

The movie tells the true story of Michael Oher (pronounced like ‘oar’, played by Quinton Aaron), a large, undereducated and mostly homeless black young man. He gets taken in by the Tuohy family, who are white, specifically by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), with her husband Sean, a successful restaurateur (played by an almost unrecognizable Tim McGraw) succumbing to his spouse’s single-minded compassion. Their two kids, the boy S.J (Jae Head) and the girl Collins (Lily Collins, who looks amazingly like the young woman she portrayed) go along with the mom’s mission, S.J. quite enthusiastically.

The family, and some insightful teachers, help Michael fulfill his potential, both in class and on the football field. Michael also helps the Tuohys to learn about themselves. Oher eventually becomes an All-American offensive left tackle at Ole Miss and a first round draft choice with the Baltimore Ravens.

I liked it. Indeed, both my wife and I enjoyed it more than some critics (70% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), who used terms like “utterly unsurprising, unchallenging feel-good flick mostly ignores larger social concerns in telling its implausible tale.” Even some positive reviews suggest that it’s a predictable “feel-good sports/biographical drama…by-the-numbers. Yet for the most part, this cinematic ‘comfort food’ goes down pretty well.”

There was also criticism from more than one corner of the “institutional racism” in the film, that it is “rich white folks with big heart save poor black kid” that “needed to be more sociably responsible in its portrayal of blacks,” and that “all black people are not ghetto waiting to be saved.” I’m rather torn on this point. It’s true that most of the black people in this movie were poor and from the ghetto- Michael’s birth mother was a drug addict – and that the major black character, other than Michael, was a particularly obnoxious dude. All of this is true, yet I don’t know how much responsibility a single film is supposed to balance the portrayal of black people. My sense is that, prior to Michael, the Tuohy’s didn’t KNOW black people, so the folks they DID see fit the stereotype. Was the writer suppose to inject an upwardly-mobile black person, other than the woman from the NCAA?

Interesting note: many of the recruiting coaches, such as Phillip Fulmer, Lou Holtz and Nick Saban, play themselves, and I read in SI that not one of them is still with that program, noting the rapid turnover of college football head coaches. The real S.J. Tuohy, who’s now 16, has been razzed by opponents of his basketball team that his daddy needs to adopt someone for his team because “You suck!” And Michael Oher has been hazed by his Ravens’ teammates over the sentimentality of the film; I was pleased that in his last game of this season, he was getting kudos from the commentators for his play.

In any case, this movie lives or dies largely on Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy and she’s totally convincing in the role. Ms. Tuohy also liked it, commenting that she was pleased that Ms. Bullock had “nice ta-tas.”


MOVIE REVIEW: The Princess and the Frog

On New Years Day, the daughter and I walk over to the Madison Theatre in Albany to see the new Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. The movie had engendered a lot of buzz long before it was released because it would be the first black “Disney princess”.

I have to say that the marketing of the “princess” concept is as clever as it is annoying. It is a way to keep the old-line characters (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella) visible and up-to-date, and create a “lineage” that includes Beauty (of…and the Beast), Jasmine from Aladdin and the title characters from Pocohontas and Mulan. I should also note that the popcorn at the Madison is not only inferior to that at the Spectrum, but it costs more.

After at least six trailers, at least half of them sequels (or “squeakquel”, in one case), the movie finally started. In was hoping that as a G-rated movie, she would enjoy it.

The lead role of Tiana, a hardworking waitress who grew up in a working-class family, and is trying to follow her dream of owning her own restaurant in 1920s New Orleans, is played by Anika Noni Rose, who I recall from Dreamgirls (2006). While her childhood pal Charlotte is hot to get to meet the debonair, but lazy Prince Naveen, Tiana is only interested in her dream, until…the kiss from a talking frog.

I liked the film visually. The sequence early on where Tiana dreams of her own place is particularly vivid, and the songs are strong. My favorite may be Almost There; indeed, the brief reprise made me almost cry. I also loved Evangeline, sung by Ray the bug.

The great conversation was whether Disney, who has been rightfully charged with occasional racial stereotyping, could pull off a story without falling into the same trap again. I think it was pretty successful in this regard. The race/culture of the Prince was intentionally vague, and that was a smart, if safe, course.

There were people who noted the voodoo roots of the sinister black character Dr. Facilier – but hey, this IS Louisiana – and I think it’s countered by the mysterious Mama Odie. And I really believe there are those who are just loaded for bear trying to FIND a flaw. One suggested that the songs should have been done by black composers such as the Neville Brothers, rather than the award-winning, hard-working movie musician Randy Newman; such nonsense. Here’s a promo by Ms. Rose, as well as a link to all the songs. I was particularly gratified by this positive review in Racialicious.

Bottom line, I enjoyed it, I’m afraid far more than the daughter, who was frightened some by Facilier and more by his “friends on the other side”. She also was bothered by amphibians in peril, though she now denies it.

Unfortunate also is the film’s “disappointing box office” of $86 million. With ticket sales up generally, why did this film, released November 25, 2009 do about half as well as Alvin 2, released on December 23? Was it marketing? was there resistance by the audience? I don’t know, but5 I hope this movie finds its audience.

MOVIE REVIEW: Fly Me To the Moon

I told someone recently that we had never taken our daughter to a movie in an actual movie theater. This was inaccurate, a function in part, of the fact that I never blogged about it.

Actually, it was August 2009, right after the wife had (thankfully) returned from her intensive two-week college experience. the three of us went to Schenectady to one of the theaters in the Proctors complex, the GE Theatre. There we saw a 3-D movie from the summer of 2008 called Fly Me To The Moon. And yes, Sinatra, or a Sinatra soundalike, does sing that familiar theme.

The story was about three young bugs who wanted to go to the moon, hitching a ride with these guys named Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, who looked, BTW, almost exactly alike, even without of their space helmets. Of course, the youngsters don’t bother tell their mothers about their trip, who only discover their sons’ mischief after they see them on television. The small travelers experience mild peril but (hardly a SPOILER in this type of film) make it back home safely.

The voicework is done by name stars such as Tim Curry, Robert Patrick, Nicollette Sheridan, and Ed Begley Jr., with Kelly Ripa and Adrienne Barbeau as a couple bug moms, and Christopher Lloyd as a bug grandpa.

The bad news is that it’s a pretty dopey story with minimal animation techniques. It was painful to watch the real Buzz Aldrin at the end of the film explain to the audience that there were really no insects in space, let alone on the moon, in 1969. The good news is, given those limitations, the 3-D effect wasn’t half bad, with bugs “flying towards us” at times. At least once the bugs were “flying from behind us” and toward the screen, and I instinctively shooed an insect away.

The mixed news was that it was short, maybe 50 minutes. At $8 a pop, it’s a bit pricey, but then it was pretty tame fare for the child’s first flick, so that was a plus.

Fly Me To the Moon must be a reasonably successful film at this venue, since it’s showing again every weekend in January 2010. I can’t recommend it, obviously, but it’s less painful than, say, root canal. And I’ve HAD root canal.
Oh, and when I misstated Lydia’s movie experience, I was asked if we have surround sound at home. Well, no, we STILL have that 1987 19″ GE color TV with no SAP or V-chip, which I turn on and off —ready for this? manually — and I am still NOT replacing it until it dies, I tell you, until it DIES.

Reeling in the Years

I know historians banter about the most significant years in a given period, as do others. I’d have to pick 1917 (Russian revolution), 1945 (end of WW II), 1968 (unrest in US, Mexico, Czechoslovakia), 1989 (fall of Berlin Wall), among others, for the 20th Century.

But did you ever rank the years in your life? 1977, when I lived in three cities in two states, was pretty awful, but 1978, when, not coincidentally, I moved to Schenectady, NY, was pretty good. I was up in the attic this week, sorting stuff, and I came across a 1998 calendar, 100 Years of American Comics from the International Cartoon Art.

My, that was a good year.

I went to the movies. A lot.
Jan 16-Jackie Brown
Jan 19-Good Will Hunting
Jan 25-Titanic
Jan 31-Fast, Cheap and Out of Control
Feb 1-Amistad
Feb 10-The Tango Lesson
Feb 14-Mrs Brown; L.A. Confidential
Feb 15-Afterglow; Ma vie en Rose
Feb 16-The Apostle
And that was just the first two months.

I took JEOPARDY! test #1 on April 29.

I went on a two-week vacation in May. I don’t know that I’ve been on a two-week vacation since. I went to the Motown museum and a Tigers game in Detroit; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on one train trip. I visited the Capitol and other landmarks and took JEOPARDY! test #2 in Washington, DC on a second train trip. I love the train.

Saw LOTS of music in the summer. Many are local band (Burners UK, Hair of the Dog), but I also saw Maddy Prior, Cyril Neville, the Glenn Miller group, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Rickie Lee Jones. Then on August 9, I went to SPAC for the Newport Folk Festival, featuring Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez, Nanci Griffith, Bela Fleck, Bruce Cockburn, Alison Krauss, Marc Cohn, Lucinda Williams, and others; a great day.

I had two conferences in September. At the ASBDC conference in Savannah, GA, my father drove down from Charlotte, NC and hung out with me and a couple of my friends the first two days. THE best time I ever had with my father. Then the SBDC conference was in Niagara Falls; I love the falls. And I walked to NF, Ontario.

The JEOPARDY! broadcast party was November 9. Later that month, my attempts to re-woo Carol, which began in earnest in August, proved successful, and we got married the following May.

Music, movies, travel, love. Even a modicum of fame. That was a great year.

May your 2010, and mine, be as fruitful.