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Journal of a Pop-Culture Freelancer

There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief

The "Aliens" ripoff gets its Ripley ♥
mlp:fim : rainbow dash : wwrdd?
So for those keeping score, a "Dead Space 2" review is (eventually) coming to that other blog.  And while reviewers everywhere have been praising all the big things I feel it's my duty to draw attention to an aspect of the game that no one is talking about:

Ellie.  Fucking.  Langford.

Space zombie-killing badass?  Check.  Actual range of human emotion?  Check.  Big moment of fist-pumping heroism?  Check.  Build like Jillian Michaels?  Effing check.

Bottom line?  EASILY the best female NPC in an action game since at least Elena Fisher, and the best character in the "Dead Space" canon since Alissa Vincent (a.k.a The Only Good Thing In "Dead Space: Downfall.")-- no small compliment considering Isaac has actually proven himself to be pretty good as an actual character.

30DMM - 10
powerpuff girls: bubbles buttercup: aw y
10 - Favorite classic movie
The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols)

On the one hand... it's basically served as the blueprint for "entitled rich white people have problems too" angstfests like "The Last Kiss."  On the other, there IS a reason "The Graduate" left such a strong impression.

One of Dustin Hoffman's career-defining films, we can all pretty much quote the infamous "Mrs. Robinson are you trying to seduce me?" line even without having seen it.  But while the writing generally leans on the comedic-- and make no mistake, there are plenty of great moments that still hold up today-- what makes "Graduate" so good even now is how effectively it conveys its tone, an aura of career anxiety and lack of direction that both perfectly encapsulates its era... and retains its power especially now. 

From a standout opening credit roll of a despondent Ben Braddock carried along by an airport conveyor to the iconic Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack and even to the way Hoffman portrays the character, it becomes painfully clear that Ben is almost paralyzed with fear; the structure and ultimate goal of academia achieved and giving way to a troubling question that he's clearly not considered up to this point: Now what?  It's this existential turmoil that drives him to a series of aggressively stupid/bad situations including sleeping with his father's business partner's wife (can't blame him entirely though, she IS Anne Bancroft) and then trying to date her daughter, and it all culminates in an ending so famous there's no doubt you've seen it parodied SOMEWHERE before-- including on "The Simpsons" and "Daria."

And while it's been played up for laughs before, the speed with which a light, happy moment is swiftly darkened by self-awareness is part of what makes that original conclusion such a strong punctuation on the idea of becoming paradoxically impotent by achieving total freedom... and having no easy answers.

"The Graduate" largely succeeds because it takes the 'ending' of a typical college film-- the graduation-- and makes it the story itself, finding more intrigue with the protagonist after he's attained his goal and truly realized that he no longer has one.

The Other DaysCollapse )

Thoughts on 2011 Oscar Nominations
mlp:fim : rainbow dash : wwrdd?
So yeah.  Let's talk about these, shall we?

Some things right off the bat are set in stone-- Portman, Bale, Firth and Bonham Carter are absolutely guaranteed Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Actor and Supporting Actress respectively, and Fincher is most likely going to snag Best Director/Adapted Screenplay for "Social Network."  But it's the other stuff I wanna mention now.

What I'd originally (hoped) thought was going to be an "Avatar/Hurt Locker" neck-n-necker this year between "Black Swan" and "SN" has turned out to be between... "Social Network" and "King's Speech."  And frankly speaking, after being all but forced to pick between 2 genre movies last year, it's pretty likely the Academy is going to latch onto "Speech" this year what with it being a straightforward historical character drama.

Now, I did feel "Speech" was a great film, and the acting on display is certainly top-notch... but I do think that "Social Network" is the stronger film overall.  While technically 'about' Facebook even tangentially, it's more a snapshot of the modern era in EVERYTHING that implies, and considering its a film almost ENTIRELY featuring a-bunch-of-kids-talking-real-fastlike, it just has more soul and energy than the more low-key pace of "King's Speech."  

As to the other films, I'm glad to see Inception at least getting the token genre-film-pat-on-the-head nomination (also serving nicely as 'compensation' for "Dark Knight" not getting nominated in 2008), though it's gotten plenty of love as far as technical nominations go, and it's more than likely going to get Best Original Screenplay/Cinematography if nothing else.  "Kids are All Right" is on there as the bone being thrown to the LGBT community, but I've already explained why I have issues with that charming little number.  And as much as I liked "Black Swan" and feel it deserves the Best Picture award more than most, Portman nailing Best Actress (and probably Best Editing) are probably the most it'll get away with.

But if you know me, I'm sure you've already figured out what I'm pissed off the most about:  The Best Animated Film nominations.  Oh Christ.

Let's be real here, Academy.  "Toy Story 3" is going to get it.  "Toy Story 3" DESERVES to get it.  But at least TRY TO PUT SOME FUCKING EFFORT INTO THE PROCEEDINGS.  I'm sure you know that this marks the second year of the Academy expanding the Best Picture noms to 10 in a looooooooong history of just 5, but the Best Animated Film list has NEVER had that kind of consistency.  It started out with just 3 (which was fair at the time I suppose, considering few of them were being made) in 2001, and has fluctuated weirdly between 3 and 5 for every year since.  Why?  ....Because!  And for some stupid reason, the Academy has decided to narrow it down to three AGAIN this year.  The surefire winner, "How to Train Your Dragon", and the token Foreign Niche Animated Film That No One Has Ever Heard Of But It Got Shown In Like One Theatre In New York So It's Perfectly Valid As A Nominee! ("The Illusionist," not to be confused with the Edward Norton movie). 

"Despicable Me?" "Tangled?"  WHAT THE FUCK ARE THOSE?  Why are we not even ACKNOWLEDGING successful animated films that do their thing WELL?  And as much as I LOVE "TS3," I wouldn't mind if one of the other films got one, JUST TO BREAK THE CONSTANT JUST-GIVE-IT-TO-PIXAR STREAK.  Pixar makes great films.  We GET that.  They wouldn't be so successful if that WASN'T the case.  But for fuck's sake, GIVE THE METAPHORICAL BALL TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO DESERVES IT. 

This ESPECIALLY worries me this year since "Cars 2"-- the sequel to the worst Pixar movie EVER-- is out, and GODDAMN, there is absolutely NOTHING ELSE on the radar I know of at the moment, save possibly for "Rango."  I don't know if there's hope for any of us if something REMOTELY ATTACHED to Larry The Cable Guy wins a Best Anything Oscar by default because there was NOTHING ELSE OUT.

30 DMM: 9
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09 - A movie with the best soundtrack
There Will Be Blood (2008, Paul Thomas Anderson)

This one of my favorite movies of all time-- in part for Daniel Day-Lewis' inimitable performance as Daniel Plainview (i.e. Andrew Ryan as an even BIGGER asshole), but also for its absolutely excellent score.

Conducted by Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, "Blood's" soundtrack is a series of moody, tense and string-driven pieces that almost sound better suited to a horror film... until you realize that, considering the subject matter and character at hand, that may actually be the most apt arrangement one could find for a historical fable like this bleak and uncompromising in its perspective.

It also feature this utterly magnificent piece for the end credits.

The Other DaysCollapse )

30 DMM: 5-8
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05 - Favorite love story in a movie

WALL-E/EVE (WALL-E, 2008, Peter Docter)

Because it was really good and stuff

06 - Favorite made for TV movie

Assassin's Creed: Lineage (2009)

Because the internet is KIND OF LIKE TV OK

07 - The most surprising plot twist or ending


 08 - A movie that you’ve seen countless times

The Princess Bride (1982, Rob Reiner)

The Other DaysCollapse )

30 Day Movie Meme
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04 - A movie that makes you sad
Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Isao Takahata)

If this film doesn't shake you on SOME level, it's too late for any of us.  A beautiful film that's nonetheless a work of soul-crushing despair, "Grave of the Fireflies" is one of the best war films ever made largely because it focuses not on war itself, but on those living on the margins of conflict who are nonetheless affected by it. 

For me personally, it's a film that's utterly depressing on two levels-- as an uncompromising coming-of-age story in which a small degree of levity can't shake the inevitable outcome, and secondly because it proves that anime is a medium capable of actual subtlety and depth when it's not congested with mindless action series carried by writing so pretentious the Nietzsche Fan Club of your old high school wouldn't be able to stomach it.  Which unfortunately isn't very often.

The Other DaysCollapse )

30 Day Movie Meme - 03
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03 - A movie that makes you really happy

Galaxy Quest (1999, Dean Parisot)

The 'actors end up in a real situation that mimics familiar film situations and they approach it as such' concept isn't exactly new territory, but damned if "Galaxy Quest" doesn't do it better than most.  In addition to being one of the few movies in which Tim Allen ISN'T awful, it's also a well-made and written parody/homage to the original "Star Trek," making it entertaining and accessible even if (like me) you're not familiar with it. 

Also, Sigourney Weaver.  Because DUH.

The Other DaysCollapse )

30 Day Movie Meme - 02
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02 - The most underrated movie

I'm assuming this means 'of last year' as well, so in that case...

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole (2010, Zack Snyder)

To be fair, when I first saw the trailer, I figured I was being punk'd (OWLS?  FUCKING REALLY??).  It looked gorgeous, but having not really been a fan of "Happy Feet" and um, the premise seeming idiotic, I didn't really take notice until I discovered that it was being directed by none other than Zack Snyder of "300" and "Watchmen," which kind of made me double-take.  In my opinion, Snyder's proven himself to be one of the best new genre directors at least since Guillermo del Toro, and considering up to this point he's only ever made R-rated comic book films, I figured this series of children's books had to be SOMETHING for him to be inclined to direct the film adaptation.

Bottom line?  It's actually surprisingly good.  I do feel that any movie, made well enough, can sell you on just about anything, and "Guardians" manages to make it's 'high-fantasy-reworked-with-an-avian-motif' pitch work largely because it takes its universe seriously and it pays alot of attention to details.

The other side of the equation is that-- especially in deference to defanged adaptations intended to launch lucrative franchises like "Last Airbender" and "Percy Jackson"-- it doesn't dumb itself down for its target audience.  Its villains are genuinely villainous and the heroes are well-developed, it explores themes like loyalty and disillusionment and even racism with tact, and while dark it balances things with just the right amount of levity.  Oh, and despite apparently having enough backstory for several sequels, the movie actually has an ending.

It's not perfect, granted-- Jim Sturgess (that whiny loser from "Across the Universe") as the hero sounds like a ten-year-old perpetually on the brink of joyful tears, and the otherwise unbroken commitment to staying consistent with the universe is disturbed with a pop-song montage near the middle, but overall it's definitely worth a look for animation or fantasy fans willing to take its conceit in stride.

The Other DaysCollapse )

30 Day Movie Meme - 01
mlp:fim : rainbow dash : wwrdd?
Since "Rugrats" is moving along less well than I'd like, here's another meme!

The 30 Day Movie Meme

01 - The best movie you saw during the last year

Kick-Ass (2010, Matthew Vaughn)


Don't get me wrong, there were alot of great movies in 2010, but with ONE exception there weren't many gonzo superhero action flicks that still managed to convey a simple message in an effective way.  And that's the thing about "Kick-Ass" really; underneath all the brutal violence and pitch-black comedy there's an undeniable ring of truth to it and characters that are ultimately relatable despite all the pulp trappings. 

The visual design is colorful, the writing is excellent, and in addition to an overall superb cast, we also manage to get Nic Cage's best performance since... fuck, ever maybe.  Many consider "The Dark Knight" to be the Greatest Superhero Film Ever Made.  I think this one may be mine.

The Other DaysCollapse )

Nicktoons Retrospective: Part 1-- Hey Arnold!
daria: daria: satisfied

So thanks to the magic of Netflix and Nickelodeon deciding to release its older (better) catalog of cartoons into the harsh, unforgiving wilderness of digital distribution, I've been able to rewatch several of the shows that defined my-- and I'm sure, many other people's-- childhood afternoons and weekends. 

But it made me wonder-- without the aid of nostalgia-vision, how well do most of these so-called 'classics' hold up?  Were they the real deal, or were we just fooling ourselves because anything was better than doing your goddamn homework?  It's a big question.

...One I'll answer right now.  So to kick off this Nicktoons Retrospective, let's start with "Hey Arnold!"


It's kind of cute how hard they tried to shoehorn the title into the first few episodes, really.Collapse )



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