Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Oh, Easter.  You again.
Upon finding myself alone upon an Easter morning, I ask myself: what am I going to eat, and will I need to leave my apartment to eat it?  Hopefully not.  Hopefully I can find some place that is willing to deliver me a good meal so that I can spend the entire day in leggings and my ridiculously awesome slippers:

I need a quiet afternoon with my pal Harriet Beecher Stowe, so that I can mentally organize all the ways I plan to explain that she was a classist wench who didn't understand the import of her subject matter.  How's that for academic objectivity?  Compromised much?

Meanwhile, Pippin the Hamster is putting on a ridiculous show of cuteness:

See his little pink nose and balled up feet.  Aw.

And the kids up and down my street are throwing raucous parties, which involve a little too much screaming bloody murder, if you ask me.  One of these times that wolf's really gonna be there!  
Youth.  God love 'em.

And over the pleasant picture there broods a shadow: the shadow of Philadelphia.  Because in the past week everything has changed.  While I was 100% excited about teaching community college (and stand by my belief that it's a sweet gig), now I'm accepted to a PhD program at Temple University.  Great news, right?  Of course!  Philadelphia's a great place for a student of early American literature, and there are a number of good people at Temple ...

only the school is located in Northern Philadelphia, which is consistently described as "a war zone."  And Philadelphia as a whole has a terribly high crime rate.  So my excitement is slightly tempered by my fear of .. you know .. crimes against my person.  

So for that reason, and the ever present monetary monster, for at least the first year I'll be 'burbin it up, which won't be so bad.  I'll probably have a 30-60 minute train ride, but hey, a confined space where my best option is to read my books is probably a good thing.

And of course, now that I'll be in a place with actual things to do, maybe someone will come visit me!  I'm lookin' at you.  Yeah.  You.

I've been neglecting my blog, but no more!

On the docket:
Scene this Weekend: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

And a few new ideas:
Books You've Never Heard of, But Should Really Read: Weiland by Charles Brockden Brown
Books You've Heard of and Why You Should Actually Read Them: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Simplifying the Argument: a new column that takes the fluff swirling around a current topic and boils it down to two or three sentences.

Cheers, ya'll!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Scene This Weekend: Vantage Point

So, M. and I are avid movie goers.  We like getting out of the house and being surrounded by unacademic Charlottesvillians (though this entire city seems to have missed the memo on how not to be annoying in a movie theater).  We like being part of a cultural moment.  Our favorite experiences have been seeing 300 and The Bourne Supremacy - neither of which are the best movies we've seen in the past two years, but both of which were seen in packed theaters on opening night, with a healthy dose of high schoolers all around who weren't afraid to voice their excitement.  Like opening night of Peter Pan, the right audience can make all the difference.

So I've decided to share my opinions (of which there are many) on the movies we see, beginning this week with Vantage Point, that movie they've been previewing for about a year now.

My Grade: C+

Here's why:

If you've carefully watched the trailer and are a reasonably intelligent person, then you do in fact know the plot of the entire movie.  Let's see, hmm...The trailer shows, in addition to numerous other things, a body double for the President is shot, the real President is in a hotel room, we see a man pass off a hotel keycard, some schmuck hams up some line about Americans arrogantly thinking they're always a step ahead, Dennis Quaid (my man) yells "there's something else going on here" ... what do you think happens?  Well you're exactly right, and really, there aren't too many surprises waiting for you.  What's the deal with these movie trailers that give away the whole thing?  I cannot possibly fathom the rationale behind this, other than they must suppose that people aren't smart enough to connect A to B to C.  Except that, you see, it's only hard to get from A to C when you aren't given B.  When all the elements are just handed to you, it's no feat of intellectualism - it's just watching.

But beyond this unforgivable extra-textual element, the movie opens with Sigourney Weaver giving a terrible performance as a News Director in a trailer outside the President's speech.  Her slow, calm, heavily enunciated tone did not at all resemble any of the behind the scenes footage of news directors that I've ever seen, and didn't account for this discrepancy with any additional character depth.  This is all combined with (or is perhaps a symptom of) some terribly written pat dialogue.  And the lines don't get much better as the movie goes on.  "I'm so tired of this double life"?  Really?  Not even subtitles can forgive that crap.  

Without going into too much of the plot, I can tell you that it involves a lot of shallow, poorly conceived politics that are insulting to the Secret Service, the Spanish, Americans and the audience, and that the entire thing hinges upon the only kid in history without a flight instinct.  I hate unrealistic plot devices and shallow politics.  They're the m.o. of lazy, thoughtless writers/directors/producers and should not be tolerated by the American people!  Stand up for yourselves, Americans!  You deserve better than movies that seem like they're written by a 16 year old boy on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

M. and I counted at least four plot threads that clearly ended up on the cutting room floor, but were not sufficiently excised from the remaining reels.  Luis? Camera Six go West?  Black SS agent? Felipe?  Each evidence that the movie simply was not tight enough, and it certainly wasn't saved by an intriguing and innovative narrative device.  It's all been done before, and better, and as is customary with "vantage point" style movies, far too many minutes are spent watching the same footage over and over again.

When action movies are done right, they're incredible.  The Bourne trilogy, for example, is almost poetry in its style, pacing, internal allusions and performances.  Honestly, if you haven't seen all three, save your $9.00 on Vantage Point and spend a Sunday with 6 hours of Matt Damon and Joan Allen.  You won't regret it.

Cheers, ya'll.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Irrepressible Cuteness

In light of being woken up by a roommate's medical emergency (I don't recommend it - good news, he's ok!), and coming home to find three more very thin envelopes, I divert to the only logical thing - 

A photographic revue of Pippin the Hamster* in a Pepsi box:

*Pippin is available for catalog and TV appearances at a rate exponentially related to his level of adorable on that particular day.