working for the future

Now I have seen my share of political documentaries and I like them. They all tend to have some point that is worth thinking about and some information that is helpful in knowing about how this nation functions. But now I think I have seen what might be the most “important” of them yet. Yes, I used that high-hat phrase. While most of them tend to cover an important topic that is really rather timely, this film covers a topic whose importance goes way back in American history and will continue way forward. An issue that affects everything that happens here and elsewhere… generally in a bad way. The films focus is on a man who is continually and unfairly (though that word doesn’t quite say enough) maligned and a subject that is at the core of our nation and our problems… but which, (as is common with issues this important) any criticism of is either ignored or met with ridicule.

The movie is An Unreasonable Man, the man is Ralph Nader and the subject is (really) the two-party system. One of the key moments in the film covers the 2000 Presidential Debates in which the organization that runs these (the Commission on Presidential Debates, actually founded by the Republican and Democratic parties!) refused to let any third party candidates participate in the debates (based on some polling criteria that would surely lock them out). In fact, it not only forbid them from debating, but the state police were given pictures of all of the third party candidates and told to arrest them if they came on the premises! So this is our “democracy”? Two big, entrenched parties surrounded with cameras and police and any other smaller party is excluded and threatened with arrest if they try to enter the dialog? Well, I think that really sucks. And so does Nader. It sounds like some fascist story where, if it happened in another country, the USA would intervene to ensure a fair election. So while this is a movie about Nader, it really comes down to a movie about the rigid corporate controlled nature of our political system. Regardless of what you think of Nader and regardless of what you think of those two parties, you should at least think about this juggernaut we’ve unleashed on ourselves. You should at least watch this movie.

I know that most people are stuck in so much Bush hatred that it has colored everything they know and feel about Ralph Nader, but who was in power for the first half of the Vietnam War, for seriously damaging America with Nafta and for blatantly ignoring the Genocide in Rwanda (because it didn’t meet the agreed upon definition of the word “Genocide”). Well, the Democrats. I do agree that we, and the whole world, would be much better off if the people who actually won the last two elections would have been allowed to take office, but I’ve got to back up Nader in that all of this is just going to keep getting worse until there is some threat to those two parties. With everyone buying into their stories, who is going to accomplish that. As they say, if you always vote for the lesser of two evils, they can both keep getting eviler. And for all we know, there might be 800,000 fewer corpses in Rwanda if GHWB would have won re-election.

All that accusation about how Nader cost the Democrats the White house? How about: blatant and obvious fraud from the Republican party, terrible and shallow campaigns by the Democrat’s, how about 11% of democrats voted for Bush when only 6% of republicans voted for Kerry, general voter disinterest and a distrust that leads millions and millions away from the polls and, most scandalous to me, the Democrats (even when they were still in the white house!) rolling over and letting the Bush campaign get away with obvious and heavily documented cheating. How can you, in a close vote, let a candidates campaign co-chair and the brother of the same candidate control the election? And let them illegally cancel recounts as their guy was losing ground? The only reason I can think of that Clinton-Gore didn’t really solve the issue was because the Democrats didn’t want to upset the system too much. Both parties have everything to lose if a equal ground for political parties opens up. It’s just another lie from the big parties in a successful attempt to scare people away from their real political freedom, from their freedom to vote their conscience instead of their fears. And honestly, speaking from the experience of living in an area that once gave around 15% of its vote to Nader, I feel safe in saying that most people who voted for Nader wouldn’t have voted for either of the “big two” candidates, so he didn’t steal votes from anyone, he just got more people to vote. Maybe people that the big two don’t want voting? If the Democrats could have got more Democrats to not vote Republican, they would have easily won. Who’s fault is that?

The only way these two rogue parties will ever be held accountable is if they feel threatened. There is so much money and power in doing things the way that they are done now, who would give it up otherwise? Any actually decent candidate from one of those parties (Howard Dean, anyone) would pose such a threat to the status quo that even their own party would shut them down. The good of power is money (and more power) and if it’s not good for that goose, the national committees would never back it up.

Yes, Bush is easily the worst president ever (well, at least worse to the “American way”, to freedom, to justice and to the rest of the world, well, and to Americans in general). And yes, those two spineless democrats would have been much better for everyone (honestly though, after seeing Going Upriver I gained some appreciation for Kerry… but Gore has always had a creepy, “I’ll say whatever you want to hear and kiss your baby” crooked small town politician feel to him). But enough of the short run. Enough of now and of the next ten years. Look at how much havoc this system has wreaked on the world and it should stop. Other voices need to be allowed in the national political debate (thank god for local politics!).

Any respect I may have had for Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin goes out the window in this film as their ire towards someone who is working towards the goal of: expanding our political arena, our political choices, the strength of our democracy, the dialogs that politicians take on and ending the corruption in the system, blinds them to any criticism of the Democrats or the system. But it was great to see two of my favorite figures! I was obsessed with Phil Donahue, back in the day, when he seemed to be easily the smartest man on tv. And Nader? I was born into a Nader friendly household right as his fame was blooming and he (and his vast body of pro-people, pro-society, anti-corruption deeds) have always seemed a great icon of truth and a glowing example of the good that could be done here, if only people cared and tried. I have never been a supportee of either big party (though, of course, my voting record is highly democratic) and I feel that those parties should start to rely on their own strengths instead of subverting the parties that are looking for something different. I think that a lot of people would like to see the end of the corruption and the rise of a political election system where you don’t have to join up with one of two clubs and get powerful and wealthy organizations to back you (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars) just to get your word out and compete equally. Moving past the Republicrats is the only way that is going to happen.

Anyway, what ever you think of all this, people owe it to themselves and others to see this movie and think it over. And, while you’re at it, rent The Candidate.

what to do with that finger?

If you find an ancient giant skeleton and bring it home, it pays to do some research. If, while cleaning it off, where water touches it tissue begins to grow? Do more research. If the research points to the figure being the embodiment of evil who comes to life when wetted with water… Watch the heck out! Certainly don’t get it wet, and don’t make a serum out of it an inject it into someone… Unless, of course, your wife dying in an Insane Asylum isn’t enough crazy for you!

Sadly, the well meaning Victorian anthropologist Emmanuel Hildern is too focused on advancing his reputation and advancing science to really worry about that stuff. As is his scheming brother James, who doesn’t even realize the water danger! The Creeping Flesh is a great horror/thriller movie! It’s another great stand-out in the Lee-Cushing oeuvre and though Lee is good and evil as always, Cushing turns in another great rendition of his obsessed scientist role as they go head to head, yet again. As the brothers are both intent on winning a big science prize, the reality of Emmanuel’s find comes out when, while cleaning up the thing with water, he gets water on its finger and ends up with a giant fleshy middle finger that he cuts off. Soon the evil and insanity spread, bringing to the fore the tragedy of his recently late wife (an insane burlesque dancer kept a mystery to his daughter) and the rivalry between the two brothers heats up! The special effects are just alright, but the movie itself is quite enjoyable, featuring: an escaped murdering madman, a pub brawl with a bunch of sailors, mental patients used for experiments, women of ill repute and all sorts of olden tyme fun!

Also on the agenda was The Last King of Scotland, which was pretty engrossing. I remember Amin well from news stories when I was young (and, much more recently, some documentary I saw), but I found it quite enjoyable and of course, more enlightening, to see this portrayal of the “real” Idi. The fictional story of a young Scotsman who, fresh out of medical school, randomly selects Uganda to move to and practice, but once there inadvertently gets invited to be the personal physician of Idi Amin… A job that there is no turning down and no walking away from. As Idi’s bi-polar personality gets wobblier and wobblier, and this young doctor searches for a way out, he becomes, in turns, Amin’s most trusted adviser and a traitor to be carefully watched. Though a lot of the crazier stuff is played down it does show the reality of what people in power will do to stay there and the cruelty that seems so common to autocratic governments. Idi’s megalomania is on full display here and he is shown to be a regular old military dictator who was in over his head and, due to that, becomes quite paranoid. Whittaker does a great job, creating a moving, yet scary character, and I especially like the disturbing appearance of his eyes. The movie is very good, with great acting, beautiful scenery, a compelling tale, some good action and quite a bit of tension. It was also nice to see Gillian Anderson continue to leave the ‘Files behind. She does a good job and surprisingly, I don’t think, “Hey, it’s Scully!”… I don’t think Mulder has earned the same.

Swimming Pool. Now I’ve never had any interest in seeing this, as I imagined it to be some kind of dramatic emotional romance thing or something. Well, we watched it and it was really no such thing. What it is is a nicely paced movie that feels like a murder mystery, though there really isn’t much mystery involved (there is, though, a murder). The story of an uptight British novelist who retreats to a house in rural France to try and write her next book. She unexpectedly encounters a young lady at the house who tends towards loud and risque behavior, which is a rather unpleasant conflict with what the novelist has in mind. She soon becomes rather obsessed with the young lady and takes an interest (although not really in a friendly way) in the girl as subject matter for a book. Of course, secrets come out and things take some unexpected turns. But while there aren’t any really sympathetic characters and none of the actors really moved me, the movie is quite interesting and it moves a a very nice slow pace.

the trouble with target…

The trouble with Target (well, one of the troubles) is that you go there ready to buy some stuff, but then you get there and they don’t have anything you want. What next? I guess figuring that you’ve come all that ways and they have so much stuff, you know that there must be something to buy. I look at the action figures, and they don’t have any McFarlane toys! Man, what kind of toy section is that?! I surely would have bought this fellow, if they had him…


So what next? Well take a guy like me. I have an extensive list of dvd’s that I would like to acquire so I go and look, of course they don’t have any of them. There are a couple that I wouldn’t mind, but then they only have the Pan and Scan versions… Pan is right, I can’t be bothered with those (does anyone actually buy pan and scan dvd’s?). So I keep looking… Well, we walk out the doors with The Doors. I means 6 bucks, why not? How can you go wrong… Plus we’ve both pondered the movie a few times lately, having some potentially fond reminiscences of it.
Um… the answer is: all sorts of reasons. We watched it and I thought it was dull and annoying (which mayhaps, befits mister Morrison). The drug use is boring, the nudity is boring, the whole movie seemed annoying. Some of the music is fun and reminds me that we should own some Doors (at least the first two albums). And the Oliver Stoneiness effects aren’t out of control, but there’s really a lot of nothing except some arrogant fool getting drunk and waxing on like a naive stoned teenager about the world and reality. Caitlin thought that maybe there was an age thing and you had to be 17 to get into it. I couldn’t agree more, though, of course, I was even older when it came out. Anyway, we couldn’t really get to into it. The high point was that I really did enjoy the Robbie and Ray characters.

As it was winding down, I was just thinking off all of the other movies that I haven’t had a chance to watch lately and I gave 2 hours to this one?

okay then…

So maybe everyone doesn’t share my opinion of the ending of The Soprano’s.

Let’s just put that all behind us now and focus on the future! With that show done, I need to find another show to watch (you have to have at least one)… Though with 60 Minutes coming (almost) back to form with the return of Mike Wallace, I could maybe get away with that one. But I am still embittered by the decline it went through after the loss of Wallace and Bradley last year… Especially with this Scott Pelley fellow, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I just don’t get him. He seems disingenuous to me.

Anyway. I think I may try and get more involved in Big Love. I watched pieces of the last season, enough to get some level of interest, and now that the new season has started, I think I can do that. It’s a pretty good drama and it’s hard not to watch anything with Harry Dean Stanton. And after Aliens and Boxing Helena, I do rather like Bill Paxton.

What I am really waiting for is Flight of the Conchords! The little bit they have on “On Demand” is about the funniest thing I have seen in a great while and it leaves us desperate for more! Wonderfully funny (and not mean, like so much comedy today) musical numbers. Brilliant raps! And very charming!

I don’t know if their series will keep up the steam, but I am certainly going to give it a shot. Is this the beginning of New Zealand’s cultural renaissance?

Oh yes, and fulfilling this site’s role as a repository for all of my media experiences, I have decided to add a book page. It is slim pickings right now, as I am only going to add books when I finish reading them (sort of a stretch at times) and I am starting just with my most recent. But hopefully it will fill out as the months go on… Books.

well… Not quite a spoiler…

Okay, so I still feel a bit let down. But as the day has gone by, I have become used to it.

I mean, it’s over and it ended in what seemed like the only logical way for such a thing to end… No matter what folks like to say abut it being a family drama or what have you, it really is a mafia show, and there is a way that things are done in that organization.

After the incident with Phil at the gas station, there was only one possible conclusion. There is no way that The Commission (or whatever passes for it now in Mafia organization) could have sat idly by after that maneuver. They would have to act.

I read somewhere online, that those people in the restaurant are going to be stuck in those positions forever, but I really must disagree. We all know what happened. We all saw The Godfather and noticed the similarity in the set-up, just as we all noticed the similarity at the end of Episode 79 with the christening scene in Godfather 2. There just isn’t any other way for the dice to fall.

Anyway, the more I think about it, the better I feel. After all, it is still the best (and longest) mafia movie ever, and certainly one of the best TV shows of all time. I think that after 8 years of watching and rewatching and waiting and waiting during the extended breaks between seasons. It’s just funny to be done with it.

It also could have ended at that last shot of Satriale’s, I would have liked that.

you gotta be bleepin’ me!

That’s it? After 8 loyal years and 80-odd hours? That’s all the payment we get?

I’m am too much disappointed to even believe that was really the last episode ever of The Sopranos. Was that really the episode that Chase wanted to end it all with? Was the ending a technical glitch?

Well, I am assuming that it was, but if not… I’m speechlessly numb.

We’ll be watching it again in a couple of hours… Just to be sure.

back to the future

In the midst of some failings this week (a spell in which The Graveyard and Wishmaster were briefly attempted, then spurned on account of their terribleness) we managed to down some films, all pretty good.

First, from a ways back, we watched The Spaghetti West. It’s a documentary of the history of Italian westerns. I thought it was pretty good, covering an interesting range of films from the 60’s and 70’s and filled with interviews from heavy weights of the films. On the plus and minus side, it strives to cover the whole genre, yet with depth, so it seems at times as if you are just running from movie to movie, but there are times when it seems the films are well covered. Relying on so many interviewees and with hundreds of possible movies to cover, the interviews really decide which movies get the most focus, but that is fine, because they have some great folks involved. The movies that they deem to consider the most important are mainly movies that I have (and I don’t even have too many), which made me feel as if I had pulled my Italian westerns out of a “best of” box (I guess that’s what comes from endless review reading)… Moviewise, they don’t talk much about the Leone’s, but they cover Django heavily and they give big props to The Great Silence, which is one of my favorites, but they also give props to the roles of Tomas Milian, which I can’t stand. Anyway, some of the folks talking here are: Sergio Sollima, Sergio Donati, Franc Nero and even Clint Eastwood. Plus they show some great scenes from these films, so I would certainly list it as suggested viewing for anyone with an interest in this genre. It even made me want to try and appreciate the Django movies again.

Then we watched a fine little piece of social commentary from the genius who brought us both Beavis and Butthead and The King of the Hill… I stumbled on a cheap used copy of Idiocracy at Music Millennium. This is a movie I’d heard a good deal about and wanted to see and then promptly forgot. Before I’d forgotten about it, I had read some reviews that led me to wonder if I would like it or if it would be too dumb. Well… both: I really liked it, and I thought it was quite dumb. But even with it’s overwhelming dumbness (some of which is the point), it has a very real and pressing message. It is the story of two losers (a prostitute and an army guy) who are put to sleep and then, due to an accident (ala Looking Backward), wake up five hundred years in the future as the smartest people on Earth. Stemming from, of course, the proliferation of pop culture due to peoples obsession with stupid television. As they go about seeking a time machine to return to the 21st century, we get to take in the wild world of the future Uhmerica. The movie goes overboard in a sense, and not far enough in the other. A lot of the social aspects are cartoonishly overplayed, but the people themselves are no dumber or more shallow than many folks one encounters in a regular day. There are just more of them in the movie. But it is very funny and the social cracks (the city-sized Costco, the Carl’s Jr sponsorship of everything, a wrestler for the President) are overdone and silly but in a manner that is uncomfortably close to the truth.

heaps o’ garbage…

teleprompter of the future…

the president…

Then I rounded off the week with an old favorite, Returner. At times it’s hard to tell if this is an action flick, a sci-fi yarn or a kids movie. It feels like a combination of Terminator and E.T. with a flavor of The Matrix thrown in. But it’s a lot of fun, with lots of shooting… In the future, aliens invade earth and go about destroying humanity. The last surviving humans, in an attempt to undo what brought this invasion on, send someone back to the present day in a time machine. Of course, she stumbles into Miyamoto, a fellow who is a freelance killing machine and she forces him to aid in her mission. They have to go up against the local triad in the quest to save a wounded alien. The bad guys are represented here by yet anther example of my favorite archetype, the remorseless bleach blonde yakuza. This time it’s Goro Kishitani as Mizoguchi (who, co-incidentally, killed some of Miyamoto’s friends back in the day) joining the ranks of Tadanobu Asano (from Ichi the Killer) and Shingo Tsurumi (from Sharkskin Man) as the funnest part of these Asian crime films. The movie is a fun stream of shooting and chasing, with lots of it in slow motion. As I said, fun!Sadly, my bootlegish dvd has terrible picture quality, which is too bad because I find this film to be easily re-watchable

bleach makes you bad…

turn-about is fair play…

Always trying to keep things fresh, we are. Due to some (sort of foreseen) circumstances, we decided today to put off the East Coast move for an unknown period and settle in Portland. I imagine that we will head out there at some point, but for the last 3 years we’ve been planning on moving this summer it is starting to seem like the deadline has become the focus, not the preparedness. And we don’t feel prepared (in any way) to make this kind of move. It is an odd feeling to suddenly change directions after so much thought, but I think that we have done so much thought about it that it makes the decision to move seem almost unnatural, which isn’t how we want it to feel. I think that in the long run, this will be the wisest choice, but after getting so used to (and hesitantly excited about) moving to Vermont, it made me a bit sad when I saw the 802 video…

Since we are on the topic of music, as someone who listened to (more than) his share of Priest, Fate and Maiden back in the day, I thought I had known all the great bands of the era. Shocked I was this week when an ad banner (of all things) at introduced me to a band I’ve never heard of… 3 Inches of Blood, possibly the best of the 80’s metal bands! Once I heard a song by them, I was so excited by the wonderful sound that I rushed out and pre-ordered their upcoming new album (I think the first Roadrunner Records release I’ve purchased since When Satan Lives almost 10 years ago!). I couldn’t help but wonder how I had missed them back then…But it’s probably because they didn’t actually exist until 2000…

But they have a great 1980’s sound and it’s refreshing for me to find metal I can stand that isn’t either Black Metal or 25 years old… Ever since the sad day that Turbo was released, there’s been a great reluctance for me to accept regular heavy metal. So this brings me hope that I’m not just bitter, maybe it really has all stunk these last couple of decades and maybe there’s a chance that “nu-metal” will finally die out and be replaced by good music once again.

not so fresh

There is a house up the street from here, a nice enough house, in a nice enough area. Though to me it still seems like a regular house. A nice big old craftsman. I was surprised to see that it was for sale for 798,000. Now who knows if it will fetch that price but in this town, maybe it will. I looked it up to see that it last sold in 2003 for 256,000. Though in our attempt to move there are many factors that point in different directions: jobs, dread and expense of moving all this stuff across the country, weather… This exemplifies the most telling reason to move. This real estate market (while certainly not the worst on the west coast) seems to be spiraling out of control. For people who are interested in buying a house to actually live in permanently, this kind of thing seems untenable, while northern Vermont with its variety of nice homes in the “under 150” range and lack of cities seems too tempting to ignore.

If only this was the Portland of 10 years ago… It would be much more tempting to stay.

For a relief from this line of thinking, a sci-fi movie was in order…

Imagine that you loved The Matrix and wanted to make a comic book out of it… But since you couldn’t just redo “The Matrix” you figured out a different twist for the story. Then imagine that comic book gets made into a low budget Hollywood film? Yep, I watched Equilibrium! No, we aren’t all living in a computer construct, this time emotions are outlawed but like before, we have our “Neo” to figure out the problem and fight to bring people back to reality. We all remember how terribly cast Keanu was in The Matrix (well, in everything after Bill and Ted’s), it happens again, this time with Christian Bale. Bale is now the “dressed in black, quiet and shoots like no one possibly could” action hero. At first it seems a bit cheap, but that it might be alright, then there’s the scene where he leads a violent police raid on some bad guys who have committed the misdeeds of looking at a painting and playing a 7″… Once you see the dead man on the portable turntable with the dramatic religious chanting for music, you think… is this a joke?

kill ’em all and break their records!
Bale plays John Preston, very stiffly (sometimes his voice even sounds like Keanu). As in 1984, there is a man whose visage fills walls as he talks propaganda to the people. The propaganda is maybe the worst part, it comes in the form of exposition to let the movie watcher know what’s going on but it’s under the cover of the instructional/inspirational messages to the people… Speaking of things that everyone would know already, speeches about how everyone takes this drug to cut off feelings. That’s the angle behind this story, but really, what does that even mean? How would a person act if they had no sense of emotion? What thoughts would they think? I don’t know, but I don’t think this movie had those answers.

Preston is a Cleric (think the Sandmen from Logan’s Run) and he and his partner drive around in a tacky white Cadillac with all ornamentation removed and instrumentation covered with white… His first partner is Sean Bean, who is easily the best player in the movie but he’s taken care of early for reading a book of Yeats (“Sense Offense” is actually what they call the crime), but his second partner sure smirks and smiles a lot for someone with no emotions. And there are a couple of scenes in which Preston takes people by surprise and they spew four-letter words. Very non-emotional. In terms of the rest of the movie, the CGI backgrounds are not well done, the battle scenes aren’t good and are overly unrealistic (without the excuse that Neo had), people don’t even die realistically! However, there is some inventive combat and if you want to see choreographed (though not up to Woo’s standard) gun fighting, sword fighting and “gun as sword” fighting and lots of one versus many fight scenes… Maybe it’s for you? I think it’s another one for the sell stack.

combat or modern dance?

american psycho, part 2


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