Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Resident Evil of adventure comedies

This post contains more photos of Anne Hathaway than you can shake a stick at (and I wouldn't do that, if I were you). I even threw in Milla Jovovich and Natalie Portman, just 'cause I'm like that.

My standard line for the Resident Evil films is that they are either just below or just above average action movies, depending upon how much you like Milla Jovovich.
Photobucket I think she's a beautiful dream girl, so I like them.

Starring anyone else but Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin, Get Smart might still be mindless fun. With them playing off each other, it achieves a kind of sweet silliness that more than rewards time spent.

Carell, like his friend and onetime Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert, has a way of signaling from within, without ever quite breaking character, that there is a refreshingly real person underneath that character's quirks.

In this way he resembles another actor with a strong connection to original Smart co-creator (with Buck Henry) Mel Brooks: Gene Wilder.

(Speaking of Henry and Brooks, I just had a thought: Why didn't they play the President and Vice-President, respectively, in this movie? That they didn't does not ruin it by any means, but it seems like a good idea. Oh well.)

Oh by the way, geeky moment: At one point when he and 99 have to enter a villain’s lair via a rat-infested sewer, Max complains that he's never seen James Bond with a rat. As those of us who are suckers for a Bond film smugly mutter "Diamonds Are Forever" (in which Connery actually banters with one), sotto voice...

Johnson--"the artist formerly known as The Rock"--does a lot of action movies, but he's got a certain way with physical comedy. I'd compare it to Moe Howard, except that I'm one of the few men who have never found the Three Stooges funny.

(Jay Leno used to say that was the real difference twixt men and women...just another way in which I'm a big girl).

(I also thought the trailer for Mamma Mia! before the film made it look like good fun, which is probably another very bad sign)

Johnson may have been aided in the comedy way by his director, Peter Segal, who knows how to shoot a joke. Even if his previous credits don't exactly fill one with confidence (The Klumps? Explains why they had to get Carell into a fat suit for this one).

Arkin injects a bit of substance to his role, and gets to punch someone out (and be funny doing it, harder than I think people think).

Of the main stars, only Terence Stamp lets the side down a bit. He's an unforgettable actor of powerful emotion, but one thing he's not, at least not here, that he should be here, is goofy. (Even in the Superman movies he's a bit of a stone-face, but there it's why his lines are funny).

Now let me see...Carell...Johnson...Arkin...Stamp...have I left anyone out?

Oh yes.

Anne Hathaway.

My near-religious faith in Anne Hathaway's beauty is well known to you, my vast reading audience. So all I really need to tell you is that, not counting a trailer or two, this was my first time actually seeing her on a big screen (her other films I've seen on video or television).

So yes, as you would expect, I spent most of the time quivering with awe.

She wears one dress on which, in my opinion, they could have focused for the rest of the movie (Plot? What plot?)

When I wasn't so quivering, I was sending angry psychic messages to characters that put her in jeopardy onscreen: Hands off my wife!

(At one point she distracts an assassin by kissing him, before he falls to what she thinks is his death. That sound heard at the back of the theater was me saying "Totally worth it.")

But (all feet-falling aside) I honestly believe Hathaway is, to coin a phrase, "more than just a pretty face." If she can just solve the "no roles" problem of actresses from time immortal, she's got good work ahead of her.

(Watching Hathaway in this movie I began to wonder if she could've made more of Natalie Portman's Star Wars role than Portman did.)


(but upon reflection, I doubt an Oscar-winning actress could've done much with a Lucas written-and-directed woman's part.)

(But I digress.)

There's heart to Hathaway's character-of course, she already has mine-and she stacks up an impressive list of butts kicked--but not as many laughs gotten. In a sense, this is in keeping with the original series--99 was always a bit of a businesslike "straight man" for Max.

And in 2008, one of the partners' 1960's running gags just wouldn't work from a hero.

99 coming up with an idea, Max dismissing it, then coming up with it himself to be greeted with a loyal "Good thinking, Max!" from her.

The movie wisely doesn't even have them try it but unfortunately, it doesn't come up with much to replace it with, either. Hathaway's funniest moment comes during a fight with an ex-boyfriend, who mockingly tells her,

"See, this is your problem. Some men like women to be a little more...feminine."

Outraged, she cries, "I'm not feminine?" Punctuated, IIRC, with a kick to the face.

I actually thought the third in the RE trilogy was the best yet (admittedly a minority opinion). I wouldn't mind seeing "Get More Smart," or whatever they want to call it.

And I may have that chance, based on early reports the movie seems to be winning at the box office, which I'm happy to see.

The showing I saw was sparsely attended (granted it was the middle of the day). And though I did laugh a lot, it did not escape my notice that more often than not I was the only one.

I walked home with the theme in my head.


Once again: The woman that can fit this dress will bear my children

When Anne Hathaway and I are married, there will be no question as to who wears the pants in the family.

For obvious reasons.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Nobody's Fool

In the archives section of his website, Roger Ebert reprints a talk he had with Paul Newman when the film "Nobody's Fool" was in release.

(here's the film's trailer)

I saw the movie on video a few years after it was in theatres, and remember it as, while perhaps not a "classic," a good, low-key film.

Ebert was right to wonder at the film's acting, though. Some actors including but not limited to Newman got to use muscles they hadn't used in years (the cast included Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith).

As you may have heard, there have been disputed reports lately that Newman is deathly ill.

I don't know whether or not those reports caused Ebert to choose to feature this article, but it seems a good bet.

I also don't know the truth or not of the rumors, but I certainly hope they're at least exaggerated.

When Ebert asked Newman how he had achieved a specific effect, the actor replied:

There can be no single emotion that could be identified with something like that. I mean, it just has to be a splash of colors, and that's all it is.

"That's all it is." I like that right down to the ground.

Men In Blanket Ran Javelin

Since yesterday was devoted to my fitful admiration for horror movies, I think today I'll do a total flip: Abstract art. These are paintings by Todd Kelly, part of his "Sous-bois" series. I like them very much.

They have for me a kind of "Rorschach" quality, which much if not all art does, maybe, in that I what I see in them may not be what you see in them, and what I see in them the first time I look at them may not be so the second.

Sous-bois #2, 2007, oil, acrylic, spray paint & collage

In this one I see a dancer.

Sous-bois #4, 2007, oil, acrylic, spray paint & collage

In this one, perhaps, the starting of a path.

Sous-bois #6, 2007, oil, acrylic, spray paint & collage

And in this--besides the obvious doorway--an off-kilter sense of looking at the world, a sense of perspective.

Plus I love an artist who says
Maybe I’m just holding on to youthful naivety, but I still think that painting can make the world a better place.

PS: Now can you guess what the title of this post means?

Ain't It Cool News is collecting tributes to the late Stan Winston by his friends and colleagues

Many of them are moving, funny, or both; I highly recommend checking them out. If you read my RIP post a few days ago, you know what I thought of Winston's work, like:

...but I don't think I truly realized what a giant he was in his industry, or what a father figure he'd been to others.

What a loss.

In which Ben Varkentine is reminded that neither Andrew Shepherd nor Jed Bartlet is running in this election

(If you're not hip to the references, dig this and this.)

I wrote this as an E-Mail in response to something smart guy Mark Evanier said on his blog, and decided to post it here (with links and a tweak or two), as well. Mark had written:

A lot of people have come to believe that this is what the Iraq War has all been about...helping Big Oil make bigger profits. I don't believe that's the only thing it's been about but America oughta be angrier than it is that it's even been about that at all.

I replied:

For what it's worth, I'd argue that America is very angry about the war being about oil, and other things beside what we were told it was about. Personally I believe it was about re-electing Bush, at least more so than anything else.

The trouble is we can't seem to get our politicians to "do our bidding." Some of us thought the '06 election would light a fire under their (the house and senate) asses, to make them see that our government had gone too far and we wanted Bush stopped before he fed any more of the Bill of Rights into a shredder.

It hasn't worked out that way.

Some of us thought there was hope in Obama--and today he helped give Mr. Low-Approval a win on the spy-powers legislation.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, wrote:
It’s Christmas morning at the White House thanks to this vote. The House just wrapped up some expensive gifts for the administration and their buddies at the phone companies.

I believe it's not that we're not angry enough. Metaphorically speaking, millions of us have been screaming ourselves hoarse for years.

But the Democrats, so it appears, are only listening insomuch as it can return them to power.

(Oh, for a Jedi Knight Ghostbusting Time Lord.)

A few more movies to look for...(and one to avoid)

Or, Friday the 13th jigsaw Part 2: The missing pieces...

1. A trampy girl tries to use her very trampiness to escape death. It doesn't work, but you gotta give credit... from an odd little movie called

The Funhouse.

Now, the reason why I call it "odd" is because while it's really not very good, it did get one of the better novelizations ever written, by Dean Koontz, originally published under the name Owen West.

The book contains so much backstory and character whatchamacallit--depth--that if you see the movie after reading the book, as I did, you can't help but be disappointed, as I was.

3. Having just gotten a machete in his head, the killer falls. When the machete hits the floor, the killer's head slides down it till he comes to a rest.

...would be Jason's "death" scene from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

I would say that this is one of the best in the neverending series, but when you're dealing with the Friday formula, that's very much a matter of personal preference.

However, director Joseph Zito did manage to make this one impressively scary, something few of the others really managed.

Some better actors than you sometimes get in this kind of thing (I mean, have you seen "The Burning?"), too.

4. Pretty blonde heroine telepathically uses the rampaging murderers own icon against him, slicing into his skull with it until it (the icon) shatters... a scene from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. This was the first Friday the 13th movie I saw in a theater.

Sometimes called "Jason Vs. Carrie" by viewers because of its telepathic heroine, it also marks a divergence in the franchise for more than one reason.

Unfortunately, none of those reasons is unstereotyped, non-token characters, this is one of the worst in that regard.

The screenplay also gives one of the killed girls some really piss-poor last words: "Ok, you big hunk of a man, come and get me!" (She thinks she's calling to her boyfriend, but really...oh, you get the picture)

But in most of the first six (dear god) movies the killer is your basic force of nature, his appearances are scares, you see them, and someone's going to die.

In VII, the movie becomes all about Jason, the camera staying on him for long, ponderous stalking scenes.

But he does have the coolest make-up in this one, I like it, anyway.

This is four minutes of scenes from the movie cut together, including the one I described. Enjoy.

The man who posted that to YouTube wonders if the film was meant to be more humor than horror. I see his point, but I don't know. One thing I do know, is that

5. The killer decapitates three people with one swipe of his machete. one of the many reasons Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
is an out-and-out comedy. Look at the facts: The first person to be killed in the film (by having his heart punched out from behind, no less) is the guy who used to play "Horshack" on Welcome Back, Kotter.

That is what they call tipping your hand.

And then there's the...well trust me, it's a comedy. Just look at this:

And this:

The fellow playing Jason with the comedy timing is C. J. Graham (augmented by stuntmen)

BTW. Fun fact: The woman who starred in the film, Jennifer Cooke (also known by SF fans of the '80s for V), later married the founder of the Celestial Seasonings tea company.

6. A killer lifts his victim into the air and stabs him through the stomach, pinning him on the wall off his feet, then stands there just looking at the victim for a moment...

...would be a scene from Halloween (the good one, directed by John Carpenter).

Fun fact: Nick Castle, who played "the shape", later co-wrote the Snake Plissken films with Carpenter, and directed The Last Starfighter, among others.

7. In one of the most infamously homoerotic slasher-horror films ever made, an ex-Marine coach dies in a high school shower room. a scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge , wherein the true nightmare would seem to be touching a girl.

Honestly, it's gayer than a wardrobe full of Dynasty costumes. If you haven't seen it, or if it's been a while, read the above review from my favorite web site devoted to looking at horror movies from a queer perspective, Camp Blood.

And you'll be convinced, as the reviewer is, that this was "The Gaypex of Horror Cinema."

10. A man whose first child has already been killed learns that his second child has been kidnapped. She has a limited supply of air; he himself has just murdered the only person who knows where she is, and now there is no way to get her back. the last trap in Saw III.

If you haven't seen the Saw films (I love 'em), and think you may choose to, you shouldn't follow that link or watch this video. Then again, if you haven't, they won't make much sense to you (if any), anyway...

And, finally:

11. A missing person is revealed to have been closer to the people who are searching for him than they could have possibly imagined.

To find the answer, click below. The deranged Zen master wants to play...

(the answer to which movie it is, I mean. I'm not going to tell you how that particular mystery works out, and neither is the trailer below)


...but if you really must know, this'll tell you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

If only I had her figure.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

(that's Delenn from "Babylon 5," for those of you who don't know)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

...there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," [Maj. Gen. Antonio] Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

This is not an anti-war nut or a sufferer of "Bush Derangement Syndrome," pls. note. It's a retired Major General.

The group Physicians for Human Rights, which compiled the new report, described it as the most in-depth medical and psychological examination of former detainees to date.

Sad to say, this is another one of those cases where I--well I haven't exactly buried the lead, but I am almost (but not quite) dismissively walking past it. Why?

Because of course the architects of what happened at Abu Ghraib (et al) committed war crimes. They were (and are) evil thugs. And of course, we're going to have to hope that the god in whom they claim to believe is indeed just. Because if so, they'll be dancing with the devil in the firelight sooner or later.

We're going to have to hope that because--unless I'm being too cynical (again) -- that's the only way in which they're going to be held to account.

So I look sadly at the first part of that news story and move on, on to one of the most baffling examples of double-talk I think that I have ever read.

"It adds little to the public discourse to draw sweeping conclusions based upon dubious allegations regarding remote medical assessments of former detainees, now far removed from detention," [Navy Cmdr. J.D.] Gordon [a Pentagon spokesman] said.

I'm quite sure you're not supposed to do that to the English language...

That reminds me...

PJ ran this in an entry on her Via blog, and it reminded me of a couple things.

One, that I simply must get my eyes checked.

And two, probably my favorite cartoon by Gahan Wilson:


If you find that funny, you owe it to him, to yourself, and what the heck, even to me to check out his website.

One More Shot

Model: Alli

Photographer: Tamar Levine

Via TMD.

Fair & Balanced

Following up on the post about that button yesterday, I'm happy to post now that
The state GOP party said Wednesday that it will donate the $1,500 rent it collected from the vendor,, to Midwestern flood victims.

"This vendor need not apply to another Texas GOP state convention," [State GOP spokesman Hans] Klingler said.

Score one for optimism.

Priorities of the Bush conservative Evangelical

So let me get this straight. According to Michael Gerson, proud conservative of the Washington Post (and longtime Bush speechwriter)...

Al Franken, former Air America radio/Sundance TV talk show host, writer of bestselling books that Fox was stupid enough to sue over; currently running for the senate, is "vulgar."

Some institutions must be more than a mirror to our culture, including families, religious communities and government. At its best, politics can offer examples of civility and generosity that challenge selfishness and prejudice -- the tradition so far embraced by both John McCain and Barack Obama. At the very least, politics should not actively push our culture toward vulgarity and viciousness. This is not prudery; it is a practical concern for the cooperation and mutual respect necessary in a functioning democracy. And it is hard to believe those causes would be served by a Sen. Franken.

As Josh Marshall muses,

Gerson...helped bring us Dick Cheney, state-sanctioned torture and official lies to lead the country to war...

But some things Al Franken said disgust him.

Still, we can assume that Gerson is right to assert

it is not common for one member to tell another “[expletive] you” —

He asserted that less than two months ago in a column arguing that we shouldn’t be scared of McCain’s temper. McCain, you see, told Sen. John Cornyn just that (“[expletive] you”) during the immigration debate.

But, says Gerson-

McCain, after all, has contributed to the legend of his own temper -- using it as evidence of his fierce independence.

Got it? Al Franken? Vulgarity. John McCain? "civility and generosity." “fierce independence."

BTW, in that same column, the Evangelical Gerson implies that the only time McCain's temper has really worried him is when the Senator called the raving lunatic Pat Robertson and the now dead sex-phobic babbling idiot Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance."

Ok, "raving lunatic" and "sex-phobic babbling idiot" are my personal opinions (though I can back em' up, follow the links).

But they are or were "agents of intolerance" by anybody's definition.

Priorities, of the Bush conservative Evangelical.

The Birth of Venus and other creations

(images from rachel stuart-haas, via Decor8)

Adolphe Bouguereau, (1825-1905) - The Birth of Venus (1879).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Drama is easy when it’s tragedy"

There's a profile of Doctor Who head writer Russell T Davies in this weekend's New York Times. Excerpts:

“The most boring drama would be” — here he put on a whiny, fractious voice — “ ‘Oh, I’m bisexual, oh my bleeding heart’ nighttime drama. Tedious, dull. But if you say it’s a bisexual space pirate swaggering in with guns and attitude and cheek and humor into prime-time family viewing: that was enormously attractive to me.”

“I often get asked to write dramas or films about a man coming out of the closet to his wife, or a man coming out of the closet to his children, or a man who’s beaten up because he’s secretly gay,” Mr. Davies said. “I always refuse if it’s a negative take on homosexuality — if the only aspect being portrayed is the trouble, the tears and the angst.”

He continued: “There’s enough of that out there. Why bother? Drama is easy when it’s tragedy. Anyone could write a scene of a man crying in the rain saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ But actually it’s much more fun to see a man in a bar trying to pick up another man. That’s tense. There’s a whole minefield of emotions there.”

Jesus god Wow (UPDATED)


Your republican government, supporting the troops.

Mentally distressed veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are being recruited for government tests on pharmaceutical drugs linked to suicide and other violent side effects, an investigation by ABC News and The Washington Times has found.

Original post:

Y'know, when they're not running dumbass "General Betray Us" ads, the boys & girls at MoveOn can come up with some powerful stuff:

Via Digby.

Are online TV fans representative?

That's the question asked of a couple of writers and showrunners in an BlogCritics entry (Oh, just to be on the safe side: If you watch Bones and haven't caught up with the end of last season, the entry does contain a huge spoiler).


Alan Poul, executive producer and director of Swingtown and Six Feet Under, sees the benefit to even negative reactions.

"It's hard to get anything made. It's just as hard to make something that's mediocre or bad as it is to make something good," Poul pointed out. "You can't do your job well unless you invest, you attach, you bond to the material. Therefore everything you make is your baby. So when somebody attacks your baby, you go into maternal protection mode."

"My first reaction is: 'those bastards, how dare they?' Then I try to be open minded and look for the person's point of view ... before I trash it," he joked before getting serious.

Bones creator Hart Hanson also looks at negative comments as a sign of fan passion, something his show, sitting somewhere "between a cult hit and a real hit," needs to survive.

He even tells his actors not to look at message boards. "They're really mean about every one of our actors. The ones who have an axe to grind will write and the ones who love them won't. Our Internet presence is fairly negative. But we don't care about that, because they're all watching."

Is it just me....

...or does anyone else think that Cindy McCain looks like some sort of photo-negative version of Courteney Cox?

And I don't mean young, fine-ass Courteney Cox:

or Dirt-y, hot mom Courtney Cox:

I mean the Skeletor she was in the last season or so of Friends.



Don't ever let anyone tell you that there is no god (Y'hear that, Corey and Mana?).

The Devil Wears Prada actress Anne Hathaway put on a brave face at her latest film premiere last night after breaking up with long-term boyfriend Raffaello Follieri, the Mail Online can reveal.

That's right, The Future Mrs. Varkentine (who even looks good wearing what seems to be an upside down Muppet)

...has given The Unworthy Swine the shove.

And BTW, when I say unworthy...

stories would get back to Anne about his late nights and carousing, usually with models in the immediate vicinity.'

...I mean, unworthy.

Funny thing is, Hathaway was on the Jay Leno show last night, and told a story about shooting a kissing scene for Get Smart! when she had pinkeye. She joked self-depricatingly, "I'm gonna get a lot of dates outta this..."

My of course, ears perked up. She's looking for dates? But I figured it was just a joke. Now we know. And hey, you know what else we know? We know The Future Mrs. Varkentine is amongst you, my vast reading audience.

Remember, it was just over a week ago that I expressed my worries (in a purely friendly, nonbiased way) that The Unworthy Swine was putting my future bride in a bad light, and urged her to think of herself.

And now, she has.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that there is no god.

Oh. My. God.

Y' a Democrat, I try not to stereotype the GOP as oh, say, racists who care more about the rights of fetuses than they do about grown-ups born a different color than they are. I try.

This pin being sold at the GOP state convention in Texas is not making it easy for me.

Via AmericaBlog, where Aravosis writes:

Expect the Republican party to do absolutely nothing about the racists in its own midst. The national Republican party in Washington has contacts all the time with its state parties. I'm sure there's money involved...

The optimist in me would really like to see John proved wrong about this. The cynic says he probably won't be.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Middleman, which debuted tonight on ABC Family, is worth a look.

Based on a comic book I haven't read, it's about a snappily dressed team, one an impossibly square-jawed all-American type, the other a younger, smart artistic (and freaky) woman, fighting evil.

Put another way, it's Men in Black meets She's All That with a dash of Mrs. Peel/Steed Avengers (there's a deliberate pastiche of that series' credits). A touch of current Doctor Who, too, in that it's a show whose target audience might be 8-to-12 year-olds, but adults can love as well. So no, originality is not its strong suit, but neither is it American Idol's.

It's wholesome in its way as the milk the title character favors--but he also uses that favor as a device for beating a confession out of a thug. Like Friday Night Lights, a series it otherwise resembles in next to no way whatsoever, what it's about is less important than the way it's about what it's about. And that way is lighthearted, upbeat, and kept me laughing throughout, which is more than can be said for some sitcoms (Two and a Half Men?)

The writing is sharp, the performances, hard to imagine bettered.

As the title character, Matt Keeslar puts just the right spin on his straight-as-a-pool-stick role. "It’s bad apples like you that put Hoover in a dress,” he says, when she shows up for her first day of work in cutoffs.

It's a test of commitment--a lesser performance would constantly be cuing the audience "Can you believe I'm this corny?" Keeslar seems (as the character) really to be this corny, which is the only way it works.

"If there's one thing I hate more than scientists trying to take over the world, it's scientists who twist innocent primates with computer-enhanced mind control to live out their sick and perverted fantasies of criminal power," he says.

Which is a good line all by itself, but it's bettered when Natalie Morales repeats it to him nearly verbatim, asking if it's true that if there's one thing he hates...

As heroine Wendy Watson, Morales has a deadpan Tommy Lee Jones would envy; she's also more gorgeous than he is. Not that Jones isn't a sexy hunk of man in his own right, of course.

It's a hoot, and fun, what else can I say?

Well I can say that based on the pilot, they seem to not be falling into the deep end of pop-culture references in which the last season of Buffy, or Kevin Smith's later flicks, drowned. When you're fighting the aforementioned computer-enhanced-mind controlled primate, what else would you say but "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape?"

(Please excuse all the Planet of the Apes references today...I've been reading Charlton Heston's autobiography)

It's my kinda show. As we know, I'm a sucker for unconventional male/female relationships. I also like that, so far at least, they don't seem to be taking the team down the will they/won't they/when will they path. That can be fun when it works (Bones) but it's become its own cliche (Martha Jones).

If anything, WW has the old Tom Cruise unresolved issues with her dead father thing going on, which maybe MM will help her get over. And I just noticed how their initials are mirror images of each

Oh, and Wendy Watson's boyfriend, though a bit of, as the MM says, "a doorknob," is named Ben. This means I got to hear the line, when the heroine comes home and tells her roommate she wants to play video games:

“Speaking of joysticks, Ben’s here."

I was pretty much bound to like it after that line, wasn't I?

(Even if her mother and roommate both think she's only the guy's beard.)

And Mary Jo Rajskub (Chloe from “24”) gets Rush Limbaugh's tounge out of her mouth long enough to do a guest-star part as a scientist.

For once, I agree with Arnold

Stan Winston, the Oscar-winning special-effects maestro responsible for bringing the dinosaurs of "Jurrasic Park" and other iconic movie creatures to life, has died. He was 62.

"The entertainment industry has lost a genius, and I lost one of my best friends with the death Sunday night of Stan Winston," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Stan's work and four Oscars speak for themselves and will live on forever.

I'm "old school" in the sense that I usually don't care how incredible SFX makeup is. If it's not being used by filmmakers who know how to tell a story, I always figure, it's meaningless. Look at Burton's "re-imagining" of Planet of the Apes, or Spider-Man 3.

You can't fault the f/x, but the movies sucked (more or less). And don't even get me started on George Lucas's precious ILM.

But Winston's name was always a mark to me. First of all because, I admit I haven't done a film-by-film comparison, but I would guess he did more actually good films than Rick Baker, ILM or anyone else you want to name.

Look at his filmography: Aliens. Iron Man. The Monster Squad. Terminator 2 (and one). Batman Returns. Tideland. How to Make a Monster (just to name a handful of my favorites).

Of course, he didn't score a direct hit every time--that would argue against logic.

Ghosts, an extended video he directed for Michael Jackson, for instance, uses a lot of SFX makeup to "disguise" Jackson as a white man. The revelation that he played the part is meant to be a funny "gotcha." But the minute he walks onscreen you say "Look! It's Michael Jackson made up as a white man!"

Pumpkinhead, which Winston co-wrote as well as directed, doesn't exactly compel repeat viewing and I don't think it won Winston any prizes.

It still has one of the most memorably cool-looking movie monsters of the past 20 years. It's probably been almost that long since I've seen it (refer to "doesn't compel repeat viewing," above), but I remember the atmosphere of the film as being effectively moody, too.

Still, even when the films weren't as good, Winston's creations had, the only word I've ever been able to come to for it is, a certain beauty to them.

Look at the Predators for another example. I don't love those moves as much as some do--though they both have great endings--but the Predator itself is still an astonishing design today.

(if you're not familiar, that's it directly above Winston's head, left)

Better yet look at one or two of the out-and-out financial travesties on which he worked, like Heartbeeps and The Wiz. In some, his makeup is the best, if not the only good thing in them.

Stan Winston, 1946-2008. RIP.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And damnit, I choose to believe it is

Originally uploaded by Gareth Roberts
I'm posting this one less because of the picture than because the name of the uploader (in association with the picture) made me laugh.

Is this Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts, who I allegedly look like? Most recently of the brilliant "Doctor Who does Agatha Christie by way of Mel Brooks" story, The Unicorn & the Wasp, and creator of Menlove Stokes?

Eh, could be. There's nothing at all in this Gareth's flickr profile to confirm or deny it...

I'm walking uphill being turned around and round Secret in motion when my feet are on the ground...In my mind's eye One little boy into one little man

Barack Obama speaks on fathers and fatherhood. Excerpts follow, but by all means read the whole thing.

We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves

We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.”

“We need to help all the mothers out there who are raising these kids by themselves; the mothers who drop them off at school, go to work, pick up them up in the afternoon, work another shift, get dinner, make lunches, pay the bills, fix the house, and all the other things it takes both parents to do. So many of these women are doing a heroic job, but they need support. They need another parent. Their children need another parent. That’s what keeps their foundation strong.