january 2003

click here for permalink January 20, 2003

Advertising. Can't live with it — can't gouge out your eyes, quit your job and run amok, ranting insanely and showering the streets with confetti-like shreds of InStyle magazine...

Sure, we all laugh at the transparency of that IKEA campaign, the one with the Swedish spokesman who wrinkles his creepy eyes at us, melodramatically trying to manipulate an emotional response. We can smirk knowingly as he insults the audience for their misplaced sympathy and attachment to an inanimate object (and it's a commercial for inanimate objects, wink, wink). And we can blatantly refuse to acknowledge any cause-and-effect connection between that commercial and the next time we find ourselves schlepping through the IKEA home labyrinth with a giant, yellow canvas bag...

Yes, we all know how it works and why it works — but that doesn't change the fact that it still works.

To go one step further, we can take a personality test offered at the latest IKEA knock-off and chuckle to ourselves when it pronounces us "quick-witted and intelligent," with a tendancy to "run from the big problems."

Yeah, what do they know..?

Heh, anyway, here's another personality test for anyone else out there who's seen and loved the dark, violent Japanese instant classic, "Battle Royale." I am almost ashamed to admit that I had to download it to see it (thanks, KaaZaa!) but the mainstream video rental places here won't touch it and I don't have good enough credit to rent from the local video store that specializes in cult classics. No, seriously. I think they can take your first born if you don't pay your late fees.

Also.... I've got a new article over at ignorance.tv and I've added another astrology quasi-article... actually, an intro and some links, but they're good links. Heh.

click here for permalink January 7, 2003

Ahhh, thank god he's back! After the holidays, I returned to my regularly scheduled TV schedule and found, to my horror, that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had been replaced with a week's worth of random crap!

Naturally, I panicked and planned to check the Comedy Channel's web site for any scheduling information I could find but, by the time I had gotten around to that, the week was over. Then he was back but only in reruns of recent shows — and sorta crappy ones at that — like his weird, uncomfortable interview with Jon Cusack and the episode with Edward Norton that just left a bad, depressing taste in the air and prompted Mr. Pink to proclaim (over my gasps of "blasphemy") that Jon Stewart had "lost it."

Well. He was back with a new episode tonight (from a two week vacation, it turns out) and, to my disproportionately great relief, the show was fantastic. Wheeewww. I was afraid I might have to start watching the actual news for my news again.

What I have been watching a lot of lately is movies — all those great summer movies I was too lazy to go see in the theater are now coming out on DVD! Most of them with new footage, documentary features, deleted scenes and director commentaries! (Oh, my.)

And I do so love the "extras." Last night we watched "K-19: The Widowmaker" with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson which — and I didn't even know this until last night — was also directed by Katherine Bigelow. For those of you who aren't quite as rabid as I am about movies, she's the ex-wife of James Cameron and the director of a very random collection of movies including "Near Dark," which is one of my old favorites, and "Point Break," which features one of the most creative chase scenes in a movie, ever.

Anyway, "K-19," and its behind-the-scenes features, was incredible... the lengths that film makers will go to, and how dedicated — and obsessive — they can be, about researching and rendering events from history never ceases to amaze me. I mean, they rebuilt a Soviet submarine, for christ's sake, and filmed on board, with a real former Soviet submarine captain as a consultant! And they obtained and worked from the blueprints of the real "K-19" to recreate the interior exactly.

Sigh. I just love it. I love everything about it. Anyway, it's a great movie, so check it out, y'all... Oh, and "Minority Report" is good, too. Not in the same league, at all, but a really interesting spectacle... only, the whole time I was watching it, I couldn't stop thinking about another, lesser spectacle I saw recently... called "A.I."

Which made me wonder, what's going on with Stephen Spielberg lately? Not that I think he's "lost it" or anything, although his science fiction movies haven't been as — mm, unassailable — lately, as they used to be. I couldn't stop analyzing the production as I watched "Minority Report." It was like the fuel gauge on my suspension of disbelief was constantly in the "red zone," on the lookout for gaps in the plot or badly placed sponsors.

When I was a sci-fi geek in high school, I knew plenty of guys who never left the red zone, so to speak, preferring to watch everything from "T2" to the latest episode of "Babylon 5" ruthlessly scanning for directorial oversights (e.g: "No way, man, he's so out of bullets!" and so forth), but I have always preferred, if anything, to err on the side of suspending criticism, if possible, at least until the credits roll.

Of course, the vast majority of Hollywood sci-fi films are ill-equipped to withstand that level of scrutiny and are best enjoyed — again, if possible — for their other attributes (and sometimes, as with "The Astronaut's Wife," for example, they are best just erased from memory altogether).

The thing is, Stephen Spielberg has never been the kind of film maker who the average movie fan wanted to tear apart and scrutinize — you'd much rather be awed and filled with childlike wonder, just like he wants you to be. But I think maybe he's had trouble suspending disbelief as well lately.

And I think I know when it happened... you see, "Schindler's List" came out in 1993, immediately becoming the crown jewel in Spielberg's pantheon of critically acclaimed historical epics. "Jurassic Park" also came out in '93, eventually becoming his last perfect science fiction hit. Coincidence? You decide. I've fixated on this topic long enough...