Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blog Move!

This blog has moved! Thanks to everyone for supporting this iteration of the blog for as long as you have. It's been a good run. For further awesomeness, come to:

Wordpress offers me far more options and flexibility than blogspot, so the blog has moved there for the foreseeable future. I look forward to seeing you all there!

- The Inquisitive Loon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ruby Sparks

By DionysusPsyche

Calvin is an accomplished writer. Uncomfortable with fame. He feels all of his shortcoming, and has had a few recent let downs in his personal life which have increased his self-doubt. He believes people he meets care only about his notoriety. "They love you and then they throw you away," he is told by another writer. It must be disconcerting to go from being invisible to being in the public eye. "Write what you can and then disappear," the advice continues. Calvin is a hermit (if he wasn't already one), and isn't a man so much as a bundle of nerves. Because of his anxiety and preoccupation with his success, he has hit a roadblock in his writing.

Until Ruby.

Ruby Sparks is reminiscent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and introduced in not so many words as a redheaded version of Zoey Deschanel. Calvin instantly knows everything about his character as if he's memorized a fact sheet or an extremely old, well circulated internet survey.

It's hard to separate the idea of the film from the actual actions that are going on. The film can be broken down into two basic themes: falling in love and writing. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

The first concept stems from when you first meet someone, and you think they're perfect—not necessarily perfect for you. Just perfect. You have an image in your head of this person and want that person to continue to be the one in your head. People see people as who they want to see them as. Yet, the longer you're together, you discover things about them that make you incompatible, things that are annoying, things you don't like. Some people try to change each other, but that ultimately makes everyone more unhappy and doesn't work very well.

The other half of this is once a writer starts writing, the story takes on a life of its own. It's always with you, even when you're not writing. It takes over—the story becomes a part of your life. Even if you don't tell people about it, it's next to you when you go to the store or eat a meal. It's next to you until it's over. Until you've taken it as far as it can go. Not every character or plot goes where its author thinks it will, and depending on how one writes a story, sometimes the characters do bad things...but those are actions and thoughts that make them people. That make them real. when writers don't write, something happens to them. It's difficult to explain, but if you're a writer, you can't not write. Even if you're away from anything you'd write or type on, those thoughts are still turning over in your head like a ferris wheel. The fair may change towns, but that ferris wheel keeps going.

At first, I took a liking to Calvin. He definitely describes a certain kind of writer, or maybe someone that the audience could see themselves turning into. To a certain degree, I don't think we're supposed to adore him. We're supposed to understand where he's coming from, get that he's broken, and know that he needs to fix himself.

I didn't fall in love with the film like Calvin falls for Ruby. I liked it less the longer it lasted. What I did appreciate was what the film represented. It's similar to Stranger Than Fiction, except I liked Stranger Than Fiction better, in perspective, although that was also a weird film. Ruby rubbed against me like a sandal that doesn't fit your foot and causes a blister. Then the blister pops, and then it hurts. Calvin's obsession with Ruby was both grating and obnoxious, even if it seemed probable. Everybody dates someone or has a friend that dates someone who seems great at first but ends up unbearable. I didn't even really like Calvin's dog...and I like dogs a lot.

Ruby Sparks was great as a trailer. It was good as a sentence. Its actual execution, not so much, even if there were sections of the film I enjoyed. This is a movie that makes a statement, and you either love it or you hate it. Perhaps you'll come to a different opinion than I did, because I see this film as more perspective oriented than many of the films out there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Life Unexpected (TV)

by DionysusPsyche

Lux, a foster child, finds her parents in order to receive emancipation from the state and live on her own. Lux is sixteen years old—the same age her parents were when they conceived her.

To Baze, her father, this comes as a huge shock. He had no idea that Cate, a girl he wasn't even dating, had given birth and given this child up for adoption.

Cate is surprised herself. She was assured by the adoption agency that her daughter's adoption was guaranteed, so it's news to learn that her daughter had heart trouble, needed surgeries, got sick, and was in and out of the hospital. After that, Lux became bitter towards the adoption process, and rightly so.

Much to the surprise of everyone except those who've read the synopsis, the judge grants custody to Cate and Baze temporarily in order to reassess the status of adoption and foster care for Lux.

The first handful of episodes are a massive wave of emotional outbursts and blaming. Cate blames Baze, the high school jock who impregnated her. Baze is enraged that Cate never told him that she kept the baby, and Lux has to deal with two grown ups who are still figuring out their lives and have no idea how to raise a child—let alone a teenager, who is angry, hopeless, and lies constantly. Creepy boyfriend and a rebellious best friend included.

The show is set in Portland, OR, and the footage they show of the city is absolutely, astounding gorgeous. Portland is at home here, and it might be the best show yet that's filmed in Portland. Unlike Grimm which feels the need to constantly remind its viewers where we are, Life Unexpected is more subtle. We see footage, Baze always wears some kind of Oregon Ducks shirt, everybody loves the bong lamp (no, it's used as an actual lamp), and the show is set to an awesome soundtrack. Two of the characters are in radio, a Portland staple of morning shows (Cate and Ryan on set sometimes remind me of 105.1 The Buzz), and Baze runs an independent bar in the heart of downtown. Cate's sister is a therapist who teaches yoga on the side. Short of someone working in a coffee shop, it couldn't get more culturally relevant than that.

Die-hard Portlanders will hate this, but when Lux talks to someone about the staples of living in the city, she says Voo Doo Donuts is "okay." As someone who never understood the hype of that place (homeless people always outside, drunk people always roaming about, you can get married there), it's probably one of my favorite moments in the show. Finally, someone agrees with me, fictional or not!

Lux, the daughter
Her family up until this point has consisted of her best friend since age seven, and her boyfriend. She is frustrated by the hand life has delt her and doesn't know where to turn or whether she can trust her new parents, or anyone for that matter. Instead of talking things out, she yells, hides the truth, and bolts, which is common for someone in her situation whose mode for stress reduction is to do what has always been done to her—leave. Take the easy way out.

Cate, the mom
A morning radio dj, Cate is an overachiever, type A who compensates for early childhood issues. The trist that left her pregnant is the primary one, but as the series goes on, we learn that there are even more pressing thoughts than age that crossed Cate's mind when she gave Lux up for adoption. She strives to be a good mother, despite her shortcomings and throughout the series is unable to forgive herself for giving up Lux.

Baze (Nate Basil), the dad
Owner of a bar, Baze's charisma and laissez-faire attitude are evident in his carefree lifestyle. Yet when his daughter shows up at his door, he, like Cate, is determined to do right by her. Everyone's progress throughout the series is telling, but Baze's is the one that made me most proud. Initially accused by Cate of being “the fun one” (not an untrue statement), Baze has a serious discussion with Lux around the middle of the first season where he tells her that he wants to be her friend, but despite what they would like, he is her father, and he's going to keep trying to be a better one. He tells her what good parents do—that being her dad is more important than being liked. He also fears his past and hopes it doesn't dictate his future in terms of careers and relationships. Over the course of a couple dozen episodes, Baze takes emotional and financial responsibility for both himself, his daughter, and 'fesses up to his shortcomings. He makes good on promises, and he begins to take on a role of a proper caregiver.

Ryan, mom's boyfriend
The last influential role model is Cate's boyfriend and co-host of her morning radio show. It was initially easy to write Ryan off as “the other guy,” “the wannabee dad,” and “that man in Lux's life who isn't Baze.” This is natural, and happens in real life when both kids and biological parents feel threatened. However, Ryan shows more depth once he comes to terms with the new arrangement that consists of Lux's dad suddenly being a part of their daily lives. When Cate and Baze fall short, Ryan is the one who talks to Lux, makes her see the reason, and is a rational adult. He is the first one who has a discussion with Lux about her past that has nothing to do with current issues and problems. Ryan has his own shortcomings which take awhile to show, but he is the solid rock that everyone needs while they're adjusting to this new life.

The ever present history
Every family is dysfunctional, but Baze and Cate's families both prove why Baze and Cate are slow learners in the parenting department and why they haven't attempted it until now. Their relationships with their parents are lacking, complicated, and unsatisfying. Both of them are afraid of commitment to others, and they're not starting with a baby to mold and teach. They're thrown into the chaotic world of hormones, adolescence, and a daughter who is a victim of abuse.

Yet, Cate, Baze, and Ryan find ways to repair the damages, build bridges, and try harder than any of them ever has before.

Lux is beyond troublesome. She makes choices that would drive any normal parent above and beyond the wall of reason. Frequently dramatic and ridiculous, she shuns those close to her, pushes people away, and hides important information. Yet, it's pointed out that Lux is used to parenting herself. When that is taken into account, it shouldn't come as a surprise that she struggles to remain in power instead of letting her parents parent. She is a teenager who has been on her own more or less her whole life, so she needs to be forgiven for being childish. She is one—one that needs help. Sometimes in the show, it is clear that Cate and Baze forget who is in charge, and their fear of losing the child they've reconnected with is hauntingly obvious.

Walking away with more than just entertainment
A topic that comes up regularly is that of adoption. How unadopted kids feel alone, scared, and depressed about the future. When Lux's boyfriend overreacts to a situation, Lux, who's made excuses until that point, tells us of how hard a life Bug has led—what happened to his parents and how he ended up in foster care. Life Unexpected is a story about hope, improving, and moving past failures, but it also realistically explains how difficult it is for children of all ages to be adopted, and how the system set up to help backfires when kids age, get fostered for extra money, or are used in lieu of a baby sitter. They strike out and turn on the system designed to help them, acting out or caving in on themselves to avoid being hurt and constantly bounced from one house to the next.

Another theme is the role children play in people's lives. How they are a huge responsibility, a chunk of time and money. However, I found myself swayed by the overflowing amount of love, patience, and steadfastness that Baze and Cate have for Lux. Lux expects them to throw her away, and they don't.

An ongoing lesson, one that the writers find essential is that the characters are challenged each episode with opportunities to lie or tell the truth. In either situation, it usually doesn't end well. Their lies are not elaborate enough to succeed, and their honesty is not typically communicated by the heart of the issue but retaliated with blame and apologies. If someone gets up to make a speech at a time of anger, it's nearly impossible that they're going to back down.

Character Development and Season Breakdown
All good things take time. Watching broken characters evolve, change, and start bringing out the best in themselves and others gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. The episodes can be formulaic, stuffy, and the fighting is stupid and repetitive. However, it presents authenticity. You side with Lux when Baze and Cate are subpar at their job, and when they're too busy arguing to care for her. You feel for Baze when he struggles to overhaul his lifestyle in order to make room for his daughter. You pine for Cate when Lux blows up on her for being, well, a mom.

First season consisted of the bombardment of the new situation that everyone is adjusting to. The second season is, in part, cleaning up issues from the first season (more aptly, prolonging them) while creating new problems spun out of old ones like a never ending ball of yarn. Some of these are legimate issues: having more kids, defining relationships when they change, knowing your significant other, finding your way in school, fitting in. Yet, I had qualms with the second season.

Criticism for the Second Season
Of my check list of what didn't work, there are many here. Second season takes on a perspective of integrating even more out of this world plot lines to complicate any simplicity and resolution that has come from the first season. The writers become overly concerned with making sure that the show is defined by the title which makes it turn on itself and creates bizarre, unpleasing new moments.

The problem with the relationships from second season between main and secondary characters seems extremely forced, especially for one couple in particular. With the case of Ryan and Cate's new co-worker, this is obvious, but the other ones that grow in second season don't fill the authentic places that the ones in first season did. The contrast could be because the connections in the first season felt grounded. Biological parents to a child, a three year working/dating relationship, roommates. While trying not to spoil it, the connections made in the next season don't feel right. It's not that they're morally wrong, which some very well are, it's as if there is a restless, lackluster feeling between the characters and lack of commitment to the plot. It's uneasy and feels unnatural. Also the previously “resolved” cold cases rear their ugly heads.

When comparing the latter half of the second season with the rest, it just doesn't jive. Out of nowhere Lux has inner demons that bolt from her like some sort of human Pandora's box, except it's hard to find the good in it all. I'll concede that just because Lux gets a new life doesn't mean that her old one is put to rest, but I feel like the writers go out of their way to make her unlikeable, and regress from all the progress made at the end of the former season.

I don't know at what point the show's creators found out it was going to be cancelled, but the second half of the season spends its time farting around and in the last half of the last episode, it's like everything changes. Which makes me wonder if the writers wrote themselves into a corner, or if someone just didn't tell them soon enough that the series was going to be cancelled. So even though I liked the last half of the last season, it wasn't cohesive with the number of problems that were set up in season 2.

My Impressions
To be honest, it took me about four episodes to get into the show. The first two episodes I hated, and there was at least one moment every episode since then that got me all angry or exasperated at someone doing something idiotic or just being a complete wad. What kept me coming back for more is the incredibly emotional, well-intentioned confessions that happen every episode between the characters. This is not to be confused with what I dislike which is the over dramatic displays of anger, distrust, and deceit  I still hate Lux's bawling and screaming, that didn't change much which was frustrating. For me, the show over time became less about Lux's character (even though she is the primary one), and more about the adults perfecting parenthood (it's a work in progress). The show may be soap opera-esque, but it boils down to family, love, and having people there to count on whether times are good or bad. People make mistakes, and the best characters learn from them.

The show is defined by emotion and character development. Hell, the only description of the type of show is "emotional." While in certain episodes characters regress, it shows a normal back and forth process that moves the characters forward and teaches good lessons (especially about the importance of NOT LYING!).

If you can stand a certain amount of temperamental behavior and zealous sentimentality, I recommend this show, especially to parents and future parents. I might even go back and re-watch certain episodes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall (2012)

by DionysusPsyche


At the beginning of Skyfall, the audience is met with a quandry: is the sacrifice of one life worth more than several to hundreds at the hand of an enemy? Is one extremely intelligent, fast, trained, charismatic agent expendable even without knowing how good the questionable shot to take out the other agent is? Time is a factor, having the enemy in one's hands is a factor, and risk is all wrapped up in it.

This is a similar question to the one we've asked in another blockbuster movie of not-so-distant past which I am reticient to name (yes, I'm willing to spoil Skyfall, but not necessarily a movie my jaw dropped at several times—sorry Double O Seven!). In the unnamed movie, the hero is met with the answer: that the situation can be avoided altogether. There need be no question as to whether this person kills one man or hundreds, there is another way. It may not be a great way, but it's still a possibility.

But this is an action film whose name is a legend. Whose films date back to before your birth (age dependent), whose books date back to possibly before the birth of your parents (and if they're super young, your grandparents). It's James [bleep]ing Bond, so naturally, I said, no, his fictional, impossibly awesome life is not less than for whom we're aiming. Now, we KNOW going in that Bond is not actually going to die within the first ten minutes. Do you know how angered people would be? No one would sign up to write or work that movie. There would be some Occupy Bond signs, although people WOULD be in suits, and the rallies would only take place after the 9-5 workday.

However, from a logistical standpoint, I did not agree. I felt that Eve (Naomie Harris) wasn't calculated enough. That M was not given proper information. It crossed my mind that Eve might be working for the other side (yeah guys, I didn't see the end, get it, moving on). I am not an employee of national security. I am not prepared and taught the math of risk, the number of agents at the company's disposal, nor the degree to which our enemy is wanted—facts of which I am glad. There was a coldness to M, a precision which the shot itself did not contain, where she saw no loss, only gain (this not included in her obituary for Bond which was lackluster at wonder he hated it). At this juncture, I am required to remind you that as a subjective member of the audience who is watching a James Bond film, I am predisposed to root for James Bond. Although his death did lead into the intro, which made his death sweeter and less horrific.

The opening to the each film in the series is so incredible that I'm often left wanting the opening credits instead of enjoying the film itself. Of course, Adele did the song, because the women of the time always sing the song of Bond. Sheryl Crowe did, Carly Simon did. Regardless of appeal, they are popular, accesssible, and are representative of the time in which the singular work was created.

I didn't buy M's speech about how we don't need to fear companies, and the establishment. This is something individuals in power say when they don't want to accept responsibility for their failed given action(s). The movie industry and the culture go through phases, and right now, the phase is the chaotic evil. It would be interesting to watch all the movies that came out a year after the school shootings and see if there is a similar pattern, or if screenwriters just flip a coin every few years. A part of this stems from sarcasm, but I'm also completely serious. It would also be interesting to compare Bond films to historical culture, which I am hoping someone does (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

I found the villain from Skyfall to be similar to the Joker from The Dark Knight inasmuch as he promises to kill people if his demands are not met and is viewed as highly unstable. Unlike the Joker, we know this man's past. Information tells us that he's been tortured beyond comprehension, that he's been handed over to the enemy for an exchange of goods and services, and that he's even stooped to the point of biting into a government provided cyanide tablet (capsule? there's a difference) to bring it all to an end. I DO think certain individuals are evil and unpredictable, but I don't think that's cause for letting your good agents go. Even Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory, and M's superior) agrees with me on that level. Or maybe he just doesn't want to be held accountable. I think that the first half promotes the idea that the establishment can't be trusted. M makes multiple mistakes: letting Bond back in the field, surrendering Silva (Javier Bardem), letting Eve take the shot that should have killed Bond, letting Eve stay in the field.

The villain, to some degree, is relatable. He's been captured and suffered at the hands of the Other. Turned over by his own people to die or live a subhuman, abysmal life. M even admits he was one of her best agents. Here is a question: was her best agent corrupted before siding against them, or was he assumed guilty and corrupted through near death, searing pain? M leads us to believe it was the former, but was it? Bond comes across as her personal sidekick and lapdog, a poor title for the kicking ass and taking names agent.

One of my consistent displeasures throughout the last three films is Bond's lack of gadgets. When I was little, he was all about technology. In this film, technology, which is representative of the time (thank you!), is an adherence to completing the task at hand. We are told by elders, businesses, and parents to turn off our cell phones, get off the internet, and accomplish things. So while Bond's lack of gadgetry and willingness to get back to nature seem consistent with a lesson for the times, it still feels anti-Bond.

Despite my displeasure with M, she's been compared to Bond's parents. When Bond takes M to Skyfall, while he is still an international man of mystery. We're aware that Bond could take M off the grid anywhere; he could take her to the middle of nowhere, but he doesn't. He takes her to his origins, maybe because he has connections or because he's thinking on his toes. He finds his car, he goes to his house, and he watches it all burn. Why? To save the woman he sees as a mother and a friend regardless of her shortcomings.

Here's my question: if Bond thinks of M so maternally, given her choices good OR bad, why does he take her to the place of his birth? He says, “I've always hated this place.” Is he lying? Is he being serious? If his parents actually died here, why does he take M here? To reveal a part of himself? Or to watch her perish? Since she dies in his arms, I sincerely hope the latter is not true.

Now we get to my biggest beef of the movie: when Bond returns to Skyfall, it is as if a page of an architectural or interior design magazine is laid out before us. We first see the car, then the stag. As a pessimist, I expect to see a shack, yet Bond surprises us yet again with a fully functional mansion that he turns into a shelter.

This is almost shameful to say, but it needs to be said. If I am the Dark Knight of sentences, I will say it and be willingly shunned by my fans. Why doesn't Bond go more Home Alone on Silva's ass and the hides of his cronies than surrender this Uncrate meets Restoration Hardware of advertising? I fall in love with this place starting with the stag at the entrance. The antler chandeliers, the floor to ceiling wood abience, the smell of old wood and antique furniture in the air, the amazing cellar/hidden basement that Bond hides in as a child for two days. But no, Bond listens to The Bloodhound Gang on his ipod and thinks, “we don't need no water,” let her burn. Somewhat also reminiscient of The Dark Knight, where Albert tells Bruce they burned the forest.

It's rare for me to go to a film in theatres where I am this ridiculously frustrated. Were it not for the destruction that ensued at the hands of Silva, I would completely be on his side. Regardless of “sides” or grudges, who lets older than God mansions burn to the ground? At which point, Bond, despite all the rest of the plot had my okay. I wanted him to end Silva and his henchmen, because damnit, he destroyed the historical and financial value of the estate. Who does that?? Only monsters, obviously. Only Bond would live in a fantastic place, and only in an action film would that place be ultimately destroyed. That speaks not of England but of America, unwilling to reconstruct unless it's for a dizzying price.

The end is pleasurable to Bond fans everywhere, as the story leaves off at the beginning. We learn that Bond is the first of an industry of Bonds, and he will go on until another Bond takes his place. Which finally proves why Daniel Craig looks nothing like any of the other Bonds. Finally, the fans and I have resolution.

Overall, not my favorite Bond film. Of the newer trilogy, I prefer Casino Royale. Diehard 007 fans may disagree with me. Which is okay. I hope those must-see fans enjoy it. Yet don't let the series override the individual movies. That's my only caution.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Parks and Recreation

Written by Joe the Revelator

To say something "Grew on me" usually brings to mind a fungus or mold, sinking its hyphae or roots under my skin until I'm forced to pressure-wash the offending parasite, lest I become used to it. Or worse, crave its' presence.

Parks and Recreation, the mockumentary starring Amy Poahler, absolutely grew on me. I stopped watching it after the first few episodes became available on Netflix, writing it off as another inner-office comedy aimed at cubicle prisoners, and those who long for interesting dialogue from their coworkers to keep their minds from rotting. I don't like cubicles. I don't care for the yammering of fellow drones in the workplace. And watching a show about other people at work, makes me feel like I'm at work.

But cooler, less judgmental heads prevailed, and I found myself sitting in front of the warm glow of the television, watching as a small branch of government slowly tore itself apart through the trials of the bureaucratic process. And I laughed.

 The town's past is slowly revealed over the course of several episodes with these horrendous "Historical Paintings". They may be the greatest feature of Parks and Rec.

A picture's worth a thousand smirks.

Parks and Rec takes place in the fictional town of Pawnee Indiana, a rural community plagued by racism, sexism, bigotry, fear bordering on paranoia, and an overwhelming obesity problem. In short, Pawnee represents all the negative aspects of living in a small town, collected into one volatile community. It's the perfect setting for a team of apathetic government workers, and one ultra-optimistic woman who borders on saccharin-sweet; Leslie Knope.

 To balance the unending positive energy of the Knope-machine, the rest of the team consists of Ron Swanson, a libertarian supervisor who keeps a claymore mine on his desk and an antique shotgun facing anyone who walks through his office door. Jerry, the loveable office screw-up, who endures an unreasonable amount of ridicule from his peers. Ann, the "normal" element, who was added to the crew to highlight how odd everyone's behavior is. Tom, Leslie Knope's assistant, who acts like a disgruntled Brooks Brother's salesman and uses the parks department as his personal entrepreneurial kickstart. And April the intern, who makes the show feel like a real documentary by frequently glaring strait into the camera, and exudes the angsty attitude of a high school punk-rocker. Others join the team, and some leave over time, but the chemistry is kept throughout the first few seasons.

The Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, which is introduced to a kid's basketball team to inspire them and give them principles...just before Ron administers mandatory crew cuts, sheering 10-year-olds like sheep.

If you can't beat 'em, Sweet'ems.

Cameos are made by members of the Saturday Night Live cast, as well as many other improvisational comedy groups and Stand-Up comedians. The mockumentary format never changes from season to season, but the jokes seem to compound on themselves, drawing from past episodes for witty punchlines, so I wouldn't recommended jumping into Parks and Rec without watching the episodes in order. I do, however, recommend watching more than one episode in a row. The ongoing political battles and struggles of the parks department segway quite well into one another.

Friday, November 2, 2012

End of the World Party

 Written by Joe the Revelator

My Fellow Americans,
I come before you humbled by the task we now confront; of rebuilding this great nation, after the most monumental disaster we've faced this century.
Blame will not be assigned. Fingers will not be pointed. Our scientists, as well as other academic institutions from around the world, were in concert that our world would end on December the 21st, of 2012. This was not disputed.
Now I ask that we join hands, in mutual forgiveness and in prayer.

Let today be a new, proud day for all of America. A day when slates are wiped clean. And a full, global pardon will be issued for any and all crimes committed on the 21st of December. Let us put yesterday's mistakes in the past.

For those capable of returning to work, to your families, and to your homes, I beg you to do so. For those of you who are not crippled by end-of-the-world hangovers, those not trapped under stolen sports cars - wrapped up in highway guardrails or waiting for the response teams to free you from several tons of flaming steel wreckage - please continue to support the America we've come to know and love.

As I gaze out on the White House lawn today I see a magnitude of hope in the eyes of my countrymen, standing among the bits of a downed passenger plane that plummeted from the sky last night whilst joy-riding, and the vast field of plastic, red solo cups, sticky with beer. I see beyond the soggy TP'd trees and toppled news stands, and the naked vagrants who have yet to wake from their drunken slumber, and those who may never waken. I look beyond the folly of our predictions, and I see a promise. The promise of a new, bright future, built upon the rubble we've amassed after one night of wanton, cathartic debauchery.

And I stand before you not without blame - I myself was found earlier this very morning, unconscious behind the wheel of a stolen police cruiser, in the ladies' department of a Walmart. Likewise, my running-mate of this last month was arrested when his migrant workers reported him for forcing two of their staff to fight to the death, firing pistols at their feet like a "Bandito", as they claim, to motivate them. Without condoning or condemning his actions, I say to him; "Welcome to the New America."

We have a lot of tough times ahead of us. And the national debt, which was daunting before, may seem like a beast of impossible size once we've received the cleaning bill. But there's nothing for it but to roll up our sleeves, chase away the rummy blur with a triple-shot of gumption, and get back to work on making this great nation the best it can be.

Note: Sorry I haven't posted in a while guys, been a little busy. Figured I'd do a little speech with my prediction of how the end of the world will turn out. Well, actually, the "morning after". Next time I'll be back with a review  - Joe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Horror Movie Extravaganza

It's that time of year! Spooky stories, evil children, deranged clowns... Halloween ushers forth scary movies in all of their splendor, keeping kids up at night. Grown men become unwilling to make that 2am trip to the bathroom for fear of being set upon by demons. Yes, I refer to myself there, but in my defense I haven't had to do that since college. Shut up! It's a long trip to the dorm bathrooms at night!

Anyways, to honor the season I decided to take upon myself the exciting and potentially insane task of watching a number of the scariest movies I could lay my hands on. The criteria? I wanted to target movies that I hadn't seen before, and ones that have made top ten or top twenty-five lists of best horror movies out there. My plan? To watch and then review them here. Not a full review, mind you, but enough to get a sense of how good they were, what they were about, if they are worth your time, etc. I speak in the present tense because I write this before watching any of them and, as I watch them, I'll review them one by one so they are fresh in my memory. Also noted at the end of each mini-review will be an account of any disturbed sleep, bizarre dreams, or any freaking out that occurred after watching each respective movie, because I just know everyone will get a kick out of that.

Now, without further ado, the first on the list!


Picked from a list of the top horror movies on Netflix, Insidious is about a family who are perpetually haunted. They keep moving from house to house, keep seeing creepy shit, and can't seem to catch a break. We then figure out that it isn't the houses that are haunted, it's their eldest son who has mysteriously fallen into a coma. Yes, that might be a spoiler and its a pretty major plot point, but if the movie poster thinks its unimportant enough to say exactly that in the movie description, then I think it's fair to ruin it here too. OWNED. Anyways, Insidious then takes a very interesting path involving dreams, demonic possession, psychics, ghosts, and more!

My thoughts? This movie was awesome and well worth seeing. Did it scare me? Not really. I think the problem was the subject material: I am simply not scared of exorcism/possession type movies because I find the concept completely ridiculous. I will say that the subject is intellectually interesting (the different demons, the specifics of how one exorcises, the fighting of the subject to mentally overcome the spiritual obstacle), but frightening? Nah. But Insidious definitely kept me hooked, and its dwelling on how the family could overcome the evil was quite engrossing.

Also worth noting is that this movie has quite an undercurrent of humor throughout. At one point, a hapless comic duo of psychic investigators shows up to help out, and they are such a bunch of nerds that its hard not to laugh at what they do. They help prevent the movie from being a total Debbie downer, which is nice. In addition, there were a number of moments which were so surreal as to be more unintentionally hilarious than disturbing. Case in point, what the hell was up with the demon's house? Hell, anything to do with “The Further” reeked of funkiness. Good funkiness, mind you. Is there such a thing as 'good funkiness'?

Creepiest moment in the movie: Why won't anyone shut the curtains over the fucking windows?!

How Disturbed was the Loon: I'll admit, there was a moment when making lunch where my back was to a window and I checked a couple times to see if there was anyone watching me through it. There wasn't. Regardless, I moved to a position where I could face it. This movie and windows... *shudder*


This movie was actually mildly disappointing. It wasn't that it was bad, by any means, it was more that I was expecting to be completely freaked out after watching it. In all of the 'Top Horror Movie' lists that I'd read through, Poltergeist was supposedly so scary that the people writing these lists wouldn't even describe any of the scenes that were in it; apparently, they were that disturbing. I expected this to be the crown jewel of all the horror movies I would watch. … But then I saw that it was written by Steven Spielberg.

I'm sorry, but Steven Spielberg's brand of horror utterly fails. This is a movie where a tree attacks a kid and then gets inexplicably sucked into a tornado; the events are so far-fetched and the 'CGI' so kiddie that it's hard not to laugh at it all. So I did. From the squeaky-voiced psychic to the demon head in the closet, it was just impossible to take seriously. It wasn't a bad movie, by any means. It just inserted that Spielberg-ian sense of wonderment and magic that clashes too hard with a horror film. There was one moment where I felt a bit disturbed at what was happening on screen, but that was a moment where you could only hear a character panic but not actually see what was happening to them. The best horror movies have more of that: scenes where you don't entirely know precisely what form the horror is taking and thus have to have the imagination take over.

Creepiest thing in the movie: What the hell is happening to that dude's face?!

How Disturbed was the Loon: I didn't think this movie would affect me at all but then, when visiting a bathroom in a school building, I nearly jumped thirty feet in the air when the plumbing made a slamming sound after I turned on the sink. I won't lie; I half speed-walked half-sprinted from that little encounter.


Now the Loon starts getting into some really creepy shit. [Rec] is a Spanish-made found footage type film about a reporter, her cameraman, and a crew of firefighters investigating a mysterious late night call in a tall apartment building. After they show up, increasingly weird things start happening, the tenants seem a bit off, and then they start attacking the firefighters. For reasons unknown to us, the Spanish police decide to cordon off the apartment, locking the firefighters and the reporter and her group inside. They then have to do their best to survive with the few remaining normal tenants within a warped hellhole of an apartment where everything just starts going very wrong.

Now, zombies don't really tend to scare me in horror movies, but whatever the fuck those things were in [Rec] were a whole 'nother level of disturbing. In fact, it wasn't even that the 'zombies' were bad, it was that found footage feeling that you were there and going through the same trauma as the characters you were watching. This movie is full of nasty, nasty moments. What's fun (and also disturbing) is that I learned that there is enforced method acting going on. The actors didn't even know in many of the scenes what exactly would happen, often making their terrified reactions very real. Possessed children coming out of nowhere, corpses falling down stairs, characters unexpectedly turning hostile... These are things that the actors had to deal with out of nowhere!

Creepiest thing in the movie: The Madeiros Girl. What. The. Fuck.

How Disturbed was the Loon: The weird nightmares began. I don't remember exactly what happened in them, but I remember fighting zombie dogs in one. Which is odd, as they aren't even zombie dogs in [Rec]. I also walked home reallllly fast after watching it. Screw it. You would too.

The Others

Oh, man... This movie...

The Others is about a mother living in a mansion in the middle of nowhere with her son and daughter. A small family of caretakers move in with them. Then things start going strange.

The Others is sadistically designed to fuck with you. The kids have a disease that makes it so that light is harmful to them. Thus the light and the dark become scary. In addition, this movie really likes to mess with the viewer. Usually in a horror movie you expect that something bad is about to happen when the scary music in the background reaches a crescendo, but there are multiple times in The Others where it has that music pop up, only for nothing to happen. Its jump moments come when you least expect them, and the combination of the music's tricks, the uneasiness of everything going on, and the great acting of Nicole Kidman make it so that you are in constant tension. What's more, it is never exactly clear what is happening or why, which contributes the fear of the unknown on top of everything else.

What made this movie especially enthralling for me to watch was the fact that Nicole Kidman's character behaves precisely as she should in such a situation. I don't recall a single moment where she does something that I would not do if I were in her shoes. This is SO RARE in a horror movie. Because she's responding to the situation as rationally as she can, this makes what happens to her and the children all the more disturbing. Similarly, her daughter is absolutely fearless, which makes for an interesting situation when there are things happening that she should be frightened of, but isn't. This is a movie where the characters and their stories really got me into it.

Creepiest thing in the movie: The goddamn doors.

How Disturbed was the Loon: Things got worse. I watched this in my home alone and then went to go take a shower after. When I got in and turned on the light, the bulb flickered. I shut the door and almost thought to lock it (despite there being nobody else in the apartment), but then decided against it because I didn't want to lock myself inside. During the shower, I admit to opening the curtain from time to time to peer at the door. This movie and its fucking doors. Afterward, I left home as soon as possible and went to work early so I didn't have to sit around the quiet, empty apartment by myself.

The Descent

And then shit got even worse...

Being a fan of hiking and reasonably well-learned when it comes to movie know-how, I knew ahead of time that The Descent was probably going to freak me out. However, because I knew before watching that it involved monsters in a cave, I figured that that knowledge might sap any suspense from the movie. I also hardened myself against the idea of being so disturbed that I wouldn't want to go hiking afterward.

It didn't help. Not one fucking bit. The Descent was far more scary than I thought it would be. The freaky goblin creatures were one thing, but it was really the concept of being stuck in an unexplored cave that really got to me. Even with friends, that would be incredibly harrowing, and watching the bonds of trust between the girls crumble was awful to watch. This was so emotionally draining that throwing the creatures into the mix just made my brain go into OVERDRIVE. Some nasty, nasty shit goes down in this movie. Simultaneously, the girls kick a surprising amount of ass, making you root for them to get out alive. But, instead, they fall further and further down a slippery slope to madness and carnage.

So do I want to go hiking now? Fuck no! Thankfully, it's cold in Portland now, so that wasn't an attractive prospect to begin with. Still, the mischievous side of me likes the idea of watching this with a group of friends and then going to explore Ape Caves. Perhaps that will be a fun and potentially traumatizing idea for next summer!

Creepiest thing in the movie: Any scene with falling into a hole. Having nearly done that myself, seeing what happens to the characters that do is horrific.

How Disturbed was the Loon: As this is the last movie for this little blog event, it's the last thing I'm writing. I haven't had time for it to sink in and disturb me. Given how it involved a cave, I sort of doubt that I'll be particularly frightened by everyday life and all. But who knows? Perhaps the accumulated terror of having watched five horror movies in a short period of time will snap my brain into crazed overload. Time will tell...


I wanted to watch more, but given that today is Halloween and I really won't have time to see more movies over the next few weeks, I figured I'd let it go for now. Others that I wanted to watch but will have to wait for a future list: The Grudge, The Omen, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween.

Which of these movies was the scariest? It depends on what you're looking for. I found The Others to have the most unsettling atmosphere and scares brought about by getting freaked out by the atmosphere. By contrast, [Rec] and The Descent tied for the most intense and gory affairs. Insidious was probably the most conceptually interesting. Poltergeist was a mix of the most disappointing and the most entertaining. Thus I feel like every movie here had an excellent part to play, and succeeded in freaking the Loon out quite a bit over the past week!

Any recommendations for next Halloween are always welcome. I think I might watch some Disney movies now to regain my sanity.