Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some stuff from the Cato Institute

The Cato Institute is a caonservative think tank-policy institute that I would describe as libertarian-conservative but my sister who is in DC would call 'crazy-out-there-conservative-small-government-know-it-alls'. They have some interesting information available on their website, and I read a few articles. They are short and have a theme of small government and limited government spending. More importantly, they make you think. I enjoyed this one. It is amazing to think of what government spending on the elderly in 2040 will be. We need changes now when there is some time left on the clock, rather than during the final countdown. Unfortunately, that is not the American way.

This article shows how Bush and the GOP Congress cannot limit their feeding at the government teet. I understand the need to shift some spending your home state's way so that you can show you brought home some bacon, but the transportation bill is an example of how the GOP Congress and Bush have turned their back on fiscal conservatism.

Some of the Bush policies and strategy I have not understood at all (defense/foreign policy vaguely). The education bill and hiked spending (60%+ under Bush) possibly were attempts to prove moderate status, but he so quickly drove right and moved to reward the base that it was a waste. The same could be said for the Medicare reform with the prescription drug aid. That will be excellent for the elderly but no democrat/liberal/progressive will give Bush credit for helping the elderly and being a 'big government' president. He gained no additional voters. This was completely useless as Bush won the election because of the war in Iraq, the GWOT, and value voters.

A study as to how the GOP became big spenders can be found here. I think a few quick explanations on this can be that when you control all branches you will help your friends out and that the old saying 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' (Lord Acton) applies to our Congress.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Funny website article

This article was forwarded to me by a coworker. It is a good extended joke pointed at one type fo male. I dislike these guys, and I avoid wearing my striped blue/white/black shirt because of them despite it's good fit/look and gift status from my little sister. I try to limit its number of appearances.

Click Here for good laughs. You know at least 1 guy like this.

There has to be a female version of this. Maybe those stupid skirts that look really flimsy...pleated...cotton...lame. The skirts make girls with big butts look even bigger yet every girl has one. They work for very few women.

I'm now going to self-plagiarize from my LJ because I heard the song discussed again today....

"we get higher and higher straight up we'll fly...we get higher & higher leave it all behind" - "dreams", van halen (hagar years)

That song, "dreams", will be used during the tennis doubles match montage in the show I am creating with carl. I can't reveal more out of fear of someone stealing the idea, but it will be hysterical. Tennis mixed doubles match - wait, that could be funny, but a tennis doubles match to a rocking 80s song with a funny twist to it that I can't reveal. It will make the HBO come-drama "entourage" look like a piece of shit. "Entourage" is a drama that thinks it is a comedy. The leads suck, Jeremy Piven carries the show and Kevin Dillon of all people is the comic relief. With each episode I watch, I lose faith that it will become a great show.

Monday, August 29, 2005

woody allen's masterpiece, Annie Hall

I often complain about the state of Hollywood and the entertainment industry these days. I miss good, different, and adventurous films. I miss movies like Annie Hall. I am a fan of Woody Allen's work from the inventive What's up, Tiger Lily? to the newer Manhattan Murder Mystery but Annie Hall stands above everything. It is a nonlinear story that uses flashbacks, animation, split screens, and other devices to tell a funny story.

A movie like Wedding Crashers is hysterical and goofy, but it is not anything like the brilliant comedy and observational humor that is throughout Annie Hall (AH). When you watch AH, you get the feeling that you're listening to a great stand up comic being put into odd situations where their genius can shine. This became the basis for so many sitcom ideas in the early 90s. When you listen to Allen's character, you can hear the Billy Crystal lines from When Harry met Sally or Jerry Seinfeld's lines from an episode of Seinfeld and by extension Larry David's humorous circumstances and odd lifeview from Curb your Enthusiasm. This is the genesis of all of that; the acorn that started the tree.

Besides the observational humor that Allen uses, there are obvious sight gags. The scene where Allen hears friends discuss cocaine and its $2,000/oz price and then sneeze, spraying the coke everywhere, is one of these hysterical moments. The clever use of subtitles to show what Allen and Keaton's characters are really thinking when they are talking at their first meeting was incredibly funny. Allen uses a device that is used in foregin language films to explain meaning of the other language to show the motives of the male and female psyche. When flashbacks were used, Allen's character and others would be watching live like the ghosts of christmas past/present/future. The commentary and scenes are out of anyone's childhood/past. I laughed my ass off when watching the scene where his parents argue about the black cleaning lady stealing and why she was fired.

I miss films like this, and they just do not make films like AH anymore. Allen had 10 years of solid Hollywood success behind him and was allowed artistic freedom to do with AH as he pleased....and it worked. There was not a concern with offending any race, religion or group. There was no concern with being too New York/Jewish of a movie. He just wrote a film that people could identify with: the story of a passionate yet failed relationship and the build up through his/her life up to that relationship.

Rent it. I love to watch it, but you only need to see it once.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Boogie Nights

Dirk: When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign - it just blows up because the name is so powerful... It says, "Dirk Diggler."

A star is born with that line. That right there is one of my favorite lines from 'Boogie nights'. I don't know how many of you have seen 'Boogie Nights', but it is a fantastic film that soem people feel is too long. Of course, every time i finish the movie I can't think of a single scene I would delete. It is an amazing film that some say is a story about family; I agree. Paul Anderson was attempting to capture the glory days of pornography and society's transition to the 1980s and the broken down circus that is pornography.

[During a coke binge]
Rollergirl: Amber, are you my mom? I'm gonna ask you, okay? And you say yes, okay? Amber, are you my mom?
Amber Waves: Yes, sweetie.

Many of the relationships in 'Boogie Nights' (BN) are familial. If you look at the cast of characters, you have an old lion father in Jack Horner, a woman desperate to be a mom in Amber Waves, the bubbly little sister in Rollergirl, the golden son with Dirk and the odd collection of crazy relatives that make of a family with Buck, Scotty, the Colonel, Todd etc. jack grooms Dirk, yet their is the issue of acceptance, respect between the two. Jack is quick to cut Dirk down to size when Dirk claims that he blocks his own scenes. Amber becomes a mother figure to the orphans Rollergirl and Dirk because she cannot contact or visit her own son. There is a closeness between the 'actors' which could be in part because they see each other and work when we are at our most vulnerable, naked.

Dirk's family had an interesting dynamic which I wish had been explored more. He is constantly seeking approval or acceptance wherever he goes because of his horrible home life. He constantly wants to look cool and have others see him the way that he wants them to see him. When he tries cocaine for the first time, he asks if he looks cool doing it. He equates his American Dream with a Corvette, which people would see him driving.

Buck Swope: You're not being fair. This isn't fair.
Bank Officer: This financial institution cannot endorse pornography.
Buck Swope: Stop saying pornography. Why are you doing this to me? I am an actor. I am an actor.

Listening to the Director's commentary, one can hear how he did not want to glorify pornography. He wanted to show how truly horrible of a life it was/is. I think it was amazing that this movie came out before the major mainstreaming of porngraphy in American Society. As he stated, in the 1970s pornography was on the big screen, had plots because you could not fast forward to the sex scenes, and they were stars of the screen. Some friends mention that the movie has a happy ending as Dirk goes back to Jack's house and gets back in films. They really do not notice that Todd and Little Bill are dead, the Colonel is in jail, everyone is recovering from cocaine, and Dirk has found shelter back in porn. A career in porn is not a happy ending; Dirk has learned nothing and not grown in his 'hero's journey'. The look on Julianne Moore's face in the mirror is a more appropriate statement for the ending. Jack has just said she is "the foxiest bitch in the whole world". There is no joy in her face but a sadness because she knows the truth.

The truth is that everyone has lost their innocence. There is the obvious change in tone from the scenes of the 1970s to the 1980s, but even their 'work' is portrayed as soemthing they can improve and refine. Dirk is always concerned with things looking 'sexy' and 'right'. Jack wants to make a movie that will keep the pervs in the seats. People are more concerned with having the right look or stereo than anything else. In the final scene, the peaceful house equilibrium has been restored, but everyone is a little dirtier.

I think this is a nice allegory for the transition of American society from the 1970s which still had some of that 1960s activisim, experimentation with drugs, the sexual revolution was in full force, women were entering the workforce in greater numbers to the 1980s which was all about money, me-me-me, an explosion of dangerous drugs, and a sex scene that was overshadowed by HIV/AIDS. I may be reaching, but that is what the 1980s feels like to me at times. Things appear new, improved and better but in most ways were not (maybe the clothes).

Dirk: You're not the boss of me, Jack. You're not the king of Dirk. I'm the boss of me. I'm the king of me. I'm Dirk Diggler. I'm the star. It's my big dick and I say when we roll.

I loved this quote because it is Dirk coked out of his mind and delusional about being a star and a real actor. I loved how this movie showed the sex in a boring way; Jack Horner always looks tired and bored when watching sex scenes being filmed. Pornography is not exciting and fun. Those are two adjectives people use for sex, and yet no one truly looks like they enjoy their sex lives. Jack doesn't crack a smile or show any delight when watching scenes. The term 'porn star' in itself implies that these people are famous and recognizable. Prior to being beaten by the homophobe surfers, Dirk asks the guy if he knows who he is. The guy does not, and it proves just how irrelevant they are compared to true stars of the screen. Another nice touch was how the mystique of filming is removed by the walk from Drik's dressing room to the set. It is a walk through Jack's house. There are few lights, one sound guy with a boom mike, and one camera.

The other piece of the broken down circus is individual angle. Behind the good looks are troubled pasts and insecurity. Under the Italian shirts and make up, addictions eat away at these stars. No one is ever shown engaging in a romantic sexual encounter besides the occasional kiss. I find it a nice irony that the porn stars themselves are never shown as players, macks, or queens who have to fight men off of them. Once again, the final scene shows Amber Waves taring into the mirror all done up but ultimately, looking sad at the life she has to live.

Dirk: You know, I'm gonna be a great big bright, shining star.

The acting in this is top notch and helped the careers of almost everyone associated with the movie (except Becky Barnett which I will touch on later). This movie lost the Screen Actor's Guild award for Best Ensemble cast to "The Full Monty" (other movies nominated "LA Confidential, Titanic, Good Will Hunting, WOW). First the men and women who supported the leads. Every man seemed to dive into his role William H. Macy, Burt Reynolds, Luis Guzman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jon C Reilly, Thomas Jane, Don Cheadle all put in top notch performances. I enjoyed Don Cheadle's performance as their was an element of pathetic in everything buck Swope tries: the stereo sale, the cowboy look, the superfreak look, the loan meeting, etc. Thomas Jane's scene with the drug deal/failed robbery was magnificent. The nervous coke laughter always kills me. He builds the tension with the laughter and the delivery of his lines. You know it is going to go bad, you just do not know when. Jon Reilly will eventually get an Oscar for a later film but it will be a cumulative award because of all of the great jobs he has done in since 1995. His career has exploded because of this role which he approached with the right sense of stupidity and innocence. Reed Rothchild was a sweet idiot, and the wingman attitude he develops and perfects with Dirk carries a 1/3 of the movie when everything is spiralling downward.

There are not many supporting females. Dirk's mother and Jessie are small roles, and even Becky Barnett does not have much. A really horrifying scene of Becky with her husband was cut, and it shook me for a few days after seeing it. Becky Barnett is the hidden hot woman of this movie. She is beautiful and possibly sexier than Heather Graham. Every guy who talks about the movie mentions how "Becky Barnett was fine" under the breath. I do not know why she has not assumed all or some of the hot black woman roles. I think that Hollywood needs more diversity as producers seem to put it in all the wrong places. We do not need to see a little league team that represents the U.N., but we could see non-urban roles for black actors. Now I will get off of my soap box. That might sound bad, but it does seem odd that Gabrielle Union (hot) gets all of the roles that call for a hot black woman. Julianne Moore was fantastic and her coke scenes seemed a little too real to me. I loved the coke rants and the desperation in her face and lines whenever she was trying to be a mom.

Dirk: Aren't you gonna take your skates off?
Rollergirl: I never take my skates off.

I had to give her a paragraph to herself. Heather Graham nails the innocent, hot girl perfectly in this movie. Her eyes are so large and blue that they convey that sense of sadness that her character carries. I loved the scene with the limo sex/fight and her coked out responses and facial expressions. When she snaps, you understand why and how. Right before she snaps and destroys the guy with her rollerskate, her character is not all done up and looking sexy. She is hunched, her make up is messed up and her eyes look so dark. All of the repressed energy and feelings come out at that moment. Heather was so good in this movie that it is amazing to think about how terrible she was in every movie since. She killed Austin powers 2 for me, and I do not care for any of her other films. I take that back, she was funny in Bowfinger (her character is made all the more funny because it's based on Anne Heche). In this movie, she was lightning in a bottle, which leads me to......

Dirk: I...am the F*CKING king of Dirk!

The Director's commentary showed that Mark Wahlberg understood the mood and attitude that Anderson was trying to accomplish witht he film. It shows in each scene. Wahlberg hits all of the right notes and draws you in because he is just a runaway kid with one talent. The innocence, the insecurity, the machismo, the stupidity all come through in a dose that is not syrupy and does not feel forced. I especially loved the friendship between Dirk and Reed; the recording studio scenes are fantastic. He's done a few good things since, but has not reached the level of BN since. Dirk does not make a good decision once it turns to 1980 and yet you still feel bad for him and want to see him turn it around; that is connecting with an audience.

Jack Horner: Do these characters have a name?
Dirk: The guy's name is Brock Landers.
Reed Rothchild: And his partner is Chest Rockwell.
Jack Horner: Those are some great names.

I included this line as it is hysterical and explains blog call signs. I love this movie. Maybe it is because I am similar to the writer/director and viewed 1970s porn as entertaining, funny, and much better than the porn of today. I think it is because it is a great movie, great acting, some nice camera work, a great soundtrack and a good story. I'd like to put more reviews up here and if you think this is long, hopefully I have refined my essay style by the time I review "Godfather 2" so it does not double this entry.