Friday, December 28, 2007

No Teenage Love Lost Here

The entire time I watched Juno (Ellen Page) make reference after reference to Soupy Sales, The Stooges, Dario Argento, The Thundercats or some other icon that's just obscure enough to be cool but not too obscure as to not be cool, I thought that there is no sixteen year old that exists with a brain large enough to hold all these pop culture references. So then I thought "okay, I'm witnessing a hyper-reality where a teen girl talks fast and always has snappy comebacks." And I was okay with that. It's not new territory, of course. John Hughes made it cool to be a fast-talking teen be it Mathew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, Judd Nelson as John Bender or Molly Ringwald as Samantha Baker. He made it cool because teens had been largely dismissed as non-thinkers, unable to carry on a thoughtful conversation or have any self-reflection. Kevin Williams took the baton from there trying to fill Hughes' big shoes with the Scream movies and Dawson's Creek. His teens teetered on being too-clever-for-their-own-good. When they weren't exchanging snappy retort, they were so wound up in self-reflection to really enjoy the fact that they were teens.

And now, as a teen experiment gone awry, there's Juno MacGuff as created by writer Diablo Cody and brought to life by director Jason Reitman. Juno is funny and smart and pretty, but she's not one for any serious emotion. Juno is that person that whenever there's any kind of real "moment" about to happen, she'll kill it with cleverness. God help the person who kisses Juno goodnight at the door. She'll point out the right time when you should kiss her, make some reference to a really good kiss from some movie that only a handful of people know and then ask whether the evening was really good enough to warrant a goodnight kiss and then if the kiss should involve a tongue or not. By the time she actually got around to kissing, the guy would no doubt be halfway down the street.

Juno was not without its enjoyment however. There are some very funny moments, most of them I had already seen from the trailer. The quick scene between Juno and Rollo (Rainn Wilson) the store clerk was very funny and being an advertising guy, I loved the scene where Mark Loring (Jason Bateman) is writing a jingle for a new 'brunch' type cereal. And the reference to giving away Chinese babies like they were ipods was definitely not lost on this guy. But most of the time, I felt this movie was trying a bit too hard to be a bit too quirky. From the Wes Anderson-like shots of Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) placing deodorant between his legs and putting on his tube socks to the soundtrack that tries to be unique and unobtrusive in its selections, but still ends up just getting in the way. And what kind of world exists where the popular cheerleader and the bizarre nerdy girl are best friends?

But unlike Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Breakfast Club, Juno has no soft center. When you get past the skeptical crust of its characters, you'll just find more crust. In an effort to take some steps forward on behalf of teens everywhere, Juno has actually taken several steps back by portraying its main character as a young woman unable or just unwilling to show true emotion. If Juno would have been a teen romp the likes of Superbad, I would have been fine with it. But it wasn't. It was a movie that wanted to have a heart, but was too damn scared to show it.

Five Best Actors Yet To Win An Oscar

Ed Norton: This guy always impresses me. Compare and contrast his performances in “Primal Fear” and “American History X”. The man has range and such quiet intensity. And of course, he was so good in “Fight Club”, it’s almost enough to forgive “Death to Smoochy.”

Robert Downey Jr.: I don’t know if there is a more natural actor than Robert Downey Jr. except for maybe Robert Duvall. If he can just keep off the shit, I think his day will come. Hollywood loves a comeback story. And look at his performances in “Less Than Zero,” “Chaplin,” “Wonder Boys” and “Zodiac.”

Leonardo De Caprio: The kid from “Growing Pains” has some fierce acting chops. He stole the show in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and held his own against De Niro in “This Boy’s Life.” When he is well cast, he is damn impressive, as he proved in both “Catch Me if You Can” and “The Departed.”

Alec Baldwin: What a prick. Nobody can play an asshole like Alec Baldwin. His brief stint as Blake in “Glengarry Glen Ross” scared the shit out of me. Baldwin was also cruel and unforgettable in “The Cooler” and “The Departed.” Somebody give this dickhead an Oscar.

Paul Giamatti: Insecurity has found its muse with Paul Giamatti. Balding, paunchy and well, perfect for character roles, Giamatti gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen as Miles Raymond in “Sideways.” He was less likeable but just as nuanced the prior year in “American Splendor.” Let’s just hope that “Fred Claus” was a fat paycheck and he goes back to playing losers.

Runners Up: Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Samuel Jackson, Mark Wahlberg, William H. Macy

(Pat, thanks for letting me fill in for you, whle you are out on break. -Brian)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coen brothers plan their next movie

For my money, "Fargo" is the best Coen brothers movie ever made. I would rate "No Country For Old Men" in second place. Now it appears they are going to make a western. Here is what Fark had to say:

Filmmaking siblings Joel and Ethan Coen are set to make their goriest film ever - a Spaghetti Western featuring scenes of primitive torture methods. The brothers, whose notoriously gory new film No Country for Old Men has been tipped for Oscar glory, are desperate to make a film about the days of cowboys and Indians battling it out in the Wild West of America. But - as Joel warns - it won't be one for the faint-hearted. He says, "We've written a western with a lot of violence in it. There's scalping and hanging ... it's good. Indians torturing people with ants, cutting their eyelids off." Ethan adds, "It's a proper western, a real western, set in the 1870s. It's got a scene that no one will ever forget because of one particular chicken."

Indians torturing people with ants? I had thought that Clint Eastwood had said it all with "Unforgiven" but he left out the ants.

I will be there on opening day.

Wake me when it's over.

I saw "The Waterhorse" with the kids.

It's been compared to E.T. Well, I've seen E.T. I remember E.T. And this, my friends, was no E.T.

It's a story about a mythical water creature that grows from something that looks like a small dinosaur seal to something approaching the Lochness monster. At the center of the story, a shy boy who discovers the waterhorse takes care of it while it grows to epic proportions - without his dear old mum (A rather heavy Emily Watson) ever catching on.

Actually it's a pretty sweet movie but it just wouldn't end. Once the waterhorse traded the bathtub for the cove, I figured this thing was about done. But the shy kid had to ride the horse. You see, the kid was afraid of the water and now the waterhorse is taking him on the ride of his life. On the water. Beneath the water. Swelling music. Strings even. How cynical I've become.

I asked my seven-year-old daughter what she thought. "It's no E.T.," she said.

I still think The Incredibles is the best kid movie I've ever seen. What say you?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Lazy Eye Christmas Wish List

Alan at Burbanked posted a holiday wish list the other day. It reminded me that it was that time again. I posted a wish list last year and am pleased to say that one thing on it came true. Marty got his Oscar. So let's give it a shot again and see what happens.

1. I wish David Cronenberg would go back to making David Cronenberg movies again.

2. I wish Will Ferrel would stop making the same movie over and over and over.

3. I wish for all the writers on strike to get everything they deserve.

4. I wish Rob Zombie would retire.

5. I wish for Kelly Macdonald to star in many many more movies.

6. I wish Seth Rogan much happiness and prosperity.

7. I wish The Dark Knight to be as good as Batman Begins. Even better. And I wish for the upcoming Iron Man to be as good as the trailer.

8. I wish for Brian DePalma to do one more movie as good as Blow Out.

9. I wish Michael Bay would apologize for Transformers and every movie he makes from here on out.

10. And finally, I wish for Jennifer Connelly to return to Career Opportunities form. Where you been keeping those boobies at, Jenny?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Erik Hokkanen And The Current State Of Music

I'm not one to comment about music much. It's not for lack of loving it, it just has more to do with the fact that I don't posses the vocabulary or the knowledge to pay it proper respect.

Well, I'm going to give it a shot here, because I was treated to a religious experience Tuesday night in Austin, TX. And the preacher was none other than Eric Hokkanen and his group of misfits called the Hip Replacements. To me good music makes you want to do stuff you normally wouldn't do. And Tuesday night, in the tight spaces of the Flipnotics Coffeespace, I wanted to stand and dance. To flail my arms about and to hoot and holler. And if you know me and know my lack of dancing skills, you know that is high praise. But that's what Erik's sweet music can do to a guy.

Erik is a man of many sounds. One moment he may be playing a Finnish Waltz on his fiddle, the next he may be playing surf music on his Fender. But no matter his instrument, the man puts his heart and soul into every note and that passion fills the room and spills out the doors.

Two things occurred to me that Tuesday night in Flipnotics. One, that I was witness to something amazing. I thought of the other people in Austin and elsewhere, at home watching TV or asleep in their beds, completely unaware that this man and this band existed and they were literally shaking the foundation from underneath me with their music. Second, I thought about the mess that is the current music business. That it cost me nothing to see Erik play, and yet I might pay upwards of $100 for another more well-known name and witness half the show I got Tuesday night. It ain't right.

So if you live in Texas or are passing through Austin and you get the chance to catch Erik Hokkanen and The Hip Replacements, you must seize the opportunity, because to do so is to taste and feel what real music is all about.

Thanks to my good friend Wally Williams at Tequila Mockingbird in Austin for turning me on to him.

Double Bills I'd Like To See #3: Holiday Thriller

It's A Wonderful Lifeboat

George Bailey grows up on a very nice Lifeboat, but wants more than anything to get away and visit other Lifeboats around the world. When his father dies, George realizes he is stuck on his Lifeboat and must run the family bank there. George gets married and has lots of kids and things start to get cramped on the Lifeboat. When the bank fails, George decides that his life isn't worth much so he throws himself off the Lifeboat. He is saved by an angel who proves to him that his life on that Lifeboat isn't so bad after all. When George realizes he isn't dead, he celebrates life on the Lifeboat and the angel gets a nice pair of flippers to swim around in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Is Your Rosebud?

There are things that we cherish. That we hold dear to our hearts. Things that remain on our shelves for years that we may not take down but to look at them is to instantly go back to a cherished time. Charles Foster Kane had his sled Rosebud. It may have been his favorite toy, or it may just have symbolized the time in his life when he was happiest. Everyone has a Rosebud. Mine is The Green Machine big wheel. Perhaps the finest piece of machinery I have ever maneuvered (and that includes the big metal boxes I drive around in today). It was the 2.o of big wheels with a simpler design, eliminating the steering column and replacing it with two gear shifts. What child doesn't love the idea of shifting gears? Not only was it one of my most cherished toy, it symbolized how simple and fun childhood can be when the most important thing in the world is a really good spin out. I missed my opportunity with my son to live vicariously through him with a new The Green Machine, which by the way have gotten pretty damn pricey. Maybe I can get my daughter turned on to one. So does this mean I miss that simple time and regret growing up, or does it mean that The Green Machine was one hell of a toy. Let's just say you won't be hearing me uttering The Green Machine right before I buy the farm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Goes Holiday

Everyone has their favorite holiday movies. Movies and cartoons that have to be seen for the entire experience to be complete. I always have a long list of stuff I would love to sit down and watch, but rarely have the time. But there are a few that I have to see no matter what.

1. White Christmas Why I want to retire in Vermont and open a ski lodge even though I absolutely hate skiing.

2. It's A Wonderful Life This movie is just the right kind of sweet without being overpowering.

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas We get a Charlie Brown tree every year in honor of this movie.

4. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Not to be mistaken with the abomination that is The Grinch.

5. A Christmas Story TNT has almost killed this movie for me with their marathon. At first it seemed fun, but now the movie just doesn't seem as special.

What are yours?

Monday, December 17, 2007

And Starring Michael Douglas as Scrooge

A Christmas Carol has been remade on the big screen, the little screen and the stage so many times I don't care to count. And while I might argue remakes, I will also argue that A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that welcomes interpretation. Some Scrooges are more despicable. Some ghosts more scary. But the message stays the same. Humans are redeemable no matter how awful. And it's possible that you can be scared into being good. And what better time to be good than the holidays. Honestly, you can be an asshole eleven months out of the year and totally redeem yourself by being good the entire month of December. And speaking of assholes, let's talk about Nicolas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) the center character of David Fincher's oft overlooked The Game.

Nicolas Van Orton is not a nice man. But he’s not supposed to be. He is a product of his surroundings. One of the greatest creations to ever be churned out of the corporate machine. Nicolas manages investments and when the stock drops, he is a pit bull at quickly restoring confidence. He's one of the guys that you want to know is looking out for your stock, you just don't want to be friends with him. Nicolas' name could just as well be Ebeneezer Scrooge.

While Nicolas is not literally visited by ghosts, he is certainly a haunted man. The Game knows his hot buttons and pushes them often. Within hours of signing up, Nicolas is forced into one uncomfortable situation after the next. And then of course, there is the death of Nicolas' father hovering over him the entire time. His father died at a young age (the exact age that Nicolas has turned in the movie) from suicide and whether Nicolas wants to admit it or not, he's on a bullet-train down the same path. All of these things work against Nicolas, breaking him down to the man that it appears he once was. There is a hint of a nicer life in a photo of Nicolas actually smiling while he holds up a fish he has just caught. Unlike a visit from The Ghost Of Christmas Past, there are not stacks of hard proof that Nicolas is worth saving yet somehow we want him to be saved for no other reason than he is Michael Douglas. One wonders if he were just another unknown actor if we would feel the same way.

To me the greatest question raised by The Game is not how did they pull everything off. It’s whether or not a series of traumatic events can truly change a man. Can Ebenezer really be changed? It’s a good question. The Game believes so as does A Christmas Carol. Of course it helps when we know that the man in question was good to begin with. So in the next few days before Christmas arrives, give The Game a try through new eyes. View it not as a good Hitchcockian thriller, but as an interesting twist on an old holiday favorite.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Superbad Opening

Superbad came out this past Tuesday and I have my copy coming in the mail. I'm not sure it's something one asks for as a Christmas present or a stocking stuffer. "Honey, I want the movie Superbad, but not the regular edition, the Unrated McLovin' edition, okay? You got that honey? The Unrated McLovin' edition." I just prefer to buy some movies myself.

Anyway, this movie is chock full of scenes and lines of dialogue that I love but these opening credits are something else. When the lights went down and the old Columbia Pictures logo came up, I started smiling, and I didn't stop until after the ending credits rolled. So in lieu of any true content from me today, I give you the boys of Superbad doing a little jig to Too Hot To Stop by the Bar-Kays. Take it away boys.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seeing Is Not Believing

When it comes to animated Christmas movies, I have my favorites: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. These movies are longtime staples in the Piper household. I'll admit it's hard to break into that circle of tradition, but The Polar Express has been on quite a bit this season so as a result, we've watched it a few times. Like my problems with Beowulf, The Polar Express is hard to enjoy because it lacks texture. I'm more likely to get misty at the conclusion of A Charlie Brown Christmas than I am to during any moment of The Polar Express. But I will say that the movie has its moments. In a time when shows steer clear of any offensiveness in the hopes of making nice with everyone, The Polar Express does posses a dark theme and I do admire it for that. It's a strange train, that Polar Express. The tracks are treacherous, the train cars seem to be ever-changing, and God help you if you lose your ticket. The hero boy of the story has been invited on the Polar Express because he does not believe in Santa. He has gotten to the age where it seems natural for him to be skeptical. For him to roll his eyes when Mom and Pop say they hear sleigh-bells in the distance. In short, his faith, his want for something magical to happen is gone.

To believe or not to believe in Santa is a question of whether or not you believe in magic. Do you believe a man can fly across the world in a single night and perfectly deliver presents to each and every household and not set off alarms or knock over lamps and spook the dog. Yes, it's impossible, but is it more fun believing or not believing? I always ask my son that as he begins to chip away at the Santa theory. He always agrees with me that it's more fun to believe.

So my problem with The Polar Express is that the hero boy of the story is being rewarded for not believing in Santa. And how is he being rewarded? He's being taken on the most magical trip ever created. Sure it's spooky at times, but the end result is that the boy gets to meet Santa himself. So why him? Why not another child who already believes? Shouldn't they be rewarded? Why does this little shit get a ticket? That's like Willy Wonka giving the factory to a kid who didn't return the everlasting gobstobber. If the boy would rather spend his time being a doubter and poking holes, then let him be. No need to scare him into it or try to prove it to him. Save his golden ticket for someone more deserving. Someone who believes in the unbelievable. Of course all of this message is lost on my son who enjoys the movie's frantic pace and wacky train ride. But it's not lost on me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Is A Rerun

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for the writers strike to be over. Seeing reruns of shows that should be new is getting kind of old. And the word I got last night from one of my writer friends is that negotiations have stopped until after the holidays, so it's going to be a long winter my friends. Of course reruns could be better if they dug into the vault and brought out shows we really wanted to see. Old favorites that we probably own on DVD, but would still love to see again if we popped on the old boob tube every night. So give me your Top 5 TV show you would love to see instead of the crap they're running now.

1. Thunderbirds Watch every week as the Thunderbirds save us from ourselves and battle The Hood in the process.

2. Twin Peaks Still one of the best TV shows to ever appear on TV. Agent Cooper, Laura Palmer and the Log Lady would be welcome in my family room.

3. The Carol Burnett Show In lieu of 30 Rock and The Office, give me Carol, Tim and Harvey cracking up on stage every night.

4. Space Giants Let me see Goldar battle Rodak without messing his long blond locks.

5. 24 But only the first season because it was by far the finest.

Those are my top 5, what are yours?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Human Sushi

Brian just turned me on to this trailer for a movie that's coming soon. It's titled The Machine Girl and it's best described as a cross between Kill Bill and Planet Terror. To say that it looks like maybe one of the most amazing experiences one might have in a movie theater, is to sell the movie short.

A Japanese school girl lives a normal life. She has good friends. A loving family. That is until the Yakuza come along. I ask you, is there any normal Japanese scenario that isn't messed up by those lousy Yakuza? The Yakuza take everything away from her, including half her arm. She survives the ordeal and now, of course, she wants to say she's sorry for getting cross with the Yakuza. Maybe bake some cookies or make them a nice pie. No, screw that! She wants revenge. The worst kind of revenge, because there are some nice kinds that people rarely talk about. So she puts a machine gun on her arm and starts mowing down people like they were blades of grass. But that's not what makes this trailer cool. Okay, well maybe it makes it kind of cool. But I would like to point out a few things in particular that may make this the greatest movie ever created.

There is something called tempura here. It looks as if The Machine Girl has stuck her arm in some flour, rolled it around in some breading and then deep fried it for a bit. As a fan of tempura, I have to say that this looks kind of awesome. I'm guessing that she probably used her tempura arm as a distraction. She flashed it, made the guy hungry for her tempura arm and then she threw scalding water on his face. Because really, how could you not see the scalding water coming?

But tempura is just an appetizer here for the main course. And the main course is human sushi. Yeah, you heard that right. Human sushi. That's some real hatred there. It's not enough to kill the guy. You're going to cut off his fingers, fix them up on a nice bed of rice, wrap it in some seaweed and make the guy eat his own fingers. With no wasabi. Is there no end to the cruelty that The Machine Girl can posses?

Then there's the flying guillotine. Because a stationary guillotine is just not scary enough. Why not attach it to a chain and be good enough that you can throw it so that it locks on top of someone's head and then pulls it right off. That. Is. What. I'm. Talking. About.

And there is also a little something I like to call the drill bra. It's a drill and it's a bra. It gives proper support as it grinds flesh into something revealing meatloaf.

Finally, here's something I can file under in-all-my-years-I've-never-seen-that-before. It looks as if The Machine Girl is shooting a guy so many times that his flesh is coming off his face revealing nothing but skull and eyeballs. From a movie that just rips heads off at will, I appreciate that they avoided the standard just blow the head right off path and instead took some pride in their violence and paid some attention to detail. This scene was not lost on this viewer.

I have no idea when The Machine Girl comes out, but I'm guessing it will probably get select markets first and then it only makes sense that this kind of movie get a general release around Christmas. You know, for the family.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

No Country For Old Men

**** out of ****

Some of the best movies make the backdrop one of their most interesting characters. Such is the case in “No Country For Old Men, “ the Coen Brothers dark masterpiece, which takes us on a chase through Texas in the 1980s and it gets everything right from the stark rolling plains to the lonely mom-and-pop motels dotted along desolate highways.

The movie takes your breath away from the very beginning, where merciless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) strangles a deputy in a scene in which the camera never blinks. We see it coming, but the deputy does not. That’s just as the Coen Brothers intended. We know what evil this killer is capable of even though the people he kills along the way often underestimate him.

Chirgurh looks ridiculous in his page-boy haircut and his face, not quite flesh in tone. He is a novel assassin - he kills with a tank of compressed air. In his pocket he carries a quarter that will decide the fate of many who are unfortunate enough to cross his path. Bardem should be an Oscar favorite, as he breathes mystery and humor into what could easily have been a one-note performance.

The plot revolves around money. Two million dollars to be exact. That’s the amount that Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) found in the desert in a drug deal gone wrong. Moss stumbles onto the scene one day while hunting, and he sees shot-up pick-up trucks, dead bodies strewn all over the red dirt, dead dogs and a briefcase full of money.

Soon Chigurh is after Moss. Enter Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who will try to intercept Chigurh before he kills Moss. The three characters intertwine beautifully, each one is fully developed, in fact, this is the best ensemble cast of 2007.

Moss, as played by Brolin, is a true bad-ass. He served in ‘nam, and he fears no one. Moss sees the money as his ticket out of the trailer he shares with Carla Jean (Kelly Madonald). He figures if he can just hole up in a seedy motel for a few weeks, a new life waits for them both. Unfortunately, Chigurh keeps tracking him down.

Bell, as played by Jones, is weathered and wise. He’s seen a lot of bad men, but no one quite as determined and ruthless as Chigurh. Bell is a man who is torn between his principles to serve and his desire to come out of this murder spree alive.

There are movies you watch and there are movies you find yourself in. This one is a ride that just happens to play out on a big screen. But make no mistake, you will wonder at times if you are going to be killed before the end credits roll.

No Country For Old Men is adapted from the novel of the same name, by Cormac McCarthy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

You Can't Kill A Ghost: Thoughts On No Country For Old Men

I was able to sneak away this afternoon and catch No Country For Old Men. My friend Brian is going to write a full review, so I will provide some of my thoughts.

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott's opening paragraph of his critique of the film ends with this line "at its center is a figure of evil so calm, so extreme, so implacable that to hear his voice is to feel the temperature in the theater drop." That's a hell of a line and a very accurate description of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). I will add by writing that even in the scariest of movies I find comfort in the bright flickering light that is the projection bulb behind me. Unfortunately I was able to find no such security in this dark shroud of a movie. To watch No Country For Old Men is to constantly want to look over your shoulder for something sinister waiting to hurt you.

Javier Bardem was excellent, but I was most impressed with Josh Brolin.

Going back to take water to the man in the truck was almost too much of a stretch for me. Almost.

I will spend a lot of time trying to get the image of Javier Bardem on the ground with his handcuffed hands around the sheriff's neck out my head but will have little luck.

Woody Harrelson made the most out of his little screen time.

Fading to black after Tommy Lee Jones discovers the heating grate and the dime and screws on the ground might be some of the finest storytelling I have ever witnessed.

A crumpled plastic cashew bag uncrumpling on a counter top can be a very disturbing image.

Kelly Macdonald almost stole the show in the final minutes of the film. Almost.

How can the same team who made Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers be responsible for this modern masterpiece?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Good Model

At an award show on Tuesday, Jodie Foster thanked her longtime companion as she accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award. So, in effect she came out. I don't know that anyone was surprised by this news. I think it's been well-known that she was a lesbian. Ray at The Rec turned me on to the story. He wrote that she may have been forced into the closet by Hollywood for fear it would hold her back from future career opportunities. While I have been very skeptical and critical of Hollywood, I might argue that Jodie kept her sexuality quiet because she just didn't think it was anyones business. I think if she would have masqueraded as a heterosexual for all these years, I might wonder about her motives, but instead, I just believe she wanted to be known as a great actress and nothing else. And its twice as impressive when you realize that she began her acting career as a child.

At a time when the Britneys and the Lohans of the world believe that their success is based on tabloid headlines and not good performances, I applaud Jodie for doing it her way. She has proven that her career is based on her talent on the screen rather than her picture on the front page.

Good for you Jodie.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Real Real Versus Digital Real

Walking out of Beowulf the other night, I came to this realization. There are now two realities. There's the Real Real, which is the life that you and I live where we go to work and drive our cars and raise families and drink too much and usually don't look good naked in front of a mirror. Then there's the Digital Real, as told to us by Robert Zemeckis. In this world, Ray Winstone is not the pot-bellied safecracker we remember from Sexy Beast, but a lean mean hero with a penis small enough to be obscured by random objects in the Mead Hall.

And Angelina Jolie is really a nasty beast, but can make herself to look like a tattoo free Angelina Jolie to lure men to sleep with her even though they know that underneath all that she's still a stank, gnarly beast - oh and by the way she has no nipples and no real naughty parts down there so good luck with any true intercourse.

Sorry Robert, but I'll take my world on the Real Real side with pot-bellies full of Twinkies and beer and nipples long and real enough to pierce thick sweaters.

The Godfather Christmas

The family and I recently went out and purchased a Christmas tree for the house. We have a regular place where we get the tree every year. It's nothing special, just a a few dozen trees in the lot of a bank. The Shriners run it, so we felt good about buying from them. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found this year so we had to venture out and find someplace new. We stumbled upon a more traditional Christmas tree vendor down the street. We walked through the trees and noticed that they were a tad expensive. I had never haggled about a Christmas tree before, but I thought I would give it a shot. And when I found out that the owner was Sicilian I could only imagine how the deal would go down.

Piper: Hello.

Sicilian Tree Vendor: Hello.

Piper: I would like to buy these two trees from you.

Sicilian Tree Vendor: Of course.

Piper: But I feel they're a bit on the... what's the word I'm looking for? They're a bit pricey.

Sicilian Tree Vendor: Uh huh.

Piper: Maybe we can make some sort of deal?

Sicilian Tree Vendor: Make me an offer and then we can talk (begins to walk away)

Piper: Sicilian Tree Vendor? You can have my answer now if you like. My final offer is this: nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

Sicilian Tree Vendor: What gaming license?

Piper: I think we're done here.

Unfortunately, that's not the way it went down. The Sicilian Tree Vendor fixed me with a cold stare and I snapped like a twig. I think I only got about 10 bucks knocked off our trees.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What Price Happiness

The Short Film Blog-a-Thon is going on through Saturday. It is co-hosted by Only The Cinema and Culture Snob. I debated on whether I was going to enter a post because well, my knowledge of short films is short. A few years back I came across a short film on ifilm and although I had forgotten its title, its subject matter has haunted me to this day. Well thanks to The Short Film Blog-a-Thon as major motivator, I was able to find the film while searching around last night. The short film is titled More and it was written and directed by Mark Osborne in 1998.

The story centers around a single character. Told to the haunting notes of a song by New Order, we find our character in a drab world working at a drab factory making of all things a widget called "Happy." Happy is built to make everyone feel better about the despair around them - not unlike the designer prescription drugs of today. Of course the irony is that our character is not happy making "Happy." He is happiest when thinking of his childhood. A simple silhouette of children playing on a Merry-Go-Round. He keeps these thoughts in a compartment in his belly and when things are at their darkest, he refers to those feelings to help get him through.

While our character toils at the factory making "Happy" he is also developing his own widget at home. A new form of "Happy" called "Bliss" that comes in the form of a pair of goggles filled with the our character's childhood happiness. When it is released a new form of happiness finds our character as he is showered with money and praise for discovering a new way to look at the world. The feeling quickly fades though as we find that in the process of developing "Bliss" our character has lost the whimsy that once came from within.

Lost innocence might be the saddest thing I can think of. I rarely take photos because they are constant reminders of time gone by. Of things changing. Of compromises. As a father, I want so badly for my son to grow up but at the same time, I crave that innocence. That carelessness. Why must we give up so much as we grow older? I couldn't help but draw parallels between this short and Citizen Kane. Charles Foster Kane surrounded himself with indulgences, but it was his childhood sled that he remembered the most. In growing up, why must we constantly re-define happiness? In the end, it doesn't need to be so complicated and as More shows us, it's not.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I'm This Many Years Old

Last Tuesday, November 27th, was officially my one year blogging anniversary. I decided to mix things up a bit by creating a different blog every day. Day 1 was Lazy Eye Lawn And Gardening, Day 2 was The Lazy Eye Spice Rack, Day 3 was The Lazy Eye Puppet Theater and Day 4 was The Lazy Eye Whittlin Block. I probably alienated the four people who read my blog every other week in the process, but I have to say it was fun as hell.

Blogging is a pretty incredible thing. Multiple conversations with dozens of people I wouldn't know if I passed them on the street. My wife still doesn't understand it, or necessarily like it. She rolls her eyes when I get excited about a post or laughs at me when I'm convinced that everyone is conspiring against Lazy Eye and holding a quiet boycott. Really, there's no difference between the feelings I have blogging and the feelings I have as a creative in an advertising agency. As a creative, I am inherently broken. A misfit in the land of misfit toys. So it's always good to throw me in the middle of situations that can promote feelings of paranoia and neglect. But I try to act like it doesn't effect me when the truth is my moods go as my traffic goes. I'm high when people are reading and commenting, and down in the dumps when I hear the crickets. Like I've said in the past, I'm needy.

But anyways, I've hit what seem like milestones to me in my first year and I would like to give them their props.


According to Statcounter I've had 38,000 unique visitors this year. Most of them probably looking for Hot Chicks With A Lazy Eye which I found pops up in Google Search while looking for Lazy Eye Theatre. And I've had about 9,000 returning visitors for the year, which means that whoever is looking for Hot Chicks With A Lazy Eye continues to come back every hour hoping that I will start writing about them very soon.


I have hosted two Blog-a-Thons. The John Carpenter Blog-a-Thon and the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon. I was very happy with the results of both and have been asked that I make the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon an annual event which I believe I will.

I have participated in 22 Blog-a-Thons this year with multiple posts in several of them. I think my favorite post is still my first and that is for Lucas' 100 films Lovesick Blog-a-Thon titled Damn You John Hughes.

I have officially made myself the keeper of all Blog-a-Thons right alongside Edward Copeland and filmsquish.


I have been tagged five times with a Meme. Once with Burbanks Blogophone which I think I single-handedly drove into the ground. Twice with the 8 Things Meme by My New Plaid Pants and Culture Snob. The posts are here and here. And I was honored to be tagged not once but twice with the Thinking Bloggers Award by Damian at Windmills Of My Mind and J.D. at Joe's Movie Corner.

And I attempted to start a Meme of my own which received the participation of The Rec, Final Girl and Burbanked, but then died a most horrible death.

In addition, I have had the honor to post on Edward Copeland On Film while he needed some help and just recently I was a guest blogger for Nathanial at Film Experience while he was away.

I would like to give some special shout outs to Ray at The Rec, Jim at Moviezzz, Adam at DVD Panache (love the new title visual by the way), Damian at Windmills Of My Mind and Joseph B at itsamadmadblog2 for making me feel all nice and welcome with their traffic and comments when I began all this.

And extra special thanks to Nathanial at Film Experience for his most helpful advice to help me along my way.

Thanks to everyone for your opinions, your support and of course your comments.

Blog like you've never blogged before.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giving Credence To Chainsaw Sculpture

I'm going to break from my normal whittling writing to give some much-due respect to what some consider the step-child of the whittling world. And that would be chainsaw sculpture.

Whittling purists will quickly dismiss this idea, but I would hope that with my 26 years of whittling history under my belt, I might be able to sway some skeptics with my arguments.

It's true that the classic whittling knife (I call mine Georgina) has been replaced with a much more crude device - that being the chainsaw - but I have seen many chainsaw sculptures in my time that I have found to be as gracefully crafted as any miniature I have adorning my shelves at home. And yes, chainsaw sculpture is not something you can do on a lazy Saturday afternoon when you have 30 minutes to spend while waiting on an old friend. Or in the wee hours of the evening when the joints ache something terrible and you can't sleep.

But I would argue that chainsaw sculpture is deserving of whittling praise because of its sheer scale. How often do friends come over and completely dismiss the hours you have spent whittling countless hobos and sad clowns? And being the modest whittler I am, I rarely point them out unless someone asks. But with chainsaw sculpture, your work can be front and center for all to see. A Paul Bunyan (with Babe at his side?) to accompany your door step. Or a proud grizzly bear to look over your flower garden. These are not eye-sores, they are monuments dear friends.

So next time you pass a wooden eagle with talons open ready to snatch its prey or a grizzly with a fresh salmon betwixt its claws, give it a moment of respect with a quick pause or even a simple nod. This is the 2.0 of whittling and it is glorious.

And remember, always cut away. Always cut away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Winter Holiday Puppet Schedule Is Here!!!!

Great news. After months of laboring over loads and loads of material, we've finally nailed down our Winter Holiday Schedule for the Lazy Eye Puppet Theater. And this year promises to be our best ever!

I'm pleased to announce some brand new shows that we will be doing and for the first time ever, we will be performing late night puppet theater FOR ADULTS ONLY.

Saturday December 8th and Sunday December 9th

The Christmas Carol Finger Puppet Show at 1, 3 and 5 o'clock

The Lazy Eye hand puppets perform Flesh Gordon at 10 p.m. and midnight. ADULTS ONLY and B.Y.O.B.

Saturday December 15th and Sunday December 16th

It's A Wonderful Life With Strings Attached as performed by the Lazy Eye Marionettes at 1, 3 and 5 o'clock.

The Lazy Eye Rod Puppets perform The Joy Of Sex at 10 p.m. and midnight. ADULTS ONLY and LADIES GET HALF OFF ADMISSION.

Saturday December 22nd and Sunday December 23rd

The Nutcracker as performed by the Lazy Eye Shadow Puppets at 1,3 and 5 o'clock.

The Lazy Eye Pop-Up Puppets perform The Devil and Miss Jones at 10 p.m. and midnight. ADULTS ONLY and STAY FOR THE KEY PARTY AFTER THE SHOW.

Price of admission is $10 for Adults and $6 for Kids. Please don't bring children under 4 because they are likely to go up on stage and touch the puppets and that will disrupt our performance. Tickets go on sale one hour before each show.


Don't Forget To Support Live Puppet Theater!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Please pass the nutmeg

I have a proposal, and I know that to write this proposal is to create shockwaves the likes of which the spice world has never seen.

I propose that nutmeg become a condiment on every table in the world. As common as salt or pepper.

I will allow a brief pause for you to readjust your thinking.

I know this is radical spice thinking, but when you break it down it doesn't seem so radical at all.If you haven't tasted nutmeg before, it has a sweet and somewhat spicy taste. And of course as its name suggests, there's some nuttiness in there as well. But it's not so much how nutmeg tastes, it's what it does that makes it amazing. For one, it's good for digestion, which might suggest why it is a nice complement to eggnog year after year. It is also recommended for bad breath. And fevers. And headaches. Most of our nutmeg learnings come the Chinese who used it as an appetite stimulant, an anti-inflammatory agent, an anti-spasmodic and a carminative. And best of all, nutmeg has also been known to be an aphrodisiac.

Of course, there are drawbacks. Too much nutmeg may cause hallucinations.

So what do you say spice lovers? Dust off that old bottle of nutmeg and put it front and center on the table. Sprinkle some on your steak or dust it on your fries. Better yet, use it in your next soup. Its time nutmeg rose to the greatness it once saw in the twelfth century.

And as always, here's hoping you're having a spicy day.

Top 5 Tulips

It's that time of the week again, readers. Time for me to list my top five favorite flowers. And today I'm going to list tulips. I know what you're saying - but Piper, isn't it past tulip planting season? The first hard freeze has already come and gone. Shouldn't we be talking about tulips in the coming Spring? Worry not my readers, I haven't gone silly, I'm just trying to give you a head start.

So here they are.

1. Fusilier This is called a showstopper every year in the Better Homes and Gardens test garden, so if you want BHG to start calling, better start planting.

2. Estella Rijnevld Called a parrot tulip, it's often referred to as the perfect tulip with its bold red and white stripes. Perfect for cutting and placing around the house.

3. Montreaux This is a risky call for the top 5 I know because it looks more like a peonie than a tulip but I am always hypnotized by its ivory-yellow flowers.

4. Prinses Irene These tulips offer up the strangest color combination of orange and purple. I call these my little step children and often get a laugh at tea parties. Feel free to use my joke.

5. Big Smile Plant these and know why they got their name. They bloom later in Spring and are a perfect way to end tulip season.

Those are my top 5 tulips, what are yours?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Every time a bell rings...

I'm no fan of Blockbuster, but I do love this spot for the holidays. See if you can guess all the movie references.

More On The Writer's Strike

If you don't know this already, I work in advertising. Specifically on the Sonic Drive-In campaign. If you don't know the campaign, it's simple enough, two guys or a couple sitting in a car on the Sonic lot talking about Sonic's food. The guy in the driver's seat is Peter Grosz. He's a wonderful improv comedian, one hell of a writer and I'm proud to say he's a friend. In addition to starring in the Sonic commercials and several movies, he also writes for the Colbert Report.

I have to say I'm quite surprised that this strike has gone on so long. The motion picture and television producers are clearly in the wrong and there must be some really large egos involved (like I should be surprised) for this to have not been concluded on their end. But if there's one good thing to come out of this strike thus far, there's some good writing going on. Case in point is this video written by Peter and I'm sure several other Colbert Report writers and starring Peter. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Frampton Comes Alive For Geico

Peter Fucking Frampton is alive and pimping for Geico. I love this guy in a quiet not to admit that too loud kind of way and love that he used the good old voicebox for this commercial.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Go To Thanksgiving Movies

Every holiday seems to dust off some old favorites for the season. Two nights ago I watched The Road To Wellville again because it feels like a holiday movie to me (partially because it takes place during Christmas and partially because the first time I saw it was with my father over Thanksgiving) and I think it's just a fantastic movie so I decided to watch it again. I had gotten in a fight with my son that night so the scenes between Dr. Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins) and his son George (played by a surprisingly good Dana Carvey and even better by Jacob Reynolds) brought me some comfort that night. Not to mention the writing is brilliant. Lines like "An erection is a flagpole on your grave" and "the enemas take some getting used to, but, in time, you'll learn to look forward to them like an old friend with a cold nose" are simply classic.

RC at Strange Culture recommends Pieces Of April as a nice Thanksgiving treat. I of course have to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with everyone and then when the kiddies go to bed, the wife and I like to watch Home For The Holidays. This movie received a lot of criticism and I try to find the nicks and the cracks in an attempt to grasp where this film misses but can't for the life of me find anything wrong. To me, this is what the holidays are about. They are about tension and weird family members and confrontations and it's all wonderful. A sweet holiday gathering is good for Hallmark, but it's boring for the rest of us. This movie tells it like it is and because of that no other movie honestly celebrates family like Home For The Holidays. And seriously, how can you not love Robert Downey Jr. in any role?

Anyway, that's my Go To Thanksgiving movie. What are yours?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Breakdown Of The New Cloverfield Trailer

What was previously known simply as 1-18-08 is now revealed as Cloverfield which was at first the working title but now seems to be the real title which may have always been the original title but 'they' made us think it was the working title. Confused? You should be, Cloverfield is after all produced by J.J. Abrams, the genius behind the mindfuck that is the television show Lost. There are many layers to Lost. Lots of loose ends and double meanings and I tried to keep up for about a week but then got lost myself.

Judging from what I've seen thus far from Cloverfield, it looks like J.J. Abrams is up to the same shit. What is it that's causing the huge explosions? What has ripped the head off the Statue Of Liberty? Is it just in New York, the United States or the whole world? I guess we'll have to wait until 1-18-08 if that is indeed the date of its release. It might be coordinates to place that tells us what's next. Who knows? But fear not, I am going to break down the new Cloverfield trailer for you so that everything thus far about the movie will be crystal clear.

Cloverfield is produced by Paramount. Or maybe that's just what they want you to believe. Maybe Cloverfield wasn't produced at all, whatever that means.

Area formerly known as "Central Park". So the entire movie is an amateur video when 'something' attacked and now "Central Park" and maybe all of New York, The United States or the world doesn't exist anymore. Or after this video somebody said "you know, I'm kinda done with the name Central Park. Let's try something else, like Middle Park."

There's a big explosion in the middle of New York. Something big had to have caused that. Something big and something pissed.

And whatever that 'something' is, it's got something against the Statue Of Liberty because it just tossed Liberty's head like it was a tennis ball.

This is kind of hard to see but it is actually one building resting on another. So that means there is a lot of destruction going on. But it could also mean that the building is just tired and needs to lean on another building which would suggest that buildings are not buildings at all, but real living organisms. Maybe that's what the 'something' is, it's just a big building that hates all the other buildings.

A camera card stating that J.J. Abrams is producing this which in effect means that you can't trust shit. The whole thing you've watched thus far could not be the movie at all. It could be a TV movie within the movie or some shit like that. And what's with that name anyways? Maybe J.J. Abrams isn't producing at all. Wait, if I just move the letters around here a bit... there. The movie is actually produced by A.M. JABRJS. Or is that A.J. JAMBRS. Now we're making some sense.

From the trailer, this is Rob. Rob seems to be a nice guy and Rob is going away somewheres until this 'something' happened to New York. Here he's panicked and on the phone asking "where's Beth?" So who is Beth? Is that short for Elizabeth? Elizabeth Hurley? Is it a guy named Beth? Or is it the nickname of that 'something' that is blowing up New York? Maybe Beth isn't a person or a thing at all? Maybe it's a code that unlocks an underground labyrinth of scientists that are conducting this gigantic terrorist experiment on New York to see how the people will really react.

These are people running towards a light. Oh, I get it. They're all dead. Now it makes sense.

This is a black frame. But maybe not. Maybe it's a nude woman in a tall glass of Coca-Cola telling me to buy more material goods. Suddenly I want a large order of Popcorn and some Junior Mints really bad.

Now it seems people are running away from the light. No, don't run away from the light. Go to the light. And it looks like that woman is going to throw up. Is the light making you sick, honey? It's a sickly light. Don't go into the light! Stay away from the light!

The army is involved. But wait, this guys face is blurry. Which means that the tape we are watching which is the movie has already been tampered. The government has gone in and made changes. What aren't we seeing here? Or maybe that guy is just deformed and it looks like pixels. Dude, that's some bad acne.

There's that damn light again. And now nobody knows what to do. Should they run to it? Should they run away from it? Will it make them vomit? Shit, I don't know.

This could be one of two things. Two military men dressed in haz-mat suits hauling away a woman which means that this 'something' in the movie may or may not be spreading something. Or this could just be two wild bears having their way with a woman behind a sheet of plastic.

Here is the military firing several shots at this 'something' which suggests it is flying or it's really tall.

Tanks are involved which means that guns won't do the job to this 'something' so they need to bring in the bigger firepower.

These women turn around to what sounds like bug sounds and flapping wings and they ask "did you hear that?" Is this 'something' a bug of some kind? A gigantic beetle? A grasshopper? Come on. Tell me it's not a big bug. I think I'll be pissed if this is just a big-ass bug.

And here's the shot of the Statue Of Liberty again without her head. This is supposed to anger us and make us want this gigantic beetle or whatever it is to be dead. Or maybe this 'something' is none other than David Blane and he hasn't removed the head, he has just made it disappear.

Now you can view the new trailer in full and know exactly what is going on all thanks to me. You're welcome.