As I mentioned the other day, I have nearly 1000 movies in my combined Netflix queue. Lots and lots and lots of movies. Some movies queued up are films I’ve already seen and want to watch again eventually, but the vast majority are films I’ve never seen before. There are just so many movies from throughout history, and while I’ve seen more than your average jane or joe, I still haven’t even made it through a small percentage of the great stuff that’s out there.
That’s one reason why I love iCheckMovies, which I’ve written about before (you should join and be my friend if you haven’t already!). Thanks to my desire to make progress on various lists accumulated on iCheckMovies, I watch films that normally wouldn’t have been on my radar. For example, I recently watch Body Heat for the first time because I am getting close to completing the AFI list, ‘100 Years, 100 Thrills!‘ I wouldn’t have just added Body Heat to my queue normally, because the title just makes me think of a made for Cinemax soft-porn film. However, thanks to AFI and iCheckMovies, I got to enjoy a really great film that would have otherwise gone unappreciated by me.
Body Heat is a neo-noir homage to Double Indemnity and Out of the Past. I love that Noir is one of those genres where people have consistently made homages without tipping into parody. Too often, the only way people know how to reference something at a feature length level is with straight remake/reboot or comedic reinterpretation. With Noir, filmmakers have consistently made films that capture the spirit, the themes, and the visual flair of the genre, without merely remaking the same film over and over. Chinatown, Brick, even Blade Runner are all examples of this. Well, add Body Heat to that list for me (and lots of other people, I’m not discovering anything new here outside of my own little movie-watching world).
The story follows a small-time Florida defense lawyer, a serial womanizer, who meets a rich, beautiful, married woman one night during an oppressive heat wave (Kathleen Turner in her first film role, catapulting her the height of ‘sex symbol’ status). As one would expect in a Noir film, the two begin sleeping together. The affair and the heat wave are equally torrid. The weather is hot, the sex is hotter, husbands are in the way, schemes are hatched, people are betrayed… in the words of George Michael Bluth, “What a fun, sexy time for you.”
The film is taut, well-acted, sexy, and really smart. Many times, when I watch a crime thriller of any kind, I get frustrated that the characters involved are so stupid for the sake of the plot. It’s that classic movie trope, most famous in horror films, in which the characters do some inexplicably stupid thing that no one would ever do, but they do it anyway because it is necessary for the story to make sense (or at least pretend to make sense). It makes me wonder if most writers are just really, really lazy. If I’m watching a movie and I have a better idea of how to get out of trouble in a certain moment, then I know it probably occurred to the writer, too. They just ignore that impulse for the sake of narrative convenience. Watching Body Heat, there were several moments where I thought, “Oh, he should do this right now, that would be smart.” Then, whaddya know, he does exactly that! For a crime thriller to be truly satisfying, the characters need to get away with it because they were just that smart, or they need to get caught even though they were smart enough to get away with it, but something goes wrong because of a fatal flaw, or betrayal, or bad luck. Body Heat is like one of those options, but I won’t tell you which because that would be spoiling it for you.
William Hurt and Kathleen Turner are both great, and there are also awesome supporting performances by Ted Danson (playing the uncharacteristically normal guy who isn’t super sexy) and Mickey Rourke (playing the hot young criminal, because that was his ‘thing’ back then).
If you’re ever in the mood for a well-crafted, sexy, neo-noir thriller, you should check this out.
Today was a full day, which didn’t leave much time for blog writing. Yet, I had to do something to keep the daily blog challenge going. I guess I could have just let the trailers be enough, but that feels like cheating for some reason. Anyway, I’m wondering if anyone has ideas for a blog post series or weekly posting theme. Maybe something brand new, maybe something I used to do that they’d like to see resurrected. Figuring out what to write about every day will soon become a challenge at times, and it would be helpful to have extra form inspiring content. Yeah, if you could go ahead and tell me what your ideas are in some form or another, that would be great.
I’m Sounders ’til I die
I’m Sounders ’til I die
I know I am, I’m sure I am
I’m Sounders ’til I die
My relationship with sports over the last few years is a complicated one. I still love so much about sports, but there are just some things that irk me to the point that at times I want to throw in the towel altogether. It’s not the things that normally seem to bother people about sports, where people get mad about inflated contracts and lopsided spending. Yet, that doesn’t really bother me, something I’d be happy to explain in another post or conversation. What does bother me is the way so many sports fans act as sports fans (my past self included). The behaviors I’m referring to include:
The asinine habit in which so many sports fans lump their own ego together with their favorite sports team’s performance. Sara roots for Team A, Tommy roots for Team B, and when Team B wins, somehow in Tommy’s mind that makes him superior to Sara. He isn’t on the team, he didn’t play a single minute of professional sports, and yet, somehow, he feels better about himself as a human being when his team wins, and vice versa.
Fans often attach a moral element to their fandom. That sentence is so fucking ridiculous it seems unreal when I type it, but it is true. People don’t claim to root against the Yankees or the Lakers or the Cowboys because they just prefer other teams, but because those teams are ‘evil.’ Obviously, this is the real world, there are good guys and douche-bags on every single team. Yet, based purely on the uniform, fans think they can accurately determine the moral standing of a given player. Even if the same player switches teams, they experience a drastic metaphysical change when they switch jerseys. Usually people point to things like the Yankees payroll and use that as a reason to claim moral standing… but unless they would abandon their own team if it started spending tons of money, then it isn’t a moral issue at all. It’s just that they are pissed that their team is getting outspent. That’s fair, they should be frustrated, but it isn’t doesn’t make Red Sox or Dodgers or Angels bad human beings. I’ve never understood it. As a Yankees fan my entire life, I always liked guys like Big Papi and Pedro Martinez, and always disliked guys like Roger Clemens, even on the Yankees. No amount of jersey changing is going to convince me that Kevin Youkilis is a good guy. I have a dream, that one day people won’t be judged by the color of their jerseys, but by the content of their character.
Anyway, just a brief primer to explain why my sports fandom is conflicted over the last few years.
Yet, for all the negative bullshit, their is something potentially beautiful about sports. When it is celebrated without us attaching our self-worth to it, it can be a raucous cause for joy and a worthy reason to lament if we can find healthy ways to live and breathe with the teams we love. Sports can be art, but there isn’t space for me to write more about that in this post.
The teams I love the most all have moments attached to them, when I can remember being a part of a community of people celebrating, when I remember how special a moment was, and my heart was won over and I never took it back. I remember sitting on the arm of my mom’s couch hoping the Bills would miss a field goal, and celebrating with all my eight-year-old strength as they did, and the Giants won the first championship of any of my favorite teams within my lifetime. I remember what it meant to the people of New York when the 1994 Rangers won the Stanley Cup, and I also remember watching Mark Messier cry on the ice during a video montage of his time in NY when he returned as a visiting player. I remember when John Starks dunked on Michael Jordan and Horace Grant with the same dunk. I remember watching Derek Jeter hit his first homerun. I remember standing in the living room of the Camp Taconic cook to see the Yankees return from two games down to win the 1996 World Series.I remember my first playoff game at Yankee Stadium, and how electric the atmosphere was, especially when retired Don Mattingly threw out the first pitch. I remember how important the 2001 World Series was to New York City, even though the Yankees lost in the end, those thrilling endings in Yankee Stadium picked a city up off the mat and gave them a reason to cheer again.
Those are just a small sampling of moments that made me fall in love with teams. And now that Seattle is my home, another team has been winning my heart over the last few seasons with moments just like the ones I just mentioned. I’ve gotten to be a part of a passionate, loving group of fans who know their team well and celebrate it with vigor, which is something that most fan-bases can’t claim.
The first game I saw was with my friend Brian, and it was clear immediately that the experience of seeing a Sounders game in Seattle is a special sports experience (and those who know me at all know that I’ve seen a lot of sporting events in a lot of different cities). The fans are knowledgable, passionate, and make for a really great environment for taking in a game.
Here is a small sampling of what the experience is like, this is a portion of how fans celebrate the start of every game:
The feeling of being at Century Link Field for Sounders game adds weight to every moment (also, it doesn’t hurt that I get to go to the games with some of the people I love the most in this world). This extra gravity is good, because I have been able to be a part of some Sounders moments that brought up that special sort of feeling that sports can create, the ones that bring a tear to the eye and widen one’s smile. There have been many moments, but I picked my three favorites, the ones that felt the most special. These moments are the reason I’ve graduated over the last few years from casual but interested fan to ardent supporter, with super-fandom rapidly approaching. Here are my favorite Sounders moments so far:
1. Kasey Keller’s final games with the team
Kasey Keller’s last year with the Sounders just happened to coincide with the first year that I watched with any consistency (I know, I’m a new fan, don’t judge). A supremely likable player, he is a local boy who went on to make a name for himself as the most successful American-born goal-keeper in the history of the sport. Then, he came home to play for the Sounders upon their transition to the MLS. We were at the Clink (Century Link Field) for his final regular season game, and his final home game in the playoffs. It was loud, and emotional, and even though there was no way I could have the personal investment that those fans around me had, the atmosphere was infectious. It was easy to get caught up in the energy.
There was also this moment, in Keller’s final home game, that is the stuff that legends are made of. When people tell their kids about Kasey Keller, they will mention this moment.
2. Steve Zakuani’s Return
Steve Zakuani was a rising star, one of those ‘can’t miss’ talents that everyone was excited to watch. Then, a brutal slide tackle by Colorado Rapids’ Brian Mullan broke Zakuani’s tibia and fibula. The tackle was brutal enough that Mullan was banned for 10 games, which is nearly 1/3 of the regular season in the MLS.
It was an injury that had the potential to end his career, and he missed the next 15 months. But, he worked hard, beat the odds, and he made it back to the pitch for the Sounders. The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on the Sounders faithful. To be there at Century Link for that game will always be one of my all-time favorite sports memories.
Watch the first two minutes of this video to see that moment.
3. The introduction of Obafemi Martins
You would think that #3 would be the Sounders’ first ever playoff win, but it isn’t. That was a wonderful moment, but it wasn’t a time that solidified my sense of connection to the team. This last game was.
Obafemi Martins is a big signing, the sort that doesn’t normally happen for teams in the MLS. For more commentary on why the signing is huge, you should read this. It’s a big deal that the Sounders were able to land him, and it’s an even bigger deal that Oba wanted to come to the Sounders over the other possible destinations. Seattle is quickly becoming a legitimate destination in the international soccer landscape, and the ramifications of that could impact Sounders fans and the rest of the MLS quite a bit over the next few years.
In case there was any question as to how excited Martins was to join the Sounders, here is your proof: Martins finished the paperwork he needed for a work visa and whatnot on Friday, then flew from Spain to Seattle to be present for the game on Saturday with no real expectation of starting with a team he’d never practiced with, only to get back on a plane and fly all the way to Nigeria to join his native country’s World Cup team.
On the way to the match on Saturday, we buzzed about it in the car. He would be suited up, he would be eligible, and while we knew he wouldn’t start, a substitution later in the game would provide the fans the opportunity to properly welcome Martins to Seattle, to assure him he made a good choice in joining the Sounders. The anticipation was palpable, and his appearance electrified the fan base, with his potential on the field being quickly evident.
As they tend to do, NBC was pretty bad at capturing the feeling of the moment, so this video is the best we’ve got.
You know what’s awesome? Borderlands 2, that’s what.
The sequel was released last September, and has won 50something editorial awards across the gaming world since. The affectionate term for the sub-genre of the game is ‘shoot and loot’, a sub-genre of the first-person shooter where you go explore various maps, shoot lots of foes, and then loot vanquished villains and treasure chests to find fun new items to aid you continuing to do more of the same.
What sets B2 apart from other ‘shoot and loot’ games, and other games in general, is that it is just so perfectly entertaining. I actually hadn’t had any desire to play video games for some time before I got addicted to this little beauty. Dissociation: Engage!
So, to do your shootings and lootings, you get to choose one of four different character classes, each with unique strengths that suit the various gaming styles people tend to have in these sorts of game. I play as the Siren (the lone female character), just as I did in the original Borderlands. In any game I play where I can choose to be a spell-caster of sorts (whether magical spells in fantasy worlds, or energy manipulation in sci-fi games), that is what I choose to be, and that is what the Siren is. She can lift enemies into the air, immobilizing them while you continue to blast away with your plethora of guns. It’s supremely satisfying.
Anyway, the story is basically a space-western, set on the fictional world of Pandora, a backwoods planet populated by rednecks and hillbillies. You are a vault hunter, searching for an invaluable treasure that will not only lead to potential fame and fortune, but can save the world of Pandora from the villainous Handsome Jack. Jack is also looking for a vault, in the hopes of taking control of a power that would be best kept out of the hands of a douche-bag like Handsome Jack (although he’s a hilariously awesome bad guy). Anyway, the aforementioned rednecks and hillbillies who populate Pandora either try to kill you, or send you on mutually beneficial quests (or in some delightful cases, both). The game is chock-full of pop-culture references, entertaining characters, and droll humor. It’s really, really fun.
If you have even a moderate interest in video games, you should try to get your hands on a copy and give it a whirl.
Here’s a trailer for the game I once shared a long time ago. If you can watch it without at least a small part of you wanting to check it out… well then you don’t deserve to have nice things, and we’ll just keep playing without you! If you already play on PS3, send me your game info, my friend J and I could always use some more firepower as we burn Pandora to the ground… you know… to save it from Handsome Jack.
Most of the time, my appetite for stories and books and movies is voracious and unquenchable. I guess my appetite for many things is like that: experiences, conversations, cocktails, food, and new things of all sorts. Yet, this behavior probably peaks in my relationship to books and movies. For example, my Netflix queue currently has 911 movies in it counting Instant and Mailer queues together. For books, it is no different.
This is my ‘to read’ shelf. This is just the books I’ve queued up to be books I read the soonest. I have other books that I already own to be added to this shelf in the future once I weed it out a bit (both books to be read for the first time and books to be read again). I also have a piece of looseleaf folded in my wallet where I keep track of all the books I hear about and want to get access to eventually (this is mostly a Powell’s list, so that I can be more purposeful when I make pilgrimage to that wonderful ‘City of Books’).
I’m not going to lie, I actually really love having a shelf this packed with stories to engage over the next few years, as the number of books on the shelf shrinks and then swells again after a trip to Powell’s or an AbeBooks.com binge.
Even though most of you will read this after the fact, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I have no thematic post prepared for the festivities. I actually have nothing prepared. Having no idea what to write about today, I decided it was time to resurrect ‘Five Things.’ I’m pretty sure that ‘Five Things’ was the very first thematic post series I started way back when, but then it was called ‘Props Thursdays’ or something along those lines. Since I couldn’t come up with what I wanted to write about today, I decided to just share the last five movies I watched, and a brief snippet of my reaction to each. Here they are:
This 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman (and featuring Joseph Cotten) begins right after an unsolved murder, and from there goes on to tell a twisted story of psychological abuse and obsession. Bergman won the Oscar for Best Actress, and it’s easy to see why. Her performance is really amazing, especially toward the end as her character devolves into madness.
The film is tense and interesting, but it is Bergman’s performance that really stays with you.
One interesting bit of trivia is that because of the play the film was based on, as well as the two film adaptations of which this version is the second, the sort of psychological abuse depicted in the film is still know as ‘gaslighting.’
Another installment in my quest to keep checking off all the classic films I’ve never seen. Based on a novel and headlined by Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds, the story follows four guys from Atlanta who go deep into the backwoods to canoe down a river before it is damned and becomes a lake. Way out of their element, they run afoul of some sexually sadistic hillbillies, and things don’t go well for anybody.
The film is responsible for a number of pop culture mainstays. It is the reason we are all familiar with the song ‘Dueling Banjos,’ and it features the disturbing and oft-referenced lines: “He got a real pretty mouth ain’t he?” and “I bet you can squeal like a pig.”
It’s a good film, but it’s also flawed in a number of ways concerning general logic and character motivations. I’m definitely glad to have finally checked it off my list of movies waiting to be watched.
This uber-indie film from 1990 is set in the world of high-society trust fund kids in Manhattan. An outsider is randomly drawn into an elite clique and makes more of an impact than anyone anticipated. The film is painfully acted, but the screenplay is sharp and clever. I would often flip back and forth between despising all of these characters, and then loving them in spite of myself. They are sweet and naive and flawed, and yet they try so hard to seem erudite and grownup and put-together. It’s the inherent sweetness that comes through by the end that left a winning taste in my mouth, when it could easily have just been bitter and nauseating.
4. Blue Velvet
Speaking of classics I’d never seen before, this was my very first time seeing Blue Velvet. The film nerd in me is appropriately ashamed, so fear not. This isn’t my first rodeo with David Lynch, so I was prepared for the surreality of the whole thing. I really enjoyed it! Part film-noir, part surreal dream/nightmare, part psychological metaphor, part parable of love conquering evil, it is unique and from what I understand, completely changed the landscape of arthouse films.
The performances are amazing. Most notably, Dennis Hopper’s maniacal villain is perfect, and by perfect I mean bat-shit crazy and disturbing. The direction is bizarre, and yet carefully crafted so that while you never know where the hell lynch is going, there is never a doubt that he certainly knows and will take you there skillfully, even if it is a place you never want to reach.
5. Get Carter (1971)
Not to be confused with what I assume is an unwatchable remake starring Sylvester Stallone, this movie was good, and also mostly awful. It was good because it’s fun to see a younger Michael Caine be a total fricking badass, and because the film was smarter than most lone bad-ass revenge films. You can easily see how all the British gangster films since take a great number of their cues from Get Carter. From the tone, to the dialogue, right through to the ending, you can see it in ‘Snatch’, ‘Lock, Stock…’, ‘Layer Cake,’ etc.
It was bad because it was overwhelmingly sexist. I think it may have been a self-aware sort of sexism, that understood the ugliness of Jack Carter’s character, but for me they should have gone just a bit farther by creating some better female characters who didn’t get abused, exploited, or drowned in a car trunk (or boot, I guess in England it was a car boot) without anyone giving much of a shit one way or the other. At one point, a moral of the film seems to be: Folks getting naive young girls to appear in illegal porn films is fine… unless you find out it happened to a relative of yours, that’s crossing the fucking line! Eh, I really wanted to like it because of the various strengths, but the sexism was just too nauseating.
Maggie Stiefvater has already had a pretty impressive career, but this is my first time reading her work. It was another one of the delightful spoils of being married to a future librarian, since Emily got this book for free at last year’s American Library Association Conference. The most awesome thing so far: not only does Emily have access to free books, she is also really good at choosing which ones she is going to grab for free.
The story begins with a girl named Blue. Born into a family of psychics, she doesn’t have their powers, but does have the ability to increase the energy of those around her, honing their abilities. So, she can’t hear or see supernatural things, but she turns up the volume for anyone who does. The book opens with the line, “Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.” Destined to kill her first love with a kiss, she has heard the same thing from every true psychic she’s ever met. Then, on the night of St. Mark’s Eve, where she goes each year so her mother can see the spirits of those who will die in the next year, and thus deliver the bad news to ones she knows. Blue can never see the spirits, until tonight when she sees one boy. It turns out, the only reason she would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve is either because he is her true love, or she will kill him. In her case, those are sort of the same thing.
I really love what Stiefvater does here. What seems like it will be just another run-of-the-mill young adult love story is anything but. Instead, it’s a story of magic, friendship, loneliness, and wrestling with the gap between who we are and who we want to be. Romance barely factors in at all, outside of the confusions and attraction of being a teenager. And romance certainly isn’t the force that drives the story along. Great characters, compelling narrative, and great prose are what kept the pages turning for me well after I should have put the book down to do something else.
When I finished this book, I was genuinely sad that I need to wait until September for the second book in the series to be released. The day after finishing it, I had a few moments of free time and thought, “I should read The Raven Boys… oh, wait, I finished it last night.” It was a real disappointment. I sure can’t wait to see what happens next, especially since she threw in a pretty fun hook in the book’s final line.