Friday, January 26, 2007

New Semester, New Post

So since several of my fellow members of the blogodrome have been criticizing my recent absence, I've decided to appease the masses with this brief office post. Sorry I haven't written much recently, but since it has been break, I haven't been doing all that much that is worth posting. But just this week I moved much further in the phases of life my parents have ingeniously set forth:

Phase 1: Buy XBox 360
Phase 2: Buy new 27" flatscreen tv
Phase 3: Buy new tv stand for said tv
Phase 1b: Get replacement 360 for broken one

That's as far as I've gotten thus far, but the path set forth before me is fairly clear:
Phase 4: Move to new, better apartment (possibly selling phases 1-3 to pay for said apartment)
Phase 5: Buy new sound system to go with new apartment for new tv
Phase 6: Find desirable mate and woo said mate with promise (lie) of financial stability, as evidenced by phases 1-5
Phase 7: Buy house to settle down with said desirable mate
Phase 8: Produce offspring to appease parents
Phase 9: Finish dissertation
(Phase 9 may be moved around to suit circumstances)

In other news, I taught my first discussion sections today. This is my first time teaching an English major course, and the students all seem very energetic, particularly for early Friday morning. In my second section, two fights broke out. One was over the merits or lack thereof of the musical Wicked (thus revealing who the theatre major snobs were) and the other was over the merits or lack thereof of Mean Girls. If they can get this passionate during introductions, I can't wait till we talk about actual literature. Cause there's nothing closer to an 18th century version of Mean Girls than The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Unless it's Clarissa. (I can totally see Lindsey Lohan as Clarissa, can't you?)

I gave my students the same questionnaire that I gave out last semester, with some interesting responses. I found out one of my students went to my high school. And another of them hopes to get out of my class an A, a greater appreciation of American Literature, and a girlfriend. And, as last semester, the ultimate showdown ended predictably. Of my 34 students, 21 believed Batman could take Samuel L. Jackson in a fight, whilst 10 felt badass Jackson could best the Dark Knight. One claimed indecision, one poor sod felt that Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze could take them both, and one pried deeper, inquiring as to Jackson's motivation for fighting the Bat in the first place. This Freud-in-training felt that if Jackson were fighting for his family, his children, or some greater cause, he could win, but if he were just fighting for his life, Batman would edge him out. Some of their more intriguing responses were:

-Several chose specifically George Clooney's Batman, as he was too sexy to lose.
-"...and I know that deep down Samuel L. Jackson is just a puff ball."
-Samuel L. Jackson lost points from several for appearing in Unbreakable.
-Batman apparently has superpowers (little did I know...)
-"Probably Frank Miller's Batman, 'cause he was hard." (I think I need to have a talk with this student about proper word usage.)
-One student felt Adam West would win out over all the others, and I admire him for his gumption.
-"Samuel L. Jackson -- total BAMF."
-"Sam L. Jackson, because I'm picturing it as a debate and he's a really smart man! *plus he's older and wiser."
-One student claimed Jackson in Pulp Fiction would win, but any other Jackson would lose.
-"Batman hesitates to actually kill his opponent. Samuel L. Jackson has no such qualms."

That's all I've got time for now, but I do promise to post more regularly now that school has started again. What else am I going to do, dissertate? Yeah, that's a laugh.

(Oh, and if you're on Xbox Live, my screen name is Doombear14. Add me if you want to play some Halo 2 or some Gears of War or...well, that's about all I own at this point.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I am a Lemming

Because everyone and their brother is posting movie lists from the past year, I'm firmly jumping on that bandwagon. I'm doing this primarily to rectify a few gross overlooks I see on others' lists, but also to show you some of the pure crap I've watched this year. So these aren't really in any order, but they're divided into two categories: drek and non-drek. Also, there are quite a few I'm leaving out, as others have commented on them to death, so I won't bore you unless I disagree with my colleagues Speakmemory and Captain Americanist.

BloodRayne: I saw this on video, so I was saved the $8, but that's not enough. Sweet Jesus did this movie blow. It was like someone had given an 8 year old with a vampire fetish a movie camera and a list of B-grade actors to play with. And why, Billy Zane, why? You were a cool dude, and knew what you were talking about! At best here you had snide contempt for the fact that you were getting paid to be in this worthless dung heap of a film.

Silent Hill: I saw this with the Joycean, and we had no idea what had happened when the movie was over. Then some random dude told us the video game was the same way. There was fire, and smoke....and demons.....and crazy fundy Protestants....and I don't know what else....

X-Men: The Last Stand: Basically they ruined the X-Men franchise and all the brilliance of X2, and then undercut all that in the last five minutes of the movie. As I have noted elsewhere, Ratner deserves to be kicked square in the nuts.

Superman Returns: Granted, I might not give this movie a fair shake. I was forced to see it at a drive-in with some friends from out of town, rather than on the UltraScreen in sweet sweet Dolby sound. My windshield was kinda dirty, and we were far away. And that little tinny speaker was no good. So I was a thoroughly irate Dubs by the time this picture started. Still, it seemed like he took the cool parts from the first Superman movie, and did them again. And it had Kumar, from Harold and Kumar. Only he didn't speak. But boy, Kevin Spacey sure did. A lot.

Clerks 2: I enjoyed this when I saw it with Nittany Lion, but looking back, I can't remember why. Maybe it just made me nostalgic for the Clerks cartoon series. "Who's driving?" "Oh, Bear's driving! How can this be?"

The Black Dahlia: See Speakmemory for all you need to know about this one. It was like two movies, neither of which made sense. And Harry Potter's aunt was in it as a raving nutjob. For some reason.

The Non-Drek (in somewhat increasing order of awesomeness)

Underworld: Evolution: This movie didn't so much have a plot as a lot of cool stuff. Which is all I really wanted from it. And Kate Beckinsale? That girl works out. Seriously. And it had Derek Jacobi, which makes it all the more awesome. He's the definitive film Hamlet, and here he was fighting with the hybrid vampire-werewolf. I love the world in which we live.

V for Vendetta: I enjoyed this movie, and I don't care that Natalie Portman was older than the little girl in the comic. But it lost me in that the Nazi-esque conservative state was too easy a villain to ever believe in. No matter how bad things get, when people look that much like Hitlerites, they're never gonna get power.

Crank: Loads of fun, and a strong showing for a summer action flick. I believe we agreed that it was like five college kids got really drunk and thought of everything that would be cool to have in a movie, then put it in a movie. If all you expect if Jason Statham running around a lot, killing, having sex, and otherwise getting into hilarious situations that involve his adrenaline, you'll go far with this film.

Snakes on a Plane: This was our pre-prelims movie. Yes, it could have been better. No, there was no real reason for the crime boss to know kung-fu (it was the loaded gun of the movie that never went off). But Sam Jackson was Sam Jackson. Again, all I wanted out of it.

Inside Man: Quite a solid heist film, with a nice manipulation of the formula. And it wasn't too Spike Lee to be enjoyed on levels beyond a Spike Lee movie. (See Captain Americanist for further discussion.)

Cars: Loved this movie, even if it basically wasa rehash of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 with cars. It was gorgeous to watch, and earnest without being cloyingly sappy (though there were overtly sentimental moments, it pulled them off in the way Pixar movies can). And, like all Pixar movies, it wasn't a bunch of dribble with the actors overshadowing the film (see the entire animated works of Robin Williams for counterexample).

Pirates of the Carribean 2: People give this film too much grief. Yes, it was too long. Yes, you didn't really need that first section. But it was freakin awesome the rest of the way. The Pirates movies seem to understand exactly what swashbuckling means, and throw it at you every step of the way. And lay off the stupid natives. It's a staple of the genre, so don't get all uppity-postmodern and say it's racist. Cause then you're just overthinking instead of acknowledging the homage to its precursors, from Errol Flynn to Herman Melville. So all you haters out there, just shut up and go watch your artsy fartsy documentaries.

The Good Shepherd: If you don't mind the fact that there's no real through-narrative, this movie becomes a fascinating character sketch. And despite the extremely superfluous Angelina Jolie, the movie works as a mix of suspense, tragedy, and inevitability that captures the Cold War quite intelligently. Worth checking out, as long as you resign yourself to the fact that it's long, and it damn well knows it.

Brick: I heard about this one after the fact, and recently caught it on video. It's a hard, tough film noir, set in a high school. Think Veronica Mars without any of the cute redeeming humor or nice guys. No one is nice here. It's like watching The Maltese Falcon with minors. And it completely works, from the noirspeak to the believable villans and situations. Cause only two kinds of people take themselves that seriously: criminals and high schoolers. If you're a fan of noir or of mysteries, you need to see this movie.

The Prestige: Far and away the best movie I saw this year. So good I saw it twice, which enhanced the experience. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, Batman and Wolverine, go at it as rival magicians in Victorian England. Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson are in there too, but they don't count. Bale and Jackman give riveting performances, and the twists and turns of the story are fascinating to watch. What can I say, I loves me my Christopher Nolan movies. Oh, and it has David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. Seriously, I can't believe none of my friends have this on their lists. See it. It's awesome.

Others that were awesome but have been talked to death in the blogodrome:
Little Miss Sunshine (fun and Proust jokes)
Talladega Nights ("There's nothing more frightening then driving with a live goddamn cougar next to you.")
Stranger than Fiction (Anytime literature is in the movies, we all win.)
Casino Royale (great but with a too-long and disappointing ending)
Children of Men

Monday, January 08, 2007


Quick post now, as not much new to talk about.

During break, I like to read non-essential books. It frees my mind up and gives me things to peruse as I'm trying to fall asleep. At the moment, my mind turns to mystery novels. I've read all of Chandler and Hammet, and pretty much all the Christie I can take, so I'm looking for suggestions of new authors to start. What do you folk enjoy or recommend? And if it's a series, what book should I start with?

More amusing posts coming in the future, I promise. For now, take joy in the fact that I slept in till 3pm today.