Friday, September 29, 2006

Zombie Brides And Virgin Grooms! Sounds like a Pellet Review!

Being a currently unemployed cheap bastard, I'm something of a library whore. Free movies are free movies, so what if you run the risk of borrowing one that's scratched all to hell and won't let you finish watching the third disc of Superman The Animated Series, Season 1? Ok, yeah, I was rather bitter about that actually. Anywho, the library's a great way to finally check out that flick you weren't sure you wanted to spend money on when it was new. Last week I checked out (quite literally) Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and The 40-Year Old Virgin (and Shaun of the
Dead, but I've already seen that, I just didn't have time to watch again).

Ok, Lightning Round.
Corpse Bride impressed the hell out of me. First, the animation was astounding. All of the movements and artistry invovled in actually making the movie were stunning. The puppets had mechanisms in their heads that could be tweaked to change their facial expressions! That floored me. The movie looks great. Its also a musical, just so we're clear on that. The cast was also pretty solid, all around, (yes it has Johnny Depp in it as Victor) but Helena Bonham Carter carried the movie away as the Corpse Bride. Also, I have to give props to the movie for making an undead zombie woman so strangely, well, 'cute' I guess is the only word that comes to mind without someone inferring necrophilia. Now I feel dirty.

40 Year Old Virgin came out to a lot of hooplah last year. Its a filthy-mouthed comedy, certainly, but novel enough to make it work. Yes, its about Andy, the titular Virgin, and his relationship problems, but the three coworkers who end up dragging him kicking and screaming toward the dating scene have their share of problems too. Shit, that sounds so lame. Look, the movie's funny, surprisingly intelligent, runs a little too long, and resolves itself in a way that doesn't come off being too insipidly sacchirine. And they actually take the time to flesh out the supporting characters, which is nice since they avoid being boring stock characters interchangeable with one another. Its also kind of reassuring to see a character with an even more messed up relationship history than my own. I don't know what that says about me, but its actually a better movie than I thought it would be.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Something to think about the next time you get dragged to a Julia Roberts movie

Let me tell you about Romantic Comedies. They’ve all got something in common, and its this: They’re all a bunch of lies. Most stories are. Sure, they can reveal truths about humanity and the universe, they can make us laugh and cry and occasionally think, but humans are innate liars, and that’s why our stories are so good. Every time we tell a story, it changes. Every memory slides further and further away from what really happened. That’s just the way it is.

There’s no such thing as “They all lived happily ever after.” That’s a lie right there. Even if a couple manages to survive the hazards of their own psychoses intact, they’re still going to die and the surviving partner is going to go through hell in grief. Touching and emotional yes, "happily ever after" not so much.

People are crazy, and when they meet each other, they try to hide the crazy from each other. It never really works. The crazy always find a way out. The lucky couples are the ones who actually don’t mind the quirks they see in each other, they even find them charming and cute. The unlucky ones pretend the quirks don’t exist and spend the rest of their lives in misery while trying to figure out excuses to stay with someone who’s guts they hate. Then there’s the ones who hate the quirks and end things because they aren’t working out. Hopefully they don’t have the emotional baggage of 2.5 kids and a complicated alimony settlement when they do come to that revelation.

Couples argue. Couples fight. Dishes get thrown sometimes. Feelings get hurt. It happens. All the time. Some couples survive, others end after one fight too many. The lucky ones find an avenue of communication and compromise to get through. The unlucky ones profess in full denial of the truth that they love their husband, even after he got drunk and broke her nose with a bottle of Miller Lite. Again.

Sex is an investment. Mating is quick. Gestating and producing another human being takes a while. Ensuring that new human being survives to buy a car and try to mate in the back seat takes even longer. We’re not sea turtles. We don’t fuck for one night, then lay our eggs in the beach and six months later hope that some of the little buggers make it to the ocean without getting snatched up by the seagulls. For one thing, we get emotional about that kind of stuff. We rarely eat our young. We believe in nurturing our spawn, and loving them and “raising them right and proper.” Unfortunately we’re all neurotic monkeys, so all we’re really doing is just raising more neurotic monkeys.

There is no magic potion to make people fall in love. We’re on our own to figure out Love, and the instructions we’ve got all sound like those incomprehensible translations of Korean VHS player manuals. Its hard to fit slot A into Tab 16 when neither was included in the box. Even worse, males and females all have a knack for confusing the hell out of the other gender and complaining about not being understood. Men don’t get women. Women don’t get men. And yet Romantic Comedies provide countless hours of footage and characters that seem to be typical of their genders. You know, archetypes. The bad boy, the loveable fat guy sidekick who never gets the girl, the mousy girl with a wild side, the hooker with a heart of gold. The list goes on and on and on. They’re just broad caricatures. An umbrella category.

People are a hell of a lot more complicated than that. The loveable fat guy is probably throwing himself full force into being loveable because he’s so insecure about his weight and undesirability to the other sex, and if he weren’t appreciated for his funniness, he’d probably get so depressed and lonely that one morning he’s not going to wake up from the sleeping pills and vodka. The hooker with the heart of gold might just have been a promising med student when one unfortunate night at a sorority party, she got addicted to heroin, flunked out of school after a painful semester and ended up on the streets, plying her trade in order to get her next fix, all while her sober moments are filled with regret and self-hatred, so she might do a good deed as an unconscious plea for help before the last vestiges of her spirit get broken. That’s two stock characters made more complex by the infusion of tragedy. And they’re more true to life. Real people’s lives are rife with sorrow, tragedy and despair. That’s why we like Romantic Comedies. They help us laugh through the pain (well, the good ones at least, the bad ones just add to it) and make us believe even for an instant that its all going to be ok as long as your heart’s in the right place and you’ve got courage when you need it the most.

The real world doesn’t act that way. There the bad boy asshole does marry the prom queen, they have three kids, move out to the suburbs and he cheats on her with his young, vivacious secretary while the wife unconsciously injects the kids with her pent up hatred for him. Then, when she finally gets sick enough of his verbal abuse and tells him she’s leaving, he jealously flips out and beats her to death with an iron before putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger, unaware that his five year old son just saw the whole thing. The honest shy guy spends years trying to muster the courage to express his feelings for the friend that he loves, berating himself night after night for failing to do so, until one day he can’t take it anymore and tells her at the most inopportune time, like say at her wedding. But unlike a RomCom, the bride to be has never loved the shy guy and yells at him for trying to ruin her wedding. He then runs out of the church crying and spends the next ten years drinking himself into a stupor just so he can get to sleep and contracts cirrhosis of the liver and dies a painful, lonely death. Those kinds of stories happen all the time. We get hints of them on the nightly news.

Romantic comedies are lies, but they tend to be beautiful lies. More importantly, they make us feel that, despite all the fucked up shit that goes on in the lives of everyone, maybe somewhere, at the right moment, standing on the roof of your car in the rain outside a girl’s house with Prince’s Purple Rain blaring out of the cheap stock stereo can win her heart. Because we hate to think that doing that will only get shoes thrown at us, threats about calling the cops, and a silent drive home interrupted only by the loud sobbing of the driver as his heart lies broken in her driveway next to the bouquet of roses he dropped on the ground.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Demoted by Science!!

Well, well, well. After being the subject of a few years’ debate, the planet Pluto’s been demoted to a “dwarf planet” asteroid-thingy.;_ylt=Au9ByhJKXBQPJaypPQPEji3637YB;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--

Henceforth, “Pluto” is now forbidden from using that name as its legal moniker and has been assigned the ultra-sexy NEW name of 134340. In the past, Pluto has caused much consternation and scratching of heads among the scientific community. What does it look like exactly? What’s it made of? Why the hell is its orbit all wonky? 134340 is now being joined by rookie Eris (formerly 2003 UB313), a slightly larger mysterious space rock a little further out, in the dwarf planet class. Thus spake the International Astronomical Union!
Yeah, I can’t really say that with a straight face. Look, Pluto is still the same weird-ass space rock it was a week ago. Its still going to float out there and get inside Uranus’ orbit every now and then. Big rocks don’t care what they’re called. Or maybe they do, and when word of this reaches its orbit, Pluto’s going to be so pissed off that its going to let Jupiter’s gravitational pull upset its orbit and the former planet’s going to come screaming out of the heavens towards Earth, looking for vengeance!
Look, I appreciate Science’s continuing tweaking of the things it considers to be valid information, and humans are by nature a classifying species, but really, 134340? We’re still going to call it Pluto since its easier to remember and spell. As for the new kid, Eris, well, we (and by “we” I mean “Science”) know its bigger than Pluto, its got a “moon” and that’s about it. The real silly thing about it is our tendency to make big dramatic stories out of new scientific discoveries that aren’t necessarily “action packed.” The discovery of Eris was a big deal, since finding something further out and bigger than Pluto raises questions of a tenth planet and/or if it really is a planet. The name change is really just semantics at this point. Again, Pluto’s going to keep on doing what its doing, regardless what a thus-far lucky group of apes has to say about it. We’re not the boss of Pluto.
Incidentally, I’ve always wondered why Walt Disney went and named Mickey’s dog after the Roman god of the underworld. A god I might add, who forcibly kidnapped his future wife Penelope (Persephone) and dragged her to said underworld because he wanted to “get some.” Pluto wasn’t exactly evil, but he was kind of a dick. Here’s a challenge to make you feel uncomfortable watching those old cartoons. Every time they say “Pluto,” replace it with “Hades.” Or for added mythological comedy value, “Cerberus.” Now, I foresee this having two possible outcomes. 1) your sensibilities are shaken by the possibility that “Uncle Walt” was up to something sinister in naming a loveable cartoon dog after a god of the dead or 2) it’s a bit of absolutely hilarious unintentional humor.