Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dorky glasses are the fountain of youth

There are few universal truths out there, so once you find one you must not let it go. One that I have stumbled upon is this: old men wearing dorky glasses get young girls.

You may think that I have gone too far. There is no way this could be possible. You think this is the most outlandish statement I have made yet on this blog.

Au contraire mon fraire.

I have, not just one, but three examples for you. Anything that happens twice can be called a coincidence, but three times is irrefutable proof.

Exhibit A: David Cross

David Cross started his career as a comedian trying too hard to be cool in the 90s. Already growing bald and weird at the age of thirty, he overcompensated by becoming an angry comedian. Through sheer luck and a deal with the devil, he's been making steady paychecks for years. Whether its acting in Alvin and the Chimpmunks or being in a television show (he was in Arrested Development, my favorite show of all time), he's always managed to pay the bills. He can even be seen in two shows currently, Running Wilde on Fox and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret on IFC.

Somewhere between the failed television shows (RIP Arrested Development) and kids movies (I actually liked Small Soldiers) he managed to date Amber Tamblyn. Yes, the chick from Joan of Arcadia and Sisterhood of Traveling Pants is dating that guy. Cross, 46 years old, is some how dating 27 year old Tamblyn. I guess personality goes a long way.

Exhibit B: Fred Armisen

He's a greasy man.

You may recognize this man if you watch Saturday Night Live at all. But, seeing how Saturday Night Live hasn't been relevant for years, you probably have no idea who he is. What you should know about this man however is that he was married to Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olson on Mad Men (which is an awesome show). Armisen, 43, was married to Moss, 28, on Oct. 25, 2009. Eight months later the two divorced. The story doesn't stop there. In August 2010, two months after divorcing Moss, Armisen started dating SNL costar Abby Elliot. Not only is she 23 years old but is also the daughter of the underrated Chris Elliott.

Exhibit C: Woody Allen

The godfather of dorky glasses. What can be said about Woody Allen that hasn't already been done to death? The man has been working steadily since the 60s and has even made a film per year for the last few decades. Whether they have all been good is another matter. Allen's career is amazing but think how much better it would be without Curse of the Jade Scorpion ever being made. His newest film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, was released on Sept. 23 to weak reviews (Love and Death will always be my favorite Allen film. It was back when he was still just a goofy dude).

Forget that he is a a creepy guy that somehow managed to date Diane Keaton. Forget that he dated Mia Farrow until starting a relationship with Farrow's adopted daughter. Forget that Farrow ended the relationship after finding Allen's naked photos of said daughter. Lets focus on the obvious fact, the age difference. When they met, Allen was the ripe age of 56 and Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow's daughter, was 22. They are now married with two adopted daughters.

So very creepy...

It could be the personalities, the sense of humor or the money. Money and fame have won over young women for a long time. There is also those beautiful women who marry a schlub for his sense of humor. For these extreme cases however, it all comes down to one factor: black-framed glasses. If you ever find yourself a lonely old man, just buy some glasses and wait for the ladies.

Which is more badass: the gun or the glasses? (Answer: everything is cool when Michael Caine is involved)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Katy Perry's cleavage is too hot for Sesame Street

The story is only a few days old but I'm already tired of hearing about it. Katy Perry, the most recent annoying pop star to make it big, has had her guest appearance on Sesame Street pulled for indecency. Parents were outraged by her revealing dress as she sang a reworking of her overplayed hit, Hot n Cold. Now preschoolers can get a taste of what we got tired of hearing two years ago.

I don't really get what's going on here.

We get it, Perry has boobs. We don't need news stories and concerned parents to remind us. Most of Perry's career is built on the fact that she has a large chest. The rest of the fame is based off of wacky outfits and songs that are as crappy as they are catchy.

There are 146 million Google hits for Katy Perry. Of these hits a combined 2,804,000 deal with Perry's boobs, chest, tits and, the more sophisticated term, breasts ("Katy Perry funbags" yielded 12,700 hits). "Katy Perry hot" yielded 44,990,000 hits (I subtracted all the hits that Hot n Cold got to be fair). Using my shoddy high school level math skills, that means 31% of Perry's fame is based off of how hot she is. Then again pop stars have never really been known for their talent.

If talent counted for anything, Tiny Tim would still be a household name.

Really, do preschoolers even know what they are looking at? All they see is a lady with a big forehead (I'm sorry but she has one) dancing with Elmo. Trust me, the kind of kids interested in Perry's boobs aren't watching Sesame Street. If anything they are too busy accidentally getting viruses on their parents computers looking up Perry's boobs. That or they just look at every news article showing the cleavage.

And to be honest, is it that bad? She really isn't showing off much and has showed off much more in the past. Really this is Perry at her most modest, we should be grateful she went that far. What she is showing off on PBS is nothing more than what you would see from your mom's hot friend who comes over some holidays.

Pictured: Your mom's hot friend.

Perry already spends all her time and energy showing off the fact that she has awesome boobs, we don't need that story on the front page. The kids watching don't even realize how hypnotizing cleavage is and the people who do recognize cleavage's power shouldn't be watching Sesame Street. If they are watching Sesame Street for boobs then they have their own issues to work out.

Katy Perry's visit to Sesame Street

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ode to hoodie weather

The winds are picking up and the days are getting shorter. When you walk out the door in the morning a strange chill hits you that makes you huddle within yourself, receding from the cold air. The air smells crisper and the ground crunches at your feet. Starting on Wednesday the best season of all begins. Autumn, my friends, is finally here.

Growing up, winter was my favorite season. I loved the snow and how much brighter it made everything. As I've grown, snow has lost it's appeal. What was once seen by my doe eyes as perfection is now nothing more then a nuisance. That first fall each season still brings about wonderment, but that all changes now that the world doesn't stop for snow games.

Getting older, I appreciate fall more. It's the transition, the nuance that makes it. After sweltering heat of summer, there is nothing more welcoming then subtle winds that you feel in your bones and see in each sway of the trees.

Layering up is key in this climate and there is nothing more versatile or personal than a person's hooded sweatshirts. Hoodies are more than coats. They are extensions of ourselves. Hoodies are our protections from the elements, our pillows when the occasion arises and our blankets when we just need something to wrap ourselves in. Our hoodies identify us and we identify with them.

I still wear my first hoodie. When my family and I visited our sister at Gettysburg College it was colder than I anticipated. In the college gift shop I spotted a dark blue zipper down. Aside from the school name over the heart it was just plain blue. It's been my hoodie ever since. For six years it has kept me warm and dry. Every season when the leaves turn brown I take it out and it continues it's job of taking care of me. In turn, I take care of it. Two years ago the pocket ripped on a fence post.

I stitched it right up.

Autumn weather brings out the best in us. The transition between summer and winter is a comfortable one. Even as the last leaves fall and the wind picks up violently I still consider it the best time to be outside. I just wish that it lasted all year round.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Cracker Barrel

Traveling down a highway, there is no sight more welcome to the eye then a billboard advertising the location of the nearest Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. God help you if you are a parent and one of your kids spy this sign because Cracker Barrel is probably one of the greatest establishments created by man. On Sept. 19 Cracker Barrel will celebrate its 41th anniversary.

Cracker Barrel and Hampton Inn: a symbiotic relationship.

When you immediately arrive at your local Cracker Barrel you are immediately met with a stable of rocking chairs. These chairs welcome you to sit in them as you wait the next 40 minutes for seating. The rocking chair welcoming to arrivals is just one instance of how the word comfort is brought to new levels at Cracker Barrel.

Some may argue that Cracker Barrel is just a commercialization and bastardization of nostalgia and a false sense of community. At 41, the age of Cracker Barrel is still younger then the median age of old aged patrons who come by the busload on their way to Niagara Falls or on their way back from Branson, Missouri. A tourist trap it may be but it is an elegantly created tourist trap. The first half of the restaurant is a gift shop made to look like an old general store. Gadgets and nostalgia inducing products are abound, extolling the virtues of old country goodness. Here you can buy something that will make an excellent gift for any grandparent or a gift that will disappoint your poor grandchild.

They even have their own damn record label (picture from Cracker Barrel's website).

The dining area sets a mood with its fireplace and checkerboard some bored eight-year-old is always playing on. The inside the restaurant area abides by the "nail cool looking things on walls" theme that so many restaurants employ. Their menu is a laundry list of calories that make me hungry just thinking about it. They even serve breakfast all day. The only other place that allows you to order apple strudel french toast all day is heaven, and their syrup isn't nearly as good as Cracker Barrel's. I personally endorse Cracker Barrel's milkshakes. My fondest memories of riding in a car to Flordia is our stop at Cracker Barrel where the men of the family would rest their laurels and indulge in a mug of the finest milkshake you will ever taste.

Cracker Barrel is the kind of brand that feels like it's been around forever when really it opened at a time where town general stores were just dying out. With suburbs becoming more popular, Cracker Barrel bottled the old town general store that now allows any road weary driver haven. Here's to plenty more years of Cracker Barrel. I haven't been there in awhile but every time I go it's a treat.

Happy Birthday Cracker Barrel (picture from Cracker Barrel's web site).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Boardwalk Empire adds class to the NJ craze

New Jersey, the armpit of America. I say that of course, with as much pride as I can. When you grow up New Jersey you have to have pride in it. New Jersey is the kind of place that has everything. Each town you stumble upon has its own characters and story. You can just travel on through it or stop and enjoy its splendors. I love New Jersey. It is my home and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. With that being said, New Jersey hasn't been getting the respect it deserves.

New Jersey has always been a favorite subject of hack comedians. The kind from New York who bumper their Jersey jokes with ones about airlines and their mother-in-laws. Now New Jersey has its own genre of reality shows. For those into fashion there is Jersey Couture and Jerseylicious (which takes the prize of the show with the most god-awful name). For anyone interested in seeing housewives with borderline personality disorders there is no better place to go than The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And finally, the worst offender, Jersey Shore. Enough has been written about the shallowness and sheer stupidity of Jersey Shore and I don't want to add anymore attention to the attention-seekers on MTV (yet I still know all their names).

Finally, something comes around and validates this new attention set on my beloved state. On Sept. 19 the series Boardwalk Empire is set to premiere. Set in the early days of Atlantic City, Boardwalk Empire is about the city and how it dealt with prohibition. Thanks to prohibition a market was created for illegal alcohol, and many of those prohibition players dealt with Atlantic City. This was Atlantic City before she sold her soul to casinos. The place was one big attraction, built in order to bring anyone they can to it's luxurious beaches.

The series is based off Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson. When the book first came out I remember seeing people around me reading it. Being from the Atlantic City area, it was only natural that we would all be interested in our local history being in print. The modest book must of caught the eye of some important people. Martin Scorsese himself is involved with the series and even directed the first episode in the series. While I doubt he is deeply involved in the series, the fact that he is involved at is a good sign for the series. Although HBO's last effort, The Pacific, left me underwhelmed; it is my hope that the channel redeems itself with what could be a solid series.

Boardwalk Empire centers around the character of Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi. I've always liked Buscemi. As a character actor, nobody has the range that Buscemi has. While he may not be as famous as he should be, I'd like to think that people can't help but smile every time he is on screen. He always makes the most out of any role he is in and with the weight of a whole series on a veteran supporting actor, I can't wait to see Buscemi shine. Also starring is Michael Pitt, who I've never really been a fan of. I doubt his involvement will ruin the experience for me but I've never really enjoyed anything he's been in. Also involved is Michael K. Williams who also played breakout character Omar Little on the critically acclaimed series The Wire.

I will milk a Wire reference any chance I can.

Atlantic City will always be important to me. It was the place that my parents grew up. As I grew I would hear the stories of how the neighborhoods use to be. I hope that what should be a well-made series will reclaim Atlantic City's pride and maybe even New Jersey's. Hopefully Boardwalk Empire will be enough to re-legitimatize New Jersey. Either way it should prove to be good television from people that know what they are doing. To reiterate, the show premieres on Sunday, Sept. 19.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Affleck steps behind the camera again

Ben Affleck has never gotten any respect. As an actor he's been ridiculed throughout his whole career. His personal life has never done him any favors in the past either. While he may now be grounded in idyllic marriage with Jennifer Garner, his Bennifer past is not one to be forgotten easily. To put simply, Affleck has been nothing more than a distraction in front of the camera. Outclassed and out-shined by his peers on screen, Affleck never seemed to find his stride.

He was the bomb in Phantoms though.

Things took an interesting turn when Affleck decided to direct a film. While some actors have been known to make a proper transition into directing (The Night of the Hunter may be the best actor directed film ever) that doesn't make it easy to trust any actor with a film, especially an actor as controversial as Affleck. While Clint Eastwood may be one of the best directors around today, he is more of an exception than anything else. Also Eastwood paid his dues long enough to be allowed to do anything he wants. It is Clint Eastwood after all. The only breakthrough an actor has made towards directing in recent memory is Liev Shreiber and the film Everything is Illuminated. I would like to see Schreiber direct another film but probably the only reason why he was allowed the freedom to direct Everything is Illuminated was because the movie was an indie. Aside from bored television actors who are given filler episodes of their own television show to direct, the transition from actor to direct is not one given easily. Actor/directors in film are few and far between. That's what makes Gone Baby Gone so miraculous.

Whatever was missing from Affleck as an actor is made up by him as a director. To say that Gone Baby Gone was a good film for a first time director is an insult to Affleck. Gone Baby Gone was a good film period that any director would be proud of. There are concerns that Affleck may had just gotten lucky with Gone Baby Gone. It was less about skill and more about serendipity. The basis was a book by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote the novel that Eastwood's Mystic River was based off (With another book made into Shutter Island, Lehane is the Nicholas Sparks of manly movies. Lehane also wrote a few episodes of The Wire). Affleck hit a goldmine when he acquired actors as well. With talent such as Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Casey Affleck (Ben's brother who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors thanks to the underrated Assassination of Jesse James) and Amy Ryan who deservedly won the Oscar for her work in Gone Baby Gone (and who also worked on The Wire). Really, it would be hard not to create a solid film with such talent at one's disposal. That's why Affleck's new film, The Town, is so important. While Gone Baby Gone could just be written up as a happy accident, The Town will validate Affleck's new career as a director.

Ben Affleck in action.

Set in Affleck's beloved Boston, The Town is about a group of bank robbers as they deal with a tenacious FBI agent and one of their own falling in love with a bank manager. There is enough going on in the story to create an engaging piece of cinema, it just depends on how adept Affleck is at finding it. Studios may still be hesitant about banking a film on Affleck's directing prowess. While Gone Baby Gone was a curious experiment, The Town is the real test. Proof in the studio's hesitance may be found in the trailer. Whether it's because of the studios fears or because of Affleck's own decision not to overshadow his own film, there is no mention of the directors name anywhere in the trailer. While the trailer does go out of it's way to mention it's done by the same director as Gone Baby Gone, it doesn't mention the name. Affleck is a household name and he's already in the credits as an actor, so why isn't he mentioned as the director? Even with Affleck directing himself, there is still no reason to worry. With critically proven actors Jon Hamm, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite (always underrated) and Jeremy Renner, the acting responsibility is evenly distributed and does not rely solely on Affleck.

After I watch The Town I'll finally be able to say whether or not Affleck is a good director. I hope he goes on to be an excellent filmmaker, if only to show up every person that made his acting career a punchline. The Town premieres September 17th.

UPDATE: The Town got amazing reviews so it looks like Affleck pulled it off. Well done Daredevil, well done indeed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Youtube is the new America's Funniest Home Videos

There was once a time where life was embarrassing for everyone. It was a time when ABC sitcoms were actually popular and Jesse Frederick did the theme song for every show (the man was a god on the piano). It was during this time that America thought Bob Saget was actually funny. I am happy to say that in these enlightened times we now know that Bob Saget is not funny, but there was once a time that Saget had two separate television shows to stretch whatever lack of talent he had.

He looks like Mr. Rogers less cool nephew.

While Full House allowed a whole ensemble of characters to carry the show, there was another television program that was plagued by Saget. America's Funniest Home Videos (or AFV for short) relied solely on the premise that America wants to see Bob Saget make corny jokes about home movies sent in by white people. America would tune in every week to watch whatever wacky video was chosen by ABC and to watch Saget die a little inside after every joke he had to tell. AFV was the kind of show that you watched at your grandmother's house when you were bored or your family didn't have anything to talk about. The videos ranged from people getting hurt by doing something stupid to pets or babies being cute. Now with AFV gone (I assume it's not on anymore), America still has one bastion for their clips of adorable animals and awesome injuries: Youtube.
Continuing America's desire to watch the mundane.

When you think about it, Youtube is really a lot like AFV. Look at David After Dentist, a video involving a drugged up child being ridiculed by his father in the car ride home. With 66 million views on Youtube it's insane how popular a whacked out kid can be. Really all the video's missing is corny jokes by Saget and it could of won the $10,000 grand prize on AFV. Instead of Saget you have asinine comments to read by users who fail at fundamental socialization. Comments are either pointless quotes from the video you just watched or unnecessary anger derived from said video. No wonder I don't even bother to read the comments anymore.

Youtube is an amazing phenomenon that is not going anywhere. How many hours, dear reader, have you wasted going from one video to another out of boredom? Without Youtube videos to watch I would actually be forced to have a conversation with my friends. Instead we just gather around the monitor and argue over what what attention seeking person's video to look up and watch next.

Youtube has not discovered anything new, it has just allowed a new outlet to watch people who really shouldn't be diving into swimming pools from their roofs. Youtube is a lot better than AFV, with the interactivity it allows us and not having to deal with Saget's droll delivery of tired jokes and for that we thank you.

UPDATE: Turns out AFV is still on television. It's really no surprise though. For the record I'm not making fun of viewers of AFV, just the show whoring out family entertainment. It's a show made for relatively no money that abuses it's own family base. The 90 percent of the show made up by videos is fine, I have no problem with that. It's the other ten percent where they try to force every joke. If the video is funny than let it be funny. Stop trying so hard.

Friday, September 3, 2010

How to properly watch a DVD

There is no greater way to pass the time than watching movies. In that two hour span you can be taken to another world, taught something about humanity or given a chance to laugh. Those that know me personally are aware of my love of film and my habit of pushing certain films on other people. If you are a friend of mine than I have probably lent you a DVD at some point and bugged you to no end until you watched it. This has not always paid off because of people's irresponsibility with other people's things (I've had to replace my copy of Donnie Darko three different times). I love watching movies though and I love sharing that experience with other people. In order to fully enjoy your own movie experience in the way that I myself am accustomed to; I offer these rules for optimal enjoyment.

- Subtitles are key
Call me weird but I enjoy watching everything I can with subtitles or closed captioning. Even my television has closed captioning on most of the time. While I am slightly hard of hearing, my hearing is not bad enough to constantly require the words on the bottom of the screen. I find that reading the dialogue on the screen allows me to ingest it better. I have a better understanding of what is being said and better comprehension in what is going on. Also some films include scenes where characters are speaking so low that it is necessary. Also when an actor ends up using an accent that is not their own it sometimes makes it incomprehensible.

Brad Pitt in Snatch is a good example of this. Although to be fair he is suppose to be incomprehensible, kind of like Chewbacca (imagine a subtitle option that allows you to understand what Chewie is saying. That would be amazing).

People complain whenever I put subtitles on because they find it distracting but once you get use to them they are a godsend. Don't focus on the subtitles completely if you find yourself paying too much attention to the words and not the images on the screen. Not having ADD helps.

This rule is also a no brainer for foreign films. Dubbed versions of films are always horrible and never give you the full experience. Why watch a group of actors if you don't want to hear them act? Watching the film should in no way spoil the director's vision. Also when you are engrossed in the film enough, you actually end up reading the subtitles in the original actor's voice. When you watch 8 1/2 enough reading the English on the bottom of the screen sounds like it's Marcello Mastroianni's voice instead of your own inner voice. Whatever language barrier that occurs while watching and enjoying a foreign film is evaporated after half an hour.

-Use the original aspect ratio
Never buy DVDs with the word "fullscreen" at the top. There is no reason to ever buy a film in fullscreen. What fullscreen does is robs you of the original dimensions of the movie. In making it fullscreen, parts of the image are chopped off in order to fit into the dimensions. This compromises the director's vision of the film, which breaks a cardinal rule in film watching. I specify to keep the original aspect ratio because some films are already shot in fullscreen, so it all depends on what it was originally shot in. For a better explanation of the importance of widescreen please watch the video below.

-Don't ask questions.
A good film forces the audience to ask questions and have a dialogue about it after we are done watching it. The important part of this rule is the fact that these questions should come after the movie. Too many times have I had friends asking me about a plot point, only for the answer to reveal itself in the next scene. My usual answer to these questions is to tell them to "Watch the damn movie." If you have something to ask then wait, the movie will probably address this question later on. No movie has ever been made for the sole purpose of confusing it's audience.

The only exception to this rule being Eraserhead.

- Don't do anything to take people out of the movie.
Don't constantly talk, text, go to the bathroom or pause the movie. A big part of film watching is the immersion and if that is broken too much than the film will not be as enjoyable. Even if you don't like the film or are bored please refrain from making stupid comments. It doesn't make you sound smarter or funnier (unless you're a writer on Mystery Science Theater 3000).

-Buy Criterion Collection DVDs whenever you can
Some films are exceptional enough to have their DVD made buy the Criterion Collection. These products are the knighthood of home viewing. When you have a DVD made by them you know you have something special. This company respects the filmmakers and in no way compromises their vision. Their clean up and restorations are the best in the business. The aspect ratio is always right and the special features are premium. Although usually more expensive than other DVDs, Criterion Collection is still worth it. You'll be doing yourself a favor buy buying from this company

I'm betting their tote bags are also well made.