Thursday, January 22, 2009

oscar flicks, in 15 words

Now that the Golden Globes have been doled out, it's officially Oscar time again! My one true disappointment upon hearing the nominations this morning was the snubbing of Kristin Scott Thomas, who absolutely rocked in the übertense drama, I've Loved You So Long. That said, I'm glad the Academy didn't fall for all the garbage that Clint pulled in Gran Torino. Yeesh.

Okay, nitpicking aside, and without further ado, here are some 15-word reviews, to be updated regularly as I scramble to see more movies until the Academy Awards are presented on February 22nd!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Main concept was brilliant, but the execution much less so. Also, t'was way too long.

The Dark Knight: Everything a sci-fi superhero movie's supposed to be, and then some. Ledger should win.

Doubt: I'm boycotting what should have been O'Byrne and Jones's shot at Oscar. Business as usual.

Encounters At the End of the World: Herzog deftly captures how life—human, avian, aquatic—thrives on the bottom of the earth.

Frost / Nixon: The tension is palpable in Ron Howard's gripping recreation of David Frost's historic Nixon interview.

Frozen River: Worlds collide in this stark view of poor, Northern life. Prepare to be on edge.

The Garden: This is the kind of eye-opening film that just makes you mad. Greed really sucks.

In Bruges: Three hit men blundering in Belgium. The plot's fun; Ralph plays an excellent bad boy.

Iron Man: Would that we could fly! Downey's spot on, but the effects really steal the show.

Kung Fu Panda: Black leads a stellar cast of characters in this whimsical, yet eye-popping, animated kiddie comedy.

Man On Wire: The stunning story of a dreamer's impossible feat seems unreal, despite archival footage. RIP, WTC.

Milk: Could be confused for a documentary. Penn nails the role, but something is still missing.

Rachel Getting Married: Hathaway is remarkable in her struggle against an unbeatable personal demon. Intense but rewarding ride.

The Reader: Winslet, Fiennes, and the superb Cross master the subtleties of their characters' complex, turbulent histories.

Slumdog Millionaire: Feel-good movie of the year will probably take top honors. It's as good as any.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Another Woody fantasy. Catalan identity? Yeah, right. Acting is fine, but plot seems forced. Meh.

The Visitor: A fable for our generation. Jenkins richly deserves a nod for his searing, understated performance.

WALL-E: Utter saccharine, though the characters are lovable. Animation (excepting humans) is out of this world.

Waltz With Bashir: Fresh graphics, moody electro soundtrack, and moving remembrances of mind-bending war experiences. It's a winner.

The Wrestler: Like a car wreck: Seriously depressing, but Rourke is so mesmerizing, you can't turn away.

And for the shorts, we'll make it 5 words:

Smile Pinki: Modern medicine saves the day!

La Maison en Petits Cubes: Global sea rises, spirit lives

Lavatory - Lovestory: Everyone loves a secret admirer

Oktapodi: Run, quick, for the sea!

Presto: What's really up his sleeve?

This Way Up: That's what I call "deadication"

Auf der Strecke (On the Line): A devastating mistake costs dearly

Manon on the Asphalt: Today could be your last

New Boy: Starting anew: frustrating but invigorating

The Pig: Can't we all get along?

Spielzeugland (Toyland): Some mistakes do save lives

Monday, January 19, 2009

we didn't start the fire

Before George W. Bush takes that last helicopter ride outta dodge tomorrow, I wanted to reflect on a song that helped me a great deal when he was elected for his second term. In "We Didn't Start The Fire," singer-songwriter Billy Joel lists historical events both good and bad. But to me it was always the bad ones that overpowered the emotion of the piece. The chorus tells us not only that we won't be the first generation to witness horrific events taking place in the world around us, but that we also won't be the last. After feeling so helpless in trying to stop the one-man wrecking crew that is George Bush Jr. back in '04, the song helped me accept that we'd all get through his tenure one way or another:

"Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, The King And I, and The Catcher In The Rye

Eisenhower, Vaccine, England's got a new queen
Maciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dancron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkwether, Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichman, Stranger in a Strange Land
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
And when we are gone, it will still burn on and on and on..."

Lo and behold, here we are on Bush's last day in office. The new President has a lot to clean up, and he is certain to have a few screw-ups of his own. But Billy Joel was right: On it goes.

Update: Apparently I'm not the only one who was inspired by "We Didn't Start The Fire;" I just found out that The New York Times columnist Roger Cohen came up with this new version of the song in honor of today!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

you say goodbye, i say hello

It's official! Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama revealed his brand spanking new presidential portrait—apparently the first to be taken with a digital camera. Talk about a regime change!

By the way, I thought I'd share my favorite line from a recent Gail Collins column, in which it was noted that during President Bush's final press conference this week, our fearless leader couldn't refrain from using one of his favorite malapropisms ("misunderestimate"): "We are about to enter a world in which our commander in chief speaks in full sentences, and I do not know what we’re going to do to divert ourselves on slow days."

Well, I'm sure I can think of a few things (live puppy cam comes to mind), but it's true that an era of political comedy is about to ride off into the sunset. Unless, of course, you live in New York, in which case you can catch W. on Broadway for the next few months. By the way, if you're really wanting to get into the spirit of the inauguration next Tuesday, New York beauty salons are offering "Say Goodbye to Bush" bikini waxing specials! Woo hoo! &infin

Sunday, January 04, 2009

an iconic new york logo bites the dust

I read with sadness today that Duane Reade, New York city's largest drugstore chain, has decided to change its iconic red-and-blue logo to a new black-and-white number. Companies change logos all the time in an effort to either reinvent themselves or appear to be "changing with the times." I'm not exactly sure which of these two motivations Duane Reade is following, but I think they need to fire their graphic design firm.

Though I generally get annoyed by red and/or blue logos (since so many companies employ those two colors), the old DR was a nice, compact, recognizable design. The new icon, as critics in this article about the change note, is all over the place. Serif, sans-serif, upper case, lower case—it just feels amateur. The straight edge of the D in particular isn't doing anything for me. And as much as I appreciate the deviation from red and blue, is black really the color you want to represent your drug store?

To be sure, I'm not the only one feeling this way; a brief glance at the comment section for the aforementioned article, and you get the feeling that the powers that be at Duane Reade don't believe in focus groups. In any event, I give the new iteration a D-plus.