Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Piranha 3D

I was trailer hopping on youtube today when I came across this tasty slice. It's comforting that even in today's world of CG gimmickry Hollywood can still produce a genuine B-movie.

Yes, that WAS acting legend Christopher Lloyd.

I have a soft spot in my heart for this kind of cinematic trash. If you ever want to have a good time check out 8 Legged Freaks. It's about spiders, big ones.

I probably won't be watching Piranha 3D, and I certainly won't be watching it in 3D. Still, this trailer is 2 minutes and 13 seconds of American pride.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eat Schmidt and Die

Last weekend (or s0, I have no concept of time anymore) I had my first of hopefully a long summer of outdoor concert excursions. Utah-based piano sensation (I use that term lightly) Jon Schmidt played a free outdoor gig at Nibley, followed by fireworks.

Last year I was assigned Nibley in my Reporting Public Affairs class and spent a semester attending their bi-weekly city council meetings as well as any other happening event in the community. Nibley is great, and with Logan, North Logan, and Providence becoming burgeoning metropolises it's the place to be for close, but far relaxation in Cache Valley. And, for a relatively small town, they put on some pretty well-organized events.

I'm not particularly fond of Jon Schmidt's music, and after seeing his act three times with almost no alteration whatsoever he leaves much to be desired. However, a free outdoor show in Nibley with fireworks? I watch a Katy Perry concert under those circumstances.

Needless to say, the evening was highly enjoyable. Trevor, Hayley, Skyler, Rachel and Allie kicked it on a blanket while I scampered around taking pictures for CVDaily.

The Boys, it took a few tries to get one with all of us "smiling"

Ben at Work: Rachel took this shot of me taking a shot of Jon Schmidt. As it turns out Allie was taking a picture of Rachel at the same time.

The girls, significantly more impressive.

Skyler in the heat of the moment; or, maybe just in heat.

The many moods of Trevor and Hayley.

Now that this is behind me, I'm feeling a familiar itch for the Twilight Concerts that start next week in SLC. Bring it on baby.

Shmidty wrapping up the night with his "Love Song/Viva La Vida" staple.

Nibley fireworks. I'm especially glad I went to these since I might miss out on fireworks for the 4th of July thanks to the brilliance of my employer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Movie Woes

I don't have time to right about this myself (so expect a lengthy Wood's Stock later) but for now Entertainment Weekly's Mark Harris wrote a great article last week about the decline of quality films in Hollywood these days. (For the record, I thought Prince of Persia was good clean fun) Check it out.

What's Wrong With This Summer's Movies

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friday Night Lights

I love movies. People know this, or at least learn this quickly upon meeting me, and in my many years of ranting about cinema I have been asked countless time "What's your favorite movie?"

Impossible. That answer can not be given. While I do not discount the possibility of having a "favorite" movie, I am always leery of anyone who answers that questions definitively; especially when their answer is a movie less than 5 years old, stars Robert Pattinson, is a Romantic-Comedy, etc.

When people ask me, I usually tell them it's an impossible question, and then encourage them to narrow it down by Genre. Even this presents a challenge but some genres are easier than others. In the playing field of crap that is Romantic Comedy my favorite is, no contest, Notting Hill (caveat: I hate Julia Roberts but the charm of Hugh Grant, the witty banter, and the natural-feeling chemistry of the group dynamic involved with Grant's Character's enterouge make up for her big-mouthed performance).

Favorite sports movie. Friday Night Lights.

Directed by Peter Berg and starring Billy Bob Thornton and Lucas Black, 2004's FNL is a breath of fresh air in a category of copy-cat underdog feel-good auto-screenplays (Did you see Glory Road? Is that the one with Samuel L. Jackson? No, that's Coach Carter. I don't know, I might have seen it). What's more, it's not actually about sports. FNL runs in a similar vein as Disney's Remember The Titans (Racism, not football), except without the cushy life-is-beautiful aftertaste and nostalgic soundtrack (James Taylor and Hayden Panettierre. What are two things I'd like to have more of in my day to day life? Throw in apple pie and make it a value meal).

FNL is gritty, dark, and hard to swallow. Berg shoots the action with a handheld third person presence, giving you the story as though you were just wandering through Odessa Texas on game night. The characters are individual, memorable and relatable, showing both the superficial heroism of High School football gods and the vulnerability of scared 17 years olds.

Derek Luke, at his co-finest (see: Antoine Fisher) envelops himself in Booby Miles. The cocky titanic of a Runningback whose season, and very existence, are cut short by injury. He cleans out his locker, oozing swagger from his pores and immediately breaks down into tears in private, realizing that "[He] can't do nothing but play football."

The foreground is the lead-up to the 1988 Texas State High School Football Championships, but in the subtext we see these tortured youth struggling with loyalty, abuse, racism, acceptance, self-worth and the transitions that come with age as they are reminded over and over again by everyone around them that the most important thing they will ever do is win. Berg uses background radio transmissions to hint at the lopsided priorities in 1988's Texas, where the football coach makes more money than the school principal, and the public opinion that maybe if the athlete's weren't doing "so much darned learning" in school then they could perform better on the field.

In the big game we're rooting for the Panthers. And yet Berg takes the time to show that the only reason we're rooting for them, is because we've been watching them. During halftime of the championship game a player screams "They bleed like we do, they sweat like we do. They did two-a-days, we did two-a-days." And then camera bounces back and forth as both teams kneel, heads bowed hand-in-hand, and recite the lord's prayer.

Still, the most telling moment of FNL is the wrap-up. As the Permian seniors disperse at the end of the season. They chat briefly about missing "the heat" and "the lights" and say their goodbyes while the soft melancholy riff of a guitar plays in the background and Coach Gary Gaines removes their names from the position board in his office. Black's quarterback turns and sees a group of children playing ball near the stadium, he clasps his football in his hands, yells for their attention and lets a pass sail through the air. The music crescendos, the ball drifts through the air, and his name falls from the board onto the pile. One of the boys catches the ball, Coach Gaines begins placing new names on the board, and Black turns, smiles, and gets in his car.

We place so much pressure, and invest so much of our lives into these feats that seems so fleeting. The season ends and on Monday the players go back to school to learn about algebra, to go to the prom, to graduate and go to college or get a job hauling garbage in the one horse town. In the end, is it trivial? Yes. Is it wrong? Maybe. Did it matter? No, and yet at the same time it can't be dismissed.

This is football in Texas in 1988. This is adolescence is Texas in 1988. And it sure makes for a darn good movie. A

Monday, June 14, 2010

Unchained Melody

Caution: This is a midnight post.

Why, you ask, is today's segment titled "Unchained Melody?" Because Unchained Melody is the king of cliched, cheesy, love-sap garbage. The song, featuring the Righteous Brother's soothing falsetto (are you...still...miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine) is a favorite of Simon Cowell and has appeared in a host of cheesey, sappy movies; 1990's Ghost being paramount among them.

John Cusack raises his boombox and Peter Gabriel fills the air. Mike Myers, accompanied by an upright base, lays out his soul in rhyme and Marlon Brando screams out "Stellllla" with torn shirt in the pouring rain.

It's cheesy, predictable, sappy crap. These images are used as a trigger to signal the audience that "love" is being expressed, or some other like-minded emotion. They are overused, they are unoriginal and yet they are what we, as a society, have construed as the generally accepted forms of romantic expression.

I've never done any of them.

I've never stood outside of a window and screamed in the rain. I've never sung/played a song on someone's front lawn. I've never brought a public place to a standstill with my heartfelt expression of desire. I've never run after a departing train. I've never raced to stop someone from getting on a plane.

I could go on, but the real question is, who has? Do these staples of popular culture exist as a reflection of reality or is our understanding of reality merely made up of artificial stimuli? Is it really that common for someone to pull a "Say Anything?" I, personally, have never been the passer-by in the bus/train station or airport where the man arrives, panting, and pleading "don't go, don't go."

Is it all a lie? Or, am I really missing out on all of it? I have no reticence in admitting that I've never been "in love." I'm 23. In my opinion there's no such thing as love until you're at least 20; combine that with my parlayed time in Brazil and you have just 2 years that I've even been intellectually eligible. My math, you can take it or leave it.

Still, not every love story is laced with the pomp and circumstance. You watch Annie Hall and you can relate to the bitter, nay-saying, anti-anti-semite. You watch (500) Days and feel a familiar sting as Tom Hansen gets his head kicked in by love. You watch High Fidelity and find yourself creating your own All-Time-Top-5 of horrible breakups (mine, sadly, do not involve Catherine Zeta-Jones). Even in those gritty, realistic tellings of romance there is still the sense of this thing called "love" and what it drives people to do.

I'm hopeful. Someday I'll feel the need to stand out in the rain and scream till a door opens. Someday I'll see the pieces coming apart and I'll do what it takes to stop it. Someday, I'll arrive in the nick of time to plead "don't go, don't go."

Someday I'll get my head kicked in by love, and I hope its just as painful as it sounds.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Awards Season: Epilogue

The 2009-2010 Awards season finally came to an end yesterday night with the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Utah Headliners awards. The event was held at the University of Utah Officers Club, which, good luck if you ever try to find it; don't even bother with google maps. I spent 45 minutes driving in circles looking for a series of roads that do not intersect each other. Thanks google.

After the long and tumultuous drive, in the rain no less, I arrived (alone, a growing trend this summer). I actually got there early and ended up spending about 20 minutes at a table by myself politely declining about 20 glasses of wine offered me by the ever-attentive event staff.

On the table directly behind me was the staff from BYU's The Daily Universe (dumbest name for a college paper) and no joke, every single one of them was overweight. I actually learned that they were the Universe by a member of the SPJ Board who chatted with me briefly and found out that I was from the Statesman. I was wearing a black open collar shirt with a vest and he said to me "That's the Daily Universe behind you, the guy in the mission suit." We shared a laugh at the expense of the portly mormon seated at my 6 and then the board member went on his way.

Finally people sat at my table. At first it was an elderly couple from Tooele County that had absolutely no idea why they were even there, and then the rest of the seats were filled by the staff of Weber State's Signpost (I'm not a fan of that name either, but it sure beats the crap out of The Daily Universe). Like all awkward people from WSU they knew my sister Leah, and the bulk of our relatively short conversation focused on that subject.

We had a nice meal, some sort of spinach-stuffed chicken breast and some amazing potatoes, and then the awards began.

The Statesman did extremely well. All in all we received 4 first-place awards. A 2nd place for overall best paper in our division, and a number of individual 2nds, 3rds and honorable mentions. More importantly, we creamed The Signpost.

I was awarded 1st place in Review/Criticism for my review of (500) Days of Summerd (they typo-ed the title on my trophy). In the presentation of the award the judges said that I balanced critique and synopsis without giving too much away. I also got a 3rd place in Education Reporting for my article on USU students being the best in the state at repaying loans, and a 2nd place in Criminal Justice reporting for my article about Anthony DiLoreto, the aggie basketball player who robbed a bank in Wisconsin before donning the blue and white.

Sadly, these article are no longer available online due to our switching to a new website.

In perfect fashion Catherine was awarded 1st place in Education reporting (where I got third) without even submitting a single article. It just goes to show that time and time again she seems to be right on my heels with seemingly no effort whatsoever.

The night was actually cut short by a power outage, which no one seemed to mind. I was sad that Pete's ROTC photo page didn't get to be presented (1st place Page Design/Feature Page), mostly because I was looking forward to the Oohs and Aahs from the room. It really was one darn impressive piece of work.

All in all: Statesman=25 awards. Me=3 awards.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fun with Insomnia

I've been having trouble sleeping lately; so tonight, I decided to throw on my fedora and have a little fun with my new camera, my bedside lamp and my self-timer function. Here's a whole lotta me.

I wish I had more Irish in me. I think that last picture captures that. Also, and I know this is self-serving, but how cool does the texture on the wall behind me look?

I've learned a little bit about my photographic tastes since purchasing my new toy. I like darker pictures with high contrast. It seems like every time I start polishing my pictures on the computer that's the first thing I do; drop the brightness, up the contrast.

Where I'm From

This is a somewhat pointless post, due to the fact that there's only a couple of people outside my immediate family that actually read this blog.

Still, last time I went home I took a few pictures that remind me of Huntsville, and home, and I thought I'd share.

I love Huntsville. Beyond that, I love living in what is technically Unincorporated county territory. I love that there are no stop lights. I love that there's only two gas stations. I love that there's only one bar. I love that I can shoot guns off of the deck. I love having space to light a fire in the back yard. I love yield signs. I love livestock in the field. I love waking up to wild game outside the window. I love rivers and lakes. I love being able to see the stars. I love the smell of burning ditches.

Living in Logan, I don't go home very often; and much less than my mother would like. But everytime I do, I love that first glance at Huntsville, right as your coming out of the canyon over Pineview spillway. After that its only a few minutes to my house, where the Walls-of-water stand protecting the fragile tomato plants and sheep graze in the neighboring property.

Inside the house is a rag-tag decor of the thousands of random treasures that my mother has collected/made over the years. On the coffee table, the morning paper. I would watch the nightly news growing up, but no where near the daily regularity of feeling the ink on my fingers while I ate my morning bowl of cereal. I've been a newspaper man from a very young age.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quick Stock

1. Bonus Points awarded to Flash Forward for playing Band of Horses in the series' final minutes. Pity that your closing moments presented nice little questions that will never be answered. Auf Wiedersehen.

2. MTV movie awards are held. Hard to take any ceremony seriously that gives 4 awards to Twilight: New Moon including Best Movie...seriously, Best Movie?

Everybody remember this picture? -------------->

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day

I was talking to a friend the other day about cemeteries. Utah State, in its current form, literally envelops the Logan City Cemetary and it is not uncommon for students and community members to stroll through on their way to and from campus. It is a gorgeous cemetery, considerably large, and very well-groomed.

My friend had recently taken a stroll through the cemetery and was commenting on how it made her uncomfortable. She said that she couldn't help but think about all the death around her.

I feel the opposite about such places. To me, a cemetery has such a peaceful feeling. All around you are monuments to the lives of individuals, never to be forgotten. Their final resting places, encompassing their mortal shell while their memory lives on forever. It's beautiful.

TV 2010, Winners and Losers

Last fall I wrote about the "New Kids On The Block" of prime time television. With summer offering the Netflix time to catch up on things missed and with the season drawing to a close it's time to take a look back and see how the new offerings fared.

Winner: Modern Family (ABC)

There a some that say a good mix CD should be a blend of rise and fall. I say it should be ALL rise ALL the time. Modern Family came out of the gates screaming and never missed a beat. In the space of one season ABC has single-handedly resurrected the family comedy genre and breathed new blood into the Ensemble Cast comedy. They even inspired not one, but two of my research assignments this semester.

From Dillon performing "Underneath the Moonlight," to Mitchell and Cameron's neurotic (and gay, not that there's anything wrong with that) parenting, to Phil and Claire arguing over which one of their kids is the dumbest, this show brought the funny, and the heart.

I don't know how many times I've heard people attempt to choose a favorite character only to collapse into a heap of loving everyone. 22 minutes haven't felt this good since arrested development.

Grade: A+
Personal Duration: Didn't miss an episode
Expected Actual Duration: December 20, 2012 or the end of the world; whichever comes last.

Loser: V (ABC)

Proof that ABC can't win them all, serial-alien-drama V is a textbook FAIL. The greater of the two evils that ABC hoped to replace Lost (the other being Flash Forward, more on that later), V is a melodramatic sci-camp snorefest about an Alien invasion on earth.

After the first 4 episodes the series went on Hiatus to not be thumped by the olympics and by the time it returned we all wonderd "V what? Oh yeah."

While the players are certainly pretty (Oh Morena Baccarin, why couldn't Firefly last a little longer), their development is so skin-deep (get it? no you don't, because no one watched this) that whether they live or die is hardly any consequence. The acting is stiff, the writing is forced, and the action is, well, just plain boring. You don't get a new lost by slapping together a cast of cute things with issues, you need to make us actually care.

Grade: D-
Personal Duration: I made it through 6 episodes.
Expected Duration: I'm amazed it even finished the season. Truth be told, I'm not sure it did.

Winner: Community (NBC)

Yes Virginia, it's ok to watch NBC. In fact, comedy is what NBC does best and the Peacocks latest offering about a group of community college misfits and their snarky leader Jeff (played with the perfect balance of smart and stupid by The Soup's Joel McHale) revels in cliche-parody and comes out a champion.

The season hit a few snags in the middle, but no sooner could you say "Modern Warfare" than the show hit back with vintage Greendale laughs, (after wasting the Glee club in a school-wide paintball fight, Jeff taunts "Write some original songs").

We'll be seeing Community again next season and I could not be more excited. Senor Chang is now a student, and the study group moves into Anthropology as their collected study. I can only imagine what the show will do with a new professor, a lingering love-rectangle and the study of humans. What more could a group of 7 Human Beings ask for (the school mascot, in case you didn't catch that.)
Grade: A-
Personal Duration: Every episode, with honors.
Expected Duration: 4 years, I don't see how the story would survive graduation, but I'd be willing to find out.

Loser: Flash Forward (ABC)

Oh Flash Forward, we had such high hopes for you. You brought back Charlie for crying out loud. In the end, however, the lack of forward thinking on the part of the writers became apparent in the "Everyone has seen the future" storyline. Pieces to the puzzle weren't found as much as they just kind of dropped out of the sky when neccessary, and most of the season's lingering questions came to rather unsatisfying fruition (Is Dimitri going to be shot by Mark Benford's gun? Turns out that Dimitri's death was going to occur becuase...D. Gibbons saw that he was supposed to die in the future? But why? Because he saw it in the future? What?)

Ultimately the show's Ace was the hole it fell in. There has to be a reason that major plot points occur in the future besides the mere fact that they were seen happening in the future. If you a problem because in the future you already know the answer, then it was never actually solved. It hurts you head to think about, but not in a good way, kind of like this show.

Too many characters, too much filler, not enough...point.
And Joseph Fiennes still bugs me.

Grade: C
Personal Duration: I actually made it through every episode, but not promptly.
Expected Duration: Goodbye again Charlie. See you in another life, Brotha.

Winner: Glee (Fox)

Glee, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1. Sue Sylvester, the fierce embodiment of protein and someone we love to hate. (I could never be a mother, I don't have the time or the uterus).
2. Will Schuester, makes me want to buy, and wear, more vests.
3. Overblown high school drama, this show is not a TV High School Musical (you know who you are), it is satire. Pure, unadulterated and awesome satire.
4. Don't Stop Believing, even when the storylines get repetitive (gee, who's going to threaten to shut down the club this week?), the music...still...ROCKS! This group of misfits had me tapping my foot to a Lady Gaga song for crying out loud.
5. Jayma Mays, her love-sick/recently empowered guidance councelor is absolutely precious (you know, the non-based-on-the-novel-push-by-saphire-kind).

This show hasn't wrapped yet for the season, and I wish it never would.

Grade: A
Personal duration: I skip things in my queue to watch this first.
Expected duration: till the fat lady sings.

Returning Characters
1. House
The latest season of the medical drama reminds us why we love Dr. Gregory House. He is simultaneously rude, brash, indignant, brilliant, hilarious, vulnerable, and tender. The season began in a psych ward, had Wilson and House move in together, said goodbye to Dr. Cameron, made us want to slap Taub and kiss Thirteen and ended with a long-overdue kiss. Most well-written show on television.
Grade: A
2. 30 Rock
What can you say. Exquisite, except for Julianne Moore. Gross much.
Grade: A-
3. The Office.
I don't care anymore, and yet I keep watching. That tells you something, and bonus points for the Nard-Dog.
Grade: B
Maybe Someday We'll Meet Again

I wanted to end with a special shout-out to our dearly-departed Lost, 24, and Better of Ted. Lost gave us 6 years of mind bending lovin'. 24 gave us the embodiment of America in Jack Bauer, the B.A. of all B.A.'s. Better of Ted gave us the best show no one watched, and will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

In Dan Brown's latest adventure, the author's fantasy autobiographical bookworm hero Robert Langdon scrambles around Washington D.C. in search of a fabled Masonic treasure that will secure the life of a dear friend and colleague.
All of the staple elements of a Robert Langdon adventure are in place. Locations chock-full of historic symbolism, a scavenger hunt of disguised clues leading to a long-lost artifact of power, and a villain who is sadistically driven and physically deformed. The latter, in this book's case, is a creature tattooed from head to foot and sculpted through years of steroid use and physical obsession.
The book begins in form as well. Langdon is rushed into a setting at the urging of an old friend, only to find that old friend's hand severed and pointing towards the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda. From there he embarks on a goose chase through a number of conveniently placed escapes while he evades the authorities who may or may not be trying to help him in the pursuit of a secret kept hidden for centuries by the Masons.
Symbol, in my opinion, is the weakest of the three Langdon novels. The story does not produce the depth of paradigm shift present in Da Vinci Code, and the action is not as hair-raising as Angels and Demons. The grand revelations at the end of the book come up a little short and the big mystery is held out in front of the running reader for a little too long. As opposed to Da Vinci where at the end of Act I a codgy old brit explains in detail the background of the "Holy Grail" mystery, giving the book it's foundation or in Angels, where the reader knows almost immediately that 4 cardinals are missing and the Vatican is going to be blown up at midnight, providing the urgency.
Symbol has neither of those things. We are asked to sit and watch as Langdon and his after-thought cliche of a love interest race against an un-specified time to discover and un-specified thing, and when the curtain is finally pulled back, we realize that there is no wizard, just an old man talking into a megaphone.
Still, that is not to say that book does not have it thrills. It is laden with the same google-inducing trivia that Brown is famous for and while not being as taught as its predecessors, the story still compels you to turn the page. Brown also scores bonus points for one particularly well crafted series of events that take place in the antagonist's home and makes you wonder exactly how the story is going to make its walks it way out of the corner.
All in all, its a good smart read full of interesting morsels of information that blend science, faith, and popcorn entertainment in a way that only Brown knows how to do.