Saturday, February 19, 2005

GREAT is the LORD and GREATLY to be praised, and his GREATNESS is unsearchable

That's just one of the literally thousands of funny quotes, sayings, affirmations, arguments and declarations I've been reading on what has fast become my favorite website. I'm referring, of course, to Jesus Is The self-proclaimed ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN on the Web.

Everyone, when I tell you this is the most hilarious website I have ever visited, I do so without hyperbole, without overstating the issue, without trying to simply convince you you've read something funny tonight. I tell you this because it is the sweet, honest truth. These are not just Christians...Religious people by definition aren't funny to me. These are crazed Christian whackjobs. These are people for whom religion provides a neat excuse to spew hateful nonsense wherever they go. People for whom religion means an exclusive club from which they can declare "otherness" illegal for all time. People who crack me the hell up.

Where to begin? What article on this massive journal of crap to highlight first? Okay, I'll start here, with an obvious one:

Evolution: The Big Hoax!

Evolutionists say that YOU used to be a fish. Do you really believe that? Sounds like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale to me. It takes more faith to believe an amoeba is my daddy, than to believe that God created me.Where are all those elusive transitional forms, such as lizards with feathers?

Yeah, that's what I'm telling you...this thing goes on for pages and pages.

This is always the argument you hear from the anti-evolution nutjobs. "I ain't a-descended from no monkey!" Or, in this case, fish. This is stupid. Of course you're not directly descended from a monkey. We're talking about thousands and thousands of years. Is it so hard to imagine that we used to look more ape-like? There is, after all, hair all over our bodies. And long, gangly arms that we use to scratch ourselves when no one's looking. And guys like Abe Vigoda, who's human but still kind of looks like a monkey.

Plus, I like the added touch of saying that evolutions argue "YOU used to be a fish." That'd be a pretty tough sell for science, actually convincing people that at one time, possibly only a few weeks ago, they lived underwater and ate kelp.

Furthermore, if we evolved from a lower species, then why is it that the apes didn't evolve in the evolutionary process?

They did! They became us! That's the whole point, jerkwad.

Okay, enough about that one...It's too easy, and you've heard it before. Let's get into the real wacky stuff.

Here's an item from, I shit you not, the "Kid's Page"

How to go to Heaven

It is very simple to be saved and takes only a minute to explain.

Oh, great, because I'm really interested in salvation, but I only have a minute or so.

Do you admit that you are a sinner?
Do you admit that you deserve to burn in hell?

Do you admit...that you burn in hell. Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. He just wants them to admit that they deserve to burn in a lake of flaming sulfur for all eternity.

If you are sorry for your sins and would like for God to save your soul, just ask Him...
Dear Jesus,I admit that I am a sinner, deserving of hell. Please forgive me of my sins and take me to heaven when I die. I now invite you into my heart as my personal Saviour, Amen.

Folks, I know this is a blog...but I'm speechless here. We'd better move on.

What About Women Wearing Pants?

You read that right, folks. This next article is about whether or not it's appropriate for a saved woman to wear pants.

While most church members react in disgust to Sodomites who parade down the street in dresses, they readily accept and even defend women wearing pants. According to God’s Word, it is no more of an abomination for a man to wear a dress than it is for a woman to wear a pair of pants.

You hear that, ladies? You disgust God with your heathen pants. But on a dress, get back in the kitchen and make me some goddamn pie!

To try and say that wearing pants may be wrong for some saved women and not for others is to engage in moral relativism which strips all authority from God’s Word. God does not have two sets of standards. He is no respecter of persons.

That last sentence about sums it up for me. Isn't that what's wrong with this sort of throwback, reactionary claptrap? It doesn't think humans are worth a damn in the first place, so it has no issues with restricting their behavior or limiting their personal freedoms. And, let's face it, personal comfort.

It’s kind of funny that for nearly 6000 years, women always wore long dresses, but only since the last 40 years, a dress is suddenly "impractical" to wear. You cannot change history to validate what you want to make acceptable for today. Nowadays, women think that they cannot so much as rake a few leaves without adorning themselves in a pair of pants.

Now, I'm a man, and I've never had a dress on, but it's obvious that wearing a dress isn't practical for doing household work. Who wants to rake leaves in a dress? And the author really thinks God gives a shit if a woman wants to be comfortable during raking? So asanine...

Also, the author assumes that all women have worn long dresses since the dawn of humanity (6000 years according to Bible Math!). This is patently untrue. Even European women weren't wearing long dresses 6000 years ago. We're talking pre-toga here. Maybe the ladies wore loincloths. And then there's Africa, where the women don't neccessarily wear dresses to this day, and some of the men do. Though over there, it's called a dashiki.

And now, here it is, the coup de grace. This is the link that actually caused me to stumble upon Jesus is Savior in the first place.

Should Women Play Sports?
By Scott Jonas
Jan 4, 2005, 18:33

For those of us who believe we should train our daughters according to Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, and other Biblical passages, my answer is “Yes, it is not good.” I propose that sports greatly hinders the development of godly, Biblical, feminine character. Parents today expend extraordinary amounts of time and energy taking their daughters from one sports event to another, week after week, even to the point where it exhausts the family and family resources. The fruits we see are that today’s Christian women are often ill-prepared to be Biblically obedient wives and mothers. This brings to mind a couple of questions: “Why do we spend so much time preparing our daughters to play sports?" and "What does it prepare them for in the future?” My answer is that sports prepare women to be more like men. Instead of spending all that time preparing our daughters as the Bible directs, we are training them to be like men so they can better compete with men in traditionally masculine roles - i.e., compete with them in the workforce, in politics, in the military, and in sports.

Scotty must be a hit with the ladies. Am I right?

Okay, we're ready for my final thought. I'll just go ahead and turn to the camera, Jerry Springer-style.

Like Andrew Sullivan, through whose blog I discovered this wonderful website, I'm interested in the dichotomy between these people's Christianity and the Christianity of mainstream America.

I'm pretty sure (at least, I hope) that most Americans don't follow this sort of maniacal fundamentalism, where everything fun or lighthearted is evil, wrong, despicable and an abomination to God. Where there's no respect for human dignity whatsoever, and the words in The Bible are the only words in the world that matter in any way.

And yet, they agree with these people when it comes to issues like Gay Rights. Most Americans would read that "women shouldn't play sports" article and see the truth immediately: that Scott Jonas feels threatened by strong women, so he uses religion as an excuse to limit their freedoms and keep them subservient. He wants a future in which women serve men as dutiful wives and daughters because he knows that, if given choices in life, no one would ever want to be his wife and daughter. Or it's an even more basic aggression towards women, fostered by severe rejection or possibly just a dysfunctional or non-existant relationship with his own mother.

And yet, if you substituted the word "gay" for "women" in most of these articles, mainstream America would have no problem with it at all. "Oh, no gay public school teachers? I'm for that! Screw those homos!"

So, why is it that American see the innate bullshit inherent in dumbass websites like Jesus is Savior and not when it's spewing out of the pieholes of simps like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity? What's the disconnect? I don't know. And it's troubling.

Phat Pharm

I've been listening to a lot of Ted Leo + the Pharmacists these days. I discovered one of his prior albums, "The Tyranny of Distance," through Pitchfork or some similar site, and really liked it, but never bothered to pick up any additional albums. Which is stupid, because almost always, if I like one album by an artist, I'll like some of their other stuff.

And, wouldn't you know, Ted's newest album, "Shake the Sheets," is completely terrific. It sounds to me like what Blink 182 or Good Charlotte would sound like if they knew how to write songs and play their instruments. It's straight forward poppy punk, but with really clever, satirical lyrics and just fantastic guitar work.

The whole album features Ted's take on world events, the Iraq War in particular. But this isn't lame grandstanding like Paul McCartney's "Freedom" or maudlin captitalization on tragedy like Neil Young's "Let's Roll." It's a heartfelt, honest appraisal of world crisis, voiced by one of rock's best songwriters of the moment.

Leo's always had a way with hooks. "Tyranny of Distance" and "Hearts of Oak" both featured numerous, numerous catchy, loud, exciting fun tunes. "Timorous Me" on the former, in particular, tends to sneak its way onto my mix CD's and mp3 player rotation more often than not. But "Shake the Sheets" ranks as his best work to date, a rousing, engaging set of songs that hasn't grown old for me yet after over a dozen listens just this week.

I'm still debating whether or not to check out Leo's show tomorrow night at the El Rey. Tickets aren't on sale online at this point, leading me to suspect a sold-out situation. I could probably just show up and buy tickets at the door, but we're in a tough financial situation here these days at Crushed By Inertia. So, we're looking at two choices: go to the show or start selling off non-vital organs.

By the way, it turns out Leo's got a pretty good blog going as well. He references Homestar Runner, always a good way to earn my respect. And he's even willing to admit a fondness for Kelly Clarkson's latest single, "Since U Been Gone" (which is not a Prince cover, despite the extremely deceptive capitalized U in the title). Any professional musician brave enough to admit on their blog that they like ol' Dinosaur Arms is a blogger worth reading.

A Non-Innuendo Headline

My last two headlines were dick jokes...I really need to work on that. This blog has become downright undignified.

So I'll post a link to a movie review. That should class things up a bit.

Here's my fellow video store clerk, going online by the name of Cbabbitt, on the new Keanu Reeves vehicle, Constantine.

1) Keanu Reeves is the only thing that kept me interested in this film.
2) Keanu has more confidence in himself as an actor than ever before(’cause he knows the Matrix films ruled, just as I do) and
3) Keanu is just really fucking cool.

There you have it. One thing I'll give Mr. Babbitt, he writes a concise review, and leaves little doubt about where he stands. [The name C. Babbitt, by the way, references the Tom Cruise character from Rain Man. I had to ask him.]

I haven't checked out Constantine as of yet, but I mean to. Reviews tend to compare it to Blade or Blade 2, which sounds good to me. Blade 2 could very well be my favorite comic book adaptation to date (though I have a good deal of fondness for X2). And Constantine is from a first-time director, generally someone more willing to take chances with this kind of material than a long-time workhorse like a Paul Anderson or a Stephen Norrington. C. Babbitt says he found the film tedious, and I hope that's not the case. I'll report back when I get a chance to see it later this week.

Well, it's off to work now. So, I'll likely be discussing this film's ins and outs for several hours to come. 'Cause, you know, I rule.

What's more interesting to me is how one movie, namely The Matrix, has transformed Keanu Reeves from punchline to hip action star. I wasn't a huge fan of any of the Matrix movies (though I find the original far more appealing than the humorless, navel-gazing sequels). But I will say that those action scenes and the Wachowski's impeccable sense of style have completely turned this guy's career around.

Cox Sucker

The Congressional Representative for Orange County is Republican Christopher Cox. My father has met him a few times, discussing health care issues, and I believe has even voted for him on occasion.

Here's what he had to say when introducing your boy, Vice President Dick Cheney, at the Conservative Policital Action Conference this week:

California Rep. Chris Cox had the honor of introducing him, and he took the opportunity to mock the Democrats whose hatred of America led them to get Iraq so horribly wrong.

"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq."

Wow, we do? Great to know, Chris! Now, if you could just point me to one piece of evidence that we have found a single biological weapon in Iraq....Oh, okay then, well, maybe a chemical weapon? Nothing. That's weird. I thought you said there were stockpiles. Okay, well, then at least, let's see the facilities where they've been recently made...What? Nothing since the 1991 War? Oh, I get it, you're a big smelly liar. It's much clearer now.

And the crowd, according to Salon, ate it up with a spoon, cheering for their heroes in the Republican party. Check out this poster being sold at the event:

It's not just a ludicrous idea, that Bush starting random wars has made America into a model with potential of a Superman. It's also genuinely creepy. It's almost sexualized. Do young people want to vote for George W. or fuck him? Or, as Bill Maher said last night, now we know what he meant by having a man-date.

So, now that George has built up something of a cult of personality around himself, he's basically infallible and politically indestructible. People can't be swayed against him because he's relegated to almost God-like status. He can't do any wrong, so anyone who opposes him must intrinsically be wrong.

David Cross does a whole routine about the Pope, and how Catholics genuinely believe him to be infallible. I mean, he's got God on the can he be wrong? Cross suggests the Pope go to Vegas. No matter what the roulette wheel says, the Pope's bet is always right! Pay up! I think we're seeing a time in this country when that sort of religious fervor has been shifted. It's no longer about giving your heart to Jesus, it's about proving your devotion to God by supporting this president. And it's making me physically ill.

So, please, if you live in Orange County, CA, stop voting for Christopher Cox. He really lives up to his name.

And, people, Chris Cox introducing Dick Cheney? They're making it way to easy on us juvenile satirists.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Tricky Dick

"If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now." - Richard Perle, speaking to journalist John Pilger

Dick Perle. We all know and hate him. He was a Pentagon official during the shiny, happy Reagan administration, then he joined the Defense Policy Board, a lobbying group for whom he's been merrily shoveling bullshit at the American people for decades now. He liked the Military-Industrial Complex so much, he bought the company.

So, anyway, it gives me great pleasure to announce to you that someone has lobbed a shoe at Mr. Perle while he debated Howard Dean on the merits of the Iraq War. The protester was then carried out of the auditorium chanting "Liar! Liar!"

You've got to love meaningless protests by possibly unstable people. And I don't mean that sarcastically. I'm very happy there was someone off-balance and unmedicated enough to work up the courage to lob a projectile at a criminal like Dick Perle, who's responsible for more deaths than Charlie Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy could ever dream of in their wildest fantasies.

Because I don't have the gumption. To be honest, I never have the opportunity to throw shit at politicians because I don't cover when most of them come to town. But this is Richard Perle. He is a massive scumbag. Check out some of his "arguments" from this debate against Dean.

"Sometimes the things we have to do are objectionable to others."

Oh, like murdering families and then arresting the surviving members and subjecting them to months, if not years, of psychological and physical torture? Then lying about it to your own people and the rest of the world? Yeah, it's kind of "objectionable." I'd have called it "heinous" and "appalling," but "objectionable" will do.

Bear in mind, this was a guy who, before the war, predicted that, within one year of invasion, "a grand square in Baghdad named for President Bush."

He's made his living professionally discussing military matters with the fucking Pentagon. And he stated, seriously, in front of an audience, that he felt the Iraqis would respond by erecting a monument to President Bush. Folks, I knew better in early 2003, so did you, so did any thinking person. Imagine if you were this incompetent at your job! Imagine if one of The Apprentices were this incompetent! They'd be fired before Trump could even think of a crafty witticism! And their job doesn't even matter because it's just a bullshit TV show!

And the American people re-elected assholes just like this for four more years, because they don't like gay marriage. AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

So, here's how Perle responded at the Portland debate to charges that his prediction was inaccurate or, to put it another way, blindingly stupid.

"I'd be a fool not to recognize that it did not happen on the schedule I had in mind," Perle said, adding that he did not deny that the administration had made mistakes in Iraq.

But, Perle added, "I will be surprised, yet again, if we do not see a square in Baghdad named after this president."

Well, Dickie, get ready to be surprised.

So, this is around the time someone chucked their shoe at him. Can you blame him, folks? I suspect he only did it because he did not have a sack of rancid meat or a bag filled with his own excrement conveniently at hand. We'll have to organize it a bit better in the future.

Your boy Howard Dean, by the way, the new DNC Chair, did a terrific job, really laying into Dickie P. without actually lobbing anything directly at his person.

My Life Hits a New Low

I've just been told to be quiet by my roommate, because he was trying to hear the dialogue on ESPN's ghastly new poker soap opera "Tilt." Apparently, conversation with me ranks slightly below manic Michael Madsen overacting. Let me tell ya, it's a good feeling.

Inside Deep Throat

My roommate Chris asked the obvious question when I told him I had just seen a documentary called Inside Deep Throat:

"Porn or Watergate?"

Of course, the answer is porn. I don't care nearly as much about the identity of Woodward and Bernstein's secret informer, if he/she even exists, as the making of the first really famous, mainstream sex film.

And, indeed, for most of its running time, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's film does exactly that: presents the story, in as matter-of-fact fashion as possible, of the making of and aftermath of the first truly well-known X-rated movie. Deep Throat was the product of low-budget filmmaker Gerard Damiano, a former hair dresser working with about $25,000 of the mob's money.

His film is, by his own account, terrible. A meaningless, silly jumble of a story about a woman (infamously played by Linda Lovelace) with her clitoris tragically located at the back of her throat. You can probably figure out the rest from here. Amateur (and, indeed, amateurish) actor Harry Reems portrayed Linda's advisor, who teaches her all about the pleasure of, well, deep throating.

Inside Deep Throat works best in these early sequences, interviewing Damiano about his filmmaking technique (or lack thereof), and gaining a little insight about how this primitive porn industry came together. Dennis Hopper's narration bounces us around in a dizzying tour of 70's Los Angeles, from the porn film sets where future professionals like Wes Craven learned their craft to the offices were District Attorneys plotted to shut the film down to the "happenings" counterculture types gathered to smoke dope, watch Deep Throat and feel rebellious.

Once the government brought the hammer down in a big way, the story becomes depressingly familiar. The "stars" of Deep Throat, who once had greatly prized their sudden noteriety and fame, found themselves rejected by society, unable to find work and, in the case of Harry Reems, even prosecuted and convicted on obscure conspiracy charges. Reems' conviction was eventually overturned, and he became an alcoholic an drug abuser. Indeed, the government's entire case, of course, became a pyrrhic victory, with the rates of pornography consumption growing exponentially in the time since the release of Deep Throat and films of its ilk.

All of these sequences are handled, if not masterfully, in a fast-paced, brisk and entertaining manner. Interview subjects like porn innovaters Hugh Hefner (of Playboy Magazine), Al Goldstein (of the somewhat less dignified Screw) and Larry Flynt (of the not-at-all dignified Hustler) provide some much-needed perspective on what else was available in terms of smut at the time. And clips from public health videos, television shows and other pornography of the time provide essential context as well, without overwhelming the film or making it feel overly nostalgic. The 70's music is all terrific, as well.

But at around an hour in, the film loses its way. Bailey and Barbato are entirely adept at presenting the history of Deep Throat, but not at all clear on what they have to say about it, or why it even matters. They spend the last half hour of the film utterly at a loss about where to go, what to do with this information.

Their film speaks out strongly against censorship, yet sneers at the feminist critics of pornography as silly, misinformed or straight-up liars.

Linda Lovelace came out years after the filming of Deep Throat, claiming to have been sexually abused during the film's production. Her interviews, including one appearance on the "Donahue" show along with fellow pornography critic Gloria Steinem, makes it sound as if she was a sex slave. All Bailey and Barbato supply in the way of counter-evidence is an interview clip with director Damiano, denying that Lovelace was coerced into performing. Surely there is something more that could have been done with this topic? Are Bailey and Barbato saying that the importance of Deep Throat as a cultural piece overshadows any possible cruelty towards Lovelace that may have gone into its production?

This is but one glaring contradiction. The film argues in favor of the liberating sexual revolution, glamorizing a time when people really believed that the mainstream and the sexual underground would fuse into a new, more free, more open-minded mainstream America. And now that this fantasy has become a reality, the film snipes that we're too open, too free with sexuality, and that our freedom has cheapened it. One particularly lame sequence filmed at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas recently has the filmmakers asking a variety of porn stars if they have seen Deep Throat. They have not.

But who gives a shit? It's just a porno. Isn't that the whole point? That it doesn't matter? It's just sex? Inside Deep Throat becomes overly enamored of its subject, forgetting that the movie isn't what matters, it's the freedom to watch the movie! Deep Throat is whack off material. That's it. Now, we should be able to have whack off material, of course! And that's an important argument to make. But Bailey and Barbato seem to really believe Deep Throat to be something more, to have some deep significance, such that contemporary adult stars should have studied it. But why?

They're not helped by a panel of whiny Baby Boomer intellectuals like Camille Paglia and Norman Mailer, arguing as they always are in documentaries about how their generation was bold, different, interesting and revolutionary, and everything since has been boring and rotten and stinks.

Mailer's a smart guy, right? He used to be a good writer with things to say. Doesn't he realize that he has become the same curmudgeonly, closed-minded old timer he used to hate when he was a young man? Doesn't he realize the silly hypocracy of claiming that Deep Throat was really great, but porn now stinks and isn't sexy and young people have ruined sex forever and it's not exciting now like it was in 1971?

The fact is, porn hasn't really changed. It's on DVD's now, sure, and you can show a lot more penises going into the same few holes, sure, but otherwise it's pretty damn similar. Bad acting, cheap cameras, amateurish lighting, fake breasts, fake orgasms, hairy guys with large, swollen members...You get the idea. It hasn't changed. So why does Inside Deep Throat yearn for porn's bygone era? Why do I have to sit through yet another lamentation of the invention of the videocassette, that forever killed off the Times Square porno theater?

Come to think of it, why is anyone ever at any time nostalgic for porn theaters? That's not the relic of a more innocent time! It's way more scummy than what we do today! Today, I can pop in a porn DVD, cue up the part I like, masturbate in privacy in my own home, clean up and put the movie away. Why would anyone prefer a time when you had to put on a raincoat with nothing underneath, head down to 45th Street and jerk off with a bunch of other guys, sitting in a seat where a bunch of other guys have pleasured themselves that day? Ewwwwww....gross.....

Anyway, this is kind of a pet peeve of mine. I love a lot of stuff about my parent's generation - The Beatles, smoking pot, the Grateful Dead, French New Wave movies, lava lamps, casual sex without condoms.

But what I don't love is their self-involvement, and the way my generation has totally bought into it. We've been raised with this idea that everything in the 1960's was pure. Youthful rebellion was this brand-new concept. Music had never existed. Sex was just being discovered. And every Baby Boomer has been spouting this crap at us since for so long now, even we've started to believe it. So filmmakers of around my age are making a movie like Inside Deep Throat, shedding crocodile tears for a bygone era that paved the way for our time, but wasn't neccessarily any better or even any different.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Exorcize and Proper Diet

LOL is, of course, Internet chat shorthand for "laughing out loud." It's usually bullshit, though. People type LOL any time anyone says anything even remotely humorous, not when they are literally L-ing O L. Well, folks, I'm actually laughing out loud here in my room. This headline has made my day:

Real possession by devil not that common, exorcists say during lesson

You hear that, everyone? Real possession by the doesn't happen as much as you'd think. Maybe once, twice a week, that's it. The Devil, he's busy. He can't be inhabiting people's bodies, making them spit pea soup and stab themselves in the genitals with a crucifix, all the time. Saturdays? Those are the Devil's days. To just, you know, unwind.

Okay, okay, so the article comes from the Catholic News Service, and they have to say stuff like this, because they believe in God and the Devil and all that crap. But, man, what a headline.

The article goes on to seriously report that there aren't a whole lot of real exorcisms. Cause, you know, there's nothing actually going on in the world that requires news coverage, so we might as well spend our time writing articles about bullshit that doesn't ever happen.

When a person who thinks he or she is possessed approaches a priest looking for help, they said, the priest must know enough about possession to know whether a simple prayer is called for or whether he needs to refer the person to a psychologist or to the diocesan exorcist.

It's a very complicated process.

Some guy comes in to the priest's office and says, "Hi, Father Merrin [or whatever...I'm just using that name cause he's an exorcist]. I was hoping you could help. I woke up the other day with what I thought might be the flu, but it turns out, I've got a demon inside me. You think you could pencil me in for one of the holy-water-power-of-Christ specials this afternoon?"

The priest then has to decide whether this guy really has a demon inside of him, or if he might just be, you know, crazy. This is why you need a priest who knows a lot about possession. Otherwise, you'd be totally stuck. You'd probably find yourself trying to extract a devil from inside some random schizophrenic. Or worse, sending a perfectly sane man who just happened to somehow contract a Satanic possession to the loony bin!

Father Paolo Scarafoni, a member of the Legionaries of Christ and rector of the university, told reporters: "Satanism is in fashion right now. It is being spread particularly through music and through the clothes musicians wear.

"People today find it easy to attribute strange phenomena or suffering to the devil," he said. "There are long lines of people standing at the doors of exorcists."

Oh, man, I just started LOL-ing again. Father Paolo Scarafoni, I could kiss you, if I wasn't afraid you'd enjoy that a lot! His theory, in short, is that devil music like that heavy metal rock and roll you kids listen to has caused a mass fascination with Satan, driving many young people to line up outside exorcism clinics around the world hoping to get the devil extracted from their bodies by priests...What? Either Father Paolo is infected with some sort of devil that prevents him from making sense, or he's a complete moron. Who happens to be the rector of a university. Nice!

Plus, I would love to wait in a long line of people standing at the doors of exorcists. That's got to be a fun group. Who do you think is the weirder, more messed up group of people: those in the exorcism line, or the people lined up right now to see Episode III? It's a tough call.

After counseling, he said, "I do maybe 20 exorcisms each year."

Father Scarafoni said that, generally, "85 percent to 90 percent of these people are not possessed or even being attacked by the devil. They need someone to listen. They need a prayer. They need a long walk and a glass of water."

Man, that counseling must be something else. After it's over, 20 people still think they have the Devil inside him. What could he possibly be saying to them in counseling. "So, Dave, tell me about your childhood...Mmm-hmmm....Do you ever have feelings of inadequacy...Mmm-hmmm...How's your love life....Okay...Well, Dave, I think it's entirely possible that you need to boost your self-esteem. Oh, and you have The Devil Incarnate within your body, poisoning your soul with treacherous malfeasance as he ignites your tender viscera into an nightmarish inferno of pain and suffering. Oh, look at that, our hour is up."

Mad props to FARK for this link. Best thing I've read on the Net in a good long while.

Masculine Feminine

Just returned from the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles, where I watched Godard's 1967 treatise on boredom and alienation, Masculine Feminine. I won't bother giving you a full review, because those are available at any snooty cineaste site on the Web, and it's not available on DVD anyway. So I'd be sending you out to find a movie that's for the most part unavailable, which isn't too fair.

Suffice it to say, the film is a brilliant slice of pessimism, a sour treatise on repetition, boredom, inertia and hopelessness. Godard starts with the idea of repetition in film. He gives us a lead character (played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, of 400 Blows fame) who seems aware, and nervous about, being inside a Godard film. He purposefully imitates the style of Jean-Paul Belmondo from Godard's earlier Breathless, he constantly stares directly into the camera, challenging the audience with his knowledge of their presence, and he's even compared to Pierrot le Fou, a character in a different Godard film.

At this point, Godard had been making films for just over a decade, and he and his cohorts had already influenced world cinema to a remarkable degree. Younger filmmakers became inspired by his techniques and those of his contemporaries, so new films imitated Godard's old films, like Breathless and Band of Outsiders, just as those films were inspired by the works of Nicholas Ray and Howard Hawks.

But Godard takes it further. He posits that art necessarily repeats himself because life necessarily repeats itself. We have the same conversations, the same feelings, the same emotions, take part in the same activities every day of our lives, with little change. So of course art repeats itself constantly - it reflects the drudgery of daily human life.

Godard traces this back to the problem of binary oppositions. He sees the world as made up of contradictory opposites that can never find a middle ground. So we constantly encircle one another without ever gaining understanding, we fight but never compromise. The film is filled with contradictory opposites incapable of settling their differences: masculine vs. feminine, black vs. white, young vs. old, rich vs. poor, American vs. European, radical vs. conservative, filmmaker vs. film viewer, fictional character vs. real person.

So, you wind up with relationships doomed to failure, miseries piled upon miseries, and people too jaded on life to care, or even notice. A woman shoots her husband in front of their child, and the diners sitting nearby barely look up from their newspapers. It's just life, just conflict, it happens every day, so why concern yourself with it?

Sounds like a fun night at the movies, huh? Okay, it's a little bleak. Give the guy a break: Godard had made the film during a creative slump, while he was depressed over the dissolution of his marriage and creative partnership with Anna Karina.

I bring up its sour aftertaste only because the Nuart tonight was filled with people laughing hysterically at the film, that fake, overexuberant, really obnoxious type of laughter. This tends to happen with difficult French films, I've noticed, particularly those of the New Wave. I think simple-minded snotty people go to these screenings and want to let each other know that they appreciate the movie. Like, "Hey, I'm so sophisticated, I'm enjoying this Godard film in the same way most plebians would enjoy Meet the Fockers. Bow before my Mighty Intellect!"

You can always tell fake foreign movie laughter because it comes in response to shit that isn't remotely funny. I find that people often laugh when something unexpected happens. Not funny or even strange, just unexpected.

For example, at one point during the film, the characters watch a movie in which a man grunts at a woman, and repeatedly slaps her. To my mind, this scene fits in with the themes I discussed above - the movie reflects the dilemma of the main characters, but it's wordless, because the situation doesn't require words. We've seen enough movies to know what's happening in short hand - they're having a lovers quarrel, he's losing patience with her, she's lost the intensity of her desire for him, etc. Just like I said before - pessimism, repetition, boredom.

But the people in the theater with me were laughing like the movie-within-a-movie starred Krusty the Klown. You'd seriously think something funny were happening on screen, rather than a somewhat realistic depiction of spousal abuse highlighted by a grunting sound effect.

So, yeah, inappropriate laughter aside, it was a very positive experience to see this film on a big screen. The beautiful black and white cinematography really shimmered on this print (even though the white subtitles were sometimes illegible against the overexposed white backgrounds). And there's just something inspiring about watching a clever Godard film. He makes me want to sit down and write something slick and clever and fun, and it's not every filmmaker that can do that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mmm...This is Delicious...Who is This?

Four men in the Phillipines have been arrested for murdering and eating their cousin at a wedding reception. Yeah, eating their cousin. And serving him to guests without telling them. Al Sharpton's upset, because they cooked the victim in a traditional Creole style, calling it "blackened."

No, but seriously...The poor guy accidentally brushed up against the bride's butt during the ceremony. So four of his relatives snuck up on him, stabbed him to death, dragged him into the kitchen, butchered him and then roasted him. The other guests were already drunk, so they thought, hey, why not serve him for dinner?

Is it really so bad to touch a bride's butt during a wedding ceremony? I mean, yeah, sure, it's a touch inappropriate. But I'm sure worse things happen at American weddings every day, and you don't hear about people being eaten. Is it possible there's more to this story? It appears on some British magazine called Female First that I've never heard of before, so we can't know for sure if we're getting a complete accounting of the facts in this case. Also, what does this story have to do with placing Females First, except possibly first in the cannibal buffet line?

I wish it had a more complete account, if only because I'd love to hear the thought process that goes into murdering and devouring the flesh of your own cousin.

"Hey, you know what would be funny?" one of the cousins must have said [in Tagalog, of course]. "Now that we've already killed Benji [the victim's real name], and marinated him for 20 minutes in a mixture of spices and zesty barbecue sauce, let's serve him to everyone else."

"Oh, like in that movie Hannibal! Except, you know, scary" one of the other cousins responds [also in Tagalog, I'd assume]. [Actually, did Ridley Scott's Hannibal even make it to the Phillipines? Perhaps the other cousin would have some other cannibal movie pop immediately to mind. Possibly Tsui Hark's classic I'm Going to Eat You].

"What's barbecue sauce," another cousin might have asked. Because I'm pretty sure that's from Texas, not Manila.

Also, how drunk would you have to be to not realize you're eating human? I mean, do people really taste like any other commonly enjoyed Filipino meat? I have to believe we'd at the very least taste gamey and have an odd texture. After all, have you ever eaten any primate?

A Friggin' American

Man, this is stupid. Really, really stupid.

Conde Nast, the publishing company responsible for GQ, Vanity Fair and other glossy, thick publications favored by wealthy old people and dental offices, has an International Cafeteria at their Headquarters. Each week, they feature dishes inspired by a different world cuisine.

And on February 15th, the selected world cuisine was...African-American. You know, soul food. It sounds like it was pretty good, even to a whiteboy like myself - Jamaican beef patties, shrimp jambalaya, rice, okra, corn, black-eyed pea stew, deviled eggs and biscuits. Well, okay, I've never had black-eyed pea stew, and I hate the band that's stolen the dishes name, but I'd give it a try.

The food itself isn't the newsworthy thing, though. It's the protests that followed. It seems black employees were offended by the implication that they're "international." I mean, clearly, black people in America are Americans. It's right there after the hyphen: African-American.

I somehow doubt Conde Nast or their caterering company, Restaurant Associates, even thought about the semantic ramifications of their menu items. They were probably hard-pressed to keep coming up with international cuisines to feature. I mean, most African countries themselves are out - who knows what they eat in Burkina Faso? And people get sick of Indian pretty quickly.

I think this probably wouldn't be a big deal, if there wasn't already concern about the lack of black executives at Conde Nast. That's what got Al Sharpton involved, and once he throws his opinion out, it moves from "incident" right on to "controversy." Here's what The Rev had to say:

"If you look at the makeup of Condé Nast and its magazines, and the number of blacks in their corporate structure, there are none in the top echelon. [It] is symbolic of their corporate view that we are not part of American culture. Their attitude is 'Let them eat soul food!'"

Um, okay. I think Al's probably just upset he missed the buffet. "They had shrimp jambalaya and no one informed me? Racist bastards!"

I don't propose to know whether Conde Nast has racist hiring practices or not. I just think it's interesting to see people get so upset over the use of language. If the cafeteria featured a variety of so-called "cultural dishes," no one would have grounds for argument - Southern soul food cooking is certainly the product of a specific culture. But just because the word says "international" instead, you've got national news.

Que Onda Guero

Recently, during a road trip to Santa Cruz, my friend Matt and I rediscovered Beck's "Odelay." I've had it in my CD collection ever since its release (except for a brief interlude during which I traded it to my younger brother for some other album, the name of which eludes me). But I know it so well, it's been a while since I've really listened to it, really remembered how innovative, different, funky and just plain exciting Beck's music can be. Particularly because of the constant evolution of his sound from album to album.

The newest Beck release, "Guero," slated to hit stores in March but leaked early onto the Internets, continues in this tradition. This is definitely the hardest-rocking Beck material since songs like "Devil's Haircut" on "Odelay," but it incorporates a lot of the hip-hop flavor of "Midnight Vultures." Production from the Dust Brothers enhances this effect. At times, it sounds like Beck's take on "Paul's Boutique," the classic Beastie Boys album produced by the Dust Brothers and Rick Rubin.

And, yeah, I downloaded the album, but I'm not sharing it with anyone, and I'll buy it for real when it comes out. So, get off my back, RIAA!
But what's so strange and magical about Mr. Hansen's music is how, no matter what sound he's going for, it still somehow sounds like Beck. Whether it's the lethargic folk of "One Foot in The Grave" or "Mutations," the lo-fi indie rock of "Mellow Gold" or even the muted electronica of "Sea Change," you can always tell you're listening to a Beck album within the first two minutes. And "Guero" is no different.

Opening track "E-Pro" just rips right out of the gate, introducing the listener to this album's new direction. But by Track 3, "Girl," we're back in traditioanl Beck territory. This entirely pleasant sing-songy tune bounces along above a simple guitar line and steady percussive beat, building to a chorus that could have come off "Mellow Gold" or "Odelay." My favorite track on the album so far, though granted, I've only listened to the entire thing a few times through. The next track, "Missing," reminds me of the tropical dub track in Beck's repetoire, "Tropicalia."

And the hard-hitting stomp of "Farewell Ride" just rules the planet. It'll kick your automatic bizooty.

My friend Nathan has theorized it takes a minimum of 5 complete listens to really gain an appreciation for an album. Before that, any opinion you may have is merely conjecture - the music hasn't had time to sink in yet. Well, I can already tell I really like "Guero," but I'm still discovering small touches and nuances. Maybe I'll run a more thorough review once I'm better versed in the songs.

But, anyway, it's really good. You should check it out in March when it comes out for real.

This Is Supposed To Be a Hotel!

Many have called "Fawlty Towers," the landmark 12-episode British series created by and starring John Cleese, the greatest sitcom of all time. I think, if "The Simpsons" counts as a sitcom, that takes the cake. But if you count Matt Groening's animated masterpiece as a cartoon and not a sitcom, then Cleese and Co. win.

If you've never seen "Fawlty Towers," picture a show centering on the angst and anxiety of the worst man alive. Cleese's Basil Fawlty owns and operates a small, crummy hostel in the coastal city of Torquay, along with his shrewish wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), put-upon waitress Polly (Connie Booth, Cleese's ex-wife) and Barcelona-born waiter Manuel. But his full-time job isn't so much hotel management as misanthropy, mistreating the guests and the staff in equal measure, when he isn't complaining about his lost youth or his loveless marriage.

In a career of defining roles, from A Fish Called Wanda to his years with Monty Python, Basil Fawlty stands out as Cleese's greatest creation. The episode entitled "The Germans," in which a nervous Basil deals with a concussion and a sudden influx of foreign hotel guests, comes together so perfectly, it surely inspired a generation of sitcom writers. In particular, Fawlty's sour attitude and propensity to offend reminds me of Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." They're both lovable grumps, constantly at odds with those around them, forced into an ever-escalating series of embarrassments, arguments and misunderstandings.

But Cleese had some tools in his arsenal that escape even the multitalented Mr. David, particularly his bizarre, gangly physicality. Various episodes of "Fawlty Towers" find him mock-goosestepping, tripping over large boxes, throwing himself into a truck with the laundry, hiding kippers in his clothing, knocking himself unconscious with a stuffed moose head, tumbling off of ladders and even violently smashing his own car with a tree branch. And those are some of the more understated moments.

I thought to bring up "Fawlty Towers" both because everyone should watch it and because the real hotel that inspired the show has just been purchased by fans of the series. The Patel family has paid $2.8 million for the Gleneagles Hotel of Torquay.

The story of the Gleneagles Hotel has become something of folk legend. The Python troupe stayed there while filming segments for their television show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and were fascinated by the place's owner, a gruff, unhappy little man named Donald Sinclair. Sinclair would whine and complain to guests about whatever was going wrong for him that day, would chew out customers that dared to complain, and generally didn't care about things like poor service or unavailable amenities. Here's fan webpage Fawltysite with some more details:

The “wonderfully rude” hotel owner (Donald Sinclair) endeared himself to the Monty Python team by throwing Eric Idle's briefcase out of the hotel “in case it contained a bomb,” complaining about Terry Gilliam's table manners, and chucking a bus timetable at another guest after the guest dared to ask the time of the next bus to town.

Donald Sinclair, by the way, always hated the TV show and his association with it, right up until his death in the early 80's.

Based on the Yahoo article, it seems the Patels hope to parlay the hotel's TV connection into big time money, but I'm not so sure that's a great strategy. As hugely popular as the show has become, particularly in Britain, it seems odd to me that people would go out of their way to stay at a hotel that merely inspired a famous TV show. The series itself was filmed on sound stages, and the exteriors used for Fawlty Towers are actually shots of a different hotel, in a completely different city (Bournemouth). So, it's really only the stories associated with the now-deceased former owner that have any relevance for fans of the TV series, and that's a pretty loose connection.

Still, it provided me with an excuse to talk about one of my all-time favorite TV shows, so I'm glad it made the news today. Thanks, Patel Family, and best of luck with your business venture. Just don't hire any Spanish waiters or serve any rat poison-infected veal to any health inspectors and you should be fine.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


A Japander is an American or European celebrity who goes to Japan in order to shill products on cheesy commercials. Like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, being paid a million dollars to spend a few days in Japan and talk up Santori whiskey. "For relaxing times...make it Santori time."

Well, in that Salon article this morning about Arnold Schwartzenegger, which I discussed here, they had a link to this fantastic website, Japander, that contains many Japanese advertisements starring your favorite celebrities. Well, probably not your favorite celebrities, but Ashley Judd, Brad Renfro and Mariah Carey.

And Harrison Ford. He's represented Kirin Beer in Japan since the mid 90's. Here's a photo of Harrison enjoying a Kirin while relaxing in a robe with a Japanese guy in oversized glasses.

He does look refreshed, you've got to give him that. Yes, sir, nothing beats a nice, room temperature beer when you're in some sort of a cramped Asian sauna.

And, a bit of trivia for you guys, that gentleman to Harrison's right? That's the guy who plays Chewbacca out of the costume. Honest!

Harrison's ad campaign is actually one of the most dignified and classy. He's just a guy, hanging out, drinking some beer, usually in a business type setting. I guess that's how they see him over here, which is lucky for Harry, because over here, we still tend to see him as a guy in a vest shooting laser beams at aliens and robots.

Check out this far more bizarre capture from a lemonade ad featuring The Simpsons:

See, the joke in this ad is that both Homer and Bart are in the kitchen, naked, enjoying some CC Lemon brand lemonade. And then Marge comes in and sees that they're naked. And they both laugh. And then the yellow lemonade bottles seem to cover up their, well, nude yellow members.

This is disturbing for a number of reasons. Though the show has, at various times, toyed around with the concept of animated nudity, featuring Homer's naked rear end just about every week at this point, it's never come right out and given the characters substitute genitals. And why would Bart and Homer be naked in the kitchen in the middle of the day, drinking lemonade? And why is it funny? I can't understand the dialogue in the ad, of course, as I'm not yet fully versed in Japanese. If only it were in Urdu! But I can't imagine any possible words they could be saying would adequately explain their lack of clothes.

But the most troubling ad of all is actually a series of ads for Japanese gas company Eneos. In the ads, a severely deranged Mr. Willis harnesses massive amounts of electrical power through his car and into the atmosphere, thanks to the life-giving Eneos corporation. Just look at this picture:

Is he selling gasoline or injecting a cocktail of heroin and ecstacy between his toes, exactly? This commercial doesn't make me want to buy gas so much as avoid Bruce Willis, neon lights and psychotropic substances for the rest of my life. It's a whole series of ads, as I said, in which Bruce and Eneos gas lay waste to wide swatches of Japan, and at the end of each one, Bruce turns to the camera and says, "Move You." In English.

I get the idea. He's saying that Eneos gas will move your car where you want it to go. Although I suspect any gas would accomplish this task. But the way he says it kind of puts a comma in between the two words. "Move, you!" Like, Bruce and his electromagnetic gasoline of choice have places to go, and we the viewing audience are merely in his way.

Anyway, definitely check out the site. There's lots more weird ads I haven't discussed here, like one in which Cameron Diaz implores you to attend Aeon English Schools, in English, and another in which Quentin Tarantino kung fu fights a guy for the satellite TV remote. While dressed as a Reservoir Dog. Which doesn't at all cheapen his brilliant debut film of the same name.

On Demand

We just had Comcast install a new cable box. It includes a DVR, allowing us to record up to 60 hours of programming, and On Demand, on which we can watch MTV's "The Real World" or "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" or even "Deadwood" whenever we want.

I mean, it's kind of incredible. For a negligable amount of extra money a month (less than $3 per roommate), Comcast has made us this generous offer. I keep fearing there must be some hidden media conglomerate agenda behind this move. Like, now that we have their new cable box in our home they can secretly monitor our activities or drain our bodies of vital fluids while we sleep or something. As if, somewhere, deep below the surface of the Earth in Burbank or Torrance or wherever Comcast's signal comes from, Harry Caul is listening to me talk to my roommates about this week's "Apprentice." It's almost too horrifying to imagine.

I'm coming late in the game to the "watch whatever you want whenever" club. My friends John and Brian have had Replay TV long enough to become totally jaded. Realizing that we still have to depend on schedules in order to watch television shows, they looked at us with the level of disdain you'd reserve for someone who had never heard of television. "They gots radios with pictures in 'em? Sha-zam!"

And then there's my friend Jeff. He has some sort of TIVO disorder, causing him to overutilize the feature tragically. You can't ever get through an entire program when watching stuff at his place, because he always wants to rewind to catch every last detail. Okay, usually it's to oogle cheerleaders shown during all-too-brief panning shots at football games. But he'll even rewind an episode of "Seinfeld" if he missed a crucial punchline. It's too much, like watching television through a wormhole or Donnie Darko's portal. Or maybe I'm just a Luddite.

So, I'm going to go watch some more television right now. I'm recording an episode of "The Apprentice," and I think I'll go start it from the beginning. Cause I can do that now.

Who Is Your Governor And What Does He Do?

You know him as the Governator, folks. It's Arnie "The Kid" Schwartzenegger, a machine sent from the future with just one purpose: to balance your budget!

I haven't really been reading too much about Arnold's term in office and his activities, as I don't really care. Governorship of California is one of those things that kind of floats around out there, that I don't pay much attention to. Unless it's a sick evil fuck like Pete Wilson, grabbing the attention of everyone who's not retarded or an asshole by constantly trying to pass vile legislation with nice names, like the Pet Every Kitten Act. That one, I think, mandated that hot pokers be shoved up the rectums of immigrants once a month, or something like that.

So, I just figured that what the media has said so far about Schwartzy's tenure is right on: that he's surprisingly moderate, that he has a good environmental record, that even though he stumps for the Chimp-in-Chief, he's not actually one of those guys. You know, the crazy guys from the Jesus-And-Bombs Party who currently run the show.

But Salon has an article today about the right-wing horror awaiting California during Ahnold's tenure. According to the article, here are the man's crimes while it office thus far:

Taken governmental actions that benefit his personal finances, in apparent violation of state law.

Collected tens of millions of dollars from many of the same "special interests" he had sworn to kick out of town when he was elected.

Vetoed bills that would have protected labor, the environment, workplace safety and consumers.
Sought to centralize his power by abolishing citizen-run boards that make important regulatory decisions.

Advocated for increased deregulation of the electricity market.

I generally trust Salon's reporting. Sometimes their analysis leaves me cold - they're far too PC for my tastes, and often tied to the Democratic Party agenda too slavishly for my tastes. Although they do hate Joe Lieberman about as much as I do, which counts for something. But they don't publish mistruths very often, so if they're saying this stuff, I have no reason to doubt its veracity.

Plus, they can back up all the claims, most damningly the "special interests" money Ahnold has collected. You'll remember, particularly if you lived in California for the recall fiasco, that Schwartzy's entire appeal to voters was that he would "kick the special interests out of Sacramento." I figured he would use some kind of futuristic chain gun, like out of Eraser, but it turns out he was speaking figuratively. Which was disappointing.

But since taking office, the new governor has collected $26 million -- in chunks ranging from $21,200 to $1,000,000 -- from individuals and companies involved in high finance, real estate, insurance, construction, energy sales, entertainment, pharmaceuticals, electronics, prison corporations and major news media. (In his first year in office, Gray Davis collected $13 million in special-interest contributions.) In addition, five nonprofit corporations set up to pay for such items as the governor's luxury hotel suite in Sacramento, and his trips abroad, are not required to disclose their sources of money.

I mean, we the taxpayers should have to pay to take care of Arnold Schwartzenegger. I mean, it's not like he could subsidize his entire term in office with the profits from just one of his shitkicker movies. Oh, wait, he totally could. How does that make you feel, California taxpayer? That your Governor not only gets treated every day to luxury hotel suites, trips abroad and other lavish perks for voting against your interests, but gets to keep $20 million each for making Jingle all the Way and Batman & Robin?

But he's not greedy! He's demonstrating the American Dream. That a kid from Graz, Austria could travel to this country, inject Canseco-esque amounts of steroids into his system, ridicule a deaf guy in a popular documentary about freaky bodybuilders and eventually become the leader of America's largest economy. At least, I think that's the American Dream. America must have eaten some spicy food before going to sleep that night.

Salon also reports that Schwartzenegger's trying to cheat his way around the California Political Reform Act. This is a thoroughly useful, obvious piece of legislation, that says politicians must turn over their investments to a disinterested third party while in office, to prevent them from conflicts-of-interest.

To shield a wealthy government official from being paralyzed by possible conflicts of interest, the Political Reform Act allows the officeholder to place assets in a blind trust managed by a "disinterested party." The theory is that, after a time, he will no longer know what he owns. The trustee (who cannot be a relative) is supposed to have little or no contact with the official. He is empowered to liquidate the original portfolio and to buy new assets, which are unknown to the official. In apparent violation of the reform act, Schwarzenegger designated as his trustee his close friend and financial advisor, Paul D. Wachter.

"We've been friends for 25 years and been in business together for less than 15 years," Wachter tells Salon about his relationship with Schwarzenegger. "I am his main person in the whole business, financial, legal area. And, obviously, a close confidant. As the blind trustee, I manage all his money."

Nice, Arnie! That's a classy move. Can you believe this? Arnold Schwartzenegger is attempting to abuse his position of political power for personal gain! This is a guy who is worth literally tens of millions of dollars, who is so internationally known and beloved, he could star in big Hollywood movies for the rest of his natural life. We're talking about a guy who was already a plane owner before entering political life. He's a freaking Kennedy for Chrissakes.

But all this is basically circumstantial evidence. We know Arnold is capable of using his position for personal gain, if he so chooses.

That's when Salon, quite brilliantly, turns attention over the Arnold's for-profit website. Oh, man, you gotta check this shit out. Especially the part labeled Arnold's Auction. This week's he's selling an autographed Predator DVD to the highest bidder. I guess it's only appropriate that California's Governor is hawking DVD's. That's how a good deal of his citizenry makes its living.

The website also includes fascinating information about Schwartenegger's bold policy initiatives. For example, he declared Feb. 6th "Ronald Reagan Day." Booya!

The Salon article goes on and on, incriminating Arnold more and more for selfishly using his newfound power to increase his already Scrooge McDuck-esque personal fortune. I'm not gonna summarize it all for you people, because it's long, and you can obviously read if you've made it this far.

I'll leave you with this quote from Schwartenegger's State of the State Address on Jan. 5th of this year. Read the whole speech online here.

I know the special interests will oppose all the reforms I have mentioned. Any time you try to remove one dollar from the budget, there are five special interests tugging on the other end. Anytime you try to make something more efficient, there are a half-dozen special interests trying to prevent it.

The result is that nothing changes in Sacramento. This place is in the grip of the special interests.

Special interests like Dimensional Fund Advisors, with whom Schwartzy has invested over $1 million? Or maybe Rupert Murdoch, AT&T, Merck, Pepsi, Raytheon, Sprint, Verizon and WellPoint, who all donated to his campaign? Or possibly Toyota Corp., whom Schwartzenegger visited in Japan and promised to "move mountains" for them in California.

I could go on. Really, I could. But what's the point? You see where this is going.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

A few months ago, I had not heard of this South Korean war film. I had heard of the director, who had made the well-received international hit Shiri. Then, Harry Knowles at Ain't It Cool News chose it as the Best Film of 2004, hefty praise indeed. I'm not always in agreement with Mr. Knowles on films, but he's probably seen more just this week than I ever will in a lifetime of filmgoing. And that level of commitment has got to mean something.

Then, my co-worker Ari told me it was terrific, a bruising, punishing war film in the Saving Private Ryan mode. This comparison naturally comes up all the time, mainly because director Je-gyu Kang cribs so much of his visual style from that film. Everything from the washed-out half-colorized cinematography to the sweeping score to the chaotic, impressionistic battle scenes reflects Kang's Spielbergian influences.

But it reminds me of Ryan in a few other, less than positive ways. Like that film, it's hokey and melodramatic, contrasting the gritty immediacy of the shockingly realistic battle scenes with cornpone, Hollywood formula. Like that film, it tacks on a needless framing device, remembering the war through the eyes of an aged veteran. And like that film, its far too long, aspiring to an epic scope its story cannot maintain.

But, like Saving Private Ryan, Tae Guk Gi comes alive when depicting the horrors of war. I don't know that I've ever seen an Asian film of this magnitude and scope, portraying several Korean War battles in a realistic manner on an unbelievable scale. There are sequences in which literally thousands of soldiers clash, scenes where Chinese troops swoop before the cameras in a furious display of power and grim determination.

And, also like Saving Private Ryan, the violence is immediate, shocking and we never turn away from seeing the nightmare in which these soldiers live every day. There are limbs destroyed, brains dashed out and, maybe most horribly, piles of corpses splattered by landmines. Seeing this less than a week after Very Long Engagement was like watching films made about war from two parallel universes. Both comment on the grim reality of human conflict, but while Engagement uses it as a backdrop for a story about hope and determined survival, Tae Guk Gi takes a more pessimistic tack. Its soldiers are never freed from the burdens of the battlefield. War destroys the lives of every single character in the film, thoroughly and completely.

The story involves two brothers, both of whom find themselves drafted into the South Korean Army in 1950. Quick history lesson: Until the end of WWII, Japan had ruled Korea as a colony. After the war, North Korea turned Communist and aligned with the Chinese in a kind of half-assed way. This gave them the confidence to invade the South in 1950. It was a rout at first by the North, who caught the South unprepared. In 1951, the UN entered the war, and the South regained some territory, but then in 1952, China entered the war. In 1953, the war ended with North and South Korea agreeing on the same division that exists today, at the 38th Parallel.

Okay, everybody got that? You will be responsible for this information after finishing the article, so I hope you read it carefully. Maybe go through it again.

Okay. So, these two brothers, dependable, protective older brother Jin-Tae (Jang Dong-Gun) and wimpy, immature 18 year old Jin-Seok (Won Bin, the guy in that photo above), are drafted and sent to the front lines. Jin-Tae makes the commander a bold offer - he'll take any dangerous duty, provided that his brother be sent home. The commander agrees, provided that Jin-Tae win a Medal of Honor for success in combat.

This is a pretty great idea for a war movie. We get to see all the most dangerous missions through the eyes of unbelievable badass Jin-Tae, and we come to understand the sacrifices one brother is asked to make to save his beloved sibling. It's effective stuff, and if Kang hadn't overplayed his hand, it might have worked. But he goes way too far, giving us a broken-hearted fiancee, a sickly mute mother and all manner of thinly-written, cutesy soldiers in the film only to endear themselves to the audience before dying tragically.

I get sick of manipulative movies pretty quickly, and by the two hour mark, Tae Guk Gi began to wear on me. That's about the time when the film enters full-on ludicrous mode, giving us a final act in which Jin-Tae has a crucial misunderstanding that actually leads him to defect and join the Communist Army of North Korea. It's utterly ridiculous, and completely divergent from the staunch realism of the war scenes. Kang obviously feels strongly about capturing some kind of truth about combat - his war scenes are bold, unflinching and artfully directed. I'm not sure why he didn't extend the same effort towards making the human stories feel truthful, rather than Hollywood and scripted, but he didn't. And it's really too bad.

Tae Guk Gi may be a film for the big screen, or it may have more resonance to a South Korean audience. But it's undeniably affecting and tremendously realized on the screen. I wasn't able to find at all reliable information on the Web about the budget and production of this film, but it must be one of the most expensive Asian films of our time. Fans of the genre should definitely take note, but those with weak stomachs would do best to avoid this one. It's grisly stuff.


1) Who fought in the Korean War? Why?

2) Use the phrase "tae guk gi" in a sentence.

3) How could Harry Knowles possibly choose this as the Best Film of the Year? What's wrong with that guy?

4) Do you believe those rumors about Korean people eating dogs? Why or why not? Discuss.

Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut

First, a word about director's cuts. I'm not generally a huge fan. Most of the time, I grow attached to the version of a film I saw initially, and any further tinkering feels superfluous. After all, if I already liked the movie, then surely the theatrical version was fine. And if I didn't like the movie, why would I want to see 20 minutes more?

There are, of course, exceptions. I prefer the version of Blade Runner without the silly Harrison Ford voice-over. I prefer the DVD's of Lord of the Rings to the regular versions (though these are labeled "extended editions," not director cuts). But overall, the director's cut strikes me as more of a marketing tool than a response to a genuine need for further artistic expression.

Such is the case with Richard Kelly's rejiggered Donnie Darko, an overlong and unneccessarily expository reimagining of a movie that was already great and best left alone.

For the purposes of this review, I'll assume you're all vaguely familiar with the story and characters of Donnie Darko. If not, go rent it immediately. The original version, not the director's cut appearing on DVD Tuesday. It's a real mindfuck of a movie, a teen comedy/coming of age drama/psychological thriller/science fiction freakout about a suburban kid who becomes unstuck in time.

When I first saw the film upon its release in 2001, I was completely blindsided by its intelligence, its creativity and, well, its balls. This was not a mild movie, content to follow the formula and go for crowd-pleasing moments. It's a difficult, complicated film, and while it's entertaining, it's almost purposefully vague, exposing you to interesting, challenging ideas without ever providing explanation or closure.

And this is what the director's cut gets all wrong. Before we go further, I'll give you the authoritative version of Richard Kelly's story:

Donnie Darko thinks he's just a troubled young man who's seeing odd hallucinations, but in actuality, he's the savoir of the human race.

Every rare once in a while, for no real understandable reason, a portal opens up in space-time. This portal creates an alternate reality, what the movie refers to as a "tangent universe." This tangent universe resembles our own objective reality, but events in it differ from how they would normally unfold in typical space-time. For example, let's say that, in our reality, I will walk to the store tomorrow to buy bananas. If a portal were to appear tonight taking me into a tangent reality, during that same walk to the store tomorrow, I would buy oranges. Or get hit by a bus on the way to the store.

And the more different things that happen to alter reality, the more unstable the tangent universe becomes. Finally, it collapses upon itself, and the only way the universe can be saved is if a pre-selected individual goes through the portal, returning in time to the moment of the portal's origin to close the gap and reset space-time.

And Donnie Darko is that individual. What he sees are not hallucinations, but the ripples of a different reality, the universe's attempt to close the aberrant portal and return to normalcy.

In the original version of the film, released in 2001 to stunned and appreciative indie audiences nation-wide, none of this was spelled out clearly. There was no use of the term "tangent universe" at all, and all of this philosophy of time travel remained exclusively in the background.

Delightfully, this left the film up for a massive variety of explanations and theories. I thought it was about a troubled guy with delusions of granduer the first time I saw it, and came to understand it as a Christ allegory set in a high school. The formation of the portal is visualized in the film as a large jet engine crashing through the roof of Donnie's house. The "tangent universe" forms because, though he is meant to die in the house, he was sleepwalking at the time. So, when he returns to the portal, he returns to his own demise, renewing the world by killing himself.

This interpretation still pretty much holds, but many others do not. I read a theory online several months ago (which I cannot find a link for...sorry...) that the film was about Donnie's incestuous attraction to his sister. (Side note: most of the basis for this theory was Frank, a six-foot tall rabbit in the tangent universe and the boyfriend of Donnie's sister in our reality). Kelly basically kills that by making the time travel plot explicit.

He goes about this in several hackneyed ways. The most egregious change to the film is the insertion of several montage sequences, in which we see actual text excerpts from a fictional book, The Philosophy of Time Travel, explaining portals and tangent universes. Why would Kelly think adding writing into his movie would make it more enjoyable for fans? It makes no sense.

Apart from contextual changes like these, not much else is different. There is one added scene I liked a great deal, in which Donnie's dad gives him advice for dealing with assholes, and a few other brief moments that add some depth to the supporting characters. Also, there's an odd change to the soundtrack: the film used to open with Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon," but now this song appears during a crucial late scene in the film, replaced in the beginning by a different 80's college rock song. This didn't really bother me, and all the music used in both versions of the film is wonderfully appropriate and pleasant, but it felt a bit like change for the sake of change.

If you watch either version of Donnie Darko, you're seeing a great film, probably one of my favorites of the decade thus far. But, particularly for viewers new to the film, I think you're better served by the original version, which plays more like a dark, confused teen comedy-drama than a trippy piece of far-out metaphysics. This is one DVD I mercifully won't have to purchase twice.


Okay, first things first. Saw is supposed to be a horror movie, but that's the villain in that picture above. That's not scary. He just looks like the most creative guy at the Eyes Wide Shut orgy. "Somebody help! Cirque du Soleil is trying to kill me!"

Note to Saw director James Wan: old-timey tricycles are not scary. Ever. I know a lot of the coolest serial killer props are taken, like chainsaws and hockey masks and knife gloves and little metal balls with spikes coming out, but you're gonna have to do a bit better than a guy in a mask and a top hat.

Alright, with that dispensed with, here's some more reasons not to pick up Saw once it comes out on DVD this Tuesday.

1) Despite a great opening, Saw has nothing new to offer the serial killer genre

Saw stars off like gangbusters. The script has a truly tremendous first 10 pages, which according to most screenwriting professors, is all you really need anyway. We open with two guys (screenwriter Leigh Whannell and Former Dread Pirate Roberts Cary Elwes) chained to pipes on opposite ends of a fetid, dingy restroom, with only a bleeding, dessicated corpse lying between them.

Sounds good so far, right? You almost want to rent it already, right?

All the material at the beginning in this bathroom is terrific. The two men bicker, share ideas, and solve diabolical little puzzles, in an attempt to figure out why they've been tied up, how they can get free, and who could possibly have done this to them.

But Whannell's script just runs out of steam way too quickly. Before long, he's finding dumb excuses to leave the bathroom, entering flashbacks within flashbacks in a desperate attempt to provide Saw with needless backstory. We find out that the Elwes character was a suspect in a series of grisly murders, that the cop investigating these murders (Danny Glover in full-on Murtaugh mode) became obsessed with bringing him down, we find out about the unfortunate case of a girl whose jaw was wired to a bear trap (providing the movie with a freaky NIN video-style image for the poster). Unfortunately, we don't really care about any of this crap. We just want to see how the two guys get the hell out of that bathroom.

2) The villain in Saw is entirely weak

Everybody knows that the key to a cool horror/serial killer movie is a cool serial killer. Duh. It's right there in the name of the genre.

Think of the classic films of this type. Silence of the Lambs. Seven. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Boston Stranger. What do they have in common? Villains who capture our attention. Murderers whose methodology or intent pique our interest, appeal to some dark fascination in our own imaginations. Hannibal Lecter, though overexposed now from various silly sequels, wasn't just some pawn for a screenwriter to manipulate. He was an animal with real desires. Anthony Hopkins (oh, excuse me...Sir Anthony) infused him with genuine humanity, a sense of humor and a sharp intellect. 'Cause that makes his evil more palpable, his unfortunate deeds even more unwholesome.

Saw denies us this pleasure. It's serial killer, known as the Jigsaw Killer because he devises clever puzzles in order to ensare his victims, stays offscreen for just about the entire film. And when he's on screen, he's in a weird mask on a tricycle wearing a top hat. Or in the background on a fuzzy video.

And what's more, we get no sense for what drives him, for why he wants to kill all these people. Hannibal Lecter wanted to prove he was better than everyone else, that he was capable enough to kill and remain undetected. Plus, he was hungry. And John Doe from Seven kills to educate humanity, to remind people of the wrathful vengeance of an angry God. Hell, even Freddy Kreuger's got some motivation. Remember? The parents of Elm Street burned him alive for molesting their children, so now he hunts their children in dreams.

Saw has the occasional off-handed comment about how the killer wants to remind people to live life to the fullest, or some shit like that, but it's never elaborated upon. And when his/her identity is finally revealed, it's not so much a surprise as a random case of fill-in-the-supporting-cast-member. There's no sense of who this person is, why they committed these crimes, or why we should care.

3) The acting sucks

Though I was not a fan of this script, finding it thin and gimmicky, I don't doubt Leigh Whannell may be capable of producing something worthwhile in the future. He's adept with the narrative structure - the film is filled with flashbacks and yet I was never confused about what was going on or when it was happening. But he's no actor. He's stiff, forced and never once believable. And Cary Elwes has never been this bad in any film I've seen with him. And I've seen The Crush, co-starring Miss Alicia Silverstone. His accent stinks, he never seems clever or devious enough to figure out the complex puzzles set up by Jigsaw, and his emotional breakdown near the film's conclusion is strained and unbelievable to the point of complete camp.

Glover as well doesn't exactly perform to his usual caliber. The main emotive tool in his Saw arsenal is the ability to sweat, which he does profusely for just about the entire film's running time. Other than that, it's an entirely forgettable turn.

4) The best set pieces are rip-offs

A lot of the Jigsaw Killer's technique cops Seven directly. Like in Seven, Jigsaw prefers not to simply murder people, but to do so in a mischevious, Rube Goldberg-inspired way that gives cops something to talk about when they arrive at the crime scene.

One grisly sequence in particular, in which a man must crawl through a nest of barbed wire in order to escape from a dungeon, ripping his body to shreds in the process, reminded me specifically of the scene in Seven in which the man must eat himself to death. The difference is, Seven had the magnificent talent of director David Fincher to fall back on, who gave that film a distinctive style and brooding countenance that has since inspired a generation of up-and-coming filmmakers. Wan contents himself to riff on this style, adding in the occasional sped-up, jerky montage.

So, there you go. Don't see Saw. Or, if you do, don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Very CDC Valentine's Day

While working on that previous article about the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warning people against Luther Burgers (bacon cheeseburgers served on a Krispy Kreme bun, a favorite of trailer-bound shut-ins throughout the Great State of Georgia), I happened upon the CDC website. It's pretty boring, really. You'd think a website dedicated to public health would have goofy shit on it, like instructions for putting on a condom or interesting statistics about amputees or something. But it's just your basic bullshit about eating healthy and not taking a dump too close to your campsite. (I'm just should take a dump as close to your campsite as possible).

Here's the one funny item I found: the CDC's instructions for having a safe and happy Valentine's Day.

I don't celebrate Valentine's Day myself, as I lack the basic materials. Those being a girlfriend, money and Keith Sweat CD's. Come to think of it, I don't own any make-out music at all. The last time I had a girl over and needed some background tunes (and I'll admit it's been a while), I think I had to put on "Loveless" by My Bloody Valentine. Which isn't romantic at all, but does have the word Valentine right there in the title.

And the movie that was playing in the background the first time I kissed a girl? Walt Disney's Aladdin. But now we're getting into adolescent trauma utterly unconnected to the topic at hand. I'll save this stuff for an awkward coming-of-age memoir released under a psudonym or something.

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite CDC-sponsored tips for enjoying your February 14th in style and comfort:

Be active.
Include some physical activity in your celebration plans. For example, take a walk, go dancing, or garden.

There's nothing wrong with this advice, exactly, though telling your Valentine's Day date that she could use some exercize probably isn't the best way to go about things. I object to the use of "garden" as a verb. That's just obnoxious. Something rich old white ladies would say. "What did you do today?" "Oh, nothing much. I gardened, then I bathroomed and then I was feeling tired, so I bedroomed for a bit." You say "I did some gardening." How hard is that?

Be prepared for that romantic getaway.
If you are going on a trip, be prepared. Are vaccinations required?

This year, give her what she really wants. A malaria innoculation.

Protect yourself.
Love is all around, and so are sexually transmitted diseases. The only 100% sure way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy is by not having sex.

Am I crazy, folks, or is the American government fucking sexy? And, from the same tip:

Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men. Of the rapes and sexual assaults reported in the 2002 National Crime Victimization Survey, 87% of the victims were women and 13% were men.

It's not appropriate to make fun of rape, so I don't intend to. But 13% of all rape victims are men? That's a bizarre statistic. Can that possibly be true? Is that all prison rape or is this something I should be living in fear about? Because I will, if I have to.

Be safe.
Are you considering doing something new and different, and potentially risky or unsafe? Think twice before putting yourself at risk for injury.

Um, thanks, CDC. That's helpful, and not at all vague. I'm so glad that I work all those long hours at the video store to fund your programs! "Are you doing something risky? Think twice! This message brought to you by the use of $50 million of your tax money."

Be sensitive to your loved one's needs.
Does your loved one have allergies, asthma, diabetes, or other health condition(s)? Are they on a diet? Find out if certain foods, flowers, pets, stuffed animals, or other items might affect your loved one’s health before you buy gifts, prepare food, or plan activities.

If you love someone, shouldn't you already know if they have diabetes? Or did you just think that was heroin they've been self-injecting every afternoon?

Watch the sparks.
You may decide to cook a romantic dinner, light some candles, or have a cozy fire in the fireplace for Valentine’s Day. Be watchful of anything that can potentially start an uncontrollable fire.

You know, "be watchful of anything that can potentially start an uncontrollable fire" is good advice even if it's not Valentine's Day. Also, I'd just like to throw in, you should be mindful of anything that can potentially cause severe bleeding from your eye sockets. Aren't you glad you read this site and got all these helpful tips?

Hamdog Eat Dog

What's a hamdog? Why, it's a hotdog wrapped in a beef patty, then deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions, and served on a hoagie bun. With a fried egg on top. And french fries.

The hamdog is a specialty at Mulligan's Bar of Decatur Georgia, a fine establishment also specializing in the famous Luther Burger. This is a bacon cheeseburger served on, I shit you not, a Krispy Kreme donut.

Sounds good, right? Heck yes! But those busybodies at the Centers for Disease Control, who never let you have any fun, seem to think that eating Southern specialties like the hamdog and the Luther Burger might be responsible for the region's epic obesity levels.

CDC nutritionist Annie Carr said the agency is working to get its house in order by pushing the cafeteria to serve popular foods in healthy ways. The broader goals of the anti-obesity campaign are to educate people to cook with less fat and sugar and to promote the idea of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

And for the South, that doesn't mean vegetables and greens flavored with bacon and meat drippings.

Has CDC nutritionist Annie Carr actually ever tried to eat vegetables without bacon drippings on them? Gross! They don't taste like meat at all! I mean, maybe if you slather them with cheese and butter, you could choke them down, but of course, the CDC doesn't want you to do that either!

Okay, that's enough sarcasm for right now. But check out this odd little nugget late in the article.

Much of the South's traditional foods date back to the days of slavery. Frying was preferable in the region's hot climate, since it didn't take as long as baking and didn't heat up a house as much. Plus, Burley said, workers didn't have all day to prepare meals; they had to get back into the fields to work. Lard was also plentiful. Today, frying still is popular, especially in poor areas of the South, because it is also inexpensive.

What does any of that have to do with slavery? Why even include the reference? Did slaves invent the process of frying? I'm not even saying they didn't...I honestly don't know. Maybe they did. But if so, that's the sort of detail to add in this article. Not to say, "many slaves ate poorly," and then move on with no greater context. This is exactly the sort of shoddy reporting that editors should avoid by hiring me.

I'm Not Scared

How appropriate that I watched this film after spending so much time compiling a list of Great Horror Films. This graceful, ingenious thriller from Italy does everything a great horror movie should do, giving us a peek into a dark, nefarious world just outside the capacity of our understanding. That director Gabriele Salvatores tells his entire story from the point of view of a nine year old boy only enhances the weight of his material. It's the coming-of-age story as sheer terror, a crafty suspense machine that never reveals its hand or underestimates its audience. It's clearly one of the best films of 2004, requiring yet another edit of my Top Ten List, which I may just take down altogether.

While playing outside with friends near an abandoned house, nine year old Michele (Giuseppe Christiano) discovers a strange hole in the ground, hidden beneath metal and straw. Inside the hole lies what at first appears to be a monster or ghost, but soon enough the whispering, slumped form beneath the torn blanket reveals itself to be another child, Filippo. To reveal much more of the story would rob the film of its precious pacing, such a large ingredient of its success. You can likely intuit why a child might be shackled and hidden in the ground faster than a young boy, and part of the joy of Salvatores' film is watching the Michele uncover some very adult secrets.

Unlike most thrillers, I'm Not Scared never rushes the story, taking its time to let the reality of the situation really sink in for its juvenile characters. Michele reacts at first like most children - he tries to ignore the strange discovery of the manacled boy, preferring to go about his routine in carefree, child-like manner. But he's haunted by the possibility that someone means to hurt this little boy, with whom he can't help but relate. He may not be stuck in a hole in the ground, but Michele feels similarly isolated and alone. From his father, he simply gets macho challenges, opportunities to prove his manhood, and from his mother only consternation and impatience.

As we see Michele eventually force the issue of Filippo with the adults, and eventually take on responsibility for the boys welfare himself, Salvatores continues to compound the complications. Though the film opens as a horror movie - what could be buried in that strange hole? where does this child come from? - deftly segues into a domestic drama. Michele finds out more about the adults surrounding him than any nine year old would care to know, and he learns that part of growing up is accepting responsibility for things, even if they're not your fault. It becomes less a question of what can be done and more a question of what needs to be done.

I've spent all this time talking about the film's content, possibly because I find it so fascinating. I've always enjoyed films that get naturalistic performances from young actors, that explore some of the painful contradictions of aging in an honest way, rather than through mugging or precocious shenanigans of some form or another. Like Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, I'm Not Scared takes an almost pessimistic approach to adolescence. For these directors, it's a time of lost innocence, when the weight of the world first begins to bear down on the young, naive and unaware.

But there is much more to admire about I'm Not Scared than its performances or choice of theme. The movie is a technical marvel, a showcase for all manner of visual creativity. An early scene introduces us to the entire town through one marvelous, swooping tracking shot. We glide through endless wheat fields watching the children at play, gaining a feeling of near-weightlessness to reflect Michele's carefree days before finding Filippo and learning some harsh truths. And an early scene, where Michele first discovers the secrets of the dark hiding spot, earns a genuine scare, not because it's a jump cut with a loud musical cue, but because it's a genuinely unnatural image presented directly.

The only other film I've seen by Salvatores is the medicore Meditteraneo, a nice-enough WWII fantasy without nearly the depth or mastery of genre demonstrated in I'm Not Scared. This is a remarkably assured, mature work, a terrifically entertaining and perfectly realized suspense thriller worthy of mention alongside The Devil's Backbone and other, similarly successful efforts.