Monday, December 28, 2009

My Top 10 Movies of 2009

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I love love movies, I watch a lot and think we've certainly made a feast of "fast food" movies in our country, so I really enjoy indie films that take a bigger shot at looking into the human condition. Unfortunately I didn't get to see everything I wanted, so I've appended this list with what *could* have made my Top 10 had I seen it.

In reverse order and with a quick note:

10. Up In The Air
Really enjoyed this take on a man who convinces everyone that life ties you down, as if there's a better place to be.

9. Sunshine Cleaning
Loved the tone of this film, great characters and acting. Amy Adams always turns in the perfect performance.

8. Watchmen
Unfortunately it didn't do as well at the box office that it needed in order to get the leeway needed from studios to do such big budget "thinkers". I never read the graphic novel (aka "COMIC BOOK!!"), but REALLY loved this film, a great noir aspect with some great visuals. Including a blue dong.

7. Inglorious Basterds
Tarantino for me is a hit and miss. I didn't care for Kill Bill, but loved Pulp Fiction & Reservoir Dogs. This could be my favorite that he's done, especially the opening scene. Fantastic dialogue and acting with the camera work of a "set it and forget it" mentality. And anytime someone takes obvious revisions to history then I'm all ears. Worked for me!

6. Taken
Maybe one of the more underrated films of 2009. Liam Neeson is relentless and while the story doesn't leave much to the imagination, Luc Besson turns in a simple riveting movie.

5. (500) Days of Summer
Joseph Gordon Levitt is one of my favorite actors and has earned the right to have me watch every single movie he makes. Couple that with a fantastically quirk-filled direction and you have a film ripe with great music and a subject I know a lot about: heartbreak and bad timing.

4. The Hurt Locker
"Wow" nearly sums up this movie for me. Gritty edge-of-your-seat filmmaking here about a bomb squad in Iraq.

3. District 9
I was looking forward to this film and was SO glad it didn't let me down. After Neill Blomkamp produced "Alive in Joburg" I was riveted with the promise of what he could bring to a "Halo" movie, but the continuation of "Joburg" was absolutely the right way to go. I'm a sci-fi/fantasy fan, as well as a bit of a sympathizer, so fusing the two to probe the inhumanities of Apartheid was genius. Not to mention the best visual effects for an alien that I've ever seen (including Avatar). A very well-rounded movie: Action + Plot + Effects + Subtext + Acting = Must-See.

2. Adam
I'm a sucker for drama. Rose Byrne is quickly becoming a favorite actress of mine ("Damages", "Sunshine", "The Dead Girl", "28 Weeks Later") and this is such a moving and touching film about a guy with Asperger's Syndrome and his ability to love. Easily makes my #2 slot.

1. Star Trek
Yes, I love my indie films, but there's a lot to be said about a cerebral big budget sci-fi film! And I feel like this had it all and could be appreciated by Trekkies (which I am not) and non-Trekkies alike. Great action, great cinematography (I'm also a sucker for lens flares) and great acting. I couldn't ask much more from this JJ Abrams production.

Honorable Mentions:
Avatar - What you have to understand about me and Avatar is that I waited on pins and needles for a solid year. Drove to Dallas to see 15 minutes of footage in 3D months before it came out and was convincing the nay-sayers that it was going to deliver something they hadn't experienced before AND went to the midnight screening, I was glued to every interview and snippet of coverage. I was greatly anticipating this movie. While I was right and I DID enjoy this movie, I was rather underwhelmed in a significant way that James Cameron did NOT deliver on a unique story, and instead opted for a "Dances With Wolves" redux. I still watched it twice in the theaters though, and probably still counting. Why spend $400+ million and not give me better characters and story arcs. (Oh, probably because FOX was behind it?)
State of Play - Outstanding movie about coverups from the viewpoint of a journalist. For a bigger movie it really flew under the radar.
Notorious - Not many complaints other than Puff probably should've played himself, and Anthony Mackie should never portray Tupac again. Ever.
Sherlock Holmes - Great movie! Robert Downey Jr. strikes again! Probably my favorite score of the year, Hans Zimmer is the man. Just couldn't quite squeeze it into the top 10.
Drag Me To Hell - Raimi returned to classic "Evil Dead" form, and I loved it.
Observe and Report - Most insane ending to a film.

Didn't See It So It Could Have Made Top 10:
Princess and The Frog - Disney/Pixar will hopefully make more of these. Absolutely want to see this, nothing quite matches the grace of hand drawn animation.
A Serious Man - The Coen brothers look to have made yet another quirky and fun film that maintains an edge.
The Road - Post apocalyptic world with Viggo? I'm in!
Public Enemies - Michael Mann is one of my favorites, he's always in contention in my book.
Where The Wild Things Are - Spike Jonze looks to have made a brilliant soulful little movie and I'm excited to see it.
Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans - Nic Cage doing what he should always be doing: playing a character without a full deck!!
The Fantastic Mr. Fox - Not a huge Wes Anderson fan, but this looks outstanding.

And there you have it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sporting Beauty

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I love sports! I love the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Astros, and the Texas Longhorns. Love them all, maybe not necessarily equally, but deeply nonetheless!

Part of my personality is that I'm competitive, I try to be graceful in losing, but I hate it. I hate it and I'm not used to it, because I love challenges and figuring out the angles and that taste of sweet victory knowing I "gave it my all" or "figured it out". Now, I obviously don't play any collegiate or professional sports, but I still love the ride as much, even though I don't have a hand in the outcome. Because, for me, there's something exciting about being apart of something I don't have any control over. It's the ultimate movie, where the climax may or may not favor my chosen "good guy"! And I'm sure many will say that it's silly to invest your emotions in such a thing, but it's the most exciting non-scripted event around. Sports. And I love being a fan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just The Facts

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Be leery of news organizations that are more interested in injecting their opinions, rather than stating the facts. Facts are useful to understand a situation, but when newsmen deliver opinions then it becomes difficult to distinguish between their personal beliefs and real events, because they're in a position in which we expect/trust to hear facts, so the line begins to blur between fact and opinion.

FOX News comes to mind. They seem to have turned the issue of "selling copy" into an art of targeting "news" to a specific demographic. This is problematic because if you craft your news to a specific audience then you're not reporting the news/facts/reality, you're catering to what someone wants to hear, which is fine if you're creating a sitcom, but not if you want the facts to stand on their own as a reputable news conglomerate. There's a reason "freedom of the press" was written into our constitution, because the founding fathers knew that a healthy government was held in check by accurate and unbiased journalism who reported to the public (instead of being ran and muzzled by the government).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Inspiration's Theme

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Do not give up. Don't you dare quit. It hurts, it stings and it just may get worse before it's all said and done. It's too easy to go home and quietly pass away, in fact, it's so easy that that's what nearly everyone does. They check out of everything that's difficult, bypass all hardship in favor of the road more traveled. There's a great many friends and creature comforts on this road. But the road to greatness, the road to healing, the steep and winding road to self-discovery and enlightenment is carved and forged by self-doubt, tears, sacrifice and sheer determination. This is why it's called trailblazing.

The temptation to roll over and play dead must be overcome with your wits, your inescapable desire to get where you want to be so that in 6 months you do not look back and wonder where you could be. No. In 6 months you will gaze into your past in awe of what you pushed through, and confounded that it was indeed you who did this, as-if there were someone else who wrote those words, found that answer, hit those weights or cured those blues. Maybe you'll be right. Maybe it was you all along. This is what makes for a soft pillow.

Do not concede. Do not give way. Think of the tomorrow-you, the one who is looking at the today-you, give the tomorrow-you satisfaction & dignity, pride & motivation, born out of the unflinching grit that pushed through the sting and hurt. Because you didn't dare quit. You, did not, give up.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Old News (Poem)

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They thought I'd fall, thought I'd die,
Thought I'd crawl, thought I'd hide,
They hoped I'd leave, hoped I'd flee,
Hoped I'd cease to reach what I can be,
They want me gone, want me quiet,
But where I'm from we're known to get violent,
We're known to fight, known to rebel,
We're gonna beathe or give you hell,
I'm an Iron Man, product of my environment,
Product of my issues, aquaduct of the official,
Brought up by my misuse, and balled up like a tissue,
So don't you think this is all new, not true,
Every hurt that lurks in tomorrow is old news.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Scoffing the Mirror

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Is art for the artist or the spectator? I think it's for the artist. I think you can certainly create art for others and it be appreciated, but really and truly I think art is for the artist. It is quite a conundrum though: if the art isn't appreciated, is the artist fulfilled? I guess this is really the dividing line between art for the maker, or the viewer. By having that part of yourself on display and it being loved makes the artist feel like they're accepted and loved as well, but is the purpose of the art to be loved and accepted? I don't think it is, I think art is something that's in a person and needs to be expressed, and just because it isn't should not be the life/death of the maker, which is why, in my mind, that art is for the artist, because if it's truly art then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks since the art isn't for/from them, it's for/from you and if they're able to relate then all the better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Still Steely Eyes

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Cold to the touch. She'd never felt a dead body before, but she wasn't scared. Really, she was barely even curious, almost just a way to kill a fleeting moment of her life. Clammy was the word that sprang to mind, like a more solidified version of gelatin. She couldn't even honestly say she would miss her grandmother, the only time of year she saw her, Christmas, always resulted in ugly sweaters that were thankfully too loose to wear, "You'll grow into it," was the annual phrase.

Then it happened. She gazed one moment too long into her grandmother's eyes and remembered. One summer day when she was eight years old, her grandmother had her for the afternoon and had promised her a "day of magic", which apparently meant shopping at the mall and watching the ice skaters in the rink next to the food court. While enjoying the amateur ice skating her grandma said she would go grab some ice cream, "So we can also get on the ice," but when grandma had walked away a man approached and suggested they go find her grandmother, which seemed odd initially, but at such a tender age adults always seem to know what's going on.

So she went with him.

At first everything seemed normal, until the stranger escorted her to the exit...then the parking lot, which was when she lost her voice and her limbs began to stiffen, "Where's my gran-maaaa?" she started to sob, he nervously smiled and said everything would be fine, then opened his car door and lifted her into the backseat and buckled her in. He scooted around to the driver's side where his door awaited, he grabbed the handle and the impact of a flying body onto his own slammed the half-opened door shut. He quickly found himself on the ground looking up at a very fraught elder woman. Grandma found him. From the backseat she could see her grandmother's rage, and the flutter of hope and awe in her heart could have rivaled the sun's brilliance. She saw the man spring to his feet, but her grandmother punched him in the throat then lit him up with her taser, he plummeted to the ground and lay seemingly paralyzed. She never would have guessed her grandmother could have carried her home that day, but she also could have never let go.

Perhaps, she would miss her grandmother after all, or more accurately, regret never taking the time to understand the strength that such a woman possessed. Now she hoped that the same strength could manifest in herself when called upon, she's gladly her grandmother's granddaughter.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mother May I?

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I have a couple of confessions. I'm Christian. I believe homosexuals should be allowed to marry.

BOOM!! In yo face! Seriously. I am not saying that I agree with the decision of homosexuality, but I am saying it isn't my business nor my place to put such restrictions on others.

However, it's far deeper than that. See, the problem shouldn't be centered on morality, it *should* be centered around WHY DO WE ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT TO DECIDE WHAT CONSTITUTES A MARRIAGE? Marriage is a God-given right, not a state-given least it shouldn't be. All the "benefits" of marriage (on a material level) stem from things the government shouldn't be doing/involved in anyway! Income tax break? Thank you for allowing me to keep more of my money that you should never have taken in the first place. Health Insurance? Sweet, but the last time I checked insurance was something I bought as a "just in case" scenario, not as a method of paying for something I need, that's called a service, not insurance.

Marriage should not be decided and granted by our government, and the reason should be crystal clear: that power can easily be illfully used against me as well. If marriage is an issue of morality, then let the morality issue be about freedom and not your own preferences of what a marriage looks like.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Miss Jilly Sinclaire

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He blinked twice, unsure if the message was getting through. The rules on communication were clear, blink once for no, twice for yes. Being strapped to a bed was no picnic you see, made worse by the ever present threat of The Butcher in the next room, when will he take his new victim through the paces? Hopefully, never.

He knew he was safe when help arrived in the delicate form of one Miss Jilly Sinclaire, aided by her always loyal basket of talking laundry, Mister Sheets. He'd heard stories of Miss Jilly and Mister Sheets, her knack for finding people in need coupled with his ability to provide cover and costumes in always the cleverest of ways. Their skills would be needed, if not put to the most extreme of tests.

Miss Jilly responded to his blinks by giving him a big thumbs up, Miss Jilly Sinclaire nodded to Mister Sheets and he promptly slithered out a sheet and layed it at the foot of the door. Miss Jilly climbed the wall and waited upside down on the ceiling, waiting to pounce. He got the indication that on the count of three, he was to yell like a madman.


The Butcher heard the commotion, and flung the door open so fast its hinges nearly broke!

"Please calm down Mr. Zelnicki," said The Butcher, and as he stepped through the door the sheet was yanked from underneath him! Miss Jilly pounced onto the toppled evil-doer, ready to strike a mighty blow! Mister Sheets quickly tied The Butcher's ankles together with the same sheet that felled the monster of a human. "Security!! SECURITY!!" The Butcher screamed.

"Mr. Zelnicki?? You have no clue who you're dealing with Butcher!!", Mr. Zelnicki replied, "And what evil men would take up with you? Mister Sheets, quickly now, gag his mouth!"

The Butcher furiously looked around as he was fighting off having his feet tied together, yet rubbing his surely concussed head. "Aw, Mister Zelnicki, you haven't been taking your medication again, have you? And how did you get out of your bed?"

As security burst through the door Mr. Zelnicki shouted, "It was Miss Jilly Sinclaire, that's how! She knows about me and she won't give up until I'm free!! Get back you evil henchmen!! BACK!!!"

Security quickly took control of Mr. Zelnicki, because as fate would have it, there was no evil man holding him captive, unless you are to count his imagination, but such is the condition of men who reside in mental hospitals.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Filling a Blank Sheet

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My mind is sort of a blank right now. Not that I don't have tons of thoughts and ideas, none that really want to formulate into a workable post at the moment, but they're there, their intent to fruitfully come forth notwithstanding, they lurk and mock me at the very tip of my own tongue. The question becomes, what do you do with such an issue? The writer's greatest enemy.

Well, my normal method is to just let it all sit and bake in my head until it rises like bread overflowing and demanding to be vented. I've walked around with a poem in my head for weeks before putting it on paper, and there's a half dozen stories that are floating up there until the time comes that they've developed enough to scribble them out.

With all these thoughts constantly evolving, there's rarely a blank sheet of paper that scares me, because even if none of my muses are ready for prime-time I like to think that there's some static electricity from them all rubbing against each other and that sparks other unique sequences that are more easily captured. Almost a "leftovers for dinner" situation.

Oh, it's not blank anymore. I guess you can write about anything.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Breaking

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I've never had a broken limb, but the process of mending it seems to be to put on a cast. This hard material designed to protect the broken area, to keep it in place while the natural course of healing takes place. The cast keeps the bone set properly, but it also is this tough shell so that if the fragile place is bumped or moved, the fragile place is largely unharmed. Of course, if your arm is broke then you really shouldn't move it until it's properly healed, this is also a function of the cast, to remind you of what you cannot do.

So I think it is when life breaks us. Our heart is flooded with hurt, whatever the source of heartbreak, we find ourselves retreating a little bit, throwing a cast onto our fragile places, a rigid guard to immobilize the damaged area while we breathe for a moment, regain our footing and wait for the natural course of healing to take place. The side-effects are far from ideal, but outweigh the cons of not allowing the healing to ever take place.

I've found myself in such a place a time or two, perhaps even now, but the path seems a little different each time. I suppose the key is to be patient, look for hope and look for opportunities to love those who need it, because I believe love begets love, and that's a good place to start.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Boldly Go

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What does it mean to be inspired? Is it a feeling inside you that won't leave? Is it a thought that is screaming to be expressed in some way? Is it some deep urge to do something you've never done before? A desire unfulfilled? A hope waiting to be realized?

Where does inspiration come from? Is it a sight, a beauty that captivates and forces you to re-express it? Is it divine, the very breath of God flowing through you to reveal a new truth, or maybe an old one forgotten? Does it spring from an old memory that pushes and innovates itself in a new freeing way? A taste, a smell, a touch, a sound? Is it guilt, is it pride? Is it drawn from security or heartbreak? Is it another's work of art, or maybe the destruction of it?

Where does it go? Is it used or ignored? Built upon or wasted? Does inspiration beget inspiration? Does it pave the way to self-reflection and revelations? Is it crafted in the hopes of benefitting someone else, or more as an outlet to satisfy the craving of the soul?

I suspect it's all of that and none of it. Whatever it is, appreciate it. Wherever it is from, listen to it. Whatever you do, use it to boldly go where you have never gone before or you may one day find yourself uninspired, and a worse fate in this life I cannot imagine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rap Songs White People Love cuz They Think It Gives Them "Cred" (but it doesn't)

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I was inspired by a similar post that I feel got it terribly terribly wrong. So, this is my list of rap songs that white people know and love and think it's cool to know and love, but it's not. In my own reverse order of hatred:

10. Tone Loc - "Wild Thing"
Yes, since this is in reverse order that means if you start singing Wild Thing you're at the least insulting end of my spectrum, but don't push it Ricky Vaughn.

9. Skee-Lo - "I Wish"
*I* Wish you'd stop bringing this song up.

8. House of Pain - "Jump Around"
Yes, I'm sure you are the cream of the crop, you rise to the top, or better yet a Terminator, like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The only one on this list I'm guilty of, but at least I acknowledge it.

7. Nelly.
Yes, everything by Nelly. Hey, these are the rules, I didn't write them, I just try and obey them.

6. Will Smith - "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"
Let's be perfectly clear, this song wasn't even cool for 5 seconds, so saying "That ship has sailed" is a bit misleading. In fact, unless you're talkin' "Summertime" then you shouldn't even mention Will Smith's rapping. Yes, that includes "Men In Black". Let's just say Will's rapping and his character in "Six Degrees of Separation" share a special correlation.

5. Tag Team - "Whoomp There It Is"
No it isn't.

4. Coolio - "Gangsta's Paradise"
No. I know what you're thinking, but no. Just know no.

3. Snow - "Informer"
You don't really know the lyrics anyway. C'mon, dude was a Canuck with a Jamaican accent. WACK! And he wants to "licky boom boom down"?? Perv.

2. Vanilla Ice - "Ice.....Ice......Baby."
The "Dark & Twisty" Wes Hemings would love to smother you with a pillow for playing this song, for any reason, ever. Word to your mother.

1. Warren G feat. Nate Dogg - "Regulate"
Oh my shoot me in the face with an RPG, I can't tell you how much I loathe hearing this song brought up then people start right in with "It was a clear dark night, a clear white moon..." NO! NO IT WASN'T!!! IT WAS A CLEAR VIOLATION OF YOU THINKING YOU KNEW HIP RAP SONG LYRICS!!!! And I loathe you for reciting it. Looooooathe. This song ceased being cool after a week, you should know this. Post it on your see-thru fridge door, right next to your bloody Pearl Jam tickets. Just never sing this song again.

I hope you've enjoyed my hate-filled sarcastic rants. And yes, I'm white, enjoy the irony.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Amazed

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I sit here in awe of the human condition, the absolute complexity of every person. The wide range of beauty and vileness that we each carry and can display at any moments notice. The fragile and sensitive side, offset by the unending strength and determination. How the same person can uplift another, or tear them down. The use of words can bring dark clouds or the much needed sunshine to relieve the harsh night. One can fight, one can lay down and forfeit. Exercise freedom of thought, or forgo such freedoms and simply conform to another's views and opinions. One can see beauty in nearly everything or just close their eyes and deny, deny, deny, for it sometimes is easier to see the ugly. You can feel the wind blow through your hair, you can also stay inside. A man can love and be loved, the same man can distort and barricade off his heart, hardening the very thing he's trying to protect. I can be centric, whether it's ethno, cultural or self, it can be all about me, ours and mine, instead of looking to understand how someone else does it, sees it and lives it. Someone said that we're the sum of our experiences, but I think we're better if we can add in others' experiences as well, because when you begin to understand and see through the eyes of another, whether you love or hate them, your vision becomes sharper, your heart becomes bigger and your speech comes slower. The whole world is capable of hope & destruction, breaking hearts, mending hearts, peace & war, tears & laughter. And to me, this is amazing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Endless Winter

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He reflected on her words. He knew this was a moment he would always remember, a defining opportunity in his life and his desire was to look at it as such. Nothing would ever be the same, or so it felt. He wanted to understand, to relate and sympathize, then accept it for what it was. Who was he to command anything of her? Now, he was no one. Not a person she would be concerned with anymore, anyway. How many nights will he spend awake thinking of her, fighting back tears or being fulfilled by them, wishing they had never met and instantly regretting the thought, refusing to let the pain leave as it is the last connection he has with her? She will not have these nights, she will spend a day in her own reflection then continue to enjoy this hot July summer while he endures an endless winter.

She wished she could have given him more. She sees only great and amazing in him, a beautiful face only surpassed by the warmth in his heart. Even now she detects his insatiable grace, the unwavering gold of his spirit that he shares with even the coldest soul. Her soul. How many nights will she spend awake wishing she had more to offer, the torturous thought of being with him but holding him back from everything he desires and can achieve, being without him and never feeling whole, for she never will, if only a wish could be cashed in for self-worth. If only love were enough, he would say it is, she would say different. She would spend the rest of her life in the heat of his gaze and the magic of his touch, but she only knows how to return to the endless winter.

Monday, September 14, 2009

a love affair (Poem)

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i have a love affair where love is fair,
but the love is rare like hair where you're rubbin nair,
the love i have is something quick but something slow,
you see it fast but speak it slow,
it yells loudly but not like trumpets blow,
the love is twisted, my love is polygamous,
love them all, love them tall and ridiculous,
the love is corny, the love is passionate,
the love is abused and bastardized,
my love is truth, my love is lies,
my love is used to sell alibis,
this love i have is others too,
we spread it around like lovers do,
my love is funny, my love is ironic,
and the same love taken up by the iconic,
my love is special, but not unique,
because it's witnessed when beauty speaks,
my love is safe, my love hurts,
this love is everywhere, this love is Words.