Friday, November 09, 2007

Camera Obscura - P2 Opens Today; 'Old Men' Arrives; Cap'n Pike Returns to Star Trek

Even though we haven't arrived at the Thanksgiving holiday yet, some moviemakers have crafted a special gift for your Christmas stalking .... (a joke worthy of the Crypt Keeper, thank you very much).

The movie P2 opens in theatres today, a savage little thriller from the makers and writers of the movies "High Tension" and the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes." The story goes like so: working late in the office on Christmas Eve (never a good idea), an ambitious executive (Rachel Nichols) gets trapped in her office's parking garage when her car won't start and a security guard (Wes Bentley) offers her some food and shelter .... but he's not the good kind of security guard. He's rather insane and rather mean. Fortunately, the lady exec is not as helpless as one might think and this movie is off and running.

Here's a trailer from this thriller:

I love the shots of her searching in darkness with only the light of her cell phone to guide her.

Bentley has turned in some great performances, such as the villainous son o' satan in "Ghost Rider" and the geek who videotapes plastic bags swirling in the breeze in "American Beauty."

I've also enjoyed the work of writers Alexandre Aja and Franck Khalfoun in their previous thrillers, which offer intense and seemingly hopeless situations and usually have the audiences howling instructions at the screen.

Thanks go to the folks at M80 and Summit Entertainment for providing some valuable info on the movie and you can check out the Official P2 Movie Website to learn more.


The brilliant filmmaking team of our time, the Coen brothers, have dug deep into a novel by one of America's greatest writers, Cormac McCarthy, for "No Country For Old Men." The result is pure gold, and very likely Oscar gold too.

While it opens today in only limited release, I advise you to seek this one out when it is released, though do not expect a comedy from the Coen's here. This is both a crime classic from McCarthy and the Coens and yet still a fascinating story layered with multiple meanings.

Strong actors were needed to make this movie work, and Josh Brolin, who has been bringing some top notch characters to screen in recent years, has a revealing interview with Cinematical, explaining how he helped with script to bring the character of Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss to life. Check out the podcast here.


Oddball, geeky and nerd news of the week: Rob Zombie decides to remake the 1980s shlock horror film, "C.H.U.D." I'll bet cast money no one ever bothers to remake the sequel to that minor B movie, "Bud The C.H.U.D." Heck, I'll bet cash money that I'm one of the three people on the planet who even saw that one.


Second-most notable geeky nerd news of the week: Captain Pike returns for the new Star Trek movie.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Can You Help Find This Pup?

My good friend and blogger Juliepatchouli writes with some very disturbing news that after recently relocating to a new home in the Strawberry Plains area, her wee Pomeranian pup has disappeared, and she would truly appreciate any help in locating the critter, shown in the picture on the left.

Here are the details about his last known location, and please folks, if any of you see him or have some other information, please add it to the comments on this post. A lost pup, traveling in and around major roads is a most fearful thing, especially for an indoor and very small dog like this"

He's been missing since Friday night 11/2 from the Ashley Oaks Subdivsion, which is off 11E in Strawberry Plains, 3 miles inside the Jefferson County line. He's been shaved recently and has a green halter on him. He has no ID on him! I could kick myself for that, just haven't gotten around to that having just moved, but that is no excuse!!

He's a 3 year old male neutered pom with that golden fox like appearance.

I've sent in a picture to the Jeff county humane society and taken fliers to the vets around here, and to the neighborhoods, and posted them at stores and stop signs. I've been to the Knox shelter too. It got so cold last night, that really is so scary.

He was spotted not to far from Highway 139 (Douglas Dam Road) around a pasture area on Sunday afternoon. We have looked all through that area. There is a BIG trailer park around there and we are going door to door there in the afternoons."

Late this summer, I too had a beloved pet disappear from the home and the absence was pure old Hell on my wits and on poor lost Sophie too.

So help Julie if you can, and send some good thoughts her way!

UPDATE: Sadly, there has been neither a sign or a hint of the lost pup, as of today (Friday). I do appreciate the concerns (as does juliepatchouli) and the search will continue.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Poll: Torture Is Bad, But Using It Is Fine

I'm shifting gears today and diving into the bizarre zone of Current Events, and what I see is grim and convoluted and mostly a maze of misunderstanding. The fearful results of terror and terrorism have divided and joined so many around the world. I am reluctant to get into this mess, but here I am, foolishly perhaps, jumping into the Weird.

An odd item was presented by CNN pollsters, who offered results that shows 69 percent of those surveyed think that the use of "waterboarding" as an interrogation technique was torture. But 40 percent said it's use was just fine if it was used against suspected terrorists.

Our president and vice-president have both said that saying the US does or does not use "waterboarding" somehow emboldens terrorists. However, it was previously and widely reported in the news media that the technique was used in the interrogation of Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, leader in the attacks of 9-11. So the cat is rather out of the bag (and into the water) on the entire question, isn't it?

The concept of "waterboarding" has been around since the 1500s, as a historical review of the technique was presented here.

I am pretty sure if the technique, often lumped into the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a grisly tortured used of language), if such an act were used on you, you would consider it torture. It has been a part of military training for some time, as reported by Malcolm Nance, former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school in San Diego. He writes extensively about the tactic in this essay, which makes compelling arguments on what it is - torture - and that torture is a useless way to get information, and that even watching such interrogations is beyond the ability of most people:

Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred.

"It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American. We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become?"

Nance adds:

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work."

In other words, many people today hold dear the idea that any tactic, any torture, is acceptable if an imminent or future threat is perceived against the nation. The fault in such a belief is that the information one gets from torture is truthful. It is not. It will be any answer which halts the torture.

The CNN poll mentioned above, as well as countless pundits who talk about torture, all point to an utter failure to understand torture in reality. The TV and movie version of reality has set in, where the Hero always gets the Villain to confess to nefarious truths Just In Time To Save The Day.

In the political world today, we see this creepy and awkward dance around the subject in the confirmation hearings for the new US Attorney General. We have talk of hypotheticals and secret information and the refusal to accept information which runs counter to what some want to believe. The never-shy Keith Olbermann fired off a fierce commentary on this topic yesterday, in which he sees a criminal conspiracy in the White House.

And so we are left to view an endless debate, ideas and definitions are heaved to and fro, up and down, left and right. One day, perhaps, History and Historians will sort it all out, will decide whether it was all just or unjust.

And with all the talk about waterboarding, am I the only one to consider it ironic that many parts of the nation are talking about water, too, except that talk is about the drought and the absence of water?

Strange Days.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Celebrating the First Year With A Movie

The ever-innovative couple known as Valley Grrrl and LA Barabbas just marked the first birthday of their wee young one, referred to as Tenacious G. But they did more than just offer a cake and a candle and some best wishes.

Turns out that LA-B shot two frames on Super8mm of the wee child as she was bedded down for the night over the course of the last year and has created a video of the images, which you can see by clicking here.

That's just a major cool little movie. I am fortunate to own some of the photos my folks took at my first birthday event, a simple black and white picture of a fat baby whose face is embedded deep inside a cake. I like having that picture, but Tenacious G. has a whole year of a movie to view as time marches on.

Most happy birthday wishes to the wee one.

Worst Blog Post Ever

Kevin Drum is offering a chance to vote on the worst blog commentary ever - or as he calls it the All-Time Wingnuttiest Blog Post Ever.

Wingnuttery often flourishes on the Web, from bizarre conspiracies to unknowingly ignorant rants. Drum's list is a decent collection of the Just Awful, but I (and I;m sure you too) read almost daily some truly dumb and dangerous riffs on almost every topic imaginable.

A nifty feature of the Web (or it's critical fault, depending on your perspective) is that debate/discussion is often simply a chance to trot our Your Favorite Anecdote/Myth/Truth and hoist it up high for all the world to see as a basic template for Everything That is Wrong. Or Right, even. And while I can certainly cite good examples of goofy logic in essay form on the Blogs O' The World, it is often in the comments on posts where the crazy truly shines.

So does this contest just highlight the worst of the Web for no real reason? Is it all childish? Why not search for the best of the best? And what one might find Truly Awful, another might label Sheer Brilliance. Will millions of blogs posting commentaries and stories by the thousands each moment, is it even possible to identify the worst ever?

Drum's list contains entries from Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin, and you can vote on which is the worst of the bunch:

But why focus on the all-time worst in the wingnut blogosphere anyway? Isn't that mean? What's driving this besides sheer bloody-mindedness?

History, that's what. A century from now, even the very best blog posts will be long forgotten. Let's face it: they aren't that good. But bad blog posts will still be every bit as bad as they were on the day they were spawned. They'll endure. So really, we're doing this for the children. And the grandchildren.

The fourteen finalists for the worst, most embarrassing, most risible wingnut blog posts of all time are listed below. You can vote for up to five. So take a trip down memory lane and then vote for your favorites. Remember: It's your civic duty."

Full list here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Making 'A Wonderful Life'

These are surely some odd days, as 2007 starts to dwindle away and 2008 begins to stir and make noises, alerting us to the year ahead. As much as I enjoy the Halloween holiday (see last week's posts!), when it ends, the nation tends to sprint ahead to Christmas and New Year's. You'd think I would get used to that. I am not used to it, though.

The race to end the year is now somewhat complicated for me. I am currently directing the local community theatre production of "It's A Wonderful Life", adapted for the stage from Frank Capra's classic movie. I jumped at the chance to direct this show - I love Capra's movies, and "Wonderful Life" is a fine mix of comedy and drama, wrapped in a bittersweet holiday package as poor George Bailey contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve.

In short, recent days have been full of efforts to create Bedford Falls on the stage and rehearsals with a most excellent cast. I've made some staging and design decisions which will hopefully bring George's dilemma to life, but I don't really want to reveal them here. I'd rather you just come see the show, if you can, which opens November 30 and runs through Dec. 16. Details about getting tickets and reservations to this Morristown Theatre Guild production are right here.

I do want to express my profound appreciation for the Guild, now in it's 73rd season and prepping it's 74th season. Working with them to provide theatrical experiences for the community makes me smile a wide, wide grin. Words of thanks are due as well to several members of their Board, to the cast and crew, and all those who are working hard to bring Capra's story to life. I first began working with the Guild in the late 1980s, and such work has provided me with a vast amount of memory and experience whose value is far greater than can ever be estimated.

A great part of Capra's movies and "Wonderful Life" in particular center on the struggle between meeting economic needs and meeting spiritual ones, between business and family, and the fierce struggle within the hearts of the Everyman depicted by such characters as John Doe, Mr. Smith and George Bailey. In fact, for George Bailey, locating the "lost" bank deposit to his save his company from ruin ultimately means so very much less than finding the fallen flower petals given to him by his child Zuzu.

Something which this production has reminded me is that the constant machinations of bad men, typified by the nefarious and heartless Mr. Potter, seldom slack away. Bad men are forever doing bad things which might distort any community into an ugly slouching beast, steadily dragging us into oblivion and darkness.

The efforts to refute the plans of bad men begin and flourish in the hearts of good men and women, one person at a time, efforts which then are shared with others who likewise decide to cherish and hold dear those intangible and vital elements which make up what is truly important in life.

Starry-eyed idealism? Perhaps. But perhaps instead such ideas form the basis of a better world for all of us.