Monday, November 29, 2010

Spring Grove Cemetery

Last January, I had the chance to go down to New Orleans. One of the things I wanted to do was to photograph the historic cemeteries, which are among the city's more defining features. The concierge at our hotel recommended we check out one in the Garden District. However, she failed to mention that it closed to the public at noon. When we arrived at what we thought was a reasonable hour (2 p.m.) we found it closed.

At the time I was disappointed, since the only photos I could get were through the fence. (My friends also pointed out to me that a true traveller would have hopped the fence and gotten the shots he wanted.) When I got back to Cincinnati, it occurred to me that there were plenty of historic cemeteries in town that I hadn't been to yet. I suppose I had adopted the rationale that when you hang out in graveyards in other cities, it's tourism, but when you hang out in local ones, it's being creepy.

In February, after being shut in the house for almost a week due to a snowstorm, I ventured out to Cincinnati's own historic Spring Grove Cemetery when the city started to thaw. The New York Times actually said that if you have 3 days to spend in Cincinnati, Spring Grove is where to start. Below are some of the pictures I took.

All images copyright Allister Sears 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tron Doesn't Look So Good in 3D

Last weekend I took the opportunity to see Jackass 3D, and was treated to a special 3D trailer for Tron Legacy. As a proper nerd I've been excited of the notion of a sequel to Tron before it was even announced. Now that it's about 2 months away, it's a given that I'll be seeing it opening weekend, but I was on the fence about whether or not I should see it in 3D or regular 2D. After seeing the 3D trailer, the choice was clear.

2D. Definitely seeing it in 2D.

The problem was that it was too dark. One of the most common criticisms of the current crop of 3D movies is that the glasses you have to wear noticeably dims the film. At best, this can be an annoyance, but if you've seen any of the footage of Tron Legacy, you know that the computer world within the film is already pretty dark as it is.

Dark skies. Dark costumes. Dark walls. And anything that isn't dark is a dim shade of blue or orange. So, for two minutes, all I could see were shapes moving about.

Oddly enough, the result looked like the cover for the Art of Tron Legacy book.

Imagine watching an entire movie that looked like that.

It wasn't just the dimness that made it look bad. All the smoke effects and lens flares didn't translate all that well into 3D, and most of the time the 3D effect wasn't even that noticeable.

So, yes I'll be in the theater opening weekend to see it, but in good ol' fashioned 2D.

Art of Tron: Legacy image is copyright of it's respective owner and used under fair use.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Supermassive Black Hole

Muse recently recently held a contest to design a T-shirt to be sold at their shows. Unfortunately, the design I submitted didn't make it to the voting round. It was inspired by "Supermassive Black Hole" from their album Black Holes & Revalations. Here it is for your enjoyment.

© 2010 Allister Sears

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts on the New iPod Line

It used to be that when Apple announced an update to it's product line, you cursed yourself for having bought the previous model, even if it came out a year ago. After watching Steve Jobs's announcement for the new iPod models, I feel the opposite. I find myself content with the iPods i have, and feel no desire to get new ones, not even that unrealistic sense of needing to have what's new. If anything, I'm worried that if the ones I do have break, I'd be forced to get one of the newer models I'd rather avoid. (Although I still buy CDs, I bought enough songs off iTunes with DRM to feel tethered to the iPod brand.)

I had this problem before when my first generation iPod Shuffle went on the fritz. I bought the Shuffle to have a simple bare bones music player for when I workout. By the time it stopped working correctly the Shuffle was at it's third generation. The line had been upgraded so that the player was the size of a stick of Trident and the buttons had been moved onto the wire of the earphones. Not wanting to be stuck with the basic Apple earbuds, and not caring for any of the other new features, I bought one of the last second generation shuffles which was an improvement over the original without unnecessary bells and whistles.

(On a side note, it turned out my first generation Shuffle wasn't broken at all, but that a bug in a software update messed it up. By the time I realized this I already had a shiny new iPod Shuffle in my hands that I didn't care to take back.)

At least Apple realized that people hated the lack of buttons on the 3rd generation Shuffle, so they brought them back for the 4th generation one. After acknowledging the consumer dissatisfaction with the 3rd generation Shuffle's lack of buttons, surprised when Jobs announced the new Nano would have a touchscreen instead of buttons, making it look less like previous versions of the Nano and more like a jazzed up version of the Shuffle.

I honestly don't see this one going over well. With a display of 1.5 inches, I think the new Nano is just too small. I'm of average size, and sometimes even my bony fingers are too fat for my iPhone to figure out exactly where on the screen I'm pressing. I just don't see how anybody can effectively navigate the menus with such little space to move their fingers.

What also worried me about the announcement was that there was no mention of the iPod Classic. This presumably means one of two things. Apple is fine with the product the way it is, or they plan to drop it soon. Hopefully it's the former. My 30GB Classic is on the verge of maxing out storage space, and there's a spiderweb crack on the glass front. Odds are I'll want to replace it in a year or so and I'd prefer to just get another Classic.

I wouldn't want an iPod touch because as I mentioned, I already have an iPhone. Even though my iPhone can play music, I'd rather have a separate music player. For one thing, I can listen to hours of music without having to worry that I'll have a dead cell phone at the end of the day. On top of that, I'd rather not leave my cell phone in a dock out in the open at a party, just so others can listen to music.

More importantly, I like the clickwheel on the Classic. It lets me operate the iPod completely blind. I can skip ahead to another song or adjust the volume without having to take it out of my pocket to make sure I'm hitting the right part of the screen. Better yet, I can use it while driving. I can change songs or playlists without taking my eyes off the road just as if I were changing the radio station or tracks on a CD. With the Touch, you have to actually look at the screen to know what you're doing. There's no tactile feedback. If you're driving, I doubt a cop will care that you were just changing the song on your iPod and not texting somebody.

Hopefully one of two things happens. Either the Classic sticks around, or if Apple does finally decide to drop it, they bring the clickwheel back to the Nano and up its storage capacity to something around 60GB. Maybe then I'll once again feel the urge to have to get it right away.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Scott Pilgrim Shouldn't be Considered a Bob-omb

Last weekend saw a battle at the box office between movies targeted at three different archetypes. There was the Julia Roberts romance, Eat Pray Love, which was expected to have no competition for its target audience. Then there was The Expendables, the all-star action movie so manly that the ads said it would give you a "mangasm," which went against Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a movie targeted at an audience of nerds and gamers.

Monday morning, Expendables took the top box office spot with Eat Pray Love a respectable second. Scott Pilgrim came in fifth at $10 million, a sixth of its budget. Ordinarily when a movie as heavily promoted as Scott Pilgrim does that bad off the bat, you call it a bomb, but in this case I'd hold off on that title.

Bombs are usually movies that do poorly on opening weekend, never have hope of finding an audience and usually start with the words "a film by M. Night Shyamalan." I don't think this holds true for Scott Pilgrim. Instead, I think this is just a sign that the business model that was kicked off by Jaws, where a movie's success is determined entirely by its opening weekend, is moving on.

Scott Pilgrim may not have gotten a lot of viewers, but those that saw it clearly loved it. As I write this, it currently has an 8.3 rating on the IMDB and an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, (compared to Expendables' mere 42%.) That's the response of a movie that gets multiple viewings from its audience. Maybe they all won't go see it again in theaters, but they will rent it, buy it, quote it, dress up like characters from it and overall keep it in the public consciousness for years to come.

That means the money it didn't get from the box office, it can still get from home video sales and rentals, not to mention all that sweet, tasty merchandising money. Sure, some of that money won't show up for years down the road, but look much money Disney is still making from selling Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise. That's a Christmas movie that came out 17 years ago, and people are still buying merchandise from it year round. That's the power of having a true cult classic in your film library.

But if Scott Pilgrim is so loved by its fans, why did it do poorly at the box office? It was a cult classic by design. Almost every frame of the movie is an in-joke for nerds of all types, whether they're gamers, comic fans, film buffs or just Canadian. It never tries to cater to an audience beyond this and shouldn't be faulted for it. Imagine what the Expendables would have looked like if they tried to include a deeply spiritual romantic subplot to try and draw in some of the Eat Pray Love crowd.

In all fairness, the whole premise of the movie doesn't even make sense to a lot of non-nerd types. Many of my friends who heard about the movie couldn't seem to wrap their head around the fact that they never explain how any of the characters suddenly get super powers, (except for the one guy who has telekinesis because he's a vegan.)  Oddly enough, these are the same people who accept without question that Scarface somehow gets access to a magic machine gun with a nearly unlimited supply of bullets in a movie supposedly set in the real world. As for Scott Pilgrim, I can't explain it any more than saying it's like a cartoon and just accept it as is.

Based on the word of mouth I've heard on The Expendables, I don't expect to hear much about it in coming years. It sounds like if I really wanted to have a man-tastic cinema experience, I'd be better off watching Die Hard, Total Recall and The Transporter back to back.

As for Scott Pilgrim, sure it might not have done well now, but it will stick around. Ten years down the road you'll see some girl walking out of Hot Topic with Ramona Flowers shirt (Scott Pilgrim's love interest), and she'll clearly be way too young to have seen the movie when it first came out. She'll tell her friends they need to see this great gamer movie that came out a decade ago. The Expendables will be bundled into a Stallone movie boxed set along with Cop Land, and Get Carter, perpetually on sale for $10. We'll see which movie is still making money then.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Orleans

Earlier I put up some photos from my trip to New Orleans, most of them being centered around the Sugar Bowl. I figure I might as well put a few up of the things I saw around town before and after the game as well.

Jackson Square at Dusk

The above two shots are of Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, the oldest operating bar in America, lit almost entirely by candlelight. (The exceptions being the restrooms, the piano and a little light by the credit card machine.)

A graveyard in the Garden District.

A view from my hotel room. (As well as a view of the hotel room.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time for Self Promotion

I've recently decided that I should start using this blog to show of my artwork more often. I thought for a while about what piece would be good to demonstrate my creative spirit.

It should be something moving...

It should be something thoughtful...

... Something like a self portrait of me fighting off a hoard of zombies.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Detailed Thought on the Lost Finale

I suppose I wouldn’t be a proper nerd without writing more of an in-depth review on the conclusion of Lost, so here goes.

Back in high school, my English teacher explained how the last few chapters of Huckleberry Finn is something that has been constantly debated in the decades since it was written. For those of you who never read the book (or those of you who read it and forgot what happened) the story starts out with the fun and fancy free spirit that ran through it’s prequel, Tom Sawyer. Then the tone shifts to something far more mature as Huck and Jim go down the river. However, the final chapters return to Tom Sawyer’s lighthearted tone.

As my teacher explained it, years went by between when Mark Twain started writing the book and when he finished. What people have debated was how seriously Mark Twain meant for people to take the ending. Was it something he dashed off to put an end to a story that had escaped his control, or was there meant to be something poetic about Huck and Jim reverting to the people they were before their journey began?

Not long after the finale of Lost was over, I sensed a similar debate would start raging among fans of the show. The show raised so many questions but the finale answered so few. So did the producers really know how they wanted the show to end, or did they just come up with something because they told everybody the show would end after six seasons? Also, how much of the show’s mysteries were red herrings and which were simply plotlines the producers forgot or abandoned?

I suppose whether or not you were pleased with the finale depends on whether or not you really cared for the show’s questions to be answered once and for all. Personally, I loved the finale. For a long-format story I invested six years in, I felt the payoff was worth the time spent watching.

Obviously, a lot of the show’s questions went unanswered. Then again, this is a show that had so many questions about it that even the writers of Wired didn’t catch on when some of the answers were given subtly and spread out over the series. (Yes, the polar bears are completely explained over the run of the show.)

I think to answer all of the show’s mysteries would have been a disservice to the fans. What made Lost such a cult hit was the early episodes where we had no idea what was going on, and that fueled our imaginations in a way that most shows simply didn’t.

Think about it. When we talk about TV shows with our friends, it’s usually just a recap of our favorite scenes or lines. At most we talk about whom we think is going to kill or sleep with whom, but we’re never really challenged as viewers. Lost, on the other hand, demanded that its viewers channel their inner Stephen Hawkings.

As viewers, our theories didn’t just involve the characters’ interactions with each other. It involved the very universe in which they existed. We asked ourselves everything from who could be trusted to whether the story was set in the real world or if everybody died and was in some kind of purgatory.

The purgatory theory is especially worth noting because it was a popular one among viewers, and was openly shot down by the producers. For the most part, they were being truthful. The Island wasn’t purgatory, but that’s where the flash-sideways of season six ended up being set.

Instead of a finale that resolves all of the great questions of the Lost universe, we were left with a finale that only resolved their personal storylines. We find out why they were brought there, and what their purpose was. We learn that in some way or another, most of them get happy endings, or at least a chance at redemption, while for others it isn’t so clear.

Quite frankly, I’m fine with that. The best moments of the finale were the ones that reminded you how far the characters had come. After six years it was easy to forget how Charlie went from heroin addict to surrogate father before sacrificing his life, or how Jin and Sun went from being a distant, emotionless couple to being truly in love.

The smoke monster dies, the Island is saved, Rose and Bernard live in peace under the watchful eyes of Ben and Hurley, and Jack dies right where his journey began. Everybody else either dies or escapes the island for good. That’s all I could have asked for. All I cared for was to have the main characters’ plotlines wrapped up. As for all of the other questions, (many of which wrapped up into a nice little video,) they’re things that will keep us talking for years to come.

I’m sure a lot of the show’s unresolved moments were due to plot threads that the producers chose to abandon mid-series. The fact that the Dharma Initiative dropped a crate of food on the Island suggests that the producers might not have decided that the Dharma Initiative was more or less defunct decades before the story began.

Maybe Juliet’s claim that the nuclear bomb worked is proof that the producers hadn’t decided the flash-sideways story would be set in the afterlife until later in the sixth season. Or, maybe as she was dying she had a vision of the afterlife and mistook what she saw as proof that a parallel world existed where the bomb went off.

My point is that the show left much for us to talk about, whether you were pleased with the finale or not. We’ll never officially know if the producers meant for the Dharma Initiative to be a distraction from the Island’s true mysteries or if they began the show intending for all of the strangeness to be the result of their experiments. We’ll never know what was up with the Egyptian motif, or why the Man in Black’s death released the smoke monster while everybody else just died.

But we’ll still talk about it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Brief Thought on the Lost Finale

First off, if you didn't watch the Lost finale live, don't complain if I spoil anything for you. In this era of DVRing shows and watching them at your convenience, if there's one thing you should watch live, it's the series finale to a continuity heavy show that's been a six year television phenomenon.

That being said, I'm not going to get into too much about my thoughts on the episode right now. There's plenty of time to debate whether it left too many questions unanswered, whether Ben should have gone into the church and if the fate of the world should really rest on unplugging the drain in a pool of electromagnetic water.

Instead all I want to say is that the Smoke Monster clearly never saw Revenge of the Sith. Otherwise he'd have known better than to attack Jack when he had the high ground. I mean, think about how well it turned out for Anakin...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm Actually Showing My Photography in Public

Sorry about the late notice on this one but this Friday, (4/30/10) I'm going to be participating in the UrbanCincy Visual Showcase as part of the Final Friday gallery walk. It goes from 6pm-10pm at 1220 Vine Street, where the A Lucky Step furniture store used to be. It's right across the street from Lavomatic, and two storefronts north of Senate.

Basically after all of the photography I've been doing over the years, I decided I really needed to start showing it to people outside my list of Facebook friends. Randy Simes, editor of put me in contact with Jake Mecklenborg and Jeremy Mosher who are also going to be showcasing their video work and photography.

My work is primarily shots from around the uptown and downtown areas of Cincinnati, all shot in a variety of photography styles, most of them on film. (Yes, film!) The framed prints are for sale at $65 each, but I'll gladly take orders for reprints.

Also, I'd like to offer a special thanks to Mickey DeSilvia at Koji Studios for helping me out with the printing.

So, come on down, enjoy some wine and check out the neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Remaking Death at a Funeral

Too Soon?

I had originally meant to do an article about Frank Oz's 2007 comedy Death at a Funeral on my Overlooked Movies blog. It was a nice simple British farce that had the potential to be the sleeper hit of it's year, but never got the promotional push it needed. Simple premise. The patriarch of a slightly dysfunctional British family passes away. A funeral is held. Antics ensue.

Then I found out they had remade it. Let me restate that. The movie only came out in 2007, and there's a remake.

As much crap as people give studios over remakes, there are admittedly valid reasons for doing it: the movie is old, obscure, foreign or a director wants to re-interpret the original. It takes the right combination of these factors for a remake to work, but a movie being old is usually an important one. Audiences don't mind revisiting the same stories, just as long as the original isn't still fresh in their minds.

Foreign films get a bit more leeway. Sometimes the premise of a movie could be good, but it's so filled with local cultural references that American audiences wouldn't understand them. Or, since foreign movies tend to have a stigma as being "art house" movies, it's sometimes better to remake the movie and market it to a wider audience if a movie's premise is too mainstream to be considered "arty".

It's why there probably would probably be an uproar if a movie like Amelie were to be remade today. It may be almost a decade old, but it still resonates with the art house crowd. At the same time probably nobody raised a fuss when the Spanish horror film [Rec] was remade as Quarantine less than a year after the original's release, because it's the sort of lowbrow horror movie that doesn't work as well mired in subtitles.

While Death at a Funeral is technically a foreign movie, it was still in English. Not only that, but it was made to cater to as wild an audience as possible. Despite being a British movie, none of the actors' accents are too hard to understand for Americans, and there aren't any references that you have to be a BBC America aficionado to get. Hell they even cast American actor Alan Tudyk in a role.

Everybody loves Alan Tudyk.

It's not like the British version was an amateur production either. There might be a weak argument for remaking it so soon if the original was in some way unpolished, but Death at a Funeral was every bit a professional production as any Hollywood movie.

If anything, doing a remake so quickly after the original is like telling the cast and crew, "Good job, but we're going to hire some more famous people to do it better than you did." Actually, there's one exception. They did cast the Peter Dinklage in both films as the father's secret midget lover. So either the producers of the American version really liked his performance in the original or there's only one short person in Hollywood.

There is no reason for remaking an English language movie this soon. It took them 12 years to turn the comedy The Dinner Game into the upcoming film Dinner for Schmucks, and the original was in French. They could have just translated the dialogue directly and pushed it out a year after the original's release, but it got the intermediary time it deserved.

I really hope that the instant remake doesn't catch on as a new trend in Hollywood. The Onion once joked that a bigger budget remake of Mr. & Mrs. Smith was in the works just a year after it's release. Now I can't help but wonder if producers have their eyes on remaking American indie films. Does it really seem that far fetched anymore that some producer might be thinking about making Whip It again, except this time with Miley Cyrus in the lead role?

Some movies need more time to find their audiences than others; a fact that studios seem to overlook in their apparent rush to get two good weeks out of a movie in theaters before it's forgotten until it resurfaces on home video. If this formula was used in the past we probably wouldn't have heard of movies like Shawshank Redemption, a movie that famously didn't become the classic it is today until well after its DVD release. Instead of remaking movies, maybe Hollywood should work on fostering audience the movies that have already been made after they've been released on DVD.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yes, I now own a Snuggie

There are occasional moments in your life when you step back and ask yourself, "What the hell am I doing?" Sometimes it's over a major thing, and other times over something minor. Last night I asked myself this question over a minor thing when I found myself sitting in front of my laptop wearing a Snuggie.

I need to explain why I now own a Snuggie. I really do. At no point did I ever watch the infomercial and exclaim aloud, "A blanket with sleeves? By golly I could sure use that!" No, like every sane person in America, I simply wondered to myself, how does this differ from a robe exactly?

Then a few weekends back, the bars at Mt. Adams held it's second annual Snuggie Bar Crawl. I'd seen photos of the year's previous bar crawl, and thought that any opportunity to run around town dressed like a crazy person in a group was not something to be passed up. A friend of mine who'd received a Snuggie as a gag gift a while back was also down for it.

So, I had to buy a Snuggie. I opted for one with a UC Bearcats print all over it, because I figured if I'm going to look crazy, i might as well sport some school pride while I'm at it.

Unfortunately, for various reasons we ended up not doing the bar crawl, so now I had a sleeved blanket on my hands. My initial reaction was to return it, but it struck me as just being one of those things. You know, something that's all the rage for a few years, then twenty years later your kids look at you and ask, "No really, you need to explain why people would buy a Pet Rock, and did you ever own one?"

I decided that someday I will look at my future children and say, "Yes, I too bought a Snuggie, and someday it will be yours."

Okay, actually I thought it'd just be a fun thing to leave around the house. A conversation piece. If a guest came over and complained it was too cold, before turning up the heat, I could throw them the Snuggie. (This might have actually come in handy the year I threw a Superbowl party and realized that no matter how high I turned the main thermostat up, my basement still needed a space heater.)

Once the decision had been made that I would keep the Snuggie, the next logical thing was to try it on. I stood in front of the mirror and decided that yes, I looked like a crazy person. A crazy person who was a Bearcats fan. After that it made sense to see if there was anything about wearing it that felt more comfortable than say, layering up or wearing a robe. So, I sat in front of my computer wearing the thing, meaning to leave it on for a few minutes only.

Then twenty minutes later, I realized I was still wearing it.


It felt like I had somehow legitimized the existence of a perfectly useless product.

Well, twenty minutes wasn't going to be any worse than a half hour more. I decided to use as advertised: on the couch, remote in hand, a snack by my side.

One thing they fail to mention in the ads is that the Snuggie is not meant for walking around in, unless you're Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The fact that it covers your feet may be convenient when you're on the couch, but if you need to walk about, you have no choice but to hike that thing up and trot about like a geisha wearing a backless hospital gown.

I would love to have seen how intoxicated people bar hopping in Mt. Adams managed while wearing them.

Once on the couch it turned out it was comfortable and practical; more comfortable and practical than I should really admit. Then again, I haven't yet subjected it to a true test. A chilly basement in the spring is nothing compared to one in winter.

I guess I'll have to wait another nine months to find out if a thin layer of synthetic fleece around the arms is that much more convenient than reaching over the top of a blanket.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thoughts on Best Picture

Seeing how movie-centric my blog has become, I figure I might as well weigh in on this year's entries for Best Picture. So, in my opinion, this year's best picture should be...


You thought I was going to say Avatar, didn't you. I'll admit, considering how glowing my earlier review was, it seems like it would have been my logical choice. While it was good, I think I was still riding some kind of buzz caused by the 3D IMAX when I wrote that. If it were another year, Avatar probably would have emerged as the clear winner, but this year was such a good year for movies.

Even with the Academy boosting the nominees from five to ten, it still feels like some movies got left out, like The Brothers Bloom or (500) Days of Summer, which is apparently a fictionalized account of why I'm in love with Zooey Deschanel and why she would probably break my heart if I went out with her.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. So why Up and not a record breaking blockbuster like Avatar or a critically acclaimed sleeper hit like The Hurt Locker? Though the special effects of Avatar may have been breakthrough, the premise did feel like old territory. And I'm not saying The Hurt Locker wasn't a fantastic movie either, but the lack of a central storyline did leave my mind disengaged on occasion.

But with Up, that was definitely an original piece of cinema from start to finish. We're talking about a movie about an old man and a little boy dragging a house across South America. I can't even think of what movie you could compare that to.

The film has such a wide range of characters, all of whom are so well developed. Just look at Carl's wife. Her entire life story is told from childhood to death over a five minute montage, and yet she feels as integral a character to the story as everybody else onscreen.

As for the characters that are onscreen for the bulk of the film, you have to give credit to filmmakers that can throw an little boy, an old man, an older villain, a pack of talking dogs and a giant bird together in the same movie and not have it feel like it's geared only towards children.

I'll admit, it's not the greatest animated movie of all time, and some would argue that only a movie that's achieved that status should be the one to be the first cartoon to win best picture. That status probably goes to something like Ratatouille, The Iron Giant or Wall-E, just to name a few recent ones. But best of the year doesn't have to mean best of all time, and I just think it would be nice of the Academy didn't define "Best Picture" as the most intensely dramatic movie with lots of crying and shouting and shooting of guns, but rather as the movie people will still be watching in large numbers a decade down the road.

I should also admit that I haven't seen all of the nominees. I have yet to see The Blind Side, An Education, Precious or Up in the Air. Maybe if I get around to those, one of them will blow me away as being an unmistakably original piece of cinema that should be watched in large numbers ten years down the road.

But for now, my money is on Up.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ten Random Movies to watch during a Snowpocalypse

So the weatherman says you're not going anywhere for the next few days. Lo and behold, it turned out he was right. Why not take this opportunity to call up a few friends within walking distance and pop in a movie? To help you figure out what to watch, here's a list of ten movies that have nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that they're easy to enjoy (and may or may not have some snow related elements to them).

Odds are you have a few of them in your collection too. If not, hopefully you're within walking distance of a Blockbuster.

10. Die Hard 2
Yeah. The first one is without question the best, but if you're going to be trapped at home in a snowstorm, why not watch a movie about fighting terrorists in a snowstorm? Just try to look past the fact that it involves a terrorist plot that probably involved months of planning, yet seems entirely reliant upon the fact that there is a blizzard on the day they try to pull it off.

9. Ratatouille
Every time I watch this movie I get a strange compulsion to cook a big fancy meal and knock back a bottle of wine. Maybe you're the same way, maybe not. But if you're not going anywhere for the night, it's a good dinner/movie combo. It would have made an even better dinner/movie/wine combo had Costco decided to go through with it's plans to sell Ratatouille inspired wine.

8. The Saint
A good heist movie is always fun, but this one is a personal favorite of mine. Maybe it's because this one strive to be slightly more epic than the usual heist movie. Instead of just being about a thief pulling off a big job, it's a big job that ultimately involves taking on the Russian mafia. The score for this movie is pretty kick-ass too (if you're into electronica). And if anything, this movie should put your little snowstorm in perspective, reminding you that at least you're not in Russia.

7. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
This is one of those movies I think everybody saw and everybody loved. It's just a great revenge story that builds up slowly but keeps a good momentum going all the way through with all it's little twists and turns. Jim Caviezel as the Count is a guy you genuinely want to root for, and Guy Pearce is genuinely despicable as the villain. And dude... there's sword fighting!

6. The Wonder Boys
There was a running gag when this movie was released that it was the best reviewed movie of the year that nobody was seeing. I suppose it's because it's also a really hard movie to make a trailer for. The film follows an english professor, played by Michael Douglas, over the course of a weekend as his school hosts a writer's festival. All the problems in his life mash together all at once from his novel he can't seem to finish to the affair he's having with his boss's wife. I'd explain more, but that would just take away from a lot of fun of discovering the film's best moments for yourself.

5. Stardust
Yep. More sword fighting. I suppose I could have just as easily put The Princess Bride in this spot, but you've probably seen that movie to death by now, whereas Stardust is still building it's audience. Also, it's got one thing that The Princess Bride doesn't: a fight scene set to "The Can-Can" featuring Robert DeNiro in drag.

4. Gladiator
I don't know about you, but these days I'm usually too busy to watch any movie that pushes over two hours. I suppose that's what weekends are for, but it does sound a bit anti-social to say you're not going to meet up with friends because you want to watch a two and a half our epic. Hopefully when Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe team up again for Robin Hood it will be at least half as good as this.

3. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Sure, you can write it off as a chick-flick, but there's a reason why people are still making movies based on a book that's almost 200 years old. It's a story romance story which actually convinces you that the main characters are falling in love, as opposed to just being a few well paid Hollywood actors stuck in some gimmicky plot. This version also manages to be a costume drama without being a "stuffy" costume drama.

If you're only familiar with this story through the mash-up novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, maybe you can try watching this back to back with Shaun of the Dead to put you in familiar territory.

2. Superbad
'Nuff Said.

1. Your Favorite Disney Movie
I think we all have some movie that we thought kicked ass when we were kids then when we watched it years down the road realized it was so bad you almost wanted to apologize to your parents for making them take you to see it. (Personally, I'm still trying to figure out what was going through my mind when I dragged my parents to see Super Mario Bros. on the same weekend that Jurassic Park opened.)

However, I'm willing to bet two things:
  • That Disney movie you loved when you were young will still be as enjoyable now as it was back then.
  • You haven't watched it in years.
For me, it's Aladdin. After this movie came out I wanted my own flying carpet more than anything. (Okay, so I still do). Whatever Disney movie you get nostalgic for, the animation will still look sharp, the voice acting will still sound natural, and you'll probably still find yourself singing along to the songs.

So there's my list. Hopefully it helps. I suppose I should have put this out before this most recent storm hit so you could have ventured out to Blockbuster, or put one of these in your Netflix queue before you got locked in, but I suspect you've got at least one of these movies in your collection already.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This Might Qualify as Irony

As I mentioned earlier, I was at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, an event that was sponsored in part by AT&T. Early in the game they ran an ad on the JumboTron; it was the one where Luke Wilson tries to download a copy of himself on the Verizon network and on AT&T at the same time.

Suddenly, it struck me that now might be a good time to take a photo on my iPhone and upload it onto Facebook. I'd never really bothered doing the mobile upload thing before, but this seemed like as good occasion as any.

I took out my phone, and this is what I saw.

In case the what's going on here isn't immediately clear, let me spell it out for you:

1. I'm at an even't sponsored by AT&T.
2. My phone is exclusive to AT&T's network.
3. I have just seen an ad touting the superiority of AT&T's network over Verizon.
4. I have no service on my phone.

This wasn't a case of too many people trying to use the system at the same time and calls not getting through, which I realize tends to happen at sporting events. I flat out wasn't getting reception.

As the game went on, my phone finally picked up a signal, but still didn't have 3G service, or EDGE coverage for that matter. (EDGE is the high speed data service that AT&T uses where 3G coverage is not available.)

You'd think that an AT&T sponsored event is the one place in America that you'd be guaranteed complete service. Instead, I got the exact opposite.

My advice to AT&T: Instead of wasting your money suing Verizon, or making ads that argue Verizon's ads are only technically correct but are misleading anyways... fix your damn network.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bearcats on Holiday

You wouldn't have known that Cincinnati was expected to lose the Sugar Bowl if you had been to New Orleans last week. Yes, we were all aware that Florida was favored to win. Even I, with my near-complete ignorance of sports rankings, understood that Florida was playing at a level that UC just wasn't at yet, Brian Kelly or no Brian Kelly.

But secretly, we all were expecting to UC to beat the odds. In fact, we were all hoping for a victory so epic that Disney would have been knocking on doors at UC the next day to buy the movie rights, and had you been there, you'd have thought the same thing too.

Cincinnati definitely represented itself down in New Orleans. So many Cincinnatians showed up that on New Year's Eve, everywhere I went, I ran into old classmates, old co-workers and people I knew just from around Clifton. Throughout New Year's Eve, all along that miracle mile known as Bourbon Street, crowds were spontaneously breaking out into UC chants. Meanwhile, Gators fans seemed to sheepishly roam about trying to find a bar where they weren't severely outnumbered.

If the idea of us winning seemed like a nice thought to entertain on New Year's Eve, we expected it to be a reality on game day. At some of the Sugar Bowl events around town, like the pre-game party at the House of Blues, it looked like a Bearcats-only event. Gators fans were becoming more visible around town, but the comment I heard most often out of them was, "No seriously, where are all of our fans?"

I think even the residents of New Orleans were rooting for us. As a hotel employee put it, "More of you showed up, which means more of you brought money into our city." Hard to argue with that rationale.

As the afternoon rolled on, the Bearcats collected at the Marriott where the team was staying. The lobby was eventually unnavigable and by the time the team was boarding the bus, we had overflowed into the street.

When everybody was seated at the Superdome, it was clear how many more Bearcats than Gators showed up to the game. Our student section was completely saturated. I think we filled up about 3/4 of the top level, while the Gators took up less than half. It really looked like we might win this thing after all, (if this was determined by crowd support).

Then kickoff happened, reality set in and I don't want to talk about it.

After the game, I thought it was going to be a bad night. I thought that either the Bearcat fans would hide out in their hotel rooms too embarrassed to go back out, or everywhere we went, Gators fans would be rubbing their victory in our faces.

Instead, there was a sort of mutual respect among fans of the rival teams. We couldn't argue that they played a better game, but they couldn't deny that we made a better showing to support our team, especially considering how much farther we had to travel to get to the game.