Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comparing Movies.

I just saw this posting on Craigslist for a company looking to hire someone to write for their movie comparison company something or other…not really sure. I didn’t apply. But for people who wanted to apply, you had to take your favorite movie, and list 5 movies that people would also like if they enjoyed your favorite. And about a 20 word reason why. I thought this would be an interesting exercise, so I decided to try it out. But instead of my favorite movie, I’m going to use…

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

For all of you who didn’t have HBO last summer when it was on every single moment of the day, or those who just didn’t care to watch, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is about four high school aged girlfriends who find a pair of jeans in a thrift shop that surprising fit all their varied figures perfectly. They then go their separate ways for the summer (soccer camp, Greece, to visit a divorced father, and one just stays at home) and send the pants around to each other with notes to keep in touch.

It’s a coming of age movie. First loves, first look at tragedy, realizations about family and friends, and the losing of virginity at soccer camp with a counselor (happens all the time).

So let’s take a look at 5 other movies you should watch if you loved Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (and why in 20 words or less)

1. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 – It’s coming out soon, and I bet it will have the same characters, actors, and kind of the same plot.
2. Now and Then – Four girls, coming of age, way better than the Traveling Pants. Plus it’s funny when Ramona duct tapes her boobs.

3. Rumor Has It – I got nothing for you. Except it was played on HBO all the time last summer, too.
4. My Girl – I hate those bees that killed Macaulay Culkin. Weird that her dad owned a funeral home.

5. The Babysitter’s Club – Self explanatory.

This post sucks. I would never get this job.

Wait, let me try again.

Movie we’ll start with: Rocky

5 other movies you would like:
1. Rocky 2 – there’s boxing. And Sly Stallone.
2. Rocky 3- there’s boxing. And Sly Stallone.

3. Rocky 4 - there’s boxing. And Sly Stallone.
4. Rocky 5 - there’s boxing. And Sly Stallone.
5. Rocky Balboa. - there’s boxing. And Sly Stallone. But he’s old. But it’s okay. It’s still him.

That’s more like it. Maybe I would get this job.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What’s in an age?

With the upcoming election pitting “old man” McCain vs. “inexperienced” Obama, people have been focusing a lot on the ages of candidates. Maybe a little more than they should. After all, shouldn’t the election be about the issues, not the number of wrinkles on someone’s face, or the ability to blow out all of the birthday candles on your cake? Especially if they are those trick candles that you can never blow out. Those aren’t even fair.

So I’ve decided that in order to take the edge off this age debate, I’m going to feed into it even more! Without any more introduction and throwing all reasoning out the window, let’s not just compare the candidates based on their ages, let’s compare other famous people that share the candidate’s ages.

Starting with…. Sports figures.

Wayne Gretzky (January 26, 1961) vs. Clay Counsil (71 years, birth date not readily available)

Here’s a tough match up for sure. Take someone once called “the greatest player of all time,” and pit him against an old dude who never played pro ball and what do you get? It’s not as clear-cut as you think. Who didn’t get the chills watching the Homerun Derby last week while Counsil pitched to Josh Hamilton as he shattered records and hit 28 homeruns in the first round of the competition? Everyone got chills. Unless they aren’t human. Or didn’t watch. Or were under a extremely warm blanket.

Fact is – sure Gretzky’s great, but Counsil showed last week that despite age, people can always inspire. And get things done.

Sorry Obama. This round goes to age. Because I am throwing athletic strength out the window and leveling the playing field. People of any age can get the job done and inspire people. Which is exactly what Counsil did.

Round one goes to : The Geezers

Next round….Musicians.

Billy Ray Cyrus (August 25, 1961) vs. Buddy Guy (July 30, 1936)

Okay, here’s a tough one. We’ve got one of the greats of the blues and rock, who’s won five Grammys and inspired such acts as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaghan pitted against the man who’s given us Hannah Montana.

Of course, that’s not all Billy Ray Cyrus has contributed to the music world. There’s always Achy Breaky Heart, and he’s had eight top-ten singles on the Billboard country music charts.

But it may be silly that I’m even still trying to compare these two. Although Miley Cyrus has given us some real hot pop culture tracks lately, no one can deny that Buddy Guy has been more influential on American music as we know it. And since Billy Ray can’t even get his daughter to stop posting trashy pics of herself on the Internet, round two’s winner is quite clear.

Round two goes to: The Geezers

So far it looks like age doesn’t detract from someone’s greatness, in fact as we’ve seen so far, age may just make people better.

Now let’s look into a different type of entertainment – Acting.

George Clooney (May 6, 1961) vs. Robert Redford (August 18, 1936)

The battle against these two stars could be a whole post in itself. First I’d like to take a moment and say how surprised I was to find out that Robert Redford is 71. When I was researching for this intelligent post, at first I thought this was some sort of mistake. But yes, it’s true, Redford is old.

So both these men are very accomplished actors, as well as directors and producers. They are also both what I would consider to be real Hollywood men. Big names, big budgets, but also smart guys. They don’t just act, they think.

But when it comes down to it, I think we must give Clooney the edge here. Sure Redford is iconic and has truly done a lot, including winning an Academy Award, but Clooney has also won an Oscar, as well as a Golden Globe. And we all know that the only thing that really matters in an actor’s life is the number of shiny trophies they have to polish (or if you’re Rosie O’Donnell, let your kids paint all over).

Clooney also does a lot of advocacy work, even named in January 2008 as “a Messenger of peace” by the United Nations. That’s big time shit. Almost up there with Angelina. Maybe he’ll get there someday.

And, truth be told, if you think about it, Clooney deserves to win this round merely because he is the epitome of a Hollywood star. Like old school Hollywood star. And I think if you put a 46 year old next to a 71 year old and can honestly say the younger of the two is more of a classic American star than the elder, then youth trumps age.

So round three goes to: The Youngins

Let’s move onto Round 4 – Directors
Peter Jackson (October 31, 1961) vs. Philip Kaufman (October 23, 1936)

Great directors, like great presidents, need to have a vision to be successful. So this is an especially important round in this very important comparison piece. Peter Jackson has definitely proved his vision with films like Lord of the Rings and King Kong. He doesn’t mess around with his vision, and is very well respected in the industry.

Philip Kaufman, though less known to this generation, is still influential in the field of directing films. His directorial debut, Goldstein, won some French-named prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Acclaimed French director Jean Renoir called it the best American film in 20 years. Pretty impressive.

But since we are Americans, we don’t care what French people have to say. Instead, let’s focus on something Kaufman did that we all can relate to—helped write the story for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. This was a pretty important feat.

Kaufman is also still working today. His next project will be a film for HBO about the life of Ernest Hemingway with James Gandolfini.

But when it comes down to it, it seems that the more influential director at this time is Peter Jackson. Many statues, several incredible movies that drastically influenced a culture, and an imagination and attention to detail that is renowned among Hollywood directors.

Round four goes to – The Youngins.

Let’s take a look at the leaderboard after four rounds:

Seems to be a 2-2 tie at the moment, and the Geezers, despite their age, do not look like they are losing steam. More 71 year olds include Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, beloved actress Mary Tyler Moore, and James D. Sinegal, the CEO of wholesale giant Costco. The 46’s aren’t lacking in talent either, with mover and shaker Michael J. Fox, fashion designer Issac Mizrahi, as well as Bob Woodruff, journalist with World News Tonight.

But there isn’t enough time in a day to write about all these aged rivalries. The point is, people can achieve great things when they’re young (Elian Gonzalez), or old (the entire cast of the Golden Girls). We need to put the wrinkle debates aside for the next few months and focus on the real issues of this election…like who has the prettier wife.

Stay tuned for my next post:
People who share middle names with the Presidential candidates and what effect this has on their chance of victory.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Salute to America!

Well it's that time of year again—July 4th's coming up, people are getting in gear to take a nice long weekend, enjoy some American favorites like a cold Bud Lime and a hot dog right off the grill, and maybe watch a little baseball. And all the while knowing that our country is better than every other one in the world. And to prove it, we'll set off fireworks. Discovered by the Chinese.

So I'd like to take this post to honor America with some of the things I remember from US History from throughout the years. And without further ado… 5 pieces of American History I appreciate most because they are a little bit funny:

5. Filibusters
Okay, Filibusters are funny for several reasons. One, they just have a really silly name for something that is supposed to have a higher purpose. And two, they make people talk for absurd amounts of time. Three, they just seem like the silliest thing in the world. Why do they even exist?

Quick recap—a filibuster is a way to stop legislation from being passed by literally talking forever so the vote cannot happen, or is very delayed. To me, it seems like a childish idea at heart, but there's a competitive spirit to it, and Americans love to compete. So I guess it fits well with the USA way.

Best Filibuster moment: in 1957, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina set a record by talking for 24 hours and 18 minutes straight. Now that is commitment to a cause. Unfortunately for him, the bill ultimately passed. And he can never got that 24 hours back. Or his voice.

4. Preston Brook’s Senate Beatdown of Charles Sumner.
In 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts gave a very passionate speech about how slavery should not be tolerated anymore in the United States. He called out three prominent men in particular for their views and political actions regarding the issue—Stephen Douglas, James Mason, and Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina.

Butler, who had recently had a stroke and was recuperating in his state of South Carolina was given special attention by Sumner’s ridicule. Listening from the back of the Senate chamber, Stephen Douglas reportedly said, “that damned fool will get himself killed by some other damned fool.”

Good foresight. This nearly happened. Except instead of death, Sumner was just bludgeoned by a walking stick by Congressman Preston Brooks, who took offense to Sumner’s comments. (and was the nephew of Andrew Butler, one of Sumner’s targets. It’s all so Soprano-esque…)

Instead of asking Sumner to duel like a real gentleman would, Brooks just waltzed into the Senate chambers and started beating him with a stick. The beatdown continued for a whole minute as Sumner, who was tall, struggled to get his lanky legs out from under his desk and defend himself. And everyone else in the Senate Chamber got up from their lunch tables and started chanting "Fight! Fight! Fight!" until the principal came and broke it up.

I guess if you look at the reality of this situation, it’s not that funny. But to me, the fact that an elected official acted like a drunken idiot at a bar and just started beating the crap out of someone because he made fun of his uncle is a little bit funny.

And I think when we learned about it in high school it was funny because we didn’t get all the details. Just that a Congressman beat a Senator up. That’s funny when you’re 16 for some reason. Then we all went home and watched WWF Smackdown. And gave each other high fives.

3. The Scopes Monkey Trial
Aight, yo. Basically there was a law in Tennessee (obviously) that said there was to be no teaching of evolution in public schools. Actually nothing that went against "the story of Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible." Well, John Scopes, a high school teacher looking to spread the gospel of truth, was charged with teaching evolution and showing ideas from (gasp!) Charles Darwin.

So they settled it the American way. Went to a bar, got drunk and fought for a couple minutes before the bartender kicked their asses out. Just kidding, they went to court! The trial "pitted two of the preeminent legal minds of the time against one another," William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow (I like the way Wikipedia referred to this fact).

But I guess the main reason this piece of American history really sticks in my mind as funny (besides the fact that the word monkey is in it—instant American funniness), is the way Mr. Herb taught it to us in AP American. Before he got fired. But that's beside the point. He taught me about the Scopes Monkey Trial so well that I will never erase the picture of him in my mind performing a piece of a play based on the Scopes trial, standing behind his lectern and yelling, "GOD TELLS BRADY, BRADY TELLS THE PEOPLE; BRADY, BRADY BRADY!" Then he hung upside down in the doorway and did his impression of a three-toed sloth. Great teacher.

Anyway, thanks Mr. Herb for forever eternalizing this evolution case with a funny name. And giving me one of my favorite pieces of American History with a funny name.

2. Colonial Wigs
So the founders of the Constitution did a pretty good job of drafting a document to dictate the future of our country. And it still holds true today. To think that they could have the foresight to craft a set of truths that would withstand the test of time as our country grew from infancy in 1776 until now, over 200 years later, is a outstanding feat. But the real kicker is that the whole time they were cooped up in that ol’ Pennsylvania state house drafting the damn thing, they were wearing ridiculous wigs. What was the meaning of this? Did people not grow hair then? Maybe they were “thinking caps.” I gotta try one on someday and see if I can write something as timeless as the Constitution.

I’m sure these wigs were hot as hell. And itchy to boot! But I guess you can’t beat fashion like this:

It just makes the whole signing of the Constitution thing seem a little bit silly. Every guy in there was wearing one of these. And I bet there were trains of sweat running down their faces from underneath their cumbersome wigs. I wish I could travel back in time to see it! In a bonnet.

And the whole signing of the Constitution wasn’t the only time people wore these—these wigs made prominent appearances in events like The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s famous ride, and also during big Revolutionary War battles. Think about that. Not only are you dying on a battlefield, but your last moments are going to be with an itchy head. Bummer.

So that’s why wigs are funny. And an integral part of American History. Even though they looked ridiculous.

…And don’t think I’m letting you off the hook, Abraham Lincoln. Your hat was a little outrageous. And wooden teeth? You were the President for goodness sake. Have some self respect.

1. William Taft getting stuck in a bathtub.
This one really doesn't need too much explaining. Picture it—William Taft (our 27th President for you unAmericans out there), our heaviest president at 332 pounds, getting literally stuck in the White House bathtub. They had to have an oversized version brought in for him to use. And a crane to get him in and out of bed. Just kidding. Not really.

Whoever is blaming juices and energy drinks for the current obesity crisis, please stop! I think we found the root of the problem—kids are just trying emulate our 27th President, but come on, can't we give them a break? They just want to run the most powerful country in the world. And get their own custom bathtub. It's the American dream, man.

And, the kicker, which I just found out while researching Taft's exact poundage, is the fact that "Taft liked milk so much he brought his own cow to the White House. The cow's name was Mooly Wolly."

Thanks, William Taft, for being hilarious.

And thanks, America. For being the great country that you are.