Monday, October 30, 2006

Summer Movie Awards

Best Picture-
Little Miss Sunshine-One of the few movies in which the phrase, "You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll jump for joy" isn't just a movie cliche. Coming from Sundance Film Festival, the movie opened at 1.4 million dollars but broke into the top 10 two weekends later and stayed there for 7 weeks for a reason: it's just that good and word got around. Within the structure of a typical road trip movie, Little Miss Sunshine is an emotionally resonant film that contains some very dark moments en route to higher highs.

Runner-Up: Prairie Home Companion-The biggest misconception about Prairie Home Companion was that it was a film about Garrison Kiellor, but that's also it's greatest strength. Those familiar with the director know that Rob Altman uses the film as a springboard for meditations on art, life, and death. On top of a great soundtrack, humor and color come from all sorts of colorful characters (Maya Rudolph as the frustrated stagehand, Kevin Kline as the bumbling private eye or Meryl Streep and Lilly Tomlin and the chatty Johnson sisters, etc.) within a great ensemble

Best Pure Comedy: Talladega Nights-From the comedic team that bought us Anchorman (writer/director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell) comes a solid follow-up that certainly has its funny moments. The primary thing that distinguishes Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby from regular comedic outings of the frat pack is assembling a great cast of comedic talent that can surround Will Ferrell and keep up with him line-for-line as he veers off what's written in the script (if there's one at all). Might have been a little less funny than Anchorman but it makes up for it with heart in the endearing father-son relationship between Ferrell and Gary Cole.

Best Popcorn Movie: Da Vinci Code-The fact was that Ron Howard was in a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't position in adapting the most popular book of the day, and all things considered, whether it was too close to or too far away from the book, it made for good entertainment if nothing else. Ian McKellan, Paul Bettany, and Jean Reno added interest to the movie with parts that support Tom Hanks, and considering how many well-liked French actresses there are to chose from, landing Audrey Tatou was a steal. Howard's picture works as a carefully-paced thriller and the controvoursey behind it all provided some good water cooler talk if nothing else
Runner-Up: X-Men 3-Another movie with high standards to live up to coming in, X-Men 3 was an admirable third leg of a very solid trilogy with the stakes of life and death being raised up a little (characters actually died, that's not supposed to happen in superhero movies?!), good special effects, and I liked the intergenerational theme of the new cast of characters (Iceman, Kitty Pride, etc.) having to step up when the time was right for them

Best Actor:
Paul Giamatti, Lady in the Water-Some people would insist on giving Giamatti the best actor award for everything he does and I'm not approaching the role from that angle. Still, with the stutter and everything, I actually thought Giamatti stuck out strongly as a beacon of well-constructed character acting amid a very bizarre world and cast of characters that M. Night Shamylan created.
Runners-Up:
Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine-All the actors in the movie were very good, but he has great comic instincts, look at the scene where Kinnear is about to be busted by a cop but saved by porn magazines for what i'm talking about
Jonny Depp, Pirates 2-The movie was mediocre but Depp might have been even more electric in this film than the first. His physical movements and control over his body is a throwback to the great silent comedians and he shines in every scene he's in.

Best Supporting Actor:
John C. Riley, Talladega Nights-It's hard to compare a pure comedy role to a dramatic role like Robbins but more props to him for keeping up with Ferrell laugh-for-laugh at making up his own lines. Besides, is there any truer definition of supporting than Riley's role?
Runners Up:
Ian McKellan and Paul Bettany, Da Vinci Code-Da Vinci Code worked for me, at least, on the strength of the supporting players. McKellan made a very nuanced and sophisticated villain that reminds me of someone who could easily fit into an Indiana Jones or James Bond movie. Despite the fact that he had to show his backside naked (something I could've done without), Bettany imbued the role with a little more of a fragile side than his counterpart in the book had.

Best Actress:
Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine-I saw Collette as the glue that held the whole dysfunctional family together. She played the straight woman to everyone else's comic hijinx and hopefully Little Miss Sunshine will get the neccessary exposure this talented actress deserves.

Best Supporting Actress:
Meryl Streep-Prairie Home Companion-Now this was a Meryl Streep performance I really, really liked. With her interactions with Garrison Kiellor, you felt like there was a lot more to her than was being shown, and you really grew to love her character in a sort of "I wish she was my mom, too" way. I loved her non-stop babblings with her sister and loved her singing even more.
Runner-Up: Emily Blunt, Devil Wears Prada-The attention has gone to Streep for the movie and she's even receiving early Oscar buzz but I personally thought that Blunt proved slightly more adept at the acerbic one-liners that the movie is most memorable for.

Best Special Effects:
X-Men 3-Superman saving a flaming plane from gravity and ability to deflect bullets is all well and good but it's hard to top the playground of possibilities special effects special effects you can have when playing with characters who can control ice, fire, metal, and the weather. Highlights include, Wolverine's rampage through the jungle, Jean Grey stopping an army of guns firing at her, and ice and pyro using their powers in a dead heat

Best Animated Film:
Cars-Cars was without a doubt better than....wait, it was the only animated film I saw this summer, but, hey, none of the other ones looked intriguing enough to watch (except Over the Hedge, I do regret seeing possibly the only time that Avril Lavigne, Steve Carrell, and William Shatner will star in the same movie together). Nevertheless, Cars was a fine picture with a relatively bold theme about the importance of community, taking the sceninc route and the need to preserve the finer things in life. Bonnie Hunt, Owen Wilson, and Larry the Cable Guy all had great chemistry with each other.

Best Movie I didn't see:
Unlike most critic wannabes, I am not ashamed to say that I did not see every movie that came out this summer. Akeelah and the Bee, about a talented young girl who is too afraid to show that she's smart for being unpopular and starring the usually underrated Lawrence Fishburne, sounded like a worthwhile film I will regret not seeing.

Best end credits:
Clerks II-As an usher in the movie theater, I did see the end credits of many movies while I was cleaning up and Clerks II never dissapointed. Kevin Smith thanks everyone he's ever met for all sorts of things (i.e. He thanks his parents for having sex) as well as people he's never met. He lists 10,000 of his myspace friends in the end credits. Finally, he has a disclaimer that he spends way too much time on the internet

Best Song:
Route 66, John Mayer-A great cover by John Mayer, who while having a reputation as a boy bandish pop singer, is actually a devoted student of past guitar greats and he pays ample tribute to Chuck Berry adding a little more spice along the way
Runner-Ups:
My Minnesota Home-Prairie Home Companion
Bad Jokes-Prairie Home Companion
This Land-Sujfan Stevens

Best Score:
Lady in the Water-The haunting score lingers in your memory long after the film does. M. Night Shamylan's last film picked up an oscar nod for best score, so it might be likely that Lady in the Water follows suit.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

James Bond villains

I think the last four Bond films have been fascinating studies of modern forms of evil. It goes without saying that when you make a movie like James Bond you have carte blanche to make the most evil megalomaniac villain that you can think of and that since Bond is set in the real world (unlike Batman or Superman per se) the villains usually touch upon real life themes and chords:

Die Another Day was a study in relation between the West and the rest. The fact that the Korean man made himself look Caucasian and the world as well as the audience took him more seriously as a threatining villain, was a very relavent and interesting statement, to the way that the Western countries like the United States and Great Britain and Europe arrogantly treat the rest of the world with arrogance and disdain. Remember, the Korean villain said he went to Oxford and Harvard which sounded unexpected and far-fetched for someone of his stature. The Korean peninsula was a unified peaceful place before the World's superpowers came in and meddled with their affairs. There was also some underemphasized stuff with Conflict Diamonds which was the focus on last year's Lord of War and is a focus on the upcoming movie Blood Diamond.

The World is Not Enough and Tomorrow Never Dies focus on an oil baron and a media baron respectively and those are both two segments that have grown increasingly powerful over the years and the idea that in the wrong hands they would be the ultimate supervillain is intriguing. The idea of launching a nuclear war so you can have exclusive coverage to the headlines is deliciously twisting.

Goldeneye deals with a lot of the postwar Communist fallout and war brought on by oppressed ethnic minorities which is the cause of many wars today. It was a very good transition out of the Cold War setting into the idea that the new enemies are going to be wars caused by ethnic divisions.

I think the most interesting piece, however, was Live and Let Die. I read somewhere that the movie touched upon a prevalent fear at the time of black power and the potential of the newly independent countries in the Carribean to inspire particularly violent movies in Harlem and Louisiana.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reviews of Click and You, Me and Dupree

You, Me and Dupree (2006)
Owen Wilson stars as Randolph Dupree, an unemployed drifter with high hopes even though he's just been evicted from his apartment. Matt Dillon stars as his newlywed childhood friend who, along with bride Kate Hudson, agrees to take him in after he winds up homeless. The film is an ideal follow up from The Wedding Crashers winning over anyone who felt that although he reforms and gets the girl at the end, Owen Wilson's character of Jeremy Beckwith was nothing more than a spineless womanizing phony. His character here starts out as little more than a transplanted version of that same character. In an attempt to get some alone time for themselves, the newlywed couple set up Dupree on a date and the plan drastically backfires when he brings her back home and in an attempt to set the mood with some scented candles, nearly burns the house down. However, things turnaround when Dupree starts to show a side of himself that isn't existent in Jeremy Beckwith, and that's when the movie finds its groove. You, Me and Dupree isn't a comedy that moves at 100 laughs a minute but it does have heart. Its humor comes from the relationship dynamics between friends and newlyweds that gets increasingly convoluted as the plot goes on, but finds itself back again at the film’s finale.
Accepted

Despite the fact that the entire story can be told in a 60-second trailer, Accepted is a surprisingly richer comedy than one would expect. Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is a slightly geekier and less attractive version of Ferris Bueller. Armed with perhaps a little too much confidence and an ability to think on the fly, Gaines is an adolescent who is able to navigate the adult world by using his wits to work around it. Having been rejected by every college he applies to, B decides to doctor a fake acceptance letter for him and friends who are in the same situation as he is, to appease their parents. One thing needs to another, and Bartleby and his friends end up actually founding their own college. Justin Long, one of the six goofballs that comprised Vince Vaughn’s team in Dodgeball, might be a little over his head here being asked to shoulder the load as the film’s lead, but he does have a nerdy sort of charm that works. The film is a decently sharp satire of modern education and is good for a few comedy thrills.

Click (2006)
Click is Adam Sandler’s latest comedic film which hopes to capitalize on the crowd who have followed his bizarre and lovably childish humor since the days of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. In the film, Sandler plays an architect who has difficulty advancing his career, and happens to come across a magical remote control which can fast forward, pause, and perform many other functions on his own life. Leaving any hint of possible maturation he gave with his slightly more intelligent films 50 First Dates or Big Daddy, Sandler once again reverts to inane bathroom humor that he hopes will be redeemed by squeamish audiences with a warm, fuzzy ending in which a valuable lesson is learned about the importance of family. The problem, however is that, the plot is too disjointed and moves too quickly for us to care much about what happens to the characters. Without a meaningful plot, all that’s left is Adam Sandler’s random humor which occasionally hits but mostly misses this time out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Review: All the King's Men

This is a review I wrote for All the King's Men that almost, almost got published by the Prince George's Sentinel (in MD) which is a dinky small paper that wouldn't have paid me much and i don't really like their format much anyway, to be honest, but still they were nice enough to offer me the chance to go out of my way to see the movie and write them a review and send it into them. One interesting thing about this review is that, oddly enough, i didn't like the movie, i was planning on writing about the positives and then the negatives but by the time i got through with the positives, i was out of word space, so i just sent it in.:

Admittingly, the bar is set pretty high to start with for All the King’s Men. For one, a picture that was originally acclaimed to the point of winning a best picture oscar doesn’t really call out to be remade unless it can be enhanced with special effects like this past December’s King Kong. The cast is also populated by a cast overstuffed with Oscar-starved actors who armed with dialect coaches are eager to pounce come awards season. Whether this political drama will actually deliver come January is one that most critics are answering no to and while that’s understandable, the film is certainly worth a look.

The 2006 version of All the King’s Men was adapted for the screen by James Carville, well-known political consultant and former host of CNN’s Crossfire. Carville was inspired to delve into screenwriting out of a love for the 1946 book and wrote the screenplay without so much as a glance of the 1949 screen adaptation. Penned by Robert Penn Warren, the Pullitzer Prize-winning novel is a profound epic and by adapting this story to screen, the film benefits from having a classically-concieved story that’s as rich as few other films today are.

The novel is based on the life of Louisiana governor and champion of the poor Huey Long. The title, in fact, comes from the motto “Every man a King” of Long’s Share the Wealth initiative which he used to redistribute wealth and pull people out of depression. Long was a very curious political figure which the movie to some extent mines with its fictitional protagonist Willie Stark. Played by Sean Penn in a thick accent, Stark comes across as a simpleton with petty desires but has the ability and drive to inspire people with profound sayings such as, “Your will is my strength,” and “You work for me because I am the way I am, and you are the way you are and that’s just an arrangement found in the natural order of things.” However, the core of the film really lies within Jude Law’s Jack Burden, a reporter-turned-right-hand-man for Stark who’s torn between loyalty to Stark’s ideals and his godfather (Anthony Hopkins) and best friend (Ruffalo) who both oppose Stark. Law carries the part ably and through him, the story becomes more of a contemplative study of values and Sothern life reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird or A Time to Kill. If there is one main weakness to the film however, it’s that a lot of the questions of right and wrong, and whether the symbol of an honest politician is a myth, get muddled up through a somewhat confusing plot and a lack of clarity over who’s doing what to whom and why.

All the King’s Men released in the akward buffer between summer blockbusters and the Oscar-caliber season will understandably suffer but is worth seeing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lay off Bob Woodward, everyone

Two blocks from the entrance to the Rosslyn Metro stop at 1401 Wilson Boulevard lies an ordinary high rise building that holds a special place in history few of its tenants even know about. The bottom floor of that building’s parking garage at one of the farthest parking spaces from the central car ramp is where two men secretly met in 1972 to discuss a suspicious break-in at the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Office Building and the rest is history.
The Watergate Scandal is not just a landmark event that has impacted politics ever since but it has also made heroes of Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the man who risked his personal safety and career to meet his informant in that garage.
Media critic Ben Bagdikian hailed the event as, "the single most spectacular act of serious journalism [of the 20th] century," Immortalized in the 1976 film All the President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein’s work inspired a new generation of journalists and are a testament to the impact that inquisitive reporters with a desire to seek the truth can have on maintaining democracy within a system of free press/
Woodward, now the assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, has been making headlines again in the past few years. Woodward and story of Watergate briefly returned to the national spotlight last year with the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity as Mark Felt and people remembered the heroic efforts of Woodward and Bernstein with fondness. Tragically, however, his heroism has been lost on many of those same Americans who have criticized Woodward and turned his last couple of books into material that can be spun any which way for political purposes.
After releasing Bush at War in 2002, a chronicle of the administration’s response to the 9/11 attack, Woodward followed that with Plan of Attack in 2004 which chronicled the decision to wage war on Iraq. With exclusive interviews and exhaustive research, both books give a comprehensive insider’s take on what has been going on in the administration over the past few years. Released in an election year, many Democrats were critical of the book because to some extent it humanized President Bush and showed that he was not the authoritative war monster that he was made out to be.
However, things changed this past week with the arrival of his latest book State of Denial, where Woodward characterizes the administration as stubbornly refusing to change course on the war. Not surprisingly, once the Administration sensed that the book wasn’t going to portray them favorably, Presidential Advisor Dan Bartlett immediately refused to let Cheney or Bush be interviewed and had a copy of the book to be sent over so they could get started in their attempts to discredit the work as much as possible. The Republicans stopped considering Woodward to be on their side last week. The Republicans are currently launching a smear campaign about the book even though no one has claimed anything in the book to be factually incorrect, instead spouting out vague allegations that Woodward “didn’t connect the dots.”
Republicans are disappointed that Woodward is no longer on their side and Democrats who were free to dismiss him are eager to welcome him back to their team, and therein lies the problem. Have we forgotten that there are some values that go beyond party lines? When Bob Woodward met with Deep Throat in that garage 34 years ago, he was simply searching for truth and while that is an alien concept in our heavily Partisan culture today, it’s certainly not Bob Woodward’s fault,

The Late night talk show wars

I was watching David Letterman last night for about 15 minutes because Rachel Ray was on, and I wanted to see what she was all about, and I just can’t stand him. It just baffles me that 10 years ago our country was engaged in a debate over who should be the next Tonight Show host and our only two options were Jay Leno and David Letterman, because neither of those 2 are particularly good.

Jay Leno is a pretty good stand-up comic and seems like a genuinely nice guy but when you get down to it, he’s a poor conversationalist. In other words, he’s a boring guy to talk to and an even more boring guy to watch having a conversation. He asks the guests really obvious and boring questions like “how’s your marriage going?”, “how are your kids doing?”, “what do you like to do with your kids?”, “how do you like to spend Christmas/Thanksgiving/The 4th of July/[whatever holiday is coming up]?” He also asked a lot of people when the Olympics were on if they watched the Olympics and what events they liked and stuff (It’s kind of a promotional thing because NBC broadcasts the Olymnpics), which is funny because most of the guests talked excitedly about the Olympics with him, while I’ve heard a lot of celebrities (like Bryant Gumbel and Charles Barkley) speak out about how boring the Winter Olympics are. For the record, I personally like the Winter Olympics, but I’m getting off track.

I don’t really feel a need to attack Leno because, despite the fact that he apparently gets better ratings than Letterman, I’ve never met a single fan of Jay Leno. Theoretically, some people must be watching somewhere, but it doesn’t seem like criticizing Leno is doing anything more than preaching to the choir. Letterman, on the other hand, has a cult following of people who love him. Just turn on his show and you’ll see that the audience wildly applauds at anything he says that’s even a remote attempt at humor. They applaud twice as much as they actually laugh, which says a lot because laughing is a physiological reaction to something funny whereas clapping is something a brainwashed audience does. He also gets claps for things that aren’t funny, but are things he says that the audience agrees with. He might say “New York is a great city” or something and the audience goes off on. (I have that same problem with the Daily Show. Not so much John Stewart but the way audiences tend to hang on every word of his and clap and laugh too much). The problem is the difference between the actual number of funny things he does vs. the number of times they applaud or laugh. My theory is that he used to be funny, and that things like “Will it Float?” or “Is This Something” were at the time revolutionary. They’re both kind of funny once, but he hasn’t changed his act in years. Conan O’Brien does the same kind of acts like “Celebrity Signatures” or “New State quarters” but each new act gives us a new set of state quarters or signatures. That sums up Letterman as a whole: You know how sometimes a funny comedian tells a few jokes to warm up the crowd so that they’ll laugh at anything for later comedians? Letterman warmed up the crowd ten years ago and those people come back to watch him and laugh at what he does now, but for those of us who just turn on his show now and watch, there’s not much to watch. He’s also a poor conversationalist like Leno (slightly better, though) and he is often rude with and disinterested in his guests.

Conan O’Brien, on the other hand, does have the qualities that a talk show host should have and I think that most people my age know it, even if the demographics don’t reflect it. He is genuinely interested in his guests, self-aware, and he works for his laughs every night.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Deep Blue Sea

I wrote this a while ago about the 1999 film with Samuel L Jackson

This film is confident enough to know that it doesn't really need a well-thought out exposition because it knows it can more than make up for it in the second act.

Essentially the film starts out, experts in a field I can't even remember, visiting some sort of scientific facility where they, for some purpose or another, genetically engineer sharks to make them smarter. Everyone who comes to this meeting, even Samuel L. Jackson who spouts off wise sayings as if he's preparing for his upcoming role as a Jedi knight in Star Wars, is pretty boring and underdeveloped. The only character who catches our attention is the resident cook, played by L.L. Cool J, who had the aura of being a little smarter than he lets off to be. Later, he is one of the people we root for most.

The exposition is a little bit sloppy and for the purpose of the audience's intelligence, it would have been nicer if the writer's had at least put in an effort to make a coherent story behind the action. Nevertheless, we're able to discern that these sharks are genetically engineered and that the beautiful but cold and humorless Dr. Susan McAllister, in the name of science, made the mistake of engineering these sharks beyond scientifically acceptable levels. Around the time, we learn this secret, the action gets under way and the sharks have escaped.

The struggle among the group of scientists to make it out of the complex alive is an incredibly terrifying ride, and we're desperately rooting for these people because the sight of seeing one of them eaten by a shark is pretty graphic (fair warning to people who have weak stomachs). Ultimately, and I won't say which ones, some make it out alive and some don't, which raises a curious case of lifeboat ethics (as in which ones deserved to survive and which ones didn't). The struggle of Dr. McAllister, was interesting too, as her genuine determination to cure diseases with the experiment that triggered this disaster, comes to turn into regret and more.

Chariots of Fire

Most people are familiar with the Vangelis' theme to this movie, but they don't know much about the film itself, and it's a shame that the film itself hasn't received enough recognition.

Today when the defining climax comes in a sports movie, they can conviniently rely on slow-motion to create drama. If you've ever taped a basketball game or a baseball game, it's fun to take just that game winning shot or game-winning homerun and watch it frame-by-frame to be able to disect exactly how that batter was able to do that, and movies of the 90s (Angels in the Outfield, Iron Will, the Rookie, etc, i could name about 20 others) have picked up on that.

But Chariots of Fire was able to create a lot of that drama without any slow motion or much of the technology that we have today. Instead, I think those races in the end are so captivating because the characters themselves engage us.

The story takes place in 1920s Britain, and yes, it is true, people back then were able to run pretty fast, even though they wore funny-looking shoes. The two main characters are both sprinters with different motivation. The first, Harold Abrahams, is a promising young student at Oxford with a chip on his shoulder, he's Jewish and feels like an outsider. One of the things the film does really well is get that paradox across to us, we see the guy fit in really well, he gets girls, he gets to act in the school play and sing corny Brittish songs, and of course since he's so fast, he obviously has the respect of the other runners, but on the other hand, there's that slight difference between him and everyone else. It's partially a self-fulfilling prophecy, him feeling like an outsider makes him an outsider, but also some of the finer details of the film reinforce the point, the shots of the university, itself, look so gothic and non-Jewish.

Either way, that subtleness really is part of how the film is so delicately made and able to give a grasp of the guy's kind of inner motivation.At the same time, the movie follows a parallel plot of another sprinter Eric Lidell, who's dashing good looks and speeed win him many fans, but he's not really into that, he's a missionary and very devoted to God, but he loves running too, and as he tells one of the other sisters he works with, he feels that his two passions complement each other, and that he thinks that when he's running, he feels God's strength and he can also use his fame to talk about how great God is, so he follows through on that.The movie tells two captivating stories, with a great historic-period feel, but it is kind of interesting how the character's two paths never really collide, but rather seem to kind of coexist on the screen, harmoniously. Considering the two run the same event, and with the clashing ways in which religion motivates the two, you'd think that would set the stage for conflict, but oddly, it doesn't happen like that. The two first meet, and have a tense and contrived "good luck to you" exchange before the race in which one loses (I won't say which one), and when they get to the Olympics, Eric refuses to run the 100 because it takes place on the Sabbath, even though he's been training for that for months.

While there's some dissapointment that these two aren't gonna battle it out as predicted, that moment in the movie says a lot about the character, and I think by making the movie more about their inner journeys within themselves rather than verse each other, the movie boldly defies the predictable route.

My hometown: a trip

This is an essay I wrote for college admission:
When I received my driver’s license at the age of sixteen, my life changed dramatically. With the ability to travel on my own significantly farther than I could go by foot, I was given a new sense of freedom, but more importantly, I gained a deeper knowledge about the place where I live.

As I learned as a high school sophomore, the best way to see Arlington is by driving through it. So join me as we take a tour. We have our choice of several major roads to get us through the community, and we will take our journey via Washington Boulevard. To start our journey, we must begin in Arlington’s Western neighbor Falls Church. I have parked my car outside Brown’s Hardware Store and our tour bus will be an emerald green General Motors Saturn. Once inside, we’ll turn the station to 107.3 FM. Now, the ignition is on and we are ready to go. We will exit out on Park Avenue and take a left on US 29 North, or as the locals call it, Lee Highway.

We won’t be able to see Arlington yet. We will have to wait until we clear this hill to get a glimpse. However, before we get there I would like to give you some background. Although a County, Arlington can be described as a suburb of Washington, DC. Three Metro lines and five major roads intersect Arlington, giving commuters easy access to Washington. Additionally, four bridges run over the Potomac River connecting Arlington to the District of Columbia. Major sections of Washington are poor, as are the public schools. Therefore many people who work in the city live in the suburbs. However, Arlington is not just a suburb. Arlington is home to USA Today, Gannett, the Pentagon, the National Cemetery, Ronald Reagan National Airport, two major malls, and several hotels.

At the top of the hill, we see a fire station, a bank and a few other one-story edifices lining the street. That is the eastern edge of the county, and the commercial center is called East Falls Church. I used to remember it as the place where we took the dog to the veterinary clinic. As we move past the bank, a sign is approaching on our right. Look carefully. It has an arrow with a sign to Washington Boulevard. There is our ticket. We swing a right onto the narrow one-way road and here is where the excitement starts. The road turns into a bridge, and before we know we are riding over a spectacular interstate highway. This is not any highway, it is I-66. While it is not as famous as US-66, there are plenty of good kicks to be had on it.

As we come down on the other side of I-66, we hit a red light at Sycamore Street. To our right is the East Falls Church Metro, one of the many stops that the Washington Transit System takes us through Arlington. Not only that, but my alma mater, Williamsburg Middle School, takes Washington DC field trips using this station. To our delight, the light turns green and we are once again free to move. The next hill will take us into Westover, a residential area. Look on your right and you will see the streets “Roosevelt, Quantico, Potomac.” As we go west-to-east the streets will go from three-syllables to two-syllables to one-syllable names and each group streets is in alphabetical order. On our left is a lovely looking brick church situated in this nice residential area. A car is passing us. It is hard to believe, but I think this might be one of those people who are driving just to get to a destination, rather than to see Washington Boulevard.

Our next point of interest is Westover Shopping Center. The clock tower will tell us the time. As we pass Longfellow Street, we will be descending again to the Levine School of Music where one can take piano lessons. Arlington is largely residential. Its residents are Congressmen, their staffers, and mostly federal and state government employees, i.e. scientists, attorneys, consultants and bureaucrats. In addition, several residents are businessmen and their employees, managing the hotels, shops, and restaurants that fuel the commercial operations of the county. Ethnically, we have a large number of Hispanics, particularly from El Salvador and Bolivia. Overall, Arlington is fairly wealthy and most of the residents live in houses, but in some sections, there are also apartment buildings.

Up ahead, there is a red light and we will have to stop at George Mason Drive, where we will be able to see beautiful Lacey Woods Park on our right. Arlington has many parks like Lacey Woods and several “deciduous forests”, as my 7th grade biology teacher would call them. On special occasions, a deer can be spotted grazing or running through these parks.

Green light! The streets will now go from Evergreen to Dinwidde to Columbus and soon onto the two-syllable streets. A green light will set us at Glebe Road, one of the major north-south streets, where we can see the bustling traffic and feel the energy. We can spot some of the skyscrapers of Ballston between the older two-story buildings. On the left is Washington-Lee High School which serves the middle third of the County.

Brace yourself, because at the next traffic light is the highlight of the tour. Quincy Street is not only home to my house but to several homeless people. The Arlington Central Library, an architectural masterpiece, is where all the homeless people of Arlington gather, and where volunteer organizations often give them food and clothes. The baseball field, where I have been playing for the Babe Ruth League since I was ten, is on the right. On any given day, we can see people pitching on the mound or getting batting practice.

Moving along we get to one of my favorite sections. On the right, look for discount gas, the cheapest gas in town. At the intersection of Washington and Lincoln is the red-and-green tiled Giant where you can still get sodas for 35 cents. My favorite street in the entire county, Kirkwood Drive is next on our tour. It was here where I took tennis lessons at the YMCA and learned the values of patience and discipline. Following Kirkwood, we get to Clarendon, my favorite neighborhood in Arlingon, which also known as “Little Vietnam”. Clarendon is a heavily commercialized center where the sidewalks are cobblestones, the telephone lines disappear, and statues line the sidewalks. The best Vietnamese and Thai restaurants and shops line the streets along with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Unfortunately, we will only be traveling a few blocks in Clarendon, because the road will take us South. I know what you are thinking. “South? But Washington Boulevard is an east-west road?” No sir! In an unpredictable twist, Washington Boulevard starts bending through Clarendon to the south. After the traffic light at 7th Street, it is only a few blocks before we cross Route 50 (which divides North and South Arlington) and move into the mysterious and vast expanse of South Arlington.

As we move under the bridge of Route 50, Washington Boulevard becomes State Route 27, a limited access highway. Cars start speeding up as if they are in a Grand Prix race. The excitement of an interstate highway combined with the grace of an Arlington road elevates the level of our excitement. On the left is the exit for Columbia Pike, a fabulous road with movie theaters, a ski shop, restaurants, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and a Sheraton which will have the nicest birds-eye view of Washington. Moving along, the interchange for the Shirley Highway comes up and a plethora of cars starts pouring into the lines. Do not worry, though. In the subsequent exits to Route 1 and Crystal City cars will be getting off. The road twists and turns like a bobsled run. On the right, is the Pentagon, a site that everybody knows recognizes. The Pentagon is the place where my driving life was born. The Pentagon’s North Parking lot was my driving practice site. Without that parking lot, I would never be able to drive today. The building is enormous housing all sorts of military and civilian personnel including my mother. The Potomac River now approaches, and the beautiful blue sky is reflected in the water. We accelerate to keep up with the traffic only to be slowed down, for here is the noble end to our beloved journey.

Washington Boulevard intersects Route 50 at a traffic circle that takes us across the Memorial Bridge, or if you take the circle all the way around, to Arlington National Cemetery. The famous Arlington Cemetery serves as a monument to the men who died defending our nation. Across the bridge we can see the great city of Washington DC, possibly forgetting about the tiny little County of Arlington, like most visitors do. Hopefully, this trip down Washington Boulevard will reveal how unforgettable our community is. I know that it has that affect on me every time I drive down Washington Boulevard.

Michael Moore: The most powerful man on the planet

This was something I originally wrote around the summer of 2004:

It seems to me that Michael Moore, despite being just a documentary filmmaker, is the most powerful person on the planet because he is single-handedly shaping America's minds about whom to vote for in the 2004 election. This film is enormous, and it has an ability to impact people. Maybe there is a class of educated freethinkers who can think for themselves and might be able to do research about what Michael Moore is saying, but I think the majority of Americans might have just enough information to make a decision of who to vote for based on this movie. And so it follows like this, Michael Moore=the potential difference maker over who wins the election=who becomes president over the most powerful nation in the world=Which of 2 radically different visions of foreign policy are carried out.

Coming into the film, I thought that while I thought Bush was wrong about the war in Iraq, I wouldn't just hand over the presidency to anyone just to beat Bush, and I didn't like Kerry much (I wanted Dean), but the film appealed to my emotions as films do and it made me realize that "You know what: this war is wrong, it's inexcusable and I cannot commend the war effort by voting for Bush so I have to vote for the other guy." So Michael Moore got my vote and i can't tell you who else's vote he might get.

You know who else is powerful. I would say Mike Phelps is the 2nd most powerful person on the planet. You know the 19-year old swimming phenomenon who's breaking all the world records this week at the Athens Olympics. He's on TV 24 hours a day this week. You know how many people are lining up to interview him? Simply in terms of how much of the world's attention is devoted to him this week, he definitely is ranked up there with anyone. If aliens were trying to learn about the human species by watching TV, if they were watching this week, they would think that Michael Phelps was the emperor of the world.

Just imagine if Michael Phelps and Michael Moore joined forces.

What's so great about The Breakfast Club

2 1/2 Stars: The Breakfast Club was arguably the most definitive teen angst film of the 80s, but then again, the 80s were a pretty bad decade for teenager films so that's not saying much. The film is about a group of five high school students who are forced to spend a day-long detention with each other.The group comprises of a jock, a bully, a nerd, a beauty queen and a freak. These are five of the most blandly stereotypical characters ever to appear in a film, and even though this is a deliberate action designed to give the actors leverage so that they could more easily be dynamic later in the film, it's blatantly obvious. The teenagers, interact with each other in ways that they otherwise wouldn't have had they not been forced to spend a Saturday together. The strongest part about the film is that there's a lot of good dialogue as the ragtag group starts going through the mundane activities of trying to stop the school bully from getting them in trouble or asking for a piece of gum, to having conversation in which they get to know each other and finding they all had more in common, than they realized.However, if ever a potentially good film was set back by the ending, The Breakfast Club would have to be one of the best examples. If the idea was that these teenagers of different social classes were going to learn that they had more in common than they realized and eventually tear down those barriers, than why does the film end with the status quo, where the beauty queen ends up with the bad boy, and everyone gets together with someone except for the nerd who ends up having to write the group paper?

Someone get Aaron Sorkin a script doctor

I don't know much about screen writing and can't really do it myself but it seems like an obvious rule that if you want to have a prolific career you are aloud to write characters that are like you, but to give contrast, you need to be add at least a few characters that aren't like you.

I recently watched one of Woody Allen's movies and just got a little tired of it because he's just made too many movies for someone with his lack of range. He is very innovative, no question, and he mixes things up (Sweet and Lowdown didn't seem much like a Woody Allen film, for example), so it's kind of up in the air, but most of Woody Allen's characters, however, are the same. They're usually engaged in some creative industry, Jewish, from New York, self-possessed, self-aware, incapable of taking relationships and not making them more complicated than they are, etc.Aaron Sorkin suffers from that same problem immensely. I really didn't like Sports Night because it just seemed really phony and the clich├ęs started growing and growing until, after enough viewing, every bit of dialogue could be predicted a mile away.

I didn't bother with West Wing but because I have an interest in Saturday Night Live and the comic industry (I've read two books on the behind-the-scenes workings of Saturday Night Live), I've tuned into this one, and there's no doubt it has some great stuff in it. The characters are really great and it really has a keen eye for its topic. From the first to the second episode, however, my annoyance with the dialogue grew and I'm worried that like Sports Night that is going to increase with each episode, to the point where I'm not willing to take the good with the bad and I'll just be forced to ditch the show. Like Sports Night, the characters:
-All have ADD, they can't discuss less than 3 topics at once
-They all complete each other's sentences like married couples (Robert Altman did this a lot in films like MASH and was considered a revolutionary for it, but Sorkin pushes it to annoying extremes)
-They are all highly intelligent but at the same time they all have really bad tact every once in a while and bring up the wrong thing to say at the wrong time
-They usually have some conflict with someone else, and often are entangled in some work-related relationship which they can't discuss in a conversation without discussing 2 or 3 things at a time with them.

Just for the heck of it, could Aaron Sorkin have thrown in a big, slow guy who will just say "huh" in response to what the other characters are saying?

Worst of all, the characters have the same sense of humor, a kind of witty and unapolagetically smart irony. This is really bad for a dramatic portrayal of a comedy show. While you don't need to necessarily be funny for an hour drama show, you need to realistically portray funny people. Watch the show and ask yourself are Nathan Corddroy, Sarah Paulsen, D.L. Hughley, and Matthew Perry's characters actually funny? Even when they're performing in the show-within-a-show scenario, are they even remotely making you laugh? Sarah Paulsen's character, a born-again Christian, who's just-ended relationship with Matthew Perry is very much at the center of the drama. She's self-deprecating about her religion and slightly whimsical but beyond that, she's not remotely convincing as a funny person, and has yet to say or do anything funny except to provide a light-hearted moment to ease the mood in the way that dramas like Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing might do.

Perhaps, the point of the pilot was to show that they, in fact, weren't funny, but the drama is that hopefully the two new writers will make the show funny. Still, that sets the bar pretty high for Sorkin and company to make us laugh and I'm not sure if he can reach it. I can't imagine it being that hard considering D.L. Hughley is an acclaimed stand-up comedian and Matthew Perry was already successful at being funny on a TV sitcom. This show has great potential but Aaron Sorkin needs to get someone else involved in the writing process who can provide a slightly different voice to his scripts, preferably a funny one, so when we watch it at home, we'll
have the feeling that we're watching more than one character.

In defense of Batman Forever

Thinking of extending that trilogy past its prime? I think it's important to realize how an especially bad turn in a film series can hurt the legacy of the entire series to the point where it might damage the director's reputation and the retroactive reputation of films that come before it.

As a 12-year old kid, I loved Batman Forever and I recently went to look up reviews of it. Before looking them up, however, I had a preminition that because of the disaster of Batman and Robin, Batman Forever would be seen as much worse than it actually was.

While Batman and Robin extends those "campy characteristics" to an extreme, without extending any substance to them, I think it's important to note that Batman Forever had a stopping point to its corniness before it ever interfered with the story at hand.

Furthermore, It's important for everyone to realize that since Batman's creation in what I believe was the 1920s, there have been two parallel versions of Batman going on. One is the "dark knight" Batman, the mysterious force of good who no one knows about, and then there's the "camp" batman, who's more family-friendly, and more colorful, put it that way, his costume has blues and purples in it, rather than just plain black. The key difference, when you think about it, is Robin, because with Robin in the picture, Batman is nowhere near as mysterious and extraordinary because there is at least one other person doing the same things he is and there is at least one other person who is fighting the same battles he is, and also because Batman has to watch out for someone else, you know he's not selfless and evil. The people who like the "dark knight" Batman, are probably people whose prime hobby is comic book collecting over film watching, because that's where the dark knight first appeared.

Me, on the other hand am a film watcher who was born in 1983, so when Batman Returns came out I was 9, and while the depth of Burton's dark urban vision was so extraordinary even i could be amazed by it, I had a hard time with all the violence, seeing so many of Penguin's henchmen killed (a couple at the hands of Penguin, himself) or the scene where catwoman robs a store and kills a guy with her fingernails, etc. I'm not saying I needed a happy ending, but all the characters, even Batman, were just very depressing.

When Batman Forever came out, I was 12, and unlike its predecessor I really got on board the ride, because the movie had really great heroes and villains, which i could be engaged rooting for or against. In Batman Forever, Batman and the villains are all equally perverse and dark, I really didn't care much who won at the end, and maybe people who are harsh on Schumaker's films fail to take into account what these Batman movies are like for a kid's perspective.Visually, the movie was a marvel to watch. Tommy Lee Jones' make-up job is so great, i'd like to see someone tell me they weren't blown away, the first time we see the left side of his face in the film. Some people say that Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of Two-Face wasn't true to the original character, who was a less hysterical individual, but I think a more composed and cool villain wouldn't have been as fun, simply put. The Riddler/Two Face partnership is the best mildly deranged villain/completely deranged villain chemistry in the series, I found (especially considering the other two partnerships never really had very much interaction with each other). Just look at the movie poster for this movie and the colors of the riddler's green, two-face's purple, robin's red, batman's dark blue/black. Like a John Williams score associates musical themes with each character, those colors with surreally bold hues draw out the characters throughout the movie. Also, Nicole Kidman blew me away too. This was long before she was in a stage where every movie role she took was basically crying out, "give me an Oscar." And as for Val Kilmer vs. Michael Keaton? Well, I think the best person to answer that question would be original Batman creator Barry Kane (did I get the name right?) who aid that Val Kilmer was the actor who played Batman closest to the vision he originally conceived it to be.

Why don't they fire the saturday night live band?

I was just watching Saturday Night Live for the first time this season. They cut the cast to 11 members because they were facing budget cuts, so it's not as good.

I was wondering, if they had budget cuts, why not deal with it by letting the Saturday Night Live Band go, so it's not as good. The Saturday Night Live band is like 15 members so it must have been consuming a heavy chunk of the payroll, and all they do is play over the opening credits anyway. Couldn't you have had them just record it in a studio, pay them for that, and just play prerecorded music. I know it's a live show but how much would really be lost if the band weren't playing live. I'm not entirely sure since i've never seen the show being taped in person, but I think they also play during commercial breaks in between sketches (judging by the fact that as the show goes to commercial break, music starts playing). Well, how about this, you already have a musical act booked every week? if it's a single singer like Ashley Simpson or Clay Aiken or the singer that was there last night, who brings a band with them, why not have the band play a little between commercials. I understand a singer's voice might get strained a little doing that.

I think that the Saturday Night Live band is secondary to the quality of the show and I'd argue that with only 11 performers, the show squandered what could have been a run created by its first good season in years by cutting cast members and not hiring any replacements in their place.

How the oscars can be unkind to someone like Ed Zwick

Yesterday when I saw Departed, one of the trailers showed was for the upcoming movie "The Blood Diamond."

I think Ed Zwick is a great director who has really carved a niche for himself as a maker of great epics (Glory, Legends of the Fall, Last Samurai), but I worry that he won't be remembered in history as at least a notable director of the past couple decades. I think oscars have hurt him quite a bit, particularly in his last film The Last Samurai and Glory.

Take Last Samurai, other than a minor quibble over historic accuracy (Samurais were apparently not nice people), it was really hailed as a great film. To me the film was flawless if only slightly less effective than Mystic River, Seabiscuit, and Cold Mountain, and with the short space for only 5 films to get that oscar nominations per year, it lost out. Still, i hope it's not forgotten in history. I think that Blood Diamond is also gonna be hailed as a really well-made film and get its share of 4-star ratings but might also just miss the oscar cut, and that adds to his consistency but might hurt him because usually directors are remembered by how many oscar nods they've accumulated.

That's at least one negative consequence for the increasing attention the Oscars gets year after year and how the Oscars are turning into the future guidebook to film buffs over what seperated the great films from the ordinary. Getting that oscar nomination has turned into the goal of filmmakers today doing it for art rather than money. Films that fall just short of the mark get forgotten amid the debates over what's oscar-worthy and what's not oscar-worthy.

How about just plain good? That's what oscars were invented for in the first place. To promote good films.

Other films that will undoubtedly be hurt by not having receieved that best picture nomination or fallen short on other oscar nominations:
2005:
Walk the Line-Although it did win a best actress win, it might not be as well-remembered 20 years from now as Ray
Constant Gardener
History of Violence
King Kong-An oscar nomination in a non-technical category (of course it was technically better than any other film, it was made by Peter Jackson, that's not saying much) would have cemented as more than just your typical big-budget special effects fest
Terrence Malick's The New World-Released at the wrong time of year and reedited upon release, it got lost amid the heavy volume of films released during December
Match Point
Hopefully students of Woody Allen, Peter Jackson, David Cronenberg, and Fernando Meirelles will remember these respective entries into their filmographies as they were all noteworthy.

2004-
Closer
Hotel Rwanda-Ironically, it's critical success is being repeated in a bunch of Africa-centered movies this year like Babel, To Catch a Fire, and the Blood Diamond, so hopefully Hotel Rwanda will stick around
The Terminal-I think it's interesting that Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks stand by this movie as a great film despite critics giving mixed reviews and people on Saturday Night Live making fun of the film

2003-
Cold Mountain-Hyped beyond belief as a surefire best picture than dropped at the last minute, probably the 6th film candidate, this was probably the film that suffered most from an oscar snub
Last Samurai-Covered in the beginning
Big Fish-Did develop a sort of cult following though, and box office success
21 Grams-Although it might help his chances a little later on with Babel
House of Sand and Fog-Another great picture that was an oscar nomination would have validated. It had oscar-caliber written all over it with its classical story, cinematography, novel adaptation roots and big name actors

2002-
Road to Perdition-A worthy follow-up for Mendes for American Beauty
Catch Me If You Can
Adaptation
About Schmidt
Far From Heaven-This one definitely got hurt

Films like Adaptation and About Schmidt were redeemed a couple years later when Sideways and Eternal Sunshine won screenwriting awards for the same screenwriters in 2004

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The best TV show ever

This was originally posted on September 30th

I watched the Office tonight and was kind of weary to do so, because I didn’t want to mess with a good thing, but it was actually pretty good tonight. There was a really touching moment where Jim called Michael a friend. I also didn’t even catch the season premiere. And I just watched a two minute clip of the season premiere, and now i'm inclined to download itunes just to get the season premiere. The last season of the Office was like the best season of any TV show in TV history. From the season’s first episode where Pam saved Michael from an akward moment at the annual Dundie Awards, the show went such a long way since last season towards bringing everyone to life, and keeping Michael hilariously akward but still endearing. I looked forward to Thursday nights last year for The Office and asked to be dropped off from ski practice at my apartment early to catch the show because it was just such a great show and uplifting experience, and hey, it’s 5 dollars cheaper than Highlawn (the local club which has college night on Thursday nights). And the season finale did something that few shows could do. It resolved the long-standing sexual tension between Michael and Pam without making it seem corny or anticlimactic, and if you have anything invested in its characters (secret to a good comedy: make the audience care about the characters) than you absolutely had to tune into the season premiere. I don’t know if this is the best show ever made, but I think that was one of the best seasons of any TV show ever.

It’s funny because every few years someone proclaims a TV show to be the best thing ever. People have said that about Arrested Development (which actually was the best show ever made), The Sopranos, Sienfeld, the Simpsons, etc. I remember that annoying sports show Around the Horn, where people get points for disagreeing with each other even if it violates common sense (it gets tricky in the first round where you have to simultaneously disagree with 3 people), they were debating what was the best show ever made: The Simpsons or Sienfeld. First of all, Simpsons shouldn’t even be in the debate. Just because a show has been on the air for 20 years, doesn’t mean it’s been producing anything remotely original material for 20 years. And does anyone remember how little the Fox network had to offer 20 or even 10 years ago? It wasn’t particularly hard to survive on the Fox network 20 years ago when the next best shows were Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, In Living Color and Married with Children. The Simpsons might be something good to watch at 6 p.m. if you’re not in the mood to watch the news, but the best ever is overstating it. Like movies, I’m sure that TV’s only good shows aren’t limited to the last 10-15 years. I think Cheers is really great. I thought that was better than Sienfeld. I really like the Beverly Hillbillies. It’s pretty much the same plot over and over again: stick 4 hicks in a Beverly Hillbillies and watch cultural disaster ensue, and each time, it’s hillarious. I think the 4 actors were really good, that was part of it. And I’m not even going that far back, we haven’t even covered the ‘50s or ‘60s with I Love Lucy and stuff like that but my point, though, is that most people just have short-term memory and make bodacious claims about shows like Sienfeld and Simpsons without an appreciation of or knowledge of more than the last 15 years.

New York centrism

I was in New York a couple months ago, and I admit it's an exciting city, maybe it's a microcosm for the American dream, but it isn't the entirety of America, and sometimes it annoys me how New Yorkers have little awareness of the fact that there's a whole world that exists outside of New York. I think it's annoying how local stories in New York that really only concern New Yorkers like Donald Trump's latest acquisitions and that eagle Pale Male, make national news. I even think that the effects of 9/11 would have been slightly different (not by much) if it happened in Kansas and killed the same number of people rather than New York because it was so close to where the media was. I think it's annoying how people praise the New York City Fire Department and Police Department without mention for the Arlington, VA Fire and Police Department for their efforts in the Pentagon. I heard from someone that the Arlington police department eventually got pissed off at all the donations going to the NYPD for the 9/11 and they eventually got their share of the money.

New York contols the media and so does Los Angeles (but I think Los Angeles is much more sensitive of the fact that it has to appeal to America, they're guided by demographics) and the TV executives in Manhattan either set most of their shows in New York or they set it somewhere else and make fun of how backwards that place is (i.e. Beverly Hillbillites, My Name is Earl). It's kind of odd how with South Park and Everwood, Colorado kind of gets some positive attention because most states that aren't in the Northeast, Chicago, or California or just misunderstood and portrayed along stereotypes. I, for one, did not think Napoleon Dynamite really portrayed Idaho in favorable light and I know that the state of Idaho legislature declared a state measure of appreciation but I still don't agree with them. I think we watched Napoleon Dynamite laughing at the quirky world that Napoleon lived in, not neccessarily with it. I don't think people saw Napoleon Dynamite and wanted to move to Idaho. The theme of the movie is that this guy is very out-of-it and he lives in a very out-of-it kind of place, and yet manages to find love. A movie like Junebug, or Doc Hollywood or Ray or Sunshine State or a Good Year or Cider House Rules do tend to promote the distant and far off parts of our country but they do tend to group them all together, as far-off insignificant parts of our country. I mean, people from Maine or North Carolina aren't that much different from people in New York or Massetchussets.
Like Junebug takes place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is where the University of Wake Forest is, so it's a college town not that far away from where I went to college. I'm only one state away from North Carolina, and North Carolina is not that far off from Western civilization as the movie makes it out to be.

In short, I think this all tends to get too extreme, in that at its worst, we have one 24-square mile island, Manhattan looking at the entire rest of the country as the quirky and eccentric parts of the country. Look at Saturday Night Live, broadcasting from Manhattan: they have the skits "Good Morning Bronx" and "Good Morning Brooklyn." They don't even go outside the City Limits to make fun of borroughs other than New York, starting points to be made fun of.

My point is that most of the country lives in those quirky less important parts of the country that aren't really representative of America at its finest (like I said, the Beverly Hillbillies are a prime example of this). Every region is a little quirky in its own way. I think if anything, New Yorkers, and LA, and Chicagoans are just not aware of their quirkiness and i don't think they're more important.

Film accents

I saw the Departed tonight, and among other things I was thinking about accents. This movie is basically like Goodfellas in Boston, and every actor in the movie made a conscious effort to sound a little more Bostontonian with his or her accent, which begs the question, what about Matt Damon? He's actually from Boston so why did he have to change his accent at all. Maybe since Matt Damon hasn't lived in Boston, or has done a lot of other movies that required a lot of different accents, in a while he felt he needed to overcompensate? The last movie I saw before this was All the King's Men and everyone in that movie really got into their Cajun accents, except for Patrticia Clarkson who just talked like she usually does. I looked it up, and Patricia Clarkson is from New Orleans, so she was smart to save herself the effort and cost of a dialect coach. It also means that she really is the standard by which all of the stars should've measured themselves in preparing for the role.