Monthly Archives: June 2010

She’s Out of My League

Actually, this poster is more than perfect for the film. It features Jay Baruchel's face and all of its flaws right out in the open. Then there's Alice Eve, obscure and indistinguishable from many other pretty blondes out there. She’s Out of My League came as a strong recommendation from a friend of mine when it was out in theatres. This did not lead me to jump at the chance to watch the DVD, but I was certainly curious enough. After all, the premise of a down on his luck geek with self-image issues trying to find happiness with a mature woman with her shit together cannot be played out just yet, can it?

It can.

The message in these sorts of movies is clear and has been since Judd Apatow’s group made them popular with 40-Year-Old Virgin. The message is simply to own up to who you are and stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself. Only when you stop being insecure about yourself are you truly worthy of love. I get it. You get it. The message is past the point of banality now.

What really gets me about these movies is that they often point out the fact that the guys are putting the women on an untouchable pedestal while at the same time refusing to completely humanize the women. The women in the movies often come across as being dimensionless and without humor – and oftentimes flawless. The women never seem to make errors or see the ones they do make. Toward the end of She’s Out of My League, the predictable fallout occurs when Baruchel’s Kirk freaks out over how inadequate he feels compared to Eve’s Molly. At this point Molly admits that she initially only went out with him because he seemed safe. Then nothing. That seems like something substantive that could be mined for development within her own character because she started off looking down on Kirk herself. The line is basically a throw away that is never to be mentioned again. Why bother with it? Only the guys have to grow up.

If there is another woman in the movie, she is usually displayed as being nothing but flawed or just undesirable. Rarely are they sympathetic characters. Why? Because they are there to make the leading female look that much better. If you put them together, you might have something real. 

I wanted to like this movie more. The heart is in the right place. Unlike Apatow films, it delivers the message without becoming gross or obnoxious. Instead it goes for downright embarrassing, which works perfectly for a story about insecurity. But the movie decide to go with a played out story with all of the familiar shortcomings. Just once I would like to see one of these films with male and female leads who are both fully conceived and likeable. It would be nice if the females had admitted flaws that were greater than, you know, webbed toes…

Game industry slump due to product, not economy

Nintendo CEO Iwata says:

My belief is we should not blame the bad economy for the cause of slow sales of video games. The slow sales must be due to the lack of great software that everyone wants to buy. We have not shown off the great attractions of whatever we are selling.

He is absolutely right. Sad as it sounds, lack of money does not discourage people from indulging. The film industry is doing exceptionally well today, mirroring the film industry during the Great Depression. Heck, I often overhear people discussing how they manage to barely make ends meet but picked up an amazing new and overpriced car. If the product is attractive enough, people will spend the money whether they have it or not.

The guy knows a thing or two about the market...

The one in which Toy Story 3 is discussed

Unfortunately Totoro is not pictured despite being featured due to love for Studio Ghibli Pixar’s Toy Story 3 made a ton of money this past weekend, and I am not ashamed to admit I added to the number they will use to advertise the profitability of their company. It was a good movie. No, it was a great movie! It is amazing how moving a story about talking toys can be. The first two proved that toys can be entertaining. OK, I take it back. The first one proved that toys can be entertaining. Toy Story 3 goes beyond that.

The most striking thing about the film, though, is that it does not seem to be a good fit for a younger audience. Kids will absolutely love the visual stimulation the film provides, not to mention the fairly punchy script. Now take the plot into consideration. Andy is now 17 years-old and has to part with his toys. Not only does he have to learn to part with his childhood, his toys have to learn how to let go as well. The film is incredibly sentimental, which may go completely over the heads of the children in the audience.

It leads me to ask if the movie was really intended for them or for those who were children when the first two Toy Story films were released?

Regardless of the answer, there was an amazingly powerful scene near the end which could have very well been the end itself. It’s a spoiler, so avert your gaze or skip down to the next paragraph if you want to be surprised. Anyway, the most powerful scene was when the toys found themselves in the dump, on the way to the incinerator. While Woody scrambles as best as he can to get away, the others solemnly look to each other and join hands. Eventually Woody joins them. They look head on at the incinerator, silently accepting death together. There is something very powerful and probably Buddhist about it, and it brought tears to my eyes. (Everyone else cried at the end when Andy gave away his toys, but this scene was much more meaningful to me. Probably says more about me than anything else.) Toys should not be able to elicit such a response from me! Sadly, it is a scene that kids wouldn’t understand.

I had half a mind to download a cam of the film to screencap something from the dump scene, but the last thing I need right now is the MPAA and Pixar breathing down my neck. On a completely different note: I didn't grow up with a hardwood floor. I grew up with really ugly shag carpeting.

Some are already saying that Toy Story 3 is the best Pixar film to date. That sentiment is heard after the release of every single Pixar film, with the exception of Cars. Of course, this means that people are saying that it is better than Up! Naturally, I totally and utterly disagree. But it is up there. It is a great film. It may be the best movie of 2010.

An aside, though. Am I the only one who thinks that Buzz’s Spanish mode is a tacit admission that DreamWorks got things right with Puss in Boots? Or was I too busy laughing to be offended by the stereotyping used in both cases?

Puss regrets his not being featured in the film like Totoro...

Modern Video game Warfare

Dear Cracked.com,

You have visually summed up everything I have said about the triteness of modern video gaming. It quite literally renders thousands of my words meaningless.

Video games are pretty much a waste these days

I want my MTV

The other day I found myself in a room of people watching MTV’s Silent Library, which seems to be aired for two hours straight on weekday afternoons. The two hours felt like two days. This show is ridiculous, but not in a fun way. Silent Library is a game show in which six participants are made to participate in wacky and occasionally sick acts while trying to stifle their adolescent laughter in a library. If they make too much sound, they fail and do not collect money for the activity. This is the latest after school viewing offered by MTV. It makes my history with TRL feel somehow more acceptable.

Gaudy and loud. That's the MTV I miss the most.

MTV has always had a history of disdain. Music videos were thought to dilute the importance of music itself, and the in-your-face editing that the station had to use to match the rest of the station with the constant rotation of 3 minute videos was said to be ADD inducing. The criticism it has faced in the past decade has been based around the jarring lack of music videos on Music Television. MTV remedied this by changing its name from MTV: Music Television to simply MTV. This essentially changes the M’s meaning from music to just M. It is more honest than clinging to music, anyway.

When I think about MTV, I force my way back through my memories to when MTV was a cultural force. It used to be the main way people found their music, easily besting the more ubiquitous radio stations. Radio hits were passive consumption, but an MTV hit was a sensation. Ignoring the irony of the situation, the stripped back grunge culture became what it was because of its proliferation by MTV. In fact, the MTV corporation was the fuel for the (supposedly) anti-corporate Generation X.

When I think about MTV, I think about the station as a cultural force. Despite its early days playing only what was considered white music, Yo MTV Raps and other shows were given timeslots to promote more than just rock hits. Despite the outsider status of true heavy metal, Headbangers Ball offered a place for the loud and proud to display their talents. Whereas country music did not find a place on the station, aside from the more subversive acts who hid behind the face of pop, MTV was accepting of everyone. I will not dwell on the time slots for the content. The important thing is that there was acceptance.

Geeks often attribute their red-head fixation (and fetishization) on Jean Grey and Mary-Jane Watson, but for me it goes back to Tabitha Soren.

It was not just about the music, though. The Week in Rock brought us the best accessible music news before the internet infiltrated our daily lives. During the commercial breaks of our favorite shows, we awaited short clips of Kurt Loder or Tabitha Soren to find out what was going on in our world of music. (On another note, I did not realize that The Week in Rock became MTV News, and Loder is still there today.) It was where the world first learned of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Try not to diminish the value of the network’s history.

The cultural force of MTV cannot because without its non-music programming, which is difficult to bring up amidst complaints of its current dearth of music. But game shows like Remote Control and Singled Out were fun for all the right reasons, with the latter a few hairs short of allegory for the competitive nature of dating. Come to think of it, keeping the potential date veiled while an individual only learns tidbits of personality makes it almost a live-action version of internet dating.

But the less said about The Real World and Road Rules the better, as those reality shows were the predecessors for the downfall of American culture.

The most important factor in MTV’s programming for Generation X and early Gen Y was in the animated content. Most people think of Beavis and Butt-head when MTV and animation come up, but that show and its understated social criticism (that was missed by almost everyone) are just the tip of the iceberg. Daria is probably the most prized of MTV’s animated works, with its recent DVD release being all but celebrated. Daria’s attitude and outlook were pretty much the embodiment of Generation X. It was not that she was necessarily mean or even at all off-putting. She just did not want to be forced to conform to every else’s expectations and become another number. She had an individualistic outlook and was not afraid to express it. I remember this was followed on Monday nights by MTV’s Oddities, which featured The Head and the comic book-based The Maxx. Both were incredibly weird. The Head was about an average joe whose head was occupied by a space alien trying to stop an invasion. The Maxx was about a psychologically damaged person but in the guise of a trippy superhero story featuring an alternate world.

Buddhists say it is best to be like water, since it has no pretense about form or structure. Great metaphor for learning (you are water, not a cup that can be filled) or life in general. But my favorite was Liquid Television, an animated series featuring very short animations – often recurring. This is where Aeon Flux originated. She dies in every installment, which added to the mystery about her character and made her so intriguing. Most of the sequences presented were just as obtuse and interesting. I do not know of anyone who has really made sense out of things, but that was hardly the point. This was the crux of my MTV viewing experience because so much of it was indefinable.

That seemed to be the whole point to me. There is no true meaning behind what you see. If you are fine with that, then you can move forward without hesitation. If there must be a meaning, it is the meaning you attribute to it. No matter what anyone else may say, your view is the most important one to you. It is just as valid and important as anyone else’s. Never hesitate to be different. This is the cultural message I took from MTV during my development. It disappoints me to find that message potentially destroyed by reality television’s perversely elevated drama and a show where one can sit in a rowboat and have fish thrown at him for money if we can keep the laughter stifled.