Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spill Movie Reviews: New Moon

Back around the time I graduated from UT, there was a local public access movie review show called "The Reel Deal" featuring a handful of 20-something guys who were actually pretty good. The show was funny, as well produced as anything you were likely to see on Access, and the reviews were usually very fair, especially as you had between 3 and 5 people giving their opinion.

Interestingly, one of the guys worked with Jamie at former Austin dotcom cautionary tale, Human Code. Jamie and Korey became chummy, and so I got to know him a bit a while back.

It seems that Martin and Korey have moved on to The Spill, an online animated movie review site. Its pretty darn good.

Here's their review of "New Moon", both before and after they'd seen the movie. And it is hilarious (but PG-13, and other reviews stray into R-rated territory).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Enemy Ace thinks there are already too many cooks in the kitchen

Enemy Ace doesn't think you should read this series, either.

I'm going to some Leadership whatzit in the morning. Gotta get up early.

Get your own post.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anniversary of Aggie Bonfire Tragedy

The 18th marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Aggie Bonfire. Leaguers will remember the bonfire as one of the great traditions not just in sports, but a great Texas tradition.

It was always mind-boggling to hear about the bonfire, a massive, multi-story structure that was built by students, and whose eventual torching was the social event of each year at Texas A&M for many students and alumni. The fire, of course, was Texas A&M's good-natured effigy of UT, and the fire was equal parts man-made wonder and joke. Unfortunately, unforeseen construction issues occurred with the fire being built for the 1999 UT/ TAMU match-up, and the tower fell, killing 12 students.

I was working on campus at UT at the time, and what I remember was the shock on campus, and the line that went around the mall in front of the tower as students queued to give blood, unsure of what else to do. Neither students nor staff could imagine what must have been going on at the Texas A&M campus.

Anyway, the ensuing years have certainly not meant that people have forgotten. Texas A&M has erected a very nice memorial to the students, and memories of the bonfire are still a favorite topic of conversation among Aggies and friends who were able to ever see the fire.

I am not sure what Aggies do these days prior to the game. But Aggie spirit is something to behold (and fear a bit, if you're a Longhorn on gameday), and hasn't flagged a bit in the years since the tragedy.

Some Items I Love About Vegas

1) Shooting machine guns is no problem (for a fee)

2) Drivers.

I love cab drivers no matter where I am, but in Vegas, those dudes have seen everything and will talk about anything.

We had a great conversation with a cabbie who explained how, after what sounded like he'd married a string of elderly women for their money, was now retiring from a life of being a kept man and becoming a plain-old gigolo. Retired is a strong word. His last wife had died of natural causes, which led me to believe she had at least twenty five years on him.

But he was pretty pumped about this new chapter in his life. In fact, he showed us the books he was reading on becoming a gigolo.

Also chatted with a driver who was amazed by the nuclear test sites near Vegas, and theorized it was that which made people who lived there too long begin to transform into "the people from 'The Hills Have Eyes'". Apparently a lifetime of cigarette smoke, drinking, desert sun and recycled air is no problem, though.

We also chatted on the fact that Vegas doesn't recycle, which, we agreed was insane. It was decided he should seek seed money and start a tire and paper recycling plant a few miles outside the city (to keep the fumes from getting the tourists).

3) Moms next to hookers.

Visitors to Vegas don't just put up with stuff they'd never have in their own backyard, they embrace the malarkey. You really can't get anywhere too far on the famed "Strip" without someone trying to get you to call a "lady of the night" by handing you a glossy card with a picture of what is surely not the actual hooker who will show up at your room (another bit of unsolicited information the drivers wanted to make sure I had in my pocket).

Its just interesting to me to see all these people who look exactly like my parent's friends having a club soda and sitting at the slots, I guess just tuning out what has to be a thriving industry in Nevada.

Most of me suspects that, when you get down to it, like most other things people pretend to be outraged by, Las Vegas is testament to the fact that the vast majority just doesn't really care all that much about what we label societal ills when they crop up in our backyard. But, you know, put them in the glitter ball that is Vegas, give some free drinks at the slots, and it's all good.

4) Celebrities you totally forgot about (some of whom are dead) have a lucrative career going on

When was the last time you thought about Bette Midler? I'll tell you: that episode of Seinfeld more than ten years ago. But in Vegas, Midler has a stunningly successful show at Caesar's Palace. So does Cher. Barry Manilow is rocking the Hilton, I believe.

Yeah, there's all the Cirque du Soleil shows, etc... but Wayne Brady has a show, and all kinds of other comedians, singers, etc... And there's even some celebrities who are there in spirit via long-running drag shows with the stars impersonating all sorts of celebrities.

And even being dead is no barrier. The mostly-dead Beatles have a successful show of people singing karaoke of their stuff, and the Rat Pack is refused the right to rest in peace as impersonator after impersonator puts on hammy versions of Dino, Frank, Sammy, etc... And certainly there's no shortage of Elvii, and I actually bore witness to a street performer getting into his Michael Jackson getup in the bathroom at a Cali-Mex place. And, heck, I passed a Liberace museum on my way to shoot guns.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brooksie Would Have Been 106

I have my favorites of the silver screen, and in college discovered silent-era star and bon-vivant, Louise Brooks (aka: Lulu, aka: Brooksie).

You may not know her name, but you know the look she institutionalized.

ArtMan 2112 posted an original drawing
of Louise Brooks at his site for her birthday, which was Saturday. And this got me thinking: I should probably mention Louise Brooks as a Dame in the Media The League Once Dug.

The Louise Brooks Society maintains a website and a blog as complete as I think you're going to find on any starlet of the silent film era.

I've only seen a few Brooks movies, but there's no doubt that she manages to steal the show in the films in which she appears (a bit like whenever Veronica Lake would bother to just show up in a frame of film).

There's also a fascinating documentary about Brooks called "Looking for Lulu", that's equal parts an amazing life story and fodder for a great movie that's never been made, following the tragic trajectory and surprising turn in Brooks' final years. Someone out there should be turning the story into the next great BioPic. But, holy cow, did it sound like Brooks was a handful, both as a starlet and still her declining years.

Brooks seems to have been the definitive Jazz Age Baby, and was the shadow opposite of Mary Pickford's curls and vestigial Victorian-era faux-virginal innocence (which ultimately ended her career in a completely different manner). Brooks was eclipsed by her contemporaries such as Clara Bow, who, you know, is her own thing and we do not complain.

Most famous for her roles in "Pandora's Box" (recommended), which gave her the nickname of her character, Lulu, and Prix de Beaute, Brooks had gone to Europe to act for Pabst, etc... Her attempted return to Hollywood didn't go particularly well.

I'm not exactly sure about the reasons, but if I had to guess:

breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Brooks would disappear after appearing in a few b-movies. I am not sure if a post-code Hollywood couldn't handle her, or if she had simply burned too many bridges. As near as I feel like relating what happened (rather than suggesting you check out the documentary), she more or less became a kept-woman, and I think the doc was politely suggesting she took up the world's oldest profession. It sounds like Brooksie may have been suffering from some emotional/ mental issues if diagnosed today.

Later, she would find some grace as she was accidentally discovered by a film enthusiast who referred her to the Kodak company in the 70's.

Brooks has been imitated to such a degree (its unclear if she invented bangs on women rather than girls, but she seems to have been the one to popularize the look), that she now exists more as archetype than person. Which is odd.

But I do find that small bit of redemption for Brooks at the end of her life (when it sounds like she was still a cutting pain-in-the-ass) to be an oddly romantic story. And, honestly, she was very good in what she did. Its unfortunate she never made the leap to talkies, but many, many did not.

So a belated birthday salute to Louise Brooks.

Coincidentally, if you find "Beggars of Life" on DVD (a legal copy), let me know. While the studios are doing a surprisingly good job of bringing stuff from the 40's and 50's to DVD, the silent era has been more or less ignored, as near as I can tell. Right now, the only way I can find to see a lot of these movies is on VHS, which... there's not even a deck in my house, so I'm out of luck, anyway.

I suspect as the catalogs of the studios become available on-demand, this sort of thing will be easier to obtain.

Superman Returns: The Extended Cut?

The 2006 film "Superman Returns" clocks about 2.5 hours, and by many viewers' standards, its a pretty long viewing experience as it is. Its not much of an action movie, and isn't for everyone, but...

People following the production closely noted that there were a lot of missing pieces from the final product that we'd seen in previews, stills, etc...

In many ways, I believe it may have resulted in a loss of context in favor of a run-time short enough to get more butts in seats. My understanding is that the final cut was approved and managed by director Bryan Singer, but there have long been stories around Superman Returns that Singer somewhat lost control of the production. So was the 2.5 hour version what the creators intended?

Superman Homepage has posted a story that several Super-Geeks have put together a petition for an extended cut, which they're calling "The Bryan Singer Cut".

Supposedly this version includes more footage of Kal-El's visit to the remains of Krypton, the interior of his spaceship, a lot more in Smallville, and probably other footage I don't know about. There's supposedly a new relationship between the windowed Martha Kent and Ben Hubbard, a guy mentioned in a single line (but never seen) in the first Superman movie.

I would love to see this version of the movie, and given that fan pestering resulted in the release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, its possible WB could work with Donner and Co. to put together a lengthier version of "Superman Returns".

So... If you want to help out Supes, The League and the weirdness of Superman Fandom, you can click here to learn more. Beware: there's a blast of Super-Music when you click the link.

Back from Vegas

Well, goodness. That was certainly Vegas-sy, was it not?

Had an absolutely great time with 20 dudes from Austin, Seattle and Vancouver. The rules of Vegas are clear, and in the advertising: what happens in Vegas, etc... And so while we can discuss the trip in broad strokes...

Arrived Thursday night, ate quickly, and then I met Jerry Springer.

That's right. Jerry Springer.

We stayed at Planet Hollywood on the strip, down near Paris and the Bellagio. The "America's Got Talent" TV program tapes there (I think), but while its not currently taping, I guess they hired several of the acts from the show who perform as a live stage show-thing with Jerry Springer as MC.

Anyhow, I'd been at the hotel all of an hour and was having a cocktail with the assembled crew near the Sportsbook, and Springer wandered in (an enormous cigar in his mouth) to check some scores. He was only modestly mobbed, and I asked politely to meet him (he seem amused that I'd called him "Mr. Springer"). Hopefully Matt will e-mail me the picture this week. Anyway, the man was extremely gracious, and I've been a fan since college. No, I don't watch every day, but I watch from time to time when I'm home on a weekday.

(Anytime you want to know what I think America is really like, I ask you to consider how many guests Springer has had on his show over its 2 decades of existence. Also, the existence and popularity of Las Vegas now that its ditched its "It's Family Fun!" angle of the 1990's.)

One oddity of Vegas (or maybe not so odd) was how quickly we all decided 4:00 or 4:30 AM seemed like a reasonable bedtime, and so we were all crawling out of bed at 12:00 or so Pacific time for breakfast.

Friday we headed to "The Gun Store". I have conflicted views on how our 2nd Amendment has been interpreted, but by golly, I was fully in support of SOMEBODY having the right to rent me time with a machinegun by Friday evening.

Shoemaker got a slightly more... bad-ass package, but The League went vintage and got the WWII package, where we got to fire an MP40 SMG, a 1911 Pistol .45, and a Thompson SMG. It was all very Sgt. Rock. And I shot the holy hell out of some paper targets (we're all ace shots at 20 feet, it seems).

I also learned I have no idea how to hold a pistol correctly.

Attempted to play a game called Pai Gow, which was a variation on Poker, and immediately blew through what I'd set aside for the tables in about 25 minutes. I am not ready for much more than nickel video poker, and we've confirmed I'm barely okay at that.

I was disappointed at how expensive I found the food, and never really wound up having a kick-ass meal, but given what I was paying for stuff I wasn't blown away by, I wasn't looking for much better than how we did.

The best part, of course, was an opportunity to hang out with local friends in an environment outside of our day-to-day, catch-up with old, very good friends from out of town, and meet some new guys you can get along with pretty darn well.

Things I could do without:

Being sold on the very hotel I am in, the entire time I am there. You already have my money, casino.

The Strip is very much appealing to the E!/ Us Weekly lifestyle in a way I imagine many would find off-putting. They may not care, but it seems like there's very little between that avenue and hotels which are clearly passing their prime. I just was a little tired of the LA-Couture thing by end of last night. Everyone's a rock star in Vegas. I get it.

Anyway, no plans for pics. I didn't take any, and its probably bad form to publicly post pics from Vegas should any show up in my e-mail.