Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feminists have taste, too.

I heard Nia Vardalos say in an interview that if audiences want to see more women in leading roles, we should see My Life in Ruins in theaters and thereby vote with our dollars. And I was all set to, until it became evident that it was going to be just another dull, prescribed rom-com. So if anyone's keeping score, my going to see Up instead shouldn't be taken as a rejection of women in movies, but more a rejection of crap in general.

Also I want her purple dress.

posted by somewaterytart | 1:00 PM | (25 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, June 12, 2009

Things that just occurred to me

Amanda Knox, the American college student on trial for murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, bears a strong resemblance to Mariel Hemingway circa 1979.

This signifies nothing except it was bothering me and I just figured it out. So...there you are.

posted by somewaterytart | 3:08 PM | (6 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Woman in coffee shop: [Talks about The Secret, the 2012 apocalypse and how "we are the Borg."]
Male companion: Hey, you're a smart little bitch!
Woman: I know.
Man: Women are crazy and men are stupid and simple. You look at Homer Simpson? That's every guy- every guy is just like that.

posted by somewaterytart | 1:18 PM | (6 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, June 06, 2009

When Black Comedies Fail


Men are feral dogs...women are castrating shrews, hookers with hearts of gold, or beautiful, committed, testosterone-regulating brides...babies you find in closets don't need to eat or have their diapers changed for hours at a stretch...people who touch children are people too. As my fellow audience members erupted into perfectly-timed laughter over every penis joke, gay sex pantomime and police taser to the groin, I tried to figure out what was bothering me about The Hangover. Here's my attempt to parse it:

This movie fails because it can't decide whether it's a black comedy or a conventional bromantic comedy. The difference between the two is that in a conventional comedy, the main characters are good and you're happy when things work out in the end for them, while the jerky antagonist is dealt his crappy hand. In a black comedy, the main characters can be simultaneously awful and funny, but they reap punishment for their actions and it is acknowledged that, yes, this was bad business.

The characters in The Hangover more or less sociopathic: They steal from kids, drug each other, drive drunk, trash someone else's luxury sedan, steal a tiger and a police car, neglect and endanger a baby, get blowjobs from strangers, marry a stripper, defraud a casino, steal $80,000, joke about how Mike Tyson beats women hahahahah! and are a convicted pedophile. And in the end, they're rewarded for it. One guy gets married, one goes back to a loving wife and child, one goes unpunished for trashing his father's Mercedes, and another lashes out in a self-righteous tirade against his cruel girlfriend in an emotional crescendo intended to make the audience cheer and then gets to have sex with Roller Girl. They're left with some craaaazy awesome memories and time marches on. Even if you suspend all disbelief, it still doesn't make any sense, because the writer and director negate all the black comedy with a happy, back-to-normal mainstream ending. The lightheartedness is incongruous.

A better example of an effective black comedy is Fargo. The kidnapping scene is hilarious in its ridiculousness as the goofily-accented housewife tries to escape her pursuers, but the criminals are punished in the end, and Frances McDormand's beautifully poignant monologue as she drives one kidnapper to jail is an essential part of the narrative; she is the moral rock of the film, and she's right. In the TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the comedy is derived from the nonstop awfulness the characters inflict on each other, but nobody ever ends up happy or successful for all their selfish clawing; they are, at the end of each episode, back at zero where they started. We know they're terrible, and the universe in which the action takes place knows they're terrible. The bums lose; the bums always lose.

It's Always Sunny actually employs a dumpster baby theme in an episode, and they pull it off because while three characters attempt to use the baby for their own personal gain, another character calls Child Protective Services and they get caught. See what they did there? Dark premise, moral compass. And it's funny as hell all the way through, and was written by three guys who won a TV-show-writing contest for FX and produced on a shoestring budget.

Best moments: Zach Galifanakis' character wearing a Baby Bjorn, holding a pair of aviator sunglasses over the baby's face for an entire scene, stretching a basic sight gag into something much better. And the brief appearances of Jeffrey Tambor who, due to the lingering musk of Arrested Development and his own personal awesomeness, is an island of entertainment unto himself.

Verdict: I still don't think pedophilia is funny.

posted by somewaterytart | 6:57 PM | (16 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oprah's Skepticism Fail

I share Phil Plait's enjoyment of Newsweek's decision to place its criticism of Oprah's medical advice on its cover this week. The combination of Oprah's natural credulity and her desperation when it comes to health and beauty result in the promotion of some seriously wacky pseudoscience on her show, from Jenny McCarthy's paranoid and ill-informed anti-vaccination campaign to the hot new facelift technique that probably doesn't work and may or may not leave you hideously deformed. Newsweek takes issue with Oprah's failure to provide disclaimers as to the unproven, unscientific nature of the books and products she promotes and generally laments that America's richest, most powerful celebrity is, in many respects, entirely lacking in critical thinking skills.

From the article, an example of the quackery which takes place on many of Oprah's medical and self-help segments:
But [OB/GYN Dr. Christine] Northrup believes thyroid problems can also be the result of something else. As she explains in her book, "in many women, thyroid dysfunction develops because of an energy blockage in the throat region, the result of a lifetime of 'swallowing' words one is aching to say."

On the show, she told Oprah that "your body gives you signals: 'Hey, you've been putting too much stuff under the carpet ...'

Oprah: So your body ... is only manifesting what's really going on with your spirit?
Northrup: But your intellect doesn't know it. This is the important part. It's not—you're not causing this deliberately ... It's your soul bringing it to your attention.
Oprah: Right. It's your soul trying to speak to you."

I could go on and on about fad medicine, so I'll just say this: proponents of alternative medicine often lament that doctors and the government are 'in the pocket' of the pharmaceutical industry, and that vaccines and drugs are purely moneymaking schemes. Then these same people will turn around and sell you $150 colon cleanses and $500 for a month's worth of vitamins and 'bio-identical' hormones. Suzanne Somers, mentioned in the article as an Oprah favorite, takes 60 supplements per day and injects hormones into her vagina. And uhh...all that stuff's free, right?

The attention paid to mainstream medicine and science are biased only insofar as there is a bias towards truth and against misinformation; eventually, what is true bears itself out. Charlatanism has been a significant commercial enterprise since 19th century England, and for the most part, we have developed enough skepticism to protect our health, our wallets, and our herd immunity against fad 'science.'

There is a niche market for alternative medicine, and its practitioners are doing a mighty profitable business with book and supplement sales, homeopathic mixtures, and chiropractic and acupuncture treatments. There is no debate as to whether pharmaceutical companies are in it for the profits, but the same is true for the alternative medicine crowd. The difference is that one side bears the burden of scientific proof, and the other does not.

posted by somewaterytart | 2:15 PM | (11 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Monday, June 01, 2009

Things I Like

Disney will release The Princess and the Frog, a new animated feature film this December. It takes place in New Orleans and stars Disney's first black princess. I'm looking forward to the brassy jazz soundtrack and the hand-drawn 2D animation (with digital technology for certain backgrounds and certain effects, like in Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.) I hope hand-drawing sticks around and can exist in tandem with the Pixar stuff, because it's so pretty.
Black princess? Okay, sure. But truly revolutionary would be a princess with a waistline over 23 inches.

posted by somewaterytart | 8:54 AM | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fellow drivers, lend me your opinions.

Driving through Encinitas to my coffee shop this morning, I paused at a crosswalk and waved to a pedestrian that he should pass. This kid was about twelve, with shaggy blond hair, a sunburn, and a knit cap (it's drizzling,) your typical San Diego youth. He cheerfully waved me on but I, in my stubborn conviction that a pedestrian at a crosswalk should have the right of way (borne of so many instances of almost being run over while trying to cross Pacific Coast Highway) and since there were no cars behind me, rolled down my window and said with a smile, "dude, the pedestrian has the right of way." And he grinned and said, "it's no problem! You go." So I went.

This exchange amused me because a) it was so Encinitas (a beach community with, from my personal estimation, the highest incidence of Priuses, "Coexist" bumper stickers and yoga studios per capita in San Diego county) and b) kids are weird. But. The "you go, no you go" scenario, endemic to Southern California but certainly occurring in other regions, can get stale real fast when you're trying to get things done. Fellow drivers, what do you think of it? I think the first wave should be the final word; if I wave you on, go. Failing that, we could be there all day, competing to be the most polite and self-effacing driver on the road. And everyone knows that that title rightfully belongs to ME.


posted by somewaterytart | 1:14 PM | (11 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let's air our grievances.

Today an unapologetically chipper spinning instructor inflicted strenuous exercises upon me. She played a Meatloaf song and pumped her fist in the air, and I responded to this by losing several pounds of water weight. She may have stolen a few hundred of my calories as well.

posted by somewaterytart | 7:34 PM | (7 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink