Archive | September, 2013

Stupid Opinion About Tv Shows Ending and Beginning

30 Sep

In 1961 the Chairman of the FCC famously said tv “is a vast wasteland”. I’ve always agreed with that statement but knew that if you looked for the exceptions really hard, every now and then you’ll run across a jewel of a tv show. Last night the Hope Diamond of TV shows, Breaking Bad came to an end, and what an end it was. There’s a million things being said about the finale today but for me the loss is still to near and I can’t express how masterfully crafted and unforgettable that show was. It is like delivering a eulogy the day after someone died, I need more time. For now I’ll say the best tv show ever, period, ended in a way most great shows don’t. By being true to itself and obeying the same rules that made people love it in the first place. Now that there is a huge vacuum where Breaking Bad sat, what else is there to look forward to watching in weekly installments? Not much.

Nucky

Last Month The new season of Boardwalk Empire started and I haven’t watched any of it. I just think that last season it got too extreme, bombings on the boardwalk and Nucky just got into such an inescapable position and I realized this show isn’t going anywhere or building to anything like I thought it was. They’re just constantly reassembling the characters into various gangster scenarios. That way there’s always a reason for them to flaunt graphic violence and nudity in their detailed reproductions of prohibition era New Jersey. That’s still decent entertainment so I’ll probably wait a few more weeks then Binge watch all the episodes recorded on my DVR. But my suggestion to HBO is to give Nucky and friends each a clear long term goal other than making money via criminal activities.

Always Sunny in Philadelphia has also started their new season. I love it when this show has the characters be so mean and cruel to each other but it is still somehow acceptable for us to laugh at them. While the first episode had this quality, it was hilarious and disturbing in their build up of Sweet Dee’s success only to tear her back down again. But like most funny shows who reach their 9th season it is hard to repeat that flavor of comedy every time without also repeating past storylines. So I get that they’re not all going to be winners at this point. At least they always try to do something new, what I’d like to see is less doing stuff just because it is weird and having the story driven by unexplained randomness like Frank in his underwear at a playground for no reason. I’d also like to see more of the bit characters like, Artemis, The McPoyles, and Mac’s mom.  I just hope the next episode isn’t called “The Gang Disappoints Carl…Again”.

South Park

I wasn’t terribly happy with the South Park season opener, my favorite character Butters was funny a couple times but the rest was sub-par. Now I say this as a huge fan of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I’ve loved South Park since I was in high school, (has it been that long? Yeesh). I’ve seen all their movies, by the way the Director Commentary on Cannibal the Musical is funnier than the movie. I’m even seeing The Book of Mormon again this fall. These guys are geniuses but South Park is headed downhill. I think I know why. The format of each show is centered around one topic and if that topic isn’t funny in the first 5 minutes it won’t be funny in the rest of the show. So they need to pick better topics and why I can’t say how to do this I can say how not to. Stop picking current events from the news as the main point of every show. Make a couple funny references about current affairs but the bigger story could be about anything else. Also keep making 3 part stories, like the Time Child a.k.a. Go God Go and Imaginationland they’re more creative and epic, like miniature movies. There’s a lot left in their season so I’m still optimistic.

The Walking Dead starts again soon and I don’t care, I’m through with that show. While they were busy killing all the characters we wanted to die like Lori they killed all the ones people liked too, until the only interesting and complicated character left was Andrea, then you killed her, with an empty death at that. She should’ve gone down guns blazing. And why in the hell is The Governor still alive?  Also having Rick haunted by the ghost of his dead wife is too much, you can have a drama about zombies or about ghosts, not both. This show veered way off the track when they kept trying too hard to be about dramatic emotional melodrama i.e. “Maybe Dad knew I had to keep the fish and you had to throw them back” . This is a horror show, make it about scaring people while Glenn perfectly spouts corny lines for comic relief “Wait…He was an organ donor”. But I’m through waiting for that to happen, R.I.P Walking Dead.

Guess I can always take comfort in the looser format talk shows to provide some good tv, like The Daily Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and the best late night talk show going right now Craig Ferguson. But if there’s anything else I should be watching right now, I’m open to suggestions.

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion about Japan

27 Sep

SOWP_Japan

From the ages of 23 to 26 I learned shouldn’t try to impress girls with my knowledge of film directors because they would always bring up Hayao Miyazaki. I don’t have anything against him or any anime, but it’s not for me. I let this mindset colored my opinion of Japan. Besides the premature nostalgia of cartoons, I never understood the appeal of anime. It just seem like a visually loud, poorly animated, overstimulating, lowest common denominator of violence with a touch of nudity disguised just enough to keep teenager’s parents from becoming suspicious, and watching adults with dyed purple hair reading manga comic books backwards on the bus led to my narrow-minded conclusion that I don’t want anything to do with Japan. I was just fine cherry picking Ninjas, sushi and the films of Kurosawa then writing off the rest of the country and culture. Let Gundam fanboys and admirers of large eyed girls in suggestive school uniforms have Japan.

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By the time I arrived in Seoul, I told myself it was the alt-Asian city; roughly two parallels above Tokyo meant it must be the same international city with the same culture and substance. I held this stupid opinion even after I developed my own fanboy-esque obsession with Murakami. While in between reading his novels, I heard he was fascinated with Western culture, and I filed that away in my case against Japan, “The best writer in the country, loves Western culture so that just must prove that he doesn’t like his own culture.” I am fully aware that I’m exposing the flaws in my thought process and making myself look like an ignorant, spoiled, xenophobic American. Here’s to hoping the truth really will set you free.

So, last year, while reading 1Q84 I pictured it taking place in Seoul. I thought to myself, “Western cities have a general feel to them, a general layout, the differences are more aesthetic than anything, I bet that’s the same in Asia. Seoul, must have the same general feel as Tokyo, as Shanghai, as Hong Kong etc, etc, etc. So, I don’t really need to see them all. If I’ve been to one, I can throw a few generalizations at it and come up with something that’s close enough.”  And my accidentally racist thought process caused me to have even less interest in visiting Japan, even though it was only a three-hour flight away.

Then due to a forthcoming extended weekend at my job, overwhelming boredom with Seoul, and the sad reality that getting to Thailand required an entire day of travel my girlfriend and I decided to hop over the Sea of Japan to spend some time in the unappealing Toe-kay-oh!! I figured this was a perfect example of how much I’ve grown a) I was willing to do something I have little interest in b) Seoul has grown on me to the point of annoyance. I opened my mind to the Land of the Rising Sun.

My girlfriend and I forewent the typical Lonely Planets and the Poor Richard’s Almanac of Shinto Japan, we skipped a simple web search for commonly used phrases and entrusted our foreign communications to Styx, The Vapors and that one Simpsons episode where Homer’s face is on a detergent box (as any savvy pop culture enthusiast is wont to do). Instead, we decided reading a Murakami book was the best way to shore up any confusion we might face on our Japanese adventure. And we settled on Sputnik Sweetheart, based on its length and our limited time before the trip. The book begins with a character falling in love with a Korean woman firmly entrenched in Japanese culture. In fact, she is so entrenched she is considered, to quote Gladwell’s Tipping Point, a maven. This was all I needed to once again justify that Korea and Japan were basically the same place. Unfortunately, as the book progressed the story moved completely away from any part of Asia to the Mediterranean Sea on a remote island where Murakami-type things start happening. Our guide to Japan was turning into a travel log for Greek islands. In the middle of the book, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, I put it down to finish packing for my flight in four hours.

SOWP_Murakami_1

On the flight out, we were bumped up to pseudo-business class and despite the most relaxing flight I’ve ever taken, the book still wasn’t finished by the time we touched down at Narita Airport. And it took approximately one bus ride from the airport to completely reverse every stupid opinion I held about Japan. The city was amazing, and nothing like Seoul. We drove in on this small elevated highway that seemed to wind through the buildings overlooking street of classy neon nothing like the aggressive capitalism signs violating even the simplest buildings in Seoul. When we finally arrived at our hotel I realized the complete error of my way. By noon the following day I was a fully converted to the appeal of Japan. It is easily the cleanest city I’ve ever been it. It is beautiful, and the areas we visited put a real premium on trees and shrubs. I won’t bore you with the details of the trip, but the whole extended weekend was a wonderful experience.

Upon returning to Seoul, I returned to Sputnik Sweetheart. The story moved back to Japan, and I had a whole new impression of what was happening in the story. Now the Korean maven carried a new significance, the setting was just a bastardized version of Seoul and I was more sympathetic to the narrator. To somehow, albeit weakly, try to tie this back to pop culture; I let something I didn’t care for influence my opinion and keep me from enjoying something magnificent. Also, once I experienced Japan first hand, my perspective on something I loved prior changed as well. I don’t know what I’m trying to say here; maybe, travel more and consume less or jump to conclusions at your own peril, I don’t know I’m going to button this up before I start suggesting people should regularly go to church and avoid R rated movies.

Been to Japan? Love anime and think I’m an idiot for writing off Miyazaki? Do you know what those dumb extra long sideburns anime characters have are called? Or do you just think Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus should get a room already? Tell us in the comments below.

-C. Charles

The Way Way Back is Where to Go

21 Sep

Man let me tell you, I wish I could have seen this movie when the doldrums of summer left movie theaters mired in a Hell of Super Heroes and Sequels. Apparently The Way Way Back was released in theaters at the end of July, but the only thing I’ve ever seen in the way of advertising was a trailer someone posted on a social media site weeks ago. Either this movie got no marketing or I just happened to miss every theatrical trailer, tv spot, online review (not on this blog), and all other press whatsoever concerning The Way Way Back. Even so, I did find it playing at an independent theater, so I got to see it on the big screen before it was too late.

The Way Way Back

On the surface this movie looks like another one of those cute coming of age teen dramas and if that’s what you expect, it defiantly fits that standard so you won’t be disappointed. It is also so much more because it relies on a lot of really well done little things instead of just repeating big gimmicks. The ensemble cast all play their roles very naturally and you can tell they improvised a lot of great stuff. The main character Duncan is the awkward 14 tear old, struggling to cope with being dragged to his Mom’s boyfriends beach house for the summer. You’d typically get a formulaic Michael Cera or Jesse Eisenberg type character who is a neurotic, self-loathing, whiney pussy. But Duncan reacts to his uncomfortable position with a quiet acceptance that life is just unfair sometimes so just stay silent and out of the way. This allows the other adult characters to share the spotlight, getting laughs at each turn. Steve Carell is dead on in his portrayal of that guy you hate, mostly because he doesn’t know how much you hate him, and also he’s banging your mom. Toni Collette is trying her hardest to balance the relationship with her son while still fitting into the boyfriend’s beach house scene. Allison Janney is the kooky next door neighbor nobody invited over but keeps showing up anyway. She is boisterous, over the top, and comical as a parent who’s always just drunk enough to say something inappropriate and embarrassing. My favorite quote: “Thank God! Another night of drinking alone and I was going to kill myself” she’s hilarious. With Steve Carrell, his friends, and the neighbors, life at the beach house isn’t where Duncan wants to spend the summer. Duncan meets Owen who owns Water Wizz, and offers Duncan an escape in the form of a summer job at his water park. Owen played by Sam Rockwell is the keystone of what makes this movie work, as C. Charles much better describes here. Long story short Sam Rockwell along with the rest of the Water Wizz staff provide a much more positive support system. Duncan gets some great life experiences along the way that give him the confidence to assert himself and reconnect with his mother.

Way Back

I know this doesn’t sound like a solid comedic premise but it is a solid story about a time in our lives we can all remember; that summer job we had that was much more than just a job. The characters fill this framework with their comedic performances, as they play off of one another creating top shelf chemistry. There’s some uncoordinated dancing, singing off key, physical comedy, witty banter, all the simple tried and true funny stuff. I like how the coming of age drama format is somewhat reversed, here the adults are horny, binge drinking, and staying out all night. While their kids restrain their hormonal impulses, and go out and get a job. What I really like about this movie overall is that it is a perfect example of how less is more. There’s no explosions, car chases, violence, nudity, or computer graphics. Instead it chooses to focus on creating very down to Earth realistic characters who populate an especially well written story that’s presented with a bit of emotion and a little more humor.  In doing so The Way Way Back was the most pleasantly surprising movie I’ve seen in a theater in months. It gives me hope that American film makers can still entertain with small budgets and original content. Put this one your list.

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion About Comfort Albums

3 Sep

Way back in the simpler times of last February, back before Stupid Opinions Written Poorly was read by nines of people, when Caitie and I attempted our first podcast, I was fairly adamant about not even touching music when it came to writing something poorly on this site. Partly because writing about music doesn’t interest me and partly because the only music I find worth talking about is Kanye West. It was pretty straight forward, I’d let Caitie tackle all the hard-hitting stupid opinions about music, but since she has gone off and won the life lottery of being verbally abused by delinquent youths and Carl Wells favorite genre of music is books, it looks as if I have no choice but to throw my hat into the ring amature pop music criticism.  And who knows what the future will hold for that, but for right now, I’m going to share one reason why I have been and will continue to be a terrible amature music critic.

I think it boils down to a substantial flaw in my personality; my inability to make choices.  Making a choice is same thing as a suburban landscape of ranch-style homes as a battleground for Spider-man, I am virtually useless when it comes to making decisions. Even things as simple as choosing what music to listen to at a given time cause me to break out in a flop sweat. Some of the ways that I’ve been able to get myself out of this dilemma is listening to every song on my iPod in alphabetical order, which took nearly four and half months. The next decision-avoiding method was to try to listen to every album on the iPod in alphabetical order.  There is only so many ways you can set out to make choices to listen to music, and when all the alphabetical choices are exhausted I always fall back on one thing: The Comfort Album

The Comfort Album isn’t the favorite album, but sometimes it is. It doesn’t have be qualified as a guilty pleasure, even if you don’t really care to play it when friends are around. The Comfort Album is the music I listen to when I can’t decide what to listen to. The album I can listen to a thousand times and not even feel a shred of guilt for not at least attempting to find something different instead. They’re the first songs that get loaded on the new iPod. The albums you couldn’t do without on a long solo road trip across the country. Off the top of my head I have three or four comfort albums.

 

1. The Ladybug Transistor – The Albemarie Sound

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I believe this was a gift from a friend with exponentially better music taste than me. The music fits me so perfectly that every time I listen to it, I’m just begging my brain to have the songs get stuck in my head. And if you catch me making trumpet melodies under my breath, you’ll know I’ve recently listened to this album. It’s just one great song after another. Their instrumental tribute to spaghetti westerns and Ennio Morricon, Cienfuegos, pulled me right in, as getting the reference is wont to do. So, when faced with a decision on what to listen to, this album gets picked more than any other, even though the band has the shocking disadvantage of being listed near the middle of the alphabet.

 

2. Pulsars – Pulsars

SOWP_Pulsars

The “legend of the recordstore cheap bins” says there are gems in there if you just look. I’d like to set the record straight and save anyone who still goes to a brick and mortar record stores a lot of time, there is nothing in those bins worth your time. Sure, this, one of my comfort albums, was in the .99 cent bin, but this CD is Kobe Bryant and every other CD in there is any person who ever shot a basket at any age, at any place. Not a good ratio. I guess there are some gems, but they require an Gladwell-esque* 10,000 hour search to find. Luckily, in my case, this amazing album was recommended to me and I just happened to find it in the cheap bin. This disc is so great. There’s a song about tunnels. And it turns out that I’m a sucker for catchy pop songs about trivial topics. But the overarching theme of the album is this uneasiness about technological advances written at time before you could even play snake on your Nokia. This album is impossible to listen to without putting a smile on your face.

 

3. The Postal Service – Give Up

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There was a time when I thought that the next album from The Postal Service was going to change the world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was that kind of widely held attitude that kept the sophomore album from The Postal Service from ever existing. I first listened to this album on repeat while I was driving across country on a failed amateur-designed tour turned vacation in Wisconsin. The impetus behind the whole trip was taking two weeks to be a roadie/driver for my friend’s acoustic sets across the dive bars of the midwest to get over one of my at-the-time life-shattering heartbreaks. When the tour fell apart in Milwaukee, my friend and I went to an late night record store where I faced the fact that this trip was not going to be an opportunity to meet drunk strangers to hopefully sleep my heart back into a slightly functioning mess and so I purchased Give Up.  While driving home I forced my soul to make a connection with this album out of pure self-loathing escapism. The happy ending to the whole story is I stick up for The Postal Service way more than I should.

 

4. The Zombies – Odessey & Oracle

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This album is flawless and, no matter the mood, time of day, political landscape, I am always in the right frame of mind to listen to it. I think this album has single-handedly stunted my desire to find new music.  If something this perfect was made, and practically ignored in 1968, really, what hope is there for popular music? I think this is my most comforting album both because I think it is the best, but also because The Zombies weren’t successful other than a few hits on the oldies stations and it just makes me question the whole stupid idea of pop culture. Why comment on a designed-to-be-polarizing choreographed performance at a fixed award show, when we could just listen to The Zombies or any one of your comfort albums?

Do you agree with these comfort albums? What are some comfort albums of your own? Have an opinion about Justin Bieber? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment in the section below.**

 

-C. Charles

 

*New book coming out, who knew?

**In this great book I’m reading “How to Do Things to Get Attention Online without Looking Like You’re Seeking Attention to Validate Yourself” in the chapter titled “Creating a Dialogue About How Great You Are” it suggests to end all blog posts with a string of questions to bait your readers into commenting about your work.    

Movies To Avoid This Fall

1 Sep

Autumn is an interesting time for movie releases I suspect that when studios have no idea when to release a film they just randomly pick a Friday in the fall. This makes knowing what to expect difficult and that’s why so many sleeper hits and Oscar surprises come out in the fall. But it’s also the dumping ground for cinema sludge. We all know what a “Bucket List” is, well I have an opposite of that too, a list of things I don’t give a bird’s cold shit about. Guess what it’s called, it rhymes with bucket. Here’s a fraction of the movies in the order of their release date this fall that are on my Fuck It List.

RIDDICK – A group of space travelers land on the surface of a baron desolate planet and discover that Vin Diesel thinks that by making his voice very gravely people will take him seriously. Especially when all his lines are uttered in mumble growls. Violent conflicts erupt between Mr. Potato Head and whoever. But then the planet grows dark and carnivorous alien monsters wake up and are hungry for human. All of a sudden Vin Potato head’s overly aggressive violence is an asset for fighting the indigenous wildlife and the people trying to kill each other are all friends now. I was able to get an advanced screening of this movie in 2000 when it was called Pitch Black.

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 – The first one came out in 1978 and Roger Ebert called it “A vile bag of garbage…without a shred of artistic distinction.” He gave it zero stars and put it on his list of 100 worst movies ever made, this is from a guy who’s actually seen like 12,000 movies. I happened to see it a very long time ago at a party. It is so misogynistic it has to be seen to be believed, something I don’t advise. Someone had the bright idea of a 2010 remake, I don’t know if I Spit On Your Grave 2 is a sequel to the 1978 or 2010 version. Does it really matter? Maybe a remake / sequel to the 1978 classic Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People is on the horizon.

MACHETE KILLS – First off, MACHETE Jesus Christ some of us actually saw that movie and now there’s a second one!? This was all fun and games when it was a cute joke trailer in Grindhouse, it should have ended there. The film starts with a girl pulling a phone out of her snatch, and tumbles downhill from that. Robert Rodriguez, you hurt me on the inside and need to be stopped before your maniacal plot evolves into a trilogy that…What’s that? The third one is in development, and will be called Machete Kills Again, In Space. Anyone trying to justify that these should exist lives in a reality I have no interest in.

CARRIE – If I wanted to encourage anyone to see this movie I’d first have to do one thing. Wrap my soul in a paper bag throw it on the ground and stomp on it. The original Carrie was perfect at telling it’s story and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Looking back 40 years on the over the top portrayal of the 70’s it only adds to the entertainment value. So what if it stars Julianne Moore and the girl from Kickass. Sure they’re good but the original cast was dead on for their roles. This remake will feel like the 1999 sequel Carrie 2: The Rage, bland, out of place, and hastily manufactured.

BAD GRANDPA – Okay I admit to liking Jaskass, not all of it but enough to have paid extra to see Jackass 3D at its first midnight showing. One part of their repertoire that is in very poor taste is when they go out in public and proceed to piss off normal unsuspecting people. These are real people with real lives and real problems and don’t deserve to have the Jackass boys ruin their day. Bad Grandpa is just Johnny Knocksville playing a bad grandpa to victimize the public for 90 minutes. This is borderline criminal to me. But besides that, it is not even original anymore. Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career out of these movies and we’re all plenty sick and tired of him. So Jackass should just stick to hurting themselves and each other on camera.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD – Eventually all American movies will be comic book movies and that will be a sad day, it will be sad in every way I can think of, and sad in other ways waiting to be invented. So let’s all make that happen sooner by giving Thor hundreds of millions of dollars. High hopes it has the best bits of the first movie like casting brilliant Anthony Hopkins and having him be asleep for the whole thing. Stuff I don’t get includes how Odin refers to humans as “mortals” implying that he is immortal. But how does an immortal lose an eye and go into a coma? Epic cliché hero dialogue like “You are unworthy of your title, and I’ll take from you your power.” Better be included in Thor 2, as well unthreatening emo villains .

What a coincidence every movie on this list is a sequel I wonder how that happened.

Carl Wells