Friday, March 28, 2008

So, after living life, what happens next?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky

Year: 1999

Way back when, an author by the name of J.D Salinger wrote the classic book about teenage life, The Catcher in the Rye, a book that was about a young man that is brutally honest, frank, and yet, endearing. It seems that Chbosky's intentions were that to take the tough but wise protagonist/narrator who tells his story about life and growing up. However, I have not read Catcher, I have read Perks of Being a Wallflower and honestly, I feel that while the dialogue is very true to teenagers and that the activities that teenagers get involved in, sex, drugs and Rocky Horror are real, but after reading this slim novel, I had one burning question:

Why the hell should I care?

Granted, Perks is a book with its own cult following, one that I had heard talked about by teens for ages until I actually read the book itself, and to be honest, I am not impressed.

I read Perks when I was the age of the narrator, Charlie, I was about to start high school, so it was about the end of the year that I read the book. The story involves Charlie, a freshman who writes to an anonymous friend, one we never learn the identity of. Charlie's friend killed himself not too long ago, so Charlie's method of grieving is to cry. However, it is not long before he meets up with the cool kids and is introduced into their life, their circle of friends, their lives. Charlie has problems brewing at home, so he is just desperate to find friends and be cool, so he does. However, he also befriends a teacher who challenges him and lets him work to his full potential. In the end, his potential is pretty much a small after thought, seeing as smoking and alcohol have taken up what could make him great. And his friends are the 'good guys'.

One of my major problems does not lie in the whole aspect of a kid doing drugs, partying and living his life with older kids, I pretty much did the same growing, granted I didn't immerse myself into the drugs and alcohol subculture. However, Charlie was not me at all growing up. Reading this book, I kind of felt, dare I say, repulsed by him. He seemed less of a cool kid hanging out with the seniors, more or less the little freshman who followed around the big kids. Reading him talk about his interactions with his friends, I didn't feel jealous, I just felt like how the hell is he just coasting by life, getting friends that are anything but trustworthy, dating people who are out of his league, and as I mentioned before, the only thing I got out of this was that he gets into addiction and all of that jazz. It's rather difficult to describe my dislike for Charlie, but I just felt that because he was popular, because he went to parties, he wasn't someone I wanted to be, he wasn't my voice. For once I felt like this young teenage boy was just someone I wouldn't be friends with, making me feel like a judgmental senior, which sounds horrible, and yet, I was one of the few who felt that this book did not speak out to them.

Another gripe I had with Perks was that though it is a short, sleek novel, nothing seems to happen that is particularly important. Besides the parties, the hanging out, the drinking and smoking, all I really walked away with was not to make the same mistakes these characters did. Nothing threatened their lives, they had lousy times, but nothing really changed them, there was no eventual realization that maybe life was something important not to waste time lazing around. Call me cold, but I expecting something big to change their lives, death, AIDS, an STD, anything that made the book truly stand out as something other then a bored teen's guide to parting.

Damn, do I feel like an adult.

In a nutshell, The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn't a bad book; it's not very long, it's readable, the dialogue is believable, and there are some scenes that stand out. It's not a bad book, it just has way too much of a cult following based upon a fair young adult novel. If you want to read a book that is this, only 100 million times better is Looking for Alaska. Believe me, it blows this one out of the water and justifies my annoyance for this book.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Every Little thing that You Say or Do, I'm Hung Up, I'm Hung Up on You.

Before I go on my tirade, let me say that I don't fully intend on hurting anyone's feelings, but I've just got to come out and say it:

I cannot stand Madonna. Period.
"Does Not Want!"

Like every rant, the reason I am venting about Madonna, one of the most popular singers ever because I see her as one of the most ubiquitous, vain, vapid, and overrated musicians of all time. Don't get me wrong, I will admit that her song, Hung Up that borrows(for lack of a word) from ABBA is more then slightly catchy and a guilty pleasure of mine. Despite this small guilty pleasure, it's not enough to retain myself from ranting about her. She hasn't looked for world peace, she constantly tries to bring back her sexy self from the eighties and she is always trying to reinvent herself as well as her image. Madonna seems to think she's still the bubbly, youthful free spirit who is loved by everyone when her only devoted listeners seem to be gay men and strip clubs. What makes this woman so loved, so worshiped and so divine? She is a Kabbalist which has turned many people to this pseudo-religion and worst of all, she is convinced that she is also as British as the queen herself.

For reasons beyond me, Madonna still has a stable career, when many people seem to be against her. She cannot act for her life, it's clear as can be. She notoriously ruined Guy Richie's career, almost bankrupt George Harrison's movie company, so not everyone loves her. While she still as popular as she was twenty years ago, she has also been a controversial figure. If by controversial you mean does things on stage and in music videos that is trying to be edgy and shocking. Which, if you think about it, is not very edgy and new at all. I know I most certainly will not listen to the aural assault called her music even if she pulls a Sinead O' Connor and tears a picture of the Pope and says Santa Claus is not real while spitting on the cross and makes love with a black priest(Wait...she already did this one).

Since her Like a Virgin stage, Madonna has played the cute and sexy part for too god damn long. People still attend her concerts, so because she's still so talked about, she obviously must still put out music, which it has slowly become less and less of. I'd call it, techno noise with boops and beeps and borrowing from songs from the 70's. And admit it, playing the sexy role at her age is just scary to witness and watching her try so hard to shock and cause talk about her music has gone on too long. Imagine your grandmother acting like Roxie Hart in Chicago and then you'll see what I mean.

In conclusion, Madonna, to be blunt, your fifteen minutes of fame have been up since the mid nineties and have been waiting to be collected for ages now. So claim them and leave the music industry please!

Still, regardless of what you think about Madge, this Ungodly rendition of the classic song "American Pie" should be buried in a safe at the bottom of a deep, dark ocean. And I won't even subject you to Madonna rapping. You'll have to search for that on your own masochistic time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sucks more than Blood

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins,
Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves.

I do apologize for the irrelevancy of reviewing Bram Stoker's Dracula, but since I haven't really seen much since Miss Pettigrew, I felt I needed more bad reviews on my site, so without further adieu, the review.

I stumbled upon Dracula when a good friend called me to tell me that she had just watched Dracula and said it was just plain awful. She had received it as a gift years ago, but never opened the shrink wrap(Whether or not it was a friend who secretly despised her I'll never know). Needless to say, I told her I had to stop by and watch it with her, anticipating the cheesiness of the actors, the particularly bad accents and the wooden as a plank Keanu Reeves. What better way to watch a bad movie then with friends?

Anyways, we went over to our friends' house expecting the worst, and ended up with our expectations met and exceeded. It's not that Bram Stoker's Dracula is the worst movie ever made, it just isn't a very good one.

Bram Stoker's Dracula is, of course, another retelling of the classic novel. It has been made at least a thousand times with many actors donning the cape and fangs. Hell, they even spoofed it on The Simpsons. This version has been hailed "The greatest retelling of Dracula!"(As quoted by the cyberphiles on IMDB) While others have heavily criticized its acting and mostly everything about the film. The problem with this version of Dracula is that while it was a big movie, featuring a star studded cast and directed by the man who made two of the greatest movies of all time, as well as some major stinkers(North!) it takes the idea of Dracula's passionate love for a woman who died, causing Dracula to curse god and become the the evil, blood sucking vampire we know and love. Vlad Dracula is a warrior(We see this in a cheesy battle full of groans and oofs! from the solders) and he is madly in love with Elisabeta(Winona Ryder). As I already mentioned before, she dies, he becomes a vampire.

Flash forward many years later, we see Jonathan Harker(Bad as predicted Keanu Reeves) a man who is engaged to Mina(Also Winona Ryder) travels to Transylvannia for business, leaving Mina alone with her rich friend Lucy(Sadie Frost who could play the same role with the same amount of force in the porno remake Bram Stroker's The Three Horny Brides of Dracula) Lucy seems to rely on camp, she is loose, sleeps around with more men then their pajamas and always manages to moan like she is receiving a demonic orgasm. Coppola paints her up as a whorish vamp, and this is before her transformation, complete with the obligatory lesbian make out in rain(!)

Long story short, Harker, along with his god awful accent, arrives at the castle to meet Dracula(Gary Oldman) only to notice he is...slightly strange. Reeves is admit ably bad, which is a shame, seeing as he was at least decent in My Own Private Idaho and the 1st Matrix. Oldman play on the whole creepy vampire thing, and he is the best thing in the film, which means he is the least wooden of these actors. Another odd thing about the movie seems to be how Harker gets grabbed by a claw, sees a dead body, but he only reacts when he sees Dracula's brides eat a baby. The gore and violence isn't graphic, but its still very laughable as are the gratuitous sex scenes, nudity and in continuity of it all.

Scenes that are supposed to frighten the viewer(Lucy dressed as the queen of doilies who holds a little girl and randomly drops her, Mina drinks blood from Dracula's nipple, the brides, etc...) are done with camp value. The hype built up from the movie was immense, full of attractive logos and art campaign, star power and Dracula was the classic bad guy. When in short, all it lacked from being total camp was trannies at Dracula's castle doing the time warp.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I missed the ending, but all I know is that it is different from the book and that once its over, you are cursing yourself for wasting two hours watching a sloppy, cheesy adaptation that will only be remembered by me as a sad attempt to create a Dracula for the ages. And Coppola hasn't really returned from his creative slump, which is the scariest thing of it all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Country Mouse and The City Mouse

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Year: 2008
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Starring: Francis McDormand,
Amy Adams and Lee Pace.

It is rather unfortunate in the world of movies when the new year rolls around. It seems that the first few months (January, February and March) seem to be the time of year reserved for crappy and forgettable movies just as October, November and December are generally the time for the best movies of the year and typically Oscar contenders. However, Miss Pettigrew is an exception.

The story of Miss Pettigrew is not a particularly difficult one; the title character, Miss Pettigrew(A lovely Francis McDormand) is a dowdy governess who is not very good at her profession. Seeking a job that will keep her off the streets and away from the homeless shelters, Pettigrew enlists as the caretaker of whom she thinks is a mother. The so called "mother" Delysia Lafosse(A delightful Amy Adams) is in fact an aspiring actress who is, at the moment, juggling men. In a quick paced and upbeat manner, we are introduced to the men in Delysia's life; there's the foolish playwright Phil, Nick who owns a swanky apartment and is quite rich, and finally, Michael(Lee Pace getting work!) a musician who had a run in with the law and is heading to America. In the course of the day, we follow Delysia and Miss Pettigrew as they attend a lingerie show, give Pettigrew a make over and still have time for a party.

With its sharp dialogue, it's stunning sets and is period clothing, Miss Pettigrew successfully manages to capture the humor and the feel of British farce from the 1930's-40's. In fact, the film takes place during the early days of WWII, during a time where people feared war and didn't know what would happen or how many lives we would lose. But since the movie is usually bubbly and upbeat, it is able to tear away from being a melodramatic war drama(Which is by all means not the intention of the director).

While it might not be perfect, Miss Pettigrew is undeniably a fun film and a good one to see if looking for a diversion from fighting cavemen or the latest entry in the Dance porn genre. And that is much more then a relief.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

An Open Letter to Platinum Dunes:

Dear Michael Bay and the Schmucks behind your company, Platinum Dunes,

It has been brought to my attention that you have the urge to remake what is in my opinion one of the scariest movies ever made, Rosemary's Baby. In case people don't know what Rosemary's Baby is about, let me explain: Rosemary's Baby is a near perfect psychological thriller, a tale that is both dark and truly terrifying. The book itself is very, very well written and Polanski did the smart thing while adapting the book to the screen by staying true to the novel. So Michael Bay, since you along with the douchebags who run Platinum Dunes(Whatever the hell that means) are taking this perfect horror movie and remaking it, placing Sarah Michelle Gellar or another hot young star(*Cough!*Jessica Alba!*Cough!*) into Mia Farrow's neurotic shoes and reviving the film to make it more contemporary when the film itself has not aged a bit, I can only ask you this question:

Why? Why? Why?

I cannot say that I have seen any of your movies, all I know are that they are for people who have a boner for car chases and explosions and mass amounts of violence. If you have even seen Rosemary's Baby, you will know that it relies on the unknown that truly terrifies the viewer and that what you don't see is the worst kind of fear. To make a lavish and bulky version of a simple and already ingenious story would only make the film unwatchable and utterly useless. When we the viewer are "introduced" to the baby, we haven't a clue what it looks like, but from Rosemary's reaction, it's hideous and demonic. We don't need a visual representation of the ugly kid to satisfy our craving for blood and guts.

So, as I have stated before, why the hell are you touching this movie and making people like me who love the original write angry pseudo-letters to you and your beyond pathetic cronies? Do you enjoy taking old stories and turning them into full throttle action packed blockbusters. Well, taking Rosemary's Baby and tampering with its story, its characters and worst of all, desecrating the grave of Ira Levin. It was bad enough for Frank Oz to remake The Stepford Wives, but this, this is atrocious. This is sleazy Hollywood tampering with an idea and making it into a horrible clone. I do not know if you are aware, Michael Bay, that past remakes of classic horror have flopped miserably. Such as:
The Omen
Any of these Japanese Horror remakes America simply craves
Black Christmas

And the list goes on. So by remaking Rosemary's Baby, you not only risk failing miserably, but also your film will most likely be panned by critics who love the chilling original, will it make any money at the box office? Probably. The whole character, Rosemary will probably end up as a flimsy, screaming creature that gets what's coming to her.

In conclusion, since Rosemary's Baby in my book constitutes as "Sleeping in Parent's bedroom and fear of using the bathroom because the hall light is off" scary. Your tampering with a classic movie turns me off like you would not believe. I'll skip your other efforts, I'll turn them off when they hit HBO, and I'll shake my head and ask "Will he ever learn?" So you can drive elsewhere while riding the Platinum Dunes, you're not welcome.

Ben(The Kamakaze Feminist.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Stop Handing in Good Performances and Make me a Sandwich!

The other day, I was on one of my favorite sites Feministing, a site devoted to, you guessed it feminism. On the side, it had a video rant towards the Academy Awards. Curious, I checked it out, and all I can say is that I now see a whole new light. The video talks about gender segregation and the Oscars, something that never really seemed apparent to me. However, the video did address some important issues, especially how male and female actors are split in two. Though I will still watch the Oscars ever so devotedly, I still do feel that splitting the acting up and keeping males and females on the other side of the velvet rope. However, I have decided to issue an official response.

The Best Actor/Actress awards are intended to honor actors of both sexes which is not intended to be degrading to women or keep them away from the big boys. However, since the Oscars were established, this category has been gender segregated. This, to be is both good and bad. While it may honor the males and females that truly stood out from the rest, the actress Oscars not only are given out in the middle of the ceremony, but also, parts when it comes to males have been, shall we say better then women's parts. Feministing makes this point clear, and though it is unfair, it has been true. Men haven't been honored for playing a prostitute and men who get ugly don't get a guaranteed Oscar. Maybe because Hollywood loves to honor women who instead of playing wimpy and glamorous angels decide to look less flattering or have a drug problem, or they are a cheap prostitute. However, while women tend to get more roles where they "dirty" themselves up, women have also gotten recognized for their brave performances that show that they are strong and empowered. Jane Wyman won for her role as a deaf/mute woman who was raped, not for some wishy-washy Lifetime movie of the week material movie. She played such a brave part in 1948, not 2008.

Another thing I find fascinating is also as time goes on, more and more women are being recognized for their performances, roles that are truly roles that some would maybe consider role model material. Take Ellen Page, a spunky 21 year old who was the apple of the critic's eye in her role as a pregnant teenager in Juno. Cate Blanchett has been nominated two times as Queen Elizabeth, a queen who never married and was also a strong believer in what was best for her kingdom.

But would they win while up against male performances? The answer is probably no.

As long as the awards have been around, sexism has seeped through the glamorous and star filled Academy Awards ceremony. In the 20's, the only thing women could get recognized for doing was the Best Actress. Other then that, women would never in a million years receive an award for doing a "man's" job. Case in point, Barbara Streisand directs and acts in and produces The Prince of Tides. She is nominated for Best Picture and the film itself gets 7 important nominations. Notably absent is...Best Director! As Billy Crystal best said, "Did the film just direct itself?" Fast forward today, women are nominated for many awards that are gender neutral. 3 of the five Best Screenplay nominees were women and Diablo Cody won the award. Sofia Coppola was nominated for Best Director for her beautiful and moving Lost in Translation. But still, when it comes to acting. More men are noticed then women. So if men and women were both up to the same plate, men, as always would most like triumph.

Another noteworthy observation, the Best Actress Oscar is given out earlier in the night, right along with the boring and lesser known awards. Why exactly is that? While watching the award getting handed to Cotillard, I only noticed the earliness of it all. My comment, "If Best Actress is awarded before 10:30, the final award of next year's Oscars will most likely be Best Documentary: Short Subject." Getting the important stuff out of the way first seems like a lousy way to award those individuals who were talented.

In conclusion, I think that while it may be gender segregated, the acting awards are put for some kind of semi purpose. Men and Women each year deliver outstanding performances and should be rightfully awarded. And since you can't really award both and leave both sexes happy, then what is there to do? For now, it is just going to stay the way it is.