Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Day After Yesterday

For some odd reason, I hadn't the ambition to compose this post on the day of its publication. Therefore, for those who cannot read between the lines, the date above is incorrect, officially, though accurate with the content presented. I felt this should be disclosed, as I did not want to be untrue to my readers...if there exists such a species. 

Greetings everyone. It appears as if most of us are still here, excluding those who took their own lives in terror of what was prophesied to happen. Indeed, we survived yet another preposterous apocalypse, and, honestly, I could not be more relieved. Not that I was actually questioning whether the world would explode, or "zombies" would invade our mundane lives, though I do exhale a sigh of relief now that this prolonged 2012 nonsense is behind us. To think that this whole phenomenon (it actually has a page on Wikipedia) has been spread throughout the country like a virus; films have been made (ones I've avoided) and people have either devoutly preached its impending arrival or devoutly denied its lunacy. Yeah. I, myself, have had just about enough of this end-of-the-world rubbish. This just in: The end has been postponed to September 15, 2015. Moving on.

Being the day of the apocalypse, I made the paranoid choice of not going to class. After the unthinkable tragedy that took place in Connecticut, and in retrospect of Columbine, I did not want to risk the chance of some inane incident carried out by a psychopath who felt, "the world is ending so I might as well end everyone's lives now". Very paranoid, indeed, but, the day before the end, a student was arrested for posting terroristic threats on a certain social-networking site. Needless to say I was absolutely stunned, and believed I deserved a day's rest from the stressful toils of academics. And what better way to spend a day of pointless anticipation than watching movies with my dear 'ol dad? We had planned to watch 2012, for I made such a promise for this very day, but we didn't. Just thought I'd settle your musings now before I start recollecting on my day. (Apologies in advanced if my writing is not as involved as usual. I am as interesting as I think I am, aren't I?)

The day began at the crisp hour of eight a.m., a prime time to watch a classic. We opted for two excellent mysteries by the work of Agatha Christie, which were both directed by a fellow named Guy Hamilton. The first one starred one of Ms. Christie's two iconic character--Miss Marple--who was played by Angela Lansbury, a shockingly tall, snub-faced old woman. She greatly lacked Miss Marple's adorable-old-lady quality, which requires a sweet voice, kind temperament, and overall likability. Well, that last one is more of a prerequisite for enjoying any protagonist's performance. The title of this little-known mysterious marvel is The Mirror Crack'd (yes, that is the correct spelling), and by "marvel" I do not mean to insinuate that this is some remarkable mystery. In fact, it is not at all as complex and puzzling as one would expect an Agatha Christie tale to be. The reason I call this a "marvel" is because it is relatively unknown to the average film savant, such as myself, and has remained foreign to my radar until now. Why should this film possess more prestige? Well, darlings, the cast is quite abundant, including Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, and Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie). Intrigued? Don't be, as this "mystery" is anything but. Sure, the initial murder (oh, spoiler alert) is perplexing, but once the film progresses, it seems as if Ms. Christie wrote herself into a corner. The final explanation of the film--an element present in any mystery movie--is rational enough, and serves as any viewer's purpose for watching it. Frankly, one can simply watch the very beginning and end of a mystery to receive the "gist" of it all. But where would be the pleasure in that premise?
The second Agatha Christie tale is one I know very well--Evil Under the Sun--and expected just as much enjoyment from the film as I experienced in the novel and computer game. (Yes, I searched far and wide for an Agatha Christie computer game. Because sometimes Nancy Drew can get tedious, am I right? Only those who play would know. Obviously. I'll continue.) Guy Hamilton returns to direct an adaptation of Ms. Christie's work, and just as well I'd say. Then again, what is directing? If the acting and picture are overall adequate, then so is the direction. Here, Hercule Poirot--Agatha Christie's other, much-more famous character--is played by Peter Ustinov, a portly Belgian fellow who fancies himself the world's greatest detective and expects everyone else to bow at his feet in reverence. Clearly, I do not care for Mr. Poirot's arrogant, pompous demeanor, but I digress. I enjoyed this film much more, despite a lack of an iconic cast, yet felt the schematics of the villains' caper were a bit exaggerated and far-fetched. Though I reminded myself not to analyze too much into it, for what is put onto film and released is irrevocable; the point of the murder is all in the motive and reason, not the physical deed of the kill. Each Agatha Christie film shared the general quality of adequacy, in plot and purpose aplenty, which is less than I can say for the very first Peter Ustinov-as-Hercule Poirot picture, Death on the Nile.
This is deemed as one of the more famous adaptations, for reasons I'll devote solely to that its Peter Ustinov's first portrayal of the eccentric detective. There can be no saner explanation, as this film was, quite frankly, vapid and inane--better known as stupid. The resolution was seen a mile away (the identity of the murderer that is), which made me feel the perfect fool to have wasted two hours on this repetitive mystery. Very predictable, and I must say I am rather disappointed that such a renowned novel of Ms. Christie is so simple and easily solved by any average viewer. No logic or sharp deduction needed. If one is to witness an Agatha Christie adaptation for themselves, I recommend they look no further than Murder on the Orient Express. It is the most recognized of her work, of both her written work and of the cinematic variety, and is a might intriguing presentation of truly complex mystery. Though Hercule Poirot is just as revolting as a character. No escaping that.

Instead of watching 2012 on the actual day of the end of all days, my dad and I opted for a sure-thing new-found classic of hilarity, one that will surely remain as funny as it is: Ted. The fact that we've watched this merely one month ago, and are now watching it for a second time, to equally successful results, should account for something. And might I, again, reiterate how utterly blasphemous (to the genre of comedy) that Ted did not receive one nomination in this year's Golden Globes race. Not for Best Comedy, or for Mark Wahlberg's performance, or for Best Screenplay. While Best Screenplay was a long-shot, considering the prestigious competition (among them Django Unchained), the first two seemed, to me, to be absolute certainties. You must have read my previous post dealing with the nominees, so you realize my cataclysmic disappointment in the major snubbing that has taken place. I haven't fully expressed the absolute ingenuity of Seth MacFarlane's box-office hit, that also happens to be fucking hilarious. (I don't usually spout the f-word in posts, which should be an indication of how passionate I feel for Seth MacFarlane and his great film.) The sole fact that this is Seth MacFarlane's directing debut, on the big screen, should, alone, prove his worth as a nominee for the Golden Globes. He is hosting the Academy Awards, after all, so shouldn't he deserve a nod in the "inferior" awards race? Just a thought. Anyway, now that the funny film is fresh in my mind, I can effortlessly explain just why Ted deserves the praise I preach of. First and foremost, the plot is ridiculous yet interesting from beginning to end: much like the wonderful sitcom, Family Guy, this movie has an unpredictable trove of infinite possibilities for humor. Seth MacFarlane, the savvy director/writer he proves himself to be, utilizes such marvelous humor, structuring each joke to be funny and each scene to be entertaining. 
Mark Wahlberg, proving his comedic prowess in The Other Guys (one of the greatest comedies of the decade) and Date Night, displays his talent once again with indubitable involvement. He is so into his character--a sweet yet lackadaisical man who has trouble abandoning his identity--that I feel he is John Bennett. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is acting worth the esteem of all audiences. Including the god-damn Golden Globes. Mila Kunis plays his dedicated girlfriend, who pushes him to let his teddy bear go and move forward with a career and a developed relationship. Her smoky eyes and intoxicating voice (which is familiar in the unappealing character of Meg on Family Guy) reveals to be only attractive attributes to a great actress. She's not just a pretty face, everyone. And the chemistry she shares with Mark Wahlberg--who is more than ten years older than her--is so believable and, truth be told, rather irresistible. Not only are they both attractive, but they both have a sense of humor that syncs with one another as well as the film itself. Now, Ted, the teddy bear who has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, is the primary element of the movie, obviously. Seth MacFarlane voices the "raunchy" stuffed bear with a dialect similar to Peter Griffin (something he alludes to within the film, god love him), and he manages to emit just the right amount of disgusting and outrageous humor. For some, particularly those stiff critics, he goes too far with sex or social jokes--those "Jesus be with you" jokes are a riot, to my ears--but I find every single situation to be orchestrated with perfection. Referring to the surface of this wildly entertaining character, Ted is such an astoundingly lifelike creature, and should receive some credit for the amazing visual effects that made this possible. Ted is so unbelievably lifelike that his performance is that of a human actor; his conversations with Mark Wahlberg are as real and convincing as if there was an actual teddy bear who can talk present. (This factor of believability is only enhanced by Mark Wahlberg's undeniable acting prowess. Bravo, once again.) 
If the more pretentious of audiences are searching for some sort of theme to grasp on, consider one of friendship. John and Ted have been friends for twenty years, give or take, and, even when the evidently imperative issue of John's future comes into light, they cannot resist spending time together. Although this will become somewhat of a burden deeper into the movie, their friendship, as childish and imaginative as it is, is much more realistic than many past cinematic pairs I've seen. Then again, what significance does a fucking theme have in a comedy as simple as this? Granted, Ted is very simple, but that's its reason for esteem--it manages to be hilarious without the burdensome requirement of a corny ending or politically-correct dialogue/content. And, throughout its blatant humor and impropriety, Ted has a touching, immensely warm center which involves a caring travesty of a teddy bear. I think I may be in love with Ted. Or Seth MacFarlane, better yet. He's hosting the Academy Awards, don't ya know.

It pleases me to inform you all that I have taken a pause in one of the multiple obsessions of mine: Beverly Hills, 90210. Indeed, I have been consumed with the absurd storylines for Kelly, Brandon, Steve, Clare, and (who can exclude) Donna. Involved in this sick obsession is my dad, who believes that admitting such a infection is embarrassing, but, again, I like to reveal all the minor details of my life concerning entertainment. Anyway, my dad and I have taken a break from the addicting series and have returned to the normal realm of cinematic fixation. Perhaps, because of this transition, my mind has experienced an overflow of content from the films I've seen. And believe me when I say that there have been many in the past few days. Possibly, deep within subconsciously, I had an urge to watch as many films as deemed healthy before "the end", although this is highly unlikely. As worried as I was, there was not a shred of a doubt of the world's survival--really, how could the world physically implode? 

In addition to this so-called "end of all days", I have finally watched the infamous 2012 picture, directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed Independence Day (surprise) and The Patriot (genuine surprise). This postponed viewing occurred the day after the supposed end was to occur. For those who haven't seen it, either out of indifference to the apocalyptic genre or out of sheer fear, I recommend it. The story as a whole is rather logical and intriguing, unlike the many alien explanations found in films of this variety; the government actually takes serious precautions in the end of the world! Although the cast is not as all-star as one would prefer, the amazing visual effects are truly astounding. I was surprised that the film did not receive any Oscar recognition in the technical categories. If Transformers can garner nods, why not this sincerely decent film? Politics, I tell you. Among the not-so-famous cast are John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt (who, I believe, is dreadfully underused), and Woody Harrelson in a hilariously brief performance as a conspiracy theorist who dies during the end. Spoiler. In a film like this, the cast, really, doesn't play as big as a part as it would in an average drama. The main attraction here is the fantastic visual effects and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Concerning the movie, there was a balance of a-plus reviews and awful ones; as for my overall judgment, it was worth the paranoid three-year wait.

During my lengthy procrastination in finishing this nothing-special post, I found myself rewatching another amazing montage on YouTube. I'll save you the trouble of searching for it and post it here. You have to watch the clip in order to continue. It pertains to the end of the world, in my opinion, for it involves desperate acts of running for one's life. Watch it, if you please. 

The day after this asinine absurdity of the long-awaited yet unfulfilled phenomenon of 2012, I decided to get into the holiday mood (now that I knew it would be worth the trouble, since there will be a Christmas) by watching a classic and a remake of that classic. The films in question both have the iconic title of Miracle on 34th Street. Waking up early, I made a scrumptious breakfast for my dad and I--these little pancakes made of farmer's cheese and ricotta cheese--and started the original classic, in color. There's a reason that this is considered one of those ideal Christmas classics, for it is, indeed, wonderful. Much more wonderful than the current beloved classic, It's a Wonderful Life, which I find horribly depressing and rather dull. Never like that James Stewart. Anyway, Miracle on 34th Street actually incorporates the fairytale of Santa Claus and the man himself, which is something people of all ages would and should enjoy. The man who plays Santa Claus actually received an Oscar, so pipe down you non-believers. His performance, I admit, is very corny, but isn't that the expectation of such a picture? The story of the film, for those who are not aware, concerns the validity of Santa Claus and the scattered belief that everyone (including skeptical adults) should have faith in Santa Claus; moreover, the public should believe that one particular man named Kris Kringle is Santa Claus. In both movies, a trial take places in a court of law which questions the existence of Santa. The classic depicts Santa as a victim accused of being merely loopy, unfit to hold the position of Santa Claus in Macy's; the remake shows a fleet of heartless capitalists attacking poor Santa, and providing evidence that he does not exist. The classic film, therefore, I hold in higher regard, for the court case, albeit a bit silly, is generally reasonable, for old Mr. Kringle does seem senile. Also, the little girl in the 1947 version is young Natalie Wood, who is as cute as can be playing the agnostic lass who doesn't (at first) believe in Santa Claus. The adult couple--Maureen O'Hara and John Payne--slowly fall in love towards the end, as the man convinces the mother that a bit of fantasy is precious in the lives of every person, which is a well-loved cinematic process. 

The remake (which I will critique now) is, as status quo will evince, not as good as the original, though not bad either. Elizabeth Perkins, pretty as can be, and Dylan McDermott, handsome as can be, play the couple. Their relationship is more of a focal point here than in the classic, and rather vague if you ask me. Are they sleeping together, or have they never kissed? If not, why is he proposing? Digressing. The little girl is the one who played Matilda, and she is adorable and much more sweet than Natalie Wood, as reluctant as I am to admit. What taints this movie's quality, for me personally, is the choice of Santa Claus. He was the obnoxious elderly gentleman in Jurassic Park, and he is even more insufferable here. The purpose of Santa Claus, here, is to share his jolly goodness with kids and to convince everyone that Santa exists, that he is him. Oh, there is no way to effectively express how odious this actor and his performance is. How terribly repulsive and unsympathetic. For one, he does appear to be insane, and violently so, as he attacks a rude man who impugns the existence of Santa. He deserves the indictment of the insane asylum. Despite this flawed source of intolerance, the remake is very tolerable and decent as far as remakes go. Miracle on 34th Street is absolutely the ideal Christmas movie--at least among the many out there--and dedicated viewers would be wise to experience this yuletide magic if they haven't already.

Like most of my posts of late, this is long overdue and has taken three days to write (mind you, out of laziness), and I shamefully lament in this newly-common tendency. Consider it my new year resolution to write more, and also consider that when you make yourself have a goal you are not likely to achieve it. Why must the human mind work against accomplishment? Nevertheless, I will combat nature by writing more. Unless I resent this resolution. Hopefully I'll follow my ambition. Merry Christmas everyone, or, to be inanely politically-correct, happy holidays. If you don't believe in the idea of the holidays, then welcome to Day One of a degenerative society. This is the end of all days, after all, so, by all means, listen to Gangnam Style one more time. Happy Holidays.

In Memorium: 2012 Doomsday Nonsense

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