Sunday, January 29, 2012

AFI vs IMDb Showdown: #100 & #99

A couple a weeks ago I started the AFI vs. IMDb top 100 showdowncomparing the American Film Institute’s (read: scholar’s) list and the Internet Movie Database’s (read: masses’) list*. I basically decided to compare the two films as they are ranked on each list, from #100 to #1 and choose a favorite each week. My thinking was I would vote for one film each week, and at the end would see which list I more agreed with.
Of course, my husband (the engineer) said we could do just a slightly more complex statistical analysis by weighting each vote in inverse order so the top movies will receive more statistical weight and therefore give a more “accurate reflection of what I’m truly attempting to achieve.”  Whatever. He lost me at whichever word had something to do with math.
So anyway, when I finish watching all these movies I will be able to tell which group I more agree with – Da Scholars or Da Masses.  And then some sort of math something.
Okay, I jumped in two weeks ago with #100:  AFI – Ben Hur; IMDb – The Elephant Man. And I hit my first snag.  The Elephant Man could not be found on Netflix, Blockbuster, any of my local friends, or my local library.  I had not ever seen The Elephant Man so I was disappointed.
Ben Hur (dramatic head turn)
Ben Hur I had seen, but I watched again with hubby and our 11-year-old daughter. That movie was really, really long, and full of dramatic pauses and turning away of heads. The good guys owned white horses, the bad guys black ones and every time the Romans were on screen music that sounded remarkably like the Imperial March from Star Wars played.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the pageantry of it, as well as the amazing chariot race, but it was just so predictable.
But, because The Elephant Man basically forfeits since I can’t watch it, I guess my vote for #100 goes to the AFI.
This past week comparing #99 was pretty ridiculous:  AFI – Toy Story; IMDb – Unforgiven. Seriously, how do you compare these two? It would be like comparing, say, a children’s animated film to a western.  Oh wait, that’s exactly what it is. The only similarity is they both had a cowboy.

Toy Story's Cowboy Woody

                     Cowboy Munny
                              Unforgiven's Cowboy Munny

I mean both are great for what they are: Toy Story was the first ever feature-length movie made entirely with CGI and was also the first Pixar full length film. Plus Joss Whedon was one of the screenwriters (a huge plus for me). Kids have been screaming “To infinity and beyond!!!” to each other for years because of this stupid movie.
Unforgiven is a dark western, directed, produced and starred in by Clint Eastwood. It won Best Picture for 1992 (certainly a step up from the last “Western” to win Best Picture before that – Dances With Wolves  in 1990). It is obviously Clint Eastwood’s hat-tip to the Spaghetti Westerns where he got his start. And it was added to the National Film Registry’s list of films to save in case of a zombie apocalypse or something like that.
How to choose, how to choose?  Neither genre is my favorite.  I find it difficult to become emotionally invested in animated films.  Westerns I usually find pretty boring – Unforgiven, for all its positive qualities, was no exception. (Although Eastwood's William Munny does get Father of the Year award for leaving his two young children alone on the farm for weeks while he went off chasing some bounty).
But I have to choose, so my vote goes to AFI again this week for Toy Story. (Don’t worry any Unforgiven fans, it’s going to show back up at #68 against The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – that should be a good pairing).
So far the score is AFI -2, IMDb – 0.

AFI’s Top 100
IMDB’s Top 100 (as of 1/1/12)

Toy Story (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
Ben Hur (1959) by forfeit
The Elephant Man (1980)

This week #98: Yankee Doodle Dandy (AFI) vs. The Maltese Falcon (IMDb). Sigh. Here we go again.

* - the IMDb list changes often. I used the top 100 of the “IMDb Top 250 As Voted by Users” list as it stood on 1/1/12.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bestest Facebook Buddies and Other People We've Never Met

I recently switched my Facebook page over to the “timeline” format. I’m done fighting the inevitable. (“You can’t stop the signal, Mal…”).
Do I like the new timeline format? Does anybody, really?  The giant picture across the top is pretty cool, but besides that I find the new format generally more difficult to both look at and utilize.  Makes my favorite pastime of cyber-stalking more difficult. Boo Facebook.
And, seriously, does anybody really want to know what I was doing in 1986? I think not.  And it’s not like I can remember anyway. But, the FB timeline is here to stay. We all might as well get used to it.
While I was switching over, I decided I would do an cursory examination of my  FB friends and see how I knew them. I was sure I could find something entertaining/thought-provoking to write about. 
You know what I found? Absolutely NOTHING interesting.  Nada.
(Just in case you are determined to avoid doing anything productive for as long as possible today, I have included my “Facebook Friends” breakdown graph.)
See how I wasn’t kidding when I said nothing interesting? I would imagine this chart looks similar to about 90% of suburbanite mom Facebook users. We know each other from high school, college, church, and kids' activities. Very not interesting.
What became most intriguing to me were the half-dozen people not easily characterized into one of my little statistics.  For example,  
under what category does someone fall whom I’ve never actually met in real life and is the ex-boyfriend of the daughter of friends I know because they also adopted a child from China?
(Follow that?? It's kinda like mother's hairdresser's cousin's sister-in-law, or some such nonsense) Ironically, this person is someone I interact with most – I find him delightfully insightful and entertaining. But if I saw him in a supermarket, I'm not sure I would recognize him.
Then there were three Facebook “friends” who I honestly had no idea how I knew them. I was certain I never met them in real life, nor actually interacted with them on FB. Oh well, I guess it would be rude to unfriend them now.
There are many different types of people on Facebook.  I have found all of following (heck, I’ve probably been half the following at one time or another):
  17. The "Blogger" - Posts annoying updates about their blog 2-3 times a week. (Ummm... how inappropriate! I say we kill them all!) 
So in the end, although I didn't really discover anything interesting, I guess it is good to know who my Facebook my friend are. It’s like the cartoon says, I love my computer because all my friends live in it. I just hope it never breaks - because then how will I have friends? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We Start and End With Family

My grandfather is the youngest of four brothers. Earlier this week, his oldest brother, my great-uncle, passed away. He was the first one of the four to go, and in many ways, it is the end of an era.
The four brothers
I used to think that someone should make a movie about them. But then I realized by Hollywood's standards their lives wouldn't make a good story.  But for me, theirs would be one of the greatest.

They are all wonderful, Godly men. Each married to one wife for over fifty years - over 200 years of marriage between them. Uncle Wendell, who just passed, served in World War II. All of them have an robust work ethic. All of them have gone through trials, but have come through them, not necessarily more successful, but better and stronger on the other side. I am thankful for the example each of them have set for my extended family over the years.  They each not only give good advice, but live good advice. Oh, that I would the same.
Au revoir, Uncle Wendell - until we meet again.
Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.  ~Anthony Brandt

Sunday, January 22, 2012

La Femme NiSecret

I do not own a lot of teleivsion series on DVD. Movies, yes. But not TV shows. But I have a secret.  Not one that will get me in a lot of trouble, but one that I’ve kept because of the harassment that is sure to follow.
Here it is: I have in my possession a copy of every single everything to do with La Femme Nikita. This includes all episodes of the new series Nikita currently running on the CW, and every episode of the original series La Femme Nikita – the USA show from the mid-90s, on which Nikita is loosely based. And I've also got Luc Besson's1990 film La Femme Nikita, which started it all, and the 1993 Bridget Fonda version Point of No Return.
Nikita - Newest Reboot
Obsessed? Maybe a wee bit. In this newest reboot, Maggie Q is gorgeous (and Asian!) and kicks butt. Her romantic interest, ShaneWest, is… well, hubby says I’m not allowed to talk about Shane West any more  because I’m so infatuated with him. (Sigh.) I love this series, and wish on every star I can find each night for its third season renewal.

I also possess a few other series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Dollhouse, and  Terminator: The Sarah Conner ChroniclesThese four plus the two Nikita series make up six of my eight full collections (the other two are BSG & Firefly, just coz I know somone’s going to ask).

Evidently, I have a "type."  In almost every series I own and have been obsessed with, this is the lead character:

Doll House

Sarah Conner Chronicles

Tough, strong, capable women who are obviously able to use weapons. Really, these ladies are interchangeable.  Drop any of them in any situation and they'll handle it. Here’s the bottom line: they can beat the bad guys bloody, are capable of withstanding torture, change identities more often than I cook, and ALWAYS have good hair days. 

And then, of course, in these shows almost all the leading ladies have a romantic interest who is first their enemy, then becomes their partner/confidant/lover:


Sarah Conner Chronicles


Shane West - rather, "he that shall not be
named in the Crouch house" from Nikita

  And yes, these leading men are also pretty much yummy, ahem… I mean, interchangeable.  Capable men, with dark, brooding looks and good hair days. And did I mention yummy?  

Certainly (besides the yumminess of the guys) the fact that these series contain strong women, who get the job done, and don’t sit around bemoaning their fate draws me to each of the shows.  In my mind, I am exactly like them except for the fact that I drive a minivan. And don’t know some crazy mix of bar brawling and Tae Kwon Do.  And rarely have good hair days. And I sometimes bemoan my fate. Whatever, still… obviously we’re all cut from the same cloth.

So yeah, I have a type. And should Nikita be cancelled (Noooo, please! “Star light, star bright…”), I’m sure I’ll watch, then own, the next of this genre, whatever it happens to be. In the meantime, I'll continue my own fight against that pile of laundry threatening world domination.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Making Room for Failure

Last week my 11-year-old daughter auditioned for a play at a local children’s theater. She did well enough at the first audition to receive a call back the following night for dance. We found out at the call back the play was set on a Caribbean island and most of the dancing was African-based moves. So I watched (since they left the doors to the rehearsal hall open) as my blond, mostly rhythm-less, whiter-than-white daughter tried to do these African moves. 
It became apparent to me after just a few moments that this was going to go poorly.  Like really bad. And it did. After an hour of watching my daughter try and fail, and try and fail, to do these moves, I was a basket case.  It was obvious that she wasn’t right for the show.  I just wanted to sweep her up and take her where no one could make her feel less than perfect. But that wasn’t my job at the moment. My job was to allow her to fail.
Allowing our children to fail is perhaps one of the hardest jobs we have as parents. But if you carry them through everything, they never learn to walk sure-footedly on their own.
Fast forward to last night at dinner. As part of my “try a new recipe every week” resolution, I decided to make Indian Chicken Curry – a favorite of my husband’s and something I had never made or even tried before.  It was much more involved than most of the meals I usually fix.
How the heck do you cook with this?
It became apparent to me after just a few moments that this was going to go poorly.  Like really bad. And it did. There I was running around the kitchen like an episode of Worst Cooks in America: chopping onions, dicing potatoes, trying to stir the curry paste mixture (who knew you had to mash the “paste” so you wouldn’t have chunks of it in the sauce?  They should say so on the box. IN ENGLISH). I put the oil on too early and my onions weren’t all chopped, so I was darting back and forth, trying to chop and stir at the same time. Stuff was burning at the bottom of the pan. My youngest three children were hopping in and out of the kitchen, taking perverse delight in telling me how gross everything looked.  And all the while I’m trying to figure out HOW THE HECK you get fresh minced ginger out of ginger root. Seriously – have you seen ginger root? That’s not even right.
I turned to find my daughter looking at me with what I suspect was the same look I had for her last week at the audition.  That "I-want-to-step-in-here-before-you-crash-and-burn-but-know-that-I-need-to-let-you-just-figure-out-this-mistake-on-your-own" look. Sometimes you just have to let your parents fail. If you carry them through everything, they never learn to walk sure-footedly on their own.
In the end, there’s good news: my daughter wasn’t cast in the Caribbean island show, but WAS cast in Willie Wonka – a much better fit for her and her talents. The other good news: Pizza Hut delivers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Homeschooled? So Are You a Genius or an Idiot??

Homeschooling physics lesson?
For the past three years, despite them being neither geniuses nor idiots, I have homeschooled my four kids. Nobody was more surprised than me about our foray into homeschooling. I am definitely not one of those moms who are “called” to homeschool, as many of my friends are. I am not particularly patient (“really, the word is CAT – how can you spell that wrong??”) nor creative (“Sure kids, there’s nothing wrong with a two-lined poem. Let’s move on to the next chapter”).  But we found a curriculum that worked for us, hammered out the logistical kinks as best we could, upped my supply of Xanax, and jumped in.
Why do I choose to homeschool my kids? Well, mostly because it gives us freedom to study subjects more applicable to our family (Chinese rather than Spanish), it works well for our schedule (read: Janie does not have to get up at 6am), and allows us to travel – a favorite family pastime.  Plus, Chuck Norris homeschools his kids. Nuff said.
There are always skeptics about homeschooling. Rightfully so, because for every 100,000 or so properly- educating home situations producing well-adjusted, happy, intelligent children, there’s one case where a mom locked her kids in a basement and they learned to read from Bazooka gum wrappers.  (No matter what you heard, those weren’t my kids. My kids had Bazooka gum wrappers AND the backs of cereal boxes. Plus, it was the attic).
Here’s a funny clip about the The Top Seven Lies About Homeschooling – Debunked.”  Dude is a little wound-up, but it’s still pretty entertaining…

In case you’re too lazy to watch the video, I’ll summarize THE LIES:
Lie #7: Homeschoolers are really sheltered.  “Living in a world where you don’t know who Lady Gaga is…” – wait, maybe we all should be homeschooled.
Lie #6: Homeschoolers go to church 7 days a week.   – yes, but here at our house we are starting to discourage the practice of kidnapping neighbors and dragging them to church with us
Lie #5: Homeschoolers don’t actually do school.  – ahem, my kids ARE NOT taking nature walks while I watch Dr. Oz! It’s while I watch Sherlock.
Lie #4: Homeschoolers have no friends. – That’s right, homeschoolers do have friends. Not every homeschool family lives on a farm or in a log cabin. Just 90%.
Lie #3: Homeschoolers are really shy. – Obviously said by someone who has not met my youngest son.
Lie #2: Homeschoolers have no lives.   What dude said in the clip - just find it in the video: 3:05
Lie #1: Homeschoolers do school in their pajamas. – Yeah, well that’s just true. “And it is the very, very, very best thing about being homeschooled.”  Yep.
Despite all the homeschool perks, the kids have decided (with my blessing) to attend school next year. So we are enjoying these last few months of homeschooling as much as we can. In our pajamas, of course.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Mile 2 Suckfest

I have not always been a runner. As a matter of fact, before 2010, I had never run a day in my life. Seriously. And I especially had never been a distance runner. Twelve miles? Why in heaven's name would you not take some sort of motorized vehicle to go that distance? I would've been the first one to lend you cab fare.

But then one evening in February 2010, at 37-years-old, I went out for my first run. Why? For the same reason everybody does: so I could lose weight and not look so fat in my Facebook pictures. I had been using an elliptical machine in my house for a couple of weeks and had built up just the slightest bit of endurance, and out the door I went.

But from then on I was like a scene from Forrest Gump. I just kept running. And running. And running. I wasn't fast at first. Heck, I'm not very fast now, but I still keep going.

"Life is short... running makes it seem longer." 
- Baron Hansen
No matter what distance I'm running, whether it's three miles or fifteen, Mile 2 is always the hardest for me. In my classy and graceful way, for which I am well-known, I call it “The Mile 2 Suckfest". During said suckfest, everything in me tells me to stop. That entire mile my brain is telling me what a moron I am for running again. My body is having some sort of temper-tantrum: my chest threatening a heart-attack, my legs promising to disattach themselves from the rest of me if I don't cut it out this very second.

Sometimes I push through, force myself to go faster, knowing mile 3 (and hopefully beyond) will be better and wanting to get there quicker. Sometimes I just walk until the dreaded 2 is over. But I try never to quit on Mile 2 just because Mile 2 is hard.

A lesson running has taught me: Mile 2’s are everywhere, and we have to push through. Run if you can, walk if you must, but don't quit. Trust that the next mile will be easier, or at least not a suckfest.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 2012 Movie Showdown: AFI vs IMDB

As I've mentioned before, I worked at a movie theater in the early 90s as I was getting out of high school. A couple of years ago when I reconnected with some of my movie theater buddies, I found they had been keeping a yearly movie list of all the films they watched each year. I, of course, totally jumped on that stupid bandwagon.

2010 became an excessive movie-watching year for me. I started off just keeping the list, then it turned to a competition (with myself - nobody else cared) to see how many movies I could watch in one year. I ended up with 331 on the list. Yeah, it was ridiculous.

In 2011, I toned it back quite a bit: a mere 175 movies. But in my defense, I also ran my first marathon and wrote a novel in 2011, so that explains some of the movie-viewing slackerness. :-)

In the off chance that anyone happens to care, here is my Movie List for 2011.  (An asterisk* denotes I was seeing the movie for the first time. Highlighted movies were my favorite for the year.) My biggest surprise - somehow I had never seen Roman Polanski's Chinatown. (My college film professor and mentor would probably pound his head repeatedly against his desk upon hearing this...)

Movies I Watched in 2011
1 His Girl Friday*
89 Captain America*
2 The Other Guys
90 Stardust
3 Inception
91 You Again*
4 Salt*
92 Tombraider: Lara Croft
5 City Island*
93 Serenity
6 Knight & Day
94 First Saturday in May*
7 The A-Team
95 Catwoman
8 Blue Crush
96 Hall Pass*
9 Exit Through the Gift Shop*
97 Battle: Los Angeles*
10 Prince of Persia
98 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
11 Minutemen
99 The Dilemma*
12 I Am Comic*
100 Cowboys & Aliens*
13 Assassins
101 Sourcecode
14 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps*
102 Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief
15 Before Sunrise*
103 The Winning Season*
16 Clash of the Titans*
104 Opposite Day*
17 Eat Pray Love*
105 Cedar Rapids*
18 Morning Glory*
106 Spy Kids 4: All the Time In the World*
19 Death At a Funeral*
107 Just Go With It*
20 Life as We Know It*
108 Thelma & Louise*
21 Unstoppable*
109 The Art of the Steal*
22 Limitless*
110 Secretariat*
23 Next Three Days*
111 Tell No One*
24 The Town*
112 Beastly*
25 Empire Records*
113 Limitless
26 Batman Forever
114 The Fighter*
27 Eagle Eye
115 Big Trouble in Little China*
28 Love and Other Drugs*
116 Lemonade Mouth*
29 Fast & Furious
117 The Lives of Others*
30 Catfish*
118 The Groomsmen*
31 Wet Hot American Summer*
119 Last Night*
32 Source Code*
120 Thor*
33 The Hangover
121 The Mummy
34 Red
122 Sliding Doors
35 The Rundown
123 The Jane Austin Book Club*
36 Sideways
124 Push
37 Supergirl
125 SWAT: Fire Fight*
38 Kinky Boots*
126 Something Borrowed*
39 True Grit (1969)
127 Easy A*
40 Charlie Wilson’s War
128 Transformers: Dark of the Moon*
41 The King’s Speech*
129 Never Let Me Go*
42 Freakonomics*
130 Mr & Mrs Smith
43 Hanna*
131 North by Northwest
44 Robin Hood (2010)*
132 V for Vendetta*
45 Black Swan*
133 Real Steal*
46 Standing In the Shadow of Motown*
134 The Lottery*
47 Red Riding Hood*
135 Jonah Hex*
48 Vertical Limit
136 Footloose (2011)*
49 The Long, Hot Summer*
137 Ondine*
50 Iron Man 2
138 Bridesmaids*
51 Salt
139 Blue Crush 2*
52 The Wildest Dream*
140 Trouble With Men & Women*
53 Aurora Borealis*
141 The Book of Eli*
54 Forbidden Planet*
142 Air Guitar Nation*
55 No Strings Attached*
143 Captain America
56 Timecop
144 Invictus*
57 The Ballad of Little Jo*
145 I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell*
58 Nowhere to Run
146 Twilight: Breaking Dawn*
59 The Sound of Music
147 Fast Five*
60 The Tourist*
148 Women in Trouble*
61 Running the Sahara*
149 Anvil! The Story of Anvil!*
62 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest*
150 For Love of the Game
63 Up Close & Personal
151 Dolphin Tale*
64 How Do You Know?*
152 Crazy, Stupid Love*
65 Step Up 3*
153 Green Lantern*
66 Batman & Robin
154 Super 8*
67 The Golden Child
155 A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
68 I Am Number Four*
156 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides*
69 Green Hornet*
157 Winter’s Bone*
70 Tron*
158 UltraMarathon Man*
71 Gone with the Wind
159 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows*
72 Firelight*
160 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
73 Kung Fu Panda 2*
161 Evan Almighty
74 Connie & Carla*
162 Echelon Conspiracy*
75 Searching for Debra Winger*
163 Page One: Inside the New York Times*
76 Robocop
164 A Walk to Remember
77 Cliffhanger
165 Three Days Later
78 Hangover 2*
166 Before Sunset*
79 True Grit (2010)*
167 Driving Miss Daisy
80 Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone
168 Chinatown*
81 Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire
169 Knight & Day
82 Harry Potter & the Order of Phoenix*
170 Tron: Legacy
83 Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince*
171 Interview With a Vampire
84 Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)*
172 Monte Carlo*
85 Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (Part 2)*
173 Tales From the Script*
86 Cemetery Junction*
174 Bill Cunningham New York*
87 Funny Girl*
175 Louis C.K. – Hilarious*
88 The Adjustment Bureau*

In 2012, in an effort to become a more well-rounded person (and to save me from myself), I have decided to more closely regulate my film-viewing activities. I was going to watch the American Film Institute's (AFI's) Top 100 films of all time, but that’s just too predictable, and hopefully I’ve seen most of those anyways (lest my college film professor continue to give himself a concussion).
Instead, I’m going to do a blend of the AFI list with the IMDB’s top 100 list. These two lists are really a case of The Academic vs. The Masses. Only 42 films made it on both list. AFI’s #1 is Citizen Kane – as well it should be. The IMDB #1 is The Shawshank Redemption – one of my personal favorites. This should be interesting! AFI’s list includes lots of wonderful early films (nearly 1/3 on the list are from 1950 and earlier) – but honestly ones you probably wouldn’t have heard of outside of a college film course. The IMDB top 100 list includes many fabulous contemporary films and… Back to the Future? Ummmm… okay.
I'm going to start at #100 (AFI - Ben Hur; IMDB – The Elephant Man) and work my way up to #1. Don’t worry, I will spare you my summaries and opinions unless they are truly entertaining.  :-) My plan is to do a showdown between the two lists each week and determine a “winner”. Based, of course, solely on my perfect opinion.
The 2012 Movie Showdown: AFI vs IMDB.  aka: Yet another way for Janie to avoid housework. (Like I needed one).