понедельник, 8 октября 2007 г.

nick_thesaint: 5 Biggest Disappointments of Summer '07

Over this summer, I didn't really post much of anything. Largely, that's due to the fact it pales to the last, where (for the first time in my life) I went someplace outside the US that wasn't Mexico or Canada. I'll admit there was just something magical about having gone to Europe - a kind of feeling that you only come across every once in a while, but goddamn, you want to savor every bit of it for as long as you can. Of course, such a great thing came at a cost and that cost was the summer after. It would've been more bearable had not everyone else I knew were busier than I was and not having the budget to do much, you sort of get stuck between a rock and a hard place - mostly the hard place. So, I'll say why that is, and with the many things that made the whole season such an undesired affair to begin with.
1. Judd Apatow Movies I know this is probably an odd place to start, but I am anyway - if only because of the overwhelming praise that both Knocked Up and Superbad enjoyed even before release and soon after. I, of course, am once again part of the vast minority who came out of both movies a little less ecstatic than most others were. True, both films have their merits and those should be noted, but I can't help but feel that they're simply products of faux-populism in today's cinema. That isn't to say that, like Snakes on a Plane, it was practically engineered from beginning to end to be a piece of fluff made to entertain the typical movie-goer. Oh no, it's far worse, I think: it gives the illusion that it's risque and challenging, only to end up pandering towards a narrow world view that only the likes of the abhorrent Moral Majority or neoconservative Republicans would champion for. If not that, they're just simply far, far less than the sum of its own parts. Let's start with Knocked Up: as funny as the film was at times and its willingness to actually show couples feuding in a way that actual couples might (say, instead of vague romantic glances), it doesn't bother ever explaining why its two protagonists, Ben and Alison, are agreeing to go through a pregnancy - together nonetheless. Truth be told, neither individual seems to be made for each other and, through most of the film, it rings true more often than it does not. Alison, for all good reason, should have made completely different decisions than those shown in the movie. Her fling with Ben is but a one-nighter and the morning after, she knows it was a mistake from the beginning. Worst of all, when finding out about her pregnancy, expects this same man (whose only past-times involve smoking dope and making a pornographic website) to buck up and become responsible. Either she lacks a two-digit IQ (which she hides well) or, in this world, pregnancy makes you stupid. Considering the situation she's in: living with her older sister and brother-in-law, on the verge of a new career, and having little attachment to Ben - she may've well have gotten an abortion and not dealt with any of this shit. As much as I'm sure most people could argue against it (whether for "practical" or "moral" reasons - both of which are likely founded on emotional bias and, thus, most likely bullshit), it didn't make sense that she'd do this to herself. At no point is it ever suggested that she wants to have children or even be in a relationship of any sort with anyone at this time, as she's driven for independence (a far worthier cause) than motherhood. Besides that, Ben never shows interest in going along with any of this. Even if Alison did want the baby, for whatever reason, expecting this guy to be anything more than a lazy bastard is utterly befuddling. Of course, the film (or, more accurately, Apatow himself) can't let this happen - thus begins a barrage of plot elements introduced abruptly to make sure we get a happy ending that's totally implausible. It wouldn't be surprising for me to say that Ben, out of nowhere, finally feels obligated enough to try being more active on the fatherhood role. Earlier, not only does he mention, quite explicitly, that he's in the US illegally, but he doesn't have any notable skills that could get him an actual job. Maybe the somewhat pornographic site he and his fellow layabout housemates try to make throughout is supposed to suggest he might have some notable computer skills, but it doesn't really matter as it is never expanded upon at any point - he's just instantaneously skilled out of convenience, with greencard. I'll also go back to the abortion thing and say that, to me, it's pretty fucking heinous to never suggest it as a viable option with someone in Alison's scenario. The word is never uttered and those who suggest it (through other phrases) may've well been dressed as Snively Whiplash as they twirl their mustaches and hold a bloody fetus that they soon devour whole. Okay, that would've been ridiculous, but neither character who suggests it does so with a reasonable demeanor - they're caustic about it and, as such, the audience is expected to dislike them for offering such "abominable" advice. It seems, then, that Alison should only be allowed to carry the child (her productive rights be damned!) and that the end result should involve giving birth to it and living with it, even if it ends up ruining her life. But, again, nothing in this film follows any logic that might be found in the real world. In reality, her pregnancy would lead her to losing the same career she's been working hard for and I'm sort of doubtful that her sister, as supposedly caring as she is, would tolerate letting a woman who lets herself get pregnant leech off her and her husband (the latter who works his ass off, yet still seems to get nothing but complaints from the earlier). But, again, Alison's boss says that her being pregnant is now cool and hip (when the fuck did this happen?) and apparently this is a world where leeching is acceptable as money must grow on trees (this must also explain how Ben and his friends, despite lacking finances, can still live in a house), so she is always well off despite the fact this sort of thing takes a lot of money to deal with. So, it seems, Alison can't go through any actual hardship as (GASP!) that would suggest her having a baby - a product of a one night stand, no less - would be more detrimental to her being than anything else and that abortion might actually be a reasonable and, therefore, better option. It's the sort of world Pro-Lifers want to exist, but wouldn't admit to as it would only show their dislike of women's rights and their insistence on calling any woman with a healthy view on sex as a "slut". Superbad, on the other hand, is horrible if only because it's another teen movie, and one that's practically grasping for straws every minute. When it isn't using conventions of the sub-genre that had grown tiring ten years before, it loves to wallow in lots of jokes that are predominantly about the All Mighty Phallus. There's also two cops in the film, both of which seem to have had their antics based on those already found in Reno 911!, and a series of misadventures as three losers trying to get beer so they can also get laid (is there any other way for kids to have sex? Guess not...). A scene that is symptomatic of Superbad's lack of insight or ability to handle anything realistically is when Jonah Hill and Micheal Cera end up getting a ride to a party where, hopefully, they can get some booze for the pre-graduation bash they want to get to. During this time, Hill comes across a fairly cute, pixie-faced girl who rubs against him to Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa" (that doesn't have consequence to anything - I just like pointing out songs from one of my favorite rappers) like a cat in heat. After the song is over and the girl is done rubbing her estrogen over Hill's clothes, Hill tries get out of the place with beer in hand. Before finally reaching his exit, two guys notice that there's something funny smudged on Hill's pantleg. Is it ink? No. Probably some paint? Not at all. Oh God, are you telling me she had her period on his pants? Yes, yes she did. Now, maybe I'm the one who doesn't know anything and am just fooling myself, but it is really possible for a young woman, especially wearing some jean shorts and probably a undergarment and tampon under that, to get menstrual blood on a guy's pants? I'm sure if such a thing did happen, it'd make for a great story to tell among your friends when sharing tales of embarrassment, but I can't think of any incident to ever happen to remotely resemble such. The closest I ever came was having to end up using the women's restroom (as the men's was non-functioning) and had the misfortune of going into the wrong stall with an unflushed toilet, but none of it involved a woman doing so on any piece of my clothing. Well, same goes with anyone else, in fact. I wondered if any women had read the script and pointing out that, in fact, that probably never happens and, if it did, it would be even surprising to them. Obviously not, as it's still there, but it does show this film is largely rooted in the masculine teenage view on life which, in turn, seems to be completely ignorant of anything that would truly take place in this world. I mean, it must be, if you think women going through their cycle hop oh-so-hornily onto young men and leave their mark, if only to just gross them out. There's also the fact I just can't ever empathize with either Cera or Hill's characters on the basis that they're both incredibly self-involved (albeit differently) and never seem intent on doing anything of worth other than the next momentary distraction. True, most teenagers are like this - an aspect of the film that actually works - but at the same time, this is a fictional story and, as such, I could care less whether teens act like this or not when the two individuals whose journey we're supposed to care about is ruined by the simple fact there's nothing likable about either of them. Hill's Seth seems to be a closeted homosexual, and even moreso as he seems to only see the opposite sex as a means to proving otherwise. He becomes more intolerable with each passing minute as the guy's also a bit of a bully (if mostly to his own friends) and expects others to fall with him as he fails, if only he can live with himself. Cera is slightly more tolerable as he lacks the need to bully or pull down others down with him, but he's a coward who willing lets his friend get him in trouble and rarely ever speaks up about it. Hell, even when a girl who he likes finally gives some affection back (true, she's a little drunk, but she doesn't seem unaware of what's going on around her), he can't go through with it as it makes him uncomfortable - yet he let's his buddy treat him like a Japanese housewife and doesn't budge. Fuck, talk about not having your priorities straight... At the end of the day, the whole thing is about three guys hoping to get laid. It is also expected they learn a lesson, one that proclaims there is more to life than getting laid (do we need to be told this?) and that sometimes friendship doesn't always last long, or at least forever. These messages are obviously all trite and don't need to be said, having been said a million times before. What humorous scenes that are there were played ad nauseum in the ads and trailers, leaving the remainder to be made up of awkward conversations, mistakes and misunderstandings that lead to inconceivable results, and lots (and I mean lots) of underhanded homoeroticism. So, why go after these among the hundreds of others that're even worse than these two? Simple: the largely undeserved, hyperbolic, and lavish praise both seemed to gain for simply existing. I don't begrudge those who like either film (there's a lot to like about them), but please don't tell me (or convince me) either film is more than a fun night out to the theaters or to go out and rent something. Neither of them are anywhere near as good as Apatow's previous venture, The 40 Year Old Virgin, which was far more likable, consistent, and well realized than either Knocked Up or Superbad could ever dream of being in a billion years - but maybe that's the problem. Apatow, who had experience working in television and soon gained attention for 40YOV, was expected to bring out similar films soon after and, thus, the result we see now. They're just as entertaining, but neither original or surprising. I'm expecting there, by next year perhaps, to be another similar film that will even be more simplistic and less well written. Needless to say, I'm not spending a dime on it. 2. No Cape Cod If there is a fate worse than death, it was being trapped at my grandmother's this summer. I'd go through the shitload of annoyances, stresses, and whatnot that seem to occur there, but I'd rather not bore anyone with such details. Just trust me when I say that, between having to converse with the non-matriarch of my father's family at any given point and pulling the trigger of a gun pointed right at your temple - I'd suggest the latter. I was hoping that my uncle Jeff, as well as my aunt Liz and two cousins, would decide to go on their annual trip to the Cape and I'd get an invitation. Unfortunately, they (like everyone else around me, it seems) were busy with many other things and it just wasn't an option this year. So, it just didn't happen. It would've been nice to visit with the other side of my family and to be able to go to the Cape again, hopefully to not only enjoy its beaches, but parts of nearby Boston as well. I get a little more than sick of Los Angeles County during the summer as not only does it get hotter than Hades (this year, there was a point where even the air conditioners in the house didn't do shit-all against the heat), but I'm around people who I wonder how I could've ever been genetically related to in the first place. Tolerable from time to time, but unbearable with more exposure. It didn't help that, due to my trip to Europe last year, finances were low and, in general, there just wasn't a lot of anything interesting happening. Hell, I even had a hard time convincing myself to go see a movie at times, as they all looked horrible to me (and they mostly were). In the end, it would've just made for a much needed distraction - too bad it never happened. 3. San Diego Comic Con This might change soon enough, but I'm saying it now: no time in the near future will I ever go near a comicbook convention. You have the San Diego Comic Con to thank for that. It was more of an ordeal than anything else, especially given that the convention center had basically become an overglorified can of sardines in the first day and continued being such to the very end. It was never suggested that those who were managing this whole ordeal could tell some of the people going in and out that there was a limit to how many could actually be in there, which was probably why one would spend more time trying to navigate among the dense crowds to get to the desired location than actually enjoying anything that was actually happening there. I love having an excuse to spend more money on comics and comicbook-related material, but it felt less worth it here than it did at any other time I've gone to a convention. I'm already someone who could give less than a shit over The Big Two (i.e. Marvel and DC) and their new line-up of bottom-of-the-barrel, artistically-devoid superhero books for next year or a preview for something I'll more than likely be able to have the satisfaction of downloading a few weeks later anyway. No, I always enjoyed going to the booths and talking to the professionally creative types there. They feel like kindred spirits and you can carry an actual conversation with them, unlike 99% of the fanboys who roam the same floors. I even felt complimented when some of the artists there that gave me a sketch or two mentioned that, unlike everyone else there, I was giving something them interesting to draw rather than just another sketch of Batman or Superman. It was also nice to meet up with two individuals I had known for a while, Drew Edwards (the creator of the very entertaining Halloweenman - check it out!) and Steve Higgins, who I had met before and had a chance to hang out a bit with him here. But, obviously, those were the best parts of this whole thing. Otherwise, it was like going through cardiac arrest for three days without a sign of relief in sight. I might go to Chicago again at some point, but I even doubt that as there will be as many people I despise as those whose company I'd enjoy and, again, the nature of the comicbook convention was killed for me with the inept planning and handling of the one in San Diego. 4. No Trip to Colorado Although I could've put this along with Cape Cod, I didn't on the basis of preference. As much as I would've liked to have gotten away from SoCal for whatever period of time, Colorado is certainly far from where I've wanted to go. Still, it'd of been another possible escape from the general boredom that I was often inhabited by. My aunt Kim and uncle Mike had moved there and were, at the time, now putting one of my cousins through college (which, I hear, has not gone well) and also dealing with my other cousin, who is apparently the same hellion he always has been - now with teenage hormones replacing child-like ignorance. To an extent, maybe it is good that I didn't go, because then I would've had to drag my grandmother along. Neither Kim or Mike like her in their home, but they feel obligated to as she's family. I'm sure, if the situation were different, they would've probably liked to have me over as company and could've taken Charles (the aforementioned younger cousin) off their hands for a while. Oh well... 5. My Job Over this summer, I had the privilege (yes, I mean that...) to have a job. It was strictly under the table, but it paid well and was close enough to where I could take a bus there and back. I also got to work with my hands, which is simply a fulfilling feeling to have at the end of the day. What made it a disappointment? The fact that I got stuck with an insane, narcissistic, and most-likely-racist hypochondriac for a boss. He's the kind of guy who, after ranting incoherently, would write down what he just said as though it's gold and complain about scents and smells that nobody else besides him can notice. Also, for a guy who works in a machine shop, he always seems to be on the verge of some horrible allergic outbreak that'll render him a vegetable. Then again, if that truly was the case, he wouldn't be working there. I always sensed that his perceived maladies were simply that: perceived. He claims to have been involved in some program that completely detoxifies your body (which, he also claims, rids of any psychological problems as well - like he even believes in such a thing...), yet I've never seen a man as sickly as he is. Is this so-called great program nothing more than a diet that renders your immune system useless? From what I've seen and heard, yes. True, my body is probably filled with so many vile toxins that I should probably not think about it, but I'd rather be sick and filled with disease than following any "program" the reduces me to someone who can't even walk through somewhere without a faint odor knocking me unconscious. Also, as a fanatical Christian, he was always attempting to "show me the light" by talking about his supposed conversations with Jesus (he claims he wasn't just praying) and basically paraphrasing things that he most likely read from Thomas Aquinas (who he just wouldn't shut the fuck up about - which I would've liked, as I despise Aquinas and all other overly religious "philosophers") and was told by the local priest at his church. Of course, he doesn't stop there: while he never outrightly says it, I just knew he was calling me genetically inferior on the basis I was Jewish (which I regret ever mentioning, even off-handedly, to him) through his none-too-subtle stories involving people of Jewish descent always (supposedly) failing in the steed of those who "truly believed". He also went on about Mexican-Americans not being able to get into colleges because they aren't as smart, but he changed to "'cause they weren't born in the states" when I brought up several Mexican-Americans do, in fact, go to college. The worst part of all this was that, at first, the guy seemed completely sand and rational. I got along with him well enough, but soon enough he starts treating me like a dick (he called it "being a boss", but apparently he forgot that he technically was supposed to on the first day - his fault, if anything) and unloading other crap upon me to make me feel increasingly uncomfortable. Eventually, I had it with that kind of shit and told him that, if he didn't stop, I'd just quit then and there. Luckily, I knew he liked the work I did and wouldn't throw away an extra helping hand because he wanted to go on about his bullshit beliefs and logic. So, from there, I worked the next two weeks, got paid, and never had to speak to him because he expected me to. So, if anything, I'm happy it did happen to way it did - it taught me how to behave with my next boss, if anything - and it was a good experience. Which, even for all the none-too-comfortable shit at the end, makes it the least disappointing part of this summer.

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