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sex and the city goes to the movies

I didn't quite know what to expect, but I expected something remarkable, good or bad. Mick LaSalle in the Chronicle had the Little Man falling out of his seat ... Manohla Dargis in the New York Times ripped it to shreds ... Roger Ebert just threw up his hands and allowed that perhaps he wasn't the right audience for the film.

And, guess what? It turns out Sex and the City is pretty much like an episode of the TV series. Well, a very long episode or five, but not all that different from what we used to watch on Sunday nights. It still revolves too much around Carrie ... Samantha still gets all the best lines ... Charlotte's innocence is bolstered by its spunky (in the nice meaning of the word) underpinnings ... Miranda gets the short end of the stick for being too neurotic. The movie works best when the four women are together ... it falters when it separates them. There are fart jokes and horny dog jokes and lots of talk about sex, there are Carrie voiceovers and nudity great and small (Samantha spends one scene naked except for a covering of food, Miranda has hot sex and shows her breasts, Charlotte takes a sensuous shower, several female extras get naked, one minor male character shows his penis, and Sarah Jessica Parker keeps all of her clothes on because ... well, because it's in her contract and she doesn't seem to understand why asking her co-stars to expose their bodies while keeping her own under wraps might seem a bit oppressive).

No matter. If you like the show, you'll like the movie, if you didn't like the show, you aren't going to see the movie anyway. If you do go to see it, I recommend getting to it sooner rather than later, while the opening week crowds are still attending. They were in many ways the best thing about the movie. There is one scene ... I'm avoiding spoilers as much as I can, here ... that so reveled in the huge love of consumerism that has always been a crucial part of the show, that it elicited a collective gasp of awe from the largely female audience, easily the equal of action fans whooping with delight at the first appearance of a superhero.

When Sex and the City was a TV series, I watched it alone, or sometimes with Robin, or occasionally with Jillian and Doug. I was aware of its role in popular culture as some kind of fantasy model for single women without really experiencing that for myself. Tonight, I got my taste. The crowd was delightful.


presented without comment

Here are the 15 titles I've rented from Netflix since I switched to Blu-ray:

Hairspray (3 stars out of 5)

No Country for Old Men (4)

Tekkon Kinkreet (4)

Pan's Labyrinth (5)

A Room with a View (4)

The Fly (3)

Blood Diamond (3)

Juno (4)

Bruce Springsteen: Live in Dublin (4)

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (3)

Curse of the Golden Flower (4)

The Lookout (4)

The Orphanage (4)

Enchanted (3)

Predator (4)


predator

I watched Predator again tonight ... hey, it's out on Blu-ray. And as I was watching, I found myself wondering: is Predator the second-best Arnold movie of all time?

I'm assuming everyone has the sense to appreciate that The Terminator is the best Arnold movie. What are the candidates for second-best?

The IMDB users rank his films as follows:

1) Terminator 2

2) The Terminator

3) Predator

4) The Long Goodbye

5) Total Recall

6) True Lies

I don't see how any other movies could rank higher than these. Maybe Pumping Iron if you want to count that. But that seems like a reasonable Top Five ... five because The Long Goodbye is a wonderful movie, but it's not an Arnold movie.

First, I have to take back my assumption that "everyone" knows the first Terminator movie is the best, since the IMDB users disagree on that one. So I'd have to accept that for most people, the two Terminator movies are his best. Until A Scanner Darkly came along, Total Recall was the best Philip K. Dick adaptation ever, and True Lies is a real oddball, one of the strangest giganto-budget movies I've seen. But I think they're a notch below the big three. So, for me at least, the question is, does Predator outrank T2?

Looking at my ratings, I give T1 10 out of 10. I give a 7 to T2 and to Predator. I don't seem to have ever rated the other two, but off the top of my head, they, also, are 7/10 movies. Still, I'm gonna go with Predator as his second-best, because otherwise this post has no point.

Why is this a good movie? Robin watches a lot of movies on the Sci-Fi Channel on Saturdays, and they are real stinkeroos ... straight-to-video junk, occasional Sci-Fi originals, all of which feature crappy special effects, crummy acting, and only one actor you've ever heard of (like Corbin Bernsen, or Annabella Sciorra, although Lance Henriksen often also sneaks in). Predator is a lot like those movies, with one important exception: it's good. I wouldn't say it transcends its genre, exactly ... I'd just say it does what it does quite effectively. It's well cast ... the guys who aren't great actors (Jesse Ventura, say, or Sonny Landham) are put in roles that fit them snugly, Bill Duke adds actual skill, and Arnold is at his peak, which is to say he's like Jesse or Sonny only he's better and more iconic than they are. The special effects remain intriguing 20 years after the fact. The Hemingwayesque undercurrents are there but aren't overdone. The soundtrack works on the audience. None of this is earth-shattering, but all of it is well-done, and the end result is a fine movie.

Compare it to Terminator 2. The latter has special effects that were mind-boggling at the time, although I'd argue they don't seem quite as amazing now that we are used to them ... there's no art to them, they are all effect, whereas the Predator was clearly created by an artist. Arnold is fine, the movie is part of pop culture, it grossed more than half a billion dollars worldwide (Predator didn't break $100 million). And it has Linda Hamilton's defining role, which isn't something I'm ready to just toss off. But it's also overblown ... it came about halfway between the first Terminator movie and Titanic, and that progression doesn't make James Cameron look very good ... he goes from the punkish Terminator to the best of the Alien movies, and then The Abyss and T2 and True Lies, with big budgets (the first Terminator had a budget of $6.4 million, the second $102 million), good movies, but it's like if the Ramones had gone from their legendary first album to making Sgt. Pepper six years later. Whatever ... this sounds like I'm dissing T2, when in fact I love that movie. But it's only the second-best Terminator movie ... and Predator is the best Predator movie, and that counts for something.


friday random ten, 1978 edition

1. The Clash, "Safe European Home." In the great tradition of so many terrific Clash songs, I barely understood the words the first thousand times I heard it, and I didn't care a bit. The Clash has as many classics as any band ever, and I suppose this isn't one of them to most people, but the opening power chords are a blast that I've never gotten tired of.

2. Albert Collins, "Ice Pick." If you find yourself in one of those "I'm bored, what can I find online" moods, search around for stories about Collins' live performances. I saw him ... it was the 80s, I guess, maybe later, I don't know. He played at Slim's, the small club run by Boz Scaggs. And yes, he did his trademark, wandering off the stage into the crowd, solos rolling out of his guitar, until he had walked right out the front door and onto the streets, still wailing away ... and when he'd had enough, back into the club he came, never stopping with the solos.

3. Ashford & Simpson, "Is It Still Good to Ya." Back in the day, they made mature married love interesting and cool. How odd to realize that they were only in their 30s at the time. The video adds Johnny Gill to the vocal mix.

4. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, "You're the One That I Want." Let's get something out of the way: Grease sux. Let's get something else out of the way: this song roolz.

5. David Johansen, "Frenchette." Without Johnny Thunders, David was never going to capture the spirit of the Dolls. But if his solo albums were never as good as Doll albums, they were better than Johnny's solo albums. Come in my kitchen and not my kitchenette, indeed.

6. Bruce Springsteen, "Racing in the Street." Bruce made better albums ... OK, I know some will disagree, but I think Darkness is a hair under Born to Run, Nebraska, and Tunnel of Love ... it's an album made for live versions, as "Prove It All Night" demonstrates. But the highlights of this album are canonical. And I never connected on a personal level with any other Bruce album the way I did with this one, which came in the middle of my decade as a steelworker. And let's not forget the tour, his greatest and thus, by definition, one of the greatest tours in rock and roll history.

7. Hot Chocolate, "Every 1's a Winner." You want a hook? The synth that kicks this off is a hook of the highest order, and every time it returns, it gets you all over again.

8. Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone." If I'm being all intellectual and donning my Dr. Critic cap, I have to note that Parallel Lines is more polished than Blondie's debut, and that polish isn't always good. But whenever I play the album, the first thing I lose is the Critic cap ... it just sounds too good to complain.

9. Little Roger and the Goosebumps, "Stairway to Gilligan's Island." Ah, irony. Led Zeppelin is one of the titans of rock, but sometimes they "borrowed" songs from sources without remembering to cite the originals. You know, plagiarizing. But when this goof got some airplay, Led Zep's lawyers threatened to sue them.

10. Cheap Trick, "Surrender." I have no idea why this song is better than any other Cheap Trick song, why it's just about better than any other song, period. But fuckin' A, this is great. Power chords and perfect and quotable lyrics. Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird, as they make out on the couch and get high while listening to Kiss records. Surrender, but don't give yourself away.


platini84

I confess to having more than one Gmail account. I have my primary account ... I have doctortemp for my school email ... I have cepeda30 for baseball email ... and I have platini84 at gmail dot com for soccer email. And that name is not chosen at random.

In 1984, we made our first trip to Europe. We spent the vacation with Robin's sister Tami and her then-husband Peter. We had a wonderful time. Tami and Peter lived in a village in Southeast England, and from there, we drove across France to Andorra, then to the north of Spain. We saw Barcelona and Sitges. We returned through France, during which I had my 31st birthday, which was quite memorable. Then we made it back to England, where we stayed until our trip was over. During that last part of the vacation, I attended opening day at Wimbledon, seeing John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors (in separate matches, McEnroe at Centre Court).

In all of the small towns we visited during our travels, there would be men watching soccer on television. I didn't know much about soccer at that time. I'd paid some attention to the U.S. league in the late-60s, had watched the occasional German highlights on public television, had a distant eye on the World Cup every four years. We even took our son to a match in Oakland when he was a tyke. And I had tickets for an Olympic soccer match between the U.S. and Costa Rica coming that July.

But I didn't know why, in that particular summer of 1984, everyone in Europe seemed to be watching soccer all the time. Because I hadn't heard of the European Championships, which took place every four years and which featured all of the nations of Europe.

But I was explaining why I took on the handle "platini84". France was the host for Euro 84. They had a strong squad ... they'd made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup two years before ... and were the tournament's favorite. It was difficult to avoid the competition ... like I say, it seemed to be on television everywhere we went. And I would cast an occasional eye at the screen, and there was one player who stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. His name was Michel Platini, and he played for France.

France opened the tournament against Denmark, who included a teenaged Michael Laudrup on their squad. The only goal came in the 78th minute, and was scored by Platini.

Next was Belgium, with their own notable teenager, Enzo Scifo. Platini scored in the 4th minute to put France on top ... his penalty in the 74th minute gave France a 4-0 lead ... in the 89th minute he got his hat trick with his third goal of the match and fourth in two games.

Then it was Yugoslavia's turn. They had already been eliminated, with no hope of advancing, but they played well, even leading 1-0 at the half. But then ... guess who? Platini equalized in the 59th minute ... he put France ahead three minutes after that ... and he made it 3-1 in the 77th minute, picking up his second consecutive hat trick, and bringing his total for the tournament to seven goals in three matches.

And so to the semi-finals against Portugal. The UEFA website calls that match "The most vivid match in the history of the finals." France scored midway through the first half, and that 1-0 lead held up until Portugal equalized in the 74th minute. This led to extra time, 30 more minutes of play. Eight minutes in, Portugal took the lead for the first time. In the 114th minute, France tied the match, 2-2. With one minute to play, with the match looking to certainly be decided via penalties, who managed to put the game-winner into the net? Michel Platini, with his 8th goal of the tournament.

By the time France met Spain in the finals, we were back in England, and I remember quite vividly watching the match in Tami and Peter's house. As I recall, most folks were rooting for France ... it was hard not to by that point ... but I stuck with my heritage and cheered for Spain. A mediocre first half was scoreless ... I don't know that I realized it was mediocre, I hadn't seen a lot of matches at that point in my life. Early in the second half, a foul gave France a free kick just outside the penalty area. You know by now who took that kick.

It wasn't a great one ... in fact, Spanish goalie Luis Arconada made the stop. No surprise there ... Arconada was one of the top keepers in the world. Except ... as he fell on the ground to make the save, Arconada somehow managed to let loose the ball, which squirted ever so gently out from under the goalie and rolled just into the net. France 1, Spain 0, Platini 9. (Wikipedia tells us that "French football lingo has referred to this type of goalkeeping error as an Arconada ever since.")

Spain never did score in that match, while France added one more in the last minute to win 2-0 and become European Champions. Platini scored nine goals ... no one else scored more than three. I returned to the States with a new-found appreciation for soccer. I started paying more attention, and when the 1986 World Cup rolled around, I was hooked, stoked with Maradona Fever. I guess I never looked back. And that's why you can send email to platini84 at gmail dot com and it will end up in my mailbox.

All of this came to mind today, as I watched that France-Spain match again. ESPN has the U.S. rights to Euro 2008, which begins in a week or so, and they've been building up to the tournament by showing the final matches of previous events. Today was 1984. The first half was indeed mediocre ... even given that ESPN is editing the matches to fit into a one-hour time slot with commercials ... but Platini was Platini. If you follow soccer today, you know Platini ... he is an important figure in French and European soccer to this day. But I wouldn't use his name for an email address if all he did was administrate. Once, for a few years, he was the greatest soccer player in the world. In 1984 and 1985, he was named World Soccer magazine's World Player of the Year (he was supplanted by Maradona in '86, of course). The same magazine ran a poll in late 1999 listing the greatest soccer players of the 20th century ... Platini finished fifth, behind legends Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, and Beckenbauer.


be still my heart, or, catching up on tv

To get the heart palpitations out of the way first, my mailbox included the new Entertainment Weekly. On the cover is the #1 TV babe of the 21st century, Christina Hendricks. The cover reminds me that Mad Men will be starting its second season soon.

And, of course, Lost has its season finale tonight, and it's rumored to be a whopper.

And this reminds me that a couple of shows had their season finales recently, and I didn't even write about them. Maybe that means this blog is taking a different direction, or maybe it means I'm just bored. But there really wasn't much to say about House or Ugly Betty. House's titular character learned some things about himself, but hopefully when the show returns, he'll still be the reason-bound, misanthropic atheist I know and love. Ugly Betty ... it's not a bad show, but I am no longer sure why I watch it. Both shows are in the B range, which doesn't quite get it, even when many good shows are on hiatus or simply finished forever. I have plenty of time for television, but the best thing I can say about these two shows is that Robin and I watch them together, and shared shows are nice.

Meanwhile, I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about Lost's season finale, but since it is sure to include all sorts of fascinating plot twists, it will be impossible to talk about it without including spoilers. At least it's a broadcast network series, meaning anyone with a television or Internet access can watch it for free, meaning most people who watch it are caught up (unlike shows on HBO or Showtime, where many folks are a season behind). Here are my predictions for tonight (and I am totally unspoiled, so none of these are based on any inside info):

A large number of plot threads will be resolved. More plot threads will be introduced than will be resolved, though, so we'll all be at least slightly more confused, even though some things will make more sense to us. There will be at least one scene featuring excellent special effects. The entire cast will be usefully adequate, with the exception of Michael Emerson, who will blow everyone else off the screen using nothing but bug-eyes and a menacing voice. After the show is over, fans will spend months parsing out every frame.

Lost is a very good show. I certainly prefer it to the likes of House or Ugly Betty. But, as I have suggested before, there is no there there. It's a weekly narrative puzzle, and there hasn't been anything quite like it before, and while it has its ups and downs it is essentially one of the hallmark shows of its time. But it isn't about anything. The Wire was about the American city; Deadwood was about emergent capitalism; Buffy was about teenagers and life and death and wit and heroism and community and girl power. Lost is about puzzles. It is complex, not simple, and there are enough subtexts to warrant a few semesters of college-level courses, to be sure. But it's "just a TV show." It's obsessive, it's enjoyable, it's water-coolerish ... it's one of the best shows on television. But, as I've noted many times recently, I, unlike the hardcore fans, will only spend 24 hours or so thinking about it. Come Friday evening, Battlestar Galactica will be on. And that show is about stuff. It's not necessarily a better show than Lost, but it's more in line with what I like. No, that's not quite it ... I like Lost a lot. But I want the extra, and Lost doesn't provide it for me the way BSG does. Honestly, I'm more excited about the return of Mad Men than I am about the season finale of Lost, and that would be true even if Christina Hendricks washed up on the Lost beach wearing nothing but Yunjin Kim's bikini.

OK, I may have exaggerated just a bit ... I'd likely have a heart attack if Hendricks showed up in that fashion. For one thing, Hendricks is that oddity of our times, a woman who actually has meat on her bones, so Kim's bikini wouldn't cover much more than Hendricks' booty. And that, I am sure, is TMI. What can I say, I miss my wife.


fucking dickheads never die

And they don't fade away, either. Scott McClellan was Bush's press secretary for many years ... and is there a scummier job on the planet than presidential press secretary? Your job is to stand in front of the press and the country and tell one whopper after another. (This isn't just a Republican thing, if that needs saying.) Now that he's no longer with the White House, McClellan has written a book, where he says that the Bushies screwed everything up. He also blames the press for believing all the crap they were told ... not that he's wrong, but since he was the one passing along the crapfulicious message, he might want to avoid that topic.

So, to summarize: Scott McClellan took a job telling lies for fucking dickheads. After he quit that job, he wrote a book which will make him much money, wherein he said "yep, THEY were fucking dickheads." I'd say McClellan has earned himself a spot in the Fucking Dickhead Hall of Fame. Maybe he can do a lecture tour with Robert McNamara ... call it Mea Culpa Memories.