Friday, February 27, 2009

R.I.P. Rocky Mountain News

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Newspaper journalism is a lot like a fraternity. Once you've been a reporter or an editor (and endured a certain kind of hazing), you consider yourself a member of the profession long after you've left. So I've been taking all the news of layoffs, furloughs and cutbacks a little personally.

I don't know anyone who worked at the Rocky Mountain News, but the news that it was closing today — just straight up shutting down — genuinely saddens me. It's Colorado's oldest newspaper. Won four Pulitzers in the last 10 years alone.

This moving video says it all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is The Recession Over?

I realize that it costs a lot of money to build a new house from the ground up. Land and materials are expensive. I don't expect builders to give it away.

But considering the fact(s) that:

a. We are in a recession,
b. Tallahassee has never been a hotbed of high-paying gigs, and
c. We are no longer in a seller's market ...

What is UP with this and this? And am I the only one who sees a problem with naming a house aimed at upper-income buyers "The Katrina Cottage?" Maybe I'm hating because I love this particular neighborhood and want to marry it, but this is just nuts.

Can The Jonas Brothers Get A Little Respect?

I Like The Jonas Brothers.

There. I said it.

Like a typical, cranky Gen-Xer, I had a negative first reaction to the squeaky-clean brothers when they became megastars in my household last year. I assumed that they were pretty Disney androids who were being propped up by killer marketing and Casio keyboards. This came on the heels of "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana," so I was not in a charitable mood.

But I was wrong. Has anyone noticed that they play their own instruments, like, pretty doggone well? Or that Joe (the "hot" one) is a great frontman, especially when he ditches the whine at the end of a note? Or that the lead songwriter, Nick (the "cute" one) is only 16 years old? Paul McCartney wrote "Love Me Do" when he was that age, and while it was not exactly the Beatles' best tune, it's on all the "Greatest Hits" compilations.

I listened to a lot of music last year, and their CD "A Little Bit Longer" is just plain good. I defy anyone to listen to "BB Good," "Burnin' Up" or the Chris Isak-y "Lovebug" and tell me with a straight face that those aren't swell pop/rock songs. OK, maybe their Grammys jam with Stevie Wonder wasn't awesome, but the fact that a) they know who Stevie Wonder is and b) cite him frequently as a musical idol ought to count for something. I guess you could argue that their song lyrics are a little on the shallow side, but I wasn't exactly thinking about fair trade when I was 16.

Some of my friends are shocked that I keep coming to the Jonas Brothers' defense, or that I can even tell them apart. But I think they're judging them based on things other than their music, and assuming that musicians associated with Mickey Mouse can't possibly be good. (For the record, I was kind of annoyed with Russell Brand for making fun of their purity rings, though I suspect Nick, Joe and Kevin will come to regret giving the public that kind of information. See: Spears, Britney.)

It's early yet, so it's entirely possible that the Jonas Brothers will morph into assholes or fail to grow as artists. But I'm optimistic. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy that 3-D movie of theirs with some young fans I happen to know.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

House of WTF?

Dear Beyonce:

I think you’re a peach, so just know that this comes from a place of affection: Please stop letting your mother, Tina, dress you.

Here’s what some of my friends said about your Oscar night dress, which came from your very own House of Dereon:

“Wow, was it ever ugly.”

“The fact that she didn't wear any jewelry didn't help the fact that the fabric looked like Tina got it from a 1978 Cordoba.”

“It makes her look like she has eight legs.”

“B. is gonna have to have that come to Jesus talk with her mama sooner rather than later.”

I mean, the New York Times said that tight, black and gold mermaid number made you look like “a Czech vase.” It takes a special kind of talent to dress a beautiful woman so badly.

It is sweet and generous of you to let your mom ride your coattails and fulfill her dream of being a “fashion designer,” with you as a muse. But I’m hardly the first (or the thousandth) to point out that Tina’s clothes have some … issues. Back in your Destiny’s Child days, there were a lot of Tina-induced misfires like this. And this. And this.

When you guys finally turned up wearing clothes from designers like Roberto Cavalli, armchair fashion editors rejoiced.

On the bright side, some House of Dereon gowns are quite pretty: the pistachio, one-shoulder gown and the red crepe cross-front gown looked good on the Web site. Unfortunately, others resembled prom dresses.

You’re young, famous and filthy rich, and you obviously care about style. I’m sure other designers are tripping all over themselves to dress you. Maybe it’s time to have a talk with Mom about finding another muse/mannequin. I think you’ve done more than enough.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will 'Watchmen' Resonate?

My friend Shag has a prediction about how the general public will react to the “Watchmen” film, though he hopes he’s wrong. His theory is that most people either won’t care enough about the movie adaptation of “the greatest graphic novel of all time,” or they won’t get it. What happens if millions of people show up expecting “Spider-Man?”

Shag's got a point. Since I’ve discussed “Watchmen” mostly with other casual-to-hardcore comics geeks, I hadn’t considered the fact that it might not resonate beyond our borders.

While I had problems with "Watchmen" as a work of literature, I'm still interested to see it on the big screen. However, it is entirely possible that the uninitiated will see the trailers and scratch their heads in confusion — or shrug. But even if they are familiar with the plot, will the average moviegoer want to see an event film that is set in 1985, subverts the superhero genre and is relentlessly grim? The Guardian said it "makes last year's famously brooding Batman sequel 'The Dark Knight' look like 'Alvin and the Chipmunks.' "(At the very least, I’m glad it’s rated R so that stupid parents will be less likely to bring their children.)

We'll see what happens on March 6. Until then, check out some of the early buzz.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Random Oscar Night Thoughts

I've ignored the Oscars for the past couple of years, and at a time when the economy is at death's door, it seems especially silly to care. Who wants to see a bunch of incredibly rich, well-groomed people tell each other how awesome/beautiful/talented they are?

Uh, I guess I do. Thanks to Hugh's charm-tastic opener, I got sucked in and watched the damn thing for almost two hours. One of my Facebook friends said I was practically live-blogging the show through status updates. It's a sickness.

1. I'm not a big fan of Jennifer Aniston as an actress, but she looked great and was very composed on stage considering that Brad and Angelina were in the front row. Admit it; you hoped the camera would pan to them — and it did.

2. Miley Cyrus' dress wasn't that bad, was it? I thought she looked nice.

3. Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron are officially the cutest couple ever to emerge from the House of Disney.

4. Steve Martin's "Don't fall in love with me" line to Tina Fey was one of the funniest moments of the night.

5. Not even Hugh Jackman could save that awful musical number with Beyonce, the "High School Musical" kids and the chick from "Mama Mia!" Sometimes, less is more, even at the Oscars.

6. I miss Cher. This year's so-called red carpet "disasters" weren't nearly as entertaining as her infamous Bob Mackie getups.

7. It's still hard to believe that Heath Ledger is dead. He was fantastic as the Joker, but anyone who saw "Brokeback Mountain" knows that he should have won an Oscar for his performance in that film. It was moving to see his family accept the award on his behalf.

8. I want whatever tape/support undergarment Sarah Jessica Parker employed to hoist her girls.

9. Is it just me, or does Robert Downey Jr. look good for someone who ought to be dead?

10. There wasn't really a dress that made me go "Wow," though I thought Taraji P. Henson was lovely. She deserves better than Tyler Perry scripts from here on out.

11. Natalie Portman's utter perfection is starting to get on my nerves.

12. How sweet are the kids from "Slumdog Millionaire," another film I didn't see?

13. Wall*E was totally robbed.

14. I agree with "I have a feeling that after last night's speech, the dreamily high-cheekboned (Dustin Lance) Black will have no shortage of proposals for everything from one-night stands to eternal wedded bliss."

15. Tilda Swinton isn't for everybody, but I dig her style.

16. Love you, Kate, but I'm still not going to see "The Reader."

Give This Man A Raise

Am I the only person who thought Hugh Jackman's opening number was the highlight of last nights Oscars broadcast? Points for Anne Hathaway, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Little eBay Problem

Before I went all hardcore with the parenting thing, I sort of collected limited edition Barbie dolls. It started with a Nicole Miller Barbie (complete with handbag) and became increasingly random and expensive. Before it became clear that it was either food for my child or Vera Wang Barbie, I fed my addiction via eBay. At some point, I went cold turkey and bowed out of the bidding scene for years.

But I got sucked back in. Frustrated by my inability to find clothes I liked locally, I stumbled onto an eBay shop that carries some of my favorite brands at rock-bottom prices. It started with that plum-colored jersey dress I wanted for my cousin's wedding. I got it brand-new for 29 bucks — down from $130 at retail. Then, another up-and-coming designer I liked was having a full-blown warehouse sale. We're talking $100 skirts for $15.

But I knew I was in trouble when I discovered that eBay is geek heaven. Every rare comic book, graphic novel and artist-signed print you could ever want is out there. I should have run like the keyboard was on fire, but no. I just had to click on a signed George Perez Wonder Woman print and make a bid. On Thursday, I duked it out with a buyer who wanted that print just as badly as I did. I took it personally when s/he outbid me - twice - and muttered about how "This b**** is going down. It's mine." I could not be reasoned with.

See, George Perez authored and illustrated one of my favorite Wonder Woman volumes back in the late '80s, and this print was gorgeous. I could just picture it in my future office, my geek pals green with envy.

This is why eBay is so dangerous. You tell yourself that you will not, under any circumstances, pay more than $25 for something, but one or two bids later, you're too far gone to adhere to those limitations. You're pissed off that someone is trying to take this thing that you absolutely must have, despite not even knowing about it two days prior.

I lost the auction. My rival outbid me at the last minute, but there is a happy ending: The seller had a second autographed print and asked me if I wanted to buy it at my final bidding price. Of course I did. All's well that ends well.

But I'm giving eBay a wide berth from now on, because my children have gotten used to eating.

In Praise Of Tapas

I met the book club ladies last night at Tapas, a new restaurant in Midtown Tallahassee that was, as I predicted, packed. Tallahasseans swarm to new eateries of any kind, and a place with decent buzz can stay mobbed for months. Local restaurant critic Ashby Stiff gave it four-and-a-half hats, so it's officially a hot ticket.

The food was delicious, and the service attentive. We shared several different dishes, and all of them were winners — hummus with olives, seared manchego cheese, sea scallop paella, grouper tacos, organic greens. Throw in some wine, and no one had room for dessert. The only quibble is that it's loud inside, but the outdoor patio should be nice once the spring weather kicks in.

I discovered tapas dining a couple of years ago when my friend C. took me to Jaleo in Bethesda, Md. It's a running joke that we have to eat at Jaleo whenever I'm in town, because the food there is so good. I'm glad Tallahassee has its own version now, so come on down, C.!

Footnote: Midtown Tallahassee is adorable, and I can see that it is rapidly becoming a hipster magnet. When we went next door for coffee, I saw a lot of skinny jeans, Apple laptops and slightly pretentious-looking hats. But it's not so edgy that I was out of place in my Working Mom gear, either.


Sanjaya Malakar seems like a very nice young man, but can someone tell me why this memoir was necessary?

Japan: Putting Babies To Work

Why didn't I think of this?

Baby Mop from Chris Milk on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dear T.I.: Soccer Moms Dig You, Too

Dear T.I.,

As a responsible taxpayer over the age of 35, I've talked a good game about how modern hip-hop is in the toilet and young rappers have no sense of social responsibility. I'm sure you're all too familiar with this particular rant. People my age are fond of saying things like, "Well, they're no De la Soul," and let's face it – as a soccer mom, I'm not exactly in your target audience.

But here's the thing: I downright love some of your songs: "Rubber Band Man," "Bring 'Em Out" and "You Don't Know Me" were high on my playlist, right up there with The Kinks and Jill Sobule. When you pronounced yourself "wild as the Taliban," I saluted your clever wordplay.

Then you had to go and get sentenced to a year in jail on weapons charges. Machine guns? I figured our little flirtation was done, and I moved on to Lupe Fiasco. It just wasn't the same.

Lo and behold, you did it again. "Paper Trail," with its mixture of wildly un-P.C. rhymes and catchy beats, has found its way onto my iPod — and it's giving my mopey British bands of choice a run for their money. First it was the recession-be-damned booty song "Whatever You Like." Then it was star-studded "Swagger Like Us." M.I.A.! Jay-Z! Kanye! Weezy! But you really outdid yourself with "Dead and Gone" feat. Justin Timberlake. That song is mega-dope, and it speaks to me when I'm driving my station wagon to Publix (without the kids, of course):

Ever had one of them days you wish woulda stayed home?
Run into a group of n****s, getting their hate on?
You walk by. They get wrong. You reply, then s**t get blown
Way outta proportion, way past discussion
Just you against them, pick one, then rush 'em ...

The video is pretty nifty, too. Who knew Justin's cred would last this long?

Anyway, I hope having a few twinset-wearing fans isn't too bad for your image. Good luck this next year, and I'm sure you'll emerge with lots of material for your next CD.


Barack Who?

I admit it. I'm a little obsessed with Michelle Obama — her style, her regal carriage, her overall Michelle-ness. This makes sense considering my similar fascination with Jacqueline Kennedy, but Jackie was a First Lady before my time. Michelle is the first, er, First Lady I feel I can relate to, even though I'm not a Princeton-educated attorney with a global following and a husband who has access to the nuclear codes. I know I'm not alone, because at least two of my friends have come out of the closet about their girl crushes on Mrs. O. I really don't understand haters like Juan Williams, who inexplicably described her as "Stokely Carmichael in a dress." That's a slick way of trying to paint her as somehow radical and un-American, but whatever.

Anyway, I love that she's become a fashion icon — and that she's on the March cover of Vogue. While Southern women are no strangers to color, Michelle's purple sheath dresses really stand out in D.C. She knows what looks good on her body, and it helps that she obviously knows her way around a gym. She's also rekindled some of my interest in fashion, which often drives me nuts with its inscrutable trends, size-ist attitude and laughable price tags. (High-waisted jeans? Really?)

My friend C. turned me on to the Mrs. O site, a fun look at Michelle Obama's fashion influence. It doesn't seem designed to make women go buy the exact dress that Michelle wore on Tuesday, but to be inspired by her choices — or at least have fun seeing them.

I have a hard time believing people who say they are totally indifferent to fashion, because we all choose clothes to project something about ourselves — even the statement "I don't care about clothes." There's a great scene in "The Devil Wears Prada" where Meryl Streep's character icily rips Anne Hathaway's character for assuming (incorrectly) that fashion has no effect on her life.

Rock on, Mrs. O.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Well, That Was Quick

To say that Junot Diaz's talk Monday night was short would be an understatement. It may have taken me longer to park, find the restroom and scope out a decent seat than it took him to make his 7 Days of Opening Nights appearance. Even more strange was the fact that he took only three questions — two of them from a woman who wanted to know about his appearance on "The Colbert Report." Diaz seemed fairly down to earth from where I was sitting, but ... I dunno, it just seemed like something was going on behind the scenes that the audience wasn't privy to. Writers. What are you gonna do?

Anyway, Diaz did have some very interesting things to say about writing, most notably the idea that the reader should approach reading with some level of humility. In other words, it's OK if you don't understand everything immediately or have to ask someone else for help. He made this point after Colbert Woman asked him if the use of Spanish words in "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" might be a stumbling block for some readers.

"This is a book written by somebody who never forgot how they learned to read. There's always something that you don't know. There's always something that you don't understand. It's honoring the deep structure of reading," Diaz said. "As adults ... we've forgotten how reading works. The reading is not about you knowing every goddamn word."

He also talked about the book's relentless footnotes as a literary device. He likened their constant interruption to a kid who starts jabbering the minute their mom or dad makes a phone call. Diaz said that literature can function as a sort of dictatorship when only one person is allowed to speak.

"The person in the footnotes was trying to fuck the whole thing up," he said. "I wasn't trying to blend it. I wanted the two narratives to fight."

He ended the talk with a brief reading, and that was it. Band, horns down. A long line promptly formed for a book signing, but it seemed like the best thing to do was call it a night and continue enjoying the book on my own. On to David Sedaris in April.

Alec Baldwin, Jonas Brother

I love me some Alec Baldwin, and I have to give the Jonas Brothers props for being willing to poke fun at themselves. Apropos of nothing, Nick's scarf is fresh as hell.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Diaz Speaks Tonight

OK, it looks like I won't finish "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" in time for author Junot Diaz's 7 Days of Opening Nights appearance. But based solely on his salty, rambling, funny interviews (which he did not grant the Democrat for some reason) I'm looking forward to hearing him talk tonight. I'm not even 100 pages in, and I'm already convinced that Diaz is some kind of genius. (Duh. The book won a Pulitzer.) A few choice lines:

"You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma Mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest."

"Sucks to be left out of adolescence, sort of like getting locked in the closet on Venus when the sun appears for the first time in a hundred years."

"For Oscar, high school was the equivalent of a medieval spectacle, like being put in the stocks and forced to endure the peltings and outrages of a mob of deranged half-wits, an experience from which he supposed he should have emerged a better person, but that's not really what happened."

For the first time since I moved to Tallahassee, I am genuinely excited about the 7 Days of Opening Nights lineup — especially David Sedaris on April 16. I mean, I couldn't pretend I was interested in seeing Art Garfunkel last year or Kris Kristofferson the year before that. It seems like there's a little something for everybody this time, not just the boomers.

Anyway, I'll take notes tonight and try to cobble together a coherent report.

Friday, February 13, 2009

See-Worthy: 'Milk'

I'm always a little wary of important, heavily praised movies that I've waited a little too long to see, and "Milk" was no exception. But while "Milk" isn't a flawless movie, it is a very good one that is anchored by knockout performances from Sean Penn and Josh Brolin, and a fine supporting cast. Emile Hirsch, perhaps atoning for "Speed Racer," is especially good as a young Cleve Jones, the activist who went on to create the AIDS Memorial Quilt project.

A couple things came to mind while I watched "Milk" with my friend R: First, it's hard to imagine that this film would have been possible without the success and frankness of "Brokeback Mountain." The sexuality in "Milk" is hardly over the top, but the fact that it exists at all in a mainstream movie represents a sea change. James Franco kissing Sean Penn didn't seem to be nearly as big of a deal as Heath Ledger kissing Jake Gyllenhaal just four short years ago.

However, it was unsettling to think about how far this country still has to go in terms of granting gay Americans full civil rights. Some of the anti-gay rhetoric in archival footage from the 1970s is nearly identical to the rhetoric today in many parts of the country - that gays are a threat to American values, that they can't be trusted around children, that God disapproves, etc. Here in Florida, voters passed a depressing constitutional amendment that defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. California's Prop. 8 did the same thing, with overwhelming support from (irony alert) African-American voters.

Back to the acting: Josh Brolin was amazing as Dan White, the struggling politician who ultimately killed Milk and San Francisco's mayor in 1978. He brought complexity and vulnerability to a character that could have been easy to hate, playing him as a man who is losing his place in a changing world. Give that man a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. James Franco was quite good as Milk's warm and supportive boyfriend, Scott Smith. You really feel for him as he loses his partner to a movement that eventually overwhelmes their relationship. (And for the record, Franco is incapable of burying his hotness, even with a bad perm and a '70s mustache. As my friend J. would say, some people are just gifted.)

It's down to one showing at the Miracle 5, so check it out while it's still on the big screen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gaiman’s Batman Begins; 'Nightwing' Takes A Bow

Boy, that Neil Gaiman is good. So far, I love his retro, mannered take on the Batman story, and Andy Kubert’s panels are full of detailed, gorgeous goodness. I wanted to climb into the first one and go explore Gotham City — that is, if I didn’t think I’d get mugged before walking two blocks. Spoilers ahead!

The "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" story opens with a vampy (and perfectly illustrated) Selina Kyle (Catwoman) arriving to attend what appears to be Batman’s funeral— in the back of an abandoned bar. We know this can’t be right because the bartender is none other than Joe Chill, who murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne. Then the story shifts back to the 1940s, with Catwoman describing Batman as the guy who won’t/can’t commit. Her story ends many years later with Bats dying of a gunshot wound in her pet store. It seems that she’s so heartbroken and bitter about his pathological, endless war on crime that she ties him up and allows him to bleed to death. Alrighty.

Next, it’s Alfred’s turn to tell the tale, and the ending is both surprising and pathetic. According to this alternate reality, Batman’s inability to make a dent in Gotham’s devastating crime problem is making him a broken, shell of a man. To encourage him, Alfred, a former actor, recruits his fellow thespians to play colorful, outrageous villains like the Riddler and the Penguin. Alfred himself takes on the persona of the Joker, but even when Batman learns it’s all been a ruse, he can’t let go of the cowl — and he pays with his life. Both stories raise all kinds of questions about Bruce Wayne's sanity, and whether he even exists once you take away the Batman.

That’s great stuff, and it's far more satisfying than any of the previous five or six “R.I.P.” stories. More, please!

I was less enamored of the final “Nightwing” issue, but that’s not Peter Tomasi’s fault. He’s done a good job of making me care about this character, but D.C. has decided to fold Dick Grayson into the other books for now. There is one touching moment when Dick, finally accepting that Bruce is gone, sheds tears in front of Alfred. But that moment is completely undermined when Dick is forced to acknowledge the obvious — that every other major character (Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, Superman) has come back from the dead, so anything’s possible! Again, it's not Tomasi’s fault that death means nothing in the D.C. Universe.

Based on "Crusader," alone I'd give this week in comics a solid B+.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elsewhere in Gotham ...

Thanks to that New York Comic Con "Battle for the Cowl" panel, we know (sorta) where all this Batman stuff is going post-R.I.P. For the uninitiated, Batman is supposed to be "dead," though no one who has read a D.C. comic in the last 10 years really believes that.

Anyway, D.C. is shaking up its collection of Bat-themed titles this year in ways that are thrilling (Batwoman!) and not so much (Red Robin). I have enjoyed Peter Tomasi's run on "Nightwing," so I'm bummed that this title is going away. However, I have faith that the totally awesome Dick Grayson will remain a big part of the collective Batman story. He's a popular character, and with Batman gone, there's some speculation that he'll take up his former mentor's mantle. It would be crazy for D.C. to throw him under the bus ... right?

I have particularly high hopes for Batwoman's star turn in "Detective Comics." After all the press about Kate Kane/Batwoman being a lesbian a few years back, I assumed that D.C. would seriously heighten her profile. While she played a memorable role in the "52" series as Renee Montoya's (the new Question) ex and returned in "Final Crisis," the big splash didn't quite happen. So I was really pleased to hear that the talented Greg Rucka will be writing Batwoman's story. I'm also pleased that Rucka has said, essentially, that anyone who has problems with the character's sexuality can bite him.*

My knee-jerk reaction to the news of the "Red Robin" title was that a) it was retarded and b) it was silly to bring Robin No. 2, Jason Todd, back from the dead in the first place. Todd's death was one of the most poignant moments in D.C. history, and it feels cheap when characters like Todd and Barry Allen are resurrected years later. However, good writing can overcome (almost) anything, and if it's well done, I'll read it.

More details on all the shuffling are here.

*Not a direct quote, obviously.

Batman + Neil Gaiman = Mandatory

Let me add my voice to the chorus of comics geeks who are stoked about Neil Gaiman's (and artist Andy Kubert's) two-part exploration of Batman. It's out Wednesday, and preview pages are here.

I've been underwhelmed by the recent Batman R.I.P. storyline, but no way am I missing this.

Monday, February 9, 2009

'I'm On A Boat'

This may be the best song T-Pain has ever appeared on.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Morons Are Ruining The Theater Experience

At some point during last night's viewing of "Dark Knight" at the IMAX, I decided that I am %$#@ing done with movie theaters, unless I absolutely, positively cannot wait for the DVD. I used to love the theater experience. Ever since my first life-changing, big-screen film ("Star Wars" in 1977), I have been an avid cinema lover. I still love movies. But I hate what stupid people have done to the communal experience of enjoying them.

I admit that I am easily distracted, so when someone comments incessantly during a film, it takes me out of the moment. It's the same with the glowing, blue screens of cell phones, even if they are silent. To go to a movie these days means dealing with this constantly, though the indie/Miracle 5 crowd tends to be much better behaved. I don't understand the point of paying upward of 8 bucks to have a conversation you could have had for free in your living room. Is it really necessary to text the equivalent of " 'Sup?" 10 times in the middle of a pivotal scene? Again, you're paying for this. This isn't a generational rant, because I enjoy a good text conversation. Just not while I'm at the movies.

But to me, the most egregious thing a moviegoer can do is to bring a small child to a thoroughly inappropriate film. At this point, everyone knows that "Dark Knight" features a brilliant and deeply disturbing portrayal of the Joker by Heath Ledger. People are shot at point-blank range, impaled with pencils, found dead in body bags. Oh, and we haven't even gotten to the part where Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent has half his face burned off. On what planet would it be OK to let your children, approximately ages 6 and 8, watch this - especially on a big-ass IMAX screen?

I tried to give the couple the benefit of the doubt. They were speaking a foreign language, so I thought it possible that they weren't as aware of the content as an American filmgoer might be. And then I decided that was ridiculous. This is a global blockbuster. And it's not like they left after the first, second or 14th act of violence on screen. At one point, the oldest girl was crying in her father's lap, her head buried in his shoulder. He was comforting her, but as I glared daggers at him, I longed to scream, "Why in the hell are you still here? Take this poor, frightened child home immediately!" Or as Christian Bale might say, "What don't you *%$&ing understand?!"

I was annoyed by the kids' high-pitched chatter, but it was almost impossible to enjoy the movie knowing that these girls were going to be exposed to so much scary stuff. And it's not like complaining to the manager would have helped, because small children are allowed to see a film like this as long as they're with a guardian.

The chattering, texting teens a couple of rows in front of us paled in comparison. But I kind of wanted to kill them, too.

Unless you have a high-tech home theater, I still think that nothing can replace the shared experience of seeing a great movie with others. And let's face it; some movies are made for talking back to the screen. But this kind of clueless, naked self-absorption has become noticeably worse in the last decade. I feel old saying that, but it's true. Just one more thing for the ailing movie theater industry to worry about.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Want To See This Movie

It looks like "Medicine for Melancholy" will not be screening in Tallahassee anytime soon, even though director Barry Jenkins is a Florida native and an FSU film school grad. But I'm still stoked about this movie, which is about two people who are young (not my words) "blipsters," or black hipsters.

The movie takes place after a one-night stand between Micah and Jo, two San Francisco dwellers grappling (or not) with race and class issues. But it's also about the spark of a potential relationship, which has nothing to do with color. I haven't seen it, but it's so encouraging that someone has made a movie about black people who aren't dressed in drag, seeking redemption through gospel music, or doing an extended "Living Color" sketch. What took so long?

As someone who embraces their blackness but is also worn out by the politics and same old discussions of race, I'm intrigued by the themes in Jenkins' film. Based on what I've read, Micah and Jo have different ideas about how their blackness affects their lives, or whether it should matter at all. If you're a person of color whose interests and activities are largely associated with white people — especially in certain parts of the country — it's hard not to think about it sometimes. In my experience, other people are thinking about it for you.

The DVD is scheduled for release this spring, and I'll be ready. To read more about "Medicine for Melancholy," go here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Etta Fierce

When you're a megastar like Beyonce, haters come with the territory. She's used to it, and she certainly doesn't need my sympathy. Still, it must suck to have a singer you admire dis you in public. This is the part where I say I saw this coming.

One of the lovelier moments of inauguration day was watching Beyonce serenade the Obamas with her version of "At Last," made famous by Etta James. Of course, Beyonce played Etta in the blink-and-you-missed-it film "Cadillac Records." At the time, I was sort of bummed that Etta didn't have the opportunity to sing at least part of the song during the Obamas' first dance. I know she doesn't have the pipes she used to, but I'm sure it would have meant a lot to her. Being left out had to hurt.

Turns out that she's pissed — really pissed. At a Seattle show, Etta blasted Beyonce and President Obama with both barrels, saying that Sasha Fierce was "going to get her ass whipped," and that Obama "ain't my president." While this pales in comparison to Christian Bale's F-bomb marathon, it's still mean. Sure, it must grate her to see a young, already-successful singer get so much attention for a song she rocked many years ago, but a) it's not Beyonce's fault that Etta didn't get her proper due and b) was it necessary to drag the president into this?

I guess you say what's on your mind when you're 71. And Etta James doesn't exactly have a reputation for being demure.

The rant is here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rambling Thoughts About Belief and Nonbelief

I just finished reading David Sheff's "Beautiful Boy," the horrifying account of his son's meth addiction and its effect on his family. As I parent, I can't imagine how excruciating it must be to watch your child attempt to destroy himself. Thank God Nic Sheff is still alive, though relapse is always a possibility with meth. It is some disgusting, evil stuff.

Notice that I said "Thank God." Since I believe in God, I'd have at least one advantage in a rehab program. As David and Nic Sheff have pointed out, many rehab programs are based on the AA principle that addicts must submit to a higher power. But how can you submit to something you don't believe in? Both father and son are agnostic, and Nic struggled with the God approach to recovery. As I pointed out to my friend V., that would be like telling me to submit to the Easter Bunny.

V. is an atheist, and we've had plenty of long talks about how alienating that is when you live in the Bible Belt. It really meant something to her when President Obama gave a shout-out to nonbelievers, because she's gotten a lot of negative feedback over the years. A lot of negative feedback.

My faith has evolved quite a bit since my early 20s, to the point where my more devout family members would stage an intervention if they could. I still consider myself a Christian, but I can also accept that my faith is based on a crazy-sounding story. It doesn't offend me in the least to consider the fact that I could be wrong/delusional, or to talk to someone who says the Bible is a collection of fairy tales. To be honest, I think a great deal of it is allegorical. Sometimes I think God is as obvious as my shoe, and other times I think the concept makes no sense. I don't have all the answers, and I'm (mostly) OK with that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wonder Woman No. 28 Is Full Of Win

I’ve been waiting to fall in love with the current Wonder Woman comic ever since Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti combined their considerable talents a few issues ago. It’s not that the storylines weren’t solid, but they weren’t moving me as much as Simone’s previous work on “Birds of Prey” and “Secret Six.”

However, issue No. 28 hit all the right notes. It was hard to take the the villain Genocide seriously at first, because it looks like a deranged aerobics instructor. I had a hard time believing that Wonder Woman could be beaten to a pulp by something with such a ridiculous costume. But then Genocide got its hands on WW’s lasso of truth, and began using it to cripple members of the Justice League. Green Lantern John Stewart got taken down in short order, and when the GLs go down, well ... it’s bad.

This issue did a particularly good job of making Wonder Woman seem like a well-rounded character, not just the perfect warrior princess. She’s courting fellow secret agent Tom Tresser (Nemesis), and in one of the best panels, she literally dips and smooches him while dressed in full battle armor. Is he strong enough to be her man? Let’s just say that he’s stoked about the possibilities. Donna Troy and Wonder Girl show up to help their wounded Amazon sister kick Genocide’s ass, which really shows off Lopresti's gorgeous artwork. Meanwhile, Zeus has assembled an all-male army of Olympians to take the place of the female Amazons on Earth, presumably because their peace mission failed. Bring it!

After the mind-bending slog of "Final Crisis," this was a pleasure to read. I'm eager to see where all these threads are leading.