Monday, January 31, 2011

Farewell, John Barry

Music can make a good movie great, and a great movie legendary. John Barry had the ability to use music to take the films he scored to the next level. Sadly, he died yesterday at the age of 77. In his long career he won 5 Academy Awards and scored 11 James Bond movies. Many credit John Barry with helping the James Bond film series achieve its status as the longest lasting and most profitable one of all time. His work on the scores, as well as the theme songs was integral in setting the tone for the popular titles sequences, as well as the action and romantic scenes.

The brassy, jazzy and sensuous melodies penned by Barry are some of the most recognizable in screen history. The James Bond theme (credited to Monty Norman) was unfinished when John Barry took it and made it iconic with its aggressive twangy guitar. It is no surprise that I have the vast majority of Barry's James Bond music on my iPod, not only because it reminds me of my favorite film series, but because the music is that good. Do I like John Barry because of James Bond, or do I like James Bond because of John Barry? Both. The two are linked forever in cinema history, and even though other great composers worked on Bond films, nobody left a mark like John Barry.



Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book of the Month

This month,

EARTH (The Book)

By Jon Stewart and the Writers of The Daily Show

Like its hilarious predecessor, America (The Book), Earth is a satiric jaunt through our planet's history, biology and culture. The premise behind the book's existence is that it is a Frommer's guide book, of sorts, for alien visitors, the book being the only information source left after humanity has died out. Because humans have become all but extinct, the book is easy to read with lots of pretty pictures, diagrams and charts. If you read America, you'll be very familiar with the high school text book design, or if you went to high school and actually read any of your text books.

Those clever Daily Show folks nicely organized the books into easy to digest sections like- Earth, Man and The Life Cycle, while also including clever appendices with titles like, Why We're Not Here. This made me laugh the most as it included such possible reasons for our demise as Alien attack, natural disasters and genetically enhanced killer Bee Sharks. Don't get stuck in just one section of the book, though, because each chapter is loaded with funny little bits, right down to the smallest print.

Even though this book does a fabulous job of skewering everything we know down to the smallest detail, there is a twinge of sadness and nostalgia felt while reading because it does make you wonder about when and how we will ultimately destroy ourselves, and the planet. But then you flip to the page that has a picture of Larry King's penis, and you are jolted back into reality. After a thorough reading, I have no fear that any aliens, be they Vulcans, blue Avatar guys, or chest bursters, would be able to get the basics about the human race and this planet from Earth (The Book).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams

Alright, my little Ewoks, I am going Star Wars on you for this week's movie. Thankfully, George Lucas had not yet become the world's greatest ruiner when he penned the final chapter in the Star Wars saga. Picking up where The Empire Strikes Back leaves off, Jedi reunites us with Luke and Co. as they try to rescue Han Solo (still frozen) from Jabba The Hutt back on Tatooine. Once they get Han back, (sorry if that spoiled anything) the story then turns to Luke's struggle to defeat Darth "Papa" Vader and the Emperor, while the rebels make a last ditch attempt to take out the new Death Star.

 Rather than boring you with details from a movie that we all know so well, I will do what I did last time and give you my Top Ten favorite things about Episode VI.

10. Yoda's death. Sad and moving at the same time, but one wonders if he had been able to tell Luke more stuff before he died if he didn't say "Luke" at the start of every sentence. Think about it.

9. Nub Nub- the best Ewok song that is sadly cut out of the Special Edition. Thanks a lot, Lucas.

8. The Speeder Chase in the forest. Really ahead of its time and quite exciting.

7. The Max Rebo Band- outside of the Cantina Band they are Tatooine's most popular and highest rated music group. I smell a Grammy coming for Sy Snoodles.

6. Sarlak. If you had to live in a giant anus in the desert you'd be cranky too.

5. Force Lightning. It's so cool that you almost wish the Emperor got to finish frying Luke with it.

4. Admiral Ackbar's ability to sense a trap.

3. Just so you know I'm not going to put Ewoks on this list because they suck. I'm even going to waste this spot just to say how lame they are.

2. The fat, dirty guy with man boobs who lives down in the Rancor pit.

1. Slave Leia. Every nerd's greatest fantasy and the hottest space chick until that girl with three boobs from Total Recall came along.

That's the list. May the Force be with you.

Things to watch for-

Salacious Crumb
A young Warwick Davis (Willow) as Wicket the Ewok
Rebel Scum
Darth Vader is really an old white guy

"The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am."

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Greatest Rivalry

Forget Yanks/Sox or Duke/North Carolina, the greatest and most enduring sports rivalry is the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers. Starting in 1921, these teams have met on the gridiron in many a hard hitting, muddy, snowy game that helped shape the modern NFL. Sunday, they will meet in the biggest and most important game in the long history of this rivalry. The winner of Sunday's game at Soldier Field will go to the Super Bowl.

The Packers last went to the big game in 1997, losing to the Denver Broncos. The Bears played in the Super Bowl more recently in 2007, but lost to the Indianapolis Colts. It would be huge for either team to make it to the championship, and that is why we will see what is likely to be the most hard-fought, knock down, drag out fight in either team's history. I have watched many a Bears/Packers game over the years, but have been underwhelmed by many of them because while they were fun games, none were for the right to advance to football's most coveted opportunity. Whatever happens on Sunday will be the culmination of the work of so many great Packers and Bears players that went at it over the past 90 years. Hallas, Lombardi, Lambeau, Butkus, Ditka, Hornung, Starr, Sayers, Payton, White, Singletary, Favre. Whose name will go to the top of this illustrious list with a win this weekend?

Woodson, Urlacher, Rodgers? Time will tell, I guess. I just hope to God it isn't Cutler. I don't like him.

(For maximum effect, read this while listening to the classic NFL Films song- A New Game)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Things I Think

Ever wonder what goes on in my brain? I knew you did.

I think we need to start calling 12:30 Midnight and a half and Noon and a half. Who's with me?

I think that we need to do more to celebrate Arbor Day.

I think that Duggar mom needs to stop having kids. The human body can only take so much, and I'll bet she's had about enough.

I think that James Franco and Anne Hathaway are a horrendous choice to host the Oscars. What happened to having someone funny or entertaining host? I guess they don't want people to enjoy the show anymore. I miss Billy Crystal.

I think if I had been an orphan I could have charmed a bald millionaire into adopting me and introduce me to the president.

I think Basmati rice is the best kind of rice.

I think Five Hour Energy needs to have a commercial where they show people who use it crashing hard when it wears off.

I think my laundry is done. Bye.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sidney Pollack

This film, not No Country for Old Men, was the Conor Award winning Best Picture of 2007. Michael Clayton is a richly engrossing melodrama that takes you on a journey of morality and conscience. It features sterling performances from Clooney, Wilkinson and Oscar winner Swinton as well as a fast paced and suspenseful story from writer/director Tony Gilroy. This film is a thinking man's Jason Bourne adventure, with all the same twists and turns, but with hard hitting dialogue in place of hard hitting action.

Michael Clayton (Clooney) is a 'fixer' for a large New York law firm who gets sent to sort out the aftermath of a psychotic breakdown by his colleague, Arthur Edens (Wilkinson) during a large class-action law suit. What follows is Michael's struggle to uncover the truth behind Arthur's claims that U North, a large agricultural conglomerate, has been hiding deadly secrets. Michael is skeptical because of Arthur's fragile mental state, but is forced to become involved by his firm. Standing in Michael's way is the uptight general counsel for U North, Karen Crowder (Swinton), who tries to keep the information from leaking out at any cost.

The way in which the story is told keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, as you try to figure out if Arthur is speaking the truth about U North, or perhaps just acting crazy. It is also compelling to watch and see what lengths each side will go to in order to achieve their objectives. There is also an engrossing sub-plot involving Michael and his family that adds another level to the complex nature of the film. In some films this type of story line feels tacked on, or unnecessary, but here it serves as a way to enrich the main character and make him more of a flawed hero, so that we aren't sure whether he will do the right thing when the time comes. Michael Clayton is first and foremost a melodrama, but it is also a commentary about big business, family and the ethics of both. More than that, it is just a good story that grabs you from the start and keeps your interest until the final credits roll.

Things to watch for-

Michael O'Keefe (Danny Noonan) as Barry
Horses save lives
Late night gambling
Realm and Conquest

"Do I look like I'm negotiating?"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

From the Fridge

I have some movie themed magnetic poetry on the old refrigerator, and as I was getting out my Crystal Light lemonade the other day I realized how funny some of it was. Here now are the best selections from my Hollywood magnetic poetry. 

Eastwood Bogarted refreshing Wood

Hide your Casablanca?

Brad Loved Bad Audrey

Scorsese gets wish, Redford is out

I want Bruce Willis on my side

Be very Wayne...ride alone

The Good Queen Mae Nicholson

Denzel's gone Hepburn

Apocalypse Sally Featuring Siskel and the Tarantino Wizards

Barbarella is in heat

His wonderful Sci-fi portrayals make Brando see Ishtar

Tom Cruise monumentally sucks

Pulp Gump Tootsie Frankenstein- Starring Travolta, Hanks, Hoffman, Streisand "An exhilerating musical picture"- Ebert

A sequel to Spielberg's acclaimed dramas- E.T. Phone Jaws

King Stallone of Oz

Get Agent James Bond 007 a gun

Pacino to Poppins; Great cinema, fantastic actor, music

There you have it, kids. Art at its finest.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part I

One Year Old Adolf Hitler

I serialized my undergraduate history thesis on the Vietnam War on this blog last year, and now I will serialize my second undergraduate thesis on Nazi Germany. This main focus of this thesis is the nature of Nazi culture and what defines the personality of a Nazi. I hope that this will be informative and thought provoking. Here now is part one.

The Nazi regime was arguably the most oppressive and terrible in the history of mankind. It has come to symbolize the very essence of evil. Adolf Hitler and his closest henchmen formed the nucleus of an evil empire that sought to dominate the world through war and racial purification. Something about the Nazi ideology appealed to each of these men at a very base level which made them endeavor to do all that they could to forward the movement. No two men within the regime had the same life story, and each had their own path that drew them into the Nazi inner circle. While there are more differences than similarities in the lives of the Nazi leaders, each man had some void to fill in his life, and for all of them the party helped to fill that void. 

Hitler, perhaps, had the largest void to fill, and that is why he and the Nazi regime became one entity, and why when he died the Nazi movement could no longer survive. Those closest to Hitler became so wrapped up in the Nazi philosophy that none could survive without it. The key question to ask is, why was this? What made all of these men so dependent on Nazism? What sort of men were these, and why did they resort to such horrific means to obtain their goals? It was because of the Nazi personality, and it had the ability to take many forms, and affect people in different ways. 

Among the traits inherent in the Nazi personality- deception, manipulation, ambition, ruthlessness, insecurity and fear. These attributes were displayed to varying degrees in Hitler and his elite, and each man had a duality about his character that shaped his life. In order to comprehend the whole, the parts must be examined individually.

It is necessary to examine the leader of the movement to truly begin to brake down Nazi psychology. Adolf Hitler, the first child in his family to survive infancy, was pulled in two directions as a child that greatly affected the course of his life. Hitler’s father, Alois, was a strict disciplinarian who foisted great expectations and criticism on his son. An insensitive and domineering man, Adolf both hated and feared his father. This treatment by his father gave young Adolf an inferiority complex about himself and his abilities. The treatment his mother gave him more than compensated for his father’s coldness towards him. Klara Hitler doted on Adolf as he was the first of her children not to die in early childhood. The love that Klara Hitler gave Adolf was so unconditional that out of her treatment he was given a superiority complex. These two halves of Hitler’s personality came to make up what is in many ways the Nazi personality, fear on inadequacy and failure, coupled with a strong sense of god-like superiority and greatness. Each critical decision in Hitler’s life would be dominated by these two sides of his personality.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

DRAGNET (1987)

Starring- Dan Aykroyd, Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer, Alexandra Paul

Before the annoying rash of old T.V. shows being made into movies made us all squirm, there was one film that did it first and did it best. Dragnet is that film. This movie is both an homage and a parody of the classic cop drama, with Dan Aykroyd channeling the late Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday. While the film does make fun of some of the police procedural elements that the original show relied on, great care is taken to preserve the legacy of a T.V. classic. Many of the original actors and signature lines are present in the film, most notably the in appearance of the great Harry Morgan as Capt. Gannon.

As the foil for Aykroyd's by-the-book, uptight Friday, we get Tom Hanks, in his best comedic role, as loose cannon Pep Streebeck. The film's biggest strength is the interplay between these two, and the dialogue is full of sharp, witty banter that keeps things lively. The plot follows Friday and Streebeck as they investigate a series of crimes that are perpetrated by the P.A.G.A.N.s (People Against Goodness and Normalcy). The trail leads them through a gauntlet of colorful characters, including the Hugh Hefner-esque porno lord Jerry Caesar, played by the hilarious Dabney Coleman, and the cheesy, moral activist Reverend Wherley, played by Christopher Plummer.

The whole movie feels like one long, funny episode, with great scenes along the way that build the relationship of our two polar opposite main characters. Streebeck buttons up a bit, while Friday loosens up and finds love in the form of the virgin, Connie Swail. No scene misses an opportunity for humor or a reference to the source material, as Friday gets off all the signature lines "Just the Facts," "This is the city..." and "Yassir, Captain." Forget Charlie's Angels or Get Smart or any of that other T.V. show into movie crap, and see the pinnacle of the genre again, or for the first time.

Things to watch for-

Sylvia Wiss
Fresh Wholesome Milk
Detective Star Trek
Goat Leggings
Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks rap

"Listen, hotshot. I'm gonna tell you something right now. I don't care for you or for the putrid sludge you're troweling out. But until they change the laws and put you sleaze kings out of business, my job is to help you get back your stench ridden boxes of smut. And since I'll be doing it holding my nose, I'll be doing it with one hand."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year, Schmohawks!

Some people just couldn't wait to get going on their Schmohawkery, so here are the newest batch of idiots, morons and losers for 2011.


These two Schmohawks are famous for God knows what and they have a show on the T.V. I know a lot of losers have T.V. shows, but these two get Schmohawk status because they are so insufferable when they talk to each other. Their whole relationship seems awkward and wooden and it sounds like the stuff they say to each other is being read off of cue cards. Next time two obscure Schmohawks are given a show, make sure they are more interesting and sincere than the Rancics.


Some Schmohawks from the Ohio State Football team, including star QB Torelle Pryor, traded autographs for tattoos in a clear violation of NCAA rules. I'm not at all sad for these guys, mostly because Ohio State is one of the most overrated programs, and their fans are almost as smug as the Schmohawks at USC and Notre Dame. Schmohawkery earned those boys a five game suspension. By the way, what kind of a mascot is a Buckeye, anyway?


This guy has been and always will be the archetypal Schmohawk. Let's count the ways, he was an underpants showing white rapper, he has no sense of humor about himself, he thinks he's a huge badass, and now that his new movie The Fighter is gaining critical acclaim he'll be even more self absorbed than before. I wish there was a way to get this Schmohawk out of the public eye for good. Scandal anyone?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 10 Authors

I've read a few books in my time, (in between issues of MAD Magazine) and as such, I have been influenced by them. I saw this list on Facebook, and decided to steal it for my blog. Here now is a list of 10 authors that have somehow made an impact on me in one way or another.

Not only was he arguably the greatest leader of the 20th Century, he was a prolific writer. His memoirs of World War I and World War II stand out as the definitive accounts of the two wars from someone who was there, on the scene. I have read them both, and while long, they paint an amazing portrait of life in the thick of world conflict. Churchill's memory for the facts is only surpassed by his skill with the written word.

As a former Theatre major and actor, I cannot help but put Shakespeare on this list. His plays are the stuff of legend, and I have been in, seen or read most of them. There is a reason he is still relevant in today's world- his works are timeless.

Sure, this may seem like a cop-out pick, but I really think that Harry Potter's creator belongs on this list. With her books about a teenage wizard, she helped me to find joy in reading again. After being forced to read so many books in high school, I had given up on reading for pleasure- until my aunt gave me the first two Harry Potter books. That was it, I was reading for fun again after that.

Forester is here because of his thrilling historical fiction starring British sea captain Horatio Hornblower. The Hornblower series is one of my all time favorites, and really engrosses you with details about life on a ship during the Napoleonic Wars. For a history major, there are few more fun authors out there than Forester.

Of course he is known for his Sherlock Holmes adventures, which I love, but I also like one of his other great creations- The White Company, which is the story of English Longbowmen during the 100 Years War. It is a gift when an author can transport you to another place and time with such detail, and I have always felt that Conan Doyle does this superbly.

I have only read one of his books, but it made an instant impact on me. The book in question is Iron John, a book about men, and why they are the way they are. It is a fascinating read that draws on mythology, science and psychology to help men understand themselves and how to overcome issues that can stem from childhood and society. It was an eye opening read that made me more self aware.

His love of the outdoors and respect for the natural world is what puts Abbey on this list. Through books like The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire, Abbey makes his audience feel more in tune with the environment, and really care about what humanity's role is in relation to the wild, specifically the desert in the American West.

My good friend and poet Joel Long is an inspiration to me both as a teacher and an author. His words are written with such care and passion that they leap off the page. One morning I woke up and was inspired to write some poetry of my own because Joel's words were swimming in my head, having heard him read his poetry aloud the night before.

I have never been able to read anything by Malcolm Gladwell and not have my mind blown. He writes about things that are seemingly so simple with such complexity and depth that he uncovers details most people would never see. His books, as well as his New York Times articles, cover such a wide variety of topics that something he has written that will speak to just about everyone.

I cannot stress enough what Ian Fleming's work has done to inspire me. All you need to know is that James Bond is who I would be if I could be anyone else. No, his writings are not the most sophisticated or complex, but they are fun and harken back to a time when spies and Cold War political intrigue ruled the world. It would be a much less exciting, sexy and dangerous world if Ian Fleming had never penned his Bond novels.