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Archive for December, 2007

Random Saturday Pimpage: Dominic Frasca

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While cruising around YouTube looking for something else entirely, I stumbled across this video from Dominic Frasca, a guitarist from New York.  I almost hesitate to call him a “guitarist,” for while the term is certainly accurate, it doesn’t seem to convey the skill on display here.  Frasca apparently plays a custom 10-string guitar which also features extra tools allowing him to play a variety of percussive bits, too — his playing makes him sound like a multi-instrumentalist, but with only one instrument.

I’m now on the waiting list for his newest CD at CDBaby.  Impressive stuff — I can’t wait to hear the whole album.

Written by Allen

December 15th, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Music

Stench of Grinch

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A few nights ago, we TiVoed Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas for the girls. Not the old Chuck Jones animated version — which is, of course, awesome merely because of the direction of Mr. Jones himself — but the “live action” (and I use the term somewhat loosely) version from 2000 starring Jim Carrey.

And not to sound all Grinchy myself, but… by all that is holy, why did no one tell us how utterly, utterly wretched that movie is?

For someone who fancies himself something of an amateur movie critic, I’m really not all that critical of most movies. If filmmakers accomplish what they’re setting out to do, regardless of whether that’s trying to make “art” or a popcorn-munching blockbuster, I’ll follow along and judge the movie on that basis [1]. Filmmakers don’t have to do all that much to get in my good graces; be reasonably competent and reasonably entertaining or reasonably thought-provoking, and I’ll tend to react somewhat favorably.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was neither competent, entertaining, nor thought-provoking, except perhaps for making me think “How the hell do I get the last hour-and-a-half of my life back?”

The Grinch How could a movie with a budget this ginormous (an estimated $123 million), a big-name lead at the peak of his career and an (eventual) Oscar-winning director turn out so, so badly? Say what you will about Ron Howard, but he’s directed enough movies, including a couple of really good ones, to have a better idea what he’s doing than this movie indicates. And Jim Carrey can be funny, occasionally — this movie, though, features the Carrey that tends to be much more obnoxious and irritating than enjoyable. The Grinch costume — by Rick Baker, no less, one of the best makeup artists Hollywood’s ever known — looks ludicrous (yet, interestingly, won an Oscar. I’m not sure what kind of Christmas snow the Academy voters were snorting that year). The writing was just deplorable. The art direction, which should have been a slam dunk with a movie based on a Dr. Seuss book, looks cheap and, honestly, kind of creepy. The whole thing just looked like a bad TV movie (though I’m sure watching it on TV contributed to that perception).

I actually do have an idea as to just how this travesty came to be: Grinch has the chubby fingerprints of studio interference all over it.

On big-budget studio pictures, of which Grinch is a prime example, the suits tend to give “notes” to the creatives outlining their suggestions for how, in their stuffed-wallet opinion, the movie can be made better. And because those stuffed wallets are the ones paying for the movie, the creatives usually must either A) implement the suggestions or B) quit. (Remember that at Oscar time it’s the producers who actually receive the Best Picture awards; whoever’s got the money gets to make the rules. (That’s three Academy Award references in this article, and that’s three too many in any article about this movie.))

I picture the conversation as follows:

STUDIO SUIT: Y’know, Ron, we like what you’re doing here, but we think the movie’s feeling a little bit too… well, childish. We’ve got to have some stuff in there to keep the adults entertained — they’re the ones spending the money, and we’d like to get that repeat business in there, right?

RON HOWARD: OK, sure… what did you have in mind?

STUDIO SUIT: Well, since you asked… I went to this key party last weekend, right? Everybody seemed to really dig it. I know I sure did — you would not believe how good [BIG-TIME HOLLYWOOD AGENT'S NAME REDACTED]‘s wife is with the oral sex. I haven’t been blown like that since that time I tried going surfing during a hurricane. So anyway, I was thinking we could have some of the characters throw a key party, right? The adults in the audience’ll dig it, and it’ll go right over the kids’ heads so we can keep that PG rating. Brilliant, right?

RON HOWARD: Umm…

STUDIO SUIT: And I think you should have the Grinch bury his face in some lady’s tits. That’d be hot, right?

RON HOWARD: [head turns as red as what's left of his hair]

STUDIO SUIT: I’ll add an extra two million to the budget if you can make that happen for me. We got a deal, Opie?

Oh, and by the way: this wretched, wretched excuse for a movie grossed $260 million in the U.S. alone and was the top-grossing movie of 2000. So just maybe the suits are actually on to something…right?


[1] Yes, I know this statement opens a huge can of worms regarding authorial intent, which I believe ultimately to be knowable only by the authors/filmmakers, but I’m speaking in large-scale generalities here: we can safely assume Atonement clearly isn’t going for the same kind of audience, emotion or spectacle as, say, Transformers.

Written by Allen

December 12th, 2007 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Movies

The Falcons’ Cursed Season Continues

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Wow, Bobby Petrino, way to see a commitment through.  You just made Nick Saban look like Tom Landry.  Way to go.

Petrino quit as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons after a thirteen-game stint which featured as many starting quarterbacks as it did wins (three of each).   He’s ditching the Falcons to take the head coaching gig at the University of Arkansas, which might actually be a step up in prestige — even if he’s taking a million-dollars-a-year pay cut.  (Let that number sink into your head for a minute.)

The man’s got the right to change his mind, of course; from all accounts, he simply wasn’t a good fit for the NFL.  He wanted to be able to treat his players in the same dictatorial fashion he did at Louisville, but it turns out that treatment doesn’t work out quite as well with multi-millionaire 28-year-olds as it does with 18-year-olds.  My main gripe with his decision was that he should have known before he took the job that the pro game works differently than the college game and that the players have more power — hell, he could have called Saban and asked him about his aborted two-year experiment as the Miami Dolphins head coach.  Or called Steve Spurrier or Dennis Erickson or Pete Carroll or any number of coaches who’ve gone back to the college ranks after terms in the pros.

I feel bad for Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who seems to be a good guy who truly wants to put a winning — and high-character — team on the field.  He keeps getting burned by people he trusts to make that happen:  he gives Michael Vick the largest contract in NFL history, and Vick decides to spend that cash on finding new ways to execute dogs, lies to the feds and gets himself sent to federal prison; he gives Jim Mora Jr. his first opportunity to be a head coach, and after taking the Falcons to the NFC title game, Mora openly lusts for the University of Washington coaching job in a radio interview; he gives Petrino his shot as an NFL head coach, and he leaves town even before his rookie season is finished.

Hey, Arthur, here’s an idea I’m sure has already been floated there at Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch:  Atlanta’s not too far from Raleigh.  Maybe you can convince Bill Cowher to make the relatively short commute…?

Written by Allen

December 11th, 2007 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Sports

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