What They Blogged For.

Love. Hate.

Before we say our final goodbye, I just wanted to leave you with a random sampling of posts from some of my favorite people on this blog:

Benjie’s Skyrim addiction.

Occam Razor on “The Seven Robots You Meet In Heaven.”

Benjie and I watching New Moon and The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2.

A Movie Script Ending.”

The MPDG vs. the Amazing Girl, Heroes vs. BSG, and Kirsten Dunst vs. Kate Hudson.

Peanut St. Cosmo saying goodbye to her Blackberry.

(And really, just anything by Peanut, cause there’s too many to list.)

Fuck Yeah Sayid!

Anytime we talked about Lost.

High Fidelity vs. 500 Days Of Summer.

Hey, Shitface, Get Off My Lawn!”

Benjie and August Bravo on internet hype, and meeting expectations, and also Super 8.

Independence Day 2?

The end of the Counterforce podcast, and the birth of Time Travel Murder Mystery.

J Fran Fran.

Jonathan Franzen and his “Strong Motion.”

Benjie on his favorite sequel ever.

Occam Razor on a post peak oil world, and big booty bitches.

Benjie on how to properly spend New Year’s Eve.

While my torrent gently downloads” by Benjamin Light.

This is by no means a complete list, not at all. It is, in fact, an extremely rushed list. And may actually be a really terrible retrospective, at least in terms of showing what we did best, when we did our best, but oh well.

It’s just a few of my favorites. I would invite you to explore further, if you get the chance.

Old shit/new shit.

from here.

I don’t think I had high hopes for 2011, or at least I didn’t expect much from it, and by those same criteria, it didn’t exactly let me down. It was a year that just happened when it was happening, and now it’s time for something else to happen. I’m a little more excited about the onset of 2012, maybe not right now, but I’m certainly more excited about the possibilities that come with this new cycle of love and weather and suffering and laughing and music and despair and happiness and beautiful strangeness. It’ll either be the end of the world, or I swear to God, I’ll certainly squeeze the kind of fun out of it that I would similarily take from the end of the world (as we know it).

The cure for the common television show.

Mad linkage:

John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe (and hopefully teaming up with young Abe Lincoln to hunt vampires).

Obama urges Americans to “turn the page” on Iraq.

Bill Compton as Doctor Doom and either Jack Bauer or John McClane as the Thing.

Jon Hamm: “If Rob Lowe had been cast in the part, it would have been different. There was no backstory with me.”

An interesting write up on Phonogram: The Singles Club.

Behind the “Frazenfreude.”

Stephen Hawking changes his views on God.

Just imagine this: An 80 hour Lost marathon.

5 mind blowing ways that your memory plays tricks on you.

5 UFO sightings that even non-crazy people find creepy.

5 stupidest ways that movies deal with foreign languages.

6 famous unsolved mysteries (that have totally been solved).

January Jones: “I need not to think about my character. Betty is so blissfully ignorant in certain ways, so I feel like I should be too.”

Speaking of Arcade Fire: Their new collab with Google folks, The Wilderness Downtown.

A cannibal restaurant in Berlin. Figures.

Laura Marling’s award-nominated love triangle.

Self-described CIA assassin dies in ([accidental] self-imposed) gun accident.

Some of these pictures are, of course, from Rolling Stone, which will be featuring Mad Men on the cover of their new issue. Great idea. Bad photoshopping on that cover though.

And, I tell ya, August and I have really missed doing our Mad Men write ups the past few episodes, especially since, as far as I’m concerned, this has been the show’s strongest season yet, but on the plus side, it’s probably spared you an incredible amount of Nora Zehetner photos that I would’ve just bombarded you with…

Seriously.

Creepy artificial arm from the 1800s.

Peter Travers talks with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Weezer’s just trying to sell some clothes and Cee-Lo says “Fuck You.”

Is Barnes & Noble really going bye bye?

Blah blah blah bedbugs.

The Bloom Box: A power plant the size of a coffee mug.

Why do hurricanes often curve out to sea?

There’s some NSFW happening in the new Conan movie.

One year after Disney bought Marvel: Not much has really changed.

The perilous profession of underground mining.

Wormholes in NYC.

I honestly can’t believe that they renewed Human Target.

Booty calls are their own special type of relationship.

Oh, and hey, the next post will be the 750th!

Your mind is the scene of the crime.

Your eyes may be open but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re awake.

All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold, not all travelers are lost, and that stuff underneath your feet isn’t necessarily Earth. When the sky’s the limit (and possibly not even then), when you can do and create anything, you’re still grounded by your own rules. Your own sense of understanding of ideas and concepts. Theft and violation are painfully easy, but inspiration is hard. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there. Things can only appear strange to you sometimes when you’re told that perhaps that’s what you should be looking for. Sometimes it’s hard to fall, or to feel like you’re falling, when there is no gravity.

This is my simple, rudimentary thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s Inception in three and a half points.

1. Every time I go to see a good movie in a movie theater, one that both excites and intrigues and involves me in some regard, be it superficial or something deeper, more substantial, it’s like a dream, isn’t it? We love the idea of dreams because they’re the perfect metaphor for… anything. Anything you desire.

And more so, we love our stories, and we love comparing movies to dreams.

Film logic just has to captivate you for the time that you’re watching it, to keep you floating in a suspension of (dis)belief, and then the movie ends, the credits roll, and you crawl out of the cave of the cinema. If you’re going to see the matinee, then the sun outside is harsh, and cruel. Your senses are heightened to extraordinary degrees. Every step feels more epic, the angle of objects seems more profound. You just experienced something amazing and you’re taking a little bit of it with you, and by contrast, you feel like you’re leaving a little of yourself behind, but you move on from it because you feel touched, activated, feeling pretty amazing yourself. You move with your own soundtrack blaring, your mind working overtime and recovering from the shock of excitement.

Waking up from an intense, weighty dream can inspire you and invigorate you, especially if for even just half a second, you think you’re waking and walking into another dream, even more stupendous, and of your own design.

2. Comparing things to video games infuriates me. But mostly it’s the people doing the comparing that bother me because, honestly, the idea of comparing things, especially movies, and certain modes of reality, to the idea of a “video game” interests me. I’m by no means a gamer, but the idea, and it’s possibilities, excites me.

Video games are like dreams in a certain regard, aren’t they? At times you’re completely powerful, in control of everything in your surroundings and yourself, and then, with little to no warning, you’re absolutely powerless and everything is completely out of control. The shit hits the fan, then the fan explodes, and somebody gets their head cut off.

Inception feels like a video game. It’s a cerebral maze of ideas, working on a multiple of levels, dabbling exquisitely in both terms of narrative, time structures, visual metaphors, and big ideas and memes (and sorry, everybody, I know the word is beyond detested, but the concept of it, the virus of the idea that spreads and can’t be killed is both thrilling and terrifying).

The other day Benjie Light and I were talking about things that we want to do in our lives, stupid things that we want to imitate from the movies/books/pop culture stories that we’ve ingested and loved over the years, and my big three things were 1) solve a mystery, preferably a locked room murder mystery, 2) plan and execute a (hopefully successful) heist, and 3) diffuse a bomb with mere seconds left on the clock. Commander Light also understandably suggested “car chase” as a scenario that would be nice to throw in the mix, and he’s right, but I’d toss that into the heist paradigm.

My point: I would love to play the video game based on Inception. The one that has a story that works brilliantly and ambitiously and only gets strange when a stranger suggests to you that something seems strange. And then you explore the depths of that strangeness. You have fist fights in rolling hallways, watch cities rise up to meet you, get attacked by angry mobs and the spectre of your Oscar-winning French hottie wife, fire guns, blow shit up, both run and chase after faceless nefarious goons, and deliver mind blowing bits of exposition while looking incredibly GQ.

Also, I’ll say this: Inception had a certain frame of mind to it that I feel like The Matrix could’ve really benefited from having had ten years ago.

It’s a video game that would excite you on a variety of levels, both on the superficial and the deeper, the more intellectual. A cerebral workout. An existential knife fight. The only thing that would make it better than the movie, though, would be that it was presumably interactive.

2 1/2. The thing I’ve noticed about Nolan’s films is that they’re all plot. They’re far from indulgent and long and dense and they move fast, leaving very little time for fireworks that are purely character building. In that sense, he’s the exact opposite of P.T. Anderson, who’s films are all character, and sometimes those characters move in a certain direction that takes them from a starting point to a stopping point. But in the exercises of narrative, Nolan manages to paint shades of characters, both skeletal sketches, like Cillian Murphy’s character in Inception, and those with the driving illusion of more depth, like Dicaprio’s in this film.

And grounded. So grounded. Nolan’s films are fantastical creatures of oneiric energy that are dreamed up by inhabitants of the real world. As scholarly influenced as they are, even their madness, and his, is grounded, and logical. His Gotham City and battle gear clad vigilantes are both out of this world and something that could play on the 5 o’cock news in this world.

Nolan doesn’t speak in a language of dragons and flying carpets and talking animals and liquid robots that morph in physics-defying feats of light and spectacle. His characters live in dreamlands based on urban mazes and high speed travel and real world concern and drabness. And they dream/create with the tools that their worlds give them.

Half of movies is glamor and glitz and show and all preconceived notions. And Nolan is good about using that, especially in his casting. Michael Caine can walk into just about any scene in a movie now and seem like the wise, but slightly jaded mentor who knows that you’re about to go down a pretty dark, fairly shitty path, but still supports your decision and has a few nuggets of sage wisdom for you. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a certain level of cool attached to himself, either earned or not earned. Ellen Page perfectly fits into the category of smart newbie who’s still learning the ropes and is beginning a journey, despite her probably immense and amazing knowledge of all things Cisco. Ken Watanabe always carries a certain sinister edge with him, though perhaps that’s just an occidental thing. And Leonardo Dicaprio has perfectly aligned himself with a certain archetype, that of the little boy grown up into a man, hardened with anger and guilt, and we’ve accepted him as the protagonist cipher who will either work through his issues or ultimately be destroyed by them.

My only complaint about the actual production/composition of this film is the level of soundtrack on display at all times. I really liked Hans Zimmer’s score to the film, so much so that I went and bought the soundtrack immediately after the movie concluded, which was a surreal experience all of it’s own since I saw the film at the theater in the mall which was a weird labyrinth to wander through as I was re-composing myself into reality after exiting the movie. Maybe it was just a bad mix at that theater, but the score seemed to be too loud at certain points, competing with the actors and their dialogue, sometimes defeating them a little, which is a shame because as I said, with Nolan’s movies, nothing is wasted, not a single shot, not a single glance or expression, and especially not a single word or sentence.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the kind of movie that Counterforce has been waiting for all of it’s short life (2+ years now).

SPOILERS, from here.

Apropos of nothing, here’s an idea that you should carry with you into viewing this movie: “just as movies are metaphorical dreams, maybe dreams are metaphorical movies.” Well said. Inception can be just another popcorn action heist movie for you if you want (especially in 2010, the year we make contact with heist movies like The Losers, The A-Team, and Takers), or it can be something more. Or both.

Benjamin Light put forth a desire that I’ll repeat here: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page should do more movies together. They’re the brightest of the hip young things in the world of thespians with cred these days, yes?

That said, amazingly, James Franco was close to getting Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role originally. And Nolan’s original desire was to cast Evan Rachel Wood in the role of the architect, and then it floated towards Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams, and even Emma Roberts before Ellen Page was cast. That’s just fascinating. And so bizarre.

3. I haven’t repeated the plot of Inception here and I’m not going to. Go look it up. Then watch the movie. Then watch it again. Here’s a spoiler though: Inception ends just like Shutter Island, after a fashion.

There’s a college course or at least a long conversation for armchair cineaists and philosophers in movies like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, and Synecdoche, New York, and Inception belongs in the mix with them. Movies are all dream logic, especially more so in the last few years. At a certain point, a 1/3 or 2/3 of the way through movies with a certain “out there” kind of story, we start to look for the seams and loose threads of the eventual reveal that “it was all a dream.” Especially in Synechdoche, New York. By the end of that film, you’re pretty sure that at some point you’ve crossed over into a dream world, but the question is simply: Where? At least Mulholland Drive is a little more straight forward about that, at least, for the filmgoer with is both actively looking for and completely open to massive weird download of logic and strange visuals and strong, penetrating emotions the film requires you to take in.

Shutter Island almost belongs in that same thread of films, and somewhat suffered because of it. Read any two reviews of that film and at least one will say some variation of “I could guess the ending of this movie long before the finish line and you know why? Because I’ve seen movies before.” So little shocks us these days, and we’re somewhat let down by twist endings now just because they’re expected. We set an extra place at the dinner table for them. Identity was a fine, harmless movie, but after about 25 minutes into it, you were pretty sure that a crime was being committed against you and the culprit was going to be a writer with a flashy, showing idea about tricking your expectations.

And once you start to look for those tricks, you feel like a trick that’s been turned. You open your eyes, you see the money on the dresser.

At least Inception is up front and honest about all of this, with it’s simple and confounding tagline: “Your mind is the scene of the crime.”

from here.

To mix metaphors even more: I think one of the many problems with the modern take on “twist endings” and “it was all a dream” logic in the cinema is that your goals as a viewer and participant get too confused. Are you looking for the map or are you looking for where the map leads you. X is supposed to mark the spot, but it’s tough to translate that when you’re X in that equation.

And, slowly but surely, twist endings are becoming the new “Hollywood ending.” Once upon a time and through the woods and only in a dream can you live happily ever after.

The thing that saves Inception and Shutter Island‘s endings is that they fall down to the user. You’re required to make a certain level of decisions, to feel something, and decide what you believed just happened. You have to be both actively involved, and also open and ready to receive, you have to “get it,” and in return, the film lets you pick a path to go down. It was all dream. Or it wasn’t. The main character remembers everything. Or doesn’t. Something happened here. Or maybe it was there. Maybe it was earlier. Or later. This is a review. It isn’t.

Actually, it isn’t. Just my immediate reactions, of a sort, having just walked out of the movie something like two hours ago (it’s roughly 5 PM as I write this). Such a strange experience watching the end credits rolling for that movie. Like I was walking out of a half remembered dream of sorts, standing on a widening chasm between a narrative flashing on the walls of my unconscious/subconscious mind and the harsh light of day in the real world. Which works dually for this movie as well: An artsy movie full of deep ideas, or at least ideas that can feel deep, but done in a slick, expensively executed mainstream way. As if Michael Mann had remade 8 1/2.

The theater I was in was virtually empty, the two other people there with me more invisible than usual, and it was so strange to feel that as I walked out of the shared dream that is the cinema that way. Dreamspace faded away, light entered the room, the real world was knocking on the door, and I felt more alone than usual. It was a scary but important feeling, my brain decided as it’s gears grinded and took delight in processing what it just took in, but even still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the movie was over and now it was time to go back to sleep.

This calls for a montage, #23: “Get out of there!”

Every once in a while you find yourself someplace you shouldn’t be in, or perhaps you’ve just worn out your welcome. This happens in movies a lot, obviously. And this is a montage of one of those quintessential movie moments: When someone has to warn you to “Get out of there!”

…and I feel fine.

Hello! It’s Sunday. And Sundays, well, Sundays are boring, right? Right.

John Cusack goes out for a little jog in the middle of the apocalypse.

Went and saw 2012 yesterday, as promised. It was, well… Hmm.

the end of the world just got a whole lot more end of the world-ier.

My first reaction to it: Ehhhh. Not horrible, but not great. It’s exactly what’s advertised on the tin, I’ll put it this way. You’ve got a lot of real actors doing some cartoon shit while the world goes to hell all around them. The cast, when you think about it, is actually quite impressive. Also, Woody Harrelson’s in the mix too.

We can see you.

My second reaction to it: Why the fuck didn’t this come out in the middle of the summer?

It was literally this or ID4ever, right?

Third reaction: Comedy of the year, hands down.

Especially in a year when, if you think about it, the big comedy was… what? The Hangover? Right? Get serious. I never saw the movie, I won’t lie, but for a lot of reasons. Primarily, things like the trailer. Did you see it? It looks like it was made for retarded boys. But, you know what’s even worse than the trailer? Listening to people who actually liked the movie. They sound like retarded boys, don’t they? Anyway.

There is virtually no situation in which I will not find Thandie Newton excruciatingly gorgeous, except for maybe 2012.

But I really feel like 2012 deserves a good proper Counterforce review. It really does. It’s really our kind of movie, and I mean that in the best and worst possible ways. I don’t know that I’m the man for that job. Benjamin Light, I’m looking at you. Are you the man for that job?

Can you believe me actually made this ridiculous movie?

Anyway, I went and saw the film yesterday with Conrad Noir and walking out of the theater, still buzzing from all that ridiculousness, we saw this:

You are killing me with this ridiculous shit, Dwayne. You really are.

And we thought, “Dear God, who gave that man wings.” Much less Wings Of Desire and much more Red Bull: The Movie.

But then we got into a little conversation, talking about this and that and action heroes of the 80s, mostly cause we’ve been watching a lot of that horrendous/wonderful action movie fare from that decade, and we were talking about how action stars back then were so… foreign seeming. And maybe that contributed a lot to their allure. Maybe it also made some of the ridiculousness easier to stand, too?

For example there, Benjamin Light and were discussing a week or so ago what a remake of The Terminator would look like – since the franchise is up for sale, and should be sold to Joss Whedon, of course, cause why not? – And I brought up the question, “Does the killer robot from the future have to be Austrian?” Commander Light emphatically assured he that it indeed had to be. I’m taking his word for it.

This just looks magical.

Anyway, so Conrad and I, discussing action stars today, talking about guys like Dwayne Johnson, and how, in our minds, he’s not really latched on with America. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the idea of a “non-conventional” action star quite a bit, i.e. a non white guy running around screaming at people, doing high kicks, and blowing copious amounts of shit up. So why hasn’t “The Rock” caught on with us? I posit two possibilities:

1. In a grab for “credibility” or attempting to “not being as big a joke as he is,” he ditched his silly little wrestling moniker, “The Rock,” and went with his real name: Dwayne Johnson. Except, we can’t root for a guy named Dwayne.

2. Not foreign enough? Perhaps? I suggest investigating this has merit. Especially since it seems American action-loving fans get a bigger hard on from a ponce like Jason Statham than Dwayne Johnson.

How Statham picks up a girl.

Then, walking out of the theater, Conrad and I were looking at the various posters on display, the coming soons and the current releases. Part of me still wants to see This Is It. I’m a Michael Jackson fan, I won’t hide it.  But I’m also a huge Richard Matheson fan, and while I have serious reservations about the movie, I also kind of want to see The Box.

Cameron Diaz is trapped inside her own box.

But I don’t know that I trust Richard Kelly anymore. Donnie Darko was okay when it first came out, before you put it through any real tests of serious thought or logic and saw through it’s masturbatory philophosizing. It’s a glorified remake of Last Temptation Of Christ that doesn’t fully pan out. But Kelly also went on to make – speaking of Dwayne Johnson – the gloriously bad Southland Tales.

Dwayne Johnson Fever Dot Net.

Look, I’m not going to talk about the Philip K. Dick pastiche that was Southland Tales here. I’m just… not. I’m not going to do it. All I’ll say is I went into that movie wanting to like it. And I sit here now feeling like I’m a veteran of that war. It’s like Richard Kelly is George W. Bush and I was some dumb kid who supported the Iraq war until I went into the fucker and got my bits and pieces all cut off. Now I’m shell shocked.

But, yeah, there’s The Box, directed by Richard Kelly, starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, based on the Richard Matheson story, “Button, Button,” and was previously adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone. We’ll see if I ever see it.

And again, here we are. It’s Sunday. Tomorrow’s the start of the “work week.” I’d love to Weeks In Review here at Counterforce, but lately it’s just me rambling and I’d feel bad directing the two and a half readers of this site back to more of me rambling. Poor fuckers. Oh yeah, the season finale of Mad Men was last Sunday. And we had a Friday the 13th happen this past week as well. There you go. Oh, and: Young women having sex with sea creatures. Now there you really go.

The Doctor hates funny robots.

But again, here we are. It’s Sunday. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see… Oh! Tonight was the airing of the latest Doctor Who special over in the UK, “The Waters Of Mars,” the start of the end of David Tennant’s run as #10. You can catch it online if you’re good, if you’re very good, and it’s dark. And a bit sad. And leaves you kind of sweaty and breathless too.

Water Monsters! On Mars!

Also tonight is AMC’s remake of the classic 60s show, The Prisoner. I’d watch it, but I’m not sure I want to see my childhood get raped so thoroughly and with such production values. Ian McKellen is a good choice for just about anything, but Jim Caviezel? I think I hate you for that, AMC. Honestly, Jim Caviezel makes Keanu Reeves look like Marlon Brando to me.

You deserve so much better than this, Gandalf.

Oh well, here we are. The weekend’s almost over. I went to the movies to watch the end of the world as we know it and…

What?

It’s no coincidence that they already scheduled the end of the world for 2012.

You know what I’m talking about.

2012 has already been designated the Alan Turing  year, commemorating the birth of the mathmetician and code breaker. That, and unless it’s extended (which of course it will be), the debut album by the beatles, Please Please Me, will fall out of copyright.

And the Mayan calendar runs out and timewave zero and the novelty theory winds down and possibly the world ends, or maybe it’s just the world as we know it and we all flow into the supercontext?

Or, there’s just this:

Put simply, fuck The Transformers and Michael Bay’s gee-wilikers-I-wish-I-were-Steven-Spielberg-except-I-have-no-soul-and-no-heart’s leanings. You want pure, stupid ridiculously glorious cinema popcorn inanity on a giant scale? Roland Emmerich. Pure and simple. I don’t think anyone saw his last film, but this is the latest trailer for the newest one, 2012.

from here.

It’s like he took every single one of his films and squished them into one and then blew them up for the sake of mankind everywhere. It is filthy with overkill, but hey, the end of the world does not come gently in the night! Danny Glover apparently takes over for Obama for President (I’m sure the conservatives see a deeper meaning in there)(Never mind the moment when the USS JFK comes home to the White House with ironic destructive flair) and John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor look like they’re drowning in tsunamis and fireballs, but who cares. You have to suffer for your art and to put the asses in those $10 movie theater seats. And this film appears to be a technological singularity all of it’s own.

Regardless, it looks like an interesting grab for that last little bit of the immanentizing the eschaton zeitgeist, especially now that we’ve drained zombies (replaced by the metaphoric sexual curiousities of vampires) of any frightening subtext and turned them in comedy. Comedy starring Woody Harrelson, too. And Woody Harrelson is in 2012 as well, playing Cassandra. Is the star of White Men Can’t Jump the savior of the apocalypse?

Personally, I was rooting for Wesley Snipes, but then the IRS had to take him out. Sigh.

Personally, a small part of me is still hoping for the supercontext to sweep us all up into it…

What came first, the music or the misery?

People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery, and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Marco Sparks: So, the other day I sent an email to Peanut and I said, “Hey Peanut, let’s break the rules a little bit. Valentine’s day is coming (how fitting that it’d be right after a Friday the 13th this year), or rather, ‘Single Awareness Day,’ for some of us, right? Let’s do a post about love and music, and the thing that’s on a lot of our minds a lot of the time: heartbreak.” And to that Peanut said…

Peanut St. Cosmo: happy fucking valentine’s day! what does that all mean anyway? take advantage of “the one you love”  for 364 days out of the year (365 if it’s a leap year, booyah!) and for one day, other than your anniversary or birthday, that you actually say, hey, i love you. and shit. but sometimes you’re single and broken up and bitter. or not bitter, but single and listening to music that reminds you of when that uselessmotherfuckerwhoalwayscamebeforeme was in your life. takes you back to those days, pre-break up. pre-independence. pre-whatever. but, grieving aside, you know you’re better for it. all that nastiness and chocolate eating aside, it happened and you came out of it alive. but what was the music that helped you shovel your way out of it?

Marco: An excellent question. But I’m going to let you take that one first, Peanut.

Peanut: in the love life, there has been some heartbreak that soiled the kleenex for the great and amazing peanut st. cosmo. one of which shall be referred to here as Mr. X. and i think it goes without saying that he sucks. a lot. like a snake, this little penguin shed a layer of skin and wiggled out of it to reveal something even better than before! and, in the process of all this wiggling, sad bastard music was discovered! circa 2004ish, death cab for cutie made a grand debut upon my brain…

that’s “title and registration” and why is it appealing? listen. just listen. and picture yourself in a car finding something from an ex and then doing some crying, and maybe a little dry heaving, and finding yourself breathing into a paper bag. but, hey, that’s your business. “there’s no blame for how our love did slowly fade. and now that it’s gone, it’s like it wasn’t there at all. here i rest where disappointment and regret collide.” who doesn’t get suckered into that hot, sticky mess? marco?

Marco: I think it would be remarkably easy to get stuck in that adorable mess, my dear. But that’s a story for another time. And speaking of time… they say it heals all wounds, don’t they? Well, between you and me, we both know that’s bullshit. There is no such thing as closure, just distance. You just have to get away until it stops hurting and something else fills the hole. Sometimes it’s someone else. Or some new great part of your life. Sometimes it’s yourself. But for our argument today, it’s music. Sweet, sweet music. And when a relationship ends, regardless of who ended it or why, it’s sad. Something special between two people is gone and someday you know you’ll look back on the good times so fondly, but that time isn’t here yet, is it? You just need to get away, but no matter how far you go… Well, I think the title of this song says it all: “Sometimes I Still Feel The Bruise” by Trembling Blue Stars.

What do you say to that, Peanut?

Peanut: another great like (not love, mind you, no, not love) was a magnificent bastard that we shall call MOT. this was circa 2002ish. the timing was terrible. i never actually got to know him. i did, enough for that fish hook to get stuck in my lip and to throw me absolutely for a loop. sadly he had morals in the middle of my shit sandwich, so he bowed out and left me wondering for the rest of my life… what could have been? what should have been? whywhywhy????? and in there somewhere was this…

linkin park. i know, i know. but hey, as it says in the bible, the new testament to be exact: let he who is without musical sin, cast the first stone. so suck it.

Marco: Uhhh…

Peanut: and that brings us all to this little spot. his name is not important. this happened some time ago. by now he should have been musical or otherwise drowned out. it should all be ancient history, but every so often i look around and find shattered glass on the ground and i think, “why hasn’t this been swept up? because it isn’t time yet, annoyingly.

so what do i do?

keep trying and put more shit on top and one day it takes too much effort to resurface. so it stays buried. in theory.

Marco: Well said, Peanut, and thankfully, it almost makes up for the Linkin Park mention. Almost :P

Usually when  a relationship ends for me, or an infatuation, or whatever, it’s devastating. You can ask anyone, but I go into apocalyptic mode. I do the full on “Nobody will ever love me! It’s the end of the world!” and it gets pretty sad and pathetic and usually stops just short of writing absolutely horrid poetry. Let’s face it, a smart person never admits to writing truly lovesick poetry, right? Let’s all keep it that way, shall we?

The conversation we’re having here about the music that we use like drugs and medicine to get us through the romantic bad times is, well, this is a dialogue that could go on for a long time. It’s a question I have a lot of answers to (For example: Just broke up with someone? Listen to Beck’s Sea Change album incessantly and call me in the morning), but I’m going to try and encompass it all in one song here, the mega pill:

That’s “Like I Do” by Minipop and I think it says everything I want to say simply and succinctly. “Maybe tonight I’ll focus on the letters I should write” is right. And I think we’ve all learned something here today. Right, Peanut?

Peanut: what have i learned from all of this? nothing! that’s why i keep making the same mistakes again and again! until gravity hits like hurricane katrina and no one cares for this penguin anymore… but in the meantime, at least i know the music will be there to keep me cold :)

Is Jason Bateman the new John Cusack?

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This past weekend, Hancock, a film take on the lost and angry superhero opened to an estimated box office snatch of somewhere in the quaint little neighborhood of $107 million. It stars Will Smith, the blockbuster actor/kind of guy you’d probably want to chill out for a bill and tell stories with/future scientologist/possible swinger, and Charlize Theron, former model/decent actress/beautiful woman/ex-girlfriend of a mid 90s alt rock band’s front man. Who else? A little actor that you may or may not have heard of: Jason Bateman.

Haven’t heard of him? Really? Realllyy? Okay, that’s cool. A bit on the completely unbelievable side, but still, that’s cool. I’m a little curious as to how you could be reading this blog then when you’re OBVIOUSLY IN A COMA, but hey, that’s cool too.

The former child actor likes car washes, scented candles and the intricacies of himself.

The thing about Bateman in this role, playing a PR executive who takes on what has to be the thankless task of trying to rehabilitate the image of Will Smith’s drunken asshole of a super hero, is that five, maybe even ten years ago (and the script has been in development that long) this role would’ve obviously been played by the great Mr. John Cusack.

Do you remember him? He’s still out there, he’s just hiding in plain sight doing shitty movies.

But what happened, John? I mean, seriously.

Once upon a time, John Cusack was, and forgive me for adapting to the parlance of our times, The Man. He was. From the 80s, including overrated gems like Say Anything and the brilliantly off kilter Better Off Dead (and a movie that practically no one has ever heard of called Sixteen Candles) to the 90s, in no matter how good we all know it is, no matter how much everyone and their fucking mother still loves it, it’s still underrated classics

like Grosse Pointe Blank, indie thunderclap Being John Malkovich and continuing on into movies that were good in their own way but obviously made a billion times better by his mere presence alone, like… Identity. And even High Fidelity, which the Cusack fanatics all love, but some are turned off by how “dark” it is. Shit, he even made romantic comedies that were so toxic they could cause tumors pleasant and enjoyable, a la Serendipity.

But more than, the man was just cool. He brought that indie hipster cred along with him and you liked him. He didn’t look like your typical movie star. He sure as hell didn’t talk like your typical movie star or act like one. He was dry, and he talked fast. Sometimes he got loud. Sometimes his characters were still and sometimes they were wiry, jittery messes. His charm was understated, and sometimes he bordered on being a contrarian asshole, but there was a patented intellect at work pretty much all the time. If you were lucky, he let you in on the joke, even if you were the joke. But it’s not like you minded, since you were being made to look the fool by someone so cool…

And then he just kind of stopped. What the fuck happened?

The Wachowski siblings have got nothing on these two

You could make the argument that he got old and the studios just stopped going in his direction. But that doesn’t make sense. His best two projects of anyone’s recent, but long, memory were projects he got off the ground himself: Grosse Pointe Blank, about a hitman essentially having a midlife and spiritual crisis, and High Fidelity, an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel about a record store owner who breaks up with his girlfriend and essentially has a… mid life crisis. It’s a common enough theme, I guess could say, but when Cusack did it, he commanded it. Even when he was an asshole, women still wanted to date his wit (a la High Fidelity).

But again, he just kind of stopped and drifted into movies that… well, they just look like crap. Are they crap? Are they? Who the fuck knows, man. 1408? Who really went and saw that? Martian Child? Really? Grace Is Gone? More like, where has your career gone, John? And then there’s his upcoming slate, which includes Roland Emmerich’s 2012 and some animated movie voice work (fuck commercials, this is the new quick paycheck for a name actor) in a movie called Igor. And I haven’t even mentioned yet a movie called War, Inc., which looks to be a spiritual retread to Grosse Pointe Blank, and despite characters having great names in it, still looks like weak satire and an easy target for sharper critics. Honestly, you’re fucking killing me here, John. You really are.

"You forgot to say 'away' again..."

And then there’s Jason Bateman, classically trained actor who really first jumped to attention in the damn near Shakespearean Teen Wolf Too. He’s a former child actor and the brother of the lovely Justine, and for a while, his career kind of went nowhere… And by nowhere, I clearly mean the land of failed sitcoms.

And then something of a freak occurrence happened. He got small roles in movies like The Sweetest Thing and an episode in Scrubs and his name was back. All of which, having been a veteran of failed sitcoms, lead him to being cast as the lead of a little show called Arrested Development.

I’m not going to pretend that you haven’t seen this show, and neither are you. Everyone has. Even the morons, sadly. Even the people in comas. Everyone. It’s a brilliant show, the kind that’s too much crazy fun and brain power for Hollywood, or at least for Fox TV, and for Bateman in the role of Michael Bluth, the honorable good son and stand up guy in the brilliantly scoundrel-ish and scandalous Bluth family, an instant star making role. All of a sudden, he was the everyman. The guy who could stand in the middle of the chaos that was Will Arnett and David Cross and Jeffrey Tambor and even little tiny Michael Cera, all of them exploding with life and vigor and nutjob intensity, and he’s the one that looks good. He became the ultimate bemused straight man with this role. And that is something that Hollywood can always use (see Hancock). (Also see Mr. Magorium’s Magic Emporium, with Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman.) (Actually, don’t see that since I doubt even the beautiful and brilliant Natalie Portman or the Bateman himself saw it, it just looked that trainwreckishly stupid.)

But from that breakout role in Arrested Development, playing the ringmaster in the circus and making a new career out of what EW calls in their latest issue “controlled exasperation.” And he’s rode that perfect niche to glory: The Kingdom, directed by Peter Berg (who also directed Hancock, and who looks like he’d probably fight you for money), The Break-Up, with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I’m told is best and least sexist of the Judd Apatow stable, and Juno, everyone’s favorite movie of all last year, and the role in which he added a little twist on his classically likeable character: He’s also a douchebag!

Batemangarnerpage

"Hey there, I've got a great band I'd like to turn you onto..."

In fact, the lovely young woman in the group I went to see the movie with the first time swooned audibly several times during the film. Then she suggestively moaned her desires to rape Mr. Bateman, and then swooned a few more times. And then she sharted herself when it was revealed that his character was actually kind of a douche bag. A douche bag whose reasons for being a douche bag I think can be kind of understandable, but still, the point is: She totally sharted herself right there in the movie theater seat and that’s gross as fuck.

"Ha ha, check out all my hot new friends!"

And you want to talk about upcoming projects? Sorry, John, but Jason Bateman’s got you beat hands down with a list that includes State Of Play, an adaptation of the acclaimed British miniseries, This Side Of The Truth, a Ricky Gervais movie starring the likes of Patrick Stewart, Rob Lowe, Jeffrey Tambor, Louis CK, the lovely Tina Fey, and (sigh) Jonah Hill. Oh, and it was announced recently that he’ll also be the lead in the new Mike Judge movie, Extract, possibly starring alongside the lovely Mila Kunis. Is she still dating that weird looking lesbian from those early 90s kids movies?

That seems great for Jason Bateman and kind of sucky for John Cusack, you’re thinking to yourself, but while they both play the dry, witty outsider role in movies, they’re not exactly the same as actors. But in a way, they are. They totally are. Batemen usually plays slightly more mature characters than Cusack did in his heyday, maybe even slightly more wholesome character, but think about Gross Pointe Blank. Really think about it. Then slide in Jason Bateman in place of Cusack. It’s a slightly different movie, but he could do it. He just doesn’t have Cusack’s weird physicality in acting, preferring to more just stand there and look flabbergasted, mouth hanging open at the new weird thing that pops up.

Then there’s the idea of taking chances as an actor, stretching out and showing a little range. John Cusack’s done it plenty, (Max, Con Air, The Thin Red Line, The Road To Wellville, Cradle Will Rock) but they’re typically movies with absolutely no repeat value whatsoever. Or, in the case of a movie like The Road To Wellville, I’d rather have amnesia and maybe possibly fetal alcohol syndrome than the memories of having seen that. On the Bateman side, there’s Smokin’ Aces, an absolutely ridiculous movie starring Ryan Reynolds and a fairly all star cast, including both Jack and Richard Alpert from Lost, and including Jeremy Piven, a former Cusack constant, who’s now seemingly defected away for a fleeting chance of a little fame of his own (face it, little man, you’re always going to the snarky sidekick). Aside from a few light chuckles here and there, Bateman’s cameo is the high point of this movie, playing a character so sleazy and off the wall that, well, it’s a nice stretch for Bateman. And don’t let me forget that the movie also included Peter Berg, who later went on to direct Bateman in Hancock and The Kingdom. They probably met in between takes when Berg was offering to fight people for money.

Really? Really.

Is there a final statement here? No, not really. More of a plea: John Cusack, get your career back, I’m begging you. I’m scared to death that your sister is getting even more roles than you (Bateman’s got himself a sister as well and even though she may not be in as many movies as him, John, or Joan, she’s hot, and that’s really it’s own reward if you think about it). Maybe you could snag yourself a part in the possibly upcoming Arrested Development movie that there seems to be no deal for yet, but according to the creator and most of the stars, including Bateman, is definitely coming our way eventually. Hey, it’d be a great property to get your feet back into comedy with, or at least have your name on a marquee again with something that doesn’t suck, and it worked wonders for the careers of Thomas Jane, Andy Richter, and Charlize Theron. Hell, maybe you could get yourself cast as the grown up version of George Michael, the son of Bateman’s character, who’s played by Michael Cera, whom Bateman jokingly told the latest issue of EW could be the only hold up since he’s “a huge star now… with a huge star attitude to go with it.” Speaking of which… Michael Cera? I loved you in Arrested Development as a real man’s man, but kind of thought you were a pussy loser in Juno. And in Superbad. That’s all I’m saying.

"Teen Wolf 3?!? You have got to be fucking kidding me."

And expanding upon my comrade Benjamin Light’s previous Sex and The City post, here’s just a great review of that movie.

Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes
Starland Vocal Band - Afternoon Delight
Sonic Youth - Superstar (Carpenters cover)
The Helio Sequence - Lately