Friday, October 16, 2009

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (movie review, full of spoilers)

It's hard to trust movie critics on horror and comedy flicks. Comedy is a way people group themselves, not really a learned discipline. Comics can learn delivery to bring in a wider audience but people don't really learn how to be funn. This is meant as a note to every struggling actor & actress in L.A. paying tons of money to comedy coaches and improv classes. You might learn some stage techniques that will help you if you are funny in the first place but you are not funny in the first place. You know how I know that? You're an actor. You take the craft of acting seriously, therefore you have no sense of humor. Horror, to get back to my thesis, is just not liked by most critics. If a critic tells you the new Janusz Kaminski horror movie is well-crafted and eery that is a code word for boring. Remember when critics lined up in a bukkake line for The Blair Witch Project? That movie shouldn't even have been released. It's a bunch of jackasses getting lost in the woods and crying. But they had a good website and critics blew loads on it so it ended up making a shit ton of money and put Lions Gate on the map. Fuck Lions Gate for giving us that shitty movie and not even making the kids that made it obscenely wealthy. In my very direct route I am telling you that I had some reservations about Paranormal Activity. I didn't bother learning about it until the day I saw it and I didn't have real high hops for it. Based on my bad experience with critically acclaimed horror in the past.

I love horror movies in general. I can watch a terrible horror movie and hate it without ever turning it off. I loved A Nightmare on Elm Street from the second I laid eyes on it, and it was just stepping into the place previously held by movie monsters of the past (Godzilla, King Kong, werewolves, et al). I used to buy, steal, borrow books about monsters and horror movies constantly as a kid. But the monsters, for the most part, never struck me as scary in any real way. I just thought they were neat in the same way I liked the TransFormers. There's only one scary monster for a Catholic boy from D.C. like me. The Devil is it. He tells you to be gay and to eat poop. He's a molestor. It's worth the side note here that Drag Me To Hell is one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

Paranormal Activity does not concern itself with The Devil, per se, but it is dealing with possession and demons. I think of demons as spawn of Satan, so they might be working for him. I think the weakest part of the movie is the twist ending but let me build up to that point a little bit more.

First off, let's talk about what the movie does well. It avoids the handheld shakiness that most movies shot on video seem to wear as a badge. The fact that half the film takes place while the antagonists are sleeping is a smart conceit because it allows a natural reason for the camera to be on a tripod. I like the low-rent special effects. There are actual special effects in here. It's not ALL sound tricks and "atmosphere." Even though I was expecting the shadows and the footprints and the door slamming at some point, I didn't ever know when to expect it in the immediate scheme of things. Except the footprints. There was really only one place in the movie for the footprints. The ghost whisperer guy was a great external influence. He gave us a reason for a single setting by forcing the realization that they couldn't really run anywhere. And he was believable in his motivations as a character. The speeding up and slowing of the time code on screen was a good use of resources as well. It's good to focus the audience without necessarily leading them.

So what misses are there? Visually, this movie could date itself pretty fast. The actors and the house look like 2006. That's going to hurt the movie in the long run because the parameters of what is possible in digital film are changing drastically right now. This already is supposed to look like a home movie. I'm not sure how well it can stand up to multiple viewings because it secretly revolves entirely around visceral shocks. Most importantly, to me, is that the character of the lead male is very much a type more than he is a character. He's the male equivalent of a scream queen. Adds very little to the proceedings with his dialog/arrested character arc. I wish he would have done more to inject an honest reaction to what is in front of him.

This isn't a great review but I highly recommend this movie. It's as scary as a movie can be for me. Who isn't a little bit scared of the dark and the devil? The more primal the fears the deeper the connections in story telling. Paranormal Activity hits as many right spots as it can. I will probably never expend the energy necessary to even shallowly dissect Spike Jonze new movie, A Staggering Work of Pompous Unoriginality, but if you are taking suggestions from me, Paranormal Activity is much more worthy of your dollars.

NFL Picks for Week 6

I can't think of anything more important for me to do right now than to sit here with the Dodgers game on typing up an article nobody will read about the NFL season with commentary about fantasy football. I don't do extra research for this stuff (that's my big concept) other than what I normally do to get through a day without stapling myself to death. So I read websites like thebiglead and deadspin and ESPN and wonder how shitty I must be at writing thaat my attempts to become commenters on these sites don't even warrant a response from the assholes running the sites. How am I supposed to get work like that? Wow, the pity party is in full motherfuckin effizzect. I don't even feel good about rooting for the Dodgers. They're still a bunch of assholes. So, if you somehow stumbled into this one with no idea of how I operate I have to ask you, what are you doing here? And by way of explanation I offer this: I pick winners only. Purple is the color of winning. This is my second week with the NFL. I pick most of the college games in the same fashion. No research, just my gut. I am a decider here.

Last week I got a lot of things wrong. I called Dwayne Bowe "Derrick", for instance. I picked the Bills to win. I thought Cedric Benson would start to suck again. I went 8-6. Just picking winners. That's not very good. The NFL makes less and less sense to me as I get older. In high school this would have been entirely unacceptable. I actually made a point of saying not to play Braylon Edwards last week. How far off was I on that one? I did at least get this down on paper about the Pats-Broncos game (I picked Broncos by a field goal, btw, so it wasn't all bad for me): "This game will be dull and worthless with some fake-seeming "thrilling" ending to make it seem like you missed out if you didn't watch it." So you've seen my bonafides now, your can trust me, right?

Houston at Cincinnati - I'm iffy on this. I don't trust the Texans and the Bengals are at home. Carson Palmer should throw for close to 400 yds. Benson should run for 150, which means he will NOW revert to form. I think Cincy's defense is legit but how much is homefield advantage worth when you can't really sell out the stadium? Did you know that nobody sold out any games at all in the 20s? I mean, pro football was just starting out so it isn't really surprising there but baseball attendance figures look horrible, in hindsight. I'd like to live in a society where I was weird for liking sports too much rather than this one where I am just an average to below-average fan. Play Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson but I'm iffy on Schaub for this one.

Detroit at Green Bay - Boy, I'd like to pick the Lions here. Just for Daunte Culpepper's sake. I like Daunte. I think he gets a bum wrap in the league and I would love to see him resurrect his career. MegaTron is out for this one, so don't start him. Kevin Smith migt be okay for the Lions but you shouldn't really play any of the Lions. Aaron Rodgers is probably a safe play and I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the game where Greg Jennings has his first good game of the year. Ryan Grant will be good here. I don't quite trust the Green Bay 'D' here but it could be a huge day for them, too.

Baltimore at Minnesota - This is a letdown game no matter what happens. I'm picking the Ravens because they have some serious motivation right here. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis have to make the Ravens defense worthwhile. What happened that Cad Benson got through for a huge game? That guy has always been terrible. I've been way off all year when I say things like this but I'm willing to bet that last week was aberrational for the Ravens. Go Balmer! Ray Rice will be OK. Flacco will get some good numbers. Adrian Peterson will be OK but not as good as Benson was. Ouch. Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe should be good plays. I won't bother with the other guy. Make your own call.

NY Giants at New Orleans - I'm playing the Saints defense, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas and Drew Brees. The Giants QB situation is a little uneasy to me. Brandon Jacobs should be alright. At least one Giants WR will be good this week but I'm not going to say which one. I hope it's Manningham.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh - Terrible looking game. Pittsburgh should win by 30. Mendenhall for president. Big Rape willhave good efficiency numbers but might not throw so many passes this week. I know Pittsburgh throws a lot. Big deal. They don't have to throw a lot. I don't know if they're stupid or not, but they really shouldn't throw much here. Don't start any Browns until further notice.

Carolina at Tampa Bay - Josh Johnson deserves a great game. He looks good to me but this Bucs team is awful. KII should be a great play this week and so should both Carolina running backs. Steve Smith might get back to normal production here and Delhomme might trick some people into picking him up on Sunday night. Bucs RBs should be a good play but I am unsold on all of them at this point. Good matchup, meet bad roster.

Kansas City at Washington - I am aghast at myself for picking K.C. I bet Portis and Cooley are OK in this game. Santana Moss will be OK. Either QB is dicey under the best of circumstances. These are the best circumstances. Either one is OK as an emergency start but that's all. I wish the Chiefs would stick with Jamaal Charles. He's a better player than Larry Johnson. Dwayne, not Derrick, Bowe should have decent numbers.

St. Louis at Jacksonville - People are giving Jacksonville a lot of grief over their meltdown last week. The team deserves it but I've seen people picking St. Louis in this game. I can't entertain that possibility just yet but Marc Bulger might become decent again. SJax sucks but is still top 25 in the league at RB. Donnie Avery is good. I think he would fit nicely in Miami. But he won't get there. He'll stay in St. Louis. Start Garrard, MJD and Sims-Walker if you've got 'em.

Arizona at Seattle - It seems very kind of the NFL to schedule this game for October instead of December. I think Denver, Seattle and Green Bay should be home for most of Nov. and Dec. Snow is good for football. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin will all be decent. If Todd Wade would quit dicking around with it and just let go, Beanie Wells would be a good play here, too. Jon Carlson and Hasselback will be pssable. Nate Burleson should be legitimately good. Tim Hightower is tough to count on but he could break out here. Play Kurt Warner if you have him.

Philadelphia at Oakland - Any Philly player you have should play this week. Remember how bad Oakland looked last week in their game last week? Jamarcus Russell actually had his best stat line of the year. The Eagles will win this one by a lot. Don't start any Raiders.

Tennessee at New England - Eventually the Titans will win. Tom Brady and whatever receiver he likes this week will be good. I'll say Welker AND Moss but it could be Edelman. Don't ever start Kerry Collins but LenDale White and Chris Johnson should be OK. I will keep picking the Titans until they win.

Buffalo at NY Jets - Wow, Buffalo has been terrible and getting worse. When is the trade deadline again? If T.O. doesn't get traded he will be bad again this week. Leon Washington and Dustin Keller will get you some points. So will the Jets 'D'. Don't play anyone on Buffalo until they do something.

Chicago at Atlanta - These two teams are overrated. I'd play Matt Forte and Michael Turner without thinking about it. Roddy White will be fine. Kyle Orton, though? I don't trust him. More than anything I just don't trust Chicago's defense. So Matt Ryan will be good in my memories of the future. Tony Gonzalez gets the start until he retires.

Denver at San Diego - Just picking Denver in the hopes Norv gets fired. Tony Scheffler is supposed to have a good matchup. I'd start Denver's defense if I had them. San Diego doesn't look so good to me this year. I've got nothing to add. Moreno might have another decent game and Brandon Marshall should be automatic for you by now. Same goes for Gates. But I don't want to see or hear anything about this game. So that's all.

Something In Me Cries For You...

Wow, work, me and you don't get along the way we used to. Why don't you want to hang out anymore? I worry that you have gone away forever and soon my car and my computer will be repossessed, as well. I hope like crazy I can figure something out soon but I wish you would have left me in much better shape. I can't take this anymore. I'm going to the Showbiz Expo tomorrow to see if work exists there. I think it will be rows and rows of people trying to sell me video editing services and "creative live/work" spaces but maybe somebody from Universal's distribution dept is hanging around looking for that Sales Trainee. I can't comprehend that I'm less than a top 1 percrentile candidate for that job but I have no idea how to write a resume or cover letter anymore. I'm doomed. L.A. Film didn't even interview me after I asked the president of the damn school to put in a word for me. I don't like anybody anymore and I'm going to die of starvation in the not so distant future. The first guess that gets the title and original recording artist of the song I quoted in the title gets to give me $1000.

Heisman dance

I should have written this earlier, before the Jesus Lizard concert, before I was ready to sleep. I am not thinking about college football right now but I set myself a goal and I'm going to live up to this one. These are the guys I think should win the Heisman. The guys I would vote for. I don't have a lot to add this week. Maybe I will after Saturday' games? Nobody looked great to me in the last 7 days. The Cincinatti v. USF game already happened and Tony Pike got hurt. He didn't look like a front runner before that but if UC had won the game 34-17 with him back there the whole time? I would have put him up to #2. I've got a new #1 this week as much out of defiance as out of belief. I can't keep flogging for Jimmy Clausen when I don't expect him to hold it together for two more days. So here's the updated list of how I would vote if I could:

1) Terrence "Mt." Cody, DT, Alabama - Yeah, I sticking with this one. 'Bama is the best team in the country right now and it is, in large part, because of this big motherfucker. He's the best player in the country. I know all about Suh and Tebow and Colt McCoy. I've seen Jake Locker and Tony Pike. I know ESPN decided this week that Mark Ingram is "in the conversation" now. And I know some people are starting to talk more about the LBs and DBs behind Mt. Cody than they are talking about the big man. But I've watched 'Bama this year. I watched them last year. Everything they do great on defense is because this guy eats up the middle of the field. I'm sorry to fall into football cliche, but this guy effectively wipes out at least two blockers on every play he's in the game. He will not pile up sacks like USF's Defensive Ends but he doesn't need to. Everybody else gets to look awesome because they are running around unblocked for the Tide. I'm sticking with it. This is the best player in the country.

2) Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame - This is the best offensive player in the nation so far. But I'm expecting USC to destroy Notre Dame. Clausen will probably actually be OK. But he will also be a bit exposed. He might still be a contender afterwards. That makes me think I don't trust him as much as I should if I'm going to rank him #1.

3) Tim Tebow, QB, Florida - Gay Jesus has not been fun to watch this year. I feel like it's cheating for him to beat Herschel Walker's TD record because of the extra games he's played and the inclusion of bowl statistics in career records now. But then I remember he's a fucking quarterback who averages more than 1 rushing TD per game and I think, "Maybe this is actually a lot more impressive than Walker." Understand that Herschel Walker is one of my favorite athletes of all time and I don't really love Tebow. I always liked watching Percy (still do) and just kind of accepted that Tebow is the star. I'm not as sold on that as I have been in the past. Percy is the best player to go through UF's program since Emmitt Smith. But Tebow has some kind of effect on his team that I've never seen before. It's like his teammates are trying to not let him down more than they're even playing for themselves. And Florida is really fucking good.

4) Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State - This running back, at the other FSU (even though they're really CSUF), is awesome. I wish more people would watch a Fresno game. He is worth it all by himself.

5) Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia - This is a little bit of projection and a little bit of ignoring what anybody who doesn't watch Big East football has to say about Big East football. Watch some of the games in this conference when you have the chance. You'll have the chance because they (Big East teams) play all kinds of oddly scheduled national TV games. The Big East is probably legitimately the second best conference in the country, top-to-bottom. Better than the Big 12 and the Pac 10 and, most definitely, the Big 10. The ACC has only two good teams so just forget about them for now. Noel Devine pops off the screen like one of those stupid commercials for whatever "new" HD technology is in a certain TV or cable/satellite receiver. Devine looks like he's twice as fast as anybody on the field at all times. And the Big East is loaded with good athletes. Just wait 'til the Big East goes undefeated in bowl games this year. The thing I'm trying to get across here is that Noel Devine makes a lot of really great college players look like they're slow enough to start in the Big 10. And he's got moves. And he doesn't fumble. He's Warrick Dunn but faster. And Warrick Dunn was really fucking fast. I'm not bringing numbers into the discussion. My voting is based on what I see. Noel Devine is my favorite player in college football and will probably end up higher on this list as the year progresses.

Other names:

Todd Reesing, QB, Kansas - I meant to put him in the Top 5, I really did. You know who was the one I waffled over the most? Tebow. That's not logical because I have Tebow #3. But I don't like watching him play. I don't love watching Kansas play, either, but the Big 12 has (as I've previously mentioned) a tendency to run up the score as much as possible. So Reesing is involved in lots of fun/funny moments by virtue of his team passing constantly. But I can't bring myself to say Reesing is the better player. I don't believe in Reesing that much.

Jacory Harris, QB, Miami - Ah, Jacory, where will this end up? I'd like to believe that you are Kenny Dorsey's black ghost. And that would mean a 1 loss team that gets jobbed out of the chance to play for a national title this year, your sophomore year. Does that mean a fight with the Gators on Bourbon Street before you guys blow the doors off the UF boys on the field? But I don't get quite that good of a feeling about this team. The Canes are the fastest team in the country overall (UF's offense is faster than Miami's offense) but they aren't quite dominating. Jacory threw 2 picks against obviously inferior opposition last week and I feel Whiplash when he says the offense is not running all that smoothly just yet. Jacory is the calm in the eye of the Hurricanes (drrr...) and they should get through to the bowls with only two losses. I remain optimistic that Jacory can mimic Dorsey's junior year and win a national title.

Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida - Fucking awesome.

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama - Sure, why not? He's pretty great but I stand by my assessment that he and Trent Richardson are interchangeable parts.

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas - Soft tosser! He is going to end up winning the award, just watch, but it doesn't mean he's great. Eric Crouch won the award and he wasn't even good in college. He's not the best player on UT but all the great players on the team divide up the big plays so much that the QB ends up being involved in way more than anyone else. UT-Austin is absolutely loaded for Big 12 football. They're overrated, though, and will get rolled over by UF if that's the title game. Cincinnati, USC, Virginia Tech, and Alabama could hang with them, too.

That's all I'm doing. Fuck Jordan Shipley. Ryan Williams, Case Keenum, Golden Tate and Ndamukong Suh all deserved write-ups but it's 2 in the morning and I don't care that much.