This Delicious Week

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Dave Finally Watches: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

I say “finally” watches because this has been in the theaters for a couple of weeks now (I was surprised that it hadn’t been shoved out to open up another screen for Captain Hobbit: The Hunger Transformer) and I hadn’t seen it. That’s unusual for a Wes Anderson joint, but we’ve been ill or busy so this was our first real opportunity.

I enjoyed it a bunch, though it’s a pretty slight movie. It’s more of a straight-up comedy than the more heavy-hitting Anderson movies are, but that’s fine. It’s got exactly what you’d expect from a Wes Anderson movie except there’s no Kinks on the soundtrack; not much new ground is tread here. That’s the problem, really. This is a perfectly fine movie, but Wes Anderson can make this movie in his sleep. After Moonrise Kingdom I was hoping we were seeing Anderson stretch himself out a bit, but this is a contraction.

It’s also maddening that, when you look at the poster above, which features 17 characters that work their way down to some that only have a handful of moments in the movie, only three of them are women, and of those three, only one has significant screen time, and even she does little except be someone’s girlfriend and be admired by someone else. Is it really that hard to write women into these movies? Then again, there are three women in this one movie. African-Americans are still 1 for 8 as far as entire Wes Anderson movies that have a single one in a somewhat important role.

But that, I suppose, is one of the unfortunate things you can expect to get in a Wes Anderson movie, along with the sets, the themes, the soundtrack, and many of the actors.

At any rate, this got me wondering about where I’d put The Grand Budapest Hotel as far as Anderson movies go. Here’s how I’d rate them.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Rushmore (1998)
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The Life Aquatic (2004)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

That may seem harsh, second-worst, but keep in mind that I’m a pretty shameless Wes Anderson fanboy, and I’d rather see my least-favorite of his movies again than a lot of “top pick” movies from other folks.

There’s nothing not to like about the Grand Budapest Hotel, but there’s also not a lot there. It just sort of happens. And it also has the same problem that I feel Life Aquatic has, which is it feels like it started out as one thing but ended up as another, and amid all the wacky hijinks you can sort of see traces of the original thing there which seem more interesting and heartfelt than what ended up getting emphasized. The Hotel, the thing the movie is named for, doesn’t nearly have the presence or character that the movie seems to think it has. We see it at its apogee and perigee but no story is really told about it, despite some vestigial traces of that story that were left in. Likewise, the story of Zero is sort of seen, but again it got pushed aside for something else. It’s wrong to criticize a work for what you wish it was, but this movie constantly teases a movie that could have been and replaces it with an entertaining yet by-the-numbers, more shallow substitute.

It’s especially disappointing after Moonrise Kingdom, which hit its high notes so well that one forgets about a lot of the unnecessary silliness that accompanied them. With Grand Budapest Hotel, it’s the opposite effect: whatever strong moments it offers are drowned out by the too-easy goofs.

Posted in Movies | Tagged ,

That’s Not Fair!

Last night I babysat my friend’s daughters for a couple of hours. They’re 3 and 5 and they were fine. We had supper, we chitchatted, and they watched some Angelina Ballerina while I endured being in the same room as some Angelina Ballerina. Afterwards they fussed about bedtime, as little kids do, but they went. No problem.

The only dustup came when it was time to feed their dog. They suddenly decided they both wanted to do this and when the little one beat the older one to it, the older one yelled and cried. I reached into myself and found the parenting spark within, comforting the older one by saying, “Oh for goodness’ sake, this is not worth crying about.” Somehow she didn’t see reason here and continued to be upset for a few minutes. The younger one, seemingly sort of upset on her sister’s behalf, then said, “It’s just putting food in the bowl, it’s not even that fun.” I again pulled out my parenting skills to say, “And yet, you were ready to scream about it too. One way or another one of you was going to scream over putting dog food in a bowl.” Thankfully, they both found this funny and that was the end of that.

It reminded me of a scene from the show Louie, starring comedian Louis CK, which we’ve watched a few seasons of. It’s a great show, full of humor and pathos and embarrassing moments and little gems. In the scene I was reminded of, Louis is dealing with a similar moment, in which one of his daughters got a “mango popsicle” and the other one didn’t, because there’s only one. Here’s a lousy video of the scene:

Louis’ lesson ends with this, which recently showed up in Tumblr’s favorite format, the animated gif with subtitles:


I reblogged that because I understand the sentiment with which it’s intended and like that, but then I realized no, that’s not always correct.

Yes, life isn’t fair. Yes, sometimes someone gets a mango popsicle and you don’t or someone feeds the dog twice in a day and you don’t get to do it at all or whatever, and you just have to suck it up and move on. But there is definitely a time when you look into your neighbor’s bowl and complain if they have more, and that’s if you have none and have been told — by them, probably — that there isn’t any to be had and you just need to do without, despite their heaping bowlful.

That’s the state we’re in with bullshit austerity policies and a “post-employment” economy. There’s a small group of people who have spent the last couple of decades rigging the game for themselves, taking all there is to take, and leaving only scraps behind. Even when they screwed up and needed to be bailed out, the responsibility was not on them, but on the rest of us, to make sure they didn’t have to suffer for their mistakes. That was a little embarrassing for them, to be sure, but they’ve dusted themselves off and are back to telling us that they deserve it all because they work ever so hard, unlike those parasites who are unemployed because 2,000 jobs were cut in one day and the lucky remaining few workers were told they just need to work harder and longer now.

And those same “lucky” ones love the idea that you don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl except to make sure they have enough because they’re doing very well, thank you for asking, and oh, I can’t really see your bowl from up here, but I’m sure it’s fine.

Or worse, you’re one of the saps who isn’t one of those lucky few but has been brainwashed by them, who looks in her neighbor’s bowl and complains that they have anything at all because she doesn’t feel they’ve earned it. Like complaining that they got a carrot for nothing and you had to pay for your meal and that’s not fair even if you don’t need or even want that carrot. It certainly must amuse those lucky ones to see us shmoes screaming over a goddamn carrot. Kind of like those two little girls fighting over feeding the dog.

I’ve gotten off track here, I think.

My point is, sure, I know what Louis CK is saying there, and for the most part, he’s right. But like a lot of lessons, there’s a point where it no longer applies. Under no circumstances should we simply accept that sometimes someone gets all of the money and the rest of us simply have to make do. It is right and proper to complain about unfairness that is pervasive and institutionalized. I don’t want to see Louis CK’s point generalized to become yet another nagging voice urging us to normalize the current economic system an accept it as “the way things are”. No, don’t cause a ruckus over momentary instances of injustice like feeding the dog or a mango popsicle, but by all means shout out loud over someone who regularly gets all the mango popsicles and…uh…dog-feeding opportunities and just tells you there’s simply not anything left over for you. As my pal Kurt Ralske says, “You have to get your anger over eventually, but I think it’s good to get to the point when you can be angry. I’ve spent a lot of my time suppressing my anger, cos I thought it was a waste of time. And OK it is, if you’re just angry that someone’s standing on your foot. But if somebody’s been standing on you all your life then it’s really good.”

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Should I Play or Should I Go?

(click to expand)

This weekend I finally cleaned up my office/nerd room, which meant putting boardgames back on the shelf instead of piled on the floor. Here’s the shelf, near-full. It’s actually now a little less full than pictured here because I also pulled out a bunch of games to go on the trade pile, and some of the ones in this photo were later removed for that.

(Not shown in this picture are strictly 2-player games, which are on a much smaller shelf to the right of this one and a few games that are keepers, though they hardly ever get played.)

That’s a lot of games, isn’t it? If one enjoys boardgaming, one should be happy with that. And yet, let’s talk about that trade pile.

I liquidated a bunch of boardgames back in January in the Unity Games auction. Another one went in the ConnCon auction. In theory I just ditched a bunch of games and shouldn’t have too many more to get rid of, and yet here we are.

Some of the ones that got added to the pile were ones that I just had to finally admit weren’t going to get played. But most were recent purchases. Things that I knew at the time were probably bad bets. One is a game that I bought, had doubts about, and then bought an expansion for, still having those same doubts. The running theme was, “Why did I buy this?” and the answer was, “I wanted to buy something.”

That’s bad, poison behavior. I’m having an intervention with myself. No more. No more game purchases until I have played some of the things I have and haven’t played. I’ve even made a list. Until the following ten games get some kind of table time, I’m cut off from buying new ones.

Merchant of Venus (Got this last year and I’m still not 100% sure my copy has been played. And I haven’t tried the FFG rules, even though I’m pretty sure they’re not great.)

Core Worlds: Galactic Orders (I’ve only played Galactic Orders once? I like this game, and it needs to get played.)

Wiz-War (Bought this last year, haven’t even opened it. Why?)

Invaders (I got this at ConnCon and it needs to get a try.)

The Manhattan Project (I like this one a lot but have a hard time getting it played. No matter how much I may like it, if it’s not hitting the table it needs to go.)

Nations (One I’m on the fence about. It takes up too much space if it’s not getting played.)

Wiraqocha (One I probably shouldn’t have even bought in the first place. It gets another try, but I don’t have high hopes.)

Flash Point: Fire Rescue (I think this is a neat game, but I can’t get co-ops played, and I knew this when I bought it.)

Triumvirate (Card games get overlooked too often. I think this is a good one, but my copy hasn’t been played at all.)

Gang of Four (Once again, it gets overlooked because it’s small. Even if it only takes up a little space, if it’s not getting played it needs to go, and this hasn’t gotten played yet.)

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged

Dave Finally Rewatches: The Fifth Element (1997)

I saw The Fifth Element back in 1997, when it first came out. I went with my friend Chris, and a friend of his visiting from out of town who wanted to see it. At the time I was back in college and low on time and money and was not too keen on spending either on movies, but went along anyway. As we were leaving, Chris and I said nothing until the friend piped up with, “Well, that was awful.”

The Fifth Element was one of the movies I credited with being such a disappointment that it helped cement my disinterest in movies, especially nerd movies. It was part of the reason I’ve passed on nearly all the geeky blockbusters of the past fifteen years.

However, I knew that the movie was hugely popular, and was so with a lot of my friends whose opinions I respect. I also knew it was based on the French comics aesthetic I’ve come to really like. And it has a guy driving a cab in the future, which is a concept I’ve expressed some fondness for. So I’ve long thought I should give it another chance, though every time I thought about watching it again, I shuddered a bit.

This Saturday evening Becky was out and I was feeling super lazy. The idea to watch the movie popped into my head, I noticed it was one Netflix Watch Instantly and said, “Sure, why not?” I popped some popcorn and drank a beer and settled in.

The result: I enjoyed it! It’s a lot of silly fun. For some reason I was now completely ready to roll with the Moebius swiped inspired design, the look and feel, Bruce Willis’ charming performance, Gary Oldman’s unfortunate accent, and the slapsticky nonsense. Even Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod didn’t irritate me as he did the first time around!

To be sure, I still have some problems with it. Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo is a wasted character, a sexy MacGuffin who can’t even communicate for most of the movie — a “perfect being” for a boy of a certain age. She’s given very little to do except be pursued and protected. And as long as we’re talking about mindless hardware, there’s the bizarre case of the guns Zorg spends a long scene showing off the extensive and improbable features of, which then disappear and are never brought up again. The villain of the piece, beyond Zorg, is only barely sketched out, and let’s face it: if you have such a potential threat on a regular basis, why hide the way to defeat it? Why not plaster the solution everywhere so that it doesn’t have to be in the hands of a vulnerable few?

I don’t think those are trivial problems, but other than wondering when Leeloo is going to do something, they fall by the side when you’re caught up in the ridiculous, over-the-top Frenchness of the thing.

I can now give The Fifth Element a thumbs-up. It’s not my favorite, and I’m not gunning to see it again, but I have to admit it’s not the complete waste of time I’ve made it out to be for so long.

Posted in Movies | Tagged ,

I Had That! #10: Go-Bots

When the Transformers came out, I thought they were amazing. I didn’t watch the cartoon, but I thought the toys were the coolest thing. A friend at school had the one that turned into a train and a space shuttle and I visibly drooled over that thing. Problem was, they were kind of expensive. As a result I only had a handful of Transformers ever, and most of those I got when they line was waning in popularity and they were discounted. The few I had — some of the Dinobots, some Insecticons, Thundercracker, Soundwave, some of the cassettes — were eBayed or otherwise disposed of long ago.

Go-Bots, on the other hand, were cheap knockoffs of the Transformers toys, with the emphasis on “cheap”. And they had something the Transformers didn’t have: an inexpensive transforming red Lamborghini.

During a period of time when I tried vainly to not be so nerdy I decided to be interested in cars. I wasn’t (and still have little interest), but I tried to pretend I was, and decided that I really liked the Lamborghini Countach (it’s a fast expensive car, but it looks like a spaceship, so there you go). I had a poster and everything. So although I really wanted Sideswipe, the Transformer who was a red Lamborghini Countach, he was hard to find and cost too much. On the other hand, the Go-Bots had a small robot that did the same thing, named Spoiler. (Apparently this character later went on to be a sidekick to Batman but dies or something; I haven’t really followed either Batman or the Go-Bots.)

Spoiler, the toy, is kind of lame, but it served the purpose of me having a transforming robot toy of my so-called dream car. It has almost zero articulation, and there’s nothing particularly interesting about the transformation, but it served its purpose. In fact, it did so well enough that I also got a Leader-1, who actually does do a pretty neat transformation and is kind of cool. I don’t really remember “playing” with them much (I was a little old for them when they came out) except to just sort of “swoosh” and transform them.

When did I get it? Go-Bots came out in 1983, and I probably got them around ’84. I don’t really remember and don’t have many memories associated with them to really know for sure.

Do I still have it? Yep. I saved them from the Big Nerd Box for some reason, though I don’t have any of my Transformers anymore (and I didn’t ever get into any of the later editions of Transformers.)

Posted in Toys | Tagged , ,

This Delicious Week

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It’s a Great Time to be Rich in America!

If you’re lucky enough to be super wealthy in America, this is your time to shine! Here are some of the opportunities available to you:

Wreck a State’s Entire Economy So You Can Make a Few More Bucks!

The tax cuts delivered lopsided benefits to the wealthy. Kansas’ tax cuts didn’t benefit everyone. Most of the benefits went to high-income households. Kansas even raised taxes for low-income families to offset a portion of the revenue loss; otherwise the cuts to schools and other services would have been greater still.

Rape Your Three-Year-Old Daughter and Avoid Prison!

Richards, who is unemployed, lives off a trust fund in his 5,800-square-foot mansion in Greenville, Delaware, and has another estate in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth beach. His great-grandfather, Irenee Dupont, was the patriarch of the super-rich DuPont family and president of the DuPont chemical company.

Judge Jan Jurden, while originally sentencing him to 8 years in prison, commuted his sentence to probation and treatment, on the grounds that because he was a rich white man convicted of child molestation, he would be a target in prison and the system would not be able to protect him. In her words, “Defendant will not fare well in Level 5 setting.”

Shovel Truckloads of Money Into a Politician’s Pocket!

The justices said in a 5-4 vote Wednesday that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates.

Remember not too long ago when assholes like Tom Perkins were whining that we were taking our wealthy overlords for granted and not showering them with the praise and adulation they are owed? Finally the pendulum has swung back and these titans of Capitalism are able to once again walk proudly like gilded collosi. No more will patriotic Americans have to hold their heads down, ashamed at the shoddy treatment we give to our corporate heroes. An who knows, maybe somewhere out there is a little kid from a dirt-poor family who reads one of these stories (or more likely has one read to him) and thinks, “That’s going to be me! Whatever it takes, I swear that some day it’s going to be me raping my toddler daughter and getting away with it because I’m far too wealthy to be inconvenienced by prison!” Oh little kid, you’re adorable, but that guy had already become wealthy the day he was born because he simply inherited it!

There are still benefits to being poor, however. Heck, corporate giant Wal-Mart depends on it for their workforce! Government assistance is how they can pay their workers as little as possible and still have them not collapse from hunger or run out of steam during shift #3. And I think we can all agree that austerity programs for loyal and responsible poor people are an important sacrifice to be made for everyone’s benefit, especially the important and productive rich.

America, I’ve never been more proud of you!

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