In the interests of full disclosure, I have a couple of friends who worked on the movie Death at a Funeral. Having said that, I have a lot of friends who work on a lot of movies that I don't plug. Nothing against those movies. It's just that a movie has to be really different and special for me to plug it.
Death at a Funeral is different and special.
I encourage anyone who wants to laugh to see this movie, which opens tonight. The commercials make it seem sillier and more slapsticky than it is. It is a farce, make no mistake about it, and it times it will make you laugh really hard. I'm talking Fawlty Towers hard.
And it also has what I call the Comedy of Discomfort. The wonderful, guilty pleasure of watching someone else squirm as the hole they're in gets deeper. If you like either incarnation of The Office, you know what I mean.
And the movie has sophistication and heart -- without being remotely maudlin -- as well as something else you don't see enough of: situation comedy.
The term "situation comedy" has come to be an insult, associated with "jokey" TV comedy.
But "situation comedy" is really a compliment. It means the comedy arises from genuine and rich situations and characters. That it's truthful. And that it's really funny, and keeps getting funnier as it goes along.
Death at a Funeral keeps getting funnier. And you really don't see a lot of that these days.
The cast is fantastic, the writing and direction spot-on, and even the English countryside looks gorgeous without looking "postcardy."
Check out Death at a Funeral. Reward folks who make movies like this, and maybe if we're lucky they'll make more of them.
Friday, August 17, 2007
“I've got two pieces of advice: Number one, never argue with your wife about something that’s gonna happen more than a year from now. And the second piece of advice, the more certain you are that she’s wrong, the more rapidly you should apologize.”
-- Joe Biden, quoting his father
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
"I've never hidden my bisexuality. But since I've been with Brad, there's no longer a place for that or S&M in my life."
-- Angelina Jolie
Monday, August 13, 2007
Mitt Romney Spent Between $442 and $1,000 Per Vote to Win in Iowa. Mike Huckabee Spent $58 Per Vote to Come in Second.
Romney is the Barry Bonds of politics.
CNET has a fun roundup of the best, worst and wackiest gadget designs of the recent past. When you look at exquisite designs like the iPod and the Wii, it's hard to believe someone could come up with something as dreadful as the Sony Bean or those My-Vu glasses (which, I'm sad to say, I bought and used maybe three times)
Every time I see a Honda Element, I wonder what kind of person would select that car above all others. And the Bang & Olufsen Serene cell phone was mocked in these very pages last March as "the ugliest fugging phone I've ever seen."
And in November, 2005, I suggested an alternative marketing approach for the Sony Bean that I still think is can't-miss.
I'm fascinated by design, by how ordinary things are developed and honed into extraordinary things... so I will vent/chime in a little more:
First of all, had you asked me for the Best Design ever, I might have nominated the classic peanut TiVo remote:
I've used every remote out there, and this is by far the most natural and pleasing design around.
On the other hand, Logitech's Harmony remotes, which copy TiVo's peanut shape but add tiny, flush buttons and a baffling, kludgy software interface, are a disaster IMHO:
I know the Harmony's have lots of fans, but I'm not one of them. It takes that huge screen and slices it up into tiny, impossible-to-read "Tasks"... like "Watch TV" or "Watch a Movie."
I don't want to "Watch TV"... I just want to TURN ON my TV. I don't need the remote to run a series of commands into a macro. I've pretty much got my TV prepped to go when I turn it on.
And if I want to use another component, I'm sorry, but I like to push the input button. (Or, as my parents call it, "Vid One") That around-the-block trip through the inputs is not such a hardship it needs to be automated for me.
Speaking of buttons:
I love buttons. Buttons make it possible to operate a device without looking at it. One of the reasons I don't have an iPhone is you can't dial if you're not staring at the screen. Buttons should, by law, be on all consumer devices, and should be raised and rubber. But as you can see, the Harmony's are all flat and indistinguishable. And there are buttons hidden in that silver ring. It's a mess.
(By the way, the exception that tests the rule is the iPod. Somehow Apple made a gadget with only one button that you can use without looking at it. Fantastic.)
Speaking of buttons, when I had my home theatre done the guy tried to talk me into selling a kidney so I could afford one of these monstrosities:
I have very few core beliefs, but one of them is that it shouldn't require two hands and your eyes to use a remote control. So I chose this one:
It's about as fugly as it gets, but it was the only one that had buttons! Unfortunately, every time I want to change something on it, I have to call in a technician (no, I'm not kidding), so I'll never quite get it perfect.
But back to the Harmony.
A remote is such a simple, beautiful thing. Press button, stuff happens. If the remote doesn't know one of your commands, point the old one at it and teach it. Such a simple paradigm.
Why add the complexity and crashability of software? It's like the old joke about how, if Windows made a car, you'd have to stop, get out and restart it every few miles. Before I wised up I had two of these things die on me (and in both cases Logitech gave me a laurel and a hearty handshake, but no dice on repair.)
Remotes just WORK. Why add complex, unfixable frippery?
But while I tipped my hat to TiVo, I must also wag my finger: on paper, the new Glo remotes from TiVo seem like a natural next step in the evolution:
But there are quirks that irk. First of all, the channel/volume rockers are too high now that they've been swapped with the Thumbs Up/Down buttons. For those of us who can work a TiVo remote in our sleep, it's a constant battle to keep from giving Thumbs all over the place.
(I still haven't forgiven TiVo for moving the TV POWER button all the way down to unusable-land on the DirecTV version, below.)
And the light-up keypad is a swell idea, but this is one area where Logitech gets it right: It would be so easy for the TiVo Glo to light up whenever you pick it up, as the Harmony does. But it doesn't. And it's irritating. Especially when you're looking for the damn channel-changing button.
Also, I'd like to commend one of CNET's choices for Worst Design:
I don't know why headphone manufacturers are making more and more of their products behind-the-head only. Not one behind-the-head set has ever fit my huge melon. It would seem that we should have a choice.
I also want to add a nominee for Best Design: the Jawbone Bluetooth Headset:
Is very beautiful, yes? It comes in silver as well, but I like the black one. It also happens to be the absolute best BT set I've ever tried. Fantastic. And, taking a cue from Apple, even the box it comes in is gorgeous.
On the other hand, my hands-down winner for the Worst, Wackiest, Weirdest Design of all time HAS to go to the Samsung Upstage:
You may have seen the commercials for it, starring two guys in black suits and sunglasses who, I'm willing to bet, have never had sex. And never will. If you're dressing up in a Men in Black outfit so you can trade Jack Webb dialogue with your buddy about your phone, then LOSER is lighting up on the centerfield scoreboard.
But then there's the phone itself. Ah, the phone.
If you gave a rhesus monkey a crayon he'd design a better phone than the Upstage.
Cool how the multimedia screen is on one side, and the phone is on the other, right? Well, what's not so cool is that you have to flip the phone over to type a text message, then flip it back over to send, then flip it back over to type... and so on...
And whenever you surf to a web page that requires data entry, it's flip-type-flip-repeat. Like to search the Sprint Music store. Or to search with Google. Or to type in your password, which you never realized how often you do until you have to turn your phone over every time you do it. Over and over. Flip, flip, flip. Until you lose your flipping mind.
And unlike the iPhone, which knows when you're turning it, the Upstage requires you to press a button to flip it. Believe me, you'll get to know that button well.
It is also not possible for the phone screen to be smaller. Seriously. It's practically nanotechnology. Of course, if they made it even one line bigger, you wouldn't have to flip the phone to read text messages. But then that would defeat the purpose of the Upstage, which is to torture the user.
But here's the best part: It has a faux-scroll pad... kinda like the iPod except:
1. It's square.
2. It doesn't work.
And, in the ultimate what-were-they-thinking move of all time...
When you scroll down, your finger naturally lands on the END button. Every time. Scroll down... then say SHIT!... then reopen your app... then scroll down... then say SHIT!... and so on.
Add to that AWFUL reception, NO printing, NO built-in email, NO doc viewing, and a camera that clocks in at a not-so-whopping 1.3 megapixels, and you've got a real shit sandwich.
Oh and speaking of sandwich? The battery is pathetic, but Samsung has you covered: the case has a battery in it. Unfortunately, you kinda have to clamp down one side to use the other, then unclamp to flip. It's not hard, but after a while it piles on top of the other aggravations and you're cooked.
If you are a Sprint user, do yourself a favor: but a Samsung A920 or a Sanyo M1 on eBay, then call Sprint to activate it. There's no law that says you have to buy your phone from them.
On the other hand, if anyone would like to try a Samsung Upstage, I have one I can sell really cheap. Only used for two days.
Meanwhile, I'm curious if anyone has any other nominees for Best or Worst Design.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
By now you've probably seen Bill Richardson's tortured response to that question at the Logo forum, and Melissa Etheridge's surprise that he initially chose "choice"... which is very un-PC. She was certain he didn't mean to say that, and she was right.
I don't know why.
Of course, as a straight man who is not running for President, it's none of my business. (If I were asked that question on Logo, I'd have to say, "I don't care." Which is one of many reasons I'll never be elected President.)
I feel about that question the same way I feel about gay marriage: I don't care. It's none of my business. (Especially since I'm not married, and therefore have no horse in this race at all.)
Still, it's hard for me to imagine why gay marriage has to be a "civil union" whereas straight marriage performed in a civil ceremony is still "marriage." If "marriage" doesn't have to be religious to be "marriage" why does "gay marriage" have to be?
Besides, any institution which can be legally entered into by Liza Minelli and David Guest, or Britney Spears and either of her husbands, can't possibly still be "too sacred" for gay people to enjoy.
But back to biology vs. choice.
Again, no one asked me, but... It seems to me that when gay people say "it's biology" they are playing right into the homophobes' hands. The discussion itself is, to my mind, a humiliating one for homosexuals to have to have.
No one else is asked to justify his life according to nature vs. nurture. One hundred percent of, say, Methodists choose to be Methodists. None of them were biologically born Methodists. Yet we still respect their right to be Methodists.
On the other hand, whether you were born a paraplegic, or you became one by choosing to drive drunk, you still get equal access to the same ramps and parking spaces.
And people can be born with a tendency toward alcoholism or drug abuse. We don't honor those lifestyles simply because folks were born to them. We do, however, respect the choice to recover from substance abuse.
And a woman's right to choose to do with her body as she wishes is obvious. (A man's, too, in a perfect world.) The fact that something is a choice doesn't make it less of a right.
Who cares if "gayness" is something you're born with, or something you choose? I think the discussion itself is insulting. But then again, it's not me that it insults, so I'll shut up now.
Except to say one thing: If gay people continue to hang their rights on the "I was born this way" hook, they are only asking for trouble the day a genetic test is invented. Should only those gay people who test "positive for gayness" be entitled to civil rights? Should those who actually did choose to be gay be discriminated against? I don't think any sane person wants that.
Okay, now I'll shut up.
I have never read a Harry Potter book nor seen a Harry Potter movie.
Nor have I ever read a single article ever about Harry Potter, nor watched a single news report about Harry Potter. I've never talked Harry Potter with a fan.
Nothing against all of you, I simply have no interest. But I instantly turn off anything about Harry Potter because someday I might want to read the books.
So I deliberately avoid everything Potter-related.
And yet, I KNOW HOW "DEATHLY HALLOWS" ENDS!!! By sheer cultural osmosis!
How is that possible???
If You've Been Watching BB8, When I Say "Psycho-Nut Job, Two-Faced, Lying, Shit-For-Brains Tweaker Trash" You Know Whom I'm Talking About
Yes, of course, it's Amber. And if you're Jewish and/or from New York, here's what she thinks of you:
If you don't know anything about Amber, here is all you need to know... and why it's so ludicrous for her to call anyone else "fucked up."
(And by the way, Eric is a prick.)