by Chauncey Telese
Hello again, and as always, I hope all is well. The time is 1:31 a.m. and since its still early, there is no keep me awake album necessary, so right now its just ambient white noise. Sorry about the lag time on last week’s piece but hey, sometimes computers wear down. I originally had promised three movies this week but I’ve been busy so we’ve got just one, but what a movie it was.
As always, before we get into that, let’s discuss the week that was in pop culture.
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Sarah Palin starred in the most famous episode of “Jaywalking” in recent memory. Seriously, its one thing to not be able to articulate the events surrounding Paul Revere on the spot but to botch it that badly was truly jaw dropping. Then she makes it worse by not laughing it off and instead doubles down and says that she wasn’t wrong and that it was a gotcha question. Really? Asking her about how to solve the debt crisis or to offer her opinions on the war in Afghanistan on the spot would be a gotcha question, but to ask her about a museum that she literally just visited is hardly gotcha. That’s right, she literally had just visited the Paul Revere museum and didn’t learn anything, that’s like going to Grant’s Tomb and not being able to tell someone who’s buried there. Ay-yi-yi, let’s hope her tour either teaches her about U.S. history or keeps delivering some more comedy. Oh, and just to prove I’m not just being another commie liberal ganging up on a conservative, let’s get to my favorite Brett Favre impression so far.
Anthony Weiner (the irony I know) is now under intense pressure to resign after he Favred a picture of himself to someone not his wife. Stupid move sir, but as with most everything going back to when we were kids, the crime is never as bad as lying about it. If he’d just owned up to it, he probably would have more friends (though after seeing the photo, he won’t be alone for long) in the Democratic Party. It probably doesn’t help him that his wife is pregnant so he’s just lost the female vote forever.
As a tip to guys everywhere, it’s a new world we live in with really amazing technology that can do incredible things. That comes with responsibility meaning just because you can photograph your junk doesn’t mean you should (unless it’s welcome by your wife, or significant other, to mess with your friends, or people in your fantasy football league) because, as has been said a kajillion times, the internet is written in ink and will always come back to haunt you. I just hope this doesn’t become a gigantic issue that leads to a ton of overreaction (whoops, too late) and doesn’t lead to an app that ruins sexting for drunk college kids everywhere (again, too late). Anthony Wiener can take comfort in one thing; at least he’s not John Edwards.
Newt Gingrich’s senior advisor bailed on him and his campaign (to be fair, it will be awfully crowded come Iowa, so he was trying to beat the traffic) so I guess that’s a positive sign. Hillary is rumored to be seeking a job as head of the World Bank (and unlike her predecessor, she’ll be nicer to the hotel staff), and we avoided having to pay debit fees.
“South Park” aired one of their most brilliant and poignant episodes ever and validated everything I wrote last week about the people that I can’t stand. Stan embodies the cynical subset that can’t find joy in anything (in high school I was so close to becoming one of those people) and they also made clear where they stand with the show. The last five minutes were actually very sad (by “South Park” standards) and made me realize that the show could very well end soon. They really outdid themselves with this one and I can’t wait to see what happens in October.
Just when I though Lady Gaga would be my runaway pick for pop culture MVP, her album sales tumbled in the second week and while her resume is still strong, she lost some ground. This could play out like this year’s NBA MVP race and have a lot of candidates but no clear-cut winner. It could be Timberlake, Spielberg, Gaga, or someone else, it’s wide open at this point.
“Game of Thrones” has two episodes left and I can’t imagine things getting better before they get worse. I mean seriously how much does it suck to be Ned Stark? You’re imprisoned by a 13-year-old Draco Malfoy clone who is your king, your son is walking into a buzzsaw, you’re bastard son is on a wall and has to fight ice zombies, and you’re youngest daughter is MIA. Each episode gets better and better and I can’t wait until the finale.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Blake Lively are dating (both men and women just let out a collective “nice”) and both Edie Falco and Reese Witherspoon slammed the Kardashians for being terrible role models to young girls. I wish though that Falco could’ve said it while going all Jackie Payton or Carmela Soprano during that interview, but oh well.
My hero Bill Simmons launched his Grantland site and while it’s not fully operational, it is a great source for blogs on sports and pop culture.
Lastly, how awesome are these NBA finals? Dirk is playing out of his mind and almost backpacking the Mavs to a 3-2 lead. Meanwhile, Wade’s brilliance is being usurped by of all people, LeBron James. Who knew he’d be this bad in the fourth quarter? I don’t know what it is but the guy just doesn’t have a whole lot going for him in crunch time and unfortunately for Dirk, that will be the story if Dallas wins one in Miami. Sure, they’ll say that Dirk put on a great show and now can be in the conversation of best forwards ever but the narrative clearly will be all about LeBron. Still, regardless of who wins, this is the best series I could’ve asked for once the Lakers went down in flames.
I’m sure I left a lot out but I do have an amazing movie to cover so let’s just do that.
Tonight’s movie has been highly anticipated ever since the teaser trailer debuted last summer. Nobody knew what the hell the movie was about, just that it had to do with a train crash and some sort of creature. As more and more trailers showed up, it was clear that this movie was the biggest 70’s-80’s movie homage in a while and a love letter to Steven Spielberg (among others) who serves as producer. J.J. Abrams manages to do what people in Hollywood have forgotten how to do in recent memory and that is make a human story that just happens to take place amidst a military search for a missing creature.
The story is quite simple. The year is 1979 and in the town of Lillian, Ohio, Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney) has just lost his mom in an industrial accident. His deputy sheriff father Jack (Kyle Chandler) is in charge of him, but they don’t have a strong relationship. Joe spends his time doing makeup for his best friend Charles’s (Riley Griffiths) 8mm films (hence the title). One night while Charles wants to shoot his movie at a train station, he, Joe, their other friends; the pyro Cary (Ryan Lee), nerd Martin and nervous Preston (Zach Mills) and the object of Joe and Charles’ affections, Alice (Elle Fanning) witness a train crash (which is truly spectacular and deserves to be heard with IMAX speakers). This unleashes a creature that takes power lines, engines, and even town’s people while the Air Force, lead by Sgt. Nelec (Noah Emmerich) try to hunt this thing down and cover up the conspiracy. The kids manage to capture this footage on Charles’s camera and that leads to them trying to piece this mystery together.
It is hard to watch this movie and not be reminded of “E.T.,” “The Goonies,” “Gremlins,” “The Sandlot,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Thing” and other movies of their ilk. These are the movies that defined my childhood and movies I still cherish. I’ve never been a huge Abrams fan (with the exception of “Star Trek”) and never got into his shows (I know, nerd blasphemy, but I didn’t like “Lost,” “Alias” or “Fringe” though my buddy Bryan liked “Felicity’ a whole lot) but here I can see why some view him as a major creative force.
He manages to get some of the most authentic kid performances I’ve ever seen. The relationships feel real, I believe Joe and Charles are best friends, I believe and can relate to Charles’ ambition, I believe the emotional connection and later romance between Joe and Alice, Alice’s loneliness and guilt about her father being responsible for the death of Joe’s mom and just the way the kids interact with each other is both hilarious and heart breaking. This is where the movie will resonate because, as cool as the alien is (and it is), that part of the story isn’t nearly as good as everything else and that’s the way it should be.
Pixar is the only film company to have never shied away from this model and that’s why those movies work. That’s why Spielberg movies are so iconic, they build their small towns and the characters that occupy them and make the audience care about the people going through extraordinary things. He knows how to make us feel for Elliot and nearly cry when his new alien friend is near death and to jump for joy when the bikes take off, how to feel for a guy who has a close encounter for the first time, and feel for three guys on a boat trying to hunt a shark. The story and characters should always trump special effects (which are great here) and action sequences (also great). The movie has a ton of heart and for any film students, should make you smile when you see Charles’s movie being made (and the finished product that rolls during the credits).
All of the kid actors (except for Elle Fanning) are rookies and assuming they don’t become Elliot from “E.T.,” they have bright futures. Audiences will love Ryan Lee’s Cary because he is truly hilarious and almost steals the movie. The sadness that Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning carry for most of the movie is so honest, and everyone else just executes perfectly. They all feel like kids I knew and still know, they felt in some cases like my own friends. Also, the score by Michael Giacchino is a great homage to John Williams and will be remembered come Oscar time.
This is the best movie I’ve seen all summer and, like “Inception” last year, it’s nice to see a movie that isn’t a remake, reboot, sequel or a previously existing property. Originality is hard to come by in the summer (and will be even harder if this doesn’t do well) but when it does it’s almost always worth seeing. Abrams’s next project is the sequel to “Star Trek” and I hope afterwards he can do something original and as compelling as this. My inner child and my outer adult loved this movie to no end and urge you all to check it out especially if you grew up on all the major touchstones of the 70’s and 80’s.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as next week I take the oath of “The Green Lantern,” finally spend a “Midnight in Paris” and observe some “Beginners.” Remember you can see these and other movies at your local Edwards.