Monday, August 31, 2009

fierce kitty Gordon

Scott's camera captured Gordon in action:

IMG_4869, originally uploaded by sweber4507.

IMG_4843, originally uploaded by sweber4507.

Until our recent move to the house, Gordon was an apartment-only kitty with few opportunities to go outside. With the house, we hoped she would enjoy going outside more. We tried to coax her out by leaving the doors open. I even carried her out to which she replied with a worried yowl and ran back inside. So, we figured she was just afraid of the outdoors.

Then last month, she suddenly found courage and went outside. We think she became jealous of the numerous neighborhood cats she would watch roam through our yard. Now Gordon is obsessed about going outside and has become an outside monster. Scott and I still have to supervise her outings because she doesn't have all of her vaccinations yet. We are also concerned that she doesn't realize that she is clawless as she seems to be fearless in approaching other cats and even dogs. Her only defense now is that she crouches on our front steps as if she blends in with the concrete.

(09/09/2009 revised.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Inglourious Basterds: B

Inglourious-basterds-members, originally uploaded by ashleyashhh.


Scott and I saw Inglourious Basterds last weekend. I can't claim to be the most devoted Quentin Tarantino fan because I still have not gotten around to seeing Death Proof/Grindhouse or Jackie Brown, but Pulp Fiction is one of my all-time favorites and I loved both Kill Bills.

Besides the over-the-top visual gimmicks and music references, Tarantino's signature filmmaking style are long, two-person conversation scenes. Basterds' first chapter is a long scene of a Nazi officer's conversation with a little-spoken French farmer. It's a great opening scene with so much suspense as to what direction Tarantino is going to take the scene.

Basterds is surprising linear in its storytelling with only a couple of flashbacks and fewer tricks to keep the audience off-guard. The movie is still Tarantino but more conventional and less suspenseful carnival ride than his other movies. Since the movie counts each chapter, I sighed a little at each new chapter as I wondered if the title card was a warning of another long scene.

Like his other movies, Basterds is about criminals and gangsters who operate with some type of moral character or philosophy -- just instead of gangsters or assassins, this movie has a band of Army/OSS insurgents and a holocaust survivor versus Nazi war criminals. [WARNING: MINOR SPOILER ALREADY DISCLOSED IN MANY OTHER REVIEWS.] Tarantino took some far-fetched liberties in his historical recreation and made a revenge fantasy. Although I prefer movies to be historically accurate, this movie does have a satisfying ending.

Overall, a good movie with fun performances, but probably not the best Tarantino movie. Brad Pitt's accent grew on me. Mike Myers' over-the-top cameo made what would have otherwise been a uninteresting scene watchable. But it's the relatively unknown actors (at least to US audiences) like Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent that stood-out to me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Hurt Locker: A

The Hurt Locker (2009), originally uploaded by LAS AVENTURAS DE ANTOINE DOINEL.

Last night, I watched The Hurt Locker while Scott went to Jurassic Park.

The movie literally spells-out its point at the very beginning, "War Is A Drug". The movie follows a trio composing a US Army explosives unit as they count-down their final days of deployment. The three men each cope differently with the enormous stress of the highly dangerous task of disarming IEDs, car bombs, and suicide bombers in the midst of the Iraq war.

For a movie about a current, controversial war, the movie and its characters don't seem to express an opinion about the war itself. The story could have been set in nearly any war. There is no overt message about the senselessness of war -- other than the obvious cruelty of hidden bombs. It's just three guys who struggle to do their job and then struggle to live without the intensity of the job.

This seems like a nearly perfect war movie and not overly gory or intense as I expected. My only annoyance was that there were a few M*A*S*H stereotypes such as an overly-calm Sidney Freedman type of Army psychiatrist.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

District 9: B

District 9, originally uploaded by MyCine.

Scott and I saw the much anticipated District 9 last weekend. Like many sci-fi premises, this story was a heavy-handed examination of humanity at its worse.

The movie dives-in with many what if scenarios:

  • What if, instead of landing on the White House lawn, the UN, or a socially/economically stable continent, aliens landed in a troubled location like Johannesburg, South Africa?
  • What if, after 20 years, humanity was not inspired by first contact, but merely viewed aliens as another complicated, messy, unwanted refugee problem?
  • What if the governments of the world outsourced extraterrestrial diplomacy to a for-profit, exploitative, multinational corporation -- which, needless to say, is inherently without morals or ethics?
  • What if technologically-advanced aliens lacked humans' conniving, lying ways?
  • What if a spineless, uninspired, corporate middle manager was placed in charge of human-alien relations?
  • And what if someone made a documentary about it with the usual talking head, expert commentators?

Obviously, this movie portrays us at our worst with, at best, stereotypically irrelevant "human rights" activists in the background and an anti hero who only finds courage and morals when it serves his self-interests. Is humanity really that bad? Sure, other sci-fi like Star Trek are unrealistic in their overly optimistic portrayal of humanity, but nihilistic fantasy is no more realistic. The filmmakers made so much effort to make this movie seem like reality, but only portrayed the worst of humanity's indifference. I will credit the movie for implying that black and white post-apartheid South Africans somehow united to reimpose apartheid against the stranded aliens.

Overall, good sci-fi movie with more of a story than the similarly styled Cloverfield. The graphic vomiting and continually shaky camera work did make me a little nauseous, so small screen viewing is probably preferable. And the movie did annoyingly set things up for a sequel, so we'll probably get to revisit the story - especially since it had a great weekend opening.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

small world: Tel Aviv gay center shootings

I saw the news about the shootings at Tel Aviv gay center on Saturday from the various gay news RSS I subscribe to. I have to admit that I was not as shocked to hear about violence against a gay community center in the Middle East as I would be if the attack had taken place in North America or Europe. However, I only learned recently that Tel Aviv has significant LGBT community and the city is considered a much more secular, Western urban city. Last month, a former tenant who moved to Israel years ago called and mailed photos he took of Tel Aviv's gay pride parade to our office. Judging from the racy pictures, Tel Aviv's gay pride is probably as big and outrageous as any other large city's gay pride, so I assume many LGBT folks probably feel relatively safe in Tel Aviv.

Anyways, I was a little surprised to hear from this tenant yesterday. He would probably agree that he and I don't see eye-to-eye on many issues and are probably as unalike as two people could be. When he lived in Portland, he was a notoriously loud, outspoken activist that opposed anti-war demonstrations. Even now, he forwards anti-Obama news articles to our e-mail -- just to remind us that Obama is not loved in Israel. So it took me a moment to realize what he was referring to yesterday when he called the office to express to me how shocked and saddened he was about the shootings. He said he was familiar with the area where the shootings took place.

He wanted to know if the news of the shooting had reached Portland. I told him that I don't usually watch local news, but I did hear of the shooting from websites. I was surprised to suddenly discuss such a far-off news event. I suppose if a tragic event happened in my region, I would also wonder if the folks on the other side of the world had heard it too.