Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Fluffy, like a bunny

That's what this post is: fluffy like a bunny. No substance at all. Just sweeping the dust bunnies out of the mental closet.

--A few things I watched over the weekend:
Coffee and Cigarettes is an interesting low-budget "art" film with the simple premise of people talking across diner tables while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Each vignette consists of a different pair of people in a different locale, and everyone plays themselves. So we get the enjoyable awkwardness of Iggy Pop meeting Tom Waite ("So if you come here all the time, how come none of your stuff is on the jukebox?"), and the dumb-blondeness of Bill Murray (swilling coffee directly from the pot) trying to go undercover as a waiter and serving the Wu Tang Clan ("But you're Bill Murray, man!" "I know. Don't tell anyone.") Jack White shows ex-wife Meg his Tesla coil, which he has brought to the diner in a little red wagon. There are a few segments that screech to a halt (most notably Alfred Molina's way too long meeting with Steve Coogan), but overall this is a film worth renting at least once.

Shaolin Soccer is a fun piece of fluff from China about a former football (soccer) star named Fung who is desperate to reclaim his name by coaching a new team to victory. He meets up with street person Sing who is looking for a way to popularize shaolin kung-fu with the masses, and the two decide to form a team consisting of shaolin masters.

You don't have to be a soccer fan (I'm not) to enjoy this film. Very little of it actually takes place on the soccer field, the majority of the film consisting of their quest, Blues Brothers style, to track down and recruit the six shaolin brothers, and their subsequent training. Sing's girlfriend Mui has a disappointingly small part, and doesn't join the team until the very end, although you know she's going to from the moment you see her. Soccer purists may be disappointed, because this film does not take itself at all seriously. (The team they have to defeat at the end is actually called Team Evil.)

Shaolin Soccer is nicely filmed. Combining the best CG and wire elements of recent films such as The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and over-the-top kung-fu abilities from classic martial arts films, players fly through the air, soccer balls knock down walls and burst into fireballs as they fly through the air. In a beautiful, captivating scene, Mui uses shaolin to prepare steamed buns, commanding the very air itself into a vortex which spins and shapes the dough.

Dead Like Me is a series on Showtime. Since I don't have any premium cable channels, I've begun renting the first-season DVDs. The basic premise is that George, an 18-year-old slacker girl who looks a lot like my niece, is killed by a meteoric toilet seat from the de-orbiting space station Mir. Due to her just happening to have been the final soul of the previous grim reaper's quota, she takes his place as a collector of souls. The script nicely dodges any viewer-alienating issues about god and the afterlife and focuses on George's difficult adjustment to her new afterlife. Her mentor in reaping is played by Mandy Patankin, just one of many reasons to want to watch this show. Patankin's character gives new meaning to his famous phrase, "Prepare to die." We can only hope that he gets to sing in a later episode. Another enjoyable facet of this show is getting to hear former sitcom star Cynthia Stephenson say "fuck".

Desperate Housewives on ABC may very well become my next guilty pleasure. Watching it back-to-back with Dead Like Me was just the dose of dark humor I needed to prepare me for the work week.

--Here are some of the fine shows you can see if you come to Minnesota:
Bat Boy: the musical
Don't Hug Me: A Minnesota Love Story With Singin' and Stuff
Electile Dysfunction: or, Two Johns, a Dick, and a Bush
How to Talk Minnesotan: the musical
Minnesota! It's Not Just for Lutherans Anymore!

--For dinner last night, I opened a box of chili. That's right: a box. Chili comes in little waxed cardboard boxes now. I suppose it's good from an ecological perspective--they're recyclable or can be burned to produce energy--but there's something about chili in a box that's just...wrong. (And as Arial pointed out to me, the chill of October is now in the air, signaling that it's about time for me to begin churning out giant batches of my own homemade chili.)

--Current least favorite commercial: the one where the art teacher is telling her students to "paint their soul", "what's within them". This yuppie chick paints a portrait of her Jeep. The instructor, instead of ripping the canvas from its easel and flinging it to the street below, says, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" The yuppie chick is then shown driving away from the school in her shiny Jeep, hunched over the steering wheel with a maniacal, teeth-baring smile that says she's about to run down some puppies, just because she can.

--Current least favorite bumper sticker: "Save a horse, ride a cowboy." That stopped being funny about five minutes after the first time the song aired. All of you wanna-be cowboys in your S10s and F150s need to peel those decals and bumper stickers from the vehicle and toss them in the garbage next to your wife's "Hell Yeah" t-shirt. (You coastal people who don't know what I'm talking about, be thankful.)


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