Category: Random Observations

A Warning to Unicyclists

Everyone knows that there are two seasons in Canada: winter and roadwork. Now that our highways have gone from being slippery and dangerous to the torn up and dangerous, I just want to remind everyone to obey the traffic signs and stay safe.

So for all you person-powered transport enthusiasts out there:

NO JUGGLING WHILE RIDING YOUR UNICYCLE ON THE OCEAN

…THIS MEANS YOU.

Happy Random Friday, everyone.

P.S. – I had to go home and look it up, but apparently this sign actually means “Grooved Pavement” and that thing is supposed to be a motorcycle with mirrors on it. Go figure.

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The Emperor’s New Dimension

I feel like I’m the victim of an elaborate hoax. Every time I go to see a 3D movie, I put on my special 3D glasses and the ads for 3D movies jump out of the screen. The movie starts playing, and it all looks quite rounded and three dimensional… until about ten minutes in, when it doesn’t anymore. Except for brief blips while a couple of flecks float across the screen or an axe jumps right out of it, after that ten minute mark, nothing can get me to see in 3D anymore. At first I just thought I had some sort of super-advanced hyper-adaptability disorder. Or that it was those stupid crosseyed magic eye puzzles all over again (I still have never once seen the hidden picture). But then I thought: what if I’m not the only one?

What if everyone is sitting in the theater with their goofy glasses on, thinking their 3D movie should look more 3D-like, but afraid to complain because they’re afraid they’ll be the only one, thereby singling themselves out as uncool. 3D is unquestionably the coolest thing you can do to a movie right now. In fact, those stupid glasses have even become a fashion statement. The problem is that a 3D movie is expensive to make. It’d be much more economical to just make the first few minutes of the movie and a couple of big events 3D and then leave the rest of it, relying on the audience’s herd instinct to draw in the crowds. It’d be ingenious. A deception on the scale of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Well, I’m going to be that little kid who shouts out that the emperor is naked. Because I can’t see 3D, so therefore I don’t see the point in paying an extra three dollars to see a movie where nothing is different. Most movies come out in both 2D and 3D, so thankfully I still have an option. But how long will it be before 2D disappears entirely and you have no choice but to pony up the steep fee for the 3D version? Soon, unless you start mentioning to the emperor that you can see his willy too.

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An Open Letter to Fly Away Home

Dear Fly Away Home,

I think you’re a pretty good movie. It was pretty cute how Anna Paquin plays a little girl with a dead mum who bonds with abandoned geese. I’m impressed that you actually got real geese to act in you. That can’t be easy, what with all the honking and pooping. And Jeff Daniels made a pretty cool dad. I can even almost forget that he was in Dumb and Dumber. I would have loved to fly across the continent in an ultralight with my dad when I was fourteen.

hell, I’d do it now!


It’s just that, when we get to the part were they’re flying across Lake Ontario, and they show up on the Americans’ radar (you know the part I mean) you start to get a little ridiculous. I mean, the radar operators at the Air Force base look at a screen that looks like this:


a radar screen showing geese

some v-shaped radar blips


….and immediately go “it’s that girl and her geese!” I know you only did it to move the story along faster and skip a bunch of steps of officials calling officials and people with binoculars reporting to other people with binoculars. But you and I both know that they wouldn’t really say that, and here’s why:


Geese are not made of metal. Just FYI.


Ergo geese do not show up on radar, since radars are designed to send out waves that bounce off of metallic objects and metallic objects only. This is a good thing, because otherwise radar screens all over North America would look like this from September to January:


a radar screen showing the geese invasion

a whole lotta blips!


During such a situation the Air Force would not think: “Oh how cute, that little girl’s geese all had little geese babies and now they’re all coming to visit us for Christmas.” They would think: “Oh dear God! We’re being invaded! Launch everything we have!!” The result would be:


migrating geese by r scott keehn on Flickr... plus a missile

total geese annihilation


Just between you and me, Fly Away Home, I might not mind if there were a FEW less geese to poop in my yard. But total geese annihilation? That’s going a little too far. And that’s the scenario you’re setting up in the Fly Away Homeworld, if you establish that geese show up on radar. So you might want to find another way to clue the Air Force in to the presence of guided geese next time. Just in case you want to make a sequel fifteen years after the original (hey, it happens! Look at Star Wars!)

Remember, I’m only saying this because I like you, and I want you to be the best movie you can be. Geesespeed, my friend.

Sincerely,
Kat

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The Impracticalities of Being a Female Superhero

If you’re a reader of comic books (sorry, “graphic novels”), a player of video games, or a watcher of movies, you’ve no doubt noticed that the female superheroes always seem to have hardly any clothes on, and what little they do wear is skintight and usually made of leather. Their hair is generally about four feet long and salon styled with some sort of headbands or ribbons that are more adornments than tie-backs, and their boots have heels in excess of six inches. This is all well and good if you’re a drooling fan watching the female superhero, but what if you ARE the female superhero?

You would have to hope there was never anything on a high shelf that you needed, because your skintight uniform would make it impossible to raise your arms above your head.

You’d have to cart around an extra large purse with your sneakers and sports bra in it, just in case any criminals tried to get away, otherwise you’d end up with two sprained ankles and a bad concussion from your huge, wildly jiggling boobs hitting you in the face.

You’d be limited to about two months out of the year for superheroing unless you lived in the tropics, because wearing a string bikini outside in a New York City winter will give you frostbitten nipples no matter how vigorously you’re working out.

You’d have to avoid any rooms containing conveyor belts, engines, garbage disposals, large clocks, or any machinery with rotating parts for fear of your improbably long hairdo getting caught in the works and ripping your whole scalp off.

You would have to approach criminals from the front and hope the sight of your rather arresting costume will freeze them in place so you can nab them, because with all that leather creaking and groaning, you’d only be able to sneak on the deaf representatives of the feloniusly inclined.

You would have to coat the inside of your uniform torso with double sided tape to reduce the chances of the ladies springing free in the middle of a punch-up.

You would have to keep a hospital-worthy collection of gauze pads and antibacterial cream in your super-purse to treat your super rug burns in case you had to slide under a truck, brush against a brick wall, or touch anyone who hadn’t shaved yet that day.

On the other hand, though, if you ever had to go after a straight female or a gay male criminal, they would be easy to apprehend on account of they would fall over laughing the instant they caught sight of your ridiculously impractical outfit.

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Signs You May Not Be A Very Good Actor

Actors make their livings by pretending to be other people. The characters they play often have different opinions, different lives, different feelings, and – unless the actor is very famous and producing the movie themselves – a love interest that is NOT played by their significant other. That’s no problem for a very good actor. He or she just puts on their game face for the duration of the scene and takes it off again when it’s over. For bad actors, things aren’t so easy. How can you tell whether you’re a good one or a bad one? Look for these signs.

  • If you find yourself continually breaking up with your current significant others to date your on-screen love interests, you may not be a very good actor. Very good actors can tell the difference between fake love and real love.
  • If you start to notice that all your roles are basically you in different outfits, you may not be a very good actor. Very good actors like to mix up their roles, broaden their creative horizons, and try new things.
  • If you have been asked to degrade yourself on a reality television show (Dancing With the Stars, Celebrity Apprentice, etc.), and you have accepted, you may not be a very good actor. Very good actors don’t have the time to be in reality television shows, nor the inclination to be listed alongside such names as Gary Busey and “that guy that got kicked off of the Bachelorette that time.”
  • If you can buy DVD copies of all of your recently released movies from the dollar bins at discount department stores, you’re probably not a very good actor. Barring random flops, only the oldest movies made by very good actors end up in the cheapie bins unless they’re used.
  • If you get more face time on talk shows and celebrity “news” magazine covers talking about your personal life than you do in your acting gigs, you may not be a very good actor. Very good actors tend to like to keep their private lives separate from their work. What you are is a celebrity.
  • If you notice that people in the audience members at your film’s test screenings and premieres tend to roll their eyes or make snorting noises whenever you’re performing a very serious scene, you may not be a very good actor. In fact, you’re almost certainly not a good actor, unless the screening is for sufferers of Tourette’s Syndrome.
  • If you find that directors are taking away scenes where you’re meant to give significant looks and replacing them with dialogue along the lines of “I feel so sad!” then you’re probably not a very good actor. Directors tend to trust very good actors to get emotions across without speaking.
  • If you notice that your audition process tends to involve more shirt removals than speaking, you’re probably not a good actor. They just want you for your body.
  • And finally: if you go online to read articles like this, hoping they’ll say even one thing that doesn’t sound like you so you can convince yourself you’re not like those other losers, you’re probably not a very good actor!

Sorry. Maybe you should become a dental hygienist instead.

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Multi-Format Packs

The format war is over. Blu-Ray has won, and HD DVD has already been consigned to the dustbin of history along with Betamax and Laserdisc.

HD what??




But there’s still one thing standing in the way of Sony and Friends completely dominating the home video market, and that’s DVD. In the same dogged way that VHS hung around for years after the introduction of DVDs, DVDs are refusing to roll over and die in the face of the Blu-Ray onslaught.

Part of the reason for this is that Blu-Ray is not enough of an upgrade for most people with DVD collections to even entertain the idea of upgrading. Unless you’ve got a massive TV (like 45+ inches), then there’s no difference between DVD quality and Blu-Ray quality. Considering that even most of the special features are the same between the two formats, there’s really no reason for people like me to upgrade, especially since they’re just going to come out with something new and different in another few years anyway and we’ll have to go through this all over again.

So what has Blu-Ray done to attract more customers? Something completely pointless, in my opinion: they’ve started packaging the DVD version in with the Blu-Ray version. I can see the point of including a digital copy for portable devices, but what is including the DVD copy supposed to accomplish? Are the Blu-Ray owners supposed to put it in a little envelope and donate it to their poor impoverished DVD owning neighbors? Are they supposed to pay it on their Blu-Ray player when they feel like watching the movie in reduced quality? Are they supposed to use it as a frisbee? What is the point of the extra DVD copy?

When you’re buying 3D Blu-Ray, it gets even worse. Then they include not only the 3D Blu-Ray but also the regular Blu-Ray, the DVD, and the digital copy.

Now with Viewmaster Reel and Shadow Puppets



If you own a 3D TV, why would you need the 2D version? It’s just a money grab. If they include multiple formats, they can charge multiple extra dollars, which was the whole point of the format changeover anyway. Not a better viewing experience (the upgrades are too small for that), but more money for the studios who get to sell all their movies all over again to the same people.

So thanks, people who keep offering me free Blu-Rays so I’ll upgrade, but no thanks. I like my money where it is: in my pocket.

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Does Disney Hate Money?

Disney is a paradox. Obviously they love money, or they would have stopped releasing godawful sequels to Air Bud eons ago. But why, then, does the Disney Vault exist? For those of you who are not familiar with the Disney model of DVD releases, it goes like this: Disney releases a version of a classic movie (Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, etc) on DVD. Regardless of how popular and/or timeless the movie is, they will print only a certain number of copies, and then stop. The title is then said to “go back into the Disney Vault” and everyone who wants a copy is out of luck, at least until a few years later, when they bring it out of the vault again for a new version with more special features or a shiner box.

I’ve heard that the theory behind the Disney vault is to make more money by making everyone jump to buy the DVDs when they come out just in case someone they know might want a copy in two years, and also by making superfans buy six slightly different versions of the same movie. I can see that (sort of) but what about all the DVD sales they’re missing out on during the years the movie is in the vault? For those years, anyone who wants a copy is getting it on eBay or in used video stores instead of direct from Disney, so they’re missing out on the money.

I mention this now because Tron is a Disney movie, and their bad vault timing is losing them a lot of money. With Tron Legacy coming out in December, everyone wants to see the original Tron (either for the first time, or again out of nostalgia). And you can’t get it. The only DVD copies I’ve seen belong to Amazon resellers who are charging $45-$195 for the 20th Anniversary Edition Disney put out in 2002. They’re planning a re-release for 2011, but that’s too late. There’s a Christmas season going by right now where plenty of people like me are looking to buy copies for their parents, who saw it and loved it when it came out in 1982. Disney’s going to miss out on all those sales.

So, did somebody make a mistake, or did Disney just recently decide that it hates money?

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Generic Lies and Reassuring Platitudes in Interviews

For some reason, average moviegoers watching an interview with someone involved in the film business (actor, director, writer, etc.) expect to hear honest answers to the interviewer’s questions. When they hear generic reassuring platitudes, they’re surprised and disappointed. They figure the interviewee is no fun, or is really private, or is the world’s least original person.

The reality, however, is that when you’re in the movie business, you really can’t afford to say what you think, unless your opinion is completely positive. If you so much as make a negative comment offhand in private, it can filter its way down through your wife’s hairdresser’s roomate’s son-in-law who happens to be the underassistant to the person you’d love to work with, but who won’t give you a job now because you insulted your former co-star, who happens to be his mistress’s best friend’s former dog walker.

The closest thing we, the ordinary uninvolved public, can get to the truth about what they’re really thinking is to try to decode the generic lies they tell to cover up their real feelings. Translating them is like decoding especially PC-ified bullshit. Lucky for you I write crap for a living, so I can take a stab at cracking the code. Here are the results of my extensive pondering. You can use it to entertain yourself while you’re watching DVD Featurettes or, if you’re in the film industry yourself, to disguise your negative opinions so you don’t lose any work.

When an actor, upon being asked about the film’s director, says: “He really knows what he wants,” he’s probably actually thinking: “The guy’s a bossy jerk.”

When anyone is asked about what a famous actress was like and they say: “she’s so focused on her work” they probably actually mean: “she completely ignored me.”

When a director, talking about her lead actor in the film says: “I was so fortunate to get him,” it might be code for: “he was the last person on my list, everyone else said no.”

When a novelist or a screenwriter or playwright is talking about the film adaptation and says: “It’s so surreal to see my work on the big screen,” it’s pretty likely that deep down they’re thinking: “I barely recognize my own story, they totally ruined it!”

When new or B-list actors are talking about working with older or more famous actors and they say: “I really learned a lot from her,” they’re probably thinking: “bitch thinks she’s better than me!”

When a director is talking about an actor and says: “He’s such a great improviser,” he might actually be thinking, “The annoying bugger would never just do what I told him!”

When an actor is talking about the director and says: “She had a really clear vision” they probably mean: “She wouldn’t listen to any of my ideas.”

When a director is talking about an actor and says: “He had a lot of great ideas” he’s probably leaving off the end of the sentence, which goes: “Which I shot down, because they were stupid and he’s just here to read the lines I give him, dammit!”

When a crewperson is talking about the lead actors in a film and she says: “They had such great chemistry,” she probably means: “they were boning offscreen, too.”

When anyone in a movie interview talks about someone they worked with and says: “I have a lot of respect for him as an actor/director/writer/producer/etc.” (and rather obviously leaves out any mention of him as a PERSON, they’re probably thinking: “I hate his frigging guts.”

And do you know what the best part about telling these reassuring platitudes is? Some people say them and actually mean them, so no one will be able to tell whether or not you’re lying!

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Hollywood Actors and Their Types

I’ve seen a lot of movies and television shows. All of them have actors in them (this is a sad but necessary fact of life, if you ask a writer) and are probably most easily remembered as “that movie with that actor in it” because the actor is the one who gets to have a face to go with the name. This makes actors the easiest path to follow if you’re looking for more movies. Like that movie? Watch another from the actor’s filmography. In my many years of movie surfing using this method, I’ve noticed that actors (Hollywood actors, that is) almost always fall into one of five categories based on their role choices.

BOUNCERS

Definition: Bouncers are actors who crop up all over the place in different supporting roles, especially in one-episode stints on television shows that all play on the same network. This is the category that almost all beginning actors fall under. Some move on to another category and others stay forever.

Examples:
Michaela McManus (One Tree Hill, CSI:NY, Law & Order: SVU, Castle, etc.)
Omid Abtahi (Over There, CSI, Ghost Whisperer, NCIS, etc)

Michaela McManus as Linday on One Tree Hill

RANGERS

Definition: A ranger is an actor who purposefully chooses widely different roles, either because they are driven to explore the full range of human emotion or because they don’t want to get bored. These are the so-called “career” actors and (fairly or not) they’re more likely to be British, Australian, or Canadian than American.

Examples:
Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars Episodes I, II, II, Black Hawk Down, Down With Love, etc.)
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, Lord of the Rings, The Aviator, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, etc.)

Ewan McGregor as Renton in Trainspotting

CLONES

Definition: Clones are actors who tend to chose roles where they play the same type of person over and over again (usually themselves, but with different names and outfits), creating the impression that in the parallel movieverse there are dozens of copies of the same person walking around claiming to be different people.

Examples:
Anna Faris (Scary Movie, Just Friends, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, House Bunny, etc.)
Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious, Joy Ride, Running Scared, Into the Blue, etc.)

Anna Faris as Cindy in Scary Movie

NESPOTS

Definition: Nespots are actors who are into nepotism. They seem to work with the same director over and over and over again. This usually leads to some similarity in the projects if the director isn’t a ranger. More often than not this happens with men, perhaps because most directors are men.

Examples:
Johnny Depp with Tim Burton ( Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride etc.)
Leonardo DiCaprio with Martin Scorsese (The Departed, The Aviator, Shutter Island, etc.)

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands

CARDBOARD CUTOUTS

Definition: Cardboard cutouts are actors who tend to take roles where they have to display all the emotional range of a block of wood and instead carry the role by virtue of a their enormous biceps, giant boobs, attractive faces, or popularity in other mediums. Some move up out of this category through surprising displays of talent. Most never do.

Examples:
Paris Hilton – popular from being rich and making a homemade porno (House of Wax, Pledge This, The Hottie and the Nottie, etc.)
Arnold Schwarzenegger – giant biceps from being “Mr. Universe” (Conan the Barbarian, Terminator, Red Sonja, etc.)

Paris Hilton as Cristabel in The Hottie and the Nottie

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Aussie Doppelgangers

My friend Ashley Seely has a theory that everyone has a Dutch doppelganger. She came to this conclusion because she’s living in the Netherlands and she keeps seeing Dutch people who look exactly like people she knows from home. I was inclined to doubt her theory until I watched the Australian surfing film Newcastle and I realized the truth: not only is she right, but her theory doesn’t go deep enough. If Canadians have Dutch doppelgangers, then Americans have their long lost twins in Australia.

I present the following as evidence.

The lead characters in Newcastle are a group of five teenage boys. Their names are Jesse, Fergus, Nathan, Scotty, and Andy. But their names aren’t important. It’s their faces. Three out of the five of them are the spitting image of actors I’d seen in different American films, all made at different times.

Observe:

This is Jesse from Newcastle, played by Lachlan Buchanan.

This is ALSO Jesse, but from Free Willy, played by Jason James Richter.

VERDICT: Lachlan Buchanan looks more like the grown up version of Jason James Richter than the actual grown up version of Jason James Richter.

This is Andy from Newcastle, played by Kirk Jenkins

This is Dylan, from Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, played by Michael Cassidy.

VERDIT: Separated by birth in a time machine accident, which explains why Michael Cassidy is several years older than Kirk Jenkins.

This is Nathan from Newcastle, played by Ben Milliken

This is Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward in the Twilight movies.

VERDICT: I’d say that Dan Castle (director of Newcastle picked Ben Milliken specifically because he looked like Mr. Famous Vampy Guy, except Robert Pattinson was a nobody when they would have been casting for Newcastle.

Initially I thought that my recognition reflex was kicking in because I’d seen these specific boys somewhere before and I just couldn’t think of where. It’s annoying when that happens, but at least you can look it up on IMDB. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering the person you recognize actually looks like someone ELSE you recognize from a movie you can’t remember, because there’s no connection to follow except the one in your head. You HAVE to remember. I had a tough time with Andy, let me tell you. (It was remembering the superhero costume that did it).

Anyway, it’s crazy enough to start finding Australian doppelgangers of Americans (except Pattinson, he’s British), but to find three of them in the same movie is downright creepy. Is there an Australian walking around out there with your face??

Imagine you’re on vacation in Sydney and all of a sudden, BAM! It’s you, but not! How crazy would that be?

Anyway I’ll save the Newcastle review for another time, but if you absolutely MUST see the amazing Aussie look-alikes NOW, you can get the Newcastle DVD here.

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