Monday, August 24, 2009

Towed Cars, Cousins -- "Inglourious Basterds"

"Hey, it's family," he said, as he slid over to My Friend the piece of paper that showed he'd knocked off 40 bucks from the car-towing fare.

Nothing like a big, hulking man -- in the middle of Nowheresville, Houston -- telling your Bud that he was once married to your cousin, through some bulletproof glass, no less.

The humiliation only topped off the saddest Movie Night ever.

It'd been planned in advance: "Inglourious Basterds," Friday night, 9:30 pm. My Friend, his brother, another, and I were meeting with already-purchased tickets to go see the film; I'd been awaiting this day for months. For the past few weeks, I've been marching around like a little idiot mimicking Brad Pitt's "We gonna be doin' one thing, one thing only: Killin' Nat-zi's." I couldn't've wiped the grin off my face all week if I'd tried.

Well, turned out that one of the friendos got mixed up and didn't buy his ticket in advance; they were sold out. Didn't seem to make no never mind -- we could see the 10:30 showing, after all. We exchanged tickets, played some Big Buck Hunter at the theater arcade ... but, I knew.

I knew that after having eaten at the restaurant next door, where Friend and his Brother left their cars (allusion to the "car-towing" start of this), on top of my predilection for falling asleep in ANY movie after roundabouts 8pm, I was in trouble.

For all my talk and anticipation for this movie, would I make it?

Short answer, "no."

Halfway through, I felt the magnetic forces of the eyelids; had I toothpicks, I'd have shoved them in there without regard for permanent damage to the old eyeballs.

I'm doing a double feature tomorrow ... after Friend's glare jolted me awake (I hadn't even realized I'd fallen asleep), I made it through most of the movie, but I feel I missed some good plot points worthy of revisitation -- and, Lord knows I'll watch "Inglourious" 200 more times in the next couple years, just 'cause it's Tarantino.

One great takeaway from the first half hour, though, reminded me why I can't hate myself for being a cliched Tarantino-lover.

It's his ability to write-in conversational bits into the most intense situations; just like the Coen Bros., he reuses his formula, so that the written patterns are undeniably recognizable in all his films ... they're inimitable without feeling too worn or overdone.

Fooooooor instance, during the "Pigs are filthy animals. I don't eat filthy animals." end scene in Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," he has Jules and Vince discuss (after having experienced "Divine Intervention" via dodging bullets as they fulfilled their hitman duties) why we attribute dirtiness to pigs and not, say, dogs, while by logical standards the two species aren't exactly cleanly. In "Inglourious," Tarantino starts it off with the awesome, awesome Christoph Waltz delineating the difference between rats and squirrels ... one animal is seen as a disease-carrying, awful nuissance of a creature, the other's a harmless tree-dweller.

I just like his style, s'ppose. Tomorrow, I'll get a fuller feel. I got 2 hours annnnd maybe 12 minutes of Inglourious on Friday (out of the 2 hrs and 33 minutes) ... tomorrow'll be better.

When we all toddled out of the theater that night, me half-asleep and the others beat as well, the cars were gone; next morning, we made our way to where they housed the errant vehicles ... and that's where I was met with a double-take, a stare and a "Are you Morgan? I'm your cousin." He's been running the tow-truck place for ten years he said.

Ahhh, ahhh.

Sometimes there's nothing to be said for full-on humility.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Corrupting Little Morgan's Belief in Love; "500 Days of Summer"

"I didn't really understand it," she said, staring up curiously at my somewhat somber face.

I looked down at Little Morgan and shook my head slowly; with a melodramatic sigh, I said: "I hope you never have to."

We were walking out of "500 Days of Summer," a film about the rocky relationship of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), two Los Angelans who work together at a greeting cards company. My response to Little Morgan was referring to my hope that she never has to understand the ups-and-downs, confusions, woes, heartaches, bitterness, abandonments, etc. that accompany relationships.

Of course, Little Rat was referring to the non-linear timeline of the film, which follows 500 days of Tom and Summer's relationship, certainly not my cliched and embarrassing projections that came out in the form of a slow head shake and a short-lived clutch of her shoulders.

The film jumps around from day 1, to day 26, to day 149, back to day 4, for example, so each scene is preceded by a number in parenthesis to indicate the day and guide you as to the state of the relationship. Hence her confusion.

Tom is a hopeless, hopeless romantic who falls madly in love with Summer upon first sight ([Day]1); Summer is a colder sort, one given to casual liaisons and defensive diatribes on the falsity of love. ([Day] 1, 2, 7, 147, 208, 49). Tom quickly wins her over, during a company karaoke night; her knees buckle, but her heart doesn't. All that jazz. She's a jerk, but he's stuck in love with a girl who doesn't want him.

I got teary-eyed, again. I think it's something in this Texas water ... Little Morgan kept looking over at me, and while I usually send back a Death Stare to tell her not to bother me with her little questions about whatever film's plot, this time I just gave her a sad face and took her hand. Combined with Julie & Julia, that kid's gotten more Big Morgan love than she's probably seen in the last few years put together (give or take).


Overall, I thought the film does a fine job of depicting the nuances of a relationship. When you relate to the boy, Tom, you're overcome with all the feelings you've had when you've been with someone who took you for granted; who didn't give their all to you; who didn't ask you seemingly-little things ... like how your day was.

When you side with Summer, you feel she's right for being selfish; her casual flightiness is suddenly acceptable because you remember the times when you yourself were a jerk to someone because maybe you didn't think they were worth your time. Scruples were lost on you at that time, and you rationalized your not-so-kind behavior.

When I explained this to Heathen Child, The Rat didn't seem to understand why the higher in number the days went, that didn't necessarily correlate to a higher level of happiness.

I had to resist the urge to say, "All in good time, Child, all in good time." Instead, I took her to Wendy's for a Frosty, though I miiiiight've said she ought to break up with her little boyfriend Dustin:

"Hey, it's your last year in elementary school -- you really want someone tying you down?" I intoned.

What's wrong with me?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Little Morgan's Evil Games; Julie & Julia

For everything you can call Little Morgan -- Heathen Child, Little Rat, Big Chunk, Snaggle[tooth], Clone, Number 2 ... and, I'm wont to call any of these things -- you can't call her Dumb. She long ago mastered the art of getting her way in an increasingly creative array of approaches.

In the mornings, when I'm asleep in my room, on my bed (read: in the living room, on the couch) after having taken Mama G to the metro around 5:30am or 6am (woe, woe), if she happens to awake before noon, she begins her tricks.

Normally, if the phone rings throughout the day, she has the habit of turning the phone on, then off if it's someone she doesn't recognize (I can't fault her there, it's one of her redeeming qualities); however, when I'm snoozing, suddenly she's interested in whomever is calling and races to the phone. I hear her big Flinstone Feet running across the tile, though I don't open my eyes so I can assure myself that she's the Devil Incarnate.

"Hello??? WHAT?? Hello??" she bellows, her country-accented voice, grating to any human's ears, carrying its way to my couch.

"Who?!? Ummmmm..." she draws out, as she starts stomping around the living room. "Ummmm, let me see if they're home." She knows that no one's home (I don't count, because I, well, because I adhere to the phone on/off approach), but nevertheless she plods over to me.

"Aunt Morgan?" she whispers in a pseudo-sweet voice. Tap, tap. "AUNT MORGAN??!? DO YOU WANT TO TALK TO [insert anything]???"

I snap my eyeballs open wide and glare at her, not moving my neck -- which has been undoubtedly propped up in some crick-inducing way, while she's been sleeping soundly in my old room all night -- as I mouth, "No."

After that, the games begin.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, working on a story (an ongoing one that involves her), when I see out of the corner of my eye her peek out from the hallway. She must've been honing her approach. I didn't acknowledge her and kept typing.

"Aunt Morgan?"


"Well, umm, I was wondering..." she began quietly, sweetly.

Oh, here we go, I thought.


"Well, if you're not too busy..."

A likely jab, I thought, she's commenting on how I'm not at work.


"Could we maybe do something?"


"Maybe," I said with a gravely doubtful intonation, "I really want to get some work done on this."

I could feel the pouting, but I was going to be adamant today. Right.

Oh, I'd say ten minutes later, after some careful conniving in her (my) room, she came out in her rollerblades, putting her grubby paws all over the walls as she tried to steady herself and slide her way across the tile.

"What are you DOING!?" I blared, "You know you can't rollerblade in the house. Jesus, you Big Rat, take 'em off."

Attempt 1 averted. I didn't last much longer, after she pulled out the big guns.

A bit later, I heard her again stomping out of her (my) room, and I could hear some heaving and things dropping in the hallway. She entered with a huge mound of clothes, her new school clothes, replete with all the new underwear that Mama G recently bought her (no shame, this kid).

"What are you doing?"

"I just wanted to show you my new clothes."

"They look nice. Lots more than I ever got, that's for sure." (Can't help throwing those in any chance I get.)

"I wanted to do a fashion show for you," she said, smiling as if she didn't know she'd just won.

"I'll check the movie times."

So, we saw "Julie & Julia."

I must say, that in all the headache and frustration this Horrid Doppelganger causes me, yesterday she brought me much unintended joy. I neeeeeever would've seen that movie, but it was the only one we both hadn't seen or that I absolutely wouldn't go see ("Aliens in the Attic," "G-Force," "The Ugly Truth," etc.)

I thought it looked awful, something like "Mamma Mia" (which I admittedly never saw, but -- whoof). It's the story about Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) and her rise to success, alongside a contemporary story of a New York City girl named Julie Powell (Amy Adams) who hates her job and begins blogging in an attempt to assuage at least a part of her drive to be a writer. (I think my teary-eyedness began there, and didn't stop throughout ... though I'll never admit it.)

The film does a great job depicting the parallels in the two womens' lives. After portraying yet another setback to Child's attempts to get her masterpiece cookbook published as she and her ambassador husband move all over Europe as Joseph McCarthy and Co. were conducting their witchhunts here in the U.S., we jump back to present-day Powell struggling with her horrible work life while trying to achieve her goal of cooking everything in Child's book in one year (and blogging about it). And each time one of the women has a meltdown or becomes a raging mess, we see a scene where their doting, adoring husbands (Stanley Tucci as Paul Child, Chris Messina as Eric Powell) save the day and stick by their sides, which would normally make my stomach turn.

But, it was probably after one of these parallel scenes when I began making Little Morgan hold my hand like a big baby.

I really just loved the movie; it had its faults, but Streep was so great as Julia Child -- and the ever-adorable Amy Adams was characteristically cute, even as she treated her husband like dirt.

I'm sure lots of people won't see it, but I hope they do.

And, after all that emotional boohooing, I suddenly thought the Rat Child wasn't so bad after all and took her to get ice cream; but I made sure it was just a cheap McDonald's cone -- got to keep her honest.

Today, I believe we'll see "500 Days of Summer."

Julie & Julia trailer:

Monday, August 10, 2009

G.I. J...ust Shoot Me

It was supposed to be an even trade.

In exchange for not complaining (too much) for being dragged (kicking and screaming, but in a quiet, uncomplaining way -- ahem) to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and promising not to fall asleep, My Friend agreed to a double feature of my choosing; I was planning on Pulp Fiction and perhaps The Night of the Hunter, one of the creepiest, most awesome movies I know of -- or another childhood favorite. I recently introduced the kid to Old Boy, so I was looking forward to showing off my movie tastes.

Plans have changed.

After that God Awful 2-hour experience, I believe now I'm fully prepared to chop off the old nose to spite my face. Yes, I believe I'll be Netflixing "Love in the Time of Cholera" or "Music and Lyrics" soon -- better, both.

It's not much worth going into the details; in fact, on the drive home, neither of us could stop repeating how awful, unimpressive and seemingly neverending the worthless waste of time was. (I was secretly hoping it'd be one of these hate-yourself-for-liking-it summer Blockbusters that I'm still inclined to love). After leaving some of my brain cells back in the theater, ten minutes later we were quickly forgetting many of the main "plot points" -- all I could do was shake my head, give Friend a haaaard time (naturally), and comment on how sad it was that I respected some of the actors and their normally decent choice in roles.

Basically, the uber-elite Joes (including Marlon Wayans as "Ripcord," and Channing Tatum as "Duke" -- a man who would be after my heart, had he not contributed to this cinematic slop) are given the mission of saving the world from widespread destruction, and ultimate domination, via some nano technology that was developed by an evil doer who has a longstanding hatred for the French; something to do with his ancestor being made to wear a scalding hot mask that deformed him and relegated him to the outskirts of, say, society.

The choice of the French as a main target of hate was fitting, as this movie is about as dumb as a stereotypically Big American Blockbuster can get. This nano technology -- I believe it manifested in "nanomites" -- is some green junk that descends upon people and places and eats them up (think images of the Eiffel Tower being attacked by those little bugs in "The Mummy" that come swarming out ... only in The Mummy, you feel sorry for those characters being swarmed on, whereas in G.I. Joe I was hoping the green bugs would fly off the screen and start to eat away at my very own flesh).

There's a beautiful "Baroness" (Sienna Miller) who's working with the bad men, at one point all major cities are being threatened and Wayans flies his crazy jet, which you knew he was going to comandeer about 2 minutes into the movie, from one side of the planet to the other in, oh, about 12 seconds. Of course, during the action scenes you don't know which way is up or who's really heading where. Sadly, my long-maintained respect for Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Lookout, 500 Days of Summer) has diminished after his taking part in this mess; and, I suppose Dennis Quaid (who plays the gung-ho, hardcore head military man) hasn't exactly been making movie magic in his films the past good while with the gems "Vantage Point" (God, that was awful) and "American Dreamz" to his name ... but it's sad to see the native Houstonian in this bunk nevertheless.

It was aw-ful.

I guess they're banking on nostalgia and the Transformers crowd to come out en masse (two showtimes were sold out this afternoon, which was fine because it just led to some Big Buck Hunter playing in the theater arcade to work on my shooting skills in preparation for my upcoming trip to the gun range, but I digress).

In other news, I haven't worked at the University (of Houston) in a WEEK because of some conference that has dragged my professor-bosses off. Buuuuut, hopefully they'll put me back to work this week; I miss the smell of the classrooms, driving to campus with my bosslady and gossipping about the faculty, and just feeling for the first time that I'm doing something useful at the workplace.

Also, idle afternoons with Little Morgan leads to movie marathons (can't complain) or days spent wandering the Kemah, Texas, boardwalk attempting to entertain her while the greedy little rat spends all my money.

But, I'm happier for many reasons than I have been in quite some time. People (or maybe just the pace) may be slower in Tejas than in that cold, hard New York city, but goooood lordy, the people sure are nice, thoughtful, generous and I'm re-picking up all the crazy old sayings I grew up repeating. Moreover, there are so many opportunities to get into drag-down political debates because people are crazier here!

In the event that I decide to take pity on Friend and myself, I maaaaayyy still dig out The Night of the Hunter -- it's so-uh-oh good: