Archive for August, 2002

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August 27, 2002

End of an Age

Tonight is my last night before turning 24 years-old. Having my birthday on a Tuesday is sort of drab enough, but spending it beneath flourescent lights is the worst. Hate flourescent lights. It’s like having the birthday party from Office Space. Ah, well. There are 364 other days in the year. They count, too.

Oh, there’s an email link on this page now. Somewhere or other.

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August 26, 2002

Mac Magic

Still more wonders from the Mac at work. Right now I’m listening to Radio Aghany, “by arab music lovers, for arab music lovers.” Just a few minutes ago I was hearing a transmission from Russia’s “#1 radio.” This iTunes stuff is cool as all hell, but I must stay true to my PC. I love my PC. It just doesn’t happen to pick up radio transmissions from the other side of the planet, is all. (sigh)

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August 26, 2002

Post-Party

Much to my dismay, I’ve realized that I am a terrible judge of parties. I worry about stuff. Stupid stuff. All the stuff, really. My opinion is so biased that I actually have nothing meaningful to share, but this: I had a really great time. It was a delight to see so many great folks. It’s really hard to buy iced cream sandwhiches in St. Paul. Never would’ve guessed.

Training Day
A piecemeal film made from choice cuts, Training Day is a sporadic story that does nothing so well as it keeps you on your guard. There are some pieces of the traditional police drama, some gritty crime story elements and a bit of a morality play. Instead of being a strictly realistic look into modern urban crime with a message told through cinematic voice, Antoine Fuqua displays select treatments of the stylish cinematography he used in The Replacement Killers to intrigue us, get us curious and keep us looking closely. Just like Replacement Killers, though, I don’t think the shoot-out in this movie is particularly well-described. The script by David Ayer is the real hodgepodge in that it switches realism on and off whenever necessary, giving us tense moments of almost-violence and occassional performances of action movie cops bravely sprawled on the hood of a car. We get morally ambiguous characters who are startling and difficult to gauge, but we also get the rookie cop with the at-home wife and infant child. This gives the film it’s unpredictable back-and-forth, it’s Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, which successfully twists itself into a nice sustained tension.

The morality play about cops and ethics never really manifests in the narrative. Characters discuss it outright, but only once does a narrative trick really interrupt the actions of the characters. A wonderful call-back involving a good deed by Ethan Hawke’s (stoned) rookie cop is the most shining moment of narrative interference, especially since it allows the climax of the movie to take place, rather than manufacturing the climax outright.

There’s a terrific role here for Ethan Hawke (Jake Hoyt), wherein he is not required to be greasy and cute nor rebellious and sweet. He does make use of his young face here, though. He’s a convincing uniformed policeman with a one-day shot at something more heroic. He’s given a bit of the physical action to do, and between him and Fuqua it avoids looking wholly unrealistic. Comparing his T.J. Hooker stunt with his time spent humping through the snow in A Midnight Clear, this might be Hawke’s most physical role. For most of the movie, Hawke’s job is provoke speeches from his detective-teacher and then be persuaded. It’s not flashy, sexy work but Hawke wraps himself up in it, and so do we.

Denzel Washington got himself an Academy Award for his performance as Detective Alonzo Harris, and I think he earned it, but not the way I thought he had. Such a juicy and potentially unflattering role sometimes involves a certain risk for a big leading actor like Washington. I assumed he was recognized for delivering another par performance despite the risk. He’d already done this, though, with Devil in a Blue Dress. What I think makes Washington’s performance so wonderful is how much he did when so little could have sufficed. Yes, less is sometimes more. Here, however, Washington could’ve just used the twists in the script and his usual charisma to sell his character. Instead, he demonstrates all sorts of moxie to create a character that’s offensive and charming, challenging and rewarding, fatherly and fearsome. Like Kenneth Branaugh in Conspiracy, Washington manipulates all sorts of characters during the film, but he also gets an honest shot at screwing with us in the audience, since we want to like a cop more than we want to like a warmonger. Alonzo Harris does all sorts of terrible things all throughout this movie. It’s Washington’s skill that makes his change from mentor to villain seem to be gradually revealed.

I’m not really happy with the end of Training Day. I suppose Alonzo gets a suitably ugly ending wherein his consequences reward his actions, but I would’ve preferred something which took better advantage of the story’s one-day presentation. Hawke’s Officer Hoyt gets that sort of ending, but without any of the answers I think we need to wrap up the crime story. Sure, the whole movie was ugly and ambiguous, but I hoped the structure of the story would lead to a stronger resolution.

Recommended.

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August 24, 2002

Pre-Party

Sara and I don’t entertain much. Not at home, anyway. We’re delighted to have folks coming over tonight, though, to celebrate the new apartment, the new job(s), the new city(ies). This place won’t really feel like home until I hear what Mike, Jim, Marty, the Tonies have to say about it. Here’s hoping Sara and I get a chance to enjoy ourselves while we’re trying to coordinate mingling tonight. (That’s a joke, Sara.)

Meanwhile, if you want to see some of Sara’s photographic prowess, check out the GenCon 2002 photos on the masterfully done website for wunderartist Tony DiTerlizzi. Sara took the photo with Thor in it.

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August 23, 2002

Overcast

A good deal of the time I spend is the car involves me imagining Minnesota under a thick smear of snow. I try to picture the tree outside our bedroom window naked, extra-dark in contrast with the frozen sidewalks and wet with freezing rain. I’m trying to imagine the severe, Northern cold … and trying to hope that a lovely autumn lies between us.

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August 20, 2002

Loose Thread

Every person should be an authority on themselves. Just a thought.

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August 18, 2002

Amelie
What a delightful movie. Ms. Tautou is the best Audrey to hit the screen since Hepburn. She manages to be a mischevious, seelie scamp and a sad social hermit without ever losing our attention or loyalty. The whole show is like a cartoon, full of big solid stretches of bright colors and warped perspectives that are a joy to disbelieve even when they’re real. The cinematography is such an exaggerated feat that the (very) animated special effects fit right in, more like illustrations. Through this circus of color and panache Amelie is funny, frustrating, mysterious and sweet. The movie would be charming on the merits of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and writer Guillarme Laurant, but it feels natural because of Audrey Tautou.

Amelie the film is happily shameless and fearless while Amelie Poulain the waitress isn’t, but they’re both out to do nice things for people. Amelie is a prodigal dreamer with little sense of the world’s social boundaries, except when they apply to her. She does good deeds for a collection of oddball characters (which sometimes means punishing other characters or hand-crafting lovely lies) throughout the movie, but in a secrecy driven by shyness. She’s willing to play courtly games with the boy she likes, but unable to speak to him. I think they actually talk just the one time. Meanwhile, Amelie is trying to do something nice for us, the audience.

There are no profound revelations here, no secret understanding of life is revealed, just a beautiful little story with a lot of little reminders about lessons I think we’ve all learned before. It’s nice to be nice and while it’s easy to be nice in a world as marvelous as Amelie‘s, reality can be pretty nice, too. Sound sickeningly sweet? That’s because I don’t say it as well as Amelie. When she learns that lesson, you’ll believe it, you’ll agree with it and you’ll probably be grinning like a fool.