Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top 4 Fictional Characters Named "The Greek"

I am a guy who notices patterns. I'm what you'd call a pattern-noticer. Here's one I noticed today. If you ever want to give a character a name that is enigmatic, imposing, and ethnic, you'd do very well to go with "The Greek". Here are just SOME (ie, I stopped thinking of others) examples!

4. The Greek in Guys and Dolls

We don't know a lot about this The Greek. We know two things, in fact. We know he is a high-rolling gambler and we know that he is in town. (This is established in the opening dialogue to "The Oldest Established", in the first act.) In my high school production, they had this kid named Yanni play The Greek, on account of he was Greek. Race-casting! I feel like there was so much more to know about this character. In fact, if I were some sort of editor and the script to Guys and Dolls crossed my desk, I would have circled this line and written the note, "But who IS the Greek... what does he WANT!?" This is why I am not some sort of editor.

3. Zorba the Greek

Alexis Zorba is the protagonist of Zorba the Greek, written by Nikos Kazantzakis. I have never read this book, nor do I intend to before posting this list. I will tell you, instead, what I imagine Zorba the Greek to be about. I bet there is a guy named Alexis Zorba, who realizes that his last name is way cooler than his first name (which is actually a girl's name?), so he tells everyone, "Nah, blood... just call me Zorba, okay?" Anyway, Zorba's just hanging out on a hillside, eating olives and figs and stuffed grape leaves, when one day, his mom goes, "Zorba, you can't just lead this life of leisure, eating traditional Greek foods and probably looking after sheep. You've got to go to town and make a man of yourself, learn the truths, and build a family worthy of your name." He does this, in accordance with his mother's wishes, but he finds much pain. He meets a woman and they fall in love, but she isn't true to him. He learns many truths, but comes to realize how much he can never know. He becomes a man, but at the cost of his innocence. He returns to his mother and his hillside and his sheep. He weeps, and he is once again whole.

That is kinda what I figure Zorba the Greek is about.

2. The Greek in “Black Diamond Bay” by Bob Dylan

Oh man, have I told you guys how underrated Desire is? For an artist like Dylan, there's a lot of the catalogue that you might never really get to appreciate, so I am sure thankful that my dad was like, "Hey kid, you should listen to Desire, okay? It is a for-real good album, and 'Black Diamond Bay' is as good a story-song as just about anything." Anyway, the Greek is this diplomat/spy/criminal (these things are never clear...) who's doing business on this tiny island, and after things go awry, spoiler alert, he hangs himself, but the wacky thing is that just after he does, the volcano explodes and the island sinks under ocean. Honestly, it doesn't make much more sense than that, but the song is super-tight and has excellent violin accompaniment. 

1. The Greek on The Wire

You guys, this The Greek is pure-bred, factory-bottled Evil. And he's OLD, too! (Old guys can be evil!? I was not aware!) He's into drug trafficking, sex trafficking, stolen goods trafficking, air trafficking, kitten trafficking, pants trafficking... basically any kind of trafficking. ALSO, he might not even be GREEK!?! What!? C-c-c-c-come on! That's just deliberately confusing. Oh, and way to have a mole inside the FBI, you weird, old, evil, maybe-not-Greek dude. All in all, he's terrifying, he's enigmatic to a fault, and he's certainly ethnic--even if we don't really know what kind. Yeah. That's why he's the best The Greek there ever was.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Top 1 Things That Get Me Every Time

1. "I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen." (Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusack in Say Anything...)

There was a time in my life when I thought every word of this movie was truth. I had the poster on my wall and everything. I didn't think twice abut boomboxing a girl to win her back. "In Your Eyes" wasn't just a good song, it was a romantic endgame. John Cusack wasn't just an actor, he was a walking Bible. There was a time in my life when I was eighteen.

Relationships don't end because your dad says so, and they don't get fixed because he's started stealing money from old people and he gets caught. No one wears those ridiculous Ione Skye sundresses. Kickboxing is not a future. Lili Taylor will never give you advice, and even if she did, it'd probably be bad. You will never, never, ever have a substantiative relationship with your sister's five-year-old... kickboxing or not. Yes. The past few years have been an education.

And yet.

There's something in that line that always gets me. Every few years, it will continue to get me out of nowhere. Breaking things down to the most reductivist, economic level possible. Perhaps past the relevant, sure... but sometimes, that's the only way that makes sense. Anyway. It gets me every time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Top 8 Snarky, Jaded Websites

8. Cake Wrecks

Oh man! These cakes suck! We gotta let someone know! I wanted to order a sweet cake and instead I got a suck cake! I bet it tastes like a day old bag of cake shit! (Eds. note: What is that? {My note: ED, GET BACK TO WORK!}) Look, so some renegade baker/mom put George Michael on a cake. That's a pretty baller act of confectionery if you ask me. I'm not gonna hurt anyone's feelings over that. I might have a piece though. Like, the cheekbone.

7. FMyLife

Oh, here's the other thing about a lot of these websites... they showcase this new, weird trend of people making their failures super public. To me, this is both hilariously humble and staggeringly self-absorbed. (Eds. note: Too much consonance in this post. {My note: NO ONE ASKED YOU, ED.}) Wow... you have enough confidence to tell the world that your girlfriend broke up with you over the phone while sleeping with your brother. That's awesome. But you also feel the need to anonymously tell everyone. That's weird. And you don't really get anonymous pity in return. It's like howling "A DOG SHIT ON ME!" into the abyss. Where's the catharsis here? Oh my god, is catharsis dead!? All this time we were worried about irony...

6. Texts From Last Night

FMyLife to the next level, and by "next", I mean drunk. (Eds. note: Need to limit the "and by x I mean y" usages... {My note: WHO THE FRIG DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, ED!? STRUNK AND/OR WHITE!?}) And again with the weird, anonymous bravura thing. Entries usually fall into one of three categories: 1) Here is how poorly/confusedly I am texting... I am having an amazing/awful night; 2) Here is how little I remember and how many weird things I found in my room... I must have had an amazing/awful night; 3) I slept with an amazing/awful person. Okay, cool.

5. Look At This Fucking Hipster

It's at this point that I'll say... look, I obviously check all these sites semi-daily. I'm not hatin', I'm just trend-spottin'. (Eds. note: Really? {My note: THE SAME COULD BE SAID FOR YOU, EDWARD.}) I actually dig this site pretty hard, and this one time, at a party in Williamsburg, a dude turned to me after a particularly ridiculous-looking person entered, and that dude said to me, "Oh man, LATFH," and I laughed so hard Yuengling came out my nose and we high-fived. I'm fine with hipster-directed e-vitriol. That being said, it's 2009. This is no longer a difficult target. What's next, taking pot-shots at David Schwimmer? (Actually, can we?)

4. Fuck You, Penguin

Because there were too many Cute Animal Websites, they had to invent Fuck You, Penguin. It's a simple concept--cute picture, angry blurb about how the animal is annoying. It is as though the internet is screaming, "Look, we got Obama elected, can we just screw around with unimportant stuff for a while?!" (Eds. note: You sound silly when you speak for the internet. {My note: YOU SOUND SILLY WHEN YOU SPEAK!)

3. Awkward Family Photos

Yep, the 80s were a rough time for hair and clothing. So were the early-to-mid-and-okay-sure-the-late 90s. During this time period, there were some photos taken. Now it is time to laugh and thank god that we are all wearing Mad Men suits and sipping the finest brandy and shooting our bad-ass glocks into the air just because we feel like it. Oh wait. We are all still broken. Time has not healed us. The future will be awkward. Awkward is the only certainty. (Eds. note: I feel like we got off on a bad start. {My note: You're right, Ed. OH WAIT, NO, ACTUALLY, YOU BLEW IT.})

2. FailBlog

In theater, the rule is that when you cannot express yourself sufficiently through words, you sing, and then when song fails, you dance. On the internet, when you cannot express your awkwardness through texts, you tweet... when tweets fail, you post embarrassing photos. When you still haven't proven yourself to be worthless, you post videos of your friends trying to dunk by jumping off of rooftops and missing the rim completely. I'm not going to link. Search for it yourself. While you're doing so, meditate on how fun it is to be part of the New Lost Generation. (Eds. note: Preachy much? {My note: DICK MUCH, ED!?})

1. Peter and Rob Make Lists of Things

WE'RE BACK(ISH!), FOLKS! Yep, the other day, Rob was like, "Hey, it's our 1 Year Anniversary, except, actually, it was like, two weeks ago. Yay?" Then we cooked a sumptuous meal and watched a rom-com together, because that's what you do on anniversaries. Anyways, who's snarkier than us, right!? Heck yeah! (Well, except when I'm all, "Hey, here is a list of some things I made up.") And don't expect it to stop any time soon! 1 MORE YEAR! 1 MORE YEAR! 1 MORE YEAR! (Eds. note: You can't make me say it.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Top 10 Most Underrated Films

10. Reign of Fire (2002)

Instead of writing why I love this movie so much, I just want to ask you all for a moment of silence for the fact that this was released in 2002. 2002! @))@!?! (That was 2002 in all-caps.) Gosh, seven years is a while. 

9. The Party (1968)

This movie got a little forty-years later buzz recently, when it was mentioned in like, every review of The Love Guru. (Either in the form of "This is not as good as The Party" or "Didn't we decide this sort of thing was a bad idea after The Party".) Well, forget it, because this movie is in another league. Peter Sellers (as Hrundi V. Bakshi) deserves every single Oscar ever for this performance, including the ones he didn't win for Dr. Strangelove. Far from the obviously awful, obviously awful route that British-guy-in-Indian-face could easily go, this film is sweet, subtle, and absolutely friggin' hysterical. Also, the original tagline was "If you've ever been to a wilder party than this... you're under arrest." Um, this movie has some sort of legal jurisdiction over similarly-wild parties? Double points!

8. Beautiful Girls (1996)

Aaaaah, I have dropped so much "OMG BEST MOVIE EVER" praise on this film, ever since two minutes into my first viewing of it. What can I say... get a cast of that-guys and that-girls, get the dude who wrote Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead to write the script, set it at a high school reunion in upstate NY, throw in Matt Dillon and a baby Natalie Portman... yeah, there's no way I'd go crazy for that movie. What, there's a "Sweet Caroline" singalong? Oh god, tell me where to go, I am already going crazy for this movie.

Starship Troopers (1997)

Really just for that moment when Neil Patrick Harris touches the gigantic bug's brain and yells, "IT'S AFRAID! IT'S AFRAID!" and everyone cheers. Oh, also, how did America not get that this was a satire on jingoistic recruitment films from the 40s and that the basic message is war makes fascists out of even the best people. I read a nice bit on that basically said, "This is the best 9/11 film ever made, even though it came out in '97." Yup.

6. Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)

Okay, so it's basically The Big Chill before there was a The Big Chill. (Yes, I know, five thousand other people have made this connection already, but it's just true.) But here's my whole deal on that. They both have their merits. Secaucus 7 has long, rambly, banter-packed scenes that feel like actual conversations--ie; there's a 50/50 chance between brilliance and boredom. Chill has the laser-refined script and and the perfect score and the gift-wrapped ending, where even the heartache is the good kind. This last bit, incidentally, is my favorite thing about Secaucus 7--it deeply appreciates the "So... what next?" aspect of life. You can't just reconcile your loves, losses, and old ideals in one weekend at the lake. 

5. Dog Soldiers (2002)

So, by now, it's pretty cool to like Shaun of the Dead. And I see why... I mean, it's a perfect movie, after all. But if you want to make a deeper foray into very bloody, very funny films from the British isles, Dog Soldiers is a great place to start. The laughs to screams ratio is off the charts--which director Neil Marshall kind of abandoned on his next film, The Descent, but whatevs. I like werewolves more than cave-monsters, anyway. (As a grad school-bound 23-year old, that is exactly the kind of sentence I should stop writing.)

4. Kicking and Screaming (1995)

Again, this is a film I give pretty regular laudations to... for good reason. Yeah, you've got your "End of high school/college is crazy!" movies. Yeah, you can find a Baker's dozen of "We are adults for the first time!" films. Oh, and don't get me started on the billion and one movies that follow the "We have drifted for so long..." plot. This is the in-between of the three. A perfect triangulation. Oh, sure... all of these characters will be totally fine in a year. But there's that brief but crushing time period immediately following graduation and lasting until you decide that you are actually a real person--that's a killer. (A killer for wealthy-ish white kids who can always teach at their high schools, sure... but, I mean, we're people, too. Right?) Endlessly quotable, eternally watchable. Also, Parker Posey.

3. The Monster Squad (1987)

I don't think you get how much I watched this as a kid. If you are my parents, I don't think you get how much I snuck away to watch this in secret as a kid. THERE ARE KIDS. THERE ARE MONSTERS. THERE IS A BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL. End of story. This was a winner from the pitch. 

My Name is Nobody (1973)

A baby-faced blond gunslinger goes out in search of his hero, so that he can make sure his hero goes out in style, "style" being a hail of bullets. Henry Fonda plays the hero, the baby-face is maybe the first gay cowboy of cinema, Sergio Leone is producing, does the rest even matter? Blurring the lines between slapstick and Western, homage and parody, pathos and bathos, this is a film I will always love. And thanks AMC for showing it at 3 AM like, five years ago...

1. The Long Goodbye (1973)

This film is a drug in and of itself. It takes a while to kick in... suddenly, it grabs hold of you and knocks you clear of your feet before you even see it coming... finally, it spits you out on a dirt road in Mexico, as a whistling man dances away from you. (That is what all drugs are like, right?) You want pedigree, you got it: Directed by Robert Altman, shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, scored by John Williams, based (ugh, loosely) on Raymond Chandler novel, and led by a mumbly, brilliant, tongue-so-far-in-his-cheek-it-hurts Elliott Gould. You want supporting cast, you got it: out-of-the-park performances from Nina Van Pallandt, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, and Sterling "Big fucking bear of a man" Hayden, as well as hey-look-at-that-guy cameos from David Carradine and baby Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, and Jim Bouton, the pitcher who wrote Ball Four. The 70s, LA, noir, drugs, thugs, booze, money... just watch it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Top 10 Next Todd Phillips Movies

Hey!!! Were you aware that this one film entitled The Hangover has done very well? Oh, good for you, Todd Phillips, director of movies. I like how all your movies have plots that approximate your titles as follows... The Hangover: Hey, what if there was a hangover! And now he's doing a movie with Robert Downey Jr.!? Cool! What next... I WONDER:

10. Cover Band

What if there was a cover band! These three guys have been seen it all... except fame! Zach Galifianakis plays the bassist with an unpredictable streak.

9. Blackout

What if there was a blackout! These three guys have seen it all... except electricity! Zach Galifianakis plays the ConEd engineer with an unpredictable streak.

8. Day in Court

What if this dude had his day in court! These three guys have seen it all... except justice! Zach Galifianakis plays the baliff who streaks unpredictably.

7. Moving Day

What if it was moving day! These three guys have seen it all... except home. Zach Galifianakis plays the unpredictable Streak, a dude lives his life and gets what's his.

6. The DTs

What if these dudes had the DTs! These three guys have seen it all... except sobriety. Unpredictably, Zach Galifianakis plays the 12-step member streaking towards Step 11. 

5. Summer League

What if there was this summer league! These three guys have seen it all... except victory. Zach Galifianakis plays the unpredictably corruptible umpire.

4. Fixer-Upper

What if there was a fixer-upper! These three guys have seen it all... except the I-beams in the basement. (MORE LIKE WHY-BEAMS!?!) Zach Galifinakis plays the house, unpredictably.

3. Cross Country Flight

What if there was a cross country flight! These three guys have seen it all... except Utah! Zach Galifinakis plays all of the other people on the plane. With beards. Unpredictably?

2. Out of Milk

What if these dudes were out of milk! These three guys have seen it all... except more milk! Zach Galifinakis plays the milk.

1. The Dark Knight

What if there was a Dark Knight! These three guys have seen it all... except a dark knight! Zach Whatever plays the Bearded Whatever. You love it. Shut up.