My Favorite Films of the Last-ish Year

Okay, now that I've poked fun at, rehashed, and debated the Oscars, I want to make one more post before leaving the subject of film for a good long while: quality movies.  I realize I generally just ridicule stuff, but once in a while I genuinely like things. Just promise not to tell everyone, it'll ruin my cred. Here are a dozen of my favorite flicks from the past year:

  1. Moonrise Kingdom - It's quirky in the way you expect from Wes Anderson at this point, but it's the visuals that make it a masterpiece. The scenery, the costumes, the stylistic way every single damn scene is perfectly centered. LOVE it. 
  2. This Is 40 - Reviews have been pretty middling for this Apatow flick, but I found the dialogue laugh-out-loud funny and the dynamic between the married characters frustratingly relatable. It could definitely stand to have 20-30 minutes shaved off, but I was still surprised at how much I enjoyed it. 
  3. Beasts of the Southern Wild - The emotions that first-time actors Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry bring to the screen (and, in turn, you), paired with the fantastic cinematography make this a must-see fantasy tale.
  4. Searching for Sugar Man - It might be the first documentary to ever make me shed tears of joy rather than frustration (like most good documentaries will.) See my review of that and the other Oscar nominated documentaries here
  5. Bernie - Jack Black plays against type as a southern man that is so adored by his community that no one wants to believe he murdered a woman. It's the mockumentary-style interviews that bring a sense of authenticity and humor to the tale. [on Netflix Instant]
  6. Flight - If you miss Lost (the first episode, not all six seasons), the plane crash scene is one of the most suspenseful things I watched all year: my heart was pounding. Per usual, Denzel Washington's acting is enough to overcome any time the screenplay strays off course. 
  7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - I haven't read the book, but I'm a sucker for well-made films about angsty teens. By the end, I wasn't ready to let go of these characters. 
  8. The Impossible - Like I wouldn't enjoy a tsunami movie. I hate watching violence, but when human destruction is the result of a natural disaster, I'm captivated. Sorry, but nature isn't senseless. Some might think it overdoes the sentimentality, but I bought it all, particularly because Tom Holland really sold it. That kid is gonna be a star. 
  9. Lincoln - I can't argue with the criticisms (too long, too self-important, subpar acting aside from Daniel Day-Lewis), but I still enjoyed it. 
  10. The Queen of Versailles - I already sang this film's praises. Read it/watch it. [on Netflix Instant]
  11. Amour - I get that it's "boring", but why complicate a film with a needless plot when you have such strong characters, themes, and symbolism? 
  12. The Sessions - A paralyzed man hires a "sex surrogate" so he can lose his virginity. Based on its premise, I was pretty sure I was going to hate this film for trying to hard, but its approach and conclusion took me by surprise. 

I'd also like to mention 3 more movies that I have trouble saying are "good", but might still be worth watching:

  • The Paperboy - I'm going to be honest - this film is a mess and needed a few more drafts and much better direction for it to be of any substantial quality. But for all of its failed ambitions, it's still an enjoyable film. Nicole Kidman has never been more ridiculous, but somehow the performance just works. Maybe see it just to be surprised at the fact that Macy Gray can actually act.
  • Compliance - A true story of a prank caller who calls a fast food restaurant, pretends to be a police officer, and instructs the employees to do some pretty awful, illegal things. You won't believe how far this prank goes. It made me feel SO uncomfortable that I actually paused it to try to find that they had exaggerated or fictionalized this account, but from all of my research, it seems like they adhered pretty strictly to the real events. You're going to scream and hate the world after this one. [on Netflix Instant]
  • Killer Joe - This is another film that was horribly uncomfortable to watch. It was so gross, I honestly I didn't even enjoy it until literally the last three seconds when I had an epiphany of what the film was trying to do. It's a critique of audience's thirst for sex and violence. It depicts these things so graphically that it basically shouts at you, "Is THIS what you wanted to see? Do you like it now? Huh? Is this really what you like, you sick fuck?" I can't decide whether the brilliant conclusion is enough to justify all of the hard-to-stomach scenes that lead up to it, but if you're up for being shamed and needing a shower afterward, give it a shot. 


7 Things You Oughta Know about George Bush Sr.

I was reminded not too long ago that as a child I was a fan of George H.W. Bush because he reminded me of my grandfather. I’m sure it’s true, but it’s hard to remember how I felt about politics over two decades ago. Here are the things I remember most concretely about Bush Sr.: we share a birthday, he doesn’t like broccoli, and he vomited on some Japanese dignitary.

Since none of these have anything to do with his actual politics, I decided to watch 41, a documentary about Bush’s life. Even though it’s a puff piece that shies away from anything remotely controversial, good ol’ Bush Sr. is crotchety enough to say some pretty “charming” things that’ll make you go “Hmmmm…”

Here are 7 things I learned about George Bush Sr. from his own words:

  1. He’s not afraid to take subtle digs at his wife: “Millie [his dog] wrote a book… and made a lot of money. Illiterate though she is, she made a lot more money than Barbara made on hers.”
  2. He thinks you should respect corrupt leaders: “The thing that really offended me was when you get a lot of these kids from Capital Hill… [with a] ‘we’re going to get you, we know you’re all crooks!’ mentality and treating these career people [politicians] with disdain.”
  3. He uses analogies that are as perplexing and explicit as R. Kelly lyrics: “Your job reminds me of screwing a gorilla… you can’t stop until the gorilla wants to.”
  4. He believes that Watergate wasn’t a big deal: “You know, breaking into some Democratic headquarters is not the end of the world.” And are there any repercussions or lessons to take from the incident? “None!... And I think that most people would agree with that assessment because life goes on, you can’t stay mired in the past.”
  5. He’s open about his attraction to women: “Girls?... I was admiring the figures, physiques very early on… There was a girl named Deedee Thurston who was a year older, think she had a rich father ‘cause she had a yacht… She wore a rubber bathing suit – I’ll never forget that - that was to die for.”
  6. In some cases much older women: “[My friend] yelled, ‘Hurry on up! Mrs. Seymour is taking a shower, you can see her naked!’ Well, Mrs. Seymour was about 75, and we charged up there and sure enough she was stone naked.” (For the life of me, I can’t guess why he shared an anecdote about peeping on an old woman – particularly since it happened after he was a married father.)
  7. He still shudders at the thought of Ross Perot: “Can you talk a little bit about Ross Perot?” “No, I can’t talk about him. I think he cost me the election and I don’t like him. Other than that, I have nothing to say.”
Okay, so none of the things I'm taking away from the documentary are all that political in nature, but at least I have some new quotations that will soon turn into inside jokes when no one else knows what I'm referring to.


Sexism, Racism, and the Academy Awards

There are two things everyone's talking about the day after the Oscars, the first being Seth MacFarlane's bigoted approach to hosting. I thought it was kind of "genius" (in a warped sense of the word) to play off his jokes in a hypothetical setup. On one level it was like, "Wouldn't it be silly if I did this sophomoric shit at the Oscars?!" But in actuality, he was literally playing off that same material as his main material and actually succeeding. Some of the same people who wouldn't laugh at a topless actress song and dance were fooled enough by the premise to say chuckle "yes, such a thing at the Oscars would be absurd!"

I can't comment on too many specific jokes SINCE MY DRUNK FRIENDS KEPT TALKING DURING THE CEREMONY, but I remember when he intentionally "mixed up" two black actors who look nothing alike. It wasn't a commentary on how ridiculous society is in that respect, "black people look alike" was essentially the punchline. Blegh.

But as my friend Melinda pointed out this morning, let's not single out MacFarlane for an attitude that typifies the Academy on the whole. The Academy itself is predominately white senior citizen men. They represent an industry that is dominated - like most others - by a wealthy patriarchy. In that respect, MacFarlane didn't disgrace the Academy with his racist/sexist humor, he embodied it.

You know what's a sexist joke? Out of 100s of Best Director nominees over the decades, only four have ever been women. Want to know another sexist joke? Picking a hot, blonde 22-year-old who played a nymphomaniac as a Best Actress over the 86-year-old who movingly portrayed a real struggle or the woman who played a brash CIA agent/hero. Okay, one more: Amy Adams got a nomination for a minor, unremarkable role where her big scene involves her giving her husband a hand job while telling him it's okay to cheat on her.

How about a racist joke? There have only been TWO African American Best Director nominees ever. The last two African American actresses to win Oscars did so for playing either an abusive monster or a domestic maid who shits in a pie. Ultimately, even if the Academy started recognizing more actors of colors, it wouldn't change that it's still white patriarchy who get to tell the stories and - more importantly - profit from them.

A lot of us already recognize the farce, but we still engage with it anyway. We see the films, we have Oscar parties, and we pretend to care about the outcomes (I won my party's pool again, BTW, because I'm awesome at predicting other peoples' poor decisions). That's just being a member of this fucked up society. For crying aloud, I watched the ceremony in a room full of self-identified feminists, and there was STILL plenty of nitpicking about actresses' looks and outfits. I tried to spoof that when I saw Quvenzhane Wallis showing off her dress on the red carpet and remarked that she wasn't showing off enough skin.

Which brings me to the other topic everyone's talking about: The Onion's infamously deleted tweet: "Everyone seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013"

It's not my favorite joke, but people need to cool their britches and stop appointing themselves satire police. Since when are smart people taking The Onion at face value? If someone had called Wallis a c-word for real, I would have thrown down. I don't generally like child actors, but Wallis gave one of the most amazing performances I've seen in years. In her public appearances, she has done nothing but come across as sweet, humble, and grounded. The joke is only a joke because she's universally adored. Matt Kirshen is saying some smart things on this topic that I would cosign.

Just like the comment I made about how Wallis should show more skin earlier in the evening, it wasn't actually a comment about Wallis. It was meant to poke fun at how Hollywood starlets are all but required to show a lot of cleavage or leg and dress up like sex objects. And how the viewers are socialized to dissect these women's looks and make nasty comments as they prance down a red carpet. Of course you don't start criticizing a nine-year-old's cute, age-appropriate dress for not being sexy enough.

In The Onion's case, I read the cunt joke as commentary on society's tendency to bash women. We so freely toss derogatory terms about females around that we need to be THAT shocked to even register that we do it. How many times have we heard Anne Hathaway called a "bitch" recently because she comes across as too polished? Or that Sally Field is a nightmare? It doesn't take much of anything to get us to turn on once cherished celebrities. In fact, I dare say that The Onion could not have called ANY other person in attendance at the Oscars for the joke to make sense. Once women reach a certain age, a number of people are bound to hate them, often irrationally.

Which is why it's sad that it's only a matter of years before someone will call Wallis the c-word and mean it. If you don't find The Onion's joke funny, or you don't approve of calling a child a name even in jest, then fine… but I'd suggesting saving your rage for the legitimate misogyny in the world and not the humor website with a proven track record that's trying to shed light on the same issues that irk you.


Best Picture Nominees in 60 Seconds

Crap! The Oscars are in a couple of days and you still haven't seen many of the films yet, have you? Don't worry - I've broken all of the Best Picture contenders down into short scripts just as I did for the Best Pictures last year. BE WARNED that they all contain SPOILERS and SARCASM. In other words, if you want to see a film untarnished in the future, maybe skip reading that one.

Embassy Employees: Ack! Political unrest has led Iranians to threaten the lives of Americans in their country. We must hide.
U.S. Government: Ack! We need someone who can sneak our embassy employees out of Iran.
Ben Affleck: You’re going to need a suave hero, someone who doesn’t play by the rules, but still gets the impossible done… I know: I’ll cast myself.
U.S. Government: Okay, here are list of ideas we have…
Ben Affleck: Those ideas are trash! We’re going to pretend to be a Canadian film crew that wants to film a fake movie in Iran.
Hollywood Execs: And we’ll help because a story like this will be good material for real movies, too!
Embassy Employees: This plan will never work! We’ll be caught for sure.
Ben Affleck: It sure will work. I, Ben Affleck, have never ever failed at anything. And if you want to look less conspicuous, you could all take off your ridiculous oversized eyeglasses.  
Audience: Isn’t this supposed to be a true story? I heard they got the embassy employees got on the plane with no problem, but the movie just had them encounter like ten implausible problems in a row where they almost get caught.
Ben Affleck: “Based on a true” story means I can change it all I want. It’s a director’s discretion. Just like my decision to throw in a gratuitous shirtless scene. 
Audience: Ah, so it’s less historical, and more just your run of the mill suspense film. Why is it getting so many awards then?
Hollywood Execs: Because we love any movie that celebrates Hollywood and portrays us as heroes. 
Audience: It might have been more interesting if you turned the fake movie into a real one and just actually created the cheesy science fiction movie from the screenplay you gave to Iran.
Ben Affleck: Ooh, I’ll direct that! But my character has to be awesome and we’re going to need to write in a nude scene for me. 

Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper: I have bipolar disorder, I’m obsessed with my estranged wife who has a restraining order against me, I freak out when books don’t have a happy ending, and I destroy things in a blind rage when I hear the song “My Cherie Amour”… but I’m not crazy.
Jennifer Lawrence: My husband recently died and I was so distraught that I had sex with all eleven of my coworkers before I was fired… that’s not even a plausible backstory, but I’m sticking too it…  and I’m also not crazy.
Family Members: Actually, you are both crazy, and that’s why we’re trying to fix you up… the same as we would if you were both fat or black or disabled.
Bradley Cooper: But we have nothing in common!
Jennifer Lawrence: [lists the many medications she’s taking]
Bradley Cooper: Fine, we have something in common, I guess we can be friends. But I’m going to use you to try to reconnect with my wife.
Jennifer Lawrence: And I’m going to lie to you about what she’s saying and force you to enter a dance competition with me.
Robert De Niro: Son, you’re spending way too much time dancing with that girl when you know my superstitions dictate that I need you doing and wearing certain things when my favorite sports teams are playing. You’re responsible for my tens of thousands in recent gambling losses!
Jennifer Lawrence: Now would be a good time to point out that your superstitions make you even crazier than us two, but since an unhealthy obsession with sports and gross mismanagement of money is considered pretty commonplace in America, I’ll instead argue that your team has done better when your son spends time with me.
Robert De Niro: Oh, you’re right! My superstitions live on. I’ll go double or nothing by betting on your dance competition.
Jennifer Lawrence: Don’t do that, we’re amateurs entering a professional competition and we suck.
Robert De Niro: Nonsense, I don’t take advice from crazy people!
[ridiculous dance competition sequence]
Bradley Cooper: Remember how I said I only like happy endings? Well watch us force one now: we just got the bare minimum score to win back my dad’s money and despite showing no interest previously: Jennifer Lawrence, I love you.
Jennifer Lawrence: And I love how we tried to turn this movie into a romantic comedy in the final thirty seconds. [make out]

Zero Dark Thirty
CIA Agent: Give us information! [tortures terrorists]
Maya: I’m watching you do this, expressionless. Just like the movie, I swear I am staying neutral on the subject of torture.
CIA Agent: You gotta teach people not to be violent dicks by being a violent dick, Maya. You’re in the CIA, toughen up.
Maya: I am tough! Now watch me use psychological tricks instead of physical ones to get information from this guy.
Terrorist: I’ll tell you everything!
CIA Lady: Hi, Maya, I’m the CIA’s other tough bitch. But I’ll let my guard down and we can be friends.
Maya: Thanks I’d like that.
CIA Lady: Oops, but now I also let my guard down when interacting with a terrorist. [explodes, dies]
Maya: [cries] Let me wipe my tears up with this old file that’s of no use… oh, hey, this brief we’ve had forever has all of the secrets! I found Osama.
CIA Heads: Really, Maya? You make a compelling case and tend to be on point, but we’re still skeptical, mainly because of mild misogyny.
Maya: Fuck! Shit! I’m swearing in front of you to prove I’m tough and competent.
CIA Heads: We’re convinced. Let’s send some soldiers to Osama’s home.
Soldiers: [kill some people including Osama]
Maya: Yay? [cries for America

Django Unchained
Christoph Waltz: I hate slavery! But I’d like to buy a black man to work for me and make me money. Hmm, that kind of still sounds like slavery when I say it aloud…
Django: All right, Mr. Bounty Hunter, I helped you out. Free me now?
Christoph Waltz: That, or you could be my assistant, and you could use the money we earn on bounties to buy the freedom of your slave wife.
Django: Sure. [kills a LOT of white people] Cha-ching! Now let’s go get my dearest Broomhilda.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Welcome to my plantation. I make niggers fight each other to the death. And I have a pretty nigger named Broomhilda who you can have your way with, if you’d like. Let me say "nigger" a few more times to make the audience even more uncomfortable and so you don't somehow miss that I’m a racist asshole. Nigger, nigger, nigger.
Samuel L. Jackson: I don't like this Django nigger! I'm a slave who says "nigger"because I'm a new twist on an Uncle Tom character. Say, Master Leo, I think Django and Christoph are really paying us a visit to take back Broomhilda. 
Django: Uh oh, the jig is up. [shoots nearly 100 white men] You're dead! You're dead! You're dead! You're dead!...
[somehow more white men with guns arrive]
Django: [shoots them all] You're dead! You're dead! You're dead! You're dead! You're dead! And Samuel L. Jackson, now you're dead, too!
Broomhilda: Oh, Django, you've killed almost the entire Southern population... my hero!
Django: Let's ride off into the sunset as this awesome soundtrack plays.

Les Miserables
Hugh Jackman: [singing] For twenty years I’ve been a prisoner for committing a petty crime/But now I vow to be a better man after completing my time
Russell Crowe: [singing] Your supposed self-improvement will never last/I will ruin your future, just as I have your past
Anne Hathaway: [singing] I lost my job and now my kid and I are destitute/I sold my teeth and hair and now I’m a prostitute
Audience: [not singing] Wow, Anne, you’re giving an amazing performance, you’re easily the best part of this film.
Anne Hathaway: [singing] Too bad I’m already dying and things will fall flat/There’s still two hours left, so good luck with that! [dies]
Hugh Jackman: [singing] I promise to take care of your child and love her each day/I don’t think I mean that in a sexual way
Cosette: [singing] That’s too bad because I’m hot and my skin’s milky white/Just look at this Revolutionary experiencing love at first sight
Marius: [singing] It’s true, as you can probably tell from the bulge in my pants/I inexplicably care for you as much as a people’s uprising in France
Eponine: [singing] Wait, Marius, let me add a love triangle to this plot!/Oh never mind, instead I’ll just get shot [dies]
Marius’s Friends: [singing] We’re outmanned and will surely fail this mission/Let’s wait to fight the French army when we have more ammunition
Marius: [singing] No, we must fight on, we must be strong-willed/ [everybody but Marius dies] Oh crap, I just got all of my friends killed
Hugh Jackman: [singing] Russell Crowe, you have done your best to provide me with strife/But to show you I’m a better man, I will save your life
Russell Crowe: [singing] Because a criminal saved my life, I must kill myself now/My logic is as flawed as my singing voice, ciao! [commits suicide]
Hugh Jackman: [singing] Now that my oppressor is dead, I can finally be happy/So why is it that I suddenly feel so crappy? [dies of illness]
Cosette: [singing] I have a suggestion that I hope is not harried/Since everyone we know is dead, let’s get married
Marius: [singing] It almost seems unfair that the two most annoying characters have avoided beheading/But I guess we can have our friends’ ghosts sing at our wedding

Abraham Lincoln: Man, being the president is hard, but I vow to find a way to end both the Civil War and slavery, or my name isn’t Abraham Lincoln.
Sally Field: And your name is Abraham Lincoln! I mean, you’re played by Daniel Day-Lewis, but you’re so convincing in this role, it’s easy to forget. Meanwhile, it’s hard to see me as anything but Sally Field. Only my character is crazy… so, in other words, I’m still just Sally Field. [screams and cries]
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: And I play Lincoln’s son, but I still distractingly seem just like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, except that I’ve suddenly forgotten how to act.
Abraham Lincoln: I love my family, but y’all are a mess. Anyway, how can I secure more Congressional votes in order to abolish slavery?
Secretary of State: Well, politicians are a bunch of racist dicks. But if you bribed them, you could get the votes.
Abraham Lincoln: I pride myself on having ethics, but maybe if it means ending slavery, I could support secretly buying votes. Do the ends justify the means? I guess that’s something the audience can think about as we have repetitive meetings for two hours.
Tommy Lee Jones: As a member of Congress who is secretly in love with my black housekeeper, I support the Thirteenth Amendment since all humans are equal.
Congressmen: Boooo! We won’t end slavery if that means black people are equal. Slippery slope!
Tommy Lee Jones: Okay, even though you all know I’m lying, if I pretend to have less progressive views on race, will you agree to vote to end slavery? 
Congressmen: Yes... After bribery and crises of conscience, we have narrowly voted to end slavery.
Minor Black Characters: [smile]
Abraham Lincoln: Huzzah! What a great, heartwarming way to end the film.
Stephen Spielberg: Actually, for no particular reason, I'm going to skip ahead in time and end the film with you getting shot in the head. 
Abraham Lincoln: I should have stuck to vampire hunting.

Life of Pi 
Pi: Let me tell you a story about the time I got shipwrecked and survived on a lifeboat with a tiger for nearly a year. [tells two hour story]
Other Guy: Wow, that is quite a story; I’m particularly impressed with how long you managed to make it despite the fact that almost nothing happened other than you being on a small boat with a tiger. Considering that no one even saw the tiger once you reached land, surely people must have trouble believing this story is real.
Pi: Yes. You could also interpret the tiger as symbolic, an extension of my id. 
Other Guy: I mean, you were on a boat with plenty of time to dream up this metaphor and lonely enough to invent an imaginary friend...
Pi: Well, which story do you believe?
Other Guy: I’m going to believe the tiger story. [winks]
Pi: Good because we have this whole faith vs. reality theme going here and we’d really like people to lean pro-religion. Plus, that helps justify all that money we spent on the CGI tiger.


Old Husband: I love you, honey, I would do anything for you.
Old Wife: Thank you, sweetie. [has stroke]
Old Husband: This is unfortunate, but I’m here for you, dearest. How can I help?
Old Wife: No! I can do things for myself. [has another stroke]
Old Husband: Now you definitely can’t do things for yourself. But I love you so I am happy to help.
Old Wife: argarhkfgdsffdgkcfgh Don’t let them put me in a home. Dpdfglkcnklgnerngndjf
Old Husband: I promise, my love.
Adult Daughter: Dad, you really need help, you can’t take care of mom on your own.
Old Husband: I can take care of her just fine!
Old Wife: sdgihdfinbncgeirgjidjg I’m in so much pain. Aerhlsjrthgjszrithkjfgbllkdklg
Old Husband: Okay, I’m in way over my head now, but I made a promise to my wife that I wouldn’t get real care for her.
Old Wife: fghergfbdoghjedrhgjdhjd
Old Husband: Hey, so no big deal, but… [suffocates wife with pillow]
Old Wife: mmmfffmmm! [dies]
Old Husband: Love you! [dies, too]

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Hushpuppy: My name’s Hushpuppy and I live in a community outside of the levee, isolated from normal society. I love my dad and I’m going to be with him forever.
Father: Forever? [clutches heart] If only you understood foreshadowing, Hushpuppy. Besides, I don’t even know how to show you proper affection. Fuck, I have you live in your own shack so I can maintain my own space. But you’re six and old enough for that responsibility.
Hushpuppy: I’m gonna make myself cat food for dinner. [accidentally burns down shack]
Father: Damnit! … Uh oh, looks like a hurricane is coming.
Neighbor: I’m moving to the other side of the levee before our whole podunk town floods.
Father: You pussy! You should stay here and risk drowning with the rest of us. Of course, that’s easy for me to say because I’m already dying. Oh yeah, did I mention I’m dying, Hushpuppy? But you’re six, so it’s time for you to learn to fend for yourself.
Neighbor: Everything we had was destroyed in the flood and now government officials have moved us to a shelter for our own safety.
Father: The doctors checked me out and said I need a surgery to save my life. But fuck modern medicine! I’ll die if I want to. It’s not like I have a kid to look after.
Hushpuppy: Maybe I should try to find my ambiguously dead or deadbeat mom? [swims aimlessly in the ocean and befriends both a water buffalo-like creature and a stripper]
Father: Well, I’m dying now, so it’s a good thing you’re six and all grown up. I guess if you ever need anything you could ask that stripper lady who offered to watch out for you. [dies]
Hushpuppy: [sets father’s body on fire] My name’s Hushpuppy and this film is ending on a triumphant note suggesting that I am empowered and ready for the challenges ahead… despite all common sense to the contrary.

(For the record, not all of the films are as bad as these descriptions might suggest... but they make it so easy to be snarky about.)


New Spirit Animal

I know it's not polite to take pictures of strangers without their permission, but I couldn't help it; this old lady I saw downtown is KILLING it style-wise. Let's give a rundown:

  • purple shirt 
  • purple jacket 
  • purple necklace 
  • purple rings 
  • purple earrings 
  • purple hat 
  • purple oversized glasses 
  • purple pants 
  • purple sneakers 
  • purple purse 

Oh, and she's also holding a purple sweater and purple scarf just in case she gets too cold on this fairly warm day. That, or in case she suddenly needs more purple.

I'm never declared a spirit animal before, but now I'm glad I've held out. This lady is it, this lady is my spirit animal. My life is about to change, y'all.


Adoring a Murderer

A couple of people have called me a Christopher Dorner supporter after my previous post, so I feel the need to clarify: I’m not. While I support the truth, which I suspect Dorner was trying to bring forward, I most definitely do not support murder. My point was to discuss the duality – there’s both good and evil in most people. I wouldn’t blame anyone for disregarding his words following his deeds, but murder doesn’t automatically invalidate every point he was trying to make. Inevitably, that complicates the black and white way we try to look at the world.

Admittedly, I took particular offense to being called Dorner’s #1 fan after going through something similar last month. After Facebook suggested I friend Aurora shooter James Holmes, I made a faux-outraged post on Tumblr. My best guess is that since I had mentioned Holmes’s name in an article I wrote for work a week prior, the scary spying nature of the internet stored that info and figured I “knew him.”

But being accused of knowing Holmes wasn’t the actual disturbing part. It was the response from legitimate Holmes aficionados. A handful of (I think) teenage girls liked/reblogged my post including:

  • AgoraphobicHousewife 
  • AntiquatedEyes 
  • BondSherlockBlond
  • RedactedGirl 

Add “.tumblr.com” to the end of each of these handles to see their blogs. I’m not linking to them directly because I don’t want our blogs to synch.

Apparently there’s a whole web community of Holmes fans. Many of them have legitimate crushes on the guy, like he were Justin Bieber or something. Each day, they discuss him, post pictures of him, and pledge undying loyalty to the guy.

I can’t begin to solidify my feelings on this matter. Some of them have some interesting things to say about the way our society demonizes people with mental illness, but I don’t get the leap to worshipping a murderer. Frankly, it’s creepy. I don’t understand it and probably don’t even want to understand it, so in that respect, I can see why people were standoffish at my attitude toward Dorner.

Maybe they, too, are exploring feelings of duality, or rage, or being misunderstood. Or maybe they just find him cute? Above all, I’d just like to give these girls a hug and help them find a better way to harness this passion.



Is this the most useless fortune cookie fortune ever? "A cheerful message is on its way to you." Don't most fortune cookies just contain cheerful messages these days? To paraphrase Gandhi, Be the Cheerful Message, Fortune. Why not just satisfy me with some cheer now rather than passing the buck?

Ugh, Chinese people, amIright?!


Valentine's Day Cards for Activists

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 I say that not because I give a shit, but in an act of self-promotion. For my job, I made a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards specifically for activists and you should read them all and send them as e-cards (it’s free and easy!) to your crush. Because really - if you care about someone who doesn’t care about saving the world - you’re probably an idiot yourself.


Master of Disguise

"Is that Christopher Dorner in a wig?"

That might have been the funniest, most offensive comment made at our State of the Union party tonight. But the very idea that Dorner was eluding police capture by masquerading as a 102-year-old woman who waited hours to vote is too absurd to deny. I also find it funny that the old lady with involuntary muscle spasms was the only "special guest" of the President that didn't get to sit next to the First Lady.

But speaking of Dorner, he almost deprived us of the State of the Union. At least a couple major networks in Los Angeles decided to preempt the President's annual speech with live coverage of a mountaintop cabin on fire. KTLA said they would stream the State of the Union online instead. Excuse me, but I don't want to see just any man with a kill list… I want to see the man with a kill list that this country elected its leader.

Yet again, Obama said most of the right things. I rarely disagree with anything the man says (aside from tonight's calls for internet regulation - that is the best tool we have to fight corruption and fascism, so of course they're going to try to take that power away from us) in speeches: environment, mortgage adjustments, raising minimum wage, and preschool! It's the contrary actions I have a problem with. Thus far I've seen a wolf in sheep's clothing who rallies the majority's support by spouting progressive ideals, while in actuality enacting laws that support corporatocracy . I mean, last year his State of the Union called for holding Wall Street responsible for their illegal actions. Then his own administration failed to even attempt to prosecute even one Wall Street exec and he made no mention of it tonight. Here's hoping that his second term proves me wrong.

Anyhoo, my friends and I made a word list and drank every time the President said "jobs" and "families" and "guns", so needless to say, things got pretty tipsy. We also drank anytime Joe Biden made us laugh. That alone would have been enough. Is there a tally on how many times he removed and later replaced his glasses? How about the number of times he attacked his face with his hand?

We weren't sure what the green ribbons the politicians were wearing signified. My roommate suggested "illness" - you know, just general illness. Why does everyone have to choose a side when it comes to AIDS or cancer awareness? When another attendee noted that it was many of the Republicans who weren't wearing the green ribbons, I suggested that they might signify an opposition to rape.

Oh, and if you think the funniest part of Mark Rubio's response speech was when he took a sip of water (??), you weren't listening to the ludicrous things he was actually saying.


17 Thoughts about the Grammys

I watched the Grammys and here are 17 thoughts I had. It's kind of like a live-blog, except that I'm turning it in late. You can dock 10% from my grade. 

1. LL Cool J gave a lengthy, self-indulgent speech about himself to open the Grammys that he had planned to deliver at last year's ceremony, but scrapped when Whitney Houston died. It's a shame another high-profile singer didn't die today so we could have skipped it this year, too.

2. "Why give a diamond when you can give the family jewels? CBS cares." I know it's not technically the Grammys, but this PSA encouraging men to give themselves a self-check for testicular cancer on Valentine's Day as a gift for their significant other is pretty laughable. "Hey honey, I cancelled our dinner reservations and just figured I'd fondle my balls for you instead. I love you."

3. The newly instituted Grammy Dress Code is the result of Lena Dunham's attendance, isn't it?

4. Why is the music the Grammys play to get winners to wrap up their speeches the most horrible instrumental song ever? In a room with over 1,000 musicians, they're using a song that elevator companies would reject.

5. Jay-Z mouthing "You're welcome" after the band fun. thanked him for no reason is the only GIF I'm gonna need from tonight.

6. I'm not sure you can call Johnny Depp a "presenter" when he refuses to say more than seven words. He also should stay clear of describing a band as "sublime" because it inevitably leads to disappointment when the band is not, in fact, Sublime.

7. When I see Sting's wife in the audience, I can't help but sympathize for a woman who has her husband on top of her for six hours at a time.

8. Everyone secretly knows that "Suit and Tie" isn't a good song, right? My theory is that people have just missed Justin Timberlake music so much that they're pretending to like it so that they don't hurt his feelings and make him disappear forever.

9. I swear, both Pauley Perrette and Kaley Cuoco will show up to any event with a camera. I don't watch their shows, yet I still end up seeing them making "appearances" on a weekly basis.

10. I'll have whatever Kelly Clarkson's drinking.

11. Watching Melissa Etheridge in the audience chant "ho. hey." along to the Lumineers's song is cute; seeing Taylor Swift do the same is not.

12. Stop trying to make the phrase "#GrammyMoment" happen. Not every subpar Rihanna vocal is automatically some magical "Grammy Moment." And when you say "Carrie Underwood is about to make a Grammy moment," my first thought is that it's a euphemism for a bowel movement.

13. When Elton John referenced the Sandy Hook kids' lives ending too soon as he sat behind a piano, I was afraid he'd be break into "Candle in the Wind". That man will milk that song for any occasion.

14. Yo, Kimbra: when Prince - a man who was wearing jewels instead of a shirt - gives you the side-eye because of your gaudy dress, you know you've gone over-the-top.

15. On the one hand, it was kind of embarrassing watching Mavis Staples try to dominate her collaboration with gratuitous ad-libs during the "in memoriam" song. On the other hand, it must be hard for her to cope with the fact that she's just a year away from being one of the deceased honorees.

16. Even though I listen to that song on the daily, Frank Ocean's performance of "Forrest Gump" was the worst of the night. But I'm still glad he beat Chris Brown, which, as I understand, is the opposite of what happened a couple of weeks ago.

17. Oops, I'm taking back my "worst performance of the night" comment - didn't realize that LL Cool J insisted on closing the show with a rap as well. Ladies may Love Cool James, but I'd just assume not see him anymore… outside of a Deep Blue Sea sequel.


Viewing the Law as Lawless

I don’t pay attention to tabloid news like Casey Anthony, but this Los Angeles former cop turned cop killer saga is fascinating.

Christopher Dorner is crazy. Let’s make that clear upfront. But I read his manifesto, and what’s most surprising is that – for a guy who has clearly lost it - there are long stretches of his message that aren’t super crazy. Foremost, Dorner provides detailed accounts of LAPD’s corruption, addressing the department’s racism, cronyism, and lying. He alleges that when he reported an officer for excessive use of force, a panel of officers that were the accused cop’s friends not only found the officer not guilty despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, but fired Dorner for fabricating the story – in essence punishing him for breaking the unwritten no-snitch rule amongst cops.

I take this story with a grain of salt. From my amateur diagnosis, Dorner is not of sane mind, so it is very plausible he made up or exaggerated his accusations. However, it is also very plausible that his story is legitimate. His story corresponds with everything I know about my local police force. We give police the ultimate authority with no oversight or true accountability; until we have outside parties that police the police, corruption will run rampant.

Still, true or not, the story is not even close to a justification for murder. From his letter, it seems to me that when he was wronged for attempting to do the right thing, and the experience skewed his own sense of right or wrong. Having his life ruined for standing up to alleged corruption, he went off the deep end and developed a warped sense of morality. Viewing the law as lawless, he’s now pursuing his own brand of vigilante justice, considering himself a martyr to his own cause.

I say “martyr” because Dorner clearly does not expect to come out of this alive. His writing is a farewell and the ramblings of a man who wants to share every last thought he has before departing this world. In essence, he couldn’t help but make shout-outs to celebrities. I also wouldn’t be content to die without first sharing my fondness for Ellen Degeneres and Christoph Waltz. (If I made that last statement in jest, it is only barely so.)

But how does Dorner go from a man who lost his career standing up for a homeless man who was allegedly beaten to a man who now kills in cold blood? My guess is that he’s exploiting our media’s obsession with mass murderers. Previously, Dorner has tried to draw attention to LAPD’s corruption to no avail. Now that he kills some people, his story reaches a large audience. Suddenly, everyone listens to what he had to say.

For crying out loud, Dorner’s note even advocates for gun control. Even the murderers are calling for gun reform! It’s ridiculous. He talks about how he obtained his weapons and even suggests how it could have been prevented. The man has decided to sacrifice his own life in an attempt to change society.

Of course, he’s going about it all wrong. Becoming a serial killer may bring him fame, but it won’t lend much credence to his cause. In fact, people are going to be so repulsed by his actions that they’re going to automatically disagree with his stances. Any validity to his stories of LAPD corruption will now be summarily dismissed as the rantings of an insane man. And, in fairness, he is an insane man - because it shouldn’t take too much of a clear head to realize that a killing spree will accomplish none of the reform he’s hoping for.

I’m a firm believer in Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” You can’t defeat violent oppression with violent oppression. I don’t have the solutions for bringing about positive societal change, but I am confident that murdering police officers and their family members is not one of them.

Meanwhile, the local police departments have only managed to demonstrate their incompetence thus far by – in two separate incidents - shooting innocent people who happened to be driving a vehicle similar to Dorner’s. If you can’t even determine someone’s identity, perhaps you shouldn’t try to kill them. But it is a clear illustration of LAPD’s routine excessive use of force. Way to prove Dorner’s point, idiots. It’s also clear from the fact that they didn’t even try to apprehend these utterly incorrect “suspects” that there is no chance Dorner will survive the manhunt. As dangerous as Dorner is for his weapons, he is even more dangerous to LAPD if he is able to continue talking. They want him silenced.

I got invited to a protest outside of LAPD HQ tonight, but I am staying clear for my own safety. In some regards, it is dangerous to go to a police station when a known police killer is on the loose. Truthfully, however, I am more frightened of the officers themselves who are obviously on edge. They’ve got snipers on the roof! I’ve seen the police crack down on peaceful dissent with brute force, so I am wary of experiencing a situation where they feel legitimately threatened.

Stay safe, Los Angeles. Even when this “ends”, these problems are far from over.


Genius vs. Monsters

You know how a lot of kids had to sleep with the closet doors shut to stop monsters from attacking in the night? I used to keep my closet doors open so I could verify that there were no monsters in there. 

What's remarkable about this is not the idea, but the self-esteem it built. I legitimately used to think this made me really smart. Like, I told my gifted teacher about it even, and didn't get why she wasn't nearly as impressed as I was with myself.

I also used to take a long, running leap onto my bed so that the monsters under my bed couldn't grab my ankles when I got close. How I was never diagnosed as some sort of child prodigy, I'll never understand.


Women and Women First

Former Roommate: Take any of my books you want.
Me: Do you have any queer feminist theory?
Former Roommate: Are you looking for post-modern or women of color?
Me: I won't read anything that isn't both.

The joke is that her books are pretty much all feminist theory, as might be expected of someone who majored in gender studies as an undergraduate. Throughout her moving out process, my house started looking like the Women and Women First Bookstore from Portlandia.

I love feminism and I love academia, but with titles like the ones above, you have to stop and laugh at it all sometimes.