December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas From Sean Combs and The Anthropomorphic Critic

I am king. No words ever uttered were more true. I am king. And you can be too if you buy this eu du toilet. Merry Christmas, I got you Diddy's scent, enjoy.
Really? Seriously? I Am King? Am I missing something?
Remember when he was rapping with M-A-dollar$ign-E back in the day? That I can get behind, not this. If I get this for Christmas and that little spritzer contains anything other than his vodka I'm going to be pissed. Broken glass, everywhere.

I don't know who that guy is in the background so I named him Ian. Thanks for being a part of the cause Ian! Welcome to the blog.

December 22, 2008

The Real Far Side: And now Edgar's gone... something's going on around here

This is why I still have faith in people. Because these people think it's a good idea to recreate 20+ year old comics from The Far Side. And it is a good idea. Although, makes me wonder about the state of the Sunday Comics page when people haven't stopped talking about The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes, when there hasn't been any new comics from these guys in years. Does the current Sunday comics suck that bad? That's fodder for another post.

Side note: Please, please take off that sticker of Calvin peeing that's on your car. You've done enough damage already.

December 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke will break your heart.

The Wrestler is one of the best movies of 2008 and Mickey Rourke and his beef stroganoff of a face has the performance of his career as Randy "The Ram" Robinson. The cinematography is unsettling and the story simple. Director Darren Aronofsky does not resort to gimmicky film making. Marisa Tomei is totally naked with nipple piercings. Again, Mickey Rourke will break your heart.

I don't want to give plot synopsis, the idea of writing one already gives me a headache, so I stole this from IMDB:

"Back in the late '80s, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centers around New Jersey. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans. As his sense of identity starts to slip away, he begins to evaluate the state of his life -- trying to reconnect with his daughter, and striking up a blossoming romance with an exotic dancer (Marisa Tomei) who is ready to start a new life. Yet all this cannot compare to the allure of the ring and passion for his art, which threatens to pull Randy "The Ram" back into his world of wrestling."

That pretty much sums it up.

The Wrestler is a tender film telling a tragic yet very American story of the price you pay for living your dreams and for living in the past. On the surface, the film seems to make a statement about the violent and drug riddled culture of professional wrestling and of our society's hunger for dispensable heroes. But underneath the film is about the seemingly inconsequential decisions people make that can redeem or destroy a person's life. I was teary eyed the whole movie. I don't get teary eyed at movies, ask anyone.

For the first ten minutes of the film you don't see Mickey's face, which is probably a good thing (Zing!). The camera follows the wrestler from behind as we watch him go through the motions after a bout in the ring. It gives a documentary feel to the film, but it also gives a feeling of despair and uncertainty. Professional wrestling might be "fake" but you won't be saying that anytime soon after you see this movie. It is very real to Randy "The Ram" and it becomes very real to you. I was reminded at several parts of the 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, especially the story of former WWF (WWE? WWWhatever) wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

Oh and for about 80% of her screen time Marisa Tomei is naked or partially nude. She does play a stripper, but at one point I was counting the scenes she wasn't nude in. I think it's four. She's in the movie a lot. I don't think she's winning another Oscar here. (I hope not, it seems the Academy only gives best actress awards when actresses play whores, prostitutes or strippers). But she delivers a very strong and authentic performance.

Rourke carries the film on his broken back. Dialogue is at a minimum and half of his lines are grunts and strained breathing. It is mesmerizing for some reason. It is his best performance ever and it is one of the best performances this year.

It's not an easy movie to watch. I saw it by myself in a sold out theater and I sat between two women, one older (50's?) and one younger ( I have no idea, uh, 24?), and they both had to turn away at several scenes. They had to look away because the violence was too bloody and brutal in the ring and it was too distressing and heart wrenching outside.

Overall I give it a perfect score, no 5...5, 5 uh, stars? No. Damn I don't know, just go see the film.

Album Review: The Hold Steady- Stay Positive

Over the summer The Hold Steady released their 4th full-length album Stay Positive. I would have given my review back then but I didn’t have a blog yet and I was still jamming to (insert insipid singer/celebrity/Jonas brother) ‘s album, anyway. So here’s my review…now.

The Hold Steady has done for Minnesota what Bruce Springsteen did for New Jersey, but on a much, much smaller scale. I mean, have you heard of them? Well, you should know them, they rock. Back in 2004 they burst on the scene with the mostly live Almost Killed Me and ever since they solidified themselves as the best bar band in America. With songs filled with questionable women, and catholic guilt The Hold Steady transplant the young heroes from Springsteen ballads over to the twin cities and they are doing much worse than they were back in Jersey. If you were to judge Minneapolis just by the sex, drug, and violence filled songs of THS, you would think it was Detroit or something.

Craig Finn belts out his bombastic, ambivalent lyrics as if he had a mouth full of marbles and then got hit in the face with a beer bottle. The band’s bravado and reputation rest on Finn’s whiskey soaked shoulders and he backs it up with a staring-up-from-the-gutter lyrical storytelling that is reminiscent of Bukowski and Tom Waits. The band brings with it a sound of Thin Lizzy and Springsteen playing at a frat party or in a garage next door. THS are as fun as they sound and they really, really do rock. If the Replacements were your best friend from Minnesota, The Hold Steady are the drunk, degenerate friend of the Replacements that you wish they didn’t always bring over to your parties.

For fans of the Hold Steady the words “polished” and “highly produced” for an album of theirs would be a signal of the end, a jumping of the shark, a nuking of the fridge, if you will. To worry is understandable. Same thing happened with Liz Phair when she went corporate with her album… Liz Phair. But I am here to tell you there is no need to worry. They didn't sell out. Just as Liz Phair fans must have been relived when they saw there was a track titled H.W.C., you can be assured that Stay Positive doesn’t deliver a water downed THS, but pours us a double whiskey, coke, no ice.

Stay Positive starts off with a guitar smokin' Constructive Summer, about drinking on a water tower, and it doesn’t look back. Unlike their previous efforts, though, they do take a breath for a couple of tracks and slow it down for some melancholic reflection in, Lord, I’m Discouraged and Both Crosses. But overall, the entire album is meant to be played in a dive bar at full volume with people singing along off key and intoxicated girls dancing in front of the speakers. I personally can’t get enough of Sequestered in Memphis, about spending the night with a wanted girl, and the brazen Slapped Actress. I love these songs by the titles alone.

So if you are a old fan of The Hold Steady you probably have this album already. But If you haven’t gotten it yet because you’re a music snob bastard, I’m telling you now, get it. A good outcome that comes from a more polished sound is the band being more accessible to those that have not heard of THS yet. So if you want to take a taste test of The Hold Steady this is a good album to start with.

Bottom line, rock isn’t dead. Nickleback didn’t kill it. It’s alive and well, singing, drinking and living with a strung out girl in St. Paul.

December 16, 2008

Book Review: One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box

McSweeney's has released a box set of short stories by three of the McSweeneyest writers around. Sarah Manguso, Dave Eggers, and Deb Olin Unferth gather their shortest of short stories for this hodgepodge collection. I like to think I'm usually ahead of the curve with all things hip and McSweeney. But I had no idea this had existed until I received it as a birthday gift. I'm glad I did.

Sarah Manguso's Hard To Admit And Harder to Escape is brimming with one page ellipses of a life ranging from bittersweet childhood trials to drunken adulthood escapades. As a whole Hard to Admit reminds us that it's the mundane, insignificant moments in life that seem to forever haunt our memories. I would support this with highlights from the book but the stories being title-less I would be forced into writing such things as: "This one story about a gerbil..." or "This other one was about the guy taking off his wedding ring..." (Both in the book). I don't want to have to do that. So, moving on...

How The Water Feels To The Fishes
is not unfamiliar territory for Dave Eggers who has taken upon himself to re-educate America on the art of the short story. Dave himself writes them rather well. His stories are exponentially longer than Sarah's, two to three pages in this collection, and Fishes seeks to question conventional inner thought and tries to illuminate paths that were not seen before. Pretty grandiose for such a tiny collection, tiny even for short story anthologies. In his book Eggers changes the points of view in the stories from men to women, old to young and in doing so, he asks readers to do the same within themselves. A highlight for me is "Old Enough" which tells of a young man who longs to be much older so he can finally be the man he has always wanted to become (Don't read to much into that).

As the first two books assume very little, Deb Olin Unferth 's Minor Robberies assumes that it's speaking to an educated audience. The stories are longer, the book is the thickest of the three, and she writes with a knowing wink and a nod to the story's characters, to the reader, to herself. Like a good movie that's just twenty minutes too long, a couple of the stories in Minor seem rather lost and end up plain fizzling. Although there is more good ones than fizzliy ones in her book. "The Present of Concern" is a jealously written story of envy and embarrassment that any woman could relate to ( Or I would guess, I don't really know, and I'm not arrogant enough to think I know what it's like to be a woman, just to be clear).

If that isn't enough to convince you to buy the set, it comes in a really nifty illustrated and gold leafed box to hold them all in. It is so cool looking altogether, that if you were to place the box on your coffee table or mantle, guests would come into your home, see it and be forced to ask themselves: "Am I awesome enough to be in this person's home?"
The McSweeney's Box Set will coolly answer for them: No, no you're not.

Feelin' Down?

Well, the last 24 hours haven't been very pleasant for me but this site definitely helped to ease the pain. Don't get me wrong, I'm all man. I like sex and violence as much as the next red-blooded-joe-six-pack-son-of-a-bitch. But come on! Look at the baby bear! And A seal? No way! Hope you can enjoy. If you can't, you sadden me, deeply.

December 11, 2008

Movie Poster Review: Gran Torino

Gran Torino aka Get off My Lawn! is Clint Eastwood's newest flick. And by the look on his face, he means business.
I can't really make out what the movie is about from this poster. My guess is this:
An aging Clint Eastwood racked with senility goes on a killing rampage, shooting young minority whippersnappers with his riffle. He cruises the streets of the city in his bad-ass car, blasting the soundtrack to Paint Your Wagon. When he spots a group of good for nothing punks he yells "Get off my lawn!" or "I know you stole my pills!" and opens fire on the unsuspecting lot.
I'm pretty sure this isn't what the film is about. But wouldn't you rather see this version of Gran Torino than whatever old Dirty Harry came up with this time? The only thing this poster is missing is an orangutan.

Movie Poster Review: Valkyrie

I'm not a professional critic, I just play one on this blog. That being the case there are advantages and disadvantages to not being a professional critic. Disadvantage: No advanced screening of movies. Advantage: People don't like professional critics (Leonard Maltin excluded, you can't hate that guy. I mean look at his beard!). So I do what I can and I bring you my critique of the Valkyrie movie poster.

Purely based on the movie poster, Valkyrie seems to have potential to be the scariest movie in decades. I don't think that's the angle Tom and Brian were going for on this one. But seriously, this thing freaks me out.

First of all either Tom Cruise grew several inches for the part or they cast midgets in the roles of the other Nazis. The thought of midget Nazis is creepy.

I am then lead to believe that Tom is the Nazi with the heart of gold. And these guys there with him are also Nazis who think Hitler has gone just a little too far this time. Fine. It's a true story. I've heard it before. Whatever. That doesn't take away from the fact they they are still wearing Nazi uniforms. Are you feeling any less uncomfortable if a hockey-mask-wearing, blood-splattered, machete-wielding guy runs up to you and says "I'm here to help!" No? Me either. Am I supposed to root for these guys? It's hard enough to empathize with Tom Cruise in the first place. Now I have to do it with him wearing a Nazi uniform. I'm sorry, it's just not going to happen.

But the aspect of this poster I find most alarming is the background design. It's a blueprint of of the building where they are planning to kill Hitler (Oh, the plot is they are going to kill Hitler, with a bomb. It doesn't work). The table and chairs outline Tom's head like a halo. Ok, probably not intentional...Right? The only color in the whole poster is this red line that snakes from the top, highlights his name, and ends on Tom's head, along with the furniture halo. Now, I might be crazy but I'm pretty sure if you place the poster face up on a turntable and spin it, that red line would form into a swastika. Doesn't it look like it could? Even if it doesn't do that (But I think it will) you don't want anything resembling a swastika on your Nazi-turned-good-guy movie poster. You would want some puppies and ice cream images in the background, in pastels maybe. Not sharp angled lines in blood red.

This movie terrifies me already, and so, I will probably not see it. I recommend you see something else like Role Models. It has a better poster and is pretty much the same story as Valkyrie anyway. Like Clueless is to Emma.

Start Here...

1st post! Beat you to it, squares. Hey I’m Gabriel aka The Anthropomorphic Critic. The title is elitist, I know. I’m trying to be thought provoking and different for difference sake. Which is also elitist, I guess. I will be writing whenever I can about whatever I want. Mostly about all things trivial. I have a knack for it. I’ll give my shiny little opinion about books, film, music, TV…maybe art? Why not!? I’ve just realized my title might get a lot of attention from the Furry population. Of course all are welcome to read my blog, even Furries. But you will not be reading any animalistic erotic stories, or see photos of me dressed up in a sea otter costume here (You have to go to my facebook page for that). But if you need a witty observation to impress people at work/school/ cocktail party/ furry convention, you are always welcome to come here. I’m chalk full of ‘em. At least I think I am.