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Friday, May 28, 2004

The FBI this week released its annual crime statistics ranking the safest big cities in America. Once again, Gotham defied the stereotypes by ranking as the 17th safest among cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. This is great news for every parent who's worried about their children either visiting, moving to, or living here, but I have to wonder what is happening to our fair city? Remember the good 'ol days when New Yorkers had to wear flak jackets to survive a trip to the corner bodega? Before I moved here, I heard it wasn't even safe to look someone in the eye on the streets of New York. I mean really, what's New York without crime? Port St. Lucie, that's what!

New York City is changing so much, next thing you know you won't be able to smoke in bars, take photos on the subway or re-sell used underwear.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Today, I feel it’s important to focus on something that needs a little more attention: Torture. No, no, no, not that torture silly – that’s been covered already. No, the torture I’m talking about is the annual summer blitz of special effects, nonsensical plots, campy characters and general schlock thrust upon us by our friends in Hollywood. Torture may, in fact, be too mild a word.

Yes, summer is still officially a few weeks away, but the Olsen Twins are pimping a fresh flick, Brad Pitt is wearing a skirt and New York City is being threatened by a massive tidal wave, which means summer is here despite what the calendar says. To prepare, I thought we’d take a fast look at the wannabe blockbusters set to grace the celluloid screen and distract us from non-essential happenings like war, torture and the clash of civilizations. Keep in mind that I have not seen a single one of these films so my opinions are completely without merit, but regular readers already know that about me. So grab some popcorn (extra fake butter please), get a comfy seat (with a drink holder large enough to hold that 56 oz. soda), sit back and enjoy. And please, turn your cell phones off. Thank you.

New York Minute
Let’s just get this one out of the way first so the pedophiles can go back to surfing for Lindsey Lohan nipple slips and Amanda Bynes crotch shots. Yes, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, those adorable twins who’ve been in our national conscience since infancy, were first out of the gates this summer with New York Minute. The Olsen sisters play identical twins (a stretch) who cut class to romp up and down the Isle of Manhattan. No doubt, the twins will find themselves in all sorts of pickles as they elude their truant officer, wear fashionable clothing, scream, giggle, trip over something, misunderstand someone, scream, giggle, befriend a homeless man, scream, giggle somemore and inevitably learn some sort of valuable lesson about not wearing a halter top and low-rise skirt anywhere near the OTB. Expect the crowd at this film to be a 50/50 mix of giddy pre-adolescent girls, and dirty old men with a glint in their eye and a hand down their pants. Oh, and me.

Van Helsing
Ok, what is it with Kate Beckinsale and vampire movies? I love Kate Beckinsale, I think she’s gorgeous. After seeing her in Laurel Canyon , she immediately vaulted onto my “freebie list”. But after last year’s Underworld, which pitted vampires against werewolves, she now stars in Van Helsing, a mythical tale about Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein. Despite my crush, I may have to pass on this one. I was suckered into Underworld and there wasn’t a single bicurious scene in that entire film. Weak.

Brad Pitt stars in this two-and-a-half hour epic based on Homer’s classic, The Illiad. As if we haven’t had enough of the Pitt-Aniston celebrity juggernaut over the past several weeks (years), we now have to endure an entire summer of Mr. Pitt in a skirt. In fact, Pitt has issued a proclamation that men will be wearing skirts by summer’s end thanks to his movie. You know, just like we all ran out and started beating the crap out of each other after Fight Club. Somehow, director Wolfgang Petersen managed to adapt Homer’s classic without depicting any of the Greek Gods central to the story, which seems kind of odd. But hey, the way God has taken over pop culture these days, we’re happy to see something godless presented to us. As sweeping and grand as this film is sure to be, I’ll take my Homer adaptations courtesy of the Coen Brothers thank you very much. I am, after all, a Man of Constant Sorrow.

Shrek 2
I’m perfectly comfortable admitting that I never saw the first installment of this animated feature about the lovable green ogre who struggles to find love. Everyone says the movie in all its sugary sweetness was great, and no doubt the sequel will garner similar praise, which is fine. I still doubt I’ll see it, but that’s my loss, right? In the follow-up, newlywed Shrek goes home to meet new wife Cameron Diaz’s parents, or something like that. Hey, how come it’s alright for ogre’s to marry but it isn’t for homosexuals? Maybe they were in Massachusetts… if not, I’m sure once Ashcroft gets wind of this, the hammer will come down on our hulking green friend. And what a shame – if they stop making Shrek movies, what will Eddie Murphy do for work? Beverly Hills Cop 4 anyone?

The Day After Tomorrow
Mother Nature opens a big 'ol can of whoop-ass on us all. That’s the premise of this special-effects-drenched disaster epic starring Dennis Quaid as an intrepid scientist who must save the Earth from Big Mama Nature’s wrath. The trailers for this film depict scenes of New York City being buried under an avalanche of cataclysmic destruction. Hmmm, sounds familiar. I guess it’s been almost three years since the real thing, which is apparently enough time to return to fictitious annihilation. And just why is Mother Nature going all Scarface on our big blue planet? Global warming of course! Yep, Hollywood is letting its true liberal colors shine once again, and our favorite Political Action Committee, MoveOn.org is touting the film as “the movie the White House doesn’t want you to see”. Now come on, this is getting a bit ridiculous… how serious can the science in a Dennis Quaid film be? I saw Innerspace, and that was just bullshit - no way Marty Short could attract Meg Ryan like that! I mean, really, the next thing you know someone will make a movie about George Bush’s manipulative war and his family's connection to the Saudis or something. Sheesh.

Fahrenheit 9/11
We’re not sure this film will ever see the light of day here in the States, but it sure did cause a stir earlier this week at the Cannes Film Festival. Michael Moore’s latest screed against the Bush administration received a ten-minute standing ovation after it screened at Cannes. Of course, Bush supporters will argue that the audience was made up entirely of cheese-eating surrender monkeys and traitorous, limp-wristed Hollywood terrorist lovers. Ignore them. See the film, it's gotta be better than The Reagans. To be honest, Michael Moore even gets on my nerves sometimes, but that’s the point I think – he’s our Rush Limbaugh, but with logic instead of oxycontin. Despite my reservations about Moore’s sometimes off-putting, bombastic approach, I’ll definitely go see this film (surprise, surprise). That's assuming of course that it doesn’t get banned before ever hitting the megaplex. I’m sure there’s a provision buried somewhere in the Patriot Act barring any Michael Moore film from the theaters.

Oh, and despite all the attention Fahrenheit 9/11 received in France this week, it still couldn't top the buzz surrounding the double feature from Alexandra Kerry, daughter of presidential nominee John Kerry. Check out those Cannes!

Soul Plane
Snoop Dogg, Tom Arnold, Method Man, Mo’nique and D.L. Hughley welcome us all aboard the “only plane with soul.” Sometimes planes and bombs DO go together. Where is Richard Reid when you need him anyway?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Oh goody, another installment of the Potter juggernaut comes to the silver screen this summer. This is the third movie in J.K. Rowling’s unstoppable franchise featuring a boy wizard and his Hogwarts classmates taking on supernatural evil. Supposedly there are eight books planned for the series, but I don’t see how they can make them all into films. Have you seen how old these kids already are? Seriously, by the eighth film, Harry will be a twice-divorced, washed-up alcoholic former wizard with little juice left in his "magic wand." This chapter in the Potter series could mark a departure from the innocent spirit of the first two films however as it is directed by Alfonso Cuaron who broke out with the critically acclaimed and sexually charged Y Tu Mama Tambien. Could we be in for a Harry-Percy-Hermione threesome? If so, this could be the highest rated film in the series so far!

Seriously, do we need this? We’ve seen plenty of comic characters brought to life on the big screen – Scooby Doo, the Cat in the Hat, Inspector Gadget – and the movies always suck, don’t they? The trailers proclaim that “the Legend finally comes to the big screen.” Legend? Isn’t that a bit of a stretch? I mean, come on, Garfield? If they make Heathcliff into a movie, I’m throwing in the towel.

The Stepford Wives
After a tumultuous two years of filming, this remake of the spooky 1975 film about the all-too-perfect Connecticut suburb of Stepford is finally in the can and set for release on June 11. Because the story itself is so compelling, I’m hoping the trouble on the set doesn’t translate onto the screen. If you’re unfamiliar with Ira Levin’s original tale, just think of it as a fictional and, amazingly, less disturbing version of the television show The Swan. At least in the Stepford Wives the women don’t have to suffer through a live pageant in front of the whole world only to be told they’re still not attractive enough. And The Swan doesn’t have Christopher Walken.

The Notebook
I recently stumbled upon a synopsis of this film that went something like this:

This romance revolves around a retired salesman (James Garner) reviving a post-World War II relationship with an old flame (Gena Rowlands) now suffering from Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.
Oh, it looks like New Line Cinema is going after that always lucrative geriatric nursing home demographic. Now, if they could just figure out how to bring the movie theater to the convalescent center, they’ll be rolling in the dough! And James Garner? Fans of the Rockford Files must be ecstatic.

And, scene! Yep, that covers us through June. In a few weeks, come back for a look at the second half of the summer movie season. Until then, save me a seat on the aisle... and as far away from that tubby Roger Ebert as possible please.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

There has been a lot of attention on our craggy old Secretary of Defense of late, most of it unwanted. No reason for Days to get into a lengthy analysis or diatribe as to why Donald Rumsfeld should have his ass swiftly kicked to the curb, that's been done by every pundit this side of the Potomac.

No, today I think it's important for us to celebrate the man who Dick Cheney recently referred to as "the best Secretary of Defense the United States has ever had." The man who President Bush says we all "owe a debt of gratitude." The man who invented the term "shock and awe." The man who couldn't give a fuck about "old Europe." The man who couldn't be bothered with such trivial nonsense as "post-war planning." Yes, our glass-eating Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld is a unique gift worthy of daily praise and admiration. We should all bask in his splendor. After all, if it weren't for him, we may not even be in Iraq right now - and what a shame that would be.

A significant component of this man's infectious charm resides in the sheer simplistic and yet confounding beauty of the Rumsfeld vernacular, most recently on display during the first days of the Abu Ghraib abuse/torture scandal:

"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."
Reasoned. Eloquent. Evasive. Non-sensical. Pure Rummy.

Rumsfeld's style has been dissected and analyzed countless times, and notably celebrated by journalist Hart Seely. Just last week, the soothing tones of Rummy's declarations were finally provided the proper treatment and set to music. Hallelujah.

We here at Days would like to contribute to the public lovefest by lifting a few of Mr. Rumsfeld's more choice selections, as conveyed by Mr. Seely. Enjoy.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

- Department of Defense briefing, Feb. 28, 2003

A Confession
Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.

—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

And as a bonus, check out "Rumsfeld's Rules" as relayed by the man himself to the Wall Street Journal back in January 2001.

A few of the more telling "rules", particularly in light of recent events:
If you foul up, tell the president and correct it fast. Delay only compounds mistakes.

It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.

Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the president and do wonders for your performance.

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