Moxie’s Resolutions for Everyone Else: The 2017 Edition

What a crazy clusterf**k of a year it’s been. I’m ready for 2017, but there are a few things I’d like y’all to do better, okay? Hence my annual resolutions for everyone else. On with the show.

Stop using “Ch-Ch-Changes” as an editorial or article title (editors and journalists). If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen this popular David Bowie song used as a title for an op-ed, editor’s note or even an article, I would not need a day job. Now that Bowie is no longer with us, how about honoring his memory by NOT using this song as an article title anymore?

Participate in the 2018 California State Fair by having an exhibit in the exhibition hall (California counties). 

Create a buddy movie or sitcom starring Gwendoline Christie and Miranda Hart (British film/TV industry). If you’ve watched “Game of Thrones”, you’ve likely seen actress Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, the tall, powerful female knight who has sworn to serve the House of Stark. She’s fabulous.

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth on

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth on “Game of Thrones.” Strong, powerful, flawed character and one of the reasons I keep watching.

 

Gwendoline Christie, actress, British actress, Brienne of Tarth, Game of Thrones

Gwendoline Christie all dolled up for awards show.

Just as fabulous is the statuesque actress and comedian Miranda Hart, who had her own sitcom on BBC and has been in several films, as well as on PBS’s series “Call the Midwife” as Chummy.

Miranda Hart, British actress, British comedian

Miranda Hart, British actress and comedian.

Why not put these two tall, lovely British ladies in a buddy movie or sitcom? Rumor is that “Miranda” is returning – how about a guest spot for Gwendoline, hmm, Miranda? Maybe Miranda dresses up as Brienne for a fancy dress party and ends up in some wacky situation where she is mistaken for Gwendoline?

Make US Postal Service-compliant stationery and cards (stationers and greeting card makers). 

Declare a moratorium on remakes of movies that are less than 50 years old (Hollywood). I feel like I’ve made this resolution before but once again in my life, I am freakin’ Cassandra yelling at the Trojans to not let that damn horse through the gates. Reading this round-up at Den of Geek got me extra annoyed. I get that there’s an assumption on the part of film producers and major studios that a remake has much better luck at doing well at the box office, but come up with some new material, okay? Or just make another sequel or prequel to an existing property, since you’re doing that already.

Accept that email is not a secure form of communication (federal government, Democratic National Committee, and, really, everyone). If we learned anything in 2016, it’s that email servers can be easily hacked. Honestly, I think there’s a lot of ignorance on the part of politicians and others about email security. Unless you work for the NSA, CIA or FBI, or you’re intentionally using email encryption software or services, assume that none of your emails are safe from prying eyes, and act accordingly.

Create/produce a TV drama about Baltimore that’s positive & uplifting (Josh Charles).

Kill Flash Player already (Adobe). I feel like this has been a resolution in years past and yet this stupid thing continues to exist and slow down everything on my computer. Please, for the love of Steve, just kill Flash already.

Get a smartphone already (Pops). He’s had an iPad for a few years now, and the iPhone is not that much different, yet Pops refuses to get a smartphone. He says “my phone is smart enough to work,” and I appreciate that, but the moments when you are dealing with crappy traffic because your Garmin doesn’t tell you about road closures are moments you can avoid with a smartphone that’s equipped with Google Maps and Waze.

Restore Jerry’s Subs & Pizza to its former glory (DC, MD and VA sub-loving citizens).

What are YOUR resolutions for everyone else?

Follow Me or Perish, Sweater Monkeys

I spent a few hours at Starbucks today, working on my novel. This particular Bux is a block from an auditorium where many cheerleading/pep squad competitions are held, and apparently one was going on this weekend, because there was a steady stream of cheerleaders coming in to Bux. So many big hair bows, pony tails, teased hair, frosted eye shadow, lip gloss, short shorts and spandex…it was nuts.

I was never a cheerleader, nor did I really want to be. My parochial school didn’t revere sports in the same way that many public high schools do, so it wasn’t a guarantor of popularity. But I think many guys still found the cheerleaders extra cute.

Oddly enough, I still remember a few of the cheers our school’s squad performed. My personal favorite – and I use the word “favorite” with a touch of cynicism here – was the one where the cheerleaders introduced themselves with their name and class. “My name is Moxie, I am a junior, and I’d like to get to know you, yes I’d like to get to know you!” The other one that sticks out is “I got the spirit, oh yeah, I got the spirit, oh yeah,” and then each cheerleader had a different place where her spirit was located. One would say “it’s in my hip, now watch me dip,” and another girl would say “it’s in my skirt, now watch me flirt.” I now wonder if there were more obscene lines they came up with in the locker room, like “it’s in my ass, now watch me sass” or “it’s in my tits, watch me do splits.”

Being the pop culture junkie that I am, I now always think of Bring It On, one of my favorite evil nosh films, whenever I see cheerleaders. Today it was all I could do to not start yelling out random lines from the movie at the girls, or “Ready, O-KAY!” Truth is, cheerleaders are fascinating. The ones who are super committed to it can be great athletes, and I don’t necessarily think they are stupid. All the girls on my high school’s squad were honor students, and several are now doctors. And they had to put up with a bunch of cynical, jaded teenagers. As the cheerleader in Fast Times at Ridgemont High says, “You know, it takes a lot of courage to get up here and do something that you know people will make fun of.”

So here’s to you, cheer teams. You got the spirit, oh yeah!

Getting Freaky and Funny with It

Today I finally watched the first two episodes of “American Horror Story”, the new freaky scary show on FX by Ryan Murphy, creator of the plastic surgeon freakfest “Nip/Tuck” and the high school song-and-dance freakfest “Glee.” The show definitely succeeded in scaring the crap out of me, which means I have to keep watching. Sometimes I’m masochistic like that.

Giles said I needed to balance out all the freakiness with something light & funny, so we watched Bridesmaids tonight. He’d already seen it, but I hadn’t. Aside from the scatological humor, which never appeals to me, I really enjoyed the movie, especially Melissa McCarthy. Oh, and Jon Hamm. Poor Kristen Wiig, having to do love scenes with Jon Hamm. Wonder how many takes she demanded needed.

Moral of the story: if you watch something scary, follow it up with naked Jon Hamm something funny.

jon hamm, kristen wiig, bridesmaids movie

So sorry about all the retakes, Jon. I am SOOOO sorry. (Courtesy annehelenpetersen.com)

Wednesday’s Wackiness: The Oracle of Bacon

Yes, folks, I have brought it back: your weekly dose of wackitude. Well, for this week, anyway. I can’t make any guarantees for next week. Or the week after that.

The Oracle of Bacon is a fun little site that allows you to input the name of any actor and see how he/she is connected to Kevin Bacon. Yes, yes, we’re all familiar with that game. Big deal. But what makes this site so wacky, though, is that you can have the website show you the link between any two actors, not just the Baconator. Someone had a whole lotta time on their hands so they input all the data from IMDB to create this site.

Here’s one example:

Sir Laurence, meet Don Draper.

And another:

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn about Encino Man.

Go check it out and let me know what fun connections you find.

Back to School: Moxie’s Favorite High School and College Movies

Ahh, back to school. Time for new clothes that you pray will be considered acceptable by your peers, Trapper Keepers (or the 2010 equivalent), homework, a backpack tricked out with pockets for all your stuff. For high schoolers, the first day of class means they are closer to being done with the schooling required of them by law. For college students, it means learning the fine art of drinking beer through a plastic tube while being held upside down. I never learned how to do that, though. Must have been sick that day.

I love a good themed list, and this is one I’ve wanted to do for several years. Now, my friends, is the time to share it. So here are my picks for my top 5 high school movies, followed by my top 5 college flicks.

5. Breakfast Club

Five students come together in Saturday morning detention and learn who they are – and who they aren’t. The setup is simple; the dialogue and characters are not. I’d love to see this film made into a stage play, if it hasn’t been already (update: A playhouse in Long Beach, CA did a stage version). Shout-out to the schools in Evanston, Illinois, where the exteriors were shot. Three years ago I walked by the football field where Judd Nelson did his infamous fist pump and really wanted to replicate the moment, but T-Wizzle (who was born & raised in E-town) wouldn’t let me. Sometimes she really sucks.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

We should all have been so lucky to have the charmed life of Ferris Bueller. Not only does he have everyone at his school wrapped around his finger – aside from Principal Rooney, that is – he can also manifest a sweet ride for a day of fun in Chi-town. Save Ferris? Save yourselves, dude.

3. Heathers

This dark comedy about suicidal and homicidal teenagers is responsible for memorable catchphrases such as “What’s your damage?” and “F*** me gently with a chainsaw.” In my undergrad Critical Methods class I wrote a paper analyzing this film from a communist perspective. I got an A.

2. Grease

Welcome to Rydell High, kids! No list of high school movies is complete without mentioning one of the best movie musicals ever. I could quote from this movie all day long…sing every song…and still watch it over and over again.

1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

A much more honest look at what really goes on in high school. You can thank screenwriter Cameron Crowe for its authenticity, as he went undercover at a SoCal high school to write a book about teenagers, which the film is based on. Oh, and those fabulous checkered Vans that Spicoli wears? This movie made ’em famous.

Honorable Mention: Porky’s

Set in the 1950s, this sex-fueled romp also deals with some deeper issues of racism. But not too deep, mind you. Can’t wander too far from the main plot about horny teenagers seeking vengeance against the morbidly obese owner of a dive bar.

Graduates, as you move on from these hallowed halls of learning, we hope you take away from here the knowledge that while high school movies are really quite fun, there are some kick-ass college films, too. Allow me to illustrate…

5. The Graduate

So technically this isn’t a college film, seeing as Benjamin has just graduated from college and he’s trying to figure out why he should give a shit about plastics. But the movie still speaks to that feeling of ennui and disconnection you get while you’re an undergrad. Bonus points to Anne Bancroft for her work as the original MILF.

4. Revenge of the Nerds

Never underestimate the power and sexiness of nerds. No, not the candy, you idiot – I’m referring to exceptionally bright, studious young men and women who want to be loved and accepted just like everyone else. I have fond memories of this film because I was about 11 when I sneaked out with my aunt and her best friend [both 17-18 at the time] to see it. The sneaking around was because my very religious grandmother frowned upon movie-going. We wouldn’t have gotten caught if my aunt hadn’t locked the keys in the car and had to call home for the extra set. We still lied and said we saw Karate Kid, as that seemed less sinful than admitting we’d seen a R-rated film. Good times.

3. Old School

I really enjoy this crazy flick, especially Will Farrell as a wound-up family man trying to relive his youth. And how many times have you told your kids “Earmuffs!” because you saw Vince Vaughn do it in this movie?

2. Real Genius

Val Kilmer + popcorn phobia + mysterious passageways in dorm room closets + Kent the sycophantic student = FUN. I love the wacky things these students do to pass the time when they aren’t in class. According to IMDB it took three months to pop all that popcorn. Thank goodness it wasn’t buttered, too.

1. Animal House

It’s not even up for discussion: Animal House is the best. College. Movie. Ever. Reasons why: Bluto. Double secret probation. “Thank you sir, may I have another?” The bar scene. Eric Stratton with Mrs. Wormer. Bluto. Flounder’s borrowed car. Neidermeyer. D-Day. Kevin Bacon & Karen Allen’s film debut(s). The horse in the dean’s office. Did I mention Bluto?

Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite high school and college movies?

Friday’s Hot Tip

Yes, it’s back. October was a bit hellacious and I wasn’t particularly motivated to blog on a regular basis. Anytime I go for a couple weeks without blogging T-Wizzle decides I am done with it, which annoys me enough to rebel and post several items. So I guess we can thank her for the new posts.

So many books, movies, and CDs…so little time. I have a hard time keeping up with all the authors, music groups, and actors that I enjoy watching/listening to/reading. Sometimes it will be months before I discover that a favorite author has a new book, or a band has released a new album. I’m not necessarily an early adopter, mind you, but I do like to be in the loop.

And guess what? There is a website that helps me stay in the loop without me having to do a damn thing. MyHound keeps tabs on all your favorite authors, musicians, actors/actresses, and even video games. When a new movie or DVD with Clive Owen comes out, I get an e-mail telling me the release date along with a link so I can find out more.

MyHound is free to sign up and free to maintain, and there’s several ways you can find out what’s happening:

  • Calendar – Click here to find out what events are happening in your neck of the woods today, tomorrow, next week, or next month. This feature seems to work best for major metropolitan areas, and I imagine it would be very handy for travelers looking for something fun while in New York, DC, or LA.
  • Recommender – Once you’ve registered and added several alerts to your account, you can use the Recommender to find new authors, artists, and movies to check out. I just ran the Recommender on my account and got a list that included U2 (love them), Radiohead (don’t know that much but I am interested), Rufus Wainwright (want to hear more of his work – Oh Beth! Help me out here!), Terry Pratchett (oddly enough I read one of his books earlier this year and enjoyed it a lot), and Stephen Colbert (ehh).
  • Search – Use the search engine to find your favorite performers/artists/authors, then peruse the list that pops up with all their recent happenings. A box on the left lets you sign up for e-mail alerts on that particular artist/author.

You don’t even have to register for MyHound in order to get the e-mail alerts, either. Registering does allow you to manage your alert subscriptions, however. Since it’s free it won’t kill you to sign up.

Go check out MyHound and see whatcha think. You’ll thank me when you get that e-mail reminding you that [your favorite rockstar ever] is coming to town.

Moxie at the Movies: The Invasion

On Tuesday night I went to a free screening of The Invasion, a sci-fi thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. This film is yet another remake of the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was redone in 1978 and 1993 (according to Wikipedia).

Most of the time I am not very open to remakes, even if I haven’t seen the original. I’m just old-school in that way. I was not very pleased when one of my all-time favorite movies, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, was being updated for the 21st century. I was even more upset when there was talk of Jim Carrey playing Willy Wonka. But the final product featuring Johnny Depp and Freddy Highmore under Tim Burton’s direction actually pleased me. It was different and yet similar enough to the original without compromising the integrity of either film.

In The Invasion, Washington, D.C. psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) begins to notice strange changes in her ex-husband Tucker (Jeremy Northam), one of her patients (a brilliant cameo by 1978 Invasion star Veronica Cartwright), and everyone else around her. With help from her lab researcher friend Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) and his colleague Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), Carol discovers that an alien life form has taken over the human race, leaving behind emotionless shells who are hell-bent on assimilation. Carol, Ben, and Stephen must move quickly in order to get Carol’s son Oliver (Jackson Bond) back from her ex-husband before he can infect the child.

Nicole Kidman has made a career of playing women who must overcome major obstacles – governments, major corporations, angry neighbors, and magical forces – in order to survive. It makes sense, then, that she was able to escape from the clutches of the Scientologists. Good job, Nic. Care to lead a deprogramming session?

Oh shit, they have an E-meter! We’ve got to get out of here!

Since I didn’t see the original or the two remakes that precede The Invasion, I can’t speak for any differences or compromised integrity. I can say, however, that I really enjoyed this film. It was suspenseful and the chase scenes were well-crafted. Whenever they showed D.C. landmarks up close, I got a little nostalgic for my hometown. I cheered when they showed an aerial shot of Carol and Ben walking on a sidewalk marked GW – my alma mater.

Some of the technical explanations about the alien virus were rattled off a bit too quickly, making it hard to decipher what was happening. And I would have liked to see a bit more of Veronica Cartwright’s interactions with her formerly abusive husband, instead of Celia Weston doing a terrible Czech accent.

I also got some laughs out of this film, even if that isn’t what the director intended. Two things sent me into giggles. The first was one of the methods of transmission, which involved hocking a loogie into a beverage. It gives whole new meaning to the phrase “don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” The second was seeing all the infected people walking around looking passive and expressionless, and acting extremely courteous and agreeable. As one character tells Carol, “You can fool them: don’t show any emotion, then they can’t tell who’s who.” Apparently all it takes to overthrow the planet is stoicism and excellent table manners. Who would have thought it?

To sum it up, The Invasion is a good film with some decent acting, an engaging plot, and several suspenseful moments. My grade: A-.

Moxie at the Movies: The Bourne Ultimatum

Tonight Joe and I headed to the theatre to see a free screening of The Bourne Ultimatum, the latest entry in the Jason Bourne series of espionage flicks. For some odd reason I hadn’t seen the first two movies, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy – just never got around to it, I guess. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to follow the story as well as if I had seen the first two films, but it turns out I knew enough of the plot of the first two to figure out what was going on in this one.

Before I delve into the movie, I’d like to mention the security Nazi at the theatre. Mr. Security Dude (S.D.) is a Latino man in his early 50s with a slight accent. When he explains the rules about cell phones and inspection of personal belongings, S.D. tries very hard to be funny. So hard, in fact, that you laugh at his sheer inability to be funny. I have to wonder if the theatre found S.D. at Central Casting and hired him to work the screenings.

Let’s go on with the show. In this final installment of the Jason Bourne films, Bourne (Matt Damon) is once again searching for who he really is. Through contact with a British journalist, Bourne is able to put the pieces together and discover the CIA program that trained him, as well as the conspiracy that created him.

If you are a fan of action films, The Bourne Ultimatum will not disappoint you. The jerky movements of the camera build the tension and the action scenes are long and intense, with excellent pay-offs. Even the scenes in the CIA operations center are intense as the spooks try their damnedest to find and terminate Bourne. Joan Allen is great as Pamela Landy, a conflicted high-level CIA agent who’s been tracking Bourne since the first film. David Strathairn as Noah Vosen, CIA deputy director, is deliciously wicked in his dedication to keep Bourne in the dark about his past with the agency.

I must say that the more I watch Matt Damon, the more I like him. He does a great job playing dark, conflicted, multifaceted characters, such as Edward Wilson in The Good Shepherd and Colin Sullivan in The Departed. Maybe it’s his all-American good looks that trick me into thinking, “Oh, he’s a good guy after all, he’s just misunderstood,” only to see him strangle his lover at the end of The Talented Mr. Ripley, for example. As Jason Bourne, Damon makes me think of James Bond without the tuxedo: a skilled spy with the uncanny ability to escape any perilous situation with only a few scrapes.

The Bourne Ultimatum is, by far, one of the best I’ve seen this summer. I give it an A.

Probably the Best Movie Tie-in Ever

Several 7-Elevens around the United States have been converted into Kwik-E-Marts to promote the July 27 premiere of The Simpsons, the full-length animated feature film based on the hit television series. The stores’ exteriors have been temporarily altered to look like the Kwik-E-Mart that is featured on the cartoon, and snacks from the show, such as Squishees, Buzz Cola, and KrustyO’s cereal, can be purchased inside. You can read the full AP news story here.

Now this is brilliant marketing. Hello, Mr. Jack in the Box, are you listening?

Moxie at the Movies: Transformers

On Thursday night Joe and I went to a free screening of Transformers. He’d been itching to see this for months, so when someone from my Meetup group e-mailed me a link for free passes, I was all over it.

As I expected would happen, the line for the screening was full of nostalgic men in their 30s and 40s. It would have been a great place to have a singles event: bring in a busload of single ladies and start pairing people off. There were several families and younger kids, though, and these kids were hard-core. I saw one little girl walk up to a guy sitting next to me and punk him out of his gummy bears without saying a single word to him. Her parents did absolutely nothing to stop her, either.

But enough about the moviegoing experience, let’s talk about the movie itself. Transformers depicts the arrival of the Autobots (the good robots) and Decepticons (the bad ones), formerly of the planet Cybertron, on Earth and their subsequent battle for the Allspark, a giant cube that looks suspiciously like the cube that caused so much mayhem in the Hellraiser movies. [I can’t get Blogger to post more pics right now, so see this link for a picture of the Allspark, then compare it to the pictures of the Hellraiser cube here.]

We meet young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), an awkward teen who’s trying to sell his great-great-grandfather’s Arctic exploration memorabilia on eBay. Apparently alien life forms also like finding good deals on eBay, for the Cybertronians find the listing for Grandpa Witwicky’s spectacles and use the information to locate Sam. The beater Camaro that Sam buys with his earnings turns out to be Bumblebee (shown at left), an Autobot that’s been sent to protect Sam. Sam realizes that there’s more than meets the eye [yeah, of course I had to say it] with his bucket o’ bolts when he follows Bumblebee to a local junkyard and catches him in full robot mode, sending a signal to the rest of the Autobot posse. Soon after, 18-wheeler-cum-robot leader Optimus Prime and his crew show up to help snatch the Allspark away from the egomaniacal Decepticons. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is doing battle with various and sundry Decepticons, who are hell-bent on finding the Allspark and taking over the world.

For fans of the 80’s cartoon, all your favorite ‘bots make an appearance: Optimus Prime, Starscream, Frenzy, Ironhide, and Megatron, among others. And while I never saw the original cartoon series, my Internet research suggests that a lot of the storyline is taken directly from it.

This movie starts out very strong, with incredible special effects and good pacing. The lines that are supposed to be funny are actually funny. And then, somewhere in the middle, after the Autobots introduce themselves to Sam, the film transforms into a overwrought, overacted, overdone mess. Suddenly the movie is trying too hard to be a little bit of everything: humorous, romantic, patriotic, suspenseful, and dramatic. At one point, I nearly walked out; later on, during the exhausting fight scenes on the streets of L.A., it was all I could do to not yell “Bullshit!” at the top of my lungs.

I guess this transformation shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering the fact that this is a Michael Bay film. You remember Mr. Bay: he’s the director and producer behind such films as Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor. He’s gotten blasted for making blockbuster action flicks that have extremely contrived subplots, too much melodramatic scoring, and poorly drawn characters. Transformers is definitely not the exception to this rule. For me, Bay’s films are the cinematic equivalent of an insecure, unattractive man driving a tricked-out Hummer: both make me want to yell, “Sorry about your penis!”

Anatomical analogies aside, Transformers is bound to do very, very well at the box office. Even if I’m fed up with the plot points and character arcs, there are millions of young boys – and grown men – who just want to see some robot ass-whupping. And who can blame them? Heck, it’s Transformers! They’re robots in disguise!