Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration Day Coverage

Any posts I would've made concerning this week's inauguration and my thoughts and feelings on now-President Barack Obama have unfortunately been delayed due to a really bad stomach flu that hit me mid-week. I hope to be able to share my thoughts and feelings soon.

In the meantime, I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show and his ability to point out the obvious in such a humorous, yet honest way. Everyone knows that CNN is probably the most ridiculous cable news network when it comes to new "methods" of hi-tech news wizardry. MSNBC is very left-wing and pro-Obama, and Fox News is the complete opposite of MSNBC in that it is so far right-wing...well, let's just say this video speaks for itself.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rare Moment in History

It's not often, especially today, to get a moment like this; five (well, four plus the incoming) living Presidents all in one room together. At a time where this country needs leadership, it's nice to know that whether you're Democrat or Republican and whether or not the incoming guy is not of your party, that there are people willing enough to stand together to say that they want a better future for our country.

I have been alive through four Presidential transitions (Reagan/Bush, Bush/Clinton, Clinton/Bush, Bush/Obama) and I can really only remember the last two. I must say that I am quite impressed with the way that this transition has been handled. It's nice to see that President Bush is doing what he can to help make a smooth and successful transition for Barack Obama into the Oval Office. I think that says a lot about the kind of man that Bush is. Whether or not you think he's a good leader or a good President, it does seem like he is a man of character.

I also think that it says a lot about Obama's character and his willingness to look to his predecessors for tips on how to run the White House. Obama could've come in and tried to learn things as he went, but instead he has not only turned to both Bush and Clinton, but also George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter to get their perspectives on life in the White House and how to effectively run the country. It's really encouraging to see someone who is open-minded in the White House, especially during such trying times.

Oh Come On!

Okay, it's official! It is now absolutely ridiculous how much attention this guy gets. I once again speak of the "political celebrity" Joe the Plumber. His latest headline news maker is that he is headed to the Middle East. That's right! Joe the Plumber's going to the Middle East, and his trip his making headlines on CNN!

He is going to be a news correspondent for to cover the Israeli perspective of the violence in Gaza. And according to him, it's "tragic, I mean it really is...I don't say that in any little way." And according to Joe's publicist, the Israelis are "very excited" to have him coming!

Can someone stick a fork in this guy's "celebrity" and be done with it! Let's just move on already! What's with the media and this obscure obsession with every little thing that is done by Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin? Has anyone else noticed that John McCain has been in the headlines maybe once or twice since the election? Let's take a break from election-related coverage and focus on some actually news!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Review: The Reader

Based upon the 1995 novel by Bernhard Schlink, The Reader is the story of a young German teen, Michael Berg (David Kross), who falls in love with an older woman, Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet). After a passionate affair, the two break-up and go their separate ways, but the affect that the two have on each other changes their lives forever. A few years later, while attending a Nazi war crimes trial with his law school class, Michael discovers that Hanna is one of the defendants. Through the course of the trial, Michael realizes a secret that Hanna has held all her life and will go to any length to protect, even if it costs her life.

The premise of The Reader is very promising. It makes one wonder how they would feel if they learned that someone they loved was on trial for the atrocities Hanna is accused of, and how anyone would go to such lengths to keep a secret about themselves even if it meant the difference between guilt and innocence. Unfortunately the execution does not follow through.

While the performances of Kate Winslet (always reliable) and young David Kross are quite good, they're not enough to rescue the story. The pacing is slow and the first half hour in which the initial affair takes place is slow and very repetitive to the point where you begin to lose interest. While it picks up once Hanna is revealed as a former Nazi, it still moves quite slow. The story is told in flashback, jumping back and forth between past events and scenes depicting an older Michael's guilt, as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes. Whether this is how it was scripted or was edited to keep Fiennes in throughout the picture, the film might have been better had they allowed the story to be told completely in order instead of the frequent jumps back and forth. Unfortunately, Fiennes' performance is rather bland and average, leaving one to wonder if they would've been better off casting another less-known actor for the part.

The premise is good, but the direction and editing come across as forced, given the impression that the filmmakers knew they had a strong concept that could be a major awards winner if done right. Unfortunately, it tries too hard to be good. It feels too aware of itself and the power behind the story, and unfortunately the big emotional payoff that you know is coming at the end simply falls flat. Instead of allowing the story to be itself and to allow the emotion to fall into place, too much effort is put into trying to make it a powerful tear-jerker. When the climax is finally reached, the movie's run out of gas.

As mentioned before, the pacing is long and slow and unforunately it leads to the movie feeling long and drawn-out. Even just over 2 hours, The Reader feels a lot longer. I found myself checking my watch frequently after the hour mark!

Even though there are strong performances from Winslet and Kross, it's not enough to keep one interested in a movie that feels like it knows it has a strong premise but just wants to force the emotion into our face.

(of 4)


Best of 2008

I have updated my Favorite Movies list to 2008. Strangely enough, I haven't written a review for any of the movies on this list! But don't worry, I plan on writing reviews for some of these in the coming weeks, such as Get Smart, Tropic Thunder, Burn After Reading and a review for a movie that Maggie and I went to see on Christmas, The Reader. Stay tuned!

Favorite Movies of 2008

Burn After Reading (4/4)

Cloverfield (3/4)

Get Smart (3/4)

Ghost Town (3.5/4)

In Bruges (3.5/4)

Iron Man (3/4)

The Dark Knight (3/4)

Tropic Thunder (3.5/4)

WALL-E (3/4)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Who Cares?

In an interview with PEOPLE, Sarah Palin informed the interviewer that her oldest daughter and her fiance are "hard at work and keeping up with school". Palin's oldest daughter, Bristol, gave birth to her baby, Tripp, on Saturday and said that she intends to finish high school and get her diploma, even though she is now a teenage mother.

I congratulate Bristol and her fiance on the birth of their newborn baby and wish them all the best as they strive to raise him, and that Bristol intends to finish high school. This will surely be a daunting task for her as I can only imagine how the new few years will be as she tries to raise a baby and finish high school!

However, this is not the point of my post. What I found curious about the article is what Governor Palin (former Republican vice-presidential candidate) said to the interviewer. "You need to know that both Levi and Bristol are working their butts off to parent and going to school and working at the same time." She goes on to say that she wants to make sure that is made clear because "any suggestion otherwise 'harms Bristol's reputation and Levi's reputation and their chances for good work opportunities."

First of all, I don't need to know. I haven't given the subject of Palin's pregnant teen daughter any thought in a couple of months, especially since it's been out of the news. There's just no need for Palin to raise it once again, especially when I don't remember seeing any articles this past week (outside of the linked PEOPLE article) announcing the birth of her grandson. There is not much of a desire in the public to know about this aspect of the governor's life, or there shouldn't be anyway, unless you're a die-hard Palin fan or a die-hard Palin critic. Everyone else in between could care less. Me? I could care less. But it's that statement that we "need to know" that assumes that everyone must know.

Second, while apparently Levi has left high school to pursuit training to become an electrician, Bristol is continuing high school. Governor Palin seems to think that if Bristol's intentions aren't made clear, her chances for future opportunities will be damaged. I don't know where Bristol is at in her high school career, but given she is 17 or 18, I assume that she is a senior and due to graduate this spring. If that's the case, when she finishes school this year she will receive her high school diploma. Thus, where is the damage to her reputation? If anything, it will show that she has the strength and determination and the willingness to not only work hard to finish school, but do so while raising a newborn baby. If anything, that will help Bristol's reputation! Bristol probably should not be looking for work anytime soon anyway if she's both raising a newborn and finishing high school. So how will it hurt her chances for future opportunities? Bristol shouldn't need her mother to go out there and assure the public that she is going to work hard so that her opportunities won't be hindered. Bristol's work and own personal accomplishments should speak for themselves.

Truth be told, I view it nothing more than Sarah Palin's continuing quest to repair her reputation and to start preparing for the 2012 election. The reason we "need" to know is because Palin wants to assure the public that family values are a high priority in her family. While as uncovered as it was, the birth of a grandson out of wedlock for Governor Palin would have people scoffing and shaking their heads and criticizing her as a parent, so Governor Palin wants people to know and she wants to change so that people say, "Oh, that's good of them to do!"

The way I see it, it's all about damage control, even though I thought the baby had been born weeks ago, to be honest! While I think it's great that Bristol is working hard at school (though I find the way the statement is worded puzzling; would Bristol already be back in school and don't Alaskan schools have Christmas break?), Governor Palin really doesn't need to get out there and be the voice for her daughter. Politican and future Presidential candidate or not, Governor Palin should still be a mother first and recognize that she doesn't need to discuss her family's personal lives in the public domain, even if it is to help prevent "damage" to their reptuations.

Governor Palin, just let your daughter work hard the way she says she's going to. Have faith that she will be able to handle the responsibilities of parenting and high school education at the same time without needing mom to vouch for her. I think you'll find that, in the end, if she finishes high school while being a teenage mother, she should have plenty of opportunities on her own. Besides, she will still have the advantage of being the daughter of Sarah Palin's daughter. That couldn't hurt too much either, couldn't it?

Keepin' Up with Ally #1

Maggie and I have been the proud owners of Ally for almost two weeks now, and I must say she has changed a lot! It seems like only yesterday she was really small, and while she's still quite small, she has grown a lot since we first got her!

Ally's energy level has multiplied by an unimaginable factor, she is teething like you would not believe, which means that she is nibbling and biting anything she can get in her mouth, and she's eating and pooping like there's no tomorrow! And sure enough, Molly is still scared of Ally!

I have yet to catch her in the act on camera, but rumor has it that Ally is quite taken with the dog she sees in the mirror, to the point where she's pawing and licking at her, trying to get her to play! I've yet to get a picture of it happening, but don't worry, one is on its way! Although, I did get a couple pictures of Ally trying to play with one of those electronic toy dogs that moves and barks when you play with it. Ally was quite surprised when the toy dog started barking at her!