Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Some lists, inspired by recent reviews.

June 18, 2008

My 10 Favorite Mark Wahlberg Performances

1.I Heart Huckabees
2.Boogie Nights
3.The Happening
4.Three Kings
5.The Yards
6.The Perfect Storm
7.The Departed
8.The Basketball Diaries
10.We Own the Night

My 5 Favorite Zooey Deschanel Performances

1.All the Real Girls
2.Almost Famous
3.Winter Passing
4.The Happening
5.The Good Girl

My 5 Favorite John Leguizamo Performances

1.Summer of Sam
4.Land of the Dead
5.The Groomsmen

My 3 Favorite M. Might Shyamalan Films

2.The Happening
3.The Sixth Sense

My 2 Favorite Adam Sandler Performances

1.Punch-Drunk Love
2.Reign Over Me

My 10 Favorite John Turturro Performances

1.Barton Fink
2.Box of Moonlight
3.13 Conversations About One Thing
4.The Truce
5.O Brother, Where Art Thou?
6.The Big Lebowski
7.Quiz Show
9.Miller’s Crossing
10.Cradle Will Rock


Father’s Day/Birthday

June 16, 2008

“If I was a Pagan, then I would be one happy motherfucker.”

A quote earlier today from my dad, Mark Ferguson, commenting on the coincidence of his birthday being on the same day as Father’s Day…and displaying, as he does so often, how much he refuses to believe in celebrating them. Or any holiday for that matter, excluding Thanksgiving.

You Don’t Need To Mess With Seeing “The Zohan”

June 15, 2008

PG-13, 113 minutes, Columbia Pictures

For whatever reason, there still seems to be something intriguing enough about Adam Sandler, something that convinces me to pay for a ticket to see his (mostly) mindless comedies. Maybe I’m still sort of paying respect to the guy, or more accurately, being patient with him because he has shown the ability to branch out and display true acting chops from time to time, most notably in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. Still, there is no excuse for me continuing to put myself through idiotic messes, like The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Anger Management, etc. Every summer, he releases a comedy that always looks stupid and most of the time follows through with that promise. I thought 2006 would be the last year I would put myself through the hell of trying his dumb projects, at that time I had just come out of the terrible experience of Click, which was mind-bogglingly awful. I did well by not even considering last year’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a film that I know could be nothing but bad and will never see. Little did I know, it only took one more year to pull me back into the trap of Sandler-itis, for yesterday I indeed went to see You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. I had two fair excuses for choosing to see this film, though – the main one being that Judd Apatow co-wrote it. The movie also got my pick because the competition at the multiplex was extremely slim this weekend.

Apatow worked on the script with Robert Smigel and Sandler himself, filling it with over-the-top bits that I bet had a lot of promise on paper, there’s no doubt, and although it doesn’t fall apart into a complete disaster once it was made into pictures, it’s certainly not a recommendable comedy by any means. That’s a sad thing really, because there are all the components for a guilty pleasure fun time to be had with Zohan, who is a virtually indestructible Israeli agent that is fed up with living the life of endless violence, so decides to fake his death and make his way to the New York City for a new life and a new profession – in hairstyling. The trio of writers do their very best at peppering the film with absolutely insane moments, and some of them work well, but the movie is reaching too far and is way, way too long and easily overstays its welcome. I became very restless toward the end of the film, when over-the-top is taken too far with a hackey sack tournament that features attendees like John McEnroe, Kevin James, and Mariah Carey. To say that this is one of the funniest films Sandler has released in a while, which it is, is still not saying enough to consider it a good film, just better than bad. The performance by Sandler is one of the things in the film to praise, for he is always amping up the energy with Zohan, sticking with the ridiculous tones set in place from the very beginning. I’m not sure if it is even right to applaud an actor for immersing himself in a film and role like this, but Sandler does lose himself entirely in Zohan and he’s the anchor for making the movie even remotely watchable.

Besides have a supporting cast of usuals from Sandler comedies, like John Turturro, the horrific Rob Schneider, Robert Smigel, and others, the film sports a cameo list that reaches a high number. There is a particularly good appearance in the movie by Chris Rock as a Jamaican taxi driver, making his short screen time memorable. Though completely different films, both this and the other movie I saw this weekend, The Happening, have similar focus when it comes to the American paranoia since 9/11. Zohan displays the end of the middle-eastern people’s struggles to get around a terrorist image, and in New York City no-less. It is played in a near slapstick manner of course, at times effectively (not to use this term so much) over-the-top. To watch this film frequently present promise of unique hilarity at times and then fail to do so, was a tragic disappointment, but I guess for it even to approach that level is something to marvel at. I certainly do hope that Apatow and Sandler decide to work together again, maybe on something Apatow himself decides to take on for directing. If they could find the right notes then this could be a good tandem for numerous projects to come…but that remains a big “if”.


Listening to Tony Marshall, outside of a mattress store, 12:31 A.M.

June 13, 2008

That is me 10-second timing a picture of myself outside of a local mattress store. At this moment, 12:31 A.M. to be exact, I am sitting on a coffee shop chair that I’ve pulled over in front of American Mattress. The outside air is much more comfortable than that of the house I reside in, so I took a short walk over here, where I hope to get a list posted before my battery runs out.

I love every piece of music that my good friend Tony Marshall has created in the last six years, which has been an astonishing amount for such a young songwriter. He has already built a big enough body of work to inspire a favorite albums list, with a favorite songs list to follow in the near future….that one needs to be thought over thoroughly before completing. I am currently listening to his 2006 full-length, the unbelievable Trash Happy, which I think is not only a masterpiece among his discography, but an essential album compared to anything I’ve heard. He is undeniably the real thing, a true artist that will be making amazing things for decades to come. For now, here is a list of my favorite albums among the dozen he’s released so far…

My 5 Favorite Tony Marshall Albums
1.The Furnace
2.Trash Happy
3.Songs Written At Night
4.Skeleton Man
5.Reminiscing About Tomorrow

The daunting task of making a 30 favorite Marshall songs will be attempted in the next day or two, with posting to follow. Everyone listen to his music whenever you get a free moment. I think you will like it. A brilliant songwriter. You can access full streams of all of his discography here.

Career Highlight for Cusack in “Grace Is Gone”

June 4, 2008

PG-13, 84 minutes, The Weinstein Company

Throughout the entire winter season for cinema in 2007, (which happened to be a mighty fantastic one!) the James C. Strouse film, Grace Is Gone, was always in my top five most anticipated. The performance by John Cusack, in which he plays a father of two girls who learns of his wife’s death in Iraq and must find a way to break the news to them, garnered a nice little bit of attention in the fall with even some talk of a possible first-time Oscar nomination for the tremendous actor. That buzz, coupled with the fact that it received both the Waldo Salt Screenwriting and Audience Award’s at Sundance a few months earlier, made me think that it would easily find its way across at least Arts theaters in the US. Sadly, that never happened. It received about as limited of a run as a movie with a solid lead actor and award talk could get, never opening anywhere near here and ultimately totaling box-office numbers that were hard-pressed to topple $50,000. To add to the pain of waiting, the video release was rather long compared to most of the swift-paced rush to shelves for most films nowadays, with about six months of time from theater to DVD player. Nevertheless, on May 27th I finally had no more reason to nag and complain, for Grace Is Gone was here. It is a film, and in particular a performance, that I will never forget.

Cusack plays Stanley Phillips, a middle-aged man whose face blatantly shows a dissatisfaction with himself, some disappointment because he is not the family member who is strapped up in military gear and fighting in Iraq. Due to limitations in his eyesight, Stanley was denied from serving at a very early age. But his wife, Grace, with whom he married after meeting in the military continues to serve, which leaves Stanley at not only a feeling of guilt but in the position of raising not only two children, but two girls, and by himself. There is no questioning the love he has for his family, it’s just the level of confidence he lacks in himself that’s what stopping him from handling the regular parenting things the way he could. Each day that Grace is absent from their lives is another day the girls grow older, and it becomes more difficult for Stanley to get a grasp on the entire situation. But he is doing his best, which is all he can hope to do until she comes back. When he is approached at his doorstep by two men who inform him of his wife’s death in battle, Stanley enters an understandable state of shock. When his children come home he attempts to find the right way to tell them, but instead reverts to spontaneous propositions that they’re not accustomed to seeing from him, in particular asking if they want to take a sudden road trip to a popular amusement park, Enchanted Gardens. There are devastating emotions in the most subtle of facial expressions as his mind races faster and faster, through countless ways to find it in himself to let his children know that their mother is gone.

The road trip itself is like a coming-of-age-quickly excursion for Stanley and a chance, albeit under the most unfortunate of circumstances, to come closer to his girls, especially with his oldest, Heidi, played by Shelan O’Keefe in one of the best adolescent performances in recent memory. Strouse has created a simple and straight-forward screenplay that is very good, but in finding the right lead actor it becomes memorable and near fantastic. This is one of those movies that can find a level ground with everyone who views it, even those who disagree about the many directions and actions American government have taken on the war, because it doesn’t act like it has answers for anything. Strouse chooses to simply tell the story of how it all affects our regular families and those who extend from there on out. Cusack digs deep as Stanley, creating a character that can certainly be added among the most impressive in a career filled with outstanding performances. There are moments in this film, especially near the finale that will stay with you forever if you have any sort of feelings inside. Clint Eastwood was so impressed by an early cut of the film, that he agreed to do the score for it, which turned out to be a wonderful companion piece. Stanley was prevented from serving in the military and thus destroying his aspirations of becoming an identifiable American hero, but he still has time to realize that he can be a good, caring father, which in the eye’s of two children can be seen as heroic as anything anyone’s ever done on a battlefield.