Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. the King of Pop

At his best, Michael Jackson was the best ever.

Monday, June 22, 2009

View from the Tank: Valu-Pak

What follows is essentially a compilation of my recent movie review tweets, with some elaboration beyond 140 characters (elaboration on tweets and/or multiple tweets indicated by long dashes).

At screenin[g] of THE GRADUATE at Hollywood Forever cemetery. Crazy crowded. People love watching movies while picnicking. --- The movie is still sort of funny, after all these years. Is Michael Cera doing a young Dustin Hoffman mumbly dreamboat thing? Some of the flashy editing seemed a little dated. Also, only in Los Angeles does the line about driving in "all the way from Tarzana" get a laugh. Four tentacles.

Tempted to give DOUBLE INDEMNITY five tentacles. Can't think of a better movie I've seen. Wilder & Chandler double each other's powers. --- Barbara Stanwyck is a pretty hot femme fatale. And how can you not love a movie where the protagonist/villain is an insurance salesman?

ENTER THE DRAGON 3.5 tentacles - a little stupid, but still a must-see for everyone. "There is no I." --- I had forgotten that the black dude gets killed in ENTER THE DRAGON. Lame, but par for the course at the time. Also, the 70's loved turtlenecks. --- The famous Hall of Mirrors scene in ETD - most literal interpretation of a Shaolin master's teaching ever. --- The Hall of Mirrors scene is high art.

CITIZEN KANE is overrated. Acting and story are better today. It may have been groundbreaking, but I don't care-still boring. 3 tentacles.

ROMAN HOLIDAY is a fantastic film. Seeing it again, ending is much sadder than I remember. Understand finality better now that I'm old. 4.5 tentacles

They were definitely not hypermiling in MAD MAX. --- MAD MAX may have been Detroit's finest hour. --- Re final scene of MAD MAX: lucky thing the Interceptor is an automatic. 4 tentacles.

UP was almost uniformly fantastic and pretty moving at points. The most human Pixar film to date. 4 tentacles. No need to see in 3D. --- On my second viewing I was less sanguine. The movie does become sort of pedestrian and prefab after the characters land in South America. Too many ideas tossed in (the rare bird, the talking dogs, the old explorer, etc.). Still good, but probably closer to 3.5 tentacles.

DRAG ME TO HELL was a lot of goofy, campy, gross fun. Not a classic, but thoroughly entertaining. 3.5 tentacles.

So, there it is: I gave DRAG ME TO HELL a better review than CITIZEN KANE. OCTOPUS GRIGORI, your source for accurate movie criticism.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A quick thought about driving

Blue car with a snub nose driving all around Los Angeles. Up the upramps, down the downramps, into traffic, waiting its turn, patiently, driving west on the 10, driving north on the 101, driving south on the 110, a computer code of pathways under the June gloom.

Remembering being in Madrid in 1999

Dragging bags down to a train station to put them in a locker while we visited the Prado. In a full hall of people moving around looking at Las Meninas. The photo I took shows everyone in the hall moving and the figures in the painting standing still. Poking our heads into galleries and wings full of vases and sculptures and deciding they were boring. Sitting down looking at paintings and not really knowing where they were from. Buying postcards from the gift shop. A very dry-feeling city, no waterfront, no big bridge over water.

Monday, June 01, 2009

General Motors

This was my first car: my dad's old 1984 Cadillac Eldorado, silver hardtop with red leather interior. You read that correctly: red leather. (This picture is just one I found on the web, but our car looked exactly like this.) I remember the midsummer day when we drove down to the Potemkin dealership in New York City. My dad spent a few hours working out the transaction. My brother and I passed the time sitting in all the Cadillac models in the showroom, messing with the windows and knobs.

My dad bought this car during his period of automotive nationalism, when he strongly believed that all Americans should buy American cars. We bought two Caprice Classic station wagons in a row during this period. Much of my childhood was spent hanging out in the back of those station wagons, sleeping, reading, listening to a Walkman, staring out at the scenery in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island.

When I first sat in the driver's seat of the Eldorado, I couldn't imagine ever being able to actually steer the thing. The hood seemed to run on for miles. The first few times I drove the car, I would steer by using the hood ornament as a target that I would aim where I wanted to go, since the absurdly long hood made it hard to actually see the road. Luckily, the Eldorado handled like an aircraft carrier. Everything was soft and plush: the brake pedal, the steering wheel, and especially the hydraulic car leveling system.

The Eldorado met its end flying off an icy road into a telephone pole in the winter of 1992. Middle Brother Octopus was at the wheel, and luckily was unhurt. But before the end, the Eldorado was a vehicle for fantastic memories: eating Pop Tarts and shaving with an electric razor as I rolled into our prep school in Connecticut blasting Public Enemy and EPMD while Middle Brother Octopus slept under a blanket on the massive back seat, tearing down dark streets in Manchester, South Windsor, and Glastonbury trying to get home before my 11 p.m curfew, driving up to a mountain in Vermont, which I climbed with a friend, and the name of which I've forgotten, and could never find again.

The American auto industry as we knew it is over. It'll continue, but it likely will never be the same industry we all grew up with.

I loved that Eldorado, and I still like American cars. The 2003 Dodge Intrepid I'm still driving has to be one of the most reliable and comfortable cars I've ever had, even now at over 110,000 miles. I know it's past time to let go of car culture as we've known it in America. But today, for me, is a day to remember American cars we've all loved. I know it's stupid and sentimental, but I grew up largely in American cars, and for much of my childhood I buckled a seat belt with that blue GM logo across my lap. Some dumb part of me, the same infantile part that pledged loyalty to the Mets in 1985, still feels that if I do buy a car, it should be American -- though what it means to "buy American" is not such an easy question these days.

I had an American childhood, and was driven through that childhood in gigantic American cars. Those cars will always be with me.