Saturday, January 17, 2004

A Winter's Day

It's a cold, dreary January day, and I can't really summon up the energy to do much of anything. Slept in until 10 this morning. Then I read the paper and drank coffee. I intended to go into the office early so I could write a blog entry. I was listening to The Strokes' ROOM ON FIRE while going about the morning routine and decided that I'd rather rock out to punchy garage rock than drag myself to work an hour ahead of crew call.

We covered the Otterbein women's basketball game against John Carroll this afternoon. In an astounding feat of prognasticating prowess, I predicted an OC win by fifteen or more. The Cardinals won 65-50.

I keep the official statistics on the Stat Crew system. I've done it for a long time and don't make too many mistakes. (They're usually easy to clean up if I do make them.) Imagine my aggravation when a look at the final box score shows three rebounds too many. I went through the play-by-play line by line and couldn't find them, so it took some creativity to even up shots and boards. It turns out I wasn't wrong. Less than twenty minutes after we wrapped up the game, I'm called regarding a problem with one player and Otterbein having six points too many. Some glitch in the program read one player's three misses as good shots, even though it doesn't appear that way in the play-by-play and hadn't in the gametime scoring while the game was in progress. Computers. Fixed the stats again and then rolled over to the computer lab with the intention of updating this blog.

As you can see, if you've made it this far through more typical blog fare, nothing has worked out as planned. (More gratuitous blog stuff: I ate some Classic Pizza--hooray for sponsored basketball games--and drank a Mountain Dew. Now you're up to date on today's food consumption.) I feel like I've worked out enough of my ambivalence through the above blather, so here's something more in keeping with this site's purpose.

Yesterday presented a tripleheader of movies: MONSTER, TEACHER'S PET, and ALONG CAME POLLY. The first film started at the Lennox at 12:05, and the last ended around 6:10. (Remarkably, I still wouldn't not have been able to watch all of LA COMMUNE (PARIS, 1871), playing at the Wexner Center tomorrow, in this time. I'd considered going, but I don't think I have the patience right now to endure a film that runs five hours and forty-five minutes.)

MONSTER (Patty Jenkins) (1/16/04, AMC Lennox) Grade: B-

MONSTER is most notable for a deglamorized Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos, considered the nation's first female serial killer. Theron is being buzzed about for an Oscar, and she will undoubtedly be nominated. I thought she was capable of doing better and more interesting work than her career had provided so far, and her performance in MONSTER bears that out. Theron becomes another person. Yes, the makeup, false teeth, and Method pounds she piled on help in the transformation, but her awkward body language and use of her eyes are just as critical to the performance. (It is dispiriting to think that, for actresses especially, one has to be "uglified" to be recognized for doing good work. Think Halle Berry in MONSTER'S BALL, Nicole Kidman and the prosthetic nose in THE HOURS, and Hilary Swank in BOYS DON'T CRY.)

I kept wondering who Theron reminded me of as she swaggered like a trucker. Strange as it sounds, she sort of looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Those photos probably won't convince you--I'm not that sure of it myself--so maybe it's how she moves her body that reminded me of him.)

I think MONSTER is worth seeing primarily for Theron's acting. I wasn't crazy about the film. There's a pretty impressive shot as Aileen sits under an overpass as the title comes up, and the film held my interest. I'll be recommending it, but I'm not sure what compelled Roger Ebert to pick this as the best film of 2003.

TEACHER'S PET (Timothy Bjorklund) (1/16/04, AMC Lennox) Grade: B-

Talk about a change of pace, next up was TEACHER'S PET, which, like DISNEY'S THE KID, I refuse to refer to with the studio's possessive in the title. To my knowledge, this animated children's film has not been promoted much. It didn't merit an advance screening in Columbus, an unusual situation since most children's films are shown here for critics.

I'm unfamiliar with the TV program on which the film is based, but this short feature--IMDB claims it is 68 minutes--contains enough laughs and ingenuity to merit a recommendation. Nathan Lane voices Spot, a blue dog who dresses up like a boy and goes to school with his boy master. Like Pinocchio, Spot wishes he were a real boy. TEACHER'S PET is about what happens when Spot is made human. (The results are expected and unexpected.)

The voice casting features some impressive names for what looks to be a low priority release. Kelsey Grammer, David Ogden Stiers, Paul Reubens, Wallace Shawn, Jerry Stiller, Estelle Harris, and Megan Mullally are all in on the fun. The film makes liberal and effective use of songs. The animation is very basic and also kind of ugly, but it zips along with funny lines and catchy tunes to make it worth your time. Not essential viewing--I don't want to oversell it. Plus, it'll probably be on home video in a couple months.

ALONG CAME POLLY (John Hamburg) (1/16/04, AMC Lennox) Grade: B-

ALONG CAME POLLY completed the afternoon. A Ben Stiller-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy sounds promising, but a mid-January release date raises skepticism. If the early weekend estimates are an indication--it looks to be number one at the box office--Universal released the film at the best time. It's a funny, diverting picture but nothing that will stick with you.

Stiller is a master at playing uptight guys. In ALONG CAME POLLY he's Reuben, a risk analyst at an insurance company. Despite his calculations, his marriage to Lisa (Debra Messing) was riskier than he thought. (On the first day of their honeymoon in St. Barts, she cheats on him with Hank Azaria's French scuba diving instructor.) Back home he runs into junior high school acquaintance Polly (Aniston). They don't appear to have much in common--she's a free spirit partial to spicy ethnic food and salsa dancing, he has irritable bowel syndrome and doesn't like to dance--but before long they grow fond for each other.

The trailer and ads have emphasized the gross humiliations Stiller's character suffers. Those parts, including most of a bathroom scene modeled on the one in DUMB AND DUMBER, aren't the films strength. Stiller does his slow burns and awkward, cocksure gestures with amusing results. Aniston bounces off him well, even if she isn't given much to do. Polly turns out to be little more than the stereotypical male's fantasy complete with convenient resistance to commitment. (At times her character and the film almost venture into THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY territory regarding her being an ideal, although this has none of the Farrelly Brothers' film's texture.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a lot of laughs as Reuben's friend Sandy, a former child actor known for being in one hit film. He's essentially doing Jack Black's schtick, but who cares if he's funny.

The necessary relationship conflict is contrived solely to transition action to the third act, but luckily ALONG CAME POLLY shrugs off this development. Reuben and Polly hit a bump in the road, but the film doesn't dwell on it. I could have done without yet another romantic comedy that ends with one character racing to catch another going to the airport. (Can we please put a moratorium on this device?) I laughed enough, though.

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