Archive for October, 2009

Kill Some More Time! I’m Running Late on the Write-Up!

October 30, 2009

spikeA reader just sent me a link to a feature on her site that ranks the 20 hottest vampires of all time.  Guess who’s number one?  Uh huh:  James Marsters!  Yum.

So, go read her piece, which is hilarious and sharp, and pretend you didn’t notice I didn’t get that Boyfriend write-up posted today like I said I would.  Go on now, shoo!  I’ll try for tomorrow, I swear!

TV Timekilling Post (New Boyfriend in the Works This Week!)

October 28, 2009

Just to let you know, things will be somewhat quiet here this week, as I’m scrambling around like pan o’ breakfast trying to get the new Boyfriend of the Week write-up posted before October expires.  (Not just because I’m trying to get at least one lame write-up posted every month (although, that too), but because he needs to make it up BY HALLOWEEN, or else there goes all the fun.  That’s the only hint yer gettin’, so don’t try for more, my peoples.)

While we’re waiting, though, let’s have some conversation.  Everybody tell me in comments which of the new Fall TV shows you are still watching and enjoying?  Here’s what’s still on my list:

gleeGlee — I’m behind by three episodes, but I WAS behind by six until this past weekend and then I started to get caught up and got all sucked in again.  That said, I confess nothing gets my dander up like a subplot involving a faked pregnancy being used to trick an unhappy husband into staying in an awful marriage.  Newsflash to men everywhere:  Most women would never, ever consider doing something like that.  I promise, we wouldn’t.  We. Would. Not.  In any case, this is a subplot that I feel is not only grossly cliché and completely out of place in the show itself, but one I think we women ought to be downright offended by.  If you’re not offended by it, rest assured that I am offended on your behalf.  Wrap that shit up, Glee, and give me more songs by Journey or I may bail before the year’s out.  You’re on alert, yo.

The Forgotten — I recognize that this is not a good show.  That said, you know what?  I’m enjoying it anyway.  I really like Christian Slater; I can’t help myself.  And even though everybody starts off dead and so there is never a happy ending, I kind of like the concept behind this series — a show about a group of volunteers with various sorts of skills who spend their free time working as amateur sleuths.  I love sleuthing — it’s why I became a librarian, in fact.  In any case, while I haven’t been overly impressed so far with the plots, it MIGHT get better.  It COULD get better.  I’ll hang in a little while longer.

llcooljNCIS: Los Angeles — Oh, please, I KNOW this one is not a good show.  I’m still watching this one just because every episode is so amazingly stupid and bad, it is absolutely hilarious.  I laugh out loud no fewer than 8 times per episode, which is more than The Daily Show gets out of me half the time these days.  Oh god, I love this one.  I LOVE IT.  I have never seen a show this ridiculous.  It’s totally awesome.  Plus, I will never get tired of looking at L. L. Cool J’s butt, no matter how old I get.  Or how old he gets.  May we grow old together, in fact, me and L. L Cool J.  And L. L. Cool J’s butt.  All three of us, old.  Together.  Forever.

Flash Forward — I’m behind by three episodes, and I think it’s because. . . meh.  I mean, I like the concept of this series, and I fully intend to get caught up (this weekend, even).  But I haven’t gotten sucked into it that solidly yet.  Not like I got with Lost, certainly.  I never fell behind on a single episode of Lost until season three, come to think of it, but I started falling behind on FF on EPISODE three.  Probably not a great sign.  That said, I’m still IN.  I’m just not IN all the way.  I’m sort of hokey-pokey-in.  One foot, one hand, shakin’ it all about.  What do you guys think of this one?  If it lasts long enough, Joseph Fiennes or John Cho for Boyfriend of the Week?  Both?

Three Rivers — It’s terrible, I know it.  Stop, I know it.  But still.  Of the three new medical shows (Mercy and Trauma being the other two), it’s the only one I watched a second episode of, and even though I haven’t then watched any more, I’m letting them pile up on the DVR for a rainy day and am even sort of looking forward to the day that rainy day finally arrives.  Incidentally, I recently went to the ER myself and guess what was playing on the TV while I was there — Mercy and Trauma. I motioned to the TV set and said to the doctor, “Really? Isn’t that kind of like playing Castaway on an airplane?”   And he laughed and said the nurses liked it.  Personally?  I think health care reform needs to start RIGHT THERE.

I think this is it for me and the NEW shows this year.  I’d love to hear what you guys are watching (is anybody still watching Eastwick, for example?  How’s it going?  Did you guys end up loving The Good Wife?  What did I miss that I ought to check out?  Any of the new sit-coms good?).  Hit the comments and chat us all up and together, we’ll make it to the next Boyfriend of the Week write-up, due FRIDAY come hell or high water.  (Or, more likely here in Seattle, a hell OF high water.)

BOOK: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

October 23, 2009

I somehow managed to get through both high school and college (as an English major, no less!) without ever reading this novel, one of the most famous books ever written.  Don’t ask me how it happened.  I don’t have an answer.  What’s important is that I finally got around to it, right?

When I first started reading this book, I was absolutely flabbergasted by how completely wonderful it was.  The first 200 or so are not only brilliantly written, but quirky and hilarious and delightful as well.  I couldn’t put it down, and only about fifty pages into it, I was so in love with the narrator, (call him) Ishmael, I was seriously starting to consider making him a Boyfriend of the Week (hey, weirder Boyfriends have happened: meet Sock Puppet).

And then I got to the middle.  The middle 200 or so pages of this novel are absolutely brutal.  Unless you have a vested interest in whaling yourself, and particularly in the ins-and-outs of butchering the whales you have snagged, you are going to get to the middle of this novel and curse my name for having recommended it to you. There is an entire chapter, I kid you not, that provides step-by-step instruction on how to behead a sperm whale.  Now, granted, the fact this process requires a detailed tutorial makes some sense,  because beheading an animal that has no neck would be no easy feat, right?  The thing is, once you’ve read that chapter, there is no un-reading it.  And I have to confess, well, let’s just say: regrets, I’ve had a few.

THAT SAID, the nice thing about the sloggy middle of this otherwise-entertaining book is that the chapters are short and usefully-titled, which makes it extremely easy to skim past the parts that are of no import to you.  Jump past the whaling encyclopedia and straight on to the end, where the action heats up anew, the characters start getting their asses whomped, and fights, fights, fights!  But exciting drama aside, the analogy of Ahab’s obsessive whale hunt, and the analogies that can be applied to his ultimate fate, are thought-provoking and powerful.

All in all, this book had a tremendous impact on me (to the point where I started using lines from the text as my Facebook status updates, even, because they were so beautifully written), and I’m very grateful to the friend of mine who encouraged me to read it along with him.  Maybe you’ll feel the same way about me if you pick it up now yourselves.  Let me know, yes?


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MOVIE: Martyrs (2008)

October 22, 2009

martyrsThis was another film I picked up off the local video store’s “Recommended for Halloween” shelf.  But I think this French film is going to be extremely hard to describe in a way that truly conveys WHY I found it so incredibly powerful, because it cannot be described without detail of the absolutely ASTONISHING amount of violence and gore, if only to serve as a warning to you guys.

And yet, at its root, this film is actually one of the most heart-wrenching, thought-provoking movies I have ever seen.  Almost beautiful, certainly incredibly powerful, it’s a story I would describe as being primarily about women and trauma, and the amazing resilience sometimes found therein.

[NOTE:  SPOILERS are contained below, so skip the review if you think you are going to watch this.  But don’t skip all of it — go down to the very bottom and read the very last paragraph, because if you are going to rent this movie based on my recommendation, that paragraph is mandatory reading from my perspective.]

This film opens fifteen years ago with a young girl (Lucie), maybe 12 or so years old, found running half-naked and covered in blood, howling, through the streets of an industrial area in some unidentified French town.  She is discovered and hospitalized, and it becomes clear she has been the long-term victim of systematic  torture and abuse (not sexual, but utterly heinously physical).  At first, she can barely communicate, but she eventually makes friends with a younger fellow patient, Anna, and over time, they become extremely close.

Cut to fifteen years later, with a nice family at home having breakfast:  a mom, dad, and their two teenagers, sitting around the table joking and joshing the way loving families do.  Suddenly, an adult Lucie bursts through the front door and shoots all four of them in the chest point-blank with a shotgun.  She then calls Anna who, horrified, shows up to help.  Lucie has long been haunted (in her mind) by the “ghost” of a girl she’d also seen being tortured one room over when she was a captive, a girl she’d had to leave behind.  That “ghost” slices Lucie with a razor at every chance — but Anna knows it’s really just Lucie mutilating herself.  And so, knowing her friend is crazy, she doesn’t fully believe her when Lucie insists the parents she’s just killed were the same people who assaulted her as a child.

When Lucie realizes Anna doesn’t believe her — not even now — she lets the ghost take her life.  Devastated, Anna can’t bring herself to leave the house — or Lucie’s body — for another full day.  Just as she’s about to leave, though, she stumbles across a hidden room in the house that leads down to a horror chamber just like the one Lucie had described.

What happens next is virtually indescribable, and completely unstomachable.  Another victim, a new round of attacks, and the most astonishingly graphic violence I have EVER seen on film.  Absolutely the very definition of “horror,” in fact.

And yet, this film was impossible to stop watching, much as I desperately, desperately wanted to turn it off.  The two stars (Anna and Lucie) are amazing, for one thing.  Anna’s expressions of love, fear, care, horror, and more for her broken, broken friend Lucie are among the most powerful emotions I’ve seen expressed by an actress in anything ever.  And the entire concept of the “martyr” (defined by the movie as a “witness”), was intensely powerful as well (even while the actual set-up for the martyrdom made little sense to me — for those who have seen the film, if the thing witnessed by Anna was, in fact, the group’s ultimate goal, why didn’t they just do what Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts did in Flatliners?  That would’ve been much more effective, in terms of their ultimate goal, right?  Though it I guess it wouldn’t have been as sickly satisfying for them.  Maybe that’s the explanation.).

I kept thinking, actually, that this is a movie Eli Roth really needs to watch.  Because this is what he needed to do with Hostel — he focused too much on the sick thrill of the violence (which, frankly, seems almost laughably tame compared to the violence in this film), and not nearly enough on the actual emotions, motivations, and ultimately the incredible resilience of his movie’s survivors.  By comparison, Hostel seems downright childish to me.  Vacuous.

This movie isn’t really about the violence at all, as much of it though there is.  It is, in essence, a movie about survival.  And the horror that comes AFTER you’ve survived — AFTER you’ve “witnessed.”  The torment.  The suffering.  And ultimately, the strength.   And god, hopefully:  the calm.

Absolutely astonishing.   Really.  Truly.  Astonishing.

And people?  In case I have not stressed this enough, LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW:  this is an UNRATED movie that contains HORRIFICALLY GRAPHIC VIOLENCE.  This is your warning.  I am serious.  You have been warned.  Children should not be around when you watch this.  I’m not even sure YOU should be around when you watch this.  I probably should not have been around when I watched this.  Except that, to be honest, I really needed to watch this.  Those in the know might understand why.  Hello, perspective.  Nice to meet you.

Check back next week for a review of another French horror movie (turns out they make a lot of them!), which I hope will be as good in some ways and not as good in others.

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Genre:  Horror, Foreign
Cast:  Mylène Jampanoï, Morjana Alaoui, Catherine Bégin, Robert Toupin, Patricia Tulasne

MOVIE: Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)

October 22, 2009

someoneswatchingmeI have no idea how I got to be 35 years old without having seen every John Carpenter movie ever made.  BUT I DID.  So, I’ve decided it’s time to correct that grievous error.  I started with this one, the so-called “lost” Carpenter movie (so called because it didn’t come out on VHS or DVD until 2007), because it was on the local video store’s “Recommended for Halloween” shelf and  co-starred Adrienne Barbeau, who I have loved since I first saw her in Carpenter’s The Fog about 20 years ago.  I’ll watch anything Adrienne Barbeau was in, which explains why I’ve seen Bimbo Movie Bash.  And also Burial of the Rats.  Shut up, I can’t help myself.

This movie is about a young woman, Leigh Michaels (Lauren Hutton, so pretty), who has just moved to LA from NY after a botched workplace romance cost her her job as a live TV director.  She moves into a fantastic new apartment building, complete with the latest in heating and cooling technology (ooh!) and a gorgeous view from every room of the big city.  Within a week, she’s also landed a great job at a local TV station, where she meets a new BFF, Sophie (Barbeau), and not long after that, she adds a new boyfriend to the mix, a local philosophy professor,  Paul (David Birney — sigh. . . so dreamy).

Things are going pretty amazingly great when she suddenly starts receiving a bunch of strange letters in the mail.  The letters say she will win a free six-month vacation in Europe if she can correctly identify the location based on a series of gifts she will receive.  Okay, weird, but kind of exciting too, right?  But then the gifts start to arrive —  a telescope, a very teeny string bikini — and with them, a series of breathy, creepy phone calls (“Hope the bathing suit fits,”  delivered as though by Darth Vader (hooooo-haaaaaa), for example).

Eventually, those phone calls escalate to downright terrifying, and it becomes clear that the caller can both see and hear her in her apartment.  The cops can’t do anything, so Leigh enlists the help of both Sophie and Paul to try to figure out who is behind it all.  From there quickly to chaos, and not everyone gets out of it alive.

While this may seem like a fairly standard stalker thriller — it’s not a plot we haven’t already seen a million times, right? — it’s actually pretty well-made and suspenseful.  Great lighting and camera-work (not that I know anything about lighting and camera-work, mind you), and I always find movies like this — “That could happen to me” movies — fairly effective in terms of being unnerving or chilling.

I also looooved the 70’s hair, clothes, and attitudes, and I really liked Hutton’s Leigh, who is both tough and fragile, quirky and sweet.  By the end, even while I was yelling at her not to be so stupid (when your stalker leaves you a note that says, “I’ll be in the parking garage until 11:30,” might I suggest NOT going to the parking garage?  Or at least waiting until, say, 11:45?  I’m just sayin’), I was also really rooting for her.  This does not always happen when it comes to me and heroines in scary movies.

All in all, a pretty entertaining thriller well worth a rental, especially if you like “scary” movies that don’t contain a single drop of blood.  Recommended!

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Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Lauren Hutton, Adrienne Barbeau, David Birney (sigh. . . so dreamy — this is how his name must always be said, mind you), John Mahon

MOVIE: Paranormal Activity (2007)

October 21, 2009

paranormalactivityAfter weeks of debating whether or not I should drag my old lady arse to a midnight screening of this movie, the movie went and did me the huge favor of releasing itself nationwide in normal movie-watching hours.   Thank you.  Thank you so very much, movie.  Because midnight screenings?  Good lord.  Just not happening anymore.  Nooooot happening.

So a week or so ago, at the safe-from-ghosts-in-the-daylight hour of 4:30pm, I bought myself a ticket and some popcorn, snuggled into a cozy seat in my local theater, and prepared to be scared to death.

Except, not really, of course.  I mean, I’d read enough reviews of this movie declaring it to be “even scarier!” than The Blair Witch Project to know this movie wasn’t going to scare me at all.  When all the reviewers say something is the scariest movie EVER (!!), I know I’m in for two hours of pure unscary disappointment.  So, for once, FOR ONCE, I went into a majorly-hyped movie with my expectations in the metaphoric crapper.

And guess what!  Keeping your expectations lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut is absolutely the way to go!  Because, as it turned out, this movie totally did not suck!  Oh frabjous day!

In fact, this movie ended up not-sucking so much I exited the theater however-many-minutes later pretty pleased.  And you know what the secret is?  As it turns out, the secret to making an unsucky scary movie is having no budget whatsoever.   This movie was so low-budget it didn’t have enough money to suck.  There wasn’t enough money for gore.  There wasn’t enough money for showing us creatures or spooks or ghosts or anything.  There just wasn’t enough money for special effects in general.  And special effects are, in my opinion, what drain the scary right out of almost every scary movie made these days.  You start dumping in the elaborate mutilations and gore, the elaborate creatures, the elaborate show-me-everythings!, and what you end up with is a movie that leaves nothing whatsoever left to the imagination.  There’s absolutely nothing scarier than not having a clue as to what’s coming your way.  Just leaving it to your brain work out all the specs.  It’s what made Blair Witch scary.  And it’s what makes Paranormal Activity scary too.

That said, this movie had an unfortunate number of flaws.  Flaws that, had they only sent me the script first, I could’ve fixed for them in FIVE SECONDS FLAT.  When — WHEN?! — will you people ever learn?  TO SEND ME THE SCRIPT FIRST?  Gah.  But more on that in a sec.

Just in case you haven’t heard anything about this one yet, it’s about a young couple living in San Diego, Katie and Micah, who buy a video camera and set it up in their bedroom after Katie insists she/they are being haunted.  Micah doesn’t believe her, of course — what sane person would?  But he loves her, so he humors her.  And then he starts watching the footage — whoa! — and it all kinda goes downhill for them both from there.

That’s all I’ll tell you in regards to the plot, and I highly recommend NOT watching the trailer for this movie before you go see it, either.  The trailer has some of the spookiest moments in it, and discombobulated in that trailer, they simply aren’t scary at all.   Having seen them before, then, they completely failed to surprise me in the film; it was more distracting than anything else to have them finally dropped into context.  I think if I’d never seen those moments before, they might’ve truly given me a lovely chill.  Instead, meh, not so much.

So, in lieu of more storytelling, allow me rather to detail for you the three biggest problems I had with this movie.  I would not consider any of these major plot-wrecking “spoilers,” but if you are cautious about such things, you can skip the rest of this review and wait to read it until after you’ve seen the film yourself.

1.  Katie’s Foot.  Ooh, this one really bugged me.  Every night, Katie and Micah get into bed, covered only by a sheet.  And every night, Katie leaves one of her bare feet sticking out from under the covers.  EVERY NIGHT.  Now, tell me this:  if you think you’re being haunted by a ghost or demon who creeps into your bedroom at night and breathes on your neck, would you EVER — EVER!! — leave your foot sticking out of the covers?  No, you would not.  I’m telling you right now, YOU. WOULD. NOT.

In fact, had it been me in that situation, I would not only have made sure every limb was safely tucked in, I would’ve been wearing footie-goddamn-pajamas to boot, and I don’t care if it’s summer in Southern California at the time.  “Leave no inch of skin unshielded from demon breath” — it’s my motto in life, and it’s gotten me this far for a reason, people.  Dear Katie, an hour into this movie, I could not help but think to myself you were totally asking for everything you got leaving that foot sticking out.  And that goes double for when the ghost thing finally grabs your toes and pulls you right out of bed onto your ass, kerPLUNK.

2.  The DEMON’S Foot.  Oh man!  You guys were doing AWESOME with the use-your-imagination thing until the stupid footprints part!  Then you had to go and blow all the mystery by revealing the demon to be. . . a three-toed sloth!  There is, quite frankly, nothing less scary than a three-toed sloth.  Not even snails are less scary than three-toed sloths.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this thing.  Get out, you crazy adorable munchkin!  Give us a kiss.

3.  The Very, Very Last Moment of This Movie.  Without giving away anything about what happens, I’ll just say this movie needed to end about ten seconds before it actually ended, and that final stare into the camera followed by the lurching CGI effect — gah — was just CRAP.  CRAP!  What were you thinking?  Bad enough with the three-toed sloth!  You fools, you fools!

But honestly?  Those are three pretty small things in a full-length movie.  There were parts of the film that got a little slow and repetitive, especially early on, and there were whole chunks I would’ve written completely differently myself (a little silly, a little lacking in common sense, a little cliché).  Overall, though, I was pretty pleased with this one.  And I’m really looking forward to seeing a second time, when I’ll be a little less on guard for the crap, and a little more relaxed about simply enjoying what’s playing out on-screen.  Recommended!

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Genre:  Horror, Ghosts
Cast:  Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Michael Bayouth

MOVIE: State of Play (2009)

October 12, 2009

stateofplayOkay, here’s the good news:  I really enjoyed this movie!  But here’s the bad news:  two days before I saw it, my brain shorted out (literally!), and I now can’t remember a damn thing about the plot.  Or, for that matter, about anything that happened last week.  Or yesterday.  Or this morning.

But I’ll tell you what I do remember, and maybe it’ll be enough to encourage you to rent it yourselves.  After you watch it, you should come back here and write your own review in the comments, by the way, because otherwise this whole shebang is going to be pretty useless, all things considered.

Okay, so, here’s what I do know:  this film has something to do with a reporter, played by ex-Boyfriend of the Week Russell Crowe, whose old school chum, a politician played by Ben Affleck, gets accused of having an affair with an aide who then kills herself.

Except now I can’t remember if it turned out that she killed herself or if it turned out that someone killed her.  I think someone killed her.  Wait, yeah, someone killed her.  But I don’t think it was Ben Affleck.  Or wait, maybe it was?  God, this is futile.  Why am I here?

To be honest, what I remember the most about this movie are two completely pointless  thoughts I had in the first twenty minutes.  The first was that it was remarkable just how much Russell Crowe’s character both looked and sounded like my husband (who is also a newspaper reporter).  In so recognizing this fact, I quickly made the resolution to make out with him a lot more often.  (What, we’re married.  Shut up.)

The second is that the Rachel McAdams character in this movie, a rookie reporter who teams up with Crowe’s seasoned muckraker, is a character I do not believe actually exists in real newspapers anymore.   What newspaper is hiring n00bs these days?  If your local rag can go a day without firing someone, it’s a goddamn banner day, believe me.  Newsflash:  they aren’t hiring fresh-faced journalism students to write their blogs and tweet their Twitters — they’re making the old reporters do it.  Or, even better, they’re “letting” members of the public contribute all that copy for no pay whatsoever.   Can you believe that?  Man, what suckers!   I mean, what kind of total loser would agree to write all that stuff online for NO PAY WHATSOEVER?

Wait, don’t answer that.

I forgot what my point here was.  Oh yeah: good movie.  I think?  Hell.  Someone go rent this and then come back and do the job I should’ve done, okay?  And I swear, when I go see Paranormal Activity tonight (yes!) and Zombieland later in the week (yes, again!), I will take notes so this does not happen again.  Yay-sus.

p.s. Please subscribe to (and read!) your local newspaper.   I thank you, and so does Russell Crowe.  The end.

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Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels

Short Blog Hiatus!

October 4, 2009

friedeggI’m not going to be blogging at all this week due to a stressful thingamajigger that needs more of my attention than I’ve been giving it lately. I’m letting you all know so you don’t abandon ship just because I go radio silent for seven days. Instead, come back next week and I will give you something to really abandon ship about. Like, say, a positive review of “Rest Stop 2” or something.

BOOK: Howards End by E. M. Forster

October 2, 2009

howardsendI read this book about every two or so years.  Want to know why?  This is why:

The present flowed by them like a stream. The tree rustled. It had made music before they were born, and would continue after their deaths, but its song was of the moment. The moment had passed. The tree rustled again. Their senses were sharpened, and they seemed to apprehend life. Life passed. The tree rustled again.

And, of course, this, which I believe I have mentioned before:

Looking back on the past six months, Margaret realized the chaotic nature of our daily life, and its difference from the orderly sequence that has been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes. The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of the man who is taken unprepared, but of him who has prepared and is never taken. On a tragedy of that kind our national morality is duly silent. It assumes that preparation against danger is in itself a good, and that men, like nations, are the better for staggering through life fully armed. The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled, save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty.

It does feel like a battle sometimes, though.


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What the WHAT?

October 2, 2009

Not a single Boyfriend of the Week appears on the list. Nice work, men.  Let’s keep it that way.

And hey, Gael Garcia Bernal, you suck.  You too, Ms. Swinton.  What the hell?  Has everybody suddenly gone completely insane?

(Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Here.  God.)