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Boston Globe at the movies [25 Jun 2005|03:52am]

Mabye the summer, with its awful movies, is when the critics really let their hair down.

I don't pay too much attention to the movie reviews in the Boston Globe most of the time. They're usually not that thorough; at least, less thorough than other places.

But I noticed from skimming headlines and summaries that they have really been on a tear these last few days. I appreciate the scathing review as a genre, so I'll highlight some excerpts. These all come from just the opening sentences of the reviews. I didn't look at the full articles to see whether maybe there was even more nastiness inside:


Ill-conceived 'Bewitched' bothers and bewilders

By Wesley Morris, Globe Staff

Even by the lowest, loosest standards of silliness, ”Bewitched" is a juvenile movie, made for people who watch their romantic comedies while wearing a bib.


Copied has style all its own

By Ty Burr, Globe Staff

The Brazilian movie renaissance continues with ”The Man Who Copied," a comedy about the conundrums of being young that's as fresh and as stylish as youth itself. As mixed-up, too: What could have been an effervescent 90-minute experience is so in love with the sound of its own voice that it develops genre trouble and piddles on for two-plus hours.


This bug isn't quite lovable

By Ty Burr, Globe Staff

Disney has gone back to the cedar closet again and come out with ”Herbie: Fully Loaded," a remake of the studio's goofy polyester-era series about a Volkswagen bug with a mischievous soul. Fully loaded with what? you may ask. Product placement, as far as I can tell.


'Stolen' states its case, over and over

By Wesley Morris, Globe Staff

”Stolen Childhoods," a dispiriting public service announcement of a documentary...


(Actually this last one isn't necessarily negative, but my first impression was to snicker. My first instinct is to consider comparison to a public service announcement negative.)

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Crash [25 Jun 2005|08:39am]

If you've read anything about Crash, you've probably read about its string of improbable coincidences, and its portrayal of what it means to be a racist.

Crash has some interesting twists and turns, though they would have been much more enjoyable had I not ended up in a theater full of people who were constantly, loudly, explaining things to each other. I haven't been in such a noisy theater in a long time. It was the retired crowd that was causing the majority of the problems (speaking of debunking stereotypes).

I had two issues with the movie. The first relates to the coincidences and what they do and don't show. One reading is that the coincidences help give the characters moral complexity. This is unfortunately oversimplified in the movie. People act like total jerks one minute and total angels the next minute. While that attributes more complexity to racist characters than what we've seen in films in the past, it hardly rises to the level of reality or complexity. Where is the area in between? First a cop is groping a woman of color, and later he's saving her life? If the situations had been less extreme, it would be easier to read parts of the movie as showing how racist stereotypes and attitudes are more nuanced in their connections to an individual's past than how they are usually portrayed.

The second issue is with the audience reaction to the slurs in the film. I'm not sure what this says about the film, but I was uncomfortable with the amount of belly-laughing that was going on during many of the heated exchanges between the characters. It came to a head in the latter half of the movie, when a man in front of me leaned over to tell his friend, "That's the CHINAMAN'S car," when his friend was confused about whose van was being stolen. He actually adopted the term used by a racist in the film as the best means to refer to the character.

Rather than encouraging this particular gentleman to question his stereotypes, Crash seems to have encouraged him to apply them. The "chinaman" had just been identified by name and context only moments before. So, there were several ways he could have identified the man --- by name, or "the guy in the hospital", or, "the guy who got run over", etc.

This is just one example. In the end, I had the feeling of being in the company of people laughing at a bunch of racist jokes. Maybe they were just laughing because they were uncomfortable, or because of the shock value, or because things were so over-the-top. Since the movie had some funny moments, it was hard for people to know when to laugh and when not to laugh. But I was shocked that people laughed so much, for example, at the tirade delivered by the gun store owner at the "Arab" (Persian), which included a threat to fly 747s into "their mud huts". This isn't the kind of thing you would laugh at if you heard it in person.

Abstracting from the race issues, the film does do a good job of showing the way people end up interacting in public for the few minutes they are forced to, without any concept of the context or situation that the other person is coming from, other than whatever categories come to mind. The idea that everything we see of each other in public has roots in individual histories, which we'll never be a party to, is emphasized by the film's structure --- it opens with a crime scene, flashes back to the explanation, and returns to the present.

It's hard to fault any of the acting. I think special props should go to Michael Pena, who played his heavy scenes with amazing patience. Don Cheadle was great too, and I even thought Ludacris and Larenz Tate did a good job together, though the writing behind their dialog was a little heavy-handed, fit more for a movie like Waking Life than for chit-chat between two thieves.

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Taking the MIT blog survey [25 Jun 2005|08:22pm]

Taking a lead from LJer rhiannonstone, I took the MIT blog survey tonight.

Looks like it uses some Python:

"[24/Jun/2005:23:40:09 -0400] "GET HTTP/1.0" 200 89322 "-" "Python-urllib/1.16""

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

It was a little funny. One of the things it does is reach out and grab some random links from your blog. Then it asks you to categorize the links. Problem is, the first link that it grabbed was the footer link to Alexander Limi's page. It then asked me to say how I came upon the link.

  • Someone told you about it
  • Saw it on another weblog
  • Saw it on a bulletin board
  • Saw it on a news site
  • Found it through a search engine
  • Stumbled upon it
  • Wrote it myself
  • Can't remember

None of those are really appropriate for this situation. It's part of the copyright notice in the footer. I chose the first one, because I guess in a sense, someone did tell me about it. It came with the default Plone footer template.

The next link it asked me about was the link to the story about Buddhist monks being able to suppress the startle reflex from the recent entry on meditation. This one was also problematic, because the question is worded, "How did you first hear about this story/website?"

Those are two different questions. Apparently, they are assuming that the first time you heard the story, it was in a form that had a link, because the only answer options they give (other than Can't Remember and Someone Told Me) all have to do with Web sites and the Internets. In this case, though, I knew about the story beforehand, from a magazine (the kind you hold in your hand). So, should I be answering the first place I heard about the story, or the first place I found the link? I found the link by searching based on my previous knowledge of such a story from a magazine.

I answered, "Found it through a search engine", because at least that's how I found the link, even if it's not how I found the story.

Unfortunately, the third link it asked me about was another name from the footer. Same story as the first, only this time it was Runyan. Strange. I would think they could have done something to screen out the footer links. Shouldn't be that hard. Perhaps there is a control reason why they did not do that.

The next link it asked me about was to BrainyQuote.com, because I had written a response to an Art Quote of the Day. The questions seemed to fit this one OK.

The final link said, "undefined". And it was not a link at all. Unfortunately, I still had to answer the normal questions about it. I hope they do something at the end to remove all of the "undefined" links, because obviously my answers in this case were totally made up.

I wondered how that happened, so I ran my page through the validator, and sure enough there are a bunch of errors currently. I just upgraded Quills yesterday, and it looks like there are some errors in the templates, and it also looks like some characters aren't being escaped properly in links for whatever reason. So, things to fix. Sorry to screw up the survey. I'm surprised though, that if it could tell that a link was "undefined", it didn't pull another link from the blog to try. Sorry it couldn't cope with my currently ugly-ass blog.

The rest of the questions were more survey-oriented. There is a set that asks about the content of the blog entries. It's kind of hard to say what percentage of posts relate to your profession if your profession is writing. While writing isn't my only profession, I would consider it to be part of my profession, as it's what I was professionally trained for. Supposedly.

Finally, I find it a little funny that they allow you to log back in and change your answers. That's fine, but they also allow you to view how you compare to the results so far. Isn't that kind of strange? I guess it depends on what they are actually studying, but that seems to be kind of unscientific to me.

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