Archive for July, 2012

The Booth At The End (2011-TV)

Posted in Films 2012 with tags on July 30, 2012 by tom

I don’t usually review TV shows here, and I honestly don’t know if this little gem was ever broadcast anywhere.

“The Booth At The End” has five episodes, each of which is 25-ish minutes. The excellent Xander Berkeley stars as an unnamed man who sits in a diner–wait for it—in the booth at the end. People come to him when they want things. He agrees to their offer, and sets them a task. The characters and their stories intertwine, and not every wish comes true exactly how the client wanted.

It’s sort of like “Fantasy Island” meets “Needful Things,” except that Xander Berkeley is just creepy as the guy. He has this notebook and pen, and is always drinking tea or orange juice, or eating diner food. I know that’s what one does in a diner, but it’s like he’s always there, day & night. He’s working for The Universe somehow, and Berkeley’s quiet voice, scruffy beard, and blue eyes are perfect.

The supporting cast is amazing, too.

In a way, I’m glad this series was only five short episodes: no chance to get anywhere near jumping the shark. Plus, it ended perfectly.

It’s a quirky little show, and it’s available on hulu.com.

Just awesome, and highly recommended.

Grade: A

 

 

One Day in September (1999)

Posted in Films 2012 with tags on July 29, 2012 by tom

Jim McKay: When I was a kid my father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were eleven hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.

Every now and then, a television announcer just nails the perfect quote. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” “He’s moving like a tremendous machine!” “The Giants win the pennant!!”

ABC Olympic anchor Jim McKay nailed the sadness of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre.

Basically, a group of terrorists invaded the Israeli Olympic Team’s apartments in the Olympic village. They killed two men there; they killed the rest during a clusterfuck of a rescue attempt.

“One Day in September” covers this tragedy, featuring interviews with a surviving terrorist, as well as widows and now-grown children of fathers who never came home.  Also, there is plenty of TV coverage from those days. At one point, the German police were climbing on the building dressed as athletes. TV showed this live. The terrorists were watching. Duh. The bad guys weren’t fooled.

They negotiated a deal. They’d take buses to helicopters, who would fly the terrorists and the hostages to an airport, where a waiting 707 would fly them off to some undecided Arab country, and everyone would go home happy. The German police set up five snipers to kill the five terrorists once they got off the helicopters. Brilliant!

Except, it turns out there were nine terrorists. The snipers had no radios to talk to one another. One of the snipers…

It’s just abysmal.

The terrorists killed all the hostages: they tossed a grenade in one helicopter, and machine-gunned everyone in the other.

This film never hooked me. I’m a documentary fan, and I’ve seen some awesome documentaries (as well as some great dramatic films) about the 1972 Munich Olympiad.  The filmmaker seemed mostly interested in showcasing the German police’s inefficiency, and the crude desire of the Olympic executives to have the games continue. Yes, there were mistakes made. Yes, the Olympic officials were kind of dicks.

But the film…I don’t know. It didn’t capture the tension of those days. The filmmakers used a lot of rock music in the soundtrack (“Immigrant Song,” by Led Zeppelin, a Deep Purple tune, etc).

This was a huge tragedy. I admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Olympics. Other than women’s gymnastics and women’s softball, I just don’t care.  I never really have, especially since we sent our basketball “Dream Team” to destroy everyone. I admire the athletes, and I wish them all well. I just don’t really get stoked about watching fencing, white-water rafting, or weightlifting. Munich 1972 was a bitter tragedy, just a horrible event. The tragedy here wasn’t that the USA didn’t win a gazillion medals. People were KILLED, for God’s sake. That isn’t supposed to happen when the world comes together in peace and friendly competition, or whatever yak vomit NBC uses as ad copy this go round.

There are times when a sports story transcends just being about sports. Munich 1972 was an amazing example of this.

In this film, director Kevin Macdonald seems to be making a film about how cool it is to be making a film about the 1972 Olympics. His approach totally missed the solemnity of the event.  And there are few things more solemn than what happened that long day back in September, 1972.

Grade: C

(note: Through some satanic means, this thing won the 2000 Best Documentary Oscar. Read Roger Ebert’s review for his opinion on this. I agree totally.)

HOLY CRAP!! Sally Ride was (gasp) A GAY!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 by tom

I read a news story about astronaut Sally Ride, who passed away at age 61. The first sentence of the story talks about how this Astronaut’s “coming out” was a well-kept secret, except among family and close friends.

Here’s the word that was left out of the story’s first paragraph: ASTRONAUT! Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. She was an Astronaut, a scientist, and AN ASTRONAUT! (figured I’d mention that twice)

I had to search for this story. On the front page of this piece-of-crap website was some horseshit about Michael Jackson’s kids and his mother and custody, and WHO CARES? He’s been dead for, what, 10 years? 20? Why the hell are we talking about his kids? Can we leave them alone, and get to the real news? Like what’s happening with Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.

I kid.

I have a lot of respect for people who come out as gay publicly, while they’re in the prime of their careers. You see this a lot in stage and screen actors. Astronauts, though? Not so much. From what I read, Sally Ride was the first acknowledged gay Astronaut.

Why should that matter? Why should it make any difference what gender Sally Ride preferred? Could she do her job? Check. Was she one hell of a lot braver than I am? Check. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to know about Neil Armstrong taking “one giant leap into Mrs Armstrong.” Again: can you do the job? Great. Sign here.

I hope people take this opportunity to focus on Sally Ride’s barrier-breaking courage and skill, and realize that a Lesbian was as capable as a straight woman (or straight man) at astronautery. I hope it becomes acceptable enough for gay Astronauts to “come out” so that when one dies, the story isn’t about sexual preference, but about education, amazing courage, and accomplishments.

And that people just shut the hell up about that lunatic Michael Jackson and his effed the eff up family. These people suck. Let them suck in peace, out of the range of my reading. Let’s talk about true heroes, not fuck-ups.
R.I.P. Sally Ride, and thank you.

Where Your Narrator Visits the Emergency Room

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2012 by tom

After the past several weeks of posts, you’d think I had done something stupid and self-destructive, and I was going to the ER to have my wrists sewn back up or my stomach pumped. Not true; not even close. This visit to the ER was because–drum roll please–my left ankle and calf were swollen.

My mom is a Registered Nurse, and since my left ankle and calf were swollen–and ONLY my left ankle and calf–she was worried it could be a deep vein thrombosis. This is a blood clot deep in your veins (duh), and if it gets loose, it can move to your lungs or heart or brainz (sic) and do some real damage. Like kill you.

My thought was this: my left lower leg is swollen because I’m coming off of 1800 mg a day of Lithium which causes edema. She was ready to take me to the ER Sunday night. I refused. I finally acquiesced, and agreed to visit an urgent care facility first thing this morning (It’s still Monday, amazingly).  So the Urgent Care doctor told me my calf and ankle were swollen, and I should go to the ER to have an ultrasound, just to make sure I didn’t have a deep vein thrombosis.

Oh, for fuck sake.

So I came home, passed this information along to my parents, and whisked into the roomy back seat of my father’s Honda Odyssey.

We got to the ER, and I filled out a few forms (thankfully, the ER and the Urgent Care place were related, so my info was in the computer).  Then it was time to wait. And wait. And wait.

I should mention this: when I discovered I was being whisked off to the ER, I came back to my room. There’s a white paper bag, like from a bakery. Inside it are several pill bottles. I took my regular new mood-stabilizer (which makes me feel drunk), plus three mg of Xanax. My goal was to be as stoned as possible, while still able to fill out forms.

I loathe the emergency room. Last time I went to the emergency room, I had an emergency: I had Fournier’s Gangrene. I knew it, and I told the intake nurse, “I’m septic. I’m about 12 hours from dead.” She got me right in. 🙂
This time? It had to be an hour and a half before I heard my name called. I got up, only to have an aide come over and affix my shiny armband, with my name, date of birth, and a bar-code. Yay. Nothingness continued on. I converted to Hinduism while I sat there. THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

Perhaps my two favorite things about the Emergency Room are these:  crying babies, and people with some sort of bubonic plague. I don’t mind people who have cut off their hands with chainsaws–they need to be there. But crying babies and really sick people? Can we get them the hell away from me??

I was just being pissy. Everyone there thought they should have been called back before the rest of us. I was a low priority. Finally, I got called back. This guy wheeled me up to somewhere on the fourth floor. This very cute young nurse’s aide named Kelcie (a favorite name of mine) told me to remove my pants, and cover up with a blanket. This other lady came in, and squirted goo on my leg, then got with the scanning. She actually said, “Oh, for God’s sake. There’s no clot anywhere in here.” I couldn’t tell if she was angry that I’d been referred to her leg scanning department, or if she was angry on my behalf that I’d endured the 934 day wait (or so it felt). I was able to reapply my shorts, and somebody wheeled me to my room. This is where the Doctor–who looked like one of the demons in “Hush”–came and made his 45 second diagnosis.

Dr. Emergency Guy (right) and Billing Director (left)

Last time I went to an ER, I ended up having EMERGENCY surgery six hours after admission, and I was in the hospital 35 days. I KNEW I needed the ER. This time? I knew I DIDN’T need the ER.

But, better safe than sorry, right? I had my ultrasound, and by damn, there’s no DVT. The doctor, when he finally came in, said, “well, you don’t have any DVT. Doesn’t look infected. I’ll give you some Lasix. Keep it elevated. Any questionsgood the nurse will be by with your paperwork.” The nurse brought me two Lasix and a cup of water. I swear, I’ve whizzed every ten minutes since.

I hate the Emergency Room with the heat of a nova.

In a sense, I’m glad I went, just to reassure myself (and my worried mom) that I did not have a DVT or something else horrible in my leg. It was swollen as a result of the Lithium I was on till 3 days ago. I knew this. Sometimes you just know things, and I knew there was nothing wrong with my leg.

Emergency rooms are living hells when they’re busy. You have dozens of people, each of whom is convinced he/she or his/her kid/wailing infant is the most important person there. You have triage nurses who try to get the sickest people back there first. That makes sense. I wasn’t horribly sick, so I waited. As stoned as I was on my psych meds, it wasn’t too bad–I was able to rest my head against the wall. And ultimately, I got good news.

And now, I’m in my quiet place, with lots of calmy pills and pretty, nice-smelling candles.

I do so love my quiet place

Praise Ganesha.

Another Day, Another Dollar, Another Psychotropic Med

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on July 21, 2012 by tom

If you recall, several weeks ago, my doctor put me on Lithium. Lithium was great for some things. It leveled me out: I didn’t have big manias or deep depressions. This was good.

What I ended up noticing, though, was that I couldn’t feel anything. I was inert. Neither happy nor sad. I was flatlined emotionally, which is not healthy, nor is it where I want to be. Also, there were the side effects. I developed something called “diabetes insipidus,” which is not to be confused with “diabetes mellitus,” the latter of which is the high blood sugary, insuliny one. Diabetes insipidus is a kidney thing. Basically, you produce huge quantities of urine. Seriously. Like every 15 to 30 minutes, sometimes, I had to rush off to the bathroom. To make matters worse, you are constantly thirsty.

So, to paraphrase: you drink copious amounts of fluids, and pee constantly. If you DON’T drink the huge amounts of fluids…you pee anyway. This is truly an evil disease.

Finally, when my left ankle swelled up apropos of nothing (edema, another side effect), I called my doc. His aide called me back, and said he had called in a new prescription, and I was to take it three times a day starting immediately, and just discontinue the Lithium.

I have enough Lithium to…Lithiumize (??) a small town. Like Sunnydale. I could dump it into the water supply, and everyone would be so leveled-out, they wouldn’t attack each other. This would be good.

The new stuff is called “Trileptal.” One of the side-effects is that it makes you…well, for lack of a better word, it makes you drunk. Seriously. Hammered. The same symptoms and feelings I had when I drank, here they are. AND THEY’RE LEGAL!!! Woo-hoo! (Sadly, they will fade in a week or two *sob*)

Well, that’s secondary. Today–full day one–I feel almost normal. I can laugh and joke, and I can swear like a motherf**ker in traffic, which to me is a sign of mental health. I don’t think it’s normal not to yell profanity at other cars, as well as traffic signals. At least one should talk to them. It shows engagement.

I have no illusions this will last indefinitely. Hell, it may only last as long as the “shitfaced side-effect” lasts.

I’m getting bored, though. I have been out of work three months now. I’m bored out of my gourd. I want to be back at work, seeing other people, doing my job, earning full paychecks. What seems to happen is that I’ll have a few good days in a row, then a giant panic attack, where I have to go to bed for the rest of the day. I’ll be fine for awhile, then I’ll fall apart. Dr Borgia actually said that my brain suffered “the equivalent of a heart attack.”

Shit. I don’t want that; I really don’t. I want my comfortable little depression back, with the one gloomy-be-gone med, and relatively smooth sailing. I’m tired of not knowing which Tom is going to wake up. There have been times where I wake up absolutely angry for no reason at all. There are days I wake up feeling good. There are days where  I could wake up feeling one way, sleep for another two hours, and wake up the opposite way.

I want to laugh and talk and listen, and I want to feel like I’m not just some fucking freak, which is kind of where I am right now.

Today was a good day. Yesterday wasn’t too bad. Wednesday and Thursday, I was praying for an asteroid to crush me.

It’s like…

There really aren’t any adequate similes I can find. It’s like a giant vat of SUCK, and you can’t get out of it.

I’m still here; I’m still trying, and I’m not giving up hope. If psychiatry doesn’t work, I swear to Eleggua, I’ll become a Santeria priest, or God only knows what else. This is getting old, and I’m ready for it to end. I hope this new stuff works.

Happy Weekend,

t

One More from Buffy World

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on July 13, 2012 by tom

I wrote a week or so ago about how I felt bad for Buffy Summers. She didn’t ask to be the Slayer, but by God, there she is, night after night, slaying and smiting, then going to school the nexxt day. That’s a hell of a life.

During my current battle with Teh Crazee, I’ve been watching a lot of “Buffy,” for some reason. Maybe it’s because if I’d gone to Sunnydale High School, I’d have been friends with Willow, because I was a smart kid. (I wasn’t in a band like Oz, nor was I a beautiful witch like Tara, so I have no fantasies that we’d have dated). Who knows? Maybe I’d have been one of the Scoobies, perhaps replacing Xander, because I was certainly cooler and funnier than him in HS.

Anyway, what I wrote before was about Buffy. Today has sucked donkey genitals, so I’m now feeling a little sympathy for Buffy’s enemies.

In “Doppelgangland,” Anya–a former demon whose necklace was destroyed, and thus is now stuck in the present and, far worse, in high school–tries to order a beer at The Bronze. The bartender cards her. She appeals that she’s had a rough day. Carded. “I’M 1120 YEARS OLD! GIVE ME A FREAKIN’ BEER!” Carded. *sigh* “Give me a Coke.”

She was just doing her job as a demon, granting wishes. Then there’s the big guy, Luke, who’s the #1 henchman for The Master. This guy kills people and drinks their blood, because that’s his job. If The Master told him to open a frozen banana stand, he’d do it (although, being a vamp/demon sort, he’d have to work third shift). However, The Master doesn’t want frozen bananas. He wants souls and blood, death and mayhem, kind of like the IRS. So that’s what Luke does. Things go well, till he encounters Buffy. It takes a few battles, but ultimately, he is killed, a pile of corpses at his feet. He was doing his job, and the competition brought him down. I guess it’s sort of like Walgreen’s and CVS. You could be in the smallest town in the USA, but if there’s a Walgreen’s there, darn tootin’ there will be a CVS across the street from it.

Anyway, today was one of those days where I felt bad, metaphysically. I Had little patches of anger, but not bad enough to snap or want to hit humans or other annoying creatures with my ball bat. The thought occurred to me that I might be one of those demons. I’m sure they didn’t ask to be demons, but that’s where they were placed. Once you work for The Master, you want to work your way up the hierarchy to get to Luke’s position. To quote Sir Paul McCartney, “You got a job to do, you got to do it well. You got to give the other fellow HELL!”

I guess it dawned on me it was the same sense of inevitability.

It dawned on me while I was driving around today, cursing people in traffic and out of traffic. I felt like a malevolent entity, one of those Sunnydale demons, not a Slayer, or a Scooby–even Xander had more positive life force than I did.

Oh, well. I bought 15 painfully hot chicken wings for dinner…and hypnotized the drive-thru girl to give them to me free, before dipped her pancreas in bleu cheese dressing and ate it.

The Master would have it no other way.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Posted in Films 2012 with tags on July 10, 2012 by tom

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” was one of those indie darling pics, like something that Parker Posey would have done a decade ago. It’s also an amazingly interesting picture, with a dreadful title.

A girl named Martha ends up stumbling into one of those weird rural communes. It’s not apocalyptic and religious–like the Branch Davidians–but it has its little quirks. The commune’s leader is named Patrick (John Hawkes), all sinew and a long thin nose. He spouts pseudo-philosophical platitudes, and has sex with all of the women. The women share clothes and beds, and can only eat dinner after the men are finished.

So Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) ends up there, and Patrick renames her “Marcy May.” Like the other women, she plays this subservient role, until she witnesses something truly disturbing. The next morning, she packs her backpack and sneaks away from the commune. Everybody chases after her, but she gets away. She finds a small-town diner, where she devours  a breakfast. One of the men from the commune finds her. He makes sure she’s aware of what she’s leaving, then agrees to let her go. Martha/Marcy May finds a payphone, and calls her yuppie sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson). Lucy is newly married to her English husband, Ted (Claire Danes’ English husband, Hugh Dancy). Ted is a real estate developer in New York City, but the couple are spending time at their lake house in upstate New York, trying to get pregnant.

So Marcy May is back to Martha, and there’s a period of adjustment. The first time Martha goes swimming in the lake, she just peels off her shorts and t-shirt and jumps in.  At one point, Ted and Lucy are having sex, and Martha comes in and climbs into bed with them.  She’s not being perverted–she’s just having trouble sleeping alone, and this behavior was perfectly normal at the commune.

Oddly enough, the longer Martha is in this “normal” environment, the worse she becomes. She can’t discern the difference between her current, safe reality, and her tormented past in the commune. Ted and Lucy throw a party for their friends, and Martha is dressed beautifully. She approaches the bartender, and asks his name. He says Michael, and he offers her a drink. Well she freaks, thinking it’s one of the men from the commune. She has a genuine paranoid attack, and Ted and Lucy drag her into the house, trying to calm her down, giving her a Valium or Ativan or something.

There are other episodes, including a couple times where Martha/Marcy May calls the commune, hoping to speak to her friend Zoe (Louisa Krause). All the women when they answer the phone use “Jane” as their names. All wayward commune members are called “Marlene.”

The film cuts effortlessly between the “escaped” Martha world, and the “Marcy May” world of the commune. Elizabeth Olsen gives one of the best performances I’ve seen from a young actress in years. There’s a family resemblance between her and the kabillionaire twins, but Elizabeth has curves, and a huge talent.  She should have a long and splendid career. I mean, seriously: she’s amazing.

Ted and Lucy do a great job as the family who wants to help, but they don’t know quite what to do. They do their best to love MMMM and be patient with her, but there are limits.

The other character who stood out was Patrick, the commune leader. He was so calm and full of love…just barely hiding a facade of absolute madness. Great performance.

Still, it’s Elizabeth Olsen who is the center of the film, the hub around which everything else revolves. She absolutely nails it.

The very talented Olsen non-twin, Elizabeth

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” sort of reminded me of “Hard Candy,” just for tone and excellent performances by talented young actresses (Ellen Page in “Candy”).

This is an Indie film, but it’s not one of those where “normal” movie watchers would be lost. Honestly, I think it might have done better at the box office if it had a different title. It’s too late to fix that now, but definitely time to watch an intriguing psychological thriller with spectacular acting (portmanteau: Spectacting?)

Recommended.

Grade: A-/B+

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