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Monday, January 30, 2006

Dazed and Confused in Babies "R" Us

The baby is due March 19th, and yesterday I've received confirmation of what I feared all along.

I have no clue what the HELL I'm doing.

Erin and I registered for our upcoming Baby Shower yesterday. Half the stuff we're requesting I have no idea if we need or not.

If it was up to me, I just would've went down the aisles scanning stuff. A blind man might have done a better job than I did.

Thank God Erin was there. Erin had a good plan of going down the baby essential list that the store provided. But I have a feeling that when we end up with half the stuff we requested, a lot of it is going to end up in a big pile in the corner of the Baby's room.

Cause we won't know how to use any of it.

Even a thing like baby clothes was an ordeal. Apparently, according to the list, we needed Onesies. What the hell is a Onesies? I assume it's a one piece suit. But is it his underwear, or is it his clothes. See what I mean? I always joke with Erin that I want to dress the kid in sweats and a t-shirt till he's 12 years old. Roll the sweats up when he's small and just let the baby grow into a big pair of sweats. I don't think that's such a bad idea. Dressing a baby shouldn't be complicated. All they do is shit and piss themselves. What do they gotta look fashionable for anyways?

The first hour in the place we just looked around the store lost. There was a bunch of pads, blankets, hooded towels, humidifiers, breast pumps, waterproof, soil resistant things that looked important. We didn't know where to begin. The funny thing was that when we asked the worker's there how to use any of the stuff, they didn't really know either. We ran into other first time mother's, and they were as lost as we were. Everyone was walking around with a combined look of confusion and fear.

A look like "What the Hell did we get ourselves into?"

As far as our strategy for selecting items went, when we got to the big stuff, I usually just picked the most expensive, or best looking gadget. They had all these fancy swings and junk. It was all confusing, I do remember the Eddie Bauer brand. I picked a lot of Eddie Bauer stuff. For all we know it's crap, but hell I know the brand, I seen it in the mall, it's a camping store right? Anyways it looked sturdy and tough to me.

When we were looking at strollers we had the good fortune to run into an actual mommy. Erin smartly asked ,"What was it that we should be looking for when we pick a stroller?" She answered that we should get something light and easy to use.

Easy to use? I thought all you had to do was push the stroller. I guess nowadays it's hard to push. But apparently I'm wrong.

The mommy pointed out that we should pick one that stores easy, to put in and take out of a car. She pointed out that half the strollers in the market today are heavy, and take forever to unfold. At that exact moment, I was fidgeting with a Eddie Bauer stroller, when I realized that the huge monster stroller that I currently had in my possession was exactly what she was speaking about. To test her theory out, as she was talking to Erin, I tried to fold the stroller for storage, after about 10 minutes, I realized that I actually needed to have at least 4 years of engineering training, and a masters in physics to understand the complexities of the device.

Needless to say we went with the stroller she recommended.

Car Seats were another adventure. They had different sizes, shapes, weight regulations. When we looked for our little mommy friend she was nowhere to be found though. She disappeared into thin air, she was almost like a little stroller Angel sent by God to push us in the correct direction. But this time she was gone, there was no such luck with the Car Seats. No one to help us out.

So we went with the Eddie Bauer brand.

I guessing most of this junk is going to be unnecessary anyways. I have a friend who said that when she was a baby her parents put her to sleep in a dresser shelve.

Wow, why can't we go back to those days? I'd be willing to let the kid sleep in one of my dresser shelves. I could use the extra money to buy a new DVD player or download some songs.

Something tells me that Erin isn't going to let me do that though.

I admit I'm confused, but the truth is I'm also excited. I keep hearing from people that it's going to be difficult, a nightmare, I won't sleep anymore. That my life is never going to be the same. That kind of thing. It's actually getting a little annoying.

We know it's going to be difficult.

It's not like we're going to just give up the baby one day when it gets hard. As if, when the baby won't stop crying, I'm going to throw him out on the curb. That maybe one day I'll snap and I'm going to say:

"That's it, I give up!!! It was fun while it lasted but this parenting thing is too hard!"

I'm thinking we can't return the baby to the hospital....whether we have a receipt or not.

I'm just worried about doing a good job taking good care of the kid, and using the stuff we get right. I don't mind hard work.

I'm sure in time, I'll be an expert with all these devices, and things. I'll be like Inspector Gadget pulling crap out of my ass to make the baby stop crying. But for now I'm a novice, and I have no clue how to make this stuff work.

I just hope it will come with easy to read instructions......

Or else I'm just going to have to call this Eddie Bauer guy up myself.



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The L word




I know there are going to be people out there who are questioning my motives for reviewing this show.

I can hear them laughing now.

I admit that the show caught my attention when I was channel surfing, and a provocative lesbian scene grabbed my attention. The show does feature provocative sexuality.....at times. But I found out pretty quickly that the show also has interesting, dramatic storylines, side splitting humor, and strong political statements weaved throughout the show.....

..... as well as sexy girl on girl action.

The L word takes a look into the lives of a small group of close friends in Los Angeles....mostly lesbian. The characters consist of a Lesbian couple raising a child, played by Jennifer Beals (Bette) and Laurel Holloman (Tina). Tina's sister, Kit, who is NOT a Lesbian played by Pam Grier. There's also a professional tennis player who's recently come out of the closet, named Dana, played by Erin Daniels. A journalist/KCRW radio dj who is bisexual named Alice, played by Leisha Hailey, (who happens to be the only real Lesbian on the show). Rounding out the cast are a hairdresser and sexually aggressive Lesbian heartbreaker named Shane, played by Katherine Moenning, and a struggling artist bisexual named Jenny, played by an impressive Mia Kirshner.

Among the many things the show has going for it is good writing, and great characters. I don't think I'm overstating by saying this cast must be the envy of all female actors working today. Simply put, it's the best material out there available for actresses. The characters are strong, emotional, sexy, articulate, witty and multi-dimensional. It's really something one doesn't see nowadays in entertainment. It was almost jarring for me to watch the show. I kept expecting the stereotypes, and one dimensional female characters to appear and instead I got fascinating and unpredictable. It's riveting to watch, I didn't know how much I've been craving female characters like this, but after watching a marathon of roughly over twenty episodes......that's right TWENTY!......the past week, I find myself wanting more.

To be honest, I can't wait till 10:00 P.M. next Sunday.

I can't stress how impressed I am with the writing. As a man who's written female roles in the past, I've always struggled with finding the true voices of the female characters. To be honest, the female characters I wrote always seemed like ideal visions of what a man would think was cool or cute to hear from a woman. I've never felt like I've found a female character's true voice. It's probably because that's the only kind of female character's that I've been exposed to in the media. Even a show like Sex and the City, which is groundbreaking in some ways, doesn't feel authentic to me. Almost like the characters were just channeling the voices of the Gay male writers who wrote for the show.

The L Word doesn't feel that way.

At least for me, the voices and characters feel real and authentic. They sound like the female friends I have. One second they say something smart, touching and sensitive, the next second, they say something silly, flawed, cruel, or uncool.

In other words real.

It's not surprising that the series has an impressive list of female guest stars who probably begged, and bribed their way onto the show. Off the top of my head Dana Delaney, Rosanna Arquette, Kelly Lynch, Anne Archer, and Margot Kidder come to mind.

What IS very surprising about the show is how the male characters aren't objects of ridicule. Which would be what people might expect with a show like this. For example, in the first season the character of Jenny (Mia Kirshner) is in a love triangle between an exotic, sophisticated woman played by Karina Lombard and Jenny's male fiance, Tim, played by Eric Maibus. Under the typical Hollywood formula, the male character of Tim would be ignorant, neglecting, and chauvinistic. But the show goes the other way with it. Tim is incredibly loving, caring, and thoughtful. There's no reason for Jenny to leave Tim, but as in life, things are not always that simple.

The show is also politically articulate, and thought provoking. A lot of energy is spent on the struggle with the current political climate of Right Wing political leadership. Lots of that type of drama surrounds the character played by Jennifer Beals. She's a Yale educated Art Curator, with an ultra conservative father (who was played by the late Ossie Davis in his final role). Her character is constantly struggling with increasing censorship and religious backlash. She also happens to be half African American. So her character is working on four different political levels, she's a artistic loving lesbian, who's also half-African American, is an adoptive mother to a half black son, and an intelligent vocal, articulate, female, liberal democrat.

Where else is one going to find a character like that?

The real revelation of the show though is Mia Kirshner. She's outstanding on the show. She's heartbreaking and powerfully tragic. I can't believe that her work is not garnering more attention. I've enjoyed her work in the past with movies like Exotica and Love, and Human Remains. But she really shines here. Besides the love triangle I mentioned earlier, her character deals with sexual confusion, childhood rape, relationship betrayals, and self mutilation....she's also a struggling performance artist and writer.

Like I said.....fascinating characters.

I can go down the line and describe each character, and one will find them all to be grounded, fascinating and fully fleshed out. It's exciting to discover really, cause there really isn't anything on now or hasn't been anything like it on t.v. I think the show is important, and yet entertaining.

I'm hoping my description of the show doesn't make it sound pretentious or soap opera like cause it really isn't. The show is sensitive, realistic and often times humorous. It's really well done, a nice balance.

I guess if there's a weakness in the show, it's that the main characters are all mainstream society's ideal visions of lesbians. They are attractive, fashionable, feminine, educated and smart. The so-called masculine or "butch" lesbians weren't represented fully in the show. However, Kelly Lynch did have a 4 episode arch in the first season, where she played a masculine lesbian character named Ivan who had feelings for the straight Kit. This season they've addressed that issue by introducing Moira, who is a lesbian with masculine traits, as a major character, who is dating the frail Jenny. Once again the show is showing sensitivity by illustrating Moira's awkwardness around Jenny's feminine lesbian friends.

The real question is why isn't there more characters like this on television and in movies? It's unfortunate that a mediocre show like Desperate Housewives is garnering more attention. To be honest there is a lot more interesting, and dramatically impressive work being done on the L word. I'm guessing that the homosexual nature might turn people off, which is unfortunate, not to mention silly, cause people are missing good stuff. But I also think that the show isn't reaching enough audiences because of SHOWTIME'S smaller subscription base.

In any case, I'm just glad that this show is around to help fill the void of a lack of female voices.

I'm hoping more people will notice the fine work being done on the show, and it'll start a larger trend. The first two seasons are available now on DVD. The third season is currently airing on Sunday's at 10:00 P.M. As one can probably guess by now, I highly recommend it.



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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thumbsucker



Growing up is hard.....seriously.

That's pretty much the message in Mike Mills solid directorial debut.

Thumbsucker is the coming of age story of Justin Cobb. He's a boy who seems to be a normal teenager, complete with parents who love him but can't relate, a crush on a girl who SEEMS like she's interested....or maybe not, a teacher who's demanding and yet sympathetic, and a orthodontist who's a wanna be new age guru. He's a pretty normal kid except for one slightly quirky nervous trait......in times of stress he likes to suck on his thumb.

What's great about Mike Mills' movie is that the character's are all solidly written, and realistically portrayed. It's a refreshing change of pace from the stock character's we often see in these coming of age movies. The parents , played by Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio in solid, grounded performances, are aloof, yet they are also very sympathetic. The truth is they care, but in REALITY they have no idea what they are doing. The refreshing thing is they are the first to admit they aren't perfect, and are just doing their best to raise children. The teacher, played by a solid Vince Vaughn, is awkwardly affable. He's the kind of teacher that's cool in a friend sort of way, but at the same time not totally irresponsible, and quick to discipline when things get out of hand.

Sort of like real life.

The whole movie is like that. It feels authentic and sensitive, not exploitive or cheesy. The problem is that in the current entertainment market the movie is not quirky enough to be memorably hilarious, or moving enough to be interestingly dramatic. As my friend Lons remarked to me the other day, it feels like a network television drama pilot. If the movie was made in the 80's, in the midst of the John Hughes era, I'm sure it would have been a quirky hit that would have offset nicely from the Pretty in Pink type movies of the day. But in the age of Napoleon Dynamite, Rushmore, and the t.v. cult hit Freaks and Geeks, the movie becomes unfortunately forgettable.

Not that there aren't memorable performances in the movie. Keanu Reeves gets some good laughs as the Orthodontist who can also hypnotize, Kelli Garner is solid, as an elusive girl that Justin has a crush on, and Lou Taylor Pucci anchors the film nicely in a demanding role, he even received merit at last year's Sundance film Festival.

The movie is a solid although unremarkable film....which means it's better than 75% percent of the Hollywood movies out there today.

It's now available on DVD.



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