Friday, December 14, 2007

Caveman, Me

Stacy's family is in town to celebrate a couple of birthdays and to see Vicki perform in the Nutcracker this weekend. We offered our house instead of making them rent a few rooms. I love Stacy's family. They're thoughtful and kind houseguests that do their best not to impose.

However, whenever we have houseguests I get this overwhelming urge to retreat into my cave. I don't know what it is, some sort of primordial instinct to protect my space? That might explain why I started talking in grunts and flinging household objects at them before dragging Stacy down to the basement by her hair.

Note to self: apologize for the waffle-iron imprint on my brother-in-law's face.

I'm not sure where the vague uneasiness comes from, but I am sure that it is closely related to my innate shyness. I remarked to my mother-in-law about Zoe inheriting my shyness, to which she reacted in surprise. She didn't think I was shy, but very social. That's only true if the other party initiates, really. I will carry on a friendly conversation with just about anyone, as long as they're the one that started it.

Some of my friends may realize that even though I keep a constant online presence throughout my work week, I rarely IM them. It's not because I'm being aloof or too busy (although that happens a lot) but because I'm not an initiator. It's nothing conscious, I'm just solitary by nature.

I suppose I could force some self development by acting contrary to my personality, but I think I'd rather retreat back into my cave.

Ooo ooo oook!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Bound to be High in Fiber

Stacy: I've got tons to do tonight, but dinner is in the crochet pot at least.
Me: You crocheted dinner? That's impressive. Macramé and cheese?

Hah! I crack myself up.

Polar Bears, Sam Elliott's Mustache, and Daemons

It may come as no surprise to the readers of this blog that I enjoy the fantasy jonreh. Many aspects of fantasy stories appeal to me on a subconscious level that I cannot truly explain.

Case in point, dress a couple of polar bears in plate armor and pit them against each other in a death match in the frozen north for supremacy over the polar bear kingdom and you've got my attention. The only way to make the previous sentence more awesome would be to - no, scratch that, you can't make it more awesome. If you don't understand the inherent coolness in the concept, then brother, we will never see eye to eye.

In case you haven't guessed it yet, I'm talking about The Golden Compass, of which the polar bear fight scene was only a small portion and quite possibly could have been cut out from the movie entirely(!) without harming the overall story. Thankfully, director/screenplay writer Chris Weitz understands that talking, fighting polar bears in armor is teh awesome.

Jon and I caught the movie Friday. Stacy decided not to go, despite how appealing the movie is to her Lord of the Rings/Narnia/Potter fondness and its obvious links to the other works. Her reasons had to do with the controversy around the original author, Philip Pullman, and the purpose behind the trilogy of books. I'm not going to get into the controversy here. For one thing, I haven't researched it enough to give an opinion one way for another. For another thing, there was nothing in the movie that struck me as particularly blasphemous or controversial. At least, nothing more controversial than LoTR/Narnia/Potter.

Jon gave a review of the movie that echoes many of my sentiments. I will say that cgi animals have come a long way in the last few years. Even though I know they are cgi, there really isn't much to indicate that they are. Unless you consider animals that talk and shape shift unrealistic, but hey, let's not talk crazy here. I understand some stars lent their voices to the animal cast, but the only one that registered on my voice-o-meter was Ian McKellen as one of the fore-mentioned polar bears. His already impressive voice was augmented with extra bass and tone to give it the feel of emanating from the throat of the massive Iorek Byrnison, Prince of the Polar Bears.

It struck both Jon and I as funny that this movie featured a cast that had in many cases worked with each other already. For instance, Ian's nemesis from LoTR, Christopher Lee, made an appearance, albeit brief. The rugged Daniel Craig, although sharing no scenes with her, acted with Eva Green in Casino Royale. Craig also starred in The Invasion with Nicole Kidman. These people can't get enough of each other!

Speaking of current actors in past movies, there was one scene in the movie that triggered strong memories from Fellowship of the Ring as the main character, Lyra, and Iorek approach a natural bridge spanning a bottomless chasm. I couldn't help but think of Gandalf and the fellowship fleeing the Balrog in Moria. As soon as Lyra began to cross, the bridge started to crumble. I leaned over to Jon and said, "Fly, you fools!" I was disappointed when Iorek didn't try to make the journey across. Too easy? Yeah, I guess.

I have a short list of actors that I feel can make any movie watchable, such as Christopher Walken. Among them is Sam Elliott. The man with the mustache could out-cowboy Eastwood or Wayne. I relished every scene of him rambling on like he's sitting around a fire with a bunch of ranch hands instead of flying a balloon in Europe with a talking polar bear and a little girl as passengers.

There was one other actor I'd like to mention. Jim Carter, king of the Gyptians. He was tall, wore eye makeup, and had a formidable beard, yet in no way resembled Alan Moore. The maddening thing about him was how familiar he looked. I sat through all of his scenes wracking my brain to come up with the name. Unfortunately, it seems my brain has been over-wracked. After looking him up on imdb, I found that I had no idea who he was. Even more maddening is that means he reminds me of another actor that I am still can't find.

Damn this brain full of useless trivia that can't even order itself so I can remember a single bit of useless trivia!

The movie itself follows the adventure of a young girl named Lyra and her daemon Pants. Wait, I mean Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon. In the world Weitz wrote, every human has an animal companion in the form of a daemon, a reflection of that person's soul. Thus we know almost immediately (as if seeing the Her Icyness wasn't enough) that Kidman's Mrs. Coulter is evil just by watching how her golden monkey abuses Pant (In The Golden Compass, you don't pet the monkey, the monkey pets you!) Naturally, Craig's Lord Asriel is noble and strong, just look at his iridescent tiger! While you may think that Elliott's Lee Scoresby would have a fine lookin' thoroughbred, you'd be wrong. Perhaps even more fitting, he travels with a wry female jack rabbit. The titular golden compass is actually an alethiometer, a device few can use but that has the ability to show the past, present, and future.

Is Mrs. Coulter after the alethiometer or Lyra herself? Does Lord Asriel kick as much ass as Bond, James Bond? Does Lyra make Iorek her pet or does Iorek get peckish and have a midnight snack? I ain't tellin'! I try to keep my reviews relatively spoiler free, thenkyewverrymuch. If you can duck the verbal crossfire from the pundits about the metatextual meaning of Weitz's work, check it out and get the answers to these questions and more!

Anyway, I've rambled long enough. The movie was entertaining, with the bear fight edging it towards awesome. It did enough to make me curious about how it ends. We'll see if the controversy surrounding the subject matter prevents me from seeing it to its finish. However, the ending of The Golden Compass was anything but. It is obvious that the studio plans to make at least one sequel. Instead of resolution, we have continued journeys, much like the end of Fellowship of the Ring.

I give The Golden Compass eight out of ten dislocated jaws on a chart I just made up that doesn't mean anything.