Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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My mistake. Four coffins...

Again, there is a meaningful discourse at the end of this entry. Until then, you have to wade through the following retardedness...


Uno is one of my favorite games. I was aware of it before my mother married Steven, but I didn't start playing it often until afterwards, as the Starers are Uno fanatics.

After Modelween (with all of those naked, luscious and oh-so-perky nipples), my friends and I went back to Paul's and played some Uno. There was some contention about how the game is played. I favored rules that nobody thought were the actual ones, but was backed up by the rule book that was in Paul's own deck. I acceded to the majority and played according to the screwy “house rules” that Paul thought were more fun. What ended up happening was that once everybody got used to the new rules, there was a game that was long and impossible to win. I'm serious. Nobody ended up winning, and the game was eventually called by Mad Mike because he got bored. He wasn't the only one.

For some reason, Paul got it into his head that if you can't play with what is in your hand, then you pick up until you get something you can play. This is not how it is supposed to work. In fact, it runs completely counter to how the cards run. You see, if you can't play what is in your hand, you draw. If you draw a card you can play, you play it. If you can't play that card, the next person goes. That's all. Otherwise, Draw 2s (which compound) and Wild Draw 4s (which don't) wouldn't be that big of a deal. In fact, I found myself hoping for one of these cards so that I wouldn't have to go picking.

I know I'm right, because the text in the instructions backs me up:
If you don't have anything that matches, you must pick a card from the DRAW pile. If you draw a card you can play, play it. Otherwise, play moves to the next person.

See? It's pretty straightforward.

The other thing is that a Wild Draw 4 can only be played if you don't have the ability to play the same color. Actually, it can, but if you get caught, you get screwed:
If you suspect that a player has played a Wild Draw 4 illegally, you may challenge them. A challenged player must show his/her hand to the player who is challenged. If the challenged player is guilty, he/she must draw the 4 cards. If the challenged player is not guilt, the challenger must draw the 4 cards, plus 2 additional cards. Only the person required to draw the four cards can make the challenge.

I have decided not to participate in any games of Uno that do not follow the official rules anymore because the results when you play these other rules is ridiculous. The cards are set up for the game to be played a certain way, and the game lasted hours, with no winner and the draw deck was reshuffled countless times. It was totally stupid and not fun, which defeats the purpose of playing the game in the first place.


My credit card numbers have gotten jacked. Luckily, the Bank of New York spotted the anomalous charges, so I will be getting a new one shortly. It's not a big problem, just a pain in the ass.

The End of Civilization
As We Know It.

Reality television has no right to exist, and the situation has gotten out of hand. TBS is now preparing something called The Real Gilligan's Island in which people are supposed to pretend to be characters on that show.

Empty mental calories made even emptier. Pretty soon, reality television will turn into the equivalent of a cultural black hole... nothing can escape it, not even taste.


Three Days of the Condor

Paramount's beautifully transferred DVD of this title is something to behold. Were it not for the ages of the castmembers, the dated idiom of Dave Grusin's score (which is actually rather fun) and in its depictions of computers (if that's what you'd call those digital abaci on display in the picture) and the fact that everybody smokes wherever they want to, the 1975 film would look like it was shot yesterday, with Owen Roizman's clean Panavision photography brightly colored and completely artifact free.

Robert Redford plays a resourceful C.I.A. analyst whose job is to read books and try to follow patterns, leaks and possible communications. He survives an attack on his station and must then go on the run, attempting to figure out what happened to him and how to escape being hunted. This is an edgier, more updated setting of one of Alfred Hitchcock's wrong man thrillers, made all the more interesting because Redford's character knows he is the right man, but not necessarily why. The film sends him all over Manhattan in an attempt to try to figure out the who, what and why of the situation.

Faye Dunaway is too good an actress to make her character a complete waste of time, but unfortunately the photographer she plays comes across less as kinky (which is what I think the intention was) and more as a compliant distraction due to the only example of sloppy writing in the film, possibly a side-effect of the obvious reductions from the original James Grady novel, which was titled The Six Days of the Condor. Otherwise, the Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and David Rayfiel script remains very taught and well-constructed.

Cliff Robertson is fantastic, an embodiment of the moral vacuum that the intelligence community operates in while still feeling sorry for Redford, while Max Von Sydow manages to convey a palpable sense of danger in all of his scenes, aspects of the characters that make the finale very arresting. Sydney Pollack keeps the focus on the performers so well that one may often forget how interesting the film is cinematically as well.

I also like the fact that the film was able, in 1975, to have an ambiguous ending. I have always felt that modern films don't quite handle ambiguity with the same panache that films made in that decade did. There is something about how the blockbuster mentality that has pervaded Hollywood since Jaws has made filmmakers cautious about this move, and films have become weaker as an art form because of it. Three Days of the Condor ends on an unsure note, a move that is totally in keeping with the tone of the film.

I have to say that I take a certain amount of pride in the fact that for once, telephone technology is shown in a film accurately. In fact, seeing Redford use an old-school rotary butt set was a real trip, as well as having confirmed that a lot of the 66 blocks in the city are really thirty years old, which is why they don't hold wires in them so well anymore (all hail the Krone block!).

Donnie Brasco

I hadn't seen this film in quite some time. In fact, I don't think that I had watched it for maybe five years or so, but Tim and Dave were over, Dave hadn't seen it since it was in theaters and Tim hadn't seen it at all, and I couldn't exactly object considering how much I liked the film.

I am not a huge fan of gangster movies. I like movies that are good, and two of the best films ever made, The Godfather I and II, are of that genre. I appreciate a good story, but the silly posturing that characterizes such films as Scarface (in my opinion, one of the most overrated movies in pop culture history) does nothing for me. There is no substance to such a story. Donnie Brasco, on the other hand, is something much more.

The friendship that arises between Donnie and Lefty is one that changes dynamic over the course of the picture. Lefty is Donnie's entry into the world he's trying to crack, but Lefty is frozen in place by his own lack of initiative. He is a trusted man because he follows orders, but he has no value beyond that, while Donnie gradually moves further into the circle than Lefty ever could, despite the fact that he's an outsider.

It is fascinating to see Al Pacino, who has tended to play extremely powerful crime figures in The Godfather pictures, Scarface and Carlito's Way turn around and perform such a sad-sack. When he says to Donnie, “If you're a rat, then I'm the biggest fuckin' mutt in the history of the Mafia,” it is a moment that hurts Donnie because he knows that from the moment that his investigation has begun to bear fruit, Lefty is a dead man. The only reason why he isn't coming out after a certain point is because he knows this.

Johnny Depp's performance as Donnie Brasco/Joseph Pistone is brilliant, showing us the character gradually becoming that which he despises. His moral choices become a central theme of the film, and his motivations shift as he becomes unsure, not just of his own mission, but of his own identity. This was part of a string of interesting movies Depp was in at the time, including Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate, Tim Burton's Ed Wood and others, and it is interesting to see how much of a chameleon he can be.

I have the older DVD of the film, although I hope to update my copy with the new one eventually, partly because of all the special features, but also because, while this DVD was quite good when it came out, it has dated. The picture transfer is fantastic, but there are minor compression artifacts throughout, and the Dolby 5.1 track is only mastered at 384 kb/s, while the new edition has a Dolby 5.0 track mastered at 448 kb/s. I am also curious to hear about how the actors prepared for their roles, and whether or not Pacino and Depp may have bonded over their mutual respect for Marlon Brando.

The Jon Stewart Question

Nobody I know actually saw the appearance on Crossfire that caused all of the ruckus, but transcripts have been floating around on the Internet since the square community was so shocked by it. I found myself somewhat less surprised than most, possibly because I've been seeing a slight swing in the press as they realize that their only hope of getting their real jobs back is to help get Bush the fuck out of office. Of course, the irony is that Stewart's show is supposed to be fake news program. How is it that it makes sense for Stewart's attack then?

It's simple. He's in a position where it will mean something.

Stewart has gotten away with quite a lot because on he is not taken seriously by the rest of the media. Bill O'Reilly tried unsuccessfully to bait him on his show, and made a very quiet (for him) appearance on The Daily Show, which may have had something to do with the fact that O'Reilly's appearance outside of his own show has had a tendency to backfire on him because he's just an ornery bastard, but also because The Daily Show is considered a comedy show that reaches many younger viewers.

We are in a position now where the press has been hijacked by both a restrictive administration and a profit motive that runs counter to journalistic integrity. Fox News has managed to be a top rated news network without actually reporting any actual news, forcing legitimate news sources to scale back their investigative teams. News isn't news anymore. Information has been reduced to simple, easily digestible (and, more often than not, easily spun) sound bites, and delving into a subject is unthinkable in a media that barely scratches the surface.

The big contribution to the media of the new millennium (if one can call it that) has been the introduction of the concept of the “talking point,” a predigested piece of fluff with the actual subject often carefully reduced to black and white, with many of its dimensions eliminated. The unfortunate truth is that while this began as a tactic of obfuscation, it has now spread much further than its humble beginnings and has saturated the news media. This has given rise to an argumentative discourse within the media, a polarized and obnoxious harangue during which no truth is found and no issue is resolved.

When Stewart grilled his Crossfire hosts, the move was not that of a host of a comedy show taking himself too seriously, it was as a citizen with a right of free speech and a forum pointing out a major problem in America today, which is that the citizens do not have the right of a free press. Stewart is in a unique position in that because his show lampoons the news media, he is already topical, and in the public eye. The outrage that he displayed on Crossfire was well-aimed, and was only possible because of the fact that he hosts a fake news show. By being who he was, he was able to come in and expected to perform a certain way, and he was able to call bring a legitimate grievance directly to light from its very source. If he had said what he said about Crossfire on The Daily Show, nobody would ever have paid any attention to it. Instead, he was able to say it on Crossfire itself, and his point is being forced into the spotlight. Stewart therefore used his celebrity to point out how the media is not being honest.

I laud Stewart for what he did, and I think that those complaining that he has overstepped his position are missing the point. Actually, they're missing several points. The first is that he had something of substance to say and he did. The second is that any American citizen has the right to speak their mind in whatever traditional public forum they have available to them. What Stewart said on Crossfire is one of the purest examples of the First Amendment working.

So there.

I wonder what Craig Kilborne is thinking about right now.
Tags: cinema, games
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