Monthly Archives: August 2006

the corpse bride

the corpse bride
the corpse bride is tim burton’s latest foray into the world of stop-motion animation, and it’s a fantastic foray, indeed.
tim burton is one of my heroes. in an adult world, he manages to remind us of what it’s like to have fun, to have a childlike sense of wonder while retaining one’s adult capacity to laugh at the absurdity of it all. on top of that, he makes beautiful and funny films, capsules that takes you away for two hours, only to return a happier person (despite subject matter that might seem grim).

there are no perfect characters in a tim burton world. they all have weaknesses writ rather large, and we get to either snigger knowingly or identify with them. he always pulls out the characters you love to hate; in the corpse bride, it’s the officious housewife with a 4-foot-tall beehive hairdoo, the soulless husband in her grasp, the preacher mired in a world of endless rules and rituals. he paints each and every one of them in a way that magnifies their absurdity, while still retaining a twinge of believability. his heroes and heroines are flawed, insecure, and yet admirable and strong in their own ways. i can’t speak for others, but i’ve always felt i could see pieces of my imperfect self in his characters.

aside from great storytelling, the corpse bride is visually stunning, with animation that never ceases to amaze. plus, it’s got lots of musical numbers with corpses. how could it go wrong? watch it and judge for yourself.

over the insurance barrel

i hate the american health insurance system. it is broken in the worst possible way:

  • everyone agrees it’s broken
  • it’s really hard and expensive to fix
  • any solution would require compromise
  • no one is willing to compromise
  • everyone accepts it as just the way things are
  • most people suffer as a result

it is not a problem of third-world magnitude; i would never compare it with the brutality and suffering visited upon so many in the world. but for a country of 250+ million, there are plenty of people who suffer with this system, and they are mostly poor and underprivileged. i’m not going to whinge about my issues – i just think they reflect a much larger problem, and it makes me furious.

i sprained my ankle amonth ago. it’s not healing properly, and i have a history of injuries to this ankle. x-rays showed nothing. i went to see a podiatrist, a doctor of sports medicine, and he wanted to do a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan to see what the heck is going on. my insurance company has to approve such a test, since it’s expensive (about $2000, which i can’t afford to pay myself). with no other evidence than my doctor’s request, their response (after repeated calls from my doctor with no response) was quite simple:

Review of the available clinical information (Man with trauma to left ankle one month ago. Has continued pain and limited range of motion. X-ray normal. No treatment other than ice and elevation.) does not indicate the need for the requested imaging study.

as a helpful afterthought, they provide the following:

The preceding determination was made in accordance with current NIA clinical guidelines for imaging. A copy of the general criteria used for the determination of medical necessity in this case is available free of charge. Please submit or fax your request to the address of fax number listed. A copy of the clinical criteria will be mailed within 30 days of your request.

well, at least it’s free….and i’ll probably still be in pain in 30 days, so waiting is cool by me.

now i have the option of paying $2000 for the test, or sucking it up and waiting a few months to see if it heals (with physical therapy that i’ll probably have to pay for). at least it’s not like the situation my father faced, where he had to pony up $26,000 to save his own life from skin cancer (insurance company response in that case was "sorry, pre-existing condition").

is there anything to do in this situation but shake your fist at the sky? it seems like that might actually be more effective. either that, or screaming into the nearest hurricane. do people with life-threatening problems get any more compassion? if i were really, really sick, i hope that the system would be slightly more inclined to help, although if my father’s case is any example, i’d probably have more luck trying to jump to the moon.

PS: i realize the insurance companies are businesses that need to make money. it’s not just them. it’s the whole system (the cost of tests, the cost of care, the cost of practitioner liability insurance). it’s all broken. it’s one big Gordian knot of brokenness.

engine summer

engine summer
i’ve now read two books by john crowley: engine summer and Aegypt. crowley is a favorite of my close friend ryan…he bought me most of crowley’s books as a gift, which was nice, given that they are mostly hard to find or out of print.

crowley’s books are not easy to read (if these two are any example). he makes no effort to provide a cushion for the reader, to help them on their journey through the world he creates. instead, he seems to relish dislocation and opaque prose. i’ve read other authors who do the same (Gene Wolfe and Iain Banks being two notable examples), but crowley seems to have his own gig.

engine summer is a post-apocalyptic tale, one where the future is not exactly bright, but then again, not entirely dark. in fact, for some time in the novel, you’re not even sure it’s the future (an approach that reminded me very much of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series).

despite the dislocation, he weaves a very compelling tale, one that creates a plausible future told with a somewhat foreign voice from that future. it may take you half way to reach the crest of the first hill of the rollercoaster, but i’d venture that once you reach that point, the rest is downhill, and you reach the end with a sense of exhilaration and happiness.

underworld : evolution

underworld evolution
it’s interesting to watch a movie (like underworld evolution) that most everyone else thought sucked, and yet somehow you enjoyed. it makes you wonder, not necessarily about the intrinsic quality of the film, but about perception and enjoyment.

i’m not going to waste the bytes to review it. you can check out the synopsis somewhere else (google or find your own trusted source). in fact, i’m not even going to say why i liked it, because most people would probably either disagree or deride me for it.

i will just ask, how can some people enjoy a movie that others hate with a passion? how is it that people whom we trust can recommend films, and yet they fall flat for us? i have many movie-going friends whose judgment i trust for the most part, and yet sometimes, they find foam-inspiring films that make me yawn. and vice-versa, of course – sometimes, the films that i really enjoy, for one reason or another, put other people to sleep or make them want to throw things.

film (or movies) are an impossible combination of things. they are a simulacrum, and yet they can transcend simulation into the space of fantasy. they combine the visual and the auditory with storytelling and performance. they take ideas and smash them together like a celluloid collider, hoping that some new particle is created. sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. it seems to depend on the viewer.

so the next time someone recommends a movie to you, and you watch it and think it’s terrible, think twice before you discount their next recommendation. when it comes to movies, you never know…

the price of stupidity

i’m going to take this in the reverse order from the commercials…

  • expression on my face when i realized my car had been towed (with my cellphone inside): priceless
  • phone call to figure out what to do: $0.50 (i remember when it used to be $0.10)
  • taxi to the impound yard: $9
  • fee to get my car out of hock: $88.25
  • parking ticket for making the mistake in the first place: $60
  • cost of a legal parking space: < $5

as an added note, i was at the impound yard within about 30 minutes of when my car had been towed. their storage fees typically run something crazy like $50/hour. it could have been a lot worse…

solaris

Solaris
i finally got around to seeing steven soderbergh’s remake of solaris this weekend. i must admit to enough reservations to fill a hotel, but after recommendations from trusted cinematic advisors, i decided to take the plunge.

the original solaris, directed by andrei tarkovsky, is considered a true (cult) classic, not just within the science fiction genre, but in general. it’s profound, beautiful, frustrating, very long, and ultimately completely mysterious. in other words, it’s a great russian film.

so how does soderbergh’s version compare? or does it?
[spoiler alert]

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snakes on a plane

snakes on a plane
elaine and i saw snakes on a plane last friday with a big group of friends and extended acquaintances. under normal circumstances, i might try to write a review, but given that the new york times alread did it for me, i’ll save myself the trouble.

i will say that it was a crazy movie-going experience. i haven’t seen a crowd as rowdy and excited since the last star wars film. this crowd was probably worse, actually, since there seemed to be a few people in the audience who’d just had their first beer. there were rubber snakes, stuffed snakes, snakeskin outfits, paper airplanes with snakes (ha), costumes, people pumping their fists in the air at snakes sinking their fangs wherever possible, screams, shouts, endless laughter. it was total mayhem. people are going absolutely nuts over this movie. there’s already a participation script, and its only been out for a few days.

so why the feeding frenzy?

i think snakes on a plane is a celluloid pressure-release valve. it’s a way of escaping from the news (grim and grimmer) and of laughing at some post-9/11 fears that people just keep pouring gasoline on. you know how it’s gonna end before it even starts, and maybe that’s part of the appeal. it’s big, loud, silly, and a whole lot of fun. in an unpredictable world, its relative predictability, combined with snakes on crack, is a welcome diversion. any movie that can bring smiles that big and make you forget about the world for 2 hours is worth $10.

sequel anyone? (snakes on a train, snakes on a bus, snakes on a ship, snakes in outer space, snakes snakes snakes….SSSSsssss).

stranger on the sofa

barry adamson - stranger on the sofa
barry adamson is a cool, very dark, cat.

ok, i know that sounds dorky, and yet for the style of music he produces, it seems appropriate. what he creates is an anachronism; it seems to belong in the 50s and 60s, with gangsters and frank sinatra and femmes fatales sporting 38s and lipstick-laden smiles that kill. at the same time, his noir sensibilities are balanced with a wink and a nod by his playful, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, which are in turn countered by a darkness and cynicism that run deep. there is a modern awareness in everything he does, a black-gold thread woven throughout his enigmatic tapestry.

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