Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thank You for Smoking

Recently, (alright, yesterday) I finally managed to see the movie Thank You for Smoking, which you probably know has been on my radar ever since it screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in February. The film stars a good cast and details the life of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), an executive and spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, which is nothing more than a cigarette company think-tank. Naylor naturally comes under fire for his profession of choice (which serves basically to be a media outlet for the tobacco companies), and particularly becomes the target of anti-smoking Senator Finistirre (William H. Macy) from Vermont, who is campaigning to stick giant "poison" labels on the side of cigarette boxes. Adding to the complexities are Naylor's son Joey (Cameron Bright), whom Nick must act as a father figure for, and a career-oriented newspaper reporter (Katie Holmes) who will do anything to bring the lobbyist down.

The film is entirely satirical and irreverent. Never once, despite all the evil that Nick Naylor stands for, could I bring myself to dislike his character. The Naylor character works on multiple levels: first, he must convince whoever his audience is (people on a talk show, Dennis Miller, the Senate) that he is not the bad guy of the situation, that he actually cares about all of the people his industry has killed. Second, he has to convince us that he means what he's saying in the movie. Eckhart successfully manages to tie together both of those levels with a heavy but affective dose of Fox News-ish spin. When Naylor berates Senator Finistirre's top aid on national television, I, along with the audience of the talk show, agreed with what Naylor was saying, despite the fact that if one thinks about it for little more than a second, the argument is full of holes. The satire succeeds here because it makes the audience (and myself) sympathize with a character who no one should be sympathizing with.

Naylor is not alone in his accomplishments; throughout the film he is shown meeting with the self-proclaimed "MOD squad," an acronym for "Merchants Of Death." The other two members of the squad are comprised of lobbyists for the alcohol and firearms companies (Maria Bello and David Koechner, respectively), and the trio often debate about whose industry is killing more people, with Naylor usually coming out on top. The thing that makes these scenes work is the fact that each character is given a certain degree of not only likability but believability, such that the conversations between these characters, however outlandish and wrong they may be, are entirely believable and authentic. These could be any three people meeting after work, discussing the finer points of their days over a drink, and in fact, that's what they are (nevermind that their conversation frequently dabbles in such topics as who's more deserving to be kidnapped by terrorists).

While the nature and ethics of the tobacco industry is the main focus of the satire in the film, there is also a brief but unforgettable jab at Hollywood and the immense amount of absurdity that plagues the system. At one point Naylor travels to the star-studded city to attempt to convince super agent Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe) to put cigarettes back into films. The scene features such details as the "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" lobby video of a killer whale feasting on a seal, a series of superficial one-liners delivered by Megall's assistant (Adam Brody), and a vivid explanation of a Pitt/Zeta-Jones space sex scene, which, coupled with the eccentric (yet brief) performance by Lowe, easily serve as farcical commentary on the state of The Industry today.

Thank You For Smoking is a delightful break from other, less funny attempts at satire and parody that are currently out in theaters, and of course is also performing marginally at the box office, which is natural for the current state of cinema being as it is. Sure, you can laugh at cheap gags and lame, Mad-TV-esque jokes (I'm looking at Scary Movie 4), but wouldn't you feel just a little bit smarter if you laughed at something a little more wholesome? After all, not every movie can make references to seal-clubbing and sweatshop labor and manage to extort more than a muffled giggle from me.

Thank You For Smoking: 9/10
(loses a point for the unnecessary extra press coverage garnered by Katie Holmes being in the movie, and for the somewhat tacky "twist" ending that allows for that viewer to have that Hollywood "feel good" effect) Read entire post...

Monday, April 24, 2006

From Tom Cruise's Blog

The following is from Tom Cruise's blog:

Hello out there to all of my friends both within and outside of the Church of Scientology!

Well, it's been a hectic few days since Kate came back from the hospital with Suri. Suri sure is a happy, bouncing baby girl! It'll be great when we take her to have her Thetan level measured once she's old enough to comprehend that she has an alien soul inside of her. Ha ha, I bet she's at least a level three! In any case, her and Kate are doing great. Kate makes me so proud...she didn't make a peep during the entire birth process. I was right there next to her, chanting into her ear, "You can do it! You can have this baby," and she just smiled at me. I am so in love with that woman! I swear I feel like a kid every time I'm around her. Well, except when we make love...then I feel like how Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty must feel like whenever he makes love. Oh Hubbard, would I love to truly experience that. But seriously, Nicole's got nothing on Kate. Expect maybe her nose.

My new movie is coming out soon, and I'm really excited! I must say it is an honor to be working with Philip Seymour Hoffman. His performance in Capote really blew me away. I have so much respect for gay authors, I really believe that they can do great things! If you haven't read In Cold Blood, I strongly encourage everyone out there who wants to be cool to go and read it right away! I'm going to start reading it to Suri every night. Anyway, I've been getting a lot of press for Mission Impossible 3 and I must say, all the hype you might be hearing is dead on. This movie is definitely the best movie coming out since War of the Worlds. I know I said Capote was good, but, let's face it people, it didn't touch War of the Worlds at the box office. So with that said, I just can't wait for this movie to come out. It's going to be that awesome!

Well, those idiots over at South Park did it again. I just can't understand why they have to continuously degrade me and my friends. If you don't know what I'm talking about, recently made fun of my good friend Oprah. Now I just want to say right here and right now that I know for a fact that Oprah's vagina and and asshole cannot talk! I am sick and tired of Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone portraying such blatant lies as fact! They continue to misrepresent people and truth, and during a time of war such actions should not be tolerated! I'm sure you will all be happy to know that tomorrow I'm going to call Comedy Central and have that episode never shown again. Hubbard help them if that episode ever broadcasts while Suri is watching! That's my little girl. So listen, Comedy Central. Help me, help you. Pull the episode before I have to make things freaking ugly for you.

Well, I guess that's all for now. I'll write again later. To all my loyal followers, goodnight, and good luck! I'm not exactly sure who said that, but I've been hearing it being said a lot recently, and so I want to be cool too!


(yeah so this isn't really froom Tom Cruise's blog, if you didn't figure it out. -Nick) Read entire post...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Moved to Blogger

Yeah so I've switched from Xanga to Blogger. It's a bit cooler in my opinion. So...the few of you who still read my old blog...this is my new blog. Yay. Read entire post...

The Continuing Space Adventures of Jack Bedfordshire, Part 1 (Archive)

Trapped. The corridor I had come down had no way out. It was only a matter of time before the cyber soldiers got me now. Not that it really mattered; I had nothing left to live for. That dame sure did a number on me, didn’t she? Picked me up and threw me out like a used tissue. I sure as hell felt like I was covered in space snot, which, of course, is weightless. So what do I do now? This was worse than the time that Alpha V was attacked by space lobbyists. Those lobbyists had an arsenal heavier than a snogwak, and believe you me, snogwaks have some heavy arsenals. But now, in this corner, there was little I could do. I fumbled around in one of the twenty-five pockets of my space pants, desperately looking for that one item that could save me from the certain doom I would most definitely face when the cyber soldiers discovered me. I stopped, as my right hand rested upon a silver chain. A tear came to my face, or it would have, had my tear ducts not been surgically removed when I was a baby as part of the fifteenth version of the Homeland Security bill. The memories came flooding back to me. All of this…it was all her fault.

Septembruary, 2147. Being in my nineteenth year I had just entered the space academy in New New Mexico (Old New Mexico had been destroyed in the Great Clone War, where thousands of cloned offspring of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes clashed over the great expanses of the United States), along with my friends Deak Montoya and Charles Hindenburg. Charles was British. My name was, and still is, Hubert Bedforshire, but my friends called me Jack. Charles, being British, called me Gov. The three of us had grown up in the relative idyllic rural town of Banton, New Hampshire, a suburb of the metropolis of Exeter. New Hampshire, having not been destroyed in the Great Clone War, retained its original “new” status, although there was considerable debate in the senate over whether or not the state should be renamed simply “Hampshire,” as the original Hampshire had, in fact, never existed; John Mason apparently had named the colony such after he had lost a bet with his first mate during the voyage. The first mate assured Mason that there was a Hampshire in England, and that, if it didn’t exist, it “must assuredly exist somewhere within the great expanse that is the Royal Empire.” Historians also debate as to whether or not Mexico actually existed.

The summer days before our enrollment were some of the happiest times of my life. We would spend many a day out on the ice playing the national pastime of Curling. Curling, of course, became the national pastime of the United States sometime after global warming finally kicked in, causing the entire northern hemisphere to be covered in ice. Most astonishingly, it all happened similarly to what was depicted in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, much to the chagrin of scientists. Charles, being British, was one of the best stone hurlers around, and he had expressed hope at competing on the national level once we had been accepted to the academy. It was of course my bitter disappointment to inform Charles that New New Mexico, being radioactive, had no ice. Besides participating in Curling, we would often participate in games of luck and skill, like cyber chess, space checkers, and Plinko.

During that summer, our group became acquainted with one Ms. Jenna Delahand, a delightful young woman who lit up many a man’s hearts and faces, but mostly their nether-regions, for, quite frankly, she had a nice rack. I, however, found comfort in her witty banter and negligible regard for the feelings of others. We would often spend long days sitting at the cyber ice cream parlor, watching people walk or Segway by the windows, and make up stories about their lives and misfortunes. Of course, in going with Jenna’s character, most stories would involve decapitation and monkeys. Jenna became quick friends with Deak and Charles as well, for, being of a similar character as myself, were also captivated by her acerbic wit and skill with her tongue. Much to Charles’ delight, she also threw a mean game of Curling.

Yes, this was the greatest summer of my life. It would all change, however, once we entered space academy.

To be continued...

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On Wellesley, Part 2 (Archive)

More on Wellesley fun!


So there's this bus that takes the girls from Wellesley to other nearby locations, such as the mall or Target or downtown Boston. This bus is chartered by the Peter Pan bus company, thus its name. Now, normally, I have no problems with public transportation. The problem herein lies in the fact that it is chartered, not public, transportation, thus the buses and drivers are only responsible to the company. It so happens that during my tenure in Wellesley, I took this bus twice. The first time I took it was to go into the nearby town of Natick (NAY-tik) and visit the oh so exciting Target located there. After my purchasing in Target was through, I inquired as to when the bus would return. Much to my dismay, I discovered that it next came by, on a Saturday, in no less than TWO hours. Now, why exactly would I need to be at Target for 2 bloody hours? I could maybe understand running the bus every hour...but for the life of me I cannot think as to what I could possibly be purchasing at Target that would allow me to take up 2 whole hours in the store. Now I know I'm just bitching, and I'd really be ready to let the matter go, if it wasn't for my second half of this saga, which I will now be describing. The second time I had the joy of taking the bus was when I decided to accompany Leslie to an MIT frat party. Yes, that's right. So we go, and it's called, but whatever...the fun occurs when we're ready to leave. So according to the schedule, a bus is supposed to come at 12:50, and we all prepare to go take that one back home. The problem is I discover that in my hurry to leave the frat party I had taken the wrong coat, so I have to go back and get my coat, which means that we miss the bus. No problem, we'll just take the one at 1:30. But see, it IS a problem, because the 1:30 never comes. So the situation now is a small group of girls and two guys are sitting out in the cold, waiting for a bus that never comes. We ended up moving into the foyer of an MIT dorm (we can't go in the actual dorm) and waiting for the 2:10 bus. Mind you, these times are all in the AM, I was tired to begin with, AND Leslie is getting "really angry" with the bus company on her cell phone. The 2:10 bus eventually comes, and it ends up being really crowded with people (many of them drunk) "standing" in the aisles. I finally got back at 3 in the morning and passed out, exhausted. This is why I hate the damn Peter Pan bus.

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On Wellesley, Part 1 (Archive)

It's been a long time since I've done a trip report, mainly because I haven't gone anywhere of importance as of late. This last weekend, however, I did go somewhere important. Where was this important place that I went to? Why, it was none other than:

(Image deleted)

Those of you reading this on your subscription page will of course be in the dark as to the wonderful image that I put up above, however I can assure you, it's only purpose is to serve as a device that will make you actually click on my profile. In any case, I went to Boston. Well, on retrospect, I didn't actually go into Boston that much, I actually went to Wellesley, which is both a college and a town about 30 miles or so from the city proper. It was in Wellesly College, the all-girls exploratorium of knowledge and pretentiousness, where I spent the majority of my time. The purpose of my visit was a two pronged assault on my friends Leslie and Grace, the latter of which had no idea I was coming, as part of my birthday present to her. Well, actually, it is my present. Or was. Whatever. There was much revelry to be shared by all three parties, however I do believe that an extensive look at my last four days is in order.

Going into Wellesley for the first time, one will obviously have some sort of expectations. What sort of expectations come out of a California male on a prestigious, all-girls school? Well, for one, everyone, should be lesbians. For another, they should all by dykey lesbians. Lastly, they should all be staunch feminists. So how many of these steroetypes proved true? Well, most of them. Don't get me wrong, I met no one who fit into each of these well organized, manly categories. But I did find a sort of "anti-men" air amongst the campus. Apparently it's bad to call the first-years "freshmen", because the word "man" or a derivative of it is present in the word. Seems a bit much to me, especially since "woman" contains the suffix "-man" as well. But I digress. Next, there was a bit of a contradictory feel to many of the elements there. Visitors are allowed on campus and such, but there's no male bathrooms in the dorms, instead, we have to put up with this multi-function restroom with no lock whose occupants can be dictated by a sliding bar outside the door that slides between "men" and "women." Regardless of the sign (since I was told that it really meant nothing), I had to knock on the door and declare my manly presence whenever I had to use the facilities. Talk about being opressed. Interestingly enough, there were plenty of random men being cavorted about by their respective girlfriends, slave to their shadows out of fear of being glanced at threateningly by the alpha females who romaed the halls and dining commons. Also, the apparent lack of men seemed to have driven some of the women into what can only be described by my virginized ears as a "fit of hormonal desire", and by this I refer to the occasion where I ended up sitting on the bus (more on that later) next to 2 other females who were apparently discussing their male conquests of previous nights like, well, men. I found these two extremes most interesting and fully independent of one another. As for the lesbian stereotype, literally every-other girl that I met was a lesbian. I also found that many people thought I was, in fact, gay as well. I'm going to venture out a slightly bold statement and assert that the amount of lesbianness present is caused by the same thing that causes gayness in prisons and such: the lack of availability of the other gender. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing gay people in the least, I'm just saying the phenomenon, from an objective standpoint, seems to be similar, and fairly interesting, although I suppose one could argue a chicken-or-the-egg thing for this. But enough of the scientific-like rambling for now, let's move on to lighter subjects.

Part 2 will come later, I have class now...
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