2008 Year End Review, Foreword

This is much a placeholder for myself here as anything….

I’m going to set up a “Chasing the Golden Idol” article on Loaded Shelf. I’ll cross-post the meatier stuff.

Looking at the IMDB top movies of the year, I see Taare Zameem Par comes in first. And, truly, that film has been playing locally for months, it seems. Unfortunately, my Hindi is “rusty”.

Makes me wonder where the foreign films were this year. Probably still in their home countries. The last 2-3 years has seen some marvelous work get to us in a timely fashion; not so much this year. The Boy’s favorite was Amazing Grace; I haven’t got the heart to tell him it was last year’s movie and didn’t get a single major award nomination, much less actual win. It’s given a mildly warm 7.7 on IMDB.

There was a time when Godfather, consistently in the top three movies on IMDB since I first saw in the mid ‘90s, scored a 7.9. But with score inflation, 7.7 is just “solid”. IMDB also seems overrun with fanboys, bestowing blessings on anything Tarantino or Jackson.

I’m already feeling curmudgeonly.

Movies I haven’t seen because they aren’t going anywhere for a while: Sweeny Todd, The Bucket List.

Movies I haven’t seen because they haven’t shown up in the local theater: There Will Be Blood, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Have to be seen in the next week because all these things get released at the end of the year, despite weeks of being desperate for anything worth seeing: Juno, Kite Runner, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Persepolis, Away From Her, Atonement, Charlie Wilson’s War. (Greyed out items represent movies seen last week because they were previously unavailable.)

Movies by people who have done better and whose current acclaim may be based on said previous better work1: No Country For Old Men, Atonement, Charlie Wilson’s War, Sweeney Todd, Sicko, The Bourne Ultimatum, Grindhouse (Planet Terror/Death Proof), The Mist, Zodiac, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Underrated Gems/Surprisingly Good2: Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Limited, Gone, Baby, Gone, Reign Over Me, Lars and the Real Girl, Waitress, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Death at a Funeral, Breach, The Kingdom, Disturbia, Becoming Jane

Solids: The King of Kong, Lars and the Real Girl, Ratatouille, Hot Fuzz, Stardust, The Darjeeling Limited, Superbad, Zodiac, 1408

Flawed, but Watchable3: The Mist, Live Free or Die Hard, The Simpsons Movie, Becoming Jane

Likely to be overlooked: The King of Kong, Lars and the Real Girl, Ratatouille, Stardust, Superbad, Reign Over Me, Death at a Funeral, Breach

WTF?4: I’m Not There, La Mome (aka La Vie En Rose; aka, The Life of Edith Piaf), 28 Weeks Later, Atonement

I notice that a lot of the critically acclaimed flicks this year (No Country and Atonement, e.g.) eschew traditionally satisfying narratives for–well, for what, exactly? Communicating despair, it would seem. I’m a huge Coen Brothers fan, but I can see myself rewatching Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty (their attempt to get more mainstream and work with a studio) over and over again rather than watching Country again.

Hell, I probably will rewatch it to see if I can figure out if I’m missing some over-arching point. Wouldn’t be the first time that I had to see a Coen movie 2-3 times just to get it.

1. I haven’t seen all these movies, so I’m not saying “overrated”. Maybe Sweeney Todd is Burton’s masterpiece. With these guys, it’s hard to get a straight review of just the current film, not their catalogue.

2. Gems, or just watchable in situations where I didn’t expect it. Disturbia is a very watchable cross between Rear Window and a John Hughes Teen Pic.

3. Most movies fall into this category, really. The flaws in these sort of jumped out but still were salvageable.

4. Movies that made me go “Whaaa—-?”

More later.

Resolutions: Part Deux

Amazon “Gold Deals” is stuffed with ads for exercise equipment.

I guess the “get in shape” resolution is a common one.

That’s not actually mine, mind you. It’s not specific enough: “pear” is a shape. Mine is more along the lines of “run a marathon”. That’s not it, either, but my target is to increase ability, not so much shift my career to underwear model.

My looks aren’t much of a concern. Dropping dead of a heart attack or developing diabetes–that is.

Resolutions

I’ve never been one for making New Years resolutions, exactly. I’ve always seen them portrayed as things like giving up smoking or stopping beating your wife. For those of us who like smoking and beating our wives, what are we to do?

But I have, in recent years, used the New Year to focus and gauge progress on various projects. For example, I needed to improve my physical condition last year–a side effect to having a zillion sedentary hobbies along with a sedentary job–and while I did so, I think this year I need to get more structured about it so that I’m progressing rather than just treading water (metaphorically).

I also try to decide which projects to put up at the top of the list. Otherwise I end up working on everything and not getting done what I want.

This year I’m starting a business. That suggests that putting anything else on the list is probably folly. But I’ve decided to do a few things, anyway.

Reading a book a week is at the top of my list. This actually has a multi-purpose. It cleans up this ever-growing stack that I have. It gets me away from the computer (which is where I do the bulk of my reading these days). And, to the extent that I’m not reading technical stuff, may prevent some tunnelvision.

But this is stuff I’m already doing. Just not in a habitual manner.

Updating this blog and the associated websites is up there. The blog should be fed daily. The websites I’m more of a technical guy on. But I should feed my movie reviews over tp the Loaded Shelf. And I have a couple of multi-part articles that are better in a forum format than a blog format.

What I’d really like to do is write my own website software that could integrate stuff from different sources. Forums–which are far better for long-running discussions, conversation trees, tech support and the like–shouldn’t be so distinct from blogs. They’re sort of like open blogs, really.

I don’t know. There’s a synergy (forbidden word!) there to be exploited. That’s probably not realistic, though.

Sometimes I pause and realize, if I didn’t have to work for a living, I’d be doing much the same thing as I am, just on pet projects rather than things people pay for. This probably ranks me among the fortunate.

When you get down to it, I’m just not ready to make any resolutions yet. I’ve got too much to do.

Banned Words, 2008 edition

Dave In Texas (guest blogging at Ace’s) put up a thread on words banned for 2008.

But like guns, phrases don’t irritate people, people irritate people.

The best one is posted by commenter Andrew: “Transaction denied due to insufficient funds.”

The problem with a lot of the others is that either the people don’t know what they mean, or they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater: Because stupid people abuse the language, they want to ban the language.

Hmmm. If you outlaw phrases only outlaws will use those phrases? No, in this case, all that will happen is the crushers of language will move on to the next phrase and kill that.

Phrases don’t irritate people, stupid people irritate people.

“It is what it is,” for example. This is a short-hand way of telling people, “Don’t try to change the facts to what you want them to be.” Or maybe, “Stop putting lipstick on that pig.” If it’s used as filler by vacuous athletes–well, come on, what won’t they abuse?

“Paradigm. ” This word was so abused in the computer world for above five years in the early ‘90s, I’ve seen people literally wince when they say it now. But it’s a really useful word in software engineering, when it applies. Other synonyms are either not as descriptive (such as “viewpoint”) or are at least as subject to abuse (like “mindset”).

“Be proactive.” One of Ace’s commenters suggests simply using “active” here, which suggests to me that it he has only heard it being abused. It’s usually used in contrast to being reactive–I’m quite sure its popularity stems from needing a counter to “react”. This one…yeah, maybe it’s too vague. It can mean anything from “anticipate problems in advance and be prepared to head them off or work around them” to “predict the future” or “if someone else won’t do their job, you do it”.

“Meme.” Whether all of memetic theory is accurate in any way, the concept of the meme is one of the most useful in recent memory. I think of it less as evolution and more as disease, since no one talks of “the sky is blue” as a meme. It’s almost always (from what I’ve seen) a concept, not immediately provable and sometimes completely false. The press trades heavily in these, and they’re part and parcel of the various “narratives” that take the place of observation and thought, in situations like the Duke non-rape case. My favorite recent one is the notion that Fred Thompson is lazy. Nobody lazy runs for President as a serious contender, and even most of the “vanity campaigns” represent candiates working to get recognition for a pet project.

Resonate. I agree that this one sucks in a business context. I’m not sure what you’d do without it in the world of art criticism.

So. There you have it. At the end of the day, it is what it is.