A Post About Nothing In Particular

Howdy. Long time, no post! So instead of writing a well-developed post about a film or an album or the answers to life’s questions, here’s a post about some important developments in my life. Make that some REALLY important developments in my life.

1. This is my new desktop:

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Why did I need a new desktop? Because I had received complaints about my Paul Weller desktop. Complaints like, “That desktop will blind you. Paul Weller’s beauty and perfection will blind you.” And so I changed it to this darling image of Liam Gallagher. And then I received more complaints. Complaints like, “How do you get any work done with that desktop background? How do you resist staring at it for hours? How do you resist stroking it and whispering, ‘My preciousssssssssssss!’?” (Psst, I didn’t.) So Ellery Queen it is. This is all very important information for you to have.

2. While searching for a high-quality image of Ellery Queen for my desktop background on Google, I came across many images used on my own blog, including ones of my cat. Really, Google? Is this how people stumble across this blog using keywords like “Peter Tork butt”? Allow me to clarify for all you Peter Tork butt searchers out there (no need to be ashamed — we all do it): There are no pictures of Peter Tork’s butt on this blog. Sorry. So, so, so, so sorry.

Anyway. I ended up relying on my own personal screencap collection of Ellery Queen. I had a hard time deciding on one. Here’s just a few of the many that were also in the running:

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Oh, Ellery, you’re rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock — and those other sleuths are just post-mix lemonade.

3. I’m officially in love with Sam Seaborn, Rob Lowe’s character on The West Wing. I’m a little sad because I only have two more seasons of Sam Seaborn, and then I have to make the decision whether I want to continue living, which, roughly translated, actually means I have to decide whether to continue watching the remaining seasons.

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YooOoouuuuu have got that face that just says, “Baby, I was made to break your heart.” 

I think this is the perfect opportunity to talk about my “teenage” (more like, lifelong) obsession with Rob Lowe, born out of reading The Outsiders. Rob Lowe as “handsomer than anyone I know” Sodapop Curtis? That is what we call letter-perfect casting, world. Anyway, I watched so many of his movies. So many of his movies were dumb. I had a homemade book. It was called “Britt’s Book of Hunks”, and it featured one hunk: Rob Lowe. I wasted all the printer’s ink on pictures of Rob Lowe, so it’s a limited edition–very rare and very valuable and I’m not selling it. I even bought a book about The West Wing not because I watched the show but because I knew it starred Rob Lowe. But I never read it, only looked at the pictures. But I’m watching The West Wing now and boy, am I obsessed. Rob Lowe is so amazing as idealistic, witty, freakishly talented Sam Seaborn. I feel like my obsession with Rob Lowe is FINALLY validated because Youngblood really was a dumb movie.

4. There are certain movies you must have seen in order to maintain friendly relations with me and my family. Heavyweights is one of them. And it has the best DVD Menu. Ever.

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Need I say more?

Pat Finley, please report to the men’s toilet immediately. Bring a mop and a plunger. Now. 

5. Arctic Monkeys released a new song last week, with their typical lack of fanfare. I just woke up one morning, and there it was. I thought I could just listen to it once and go about my day.

Wrong-o.

Yes, I listened to it once. And then I went about my day. But the song was in my head all day, and I was cranky and flippant and disinterested in everything until I listened to it again. And again. And again. And again.

How many secrets can you keep?
‘Cause there’s this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat
Until I fall asleep
Spilling drinks on my settee

Do I wanna know how many times I’ve listened to this song? No.

Oh, Arctic Monkeys, you’re rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock — and those other bands are just post-mix lemonade. Come on, September 9 & Album No. 5!

6. My sister begged me to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit yesterday. I did. And I won. It only took what felt like twelve hours, but I finally won. The winning question? “How many members are on the Jedi Council?” I guessed — Twelve. (My thought process: Jesus had twelve apostles. Should be good enough for George Freakin’ Lucas and the Jedi Council.) Correct! “This party’s over,” Mace Windu declared. Yessir.

I can’t wait to see what Episode VII is about. I mean, I’m not really sure I understand what the first six were about, but I can’t wait to see what Episode VII is about.

7. Speaking of my sister, she has now decided that A-ha’s “Take On Me” is not annoying and she actually likes it. This is a sad day because this means I can no longer torment her with my incessant rendition of it: I’ll be gone in a day or twoooooooooooooooo!

8. I finally saw Monsters University today and loved it. That’s right. I saw a movie made this century. [THE CROWD ROARS.] Anyway. It was so, so, so, so cute.

9. Not speaking of movies made in this century, I woke up a day last week or the week before last week or I can’t remember when because I actually am very old, remembering a dream I had had. In this dream, Marlon Brando was pouring me coffee in what I can only assume was our kitchen. I don’t drink coffee, but it’s Marlon Brando, so fill me up, buttercup. And Humphrey Bogart knocked on the door. Good ol’ Humph. He came by just to say hi and drink a cup of coffee with me and Marlon. You know–the usual. I don’t know what else happened–they probably laughed about how Marlon deserved the Oscar in ’51 more than Humphrey (and how Monty actually deserved it most of all), and I was probably too busy to engage in any conversation because I was trying to conceal the drool that was not-so-conspicuously flowing out of my mouth and flooding the kitchen.

And when I woke up, I realized that I was the only living person in my dream. Totally normal.

10. Finally watched the pilot of Person of Interest, starring Jim Ca-sizzle. (For some strange reasons, the credits list him as Jim Caviezel?)

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[“RUN TO ME” by The Bee Gees plays.]

When I say Ca, you say sizzle.

Ca! (Sizzle!) 

Ca! (Sizzle!) 

I haven’t tried this chant in public yet. Let me know what you think.

Anyway. The show is kind of awesome, and I’ll probably watch more of it once I get over Sam Seaborn.

11. Unofficially launching a visual companion to this blog via Pinterest. Give me six months to figure out how to use it, by which time it probably won’t be fashionable or useful to know how to use it.

12. I am now going to try to think of something worthwhile to write about. Or maybe I’ll just watch another episode of The West Wing because in case you missed it — ROB LOWE IS AWESOME.

Until next time.

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Two Takes on Sabrina

Remakes get the shaft, man. They face the fiercest competition of all in the film world: the original. The sacred, untouchable original starring the legendary, flawless actors with the letter-perfect script and astute director. So don’t touch it, film world! But they do. And sometimes it works out okay. And sometimes it doesn’t. But there are always comparisons to the original. And while there is almost always criticism of any film, the criticism of a remake is frequently rooted in its failure to meet the standards set by that untouchable original. “The original is always better,” is often the resounding sentiment when it comes to remakes.

Sabrina tells the story of Sabrina Fairchild, the awkward daughter of a chauffeur of the wealthy Larrabee family. She’s hopelessly in love with the Larrabee’s younger son, David, a handsome, carefree playboy who barely acknowledges her existence. She goes to Paris to try to forget him, returns as a beautiful woman, and David subsequently falls in love with her. David, however, is supposed to soon be marrying the daughter of another business tycoon, and older brother Linus, the shrewd businessman, hopes the marriage will secure a merger between the two companies. To keep the marriage and merger intact, Linus intervenes and romances Sabrina–and ends up falling in love with her himself (even though he doesn’t realize it). And poor Sabrina doesn’t know which Larrabee she’s in love with anymore. It is nothing short of a modern fairy tale.

Sabrina, derived from the stage play Sabrina Fair, was twice made into a major film, in 1954 by Billy Wilder and again in 1995 by Sydney Pollack. But which take was better?

Take #1: Billy Wilder, 1954 sabrina1954

Humphrey Bogart. Audrey Hepburn. William Holden. (Even the extras in this film turned out to be Hollywood legends, you know.) This film should ooze screen presence. Does it?

As lauded as this film was, Bogart was often cited as being “too old” for the part. (Cary Grant was Wilder’s first choice to play the part. Grant rejected the part, as he was temporarily retired at the time.) I don’t agree with that criticism; Bogart’s performance is probably my favorite in the film.

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“Look at me–Joe College with a touch of arthritis.” Love this guy.

Bogart does a great job of portraying Linus’s businesslike approach to “dealing with” Sabrina. When he is first sent to handle the situation, you know he is doing it for business reasons, but then he kisses Sabrina so forcefully as only Bogart can that you begin to wonder. But then he complains the next day to his father about having to set aside work to take Sabrina on a date for the day, and you’re again unsure of his intentions. And so Bogart keeps you questioning Linus’s motives throughout the whole movie: Is this just business? Or has he already fallen in love with her? And you can’t be 100% sure until the film’s final minute.

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Bogart, though, reportedly had nothing but disdain for his costars. He nicknamed William Holden “Smiling Jim” and when asked how he liked working with Audrey Hepburn, he replied, “It’s OK, if you don’t mind to make 20 takes.” Ouch!

This disdain doesn’t translate to the screen, however. Admittedly, there is little chemistry between Hepburn and Bogart–but just enough, just enough to make the relationship believable, just enough to keep you hoping that Sabrina will choose Linus over David.

Oh, David. How could anyone choose David?

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Okay, if Bogart was considered “too old,” then what exactly was Holden? His age (Holden was 36 when the film was released–and he looks it) is more noticeable, distracting even, than Bogart’s. Linus is supposed to be older, wiser, more responsible. David is supposed to be young, dashing, carefree. Holden doesn’t exactly embody the debonair, handsome playboy as well as another actor might have, making it somewhat difficult to understand Sabrina’s obsession with him, but he does a fair job. (Maybe I’m just not a fan of Holden. I’ve never been blown away by his performances.)

The central role of the film, though, is of course Sabrina.

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When we first meet Sabrina, she’s hidden in a tree, spying wistfully on the Larrabee family hosting one of their spectacular parties. She is awkward and so obsessed with David that she even attempts suicide. She’s also supposed to be an “ugly duckling,” but I doubt all the makeup and wardrobe experts in the world could ever successfully transform Audrey Hepburn into an ugly duckling.

Through her trip to Paris (in this version, she attends a cooking school–hello, 1950s!), Sabrina matures and gains confidence. The audience is shown little of her time in Paris–we see her disastrous first cooking experience and the beginnings of a friendship with a sweet old man, but that’s it. Instead of being shown how she grows and changes, we are simply told via Sabrina’s letters home to her father. So when she returns home as a sophisticated woman, it’s difficult to swallow. It is a classic example of telling and not showing.

In this version, Sabrina comes very close to crossing the line from naive to flat-out annoying. Her obsession with David is not only sickening but bemusing. What is so great about David? He has…Actually, I can’t think of any redeeming quality that David may possess. He certainly is not worth locking yourself in the garage and turning on all twelve cars the Larrabee family owns. Get a grip, girl. Perhaps Bogart had a point when he criticized Hepburn’s acting–she certainly isn’t as endearing as I used to think she was.

Overall, though, this is a good film. The actors play their parts well, some more effectively than others, and even if aspects of it are painfully dated, it is still a sweet story and a very enjoyable film.

Take #2: Sydney Pollack, 1995

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Sydney Pollack’s update of Billy Wilder’s classic is superbly acted, well-written, and enchanting. Even though it may seem impossible for another generation of actors to compete with the legendary stars of the original who inhabited their roles so iconically, this group of actors does it very well–in fact, I would even argue they do it better.

Let’s start with Sabrina. Julia Ormond arguably had the most difficult job of trying to recreate a role so indelibly linked with an actress as beloved as Audrey Hepburn. But she does it so well. Part of the power of Sabrina in Pollack’s version is she is given more depth, more strength.

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She is just as awkward and googly-eyed about David as Hepburn’s Sabrina. But Ormond conveys this lack of grace and social skills so much more effectively. You really feel embarrassed for Sabrina as she confesses her love to David before leaving for Paris–and it turns out Linus is the one in David’s closet instead. (This is such a better way of allowing the audience see Linus and Sabrina interact for the first time than Linus’s discovery of Sabrina’s suicide attempt in the garage in the original.) You feel so, so, so, so bad for her as she struggles in Paris as a somewhat incompetent, inexperienced photographer’s assistant. Man, do you feel bad for her.

But then the photographer takes an interest in her, and you see her begin to change. She becomes more comfortable with herself, more confident, and she even discovers a passion: photography. She really does “find herself”–and the audience gets to see it, not just hear about it in a letter home.

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Yeah, Sabrina and this photographer go dancing in some club. It’s sooooooooo ’90s. Unwanted ’90s flashbacks aside, the transformation of Sabrina is so much more expansive and believable–and as a result, the character of Sabrina is more fully formed.

Now, in the original, I had a little trouble believing Sabrina could be so obsessed with David. There must be a deleted scene with Holden holding a voodoo doll or something. (Maybe I’ve watched Dark Shadows for too long.) But in this version, David Larrabee did a Gap Ad. Oh yeah. Take that, Holden.

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(And of course Sabrina had it on her wall in Paris.)

Greg Kinnear, only in his second feature film, embodies the character of David so much better than Holden. He actually is charming and handsome, sweeping girls off their feet, whereas Holden’s David just acted like he was all those things. Kinnear is the real deal, man.

The chemistry between Ormond and Kinnear is also superior to that of Hepburn and Holden–and the chemistry between Ormond and Harrison Ford is if not superior then definitely more palpable than that between Bogart and Hepburn.

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Have these people ever had their picture taken before?

Harrison Ford gives a great performance as the cold-hearted businessman, Linus Larrabee. The character of Linus is given more room to breathe in this version, as the father character is eliminated. The head of the Larrabee family was always breathing down Bogart’s neck and sticking his nose up at anyone who didn’t have a trust fund in Wilder’s version. Pollack instead has Linus as the successor to his father as the head of the family and the family business. With his father’s absence, you are given a better understanding of why Linus is the way he is–why he is so consumed by the family business and money and why he is so fixed in his day-to-day routine.

As well as Bogart did at showing the two sides of Linus’s personality–the cunning businessman and the softer, vulnerable side–Ford may just give a stronger performance. You see how far Linus is willing to go to seal a business deal, yet at the same time you have to convince yourself that he’s not in love with Sabrina and is romancing her only for the sake of a business deal.

Not only are the principal characters given more development and depth in Pollack’s film, the minor characters are stronger, too. David’s fiance is given a personality, a career, and you are able to see what initially drew him to her (and what ultimately draws him back). The dialogue is also stronger, wittier. “We were up to our elbows in your underwear drawer. It was like touching the Shroud of Turin.”

What really convinced me that Pollack’s version was superior to Wilder’s wasn’t so much the strength of the story or the development of the characters, however. It was actually the fact that THIS ONE GUY is in it:

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What’s up, Paul Giamatti?

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He basically does two things in this movie: eats and smokes. But it’s still awesome. And in this case, it seals the deal that the remake is indeed superior to the original.

“Be whatever you wanna be, just be, just be a bee.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel very blessed to live on the same planet as Liam Gallagher.

This is a man who reportedly went into anaphylactic shock after eating a blue–yes, the report was very specific, it was blue–M&M.

This is a man who once tweeted, “Diarrhea in Korea!” (If there ever were a reason to join the Twitter universe, this man and his side-splitting tweets are it.)

This is a man who is a Belieber, going so far as to once claim that the front cover of the new Beady Eye album, BE, would read BE on the front, with I-E-B-E-R on the back. This comes from the same man who previously stated the new album would be called Lay Off My Avocado, Baby.

This is a man who claims his rear behind is superior to Beyonce’s.

This is a man whose outspoken nature is matched by no one (except maybe his brother) and whose raw, gritty voice is one of the most distinctive and powerful in all of rock ‘n’ roll history.

When Oasis split–actually, let me rephrase that: When Noel Gallagher left Oasis, Liam instantly formed Beady Eye with the other members of Oasis. Meanwhile, Noel went out to sulk in his limousine and write a carefully worded statement explaining his reasons for leaving the band. (Actually, there was one reason: Liam.) In 2011, the two camps released their respective debut albums: Different Gear, Still Speeding (Beady Eye) and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Sales of Different Gear, Still Speeding were disappointing, dismal even. Still, I liked the album (more immediate than High Flying Birds, which I didn’t really appreciate until I’d listened to it about a dozen times)–maybe because it is part of my DNA to love anything Liam Gallagher touches. Just maybe.

As much as I loved that album, though, the new Beady Eye album, BE, is far superior. Kind of like Liam Gallagher’s behind is far superior to Beyonce’s. I love BE so much more than Different Gear, Still Speeding. Maybe it’s because it is new, and I haven’t had the chance to spend 700 hours of my life devouring it, listening to it nonstop, wondering if my ears will start to bleed from listening to it so much. Yet.

I’m not going to review the album track-by-track because: 1) It’s pointless. Every person who listens to this album will have a different opinion of it, will love certain tracks and loathe others. 2) I haven’t spent 700 hours of my life devouring this album yet, and thus I don’t feel even remotely qualified to write about it in detail. Shame on every music journalist in the world who thinks they are qualified to review this album because they’ve listened to it once or twice or six times–that is not enough!!!!!!!!!

Instead, I’ll just say that I can’t remember the last time I listened to a song repeatedly as much as I have listened to “Flick of the Finger.” And as much flak as Liam receives for his lyrics (Bob Dylan he is not), I don’t know that there are any lyrics as heartfelt as those found in “Don’t Brother Me.” (Don’t know who that song could be about, though. Don’t have a clue. Nope, nope, Noel. Er…) And for a man whose real voice hasn’t supposedly been heard since the millennium, the voice on this record, real or plasticine, sounds pretty freaking awesome.

Still, there will be critics and fans and hateful people in general who will hate this album and crucify it and proclaim it to be an offense to human life. And that’s okay. Because they are that other type of person in this world. Let me explain. In What About Bob?, the main character, Bob Wiley, explains his divorce to his psychiatrist this way: “There are two types of people in this world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. My ex-wife loves him.”

Well, I say, “There are two types of people in this world: those who like Liam Gallagher and those who don’t.” And what a sad, sad existence one must live to not like Liam Gallagher.

I mean, how do you hate a man sitting on a leopard print coach, wearing red pants, with a Who coffee mug, kissing a teddy bear? How?

When asked by Jools Holland where the title of the new album (BE) comes from, Liam responded, “Be whatever you wanna be, just be, just be a bee.”

I think I’ll just be grateful we live on the same planet, Mr. Gallagher, a planet where you make music and often outlandish, even more often true statements. That’s enough for me.