Michael Clayton

Here is another episode of film school. Ummmm . . . I sure like to ramble and I think I actually discuss this movie for about 10 seconds of the 2 minutes of actual screen time. I need to start preparing for this stuff. Apparently I can’t just sit down and play. Jay still does a solid job of editing though. He could make me look much worse.

In a strange twist of events I was told that I look like James Bond at work yesterday. I’m told that this was not a sarcastic comment despite the fact that I haven’t shaved in about 3 weeks.

Tales from the Computer Mine

I am a person who despite appearing outwardly chaotic, is very much a person of ritual. There are several websites I check daily:

The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks
Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century
Horror Movie A Day

However it is one website in particular that has made me think that I should start a daily blog about things that transpire at the Computer Mine:

Hobo Teacher

I’m not saying that I’m going to do such a thing, but if I ever get my FTP problems straightened out and a website suddenly exists at www.thecomputermine.com with a cool clip art graphic of a computer wearing a miner’s helmet, you just might know the anonymous blogger. In fact, I might make it a group effort. There are so many stories about this place that I might need some co-conspirators.

When I explain the Computer Mine to most people they without exception compare the place to The Office or Office Space. I will tell you a story that could a story about something that happened to me yesterday that could have literally been lifted from The Office.

When I first began my tenure at the Computer Mine I was immediately told who the people were that it was socially acceptable to like and who it was socially acceptable to dislike. At the time I was somewhat of a subhuman and didn’t really care to talk to anybody any more than was absolutely necessary.

As I have returned to the world of the humans and become a person with adequate social skills again I began getting to know and learn about the other people in the mine’s employ. For the most part I learned that the socially unacceptable people weren’t really that bad. They didn’t belong to certain social cliques and were less than socially gifted, but they weren’t necessarily bad people. It seemed more of a case where other people didn’t take the time or energy to get to know that person. They found out enough to make a cognitive shortcut and make their judgment about that person so that they knew how to deal with that person as a type rather than as an individual.

However, (not counting the middle aged shrews) there was one person that I have never been able to converse with at any meaningful level. Literally every time that I have had a conversation with him, it has ended poorly. Most people around the mine call him Chode. I have refrained from using this term because I don’t think most people have taken the effort to know what a chode is and what it is definitely isn’t the type of language that is thrown around a professional work atmosphere. Click “HERE” if you have a burning desire to know the definition of the term. I don’t recommend it.

I will call him D-Squared for the purpose of this story.

I feel sorry for D-Squared because I don’t think anybody ever taught him what it means to be a man. I mean to really be a man. I think he has cobbled together an image of what a man is supposed to be through images from television, movies, video games and men’s locker rooms.

Two examples of past conversations with D-Squared. On his work anniversary he brought puppy chow to work. I asked him if he made the puppy chow himself. He told me that he did make the puppy chow himself, while wearing an apron that said, “Suck the Cook”.

I was having a conversation with a co-worker about going to see Hairspray. D-Squared piped in and tried to run down my manliness for going to a musical. The co-worker pointed out that he was a hypocrite because he had went to see Rent. He countered that Rent was cool and perhaps manly because it had a stripper and she did a sexy dance.

To yesterday’s painful encounter.

I was shipping out a loaner computer. The shipping area in the mine is located near the vending machines. As I was printing the packaging slip, D-Squared came around the corner and said, “That’s what she said.”

I ignored him because I was quite certain that he was talking to Paul (who sits nearby) and not to me. I did not know that people actually used that joke in a way that wasn’t sarcastic.

I got down on my hands and knees to tape up the box because it is easier than bending over because I’m something like 64% torso.

From behind me I hear D-Squared: “You look pretty natural in that position, you have lots of experience like that?”

I finished taping the box up and stood up. I cut him off before he continued strolling down Gay Joke Avenue.

“When you were coming around the corner you said, ‘That’s what she said’. What had the person said; that made you think that such a thing would be a hilarious retort?”

“You had grunted.”

“Wow.” That was all that could escape my lips. I pushed the loaner computer over to the pickup area and walked away wondering if I would ever have an experience with D-Squared that wasn’t so painfully awkward. I am beginning to doubt it.

Clearing My Head

I’ve been sick lately. Without going into too much detail, about the color and size of things that have been extracted from my body lately I will just say that I’ve never been one to let me body dictate to me my social engagements. That is unless my body just completely shuts down and does not allow me to move. So rather than making an attempt to get healthy by resting and taking medicine and eating soup, I have been gallivanting around town. I really have only done two things to help myself get better. I’ve avoided the basement and I made some wassail. I don’t know if the wassail really aided my recovery process, but I did feel better after throwing down a warm cup of it now and then. However, this morning when I woke up, I actually felt akin to a human being for the first time in almost a week.

I even pursued tickets to the ISU-UNI game. A game that I was emotionally invested in because a certain Panther friend of mine sure likes to remind me that we keep losing to UNI. I might have even made bold proclamations on their MySpace page about a certain Cyclone victory.

Well the Cyclones did not cover the check that my mouth wrote. In fact, they were thoroughly humiliated. That check bounced about a mile high. UNI fans were allowed to chant: “U-N-I” in the hallowed arena that was once home to Hilton Magic. Cyclone “fans” (although they assuredly do not deserve the moniker “fan” which is derived from the term “fanatic” and since these people clearly are not fanatical so there must be another term that could describe them like “fanciers” or “People who have a passing interest in the Cyclones”) began funneling out of Hilton Coliseum shortly after the final television timeout.

I left the arena half expecting my phone to ring at any moment. There was a chance that a thorough thrashing like the Panthers had put on the Cyclones might trigger a gloating phone call. I know a thing or two about the gloating phone call. I make one to Jason Baier about every week that the Chiefs lose. Well I used to, but they lose so often now it hardly seems worth the effort to dial his phone number.

My phone did not ring. This meant that the gloating was going to come through the medium known as MySpace. I knew I needed to take my medicine, figuratively speaking of course. However, I knew that I could buy myself some time. I descended into the frigid depths of the basement and opened up Photoshop. I decided to wait a bit before knocking down my full piece of humble pie. I began editing some images I created last week to clear my head and make me forget about the horrible display of Naismith’s great game that I was witness to earlier this evening.

This pictures are similar to the other pictures I made earlier. I haven’t quite captured the image that I’m striving to make, but I am moving into that ballpark.








Calm Down

I work with this guy that has a cousin that makes movies. He recently loaned me a copy of his cousin’s most recent epic. It is about vampire and a gang of high school kids killing the vampires. No matter what prism you look through, it just isn’t very good. I have in turn loaned out the movie to a few people here and there with the caveat that if they watch this movie they can then read this thing I wrote about the movie. The thing that I wrote about this movie is a list of my 10 favorite things about this movie. I didn’t go into much depth and I wrote the thing in about 45 minutes. It definitely isn’t a masterpiece, but it is certainly mean spirited.

The guy I work with was asking me today what I thought about the movie. I told him that I find that the movie was an allegory. It wasn’t really about vampires, but about how people choose to percieve the world and how if you see things from somebody’s perspective you may start to have empathy for them, even if they are evil. I wrote this theory up.

He insisted that I e-mail my poorly written theory over to him so he could e-mail it to his cousin. I thought that this was a poor idea because even though his cousin hadn’t succeeded at any level in making a coherent film, he was trying and didn’t really deserve to have somebody he didn’t know just bash on him. I sent it over to him any way. When the filmmaker read my piece he thought it was awesome. He considered it to be a great compliment. He was particularly thrilled about being compared to Uwe Boll. Being compared to Uwe Boll is not a compliment. However, I’ll leave it for you to decide if my piece was compimentary or mean spirited.

Also if by reading this it somehow piques your interest, I’ll loan you a copy of this bad boy.

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music

I just feel that it is necessary to reference a decent movie before delving into Calm Down.However, I should throw out one disclaimer.I am not going to touch story structure in my list of my favorite things from this movie.I am a firm believer that the most important thing in a movie is story. You can get away with bad acting, poor production quality and the occasional poor line of dialogue if you have a great story.

A friend who knows that there are times when I fancy myself a writer once asked me the following question: Do I consider prewriting an important part of the writing process?

This was a loaded question. The person really wanted me to backup their supposition that real “artists” just did. They just sat down to their parchment or canvas or word processor or block of marble and created.

I told her, “There is an old adage that rewriting is writing. It is my belief that prewriting is writing. When I am done writing something I usually hate it so much that it takes me a little while before I can even go back and begin the process of rewriting. Therefore if I relied heavily on rewriting I would never accomplish anything. I need the prewriting process. Otherwise I have no clue where I’m going.”

She didn’t like this answer, but it is the honest truth. Without a basic structure to tell you where you are going, you aren’t going to get anywhere.Therefore I can’t in good conscience spend much time railing on the story structure of Calm Down when it is painfully evident that they didn’t do any prewriting. They didn’t do any rewriting. It is a debatable point to claim that they did any writing at all.

So rather than going down the paths of completely unnecessary scenes (almost all of them, but in particular the “car borrowing scene” and the “lost my pants” scene), completely unexplained motivations (such as are the cops working for the vampires?), or what the point of any of this was supposed to be; I’ll limit myself to my ten favorite aspects of this movie that aren’t related to story structure. I will include my favorite moments of dialogue.

1.The “sexy” blonde vampire that shows up in the background of two scenes with the leader of the vampires. I don’t know if she was in reality good looking, but it seemed important to them to include her with her funbags hanging out in the background of the first two scenes with the vampire leader. It makes me wonder if they hired a stripper for the night.

2. The vampire leader was wearing light colored shoes. I don’t know why that cracks me up, other than the entire vampire wardrobe consisted of wearing black. Maybe when you are the leader you get a pair of white Keds. It might even be the symbol of the transfer of power.

3. The scene where the main character gives his speech about “walking away”. He calls the vampires “jerks”. Whoa tiger, just because they killed your brother doesn’t mean you have to start name calling. That whole speech is priceless. Including the fact that the “track girl” (that they don’t use for bait even though one character points out that she is the fastest in the group during the scene where they discuss who should be bait) points out that they have gotten this far with him. Is he the leader of the group? He wasn’t even in it at the beginning of the movie and now he is the leader. I also think they missed a golden marketing opportunity by not giving this group a name.
4. There is vignetting in almost every single wide angle shot. This is caused by putting the wrong filter or hood on a camera lens and is something that easily could have been edited out or fixed after they watched the dailies after the first day of shooting.

5. They used that hatchback car to shoot the scenes of people walking down the street. The scene with the brothers at night and later with the main character’s emotional breakdown sequence. I know they did this because the shadow of the hatchback is clearly visible during these sequences.

6. How the hell did they get so many people to make this movie? There are at least 15 vampires in one scene. I like to consider myself a good organizer of people, but I could never get 15 people to do something like that. In fact I would be too embarrassed to ask. “I’m making this vampire movie, but it isn’t really a horror movie, it is more of an action movie with lots of gore. Kind of a tribute to Uwe Boll if you will. Would you be interested in being an extra? The vampire costume consists of any black clothing that you have. No don’t worry about teeth. They aren’t part of the new vampire mythology I’m inventing.”

7. This movie really makes me think about other movies in a strange way. The first 15 minutes of the movie really made me think of Brokeback Mountain. Only there is lots of foreplay. I’m not quite so certain that there wouldn’t have been a little man on man action if the vampires wouldn’t have broken it up. Perhaps that is in the subtext of the movie, perhaps the vampires are homophobic. Not that being homophobic makes you a good person by any stretch of the imagination, but it might explain why they attacked and killed the “cool” brother. It might also be because of his horrible impersonations. I know what you are thinking. They are brothers, not lovers. To that I say there is a kind of incest subtext to another scene in the movie. Although I am not a user of pornography, I know that a movie exists called Taboo. The scene where the mom sits on the edge of the main character’s bed reminds me of this movie. I get the sense that while she is playing with the drawstring on her pants she is trying to work up the courage to ask him if he wants to have a “go” at her. In the end she decides to return to her husband’s bed and see if he can finally quench the burning sexual desire that he hasn’t been able to extinguish since he only began caring about “getting his”. I’m telling you it is all in the way that she is playing with those drawstrings.

8. The scene where the characters get their weapons. The fact that they don’t use guns could have easily been covered with a line like “Guns only piss them off.” or “Guns only slow them down.” or “Guns don’t kill them.” Instead of a line about having used guns in the past, but two of the characters aren’t responsible enough to be trusted with guns. My real favorite part of this scene is that the characters have never tried holy water, garlic, or crucifixes. They haven’t tried anything that would be consistent with vampire mythology. This is covered up (by the guy with the grappling hook I believe) with the line that when you are in battle with a vampire, you want something that will do some damage, “not a glass of water”. Yeah, you wouldn’t want something that would actually be able to terminate the existence of the undead. At least two of these characters have ridiculous weapons. A grappling hook? A tent pole (I think) with a knife pushed through a hole? Then one guy goes off and gets two camp axes. Wouldn’t want to use an ax as long as you have that grappling hook. Although I will give credit to the filmmakers. This is undoubtedly a clever tip of their hat to the scene in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan where they pile a bunch of weapons onto the deck of the ship and the guy that picks last gets the shotgun. Kudos!

9.The entire last battle scene is in slow motion. Good to know that there are still fans of Richard Donner out there.

10. I claimed that I wasn’t going to tackle story structure. However, I think I do have to tackle one aspect of the story. Is it possible that this whole movie is really a clever way to get you to root for the bad guys? There is not one scrap of evidence to suggest that the people the CD5 are killing are vampires. This whole premise is held together with one line of dialogue. “There were bite marks found on my brother’s neck.” Other than that one death, the vampires aren’t responsible for the deaths of anybody else. When the vampire leader has his chance to kill the CD5 he doesn’t. He kicks their ass then walks away. In the final battle sequence he doesn’t kill anybody. He puts one guy in a sleeper hold. Another guy he might be trying a figure 4 leglock on. When he takes out the girl he must have made the effort to miss every single vital organ and then he throws down the sword. It is as if he is saying, “Hey guys, why are you killing all my buddies? I don’t want to kill you, so I’m just going to incapacitate you so you can’t hurt anybody else and when you wake up, we can discuss this like rational adults. Have you seen my girlfriend? She was wandering around out here with her funbags hanging out.”

Even when he gives his speech he never really mentions murder. Only that they need to feed and that could mean that every time these guys are trying to go down to Dairy Queen, the stupid CD5 keeps attacking them. He also mentions the CD5 trying to hold onto their pathetic lives. I don’t think that means literally. Since it is my belief that he is a Youth Pastor, he could be referencing the fact that these guys probably do have pathetic lives. Do you doubt these guys play Magic on weekends? He could also be referring to the belief of some Christian sects that you have to be “reborn” as a Christian.

To me this movie plays more like a gang movie. The CD5 are just a bunch of Star Wars nerds that claim that the rival gang consists of “vampires” because this whole thing probably came about when they starting taking their Friday night D&D game a little too serious. At least a couple of them already had weapons from their Saturday trips to the renaissance fair. That is why the cop is always chasing them. They are murderers.

What is the rival gang? They aren’t vampires. My best guess is that they are members of a radical church group. The type you might have seen in the movie Jesus Camp. Since a few of the characters in the CD5 are homosexual, they probably initially tried to capture a few of them and tried to educate them about the “evils” of homosexuality. I believe that the label “vampires” was attached to the rival gang as a reference to the Christian sacrament of Communion: drinking the “Blood of Christ”. Clearly this is what happened the night that they attacked the brothers. They were trying to capture them and then reprogram them. They must have gotten a little too rough with the one brother and accidentally killed him. The mark on his neck wasn’t a bite. It was just a little love mark from his brother, but his brother couldn’t let the general public know about his incestuous relationship, so he went along with the cover story that it was a vampire’s mark.

Need more proof that the main character is gay. He never once makes a move on the track star girl when he is in her bedroom. I don’t believe that she was gay though. She was a track star. They never mention playing softball or volleyball.

At least 2 other characters of the CD5 are lovers as well. Are you telling me that you believe the cover story of my pants came off because they got stuck on a motorcycle? They were clearly about to get intimate (they had their weapons because I’m sure they were engaged in some kind of role playing where one was Batman and the other was a dwarf) when the Jesus Camp church group busted in on them and tried to capture them and take them in for reprogramming.

This is the only interpretation of this movie that makes sense to me.

Darjeeling Redux

Here is the “completed” version of the Darjeeling Limited review. It is in two parts and is still way too long. The only real difference is Jay threw on some and some credits.

There is hopefully 5 new reviews on the way. Principal photography has been completed on reviews for Michael Clayton, Wristcutters: A Love Story, American Gangster, Calm Down, & Beowulf.

I also have plans to go see Into the Wild tonight and No Country for Old Men on Sunday. I hope to snag a viewing of the following films in the coming months: Across the Universe (even though I think it is never coming to Ames), August Rush (even though Robin Williams looks terrible in the trailer), Even though I once walked out on a Bob Dylan concert, I’m Not There, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly even though it seems an awful lot like The Sea Inside), Atonement, Grace is Gone, The Amateurs, Love in the Time of Cholera, I Am Legend (even though Will Smith is in it),Juno (even though I don’t know if I’ll be able to look at Ellen Page the same after Hard Candy), The Kite Runner, Youth Without Youth (even though Coppola hasn’t directed a film in 10 years),Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep, The Bucket List, Charlie Wilson’s War, Persepolis, The Great Debaters, and There Will Be Blood (even though I think Paul Thomas Anderson is just a terrible filmmaker).

The Hot Hand

I’m not a big gambler, but the last two wagers I have participated in, I have been the victor. This entry is really just a reminder to Jesse that in a little more than 2 months we will be sitting in theatre watching the movie below on his dime because he foolishly made a wager with me:


I’m a sucker for any movie that relates to an 80s movie. I’m still waiting for the sequel to Just One of the Guys.

FTP Issues

So a guy I work with hosts my website on his server. This is a pretty good deal for me because he doesn’t charge me a plum nickel and I get pretty much all the space I could ever want. However, he recently moved my website to a different server. That is fine. The new server is faster and has all sorts of fancy bells and whistles. However, he really does not want to make this new server a FTP server. This means that I can’t really make changes to my website because I can’t FTP into it. He really wants me to use this program that automatically publishes to the server through something like Port 80. That would be fine IF I wanted to use this program and if I could select which port to FTP though on blogger AND if wanted to use this program, which I really don’t. Therefore, it may be a week or so before I can convince him that I need some kind of FTP capability or we reach some kind of compromise before you see any changes on the website. This means that for those of you that have been waiting for the pictures from the Colorado game to be posted – hang in there. They are still coming.

Yesterday kind of sucked because the Cyclone got dismantled. What happened to them wasn’t half as embarrassing as what happened in Iowa City. I’m not referring to the loss to a MAC school that is most likely going to keep the Hawks walking the streets of Iowa City this December. Losing on the field is one thing. The embarrassment I’m talking about is Iowa fans booing their team as they left the field on Saturday.

I’ve been put in the position of defending Iowa fans a lot lately. I tell people that they aren’t bad, there are just a few bad apples. However, I can’t come up with a defense for booing your own team.

Granted, I’m not a fan of booing as a general rule. When I plunk down my cold hard cash for a season ticket and head into Jack Trice Stadium, I have only one motivation. I’m there to cheer for the Cyclones. Let me repeat that because in a movie I saw today somebody said, “In this day and age, optimism is a revolutionary act.” I’m there to cheer for the Cyclones. I’m not there to boo the other team. I’m there to support my team. I’m not there to disparage their opponent. In this day and age, sportsmanship has become a revolutionary act.

I might on occasion in the heat of the moment allow a boo to escape my lips when the referees have bungled a call or an opponent has displayed poor sportsmanship. Never has the thought of booing the Cyclones ever even crossed my brain. Never.

What makes the actions of Iowa “fans” even more reprehensible is the fact that this was Senior Day. Players like Adam Shada, Albert Young, Damian Sims, Mike Klinkenborg, Tom Busch, and Kenny Iwebema left Kinnick Stadium for the final time as players. They left the field to a chorus of boos. Those guys gave their heart and soul to that football team. They deserve better than that. Win or lose. The effort of those players demands your respect and it makes me sick to think that their final memory as Hawks is being booed off the field by their own fans.

I’m done defending Iowa fans.

Prison Overcrowding

I don’t want to pile on, but what has been happening with the Iowa football team this season is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the state of Iowa. I’ve always thought that Ferentz was a great coach and I know that nobody can control 125 or so hormonal, young men all of the time; but with 3 new players now under investigation for sexual assault, that means that over 10% of the team has had trouble with the law. I believe that a coach should be able to make sure that less than 10% of their players aren’t jailbirds.

Take a look at the legal problems thus far this year:

– Ryan Bain (April 14): Disorderly conduct, drunk driving. Voluntarily transferred.
– Ricky Stanzi (May 5): Possession of alcohol. Backup quarterback.
– Dana Brown: Fifth-degree theft (May 15), domestic assault (Oct. 16). Kicked off team.
– Tyler Gerstandt (May 18): Possession of alcohol. Backup tight end.
– Arvell Nelson: Driving with a suspended license (July 2), failure to appear in court (Aug. 16). Backup quarterback.
– Bradley Fletcher (July 17): Drunk driving. Starting defensive back.
– Ben Evans (July 29): Drunk driving. Wide receiver.
– Anthony Bowman (Aug. 18): Unauthorized use of a credit card. Suspended.
– Dominique Douglas: Unauthorized use of a credit card (Aug. 18), fifth-degree theft (Oct. 30). Suspended.
– Clint Huntrods (Sept. 6): Public intoxication, public urination. Kicked off team.
– Lance Tillison (Sept. 16): Drunk driving. Second-team defensive back.

Perhaps the Hawks should just look into locking up their athletes all week and then let them out for games. It seems that it would be good practice for what many of them will face in their future any way.


So I’ve begun the task of creating the Photography 139 calendar. I printed out a few test images and hung them on my wall at the mine. I took some sticky notes and numbered them 1 through 12. Then I thought about my very general rules for selecting pictures to go with certain months and began placing the sticky notes on the pictures to indicate what month they could represent. After changing my mind and the order of the pictures I felt that I had a pretty fair idea about where each picture was going to go and what pictures had been eliminated from contention. I finished this part of the process on Monday.

I left my rough outline up on my wall. It hung there unmolested.

I left work on Wednesday at about 6:15.

I came into work this morning about 9 am.

The pictures were still there. The sticky notes were gone! I mean, really?

At this time I’m just going to chalk this up as just another one of the incredibly stupid things that our cleaning crew has done and I have put the sticky notes back up.

New Sticky Notes

Me and my two maybe three man crew hope to have the grand majority of calendars churned out on this Saturday. If you would like to order a 2008 Calendar, you may e-mail the address below:

Christopher D. Bennett

The price is a little bit different this year, but if you have ordered calendars in the past, you have been “Grandfather Claused” in at the old rate.