Sunday, January 27, 2008

Uh...really? Quantum of Solace?

Quantum of Solace comes from the title of a short story in Flemming’s For Your Eyes Only. But it still seems to come from NOWHERE. What does it mean? Are they serious? I waited so long to write this in the hopes that it was a joke – a prank – anything but the truth. But finally reality has sunk in.

Daniel Craig says: "I was unsure at first. Bond is looking for his quantum of solace and that's what he wants, he wants his closure. Ian Fleming says that if you don't have a quantum of solace in your relationship then the relationship is over. It's that spark of niceness in a relationship that if you don't have you might as well give up. Bond doesn't have that because his girlfriend has been killed," [and therefore, Bond is] looking for revenge [...] to make himself happy with the world again. But the title also alludes to something else in the film."

Here is the summary every other website is copying and pasting:

Betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal. Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M (JUDI DENCH) interrogate Mr White (JESPER CHRISTENSEN) who reveals the organisation which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined.
Forensic intelligence links an Mi6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille (OLGA KURYLENKO), a woman who has her own vendetta. Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene (MATHIEU AMALRIC), a ruthless business man and major force within the mysterious organisation.
On a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the world’s most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano (JOAQUIN COSIO). Using his associates in the organisation, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin American country, giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land.
In a minefield of treachery, murder and deceit, Bond allies with old friends in a battle to uncover the truth. As he gets closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper, 007 must keep one step ahead of the CIA, the terrorists and even M, to unravel Greene’s sinister plan and stop his organisation.

Related reading:

"Quantum What?" @ SaltyStix
"Everything changes but bond" @ The Guardian
"The Title is Meant to Confuse" @ This is North Scotland

Colin Powell Live from Millett Hall

Colin Powell Live from Millett Hall

Last week (January 22nd), I got to see Colin Powell speak at Miami. The one speaker I had seen previously in this speaker series was Mikhail Gorbachev who’s speech was in Russian and the translation took a lot out of it. Powell though, was interesting and a very good speaker. He mixed in a lot of humor, about retirement, old age and stuff along those lines. He spoke for about an hour and the first half hour was mostly his standard speech-circuit routine about him and what he is doing/did.

Finally, for the last twenty minutes or so he talked about the topic – Democracy. He talked about Russia, China, Japan, and a few other countries and regions more vaguely. He had a great story about Russia, about how he talked with an angry Gorbachev who berated Powell – and the U.S. – for not giving him more support. And then he calmly called Powell out and said, “you liked having us as an enemy, but now you will need a new one!” And Powell admitted that the stability of the U.S.S.R. as an enemy had been the bedrock of his career in the military.

He talked briefly about how Deng Xiaoping was a great leader who modernized his country.

More entertaining was his story about Koizumi – whom he called his favorite world leader – where Powell talked with him and after they were done Powell asked Koizumi if it was true that he loved Elvis. And Koizumi grew very animated and gushed about how much he loved the king. And Powell responded by saying that he had known Elvis in the service, and Koizumi grew even more excited.

Powell also talked briefly about some of the things he did as Secretary of State and certain ongoing crises. He talked about the shock of 9/11, the necessity of Afghanistan, the hardline on Iran, the impetus for the Iraq attack and the steely resolve of North Korea.

He talked about how he thinks we do need to finish what we started and that he has a lot of faith in General Petraeus to make the surge successful. He thinks Guantanamo Bay should close down because he worries about the strength of the Geneva Convention.

I was really liking his speech overall until he ended with this bull shit hot dog story about how this one hot dog vendor recognized him and told him that Powell didn’t have to pay for his hotdog because, “America has already paid me.”

He took six questions –
1) A German student asks about Iraqi intelligence from foreign services and Powell said that everyone believed the intelligence and he thinks they got some stuff right, and a lot wrong, but the consensus was firmly behind the intell they had.
2) this scatchy guy began his question with a “don’t taze me bro” joke which was not funny – and then he asked a clichĂ© question about what Powell thought the greatest issue facing our generation was and Powell answered with some b.s. about getting involved and voting – yawn.
3) Some guy asked this boring five minute question and the crowd started yelling “taze him” and the question basically called Powell out for getting fat off of the lecture circuit and Powell was kind of like, I already said I did that – big deal.
4) Then this other guy asked Powell, the military guy, an economic question about the devaluation of the dollar and china – Colin said that it wasn’t his area of expertise, but he didn’t think the government could do anything. Apparently the guy was a Ron Paul supporter because he asked about the gold standard, which Powell rightfully laughed at.
5) Someone asked what to do about global warming and Colin just said – adopt Gore’s cafĂ© standards. Another yawn.
6) Then someone accused Powell of sanctioning the use of nuclear weapons because Powell okayed depleted uranium bullets – the crowd booed and Colin asked the crowd to let the kid finish his long question and then cut the kid down and said – “those weapons are effective, and science is on my side – they aren’t a radiological risk – I guess we’ll agree to disagree.” It was a strong end to an entertaining speech.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Down with Brown

The Cavs did one more thing to ruin the career of LeBron James. Extending the contract of Mike Brown is another nail in the coffin for LeBron. Did they think Mike Brown was LARRY Brown? WHAT is going on? He is clearly one of the worst coaches in the NFL. Any other coach could have (a) taught some talent, (b) retained some talent, (c) brought in some talent, or at least (d) gotten the best out of their players.

Instead possible talents like Varejao and Gibson haven't developed. Varejao has turned into a contract baby who can't do much more on the court than flop. Gibson, last year's playoff hero has been about average, instead of the dominant guard pressence LeBron needs.

Meanwhile the Cavaliers have had trouble holding onto their marginally good bench players and have basically had the same team for the last three seasons. Does no one else realize this? Why is this? Coaches like Jackson can bring in players, Brown can at least keep his stars on the roster.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Just a feeling

So I was thinking about playoff structure in the NFL. And I just read some article that ranted about how the 1 seeds always get upset. Combined with a few other things, the idea that began to form in my mind was that the 1-4 matchup was almost always harder than the 2-3 matchup. Not because of that stupid expectation of upsets, but more about the structural factors.

Like it used to be in the NBA, divisional champs get the top seeds. BUT, because of the NFL playoff structure where the top two seeds have round one byes while the two wild card teams square off against the two lowest divisional seeds. Since no division is ever truly equal - say...the AFC south, there are usually a good chance that the wildcard team gets to slay a weaker divisional champ in the first round.

Now when you get to the second round, the top seed usually has to square off against one of these wild card challengers. Now, I understand that the chances of the three seed getting upset (like the Steelers did this year, and when they did the upsetting when they one their last championship). But this year is a strong example that proves that the opposite is more likely the case.

This year, as a reward for being the best team in their conference New England got to square off against the surging Jaguars and Dallas has to face what many people have chosen as a Super Bowl darkhorse, the Giants. Dallas may have edged the giants for the division, but having to face such a tough team seems a little harsh. When you consider that Green Bay got to embarass a lackluster Seahawks team and the Colts get to play a fatally wounded Chargers team (the loss of Antonio Gates), being number two is pretty good.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Favorites? Best ofs?

I love lists. I mean, "Top 10" is one of the major phrases of my vocabulary. And now that I read a lot more blogs, end of year time pushes that into overdrive as there are retrospective lists as we all fall all over ourselves to outdo the next person. Sometimes these best of lists boggle me. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead? Really? That goes on there? Ratatouille? BEST of? I think that it just begs the question of opinion.

As all my favorite movie blogs posted their “best of 2007” lists I tried to write mine. Then something dawned on me. I didn’t remember 2007! No, my realization was more along the lines of, what makes a movie the best? I mean, when it comes to entertainment, nothing is objective, you like what you like. If I said Knocked Up was the best, my friend Katherine (Heigl – we go way back) would probably call me a chauvinist while if I said No Country for Old Men over There Will Be Blood some might say I chose blood…over oil? Maybe there isn’t a good joke to be made there. But what I’m trying to say is that favorites are the way to go because it (barely) escapes the pretension of “best of” lists.

2007 Favorites: Movies

So I have two lists: the favorites I saw on DVD (Nitflix+HBO=Godsend) and the favorites I saw in theatres. All in all, since we started the blog in May, corresponding to when I started keeping track of all the movies I saw, I have seen 175 movies. I know, I know, I should go out more. Blah blah blah.

So, if you want, you can peruse the list of movies below. Forgive me for not hyperlinking all of these badboys. There are a HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE of them, so cut me some slack. Another preempt, living alone (mostly) all summer (like, literally, middle of nowhere with your friends six hours away) makes you watch lots of things you wouldn’t watch, like ANYTHING that’s on TV. Hence, the cornerstone of my defense as to why I watched so many romantic comedies – hey, they were on HBO (or the airplane…). They are rated mostly contextually (confusing, I know) – The Protector was leaps and bounds better than Ong Bak, just as I thought Shooter was way better than The Bourne Ultimatum, Hidden Fortress was the most entertaining (first viewing) Kurosawa movie I saw, and so on. Also, keep in mind I’m trying to keep it short and sweet how I feel about the movies – a lot of them have full reviews here at PulpEverything or at SaltyStix and I would have hyperlinked them but my internet is too sluggish. If you’re really curious why I liked Superbad better than Knocked Up, sack up and read my whole review.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) 10, Love Actually 10, Knocked Up 10, Ghost World 10, Amelie 10, Bad Education 10, Juno 10, 12 Angry Men 10, He Got Game 9.5, Sideways 9.5, Imagine Me & You 9.5, Sweet Mud 9, Cold Mountain 9, Million Dollar Baby 9, Serenity 9, North Country 9, Pan's Labyrinth 9, Me, You, And Everyone We Know 9, The Dreamers 9, The Fountain 9, Freedom Writers 9, Human Nature 9, Superbad 9, The Incredibles 9, Dark City 9, 3:10 to Yuma 9, Gone Baby Gone 9, No Country for Old Men 9, Attonement 9 Hollywoodland 8.5, Brick 8.5, Bend it Like Beckham 8.5, Chasing Amy 8.5, Tristan + Isolde 8.5, Elephant 8.5, Shooter 8.5, Hard Boiled 8.5, Badlands 8.5, All About My Mother 8.5, Newspapers and Flowers 8, Little Heroes 8, Jarhead 8, Y tu Mama Tambien 8, Poseidon 8, In Her Shoes 8, Live Free or Die Hard 8, Great Expectations 8, Sicko 8, A Very Long Engagement 8, A Better Tomorrow 8, A Better Tomorrow 3 8, Constantine 8, Red Dragon 8, About Schmidt 8, Hot Fuzz 8, Papillon 8, Thumbsucker 8, Shoot em' Up 8, Mississippi Burning 8, Amarcord 8, La Dolce Vita 8, The Protector 8, Hable Con Ella 8, American Gangster 8, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 8, Hidden Fortress 8, Ransom 7.5, Point of No Return 7.5, Catch a Fire 7.5, The Tao of Steve 7.5, The Age of Innocence 7.5, The Mark of Zorro (1974) 7.5, The Flower of My Secret 7.5, I Am Legend 7.5, Charlie Wilson's War 7.5, Paper Dolls 7, Spiderman 3 7, La femme nikita 7, Dream Girls 7, Napoleon Dynamite 7, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 7, The Painted Veil 7, The Constant Gardener 7, Clerks 7, The Bourne Ultimatum 7, Run Lola Run 7, The Mark of Zorro (1940) 7, Swept Away 7, O 7, Breach 7, Akahige/Red Beard 7, La Strada 7, Black Robe 7, Bad Habits 7, I'm Reed Fish 7, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets 7, Young and Innocent 7, The Killing 7, The Great Debaters 7, Casanova 7, Days of Thunder 6.5, Highlander 6.5, The Last King of Scotland 6.5, Hitch 6.5, Kinsey 6.5, sex, lies, and videotape 6.5, Once a Thief 6.5, The Golden Compass 6.5, Janem Janem 6, John Tucker Must Die 6, Ocean's 13 6, Music and Lyrics 6, Stranger than Fiction 6, Monsters, Inc 6, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry 6, The Simpsons Movie 6, Practical Magic 6, Before the Devil Know's You're Dead 6, Rashomon 6, Cellular 5.5, Natural Born Killers 5.5, The Conversation 5.5, Because I Said So 5.5, Eragon 5.5, Clueless 5, The Holiday 5, Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End 5, Bloodrayne 5, Suspect Zero 5, The Pacifier 5, Cecil B. Demented 5, Last Kiss 5, Ghost Rider 5, The Ron Clark Story 5, Teaching Robert Lee 5, Detroit Rock City 5, Raising Arizona 5, Just Friends 5, The Rocky Horror Picture 5, Good Luck Chuck 5, Letters from Iwo Jima 5, Hitman 5, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles 5, The Family Stone 4.5, She's the Man 4.5, For the Love of the Game 4.5, For Love or Money 4, 16 Blocks 4, A Scanner Darkly 4, Bad Girls 4, Sunshine 4, Rumor Has It 4, A Better Tomorrow 2 4, Rising Sun 4, Message in a Bottle 4, Mean Streets 4, The Brother's Grimm 4, The Boys Next Door 4, Heart of Darkness 4, The Perfect Score 4, Luther 4, The Producers 3.5, Robots 3, The Goonies 3, The Chinese Connection 3, Ratatouille 3, My Super Ex-Girlfriend 3, Princess of Thieves 3, Lady Jane 3, The Ultimate Gift 3, American Dreamz 2.5, Bandidas 2, Sexy Beast 2, Evan Almighty 0, Be My Baby 0

Top 10 Favorite Movies (I saw at home) in 2007

10. The Protector
This was a movie that was a pleasant surprise because after Ong Bak, I expected the worst, and instead, got ridiculous original fight scenes and a much better plot.

9. Amelie
This movie was simply too beautiful to not make the list. No, not in that flowery romantic way, but the colors and cinematography…and Audrey Tatou…

8. He Got Game
Probably the grittiest movie on this list, so intense it almost hurts, another movie that is great cinematically as well as for it’s story.

7. Imagine Me & You
Piper Perabo and a pre-300 Lena Heady are great in this movie; it’s a different kind of romantic comedy that keeps you guessing until the end. Beat out Tristan + Isolde on ingenuity alone.

6. The Dreamers
What year goes by without a sexual awakening? This movies do a damn fine job of exploring sexual taboos and edges out Y tu Mama Tambien by having a great ending (or maybe just better than Tambien).

5. Pride and Prejudice
Keira vs Keira! P+P narrowly beats out Love Actually here because I thought P+P was literally a flawless movie, not just a perfect romantic comedy.

4. Ghost World
Thora Birch is simply amazing in a story that should have seemed slow but never was. I liked Thumbsucker here too, a similar movie that took the road more traveled.

3. Serenity
Serenity got a big push because it was another huge surprise: I had seen the previews, and posters, and the movie looked like a cheap imitation. But it brought some serious game, causing me to scramble for the only season of Firefly (I failed). Dark City was close here too.

2. Me, You, And Everyone We Know
Just as Amelie scored points for beauty, this scored points for total originality – not sure I experienced a movie that was so un-Hollywood yet so good.

1. Brick
This movie’s unique take on film noir (a la high school) was extremely powerful, as was Josephy Gordon-Levitt’s performance, which made it an easy choice for my #1 favorite.

Top 6 Films (I saw in theaters) in 2007

6. Knocked Up
This movie heralded the return of the R-rated comedy, launched the careers of Apatow, Heigl, Rogen, and showed comedies can have (serious) plots too.

5. Superbad
The follow up to Knocked Up just did a lot more for me because it was just seemed truer – more real – maybe I can relate to a high school story because I’ve been down that road but not a pregnancy because, I haven’t been down that road.

4. Gone Baby Gone
This movie was a pleasant surprise (I thought both Afflecks would disappoint) but instead turned out to be a more entertaining and suspenseful version of Mystic River (I use “version” very loosely here).

3. No Country for Old Men
This movie is usually in the top two of most of these lists but the weak ending and the convoluted “message” that comes out pushes this movie back behind some stiff competition.

2. Atonement
I expected something drastically different, and like I said in my review, the first hour of this movie was close to the best I have ever seen. Why is it #2? I said the first hour was perfect, but the second half was about average.

1. Juno
This movie was my favorite by far and the only movie of 2007 that I saw twice in theatres. The story, the music, the characters, the…everything…just sort of clicked for me, like I assume it did for a lot of other people.

The movie had a lot of hype – the threequels toward the middle of year and a few other movies that were big disappointments, but the year ended strong, hopefully 2008 will be even better!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2007 Favorites: Events

Here’s a brief look at 12 events that intrigued me. Some you will remember, others you won’t, but at the very least, hopefully it will be education.

January 4: Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female speaker of the House of Representatives.
Talks a pretty big game but doesn’t really end up doing anything, and a few days later Bush announces a troop surge in Iraq. Other Democratic goals like the Minimum Wage Bill and SCHIP (Children’s Health Care) can’t survive vetoes and the Dems continue to fail to change course on Iraq. I thought Pelosi would be good, but she didn’t really do anything and proved herself to be just another politician.

February 4: The Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI
A great season by the Bears who were exciting to watch, and managed to overcome some serious injuries to put up a pretty good game against the heavily favored Colts, steered by a great season by Rex Grossman. The loss was disappointing, but not nearly as disappointing as the Bears’ follow up season in the later half of 2007.

March 8: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admits Israel had planned an attack on Lebanon in the event of kidnapped soldiers on the border, months before Hezbollah carried out its kidnapping.
Probably no one really knows what this story is about, but it references the Israeli-Lebanon war during the closing months of 2006, an embarrassing debacle for Israel. Olmert’s admission confirmed that many thought that the US and Israel had been looking for a way to strike Hezbollah. I guess it interests me because it’s closely tied to this year’s debate topic…

April 12: Don Imus is fired by CBS for making controversial comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.
Seems like we average about one of these a year now since the Limbaugh-McNabb fiasco a few years ago. It boggles my mind that people say this stuff, ON THE RADIO! What were they thinking? Even if you do harbor those thoughts, why would you broadcast that? Anyways, the story damn near KILLED my interest in EVER watching ESPN, as they just would not let it go.

May 6/May 10: Nicholas Sarkozy is elected as President of the French Republic and Tony Blair announces he will resign as British Prime Minister.
The political dynamics of Europe take a strange turn when the pro-Bush PM Blair leaves office in disgrace while the pro-Bush President Sarkozy takes office with great flair. While Blair’s successor looks to push Britain farther away from the U.S., Sarkozy looks to strengthen US-French ties. Blair seemed kinda cool, Sarkozy seems kinda weird, although his girlfriend is totally hot.

June 29: Apple’s iPhone is released in the United States.
Steve Jobs’ company is great at churning out hip new toys, and the iPhone is no different. It started with a great ad campaign during the Super Bowl (or maybe it was the Oscars) with typical Apple-Cool fashion and a catchy song by Eberg. The touch screen interface and vertical and horizontal sensor feature, people couldn’t get enough of it, snatching up this $500 toy like there was no tomorrow. My interest in this skyrocketed when one of my roommates got one, sparking jealous desire.

July 7: Live Earth concerts are held in nine cities throughout the world.
Featuring a great, diverse collection of musicians, nine near simultaneous/consecutive concerts happen to raise awareness about climate change. The 22 hour live (web)broadcast set a record with 15 million internet streams. I planned on watching it, but never got around to it.

August 7: Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record with his 756th home run.
To many this was inevitable, while I was one of the few people who hoped and prayed Bonds would suffer a career ending injury. Instead, he pulled it off, albeit he did have to wade through all the steroid talk and the humbling hilarity of his record-setting ball being branded with an asterisk before being given to Cooperstown. I never liked Barry Bonds because he seems to have serious attitude problems while also coming off as the type of guy who wouldn’t hesitate about cheating.

September 26: Emperor Akihito swears in Yasuo Fukuda as Prime Minister of Japan.
Another even that probably went unnoticed by everyone. But it ended the reign of Koizumi, another extremely pro-Bush PM who was one of my first favorites. Well, in the sense that I did a lot of debate-related research regarding him over the last few years. But most Americans will probably never remember him, considering they’d heard of him before.

October 28: The Boston Red Sox win the 2007 World Series, completing a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
The Red Sox getting a second World Series so soon made me jealous that the Cubs continued to go without one of their own in the last century or so, losing this year to the Arizona Diamond backs in three straight games. I guess there’s always next year.

November 27: The Annapolis Conference is held in Annapolis, Maryland, to try to restart the Middle East Peace Process.
I thought it was hard to tell whether Bush was actually trying to do this, or just trying to mend his image and attempt to get something done on which he could hang his legacy. The conference including many nations with tenuous relations with the United States, which is an accomplishment in itself, but it achieved almost nothing. Again, this interested me because of this year’s debate resolution.

December 27: Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto is assassinated, with at least 20 others in a bomb blast at an election rally in Rawalpindi.
This tragic event capped a momentous December. What makes this all the more shocking is how an event on October 18 is overlooked when Bhutto returns after 8 years in exile to barely escape a suicide attack that killed 136. This time, she did not escape. The incident pushed Pakistan even closer to the breaking point than it was with all of Musharaaf’s States of Emergencies. Hopefully 2008 will bring peace to Pakistan.

For more 2007 events, click here.
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