Eric D. Snider

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Archive for December, 2003

The Best and Worst Films of 2003

Wednesday, December 31st, 2003

My summary of the best and worst of the movies of 2003 can be found here, for your reading pleasure.

Over at the message board, the conversation turned to how few of the films most people had seen. I hope that at least in some cases, my praise of the best films will inspire people to see them. If you click on the Amazon.com link at the bottom of each review, you’ll be able to see if it’s out on DVD, and if it is, you can head down to your Blockbuster or your Netflix or whatever and rent it.

(I suppose I could have provided an extra service by finding out first which films on my list were available on home video and indicated it in the article, but I think you’ll agree that would have been too much work for a lazy person such as myself.)

Sometimes people complain about critics’ top 10 lists, and how so many of the films are artsy-fartsy movies that nobody saw, the implication being that if they did poorly at the box office, it must be because they’re the sort of movies that only critics like.

Let’s look at the 2003 box office. The top 10 highest-grossing films are, in order: “Finding Nemo,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” “X2,” “Elf,” “Terminator 3,” “Bad Boys II” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

First, note that two of those, “Finding Nemo” and “LOTR,” are on my list, and on the lists of most critics in the country. A third one, “Elf,” made my honorable mention list.

The remaining seven are good films (except “Bad Boys II”) … but how many people would call any of them their FAVORITE film of the year? Both “Matrix” films made a shload of money, but did anyone LOVE them?

I think even for normal people (i.e., not critics), the films that entertain us are not necessarily the films that touch our hearts or change our lives. The reason critics have so many artsy films on their lists is that, as critics, they get to see more movies than most folks, so the pool from which they choose their favorites is larger.

“Spellbound” and “Raising Victor Vargas,” to name just two, played in limited release (that is, on maybe 100 screens at a time, rather than 4,000) and hence had a smaller audience. But I guarantee if you sought them out and watched them, you’d enjoy them.

Which goes back to my original point. Critics give their lists as honest appraisals of what they believe to be the best films of the year, whether they were financial hits or not. If some of the titles are obscure, all the better, because everyone likes to root for the underdog. I’d be very happy if, at my recommendation, someone watched a little-known movie on my list and wound up liking it as much as I did.

Carl’s Jr.’s signage

Monday, December 22nd, 2003

Whilst at Carl’s Jr. in Orem yesterday, we encountered this sign taped to the drive-thru menu. We confiscated it immediately (a duplicate hung at the drive-thru window itself) and took this photograph so you could see for yourself.

I count four errors: 1) Sunday was Dec. 21, not Dec. 20; 2) the word “be” is unnecessary; 3) there are generally only two r’s in “sorry”; 4) “inconvenience” is misspelled.

I’m glad Carl’s Jr. has taken the bold step of hiring the mentally challenged to handle its public relations.

Little Drummer Boy

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

Let us consider the song “Little Drummer Boy,” in which a young man is whisked off to see the baby Jesus and told to bring a gift. Being poor, he has no money for a present, so he offers to play his drum for the baby instead, that being his only talent and the only thing he has to give.

Here is what I would say if I were Joseph: Wow, thanks, kid, that’s sweet of you. But you know what? No thanks. No thanks on the drumming right here in the stable where my wife just gave birth and our baby is sleeping. We’re all a little tired, frankly, what with having just had a baby on a pile of straw in a filthy barn. Why don’t you go ahead and not play the drum, OK?

Sigh. All right, I understand it’s your only gift. Seriously, it’s the thought that counts, right? I get that. You totally get the brownie points, or whatever. Just don’t play the — what did I just tell you?! KNOCK IT OFF! Quiet, or you’ll wake the Lord! We just got him to sleep, and now you’re — oh, look, see, now you’ve done it. You woke up the baby. You made baby Jesus cry. Is that what you wanted? Are you happy now? It wasn’t bad enough with the herald angels singing, now you have to come in here and play the drums. That’s great. That’s just great.

Delightful names of dead people

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

One of my favorite pastimes is skimming the obituaries for hilarious names. This is especially fun in Utah, where the locals have a penchant for coming up with crazy things to call their children, and have for well over a century.

These all appeared in today’s Salt Lake Tribune:

Betha Orinda Allred Gunther, age 90
Orton Stephen Cochrane, age 87
Rintha Jane North Burns, age 89
Venna McQuivey, age 88
Raynell A. Loboto, 62 (“Raynell” is apparently a boy’s name, by the way)
Legia Eliza Mendenhall Johnson, age 77

How many people do you know named Betha, Orton, Rintha, Venna, Raynell or Legia? Zero? Yeah, me too.

Bad 9-11 poetry: ‘Untitled’

Thursday, December 11th, 2003

More bad poetry inspired by 9-11. (See this entry for background.)

Untitled
by Sharee Thomas

America
Choice land,
A gift from God.
Freedom,
Fought for
and earned
By generations
of the past.
Wealth,
unparalleled,
bought by sacrifice
endurance
commitment.
Opportunity,
Rights,
Privilege…
Defended
by honest mentors.
America,
Beautiful,
in diversity;
Corruptors
will not stand…
Destroy not
This great land.
Let us take
each other’s hand,
We who love
our liberty!
Let our weapons be
faith,
undaunted courage,
honor, integrity.
Let us preserve for
our posterity…
the heritage
That fills our hearts
with love today.

Angry Letter: ‘Blair Witch 2′

Tuesday, December 9th, 2003

I received this e-mail today from a Swiss reader who took issue with my review of “Blair Witch 2: Electric Boogaloo.” (How come the foreigners only defend movies that NO ONE liked?) I swear to you, I have not tampered with the e-mail at all: She really did spell everything the way it is here.

You are yust moping and pestering about Blair Witch 2. It wasn’t that bad. I know alot of people how found it good. [You must be yoking!] Well I can yust say You Are Boring and this site is too! Sorry but who reads your 6 page long biography about your BORING schooltime. [Well, you did, apparently.] Well I can yust imagine you beeing a little smart kid.you’rsuch a boring person and this picture of you looks so slimy and cheesy. [The way it's supposed to.] Eric, Eric, Eric, Eric Who the hell is Eric? [Class assignment: Write a song whose first two lines are "Eric, Eric, Eric, Eric/Who the hell is Eric?"]

geetings from Lulu(switzerland)

Like all valid opinions that are definitely worth paying attention to, this one came without a last name (unless it’s “(switzerland)”) or return e-mail address. I was therefore unable to provide Lulu(switzerland) with the names of the other 1,000,000 film critics who disliked “Blair Witch 2,” so that she could write to them, too.

How Convenient

Monday, December 8th, 2003

I have noticed people taking extreme liberties with the word “convenience” lately, and since I fancy myself something of a wordsmith, I thought I should use my influence to smarten up these no-talk-gooders.

At Wal-Mart, I viewed this sign: “For your convenience, cigarettes are sold only at register #19.”

I ask you, how does selling cigarettes at only one register make things more convenient for me, the average customer? It benefits me in no way whatsoever. And if I were actually buying cigarettes, it would be the very opposite of convenient — inconvenient, that would be — to make me stand in one specific line. What if register #19 has the longest line in the entire store, full of dumpy women stuffed into their belly shirts buying baby formula while accompanied by three filthy barefoot children? Then I, as a cigarette purchaser, have been inconvenienced beyond all reason, if I am indeed forced into register #19′s line!

My other example comes from a call I made to T-Mobile, my cell phone provider. I was interested in changing my plan so that when a call drops mid-sentence in perfectly normal weather in a wide open space, Catherine Zeta-Jones receives a powerful electric shock. While on hold, I heard this recorded message: “Due to heavy call volume, we are experiencing unusually long hold times. As a reminder, T-Mobile representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you may call at your convenience.”

Well, see, the thing is, it was actually convenient for me to call right NOW. That’s actually why I called when I did, because it was convenient for me. I didn’t wait until I had company coming over and a roast in the oven; I called at a time when I had a few minutes to talk without any foreseeable interruptions. Suggesting I call back when the call volume is not so heavy is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but please refrain from suggesting it would be more convenient for ME to do so, when it is actually you, Mr. T-Mobile, who under that scenario would enjoy greater convenience.

Angry Letter: ’2 Fast 2 Furious’

Friday, December 5th, 2003

I received an angry e-mail today from a South American reader who took issue with my review of “2 Fast 2 Furious”. Here it is:

I’m from Argentina [a fact which will soon become apparent], and your review about “2 fast 2 furious” its like the ones these frustrated directors ‘ve made, who, the only thing they can do is denigrate and talk about everyone elses work (cuz they wont ever make a single movie). 2 Fast 2 Furious its a movie made for street racers [especially really smart ones], and if u ‘re not one, u wont ever understand a thing. [Note that despite the language barrier, Damien has picked up on how to butcher English like a native-born 14-year-old girl.] If u dont know anything about what a car is, or what a piston ring is, you will hardly understand the porpouse of this movie.
Remember, that sometimes we cannot judge somebody or sth cuz we dont have the elements to do this. In this case, you may know a lot about movies, but the true is that you dont understand a thing about cars. [True. Luckily, I wasn't reviewing cars, I was reviewing a movie.]

Yours
Damian

What’s amusing is that my review PRAISES the car scenes, and in fact says there ought to be MORE of them! If Damien felt the movie was great the way it is, then perhaps I’m more of a car lover than he is, since I wished for more cars and he was satisfied with the present number. At any rate, glad to know they’re reading me in Argentina.

At the Movies

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

I have three random movie observations to make today.

First, while viewing “Cold Mountain” at a press screening this morning, I was reminded once again that if a movie character coughs without an obvious reason (he’s in a burning building, someone has lit a cigarette in his face, etc.), then it means that character is going to die. The coughing, it turns out, will have been an early indication he or she is fatally ill. Non-dying people do not cough in movies.

Second, Donald Sutherland’s head is at least twice the size of Nicole Kidman’s.

Third, I was watching “Dancer in the Dark,” a film I had problems with when it was released, but which I decided to have another go at. Early in the film, Bjork’s character is at the movies with a friend, who is describing the action to Bjork, because Bjork is going bjlind. They do not whisper; they speak in normal tones. A man in the theater tells them to be quiet, but they refuse, and continue to talk, not just to describe the film, but to make comments like, “I love it when they dance!” And yet, for the rest of the movie, we’re supposed to sympathize with Bjork’s character? I don’t think so! Whatever happens to her after that, she deserves, up to and including being hanged. She’s lucky the man in the theater didn’t kill her right there, as was his legal right.

Still Lovin’ “24″

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

Still lovin’ “24.” It’s not as exciting as the first two seasons (especially season 2, which had me urinating in my trousers on almost a weekly basis), but it’s still pretty good, particularly as we witness Jack’s increasingly bad sense of judgment.

Pretty much everything he’s done so far this season has turned out to be a bad idea. He busts what’s-his-name out of prison, starts a riot in the process, gets some people killed (finally, a season-3 kill to Jack’s credit!), then escapes in a helicopter just as word comes in that the jail-break is unnecessary. Later, he barely misses getting the message yet again. It reminds me of the scene in “Holy Grail” when John Cleese is running through the castle, swording every person he sees, in order to save the princess who turns out to be a man.

Naturally, Jack winds up taking what’s-his-name into the L.A. subway. No one I know has ever ridden the L.A. subway. Many people wouldn’t even know it existed if they didn’t see it in films all the time. I think it was built just so movies and TV shows could have scenes set in it. (City councilman: “Ladies and gentlemen, if we spend $42 million to build a subway system, dozens of movies that would have otherwise been set in New York could be set in L.A. instead.”)

Something else I’m glad to see on “24″: Kim Bauer returning to her rightful position as Dumb Girl Being Held Hostage. I wasn’t buying the whole “I know what I’m doing at CTU” thing; this is a girl who once got caught in a beartrap and was subsequently harassed by a cougar. Anyone with that combination of events on his or her résumé should not be hired for anything other than the most demeaning of seasonal work, such as pumpkin-picker or elf-washer. So when Kim stumbled upon the pivotal information at the end of this week’s episode, I knew there was no way she’d actually do something useful with it. I knew she’d get caught, and held at gunpoint, before she had the chance. And sure enough, in walks the other what’s-his-name, whom they should have known was a mole just from his slicked-back hair. (What’s with CTU’s human resources department, anyway? Are they ONLY hiring moles these days?) Now she’s back to being a victim again, where she belongs, until such time as the writers see fit to kill her.

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