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Archive for June 2011

June movie review

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I’ve seen three movies in the theater this month. My thoughts on each —

“Win Win”: an entertaining film starring Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a somewhat lovable character with a few questionable business practices. He’s a down-on-his-luck attorney who takes in Kyle, the runaway grandson of his incapacitated client. Mike’s afternoons are spent coaching a miserable high school wrestling team; his fellow attorney (Jeffrey Tambor) and close friend and bachelor (Bobby Cannavale) bicker as the assistant coaches. Kyle turns out to be a wrestling pro and joins the team — he’s played by Alex Shaffer, a real-life state wrestling champ. Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also wrote/directed “The Visitor” and “The Station Agent”, the latter an excellent film that also features Cannavale.

“Super 8”: Micah and I saw this on a Saturday night. Good movie, horrible presentation. The sound only came out of the front speaker for much of the film. I left after ten minutes to complain at the ticket counter but they didn’t fix it. One reel late in the film was both nearly inaudible and strangely tinted. Either the film stock or the projection was faulty… I lean towards the latter. The surround sound finally kicked in during the last 10-15 minutes.

But don’t like my lousy theater experience deter you from seeing this film. Anyone who loves “The Goonies”, “E.T.” and/or “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” will like this one. J.J. Abrams got the look and feel of a midwestern 70s town just right, and Larry Fong’s camerawork was very reminiscent of Vilmos Zsigmond’s work on Spielberg’s early films, which surely can’t be a coincidence with Spielberg serving as executive producer. There’s genuine romance between Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning). The father/son melodrama felt a bit forced and the end of the main feature blatantly ripped off “E.T.”, but the spectacular (if unbelievable) train crash and the amateur film played during the end credits make up for any shortcomings. An excellent film to see in a drive-in theater… if you can find one still in operation.

“Midnight in Paris”: it dawned on me a couple weeks ago that I had never seen a Woody Allen film in the theater. True, most of his films released in the past decade, aside from “Match Point”, have been crap. But “MiP” had gotten some good reviews, so I gave it a shot. Owen Wilson is Gil Pender, a screenwriter in Paris with his fiancé and her parents. He longs to go back in time to live in Jazz Age Paris while his fiancé (Rachel McAdams) prefers to hang on the every word of an insufferable prick (played wonderfully by Michael Sheen). One evening Gil stumbles out of a wine-tasting, wanders down some cobblestone alleyways and hops into an old vehicle that takes him to a flappers party where he meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. It dawns on him that he has mysteriously traveled back to the 1902s. Later he meets Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, T.S. Eliot, Luis Buñuel and other notable artists from that era. He falls in love with Picasso’s mistress, herself longing to live in Belle Époque.

The film opens with a lovely montage of a day in Paris — sunrise to sunset, avenues and sidewalks, cafes and parks, tourists and locals, landmarks and modern storefronts, with a beautiful rainfall before nightfall. My favorite scene, besides the opening montage, is where Gil pitches the story for “The Exterminating Angel” to Buñuel, the film he made in 1962. Woody Allen’s 41st film in 45 years — it’s doesn’t rank amongst his best, but it’s pretty damn good, and a comedic excursion from the usual exasperating CGI-bloated blockbusters.

Next month: “The Tree of Life”, “Harry Potter Part 7 (Part 2)” and “Transformers: The Dark of the Moon” (just kidding!)


Written by camcarlson

June 29, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Posted in Cinema

Previewing the 2012 election, part 2

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I took 218 to work this morning as usual, enjoying the sunshine and some good tunes on 105.7 FM, and at one point casually turned to my right and noticed a large number of vans assembled by that old house next to the Grout Museum. They all appeared to be from news outlets – each vehicle was adorned with station logos and multiple antennas and satellite equipment, and several cameras were being jockeyed into position in front of a large makeshift stage in front of the house.

And then it hit me: Michele Bachmann was in town to announce her bid for the GOP nomination.

I’m not going to write about Bachmann’s positions because, well, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell I’d actually vote for her, so her positions mean next to nothing to me. I only know, having heard her speak a few times, that she’s nuts.

If she’s anything like Iowa’s resident nitwit, Congressman Steve King, then she thinks immigrants are livestock, what happened to prisoners at Abu Ghraib was nothing more than hazing, gay marriage will end civilization as we know it (but not before putting control of our public schools in the hands of NAMBLA) and believes Al Qaeda “danced in the streets” when Obama won the presidency.

She recently stated John Wayne was from her hometown of Waterloo. Actually, John Wayne was from Winterset. She was probably thinking of John Wayne Gacy, the insane child molester and serial killer who spent part of his adult life living in Waterloo. An easy mistake to make, I suppose.

A request/ultimatum to my friends in Minnesota: please keep Michele Bachmann up there where she belongs. If we have to put up with her for much longer, we’ll have no choice but to unleash Steve King and a case of Red Bull upon Hennepin Avenue until the 2012 caucus is over.

Written by camcarlson

June 27, 2011 at 9:18 PM

Posted in Politics

Damfest 2011

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Another successful Damfest! The rain and the fuzz held at bay for the 13th annual event. We had every available invite and teaser poster printed and on display, along with our new Dam Repairs showboard. Cory supplied the amp and iPod, and Blake & Hannah graciously provided the leftovers from their afternoon picnic at Overman Park — which encouraged us to forego the usual grillables. Everyone else brought something — snacks, beers, stimulating conversation. All in all, a wonderful time!

A few of the many timeless photos taken with my “new” Samsung S630 –>

Written by camcarlson

June 20, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley


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I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy last week’s Peanutwitter post. Twitter suspended the original Peanutwitter account due to legal threats received from Peanuts Worldwide, LLC (via Iconix Brand Group, Inc.). While Twitter and WordPress are separate platforms, and while many (myself included) consider Peanutwitter to be the type of parody that falls under Fair Use, I do not want to see this page suspended in kind. So, to preemptively protect my behind, I deleted the post.

For what it’s worth, during the week it had been up, my post had become the #6 Google search result for “Peanutwitter”.

Written by camcarlson

June 19, 2011 at 9:49 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Be there, or ELSE!

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Written by camcarlson

June 18, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley

Previewing the 2012 election, part 1

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I’ve never voted for a Republican for president, and this cycle’s crop of nutbags seem crazier than a rat in a tin shithouse. But I’d give serious consideration to setting precedent if the GOP put forth John Huntsman or Gary Johnson as their nominee (though I fully expect conservative ideological zeal to reign supreme in next year’s primaries). An intro on Johnson:

The iconoclastic Johnson remains a kind of outcast in the Republican Party, refusing to pander to the evangelicals and the Tea Party, who increasingly control the primaries. As the other candidates tailor their positions and policies to the party’s extremists, Johnson continues to go his own way, a strategy that requires the courage of his convictions. A fiscal conservative, who led his state through many tax cuts and budget surpluses, he is also a social libertarian with an ardent commitment to civil liberties, including a woman’s right to choose abortion and equal rights for gay people—despite the fact that anti-abortion and anti-gay causes are the bedrock of the right wing culture wars. But what most distinguishes Johnson as a true reformer is his sweeping rejection of the war on drugs, which he has famously dubbed “an expensive bust.” He also supports the decriminalization of marijuana, the promotion of harm reduction to control other drugs, and the diversion of funds from law enforcement activity against drugs to a public health approach to addiction.

He also supports tightening the leash on the Federal Reserve, ending the boondoggles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and he’s not hellbent on eliminating Social Security. I can’t say I agree with all of his positions, but I also can’t say I’ve agreed with every decision Obama has made since he was inaugurated.

Still, I think the election is Obama’s to lose. If he can avoid a second recession, if the unemployment rate make some improvement, and barring a large-scale terrorist/military attack, I think he’ll be re-elected.

Written by camcarlson

June 16, 2011 at 11:16 PM

Posted in Politics

Rusty running

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Went on my first run in over 2 weeks. It’s dry outside but not quite ideal for hour-plus bicycling, so I dusted off the running shoes, marched down the bastard hill to the bottom of Park Drive and got moving. I made it to the T-intersection at 218 alright, weaving my way around a couple young ladies and their yip-yip dogs. On the way back I had to stop a couple times to catch my breath. I’ve forgotten how to pace myself. Made it up the hill and caught my breath again at Lookout Park walking back to the apartment. I’d like to say I did all this in 30 minutes but that may be rather optimistic. But I’m going with it anyway.

post script — note to self: remember to clip toenails before running. Thanks!

Written by camcarlson

June 13, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Posted in Running