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  • Ted Mann 1:24 am on December 29, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Listapalooza: My top 5 movies of 2006 

    1. Borat
    2. Little Children
    3. Little Miss Sunshine
    4. The Departed
    5. United 93

    (My favorites are determined, more or less, by how much water-cooler conversation I got out of them. Actually, by that standard I should also give the #6 slot to The Devil Wears Prada — an especially good one given that I work at an office full of fashion conscious women.)

  • Ted Mann 11:14 pm on November 3, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Other countries have inferior potassium. 

    Go see Borat. That is all. Now stand for national anthem.

    Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.
    All other countries are run by little girls.
    Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium.
    Other countries have inferior potassium.

    Kazakhstan home of Tinshein swimming pool.
    It’s length thirty meter and width six meter.
    Filtration system a marvel to behold.
    It remove 80 percent of human solid waste.

    Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan you very nice place.
    From Plains of Tarashek to Norther fence of Jewtown.
    Kazakhstan friend of all except Uzbekistan.
    They very nosey people with bone in their brain.
    Kazakhstan industry best in the world.
    We incented toffee and trouser belt.
    Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region.
    Except of course Turkmenistan’s

    Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan you very nice place.
    From Plains of Tarashek to Norther fence of Jewtown.

    Come grasp the might phenis of our leader.
    From junction with the testes to tip of its face!

    (and because I just can’t get enough of this embedded video)

  • Ted Mann 9:25 am on August 31, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Snakes on a Plane for Senior Citizens 

    Yes, it’s true, I’ve seen the version of “Snakes on a Plane” for those who get the Senior Citizen’s discount. Its a sadistic little film called “The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club.” I’m still in a state of minor shock that Ana and my mother dragged me to see two hours of retirement community widowers attempting to get it on in Florida, while throwing nostalgic 1950s sock hops and surfing the listings at Match.com. Troubling. Very troubling. At the very least, I can console myself in the fact that, after being five movie picks in the hole with Ana, I’ve now earned those five back and then some. Such is the price she pays for taking me to a theater with nobody under the age of 65.

  • Ted Mann 9:53 pm on August 21, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Snakes on a Bladder 

    It’s been a while since I broke out the pee test, my movie rating system that basically ascribes a movie’s quality to the length of time needed at the urinal after exiting the theater. The longer the duration, the better the flick. Suffice it to say that, while watching “Snakes on a Plane” on Saturday night, my bladder was rarin’ from the moment that first snake struck that first woman’s boob during the mile-high-club scene. By the time of the second bathroom snake attack, it was positively throbbing.

    I know, I know, too much info. Like the brilliant conceit of the movie, as executed in a full-length feature film, it sounds like a little too much of a good thing. But I’m here to tell you that — despite what naysayers Ana and Katie will claim — “Snakes on a Plane” is wonderfully, stomach-spasmingly, 5:20-pee-minutes-long good. Not all that funny, I admit (though the guys in back of us were enormous Keenan Thompson fans, and cheered for the last ten minutes straight as he landed the plane), and not enough to get my fellow moviegoers to throw gummie worms at the screen (a la Rocky Horror Picture Show), but still worthy of all the praise the Joel Siegel, the New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly have been heaping upon it.

    Incidentally, if you don’t see me writing any movie comments for a while, there’s a reason: Seeing “SoaP” unwittingly put me five movies in the hole with Ana. It’s an accounting I don’t fully agree with, but I’m not appealing until something else hits the theaters worth seeing. Until then, I’ll suck it up and watch my five “Trust the Man”s. My bladder could use the rest.

  • Ted Mann 9:55 pm on August 13, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong 

    Even since seeing Little Miss Sunshine a week ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I liked it so damn much — why a movie that didn’t really have any jokes, and even at times felt like a James L. Brooks movie, could feel so fresh and moving and funny. And the thing is, it was so much better than Spanglish or As Good As It Gets. But it wasn’t the pitch-perfect dysfunctional characters that made it truly memorable. Nor was it the the broken-down yellow VW bus that carried them on their cross-country journey. No, after much pondering, I’m quite sure that it was the one character who I’d never heard of before, the pudgy little girl who’s determined to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pagent. Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin are all great, but it’s Abigail Breslin who helps the film transcend the category of heartfelt ensemble comedy.

    Not since I watched a little kid named Spencer Breslin carry a Bruce Willis movie called The Kid has a child actor seemed so brilliantly, unimpeachably innocent. And wouldn’t you know it! — Spencer’s little sister is none other than Abigail. To add to my affection for the Breslin family, it turns out that they have a connection to my hometown, Summit, NJ. In this month’s Rachael Ray mag, Spence recounts a day in his eating habits while visiting his uncle in NJ and stopping in Summit:

    We always bring my uncle fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers from Russo Mozzarella and Pasta (212-254-7452), an Italian market near our apartment in Manhattan. Then we make two important stops in Summit, New Jersey, where my mom grew up, first at Natale’s Summit Bakery for the best cake and Italian bread. (I had my 14th birthday cake made there with the Grateful dead logo in the center.) Then we get sandwiches at the Towne Deli. My mom and I love their special Sloppy Joe sandwiches: deli meat, coleslaw and Russian dressing on three pieces of rye bread. These are the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. My dad likes a roast beef sub and my sister, Abigail, always gets a plain turkey sandwich on plain white bread.

    I’ve long suspected that Towne Deli Sloppy Joes, which I too subsisted on for much of my childhood, gave me an almost supernatural cuteness. Of course, I never capitalized on the cuteness at the time, but current child actors of New Jersey, I hope you’re taking notes.

  • Ted Mann 4:12 pm on June 10, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    An Inconvenient [Slideshow Software] Truth 

    Walking out of the little art house theater that was showing “An Inconvenient Truth” in Scarsdale last night, I robotically made the same joke that every reviewer has used: “That was the best friggin Powerpoint presentation I’ve ever seen!” Which isn’t totally fair, of course, but far more charitable than Ana, who, for some inexplicable reason was rather grumpy and said, “That was so annoying, especially with all his whining.”

    I, for one, didn’t think Gore was bitching (although Ana certainly was). Rather, the movie made me wish I’d voted for him instead of Nader, and it struck me as the best documentary I’d seen in forever. (OK, technically, the best one I’d seen since “Street Fight” on DVD two nights before.) I ruminated on the car ride home … about how awful it is we drive a gas-guzzling Hyundai Santa Fe SUV … and how our next car should be an electric car … except that the preview for “Who Killed the Electric Car?” seemed to suggest that electric cars have gone the way of the dodo … but whatever, we can still buy a hybrid or more efficient air condtioners or something.

    Alas, being the awful, ADD-addled person that I am, most of this environmental enthusiasm had waned by the time my butt was back on the living room couch. I could barely even muster the energy to visit the website plugged at the end of the movie, climatecrisis.org, and check out the “Take Action” page. What I was really curious about, though, was whether my lame joke — the Powerpoint one — had any basis in fact. That sure didn’t look like a Microsoft application that Gore was using. And boy, some of those animated slides were sweet!

    Turns out, the slideshow program is actually Apple’s Keynote. Don’t know who actually uses it other than the former Veep and his tree-huggin posse, and the cynical side of me says he was just plugging Keynote and Powerbook laptops because he’s on Apple’s board. But I guess this article on the Apple website also covers the other reasons that Gore and the filmmakers would be drawn to the program (namely the ability to import and export in HD). Whatever their reasons, I was delighted to find out that, in fact, I already have Keynote. It came already pre-loaded onto my snazzy new BlackBook MacBook.

    Unfortuantly, it’s just an unlicensed, trial version. But I still gave it a whirl. Though the build animation effects take a little getting used to — and I could never achieve quite the level of coolness as that adorable CG scene of a polar bear searching for just one teeny, tiny piece of ice to cling to in a never-ending sea — the presentation cababilities are still awfully snazzy. Not $79 snazzy, but snazzy none the less. We’ll consider that $79 not spent as an advance on my next energy-efficient, hydrogen-fueled car.

    Unless there are no hydrogen cars by 2007, in which case I’m putting the money towards a harrier jet.

  • Ted Mann 11:52 pm on August 1, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Round Three of Summer Movies 

    “The Village”B-
    When some smarty-pants know-it-all comes out of a thriller saying they could see the plot twists coming after the first ten minutes, I usually want to sock ’em in the kisseror at least trip them over the aisle lights. But, for shame, when I came out of “The Village” thats exactly what I was saying.

    As my friend Neha pointed out, “When you go to see Shyamalan movies, you’re looking for two things: First, the holes in the story, which lead to the big ‘ah-hah’ moment. Second, Shyamalan’s cameo.” And using these criteria, neither the third act’s twist nor the director’s appearance was particularly satisfying. Which isn’t to say the movie wasn’t beautifully filmed or I wasn’t completely engrossed (especially by Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas)it’s just that the only shocking moment, in my opinion, was when William Hurt revealed himself to be a former Penn history professor. Could this be what happens to adjuncts when they don’t get tenure?

    And as for the folks who have interpreted the movie as a parable on American isolationism or Middle East isolationism or whateverYour time would be better spent deconstructing “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”

    No movie in recent memory has ravaged my cuticles as much as “Collateral.” If the post-movie pee scale is still a reliable barometer of quality, this thriller came in at an astonishing five minutes.

    As a cold-blooded, sharp-tongued hitman, Tom Cruise might be the most entertaining bad guy I’ve seen on screen in a decade. Why on earth has he wasted his career playing characters like Maverick and Cole Trickle when, with his smarmy attytude, he’s so much better suited to being a villain?

    Granted, the premisea hitman hijacks a taxie driver (Jamie Foxx) for the night, and proceeds to carry out his check-list of jobs with the driver in towseems, on the surface, a outlandish (and eerily similar to the upcoming Falon/Latifah movie, “Taxi”). But I was hooked throughout. The director, Michael Mann (or as I like to call him, Uncle Mike), has created some gems before (“The Insider,” “Manhunter”), but this movie tops them all.

    “The Door in the Floor”A-
    As a John Irving fanatic, I’m happy to report that this is probably the best adaptation of one of his novels I’ve seen. Unlike “The Cider House Rules,” this one maintained Irving’s brand of quirky humor; and unlike “Garp” (which was funny), it managed to also retain the source material’s unsettling drama. (I won’t even dignify “Simon Birch” or “The Hotel New Hampshire” by making any kind of comparison.) Maybe the key to successfully adapting an Irving novel is to only use the first 100 pages, as “Door” does, and ignore the rest.

    As long as I’m pimpin’ Tom Cruise, above, might as well do the same for Jeff Bridges, who is equally on top of his game. He nails the role of grieving parent, but isn’t as rigidly stoic as Kim Bassinger. (Ana maintained that this was what her role called for; I say, pshah, boring is boring.) My only complaint with the film is that the love story between Ruth Cole (Bassinger) and Eddie (Jon Foster) didn’t seem to work. As a portrayal of the aftermath of children’s deaths, and how such events can unravel a marriage, the movie is a home run. But to counter this bitter pill, it would’ve been nice if the coming-of-age romance were at all convincing.

    “I, Robot”C-
    Aside from the special effects, this movie was pathetic. The plot made little to no sense, and Will Smith was only a shadow of his formerly amusing self. Don’t waste your money. Get a Robosapien instead.

    “Spiderman 2”B
    I don’t know if I agree with Joel Siegel that this is “the best superhero movie ever,” but I will say this: It’s much better than the first. The characters are more idiosyncratic and interesting, the love story is more developed, and the villain is infinitely freakier (that stupid goblin mask doesn’t hold a candle to those creepy mechanical arms). Rightly or wrongly, I credit much of this improvement to having Michael Chabon on the writing team. I only wish they could’ve jettisoned that whole stupid subplot with James Falco slowly evolving into the next Green Goblin. If this is the premise of “Spiderman 3,” I think I’d rather see “I, Robot, II.”

  • Ted Mann 12:26 pm on July 10, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Hair Watch: Day 3 

    Wolfowitz’s miracle hair tonic: I’d heard the rumors, but it wasn’t until we saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night that I realized how charming it is to see Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz fixing his hairdo with human saliva. And not just his own phlegm. In the clip, which plays during the opening of the movie (a smorgasbord of politician primping), Wolfie licks a comb, brushes it through his ungainly locks, applies some more spit, and then, in a touching moment, his assistant uses some of his own juice to finish off the coif. Cynics might point to this as an example of disgusting right-wing hair carejuxtaposing it against the Democrats’ more genteel, salon-going ways. But I say it shows the way that the GOP sticks togetherquite literallyto make their manicured hair-parts a team effort. Who needs AquaNet when you’ve got friends like these?

    Despite all this, it’s clear from the above picture, a hair disaster, that Wofie could still use a makeover. That’s why I was delighted to hear that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has taken the challenge. As the Fab Five’s Kyan Douglas suggests, highlights and Redken’s “Rough Paste” might be just the thing to give him a “tousled, sexy, ‘just got up from a romp in the hay with a hot babe’ look.”

    (If anyone can find me a screen shot of the aforementioned F9/11 scene, I’d be extremely grateful. Email me at ted@turkeymonkey.com)

    • Matt 11:21 pm on July 10, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      So, other than Wolfie’s spit take, what did you think of the film?

    • Ted 6:37 pm on July 11, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      In a nutshell: I thought it was the best Michael Moore movie Ive seen. And, unfortunately, it was still very much a Michael Moore movie. Which is to say that it was often as funny as a segment of SNLs Weekend Update. At its best, the movie was as agitating as a rant from Lewis Lapham in Harpers, and at its worst, like an issue of the Weekly World News. I feel like most of my compliments and criticisms have already been voiced, in a much more coherent fashion than Im capable of, by people like David Denby (New Yorker review and Christopher Hitchens (Slate article). The half-truths and outright falsehoods of the movie are far too numerous to rattle off here, and besides, Hitchens and countless other journalists and websites have already taken care of this, too.

      So, rather than digging through the muck, Ill point to Denbys take as the one that I most identify with. Michael Moore is an extremely talented filmmaker. Fahrenheit 9/11 shows a dramatic improvement over his past work (dont get me started on Bowling for Columbine), and despite most of Moores woolly logic, the narrative is swift, provocative, and even at times moving. Whats sadand this was Denbys chief complaintis that despite all of Moores gumption and skill, this movie probably wont change anyones mind about Iraq, Bush, etc. Indeed, if Gallup polls are any guide, it looks like the movie, after three weeks at the top of the box office, hasnt made a dent Bushs numbers. Hes still hovering at the same 49% in Presidential survey resultsand Kerrys numbers have even dropped! From 48% to 45%, and thats with all the media attention surrounding the Edwards announcement.

      With all the fantastic documentaries in the past yearThe Fog of War and Capturing the Friedmans spring to mindI left F9/11 wondering why Moore couldnt be striving to make those kind of films. I know thats not his bag, and even he will admit that his style is more mockumentary than documentary, more political attack than political analysis. But still, its unbiased docus (like those mentioned above) that really change peoples minds. By presenting an even-handed take on events, and dealing with facts rather than inaccurate theories, they leave it up to audience members to come to their own conclusion (about Vietnam, pedophilia, clowns, whatever). I hesitate to use the word propaganda when talking about F9/11, but its probably the most fitting term. Satire or maybe polemic might work, but they dont underscore the fact that this film was conceived with an agenda (fictitious times, fictitious president, fictitious movie?). With the people Ive spoken to, theres sort of a tendency to say, Yeah, Moores a crackpot liberal nut, but at least hes our liberal nut. Personally, Id prefer a liberal who still aspires to a modicum of journalistic integrity. As the Denby review puts it, Michael Moore has become a sensational entertainer of the already converted, but his enduring problem as a political artist is that he has never known how to change anyones politics.

      Alright, Ill stop here. So much for in a nutshell.

  • Ted Mann 9:52 am on July 9, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Round Two of Summer Movies 

    Thanks to the glorious generosity of AEIOU Philadelphia, a local arts & events listserve, I got some free movie passes this week. I should note that my ratings are probably skewed; seeing a movie, any movie, free of charge automatically bumps it up at least a whole letter grade.

    “Anchorman” – B-
    Granted, this is basically an extended SNL skit, and therefore a lot like its consciously wacky predecessors, “A Night at the Roxbury” and “The Ladies Man.” (Question: Are former cast members contractually obligated to do at least three Lorne Michaels-bankrolled flicks?) Still, the movie won me over about halfway through. Steve Carrell (of The Daily Show and the forthcoming American version of The Office) get the most belly laughs playing Brick Tamland, a weatherman with an IQ of 48. Farrell has his moments, too, and doesn’t totally let Carrell steal the show. He ramps up the pomposity of his character, Ron Burgundy, to a level that eclipses his past chauvinist incarnations. Some of the scenes are so bizarrely nuttylike the a-capella version of “Afternoon Delight” or the Toonland fantasy dreamthat I couldnt help but like them, even if their funniness was questionable. Hearing the director, a former SNL head writer, on Fresh Air yesterday, it sounded like some of these scenes were more fun to write than to watch. Ahh, enough bitchin’? The bottom line: Will Farrell could gargle monkey pee and it would be hilarious.

    “Before Sunset” – A
    First off, I know that “Before Sunrise,” this film’s predecessor, is like a Rorschach test. Either you love it or think, in the words of Gabe, “that’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen!” Well, I’m a lover, not a hater. Call me a sucker for dialogue-heavy cinema verit set in Vienna. Yet I was skeptical about a sequel. Isn’t the whole point of “Sunrise” that you’re not supposed to know whether they actually get back together? Um as it turns out: No. “Sunset,” I’ll argue, is actually superior to the first. Maybe its the compressed timeframe and added urgency, maybe its the tension of knowing the backstory (like watching “Godfather 2”), or maybe I’ve just grown older, like the characters, and can identify with their more adult problemsgetting married, settling down, job fulfillment. It’s almost spooky how the director, Richard Linklater, can tap into the cultural zeitgeist in such a way that everything the characters say resonates with the audienceor at least with me.

    “Sunset” did leave a weird aftertaste, though. Specifically, a quarrel between Ana and I, after leaving the theater. It was one of those garden variety “Why aren’t WE more like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy?” kind of arguments. “Why can’t we be that romantic.” Ultimately, the thing blew over, and we commiserated over not getting to see “Garden State” (the movie that our passes were for, which was over capacity when we arrived). But all you romantically insecure couples out there, consider yourselves warned.

    • Gabe 4:52 pm on July 9, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      The impromptu “Afternoon Delight” performance and the news teams’ rumble were my favorite scenes. Anchorman had a lot more absurd humor and a lot less gross-out humor than I’d expected. I actually felt as if it targeted adults (okay, goofy adults) instead of 14-year-olds. I’d give it a B+, maybe.

      In other non-news, I wonder if I need to give “Before Sunrise” another chance. I wasn’t really paying that much attention when I watched it, and I think I had a tendency to get irritated quickly by earnest Gen-X musing. I’ve mellowed out in my old age.

      Ted, your quarrel about “After Sunset” reminds me of a similar argument I once had with a ladyfriend after we’d seen a movie and, like you, felt we couldn’t measure up to the couple onscreen. That movie was “Big Tit Cocksuckers VI.”

  • Ted Mann 11:10 pm on June 28, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Stars! We Have Stars! 

    After much trial and error, I finally got my Netlix history (a little ways down, in the sidebar) to show my recent rental ratingsthose happy-making stars beneath each of the movie titles. The ones in bright 3-D yellow are the movies that I’ve returned and rated; the ones in red (or dark yellow) are just the Netflix-user averages (because I was too lazy to rate ’em myself). Why, you might ask, would I kill an evening trying to set this up? Above all, it’s because I don’t want any of you to suffer through “Chasing Liberty,” as I did last night.

    Many thanks to Oscar Hills for creating this Netflix rating plugin and, in so doing, indulging in one of my dorkiest requests. Also, a monster obrigado to Andy Diller for walking me through the set-up process, and putting up with a few hours worth of bitching. If there’s such a thing as blog envy, it certainly took hold when Andy’s rating stars appeared and all I got was a broken link.

    • Michael Moore 11:28 pm on June 28, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Your time would be better spent watching my movie.

    • andy 8:23 am on June 29, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Aw, come on Moore and Mann: Chasing Liberty wasn’t that bad. I had to watch it, and everyone loves Roman Holiday, so what’s wrong with an updated, hip version?

      It could have happened that way….

    • andy 8:25 am on June 29, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      oh, also, if you are into teenage daughter-of-the-president-gone-wild films, you don’t want to miss Spartan, buy none other than Davy Mamet.



    • Ana 9:50 am on June 29, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Your time would be better spent booking a trolley … or planning the honeymoon … or designing the wedding program … or making me dinner. Just about anything else would be preferable.

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