Monday, December 27, 1999

Movie Review: Any Given Sunday

Any given Sunday, a moviegoer can see a film that catches them completely off-guard. Yesterday, the Sunday after Christmas, I saw such a film. Now, I don't much care for football. Nor is Oliver Stone typically my type of filmmaker. Nor am I a big fan of Al Pacino or Cameron Diaz or anyone in the movie for that matter. So why did I go see it? What was its appeal? I can't really say for sure, but when I saw the trailer for Any Given Sunday, I thought, "That should be a pretty good movie."

To say this movie was good would be not be doing it justice. I was floored. Astounded. Any Given Sunday is a visual and aural masterpiece and quite possibly the best movie I've seen this year... and I've seen American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, and other amazingly good movies. For three hours last night, I was enthralled, sucked in, completely involved in the story of an aging football coach, a hot shot new quarterback, the legend that preceded him, the cold-hearted, hard-nosed team owner (played amazingly by the completely opposite Cameron Diaz, and so many other incredible characters. I've always appreciated Oliver Stone as a filmmaker, but I have never been able to personally connect with his films, until now. I like that he has departed from his usual controversial subject matters and decided to tackle (no pun intended... okay, maybe a little intended, but don't tell anyone) something a little more fun. His use in this film of superimposed footage of old football heroes and coaches and crowds is used in such a fantastic way. It's just... wow.

If you have read any of my reviews, you may think that I tend to love every movie (except maybe the horrid Wing Commander), which is not far from the truth; I admit I'm a bit of a movie whore, but I typically only write about the movies that compel me to write (i.e. the good ones or the extraordinarily wretched ones). So I haven't written about all the middle-of-the-road stuff - just the stuff I want people to see or avoid, at all costs. I can be selective because nobody pays me to do this. Point is, I don't love every movie, so when I say that Any Given Sunday is one of the most astounding films I have ever seen, I am not just saying that. This movie has been given a permanent place on my Favorite Movies of All Time List. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, December 15, 1999

TV Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Hush"

So I've never reviewed a TV show before. And I'm sure you've found this, you've certainly read other reviews singing the praises of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Last night, December 14, 1999, I saw not only the best episode of Buffy, but the best episode of any television series ever. At least that I've seen. You don't need to be a Buffy watcher to enjoy this one. In fact, I've got to try and get a hold of a taped copy to show my friends, and none of them watch the show.

In the middle of the night, the town of Sunnydale is quietly invaded by a group of terrifying hovering demons called The Gentlemen. They show up, open this tiny wooden box and suck the voices out of every inhabitant of the town. When they all wake and find they are speechless, we're only about 20 minutes into the show. The remaining 40 minutes is dialogue-free as Buffy and her gang try to figure out what's going on. Their attempts at communicating with one another are riotous and the scenes with the Gentlemen are bone-chillingly creepy. No movie or TV show has ever given me the willies like these demons did.

It is astounding what creator Joss Whedon and his cast and crew are capable of. If this episode does not earn an Emmy, I will personally be mortified. I am already kicking myself for not sticking a tape in the VCR. Ugh. If it repeats, please watch. You don't have to have ever seen a previous episode. I implore you all!!

Wednesday, December 8, 1999

My Son's College Apartment, by Dave Barry

So I visited my son at college on Parents Weekend, which is a nice event that colleges hold so that parents will have a chance to feel old.

I started feeling old the moment I got to my son's housing unit and saw a sign on the door that said: END WORLD HUNGER TODAY. This reminded me that there was a time in my life, decades ago, when I was so full of energy that I was going to not only END WORLD HUNGER, but also STOP WAR and ELIMINATE RACISM. Whereas today my life goals, to judge from the notes I leave myself, tend to be along the lines of BUY DETERGENT.

I felt even older when I entered my son's apartment, which he shares with three roommates and approximately 200 used pizza boxes. When I was a college student, we also accumulated used pizza boxes, but we threw them away after a reasonable period of time (six weeks). Whereas my son and his roommates apparently plan to keep theirs forever. Maybe they believe that a wealthy used-box collector will come to the door and say, "If you can produce a box used to deliver pizza on the night of Sept. 12, 1999, I'll pay you thousands of dollars for it!" Because they WILL have that box on file.

They keep their pizza boxes in the kitchenette, which is also where they keep their food supply, which is an open jar containing a wad of peanut butter as hard as a bowling ball. You may be wondering: "What happens if a burglar breaks into the kitchenette and steals their pizza boxes?" Do not worry. They keep a reserve supply of pizza boxes in the living room, and if a burglar tried to get those, he'd trip over the cord that stretches across the room from the TV to the video-game controller held by a young man who is permanently installed on the sofa. This young man is not one of my son's roommates; for all I know, he's not even a student. But he is stationed in the living room 24 hours a day, focused on the video game, although he always gives you a polite "Hi" when you walk through the room and step over his cord. I'm not familiar with the game he's playing, but I noticed, as I stepped over the cord, that the screen said: "YOU HAVE BEEN AWARDED EIGHT THUNDERS." Maybe this has something to do with world hunger.

After passing through the living room, I stuck my head into my son's bedroom. I was reluctant to enter, because then I'd have been walking on my son's clothes. He keeps them on the floor, right next to the bureau. (I don't know what he keeps in the bureau. My guess is: pizza boxes.) My son assured me that, even though his garments appear to be one big intertwined pile, he knows which are clean and which are dirty.

"Like, this one is clean," he said, picking a garment off the floor, "and this one is clean, and this one is . . . never mind."

There were no sheets on my son's bed. Asked about this, he explained (this was the entire explanation): "They came off a couple of weeks ago."

I'm not complaining about my son's housekeeping. He is Martha Stewart compared with the student who occupied his bedroom last year. According to true campus legend, when this student moved out, his laundry was so far beyond human control that he simply abandoned it. As a kind of tribute, his roommates took a pair of his briefs outside, climbed a lamppost and stretched the briefs over the lamp. They remain there today, a monument to the courage and dedication it takes to put underpants on a lamppost. I was gazing up at them in admiration when a student said to me: "That's the cleanest they've ever been."

Not all student rooms look like my son's. Some are occupied by females. If you stand outside the building, you notice that those rooms have curtains and pictures on the walls; whereas the males' rooms have all been painstakingly decorated with: nothing. The only designer touches are lines of bottles, and the occasional tendril of laundry peeking coyly over a window sill. We stood outside my son's building one evening, noting this difference; my son, looking at a tasteful, female-occupied room, said, with genuine wonder in his voice: "I think they vacuum and stuff."

Speaking of which: During Parents Weekend, I took my son shopping, and we bought, among other things, a small vacuum cleaner. When we got back to his room, one of his roommates opened the box and held up the vacuum cleaner. We all looked at it, and then at the room. Then we enjoyed a hearty laugh. Then the roommate set the vacuum cleaner down on the floor, where it will be swallowed by laundry and never seen again. This is fine. These kids are not in college to do housework: They are there to learn. Because they are our Hope for the Future. And that future is going to smell like socks.