Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I was polishing off a bottle of red wine tonight (nothing great, just a standard Aussie cab sav), and after drinking the two glasses' worth left in the flask, I thought I needed just a bit more. There was a lone beer rattling around in the back of the fridge, so I decided to filter it through the kidneys as well.

On a whim, I rinsed out the wine glass and poured the beer into it.

Now, this isn't exactly a revolutionary idea. If you ever get into the world of Belgian beers, you have to get the specific glass that's made for each individual beer. Some look like brandy snifters, some look like wine glasses, others look more like rounded beer mugs. I don't know what the perfect glass would be for a bottle of Abita Turbodog, but my standard cheap-ass wine glass worked well enough. It almost held the entire bottle! Only two sips were left over, which wasn't a problem.

It's an interesting way to drink beer... For one thing, you tend to linger over it for a longer period of time (purely psychological, I'm sure). It's much better for examining the color and bubbles, if you're into that sort of thing. Flavorwise... Since it's not a glass specifically crafted for this beer, the shape of the generic glass obviously doesn't direct the liquid over specific parts of your tongue. However, I can say that this beer tastes somewhat different from a wine glass than it does from a standard American beer mug or from the bottle. Makes a fun experiment, and the presentation looks hella classy.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Movieblogging: Happy Campers
Now for one that no one has seen or heard of... Happy Campers (2001). I don't know why this didn't get more play. I rented it in 2002, and picked up a cheap DVD copy at Blockbuster a few weeks ago. It's a summer camp movie, but it's not like Meatballs or Friday the 13th or anything else... It's Lord of the Flies combined with A Midsummer Night's Dream and American Pie.

It was written and directed by Daniel Waters, who wrote Heathers. There are a lot of good actors in this movie, but none are particularly famous. Peter Stormare (the big bad guy from Fargo) plays the insane camp counselor who is absent for most of the summer, leaving the half dozen college kids to run the place. Anarchy ensues, but nobody gets killed or injured. It's a sort of benign hippy anarchy, with the knowledge that camp will be over in a few weeks and everyone will return to normal life.

I never had a summer camp experience like that depicted in the movie. Typically the standard American summer camp exists for well-off city kids to be shipped out of town for the summer so that their parents don't have to worry about them. Traditionally the camps also served to expose city kids to wilderness, though living in cabins and eating in a mess hall keeps you at a safe distance from any real nature experience. And though the camps are located all over the country, most of the kids come from New England and a smattering of large cities around the nation. Kids raised in the country or in the suburbs are already pretty close to nature, and will often end up doing camp-style activities just for fun or as part of daily life. I went to Scout Camp two years in a row, but that was different. All male, very military-themed, very rustic. We slept in leaky old Army tents, though were required to spend a few nights out in the woods in shelters of our own construction. (Pine needles would seem to make for a springy mattress, but then you wake up covered with chiggers, mites, and ticks.) Those were two-week stints that were really focused on taking classes and earning merit badges. Parts of it were fun, but fun wasn't really the purpose. There was none of the "summer love" that is a staple of so much literary and film tales of camp. Nor were we thrust into unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people; everyone came from our local council, and we stayed together in our own troops and patrols.

Despite this, I still find many of the stories enchanting. The original Meatballs is a great movie, and a lot of fun. The rest of the series is best left forgotten... Indian Summer had its own appeal as adults return to their childhood camp before it is to be shut down. Ernest Goes to Camp was fun in its own goofy way (that one was shot at a Scout camp near Nashville, with Scouts playing extras). Wet Hot American Summer is surreal, hilarious, and manages to spoof every camp movie made before. Then there's The Parent Trap (original version), Addams Family Values... Lots of good stuff.
Movieblogging: The Matrix Revolutions
Behind the curve as always, I saw The Matrix Revolutions Friday night with The Ringbearer. I loved the first movie, was a bit indifferent to the second one, and generally liked this one. I thought it was a great end to the trilogy, and had a good balance of action and drama. Very cheesy in places, but that's why we watch. I really loved the defense of Zion scene with the army of mechs. The jump above the clouds was breathtaking. Monica Belluci's breasts put in yet another glorious appearance.

Not a lot to say otherwise... Everyone's seen it, everyone can see certain plot elements coming from a mile away. Good fun, and I think the trilogy will become a beloved classic a la the original Star Wars trilogy: something that people can watch over and over again, cheering for the action parts, laughing at little references and mistakes along the way, all in good fun.
Movieblogging: Magnolia
I'm way behind on this stuff... Definitely in need of a vacation (from work, not from this)... Here goes:

First off, we have Magnolia (1999), which I watched in two pieces last week. It was thrust upon me by a friend, as I'd been putting off seeing the movie for five years. No big reason, but I'm one of those odd folks who understands what P.T. Anderson is doing, but don't particularly like his movies. With Magnolia, there were a few parts that I liked, and a bunch of stuff that left me bored. A few moments--like the simultaneous singing--were unintentionally hilarious, and I'm a big fan of Aimee Mann.

What did I like? The segments with the quiz kids--both young and old. I competed in triva tournaments like that in high school and for the first couple of years of college. In high school, I was on TV a few times, and eventually won $1500 in scholarship money. College was pure fun. Now, I didn't have any negative experiences in any of the various competitions, regardless of the stakes. I didn't care if I won or lost, but enjoyed the game and felt that I played it pretty well. I saw a lot of other people explode or breakdown at failure. There were a few who had to vomit before and after a big match. I never knew anyone whose parents pushed them--Lord knows mine didn't. They were supportive, but not personally interested in it (a sign of good taste, not a lack of love). I also didn't study for it--anything I knew came from the two or three books I'd read a week just for my own education. My coaches didn't quite understand it, and would frequently ask me how on earth I knew some obscure fact, but fortunately they let me play as I wanted.

The storyline with the cop was interesting in places, but didn't really strike me... I really couldn't stand any of the parts with Tom Cruise. That's just personal preference. Nothing against him, and I've liked him in many other movies, but I don't think he was the right actor for that part, nor did I like the way his character was written.

I'm not going to spoil the ending, but lots of other people had spoiled it for me, and there was even a short-lived movie poster for the film that depicted the grand final scene. Interesting, but the entire structure of the movie (along with a weird event that ties all of the stories together) reminded me heavily of Robert Altman's Short Cuts from 1993, which also starred Julianne Moore.

So I'm glad that I saw it, but I don't know that I could sit through it again. There was some good acting, some great filming, and some great music. Decent writing in a lot of places, I just didn't like the movie as a whole. (Part of my reluctance to post this review was to save myself from the armies of rabid Magnolia fans. Read any open comment thread about the movie and you'll see what I'm talking about.)

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