Letterboxd

Ever wonder how many movies you’ve watched in your life? Well, I started counting. So far, I’m up to 1,679. I got an account at Letterboxd.com, a social site for movie lovers; it’s still in beta, so it’s not quite perfected yet, but what’s there works OK. You can add any movie you’ve ever seen, rate it, review it, and put it into lists if you wish.

My total of 1,679 movies isn’t even remotely close to every movie I’ve seen either — there are hundreds and hundreds of them missing, at least. I’m sure some won’t even make the list; I used to watch around 10 movies a week, and some of them I don’t even remember. The names are familiar, but I can’t remember any more if that’s because I’ve seen the movie or just recognize the box art from decades of visiting movie rental stores.

Do some math on that; figure that an average movie is probably 100 minutes, that’s 167,900 minutes of movies — 2,798 hours and 20 minutes, or 116 and a half straight days of movies. That’s kindof a staggering amount of time stretched out over the decades.

My review of “Love Actually” from 2004

Thanks to The Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I was able to retrieve the review I wrote of “Love Actually” in April of 2004. When I wrote this, I dubbed this the worst movie of all time. In the now eight years since, I’ve only seen one other movie I think was worse than this one.

Love Actually is the worst movie of all time. Absolutely the worst. I had previously assigned the lofty crown of Worst Movie I’ve Ever Seen to the painfully ghastly House of the Dead, but Love Actually makes HotD look like Citizen Kane in comparison.

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Love Actually is set in England, beginning six weeks before Christmas, and starts with a Hugh Grant voiceover about how love is everywhere if you only look for it. From there, the film takes off into 10 different directions – literally, 10 different directions. There are 10 sets of people about whom various stories of love (and not all the gushy good kind) are told in the film, and the film jumps around to all 10 over the course of its ridiculous length of two hours and 15 minutes.

Some are worthwhile; Liam Neeson’s story about dealing with the untimely death of his wife and his dealings with her son – his stepson – is OK, save for the fact that the dialog for his son is atrocious – he talks like no 11-year-old you’ll ever meet. And the film pretty much gives the thumbs up for a father to talk to his pre-teen son and use phrases like, “well, then, I guess you’re fucked.” Could be funny in a conversation between adults, but pretty inappropriate when talking to a kid.

Laura Linney’s story about balancing her desperate need for a social life with her overwhelming (and suffocating) sense of duty to care for her mentally-retarted brother also was OK. They end this story early, because Linney ultimately decides to remain chained to her brother and ignore her own needs for a life – and that letdown of an ending would’ve screwed up the happy little nonsense at the end.

Somehow, every character in all 10 stories is somehow connected to a character in one of the other stories – the naughty office vixen who is trying to nail the married Alan Rickman conveniently lives next door to the chick Hugh Grant is after (for no reason whatsoever – they probably just didn’t want to hire another extra); Rickman’s wife is Grant’s sister; the office vixen tries to score Rickman at a Christmas party set up at an art gallery either owned or operated by Colin Firth; on and on and on. Everybody knows everybody, but there’s no *point* to everybody knowing everybody. The stories are in *no* way tied together – it’s just absurd.

The ending is even worse. Somehow, by the time the movie ends, the seven storylines that have not yet been tied up all come to a convenient close at an airport. By some absolutely inexplicable twist of fate, one person from every one of the seven remaining groups is arriving home at the same airport at the same time! So, there are lots of hugs and happiness and wrapping up of stories in a nice tight little fashion. It makes absolutely no sense, and is proof positive that at least half of the sub-stories in this movie should’ve just been cut.

There’s simply too much going on. With 10 stories and upwards of 30 characters, there’s never time to develop any one of them. You don’t care why Person A is in Situation X, because you know nothing about the characters. And as a result, you care even less when Situation X is either resolved or comes crashing down around Person A. It felt like one of those awful late-run Batman movies – “I’m too busy to worry about the plot! I’ve got more characters to introduce!”

Bullet points on why this movie sucked:
• Hugh Grant is the Prime Minister of England – perhaps the worst mis-cast of all time.

• Billy Bob Thornton is the President of the United States, and exists in the movie for the sole purpose of opening the door for anti-American rants from Grant’s character, and in a truly boorish moment to put the moves on his assistant. It’s only the beginning of this movie’s anti-American slant – more to come.

• During Grant’s tirade against America, he backs up the fact that England is “small but great” by announcing to a gathered press corps that England is the home of, amongst other things, Harry Potter. Seriously – Harry Potter. Thanks, England!

• The film berates overweight women *constantly* – and mostly from father-to-daughter, which is even more disturbing. The father of Hugh Grant’s love interest refers to her as “Puffy” at one point the film, and the sister of Colin Firth’s love interest is referred to by her father as “Ms. Dunkin’ Donut 2003.” Firth’s love interest is then ridiculed for being *too* thin. I guess you can’t win.

• One of the stories revolves around two stand-ins on a porn movie shoot. They spend the movie naked and feining sex so the videographer can get his lighting set up, and then it turns into “I”m too shy to ask you out even though I’ve had my crotch in your face for three weeks.”

• American women are all apparently mega-hot sluts who will drop their pants and have four-on-one orgies with any dirt-ass with an English accent.

• Counting Thornton, there are exactly six adult-aged American characters in the movie, and they’re all either loose bar sluts or under-sexed hornball politicians.

• Liam Neeson’s son goes from knowing nothing about musical instruments to being good enough to play drums in the school band in *four weeks* to impress a girl.
a) No way he gets from picking up a drumstick for the first time to playing the way he did in the conclusion of that segment in four weeks
b) Wouldn’t the big production at the end of the school year already have a freakin’ drummer four weeks out?

• Neeson spends the entire movie joking about how he’ll behave a certain way “unless Claudia Schiffer comes along.” So what happens at the end of the movie? You guessed it! Claudia Schiffer comes along! And miraculously, she has the hots for him! Amazing!

• Colin Firth falls in love with a woman whom he never has a conversation with – because they don’t speak the same language – when she takes off her clothes and dives into a pond. Also inexplicably, she somehow has fallen in love with him too. The parade through the city streets when he nonsensically decides to drop everything and go to France – to ask her to marry him. Even though he’s never spoken to her. Even more stupifying – she says yes. Give me a break.

• The songs on the soundtrack to the film are good, but the score is *terrible*. It’s overly sappy, melodramatic and serves *no* purpose but to try and get the viewer into the emotional frame of mind the movie wants them in. Granted, that’s what a score is for, but in this case it’s so ham-fisted and over the top that it completely overwhelms the movie.

• The movie is at least 30 minutes too long. Granted, they need 2:15 to tell all 10 stories, but by eliminating the story about the porn stand-ins and probably Laura Linney’s story you dont’ change the movie in the slightest and you reduce the length by 20 percent. By the 1:45 mark of this film, should you ignore my pleas and rent it, you’ll be begging for the sweet release of death.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m traditionally a guy-movie guy, but I’ve always thought I have been able to appreciate a truly good romantic comedy – even one with Hugh Grant. I thought “About a Boy,” for instance, was surprisingly good. And I still compare romantic comedies to the Julia Roberts feature, “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” which I thought was superb and probably still stands as my favorite romantic comedy. Love Actually can’t hold a candle to either film. It’s simply dreadful, and I cannot possibly imagine a crime you could commit – short of tying your significant other to a chair and forcing her to watch you slaughter her parents with a chainsaw – that would in any way justify being forced to sit through it.

It’s the worst movie of all time.

It’s been one crazy day

Storm of the Decade
Last night, Bemidji got crushed with the worst thunderstorm I have seen in the 11 years I have lived up here. It was intense even by Kansas standards, which have barely been approached in the decade I’ve lived here. It had everything – the ominous green sky, rolling thunder that continued uninterrupted for around 30 minutes and was enough to keep the house constantly vibrating, lightning that tore through the entire sky, 80-mile-per-hour straight-line winds, and torrential rain. In short, it was awesome.

Mostly, it was awesome because we escaped basically unscathed. We had some decent-sized branches down in the yard, but nothing that was too big to just pick up and drag to a pile, and the only tree we lost is in the very back of our yard and fell over into a brush pile anyway — so honestly we may not even mess with it for awhile. And we lost power around 7:30, but had it back by about 3 a.m. this morning. Some people are still without power, now about 25 hours after the storm started. We got incredibly lucky. There are thousands of trees down in town, reports of more than 100 downed power lines, and the police had a curfew from 11 a.m. until 6 a.m. (and apparently arrested a huge number of kids who were out trying to loot — which is great. I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who chooses to take advantage of a disaster situation to steal from people).

I did some work covering the storm for Bemidji State’s social media outlets, and overall I think we did a pretty good job with that. Coincidentally, we had just last week talked as a staff about how we might approach a situation like this after discussing how schools in Duluth reacted (or didn’t react) to the massive floods that wrecked that city a couple of weeks ago. So we already had in our heads an idea of what we’d try to do. I won’t go into much detail about what we did; I’m working on a timeline for how we covered the story over on Storify, and that pretty much sums up how the day went.

In short, social media proved its worth in this situation. We reacted quickly, had pictures of damage on campus out to people who were curious to know how the storm impacted the university within maybe two hours after the storm ended, and were continually updating with new photos and new information throughout the morning. There are things I wish we’d have done differently, but they were mostly minor things regarding timing of some of the information we posted. But, especially when you consider that we were running the immediate reaction type information regarding the storm with power out in the entire city, meaning we were limited by the life of our cell phone batteries, I think we did a really good job covering this event for the campus.

Work on home office/studio space
I finally took some time on Sunday afternoon to spend about two hours in my upstairs office at home and get it back into a condition that’s fit for human habitation. It was a mess before, to the point that it was very difficult to be in there to do anything. I bought a drafting table last year out of some guy’s garage for $50, and this weekend was the first time it’d ever been set up anywhere in my house. Everything is set up now, and I’ve got two really nice surfaces to draw on now; it’s a pretty solid studio space. I still have some work to do on lighting in there — it’s horrible — but in terms of how the furniture is arranged things are as good as they’re going to get until I get my ancient PowerMac G5 out of there.

G.I. Joe Retaliation at Retail
Thanks to Apple’s new Podcasts app, out just a few days ago on June 26, I finally have taken the plunge and started listening to podcasts. Podcasting is one of those things that I really could not tell you why it’s taken me so long to get into. It’s one of those things that seems like it should be right in my wheelhouse, and the subject matter of a vast majority of podcasts are things I’m into — computers and nerd stuff. But, the delay is over, and I’m now subscribed to a whole bunch of stuff.

One of the things I started listening to is a G.I. Joe-related podcast put out by a bunch of guys I follow on Twitter called “What’s On Joe Mind?” They did a couple of wrapup shows for the annual JoeCon collector’s convention, which was in New Orleans over the weekend. One of the wrapups featured a group of designers from Hasbro, who were talking about the direction they’re taking the toy line, providing some more insight into some of the things they had on display at the convention, etc.

The discussion turned to the toys for the G.I. Joe Retaliation movie — which was supposed to come out on Friday the 29th, but just a few weeks ago was pushed back to March 2013. The first wave of toys to support the movie was scheduled to come out just a couple of days after the announcement was made to push the movie back, so there was a lot of speculation about the toys being recalled, etc. But the first wave of toys did make it out with a full retail release, and one of the Hasbro reps, when asked how it was selling, said something along the lines of the toys “doing very well at retail” and that Hasbro hopes to use that success as a springboard for further retailer traction when they “re-release Wave 1 in the spring” when the line ramps up to again support the release of the movie.

Re-releasing Wave 1 is a move that seems like it could backfire. The big fear with movie-related toys is that retailers go all in right away, and end up ordering more of the early waves than they can sell. That leaves shelf space full of old figures, which leaves them no room to put out new releases, which makes the new releases difficult to find (the toys for the first G.I. Joe movie were a textbook example of this; retailers massively over-ordered waves 1 and 2, and the subsequent figures became challenging to track down). Hasbro has a situation where Wave 1 has already been at retail, and as it is by their own admission selling well, putting that same product out a second time is taking a pretty big chance that next spring there will still be people who want to buy those toys who haven’t already purchased them.

Hasbro has a lot of great product in the pipeline for 2013, and hopefully sales of the early Retaliation stuff will justify them putting in the effort to get it to market

Grad School
My second summer school course is underway. I’ve got a forum discussion to participate in this week already, and I probably need to get my work on that done tonight to the extent that I can with tomorrow being the 4th. No word yet on grades for the course that wrapped up last week. I think I did well enough in that; I’d like to think that I’ll get an A and keep my 4.0 going, but we will see. There were no grades posted during the course as updates for individual assignments, so everything will be posted all at once. Not having feedback on the progress of my grade during the class is the source of all of my anxiety about this class, I’m sure, since the only thing I’ll see will be the final grade.