Little Miss Sunshine
cigg
marco9999

Damn work. I'd have so much to blog about but no way I can do it with any regularity gettin' back home around 5.30 pm. There's a lot of stuff I'd like to address, and perhaps I'll soon do so in a single post, forcing myself to dedicate just a little time to everything. It's a possibility.

But tonight I'll write about Little Miss Sunshine.

Sage (http://blipcomic.com/index.php) told me it was worth it. I was a bit diffident. I knew it was about this family taking their daughter to this beauty pageant and not much more, and it didn't sound all that enticing.

Boy I was wrong.

You notice it's not a pretty little comedy right from the start, with the music. That's not pretty little comedy music.

Then you see Olive mimicking a beauty pageant recording in front of her TV, going through the motions of the winner in her naturally childlike manner, and you get that not everything's right with it. She looks too obsessed. The music doesn't help.

Of course in the following minutes you're introduced to the rest of the cast. Edwin, her gramps, is snorting heroin. Richard, her father, is a sort of motivational speaker. You see him making his speech, a horrible and typical things about some 10 steps to be a winner in life, and not a loser. And then you see the speech was performed in a half-empty classroom and the reception is decidedly lukewarm. Then there's Dwayne, her brother, doing push-ups in his room, ticking off boxes from a paper hanging on a wall (and reading Nietzsche). Sheryl, her mom, is driving in the traffic to reach her brother Frank, who cut his wrists attempting and failing suicide and is now to be taken in her cares.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? It's like Chekhov's guns all over the front lawn. Well, yes, those triggers are gonna be pulled.

Sheryl takes her brother home. In theory Dwayne should take care he doesn't try to kill himself a 2nd time, only problem -Dwayne hates everyone, as he later specifies, and has vowed silence till he can go to pilot school to fly a jet, communicating only through handwriting. Edwin, Olive's grampa, is extremely foul-mouthed and it shows when he discovers the dinner is not much more than chicken and salad, as always apparently, because Sheryl's overworked, and the only one to bring home a seemingly stable wage of any kind. Richard, Olive's father and Edwin's son, shuts him up -Olive's sitting at the table too. She notices Franks' wrappings, around his wrists, and asks what it is.

God forbid.

Sheryl's OK with her bro explaining, but Richard absolutely doesn't want him to. Sheryl wins and Frank explains. He was the most valued Marcel Proust teacher in, like, the whole of the US of A, he had a homosexual relationship with one of his students who he probably still loves, the guy left him for another Marcel Proust teacher who then went on to publish a book and received a huge award after Frank was fired, there ya go. Of course Richard doesn't approve of the disclosure, and hastens to add that's the behaviour of a loser. He always speaks about losers and winners. He obviously wants to be a winner, deludes himself into thinking he's a winner, forces Olive to be a winner, whatever. The guy comes off as a huge di** at this point in the film, and you sorta understand Dwayne's decision to retreat from this damn dysfunctional family.

Of course right there comes Olive's big occasion. They're gonna have this Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in a couple days, in California... a little far from Albuquerque, where they live. But she desperately, enthusiastically wants to go. She's ready. Sheryl wants to take her there. Richard wonders how they're gonna do it, then decides he'll take them both. Of course Gramps Edwin will go too -it's him who's training her. What about Frank, who'll take care of him? He sure can't stay home alone w/Dwayne. Actually Frank's apparently the least messed up of the bunch, and he says he'll go too. They convince Dwayne to go promising him pilot school in exchange, to which he reluctantly agrees.

So they take their old yellow VW bus and go.

Gramps Edwin sometimes bursts out with some stream of profanity and advice for poor Dwayne, who'd probably prefer a quick death. They have a break to eat something and Olive orders ice cream, uncle Frank's being cool and humorous and clever so Richard stops him dead in the tracks and warns Olive that ice cream will make her fat and thus, a loser -luckily the others manage to persuade her to eat her ice cream nontheless. At this point the hostilities between Richard & Frank are running high, Richard keeps going on and on about his stupid job and as soon as he detects irony in Frank's half-assed comments he launches into a tirade about what a real f**kin' loser he is (we got the message, Richard, we're losers, now go f**k off). The bus breaks and for the rest of the film it can only be started by pushing it and then climbing on while it's going (this is fun actually, and often provides good-paced comic relief). They have another break and against any reasonable odds Frank meets his ex, a decidedly awkward situation, made all the worse by the fact this guy's there with the other teacher and they practically bully him before going away, even if just in passing by... and they also forget little Olive, so they get back to get her without ever stopping -otherwise the bus will need to be pushed again (see? Comic relief! It -is- quite funny, actually).

They finally reach a place to crash. They carry all of their damn baggage to the rooms. And oh look, Karma! Richard's higher-up, whom he's been trying to contact for, like, forever, finally contacts him back... and tells him the deal is over. Essentially, no more motivational speaking, and probably no money whatsoever. Richard & Sheryl fight in their room. In the next room, Frank is in a rather lousy mood considering his meeting with his ex, but a creepy smile slips onto Dwayne's lips as he listens to the discussion... I think he's happy his stupid father lost his stupid job. While in the 3rd room Gramps Edwin shows his genuinely good, heart-warming side to Olive, who's damn worried about the pageant, thinks she won't win, is scared her father won't love her anymore if she loses (obviously), but he uses wisdom and humour to alleviate her anxiety and make her smile. This is Edwin's crowning moment of awesome, to use a TVTrope idiom. It will also be his last.

Richard decides to go and face his boss in the flesh -he's only a little more than 20 miles away, but the bus betrays him, so he borrows a crappy tiny bike and goes, finds him at a classy hotel, confronts him to no real effect and is forced to leave -but not before asserting that he won't give up, 'cuz only a loser gives up. I hope he's thinking of Olive, of his family, at that moment, but I wouldn't bet.

Thus the night passes. The morning after, gramps Edwin won't wake. At the hospital there's a heart-warming moment when Sheryl tries to explain what's happening to Olive but gets all teary-eyed and starts crying, and Dwayne writes to his little sister -go hug mom- , which she does. But yeah, gramps = dead (quite sure it was the heroin, but it's not explicitely confirmed AFAIK). And there's all manner of forms to fill, and this'll take days, and so on. In the end Richard decides the priority, even for his just-passed-away dad's sake, is to take Olive to the pageant. After some obvious resistance he obtains the collaboration of the others in smuggling the corpse to the bus and they hit the road again -with the body in the trunk.

Then the horn breaks, and it keeps going, and a cop pulls them over and, Richard's protests notwithstanding, opens the trunk -but the 1st thing he finds is late Edwig's porn, he just takes it and leaves them alone without even noticing the white funerary shroud underneath. At this point they're nearly there, they can do it after all. But one of the guns is still loaded, and there's a name on the bullet -Dwayne.

Olive's playing with some stuff she picked up at the hospital. She shows one of those red & green polka-dots colorblindness tests to Dwayne, just for s**t & giggles. And he can't read it. He can't figure out what number it is. Frank falls silent. Then, after Dwayne insists to know why all the fuss, he tells him. I didn't remember, personally, but of course your sight must be perfect to be a pilot -they don't take you in if you're colorblind.

Dwayne dies inside. He tries to demolish the already worn-out bus with his bare hands from the inside, forcing the family to stop, storms out and down a slope and lets go his first word since the beginning of the movie, possibly even since he took his vow of silence.

-FUUUUUUU**!!- he howls repeatedly.

They try to reason with him, but to no avail. The guy's shocked. All he's lived for till now was just a dream -welcome back to the harsh reality of your life, dude. And harsh it is, as he screams how much he hates them all and the conditions they're in. Of course at this point Olive will have to be taken to the pageant anyways, but they can't leave him there, alone. Uncle Frank volunteers to stay with him, but then Olive goes down the slope, slowly, cautiously, stepping near him, almost tip-toeing... and hugs him. Perhaps the trick he himself taught her when mom was sobbing in the hospital. In the end, it works. They go back to the bus. Since the terrain's rugged and he doesn't want her to fall, he picks her up and carries her. He sorta apologizes.

Perhaps he doesn't really hate them all so much.

They manage to get to the pageant with some driving stunts worthy of Bruce Willis (not really, but fun nonetheless) only to discover that they're, like, 4 minutes late -but Richard breaks one of his winner rules and begs for entrance on behalf of Olive, and it works.

So the contest starts.

And it's horrible. The little girls all wear make up and don bathing suits and move like tiny, too young whores. Their parents love it and clap their hands heartily. A guy who could very well be a child molester by looks alone hosts the show, and he's a slimy damn thing. Our heroes don't look exactly enthusiastic, but they press on. Olive looks quite out of place among the others. She's innocent, simple, wholesome, and they have become tools of their parents, of the industry, of society. Someone says that portrayal was exaggerated. Can be, but this doesn't sound all that encouraging.

As if that weren't enuff the girls are quite talented. They perform some rather nasty tricks -dancing, singing, the works. They're really good. And in their own artificial, much appreciated way, prettier than Olive, better dressed, and so on. When Dwayne & uncle Frank see this they want to stop Olive from going, because these people are clearly fuc**ed up in the brain and they don't want her to show off like some circus animal (and don't even get me started on circuses that still use animals). Eventually (after handling his dad's funeral arrangements) even Richard goes backstage and asks Sheryl to retire Olive, but for a different reason -she'll lose. And as much as this might seem obvious from Mr. Winner Guy, it seems he's genuinely concerned about her -they could actually really react badly to her performance and that might leave very deep scars... most of all after all his talks of winning, winning, winning, might I add.

Sheryl understands, but she's a good mom. She asks a rather crestfallen Olive if she really wants to do it. She explains she doesn't have to. In the end Olive decides to give it a try.

Her show is a sort of burlesque -after all it was her gramps who taught her those moves- and it's quite pathetic. But while the other girls, with the sinister, subtle sexual hints of their performances, received nothing but accolades, Olive's funny, completely shameless, childlike exuberance earns her almost nothing but scorn. They even want to take her away from the stage before she's finished -but Richard won't let them, and perhaps in what might be seen as his final redeeming moment he wants her to go on until it's over -she does indeed look like she's having a lot of fun- and even jumps up on stage to dance with her. Followed by uncle Frank, then Dwayne, and finally by Sheryl, all evidently enjoying it, smiling, laughing, like it were a party, celebrating Olive, the glue that keeps them together -who does look quite ecstatic.

Of course Olive loses, and they have to promise not to take her to any other beauty pageant in California -ever, ever, EVER again. But at this point they don't give a f**k, climb back up in their wreck of a bus and ride into the sunset.

Quite surreal experience. Worth every second, though. The acting was solid, the directing was attentive, the characters, interesting and quirky and human, the story, actually surprising. It's a very good movie. It makes you think, laugh, frown, worry. You end up caring about these peeps. It's a great, great misadventure, a bitter-sweet, tragicomic road trip in self-discovery territory. The good news are -don't worry about winning or losing, just enjoy it, for what it's worth. The bad news? Well, life can really suck, people can be stupid and horrible and greedy, you can be dirt poor and not able to do all that much about it if you don't f**kin' think. And a lot more. I don't see it as a feel-good movie. It's funny. It's also sad. It's quirky. And fascinating. In its surrealism it feels quite real. The circumstances can be extreme, but the characters are human beings. Not just clichès. They change. They're complex. So no, it's not a feel-good... it's a road trip. It's black comedy. Most of all... it's authentic. Real.

Watch Little Miss Sunshine even if you don't think it's your cup of tea -if you're like me (which you're probably not, but that's not the point) you'll be pleasantly, and unpleasantly, but always -deeply- surprised.

I've Liked You for a Thousand Years
cigg
marco9999

So, does anyone remember Plumtree?

They were the ones who wrote and sang Scott Pilgrim -the song that became the title of the comic that became the movie, as I discovered recently (while chatting on Sage's Formspring of course: http://blipcomic.com/index.php).

They split 10 years ago, and I never even heard of them. They were so young -apparently when they started Lynette Gillis, the drummer, was 14, and her sister Carla was 17. And they were so good! Here you can read a bit about them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumtree_(band)

Sage has given me some links. Carla Gillis sings still: http://www.myspace.com/carlagillis

It's so different from what they did as a band! I guess growing is changing. I like her sound. Perhaps Feather on the Ocean Floor is my fave among these.

This is Carla's & Lynette's site: http://www.sistermusic.ca/ -not much more to see or listen to than on Carla's MySpace, but definitely worth a look. Sister is the name of the band they're in right now, namely the two eponymous sisters and bassist Pete Johnston.

And this was Absolutely Nothing, a punk band they had going before this -I like it! It's full of energy! It's a mess! I don't get s**t of what they're saying! Just the way I like it! ^___^

http://www.myspace.com/absolutelynothingband

It seems this was while they still were in Plumtree... it says 1994-1997... wait, perhaps this was the band -before- Plumtree, could it be? Hot damn these girls rocked the place! O_O I mean, they were -so- young!! Amazing.

But let's get back to Plumtree themselves -get this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3TWNzMSr0

Oh yeah! It's called exactly that -Scott Pilgrim! Listen to the rock, listen to the roll! Well, I guess it's actually... indie pop rock?... I dunno, I love this song, even with so few lines of lyrics (I think 4 to be exact) it's so damn cool! Listen to the guitars when the last chorus ends! And those drums! Of course they weren't -this- good live, as far as i managed to understand, but hell that's great already, most of all if you consider they actually were just little girls!

The one who plays the harmonica at the beginning is Catriona Sturton (which you pronounce kat-REE-na, 'cuz it's gaelic), their bassist. She's still rocking, but she leaves bass & drums to her mate Kristy Nease, while she plays guitar -and keeps the harmonica to herself:

http://www.myspace.com/catrionasturton

Her songs nowadays are definitely more on the mellow, sweet side compared to the sound of Plumtree. She didn't look this sweet when she was younger, now did she? ^___^

The lyrics of the chorus are simply -I've liked you for a thousand years, a thousand years.

The girl who pops up providing back vocals to Carla is Amanda Braden. She had a wonderful smile! It seems she's pursuing a Ph.D. now.

Melodically it's a very simple song but I think it's that same simplicity that's so charming and refreshing about it. That, and the terrific electric guitars & drums!

Of course this wasn't their only song (although it'll probably be the one everyone remembers best, since it's called -Scott Pilgrim- , after all, and it's in the movie OST IIRC).

This is called Go!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR1D_lGmz2Y&feature=related

Lynette is the one who gets hurt repeatedly BTW ^___^ Nice song, very liberating. Imagine this at a concert. Scream your lungs out!!

There's more!

This is You Just Don't Exist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR1D_lGmz2Y&feature=related

Look at 'em all pretty! ^___^ This is slower in rhythm but the strength is there. Hey, Catriona's eyes look a beautiful shade of blue here, is that for realz, I wonder?

This is Tropical:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu3JqPQlLD4&feature=related

This is another one that rocks quite hard -simple & direct, as customary for the band, with solid melodies and a lot of energy -and it begins and ends with that little tune that really sounds... tropical, doesn't it?

This is Regret:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PflfTeB-Ung&feature=related

Slower but still hard & tuff, more thoughtful perhaps. It hits hard though, and the guitars get totally real. It's got a nice hook too. The sound is great. My only complaint is it doesn't last enuff! ^___^

You can find more on YouTube and elsewhere, but I really wanted to showcase some of their stuff -these little girls rocked harder than many bands you hear lately. They never enjoyed world-wide success of course. But they were cool, and it was already over 10 years ago, and I didn't even know they had existed -Sage mentioned them on the site. Perhaps in 10 years I'll discover some band who's playing now, in 2010, doing their thing and doing it well, that I currently know nothing about...

... wouldn't surprise me at all.

I scream, you scream...
cigg
marco9999
So, someone posted this link on Sage's (http://blipcomic.com/index.php) Formspring account and it actually made me laugh out loud -I think I already mentioned it doesn't happen often when I'm on the Interwebz:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvUQQF5S4Dg

I don't know what this is. Apparently in Istanbul you gotta beware where you buy your ice cream at...
Tags: ,

Vive la Résistance!
cigg
marco9999

Sinfest is a great webcomic. Today is color day -every Sunday author Tatsuya Ishida regales us with a beautiful, big strip, full color.

Or Ishida Tatsuya, actually, if we wanna respect japanese form -but he doesn't seem concerned with that.

If you're looking for a lot of plot you won't find much. What you -will- find is great art, incredibly funny characters, lots of humour and absolutely brilliant ideas.

The leads, Slick and Monique, are great. Slick sold his soul to the Devil, I think more than once, and found himself in Hell I guess three times at least, but one way or another he always managed to escape. For what did he sell his soul? Well, that's easy -money, power, & hos. Yeah, I said hos. 'cuz in this comic people talk like that. Well, not always, but there's a lot of slang going around. Apparently Ishida finds it funny -and damn, he knows how to use it.

Monique (or just 'Nique) craves attention. She's beautiful and she knows it. She's also very annoyed by men looking at her like she was just a sexual object, which I suppose makes things a little tuff for her. As she says in today's strip, she's an artist, and also a peace activist, and a vegan... her character's become more and more complex with time, perhaps more than others. She also loves shopping, reading, writing... complex, as I said. She can be vain and materialistic, but on the other hand she constantly tries to elevate herself above her basest nature.

Oh, and don't get on her bad side. She'll kick your a**.

Slick & 'Nique don't look like they could mean anything for each other. He's a short, materialistic guy who just wants to get laid and though cute, has no sex appeal whatsoever. She's way more intelligent, clever and all-around cool.

That's as long as you get to know 'em better. Slick isn't just the jerk he looks and sounds like -he can be deep, and caring, and unfortunately for him, sensitive. He's actually in love with Monique. Once he almost removed his shades for her! (The mere idea must be anathema to him). They like being with each other. Hanging out, talking, watching the sky, talkin' to God (yes, -that- God). They have a lot more in common than what they'd probably admit, ever.

So you got this romantic tension going on between the two leads. Add:
God, who likes to use puppets to make fun of the Devil, high up in the clouds.
The Devil, a real pimp, who buys souls at a little booth very reminiscent of Lucy's, from Peanuts, and hunts angels with a shotgun.
Said angels, a couple of little child-like cherubs who routinely kick his a**.
Buddha, who silently flies around on a cloud instilling Zen-like wisdom by mere touch.
An eastern dragon god who likes to fu** around w/God & company.
Criminy, a shy nerd who lives in a fortress of books.
Fuchsia, a succubus working for the Devil, who desperately loves Criminy -read & find out why.
Pooch & Percy, apparently Ishida's dog & cat, respectively (sharing a relationship suspiciously similar to Slick & 'Nique's).
Uncle Sam. Liberty. Obama. A demon book. A demon laptop. The Devil's very own Evil Fanboy. God's very own fundamentalist, evangelist fanboy. Alternate universes. Slick's best friend -a pig who eats too much, smokes too much hash, and watches too much TV (mostly porn).

I could go on, you know?

It's sorta like Calvin & Hobbes with hot babes... and politics. Religion. PMS cramps. Hip-hop slang. And... a couple other minor details I suppose ^__^

Read Sinfest here: http://www.sinfest.net/index.php

The archives are huge at this point -it started 10 years ago. But the strips are short & sweet. You'll love it. Whatcha waitin' fo', dawg? ^___^

Uso Mitai Na I Love You
cigg
marco9999

So, Utada Hikaru.

Yes, her name is Hikaru, the family name goes first 'cuz she's japanese. Like for chinese people more or less, isn't it?

I'm listening for the umpteenth time to this song by her, called Uso Mitai Na I Love You, it's mostly japanese with a bit of the usual gratuitous engrish slipped in as customary, right? ^___^

It's such a nice song. It starts with this really aggressive guitar riff, very hard rock. I mean -hard. Not heavy metal, but still. And then it mellows out a lot and she starts singing this very sweet love song... and then the beat gets hard again and the refrain starts, and it's a mix of sweet and strong and the melody's so classic... then again the baddest electric guitars ever.

With a beginning like that you would expect something real rock, and it does disappoint me a little that the whole song isn't like that, but it's also great 'cuz she's writes her own songs and she likes this kind of hard stuff... if you see her performing there's an incredible energy going on -well at least in these fast-paced songs. Also in the melodic moments -she's so expressive you see the tension on her face and feel it in her voice. Her voice is quite low naturally, so when she sings a high pitch -and she does, a lot- you really take notice.

So in the end you get this incredibly sweet song about wanting to be with someone even though you know they're a liar and they don't really mean it when they say I Love You and you desperately wanna believe it's true instead -but there's just a hint of sadness -the rest is these guitars rocking and this tuff drum beat, this energy, this strength, this beautiful melody, steady and strong, like, -who gives a f**k it's not true, I need it anyways! If you see her & her band perform live the feeling's even more evident. The ending is sung twice, which is just great, and then it goes on rocking like nobody's business, the guitars get aggressive again, and then stop.

And then again! Aaand stop!

AWESOME.

Check this out at:

http://www.animelyrics.com/jpop/utada/usomitaina.htm

You can see the video, it's Hikki singin' this live w/her band, with the lyrics in romaji, translated in english (not bad) and in kanji too if it's your kind of thing. There's more, but I'll get back to it later. Just go and listen to some great music in the meantime.

ROCK ON HIKKI!!

Here we are, I suppose?
cigg
marco9999

Alright, lesse if this works... mmm, seems it does... one two one two...

God, this thing makes me so nervous. Like I gotta live up to some ideal standard I don't even know about. Pressure, pressure. It's so weird.

I'm not even the kind of guy who writes journals, not anymore at least... it came about this way...

... there's this great webcomic I read everyday, it's called Blip! , check it out at blipcomic.com/index.php (I dearly hope the link works). It's just great, I might type my hands off writin' about it, but right now I won't. Anyways, Sage Leaves, the author, has a Formspring account that has quickly become one of... I dunno, one of my fave places to hang out I suppose. Sage is such a lovely person and the place is very friendly. As a rather angry dude pointed out we use it more like a chatroom than anything else ^___^

Anyways, so, we start talkin' about D&D. And it just so happens I'm compiling all I know about the 4E points-of-light setting, 'cuz I write short stories takin' place there (or at least I did, now I gotta re-edit the old ones probably). So I start telling Sage all the possible 'races' you can pick for your character, and we go on talking about gnomes and elves and it's clear I'll never be able to say all I wanna say in just some lines at Formspring. So I ask, should I start a Formspring account myself?

Which I might still do.

And then I realize there's so much stuff going on in my mind as of late and I just can't keep invading Sage's formspring to talk about how I love a song or a movie or an artist or anything...

... and this is it. It's Sage who said to give this place a try... and well, why not, really?

So here we are I guess! Yaaay meee O_O (is it very noticeable how terrified I am?).

Anyways. I'll post more. In the meantime, it's pimp-time!

http://blipcomic.com/index.php 

This is Blip! , a -great- webcomic by Sage Leaves. Reading is believing. I'll cover it in depth in a later post/entry/thing -you go & check it out in the meantime, OK? (BTW, it's Animation Weekend, wheee! ^___^ )

And this is D&D:

http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Default.aspx

Yep, the WotC official site. Capitalist megacorp bastards and so on, yeah, but I still like what they're doing. What can I say? Must be in my blood, I dunno.

And one more -have a look at this:

http://www.somethingawful.com/d/dungeons-and-dragons/

Yeah, as you can guess from the URL it's Something Awful, and it's a whole series of... parodies?... about D&D -the old editions, and lots of other games -Rifts, Warhammer 40K, Traveller, Vampire the Masquerade, Battletech, Synnibar (OH TEH NOES!! ^____^ )... I was reading it yesterday and I was CRACKING UP. Really laughing out loud. That's how good these guys are -I don't easily LOL all alone in front of my comp screen, and still yesterday I almost couldn't stop. A must read, even for those who don't give a sh** about RPG's. Go ahead and laugh your a** off! ^___^

Which is precisely what -I- am going to do right now, and that's why I can't post more about all the lovely things hoverin' 'round my head.
So I'll write more later. In the meantime, take care, anyone... who's reading this?... >_> ... yeah.

Peace out!
M-



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