Monday, February 26, 2007

Re: The Departed

I am a cynic by nature. Most of you know this. I am very quick to criticize and rare to praise. But what you may not know is how hard I actually work to avoid this. Although I know it may not seem that way to a casual observer, I actually do a pretty good job of catching my tongue. One of my occasional moments of indiscretion is what led to the fake MySpace page of a couple of weeks ago. So with that in mind, I'd like to talk a little bit about my conflicted feelings over The Departed, the movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and won director Martin Scorcese his first Oscar in his fantastic career.

The cynic in me wants to complain about how this is simply a lifetime achievement award. The Departed is not as good a movie as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, or Casino. (Some would add Raging Bull to that list. Not me, but that's a whole 'nother story). People have been clamoring that Scorcese was "due" for Bringing Out the Dead, Gangs of New York, and The Aviator, three good-but-not-great movies. The Departed is better than any of those, but still doesn't match the achievements of his hey-day.

The cynic in me wants to complain about how this is simply a remake of an already fantastic Hong Kong movie called Infernal Affairs. That The Departed was really unnecessary because it didn't add anything to an already great film. And I do wholly recommend that anyone who liked The Departed check out Infernal Affairs.

The cynic in me wants to complain. But I'm not. Because, you know what? The Departed is a great movie. I saw it twice in the theater and will certainly buy it on DVD. It had fantastic character work by Alec Baldwin and Marky Mark. Solid lead performances by Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. A terrific adaptation of the Infernal Affairs script. Perfect use of music (I'll never here Gimme Shelter by the Stones again without thinking of the movie). And filmed by Scorcese with an energy that he hasn't tapped into in years, since Casino at least. So what if is isn't on quite the same level as Goodfellas? Why should that be held against this movie? For the first time in several years the Oscar went to the best new release film that I saw that year (Although, to be fair, I've only also seen Little Miss Sunshine. Babel is coming up soon in my Netflix queue, and I still have several non-nominated films to get through before I decide on my true favorite of 2006). I completely recommend it (except to you mom . . .and any one else who gets squeamish around bad language and violence), cynic in me be damned.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why I Hate Valentine’s Day

A Diatribe by Wiley Page

Although many of you will dismiss it as such, this will not be the lament of a single person on a couple's holiday. As a matter of fact, there is no one day of the year that I more prefer to be single. My dislike of this day does not stem from any depression, jealousy, or bitterness. I really and truly believe that Valentine's Day cuts to the heart of many things that I don't like about humankind.

First, and least of all, is the crass commercialism. Like almost every holiday in this country, Valentine's Day has been overrun by the likes of Hallmark, Stover's, and FTD, whose clever marketing have convinced us that we need to buy their products to fully participate in the holiday. But this is not the card and candy makers' fault. They're just filling a demand that exists in our society. The real problem lies deeper.

Namely, sentimentalism. One of my least favorite phrase in the English language is "It's the thought that counts." Screw that. I honestly don't give a damn if you're thinking of me or not. How does that affect my life in any way? Actions count. Help me move my pool table. Tell me about a movie you think I'd like. Take me out to dinner. Lend me a book. Don't send me a Valentine's Day card (even a hand-written one to avoid supporting Hallmark) with a sentimental message. I'll file it in the same place that I keep every Birthday and Christmas card I've ever received. The garbage can.

But what I really hate is the sense of obligation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying someone you love a present. There is absolutely everything wrong about having to prove your love with a present. If you are buying your significant other roses/chocolate/jewelry because you don't want to get in trouble, that is absolute insincerity. And if you demand gifts from someone as proof of their love, that is absolutely despicable. And lest you think this is a "Battle of the Sexes" type situation and I'm just a guy who thinks flowers and candy are dumb (be that as it may), in many Asian cultures the situation is reversed. It is women who are obligated to buy the gifts. In fact there is a Japanese tradition on Valentine's Day called giri-choko, which means "an obligation of chocolate" whereby a woman has to buy every significant male in their life chocolates. This is every bit as bad. Gifts given as an obligation are not gifts. They are taxes.

People tell me, "Just wait 'till you're in a serious relationship, then you'll understand." My usual counter to that is "Why do you think I'm not in a serious relationship right now?" This essay was not just me carrying on. This is what I truly believe, and any girl who expects me to behave differently will be sorely disappointed next year on February 14th.