my good friends have potty mouths; the best ones have plotty mouths

Batman. This post is going to start with Batman. And an alert for very vague spoilers.

I allowed myself to read some reviews after having seen The Dark Knight Rises. Paste’s review by Michael Burgin stuck out to me. It was a typical praise-tempered-with-cynical-nitpicking affair (because true critics must never fully like anything) and accused Michael Caine’s Alfred of developing early-onset “theme-arrhea.” The contention was that Alfred’s monologue toward the beginning of the film was too wordy and transparently informative of the themes that would define the rest of the story—a compensatory measure to offset the burden of too much plot in too short a runtime (he complained it was both “way too long … and way too short.”) “Plotty mouth” was another word coined for this affliction.

With an admission that I am often too easily influenced by reviews, I must, upon reflection, state firmly that I do not have a problem with Alfred’s speech to Bruce Wayne. I do not think it was out of place or too self-aware; its content was exactly what should pass between good friends, and especially from mentor/father figure to son: Here is what your life has been defined by; this is how you reacted to it; while you may have meant well, it went wrong; please change course because I love you and want the best for you.

Certainly in an affirmation-obsessed culture where unconditional online yay-saying is the non-negotiable norm, a corrective plea to someone’s actual face is jarring. But we are in desperate need of this. We need a bit of “metatalk”—someone close to us who can tell us our life’s story arc and lovingly give us the truth from the outside. Some of the most meaningful conversations of my life have been when someone broke the fourth wall and told me my story, sometimes with a view toward correction, sometimes to simply encourage me. One very dramatic example that will always remain with me happened during a time of severe depression.  I received a “eulogy” from a good friend and former teacher: Here’s the person you were; maybe you’ll never be him again; I thought it’d be good for you to hear and remember. That conversation gave me hope and a possible future to look forward to.

If you do not have people that care enough to have meaningful conversation—which is all I’m really talking about anyway—you are abandoned and left with merely what seems best to you. Your life has no chance of being lived well without those special truth-tellers. Another take on the film (watch out–full synopsis) points out the God-like sacrifice Alfred makes by forfeiting even his friendship with Bruce for the sake of telling him the truth out of love and concern.

I have maybe one hand’s worth of people who would be willing to do that for me; I hope I’d never cut them off for doing so. In the times I need encouragement or correction, or if I’ve lost the plot completely, recount it to me, and let me know where it needs revision.

Oh THAT Guy…or possibly Gender Inequality in Bit Parts

If I have a mutant ability, it is my ability to identify obscure actors in small parts on TV and in movies.  I have often wished there were some sort of job available.

Here are some actors I enjoy with some of my favorite appearances.

Alan Tudyk

I’ll start with the youngest on the list.  You might know him as Heath Ledger’s red-headed friend from A Knight’s Tale.  Also, he gave a great performance in 3:10 To Yuma as Doc Potter.  Quirky and content to remain in the background, this guy is excellent and under-appreciated.  Of course Firefly and Serenity fans love him already.  For the uninitiated, get on Netflix Instant right now and stream the episode “Briar Rose” from the television show Dollhouse.  I mean now.  Incredible and, in my opinion, his best work that I’ve seen.

James Rebhorn

Continuing up the age spectrum…This guy is like my cinematic security blanket.  It’s a fair bet you’ve been watching him since you were a kid.  Did you see Disney’s Blank Check?  He was the dad.  Did you see Independence Day?  He was the sniveling Secretary of Defense.  If you watched Meet the Parents, he was the fiancé’s father.  I don’t think a guy that tall has ever been less prominent.  I guess I’m a minority in liking the Seinfeld finale, but as the prosecuting attorney, he basically took us through the series’ history, which got me into the show in the first place.  The best recommendation I could give you involving James Rebhorn is to tell you to rent (or acquire from the cheap DVD rack at Target) the Michael Douglas film The Game.  He has a small but integral part.

Brian Cox

Here is one of the absolute busiest actors in Hollywood.  He’ll be in at least 6 films this year alone, not to mention a television series and voiceover work for a decently popular video game.  Blessed with a permanent scowl that makes him instantly dislikable if not downright despicable, he’s often cast as a villain or some sort of antagonistic authority figure.  His roles include Ward Abbot in the first two Bourne movies, William Stryker in the second X-Men, Richard Morgan in The Ring, Uncle Argyle in Braveheart, and Agamemnon in Troy.

Pete Postlethwaite

Too bad The Town couldn’t have been his last film released, but alas, there is Killing Bono.  Oh well.  This titan passed away this year, but he left a ton of great roles to remember him by.  You have a slim chance of recognizing him by name, but his face is unforgettable.  He was in Romeo + Juliet, Amistad, Clash of the Titans, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park.  Playing the extremely intimidating killer florist in The Town will be what I remember him for, as well as his appearing in some of my favorite films ever: The Constant Gardener, The Usual Suspects, and Inception.  Whoever did the voice work for the guy giving you hitman missions over the phone with the distinctive accent in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was definitely trying to impersonate Pete’s Kobayashi character from The Usual Suspects (go watch that movie).  Why else would you pronounce “employer” as “employer?”

I was racking my brain to think of female bit part actors with as long a list of parts, but it seems girls are either in lead roles or just there to be pretty or funny.  Anyone know of any actresses who have made a career out of bit parts?

Short List Wednesday

I’ve been called Media Man, Tech Guru, and Josh.  “Tech Guru” is a misnomer–I just know how to plug things in.  The blog name comes from what my music students used to call me. If you write what you know, then I should blog about music, basic songwriting, movies, video games, great-yet-cancelled TV shows, scamming Kmart, complaining about the government, and waiting too long then watching great girls get snatched up.

Whether due to boredom or a desperate need for attention, I have decided to start a blog.  Aside from the 6-10 people who regularly read my facebook status updates, I’m not sure who will read it.  Yeap.

I love a good list.  It could be the 25 Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, the top 30 Nintendo DS games, the 10 Worst Superhero Movies Ever Made, or the Top 3 Ways To Get Your Blog Readers To Write You Off As A Geek.  If I get my hands on Time magazine, there are two things I’m interested in: the latest Joel Stein article and the short list, a recommendations list of 5 things that the staff is into that particular week.  I’m always making recommendations, and by “making recommendations” I mean issuing demands about what my friends and family should be watching, playing, and listening to.  By way of an introduction to me and my blog, and to kick off what I plan will be a weekly feature, here is my own short list:

A Short List…

      1. Movie –  The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - Merging my love of great movies with video games, I will give you a pick for one of the best documentaries you will ever see.  A film chronicling the rivalry of two of the best arcade Donkey Kong players may sound like it John Deeres right through the boundary of geekdom you are unwilling to cross, but I can nearly guarantee you will not be disappointed that you let this into your life.  If you need outside affirmation, the reviews are 97% positive at Rotten Tomatoes.  Instantly trustworthy–could you fabricate the earnestness of the arcade referee, complete with striped shirt?–and polarizing–you will come away with a firm judgment and a righteous indignation–it managed to make me care about 80s video games in a way usually reserved for the mating habits of the highland cows of Gothenburg, Sweden.  I think you can find it on the $5 rack at Kmart.
      1. Music –  Metropolis by Janelle Monáe - My music collection was getting too stale and over-folked (sorry Mumford and Civil Wars), so I picked up something I knew would clear my palate. Heavily inspired by the 1927 Fritz Lang film of the same name (which could be a recommendation on its own), Metropolis consists of two albums so far: Metropolis: The Chase Suite and The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), with Suite IV on its way.  These are some of the trippiest concept albums you will ever hear, being about an android named Cindi Mayweather who has parts cloned from Miss Monáe, and is scheduled to be torn apart for falling in love with a human.  I think the piece is more tightly constructed than The Beatles’ Abbey Road.  Hopefully “cybersoul” will become an actual style of music.  Check out “BaBopByeYa.”
      1. Web Series –  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – If it sounds over the top, rest assured it is.  Joss Whedon’s series about a wannabe supervillain trying to make it into the Evil League of Evil was produced during the writers’ strike of ’07-’08.  It stars Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother, Nathan Fillion of Castle, and Felicia Day of web series The Guild.  At 44 minutes, it could be your best lunch break indulgence.
      1. Article –  2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal - Seems appropriate I should link to a Time magazine article since I’m plagiarizing the Short List.  This article grabbed my attention immediately since the cover looked like The Matrix mixed with Dollhouse.  Fitting, because the has much in common with both, except that it isn’t fiction.
      1. Blog – bryanallain.com – The short story is that I joined the Caedmon’s Call fan club a number of years ago to get access to exclusive stuff, the head of the fan club, Bryan Allain, wound up in my Gmail contacts, which I think generated a recommendation to follow him on Twitter, which led to his blog.  It’s hilarious.  He writes about everything from being hungry to living in Amish country to stories from the Bible as experienced by employees at Dunder Mifflin (see above link).  He’s recently started a special project to help fellow bloggers, which costs only a shameless mention of his site in your first blog post!  No, I made that up.  Check him out.

(Whoomp) There it is.  First post.  You can tell a lot about a person by what they recommend.  I guess not doctors so much, though–”stay away from dairy” doesn’t exactly lay bare the soul.

The numbering of the list was a mistake I made trying to edit the html code.  Shows what I know.  I kind of like it.

More to come on Friday.

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