Sunday, July 24, 2011

Notes on a Scandal (2006) Film Review

One of the most compelling films I've seen in a good long while is Notes on a Scandal. Starring Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Andrew Simpson, Notes involves good friends, Blanchett and Dench in a miserable downward spiral of trust issues, gossip, and frequent spurts of anger. As Blanchett, a new art teacher at Saint George's, reveals her intimate affair with 15-year-old Simpson, Dench becomes increasingly intrigued by how similar the two women are, despite their age disparity.

Dench's character actually reminded me of myself in that she was rather reserved with her true thoughts, and such thoughts were in no way lacking in their critical and descriptive qualities to the nearest ioda. Her story telling is in the form of a diary, just as mine usually is, albeit much more private given that it is featured on this public blog. But those sentiments are rife with unbridled impressions, untempered by the minds of others, and when brought outside the the original author's mind, they may be perceived ridiculous.

Notes on a Scandal is a highly enjoyable film that deserves your absolute attention for its entire hour and a half span. It brilliantly executes each scenario, making you think, 'oh dear, how much worse could this situation possibly get?!' Yet, inevitably, at every undulation of Notes' skillfully crafted plot, the condition of our characters' lives only worsen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wealth: A Subjective Term

Since the month of July, I have been tasked with balancing two part-time jobs, hobbies, family time, and any me time I could get a hold of. By then, I got a second job, one at Bill Jacobs Land Rover of Hinsdale. As a porter who is the essential backbone to any car dealership, I work with a bunch of Mexicans. And I have no reason to have anything against this, or any other ethnic group for that matter. But this group of guys in particular stick next to me as if they were a swarm of moths to an incandescent light as I regale the tales of my family's "endless" (or so they think) wealth. And this disturbs me.

I think nothing of the prospect of my father owning multiple hotels and a restaurant, as I never have. This simply has been my upbringing. But to some, it is a fairy tale from which enormous jealously stems. I say that my house has four central air-conditioning units, my parents both drive Mercedes, and I drive a BMW, they all "ooh" and "ah" at my decadent lifestyle. I do my best to proclaim that numerous other people have a great deal of more wealth than my own family, and that my "luxuries" mean nothing in this day and age with people's home theater systems, swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts, fountains effacing their driveways and what have you.

I have attempted rather meekly for them to sympathize with me. I reason that I have never received an allowance, that I do chores for little to no money in return, that my house is not in fact equipped with a home theater system or any of the other aforementioned marks of wealth. I have never sought a cushy job from my father's business, and instead have desired to be independent so as to not have to get involved in the troublesome family (feud of a) company and want to be paid fairly apart from my family, and to get a sense of the real world. No such sympathy has been returned despite my earnest efforts of understanding their own modest living and financial conditions.

I am intensely tired of having to talk of my family's "extravagant" living conditions. We have no [especially] fancy or fast cars, no wonderfully expensive utilities around our house, and for that matter, haven't even finished paying off our house.

I cannot count the number of times I have been asked how much money my father makes, nor the number of times I have shook my head and ignored the question. My family is just like any other family, we have financial responsibilities, enormous taxes to pay, education to fund, and currently are in an even more sizable amount of debt to take care of and thus, don't have great loads of money for leisure to spend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Car Show Premiere: Off To a Good Start!

The Car Show goes to show that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I say this as the US version of Top Gear has already been tried, and by the looks if it, isn't coming back (I argue this is for better because of the hosts' lack of chemistry and humor that is expected with anything with "Top Gear" in the title).

Yet what separates The Car Show from a cheap Top Gear knock-off is the variety and uniqueness of the show's segments. There was a game show, a segment about the 24 Hours of Lemons in Reno, Nevada, an interview with Jimmie Johnson, a segment called "0-60" in which the hosts have 60 seconds to talk about the given car or issue, a ride in a Rolls-Royce Ghost at Pebble Beach, and a race between an aircraft and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Never for the duration of the show was there a moment of dead air while in-studio, convincing me of the hosts' awkwardness as was the case for Top Gear USA on multiple occasions.

The Car Show is a perfect argument for why there is no need for an American version of Top Gear. Rather than being an unfunny carbon copy of the impossible to recreate recipe that is the UK version of Top Gear, The Car Show is genuinely funny in its own right and I believe will have far more longevity than a show with an Italian guy, a southerner and a drifter all trying to be funny, and all failing miserably at the same time.

Albeit Dan Neil is the tastemaker, gentlemanly type à la, Richard Hammond, Adam Carolla is the spearhead of the show, and is the funniest as Jeremy Clarkson, only Carolla's much less as appropriate with his sense of humor as Man Show enthusiasts can attest. And unlike any of Top Gear's regional offshoots in Russia, Australia, or the USA, The Car Show features four hosts, creating a strange middle ground for any James May comparisons. The most oddball of the four hosts is easily John Salley. Firstly, given that he was a professional basketball player, he seems to in few ways warrant the title of 'most credible automobile commentators in the nation' as Carolla introduced his co-hosts. Sure, he may admire the way cars sound and look, but he was very ill-advised for whenever he made a criticism. He may own a Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, or what have you, but those were not earned for his professional driving prowess, or his auto journalism for that matter. His only real involvement in cars is casual ownership and admiration. But if that's what it takes to be a show host, why not make me one? I actually know what a differential does, what a coilover consists of, my first word was "car", I digress.

The Car Show is in many ways the same as Top Gear as it features in-car reviews of cars with astronomical pricetags that are useful for little more than entertainment, although they're entertaining nonetheless.

My only complaint is the cinematography. Top
Gear USA, while having frankly boring presenters, had some of the most impressive shots of cars I have ever seen before, including the the original Top
Gear, with its postmodern camera filters. On it's own though, the car shots are professional and don't make you notice there's any room for improvement.

Ultimately, it's a good thing Carolla never hopped aboard the Top Gear USA train, and instead made a show of his own to allow himself more free reign to create something that stands apart from the rest of the new generation of YouTube and commercial-based Top Gear copycats. And it's going to be Carolla to have the last laugh, not Foust.