2019年2月27日 星期三

Albums That Changed My Life 3: Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band's "Trout Mask Replica"

I can't remember who said this or where I read it, but I once heard that if you took a room full of kids, and put a copy of one of Captain Beefheart's albums on the turntable, they'd get it instantly.  Unlike adults, who tend to analyze things in terms of what they're used to, kids would just HEAR it, and that would be enough.

I don't know if this is true for every kid, but it was true for me.  Back in my grandpa's house, in that den/sun room, my brother and I were sitting on the floor trying to sing along with "Ella Guru," rather unsuccessfully.  Occasionally my dad passed in and out of the room, quoting bits of the album.  We didn't really know what the words meant but we liked them.  We couldn't have told you why the music felt fun.  But it did.  It felt really good.

And then, sometime after that moment I lost touch with Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.  At some point I moved on to poppier, more conventional bands.  I'm not sure what happened or why.  I guess I just moved on.

Fast forward to college, and I found this massive tape hoard in the basement of my parents' house.  There in a shoebox were tapes made from Captain Beefheart and Arthur Brown's entire discographies.  Also the band Love.  Also The Move.  Also some others that I'm probably forgetting.

I remembered some of the titles.  Everything off Trout Mask rang a bell of course, and I could even remember the words and music to some of the songs.  But there was other stuff in there that I hadn't heard before, like Safe As Milk and Unconditionally Guaranteed.  As I was to learn later, Captain Beefheart made quite a few albums, and Trout Mask was only the best known of these.

I spent the following summer driving around in my Mazda 323 while working my way through those tapes.  This would have been in the late 90s sometime, not sure exactly what years.  Safe As Milk blew my mind.  Ditto for Shiny Beast/Bat Chain PullerUnconditionally GuaranteedBluejeans and Moonbeams?  Not so much.  I listened to all of those albums and couldn't believe how fresh they still sounded.

Not long ago I was in a friend of a friend's house and they started talking about the blues.  They professed a great love for it, and began playing songs that they liked.  After a while I put on a Beefheart song, one of the tamer numbers from Safe As Milk.  Their response?  "WHAT IS THIS SHIT??" and then a quick switch to the next blues standard.

But there you go.  That's Captain Beefheart in a nutshell.  Brilliant if you're ready for it.  Brilliant if you've got an open mind.  Brilliant if you're a kid.  But not so brilliant perhaps if you're waiting for the next Howlin' Wolf or Willie Dixon number.  Not so brilliant if you've already decided what "music" is.  And this phenomenon only grows worse with later albums in Beefheart's discography.  Selections from The Spotlight Kid, in fact, have been known to clear an entire room in minutes.

I love his stuff, however.  I'm also glad I was introduced to it early.  You never know what kind of music you'll enjoy if you're young enough - and/or open enough - to hear it.

Related Entries:

Music That Changed My Life 2: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come's "Journey"
Music That Changed My Life 1: Conan the Barbarian
"Mountains Come Out of the Sky - The Illustrated History of Prog Rock" by Will Romano (2010)
The Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time

2019年2月23日 星期六

"Misbehaving" by Richard H. Thaler (2015)

"The premise of the article, and later the book, is that in our increasingly complicated world people cannot be expected to have the expertise to make anything close to optimal decisions in all the domains in which they are forced to choose.  But we all enjoy having the right to choose for ourselves, even if we sometimes make mistakes.  Are there ways to make it easier for people to make what they will deem to be good decisions, both before and after the fact, without explicitly forcing anyone to do anything?"

Richard H. Thaler is a Nobel Prize-winning Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago.  He is one of the founders of Behavioral Economics, a discipline which seeks to integrate findings from Psychology into economic theory.  If his name sounds familiar, it's because he appeared in the movie The Big Short.  He's the one explaining the "hot hand fallacy" and synthetic CDOs next to Selena Gomez at the dice table.

In Misbehaving he outlines the development of Behavioral Economics from the 1970s to the the present day, and also details some of the discoveries in the field.  In one sense the book could be viewed as his autobiography, with his life forming a backdrop for the experiments he describes.  In another sense the book could be viewed as an apologia for this relatively new discipline, providing arguments in favor of a more "human-centric" approach to economics.

One thing that worried me from the outet was the author's praise for Daniel Kahneman, whose Thinking, Fast and Slow bored me to tears.  I'm not a big fan of Psychology in the best of times, and the mentions of Kahneman's book had me thinking that Misbehaving was going to be more of the same.

I'm glad to say that this isn't the case, and even though much of what Richard Thaler lays out in Misbehaving seemed rather obvious to me, his humorous approach got me through the more involved chapters of the book.  This isn't to say I loved it, but I did have a much tougher time with Thinking, Fast and Slow.

I should also state that the "obviousness" of Thaler's arguments might be due to exposure to other recent authors exploring similar material.  Steven Pinker (another author I'm not fond of) comes to mind, as does the book The Anatomy of Violence, reviewed here last year.  It might seem strange for someone who professes a dislike for Psychology to have read so many books by psychologists, but I think this is more a reflection of the publishing industry than my personal taste.  I read what I can get, and books by psychologists are always on offer.

But going back to Misbehaving, my thoughts?  I think the author spends way too much time on interdepartmental politics and his career up to 2015.  Very few people are going to care about the personalities described in this book, especially considering the fact that they are/were Professors of Economics, and several of them are now dead.  As for the concept of Behavioral Economics, it seems like a no-brainer to me.  People aren't "rational" in the classical economics sense of the word, and we're always making imperfect choices based on incomplete information.  Just look at the Internet, and think of how much social media sites and deteriorating news outlets influence our lives.

For those with NO knowledge of Behavioral Economics I would recommend this book.  I would encourage those who are acquainted with it to pass Misbehaving by.

Related Entries:

"Fear: Trump in the White House" by Bob Woodward (2018)
"Political Order and Political Decay" by Francis Fukuyama (2015)
"What Money Can't Buy" by Michael Sandel (2012)
"The Anatomy of Violence" by Adrian Raine (2013)

2019年2月20日 星期三

Albums That Changed My Life 2: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come's "Journey"

Part of me wishes I could say I had a proper introduction to Arthur Brown, one that began with either The Crazy World of Arthur Brown or Galactic Zoo Dossier.  I think both of those albums are miles better than Journey, which is a little over-reliant on electronics.

But of course we can't choose how we first hear an artist, and in my case the first exposure to Arthur Brown consisted of Journey.

If you read the last Albums That Changed My Life, you'll know that my brother and I were fond of sitting in my grandparents' den (actually they called it a "sun room"), where we listened to the LPs gathered there.  These LPs were left there by my dad, who'd left them in a certain cabinet when he lived in that house.

Again, this was back in the early 80s, before CDs.  My brother and I listened to the records on a half-destroyed turntable, and I'm sure that in doing so we added even more scratches to those already well-loved vinyl discs.  I never got the feeling that my dad worried about these scratches, probably because these records were already somewhat warped/damaged and also because he had other copies elsewhere.

Next to our copy of the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack was Arthur Brown's Journey, which Wikipedia tells me was first released in 1973.  I'm sure it was an obscure album back then, and it's an even more obscure album now, but my dad had a fondness for anything British, progressive, or both.

I spent a long time staring at the cover of that album.  On our version there was an old man standing inside a tunnel of stars, with a ribbon bearing the title of the album (Journey) and the name of the band (Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come).  I often wondered what kind of being the old man was, and what place the tunnel of stars was leading to.

In all honesty, I can now say that Journey is far from the best thing that Arthur Brown (or his "Kingdom Come") ever did.  It's somewhat inventive, and it's got that early 70s trippiness, but it wasn't as good as either his breakthrough album or the two that followed it.  It's certainly better than its own follow up, Dance, but I imagine that anyone following Arthur Brown in the early 70s would have been somewhat disappointed by Journey.

Not that my brother and I knew this at the time.  We were content to study the album cover, and to enjoy the weird noises present in the music.  We liked singing along to "Time Captives" more than anything, in part because this song reminded us of Time Bandits, a film released around that time.

Of course I was very young then, and didn't renew my acquaintance with Arthur Brown until much later, but I think that what I initially got from his music was the idea that weird music wasn't just ok - it could also be great.  I knew, even at the age of seven or so, that what I was hearing in Journey wasn't the same as what I was hearing on the radio, and that this difference was a good thing.  I was of course too young to be pursuing exoticism for its own sake, but I was old enough to appreciate that what I was hearing was an attempt to create something new, something that stood apart from other music.  Now that I'm older, it would be easy to say that Arthur Brown and the other contributors to Journey were trying to create art, but I'm sure that in the early 80s I wouldn't have understood the term "art" in this way.

Given that it's 2019 now, I can easily look up Arthur Brown on Wikipedia.  But even if I couldn't I could still tell you that his music influenced heavy metal, progressive rock and glam rock, and that his hit single "Fire" was a kind of organ-driven, prototypical heavy metal anthem before the term "heavy metal" was in widespread use.  I can also tell you that he's appeared in both The Who's Tommy and a video for The Darkness.  I can tell you he was one of the first people to use a drum machine, and that this drum machine, the Bentley Rhythm Ace, appears on Journey.  I can tell you that the guy has led quite a life, and even now he shows no signs of slowing down.

But all of that is after the fact.  Back in the early 80s, back in that den, we were all about the music, and all about the sounds being created.  We didn't really know what we were listening to, we didn't know how it was made, but we knew that it was weird, and we knew that we liked it.

Related Entries:

Albums That Changed My Life 1: Conan the Barbarian
"Mountains Come Out of the Sky - The Illustrated History of Prog Rock" by Will Romano (2010)
The Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time

2019年2月13日 星期三

Albums That Changed My Life 1: Conan the Barbarian

Early 80s, right?  I must have been 7 or 8 years old.  I wasn't allowed to see Conan the Barbarian in the theater, because it was rated R and I was too little.

To fully visualize the scene, you'll have to remember that back in 82 or 83 a lot of us didn't even have VHS players.  TVs were CRT (cathode ray tube) back then, so no digital/flat screens.  No one had cell phones, there were only a few channels on the TV, and "cable" (extra channels) was just then becoming popular.  Movies, in other words, were a much more precious commodity, and if you missed a movie in the theater you probably wouldn't have the chance to see it again for a long while.

So there me and my brother were, sitting in the den at my grandfather's house, listening to the LP (long-player, or vinyl record) of Conan the Barbarian.  Serious though.  We owned the album.  We sat there and listened while a narrator detailed the events of the movie, with sound effects and bits of dialogue from the film thrown in to enhance the experience.  Layered over all of it was the music of Basil Poledouris, drums pounding and chorus chanting away.

As I would later learn, Poledouris had borrowed heavily from other composers when putting this soundtrack together.  You can hear bits of Carmina Burana in it, as well as some of the Russian composers and borrowings from Poledouris' Greek heritage.  It's definitely one of the best soundtracks of all time, and I don't think Poledouris ever equaled it.

My brother and I were also obsessed with the album.  I have fond memories of pulling it from the cabinet where it resided, taking the vinyl from the cardboard sleeve, and losing myself in the sound of swords clashing and horses galloping across barren wastes.  Looking back on it now, I can see that the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack was my introduction to not only sword and sorcery, but also to classical music.

I almost feel sorry for kids nowadays, given the ease of acquiring media and seeing all kinds of films.  It must be a lot harder for them to get lost inside an audio recording the way my brother and I did, to concentrate so intently upon a story told in words, music and sound effects.  I loved Conan the Barbarian so much that I was almost disappointed when I finally saw the movie, mostly because parts of it loomed so much larger in my imagination.  Seeing it on screen diminished it in some ways, made it less epic.

Listening to it now, I can still appreciate what Poledouris was trying to do.  He was conjuring up a world before recorded history, bits of which - through music - persisted up to the present day.  I think that in the attempt he was largely successful, though of course now that I know more about classical music I can hear more of his influences in Conan the Barbarian.

Related Entries:

Stranger Things, and Growing Up in the 80s
"Mountains Come Out of the Sky - The Illustrated History of Prog Rock" by Will Romano (2010)
The Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All Time
Movies of the Early 80s

2019年2月12日 星期二

"The Fishermen" by Chigozie Obioma (2015)

"In the fullness of time, the madman became a menace, a terror in the town.  The song he sang after every prophecy became known by almost every inhabitant of the town, and they dreaded it."

Chigozie Obioma is originally from Akure, Nigeria, where this novel is set.  He teaches Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and The Fishermen is his first novel.

In The Fishermen four brothers cross paths with the town prophet.  After the prophet tells them that betrayal waits in their future, the four brothers argue over what this prophecy means, and how they should best deal with it.

In terms of writing style The Fishermen resembles other books I've read by Nigerian authors, namely Americanah and Things Fall Apart.  The author of The Fishermen even mentions Things Fall Apart in the book, so I can only assume it was an influence.

The Fisherman is full of many African tropes such as comparing people to animals, tribal politics and governments led by charismatic strongmen, but where Americanah and Things Fall Apart offer these things and more, The Fishermen only offers more of the same, all without any real sense of place to tie the people and things that populate this book together.  

What's more, The Fishermen doesn't really hang together as a novel.  It's too episodic, and feels more like a collection of short stories that might have been better if told in isolation.  It doesn't seem to have a beginning, middle and end.  It's rather a beginning, and nothing more.

Strangely enough, this novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  To me this would seem to indicate that such awards are attempting to over-represent African/third world/black authors, because this novel, taken on its own merits, certainly doesn't deserve that kind of praise.

Related Entries:

"China Rich Girlfriend" by Kevin Kwan (2015)
"Rich People Problems" by Kevin Kwan (2017)
"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan (2013)
"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

2019年2月11日 星期一

The Other Movie Oscars: The 2000s

Please keep in mind three things:

1. I'm only choosing Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress.  Let's be honest and say that these are the only three categories most people care about.

2. I'm only choosing from the movies reviewed in my "Some Other Movies From..." entries.  This means that some of the movies I choose might actually be award-winners from that year.

3. The movies reviewed in my "Some Other Movies From..." entries were chosen because I hadn't seen them before, and/or because of their relative obscurity.  To put an even finer point on it, they were chosen half willfully and half randomly.  I tend to pick 7 or 8 movies featuring people I'm familiar with, and 7 or 8 movies featuring people unknown to me.

4. For fun I'm adding another category, something memorable from a film belonging to a given year.


Best Picture: The Young Victoria
Best Actor: Tobey Maguire, Brothers
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Most Traumatizing Movie: Antichrist


Best Picture: Doubt
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Doubt
Most Stupidly Entertaining Movie: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


Best Picture: Into the Wild
Best Actor: James McAvoy, Atonement
Best Actress: Hilary Swank, Freedom Writers
A Movie That Doesn't Deserve the Extra Attention Earned by Being Banned in Several Countries: Hostel: Part II


Best Picture: Flags of Our Fathers
Best Actor: Laurence Fishburne, Akeelah and the Bee
Best Actress: Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
Most Ridiculous Subplot: The sex therapist's "problem" in Shortbus


Best Picture: Green Street Hooligans
Best Actor: Samuel Jackson: Coach Carter
Best Actress (in a bad movie): Jodie Foster, Flightplan
Most Stunningly Awful War Movie: Stealth


Best Picture: Mean Girls
Best Actor: Daniel Craig, Layer Cake
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Vanity Fair
Unfunniest Comedy: Without a Paddle


Best Picture: Owning Mahowney
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Owning Mahowney
Best Actress: Laura Linney, Love Actually
Most Stunning Women Used as Scenery: tie between 2 Fast 2 Furious and Bad Boys II


Best Picture: Irreversible
Best Actor: Mel Gibson, We Were Soldiers
Best Actress: Monica Bellucci, Irreversible
Sexiest Supporting Actress: Shu Qi, The Transporter


Best Picture: Baran
Best Actor: Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom
Best Actress: Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom
Most Ridiculous Documentary: The Path Beyond Thought


Best Picture: Almost Famous
Best Actor: Sean Connery, Finding Forrester
Best Actress: Renee Zellweger, Nurse Betty
Most Memorable Role in a Completely Forgettable Movie: Jeffrey Wright, Shaft

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 2001
Some Other Movies From 2003
Some Other Movies From 2005
Some Other Movies From 2007

Some Other Movies From 2001

In 2001 I was living in Taichung, Taiwan.  I was married, a dad, and I'd been living in Taiwan for about two years.  I believe I was living in an apartment building by the name of "United Nations" behind the private kindergarten where I worked.

2001 was also the year 9/11 happened.  I can tell you where I was when I heard about it, though I'm not sure where I was when it actually happened.  My dad called me from Seattle and said "It's ok, we're safe."  I had trouble believing what he told me after that, and the truth only really sank in after I went downstairs and saw the papers in the local convenience store.  That plane hitting the Twin Towers, ending lives on the other side of the world...

But that aside, 2001 was a good year for me.  My life was changing for the better and the future looked very bright.  Writing this in 2019, I suppose my optimism was justified.  That baby that sat in a crib back then is an adult now, and her sister (not yet born in 2001) is already in junior high school.  Time flies, if you're lucky.

The top 5 movies of 2001 were Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Monsters, Inc., Shrek and Ocean's Eleven.  Of these movies Ocean's Eleven is my favorite, and the only of that year's top 10 that I still like.

Critical favorites of 2001 included A Beautiful Mind, Moulin Rouge!, the above-mentioned Fellowship of the Ring, Gosford Park, The Royal Tenenbaums and Monster's Ball.  I liked all of these movies except Gosford Park, which I thought was boring.

Other good movies of that year were Memento, Blow (really underrated movie), A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Zoolander, Training Day (amazing), From Hell, Shallow Hal and Ali.

The worst movie?  To be honest I can't remember any really bad ones, but then again I wasn't watching that many.  Wikipedia tells me, however,  that Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles was released in 2001.  Was it terrible?  To find out the answer, look below!

Some Good Ones

1. The Fast and the Furious

Yeah, the first one.

Two things date this movie: 1) the bits of rap/nu metal in the soundtrack, and 2) how young Vin Diesel and Paul Walker look in it.  It's a decent undercover cop movie, but not nearly as good as some of the sequels.

2. Baran

Love story centered around Afghan (Afghani?) workers in Iran.  I liked this one a lot more than the recently reviewed A Separation.  Both movies are good, yet this one seemed more immediate.

3. In the Bedroom

On the slow side, but a great movie nonetheless.  Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson star as a married couple touched by tragedy.  It's in some ways reminiscent of the more recent Manchester by the Sea.

4. Uriah Heep: Retrospective 1970-2001

YouTube says this came out in 2001, but someone in the documentary mentions 2004.  Whatever the case, this overview of Uriah Heep's career stops at 2001, and I stopped watching it much earlier than that.

Is it a good documentary?  Actually yes.  Say what you will about "Deep Purple Lite," but the interviews are surprisingly frank, and multiple perspectives are offered on each album.  The producer of their classic albums is probably the highlight of the whole endeavor, given the way he consistently downplays the band's musical abilities.

The one strange thing about this documentary is how much the John Lawton albums are discussed.  Maybe this is because the band felt they were more divisive?

5. Albela

What the hell does "bloody basket of flowers" mean?  They keep saying it in this movie, and I've never heard it anywhere else.  Is it something specific to Goa?

In Albela Aishwarya Rai walks around in various outfits looking HOT, and a pervy tourist guide tries to win her love by helping her search for her mother's grave.  As plots go it's like pfffft, but the songs are pretty good and the girl who plays the tour guide's "servant" is also very beautiful.  I can't remember her name as I type this, but she was also the bride in Lajja below.

6. Chingu ("Friend")

Four friends get mixed up with South Korea's criminal underworld.  It's a great movie, and more people should see it.  There was a sequel in 2013, but I have the feeling it wasn't nearly as good.

7. The Clinton Years

Ah, Bill Clinton.  If only he'd had better control over his dick he would have been right up there with JFK.  Not that JFK had that much control over his own dick either, but you know what I mean.  Different time periods, with a totally different set of consequences.

This insightful documentary brought up a lot of things I'd forgotten about Clinton, and also reaffirmed my general impression of the man.  It would make a good companion piece to the movie Primary Colors, which remains one of John Travolta's best movies, and a fascinating portrait of the Clinton presidential campaign.

8. Street Life

Damn it doesn't always feel good to be a gangsta.  As documentaries go this one is all over the place, but there's some riveting stuff in it.  It was filmed in the late 90s, so it's more about crack, but the interviews with gangsters, prostitutes, drug addicts, rap stars, exotic dancers and people who are a little bit of all five are as eye-opening now as they were in 2001.  This movie makes a particularly good point about police informants and how they can be used to target a specific community.

Fun Fact: Bushwick Bill is actually Jamaican.  The authorities wanted to deport him back to Jamaica following a recent drug bust.

Two That I'm On the Fence About

1. Super Troopers

A latter-day Police Academy.  On the one hand there are some genuinely funny bits in it.  On the other it wasn't nearly as good as the internet had led me to believe.  

It might just not be that funny.  It might be one of those comedies (like Hot Rod) that takes a while to grow on you.  I'll watch it again later and see.

2. Pearl Harbor

Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett contend over the love of the same woman.  And whatever happened to Josh Hartnett?  He used to be a big deal...

On the dramatic side this movie is the corniest, most overwrought piece of nonsense I've seen in a while.  On the action side the battles are excellent.  Michael Bay directed, so you know it's all cut, cut, cut, snippet of dialogue, cut; but this said it might be one of his better movies.  There's a far superior version of the same love triangle in Brothers, and for Pacific Theater action you'd do no better than Flags of Our Fathers, but if you've seen all the other famous war movies this one does have some redeeming features.

The real problem with this movie is that it doesn't end with Pearl Harbor.  Like the similarly unsatisfying The Alamo, they felt the need to add a "striking back at the enemy" part after what should have been the climactic battle.

Fun Fact: Jennifer Garner plays one of Kate Beckinsale's friends.  Garner and Ben Affleck would later marry, and later still divorce.  Affleck was dating Jennifer Lopez at the time.

Informative, but Not Interesting

1. Argentina's Financial Crisis

Documentary on Argentina's financial woes.  It'd be interesting if you were studying International Finance, but man it's a deep dive.  I feel for the people of Argentina, but I couldn't stay focused on this catalog of indiscretions.  I'm not that knowledgeable on Argentinian politics and finance either, and a lot of the people in this documentary seem to be playing the victim.

Some Bad Ones

1. Lajja

Domestic violence!  And... songs!  And... odd bits of comic relief?  It's not these three things together that make Lajja bad, it's the fact that once the abused wife hides at the wedding geological ages seem to pass, all without a single funny or interesting thing happening.  I got about an hour and a half into its 3.5 hour runtime and had to quit.

2. Glitter

No big surprise here.  Mariah Carey's star vehicle was noted for its disastrous qualities when it came out, and even though it's definitely bad it's not - I have to say - bad enough to be good.

What I'm wondering is if the countless similarities between this movie and 2018's A Star is Born are accidental or intentional.  It could be that any movie like A Star is Born shares certain plot elements with Glitter, but I'm tempted to say that whoever wrote the script for A Star is Born had at least a passing familiarity with Mariah Carey's movie.

Fun (?) Fact #1: This movie was filmed just before the September 11 terrorist attacks.  You can see the Twin Towers in one of the scenes.

Fun (?) Fact #2: Carey celebrated the release of Glitter by having a complete nervous breakdown.

Fun Fact #3: The movie mixes up Carey's mixed race ancestry.  Actually it was her father that was black, while her mother was Irish.  She also had a very good relationship with her mother, who taught her how to sing.  Of course in the movie she's "Billie Frank" and not "Mariah Carey," but Glitter was obviously meant to be biographical.

Fun Fact #4: In case you're wondering, Carey has a much greater vocal range than Lady Gaga.  I myself prefer Lady Gaga, but it's beyond dispute that Carey's singing ability approaches the superhuman.

Two So Bad They're Good

1. Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles

Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski return in the sequel nobody wanted.  This is doubly ironic because the movie features a subplot in which a fictitious movie studio produces sequels that nobody wants.

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles also reminds you just how long ago 2001 really was.  Passing references are made to Tower Records, Baywatch and The Rock's celebrated career in the WWE.

And perhaps best of all, Mike Tyson appears as Hogan's meditation teacher.  I say again: Mike Tyson.  Paul Hogan.  Meditation teacher.  It's a wonderfully weird scene.

It threatens to grind to a halt at several points, the jokes never quite land, and one wonders if Kozlowski wasn't just famous for her ass, so famously exposed in the first Crocodile Dundee.  Whatever the case, she sure can't act.

2. The Path Beyond Thought

Training video for a chain of Aikido schools, or colossal monument to Steven Seagal's ego?  I'll let you be the judge.  Whatever it is it's pretty entertaining.  I'd also like to know what would happen if one of these Aikido guys took on someone like Royce Gracie.  I have the feeling Gracie would take them apart.

Fun Fact: Steven Seagal holds American, Serbian and Russian citizenship.  He's referred to Vladimir Putin as one of the great living world leaders, and he's been accused of sexual assault multiple times.

One That Film Buffs Would Probably Think I'm Crazy for Not Liking

1. Amelie

This movie couldn't be more French if it tried.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this tale of a young woman who decides to be a good samaritan.  I enjoyed its quirkiness in the first half, but I had trouble concentrating on it during the second.  The camera all but consumes star Audrey Tautou, the movie is full of memorable scenes, but at a certain point I found it hard to empathize with the characters.  Perhaps I'm just too American?

Fun Fact: Five years later Audrey Tautou would star opposite Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code, it would be her first and last Hollywood movie.  Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet also had a brief association with Hollywood, directing only Alien Resurrection in 1997.

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 2003
Some Other Movies From 2005
Some Other Movies From 2007
Lars von Trier's "Depression Trilogy" + "The House That Jack Built"