Monday, January 26, 2009

Latest Two Movies

OK, two movies from total opposite ends of the spectrum. Only thing they have in common is that I happen to watch them this weekend. Also, they both involve strong spirited women.

First up... Juno.
I was avoiding this flick like the plague... who want's to see an after school special about a pregnant teen? I was told that it's not like that, and that it really is a good movie. So the verdict... GREAT MOVIE. Not judgmental, not preachy, not a major downer... but didn't shy away from any of the important aspects of the situation. Possibly s0me of the greatest acting I've seen in a long time. Each character was 1000% believable. Ellen Page was awesome as Juno. The character of Juno was totally cool too (favorite band?... tied between The Stooges, Patty Smith, and The Runaways). Dad, Step Mom, and female best friend were all great. And her geeky boyfriend was an awesome character. I've seen enough clips from the movie that I had an idea what I was in for, but I was not aware of the whole dynamic with the adoptive parents. They played those roles PERFECTLY !!! The best line was "I was just dealing with issues WAY beyond my maturity level."

Geeky folk rock (actually anti-folk... yes that's a genre) worked well. Can't really tolerate Moldy Peaches on their own, but in context it worked. Good for them that they got a big score w/ this sound track.

OK, next up... The Taming of the Shrew
Yes, switching it up to a 1967 version of Shakespeare's classic staring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I enjoyed the acting, though some of it was clumsy... I mean really, clumsy servants bumping into each other... supposed to be funny, but really just looks clumsy. The costumes and textures were good, showing the juxtaposition of the wealthy vs the poor. All in all, a good rendition.

HOWEVER... what a heaping pile of dung this play is. I'm simply offended by the plot. The whole thing is a homage to Stockholm Syndrome. If your woman has an independent spirit, tear her down and treat her like dirt until she submits and becomes your slave. Then parade her in front of the aristocracy.

It's especially disturbing because Petrucio (Richard Burton's character) is such a stinking drunken louse that he's the last guy in the world to deserve a faithful subservient wife. He only marries her for the dowery in the first place. In the end, he gets the dowery and gets a hot slave for a wife. At several times during the story, you think perhaps she is going to end up taming him... or perhaps they will arive at a mutual respect. But no, this shrew was truly psychologically broken and is now a pathetic shell of a person... and this is heald up as a virtue. At the end, he has her to the point where he points to the sun and says "Look how the moon shines" and she happily agrees that the moon looks lovely. Then he says "You stupid woman, that's the sun" and she's like "My appologies my lord, I was confused... yes it is the sun." It ends with the most pathetic speech by Katharina where she tells the other wives how it is their duty to kneel before their husbands and put their hands beneath their husband's feet.

I really wanted to get behind this in a manly kind of way... but it was just too offensive.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jury Duty - Day 2

Just a quick wrap up. This morning they picked another 20 people and went through the same process. This time it went a whole lot quicker, but still there were some freakazoids on the panel. It seems that everybody wants to be in the spot light, wants us to think they are something special, that their stupid little nuanced opinions are relevant.

Just two stories worth noting...

There was one lady who went through all the questions and then when the judge was six people down the line she raised her hand and said "I just remembered... I was accused of possession of Marijuana back in 1968." The whole room was in stitches. The judge even got uncharacteristically ironic and said "Oh, then you better step down now." The prosecutor had to have a go at it just for laughs... he said "Do you have anything you want to add about that Marijuana incident from 1968?" And instead of saying "No, nothing really"... instead she starts telling the whole story "Well, it was in central park. I was in high school..." He had to say "OK, thanks that's enough."

I didn't bring up this a-hole from yesterday, but he annoyed me enough that I'll mention him now. He's an old Yippie, by appearance. You know, somebody who was probably a political activist in 1968 when he was 20 years old. He's definitely the guy who wants to push the boundaries and test the system. He was NOT selected in either jury panel... was just in the court room w/ the rest of us as a possible replacement. As soon as one of the prospective jurors had a personal sidebar w/ the judge, and everybody's attention is on the sidebar... he walks right up to the jury box, completely unnoticed by the judge, the lawyers, or any court officers. He asks one of the people who already answered the questions if he could have her laminated question sheet. She's like, OK... HERE. And he walks back to his seat. Now, I don't think anything wrong occured during that exchange, but I KNOW the judge and court officers would not have let him do that.

Also, during one of the breaks, when EVERYBODY is still out in the hall, and the sign on the door says "JURORS, Please wait in the hall until court officer brings you in"... he acts stupid, pretends he thinks he's late and everybody is already in the room, and he opens the door and sticks his head in. It was really a pathetic "LOOK AT ME" kind of move. He has to say "Sorry, I thought everybody was back in the room now."... even though all 80 people are standing right there in the hall near the door.

Then today, he seems to disagree w/ an answer given by one of the prospective jurors... so he starts having a fit raising his hand and waving it in the air and clearing his throat so the judge will notice him. I don't know if she saw him, but she definitely didn't acknolege him at all.

And the final dick move of all... when we all go back into the main jury room, and they announce that they are realeasing us, and they tell us to keep the completion notice as proof that we served... this dickhead raises his hand and askes "Excuse me, did you say we should KEEP the completion notice?" WTF !!!! No dickhead, they said you should wipe your ass with it!!!

Soooo... botom line... one and a half days of jury duty. Won't be called back in New York City or State for SIX YEARS !!! Also, waved from federal jury duty for four years. And even those who did get selected, in this case anyway, will probably be in court for three days.

Not a bad deal all around. Must cost the tax payers a fortune, though.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jury Duty - Day 1

What a day... what a system... what a cross section of New York...

I can go to jail for what I"m about to say in this post... but fuck 'em. They'll NEVER take me alive !!!!

So I'm called to court. Turns out I'm in New York County Criminal Court. New York County = Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. Summons says to show up at 8:45. At about 9:45 they start the orientation schpeel (lesson learned... don't EVER show up on time). Multiple warnings about no cell phones or blackberries if you go into the court room.

About 11:15 they call names out of the drum... 80 names. Yup... 80. That includes me. All 80 of us stand out in the corridor for 20 minutes until they open the doors to the court room (right across the corridor from the jury room). On our way in, court officers instruct us to turn off pagers and blackberries. Once seated, Judge askes some general questions and excueses two people who claim they don't meet the Judges requirements. From the remaining 78 people, they do a 2nd drum drawing and select 24 people (not me). The remaining 54 people stay in the court room in case anybody is dismissed from the jury, they will pull more from this pool. Meanwhile, court officers are wandering around telling people "Sir, you have to turn off that device."... and people are saying "Wait... just a second... I just have to..." UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE !!! They simply can't go w/o their fucking blackberries... and they think it's OK to try to reason with the guy.

Prosecutor, two defense lawyers, and defendant are introduced. Indictment is read. Dude (definitely a thug) is accused of Assault in the 2nd Degree. On [such and such] night at 1am on 126th St, he allegedly "hit somebody with an object, to wit something heavy, causing him harm." That's pretty much verbatim.

Judge passes out laminated sheets w/ 9 questions to the 24 prospective jurrors, but instructs us all to stop doing anythign else and pay attention because we may end up as one of those 24 prospective jurrors. Court officers tell more people to shut off their cell phones and blackberries.

First guy hems and haws a bit about "not sure if I can be objective, but I'll try"... judge says "try isn't good enough. Can you promise that you will be objective and follow my instructions and apply the law as I describe it? You need to say yes or no. You can say no... it's not a problem... but you have to give a definite answer." He mans up and says "Yes, I can do that. No problem." OK, that's the first guy... so now EVERYBODY knows this... right? (riiiiight!!!!)

Next guy whips through the questions no problem... "1 - live in upper east side for 21 years. 2 - I'm a dentist. 3 - don't have physical or mental reason why I can't serve. 4 - don't know any police personally 5 - was never victim of a crime..." etc... Cool... wer'e cooking now.

Next juror... whips through 1 and 2 and then at 3 says... well, I'm on perscription diaretic... so I have to use the bathroom often... like right now. Judge says, OK, let's have court officer escort you into jury room so you can use the bathroom and when you come back we'll continue questions. At which point, she shuffles in to jury room and everybody waits... and waits... and waits... and then finally she comes back, shuffles over to her seat... and Judge anounces, "It's lunch time... let's all take break and meet back here at 2:15". Muther Fucker !!! Why the hell were we waiting for this bitche's bathroom break just to come back and announce lunch. WTF !!!

OK, walk around China Town and Little Itally. Back at 2:15 sharp. Doors open up at 2:40-ish. Back to Jury questions. One dude looks like smart sophisticated educated man, but is clearly a lunatic. "Judge, can I come over and talk to you in person?" "Fist just answer the questions. Where do you live, sir." "Well judge, that's what I don't want to say." "I don't want you to give me your address... just your neighborhood." "Well, I really don't want that revealed in public." "Is it uptown or downtown!!!" "Uptown, your honor." "Fine, next question." Then he went on with no problems for the rest of the standard questions. WTF is the big fucking secret of his neighborhood? He doesn't want us all moving in and making the rents go up?

A few more crazies in the pool... one old timer who was COMPLETELY deaf. Judge asked court officer to go get the hearing aid device for him. Si we wait... and wait... and wait... ok, tries it on. Can you hear me now?? Good!!! Seems to do OK w/ the headphones, and judge says specifically "Be sure to keep those on the whole time so you can hear everything." Two seconds later he take them off.

One lady "I don't think 126th St is a place I'd like to be at 1am. But I though about it over lunch and I can TRY to overlook that." Judge says "You know people do live there, right?" She's like "Yes, I know... it's just not a place I'd like to be."

My (least) favorite lady says "Well, I'm a clinical psycologist, and I have empathy for people." Judge says "Do you think you can be objective, follow my instructions, and apply the law according to the evidence?" Lady then says "Well you know... it's kinda like..." and attemts some kind of non-verbal communication... squinches her face up... shakes her hands on the side of her head and says "It's like... you know... ". Judge says "I'm sorry. I didn't understand your comment. Can you be clear in your answer?" Again she squinches her face up... shakes her hands on the side of her head and says "It's like... sort of... yeah..." Judge says "Yeah? What are you agreeing to when you say 'Yeah' ?" Lady says, "well, I'm a clinical psychologists and I have empathy for people". This goes on for seven fucking minutes... "Can you apply the law as instucted"... "Maybe... I can try my best..."

Now appart from the deaf guy in the Jury box, there's another "officially" deaf person still in the jury pool. She brought her own sign language interpreter. The deaf woman looks well dressed and alert... the interpreter looks like she's freaking homeless. But the whole time while she's signing away, she's making the most halarious funny faces like a freaking cartoon character... totally characaturing everthing anybody says... rolling her eyes... sticking her tongue out... making retarded faces every time somebody said something retarded.

THEN... lawyers get up and ask their questions. Prosecutor was consice... asked if anybody had problem with understanding the "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof. Asked if they had a problem if there was no DNA, no video tape, and only ONE witness would testify (which is apparently what will happen). Mystery "uptown" guy has to say "but then we're gonna have to decide if this one guy is telling the truth." Judge says "YES, you certainly will." (it was as close to saying NO FUCKING DUH as a judge will come)

Then court appointed defense attourny takes the podium... apparently right after chearleader practice. What a fucking stupid retard she is. I won't be able to describe the useless job she did. Suffice to say she was supposed to be determining which jurrors would have trouble following "innocent until proven guilty", "prosecutor must make the case, not her or her client", and "prosecutor must make his case BEYOND REASNABLE DOUBT". While attempting to make these points, she ask questions to random people and when they answered she would say "and do the rest of you agree?" There's no way in hell she could have determined who would be able to meet her requirements or not. No way... no how... not the way she was randomly asking questions to random people.

Worst of all, she posed this convoluted three part question to mystery uptown guy... "what if there are multiple charges and they can't prove any of them?" "What if there were mulitple charges and they could prove all of them?" "What if there were multiple charges and they could only prove one of them?"

That's the simplified version... her version was sooo freaking convoluted I swear uptown boy was doing Venn diagrams in his head. He was clearly convinced these were trick questions and thought long and hard about each one... the judge told her to re-state the questions because they were just ridiculous. Then she said them very simply... and uptown guy still had trouble giving the obvious answers... "don't convict on any", "convict on all", "convict only on the one." This was just tooooo dificult for the two of them to get straight. There were audible groans in the room as people realized that this poor thug's livelyhood rested in the hands of an idiot... and possibly another idiot in the jury box.

Soooooo... FINALLY... judge tells us all, take 20 minute break. Lawyers will decide who they will keep in the jury, and who will be rejected. 45 minutes later, we go back into the room and they announce they will keep 8 of the 24 jurrors. Yes, 16 were rejected. This concludes today's procedings... all 54 of us have to go back in the morning to fill in the now vacated seats.

BTW: they rejected deaf old timer, uncomfortable w/ 126th street lady, clinical psychologist, and uptown boy. How they picked the other 12 rejections, I'll never know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Two Movies

Two I caught on cable over the weekend...

Shaun of the Dead
I agree w/ Butts on this one. It hits the mark on all fronts... great comedy, great zombie movie, great film making. The attention to details was uncanny, especially in the beginning when the slackers were completely unaware of what was going on all around them. I suspect I'm the only one who didn't see this long ago, but if you haven't seen it, go get it now.

I had confused this with an American movie that came out at about the same time... some teenage kids become zombified, sort of a takeoff on the teen movie genre. While that movie was good, Shaun of the Dead is on a whole different level. Hats, heads, and limbs off to Shaun of the Dead.

The Simpsons
Finally caught this one. A must see for Simpsons fans (so probably all of you have already seen it), but don't get your hopes up too high. It's essentially an hour and a half episode of The Simpsons... nothing more, nothing less. Apart from a little more attention to detail in the art work, you get a fairly typical episode. Not that that's a bad thing... I don't know what more I should have expected. And frankly, I wouldn't want them to do something altogether different. It has all the characters you want to see, many references to episodes gone by, and straight up Simpsons hijinx.