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April 2009 Archives

April 4, 2009

#69 - Shane

Yes, folks, it's another western (and not the last). This 1953 entry stars Alan Ladd as the titular character, a mysterious gunslinger who gets embroiled in a conflict between a homesteading family (played by Van Helfin and Jean Arthur) and a ruthless cattle baron. George Stevens directs.

Okay, okay, okay. I'm starting to come around on the westerns. I have disliked all of the westerns we've seen for this project, but I dislike this one less. I think the gap between viewing and reviewing this film (I saw it last May) actually helped because it seems better looking back. I gave it 2 stars on Netflix back then, but I changed that to a 3 while writing this review. How's that for growth?

Shane has many of the hallmarks of a good western: the simple story that never plays out as simple as it sounds, the universal moral conflicts of good vs. evil played out by people who aren't quite either, and the vast, breathtaking and imposing landscapes that frame it all. I have seen these now several times and am beginning to understand the subtleties of how they are used to good effect.

One thing that I think Shane has in abundance over other westerns are the characters. We've seen plenty of morally ambiguous characters, but everyone in this movie felt real instead of just needlessly complex. Shane himself is a hero, yes, but one who knows the same heroic qualities than enable him to save the day are the same qualities that mean he must not stay, leading to the heartbreaking and iconic final scene as the young boy who has idolized Shane implores him to come back as he rides away.

The relationships that develop between Shane and his adopted family members are natural, and the consequences that ensue due to the story make intuitive sense. I enjoyed the interplay between Shane and the family, between the family and the other homesteaders, between Shane and the ranchers. It seemed well constructed. We don't have to like the way the film turns out, but it is satisfying nonetheless.

The characters also appealed to me in a fashion that has been honed by many years of reading comic books and fantasy novels and playing computer games. I always enjoy seeing characters who are obviously powerhouses in their particular realm of existence match up against one another. If you rated every character in the movie on a gunslinging scale from 1 to 10, it's obvious that Shane gets a 10. Jack Wilson (played by a young and fantastic Jack Palance) gets a 9, which is plenty good enough to have him be a nigh-unstoppable force of evil in the movie. But Shane will get the best of him, and does. This is despite, or perhaps even because of, Shane's awareness of the Spider-Man Credo ("With great power comes great responsibility").

This curiously mechanical viewpoint on conflict is something I see and enjoy in a lot of media, so the fact that I get this feeling from this film isn't really unusual, but I figured it bore mentioning anyway.

So yeah. It's still a western, which means it is automatically hokey, backwards and artificial to me. The themes could have been easily explored in some other genre that I would have enjoyed watching more. But as far as westerns go, it was okay.

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)

April 9, 2009

Baseball, You Guys

Yay, baseball is here! Here are some baseball related things.

  • The Twins have a winning record so far. They're even leading the AL Central! I have to say this now in case it is not true for the rest of the year. Though honestly, I have no idea what will happen in the Central this year, as it is a pretty weak division currently.
  • Where we live, Boston or in New York are the two easiest options for seeing the Twins live without traveling extreme distances. Unfortunately, we won't be seeing them at all, because all of the games at both locations are sold out of moderately priced tickets. And since it's basically legal to scalp tickets now, there were thousands of tickets available online, but I loathe and despise the ticket resale industry and refuse to support it by buying tickets from a third party. So in all likelihood we won't be seeing the Twins in person this year.
  • Our fancy new flat screen TV has a VGA input, which means we can watch anything on the computer on it. Including Twins games via MLB.tv. We watched a bit of last night's game this way and the picture's not bad for our mediocre DSL bandwidth.
  • This also means fantasy baseball has begun. I'm playing in my regular league, which is comprised of many friends from St. Olaf. It's an extremely competitive league and my draft didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped. I was feeling pretty down about this, so on a whim, I went and joined another league right before the season started. It's a rather shallow public league, and I anticipate that it will be a good antidote and confidence builder compared to the soul-crushing difficulty of my regular league.

And finally, my least favorite thing about baseball -- when a young player gets his chance at stardom snatched away before he's even had a chance to try. Rest in peace, Nick.

April 15, 2009

Miranda Sings

The current funniest thing on the Internet for me is Miranda Sings. Miranda is a singer from Tacoma, WA, who is just trying to make a name for herself using nothing but her talent, her drive for success, and some YouTube videos. Check out her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. You can even learn how to sing like her from her free voice lesson!

Before you click, though, I should warn you that her videos are not for the faint of heart. And by "heart" I mean "musical appreciation." Because Miranda is terrible. She can't sing on key, with or without accompaniment. Her vocal technique is cringe-worthy. Her musicianship is off the scale -- the low end, that is. My poor wife usually can't make it through 30 seconds of her videos.

But what isn't entirely clear (to many of the commenters on YouTube especially) is that Miranda is a joke: she's a character created and played, as best I can gather, by Colleen Ballinger, a recent Azusa Pacific University graduate in vocal performance. Colleen has some YouTube videos that display her interest in contemporary Broadway fare, and in them, she's just fine; she's even pretty good, if you like that sort of thing. But I'm somewhat sad to say that her future may be in comedy, because Miranda's lampoon of self-obsessed singers in the age of YouTube is spot on.

This hits my sweet spot for Internet weirdness for a number of reasons. First off, the videos in and of themselves are so bad you can't help but laugh. And once you understand it's satire, you add that level of humor (one that's particularly appealing to me, because I can't stand singers with an ego). But I love love love the reactions. The usual "OMG your terrible" ones are good, but there are people trying to correct her "advice" in the voice lesson, or telling her what she's doing wrong... they're all just so earnest in their criticism. And then there are the people who get the joke, who post the supportive comments! I love it. Plus, I have so many friends who really are professional musicians, and some of them are just as taken in as the broader public. Fantastic.

Go Miranda. And haters, back off. You're just jealous.

About April 2009

This page contains all entries posted to This Side of Lost in April 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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