Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolution

My New Year’s resolution is to be true to myself, listen to my heart, and follow my passions. Two of my passions are writing and movies. So, to merge the two, I’ll be posting reviews of movies on my blog and on FB. You can either read my notes or watch the video versions of the reviews—whatever floats your boat or stirs your oatmeal. I welcome your input, so long as it’s constructive. (Anonymous, spineless cyber-rats need not apply.) Enjoy!

Galvinizing Review--Yogi Bear (2010)

The good thing about reading bad reviews of a movie you’re about to watch is that it lowers your expectations enough to be pleasantly surprised by how NOT bad the movie was. That was the case with Yogi Bear, which I recently, albeit reluctantly, watched with my eight year old son. While it won’t win any Oscars, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Before going any further, though, some disclaimers are in order. First, I have been spoiled by Pixar, which, borrowing from its Google friends south of the Bay, can do no wrong. So, it would be unfair to compare Yogi Bear to any Pixar movie, one of which HAS been nominated for an Oscar. Second, I did not watch the movie in 3-D. (Although I’m not sure that would have made it any better. The 3-D images seemed superfluous. Then again, when a movie’s main character is a talking bear, what about that movie isn’t superfluous?) Third and last, as I mentioned earlier, I lowered my expectations going into the movie, so I am grading it on a very low curve here.

Now that I’ve dispensed with the disclaimers, I can talk about the movie itself.

But before I do that, I should mention that the movie, stealing a page from Pixar, started off with a funny and nostalgic Road Runner/Wile E Coyote short. That was a nice treat. I took me back to my childhood days of watching poor old Wile E chasing Road Runner. (I still feel sorry for him and hate the Road Runner. And I have always wondered why he’s chasing the Road Runner anyway? What’s so special about the Road Runner? S/he is such an annoying tease, like girls I that wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school and college. But I digress.) The short was classic Loony Tunes that stayed true to the original formula with only a modern technology twist. Watching Yogi Bear was worth catching that short.

Okay, like for real now, time to talk about the movie itself.

Here’s my quick synopsis without a spoiler: Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) causes mayhem stealing picnic baskets in Jellystone National Park while his close friend, Boo-boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake), tries to help him and keep him out of trouble with the not-so-goofy goofy Head Ranger Smith (played by Tom Cavanagh). The plot of the movie kicks in when the mayor (played by Andrew Daly) attempts to sell off the park to loggers in order to dig his city out of a budget deficit, give voters money from the subsequent budget surplus, (Hmmmm…stimulus package reference, anyone?), and thus position himself to win his run for state governor. Along the way, Ranger Smith falls for the goofy Rachel (played by the awesome and really goofy Anna Faris), an extreme nature film-maker who shoots a documentary about Yogi and ends up helping Ranger Smith and Yogi save the park.

So the eco-friendly plot was cool, and very fitting for a story set in a national park. I appreciated my son getting that moral. (Or did he?) And although trite, the plot was believable enough, especially in this era of perennial fiscal crisis when every government is looking everywhere for revenue.

As for funny, I found myself laughing against my will, perhaps not as much as my son, who laughed at will. Aykroyd may not be funny as he used to be and Timberlake and Cavanagh were bland as cold tofu, but Faris was very, very funny because she is always, always funny.

(Remember her in all those “Scary Movie” movies?) The human side of the script was hella funny and clearly directed towards an adult sensibility, and Daly as the mayor was by far the funniest part of the movie. His blatant portrayal of a blatant politician was frighteningly accurate, akin to Robert Redford in “The Candidate” or Warren Beatty in “Bulworth”, and his Chief of Staff (played by Nate Corddry) filled the sycophant role all too well.

But, most important of all, my son thoroughly enjoyed himself. And that made it worth forking out my money, spending my time, and lowering my film standards.

I give it 3 out of 5 picnic baskets.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What We Need Is Humility

Recently, Rik Villegas, an Instructor in Northern Marianas College’s Business Department and regular columnist for the Saipan Tribune, solicited input on an article he is writing as a follow-up to his 1999 article, “The One Thing”. As he put it, “I’m writing to ask your input and share with me what you feel “the one thing” is that could be the catalyst to turn things around at the College and positively impact the community.”

In response, I wrote the following:

I believe the most important catalyst we need to turn things around at the College, "The One Thing", is humility.

No one is perfect. We all know that. We all make mistakes. Still, rarely does anyone have the humility to admit those mistakes, learn from them, and use those lessons to do better next time. That’s a recipe for disaster, especially when our mistakes affect others.

As I see it, dysfunctional relationships and habits have plagued NMC for so long that they have compromised our ability to fulfill its mission. However, just as with any dysfunctional relationship, one must get past denial and fess up to the mistakes one has made. Only then will that relationship change and flourish. If we all spend our time pointing out the splinters in each others' eyes, we grow blind to the planks in our own eyes.

I know that I, too, have suffered from this hubris. I have sometimes failed to exercise due diligence in making important decisions that affect others. I have sometimes focused so much on the big picture that I failed to notice those details that betray the beauty of that picture. I have sometimes trusted those I should have doubted, and doubted those I should have trusted. And I have sometimes fell into silent acquiescence when I should have stood in thunderous protest.

These are just some of the mistakes I have made. And I know that I will make many more. But I hope that I will always be humble enough to acknowledge my mistakes, learn from them, and commit to correcting them and improving who I am, what I do, and how I treat others. It is my hope that we will all do the same.

So, for me, "The One Thing" that can turn the College around and, perhaps, turn our entire community around, is humility.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Philosopher Children

This is a great article on how some teachers are using children's books to teach children philosophy. No child left behind? How about no thought left behind? Check it out and share you thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Plague of Mediocrity

Reading Ayn Rand’s The Foundtainhead again after over a decade. It makes me wonder: When you consider the true greatness that is man’s potential—Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Monet’s “Waterlilies”, William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”—are you left with nothing but your measly existence and a festering contempt for your fellow man and for yourself? I mean, how can the mundane, pedestrian minutiae of our lives compare to the heights of Alexander the Great, Albert Einstein, and Virginia Woolf? I suppose that’s the rub in Hamlet’s discovery of Yorick’s skull: no matter what greatness one can achieve, at the end of the day, at the end of our days, we are nothing but worm food “stopping a bunghole”. But, alas, our work can outlive us. How many of us can claim that? How many of us want to? How many of us are afraid to?