Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I've been gone . . .

Sorry to any who read this blog. As of late I haven't touched my blogspot but rather have been posting brief things I enjoy on my tumblr account here, or blogging in long-form over at Chud.com.

My recent entries at Chud:

Nicole Kidman: Wrongfully Maligned

I salute you, Jackass 3D!

Cut Your Teeth Already! Part One

Cut Your Teeth Already! Part Two

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Sassy Gay Friend: The New Magical Stereotype

The Magical Negro is a powerful figure in American fiction. He’s had a constant presence in cinema and television from the beginning. From little Ms. Temple’s dear friend Bojangles to the honkies’ saving grace Michael Clark Duncan in The Green Mile, the Magical Negro has been featured as one of the more prominent stereotypes in our media. Author Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, however, outlines the problem: It is the subordination of a minority figure masked as the empowerment of one. This disguised denigration has been protested and lambasted, notably by African-American filmmaker Spike Lee, and has seen less prominence in the public forum. But it did not leave without finding a replacement: the Sassy Gay Friend.

The Sassy Gay Friend is a perfect heir to the throne as a minority striving for acceptance by secretly subordinating itself. Okorafor-Mbachu identifies what he calls the “5 Points of the Magical Negro” as the following most common attributes:

  1. He or she is a person of color, typically black, often Native American, in a story about predominantly white characters.
  2. He or she seems to have nothing better to do than help the white protagonist, who is often a stranger to the Magical Negro at first.
  3. He or she disappears, dies, or sacrifices something of great value after or while helping the white protagonist.
  4. He or she is uneducated, mentally handicapped, at a low position in life, or all of the above.
  5. He or she is wise, patient, and spiritually in touch. Closer to the earth, one might say. He or she often literally has magical powers.

Each of theses 5 attributes can be found within the Sassy Gay Friend with little modification other than replacing each minority and majority with its proper parallel. Modeled after Okorafor-Mbachu’s own points, the “5 Points of the Sassy Gay Friend” would be as follows:

  1. He or she is a homosexual, possibly bisexual, in a story about predominantly heterosexual characters.
  2. He or she seems to have nothing better to do than help the straight protagonist, who is his or her close friend. He or she acts as the protagonist’s confidant.
  3. He or she disappears, dies, or sacrifices something of great value after or while helping the straight protagonist.
  4. He or she is intelligent, witty, campy or all of the above. He or she is identified by these archetypal traits as opposed to developed characterizations.
  5. He or she is wise, patient, and spiritually in touch. He or she often literally has magical powers, or powers and abilities the heterosexual characters do not and cannot possess.

Each stereotype has its prejudiced parallels. While the Magical Negro would be pigeonholed into a working class or poverty level circumstance (point number 3) the Sassy Gay Friend will be found privileged in a stereotypically gay profession: designer, decorator, artist of some type, etc. Each mystical character will come from society’s stereotype of where they should be: the black man below the white; the gay man ironically distanced and culturally above the straight.

Homosexual characters in television and film are increasing as the years pass. This would be a positive step forward if it weren’t for the fact that the majority of these characters are relegated to being the Sassy Gay Friend. The character is used for comedic effect, is secondary to the heterosexual characters, and is used seriously only when advice, solace or comfort is needed. Take, for example, Rupert Everett’s character in the Julia Roberts romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding. He is a perfect example of the Sassy Gay Friend stereotype. The character is Julia Roberts’ confidant. He is there only when needed as a wise sage figure, or as a deus ex machina. He exists solely to guide the straight protagonist safely through her journey using nothing but witty repartee, the occasional bon mot and well-coiffed hair.

Or, look at the recent ABC sitcom Modern Family. Praised for its portrayal of a functional, loving homosexual couple, Modern Family often finds itself guilty of utilizing the stereotype of the Sassy Gay Friend. It makes the mistake already cited from Okorafor-Mbachu of appearing to empower the homosexual while truly subordinating it. The straight couples carry the largest dramatic weight on the show, whereas the homosexual couple is relegated to comedic relief. An undercurrent of “how can two stereotypical homosexual men fulfill the gender roles of a traditional heterosexual couple?” weakens any attempt at dramatic weight for the homosexual couple. This dichotomy allows for much humor, but very little progress for the homosexual. These are characters defined solely by their sexuality – and not just their sexuality alone – but their sexuality as a stereotype. While heterosexual characters may have varied interests and hobbies, the gay characters’ interests and hobbies are limited to “being gay.” While Finn on Glee may enjoy singing and football and Rachel is Jewish, loves musical theatre and being a diva; Kurt will always just be “the gay kid.”

The use of the Sassy Gay Friend places the homosexual at a safe distance from both the heterosexual character and the heterosexual viewer. Because the Sassy Gay Friend is there solely for entertainment and sage advice when needed, it allows the heterosexual to be left unharmed by the gayness of the Sassy Gay Friend. Rather than understanding the homosexual, the heterosexual viewer is able to point to the Sassy Gay Friend and say “I want one of those,” much like one would say about a new pair of Ferragamo shoes. A shopping decision surely made at the behest of your new gay best friend, who is great at helping you shop.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Things Obama Hates: Indie Film

Every morning as I awake to my Lee Greenwood alarm clock, get out of bed, salute the flag and eat my Wheaties (like the forefathers did!) I have only one thing on my mind: I must get on my knees and thank my American God for Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck, this glorious patriot, has opened my eyes to a mind-shattering truth: Obama is a racist. It's true! Why? Glenny-boy said it! Glenn Beck opened my eyes to the fact that Barack Obama is "a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or white culture."

"White culture" is a vague - very vague - generalization. So vague, in fact, that not even Glenn Beck himself knows how to define it. I've decided to help out my boy Glenn and define that which Obama hates. What is white culture? For what does Obama carry a deep-seated hatred? Take me by the hand and let us discover together the bigotry running the White House.

Obama hates:
Indie Film

As a man who hates white culture, Obama must indeed harbor a hatred for Indie Film. Before we can correctly outline why he hates Indie Film, it would be advantageous to make a distinction of what it exactly is that Indie Film is.

Indie Film is a distinct genre of film. It is NOT necessarily independent film, but is often made independently. In mathematical terms we would say a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square. Independent film is Indie Film, but Indie Film is not always independent. Wait . . . no . . . Uh . . . An Indie Film is independent, but an independent film is not always an Indie Film. Hmmm . . . that doesn't work either. Forget what I said. Math and independent film have nothing to do with one another. Unless it's Pi.

Independent films do not equal Indie Film. Independent films are simply movies made outside the financing of major Hollywood studios. Indie Film is a genre sought after by marketers in order to reach the American Apparel demographic. Their soundtracks are filled by quirky white bands from white countries such as Great Britain, Sweden and someplace called Oosah, or USA. There are untold genres financed independently. Even minorities have their own ethno-centric independently financed films, which means Obama couldn't hate all independent films. If he did he couldn't enjoy Soul Food, Shaft, or Tyler Perry's first films. But he can and does hate Indie Film, because Indie Film is a thoroughly white endeavor.

Indie Film is wholly caucasian. The plots feature white people facing problems distinct to white people immersed in white culture. More often than not the protagonist is a white male facing difficulties which do not - how does one say this lightly? - easily transcend racial borders. Ahem. Indie Film protagonists suffer frequently with disillusionment, especially in relation to wealth. A white guy eventually realizes his mistress and his BMW won't "fulfill" him. What will fulfill him? A quirky girl who will enlighten him to the higher ways of being. She will either fulfill him romantically or fulfill him musically presented him with a wealth of Indie Music artists. This white music/film crossover creates a venn diagram of ultimate hate possibility ratio sum of anger. Because these films focus so heavily on white people experiencing problems that no other races experience, Obama has no choice but to dismiss these films entirely.

Indie Film shares a common birthplace and breeding ground with independent film: Park City, Utah. A ski resort town, the only minorities in sight are either whitewashing themselves by disguising their race with ski-boots and puffy vests or being relegated by The Man into low-grade service jobs. This degradation of the black man rears its ugly head as the Sundance Film Festival - Indie Film's favorite parent. The Sundance Film Festival is personified as Robert Redford: the Ultimate White Man. His rugged honky-good-looks and Americanized work ethic represent the ideal cracker for all other white men. Even more representative of its whiteness is - again - its treatment of the black man and the fact it pronounces "foliage" as "foil-age." Obama hates foil-age.

Indie Film is a white man's game. Independent film is for all men, especially men named Spike Lee. But Indie Film is for whitey. FUBU in a vintage shop.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Things Obama Hates: White People

Every morning as I awake to my Lee Greenwood alarm clock, get out of bed, salute the flag and eat my Wheaties (like the forefathers did!) I have only one thing on my mind: I must get on my knees and thank my American God for Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck, this glorious patriot, has opened my eyes to a mind-shattering truth: Obama is a racist. It's true! Why? Glenny-boy said it! Glenn Beck opened my eyes to the fact that Barack Obama is "a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or white culture."

"White culture" is a vague - very vague - generalization. So vague, in fact, that not even Glenn Beck himself knows how to define it. I've decided to help out my boy Glenn and define that which Obama hates. What is white culture? For what does Obama carry a deep-seated hatred? Take me by the hand and let us discover together the bigotry running the White House.

Obama hates:

White People

You may be telling yourself "that can't be true, that's a pretty grotesque claim." But it is a true claim. TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTH!!!!! What is a larger part of white culture than white people themselves? Answer: nothing. Nothing is a larger signifier of white culture than an actual white person. Actually, that's false. There is one signifier of white culture that is better than a white person, and that is several white persons: white people.

Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people. As the scripture says "where two are three honkies are gathered, there will Obama hate them." (Matthew 18:20) He hates their narrow noses, he hates their rosy complexions, he hates their hatchbacks and their NorthFace half-zip fleeces. But most of all, he just hates THEM. How do we know this? First and foremost, because Glenn Beck told me that Obama is "a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people." But if that is not enough proof for you, let's look at some other reasons!

Obama is trying to pass health care reform, which at one point included a public option. His desires to provide health care to every American are a direct thumb to the nose to white people. Why? Because it would provide health care to minorities and illegal immigrants. (Two groups he likes, probably because he's both a minority - black - and an illegal immigrant - Kenyan - he favors these groups) How would he pay for minority and immigrant health care? By using the money of white people who have worked very hard for it. He wants to steal their money then redistribute it! That definitely proves he hates white people!

Obama had a friend who is African American who was arrested for a misunderstanding that was blown way out of proportion. Obama called white people stupid because of that. End of story. Nothing else happened, and there is nothing else to speak about with this subject. He said white people were stupid. In context, probably, too!

Obama has czars: lots of them. He even made this one black czar retire so Glenn Beck could win at everything. (Whooooo!) Why did he make the black one retire? So he could have a bunch of white czars. Now, you may be confused by this. You say, "If he hates white people so much why would he have so many cabinet members (or czars for short) that are white or white-ish? Wouldn't they technically be considered white(ish) people?" Yes, they do count as white people. (well, except for Kathleen Sebelius who's pretty scarily thug) But think about it, he wants white czars because what happened to the czars? THEY WERE KILLED! It's symbolic! He wants white people killed like the czars were killed! And who killed the czars? More white people! So he's promulgating the idea that white people are violent and kill other white people! What more proof could you ask for???? One more creepy thing: Who killed the czars? Communists, Marxists, Communist-Marxists, Socialists and sociologists! HE'S A COMMUNIST WHO HATES WHITE PEOPLE. Who wants whites to die like the czars! Who wants to steal white money and give it to undeserving people! Who thinks whites are stupid! Who hates your Toyota Corolla! What has happened to this country???????

People, these are some scary times we're living in. But trust in me and what I tell you and we'll make it through together. I'll be back soon, and together we will discover even more things that Obama hates.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spurious Claims: Volume One - The "Mainstreem"

The world is chock-full of erroneous information passing itself off as fact. Sometimes these facts are so incredibly poorly gathered or misrepresented that they more than merit examination and correction. So here I am with a new feature: Spurious Claims, where I can debunk certain items of falsified information according to my desires.

Today I feature an article found in BYU's The Daily Universe about the film 500 Days of Summer entitled "Indie films find success in mainstreem" (sic) by Rebekah DeMordaunt. I won't reprint the article here, but you can find it in its entirety here. I will simply print the point that I would like to counter and follow with my statements. I will start by listing issues I have that are based on fact, and then any issues of opinion.

Issue number 1: The headline is "Indie films find success in mainstreem." (sic) If you can't spell-check your own headline, especially a major word that backs up your entire argument, why should I take anything you say seriously? Why should I trust you as a competent writer?

Issue number 2: DeMordaunt says ". . . with the advent of digital cinematography, independent films are competing in the box office with the big studio productions—and, in some cases, they’re winning . . . '(500) Days of Summer' is a prime example." In fact, Rebekah, it is not a prime example. Of independent films finding a following larger than the art-house crew? Yes, it's prime. As an independent film winning against the big studio productions? In no way is it a prime example. Let's look at the numbers. At the writing of this blog the current box office of the film is $30,189,124. That is in no competition with the big-boys of the summer. 30 million is nothing compared to the current 400 and some-odd million of Transformers 2. Sure, it has earned back its 7.5 million dollar budget, but 30 million is no competition for summer tentpole films. In fact, 30 million is a big win for this independent film, but that figure attached to a summer film from a big studio would be considered a massive flop. DeMordaunt continues by saying "the movie’s popularity quickly skyrocketed and is currently showing in theaters across the country, including Provo." This statement is true, but a poor argument for winning against large-budget studio films. The film opened its widest release the weekend of August 14, playing in 1,048 theaters. Take that number and compare it with a large studio picture. Transformers 2 opened in over 4,000 theaters, as well as the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise and the latest Pixar and Dreamworks films. Going to the widest in a quarter of the theaters of its competitors does not show strong competition. If it were currently grossing more than a quarter of the grosses of its competition it would be laudable, but as it stands all the numbers and facts show that DeMordaunt's statement is unfounded and based on either opinion or conjecture as opposed to fact.

Issue number 3: DeMordaunt uses the following quote by Chris Wyatt to support her point: “Independent films . . . don’t have to appeal to every man, woman and child in America; they only have to appeal to a certain niche audience or unique audience. They have the ability to speak to a small group of people, to speak with a very specific voice, and to talk about things that only a small segment of the population talk about . . .” Using a quote about how independent films can cater to small niche audiences is not a good argument as to why independent films are finding a large, mainstream audience. In fact, it's completely counterproductive to that little friend I like to call logic.

Issue number 4: DeMordaunt closes with the statement: "Other independent films currently showing that have created a buzz in the mainstream include 'Adam,' 'Paper Heart,' and 'Food, Inc.'” All of these films are actually creating no buzz in the mainstream. They are films, however that recently played or opened in the local independent cinemas in Utah, hence why DeMordaunt may feel as if they are indeed making their mark. "Food, Inc." actually opened a week before "(500) Days of Summer" but has grossed only $4,238,694 to date. "Adam," opening two weeks after "(500) Days of Summer" has grossed a mere $2,033,298 and "Paper Heart" the most recent of the mentioned films opened mid-August with a current $1,159,967 gross. The widest released of these films, "Adam" peaked with 177 theaters. This in no way indicates mainstream buzz.

Now let's play into some of my opinion-based arguments against this ridiculous article.

Issue number 5: DeMordaunt swoons, "The movie, which at the surface seems like a basic 'boy meets girl' story, dares to defy common industry practice by actually showing the realities of romance and love." Sorry to burst your bubble, there, Bekah, but it is a basic "boy meets girl story." It may dress up in hipper clothes from urban outfitters and name-drop musicians that most people supposedly don't know, but underneath the hip veneer, it truly is as basic as can be. In fact, if it weren't for 2 or 3 well-used (and rarely-used, I may add) cinematic conventions, "(500) days of Summer" would be no different than any Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn/Cameron Diaz/Matthew McConaughey romcom. Unless, of course there is something different in their onscreen relationship than what we see in traditional romantic comedies that merits the idea that it defies "common industry practice by actually showing the realities of romance and love." But there isn't. Their relationship is just as manufactured and stale (more so, to tell the truth) as any relationship in which we would find Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Therefore the only plausible explanation to this sentiment is due to the fact that Summer and Tom don't end up together. The "realities of romance and love" displayed in this film are no more or less cliche than any other basic "How to Lose a Guy Who's Just Not That Into Your Ghosts of Girlfriends' Failure to Launch a Two Weeks Notice of Music and Lyrics" except that the title couple does not end up together. Each member of the couple's story ends happily and tritely - don't worry, kids! - but just not together. By this logic does DeMordaunt think that the "reality of romance and love" equates separation and heartbreak? I doubt it, though the prospect is amusing. What I imagine, though, is she is one of the many to think that because it does not end with the traditional Hollywood happy denouement it is inherently unique. That idea is laughable. Long before Tom brooded for umpteen days over the loss of Summer, Ilsa got onto the plane leaving Rick alone. Humphrey Bogart lost the girl long before Tom did. "The Philadelphia Story," one film in the long line of influences for modern-day romantic comedies (starting with "It Happened one Night") features a love triangle between Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and John Howard. They can't all end up with her, can they? One of the biggest filmmaking influences on the film is "Annie Hall," Woody Allen's 1977 masterpiece - get this for unique, kids! - that makes known from the beginning the relationship will end, where the 4th wall is repeatedly broken, features an animated sequence and many more unique ideas you can also find in "(500) Days of Summer!" Tonally, "(500) Days of Summer" attempts to crib much from "The Graduate," but fails in creating something so rich and nuanced, leaving us with a feeling of a low-rent "Garden State." (another major thematic influence)

Issue number 6: DeMordaunt says "The characters seem more real, the dialogue more convincing . . ." My sweet Becky (can I call you Becky?) do you not yet understand that just because it doesn't end like we expect it to, it doesn't make things more real? Actually, because of this desire to play to Chris Wyatt's aforementioned "niche audience" the characters and dialogue both suffer from a lack of realism. Summer as a character is a blank. She is given quirks instead of nuance or dimensions. Tom is head-over-heels in love with her, but the audience is never given a glimpse as to why. She remains a distant cypher the entire film, thus the relationship that drives the film seems as hollow and unimportant as she is. As for the dialogue, the filmmakers knew their niche audience very well. The dialogue reflects this knowledge. It is tailored towards identification and attraction towards a specific demographic and thus it strays far from realistic and into a hyper-stylized speech. The dialogue is just as stylized as any Tarantino Talk-a-thon or Mamet-ian Verbal Thriller, but simply filled with iconic references to subjects that the target audience will understand. It is far from realistic. Take into consideration as well moments where the film tries to disengage itself from its established stylistic vernacular to attempt traditional movie verbal histrionics. For example: Tom's monologue ending with him quitting his job becomes a terribly maudlin and awkward sequence, betraying the films previously established language for a complete reversal. Speaking of believable characters, as well as the status of "unique" bestowed upon the film, let us note that Summer is a fantasy character - one of the most prevalent fantasy characters in modern cinema since hobbits. She is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or MPDG for short, a term coined by The AV Club's Nathan Rabin, signifying a character that is "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." (Read more of MPDGs here and the original use of the phrase here) Her shallow characterization and her blatant existence as such a stereotype further distances the film and the characters from the realm of "realism."

Issue number 7: DeMordaunt solidifies the group-think agreement of the profundity, uniqueness and greatness of the film by including quotes to affirm her position from Joe-the-Plumber everyman-types. The article states, "Kelli Rich, a BYU student from Houston, Texas, said she liked “(500) Days of Summer” because it was unique." Really, Kelli? Rich continues saying “I thought it was a different twist on a romantic comedy because as I was watching it I wasn’t able to guess what was happening within the first 10 minutes. I thought it was an interesting way to portray that type of story.” REALLY, KELLI? You couldn't guess what was happening in the first 10 minutes? Even when the narrator tells you exactly what is going to happen? Really? DeMordaunt includes a quote from BYU sophomore Ben Zabriskie, a guy with whom I would apparently never be friends or with whom I'd want to "chillax" based on his following quote: “Independent films are often times more creative with music and can worry less about fitting into the mainstream.” Ok, here, Benji, look-see: "(500) Days of Summer" was manufactured with an audience in mind. Said audience loved the moment in "Garden State" where Zach Braff's life is forever changed by an introduction to The Shins. Hence "(500) Days of Summer" includes the same type of scene but only with The Smiths. First of all - THE FREAKING SMITHS? Are they really that underground? Is Morrissey really that unknown? Did the 80s never happen? The Smiths are not some obscure unknown band: THEY'RE THE EFFING SMITHS. You like the creativity with music? Then watch a movie that features actual creativity with music, not simple references meant to wink at the intended audience. Try anything by Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino or "The Graduate" by Mike Nichols. There you'll see actual creativity with music in filmmaking. In "(500) Days of Summer" all you'll find are cleverly picked song choices, and a good soundtrack does not a good movie make. The fact of the matter, though, is that the intended audience eats it up. The flannel-clad row of adultolescents sporting skinny jeans in the row in front of me would wink and nod at each other - maybe even a sly elbow to the ribs - with every mention of The Smiths, or when Tom wears a Joy Division t-shirt. "This one's for us!" they seem to say. That type of filmmaking is not any more creative or unique than standard Hollywood fare. It is simply manufactured and marketed for a different audience. Finally, Becksters, dearie, did we not already establish that it's not a good idea to use a quote contradicting your opinion that independent films are finding power in the mainstream? Then WHY OH WHY do you use Benjie's quote? It ends with him musing on how independent films need not "worry . . . about fitting into the mainstream" I thought we'd moved past this!

In closing, I must state that I don't know why I reacted so harshly or even with such vitriol to this article. But I did. I feel my points are justified. I also feel that one should not write or speak without reflection, examination of factual data and perhaps proofreading. Opinion pieces should stay in the editorial pages and non-editorial pieces should feature more fact than opinion. If speaking on the successes of modern independent film in the mainstream, why not discuss Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire," an independent film that opened in 6 theaters, but eventually widened to nearly 3,000. It grossed over $140,000,000 and won the Academy Award for best picture. Rebekah DeMordaunt, that is an independent film that competes with studio-made films. Please take note. Why not discuss that success, though? Oh yes, I forgot. An op-ed piece on "Slumdog Millionaire" won't get you asked out by the cute boy in the keffiyah, but "(500) Days of Summer" definitely catches the eye of our friend in the thick, black-framed glasses.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dear to me: Volume 1

There's little more enjoyable to me than sharing things that I love with people I care about. It makes those things that I love all the more special to me, and it creates a fun little bond between my friends and I. With this in mind I've decided to share periodically certain things I love here on the blog.

Volume One: Karleen's Uptown Fare

Uptown Fare is a hidden gem, it is also the best food I've had to eat since returning from France. Uptown Fare is found at 227 Main Street in Park City. It's slightly higher on Main Street than the Egyptian, and on the opposite side of the street. It's a restaurant that's easy to miss, one must really keep one's eye out for it, but it is completely worth finding. 

Now let me begin by saying that I mean it 100% when I say it's the best food I've had in the states since returning from Europe. But that being said, it is not simply because the food is good - it is - but that the owners and operators understand the fundamental principle that it is not only the food that makes for a good meal, but also the atmosphere. First the food, then the atmosphere.

Uptown Fare is pretty much a simple little bistro. They have a simple menu consisting of sandwiches and soups, nothing too original, but altogether delicious. The sandwiches are made on bread from the local bakery and topped with organic vegetables. Their turkey sandwiches are made with real turkey breast cut from the turkey that is sitting right there on the counter. Make sure to get some cranberry sauce on it, it's delicious. If turkey's not your style go for the roast beef, ham or pastrami. They are all delicious, but if you want my recommendation get a half sandwich and then a bowl of soup, that's your best choice. The soups are all homemade each morning and the menu changes daily. I've never been disappointed by the soups, and if you're lucky enough to arrive on a day they're serving cucumber brie, by all means eat some. Their thai chicken noodle and tomato tortellini are equally delicious. 

Walk into the bistro and you'll feel immediately at home. It could be the intimate space - the restaurant is smaller than many people's living rooms. Or it could be the cozy feeling interior, filled with mismatched tables and chairs found at - I'm assuming - various yard sales. But I think it is the owners themselves. Walk in and they'll greet you, as you order they'll talk to you and to each other. This is where I enjoy it the most - maybe they'll greet you happily or maybe they'll be in a more sour mood - but they're always honest, and they always treat you to the best meal they have.

As you leave and pay make sure to leave some room for one of their fresh-baked desserts lining the countertops, and leave room for someone else to take your table. It's nearly always full at Uptown Fare.

A Reconsideration of Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood

Those who know me and know my taste in film will know that I think There Will Be Blood is one of the best American-made films of the past decade. My love for this film is great, and maybe one day I'll describe that saga for a little bit of fun. But I've had many a debate with my friends over one aspect that I always found lacking in the film: That of the performance of Paul Dano as the brothers Sunday. I always felt that it was the weakest part of the otherwise near-flawless film. It wasn't as if I regarded the whole of the performance as poor, either, but rather his acting in the last scene of the film that gave me a sour taste in my mouth. The rest of the film he does quite fine for himself, despite my feelings that he was always somehow slightly "off." His last moments, though, always hit me as over-reaching and bothered me for some unfound reason.

This time around I think I may have changed my opinion of his performance. In reconsidering his performance I saw first, his more grounded and assured performance as the briefly seen Paul. His performance as Paul is slight in its difference from his performance as Eli, but in comparing the two, the more assured Paul versus Eli - whom I always felt was slightly off - makes the feeling of uncertainty rising form Eli work for Dano. It presents Dano as what he is, a charlatan and a deceiver. Having Paul played as grounded and assured gives us the sense of Dano's sensibilities and capacity as an actor, and to have the lack of it as Eli gives Eli a greater sense of character. This feeling of Eli being off is less about Dano's capability as an actor and more of the actual character of Eli. 

As for the last scene of the film, I realized that Dano is more consistent in his performance than I had earlier given him credit for. His breakdown and subsequent panic are in line with the performance he has given for the last two-and-a-half hours, as opposed to the inconsistent over-reaching I had previously assumed it to be. The last scene is still "off" in my senses, but it is no longer due to him being a weak actor, but in being a weaker actor than Daniel Day-Lewis. The truth of the matter is, Dano gives a wonderful and strong performance, but he is acting against a true force of nature, and cannot help but be overshadowed completely. It's not the poor kid's fault that he's acting against one of the best actors working right now. He performs strongly, but is simply overpowered by a stronger actor and stronger character.

So may I have been wrong? Yeah. Do I still feel a slight disconnect from Dano at times? Yes, but I see it less now as an actor's misstep and more as a trait of his character. Will that opinion evolve over time? Most likely. We'll see. As for now, I guess I give Dano back his pass.