The Back Up

Last month, I posted a list of some of the dumbest inventions on the market. Unironically, many of these products were originally marketed via television Infomercials. A short time after that post, I saw another infomercial that I figured should have been mentioned within that post.

The Back Up is a device that you place between your mattress and boxspring, which adds two hooks to the side of your bed, giving you a place to store your shotgun. According to the website, 70% of people consider their shotgun as a form of home protection. Thus, the Back Up Plan is way to stay safe in the case of a home invasion while you sleep.

I understand its purpose, but I think this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. This is clearly the kind of product that would be popular in the South. It’s the bedside equivalent of having a gun rack in a pick up truck. I mean, really? A shotgun attached to my bed? What kinds of accidents does this thing create?

But seeing the Back Up got me to thinking. What other ways can it be used? It seems like a handy device, but since I don’t own a shotgun, I can’t really relate to it. I’ve listed here a selection of other products that can be used with the Back Up.

What if you wake up in the middle of the night with a joke in mind? Well, worry no more. Now, your humor props are always on hand.

Do you get hungry in the middle of the night? Are you 700 pounds and bed ridden? Then the Back Up is our solution.

How about some hot, on-the-spot, lesbian action? Here ya go!

So I guess the Back Up does have some practical uses. I just feel that the creators are not marketing it correctly. If they through some of these uses into their advertising, I can guarantee that they will sell so many more units.

Think they will offer me a job for this?


The 82nd Academy Awards

I’m not a fan of award shows. I never have been. I feel that anyone who can accomplish the things that I can’t deserves accolades and that isn’t something that can be quantified. Yes, there are bad movies and musicians, but they have done something that I haven’t, so good for them. To have their faces rubbed in the fact that someone else did things better than they have is just mean.

Regardless of this, my girlfriend made me watch the 82nd Annual Academy Awards last night. Strangely, I enjoyed the experience more than I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong. It was an overly excruciating experience. But there were a few highlights.

Watching the tag-team comedy of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin was painful. Alec Baldwin just seemed to be in a fog through the entire show. Steven Martin proved himself capable to host the show alone, so I question the inclusion of Alec Baldwin. However, I did laugh harder than I expected to at their Paranormal Activity spoof. Between that and Ben Stiller dressed as a Na’vi from Avatar were about the only two things I laughed at. But not the entire Ben Stiller act. The premise was amusing, but got less funny each time he mocked himself. It wasn’t until his outburst with the special effects guy controlling his tail that I really cracked up. After that, though, it all went to hell.

It’s a well known fact that the Oscars have issues with time. More often than not, the show runs over its intended time slot, due to the number of speeches, tributes, and “comedy” acts that they work into the show. Well, this year, a lot of that was cut out, including the full musical numbers for the Best Song category. Yet it somehow managed to last until midnight, making it a half hour longer than it was intended to be. And they ended it abruptly, with jarring results.

Prior to the announcement of the winner in both categories of Best Actor and Actress , a short tribute was given to each of the nominees from people close to them. While this was very touching in a unique kind of way, it was also unnecessary. It used up so much time that when it came down to Best Picture, the category that most people care about and the one that means the most, in my opinion, Tom Hanks literally came on stage and read the winner. There was no introduction or recap of the nominees. It was basically “I’m Tom Hanks. And the winner is…” What? Granted, they did take time throughout the show to showcase each of the nominees in the category, but over the course of 3 plus hours, I had completely forgotten who was in the running. I think, also, the decision to include 10 nominees in the Best Picture category was definite overkill. Let’s face it; most of those chosen had no chance. So what was the point? To say that it’s the first time since 1943 that 10 films were nominated? Clearly, there’s no precedence, so clearly there’s no need.

I was glad to see that Avatar did not win Best Picture. In fact, it won fewer awards than I expected it to. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Avatar and I really have no intentions of doing so. I am probably one of the few geeks on Earth who will say this, but I’m really tired of James Cameron. From everything I’ve read about it, Avatar is nothing original. It seems like a CG remake of Disney’s Pocahontas and really unnecessary. For it to win the Best Picture award would have been a travesty. I’m glad our society hasn’t come to that.

A couple of shockers happened as well. Sandra Bullock won Best Actress. Who saw that coming? While I don’t necessarily think she deserved it, a claim I can’t make not having seen her performance, I’m not mad that she won. I may not be a fan, but Bullock is a hard working actress and all I have to say is good for her. I was also surprised to see Sean Penn at the Oscars. In the past, he avoided the Academy Awards like the plague, so to see him there was quite strange. Has his opinion of the academy changed over the years? More than likely, he lost a bet to someone. We will see next year. Also, why wasn’t Farrah Fawcett part of their ‘In Memoriam’ tribute? Michael Jackson was included, and he isn’t known for his acting skills. That was an unforgivable mistake.

Other than that, the Oscars were pretty much what I expected. I hated the dance sequence for Best Original Score. I felt it lent nothing to the music and actually detracted from the fantastic scores it was meant to pay homage to. There were enough self aggrandizing speeches, such as Sandy Powell’s proclamation of “I already have two of these…” after winning for Best Costume Design. She did her best to back-pedal by trying to dedicate the win to all of the costume designers who get overlooked every year, but the damage was done.

Two things really stuck out and moved me in a way that I couldn’t expect from the Academy Awards. The first was the tribute to John Hughes, presented by Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald. The honor they bestowed on Hughes was very sweet and sentimental. After a short video homage, Broderick and Ringwald were joined onstage by Jon Cryer, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, and Macauly Culkin. They each related a memory of Hughes, and it was almost heartbreaking to see Macauly Culkin on the verge of tears. But my favorite moment of the night was Michael Giacchino’s acceptance speech after winning Best Score for his work on Up. He told a short story about how his parents never told him his hobby of movie-making when he was younger was a waste of time. He relayed this message to everyone who doesn’t have the same support system that he did. His point was that if you love what you do, then it’s not a waste of time. I thought this was the most touching and self-sacrificing acceptance speech that I have heard in years.

I don’t regret watching the Oscar’s. However, I probably won’t be doing it again; at least not of my own volition. But I am glad that there was very little that morally offended me. Granted, most of the show’s winners were fairly obvious, but the few that came out of left field were enough to shake up the academy. And it’s about damn time.
Images courtesy Newszine and Huffington Post. Click images to visit respective stories.


Alice In Wonderland

When Tim Burton steps behind the camera to direct a movie you know that you’re in store for a visually stunning, well directed epic with a few touches on the macabre and deranged. Just look at his canon: Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and many others. So to hear that he is helming a project like Alice In Wonderland, which is already known for it’s strange imagery and insane characters, then clearly this is a marriage made in cinematic heaven.

Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland deviates slightly from the premise of the books, in that it stars an older Alice, around 19 years old, who has no recollection that she visited Wonderland as a little girl, making this more of a sequel that an adaptation. This may bother a few Alice aficionados, and truthfully frightened me slightly upon first hearing of it, but it leads to a great new story that creates more closure than what was provided by Through the Looking Glass.

From the beginning, Alice is portrayed as being a little odd. She has an active imagination and flouts common tradition. After discovering that she is on the receiving end of an unwanted engagement, she runs off after a curious little rabbit and finds herself tumbling down a large hole. After reaching Underland (as it’s referred to by its residents) she meets a few interesting characters, like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and the White Rabbit. They take her to see the Blue Caterpillar, who informs them that this is not “the Alice.” A prophecy states that on the Frabjous Day, ‘Alice’ will be the one to slay the Jabberwocky. It was the White Rabbit’s mission to go top-side and find Alice so that she can fulfill the prophecy.

Most of the Alice In Wonderland lore is well-woven into Tim Burton’s vision. From the meeting of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, to the introduction of The Cheshire Cat, Burton’s interpretations ring true to the source material. But Burton puts his own twist on things by using some bizarre imagery (a tiny Alice using floating heads as stepping stones to cross a grotesque moat comes to mind). But these are the sorts of things we have come to expect from Tim Burton. He pulls it off quite well.

Much of the film’s success will likely be due to Johnny Depp. In recent memory, Depp has been able to bring depth and charm to even the shallowest of characters. He has even shown audiences that he can play grand and twisted characters like Willy Wonka and Sweeny Todd. So Burton’s choice of Depp as the Mad Hatter seems to make sense. And for the most part, it works. Although there were a few things that I questioned, such as Depp’s numerous outbreaks into a Scottish accent. I assume this was intentional to help drive home the point of just how mad the Hatter is, but most of it seemed unnecessary. I also failed to see the humor in the Hatter’s dance at the end of the film. It worked for Bruce Willis in The Last Boy Scout because of how downplayed and comical it was. But the other characters took the Hatter far too seriously at this point, and it just lacked whatever Burton and the writer were trying to accomplish.

The other actors manage their parts fairly well, although nothing overly spectacular. Helena Bonham Carter really shone as the Red Queen, bringing to life her maniacal instability with aplomb. Anne Hathaway didn’t do much with the role of the White Queen, adding very little other than being a mechanism to move the plot forward. I was slightly surprised to see Crispin Glover in the film, and, in the end, could have done without him. His character served merely as a villainous foil and most likely could have been written out of the script. Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry provide their voice talents to the roles of the Blue Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat respectively. Though their roles are merely spoken, they manage the characters well and add a little extra credibility to the cast lineup. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice nicely, though she really is up against no other competition in the role.

I can’t comment on the 3D of the film, having seen it in standard 2D, which is fine with me. The fact that so many movies are being released in 3D lately is beginning to annoy me since I see very little redeeming qualities in the choice. I was, however, worried that by seeing Alice In Wonderland in 2D would be just as irritating with all of the distracting 3D elements, but that wasn’t the case. The editors and special effects guys must have done a fantastic job with the 3D so that it doesn’t detract from a standard viewing, and I much appreciate that.

Though not perfect, Alice In Wonderland is a brilliant movie. Guided by Tim Burton’s vision, it’s a fantastic reimagining of the classic tale. Burton weaves the wonderful scenery with some grisly imagery which makes me wonder about its suitability for children; but all in all, the bright colors and wacky characters will manage to draw and hold their attention. If you’re a fan of Burton or the Alice stories, you will enjoy this.
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