Thursday, December 22, 2005

A slap in the face with a prehensile tail

I haven't commented on this in awhile and tried to stay away from politics as of late. I grew up in a trailer park a mile down the road from Dover Area High School, so as people across the nation chime in with there opinions on the matter and us people and students from Dover, I feel as if I should say something.

First, I never remember mention or a lesson of evolution from high school biology. I remember fruit flies and DNA. The only discussions I remember having on the matter at all was in my AP American History class (taught by a brilliant and respectable man who is now retired and living in Wyoming) in regards to the impact of The Origin of Species and "The Scopes Monkey Trial." I knew about evolution from a much younger age. I learned of it from trips to science museums, with displays of fossil study, of early hominoids, of ape to man charts. Yet now, when I, and every other student from Dover, apply to college, grad school, jobs where transcripts are required, Dover's reputation will precede us. Are we backwards? Are we uneducated? Are we zealous? Or conversely, are we a people now forsaken?

We may be small, and rural, but we are not people whose views were respected or represented by the former Dover Area School Board. As a graduate of Dover Area High School, I have never been very proud of my school and community, that is not until this November. In an overwhelming landslide, the community ousted the fanatics that seized control of our school board and ousted those who pushed us into nationwide humiliation. The liars and drug addicts whose sanctimonious claims and agendas permeated the national media are not welcome here. We are not a community of "Schmevolution" even though we did make The Daily Show a few times.

As the public has spoke, now so has the court. This week, the legal matter was settled, justly and hopefully finally.

Before I share with you the decision, I would just like to say that fanaticism is a mental defect, an illness, a disease, and a plague. It is obsession beyond all logic and reason that inhibits humanity. Fanatic Muslims and fanatic Catholics have beget bloodshed time and time again through history. Fanatic Protestants scorched the earth of New England with blood of innocent women. Sports fanatics incite riots. Celebrity fanatics instill fear and, in extreme instances, death in the quest to satisfy obsession.

Opinion isn't fact. Denial isn't coping. Belief isn't reason. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."

Excerpt of the Decision as printed in The York Dispatch. For the entire decision, click here.

"It is notable that not one defense expert was able to explain how the supernatural action suggested by ID could be anything other than an inherently religious proposition."

"After a careful review of the record and for the reasons that follow, we find that an objective student would view the disclaimer (Dover's ID statement) as a strong official endorsement of religion."

"Whether a student accepts the Board's invitation to explore Pandas, and reads a creationist text, or follows the Board's other suggestion and discusses 'Origins of Life' with family members, that objective student can reasonably infer that the District's favored view is a religious one, and that the District is accordingly sponsoring a form of religion."

"In summary, the disclaimer (Dover's ID statement) singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."

"We find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science. While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area. Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us."

"ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents', as well as Defendants' argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum."

"It is notable, and in fact incredible that (former school board member Alan) Bonsell disclaimed any interest in creationism during his testimony, despite the admission by his counsel in Defendants' opening statement that Bonsell had such an interest. Simply put, Bonsell repeatedly failed to testify in a truthful manner about this and other subjects."

"Finally, although (former school board member William) Buckingham, Bonsell, and other defense witnesses denied the reports in the news media and contradicted the great weight of the evidence about what transpired at the June 2004 Board meetings, the record reflects that these witnesses either testified inconsistently, or lied outright under oath on several occasions, and are accordingly not credible on these points."

"Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member who voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. Their asserted purposes are a sham ..."

"The Board consulted no scientific materials. The Board contacted no scientists or scientific organizations. The Board failed to consider the views of the District's science teachers. The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the TMLC (Thomas More Law Center). Moreover, Defendants' asserted secular purpose of improving science education is belied by the fact that most if not all of the Board members who voted in favor of the biology curriculum change conceded that they still do not know, nor have they ever known, precisely what ID is. To assert a secular purpose against this backdrop is ludicrous."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who’s Desperate Now?

Yes, it’s almost Christmas, but that doesn’t matter because the gift of award season has recently been thrust upon us. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association took the time to bless us with the Oscar pre-party that is The Golden Globe awards. This morning nominations were announced. I know you’d think I’d be sharing the fantastic news that Brokeback Mountain lead the herd with 7 nominations, but for the goodie goods on that, visit The Red Room Movie Palace. Today, it’s all about my box… the big one… on the entertainment stand… in my living room. What you were thinking?

Okay, so I’ve been meaning up to catch up on TV as that is what I do best here on The Brain Drain. I must have caught a case of slackeritis from Mr. Gilbert over at
The Big Ticket. (j/k I got nothing but love for you jlg :0)

Anyway, as I’ve been telling you or at least meaning to, Eva Longoria has been the shining star of Wisteria Lane so far this season and by golly other people are noticing as well. Miss Longoria, and her naughty cohorts, all landed Globe noms. Yay! Don’t look for a repeat from Hatcher, though. One by one, I’m slowly turning the world against Susan Meyer. While Felicity Huffman took home the Emmy, she’s turning heads with her gender bender adventure Transamerica. I hope Felicity can pull off a Helen Hunt who took home an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Oscar all in one year (Mad About You/As Good as it Gets), though I expect her Globe to come from her film nomination and not the television categories. Longoria’s nomination is ever so triumphant as she has been the odd housewife out during their trailblazing first season. While Marcia Cross (my personal favorite) has been nominated for her stunning portrayal of icy Bree Van Der Kamp, she’s taken on the role of bridesmaid which should repeat itself come January.

While we’re on the Housewives, here’s a delicious quote from house husband Doug Savant:
"Marc Cherry wants Felicity and I to go out with another couple, and that couple would be Bill Macy and Laura Leighton, Felicity's husband and my wife," Savant reveals to "Extra" at a Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House. "We'll have to wait and see ... it would be a blast."

If this is true, might I recommend that Bree’s twin sister Kimbery come for a visit and get into a cat fight with Sydney by Gabrielle’s pool. Lynette’s nanny, Jane, could jump in as well. :0)

Okay, but in reality, that would be awesome to see Miss Leighton on Wisteria Lane.
For the rest of the Globes, my boy went and got himself a nomination. Or shall I say boys as all my favorite television actors have a dinner reservation for mid January. Congrats Jeremy Piven, Naveen Andrews, Keifer Sutherland, and Hugh Laurie!!! While Piven was robbed of his Emmy kudos for his outstanding portrayal of Ari on Entourage, I was hoping redemption was here… UNTIL I noticed he was nominated along side Paul Newman. Paul Newman!!! Who wouldn’t vote for Paul Newman? Why… Cause he’s Paul Newman!

In Entourage news, the new season starts filming in February, maybe they can film at the Globes and do a sassy tie in. The word on the street is great. Look for more Ari and much less, well, of the Entourage. "Ari is like a phoenix," Piven’s quoted as saying in Kristin Veitch’s latest
column. "He'll rise again. And I think we'll see more of his professional life and home life colliding. Like that bat mitzvah scene, you know? It was kind of like a silverback ape trying to fit into a canary cage."

Speaking of 2006, Jack Bauer’s coming back, with a vengeance baby! Unlike another spy, on another show, on another network, he didn’t get himself knocked up over hiatus thus affecting the season plotlines and action scenes. If that were the case, Kiefer’s more talented than I thought. You want to know what’s coming on 24, you say?

According to Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) "A lot of cast members have to be naked this year. Is that a good one? And about myself, I may have a male lover...on my computer desk, as I am working. No, I don't know. It's true. Yeah, I may."

That’s all tongue and cheek of course… or is it? Set your DVR for Jan. 15th. Do it right now, so you don’t forget.

I must add that I am shock and awed that the HFP over looked my two FAVORITE shows. For the second year in a row, Veronica Mars gets no love. Kristen Bell can sing, dance, and throw out some sass more so than most actresses out there. Not to mention, she’s the lead on one of the best written dramas to rock prime time.

While I know the ax has already fallen, I was hoping to see Arrested Development go down in a blaze of glory. I would shed a tear over its absence, but I can’t spare the moisture.

Look for commentary and predictions come 2006. Don’t forget to check out The Red Room Movie Palace for all FULL story. And the nominees are...

"Brokeback Mountain"
"The Constant Gardener"
"Good Night, and Good Luck"
"A History of Violence"
"Match Point"

Maria Bello, "A History of Violence"
Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"
Gwyneth Paltrow, "Proof"
Charlize Theron, "North Country"
Ziyi Zhang, "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Russell Crowe, "Cinderella Man"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"
David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck"

"Mrs. Henderson Presents"
"Pride & Prejudice"
"The Producers"
"The Squid and the Whale"
"Walk the Line"

Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Keira Knightly, "Pride & Prejudice"
Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"
Sarah Jessica Parker, "The Family Stone"
Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"

Pierce Brosnan, "The Matador"
Jeff Daniels, "The Squid and the Whale"
Johnny Depp, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
Nathan Lane, "The Producers"
Cillian Murphy, "Breakfast on Pluto"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"

"Kung Fu Hustle" (China)
"Master of the Crimson Armor" aka "The Promise" (China)
"Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel)" (France)
"Paradise Now" (Palenstine)
"Tsotsi" (South Africa)

Scarlett Johansson, "Match Point"
Shirley MacLaine, "In Her Shoes"
Frances McDormand, "North Country"
Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain"

George Clooney, "Syriana"
Matt Dillon, "Crash"
Will Ferrell, "The Producers"
Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"
Bob Hoskins, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"

Woody Allen, "Match Point"
George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Peter Jackson, "King Kong"
Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Fernando Meirelles, "The Constant Gardener"
Steven Spielberg, "Munich"

Woody Allen, "Match Point"
George Clooney & Grant Heslov, "Good Night, And Good Luck"
Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
Tony Kushner & Eric Roth, "Munich"
Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"

Alexandre Desplat, "Syriana"
James Newton Howard, "King Kong"
Gustavo Santaolalla, "Brokeback Mountain"
Harry Gregson-Williams, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
John Williams, "Memoirs of a Geisha"

"A Love That Will Never Grow Old" -- "Brokeback Mountain"
Music by: Gustavo Santaolalla, Lyrics by: Bernie Taupin
"Christmas in Love" -- "Christmas in Love"
Music by: Tony Renis, Lyrics by: Marva Jan Marrow
"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" -- "The Producers"
Music & Lyrics by: Mel Brooks
"Travelin' Thru" -- "Transamerica"
Music & Lyrics by: Dolly Parton
"Wunderkind" -- "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
Music & Lyrics by: Alanis Morissette

"Commander in Chief" (ABC)
"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)
"Lost" (ABC)
"Prison Break" (Fox)
"Rome" (HBO)

Patricia Arquette, "Medium"
Glenn Close, "The Shield"
Geena Davis, "Commander in Chief"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"
Polly Walker, "Rome"

Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy"
Matthew Fox, "Lost"
Hugh Laurie, "House"
Wentworth Miller, "Prison Break"
Kiefer Sutherland, "24"

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO
"Desperate Housewives" (ABC)
"Entourage" (HBO)
"Everybody Hates Chris" (UPN)
"My Name is Earl" (NBC)
"Weeds" (Showtime)

Marcia Cross, "Desperate Housewives"
Teri Hatcher, "Desperate Housewives"
Felicity Huffman, "Desperate Housewives"
Eva Longoria, "Desperate Housewives"
Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds"

Zach Braff, "Scrubs"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Jason Lee, "My Name is Earl"
Charlie Sheen, "Two And A Half Men"

"Empire Falls" (HBO)
"Into the West" (TNT)
"Lackawanna Blues" (HBO)
"Sleeper Cell" (Showtime)
"Viva Blackpool" (BBC America)
"Warm Springs" (HBO)

Halle Berry, "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
Kelly MacDonald, "The Girl in the Café"
S. Epatha Merkerson, "Lackawanna Blues"
Cynthia Nixon, "Warm Springs"
Mira Sorvino, "Human Trafficking"

Kenneth Branagh, "Warm Springs"
Ed Harris, "Empire Falls"
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, "Elvis"
Bill Nighy, "The Girl in the Café"
Donald Sutherland, "Human Trafficking"

Candice Bergen, 'Boston Legal'
Camryn Manheim, 'Elvis'
Sandra Oh, 'Grey's Anatomy'
Elizabeth Perkins, 'Weeds'
Joanne Woodward, 'Empire Falls'

Naveen Andrews, 'Lost'
Paul Newman, 'Empire Falls'
Jeremy Piven, 'Entourage'
Randy Quaid, 'Elvis'
Donald Sutherland, 'Commander in Chief'

Thursday, December 08, 2005

when I was arrested I was dressed in black

So, this morning, I woke up left my house and sitting on my back porch was a bottle of Tennessee Whiskey. Now, I haven’t drunk whiskey since I met my husband and I only started drinking whiskey when I realized I had to lay off the vodka circa 1998. I have a pretty good idea where the bottle came from and why it was on my back porch, which made me think to myself… Maybe it’s about time I invested in a shotgun. Thank you June Carter for the inspiration.

As I said in my posting on Brokeback Mountain, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being a kid, the summers of my grandparents farm, the horses, my sheep, hiking on the mountain, and copperhead snakes. I’ve also come to realized that I HATE the suburbs. There is this distinct non-confining environment and realism that rural and urban setting offer. It’s not so in the ‘burbs, but that’s for another post. Anyway, as I was saying… nothing brings back memories of my badass country grandpa more so than listening to Johnny Cash.

Walk the Line, 7/10

Walk the Line was my most anticipated film of the year. (You would think it would be The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I’m not keen on being reminded of how Disney destroyed my life long dream.) I finally made it to a showing of Walk the Line last weekend, but not before my sister in law saw it three times.

Joaquin Phoenix does more than disappear in an impeccable impression of Johnny Cash like Jamie Foxx did in Ray; he stepped into the man and radiated Cash from the inside out. The performance is powerful and authentic, but not so much that you don’t feel like you’re seeing a new side of the man in black. Performing the music himself, Phoenix brings something different to the standard Cash recordings, without altering or betraying their intention. This is especially apparent in the Folsom Prison recordings. It’s liberties like this that make the film a film as opposed to an attempt to reenact a documentary.

Reese Witherspoon’s sheds the dumb blonde safe type cast she’s seemed imprisoned by since the double-edged sword that was Legally Blonde. A southern girl with plenty of sass herself, she gave life, love, pain, and power to woman who’s on stage persona couldn’t be different from her real world.

Sadly, this is where the greatness of the film ends. The screenplay is a mess. There is some good dialogue that captures slang perfectly, but the story seems to be more like an outline with stops along the way than a fully developed film. The problem isn’t the running time, which clocks in over two hours, but the misuse of the time the film is given.

I understand that this was to be a film about June and Johnny and not the Johnny Cash Story per se, but leaving the film, I don’t feel like I really know much about the two and certainly nothing about their life together only that Johnny had to work damn hard to woo the girl of his dreams to his side.

The direction is good, but again falters somewhat by the hollow script. James Mangold’s direction of the stage scenes were the stand out moments as he fully accomplished the goal of having us on stage with Johnny and June to experience their love instead of viewing a musical number from the audience perspective. Over all, the film and the soundtrack are worth experiencing, but the depth of the work falls squarely on Phoenix and Witherspoon who both deserve nomination after nomination when the awards come rollin’ around.

The Ladies of Brokeback Mountain

The repressed beautiful wives of Brokeback Mountain. Take note, motherhood does an actress good.

With all the buzz about the men of the movie and there love for each other, the stellar supporting cast, all female for the most part, has been over looked. In fact, I think about the kind of audience the cast could draw in a wide release.
Take for instance, my fourteen year old sister who is in love with Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom - we like Aussies. She's also a huge Dawson's Creek fan which she discovered courtesy of reruns. She was more concerned with cartoons and dolls during the original run dates when we had viewing parties for "The Creek" in my college dorm. She's also seen both Princess Diaries movies and probably would recognize Jake as "the hottie from the ice age movie [The Day After Tomorrow]" as opposed to The Good Girl or Donnie Darko which is when I fell for the boy. Given that, I think my Midwestern Christian conservative little sis (who was raised most of her life in the south) would get the shock of her life when Ennis first drops his jeans. This of course would not nearly be as shocking as my stepmother's reaction to her daughter being exposed to gay love. I remember taking her and our younger sister to see Return of the King during one of the final scenes she yelled out "Oh my Gosh, they're gay!" Clearly, she was confused by any kind of male on male affection. As a side note, this is the same sister than ran into Ang Lee during my college graduation, literally.

All that being said, I wanted share this reasoning on the casting, which, by the way, is absolutely perfect and pivotal to the film...

Heath likes it when I call him Daddy.

Since the story spans 20 years in the characters' lives, Lee wanted to cast young actors because it was easier to simulate age than to simulate youth. This meant that he often had to audition performers whose previous work appealed to a younger audience and therefore might not be the obvious choice for the heartbreaking epic with adult themes. The filmmaker finally settled on "Princess Diaries" star Anne Hathaway and former "Dawson's Creek" star Michelle Williams.

In "Brokeback Mountain," Hathaway portrays sassy rodeo queen Lureen Newsome, who marries bull rider Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Unbeknownst to her, Jack is in love with Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger), a man he met while working in Wyoming during the summer of 1963 and with whom he is carrying on a longtime affair. Although the Twists' marriage is successful in the technical sense -- they're financially prosperous and have a son together -- Lureen suspects Jack is keeping something important from her.

Lee charted Lureen's maturation through the years by changing her appearance, reflecting her increasing desperation to hang onto her happiness, which she associates with her youth, when she ruled the rodeo circuit and first met Jack.

"[For Lureen] everything's great when she's young, [but when] she turns bitter, her makeup starts to get thicker and her hair gets higher -- and lighter, too," says the director. "Each time she shows up, the hair is a different 'do and a different color."

In contrast, Lee cast Williams as the struggling, less glamorous Alma, Ennis' wife, whose change is more internal. Unlike Hathaway, Williams had already thrown off her teen queen status and has worked steadily in a number of more mature films, including "But I'm a Cheerleader," "Prozac Nation," "The Station Agent" and "Imaginary Heroes."

For the entire article, including how Lee and Williams constructed the stairwell scene, read here. Although if you haven't seen the movie, and I'm betting you haven't, you might not want to ruin the power of the scene which is one of films best.

As a final note, it seems that Gyllenhaal and Ledger can't keep far enough away from each other. One attended the LA premier while the other the New York premier. Gyllenhaal talks about how resentful he was about Ledger and Williams falling in love on set after Miss Dunst dumped him and how petrified and scared he was about making out with Ledger in Entertainment Weekly. I frankly find the article a bit disturbing on Gyllenhaal's part and surprising on Ledger's. Until Brokeback, I found Ledger untalented and overrated, and Gyllenhaal a day dream inspiration. If you want more Brokeback fun, visit The Red Room Movie Palace for any and all mountain related fun. That ol' Brokeback got Darren good.

Monday, December 05, 2005

We didn't go up there to fish

I promised Darren that I would write a review of Brokeback Mountain and post it on this blog. I've had a rough week. Some of you may know why, and others, I keep a strong front. I've been watching a lot of films which I have yet to review here including Rent and Walk the Line. I don't really feel like writing a review on Brokeback Mountain. As the film conveys pure emotions through starkness, it seams a violation to attempt to use words to express everything that has been evoked inside me in the past 24 hours. I could write about both the surety and the doubt that exists in my own heart. I could write about my family and how watching Walk the Line, North Country, and now Brokeback Mountain has allowed me to reconnect with pride with things inside myself I've often tried to hide. I could write about the moments which play in my head over and over burned in my consciousness. I could write about the gut wrenching sorrow that exists in my heart from a decade of emptiness that will never again find fulfillmentment. Sometimes, for some people, happiness is only a once in a lifetime experience. I could do this, but if I started, I woudn't know where to end, and certainly not know how to get through the middle.

While I am dying to tell you about the haunting score which sounds like heart strings being plucked, the awe inspiring camera work, and one of the all time most power performances ever delivered by a leading man on screen (sorry Joaquin, you lose), I'll instead urge you and plead with you to see the film yourself. The trailer doesn't even begin to do this film justice, yet no 2 minute clip could. So, for now, I will leave you with only this.

"If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it."
Brokeback Mountain is the most compelling and heart wrenching love story that I have ever experienced. It is an instant classic and nearly impossible for anyone involved with the film to ever aspire to anything greater than this. To watch it, is to be in the shadow of humble greatness.