Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movies I've seen

In answering these, I only chose those movies I have seen in their entirety. Many of the rest I have caught 5 to 10 minutes of, or seen the "highlights" along the way.

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
( ) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Joe Dirt
(x) KING KONG [only one or two versions]
Total so far: 7

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
(x) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(x) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving -MAS
(x) Flubber (orignal only)
Total so far: 11

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
(x) Chicago
(x) Ghost Ship
(x) From Hell
(x) Hellboy
(x) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 16

(x) The Day After Tomorrow
(x) Child's Play
(x) Seed of Chucky
(x) Bride of Chucky
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(x) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles [One of the best in the John Hughes, suburban teenage white kid flicks]
( ) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
(x) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 24

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Sleven
(x) Ocean's Eleven
( ) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
(x) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled (original only) [the remake has the sublime Liz Hurley]
(x) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(x) Ice Age
(x) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 30

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
( ) ET [my boycott may not last now that I'm a dad.]
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
(x) War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 34

( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
(x) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
( ) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
(x) Big Trouble in Little China [watched this about a hundred times in H.S. great!]
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 41

(x) X-Men
(x) X2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday (original only)
(x) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 51

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street
(x) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax [Did anyone see this garbage?]
( ) Kippendorf's Tribe [not proud of this]
( ) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old-virgin
Total so far: 52

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 58

(x) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
(x) Highlander
(x) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History ( I'm assuming this is American History X but the x got deleted?)
( ) Three
Total so Far: 61

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 64

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
(x) Hulk
(x) Dawn of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) Chronicle Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(x) 28 days later
(x) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm (Underrated)
(x) Waterworld
Total so far: 71

(x) Kill Bill vol 1
(x) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
(x) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
(x) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 75

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 81

(x) The Matrix
( ) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
(x) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2 [easily one of my favorite movies of all time]
(x) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total so far: 85

( ) Battle Royale
( ) Battle Royale 2
(x) Brazil
( ) Contact
( ) Cube
(x) Dr. Strangelove
( ) Enlightenment Guaranteed
( ) Four Rooms
( ) Memento
( ) Pi
( ) Requiem for a Dream
(x) Pulp Fiction
(x) Reservoir Dogs
( ) Run Lola Run
( ) Russian Ark
(x) Serenity
(x) Sin City
(x) Snatch
( ) Spider
(x) The Sixth Sense
(x) The Village
( ) Waking Life
( ) Zatoichi
( ) Ikiru
( ) The Seven Samurai
( ) Brick
( ) Akira
Total so far: 94

Certainly a lot less than many of my fellow bloggers, I suppose.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another fine meme

This one courtesy of Toast.

  1. Five names you go by (or have):

    • nightshift

    • Glenn

    • G-Hug

    • Huggy Bear

    • Attorney Dude

  2. Three things you are wearing right now:

    • Blue t-shirt with pocket.

    • Sweat pants

    • Underwear (glad it didn't ask for 4, cause that's it)

  3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:

    • A huge pile of money

    • Sex

  4. Three people who will probably fill this out:

      I doubt anyone does from this blog
  5. Two things you did last night:

    • Went to get my youngest child for the weekend

    • Goofed on the Internet

  6. Two things you ate today:

    • Burgers

    • Fries

  7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:

    • My ex-wife

    • My wife

  8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:

    • Little

    • Nothing

  9. Two longest car rides:

    • Jacksonville, FL to Kosciusko, MS (several times in the Navy)

    • Oxford, MS to Topeka, KS (when courting Rhonda)

  10. Two of your favorite beverages:

    • Rum & coke

    • Sweet tea

College football playoffs AND bowl games? Yes, we can.

Many of us who love football have long kvetched that I-A college football (I flatly refuse to use that FBS and FCS garbage the BCS has foisted on us) has no true national champion. I absolutely favor a playoff; sports ought to be determined on the field of play. However, I see the smaller schools' point that a playoff shuts them out of serious money provided by the bowl games. But does a 6-6 squad actually deserve a bowl game? Few people would care to watch, certainly. And since there are now 34 bowl games needing 68 teams, and only 72 teams qualify, the bowls are scratching for eligible candidates now.

So, I came up with a plan to incorporate a playoff into the existing bowl system. Obviously, elements of it weren't original to me, but to the best of my knowledge, the whole package is.

1. There should be 16 teams in a playoff. 8 rules out some conference champs, and while I know the Sun Belt champion isn't likely to make the run, the kids who won their conference deserve their shot at it. So, there are 11 conferences in I-A football. The 11 champs get automatic bids. The remaining 5 slots are at large, to be awarded in a similar manner to the at-large NCAA basketball bids now. These are announced the Sunday immediately following the last regular season game.

2. The bowls themselves bid on hosting the games. Highest bid hosts the championship; next two highest host the semi-finals; next 4 highest host the quarterfinals; lowest 8 host the opening round. At each level, the highest bid among that group chooses its pairing first. Seriously, which would be a bigger draw for the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, two 6-6 teams or #3 v. #14 seed of a playoff with something real on the line?

3. The remaining 19 bowls that are not part of the playoff process are free to invite non-playoff teams to come play in their bowls. It's analogous to the NIT tournament in basketball. However, instead of trying to fill 68 slots and having to take 6-6 Arkansas State to do it, you now have 54 slots to fill. (16 playoff teams plus 38 non-playoff bowl teams.) By having 14 fewer slots, you've increased the quality of the teams playing. That always results in better ratings, higher ad revenue... that is, more money. And that is, of course, what it's all about for the school administrations involved.

4. Speaking of money, since the playoff funds would be going into a general pot rather than to individual schools, I'd divide the playoff funds across all I-A schools. Something along the lines of 1/3 to the school playing the game, 1/3 to be divided equally among the schools in that conference, and 1/3 to be divided equally among all I-A schools. The non-playoff bowls could either continue their current practice of half to the school and half to the school's conference, or join in with the thirds plan.

While nothing is perfect, this idea seems to me to address most of the concerns both sides have. There is money for all; there is a true national champ decided on the field; the bowls are still there as a nice year-end for nearly all the schools that would have gone anyway; only 8 schools in the entire country play even one more game than they play under the current system. I am certain that a playoff would generate more interest and more money for the schools. The success of the conference championship games seems to show that, and it just makes sense that there will be more general interest in a meaningful game.

So, anyone who has a direct line to President-elect Obama, could you put this in front of him for me? Word is he has an interest in this sort of thing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tagged by a meme: Five things about me

Tracy tagged me with this meme, to list five "interesting" things about me. I have no idea what people will find interesting, and can't remember what I've told and haven't. Therefore, I shall interpret the mission as telling five things or events that are probably unique, or at least unusual, about myself.

1. I was raised in a fundamentalist, holiness, charismatic church. Translation: my entire experience with worship services until I was grown contained large doses of emotionally charged preaching (frequent aisle running by the preacher, for instance), speaking in tongues, and people falling out in the floor in religious ecstasy. Since a child only knows their own experience, I assumed all churches were like mine. It was a great surprise to me when I at age 17 invited a Southern Baptist girlfriend to a service, and she reacted by fleeing out the back door. Turns out most Christians do not worship in that manner. Who knew?

2. We didn't have pre-k or kindergarten when I was a child; first grade was FIRST grade. However, I walked in the doors the first day and tested out at a 5th grade reading level. Thereafter, I spent the next two years being something of a one-boy dog-and-pony show, to be paraded through the school for the amazement of the teachers. As you can imagine, this made me very popular with the other students. Ah, well.

3. Although Brown v. Board was decided in 1954, my school system didn't actually integrate until the late 1960's. Apparently, "all due haste" wasn't all that hasty. In 1972 I entered first grade in what had been called the "colored" school. Caucasians were 20% of the class in first grade. That number shrank each year, and in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, I was the only Caucasian in my grade/class. When I transferred to a different school for my senior year after a fight with the principal, I found I was completely unable to talk to Caucasians, especially girls. Go figure. (There were no kids my age in church, either, most of my childhood.)

4. When I went off to Navy boot camp on my 18th birthday, I had spent every day of my life, except 50 days or so, in Attala County, Mississippi. To say that I was a "rube" would be understatement. I had never been in a movie theater; never had a beer; never had a smoke; never had a pizza that didn't come in a box from the grocery store. This inexperience combined with my phenomenal academic knowledge made me... well, unusual, let's say.

5. Because I spent much of my childhood bored to tears, I developed the ability to "mirror write." I still do it from time to time to show people. It is actually far more legible than my normal, atrocious handwriting, and I can do it almost as quickly.

I hope you found those interesting. If you did, I'll be happy to answer questions on them. I tag Tart, Mike, and Mr. Furious.

Monday, October 13, 2008

And now, for something completely different

Office morale was tanking today; Mondays are often the worst in any office, with all the pent-up complaints from the weekend flowing in on the phones and in person. So, I decided that we needed a morale booster; in fact, we needed a theme song. Something to really pick up our spirits, you know? So, since I already had a tune to work with, I cribbed out a ditty. The office staff seemed to like it, and since it is applicable to many job settings with minor changes, I thought I'd share it with you. (And yes, that's me on the vocals.) I'd give it a PG-13, maybe NSFW if you've got some really touchy people. Audio only.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Twenty-four (days) and counting

I am a political junkie, and political process is my favorite. I have three or four sites I check every day for polling results, trends, and predictions. As of today, indications are strong for an enormous Democratic victory. I won't bother creating in-post links; all the sites are in the side bar if you'd like to see them, and I do recommend them strongly.

270 to win has Obama at 264 solid EV today, meaning McCain has to win every single swing state to take the election. Nate at gives Obama a 90% chance of winning as of today, and a 25% chance of a 60-Democrat Senate. Pollster puts 320 EV in the Democratic column.

I know what the GOP will sling these last few weeks. I've seen the emails so nasty that they ought to shame anyone who claims to be an American. The old saying is, "There's many a slip twixt cup and lip," and all that. This thing is far from over.

But one month ago, McCain was LEADING by most accounts. Nine months ago, anyone who thought Sen. Clinton wasn't going to take the nomination was a fool. (And yes, that was my analysis as well. I thought her name recognition, money, organization, and resume made her unbeatable. No one is right all the time.) Two years ago, Sen. Obama was a promising newcomer to the national scene and Dems were just hoping they could make some gains in Congress in the midterm elections.

So the drumbeat of fear and low expectations from the Left really surprises me. I read a post this week saying how proud we could be if Obama lost with honor; I've seen many that simply refuse to believe what their own eyes and the data are telling them. I wonder if it is some form of political shell-shock (I like the old terms). Or maybe it is a form of McClellan-itis whereby the enemy always looks two or three times bigger than he actually is.

I have a long track record as an incurable pessimist and cynic, although I don't think that is accurate. I merely try to see the world as it really is, and for years reality has not been a happy place. I've merely pointed that out. Understand, our country has huge challenges and problems on multiple fronts: financial, economic, and foreign policy are in massive disarray. But politically, things haven't looked this promising for Democrats in many years. This seems to me the time to be upbeat and optimistic. Things are looking good.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

NFL in advance

OK, I'm taking Angelos' challenge and posting my own picks. 'los can be found here.

Created opening day, mid-way through the first games.

In AFC, Colts over San Diego in title game; Dallas over Seattle in NFC title game. Colts over Dallas in the Super Bowl.


East W L
New England 11 5
NY Jets 10
Buffalo 9
Miami 3

Pittsburgh 10 6
Cleveland 10
Cincinnati 7
Baltimore 6 10

Indianapolis 12 4
Jacksonville 11 5

San Diego 10 6
Denver 9 7
Kansas City

11 5
10 6
Philadelphia 9
Washington 6 10

10 6
Green Bay
6 10

10 6
New Orleans
9 7
Tampa Bay
8 8
Atlanta 4

Seattle 12 4
Arizona 8
St. Louis 6 10
San Francisco 5

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Voter requirements

With the introduction of the palpably unqualified Gov. Palin to the national election, some discussion has been generated about requirements for public office. Personally, I wish we could have requirements for voting in this country. Now, it's clear we can't because it'd be used in discriminatory manners against historically disenfranchised groups. But ideally, anyone who cannot pass the following test with at least a 70% has no business helping select their representatives.

1. Name the three branches of the national government and briefly describe their respective functions.
2. Identify how fluctuations in supply and demand affect prices of goods and services.
3. Name three ways in which the national government can influence the actions of a foreign government.
4. Define the terms "federal budget deficit" and "national debt."
5. What are the constitutionally defined duties of the vice president?
6. State whether each of the following is a required duty of the national government, a permitted function of the national government, or an act prohibited to the national government:
a. Establish a national currency.
b. Establish and fund the armed forces.
c. Establish a national religion.
d. Tax cigarettes at $1,000.00 per pack.
e. Prohibit entry into this country by a U. S. citizen.
f. Execute an individual upon conviction of a capital crime.
g. Establish a local educational curriculum.
h. Ensure that each state has a republican form of government.
i. Regulate equipment worn by NFL players.
j. Raise the top marginal income tax rate to 100%.
7. What is the functional of the Electoral College, and how are its votes assigned to the candidates?
8. Name three current U.S. Senators and three current members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
9. Define the terms "radical," "liberal," "conservative," and "reactionary" as they apply to current U. S. politics.
10. Which political party might you be expected to vote for if you support each of the following positions? (You must choose between the Democratic, the Green, the Libertarian, and the Republican parties. There can be more than one correct answer in some cases.)
a. Strong environmental regulation, even (if necessary) at the cost of economic growth.
b. Strong economic growth, even (if necessary) at the cost of environmental degradation.
c. A single-payer health care system, sometimes called "nationalized health care."
d. The abolition of the federal Departments of HHS, Education, and Agriculture.
e. The pre-emptive use of military force to resolve disputes with foreign nations.
f. The reduction of federal income tax rates as a goal in and of itself.
g. Using the federal government to retrain workers.
h. Increasing the size of the U.S. military from its current level.
i. Legalizing marijuana.
j. Increasing criminal penalties as a solution for increases in crime.

As you can see, this isn't difficult and really isn't partisan. But we all know that there are thousands, maybe millions of our fellow citizens who will be voting in November who could not answer even 3 of those questions correctly. My well considered and researched vote is worth exactly as much as the drunken doofus who stumbles into the poll on a lark. And there are a whole lot more of them than there are of me.

Welcome to the Idiocracy.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Omnivore meme

I'll say up front there is no food I wouldn't consider eating. (Roadkill is NOT food, and could be anything. Silly to put it in the list.) There's a lot here I had to look up, though.

1. Venison --- steaks, sausage, and stew. Excellent!
2. Nettle tea (?)
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare--- I've eaten raw hamburger; raw steak is delicious.
5. Crocodile--- OK, it was actually alligator, but close enough in my book.
6. Black pudding (?)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (It's possible I've had this as I eat all kinds of fish, but I don't specifically remember it.)
9. Borscht (?) (I've had beets, but not in this form.)
10. Baba ghanoush (?)
11. Calamari
12. Pho (?)--- turns out I had it in Nashville, but didn't know that was the name of the dish.)
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (?)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes. (Muscadine wine)
19. Steamed pork buns (?)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (included this, but not sure. Garden tomatoes very common down here.)
22. Fresh wild berries (Used to pick blackberries as a kid.)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper--- (eaten many raw peppers, don't recognize this one.)
27. Dulce de leche (?)
28. Oysters --- (Oh, yeah. Raw and on the half shell. LOVE them. That rumor is a lie, though.)
29. Baklava--- (every Christmas)
30. Bagna cauda (?)
31. Wasabi peas (?)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (?)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (Cagnac, yes. No cigar, though.)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O --- (Jell-O shots? Sure, hasn't everyone?)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail (?)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (Mom walked in on me and half a roach when I was a toddler.)
43. Phaal (Again, yes, but had to look it up to remember.)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (Yeah, when I when the lottery.)
46. Fugu (?)
47. Chicken tikka masala (Love love love)
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin (?)
51. Prickly pear (?)
52. Umeboshi (?)
53. Abalone.
54. Paneer (?)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle (?)
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (In Europe and long ago, but yes. Kronenbrau.)
59. Poutine*** (Saw this on No Reservations the other night. Looks awesome.)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads (Why did they name meat sweetbread, I wonder.)
63. Kaolin (?)
64. Currywurst(?)
65. Durian (?)
66. Frogs’ legs --- (They really do taste like chicken. Only rubbery.)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis (On my "bucket list" to eat.)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette(?) (And tripe. Fried and with hot sauce, that's good eatin'.)
71. Gazpacho (cold soup is highly overrated)
72. Caviar and blini (Caviar is very bland, IMO.)
73. Louche absinthe (No, but first chance I get, I'm on it.)
74. Gjetost, or brunost (?)
75. Roadkill (OK, this is NOT food, it's a description of how something died.)
76. Baijiu (?)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail (Highly overrated, but not offensive. Just bland.)
79. Lapsang souchong (?)
80. Bellini (?)
81. Tom yum (?)
82. Eggs Benedict (?)
83. Pocky (?)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (down here, they're called "rabbit," and they are tasty critters.)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (sure, as a kid)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate (?)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab (?)
93. Rose harissa (I loved living in The Village in college. All the internationals lived there, got to try lots of foods.)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano (?)
96. Bagel and lox (Bagels sure; lox, no)
97. Lobster Thermidor (?)
98. Polenta (?)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (?)
100. Snake (Fried at that.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Even MORE baby pics!

You know, because one can never be an obnoxious enough grandparent. Adding some better pics of my cutest grandchild for your viewing entertainment. She's got a powerful set of lungs, but once we got her warm and fed, she got mellow.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Welcome to the world, Mikayla

Well, it is now official. I'm a grandfather. Or, if my wife has her way (and she usually does), "Pa-paw." Mikayla arrived Thursday afternoon at 2:50p.m. central time, at 20.5 inches and 8 pounds, 1.25 ounces. As you can see from the pics, she's blessed with more hair than her granddad.

The pics are Mikayla with her grandmother, me, her mother, and another with me. She's had a busy first two days in the world!

Mother and child are both doing very well. I have nothing deep or insightful to offer. I'm just in awe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Dark Knight

Wow, it has been a while since I've been here. Let me clean up the cobwebs at the site a moment before I start.

OK, that's better. I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight this past weekend. For both logistical reasons (nearest theater is 45 miles away) and economic reasons (I'm broke), I only see about one movie a year these days. $11 for popcorn and a soda??? Yeesh. This movie, though, was worth seeing on the big screen.

Fair warning: this post doesn't just have spoilers, it pretty much spells out the whole movie, so you probably don't want to read any further if you haven't seen it yet.

Now that that's out of the way, the first thing that caught my eye was the setting. Gotham has always, always been identified as NYC. This time, they not only filmed in Chicago, they made it pretty obvious that is where they are. The city is much more open and bright than any other serious version of Gotham of which I'm aware. This was somewhat jarring to me. I'm accustomed to the claustrophobic, dark feel of Gotham, which matches Batman well. I think that the purpose was to reflect some of the bright hope for the city that is a key theme of the movie, and it serves that end well, but it took some getting used to.

Bale turned in another fine performance in this one. Of course, the test to me is never what an actor does in the Batman costume, since a deep voice and strong chin will pretty much get an actor through on that score. It is his acting as Bruce Wayne that makes him so good in this role. Bale (and the writers, of course) flesh out a believable human being who yearns for the same things we do.

Ledger's Joker was all that it was rumored to be. This incarnation was the darkest I've seen, and that includes the original comics and "graphic novels." [An aside: why did anyone feel the need to rename comics "graphic novels?" There is nothing wrong with the term comics.] The writers gave him some great lines, but it is his completely anarchic nature that grabs the viewer's attention. From the time he kills off his own henchmen in the middle of the initial bank heist, it is clear that this really is a man who "just wants to watch the world burn," to steal Alfred's best line. As much as I loved Nicholson's Joker, this was simply better. I think it was a good decision not to give Joker a backstory in this one, because it fed the theme of randomness and chaos for him to arrive simply out of nowhere. It's a damned shame about Ledger, because they set up the next movie very nicely for another confrontation between Joker and Batman.

Easily the happiest surprise for me was how perfectly the actor and director captured the essence of Two Face/Harvey Dent. Two Face is absolutely my favorite villain in the Batman universe, but his character is very difficult to capture. I like Tommy Lee Jones, but someone should have told him (and the director) that Two Face is NOT just another Joker. Two Face is the ultimate fatalist, a man who has concluded that random chance is the only justice in this world. He also has a sense of proportionality, as evidenced by his decision to only kill one member of Gordon's family. A life for a life. As the movie developed, I could see the fatal flaw in Dent that would be exploited by Joker: Dent really had led a charmed life, without having to overcome any disasters. It is easy for such a man to be moralistic and a stickler for the rules. When his world came crashing down, Dent had plausible reason to conclude that it was as much the fault of the 'good guys' as it was of the Joker. I really hope that Two Face will be the primary villain in the next installment, but it sure looked like they'd killed him off at the end of the movie. Of course, Gordon's eulogy could have been a cover if they've whisked Dent off to an asylum, but that's weak. Is it ironic that they killed off one villain, but the actor portraying the other one died?

As much as I loved the movie (and it is VERY rare that I can sit through a 2 1/2 hour movie without leaving even once), it wasn't perfect by any means. The biggest weakest to me was at the end, when Gordon's speech basically makes Batman into Jesus, carrying the sins of Gotham and turning him into "The Fugitive." Completely unnecessary and rather annoying. Also, the actors frequently spoke over each other and the musical score, making some parts unintelligible to me. Part of that may be my own hearing problems, but it's still irritating. Finally, they rather wasted Scarecrow on a cameo appearance and should have either edited that part out or enlarged his role in the movie. Finally, there were a couple of glaringly obvious plot holes. Joker couldn't have been that prescient about everything, such as planning to be captured. Also, Dent wasn't in the hospital long enough for someone with injuries that severe.

Still, these are fairly minor quibbles. In all, that is exactly what a hero movie ought to be.