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There's a new giant billboard for a Kevin Costner film right at the 80/101 interchange in SF, the same spot I saw the legendary poster for the Costner-Kutcher Coast Guard buddy movie The Guardian. This must be a prime spot for Costner advertising, probably because bumper-to-bumper traffic reminds people of The Postman.

I try to keep abreast of all the latest Costnerian developments. I own (and am right now wearing) a t-shirt for Costner's band, Modern West. I re-watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves last month, and recognized my overgrown hairstyle in Costner's mullety wig. So I was excited to learn there was a new addition to the Costner canon.

[Digression: Much has been written about Costner's wretched British accent from that movie, but a fresh look at the film reveals that Christian Slater's accent is even worse. He sounds like he's doing an impression of Jack Nicholson doing an impression of Costner's bad accent, only about two octaves higher. My theory is that the producers cast Slater once they realized how bad Costner's accent was, in order to distract the audience. This also explains the casting of Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker's Dracula (to distract from Winona Ryder's accent), and Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York (to deflect attention from DiCaprio's terrible brogue.]


The title "Swing Vote" led me to believe that this movie was going to feature Costner as a baseball player. I think America is eager for Costner to play an athlete again, even though he's 53. Instead, this movie is about a presidential election. Here's the synopsis:

Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, an apathetic, beer slinging, lovable loser, who is coasting through a life that has passed him by, except for the one bright spot in his mundane existence, his precocious, over achieving twelve-year old daughter, Molly. She takes care of them both, until one mischievous moment on Election Day, when she accidentally sets off a chain of events which culminates in the presidential election coming down to one vote, her dads.

Suddenly, Bud Johnson, the nobody, becomes the voice for everybody when the world realizes that his vote will be the one that elects the next president. Politicians invade the small town of Texico, New Mexico and its unwitting inhabitants, waging war for Bud's vote.

So disappointing. Costner isn't a baseball player, Bill Maher makes an appearance as himself, and worst of all, Kelsey Grammer plays the president. I have an unnatural dislike for Grammer when he's not playing Frasier Crane or Sideshow Bob. My sisters don't like him either. Here's a conversation I had with my sister Molly about Grammer:

Sean: What has Kelsey Grammer been doing since Frasier went off the air?
Molly: Um, cocaine?

The only good thing about this premise is the potential for punny headlines for negative reviews:

Swing...and a Miss for Costner
America votes "No" on "Swing Vote"
I'd Rather Swing From a Noose Than Watch This Movie Again

Swing Vote opens on August 1, in theaters everywhere.

how gene is like iron man

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One Iron Man post is not enough. Here, I discuss why my friend Gene is eerily similar to Iron Man Tony Stark:

  • Gene and Tony Stark both believe in wearing the most protective clothing possible. for Gene, it's Carhart pants and Kevlar-reinforced motorcycle gear. For Stark, it's a highly-sophisticated suit of near-sentient armor.
  • Both enjoy having a drink.
  • When encased in the Iron Man suit, Tony Stark constantly runs self-diagnostics. Whenever Gene stands up and relocates, he always pats himself down to ensure he still has his wallet, keys, 1999 cell phone, and Trapper Keeper.
  • Both men are fond of Jeff Bridges's work.
  • Both Gene and Tony Stark regularly sport unorthodox facial hair.
  • At one time, Gene had to wear a heart monitor. Tony Stark has a device that maintains his heartbeat, constructed from space-age metallics. Because Gene has health insurance from Kaiser Permanente, it is far more likely that his heart device was made from aluminum or copper wire salvaged from a condemned building. Would Gene be able to figure out how to attach his heart to a car battery, if events necessitated it? I think he would.
  • Gene's best friend has commissioned a wardrobe's worth of bespoke Syrian clothing, in hopes that such tailor-made clothing will last for decades. Tony Stark's best friend, James "Rhodey" Rhodes, envies Tony's prototype iron suit, which is also nearly impervious to wear.

box office poison: iron man


Welcome to a new feature on Zembla, called Box Office Poison, in which I discuss movies and movie-related things in an untimely fashion. Look, I don't go see movies on "opening weekend", or "in theaters at all", so excuse me if some of these observations are "dated" or deal with films you "don't even remember anymore". I'll blog at my own pace!

On the plus side, no spoilers! Unless you haven't seen Iron Man, in which case, stop reading now! And maybe don't read the next post, either.

Box Office Poison: Iron Man

The movie has been out for weeks, everyone in America has seen it multiple times, and they've already announced the release dates for two more sequels, so I am not going to write any conventional review. Instead, here's some disconnected observations about the film:

The only thing more amazing than the suit is the cable package

One underrated aspect to Tony Stark's wealth and fancy Southern California mansion is that his cable system offers a variety of magical, cable channels devoted solely to exposition. Normally, Stark wouldn't watch entertainment news while tinkering with his robotic suit, but E! Exposition Television is a different story. So, it totally makes sense that he'd be inspired to attend his company's charity event.

On that subject, Leslie Bibb ostensibly plays a reporter from Vanity Fair, but I suspect she freelances for one of the exposition networks. Why else would she go to Tony Stark's charity event carrying a collection of gruesome photos from Afghanistan?

Amir Malekpour's Take

"Tony Stark is a billionaire and an engineering genius - but he can't get a lock with a deadbolt for his office?"

Trenchcoat Man

We had the privilege of seeing the movie with an Iron Man superfan, living up to stereotype with his ponytail and black trench coat. He made the movie so much more enjoyable because of his over-the-top enthusiasm,

At the end of the movie, Trenchcoat Man had his moment. RDJ stood at the podium, fielding a question about his connection with Iron Man. As he paused to decide what to say, Trench Coat Man yelled, "Say it!", and RDJ said, "I am Iron Man!" As Black Sabbath kicked in on the soundtrack, Trench Coat Man shouted, "Yeah!", then raised his arms in victory, and walks out of the theater, banging his head.

When reached for comment on the sidewalk outside, Trench Coat Man said, "They got it right.! They fucking got it right!"

You'd think Stark Industries wouldn't need the cash

The product placement is some of the most over-the-top in movie history. A portion of the climactic fight scene is in place for no other reason than to demonstrate how well an Audi can brake, accelerate, and escape from mega-robots. RDJ demands "an American cheeseburger" upon his return to the US, and the chauffeur takes his billionaire ass to...Burger King, so he can spend the next scene eating the worst burger in America front of a throng of reporters. They have Burger Kings in Afghanistan, dammit!

I'm not sure it beats the brazenness of Ron Howard's The Paper, where one of Michael Keaton's character traits is his addiction to Coca-Cola. Not caffeine in general, but specifically Coke. When Keaton ponders tough ethical and journalistic questions, he stands in front of the Coke machine. He finally decides to stop the presses (and urban racism) with the help of his newfound over-caffeinated moral compass.

Obadiah Stane hates uTorrent

There's an implicit anti-piracy message in the film. Bridges taunts Iron Man after stealing his design, saying, "Just because you have an idea, that doesn't mean it belongs to you!" Of course, Bridges does not survive the film. The message? Don't download Iron Man!

I first noticed this in the ultra-boring Ridley Scott epic Kingdom of Heaven, but you can see it in plenty of movies. If there's a recently-dead person who has an important piece of jewelry, like a necklace that is a family heirloom, or even a simple crucifix, the hero will always rip it off their body dramatically, instead of simply unfastening it. The gesture says, "I need to keep this necklace, and also destroy it. My grandfather would want me to have this, and for it to be completely unwearable."

A variation on this convention comes when the hero is knocked out, hospitalized, or otherwise incapacitated, and a villain rips a necklace off of them. That can be seen in the film Walking Tall, when a casino tough tears off The Rock's Special Forces necklace. In these instances, it is sometimes hard to tell why the villain even wants a necklace like that. If it has jewels in it, fine, but why does a non-Special Forces veteran even want a set of dog tags, especially one with a now-broken chain? The answer is, to let the audience know that he will later be killed, definitely by The Rock, and possibly with a two-by-four.

Of course, upon killing his adversary and retrieving the important personal talisman, the hero will again take it off as violently as possible. And the cycle continues.

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