MOVIE Demi-REVIEW: Despicable Me

I’m no fan of 3D for 3D’s sake – I submit this would have been fine in 2D

I get a phone call Friday night asking whether I wanted some tickets to see a sneak preview of the movie Despicable Me the next morning at 10. I must admit I have zero ideas what that film was. But, since The Princess and the Frog disaster, I figured a movie with that title would be a no-go for the Daughter and declined. For some reason, I told her about it and she said she wanted to go. I looked up the word “despicable” in the dictionary, but since the definition was unuseful (“worthy of being despised”), I didn’t belabor trying to explain it any further.

So Saturday morning, we took the bus to Crossgates Mall. I must note that I almost never go there, in no small part because the place is just too damn big for my taste. Astonishingly, we actually found the theater, screen 4 of 18, and took our seats behind a young man of about 10. Unlike most of us, he was wearing TWO pair of 3D glasses. Eventually, his mother returned from wherever, and he gave her a pair.

The story is about Gru (voiced with some vague Eastern European accent by Steve Carrell), a mean supervillain type who has competition in the criminal world by Vector (Jason Segal), though adored by his minions.

Meanwhile, there are three orphan girls Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher) forced to sell cookies by Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig), the selfish orphanage operator.

I’m enjoying this. There’s even a snarky Lehman Brothers reference. While I’m no fan of 3D for 3D’s sake – I submit this would have been fine in 2D – it was enjoyable enough. For me. NOT for the daughter, who got more and more uncomfortable. And when Gru and the girls got together in his less-than-childproof home, and my child began crying, well, that was the end of this experiment.

So, I missed the “domestic bliss”, which I saw in a television commercial afterward (and also shown in this trailer. It wasn’t a bad film, as far as we saw it, and damn, now I want to know how it ends. I may have to see it, if not in the theater, then at least on video.

Another trailer.

Of course, Rue McClanahan died this week. While best known for The Golden Girls, I remember as well for her performance on Maude. Check out her facial expression when she discovers that Maude is pregnant.

35 Questions Meme

Before that, though, deaths to note. The crash that killed the Polish leader and more than seven dozen other leaders was tremendously sad for that country; I found it deeply affecting. The guy who was dean of my library school when I attended died of cancer. Dixie Carter also succumbed to cancer; yes, I DID watch Designing Women, initially because it was between Newhart and Cagney & Lacey, but eventually on its own merits. Finally, I think the only thing that will create real mine safety is if someone from the WV mining company gets indicted and convicted of 29 counts of manslaughter, and that mine owners continue to be be held criminally liable; obviously, even heavy fines are treated as just the cost of doing business.
Sunday Stealing, again.

1. How far away is the last person you kissed?

About a foot away.

2. Has someone ever told you they would be with you forever?

More than once; didn’t always work out. To be fair, that was a mutual pledge.

3. Last person you were in a car with?

The Wife and Daughter.

4. Any plans for tomorrow?

Play racquetball, go to work, come home; same as today.

5. How long does it take for you to take a shower?

10 minutes. Less when I’m in a hurry.

6. Best friend or close friends?

Close friends.

7. Is tomorrow going to be a good day?

Sure, why not?

8. Did you kiss anyone Friday?

I’m sure I did.

9. Ever thrown up in public?

Well, yes, actually, twice. The first time I remember quite vividly. I was at a party in my college town of New Paltz, NY and everyone, including me, was drinking. I was consuming a large amount of this Polish vodka, and I was really quite lucid. In fact, I had become the de facto host of the party because the host had passed out. The Polish vodka ran out, so I started drinking some Johnny Walker. In five minutes I went from sober to smashed – a late-arriving guest confirmed that he thought I was clear-headed only minutes earlier – to sick, fortunately in the bathroom. Lesson learned: don’t mix drinks.

The other time, I had some flu or food poisoning. I had had a drink or two, but hardly enough to get sick. I always felt badly, though, because my friends Jean and Rich probably thought I was just drinking too much.

10. What’s on your mind RIGHT NOW?

Baseball. Or sex. Or sleep. Or money. Wait, music.

11. Who was the last person you talked to?

The Wife.

12. What is the WORST subject they teach at school?

I don’t know that there’s a “worst” subject. There are things that I am more or less interested in.

13. Have you seen anyone lately that you don’t get along with?

Not in person.

14. What is your favourite colour top to wear?

Blue. I have more blue shirts than any other.

15. Have you ever been in a car accident?

At least two that involved medical attention, one which put me in the hospital for a day and a half. Plus the bike avoiding the car thing. And a handful of lesser events.

16. What’s the closest thing to you that’s green?

When your name is green, your mother’s, sisters’, wife’s, daughter’s niece’s names are all Green, so it is difficult to say. Oh, lower-case green: An ancient book called Play the Game: The Book of Sport that I used to read as a kid.

17. Where would you like to be right now?

On vacation. I just WAS on vacation.

18. Write down some lyrics to the song you’re listening to?

Love is just like a baseball game
Three strikes you’re out

Up to bat
I thought I hit a love run
But to my surprise
I found I didn’t hit none

Threw her love so fast
She put me in a daze
Never knew that love
Could come so many ways

(Here’s a recording.)

19. How many dogs do you have?

Zero. Haven’t had one in decades.

20. Is anything bugging you right now?

Yes. Fred Phelps’ “church”, among other things.

21. Is life going right for you now?

It’s more than tolerable. But I have a physical tomorrow, so we’ll see.

22. Is there someone you care about more than yourself?


23. What made you laugh today?

The Daughter: something she said.

24. What was the last movie you watched?

Crazy Heart.

25. Whats the last conversation you had about?


26. What were you doing at 7:00 this morning?

Will be getting ready for work.

27. Do you like your hair long or short?

What hair?

28. Do you want to see somebody right now?

If I had the power of teleporting, I’d use it a lot.

29. Do you like the rain?

In moderation.

30. Did you have a valentine this year?

Why, yes.

31. The last person you kissed needs you at 3 am, would you go?

Why not?

32. Would you honestly say you’d risk your life for someone else?


33. Honestly, if you could go back 1 month and change something would you?

Not so much. Well, actually, if you said TWO months ago, then the answer would be yes.

34. How do you feel about boys smoking?

I hate smoking, no matter who is doing it.

35. Could you see yourself with someone forever?

I have my hopes.


Bob & Dick

I’ve noticed quite often that when someone, say, at church dies, who I might have known for a couple decades, they always have a back story revealed at the funeral I would not have imagined. Whereas the stories of public figures – actors, singers, and the like – are usually well-known to me.

So I was surprised that I was surprised to learn much more about Robert Culp, the actor who died last week at the age of 79. Not only was he a performer but also a writer and sometime director, often of the series on which he was performing at the time.

I knew Culp him best as Kelly Robinson on I Spy, partnering up with Bill Cosby’s Alexander Scott. Cosby was a well-regarded young comedian, but known for his stand-up routines, not dramatic performances. Yet Sheldon Leonard gave him the job, Cosby got three Emmys in three years, and Cosby and Culp became good friends.

But what struck me when I get to Gordon’s very nice obit of Robert Culp was this book cover of the Whitman novelization Message from Moscow by Brandon Keith (1966). I read this story at least a few times in my early teen years, but oddly I don’t remember that much about it, except for one thing: the villain was quite literally “hoist by his own petard.”

I Spy: I watched that show religiously for the three years it was on. I venture to say 90% of black Americans watched it, just like most black folk watched Nat King Cole’s short-lived variety show a decade earlier. There just weren’t that many opportunities to see people of color on the screen – and when you did, they were often in minor, often demeaning roles. I appreciated how both Culp and Cosby demanded that Cosby’s race not be a centerpiece of the show. I may have to go to HULU and catch an episode or two to see if it is as good as I remember it.
I should mention the passing of Dick Giordano, whose ascension to the position of DC Comics’ editor-in-chief corresponded to me starting at the comic book store FantaCo, in 1980. I wasn’t a big DC fan, but I did find myself picking up more of their books in the decade or so he was in charge far more than in the period before. I have a vague recollection meeting him once very briefly at the San Diego Comic Con, and he didn’t SEEM like a corporate stuffed shirt. I suspect that was because, most of all, he was an artist, specifically a quality inker, so he was inclined to try to undersand and appreciate the artist POV. A much better remembrance here.
Oh, and this is coincidentally related. My buddy Steve Bissette has been musing at length about Forgotten Comics Wars of the mid to late 1980s. Subtitled How Angry Freelancers Made It Possible for A New Mainstream Comics Era (Including Vertigo) to Exist, it is a very interesting take on an era when I was actively involved in the retail comics biz. I was going to compile the 12 parts once they were all released, but Mark Evanier, bless him, beat me to it. And ME notes: “That last installment has bittersweet meaning because of the recent passing of Dick Giordano, who was in the midst of the controversy.”

the Experiment

Usually, I try to write something comprehensive (and ideally, comprehensible) to post the next morning. I have maybe a half dozen things in draft form, not quite ready to go. So as a one-off experience, I have gotten up at 5:03 a.m., slightly foggy, and will write for 20 minutes, and post whatever at 5:30.
Doing the March Madness thing. For those not familiar, it’s college basketball. I think the idea that, theoretically, ANY ONE of the 65 teams (well, 64 now), can win lends a sense of democracy to the proceedings. I have our local team, Siena, winning their first game, over Purdue, just as they won their first first game the last two years as an underdog. Still haven’t finished my picks, though, tentatively, I have Kansas over Syracuse, west Virginia over Baylor, and because I believe WV got jobbed out of being a #12 seed, WV over Kansas. Anyone who actually FOLLOWS basketball with insights, please comment. SOON.
Gave blood on Tuesday, BP was uncharacteristically high for me. It’s usually 100 to 120; that day, it was 138. What changed has been a habituation to caffeinated cola; I mean one a day, not multiples, but I’ve just stopped. Yesterday about 4:30 pm, I went to the bathroom and threw cold water on my face.
Anyone out there use that free wifi searcher from Makayama? I downloaded it, put it on my thumb drive, but couldn’t get it to work on my laptop at home.
I was checking Dead or Alive this morning.
Knew Peter Graves died. He started on the second season of the show Mission: Impossible, and those two or three seasons with him, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, were among the best in television. He was also in my top three favorite comedy, Airplane!
Merlin Olson died. I never saw a single fill episode of Little House on the Prairie. I knew him as a football player for the LA Rams, back in the days that Los Angeles actually had a pro football team. I mean besides UCLA and USC.
Caroline McWilliams died last month, which I never noted here. I used to love her in Soap and Benson.
Corey Haim died, and I don’t know that I ever saw him in anything.
Ah, nuts. Time’s up
Roger Ebert on Glenn Beck and Beck’s “I beg you, look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can.”
Bummer: Alex Chilton died at the age of 59.


Behind the Curve

Partially because I deigned to watch football the last three weekends and partially because I have the annoying habit of taking on more stuff than I’m comfortable with, I’m behind in watching stuff on TV, reading the paper, etc.

That two-hour Haiti special, the album for which is the first #1 album that exists without an actual physical product? Haven’t watched it.

The State of the Union – read the reviews, but not heard the actual address. The chat Obama had with Republicans that went so well for the President that FOX News stopped showing it 20 minutes in – plenty of places to read it or watch it, including here but hasn’t happened yet. Still, I think Evanier’s right when he notes: Once you tell your constituents that everything Obama does is evil, you can’t meet him halfway on anything without appearing to be compromising with evil. You can’t even support him when he does things you like. I think that’s a lot of our problem right there.

Of course, being behind has its benefits. After Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for US Senate, there’s been this revisionist message that the Democrats only dumped on her because she lost. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows two and nine days before that election, it was clear that the Democrats, though muted in their criticism – she was still their candidate – suggested that she did not run the robust campaign she ought to have. Yes, in answer to her rhetorical question, you DO pass out fliers in front of Fenway Park.

Some stories I missed altogether, such as the death of Pernell Roberts, the eldest son on Bonanza who later became, in some bizarro world spinoff, Trapper John in the CBS drama Trapper John, MD. It was not a great show, though it was the jumping off point for now-Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell.

I plowed through a couple weeks of the Wall Street Journal and came across this story of Scarlett Johansson’s debut on Broadway as well as a very positive review of “Gregory Mosher’s revival of ‘A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s
1955 play about love and death on the Brooklyn waterfront.” “Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance. You’d never guess that she hasn’t acted on a stage since she was a little girl.”

Other stories I just didn’t know what to say. I noticed that Kate McGarrigle of the singing/songwriting McGarrigle Sisters, and also mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died of cancer at the age of 62 back on January 18. The best I could come with is a link to an obituary for Kate written by her sister Anna. I was listening to Trio, an album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this week. There’s a Kate song called I’ve Had Enough, about lost love, but feels right here.

Love it’s not I who didn’t try
Hard enough, hard enough
And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Love you don’t see
The pain in me
That’s plain enough, plain enough
You’re never here to catch the tears
I cried for us, I cried for us

I’ll take my share but I’ll be fair
There’s not much stuff
Easy enough
And if you choose I’ll break the news
This part is tough, so very tough

I’ve tried and tried to put aside
The time to talk, but without luck
So I’ll just pin this note within your coat
And leave the garden gate unlocked

And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough

Her funeral is today in Montreal.

Little Boxes theme from Weeds by the McGarrigle Sisters.


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