Arid January

Beer O'Clock

So, I decided to have a dry January.

Okay, maybe not exactly dry. Just arid.

Lemme explain.

Last year was rough. Really rough. Incredible things happened, but I was pulled beyond capacity.

And I was drinking a lot.

The two aren’t necessarily related. I don’t think I was drinking to get away from problems. However, I was drinking a lot because I was too tired to stop myself. I didn’t have the mental fortitude to say, “Yeah, let’s stop at one drink tonight.”

I was drinking 1+ bottles of wine by myself every time I recorded Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome. I was drinking 1+ bottles of wine at every movie night at my house. I was drinking at other events. I never got stumbling drunk because my liver is apparently supernatural, and I’d rarely have a hangover the next day, but that’s a lot of booze. That’s a lot of empty calories. That’s a lot more booze than necessary for enjoyment. That’s not drinking because I like the taste of beer and wine and scotch — which has long been my mantra — that’s drinking because it’s there.

And it’s been taking a toll on my body. My weight was skyrocketing in the latter quarter of last year, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t all just stress putting pounds on me.

So, I decided to have a dry January, to see if my suspicions were right. To see if quitting alcohol for a while was harming me in more ways than expected. To reset my love of beer and wine and scotch.

Or, rather, an arid January.

Lemme explain.

I’ve never gone dry before because it kills me to be in a restaurant or at a party where someone has a beer or wine or food that I’ve never tried before… and I have to say no. New experiences are the oxygen I breathe. If anything was going to undo a pledge to go dry, it was going to be that. It was going to be me greedily eyeing a booze label I’d never seen before.

Thus, I’ve made a caveat to my pledge: I get to taste things. If it’s something I’ve never tasted before, I get to have a sip of it. Not a full bottle or glass, but a taste.

And guess what? That seems to work.

I actually lounged around at a tiki bar all last evening, had only one taste of a tiki drink, and spent the rest of the evening happy. (In fact, I learned something: if you need to be a teetotaler in a bar, there might be no finer place than a tiki bar. Those bartenders can whip up some great non-alcoholic drinks from their arsenal of fruit juices.)

So, what are the results of (mostly) not drinking for a bit over a week?

I lost four pounds.

Yeah, I was drinking a lot.

Here’s to another three arid weeks.

Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2015

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The BNAT 2015 audience during a break in the middle of the night.

Once again this past December, I was given the honor of joining the audience of the Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, TX. For 24 hours, around 200 or so hardcore movie nerds and I indulged in whatever cinematic glory that Harry Knowles felt like pouring into our eye sockets.

Windy Bowlsby, Meghan Murphy, and I already talked at length about the sights and sounds of BNAT 2015 over on Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome, but I also like to create a yearly text-and-link list of everything we saw. Alongside the movies, we get a host of amazing vintage trailers, so if you would like to see a little piece of the Butt-Numb-a-Thon, you can click the links below and see it for yourself.

Also, I’ve created a full playlist of all the links below on YouTube, if you’d just like to marathon all the videos.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

I sucked at keeping it together in 2015.

No, that’s probably not quite right, even though that’s how it feels on the first day of 2016. I sucked at keeping my brain together in 2015. On the outside, if I look at the evidence, there’s a lot I did in 2015 that should make me proud. The fact that I accomplished any of it while being sabotaged by my own personal issues is a wonderment. It’s weird that I can look back on all the stuff that happened in 2015 and only see weight gain, daily struggles with mental illness, far too little creativity, and way too much alcohol.

This is my first Tin Lizard blog post in over a year, which belies a year were I felt I was either doing too little of import or was doing too much to talk about it. I look at my computer records and see swaths of unedited photos and the sputtered sparks of once-promising projects. It’s like simultaneously looking at a year that didn’t happen and a year that was too full to have any sense applied to it.

Thus, to smack my brain back to reality, I need to list what I actually accomplished in 2015. I need to dump all the junk out of the box so I can sift through and find the keepers. Perhaps then I’ll be able to hash out what truly has been missing.

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Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2014

We miss you, Holly.

BNAT missed you, Holly!

For the last thirteen years, I’ve had the honor to attend the Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, TX, for which I am ever thankful to cinematic madman Harry Knowles.

I won’t delve too deeply into my overall experience right now, since a) I don’t have the photos edited yet, and b) I’ve talked about everything at length for upcoming episodes of Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome and The Geek Life. However, I do have a tradition of cataloging every little thing that played at BNAT each year, including the trailers, so you can at least relive a little bit of BNAT yourself.

In addition to the links below, I’ve created a playlist on YouTube of all the linked videos I could find. Enjoy!

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So, let’s talk about The Interview…

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Seth Rogen at Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, TX, on December 13th, 2014. This is the last time The Interview was screened, and two days before studios started refusing to play the film.

Over the last few days, a movie became the biggest news story in America. Thanks to hackers who held Sony hostage with embarrassing e-mails, confidential employee information, and eventually terrorist threats, The Interview has been pulled from distribution. As of the time of this writing, speculation from the FBI is that the hackers are associated with North Korea.

But I bet you’re wondering: is the movie any good? Is this movie worth all the furor?

Last Saturday, I was at a 24-hour movie festival in Austin, TX called The Butt-Numb-a-Thon. In a nutshell, we show up to the theater with no idea of what films will play. We could be seeing premieres, vintage movies, or, well, just about anything. And one of the things that scrolled in front of our eyes was The Interview.

This was two days before the terrorism threats hit the headlines. The screening I saw was feted with confetti cannons, a live appearance and Q&A by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and 20-foot-tall banners bearing Kim Jong-Un’s face. Everyone received rocket-shaped sippie cups bearing logos of the film. And, of course, we got the film itself.

The Interview is… okay. It has problems, but I laughed a lot, and the audience around me sure laughed a lot, too.

The general plot, as I’m sure you’ve already heard, is this: Seth Rogen and James Franco play bumbling journalists who somehow score a Frost/Nixon-style interview with Kim Jong-Un. The US government intervenes and asks them to assassinate the North Korean leader. Of course, when they arrive in North Korea, wacky hijinks ensue.

I am generally lukewarm on Seth Rogen, mostly because his manchild schtick wears a little thin on me. I like the subjects he picks as targets for comedy, but the reality of his comedy rarely lives up to its promise. The Interview bears a lot of these same problems, but it succeeds more than most other Rogen vehicles I’ve seen.

Where The Interview truly wins is in its performances. The actors make this comedy 100% worth watching, even though not all the jokes land well. James Franco and Seth Rogen have amazing chemistry, and watching the two of them riff off each other is fantastic. But even better is Randall Park, who is hitting for the bleachers as Kim Jong-Un. Park takes over every scene, playing Kim Jong-Un as a sort of meek superfan of Franco’s character. (During the Q&A after the film, Rogen and Goldberg talked about how Park’s performance choices dramatically informed the plot of the film, to the point where the film’s best script choices were made because of him.)

Where The Interview stumbles is in the political commentary, which is puddle-deep and not really engaged with outside of the dialogue. It’s clear that the filmmakers didn’t really know what to do with the film once it arrives in North Korea, perhaps because the real North Korea is such an information vacuum. The film is better when it’s poking fun at American media and when it’s simply playing with its characters. This surely is no Great Dictator or Dr. Strangelove, but perhaps it wasn’t really meant to be.

Also, a lot of the comedy is really dumb. I mean, really really dumb. There are more butt jokes in this movie than there are turtlenecks in Love Actually. So many butt jokes. Anyway, dumb comedy is not my thing. If that’s your thing, The Interview would probably make you laugh more than it made me laugh, and you would laugh a lot.

So, given that the film is okay, is it worth fighting for?

YES. ABSOLUTELY.

Part of protecting freedom means protecting the stupid shit as well as the grand ideas. If Sony smothers the film entirely just so it can take the insurance money, I hope some office patriot leaks the film online.