Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Reitmans Cometh

What do the movies My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Thank You for Smoking have in common? The Reitman connection, that's what. Ex-Girlfriend was directed by Ivan Reitman, who in his heyday did Ghostbusters and has gone rapidly downhill since then, and Smoking was directed by his son Jason Reitman, who made his feature film debut with this... I think.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Watching this movie, I couldn't help but detect incredibly misogynistic notes in it. Uma Thurman's character is so completely psychotic, she doesn't border on the edge of insanity - she's leaped into the pool, fully clothed, in a leather thong and cape. This, of course, renders her thoroughly unlikable and as one dimensional as the artworks she supposedly sells. But she's supposed to be pushing our main character away into the arms of his wholesome-to-a-fault colleague Anna Faris, so I suppose she does serve her function.

Anna, on the other hand, is absolutely lovely, I have to admit. In the strictly physical sense though, and nothing more. I found myself captivated by her every time she appeared onscreen, but sadly, it wasn't because of her acting ability or character nuances. The wholesome girl she plays is as bland and boring as a wafer biscuit, even though she's cute as hell.

Eddie Izzard loses lots of his bite as a blah "villain", and Luke Wilson is simply forgettable as the main character, flip-flopping his decisions faster than some politicians. It eventually ends up, as it must, with everyone getting superpowers, a massive earth-shaking (literally) catfight breaking out, someone making pretty "I love you, no, he loves you!" speeches, and within 5 minutes everything is neatly resolved - and I so do not buy it. It all boils down to a not-so-great script with a great concept and a couple of good ideas that ultimately get lost in the overwrought hamfistedness of the direction.

Thank You for Smoking
What else can I say? It's smart, consistently funny, and makes you almost forgive the fact that it doesn't seem to really have a point and the emotional journey seems somewhat forced. That aside, Aaron Eckhart is slicker than oil, and the supporting cast is uniformly excellent and memorable... with the exception of Cameron Bright, quite possibly the worst child actor on the face of the planet with an uncanny ability to suck all the emotion out of his lines and look exactly the same in every fucking scene. Oh yes, and Katie Holmes kinda blows too, being thoroughly unconvincing in her seductress role.

I suppose it's time for the father to make way for the son and stop subjecting us to any more of his crap. As the Chinese saying goes, the tides of the Yangtze River rolls ever forward. Reitman senior should get out before the entire world catches on that he's a washout.


This Ain't No Reserve

So I've been away these past two weeks on my ICT, or In-Camp Training. Which basically means that I go back to the army and learn how to be a soldier all over again. Which basically means that my IQ drops by about half.

It was a great surprise running into some of my fellow medics on the first day; at least I knew I had company, and company I enjoyed. I did not, however, enjoy the rest of the day. Hell, I hated the entire two weeks I was there.

The first thing we did was get shipped off to medic school, where for the first class we took turns stabbing IV needles into each other's veins. There was plenty of blood spilt that day, and I still have the bruises on my arms to prove it.

But even that was fine, compared to the sheer boredom that permeated those first two days. In actual fact, everything could've been packed into a single day with time to spare. Instead, to make it seem as though they were doing work, the organizers had crafted (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) a relaxed program that utilized over 50% of the time for canteen breaks.

I was so bored, I was going out of my mind. It's especially horrible, coming from an industry where I have to use my brain every single day, to have to shut it down completely or risk going insane. I swear, I felt like a heroin addict, on edge all the time, ready to crawl up the walls.

I'd heard tales of how relaxing reservist training would be, and how many people used it as a holiday from work. The irony was that even though I hated being in the office, I was actually craving to be back in my cubicle - anything except what I was doing. How sad is that? If I want to take a break and switch my brain off, I'll do it, but on my own grounds. Enforced stupidity is not my cup of tea.

Additionally, once we returned to our parent unit, the shit work began. Basically, not only did we have to source for our own medical equipment from the medical centres around, the Officer Commanding also expected us to help out when other people were moving their shit. All this on top of the services we were providing, which was to take care of anyone that got sick or injured. Sure, some people were jealous of the "preferential" treatment we appeared to be getting, but they didn't have to worry about the well-being of everyone else.

Contrary to my expectations, these two weeks turned out to be more demanding than even my NSF (enlistee) days. I used to sit in the air-conditioned comfort of the medical centre, taking care of the running of things, and now they wanted me to carry over 10 kg of stuff and walk for half an hour to a campsite, and actually live there for three days. I thought they were joking, but they were deadly serious. I mean, medically speaking, I shouldn't even be carrying all that junk. And after the wonderful half a year sleeping in my gorgeously comfortable bed, I spent many a sleepless night during those two weeks, which didn't do too much for my energy. I think I also pulled a tendon in my groin from all the carrying and walking. It still hurts now.

What gets me more is the fact that they're only paying me for 10 days, but the program ran for 12 days in all. It's not because I mind the additional two days - it's because they're not paying me for it. And my payroll department had the cheek to tell me they misplaced my claim form for make-up salary because I gave it to them too early in advance.

It wasn't all bad though. I got to make some new friends, among them some nice doctors - you never know when you'll need medical aid, and renew some old friendships. I just wish the doctors were more outspoken about how their medics should be treated. There was drama - someone got a nasty cut from falling glass that severed a tendon in his hand. I was given some time off to enjoy dinner with the parents on their anniversary. There was complaining about bad food. There was a visit to my old camp which I really enjoyed, especially meeting the old-timers there again after so long.

But there were also things that bugged me. Things like how inefficiently things were run, how much time was wasted on stupid shit, how nothing seemed to be communicated clearly. Things like officers being unhappy we left soon after the field camp to return our supplies - I didn't use your shit, so why should I help you with it when you didn't help with mine? Things like how many safety hazards there were in the campsite which no one noticed - chest-deep drains that were left uncovered (an officer fell into one of them at night, escaping a broken jaw because he was tall enough), loose glass everywhere, and so on.

The biggest thing I hated though, was how being in the army, even for that short two weeks, made me stupid. One of the other guys said, "Whenever I put the uniform on, I become tired, lazy and stupid." This is entirely true. I can work all day on set and still not be as tired as I was at noon in camp. My waking hours were spent fantasizing about lazing in bed and sleeping. When I tried to do work during the two week period, I ended up with writers' block big time and was only able to stare at an empty screen. I was finally only able to get over that only yesterday.

But even that, terrible as it is, isn't the worst thing about ICT. The absolute worst thing is looking around you, seeing all the costs that go towards this useless exercise, and realize that ICT really is the biggest waste of taxpayer funds ever. Basically, it's taking all your tax dollars and flushing them down the toilet bowl.

I think I'm getting incoherent, so I shall stop. Suffice to say, I'm glad it's over and normal life can resume.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Too... early...

Ever dreamed that your alarm clock was going off, and forced yourself to wake up, only to find that it was too early and your alarm was still 20 minutes from going off?

It sucks when said alarm was supposed to go off at 5am.

Anyway, I officially hate reservist training. What a colossal waste of taxpayers' money and my time. I've never felt so tired from just sitting around.

But more on that next time.