Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

From the second the Universal Studios theme rolls on screen, you know that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not going to be your normal, everyday movie viewing experience. With the video game generation (we'll say the 35 & under crowd) firmly in his sights, director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) has created an audio/visual masterpiece detailing a 20-something's struggle toward adulthood. Based on the Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley, I recommend this film to anyone with a sense of humor.

Scott (Michael Cera - "Arrested Development", Juno, Superbad) is your typical driftless 22-year old: unemployed, living off of his well-to-do roommate, hanging out with his high school-age "girlfriend", Knives. Don't worry, he's not really a cradle robber, they mostly just play video games (particularly a great looking mashup of DDR & Street Fighter) and talk about music. Like every good slacker, Scott also plays bass in a band. His band, Sex Bob-omb, sucks but has aspirations of hitting the big time. One night, Scott dreams of a mysterious pink-haired girl on roller blades. When he sees her in real life the next day in the library it starts him down a painful journey of self-discovery that might just end in true love.

The movie is absolutely steeped in pop culture references: all of the bands are named after NES games (Clash at Demonhead, Crash 'n the Boys), many scenes visually reference specific video games, there's even a scene that borrows the music and laugh track from Seinfeld. Yes, it probably helped my enjoyment that I got a lot (but by no means all) of these references, but it's certainly not necessary to understand them to like the movie. I would go into more detail about some of this stuff, but I think this is definitely one of those movies that the less you know going into it the better it's going to be. On top of this, it's full of funny performances and intricately choreographed action sequences that don't require any specialized hipster knowledge. Don't take my word for it though. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Checking in from Vienna

Just popping in from the lobby of our hotel in Vienna for a quick hello. We've only been here six hours and already have had so much to do.

- Went to a great little pasta/wine bar that's so good at what it does that they audaciously only serve two dishes each day: one vegetarian, one not. All their pasta is made on-site.

- There is music everywhere here. When we arrived, a string quartet was busking in the main square. I could hear "My Heart Will Go On" as we made our way to the hotel. After dinner, we enjoyed an Italian street band that sounded a bit like Devotchka. They employed everything: multiple accordions, a violin, mandolin, ukelele, banjo, even a saw.

- We're right down near the center of the ring, so everything is a whirl of activity around us. Open-air restaurant seating is everywhere and the many horse-drawn carriages go right past our front door.

Looking forward to our 4-day stay here.

P.S. This German keyboard is going to be the death of my typing skills. I'll have to take a picture.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's Flying Day!

Last Saturday, some of our good friends from HarrisWorld came up to the Twin Cities to partake in what was truly a unique experience. I've been to some interesting events in my life, chief among them our trip to see Punxsutawney Phil a few years back, but the Red Bull Flugtag ("Flying Day" in German) may take the cake for strangeness. I only learned of its existence a mere two days before going, but I'm glad I did.

Apparently, Red Bull (the energy drink people) select a handful of cities every year to host the event and we here in Minnesota were lucky enough to be graced with its presence this year. What is it, you ask? Essentially, teams of five spend weeks and months putting together a "flying" machine of their own design and then proceed to run it off a ramp and into a river after performing a skit that usually involves bad dancing. Yes, it is as silly as it sounds.

The beauty of it is the elaborate themes that the various teams use for their "aircraft". At our version of the event, there were "planes" modeled after nearly everything. Among them were Prince's Little Red Corvette, a Zamboni machine, a hockey penalty box, a coffin, a giant roller skate, and even a bathroom (literally a complete bathroom on wheels). I keep putting the words "aircraft" and "planes" in quotation marks because although the stated point is to see who can fly the farthest and with the most style, in truth most of these contraptions plummeted straight off the edge of the ramp to the bottom of the Mississippi. The bathroom even managed to flip completely over and land upside-down -- truly hilarious.

There was one actual aircraft that managed to fly, setting a Flugtag world record in the process. Mere inches before crashing into the river, the pilot pulled a lever deploying some wing flaps (real aeronautics at work!) that leveled the plane and allowed it to glide over 200 feet before coming to rest gently in the middle of the river. The applause from the amazed crowd gathered on both sides of the river was deafening. Which reminds me, the turn-out for the show was truly astounding, but that's probably because the best part of it? It was free. I never thought I'd say this in my life, but... thanks, Red Bull.

You can check out the highlights yourself on their website. The videos should start automatically.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brief Hiatus

I had hoped to have a handful of posts queued up for while I'm on vacation, but wrapping up work and prepping for the trip have gotten in the way of producing anything of quality. There will be a post tomorrow, but after that you can consider this space to be on a brief two-week hiatus.

If Internet cafes still exist in Europe, I'll see what I can do about throwing a couple of live updates together while I'm over there. Otherwise, until I return...