S.G. Browne

Seven Films (2012-2013) No One Saw But Should

Lately it seems like the only movies anyone talks about are the big Hollywood tentpole films where pathos and plot and nuance take a back seat to action and explosions and CGI special effects. Films like World War Z, Pacific Rim, and Fast and Furious 6; not to mention all of the superhero sequels and reboots and remakes.

While popcorn movies are fun to watch on occasion, I tend to prefer films that have a little more going for them than blue screens and action sequences. Below are my seven favorite film I’ve seen over the past two years, at the theater and on Netflix, that garnered little fanfare or box office success.

Why seven films? Why not five or ten? Because these are the first films that came to mind without me having to think twice about them. And I stuck with the last couple of years because otherwise this list would be at least twenty-five films long.

Four of these films earned less than $5,000,000 domestic gross while all of them have earned less than $30,000,000. Many of these are also from first time writers or directors. Or both. If you enjoy smart, funny, or thoughtful films, or a little of all three, then there’s something here for you.

(Oh, and feel free to share your favorite under-appreciated films in the comments.)

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Killer Joe
If you’re a fan of dark comedies and inept seedy characters, this is the film for you. Fun performances turned in by Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple, and Emile Hirsch. And even if you can’t stand Matthew McConaughey, you’ll love him as the titular character.

Jeff Who Lives at Home
An engaging, amusing, and thoughtful film about relationships, unfulfilled dreams, and destiny, with Jason Segal as a live-at-home stoner searching for his destiny and Ed Helms as his asshole big brother, with Susan Sarandon as their frustrated mom. Written by Jay and Mark Duplass (The League, Cyrus).

Young Adult
While Diablo Cody is best known for her Oscar-winning script for Juno (which I loved), I think this is the best of her three scripts, starring Charlize Theron as an emotionally stunted young adult author who goes back home to recapture her glory days. Great turn by Patton Oswalt as her unlikely romantic interest.

Safety Not Guaranteed
A quirky little film about a team of reporters (Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson) who investigate a classified newspaper ad asking for a time-traveling companion. Mark Duplass plays the author of the ad who seems a little crazy. But then, aren’t all geniuses a little nuts?

Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs, and stars in this in-your-face romantic comedy about a modern-day Don Juan who has a predilection for online porn. Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore are perfectly cast as the women in his life, while Tony Danza as Gordon-Levitt’s father is absolute gold.

The Way, Way Back
A sweet, smart, and funny coming-of-age story about a lost 14-year-old boy who struggles to find himself while on a summer vacation. Good writing and a great ensemble cast with Toni Colette, Robb Cordy, Amanda Peet, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Carell playing against type as an emotionally-abusive future step-father.

In a World…
First-time writer/director Lake Bell (Children’s Hospital) stars as the daughter of a voice-over king in a world where men dominate the theatrical trailer landscape. But when she gets a chance to lend her voice to the upcoming Amazon Games trilogy, the world turns upside down. Smart writing and a cohesive ensemble cast.

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I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus Holiday Giveaway

*UPDATE*
And the winners of the I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus giveaway are…drum roll please… Maria Garcia, John Hornor Jacobs, and Kelly Garbato. Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who left a comment and retweeted on Twitter. May you all have a zombie little Christmas!

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And zombies dressed up like Santa Claus

With Halloween safely in the rear view mirror, we can now, freely and without fear of reprisal, plunge headlong into the holiday season. Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year and living in San Francisco makes it that much more festive, as the town is all decked out with lights and garland and ornaments and homeless people in Santa hats.

But for me, the holidays bring back fond memories: The smell of freshly baked snickerdoodles; Heat Miser and Cold Miser doing their song and dance; the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack; Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And when it comes to holiday movies, I’m a sucker for It’s A Wonderful Life.

Cover newSo to celebrate the dawning of the holiday season, I’m holding a giveaway for three (3) copies of my 2012 novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus: A Breathers Christmas Carol.

Entering to win is as easy as hanging your stocking: Just respond to this blog post and share what gets you in the holiday spirit, be it a favorite holiday film, TV special, Christmas carol, or the smell of pumpkin pie. Whatever floats your holiday boat. I’ll do a random drawing of all entrants to determine the winners.

TWITTER BONUS: If you’re on Twitter and you re-tweet my post about the contest, that will get you an additional entry into the contest. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, my handle is @s_g_browne.

Contest runs until Friday, November 8 at 11:59pm PST and is open to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

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Douchebag Nation

douche·bag (doosh´bag) n. [L ductio saccus] 1. a small syringe having detachable nozzles for fluid injections, used chiefly for vaginal lavage and for enemas; 2. [Slang] a contemptible or despicable person. Also, douche bag

While “douchebag” or “douche bag” has come to have multiple meanings to different people in different situations, the most common use is synonymous with people (usually men) who self-consciously try a little too hard to be hip or cool, such as overgrown frat boys, guys who wear muscle shirts, and anyone who has ever been on Jersey Shore.

The Urban Dictionary lists numerous variations of meanings for douchebag, including jerk, asshole, moron, and anyone who wears wife-beaters or sun visors on backwards. But the definition from Urban Dictionary  that best describes a douchebag is someone who has “an inflated sense of self-worth, compounded by a lack of social grace and self-awareness and who behaves inappropriately in public, yet is completely ignorant to how pathetic he (or she) appears to others.”

The key wording here is the lack of social grace and the inappropriate behavior in public. More specifically, the lack of courtesy given to others that, in my opinion, defines a douchebag. And in today’s society of self-absorption and technological distraction, you don’t have to look far to find a douchebag.

There are cellular douchebags, checking their smart phones in movie theaters or talking at the table in restaurants while ignoring the people who are actually present. There are cyber douchebags (aka trolls) posting inflammatory and off-topic messages. There are cycling douchebags, blowing through stop signs and traffic signals or refusing to drop into single file to allow others to pass. And there are picnic douchebags who can manage to cart all of their crap to the beach or public park but can’t seem to cart their garbage back out.

Douchebags here. Douchebags there. Douchebags, douchebags everywhere!

It’s almost like they belong in a Dr. Seuss rhyme.

I do not like them in a park, or when they’re texting in the dark.
I do not like them on a bike, or when they litter on a hike.
I do not like them on my blog, or when I step in poop from their dog.
I do not like douchebags who spam, I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Over the past few years douchebags have begun to proliferate at an alarming rate, creating a culture of courtesy criminalsa large percentage of whom are addicted to their smart phones. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 10 people living in the United States today are douchebags. With all of the new technology being developed that will enable us to spend more and more time in our own little cyber bubbles of self-absorption, that number is expected to increase to 3 in 10 people by 2020.

We are becoming a nation of douchebags.

So the next time you’re on a bus or in a movie theater or at the beach, look around and try to spot the douchebag. Once you find him or her, let them know that their behavior is inappropriate  and displays a complete lack of courtesy to their fellow man.  If for any reason you can’t find the douchebag in the crowd, then perhaps you need to take a closer look.

Maybe the douchebag is you.

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Filed under: Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 9:07 am