Saturday, November 29, 2008

Way to Go, Kevin!

In today's Flint Journal: Filmmaker Kevin Leffler takes on Michael Moore, Moore-style

I've pasted the story here, in case the link disappears.

Filmmaker Kevin Leffler takes on Michael Moore, Moore-style
by Carol Azizian | The Flint Journal Saturday November 29, 2008, 12:20 AM

From "Shooting Michael Moore"
In his documentary, "Shooting Michael Moore," Davison native Kevin Leffler uses the same tactics against Michael Moore that made him famous. The movie is being shown in commercial theaters for the first time.

Kevin Leffler turned the cameras on Michael Moore -- and now he's getting a wider audience to show the results.

In his documentary, "Shooting Michael Moore," Leffler adopts the famous filmmaker's guerilla interview tactics to harp on what he sees as inconsistencies and hypocrisies in Moore's popular and high-grossing movies.

Leffler, a Davison native who attended high school with Moore, said he wants the public to "see the other side of Michael Moore and make their own decisions."

The movie premiered a year ago at the Flint Film Festival and is being shown for the first time in commercial theaters -- from Dec. 5-11 at AMC Great Lakes 25 in Auburn Hills, AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights and AMC Laurel Park 10 in Livonia.

Leffler says he is not a right-wing critic or even an indie filmmaker. He's an accountant and Baker College professor who taught himself how to use a film camera and spent $250,000 of his own money to make the film.

When "Shooting Michael Moore" first premiered at the Flint Film Festival in 2007 -- it won an audience choice award -- Leffler said he was a registered Democrat with no political ax to grind.

His motivation was simple. He wanted people to see the Michael Moore he knew.

"Mike is out for Mike. I don't have a problem with him making money, but don't tell me you're fighting for the underclass and people without a voice," Leffler said.

Moore could not be reached for comment, but Leffler's film is not the first to criticize the filmmaker. Another one titled "Manufactured Dissent," was released in 2007 by Canadian filmmakers.

At the time, Moore told The Journal: "There have been about 10 films made against me. I haven't seen any of them. ... I get so used to listening to the stuff people say about me, it becomes entertainment ... like a fictional character has been created named Michael Moore."

Throughout his documentary, Leffler poses as a "Mini Mike," wearing a baseball cap -- Moore's signature garb -- while he interviews subjects and even a cameraman from the Oscar winner's films, reads contradictory quotes from his books and takes a critical view of Moore's movies.

Leffler sometimes interviews people Moore himself previously interviewed and who claim their comments were taken out of context.

In the film, Leffler tries to contact Moore to get some answers.

When phone calls and letters fail, he trespasses onto his picturesque northern Michigan property -- where arrives by boat -- and plants a life-size cardboard figure of President George W. Bush.

He eventually catches up with Moore at the Traverse City Film Festival, where he introduces the famous filmmaker to the parents of the late Sgt. Raymond Plouhar who was killed in Iraq. They tell Moore that his cameramen didn't divulge the real nature of "Fahrenheit 9/11" when they took footage of Plouhar recruiting potential soldiers in Flint.

Leffler also says Moore's stance against corporate America conflicts with his financial practices. Leffler shows a tax return from a nonprofit established by Moore that invests in major corporations such as Exxon Mobil, Halliburton (from which Vice President Dick Cheney retired) and major drug companies.

Leffler also flew to Cuba to dispute Moore's somewhat rosy view of the country's universal health care in "Sicko."

He said he plans to take the film to some of the same film festivals where Moore's films were a big hit. And he's looking for a distributor.

Is Leffler concerned about Moore taking legal action against him?

"I'm willing to accept that risk," Leffler said.

I'm so glad Kevin did this so people outside of Davison can see what Michael Moore is really like. I can hardly wait to see this movie!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Tips

I don't shop on Black Friday (no deal worth getting up that early for or worth the hassle. I did notice a cool tip in the newspaper the other day. Here is it from an online source:

4. Get the best price without hassles by knowing price-match and return policies. Many stores offer price-match guarantees (if a competitor offers a lower price, they'll match it). Increasingly, Black Friday sales are exempt from all this. Others have a return policy that, in effect, is a price-match guarantee for the store itself (if they drop the price, the difference is later refunded to you if you ask for it). If you know which product you want to buy, and can find a store with a price-match guarantee that honors Black Friday prices, buy it! When Black Friday rolls around, you can go looking for the best price, and not have to worry about whether the store is out of stock. If a store is willing to refund the difference between its own normal price and its Black Friday price, buy it early for the same reason.
Read more at 12 Black Friday Secrets Retailers Don't Want You To Know. Happy shopping!

The Perfect Thanksgiving

Happy Black Friday! To all you sane people who are not out shopping, here're some more thoughts on Thanksgiving. Thanks, Andy. What a wonderful column (even if it did make me cry)!

What's your perfect Thanksgiving?
Posted by Andrew Heller / The Flint Journal November 24, 2008 13:13PM
Categories: Andy's Journal columns

Don't you wish you could live the perfect Thanksgiving?

None of us ever has. But most have had moments of perfection at a bunch of Thanksgivings that in our memory get squashed together to form sort of a utopian day. It's the day we long for that never comes because it can't.

But what if, just once, it did? What if you could have one perfect Thanksgiving?

Mine would look like this:

Cartoon smell tendrils of turkey and cinnamon rolls -- a glorious mix of breakfast and dinner -- would waft down the basement stairs, grab me from slumber and drag me upstairs.

In the kitchen, mom would say, "Go watch TV until breakfast is ready."

Hey, no problem there. Thanksgiving morning has the parades from all over. New York, Chicago, Toronto, Detroit. Such exotic places. To a kid anyway, especially a kid raised in the Upper Peninsula.

I loved the parades. Every kid did way back then. (Kids these days can't be bothered. I try to interest my kids. No go. What's a parade when you've got Xbox?)

After parades, a big breakfast with my whole family -- dad at one end, mom at the other, the six of us in between. Somehow my wife and kids are there, too. Everyone is loud, happy, in pajamas.

We eat 'til we bust.

Then we shower. Then I play football or Hot Wheels with my brothers and kids. Dad puts on a fire and plays albums on his Quadraphonic music system. The kids all take turns trying to find the sweet spot in the middle of the room where you really can hear four distinct sounds.)

Then it's time for the Detroit Lions game on TV. At halftime, my mom brings in a tray of cheese and crackers to "tide us over" until dinner. We're still stuffed from the late breakfast, but we eat anyway. It's Thanksgiving.

The Lions win. (This is a fantasy, remember?) My grandmothers come over. At some point, Grandma Jean, the Scottish princess, stands between my dad and the TV, which she used to do to get his attention to ask a question. Man, he hated that. We kids thought it was hysterical.

Then my Grandma Rose -- the Southern belle -- would play Cribbage with me and my dad. When he would get up to fetch a drink, we would cheat and stock my hand with 5s, astonishing him with a 25-point crib.

At some point, I'd tease Rose about her South Carolina accent, so out of place in the U.P., which would be her cue to tell me to "Go to the first four letters of your last name." (Sounds harsh, I know, but she was kidding. We all loved it.)

Then it's into the kitchen to snitch pickles and olives off the "relish" tray, as my mom used to call it.

Then dinner. Oh, dinner. The table is covered with a red cloth and candles. The good dishes are out, the ones we only see twice a year. And the food. Oh, my. The table looks like an English king's feast, minus the roast pig biting the apple.

We eat. We dessert. We clear. We wash dishes.

The evening is here. We play games. We laugh. We snack. No one fights. No one is sad or dead or missing or scattered to the winds and not able to make it.

Finally, I drop into bed, happy and full in more ways than one.

And then I drift off to sleep.

Wishing it could always be thus.

Got something on your mind? E-mail Andy at

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is having a peaceful, happy family holiday.

Among the many things I am thankful for year is Saffron. After getting worse in Oct. (so much so that we thought she might not make it through the weekend), she perked up and is holding her own. She is comfortable, hungry, and purry. She still has some trouble with gingivitis and is too frail for dental work. Fortunately, there's a injectable antibiotic that fixed that problem -- and it lasts for two weeks. (Amazing!). She woke me up today, as she does most days, by hopping on the bed to give me kisses. She is enjoying her Christmas village and sleeping under her small Christmas tree. I hope to put up our big tree tonight so she can enjoy sleeping under it. I'm just so thankful that my sweet kitty is purry, happy, and here to eat turkey with us.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Star Trek Movie Trailer

After reading "Inspirations for a Whole New Enterprise: How the old 'Star Trek' influenced the new film" by Jeff Jenson (published in Entertainment Weekly Oct. 24), I had high hopes for the new film. It is supposedly influenced by "Balance of Terror" (original series episode), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (movie), "Unification" (one of the few Next Generation episodes I could stand to watch), "Yesterday's Enterprise (ditto), and Diane Carey's 1992 novel Best Destiny (one of the best Star Trek novels ever, in itself a rarity).

The cover story of the same issue of EW, 'Star Trek': New Movie, New Vision also by Jeff Jenson, made me change my mind. That's Zachary Quinto as Spock and Chris Pine as Kirk pictured on the cover.

I'm worried. The characters look great, but it appears they are ignoring the Trek timeline by putting all the main characters in Starfleet Academy at the same time (thus making them all close in age).

Jensen's article confirmed my fear. Director J.J. Abrams "was engaged by the possibility of a Star Trek movie 'that grabbed me the way Star Wars did.' That meant a bigger budget and better special effects than any previous Trek film, plus freedom to reinvent the mythos as needed."

Oh crap!

More stuff that makes me nervous: "The storytelling is newbie-friendly, but it slyly assimilates a wide range of Trek arcana, from doomed Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to Sulu's swordsmanship to classic lines like, 'I have been, and always shall be, your friend.' More ambitiously, the movie subversively plays with Trek lore — and those who know it. The opening sequence, for example, is an emotionally wrenching passage that culminates with a mythic climax sure to leave zealots howling 'Heresy!' But revisionism anxiety is the point. 'The movie,'' [Damon] Lindelof [friend of Abrams close collaborator] says, 'is about the act of changing what you know.''

What the hell does that all mean?

On the plus side:
  • Quinto campaigned for the part of Spock and looks quite comfortable (and convincing) in the role. I suspect he's a good enough actor that when we see the film we won't even think about Sylar (his evil character on the TV show Heroes).
  • Abrams wouldn't make the movie without Leonard Nimoy (the original Spock). Jensen hints Nimoy will appear in a scene with Quinto and/or Pine. I figure that means time-travel is involved. (No wonder the time cops hate Kirk so much!)
  • Abrams gave "Randy Pausch, the now-late author of The Last Lecture and avowed Trekker, a cameo in the film."

On the other hand, the new trailer (shown before the James Bond file Quantum of Solace) doesn't encourage me:

Only six more months until we can see it and decide for ourselves. In the meantime, keep an eye on Star Trek: The Official Movie Site for updates.

Update Nov. 23, 2008: This scene-by-scene analysis of the trailer did not make me feel any better about the movie.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Holy Crap! Michael Crichton Dies

Holy crap! This was not the news I was expecting to see on CNN today: 'Jurassic Park' author, 'ER' creator Crichton dies.

I've pasted the story here in case the link disappears.
'Jurassic Park' author, 'ER' creator Crichton dies

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Michael Crichton, who helped create the TV show "ER" and wrote the best-sellers "Jurassic Park," "The Andromeda Strain," "Sphere" and "Rising Sun," has died in Los Angeles, his public relations firm said in a news release.

Michael Crichton, here in 2005, was a director and best-selling author. He co-created the TV series "ER."

Crichton died unexpectedly Tuesday "after a courageous and private battle against cancer," the release said.

He was 66.

Crichton, a medical doctor, was attracted to cautionary science tales.

"Jurassic Park" -- perhaps his best-known work -- concerned capturing the DNA of dinosaurs and bringing them to life on a modern island, where they soon run amok; "The Andromeda Strain," his first major fiction success, involves an alien microorganism that's studied in a special military compound after causing death in a nearby community.

Crichton also invited controversy with some of his scientific views. He was an avowed skeptic of global climate change, giving lectures warning against "consensus science." He later took on global warming and the theories surrounding it in his 2004 novel, "State of Fear," which attracted attacks in its own right from scientists, including NASA climatologist James Hansen.

Crichton was a distinctive figure in the entertainment business, a trained physician whose interests included writing, filmmaking and television. (He was physically distinctive as well, standing 6 feet 9 inches.)

He published "The Andromeda Strain" while he was still a medical student at Harvard Medical School. He wrote a story about a 19th-century train robbery, called "The Great Train Robbery," and then directed the 1979 film version.

He also directed several other films, including "Westworld" (1973), "Coma" (1978), "Looker" (1981) and "Runaway" (1984).

In 1993, while working on the film version of "Jurassic Park" with Steven Spielberg, he teamed with the director to create "ER." The NBC series set in a Chicago emergency room debuted in 1994 and became a huge hit, making a star of George Clooney. Crichton originally wrote the script for the pilot in 1974.

"Michael's talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of 'Jurassic Park,' " said Spielberg, a friend of Crichton's for 40 years, according to The Associated Press. "He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth. ... Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

Crichton was "an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful," "ER" executive producer John Wells told the AP. "No lunch with Michael lasted less than three hours and no subject was too prosaic or obscure to attract his interest. Sexual politics, medical and scientific ethics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, astronomy, astrology, quantum physics, and molecular biology were all regular topics of conversation."

Michael Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942 and grew up in New York's suburbs. His father was a journalist and Michael loved the writing profession. He went to medical school partly out of a concern he wouldn't be able to make writing a career, but the success of "The Andromeda Strain" in 1969 -- the book was chosen by the Book-of-the-Month Club and optioned by Hollywood -- made him change his mind, though he still had an M.D.

Though most of Crichton's books were major best-sellers involving science, he could ruffle feathers when he took on social issues. "Rising Sun" (1992) came out during a time when Americans feared Japanese ascendance, particularly when it came to technology. "Disclosure" (1994) was about a sexual harassment case.

Crichton won an Emmy, a Peabody, a Writers Guild of America Award for "ER," and won other awards as well.

"Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand," the news release said.

Crichton was married five times and had one child.

A private funeral service is expected.

I am stunned, sad, and speechless.

More Halloween Cats

For those who thought Saffron looked ticked in the previous photo:

She really is the sweetest, most tolerant cat I've ever known.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Our Halloween Cats

I bought the kitties a costume at the after Halloween sale. They were so excited, the couldn't wait until next Halloween to wear it. Here they are, still celebrating Halloween:

One of my friends thought Saffron (top photo) looked mad and Sophie (bottom photo) looked playful. Actually, Saffron is just waking up in that photo; she took the whole thing well and didn't mind the hat at all. I got several photos of her. Sophie, on the other hand, was not cooperative and this is the only photo I got of her. I'll have to sneak up on her when she's sleepy and try again.

Farewell, Opus

My all-time favorite comic character, Opus, retired yesterday. Berkeley Breathed has decided that, in light of the political climate, it's time to end his Opus strip.

To see the last panel* of the last strip, which revealed Opus's resting place for eternity, readers had to visit the Human Society web site. It was a satisfactory fate for our beloved little penguin (the only thing better would be finding his long-long mother) but I'm still sad and annoyed to see the strip end!

Good night, little buddy, and sweet dreams. May Berekely change his mind and wake you again some day.

* For those who didn't understand the panel: it's a reference to the children's book Goodnight, Moon. It's also an allusion to the fact that although Opus won't be appearing in a regular comic strip, he will appear in Breathed's children's books.