It turns out, the Internet was right — people like cats.
Some people, anyway. Historically, the issue of feline affection is more divisive than most political elections. But enough people are on the tabby bandwagon to have voted the domestic silvestris into a revered community: Monopoly pieces. Last month, Hasbro opened a public vote to decide which of its original pawns would be ousted, and which of a set of five candidates would be brought on board (pun excessively intended). The results, as of Wednesday morning, have named the cat as Monopoly's newest addition — beating out a robot (with a mustache!), a diamond ring, a guitar, and a helicopter.
But, more importantly, our focus shifts to the retired veteran: the iron, which is losings its spot among its longtime colleagues (the Scottie dog, the racecar, the top hat, the boot, the battleship, the wheelbarrow, and the thimble — perish the thought that our dear pitted needle safeguard be doomed to oblivion).
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For many, the dismissal of the iron marks celebration, highlighting a new, progressive attitude inhabited by the board game — in fact, #LiberalMonopolyPieces began trending on Twitter when the change was announced. But as the iron is cast into the fire, we must look toward a new era of Monopoly. One for which we might not be adequately prepared.
Monopoly serves now as the perfect communion for any diverse family or clique. Suggestions to play are met with a universal, "Yeah, okay," during middle school sleepover parties or winter getaways when everybody is too tired to go skiing. Everybody's fine with it, because it has something for everybody. Not the gameplay, necessarily — only your a**hole friend Troy, who always wins despite the fact that he was a freakin' fine arts major, seems to actually be having fun — but the pieces. More so than your choice of favorite ice cream flavor, summer song, or Ninja Turtle is your go-to Monopoly piece wholly telling of your character.
The Scottie Dog: You're playful, the heart and soul of the group, more interested in a whimsical adventure around Atlantic City than in any cold-hearted buy-and-sell nonsense.
The Racecar: You're ambitious, the cutthroat go-getter, the one who'll probably take the victory via any means necessary (and brandish your company with shame as a result).
The Top Hat: You're wry, a trickster of sorts, whose skills in Monopoly come from mindgames and a probing understanding of your weak-willed cohorts' fragile psyches.
The Boot: You're brutish and determined, but honest to a fault — you'll vie for the win with hard-work and dedication, rather than deceit and manipulation.
The Battleship: You're wrathful, tortured, haunted. You're not out to win, but you are out to make sure your sworn enemy (everybody has one in their group of friends) loses, and you'll team up with racecars and top hats alike to take down that nefarious jackass you so despise.
The Wheelbarrow: You don't really know what's going on. You're pretty drunk.
The Thimble: You're weird, and everybody loves you for it. Except maybe battleship, whom might want you dead.
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And then there was the iron — the compassionate sort with a clean head on his or her shoulders, one to level the playing field when racecar sped ahead (for the good of the group), one who kept battleship's warfare in check, one who enabled Scottie dog's childlike yelps and scampers, one who held wheelbarrow's hair back during mid-game vomit fits. But now, iron is gone... and we have cat.
And we have to wonder what this might do to the group dynamic. Can those likely to opt for cat uphold the responsibilities of iron's good nature? Or will cat-choosers, like the featured mammal itself, instead adopt their own brand of cunning, duplicitous, antisocial gameplay (I'm a dog person, sue me), thrusting the entire well-manufactured harmony of Monopoly into chaos?
Fear for your lives, slumber party-goers and cabin vacationers. What was once a marginally fun pastime might now erupt in Armageddon. And here I always thought it'd be Don't Wake Daddy that'd be our undoing...
[Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP; Hasbro]
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Every year there are those Sundance darlings who come to the festival with several projects under their belt and build the buzz not only on quality but also on quantity. This year, one of those darlings is Mexican star Gael García Bernal, who is having a resurgence after breaking out in 2001 in Y Tu Mamá También and both of his projects were definitely worth checking out. And if he has so many good movies here, why was he spotted flying coach to get to Park City?
The more well-known is the excellent Chilean film NO, which is nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It tells the story of an advertising executive who comes up with the campaign that is eventually responsible for the overthrow of a Chilean dictator. Americans, who usually don't even bother to learn their own history (at least until Steven Spielberg enlists an Irish actor to play it for us) might be surprised to learn it is a true story. FIlmed as if by a camcorder in the '80s, when the film is set, it is gritty and real, looking like something plucked out of a truck somewhere like a Bar Mitzvah video.
But this story will be remembered far longer than any rite of passage. And that story holds resonance for us stupid Americans as well. The way that story is told, how freedom, happiness, and democracy can be packaged and sold to a reluctant public, looks a lot like modern elections in the States, where the population is staunchly divided and every election is a struggle. In a restrained but killer performance, Bernal shows a sophistication that should do well to carry him further into his career.
Speaking about how stories are told, Bernal also stars in and helped create a documentary. Yes, this is a documentary that has a star. The film Who is Diyani Crystal is a different work where Bernal plays a Honduran immigrant found dead in the Arizona desert. In the movie the border patrol finds the body and goes about trying to discover his identity after he is identified only by the tattoo on his chest, which reads "Diyani Crystal." As they unravel the mystery, we learn about the real man and talk to his family. Bernal tries to recreate his 60 day trip from his country to his eventual death in the desert, showing the difficult route countless undocumented workers take every day.
It is an interesting experiment and it seems like Bernal took an approach to his scenes like a reality show would, where he is with real people making the journey on their own and he had a camera with him to try to capture exactly what the experience is like. But, as any fan of Jersey Shore or the Real Housewives of Anytown USA can tell you, reality never gets to the reality. This is still a star making the trip and its obvious from the way people react to him.
In the end, the technique isn't necessarily successful (at least not as successful as the mind-boggling recreations in The Summit, which used both the real people involved and actors). The documentary is a bit scattered with the story of finding Diyani, talking to his family, and recreating his journey all vying for attention. But, in the end, the point was to humanize the lives of immigrants and it does that in spades. Luckily for Bernal, who is going to get all the attention, not only do both of these projects make him seem more human, but like an even bigger star. Guess you have to make even more than two good movies to get yourself upgraded to first class these days.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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The age-old debate over fate vs. free will has been and always will be a tough theme to crack in any medium but with the benefits of modern filmmaking technology the theory can be explored in ways that Philip K. Dick never imagined. However when one relies too heavily on spectacle to tell a story a piece of cerebral science fiction can quickly become just another action extravaganza. In this day and age there’s a fine line between the two; The Matrix walked that tightrope with style and grace while Next never found its footing in the first place. Fortunately the precious work of novelist Dick has for the most part been treated with respect by Hollywood (the aforementioned Nic Cage dud notwithstanding) but that doesn’t necessarily mean movies based on his stories are completely faithful to his vision.
Case in point: George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau an adaptation of Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team.” The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris a successful businessman and rising political candidate who after a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt) loses a crucial election. He happens to run into her on a Manhattan bus the following week before finding his office swarming with masked men who are “adjusting” everyone inside. Richardson (John Slattery) the man in charge captures Norris who unsuccessfully flees the scene after seeing behind “a curtain he wasn’t even supposed to know existed” as the enigmatic figure puts it. From that point on Norris must live with the knowledge that he (and we for that matter) is not in control of his own life. Rather the choices he makes fit perfectly into “The Plan” that’s been written by “the Chairman”.
In relation to my earlier statement I have to say that Nolfi’s picture looks stunning but his natural urban aesthetic doesn’t overpower the story. Sleek contemporary production design and elegant costumes characterize the high-concept story and the wraithlike agents who shape our destinies. Topically we’re dealing with some heavy material but Nolfi and editor Jay Rabinowitz move the action along at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and entertained without having to try. The film is properly proportioned as a chase thriller romantic adventure and sci-fi fantasy and thankfully no component overshadows another.
Setting the film in the world of politics and big business helps make its larger-than-life revelations a bit more accessible (as do appearances from Michael Bloomberg Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough) while providing sub-text about the corruption involved in elections and campaigns (there are conspicuous shades of The Manchurian Candidate in the movie) but the writer-director often tries too hard for broad appeal. For a film with existential implications as severe as they are here the dialogue is at times hokey and superficial. Dick’s source material is far more abstract and Nolfi for the sake of commercial success panders to the palette of soccer moms and mallrats.
What’s worse is his unwarranted exposition of the Bureau a shadowy organization whose major allure is anonymity. Some secrets are best kept and less can be so much more when crafting a mysterious atmosphere; Nolfi reaches that level of magnetic curiosity but squanders it as he reveals the truth about the Bureau and its grand scheme. On the other hand he brushes over the technical lingo between agents Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar) and others without explanation perhaps hoping that the ambiguous terminology will fool you into thinking that his script is smarter than it really is.
Even though Nolfi’s allegorical conclusions are uncomfortably ham-fisted the chemistry between Damon and Blunt alone is enough to enchant you; this is one highly watchable cinematic pairing that should be revisited as soon as possible. Their innocent relationship blossoms organically and together they make it seem as natural on screen as it is for their star-crossed characters. Even if you have a hard time believing in higher powers or manipulative Orwellian forces you’ll have faith in David and Elise’s fated relationship one of the most captivating couplings I’ve seen on the big-screen in some time.