12/31/2008

Top Seven Movies of 2008...

I've always loved watching movies. I love talking (and writing) about movies almost as much. Editor's Note: Which is sweet, considering that I now get to review movies for a website...

What follows is my list of the top 7 movies of the year. Now, I know that some of my choices could be controversial. But, in the end, every year end list you see on the internet is subjective by nature. It just so happens that mine is the most awesome. So, without further adieu...


7) Man On Wire (certified 4 Yarmulke™ rating)- Jaime turned me on to this movie about Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers. While I wouldn't normally rank a documentary this high, this movie had me completely mesmerized. It's practically an interview with Petit and his co-conspirators about why they pulled off this incredible stunt and, more importantly, how. And on top of that, they have so much footage of the actual event! But here's what hooked me; the way that Petit tells his story is totally captivating. Here's someone who is completely passionate about tightrope walking, and that passion is infectious. He makes you feel as if you were a part of the caper...

6) Forgetting Sarah Marshall (certified 3.5 Yarmulke™ rating)- I LOVE this movie! Written by How I Met Your Mother's Jason Segal and produced by Judd Apatow, it contains plenty of heart and, you guessed it, plenty of crudeness. (Is that a word?) When I worte my facebook mini-review of it, I wondered if I loved it so much because I was going through a breakup when I saw it. And that could be why... I think the reason why we can be so affected by movies is because we identify with them. We see ourselves (or who we want to be) in them. And for me, I thought this was a great depiction (and one of the most realistic) of what a bad breakup can be. My favorite part was how they showed the main character reliving his memories of the relationship...

5) Iron Man (certified 4.5 Yarmulke™ rating)- I saw this movie 3 times in the theater. Besides being the screen debut of one of Marvel's most underrated characters, it was also the much-lauded comeback of Robert Downey Jr. And boy did he knock it out of the park! But this movie doesn't just feature one good actor. Oh no. It's got four! This was a movie that proved that summer blockbusters don't have to be mindless to be entertaining. Up until this point, I said that Richard Donner's Superman was the model of what a superhero movie should be. But after seeing Iron Man, I think this is the new model. Well, at least it was for a month or two...

4) WALL·E (certified 5 Yarmulke™ rating)- I first learned about this movie at ComicCon 07 when I sat in on a panel with its sound designer. The director, Andrew Stanton said that the first 30 or so minutes of the movie would contain almost no dialogue. I worried that this wouldn't translate well into a kids' movie. But boy was I wrong. This movie is such a shining example of what a powerful story can do when combined with incredible imagery. And the first 30 or so minutes is like watching the most beautiful silent movie ever...

3) Doubt (certified 4.5 Yarmulke™ rating)- What do you get when you mix two oscar winning actors, one oscar nominated actor, and a script based on a play that won the pulitzer? You get an incredibly thought provoking film. I saw this movie a few days ago and it's still stuck in my head! Not only do you get to see acting at its finest, but you're not given every part of the information of the actual event that is the catalyst for the story, so that you're put in the place of the characters. I walked out thinking that one thing happened, and after talking with a friend, realized he walked away with something completely different. And any movie that is so powerful, and that can incite such different experiences, is truly awesome...

2) The Dark Knight (certified 5 Yarmulke™ rating)- Remember when I said that Iron Man was the new model for superhero movies? That was until The Dark Knight was released. Rising on the solid performances of Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Aaron Eckhardt the movie was already more than capable of being great. But when you add in the volatile performance of Heath Ledger, you kick things over the top of any expectation that could have possibly been in place. And, it's the only superhero movie that is a legitimate contender come oscar time...

1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (certified 5 Yarmulke™ rating)- Had I written this list a mere 24 hours ago, I would have listed The Dark Knight as my number one film. But I didn't. I saw Ben Button last night and completely fell in love with it. It's magical. It's epic. It's a movie that's bigger than its actors. It's bigger than its sets. It's bigger than its story. It's a melding of all of those things into a movie that is one of (if not the) most beautiful movie(s) I've ever seen. I am completely in awe of it. It's a movie that makes me want to live. And I can't wait to see it a 2nd, 3rd, and (possibly) 4th time...

Honorable mentions- Kung Fu Panda (certified 4.5 Yarmulke™ rating), Run Fatboy Run (certified 4.5 Yarmulke™ rating)...

And now, for a new edition to the list...

Worst Movie of the Year) The Happening (certified 1.5 Yarmulke™ rating)- I struggled with focusing on just one movie to declare the worst. Some other contenders were Strange Wilderness, Doomsday, and You Don't Mess With the Zohan. But then I remembered that none of those movies ever declared anything about themselves. They just... were. But M. Night Shyamalan declared that this movie was so good, that naturally, people wouldn't like it. Just look at the poster. He even tries to draw a comparison to Sixth Sense and Signs. I mean, this movie is so bad it's literally offensive. And you have no idea how sad that is for me to say. Shyamalan was, at one time, one of my heroes. A writer/director that was being heralded as the second coming of Hitchcock. Signs is one of my favorite movies of all time, but this is no Signs. It's terribly acted, horribly written, and sloppily (and lazily) directed. I'll be very surprised if Shyamalan's career continues much past this turd...

2008: A Year Surveyed...

For the past two years, go here and here...

1) What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
I went to the Buick Invitational, played Bunco, climbed atop a church in downtown Columbia, went to VooDoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR, went to the O.C. Fair, ate a Filet-o-fish, attended a Presidential Forum, tried the world's hottest hot sauce, started a national movement, became a paid movie critic, saw Wicked, and ate a full size Mr. Goodbar...

2) Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
You know, I don’t really ever make resolutions for New Year’s. I tend to make them all throughout the year. So no, I guess I didn’t make any. Which, in a way, means I didn’t break any…

3) Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yep. In fact, some of the same people as last year. Sue, Mish, Stacy, and a few more...

4) Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year thankfully...

5) What countries did you visit?
No other countries for the 3rd year in a row...

6) What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
A job...

7) What date(s) from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 23rd... No comment... February 26th, Kablooey! and June 20th, when I moved back to Orange County...

8) What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Once again, surviving...

9) Did you suffer illness or injury?
Well, I've still got marks on my arms from Burly...

10) What was the best thing you bought?
No major purchases this year. Too short on cash...

11) Whose behavior merited celebration?
The student ministries staff at my church. There have been several times this year when they've had to kick it into overdrive and they've shined every time...

12) Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
No one worth mentioning. Besides, if I dwelled on it, I'd go crazy...

13) Where did most of your money go?
Bills, bills, bills...

14) What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I was pretty excited about The Dark Knight and my trip to Chicago...

15) What song will always remind you of 2008?
Sideways by Citizen Cope, Viva la Vida by Coldplay...

16) Compared to this time last year, are you: Wiser? Oh yeah. I think I've come into a better understanding of life (and myself)... Healthier? Definitely not. I fell into the fast food trap in June and had trouble getting out... Richer? Are you kidding me? Yeah right...

17) What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd read more... I wish I'd written more...

18) What do you wish you'd done less of?
Oh gosh. I watched so much TV this year, I should be good for the rest of my life...

19) How did you spend Christmas?
Once again, traveling back to the east coast to be with family. Right now, I'm still here...

20) Did you fall in love in 2008?
One day, I really hope I'll be answering yes to this one. But once again, no...

21) What was your favorite blog post that you wrote?
Not sure about favorite, but most awesome definitely goes to my post on The Top Ten Cartoons of the Eighties...

22) What were your favorite TV programs?
In a year where a writer's strike pretty much ruined the TV season (and caused the death of a few good shows), it was tough to stick with shows when they weren't even on. But if I had to pick a few, I'd go with American Dad!, American Gladiators (Well, more specifically, Crush), Chuck, House, How I Met Your Mother, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and as always... Scrubs...

23) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope. I honestly don't see much purpose in hating. It takes too much energy. I don't think I'll include this question next year...

24) What was the best book you read?
Hmm... So many good ones. I'm going to go with The Shack...

25) What was your greatest musical discovery?
I might be late to the party on this one, but I think this year was when I was really hit hard with so many Hillsong and Hillsong United songs. Thanks Taff and Dom...

26) What did you want and get?
Time with my friends in Orange County...

27) What did you want and not get?
A job...

28) What was your favorite film of this year?
Had I answered this question a mere 17 hours ago, it would have been The Dark Knight. However, I didn't. My favorite movie this year was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button...

29) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went bowling at Lucky Strike Lanes in Orange with 15 of my closest friends! And I was 28...

30) Which celebrity/public figure did you like the most?
Well she's not bad... but neither is she...

31) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
It's probably safe to assume, at this point, that I'm always going to be a t-shirt, jeans, and rainbows guy. Whatever is comfortable, you know...

32) What kept you sane?
My friends. Moving back to Orange County was the best decision I made this year...

33) Who did you miss?
Probably all of my friends from San Diego...

34) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
You shouldn't wait around for life to hand you what you want. Time goes by too fast to wait...

35) What did you gain this year?
Probably a lot of self awareness...

36) What did you lose this year?
Nothing really. Well, maybe personal space...

37) Who was the best new person you met?
The guys in my small group. Dom, Dillon, Schwanny, Pease, and Jeff...

38) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I wake up, it's a bad dream
No one on my side
I was fighting
But I just feel too tired
To be fighting
Guess I'm not the fighting kind
Wouldn't mind it
If you were by my side
But you're long gone
Yeah you're long gone now


Here's to '09...

12/29/2008

Awful Waffle...

Earlier tonight I met an old friend at the Waffle House...

For those of you outside of the southeast, the Waffle House isn't so much a fine dining establishment as it is a cultural rite of passage. I wouldn't really call the food good. It's more about the experience than the taste.

After we sat down tonight, I was greeted with a beautiful aroma that I have grown unaccustomed to in southern California. Turns out that smoking in restaurants isn't illegal here.

At one point in our meal, I looked up to find 7 people smoking all around me. Needless to say, I smell like smoke now.

Ugh... I need a shower...

12/28/2008

Orthodoxy...

A while ago, I was at WIllow Creek's arts conference when I heard 3 of the general session speakers refer to a book by G.K. Chesterton called Orthodoxy. So I decided that, if so many people that I respect are reading something, then it would probably be a good idea for me to read it too.

A year and a half later and I finally got to it...

It's going a little slower than I'd hoped (although, this is probably because I've been busy hanging with family and friends), but there's a lot of great things in this little book! Chesterton really knows how to turn a phrase...

Here's a few samples from chapter 1:

  • "Even a bad shot is dignified when he accepts a duel."

  • "How can we contrive to be at once astonished with the world and yet at home in it?"

  • "But nearly all people I have ever met in this Western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable."

    I'm sure I'll be posting other things that stick out to me as I continue reading...
  • 12/24/2008

    This Explains a Lot...

    Here in Columbia, SC, there are two "Christian" TV stations: INSP and TBN. Since I've been home, INSP has has the same program on every time I've flipped past it. It's had a constant rotation of The Visual Bible: The Gospel of John.

    This, in and of itself, is not that crazy. But it wasn't until Jesus appeared on screen that I just had to stop flipping channels and watch. See, Jesus is played by Henry Ian Cusick. HE'S DESMOND ON LOST!

    Observe...
    I think that this unwraps a bit of the mystery behind why he has some superpowers on LOST.

    I've been stopping every time I pass by the channel for two days now, hoping that I'll here Jesus say "brother". This will, in my mind, confirm my suspicions that there is a connection between these two shows...

    12/23/2008

    A CHRISTmas Song...

    A while ago, I did some thinking on what makes a "Christmas song" a "Christmas song"...

    I did this because, I don't think it's the lyrics. I mean, just because you put the word "Christmas" in a song, doesn't mean you've just written a Christmas song. Editor's Note: A perfect example of this is The 12 Days of Christmas, which almost made me puncture my own eardrums this year.

    So, after searching for truth in a world of Christmas albums, I decided that the secret ingredient of all Christmas songs is sleigh bells. Seriously... They're in every Christmas song!

    But there's one Christmas song that took me by surprise this year. No, it wasn't because of its mysterious lack of sleigh bells. It's because of its lyrics...

    "Mary, Did You Know?" by Mark Lowry was performed by our Jr High band in our weekend services two weekends ago. I had heard the song before, but I had never actually paused to listen to the lyrics. But since I was working in the control room, I had to watch the screen while the lyrics were up.

    Here's a video of Mark Lowry singing the song...

    And here's the lyrics for while you watch...

    Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
    Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
    Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
    This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

    Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
    Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
    Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
    And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

    The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
    The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

    Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
    Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
    Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
    This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am.


    Here's the line that gets me every time:
    Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
    This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.


    I hope that something makes you pause this Christmas. I hope that something grabs you and makes you reflect and won't let you go until you worship God. I hope that you're disturbed, disturbed in your natural environment to the point where your mind exits the normal and enters into the heavenly realm. I hope you're shaken (not stirred) enough to remember why you're braving the malls and crazy kiosk people to find the perfect gift.

    Merry Christmas Eve Eve everybody...

    12/22/2008

    My Candy...

    Editor's Note: The above picture is from my cellphone and does this delicious candy no justice at all...

    Are you a fan of delicious flavor? If so, then I've got a quick recipe that will make everyone you spend Christmas with love you even more. I just made some tonight.

    I got it from one of the mom's of one of my small group boys at my church in San Diego. Here it is...

    You Need:
  • 1 lb. CandiQuik Vanilla (or Almond Bark) (You can get this on the baking aisle next to the chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup of creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 Cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 Cup Rice Krispies
  • 1 Cup Mini Marshmallows

    Do This:
  • Melt down the CandiQuik (I usually do this on top of the stove, but you can use the microwave)
  • Stir in PB
  • Stir in Peanuts
  • Stir in Rice Krispies
  • Stir in Marshmallows
  • Mix well, drop by the teaspoon onto wax paper to harden

    Make sure that you don't let the CandiQuik get too hot, or you'll melt the marshmallow. (Which you don't want to do. You want them to be whole.)

    It's salty, sweet, and delicious. It also doesn't take that long. Go ahead, make it and thank me later...
  • 12/21/2008

    Coming Soon (Sometime at the End of the Month)...

    Well, it might be coming to this blog...

    I'm not sure if it'll be on here or on youthministry.com. But either way, it'll be here in some form. This year, I've also decided to include my pick for worst movie of the year. I figured why should good movies be the only ones to get celebrated? Why not celebrate the craptastic as well?

    But before I can write the list, I've got to see a few more films...

    Yes Man
    Milk
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Frost/Nixon
    Doubt

    That's my list to finish out the year. Thankfully, movies are a few bucks cheaper in South Carolina...

    Tacos and Linus...

    Tonight, I blessed my family with the culinary delight that is the double decker taco. And it was a big hit. Well, except for with my brother. Apparently, he doesn't like refried beans...

    But get this: Tonight I discovered that he eats his tacos from the top down. NOT FROM THE SIDE! So I think his opinion doesn't count...

    -and now for something completely different-

    In reflecting on Christmas this year, I remembered something that I used at my church in San Diego.

    I've always loved A Charlie Brown Christmas. But there's something about the way that Linus tells the Christmas story that's always stuck with me. Maybe it's the innocence. But what ever it is, I love it.

    So, as you get ever closer to the celebration of our Savior's birth, maybe Linus can help you stop and remember...

    Enjoy...

    12/20/2008

    Caleb Is Hooked...

    Today was filled with some of my favorite things...

    After getting up a little early for east coast Josh (9:45am), I kicked around for a while, grabbed a shower, and made a list of some goals I have while I'm home. Editor's Note: I might post this list towards the end of my trip home. Then, I went with my brother, Caleb, to my favorite burger place, Rush's for lunch. On the way home, we stopped at Sonic's for the drinks.

    But here's my favorite part of all. My buddy Tommy called to see if I wanted to go play some disc golf. After saying yes, I asked Caleb if he wanted to come. He's turned me down every time I've gone to play for the past 6 years. But today, he said yes.

    So, he rode along. When we got to the course, he used one of my mid-range discs. Now, it should be said that Caleb has a smaller attention span than me (which is quite a feat). But he played the whole 18 holes with us!

    And not only that, but he's got a pretty good putt...

    And later on this afternoon, after asking him if he had a good time, he said he had fun and wants to go again!

    I love my brother. And now, I can't wait to throw with him again...

    12/18/2008

    My Trip Home...

    Every year since I moved to southern California, I've traveled back to South Carolina for Christmas. And every year, my trip home seems to be a comedy of errors. In keeping with what has become a holiday tradition, this year was no different.

    But rather than bore you with a blow by blow description of what happened (like I did in years past here and here), I decided that my post-holiday travel blog would be a list. I think it's completely appropriate for me to write a manifesto of what I don't like about the air travel business.

    And this is just the list I made on my iPod while sitting at my gate in John Wayne waiting on my delayed flight to Atlanta...

    1) Airlines now require you to pay to check your bags. Any of your bags. Really airlines? Really? You want us to pay to check our bags. Our bags that we need to get to where we're going? Isn't that a bit like charging for the paper bags that fast food comes in? Or charging for the seatbelts on a roller coaster? Really? It's $15 for one bag and then $25 for a second. And the worst part is that there's nothing any of us can do to get around it...

    2) Higher food prices in the airport. So not only do I have to pay to check my luggage, but I have to pay an extra $2 for something that would coast me $5 if it were just outside of the airport doors. Sheesh... all I wanted was a #2, no pickles...

    3) People that travel with their pets. Do you know how big planes are? Not very... It's cramped. For me to exist in the same small space as your precious Ms. Kitty is a little much to ask. Especially since Ms. Kitty has trouble holding in her water for 4 hours. At least we have that in common...

    4) Giant people. Now here's the deal: What I'm about to say is a bit mean. I understand why airlines would ask overweight people to pay for 2 seats. The worst (THE WORST) thing that can happen to you on a plane is to be in the middle seat between two people who are leaking over the armrests. You have to know that we're silently screaming...

    5) Talkers. I've been given a gift. I have the ability to sleep through almost anything. And I sleep the hardest on airplanes. Of course, this is great since it helps pass the time on flights. However, the natural enemy of the sleeper is the talker. You can try closing your eyes or putting on your headphones, but they won't relent. Maybe I should hang a sign on my neck...

    6) Half a soda. Why do flight attendants poor half a soda into a cup when serving drinks? Have you ever said to another human, "Hey, want to split a Diet Coke with me?" Of course not. Just give me the can...

    7) Rules about electronics. So let me get this straight, the giant hunk of machine that is the airplane is going to be thrown off its course by the amount of electronic interference put off by my iPod? I feel like this rule is purely arbitrary...

    8) Security. This one isn't what you think. Here's what happened. I keep a pocket knife in my computer bag. I knew I couldn't take it on the plane with me, so I put it in one of my two suitcases. Unfortunately, I didn't know about the pay to check rule at the time. So I decided to carry one bag on with me. As I was in line to get through security, I realized the knife was in the bag I was now carrying on. So I just silently decided that, if they asked, I'd just get rid of the knife. As my bag passed through the x-ray, I braced myself. And... nothing. NOTHING! I grabbed my bag, knife included, and got on my plane. What if I would have been a terrorist!?! Good thing I use my powers for good...

    And just so that I can offer some balance, here are some things I like about flying...

    1) Gate agents with a sense of humor. They just help to make things easier to bear...

    2) Skymall catalog. It doesn't matter how many times I fly or how close my departure and return are to each other, I pick up Skymall and read the whole thing every time. I mean, where else can I find the most expensive useless gift items I could ever purchase? Oh, Brookstone? OK. Well... I'm still going to read Skymall...

    3) Credit cards on the plane. Finally, the days have passed when I have to pay $7 for a pack of crackers, an apple, and some cheese. Now, I can just charge it. Ahh conveniences...

    12/10/2008

    Web Wednesday: Oh the Places You'll Go...

    It's the return of Web Wednesday!

    Fact: Dr. Seuss is awesome.

    So, how about this Web Wednesday, we look at the stories behind 10 of his stories?

    Here's a quick clip from #5. Click here for the whole article...

    Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’ editor, bet him thaat he couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. The Cat in the Hat was pretty simple, after all, and it used 225 words. Not one to back down from a challenge, Mr. Geisel started writing and came up with Green Eggs and Ham – which uses exactly 50 words. The 50 words, by the way, are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

    12/05/2008

    Where Did That Come From...

    After I grabbed some lunch today, I sat in my car trying to adjust a setting on my iPod. As I sat there, I happened to glance over at my passenger side window and notice that it was fogging up. And that's when I noticed this...

    Do you see something on the window?

    It's the information paper that the dealer puts on the window of the car. Here, look again...

    I mean, it just appeared out of nowhere! 2 1/2 years and I've never noticed it before...

    I'm the Neil Armstrong of Candy Bars...

    In my entire life, I've never seen anyone eat a normal sized Mr. Goodbar. Ever...

    I've only seen them eat the Mr. Goodbar that comes in the package of Hershey's Miniatures.

    And so, on my way to Dillon's two nights ago, I decided to make a stop at 7-11. I, of course, got my usual drink: a vanilla Diet Dr. Pepper. But I also decided that I would boldly go where no one has gone before. So I bought a full size Mr. Goodbar!

    And I ate the whole thing...

    So America, make a note. I, Joshua Treece, am the first man to ever eat a full sized Mr. Goodbar. That's one small bite for me, but one giant... bite... for... well, me...

    12/03/2008

    Christmas Time Is Hear...

    Every now and then, my friends and I exchange music.

    Now, it should be said that it's nothing illegal. We just like making mix CDs for each other. Typically, there's a theme to each mix. This month's theme is, appropriately, Christmas music.

    Here's the deal with me and Christmas music: I have a love/hate relationship with it.

    I love it (after Thanksgiving, thank you) at the right time. But I hate that it never changes. Same songs... all the time. Every year. What's worse is that while the list of song titles barely ever changes, the list of artists who record these...standards is continually growing.

    The question is, why would an artist feel the need to record songs that 100's of others have already recorded? Easy. Money.

    And so, every year, I search iTunes for new music. Always hoping to find some songs that won't drive me insane. We'll see how lucky I am this year...

    12/02/2008

    Twilight...

    I just saw that my review of Twilight went live today on youthministry.com. It's a little late but still sweet to see it! Check it out by clicking on the link...

    12/01/2008

    Moleskine

    Almost everyone that I know has one of these legendary notebooks. But one of them disagrees with everyone else who is alive on earth today and refuses to pronounce it correctly.

    I've always had a thing for notebooks and journals. Something about blanks pages... There's an order to its emptiness. And in that emptiness lies possibility. That's why I always stop at the display when I'm in a bookstore...

    Here's a website called "Moleskinerie" that has all sorts of hacks and fun things on them.

    Sweet...