Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie Review
    — The Wild

When The Wild came out, I was right there at the head of the pack, saying that their tagline should be “Hey, we can do Madagascar, too!”  (That is, "Madagascar 2”, as though it were a sequel to a much more successful computer-animated “New York zoo animals escape to a wild jungle island” movie from about a year before this.)  In reality, I realize that it was probably in development well before Madagascar came out, perhaps even with completely separate influences.  (See the comics industry releasing X-Men and Doom Patrol or Swamp Thing and Man-Thing at basically the same time.  It’s a form of “convergent evolution”.)

I finally saw it (via Netflix), and my quip was both wrong and very right.

First, the character designs for the animals are some of the most realistic we’ve seen when it comes to a fully computer-animated film.  In comparison, the animals in Madagascar are roughed-out cartoons.

Second, the thrust of the plot is a bit more organic and adult-friendly, with the kid being upset at his father, running away and getting in over his head, and the father and friends setting out to rescue him.

But then we have the turtle curling match, and the animals steering the ship (sorry, but the penguin cell in Madagascar, while not any more believable, was at least funnier), and the breakdancing, and the dance choreography of the wildebeests.  Once you get into these facets, then the cartoony nature of the Madagascar animals becomes more warranted… or if you prefer, then the realistic character designs break hard against the non-realistic actions.  And since this occurs repeatedly throughout the film — it could be somewhat excusable only at the front and back as a framing sequence — the viewer is constantly shoved back and forth.

In the end, if you have to choose between realistic (ugly) choreographed wildebeests and cartoony (cute) choreographed lemurs, chose the cute ones.

(It’s also interesting to examine that movie poster, because it’s not very representative of the film.  It implies everything occurs in New York City, it paints the characters are more cartoony, it is missing two of the main characters, and it positions the dogs and alligator as much more significant than the three minutes of the film they actually appeared in.  Almost as if they were trying to paint the characters as more like those in Madagascar, but to distance the plot from being seen as similar.  The Wild only brought in about 15% of what Madagascar did; in fact, it only brought in half as much total as Madagascar did on its opening weekend.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jiffy is the Worst Peanut Butter… Right?  Right?  Um, Maybe.

At some point, years ago, the message filtered into my brain that “Jif peanut butter is bad for you because it contains more sugar, added to make it more attractive to kids.”  Like most such social messaging (see “Coors is anti-gay”, etc.), once this made it into my consciousness, I accepted it as truth without every questioning it.

And yet, I continued to buy and consume Jif in preference to Skippy or other national brands.  Every couple years, I try something else — be it Skippy, or one which needs to be stirred (and thus sloshes half the peanut oil out of the jar onto the floor, leading to inconsistent consistency over the life of the jar), or chocolate hazelnut Nutella — and every time, I come back to Jif.

Recently, buying a new jar, I remember this “truth” and decided to look at the nutrition labels:
  • For Jif — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  (About what you actually use for a sandwich.  You know that isn’t always the case with serving size values.)  Calories: 190.  (Mmm, that seems high, in this era of 100 calorie sized snacks.)  Calories from fat: 130.
  • For Skippy — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  Calories: 190.  Calories from fat: 140.  (Interesting.)
  • For Adams (which needs to be hand-stirred) — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  Calories: 210.  (What?!)  Calories from fat: 150.  (What?!)
  • For O Organics (Safeway brand) — Serving size: 2 tablespoons.  Calories: 200.  Calories from fat: unclear, but has higher saturated fat amount than Jif/Skippy, so figure at least the same as Skippy.
Isn’t that interesting: same calorie count for both Jif and Skippy, and both are lower than the presumed “better for you” Adams and O Organics brands.  Also, Jif is higher than Skippy in Vitamin E and Riboflavin; there is no listing of those for Adams and O Organics (could be they just don’t list such, could be that they are additives in Jif and Skippy).

Jif actually has lower from-fat calories, which certainly could map into higher from-sugar calories (the difference has to come from somewhere, after all), which means that the data portion of the “sugar message” from years ago may be technically true.  But that then raises other questions: is it worse for the sugar calories to be higher, or the fat calories to be higher?  If the “better” peanut butters are 5-10% higher in calories, are they actually better?

Of note as well, this website rates brands based on issues such as trans fats, water usage, and community support.  It tags both Jif and Skippy very low due to trans fat inclusion, but the brand’s websites indicate no trans fats in their peanut butter products, so the website info is a few years out of date.  (Many companies removed trans fats a few years ago.)

In the end, my limited research is inconclusive.  There is no clarity that one brand is notably better than another in terms of nutrition — a little higher here, a little lower there — which leads back to the only thing that really counts, taste preference.

I admit that I’m probably going to try the almond butter at some point, and maybe non-chocolated hazelnut butter (if such exists), but in the end, I know what I’ll come back to: “Choosy Jims choose Jif.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Movie Review
    — Fight Club

Halfway through Fight Club, when they were just beating the snot out of each other, I thought to myself “Okay, this movie is fucked up.  I have no idea why I’m watching this and I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone else.”

At the end of Fight Club — which I can’t say anything about, since “The first rule of Fight Club is: ‘You do not talk about Fight Club.’” — I thought to myself “Okay, this movie is fucked up.  I have no idea why I’m watching this and I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone else.”  Just for completely different reasons.

I neither enjoyed it nor didn’t enjoy it.  It was twisted, but while twisted is an okay reason to see a film, it isn’t a reason to recommend a film.  But at least I get the references now; that’s something.