Pages

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 Movies I'm Looking Forward to in 2012

I studied TV and film production when I was an undergrad, so I've had an interest and appreciation for filmmaking for a long, long time.  I still read movie news websites, and given a couple recent blog posts things haven't changed for me all that much in terms of my interest in movies.  I don't go to theaters nearly as much as I used to, but I still try to get out to see the occasional big movie, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol being a great example (and I still have to see Sherlock Holmes 2 and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

Anyways, everybody and their uncle has a list of the movies coming out next year that they are excited to see, so I figured I'd chime in too.

Here goes...

10. Argo - This one is kinda flying under the radar compared to most of the other films on this list.  It's on my top ten because it's written and directed by Ben Affleck; before you crucify me for that, don't forget that Affleck wrote and directed Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town.  I don't like Affleck much as an actor, but as a writer/director there aren't many guys who perk my interest more than him.  And the film is based on a true story from 1979, with what sounds like a Fargo-esque dark comedy element to it.  Sold.

9. The Bourne Legacy - I loved all the Bourne movies, but this one is taking the Bourne series and running in a different direction.  There's no Jason Bourne in this film, but it somehow takes place in the same universe as the three previous films.  And it stars Jeremy Renner, who's quickly becoming one of my favorite actors.  I don't know much else about the overall plot of the film, which is a refreshing thing nowadays with spoilers easily found all over online.

8. The Amazing Spider-Man - I was VERY ambivalent about this film at first.  It's a reboot of the entire Spider-Man mythology, even though the entire series only started 10 years ago.  Then I saw the trailer that featured a first-person perspective of Spider-Man flying around New York City, which I have to believe in 3D will look simply amazing.  I only hope there isn't too much time wasted on Peter Parker's origins in this film, since mass audiences already know it from the first go-round and don't need to see it again.

7. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Tell me you're not intrigued simply from that title.  Revisionist history stories are always fun to play with, but this is about as far out in left field one could go with such an idea.  Honest Abe's mother is killed by a vampire when Abe is only a boy, and then devotes his life to kill as many of the creatures as he can, all the way to when he reaches the presidency.  This could be a really fun ride.

6. John Carter - The movie has about the blandest title imaginable, but the trailers look incredible for it.  It's also Pixar's first-ever foray into live action filmmaking, and one of their in-house directors is making the film.  It looks a lot like Attack of the Clones (not good), and one of the shots has the main character looking a lot like the Na'vi from Avatar (uh oh), but it could end up being Indiana Jones in Space.  And that could be a great thing.

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - I loved all three Lord of the Rings films, but for some reason The Hobbit had a really odd history of being brought to the silver screen.  Peter Jackson was only going to produce the film and sought a new director for it; after a couple names came and went, Jackson said, "Okay fine, I guess I'll direct it."  Patience pays off, because even though the newly-released teaser mainly introduces us to all the main characters of the film, it brings back all the good memories of the LOTR trilogy. 

4. Skyfall - Finally, James Bond is back!  I was really hoping the new Bond film would continue the storyline laid out between Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but according to everything I've read, this is will be a stand-alone film.  That's okay though; I'm just glad it's happening.  I have no idea what significance the title has, but if the movie is as catastrophic as the title implies, we could be in for another great international trip with Bond.

3. Prometheus - Speaking of great returns, Ridley Scott is finally back and making what was supposed to be a prequel to Alien.  I wasn't too hot on the idea at first, mainly because I felt the Alien mythology had been beaten to an ugly pulp.  To my relief, it's now an original film, but supposedly there are still some connections to the Alien films.  I'm not entirely sure what to make of that, but the teaser trailer looks incredible.

2. The Dark Knight Rises - Christopher Nolan has done some amazing things with his first two Batman films.  I really didn't know how he'd be able to follow up The Dark Knight, but it looks like the conclusion to his trilogy is an epic battle not seen since Return of the King.  And in just about any other year, this would've been my #1 film to see, except...

1. The Avengers - It's a movie that's been over 4 years in the making, with its seeds being planted back in the first Iron Man film.  Marvel went about it the right way, giving each major character his own film so audiences could get to know his backstory.  I still don't know much about the overall plot of the movie, except that Loki (from Thor) is the main villain and may wreak havoc on the Earth in a similar way to what happens in the comic books.  From the footage that's been made available so far, every character gets something important to contribute in the film, so hopefully no one will outshine the others in the group.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I've enjoyed all the previous Mission: Impossible films.  They've ranged a bit in quality, from flawed but exciting (M:I-2) to exciting but nearly incomprehensible (the first Mission: Impossible).  The first Mission came the closest to the team aspect that made the series so memorable, but its plot was so focused on misdirection and convolution that none of the characters could be developed.

For the first time, we now have a Mission: Impossible film that has both a strong plot and some decent character development.  The film starts off with an escape from a Russian prison and leads straight to massive sequence at the Kremlin.  Next thing we know, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the run with his teammates Benji (Simon Pegg, coming back for more after Mission: Impossible 3) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton).  Also in tow is Brandt (Jeremy Renner), an IMF analyst who has a few secrets of his own.

This IMF team gels in a way that no previous IMF team ever worked together before.  Carter has a personal stake in this mission which comes into play when the team get to Dubai.  Brandt has his own agenda the entire time, and Benji provides a good amount of welcome comic relief while still contributing to each stage of the film. And Hunt is still the leader calling the shots, but he knows he needs his team to work together the entire time.  The first Mission: Impossible came close to this type of success, but by the end it still was a Tom Cruise Show.

The film was directed by Brad Bird, who is making his live action directing debut in this film.  He came from the world of animation, mostly with Pixar's animated films.  One of his previous films was The Incredibles, which worked perfectly in helping him prepare for this project.  He knows how to build a real action sequence with a team atmosphere, and even though The Incredibles was animated, it still had some fantastic stunt work.

That leads me to the action sequences.  All I can is, I hope anyone who sees this film sees it in IMAX, because that's how these action sequences are meant to be seen.  When the team gets to Dubai, they find themselves at the Burj Khalifa building, the tallest building in the world.  When Hunt has to climb up to the 130th floor and then swing his way back down, I found myself reliving my childhood fear of heights.  There's real tension in the entire sequence, and I realized I was holding my breath with Hunt's every reach up the side of the building.  I don't know how that sequence was shot (or how the studio allowed Tom Cruise to do that stunt on his own), but it's definitely the best stunt I've seen in a film in years.

As great a set piece as the Dubai sequence was, there's still more.  The opening break in at the Kremlin was marvelous, and immediately following the Burj Khalifa climb is a massive car chase through a sandstorm in Dubai.  Director Bird may have saved the best sequence for last though by staging a fist fight in a parking garage with the cars constantly moving around on conveyors.

If there's one failing in the film, it's a relatively weak villain.  A man wants to start an all-out nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia because....because....well I don't really know why.  The stakes are incredibly high though, so it's easy to pass over that minor gripe and focus on how Hunt and his IMF team will stop a war.

I'd highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a fun two hours in an IMAX theater.  It's definitely the best Mission: Impossible film to date, and I'd love to see this team brought back together for another go-round.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Life Goes On

I knew this Christmas would be and feel a lot differently than years past, and I wasn't wrong.  That's not to say my Christmas sucked; far from it, in fact.  It was just....different.

Christmas Eve was fairly typical, centered around my brother-in-law's family party.  We eat, we drink, we laugh, we chat, and we exchange a few gifts.  Since we're all sports fans to some degree, we made sure to find some sporting event on TV and left that on in the background.  There was no feeling really that anything had changed at all.

Today was quite different.  My dad wasn't around for us to open gifts this morning, and he had asked me to deliver all the gifts he had bought for everyone.  He said he was on call to go to work this morning, but I can't help but wonder if he was using that as cover to avoid being around my mom.  Anything's possible I suppose, but this was my niece's first Christmas.  I would've thought that would be the kind of event he wouldn't ever miss for the world.  Suffice to say, his absence was very noticeable.

The upside was that, like I said, it was my niece's first Christmas.  I've always looked forward to exchanging presents with my family every Christmas, but buying presents for a niece added a whole new dimension to the holiday.  Christmas shopping for her was more fun than words could possibly express, and it's the kind of joy that I look forward to for her birthdays and future Christmases to come.  I normally already have fun with holiday shopping as it is, but there's nothing quite like watching her open her presents and seeing her play with her new toys for the first time (okay, so my sister opened all her presents for her, but you get the point).

The point is, despite the tough times going on in my family, life still goes on.  We didn't have a Christmas dinner like we always had in the past, and I don't know if that will continue to be the case in years to come.  Even if we don't have a Christmas dinner anymore, that's okay; there's still a great reason to look forward to Christmas every year, and her name is Gianna Ignozzi.  She won't remember her first Christmas, but when she gets older, seeing her reaction to opening her presents every year will make up for it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Trick Endings to Movies That Suck

I love trick endings to films.  The perfect trick ending is one like The Sixth Sense or Fight Club, where once you’ve seen the film you can go back and watch for subtle hints early on that slowly reveal what’s really going on.  Occasionally, a film comes along that tries such a formula but completely misfires.  The trick ending completely undermines everything that’s happened before, and the film collapses in a matter of minutes. 

I don’t feel like I need to give this warning given the nature of this post, but WARNING: ENDING SPOILER ALERTS ABOUND!  If you haven’t seen the films listed below, don’t bother reading this post, at least until after you’ve watched the films.

Like…

1. Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson stars as Martin Harris, a doctor who’s in Germany along with his wife.  He’s scheduled to speak at a conference where a colleague is set to unveil a new formula designed to help world hunger.  Harris is involved in a car accident and wakes up in a hospital with no identification or anything else to confirm his identity, but needs to find his wife.

He eventually does find her at the hotel they were scheduled to stay at, along with another man.  This other man happens to be…Martin Harris.  And his wife claims she has no idea who he is or why he’s claiming she’s his wife.  Now Neeson-Harris has to find out who’s impersonating him, why he’s being impersonated, and find out What’s Really Going On.

The Ending:

Neeson-Harris ultimately finds out he’s an assassin whose target is the colleague headlining the conference.  His organization takes out high-priced targets all around the world, and this assassination was designed to look like they were taking out a prince from the Middle East instead of the professor.  His cover for this mission was a doctor named Martin Harris so he could infiltrate the conference and take out the professor.  Knowing his true nature, he now sets out to stop the assassination.

But, Wait a Minute….

None of this reveal makes the slightest bit of sense.  For starters, there’s a scene before Harris learns he’s a trained killer where he confronts his wife in a museum.  He demands to know why she’s denying knowing him and figure out what’s going on.  She nearly cries and tells him she loves him, but doesn’t explain what her deal is.  Before he can get any more information, he has to run away after being spotted by other bad guys.

Think about this scene from her perspective.  Her former partner who she’s worked with many times in the past on assassination plots is acting like a complete lunatic, buying his cover as his real identity.  He’s bats**t crazy in her eyes, and yet she eggs him on into further thinking there’s a conspiracy around him.  Umm…why?

Even more so, once Harris finds out the truth, why does he immediately work on stopping the assassination?  Why the sudden strike of conscience?  He had no problem carrying out such missions in the past, so whether this professor dies or not shouldn’t bother him at all.

Well, unless the plot needs him to care, which in this case it does.

2. Knowing (2009)

Nicolas Cage, a man who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “subtle” when it comes to acting, stars as John Koestler, a college professor at MIT whose son stumbles onto a paper buried in a school time capsule for 50 years.  The paper is covered in a series of numbers which mean….something. 

Koestler eventually figures out the numbers correspond to every disaster on Earth for 50 years, including date, number of casualties, and the exact coordinates of the disaster.  He realizes two disasters haven’t yet happened, so he has to act in order to try stopping the last two events from happening.

Too bad the last event involves the destruction of planet Earth.

The Ending:

The short answer: Aliens did it.

Once Koestler realizes Earth is pooch screwed, he takes his son, another woman, and her daughter to figure out a way for them to survive.  His efforts lead him to a spot nearby where aliens are gathering a select few humans to take them to another planet and continue the human race.

But the aliens will only take Koestler’s son and the young girl.  Daddy can’t come along for the ride to safety.  They take the kids away along with the other humans they chose, leaving the rest to die in a fiery blaze.

How humane of them.  Pun intended.

But, Wait a Minute…

Just where in f***ing hell did these aliens come from?  Why did they only choose a small number of humans to live?  What methods did they use to choose which ones lived and which ones got to burn?  It’s also clear they knew the Earth was toast all along, so why didn’t they just take everyone to safety?  Or better yet, since they have such superior technology, why didn’t they take people away sooner in shifts? 

The movie actually did a decent job of building some tension up for the first 100 minutes or so, but the last 15 minutes are so frustratingly awful, they destroy everything that was established earlier in the film.  It was like the writers had no idea how to properly end the film, so they plucked the single crappiest ending possible out of thin air.

Oh, speaking of not knowing how to end a film…

3. The Forgotten (2004)

Julianne Moore is Telly Paretta, a woman who keeps griping to her husband and her therapist that she can’t deal with the death of her 9 year old son.  Trouble is, both her therapist and her husband think she’s nuts and keep telling her she never had a son.  They think she’s dealing with some other kind of trauma where she created the persona of her son in order to deal with it.

Then she meets Ash Correll (Dominic West), a man who might have had a daughter around the same age as Telly’s son.  I say might have because he doesn’t remember his own daughter (which says a lot about how much movies value the relationship between a mother and her children versus a father and his kids, but that’s for another time).  Eventually the two of them work together on finding their kids and figure out who or what was responsible for erasing their existences.

Before I say anything else, let me say that this plot concept is awesome.  It’s the setup for a movie that can really screw with the audience’s collective heads, and when I first saw this film I was genuinely interested in finding out where it was going, because I knew the payoff HAD to be good.

And then…

The Ending:

The short answer: Aliens did it.  Again.

The ending involved something about a guy who’s undercover among humans every day looking for new victims for his “employer,” whoever that is, and that part of his job was to erase his victims’ existences completely.  He had to wipe out the memories of all family members, friends, coworkers, etc, and - oh, bulls**t, bulls**t, bulls**t, bulls**t, bulls**t, BULLS**T.

But, Wait a Minute…

Did I mention this was an utter bulls**t cop-out of an ending?  How in the world did the idea of having aliens kidnap people and erase their existences make sense to the writer and director?  They actually had a workable and interesting plot going on for a good hour before they revealed what was going on.  When the time came to make the ending, they said, “Ah, f*** it,” and flipped the double middle finger at the audience.

4. Planet of the Apes (2001)

Tim Burton wanted to make his own damn, dirty version of Planet of the Apes, but he was smart enough to know that the original film’s surprise ending wouldn’t work in his remake.  The general plot is still the same: Mark Wahlberg is a U.S. astronaut sometime in the mid-21st century, but he’s thrown through time to another planet where apes rule over mankind.  He has to show these apes he isn’t just some former white rapper, so he leads a rebellion against them and gets back to his ship.  Once he finds his ship, he leaves the planet behind, and home free.

The Ending:

Or is he?

Wahlberg lands on a planet that resembles present day Earth, but he finds himself somewhere in D.C.  He finds what should be the Lincoln Memorial, but instead of Honest Abe’s likeness, he finds the likeness of General Thade, the main villain he had fought on the Planet of the Apes, there instead.  Then the cops show up in force, and instead of other humans in police uniform, they’re all apes, too. 

The end.

But, Wait a Minute…

Huh? 

What just happened here?  Was Wahlberg thrown forward in time to an Earth where apes ruled?  Or was he thrown back in time somehow instead?  Or was he thrown into some alternate dimension? 

It’s possible that the producers had wanted to make a sequel in order to explain whatever the hell happened in this ending, but since no sequel has ever been made, we’re left to throw our hands in the air and curse Tim Burton’s name.

5. The Book of Eli (2010)

Denzel Washington plays yet another badass who's charged with transporting a book across country through endless miles of desert in a post-apocalyptic Earth.  A group of people want to preserve as many written works as possible since they're hard to come by, and whatever book Denzel is carrying is pretty darn important.  Meanwhile, Gary Oldman and his cronies want the same book Denzel has for their own monetary gain.  

The Ending:

The hardcover Denzel is carrying ultimately ends up in Oldman's possession, but it doesn't matter.  The pages in the book are all printed in braille, which makes the book worthless to Oldman..

Oh, the reason the book is in braille?  Denzel is blind.  And the book itself is a King James Bible.  Denzel committed the ENTIRE BIBLE TO HIS MEMORY.  When he finally reaches his destination, he recites the Bible verse for verse to a recorder, who then copies everything down for mass production.

But, Wait a Minute....

Have you ever read a book so many times you've been able to recite it word for word to someone else?  I don't just mean a Dr. Seuss book.  I'm talking about a book that's longer than Stephen King's The Stand.  The sheer lunacy of such a man who could memorize the Bible start to finish would be more than enough to call such a twist ending absurd, but then you gotta think about the stuff Denzel does earlier in the film too.

Like get into gun fights.  And fist fights.  While using a sword.  

I know that blind men rely on their other senses, particularly hearing and smell, but seeing Denzel manage to beat up nearly a dozen men in a bar with his sword is ridiculous once you think about the fact that he's blind.  And during the climactic shootout with Oldman's goons, he uses a number of firearms to kill off the bad guys.  From a good 20 yards away.

******

There are plenty more bad twist endings out there, and I'd love to hear what some of yours are.  Feel free to share a couple in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

5 Films You Probably Didn't Know Were Remakes

I read Cracked.com habitually, mostly the TV/film articles published on their site.  They're a great way to kill time on a quiet day, and lots of articles on there range from enlightening to fascinating (one article published over the summer was about crappy movies that had almost turned out awesome if produced as they were originally intended).  I've decided to do my own list in the tradition of their own articles, starting with this one.

1. Ransom (1996)

Mel Gibson is a billionaire airline owner whose young son is kidnapped right under his own eyes at a science fair.  The kidnappers demand payment for the boy's return, and they figure Gibson will pay given an important backstory to his character in the film.  The trouble is, they don't realize they're dealing with Mel Gibson.  Gibson goes all Mel Gibson-y (no, not by drinking heavily and blaming all the world's problems on Jewish people), turning the tables on the kidnappers by (SPOILER ALERT) going on TV, taking the proposed ransom and turning it into a bounty on their heads.  Said kidnappers go nuts, turn on one another, and ultimately only one bad guy is left to deal with Mel Gibson by movie's end.

It's a Remake of...

Ransom! (1956)

First of all, the exclamation point isn't a typo.  Ironically, this film version was itself a remake of a TV episode of the series The United States Steel Hour.  In the film, the boy is kidnapped at school by a nurse who's in cahoots with a group who want to extort the Mel Gibson of this film, played by Glenn Ford.  Ford gets the ransom money together, and is prepared to pay the bad guys off, until he gets the wacky idea of going on TV, taking the proposed ransom, and turning it into a bounty on the kidnappers' heads.  Because he isn't Mel Gibson, there's no scene of him yelling and going bats**t crazy where he has to beat the crap out of anyone.  The kidnappers turn to chicken poo and hand the kid over by movie's end.

Interestingly, the original film's writers - Richard Maibaum and Cyril Hume - were credited as story collaborators on the 1996 remake.  It makes somewhat sense given how relatively similar the plot is to both films.

Unlike...

2. Disturbia (2007)

Shia LeBeouf stars as juvenile deliquent Kale Brecht, which means he's playing the exact same character he plays in just about every other film he's ever starred in.  The Beef is under house arrest because of his juvenile deliquency where he decided to pick a fight with his high school teacher.  Instead of going away to a juvie hall, the judge orders him under house arrest and forces him to wear an ankle monitor that he can't remove so the cops can make sure he doesn't go anywhere (I hope the bracelet is water proof though for when he takes a shower).

Anyways, his mother decides to teach him a lesson by doing the dastardly deed of - GASP! - disconnecting his XBox and internet.  Forced to actually find ways to socialize with people the old fashioned way, The Beef meets his super hot neighbor who just happens to move in to the very house next door (Sarah Roemer).  And by "meet," I mean The Beef turns into a Peeping Tom of sorts, spying on her, as well as the creepy guy across the street, who may or may not be a psychotic killer.

Creepy guy (played by David Morse) is in fact a killer, and The Beef and the Girl Next Door work together to expose him.  The Beef supposedly learned his lesson to not be such delinquent by movie's end, at least until he went on to play essentially the same character in Eagle Eye.

It's a Remake of...

Rear Window (1956)

In this original film, widely considered to be one of Hitchcock's best films, James Stewart plays a decidedly-not juvenile delinquent man, stuck in his apartment thanks to a broken leg.  Since they didn't have XBox Live or cable TV back then, he's used to entertaining himself by stuff like - EGADS! - reading books.  But even then, he gets bored with reading, so he takes to peeking into the lives of his neighbors in his apartment complex. 

He eventually notices a strange man, played by Raymond Burr, who he quickly suspects may have murdered his own wife.  Stewart contacts his girlfriend and the police, who do their own investigation but naturally find nothing suspicious.  Stewart tries playing a clever game of cat and mouse with Burr by luring Burr to meet him in a bar, while Stewart's girlfriend breaks into Burr's apartment to find evidence.  Eventually Burr's wife's wedding ring is discovered, and evidence proving Burr's guilt is discovered.  Burr confesses, and everyone goes back to a hunky dorey life.

James Stewart > The Beef

3. Fatal Attraction (1987)

The movie that led to so many husbands to think twice about cheating on their wives is also a remake.  Michael Douglas plays a happily married man who gets far too close to a women he meets through work, leading to a very crazy obsession building on her part.  Things build up to the famous situation that has reminded audiences ever since that anytime a character is supposedly drowned under water, it's best to empty a few rounds in the body just in case.

It's a Remake of...

Diversion (1980)

Don't give me too many points for knowing this.  I actually had found out quite by accident that Fatal Attraction when I had looked up remakes online.  It's a British film made for television, so it's entirely possible that some Brit actually came up with the infamous moment of a supposedly drowned body jumping back to life to scare audiences (and cheating husbands) everywhere originally. 

4. Heat (1995)

The Greatest Heist Film Ever Made.  Al Pacino hunts down Robert De Niro.  The greatest shootout in cinematic history between cops chasing down the thieves, and all sorts of innocent bystanders get caught in the middle.  And Michael Mann shows why he knows male machismo better than anyone else alive.

It's a Remake of...

L.A. Takedown (1989)

Mann had been working on his script for Heat for 10 years and got tired of waiting for a budget big enough to make his movie, so six years before he finally could make his masterpiece he made a made-for-TV version of it.  Again, it's super hard to find, but I'm actually curious to see what it's like compared to the real deal.

5. True Lies (1994)

After making three intense action films, James Cameron decided he wanted to make another action film, but with comedy this time. Oh there's still plenty of bullets, bombs, explosions, and crazy stunts, but you'll laugh the entire time!  I mean, we've got terrorists who don't remember to charge the battery in their video camera!  And Jamie Lee Curtis falls on the floor while doing her striptease dance!  Oh, and Tom Arnold.  We've got him too, because the man best qualified to hunt down Middle Eastern terrorists is the guy who also starred in the movie The Stupids.  And was married to Roseanne.

Having said all that, the stuntwork is still first-rate Cameron, so I sound like I'm being harder on the film than I really am.  It's just not on the same level as Aliens, Terminator 2, or The Abyss.

But then, the original film was a French film, so that explains a lot.

It's a Remake of...

La Totale! (1991)

AGAIN with the exclamation points.  Fran├žois Voisin is the hero and protagonist this time, and he's a secret agent with a pretty cool nickname ("The Sword").  He's an executive at a white collar office job by day, but watch out!  At night he hunts down arms-smuggling rings and terrorist regimes.  His wife has no idea what he does at night, so because she feels so neglected she decides to meet someone new.  Hilarity ensues.  I think.

******

I'm really not opposed to remakes in general, considering a couple of these films were genuinely excellent.  In fact, I'm not even opposed to remakes changing details or plot points in films in order to update them to modern day settings.  What I do find interesting is reading more about the histories and trivia behind major films such as these, and sharing that with anyone who might want to know.

But Cracked still does a better job of writing lists like these than I do.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Business As Usual

This is semi-old news, but I had to update the government furlough status: The deadline has been extended until Friday, December 23, pending Congress passing the funding bill for the current fiscal year.  As a result, I'm back at work today and we're going about on our regular business for the time being.

The good news is that Congress is expected to pass the funding bill for the fiscal year by the end of the week, so we should be able to avoid any further talk of furloughs for the foreseeable future.  I'm relieved that a shutdown isn't such a looming threat as it was last week, especially during the holiday season.  The likelihood of a shutdown wasn't ever quite a significant possibility, but there's always that one chance in a hundred that it could happen, and I wouldn't want to be in that one chance.

Meanwhile, I can also relax this week thanks to finishing my Christmas shopping early.  I actually finished it last weekend, so I can coast my way till the weekend.  And since most of my coworkers have scheduled vacation time around the holidays, it's going to be a super quiet two weeks in the office till 2012. 

Ray likes this.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shutdown

Back in the spring - around the time I had first applied for my job, oddly enough - there was a lingering possibility of a government furlough and shutdown because the fiscal year's budget had not been approved by Congress.  If Congress didn't approve the budget by 11:59 PM on a Friday night, all federal employees would not report to work again until the budget was approved.  Congress ended up waiting until quite literally the 11th hour and less then an hour prior to the deadline approved the fiscal year's budget.

I have quite a few friends and family members who work within the federal government, all of whom were ready for the furlough if it came to be.  Since I wasn't working at the time, it obviously wouldn't have affected me, but I also didn't expect the first potential government shutdown in 15 years either.  I was in high school at that time and didn't follow the news that closely, so I don't remember much of anything about the government shutdown.

This morning I got a notice on my desk about another potential shutdown this weekend.  Congress has yet to pass the federal budget for the new fiscal year, and so if nothing is resolved there will be a shutdown come Monday for an indefinite period of time.  We don't report to work and we won't get paid for any hours missed if the budget isn't approved.

Fun.

This wasn't the type of atmosphere I had expected or hoped for when I had wanted to get in the government.  I really like my job and my coworkers, and I'm amazed that twice in a calendar year Congress has argued to the last minute over expenditures and budgeting for a fiscal year.  I'm sure any congressman or U.S. representative would say what is going on behind closed doors there is important and necessary, but for this type of situation to happen twice in 2011 is upsetting.  There's no surprise as to why the general American public has lost a lot of faith in Congress, regardless of which party holds the majority now. 

There is a potential light at the end of the tunnel, though.  I looked up the latest news reports on the furlough status, and read Congress will be voting on a deal no later than tomorrow on the budget for the fiscal year.  There's a good chance I'll be back at work Monday with no interruption.  I hope that's the case, because I had my fill of being out of work already.

I have to believe that two near-furloughs in a single calendar year has to look badly on Obama.  I don't recall any budget debate being stretched out this long in recent memory, and even though one was avoided and the second looks like it will be avoided too, everything is happening under his watch.  The irony to this whole situation is that during the NFL lockout, Obama had planned on intervening so the owners and players could work out a deal if they couldn't do so.  He wanted to make sure there was no interruption in the NFL season, and here we nearly had one federal government work stoppage and could have another.  What does that say about his leadership?

Having said that, I do still believe a budget will be worked out in time.

I have to believe that.