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Old News: 2001

All Things Benicio

December 13, 2001

Is it the wild, unruly hair? The smoky slow burn? The full, soft mouth? The dark eyes, or the darker rings around them?

What makes Benicio Del Toro so compelling?

It is probably not the pudgy gut he carries for most roles. But then again, maybe in this new-new world a little belly is sexy on a guy.

Whatever it is, Benicio has presence. Any movie that he's in, you find yourself wishing he was in more. He wouldn't even need to have more lines — they could just keep the camera on him a few extra seconds each shot and see what he does.

But until they create an "All Benicio, All Day" cable channel, the solution can only be watching all the available footage. To help you, Inkburns has compiled the Benicio Del Toro Film Festival, featuring the big screen work of the man ... the myth ... the legend.

Of course, the tricky part of designing a film festival isn't coming up with the list of movies. A quick search on the Internet will tell you every movie he has been in. Where's the fun in that? No, the trick is knowing what order to view them in.

Below, Inkburns presents the optimal order for viewing Mr. Del Toro's collected major works. Why this is the optimal order is a protected Inkburns secret. But if you think you can guess how the order was set, send us an email detailing our optimization scheme. A correct guess will earn you a limited edition Inkburns mug (once the mugs are made, which will be very soon).

  1. The Usual Suspects
  2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  3. Traffic
  4. Snatch
  5. The Way of the Gun
  6. Excess Baggage
  7. Money for Nothing
  8. Basquiat

The BDTFF focuses on films in which he has at least a fair amount of screen time. If you really need every bit of Benicio that's out there, below is a list of the movies in which he had bit parts. We leave it as an exercise for the reader to discover the optimal viewing order for Benicio's smaller, but no less compelling, segments of acting. We do suggest that you not blink or you might miss the best part of some of these films.

  • Swimming with Sharks
  • Fearless
  • China Moon
  • The Funeral
  • The Fan
  • A License to Kill
  • Cannes Man
  • Joyride
  • Big Top Pee-Wee
  • The Indian Runner
  • Bread and Roses
  • The Pledge
  • Christopher Columbus: The Discovery

Unexpected Learnings
(An Occasional Series)

Learning 1: Sometimes it is enough just to show up

December 9, 2001

Sometime late in the eleventh grade I started to worry about applying to college. The idea of rejection terrified me. I had the grades, I had some extracurricular activities like playing piano and acting in theater and eating cheese in French Club, and I had some work experience as a teaching assistant at computer camp. But — as the examples above hint — I was nerdy beyond compare, and I worried that admissions officers would consider me one-dimensional.

What I needed, I thought, was an indicator that I wasn't all about books, that I would be an asset in other areas of student life on a college campus. I needed to join a sport.

I had played tennis in grade school but had not been good. I had, in fact, been horrible. In contrast, my high school's tennis team was respectable. I would have had to try out for the team and stood a more than decent chance of being laughed off the court. The basketball team also required some semblance of skill, or at least a lack of fear of flying objects, neither of which I had.

The only remaining option was the track team. The team was small, maybe eight members total, and didn't require interaction — no passing drills, no plays to learn. And there were no flying objects. Each person ran whatever event they were best suited for. Often we didn't field a runner for an event simply because we didn't have anyone available.

In a rudimentary tryout I showed no evidence of sprinting speed and was assigned to some longer distance events. Also, because I was tall, they put me in hurdles. The school had perhaps five hurdles of its own. The coach, our large and butch gym teacher, set them up and explained to me the general principle of how to traverse them with optimal speed. Jumping was not really the thing. Instead, there was rhythm involved, getting off on the correct foot and placing the steps at the right spots, getting your feet up and in front of you. We started off with a lowered bar height, and I practiced for a week, running maybe a dozen times through the miniature hurdling course.

I should mention that I had no athletic clothes. I had no need for them because I had avoided sweating up to that point in my life. I didn't own shorts because I spent hot summer days reading in air-conditioned libraries. I did have the school gym uniform, a pale blue, polyester one-piece contraption that zipped in front and rode up in back, but like any sensible girl I left that lumped in the bottom of my gym bag. The one remotely athletic item I was willing to wear was a pair of sweatpants. I wore them with various t-shirts to every practice.

On my first race day, the team rode in the school van to the host school, and we stood about on the track, waiting for our individual events. My first event was hurdles, competing against two runners from the opposing team. The official at the start lined us up, and then turned to me. "We're about to start."

I nodded.

"Don't you want to change?"

I then noticed that everyone else had stripped down to nifty running shorts in vibrant satin. Ah, so warm-up pants were meant to be shed after warm-ups. Good to know.

"No, I'll wear these," I told him.

He gave me a look but said nothing.

The starting gun fired, and the other two runners and I took off. I nearly ran into the first hurdle. These hurdles were at regulation height, and the other runners clearly had been over them more than a dozen times. I had to stop at each one and kind of step over. I was flaming red by the time I finished, from both the effort and the humiliation. My main hope was that people would assume that the sweatpants had hindered my performance.

My only other event was a long running thing. It's perhaps revealing that I cannot remember what distance it was. I do know that it was a longer run than any practice I had done to date and that I was near exhaustion after a few laps around the track. The other runners were done well before I was, and the officials had moved on to other events by the time I staggered to the finish.

By the end of the meet, we had won a few events but overall been beaten soundly.

The following Monday, the principal announced the event results over the loudspeaker. "And Cindy Closkey took third place in hurdles." She made no mention that there were only three runners in the event.

Everyone in my homeroom congratulated me.

Discord at Inkburns

December 3, 2001

The Inkburns offices are generally a harmonious place to work. Through the corridors one can hear keyboards clicking and pens scritching, staffers talking earnestly to each other and sometimes to their computer screens. Sounds of efficent work are punctuated only now and then by the pop of a champagne bottle or slosh of a cocktail shaker — someone celebrating a completed copyedit or the receipt of a photograph in a usable format.

But lately a new collection of sounds has rippled through our offices. Sounds of disagreement, of conflicting opinions being stated and restated, more loudly each time. People have begun drinking just scotch, straight, alone, while glaring out the window and muttering to themselves.

The issue at hand: Where should we put this new News feature on the site?

It's not a "Feature" because it's updated more often than monthly. It's not an "Activity" because the reader isn't asked to send anything in. It's a whole new thing, separate but equal to the other things on the site.

And so people suggested creating a new section, but Julio, our Webmaster, worried that a new item in our site menu will be at least one too many. And Millicent, our Senior Fact Checker and unofficial keeper of order, didn't like the lack of parallelism in the proposed Contents listing.

The arguments rivalled the disputes that arose around the question of whether to use capital letters in the page footers. Despairing of a resolution, some had wondered whether we should abandon the News concept.

Henri, the Web Designer, worked late into the night to create alternative designs. At first, people stalked around the office with them, waving them in each other's faces and generally being disagreeable. But in the end, cool heads prevailed and we reached a compromise.

Now the champagne is once again flowing, and all the Inkburns staffers are settling into our redesigned site, complete with irregularly updated news. We hope you are too.

"Harry Potter": the Inkburns review

November 20, 2001

Opinions of the Inkburns Film Review Board:

  • Better in the book: the wand selection scene
  • Better in the movie: the final chess match/the flying keys
  • Most interesting character: Professor Snape (especially his first class)
  • Did Hagrid look big enough: yes
  • Oddest cameo: John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
  • Coolest item: the Golden Snitch
  • Unexpected supernatural gore: luminescent unicorn blood
  • Wanted to see more of: the people moving in the paintings
  • Overall: Enjoyable and worth seeing

 

Inkburns in a Tizzy

November 14, 2001

We at Inkburns pride ourselves on levelheadedness in the face of the unexpected and the extreme. However, we are apparently unable to handle basic mass marketing hype.

Inkburns simple cannot wait for the premiere of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The situation has reached epic proportions. We've scoured www.harrypotter.com and played the games and done the tours and read the news and viewed all three of the trailers, plus the British version of the first trailer. We've looked at every published photo. We've sent Howlers and ordinary postcards. We have searched the local K-Mart for any remaining Harry Potter glasses, and if we had found them we would have bought them and worn them to work.

We are happy to report to you that the British and U.S. versions of the first trailer are identical except for the title. In Britain, the book was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and the movie carries that name there. Here, the book and movie are called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, a name that Inkburns finds superior, hopefully not just because we're used to it.

How the children in the film maintained their perpetually wide-eyed expressions throughout the production is anyone's guess. Apparently the crew kept saline solution on hand at all times.

We had been calling Hermione, the young female character, "Her-mee-OWN-ee." We have learned that the correct pronunciation is "Her-MY-own-ee." Knowledge is power.

The trailers indicate that the movie has stuck quite closely to the book. However, somehow Dame Maggie Smith avoided wearing squared-off eyeglasses. Hmm.

More significantly, the first Harry Potter book is on loan from the Inkburns library, and so we cannot reread it before the premiere. This is undoubtedly a good thing. Were we to have the book fresh in the mind, we would notice even more small discrepancies and make small, annoyed noises that would frustrate those seated nearby.

The big question is not whether the movie will live up to the hype. It's whether it will live up to readers' expectations.

We will let you know.