Let's just call things what they are, shall we?  Today's an afternoon read, and that's gonna have to do, eh?  Besides... this way we start our weekend together, right?

It's funny... when you're just browsing online without an agenda, you can spend hours just sort of drifting via hyperlinks and vague whims, but now that I'm trying to compile the most worthwhile links I encounter each day, it's forcing me to consider how much of what I read is just air, completely without calories or substance, gone as soon as I click away from the page.  I have my bad habits like everyone else.  I only read one gossip site, and it's because the dude at What Would Tyler Durden Do is perhaps the funniest mean person online.  I can't help but laugh and feel guilty at the same time.  But is that worth linking?  Is there anything there that I feel like people actually need to read?

I mean, it's not like it's about something important and essential.  Like... ohhh... a giant bug movie.

There are two good articles on roughly the same idea today, and it's something I've been thinking about for the last few weeks, since "Bride Wars" came out and I wrote dismissively about it.  I find most of what are sold as "chick flicks" to be morally reprehensible garbage that sells a disgusting world view to an audience conditioned to accept it, yet when I say that, I get angry letters from people who tell me I "think too much."  That sort of flattens me every time.  How is it that people are insulted and pandered to, and yet they defend it?  Are they just refusing to look at the subtext of what they're watching, or do they genuinely crave this bile?  The Times Online asks "Is it time to retire the chick flick?" while the Woz considers a future of nothing but "Bride Wars" and is horrified by the prospect.  As well she should be.

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The New Yorker has a quick tease of a behind-the-scenes article about Scorsese's "Shutter Island" or whatever it's called right now, and it makes me think I need to run pick up a copy of the new Cahiers du Cinema, where the full article runs.

Empire's got a nice piece up today about Hollywood's ongoing trouble with producing real science-fiction.  I've said for years that sci-fi is just a skin that Hollywood wraps around tired action or horror ideas because they don't know what to make of real science-fiction.  The best of the printed genre is heady stuff, about real ideas, challenging the very notion of what it is to be human and the nature of perception and politics and religion and a thousand other worthy topics.  But sci-fi on film?  Mainly about the "wow," and that seems a waste.

A good example of recent sci-fi that actually had something on its mind was WALL-E, and there's a great interview with Pixar director Andrew Stanton over at David Poland's Hot Blog today.

The House Next Door's Tom Stempel contributes a new edition of his "Understanding Screenwriting" column today, and while I find I don't agree with a lot of what he says, it's great to see someone focusing on the writing of modern film and television as opposed to just the final product.

There are so many of those "25 Things You Don't Know About Me" style quizzes that I am sent or tagged on every day that I just skip past them.  However, Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone And The Infield Fly-Rule posted his answers to "Professor Kingsfield's Hair-Raising Bar-Raising Holiday Movie Quiz," and it's a monstrously good read.  Almost but not quite makes me want to fill one out myself.

Chris Wilkinson, screenwriter of Michael Mann's "Ali," is the guest guru over at Trailers From Hell today with his look at "Boxcar Bertha."  Until about two months ago, this was the only Scorsese feature film I hadn't seen, and I thought it was better than its reputation would suggest.  It's not one of his masterworks, but neither is it as bad as even Scorsese himself seems to think.  It's got a good period vibe, and it's an interesting companion piece to other '70s-era Depression films like "Thieves Like Us" and "Bonnie And Clyde."

In the midst of all the Christian Bale nonsense... and it is GIGANTIC nonsense, make no mistake... I think we've lost sight of something important, and that is that "Terminator: Salvation" looks awesome.

And if you want to know why I don't spend time writing about gossip and about people's personal meltdowns... here's why.  God, that's sad.

I know it seems like I link to Roger Ebert's blog each time he publishes something, but that's because I do.  His writing is just that good these days, and this time, he tackles a subject that is important for anyone who writes opinion for a living.  I have certain opinions I'm happy to share with the public, and others I protect fiercely.  I don't discuss or write about politics or religion except when they explicitly intersect with a film I'm writing about, and then I discuss it only in regards to the movie.  I don't think you care what my political opinions are, and frankly, all they would do is isolate part of the audience.  I'm happy to do that if we're disagreeing over a film, because I think that's a conversation worth having, but unless I move to the Huffington Post, you're not going to have to worry about me using my blog to stump for people I want to see elected and I'm not going to spend time forcing my feelings on issues on you.  I love Roger's take on all of this, though, and it's given me something to consider.

I'm loving the new "Watchmen" journal about Rorschach's mask.

And as much as I dislike this new trend of corporate-sponsored trailer launches, I like the new "Land Of The Lost" trailer.  And I knew the line was going to be "Matt Lauer can SUCK it!" in the real trailer.  Knew it.

Did you hear that Brian Michael Bendis wrote a pilot script so that FX can turn "Powers" into a series?  That's the most exciting comic-to-screen news since Edgar Wright signed on to make "Scott Pilgrim."  Consider me officially thrilled.

And speaking of comics that are being brought to the screen, I really dig "The Surrogates" as a comic, and I'm very curious about Jonathan Mostow's adaptation starring Bruce Willis this year.  There's a new viral marketing site up online now, and if you don't know what the book or the film is about, this will give you some idea of the underlying premise of the film and the world that it's set in.

The Auteur's Notebook is always worth a look, and right now, the team's in Berlin, where they caught the opening night screening of "The International."  You can read my own reaction to the film next week when it opens, but I'll say this much:  it's less than glowing.  Anyone comparing this to the great classic paranoid thrillers of the '70s has no idea what they're talking about.

That's it for me for today, and I'll see you back here on Monday for The Morning Read.  In the meantime, I'm going to crank up the computer and play the new U2 video for the first time.  I haven't heard the single yet, and I'm a huge fan.  Watching The Edge work in "It Might Get Loud" only made me more eager for the new album to arrive, so this video is a welcome treat as we count down the days.

Have a great weekend, folks.