Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Sudden Sketch

For a second or so in 2000, my friend Carl and I had a comedy sketch show called A Band of Fools. We only completed one episode, but we both wrote sketches for several. Looking through my files, I found this sketch that I purposely wrote with no budget in mind. The sketch was for public access, so there's no way we could have done this on our limited amount of cash (basically, whatever we had in our pockets or found on the floor). But it's just so weird and nonsensical that I felt I had to share it.

**********
Open on a church in session. There are two deacons in pink blazers with white collars standing in front of a pulpit.

FIRST DEACON: Please, let us pray. Lord, we pray that all men may learn to love one another as themselves, or at least the fun parts of themselves. Lead us into temptation all you want, but deliver us from evil--unless, of course, it's easily cured with penicilin. And thank you, O Lord, for giving us the films of Joel Schumacher, and we continue to hope that he will make the definitive version of Whitley Streiber's classic of anal rape, Communion. Amen.

SECOND DEACON: And now, the Homo Superior will bless you all.

A man in pink robes and a penis-shaped hat walks up to the pulpit.

HOMO SUPERIOR: Thank you. I know the traditional Superior's outfit is black, but with my collection I would've looked like I stepped out of a Bergman film. And now, children, for the sermon.

He rips off his robe and struts as lounge music begins to play. Suddenly, the congregation stands up and begins undressing, launching into a pagan orgy. A maypole is set up and people go wild.

Into all of this madness steps Carl, looking as though he has lost his way.

CARL: Hi, and thanks for joining us today on A Band of Fools. Now, I want to talk to you all about the importance of good weather-stripping.

A naked midget rides by on a donkey.

MIDGET: I say, sir, can you tell me how to get to Judea?

CARL: Why, yes--but first you must answer this riddle.

Suddenly, a whale falls out of the sky and lands on the midget, killing him instantly with a sickening noise. The whale spits out Jonah.

JONAH: At last! At last!

Jonah is so happy that he immediately starts dancing, first doing the bird and breaking into the worm.

CARL: Alright, I was with you on the midget, but this is just too ridiculous!

A puppet mouse leaps up from behind a rock.

MOUSE: Yeah! Let's get silly!

The mouse starts doing a little hula dance. Carl takes a gun out of his pocket and shoots it in the head.

CARL: What the hell is going on?

A passing mime walks by and shrugs, then takes off his clothes and dives into the orgy swinging a cat by the tail.

CARL: What the hell was that?!

A waitress walks up to take his order.

WAITRESS: The usual, or would you like the babies slightly undercooked this morning?

The Homo Superior walks over to Carl covered in blood and sweat.

HOMO SUPERIOR: Hey, man, you're really bringing us down over here.

Suddenly, God descends from heaven and lands in the middle of the action. Carl, the waitress, and the Homo Superior watch in awe as God looks around and scratches his beard.

GOD: What the hell am I doing here? Oh, why didn't I take the blue pill?

Cut to a shot of Jack Kerouac sitting at his table and typing all of this out.

KEROUAC: Brilliant. It's the most brilliant thing anyone's ever written.

A grandfather clock falls on his head, crushing him to death.

Everyone watching this show changes the channel in disgust.
**********

You know, some days the inspiration strikes, and sometimes you just ramble on and on until you disgust even yourself.

Talking About Myself

I took this from Becca and Merna's sites, and decided to join in. Because, really, all of us have on favorite subject: what our favorite stuff is.

1. Using your Current Initials, choose a different name for yourself: Alistair Rochester Daniels. Why not go a little elegant?
2. If you were born outside of your era, when would you want to be born? 1954, the year rock was born, so that I could enjoy glam rock first hand. Or the late 1800s, so that I could get in on the early days of film.
3. If you ran a store, what would you sell/have? Comic books, music, toys, DVD's, books, porno, and collector's items. It would be the best store for geeks in existence. I might even call it Geek Mall or something like that.
4. What part in a movie would you love to play? Brian Slade in "Velvet Goldmine." He got to rock, he got the girls, he got the boys, and he didn't have to die to do it. I guess I just want to be Bowie or Bolan. For movies that don't exist, I'd love to be Seven in the movie version of the awesome comic book "Red Rocket 7."
5. In your opinion, why do people suck? I'll take Becca's answer: cause they're all so fucking stupid. And they really, really are.
6. If you had your own state, what would you put on your new quarter? The following motto: "You must be at least this smart to live in this state," next to a picture of Isaac Asimov. The other side would feature David Bowie on the cover of "Aladdin Sane." Intellectualism and the arts. Sounds good to me.
7. What's the oldest article of clothing you own? I give most of my old shirts to Becca, so I don't have anything right now that's more than 5 years old or so.
8. What piece of furniture have you replaced the most? Lamps.
9. What instrument do you wish you could be more than great at? Guitar.
10. Record, Tape or CD? CD, especially remastered--lack of clarity frustrates me.
11. What do you think would be the best concert ever? I love Becca's choice: Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, and T. Rex circa 1974, thought I might add Queen, Mott the Hoople, and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Prince, and Frank Zappa to that lineup.
12. What is the best part of your favorite movie? The "I Bring You a Song" sequence in "Bambi."
13. What do you think is the most over-rated candy ever? Klondike Bars. Nasty. I wouldn't do shit for one of those.
14. If you were writing out your will, who would you give your CD collection to? Becca, even though she wouldn't appreciate the fact that "Bat Out of Hell" is the greatest album of all time, and "Pet Sounds" is the second. And my Frank Zappa CDs might never be played again. Hmm, maybe I should leave this collection to my 10 year-old sister, she might grow up to appreciate it.
15. If you could only debate two topics the rest of your life, what would they be? Pop culture and the components of social structure (which includes just about everything, so there).
16. Out of your friends, who would you say you are most jealous of, artistically? Becca. She picks up any medium almost instantly.
17. Most jealous of....intellectually? Um, at the risk of sounding like an egomaniac... yeah, that's a cute question.
18.What do you collect? Comic books, music, science fiction paperbacks, the occasional autograph, Muppet toys, and soundtracks.
19. What is broken that you have, that you wish was fixed? My heart... okay, I was teasing because cheesiness cracks me the fuck up. My stereo.
20. What do you do when you're home, sick? Watch old movies and read books.
21. Story behind your username? Samurai Frog is a comic book character I created in my seventh grade biology class (jeez, that means I created him 16 years ago) after a friend and I made a lot of jokes about frog dissection and the John Belushi samurai character on "SNL."
22. Current Favorite Article of Clothing? My sleep pants. They're comfortable in all temperatures. Once I get a thinner robe, I'm never getting dressed again.
23. Line from the last thing you wrote for someone? Thanking Merna for the highly erotic image of her completely naked with her nice, round ass in the air while she gives Asia Argento's pussy loving teases with her lips and tongue. Okay, maybe it wasn't that graphic, but describing it just made me very hard, so thanks again, Merna.
24. A famous person you have met? Harlan Ellison, my personal hero.
25. Favorite way to waste time? Watching television or listening to music. Yes, I love to watch "Lizzie McGuire," too.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Evaluating Disney: 1933

In 1933, Disney was still going strong, even if the cartoons were starting to fall into a routine. Of course, they were still good more often than not, but a small sense of "seen it all before" was creeping into the shorts. Walt never wanted to stagnate or coast on his credentials, and was seriously giving thought to a new innovation: features. But he wasn't quite sure how to mount something so costly and make it every bit as special as the shorts. For now, the shorts would have to do.

1/7: Building a Building
Mickey Mouse on a construction crew overseen by Pegleg Pete. Although this features the by now standard plot of Minnie being captured by Pete and rescued by Mickey, the score is unusually good and the gags feel fresh (courtesy of director Dave Hand, who always seemed fresh). Some of the jokes are out of a couple of Chaplin shorts, but this is a fun cartoon.

1/21: The Mad Doctor
Another Dave Hand cartoon, and one of his best. Pluto is kidnapped by a mad doctor who wants to splice him with a chicken to see what the offspring will look like! This is very macabre, even considered "too scary" for kids. I love how Mickey breaks into the castle to save Pluto and these skeletons basically fuck with his head. There's even a skeleton spider that is genuinely off-putting and a couple of fun gags revolving around Pluto's x-ray. The use of gray tones and shadows in this short is excellent; really great atmosphere, and very rich (even though there is some animation reused from Egyptian Melodies). A real classic.

2/18: Mickey's Pal Pluto
Pluto's characterization has come a long way since his introduction: now you just can't help but sympathize with him. Pluto, out of the goodness of his heart, rescues a bassinet from an icy river, then is totally ignored as Mickey and Minnie make a huge fuss over the ten kittens inside. Pluto's angel self and devil self try to get him to act, but in the end Pluto saves the kitties from a well. This was remade in 1941 to better effect as Lend a Paw, but this version is pretty funny.

3/11: Birds in the Spring
Davd Hand directed this Silly Symphony about three newborn birds and the perilous adventures of one named Otto. It doesn't have much to distinguish it in the way of story, but the colors are absolutely incredible.

3/18: Mickey's Mellerdrammer
Mickey and friends put on a play of Uncle Tom's Cabin, with Mickey as Uncle Tom and Horace Horsecollar as Simon Legree. It seemed kind of ordinary; I'm sick of the plays in the barn at this point, and the gags here didn't do much for me.

4/8: Ye Olden Days
This fun Burt Gillett short features Goofy as the villain (the opening credit list still calls him Dippy Dawg). Minnie is a princess who is being forced to marry the prince (Dippy), but she loves the wandering minstrel, Mickey. Mickey and Dippy joust for her hand. This is pretty funny, and the music is a lot stronger than usual for a Mickey Mouse cartoon. My favorite joke is when a portrait of the king falls down on top of a horse, and suddenly the horse's ass is bearing the label "the king." Great moment, too, when Mickey climbs the tower to save Minnie; when she says she has no rope, he looks beside himself: "What? No rope?"

4/8: Father Noah's Ark
A nice Silly Symphony retelling the biblical story and using Negro spirituals on the soundtrack. It's not a stand out, but Wilfred Jackson's direction is fun and keeps the story flowing. It ends with one in a series (for Disney) of many, many toilet jokes: the dogs run off the ark at the end and start sniffing a tree.

5/13: The Mail Pilot
Mickey has an air fight with Pete, but there's not a whole lot going on to recommend it, despite Hand's direction. The gags are predictable, and this is outshone by Ub Iwerks's The Air Race (made the same year but not released until 1935). Great animation on the weather, though; the rain must have been a bitch to do.

5/27: Three Little Pigs
The most important and influential of the Disney shorts, this was hugely popular, inspired a marketing craze (during the Depression, no less), and even won an Oscar. Carl Stalling performed and Frank Churchill composed one of the most popular songs of the 1930s, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", with this musical story. It made Technicolor the standard, and finally achieved Walt's dream of making stories about characters with real wants and needs (he knew Mickey was 2-dimensional, and hoped to raise the level of storytelling at his studio). But even Walt was baffled by the success of the short, which stayed in theaters for months and months and was often billed in theaters over the lead feature; at one theater in Dallas, a small riot erupted when the projector forgot to play Three Little Pigs as advertised. Calm was restored when the feature was stopped so the short could be shown. After all of this hype, it would be only natural to suppose that today the film is dated and tired, but it still plays as fresh as if it had been released last week (fresher, given the nature of today's releases). It is fun, exciting, and memorable. Interestingly, I read today that most people have seen a censored version of the cartoon, and that in the original the wolf wore a Jewish mask of some kind. Odd, to be sure. I was looking at it last night and thinking that the wolf could symbolize the Nazis, with the Practical Pig representing America's attempt to plan against invasion. Fifer Pig and Fiddler Pig both wear costumes that kind of recall British and French sailors. How interesting. Either way, this is one of the best cartoons ever made.

6/17: Mickey's Mechanical Man
Beppo the Gorilla makes his return from The Gorilla Mystery as a boxer called the Kongo Killer. Mickey, meanwhile, is testing a mechanical man he has created to get in the ring with the ape. You know what that means? Three little words, and if these words don't get you excited, we've got nothing to say to each other: MONKEY VS. ROBOT! Great stuff, even if Minnie is a little uppity in this one. Wilfred Jackson directed, and the animation on the robot is excellently detailed.

7/1: Mickey's Gala Premiere
I know there are some people who love it when Hollywood celebrities are caricatured in cartoons, but this particular one left me a little cold. Some of the caricatures are neat, even though the Disney artists still weren't doing a great job on animating human characters. Basically, everyone in Hollywood shows up for the premiere of the new Mickey cartoon, including Mickey himself. There is a cartoon within the cartoon, Gallopin' Romance, which is really just a reanimation (with some clever new gags) of The Gallopin' Gaucho. But seeing Hollywood's greatest comic actors--Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, the Marx Brothers, Joe E. Brown--rolling in the aisles with uncontrollable laughter seemed a little self-aggrandizing. Even with Mickey waking up in the end and proving it all to be a dream (and just when Garbo wanted to make out with him, too), it felt a little weird to me.

7/29: Old King Cole
A Silly Symphony that is basically a remake of Mother Goose Melodies, only in color. Dave Hand directs this in a little bit of a Fleischer-esque way, as the characters from storybooks sing and dance and party to hot jazz tunes. Slight, but a lot of fun.

8/19: Lullabye Land
A bizarre Silly Symphony about a kid who dreams he's in the title place. Seriously, this is one fucked-up cartoon. Excellent use of color and surrealism, but it's so off-putting and weird that it's hard to really like. This kid leaves Lullabye Land for the Forbidden Garden, where he sees animals and things that are made out of stuff that children aren't supposed to touch, like knives, scissors, inkwells, and matches. The crazy little kid almost sets the whole place on fire. When the Sandman pops out at the end of the cartoon, I almost expected him to ask the kid if he wanted some drugs. Creepy. It also seems to presage the "Pink Elephants" sequence in Dumbo. Ub Iwerks did this same cartoon (essentially) but better in Balloonland.

9/2: Puppy Love
September seems like an odd time to release this Mickey Mouse cartoon about springtime love; with Mickey romancing Minnie, and Pluto romancing Minnie's new dog, Fifi, lots of love is in the air. People complained about the passionate kiss that ends this short; apparently, it's too sexy. Minnie sings through the whole thing, which is a real drag, and the cartoon is cute, but not very good.

9/16: The Pied Piper
Wilfred Jackson directed this Silly Symphony, and it's one of his best cartoons. Even Disney's happy ending can't quite remove the inherent darkness of the Robert Browning poem, and the atmosphere is a little more delicate than usual. Excellent.

9/30: The Steeplechase
This is a weird one: Mickey has a race horse, Thunderbolt, and needs to win the race. But when the horse gets drunk and can't run, Mickey has his two black stereotype lawn jockey stable hands dress up in a horse costume, and he rides them in order to win. Now, not only does Mick never once think that maybe it's wrong to cheat in the race, but you gotta love the moxie on this guy. "My horse is drunk!" he seems to think. "Saddle up the darkies, I've got to win this thing!" As though they're a perfectly good substitute. Unfortunately, it doesn't do the job of making the cartoon any better, but it is quite a moment in Mickey's history of casual bastardy.

10/28: The Pet Store
Mickey gets a job at Tony's Pet Store. Tony is quite the Italian caricature, too, singing opera all the time and putting up signs in his store advertising "cheep monks" and "biga da sale." But when Minnie stops by, who's that escaping from his cage: Beppo the Gorilla! He's back once again, and this time he does a King Kong impersonation that involves climbing off with Minnie. The best part of this very fun Wilfred Jackson cartoon is when Beppo climbs to the top of a pyramid of boxes mimicking the Empire State Building as birds fly all around him like little airplanes in a King Kong parody.

11/25: Giantland
Mickey puts himself in a version of Jack and the Beanstalk. Very well animated, with direction by Burt Gillett. The gags are a lot of fun, too, and the giant showcases some disgusting eating habits. It's interesting to think that this story must have had quite a hold on Walt's mind: a lot of the cartoons feature menacing (or benevolent) big men, often bullies or father figures. This story was basically remade twice more, once as The Brave Little Tailor, and again as Mickey and the Beanstalk for the film Fun and Fancy Free. Both of those cartoons re-used some of the same gags from this fun short.

12/9: The Night Before Christmas
A slight, but fun sequel to the previous year's Santa's Workshop. Some nice gags, particularly one involving a Mickey Mouse toy, but generally this Silly Symphony doesn't have much to hold the interest.

Overall, 1933 is a very workmanlike year with some very special cartoons, but it is starting to feel like more of the same. Walt, of course, was ahead of everyone else in thinking this, and was soon to amaze the world with the next step in the evolution of cartoons. But that was still four years away. For now, the shorts served a two-fold purpose. The popular Mickey Mouse cartoons virtually guaranteed a constant flow of box office profit, and the colorful Silly Symphonies were now to be a training ground for problems Walt would face with the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Overall, however, they would have to be entertaining; and the Walt Disney Studios excelled at that.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Student Driven to Distraction

Looking over my papers, I found something I had written in a class that really goes nowhere. For some reason (certainly not pride), I decided to share it:

The girl to my right, she must be about 20, has the most magnificent mammaries a man could master. We're talking E-cups here. Not quite Kitten Natividad, but certainly giving Cynthia Myers a run for her money. Seriously huge--the biggest tits I think I've ever seen in person. God, I love breasts. Love 'em. Boobs, bongos, bazongas, gazongas, majungahs, mogambos, hooters, joybags, milk sacks, symplegadean garbanzos, titties, bazooms, bosoms, ta-tas, golden globes, spheres, orbs, melons, casabas, busen, van der grafs, Anna Nicoles. However you say it, I motherfucking love breasts. They and their appreciation are the reason I am alive. She's a real prize, anyway--nice and fat, small waist (for maximum cartoony pin-up girl effect, especially when breasts are cantilevered and in perfectly proportion or slightly bigger--a look that should be cultivated far more often), long, proud nose (not Streisand but very striking--a little hooked, just dissonant enough to be sexy). Blond hair, a little dirty, parted in the middle. Sensuous, pouty lips that seem to naturally curve down into a frown. Blue eyes, very round. Everything about this woman is round and complimentary to her frame--the way a woman's supposed to look. What a goddess.

Must've been some exciting class...

Conversations from the Video Store, Part X

The very last of the conversations recorded for posterity while working at Hollywood Video in 2001.

Aaron and Jen stare out the window at what is shaping up to be a nice, if cool, evening. The store is blessedly empty, and there is no video playing. All is blessedly quiet.

AARON: Jesus, I hate living in Illinois. I wish I could leave. Some day, I'm just going to pick a direction and never stop moving in it.

JEN: So what's stopping you?

AARON: Money, same as always. I was watching Flipper the other day, and ever since I can't get the idea of living on a boat out of my head.

More silence as the stillness begins to soothe Aaron's high.

JEN: What do you hope will happen soon? I'm hoping that I can go back to school and become a teacher. What about you?

AARON: I hope that it snows over spring break. Serve the little fuckers right.

JEN: Didn't you say you were going to be a teacher once?

AARON: Yes, but I do hate children very much.

JEN: Maybe you can teach college.

AARON: I'd just sleep with my students.

JEN: Sure, but you'd have a job. Maybe not for long, but...

AARON: Yeah, well...

JEN: Well what? You gonna hang out in front of convenience stores and talk about how you were cool in high school for the rest of your life?

AARON: I don't do that now. And I wasn't cool in high school. Everyone hated me. I almost killed myself about five times.

JEN: You gonna get drunk every night and sleep on your floor?

AARON: I don't drink very often. And I live with my mother...

JEN: You gonna spend all of your money on strippers?

AARON: I--shut up, Jen.

Silence for a moment or two.

AARON: So, any chance of seeing your dance routine?

JEN: No.

AARON: We can make a deal, can't we?

JEN: No. Quit sexually harrassing your assistant manager.

AARON: You just quit being fun.

JEN: I know. Want to stick around and rent sexy movies to minors?

AARON: My shift's up in ten.

JEN: Lucky you.

AARON: Yeah...lucky me...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Conversations from the Video Store, Part IX

Conversations recorded for posterity while working at Hollywood Video in 2001.

Aaron and Jen sit on lawn chairs outside the back of the store, passing a joint between them and watching cars go by on nearby 75th street.

AARON: So, you gonna quit yet?

JEN: Am I supposed to?

AARON: You're my third assistant manager in the last three months, I just figured you'd be gone soon, too.

JEN: I need the money.

AARON: That's sad, the money blows.

JEN: I know. You know what I used to do before this?

AARON: What?

JEN: I was a stripper.

Aaron instantly looks at her with a newfound respect.

AARON: No shit?

JEN: No shit.

AARON: You were a stripper? Where?

JEN: At a place in Elk Grove Village.

AARON: Damn. All nude?

JEN: Pasties and a g-string.

AARON: Must've been a hell of a sight; I'm sorry I missed it.

JEN: That's sweet of you to say.

AARON: How much money did you make?

JEN: About four to six hundred dollars a night.

AARON: A night?

JEN: Oh, yeah. On weeknights. Fridays and Saturdays you could make well over a thou.

AARON: If I was a woman I would so be a stripper. How much do you make here?

JEN: $8.85 an hour.

AARON: You mad fool...

JEN: I'm beginning to think so.

AARON: Why'd you quit?

JEN: I just got tired of it. It's so repetitive.

AARON: I guess I can imagine that, but all life is really repetitive. Any job is, your old one just paid a lot and there was lots of nudity. I can't imagine not wanting to be around all of that nudity.

JEN: I'm beginning to think the money isn't worth the extra sleep.

AARON: Beginning? Jen, I've never stripped in my life, but I know it has to be better than this. If I had your body, I wouldn't have stopped until I was 50.

JEN: That's sweet of you to say.

Pause while Aaron and Jen relax and smoke.

JEN: You're quite lucid.

AARON: I pride myself on it.

JEN: Are you getting high at all?

AARON: I feel like Anna Nicole Smith in a centrifuge,

JEN: Wow.

They both giggle uncontrollably for about 45 seconds.

JEN: Munching yet?

AARON: I didn't get this figure by not munching. Good thing we sell candy.

JEN: Here, I have something I just bought at the Whole Foods Market.

AARON: I didn't get this figure by eating Whole Foods.

Jen reaches down and holds up a potato-chip like bag. The first thing Aaron notices is that the contents of the bag are green, like some kind of fucked up green popcorn. The second thing is the logo, which says "Veggie Booty."

AARON: What the fuck is that? Veggie...Booty?

JEN: They have a thing called Pirate Booty, so I thought I'd try this one.

AARON: What's it made of?

JEN: Seaweed.

AARON: Seriously?

JEN: Yep.

AARON: Anything else?

JEN: Kelp, stuff like that.

AARON: Ew.

JEN: Want some?

AARON: What previous event in our relationship makes you think I would? I repeat--ew.

JEN (opening the bag and offering it): Want some?

AARON: Is it any good?

JEN: I don't know, I haven't tried it yet.

AARON: Great, I'm a guinea pig. Why am I testing your food, and not how good you give head?

JEN: I give great head.

AARON: Any chance of getting some?

JEN (giggling): No, but you're free to try my booty.

AARON: I always hoped when you said that to me that you wouldn't be talking about some disgusting seaweed confection.

JEN: Here, try it.

She takes a piece of the Veggie Booty and literally shoves it in Aaron's mouth.

He chews for a minute, and suddenly stops and stares at her in a moment of panic not unlike what Bruce Banner must feel like the first moment he knows he's going to change into the Hulk.

AARON: Oh, Jesus, God! It's awful!

JEN (immediately feeling bad): Oh--is it terrible?

AARON: It's the worst thing I've ever had in my mouth. It's like death in popcorn form. This must be what whale feces taste like. Jesus, please kill me, I'll never be able to get the taste of this out of my mouth! God, put something that tastes better in my mouth, like a cock or a tailpipe or something!

JEN: Wow...

Glassy-eyed from the pot, she crunches a piece of Veggie Booty in her mouth, makes a disgusted face, and spits it out.

Aaron takes a long drag on the joint, and then passes it to Jen, who tokes for a full five seconds.

JEN: Oh, shit.

AARON: See?

JEN: Wow, that's gross.

She throws the bag into the dumpster.

AARON: You suck.

JEN: I am so sorry.

AARON: I wish I was dead. I hate healthy people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Conversations from the Video Store, Part VIII

Conversations recorded for posterity while working at Hollywood Video in 2001. I hope people are enjoying these, otherwise I just sound like an idiot.

Aaron continues to work the counter, Jen hovering nearby in an unobtrusive way (she's hot). Two 15 year-old regular customers, Mena and Thora, walk up to the counter to harrass Aaron, as they tend to do. Their names have been changed to the first names of the little girls in American Beauty, both to protect their names and to conjure up images of adolescent sensuality that they tended to conjure up. Mm...

AARON: Hi, girls.

Mena leaps up onto the counter, leaning into it with her arms.

MENA: Do you have the movie Nurse Betty?

AARON: Sure do.

MENA: Will you rent me one?

AARON: Sure won't.

MENA: Aw...why not?

AARON: Because you're not eighteen, and we'll get into trouble for doing it.

MENA: If I get caught, I won't tell where I got it.

AARON: It has a Hollywood Video label on it.

MENA: I won't tell that you rented it to me.

AARON: They can look that up.

MENA: Pleeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaase?

AARON: No.

She pouts and struts over to her friend.

AARON: She was cute.

JEN: She's, like, fifteen.

AARON (dreamily): Yeah...

JEN: That's kind of sick.

AARON: What do you care?

Thora decides it's her turn to try, so she walks up to the counter.

AARON: Where's it at?

THORA: I hear you won't rent an R-rated movie fo my friend.

AARON: Just doing my part to fight even the smallest happiness.

THORA: What if I paid you extra?

AARON: You think I'd even consider that offer in front of my assistant manager?

JEN: Hi.

THORA: Oh, I'm sorry...

Thora walks off to join Mena as they sulkily try to hatch another plan.

JEN: You would, though, wouldn't you?

AARON: I'd seriously consider almost thinking about it.

JEN: Help Katie hammer the movies?

AARON: Will do.

Aaron picks up an arm-length stack of videotapes and ventures out among the dead to put them back on the shelf. Thora and Mena approach him on the floor.

THORA: Okay, mister, we need that movie.

AARON: "Mister"? I'm only 25, for Christ's sake.

MENA (emphatically): We need this movie.

AARON: Why don't just steal it?

THORA: Really?

AARON: I didn't say that.

THORA: I see...

AARON: So, what's so important about this movie? It can't be the predictable plot, the thin gags, the stereotypical characters or the fact that it's about an hour too long. So what is it?

THORA: My friend here is a huge Chris Rock fan.

AARON: That must suck, considering you're too young to have seen any of his movies.

THORA: We have ways...

AARON: I'll bet.

MENA: You seen this movie?

AARON: Yeah, in the theater, back when it came out, last August.

MENA: Was it good?

AARON: Not overly, but I like Renee Zellweger.

MENA: You like her?

AARON: Yeah, she's hot.

MENA: Her voice is so irritating.

AARON: That sexy baby doll thing she has going with her country twang? It's a turn on. She's a fair-skinned redhead with a lithe little body. If she gained some weight, she'd be perfect.

THORA: What, you like fat chicks?

AARON: I like girls with meat on their bones, because it makes them curvy. Nice thighs, big ass, big boobs--this all comes from fat. I hate skinny women.

Aaron pauses for a moment as he realizes what he's doing. Then, because he no longer cares about getting fired (though, admittedly, no one is around), decides to say something totally inappropriate.

AARON: You know, it kind of turns me on talking to two high school chicks about sex.

THORA: Oh, so you like little girls, then.

MENA: Little fat girls, apparently.

AARON: No, no.

THORA: Mena, how bad do you want Nurse Betty?

Mena looks up, startled, and quickly walks out of the store. Thora shrugs and follows. The girls don't come back for three weeks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Renee Zellweger, in a total coincidence, did get all fat to play a thin British woman in Bridget Jones's Diary, which was released that same year. She looked hotter than ever, then apparently felt uncomfortable looking like a woman, and lost the weight (and then some) so that she resembled a plucked, uncooked chicken and was never sexy again.

EDITOR'S POST NOTE: I totally would have had sex with those two little girls. Judge all you want. I have no moral code.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this week.

BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
Without hyperbole: one of the most perfect comic book movies I've ever seen. Seriously, if I was making a list of the great superhero movies, this would be second, following only Spider-Man 2. And I'm a huge fan of the Tim Burton, weirdly German-expressionist movies. But this one captures everything I love about Batman and treats in such a fashion that, improbably, it nimbly catwalks just far enough away from ridiculousness to be believable, but just far enough from realism to be fun. This is an incredibly hard level of water to tread, but Christopher Nolan is talented enough to do it. This is the first Batman adaptation to get across just how deep the relationship between Alfred and Bruce can run, the first to get across the point that Batman won't kill people because it's the one fundamental belief that keeps him from full-blown fascism, and finally--finally!--we get the Jim Gordon we've always wanted. The performances ranges from beautifully understated (Michael Caine, Gary Oldman) to serviceable depth (Tom Wilkinson, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer) to competent enough not to be distracted by an obviously limited range (Katie Holmes). And Christian Bale plays the first Batman who could, if the situation warranted, make me literally crap my pants. Excellent. **** stars.

HOW TO DEAL (2003)
Which is more maddening: the fact that Mandy Moore keeps making movies, or the fact that I keep seeing them? I think Mandy's semi-adorable, and I had some good fortune in that the first movie I ever saw her in--Saved--was also the only good movie she was ever in. This one is at least better than the excerable Chasing Liberty, but not overmuch. I don't really remember the plot that well, but Mandy was cute in it and...let's face it, I don't remember a whole lot else. Flies by without being intrusive enough to actually notice it. As George Carlin said about finding the perfect background TV show: "Interesting enough to leave on, but not bad enough to change the channel." ** stars.

THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (2003)
I god damn hate these Matrix movies. People who like The Matrix are like Star Wars fans, only far worse. At least Star Wars fans are just like dumb overgrown children. Matrix fans act as though there's some serious philosophy behind their trilogy of choice. Well, there is, it's called Gnosticism, and the symbolism is so heavy-handed and pointless that The Matrix trilogy is like like what Battlefield Earth and Phenomenon are for scientology. And I know I'm not the first people to complain about how shitty the special effects are (worse than Attack of the Clones) and how arbitrary the love story is and how annoyingly emotionless every performance is (except for that kid who opens the gate in this one--he's so over the top playing "youthful idealistic enthusiasm" that I kept expecting him to interject every sentence with "golly, Miss Lane!" or "holy metal demon symbolism, Batman!" or "jiminy jillickers!"). The movie tries to be technically impressive but preaches an anti-technological message, and espouses the importance (over everything else) of love while casting actors that are less lifelike than mannequins. And it's padded like crazy--cut the padding out of this and The Matrix Reloaded, and you've got one movie that is better than the two separate ones (but only because it takes less of your life away). The brilliant thing the Wachowskis have done is to have managed to convince everyone that they're geniuses just by saying that they are. The movies have nothing complex to offer; the messages are so simple that they have to add on layers and layers of other bullshit just to distract from how obvious everything is. And the dire-logue; all I heard was: "blah blah blah blah love blah blah blah arbitrary use of Biblical name to make Gnostic symbols obvious blah blah blah blah love blah computer term used as nomenclature blah blah." George Lucas dialogue has more depth to it. Is there anything I liked about this trilogy? Let's count down.

1. Monica Bellucci, though wasted, appears in them and has beautiful breasts.
2. The Architect scene explained everything well enough that I didn't need a third movie.
3. Hugo Weaving, the person I hated most in the first movie, managed to get better each time.
4. They're over now.

Yeah, that's about it. Everything else blows, and I can barely remember them now. I fell asleep for the length of a minute about seven times in Revolutions, but each time it was a deep slumber. You know how you're startled awake because you fall asleep sitting up and then your head falls and the motion snaps you into consciousness? That's the only reason I woke up. Face it, these movies are childish wastes of time. * star, and that's only for Hugo Weaving.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Conversations from the Video Store, Part VII

Conversations recorded for posterity while working at Hollywood Video in 2001.

Aaron works the counter mid-day on Monday with a new employee, Kate. Aaron begins to notice a high number of annoying junior high and high school kids walking in and out and renting video games.

AARON: Are the kids out of school today?

KATE: Yeah, and tomorrow, too.

AARON: Fuck! Didn't they just have a day off last week?

KATE: Yep.

AARON: No wonder people in this town are so stupid--school's only in session a few days a week! They just hand winter break, for chrissakes! Why do they need a day off now?

KATE: I wouldn't know, I'm not in high school.

AARON: Oh, I forget sometimes.

KATE (sarcastic, duh): Well, that's rude. Thanks.

AARON (ignoring her half-hourly sense of righteous indignation) : I don't quite get it. Kids today are totally out of control, and they have no guidance. High school is structure they need, and all they do is complain about school, but it feels like they really only go about 100 days a year, if that. High school should be just as hard to get out of as fucking prison. Bratty little pigfuckers.

A customer walks up to Kate.

CUSTOMER: Miss, do you have a copy of Whipped?

KATE: That movie wasn't even worth my time, it was awful.

CUSTOMER (taken aback): Oh. But do you have it?

KATE: Yes, I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to talk you out of it, I was just letting you know what I thought of it.

CUSTOMER: Yeah, great--where is it?

KATE: On the new releases wall. I think we're out of it now, though.

CUSTOMER: Gee, thanks. Took long enough.

Kate, totally oblivious to the customer's tone, goes back to work.

The customer leaves and checks the new release wall, finds a copy of Whipped, and comes back to the counter with it.

CUSTOMER: Hey, there was a copy on the wall.

KATE: Must feel pretty good to prove me wrong.

CUSTOMER: What?

Aaron comes up to ring up the customer and, as usual, smooth things over.

AARON: Thank you, Kate, I'll ring up this customer.

CUSTOMER: She's very rude.

AARON: Isn't she? I've complained about her a dozen times to the manager.

CUSTOMER: I don't care if she liked it or not--I don't care what her opinions are.

AARON: No one does. I apologize. That's $3.79.

The customer pays and leaves.

AARON: That was uncalled for.

KATE: Don't give me that; you hate them more than I do.

AARON: Yeah, I do. But I have to eat shit occasionally, because that's what the idiot, soul-crushing job of video clerk entails. It's a shit job, but since I'm barely getting paid for it, I might as well try and keep it. Kate, don't even talk to the zombies if you can help it, and if they're looking for something, sometimes you have to take them by the hand like the retarded children they are. Otherwise, ignore them. It just leads to moments of uncomfortable interaction.

KATE: So, what, I'm not allowed to state my opinion?

AARON: They don't care, they just want their movie. If they ask, hey, be as honest as you want, but I've seen big fights break out just because someone offered their opinion. It's best not to make them feel like the helpless idiots we know they are. Don't do anything to make them talk to you.

KATE: That sounds hypocritical.

AARON: It's very hypocritical, but if I wanted to interact with people, I'd get a diplomacy job. Just keep it rusted shut, Trapjaw.

KATE: But--

AARON: Seal it shut, Princess.

KATE: Why do you call me that?

AARON: Because I know it really pisses you off.

KATE: If you know, then you can stop.

AARON: Sure thing, Cupcake.

KATE: That's even worse!

A customer walks up with a video.

AARON: Find everything, sir?

CUSTOMER 2: Yes, thanks.

KATE: Is there a reason you keep antagonizing me?

AARON: I'm with a customer right now. That's $1.99, sir.

The customer pays and leaves.

KATE: Aaron!

AARON: Shh--use your indoor voice.

Kate starts to incoherently bluster, so Jen, the assistant manager, walks over.

JEN: Aaron, you're a good worker, but you're even mouthier than she is.

AARON: I know, but since I'm missing daytime TV, I need to get in my daily dose of smug superiority.

JEN: I see...