Saturday, August 19, 2006

Release This Movie

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are teaming up to produce Grind House, an anthology film with one segment directed by each. I know, I know, Four Rooms sucked, but whatev. These guys just love to work with each other and et cetera et cetera. Naturally, here’s the part that bugs the shit out of me: Quentin Tarantino.

QT is yet another one of those guys who just can’t get his shit organized and actually get to fucking work. And look at his films: it may be a fantastic trick, but he’s a one-trick pony. I will concede that his movies are well-written (though the actors help, making his mannered, affected dialogue nearly believable), but the question is usually only this: Which of Tarantino’s influences will be shoved to the fore this time? I mean, he’s made two crime flicks, a blaxploitation flick, and (after an eight-year break to enjoy being a celebrity) what amounts to one incredibly overlong kung fu flick. I guess a World War II movie is the only way to go; watch for him to rip off Sam Fuller some more without ever dropping Fuller’s name. Anyway, he’s directing Death Proof, one of the two films in Grind House. Or, he is eventually.

Robert Rodriguez, fast worker he, has already finished his half of the movie, Planet Terror. Quite some time ago, it seems. I would love to see this movie, because I’m a fan of Rodriguez and it sounds fucking great. But no, I have to wait who-knows-how-many-years for Tarantino to get his shit together and sit down and make the damn thing. And I’m being kind and assuming he’s even been able to write it so far.

I’m not trying to make light of the creative process. What Quentin Tarantino has to go through to produce any work, I have no idea. I imagine it’s something like trying to track down the most obscure movies he can find so nobody recognizes what he’s ripping off from, but I don’t know that for sure. Some people are just faster than others. People like Robert Rodriguez.

And look at this:

It’s Rose McGowan, with her leg replaced by a fucking machine gun! You know this movie is going to fucking rock! I want to see this damn movie! It’s done, so release it. Fuck the anthology thing. It’s unfair, anyway, it forces a comparison that doesn’t have to be there. It’ll be just like Four Rooms: “It was pretty crap, but Robert Rodriguez’s segment was fucking great.”

Please, Dimension, I’m imploring you to just release Planet Terror on DVD and just let Tarantino take the four years he’ll inevitably need to make Death Proof. Because I just want to see the fucking thing. Posted by Picasa

Alan Moore

I have a real problem being able to like Alan Moore. He is, of course, the author of some of the greatest comic book stories of all time, including V for Vendetta, From Hell, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, The Killing Joke, and Watchmen. There’s no denying that he’s created some seminal comic book art. His writing can take unreadable garbage like Youngblood and Supreme and make them something worthwhile. The man is a genius when it comes to the deconstruction of the comic book convention. Indeed, he deserves his fame.

So, here’s my problem with the man. It’s the sheer length of time it takes for him to actually sit down and do the fucking work he’s so fucking famous for. He’s so erratic and so prideful, it’s a chore in itself to actually get the man to work on anything. He’s so damn sore about what he feels he’s owed. This started when he was working for 2000AD, where his much-loved series The Ballad of Halo Jones remains unfinished since 1986 because of a disagreement with the publisher over creators’ rights.

Moore has long been credited with revitalizing the comic book industry in the mid-eighties, especially with the excellent (and required: read it) Watchmen. The mid-eighties were an interesting time in comic book history, when the work was taken seriously for the first time by the mainstream media; people like Moore, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, the Hernandez Brothers, and Dave Sim became renowned as important creative people. Moore, through his work at DC Comics, has become a legend of the Renaissance period of American comic books. But it didn’t last very long.

Moore had been working for DC Comics since 1983, when he was hired for a celebrated run on Swamp Thing that saw the creation of popular character John Constantine. Moore’s famous friction began with DC in 1989. There had been some tension over the creation of a marketing tie-in with Watchmen, and it exploded over an incredibly stupid reason. At the time, comics were expanding to include a wide variety of subject matter. People who were too ignorant or uninterested to realize it thought comics were all like Archie: dim books for children. But there was a lot of adult material being published, especially by DC, who had just republished Moore’s V for Vendetta. To avoid legal problems, DC was considering implementing a ratings system similar to the one used by the Motion Picture Association of America. Moore apparently felt that was censorship, though a clear-headed argument shows otherwise; it was an attempt to get graphic novels read by an age group that clearly felt all comic books were for kids, as well as an attempt to protect DC from allegations that comics like Watchmen, Ronin, and The Dark Knight Returns were too violent for children.

This was also exacerbated by Moore’s proposal for a limited series, Twilight of the Superheroes, which attempted to preserve the original DC Comics continuity, which was being needlessly destroyed as a marketing gimmick in DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths (a gimmick that DC repeats every six years or so, finally leading to my decision not to read DC Comics anymore). The proposal was summarily rejected. Notes from the proposal have appeared online, despite DC's constant attempts to suppress them; some feel that DC used them without giving any credit in Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come. From what I know of the plot, there are many similarities that Waid claims are unintentional. Many fans feel that DC is still strip-mining Moore’s unused scripts.

In any event, Moore left mainstream comics to work on two more stories, Lost Girls and From Hell, before returning to the mainstream in the late nineties. He successfully introduced postmodern irony into Image Comics’ rather boring early lineup, and finally began his own imprint in 1999, America’s Best Comics, which featured the titles Tom Strong, Top 10, Promethea, Tomorrow Stories, and several other miniseries, including the excellent (forget the shitty movie) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. ABC was meant to be published through Wildstorm, then at Image; just before publication, Wildstorm was purchased as a DC imprint. Like a professional, Moore accepted the situation with the caveat that he would not have to deal with DC. Like the wastrel he tends to be, the six issues of the first League of Extraordinary Gentleman took over a year to publish. His comics were frequently late. No apologies were made; he was putting out excellent work, but his inability to keep a schedule was never addressed. Apparently in the comics industry, work and results are not remotely important.

Did DC keep its promise not to interfere with ABC? Of course not. The entire first print run of an issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was destroyed to remove an offensive (and potentially litigious) fake ad for a douche spray called “Marvel” (DC execs feared Marvel Comics would sue). An anti-scientology story for Tomorrow Stories was deemed too actionable for Moore to publish. Moore began to retreat from the actual writing of his comics, letting others take over for him while he concentrated on specific stories (such as a real gem, the graphic novel Top 10: The Forty-Niners).

But then there were the movies. He has said in the past that he didn’t care about the movie adaptations of his work, because the original work still survived. But he himself ended up getting sued along with 20th Century Fox over the terrible film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; screenwriter Larry Cohen and producer Martin Poll filed a lawsuit alleging that the film ripped off their project Cast of Characters. Supposedly there are similarities, but these are supposed to be elements that were added by the screenwriters for the film and do not appear in the comic (and if this happened, it would hardly be the first time). Moore himself was forced to appear in court and point out this fact, saying with typical overstatement that he would have been treated better if he had “molested and murdered a busload of retarded children after giving them heroin.” Fox settled the case, which insulted Moore, who felt it was an admission of guilt that implicated him. What is especially sad is that the literary conceit behind LoEG, which teams up several literary characters, is hardly an original idea. It’s just a very well-written one.

Moore decided to take his name off future adaptations, such as Constantine, instead giving the credit (and the paycheck) to the artists. But when V for Vendetta came around last year, he finally had had enough. Producer Joel Silver publicly claimed that Moore was excited about the film; Moore asked for an apology and retraction, which never came. And now Moore has rolled up ABC and put it away (despite being in the middle of the ABC: A to Z series, the last two issues of which have been unceremoniously canceled). His future work will appear…well, wherever, I guess.

All this has been preamble (or pre-ramble, really) to what I want to say: when you people whine about what you’re owed or how you should be treated--one the one side, a bunch of rich executive assholes, on the other, a former drug dealer who once admitted to running into the woods to smoke opium because he was afraid to work--can you at least try to remember that there are fans/consumers out there who may genuinely want to read what you have? Who, maybe, would’ve liked to finish reading some of these stories, and are a little put out when grown men act like babies, take their balls, and run home to cry when things don’t go their way? Yeah, yeah, I know, Alan Moore’s an award-winning genius. And I agree; his work is incredible.

When he gets around to actually doing it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kelly Clarkson Rocks HARD

Kelly Clarkson, drunk off her ass, recently got up on stage with Metal Skool and sang with the band (and drank Jack directly from the bottle). Awesome.



The place to really start enjoying this is about five minutes in, when she and the band rip out “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and Kelly just goes for it. She fucking rocks, no way around it.

Check out the dude from Yellowcard trying to insert himself in the action. The lead singer keeps waving him off. It’s like when some weenie takes a chick to a party and is afraid to leave her drunken ass alone with the really hot, cool guy who could totally waste the weenie if he wanted. You know who’s hooking up here. Poor weenie never had a chance, man. It’s fucking hilarious.

I am in love with Kelly Clarkson right now.

Throwdown 8/18

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. So, no sooner do I lament the serious lack of Christina Ricci these days than she appears on the cover of W and tells the magazine that she’s too short to make the A-list. Come on, don’t let that get you down: Tom Cruise is a hobbit, and he made it. I mean, you don’t want to make the same kind of shitty movies as he has, but please…come back.

2. I see Zooey Deschanel (another talented actress in her twenties whom I neglected to mention) has been cast to play Janis Joplin. I guess that’ll be interesting. It’s better than casting Pink, anyways. Or Lindsay Lohan.

3. Well, I see Hilary and Haylie Duff’s Material Girls opens today. How good is the movie? Well, I think the fact that they didn’t actually start advertising the thing until last Sunday says it all. It’s really put up or shut up time for the Duffster, and I honestly think this PG-rated kiddie movie isn’t putting up anything. I used to like her a lot, but now I just think she’s going nowhere. Especially since the damn weight loss. Look at those icky arms.

4. Speaking of weight loss, Patricia Arquette said this week that the producers of Medium told her she had to lose weight. She refused to, saying the character was a mother of three and that she didn’t want to promote the anorexic image that is Hollywood’s stock-in-trade. Thank you, Patricia. I’ve always loved you.

5. Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back? A guy who looks like Phil Collins shrunk in the wash with pubic hair taped to his chin? He’s bringing sexy back? What the fuck do you people see in him? It can’t be his shitty music, can it?

6. I think it’s hilarious that there’s a feud now between Christina Aguilera and producer-of-the-moment Scott Storch. He says that her management should have done everything they could to keep him happy, because he’s the real magic behind her last album. She says that he ditched her to work with non-talent Paris Hilton because she wouldn’t send a private jet for him. Dude, first off, Storch is a skeevy little troll who looks unnatural in sunlight and thinks it’s really cool for a white boy to go around talking through his teeth and wearing gold chains and giant sunglasses. Second, Christina’s talented enough to get along without him. And third, have you heard Brooke Hogan’s single, which was produced by Storch? It’s fucking shit. Christina should be thrilled to be rid of the little Gollum wannabe.

7. Brandon Davis was running off at the mouth again; at Paris Hilton’s CD release party, he jumped up on stage, drunkenly rambled about “Firecrotch” again, and showed the world how very seriously he’s taking his rehab. Ass. Apparently, he actually recorded a song called “Firecrotch” about Lindsay Lohan, which Scott Storch produced. Man, see what happens when we let children have whatever they want? Dude, Brandon Davis, get a fucking job, you privileged little ass clown. Work a day. Do something for society. And shut the fuck up. Man, I’d love to see Steve-O kick this guy’s ass, because apparently Steve-O despises him, too. Wow, me taking Steve-O’s side…weird.

8. So, Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson, huh? Just like Jessica Simpson, she likes skeezy guys.

9. And here’s Prince Harry proving that even royalty loves the skanky, fake-titted, extremely ugly party girl. Dude, you’re a prince, you know you can do better, right? Just because she’s easy to fuck doesn’t mean you should do it.

10. Well, Haley Joel Osment has been charged with drunk-driving and possession of marijuana. See, I knew his car didn’t just magically jump a rail. 18 years old. Guess he’s right on track, then. Fucking kids. Oh well, at least he’s got no talent to piss away…

11. As much as I’d love to be able to whip out the nickname Thumb-Dick Nick, I don’t think Jessica Simpson’s recent allegations about him are true. That is to say, I don’t believe she even said them. I mean, say what you will about the girl, but she’s never been that classless and that tacky. Sorry, not buying it. Nick, by the way, had a sick burn on an Australian radio show last week, telling an interviewer that he would rather be trapped on an island with Satan than Papa Joe Simpson. Sick burn. Hilarious, and, let’s face it, you’d make the same choice. Meanwhile, Jessica has fired her agent at CAA because of a disagreement the guy had with her creepy, know-nothing-about-the-industry dad. Jessica, I urge you, make the right choice for your career and fire your father. I mean, he’s your dad and you love him, but your career needs the assistance of a professional. Hey, you think Papa Joe released that item about Nick having nothing in his pants? Just saying.

12. Holy fuck! Look at Jessica Biel’s ass! Jesus, and to think a year ago I was ready to write her off as a post-op trannie. But now…holy shit, she has really become the poster woman for perfect feminine sexuality. And she works out all the time! But, unlike those Hollywood rags who just get thinner and dwindlier and spindlier, Jessica Biel has managed to retain her curves and her womanliness. Wow, Miss Biel, I am in love with you. Keep up the good work!

13. Someone tell Clive Owen that he’s finished and to take himself out of the oven, please, before he’s overcooked. Oh, and you might want to have the Botox injections a little earlier, so that you’ll look a little less plasticine on the cover of fucking GQ.

14. Madonna has reportedly decided to abandon her movie, um, career. On behalf of filmgoers everywhere, Maddie, I thank you.

15. It’s finally here: Snakes on a Plane, the movie with the most pointless pre-release hype in the history of film. I love how New Line is claiming that they didn’t have any critics’ screenings because they want the fans to see the movie first. I don’t know, I have a feeling it’s probably because the movie really sucks. I mean, look at the goddamn preview. I’m just too cynical for this shit to work on me. And yet…well, Arden’s review actually makes me want to go see it. And, oddly, reminds me of why I enjoyed Independence Day so much.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

America Is So Fucked

Tonight my TiVo kept shutting down. I had been using it all day, and nothing was wrong with it before. Then, right around 5:30 PM, a quarter of the way into The Red Shoes, it kept stalling and restarting. Several times. And, to add to my frustration, neither the troubleshooting guide in the manual or on the website were any help at all, meaning a long, long phone call to technical support.

A few weeks ago, I let my McAfee computer security upgrade itself. As is usual with everything computer or internet related these days, the upgrade is much less user-friendly and much more needlessly complicated than it was before. Now my computer is much slower than it was pre-upgrade. I’d use the Verizon Internet Security Suite, but every time I uninstall McAfee and install the Verizon, the Verizon freezes my computer. I can now look back wistfully on the time when my DSL used to be fast.

My Verizon Yahoo! email account and my free Yahoo! email account are linked. All morning, the link used for switching back and forth disappeared for, apparently, no reason.

For some reason, I keep getting an error message on iTunes every time I try to download something. When I looked up their tech support, they had no answers. No one has any. I looked up the error number in a couple of chatrooms, and no one really has any answers. They haven’t since last November. And iTunes doesn’t really seem to give a shit. But a lot of customers are pissed off about it.

Blogger keeps getting slower and less easy to use. I can’t even type on it in real time anymore. The Picasa2 program I use to post pictures works only occasionally; for a while, it wouldn’t even scan the folders it was supposed to be scanning. I’ve reinstalled it, but it still takes its own sweet time to work.

TiVo, McAfee, Verizon, Yahoo!, iTunes, Blogger, Picasa2…I’m not sure how important these are or even should be in my daily life. What upsets me much more is the attitude these companies take towards customer service and end user gratification. It’s like they don’t care whether or not people can use their products. And you know what? As long as we continue to buy the products, they don’t. They just want our money.

And you know what? I don’t think consumers care, either. I really think your average American doesn’t care whether or not something actually works the way it’s supposed to. I mean, do they complain? Do they make their dissatisfaction known? Do they demand that things work properly? Or do they just grumble and accept it? I think it’s that last one. They just accept things the way they are. They complain, but they don’t do anything. They even joke about it. They are complacent sheep who only want to be left alone; don’t bother someone to make a decision for themselves, because it’s the last thing they want to do.

Nothing works right. When all the baby boomers die, you are fucked. This nation will be over. No one will be around to clean up your mess anymore; no one will be around to show you how things are supposed to work. You all went through school barely learning, secure in the knowledge that you and your desires were more important that anything, and now you’ve been shat out into the adult world by a sub par educational system that was only willing to coddle you for so long.

Enjoy it while you can. And don’t worry; when China finally just buys our fixer-upper of a nation outright, I’m sure you’ll find a place as a smart kid’s pet.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Film Week

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

THE LUSTY MEN (1952)
Robert Mitchum in one of his best roles as a beaten-up former rodeo rider who helps fellow ranch hand Arthur Kennedy to make money on the circuit while falling in love with the man’s wife (another remarkable, underrated Susan Hayward performance). Nicholas Ray directed a movie much more romantic and rough than his Rebel Without a Cause, a treasure that seems lost today. **** stars.

THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE (1977)
Marty Feldman directs and stars in this hilarious comedy that sends up not only the classic novel Beau Geste (something I’ve never been able to get into), but stereotypical British attitudes. If not quite Pythonesque, it does come out of the same time and place, and it’s genuinely funny, like Richard Lester crossed with Graham Chapman, with some great jokes about film techniques and cliches. Excellent cast, too. Marty Feldman mocks film conventions as Digby Geste, while Michael York proves that he was doing the dashing silliness long before Cary Elwes was as his twin brother Beau. Ann-Margret is amazingly sexy (somehow even more so than usual), and Peter Ustinov is appropriately scummy as the villain. James Earl Jones does an accent that is absolutely hysterical, and other appearances include Trevor Howard, Terry-Thomas, Henry Gibson, Spike Milligan, Sinead Cusack, Ted Cassidy, Burt Kwouk (doing surprisingly funny ethnic humor), and one of my absolute favorites, Roy Kinnear. ***1/2 stars; like Yellowbeard, but much, much funnier.

STAGE DOOR (1937)
Katharine Hepburn is my second favorite actress of the 1930s (after Garbo), and she does some great acting in Gregory La Cava’s first film after My Man Godfrey. She stars as a rich girl who wants to be an actress, and moves into a boarding house filled with other, rowdier wannabe actresses (who include Ann Miller, Eve Arden, Gail Patrick, and a very cute Lucille Ball). Kitty rubs Ginger Rogers the wrong way, and a rivalry develops involving impresario Adolphe Menjou, who is a total sleaze. An excellent story about women and how they relate to one another. **** stars.

SPITFIRE (1934)
Katharine Hepburn plays an ignorant faith healer in the Ozarks. And there you have the problem. It’s hard to get used to the elegant, sometimes mannered Hepburn doing a mountain accent until about halfway through the movie. She buries herself in the role, but it still comes across as somewhat over the top. Add to that a rather boring story and the power of Hepburn herself as an actress; she’s so larger-than-life that dour leads Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy, who are supposed to be romancing her, struggle to keep up. They don’t succeed. **1/2 stars.

PROZAC NATION (2001)
Christina Ricci does some of her best acting (which is saying something) in a film that languished on the shelf for four years before being released. It’s pretty much your typical girl-spins-out-on-drugs-and-depression tale, and something so (nowadays) formulaic depends on the skill of the actors, writers, and director involved. The direction is serviceable, the writing is fairly good, but the acting is terrific. Ricci is backed up by the always-great Michelle Williams and an excellent performance by Jessica Lange (who is an actress I never cared for until about ten years ago). The real problem is the narrative, which closes focus and becomes slower and slower as the film goes on. But there’s still so much here to enjoy, it’s a crime they didn’t release it and try to get Ricci nominated for an Oscar. ***1/2 stars.

ALLEGHENY UPRISING (1939)
John Wayne as the leader of a group of settlers who want revenge on the attacking Indians. And little else. Supremely boring. *1/2 stars.

COMING HOME (1978)
Jon Voight gives an excellent performance as a paraplegic Vietnam vet who falls in love with Jane Fonda (also an excellent performance), but I thought the film was a little too preachy for its own good. The direction meanders a bit too much, and if it weren’t for the impressive soundtrack (mostly Rolling Stones) and the acting, I would’ve probably stopped watching it; I came close a few times. For someone my age, it’s hard to see a movie like this without being influenced by all of the Vietnam movies that have come since, and I’ve seen better. At the time, this was probably a cathartic revelation. Now, there’s too much time for me to get freaked out by just exactly how much Angelina Jolie looks like her father. Good support from Bruce Dern and Robert Carradine, too. *** stars.

BIKINI CHAIN GANG (2005)
Ah, the bikini movies. Take Beverly Lynne, the impressive Nicole Sheridan, and the always funny Evan Stone, give them the barest semblance of a plot, and let them run wild. Unlike most movies in the bikini series, the girls actually wear bikinis in this one. Nicole has fun as a wicked prison guard, and Evan Stone is as hilarious as ever. I love that guy. Weirdly, I just realized that Jay Richardson, the older guy in a lot of these movies, is the guy in the Injury Helpline commercial. **1/2 stars.

DANCE WITH A STRANGER (1985)
Potentially interesting film suffers from the same problems as most movies directed by Mike Newell do: namely, focus and pacing. Which is too bad, because this is quite possibly Miranda Richardson’s greatest performance. ** stars.

BRICK (2005)
I didn’t quite know what to expect from this movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who actually has developed into an interesting actor) stars as a high school student who tries to save his ex-girlfriend from some kind of trouble with dope dealers, and winds up getting sucked into it. It’s a film noir (with that kind of delivery and treatment) that involves high school students. When you think about it, it’s a perfect match: kids live in their own insular world, and so do the characters in noir films. This is an engrossing, exciting movie, one whose twists and turns I couldn’t predict. It’s an excellent movie, marred only by Nora Zehetner’s absolutely wretched acting as a femme fatale (I would’ve loved to see her and co-star Meagan Good trade roles; she’s so good and in the film far too little). Otherwise, **** stars.

MIRRORMASK (2004)
What a huge disappointment this was. I’m going to say it clear: Neil Gaiman is incredibly overrated. Yes, I loved Sandman, too, but most of what Gaiman does is ingesting an extraordinary amount of influences (I had a better time during this movie trying to figure out what they were rather than paying too much attention) and spitting them out with nothing more profound to say than “Dreams are really really really important” or “Sex is not at all important” or “Little girls are magical.” There’s no real story here, no real focus. Though the lead actress, Stephanie Leonidies, is pretty good, the rest of the actors are boring, and everything is out of Gaiman’s usual playbook (Michael Ende reference here, Dr. Who reference there, witty non-sequitur in an attempt to write like Douglas Adams here). Dave McKean’s direction is like his art: pointless and irritating to look at. It’s all like Lane Smith painted a dusty, urine-soaked brown-gold. The computer effects are so-so, and the whole thing is set to this annoying new age tenor sax music that sounds like it came off an Andreas Vollenwieder album from 1986. An awful, boring movie. *1/2 stars.

MY FAIR LADY (1964)
I admit, I turned it off. Lerner & Loewe are bad enough, but Audrey Hepburn? I’ve never been a fan of hers, and her performance here is so stagey, so stiff and mannered, and all I could do was think about how stupid it was to not cast Julie Andrews. Rex Harrison is wonderful, but the whole thing frankly annoyed me, right down to the monochromatic color palette and the almost total lack of energy. I just had to shut it off to save my brain. * star.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
An excellent film about a brainwashed soldier that imagines a Communist plot to take over America. Frank Sinatra gives one of his best performances, and Laurence Harvey provides good support as the would be assassin. Angela Lansbury is downright scary and electrifying as Harvey’s overbearing mother. This is one film I could not take my eyes off of, and the twist ending was a genuine surprise to me. I’m so glad I saw this film. The editing, the tension, the acting, the seriousness with which director John Frankenheimer takes the premise…this is an excellent film. **** stars.

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)
It sounds like the kind of thing that would bore the crap out of me: a socialite (Katharine Hepburn) tangles with her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a society reporter (James Stewart) on the eve of her wedding. And it’s directed by George Cukor, who I don’t like. But this film not only kept my attention, it rewarded it with an enormous pleasure. This is, simply, three great American actors at the top of their game, in a story that is surprisingly engrossing, and a sharply-written script that pays off emotionally (and in terms of gags). About as perfect as a movie can be. **** stars.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fall Movie Preview 2006

Well, in the continued mistaken belief that people care what I have to say about upcoming movies, here’s this year’s fall preview.

1 September
Crank: DOA, only with a lot of action. I don’t know, Jason Statham? Again?
Idiocracy: I’m almost not sure I care anymore. Mike Judge’s new film was meant to come out in the summer. Of 2005. And now, are they finally, really going to release it? Again, the plot sounds hilariously satirical: a dumbass wakes up in the future to discover that he’s now the smartest man in America. Our nation getting progressively dumber? Well, it sounds reasonable to me. Despite the loser cast (for the two millionth time, what is the fucking appeal of Luke fucking Wilson?), I’d love to see it. Maybe. I would’ve rushed out a year ago, but I’m caring less and less.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated: I cannot wait to see this one. Kirby Dick has already tackled controversy (you must see Twist of Faith, his documentary about the Catholic Church and molestation), and I can’t wait to see what he does by taking on the MPAA. They’re up in arms, of course, but I think they probably deserve it.
The Wicker Man: I think I love the original too much to sit through a remake, especially since the previews make it look so unsubtle. And it has Nicolas Cage, who I’ve just come to despise so very much. On the other hand, I do love Neil LaBute, and his movies always have something bold to say on the nature of relationships (even Possession), and I’m curious about what he’s going to do with this. But, ultimately, the original 1973 version is one of my all time favorites. So, I don’t know. Maybe in a couple of years, when a thousand Nicolas Cage movies aren’t coming out at once, reminding me of why I hate him so much. Will there be such a day?

8 September
Hollywoodland: I despise the title (shouldn’t that be reserved for a movie about Peggy Entwhistle?), but I saw the preview and my interest was sparked (even though Affleck is in it). This is about George Reeves and his possible murder; the Hollywood mysteries still fascinate me.
Sherrybaby: I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal; I think she might be a good actress one day, but so far she’s left me underwhelmed. Sometimes it seems like she aspires to nothing more than a Kirsten Dunst level of serviceability. The best news, I think, is that this movie--about an ex-con and former heroin addict who tries to regain custody of her daughter--is actually written and directed by a woman. Imagine that, Hollywood, a woman’s story told by an actual woman. I’ll most likely see it on video.

15 September
The Amateurs: This got pretty bad reviews in England, but I heard that Ted Danson was really good in it. Or not. Depending on whom you ask.
Artie Lange’s Beer League: Wow, there’s four words scientifically engineered to make me not want to see a movie.
The Black Dahlia: I have to admit, I still love Brian DePalma. Yes, he’s made some stupid, stupid movies, but he’s one of those directors I’m still inexplicably loyal to and I always have to check out his new work. Plus, this has Scarlett Johansson in it, and Hilary Swank, for that matter. I think DePalma’s one of the few people who’s going to be able to do the 1940s well on screen; curiously, not many directors have been able to do it well in the last few years.
Confetti: A British film that I keep hearing is “like Best in Show for weddings.” Shrug. It has Martin Freeman and Spaced’s own Jessica Stevenson, though, so those are pluses.
Everyone’s Hero: Let’s just point out that this CGI movie stars Rob Reiner as the voice of Screwie the talking baseball. Sorry, you read it right. You can’t unread it.
Gridiron Gang: The Rock teaches feuding gangs to play as a football team and blah blah inspirational blah. The Rock’s acting career has been a real write-off. This sounds like it should be an ABC Family movie. One they can claim is all important and meaningful.
The Guardian: Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher rip-off An Officer and a Gentleman. It sounds like the kind of thing you show people you want to interrogate. Pass.
Haven: Orlando Bloom? Thanks, I’d rather not.
The Last Kiss: Quite frankly, every time I look at Zach Braff’s smug, arrogant, self-loving, third-rate John Ritter wannabe face, I want to punch something. Add to that Jacinda Barrett and Rachel Bilson, and it sounds like watching paint dry, only without all of the breathtaking thrills.

22 September
All the King’s Men: This movie has “Oscar-bait” stamped all over it. Sean Penn will give, I’m sure, another gassy, self-important, Oscar-baiting performance, while Steven Zaillian tries hard to make a film that’s not as forgettable as A Civil Action was. It just looks boring as shit, frankly. This is one of several movies featuring Kate Winslet coming out this fall. I love Kate Winslet, she’s still one of my favorite actresses. Too bad all of the movies she has coming out this fall look crappy.
Feast: The fact that it comes off Project: Greenlight is probably enough to keep me away from it. Then again, I did like The Battle of Shaker Heights.
Jackass: Number Two: Jackass, thanks to Becca’s unyielding lust for Johnny Knoxville, has become a source of sociological fascination to me. Is it so taboo in America to be homosexual that people have to resort to this? I mean, I understand football: violence is the only “acceptable” form of man-on-man action--er, contact--, so you get a job wearing tight pants, crashing into other men, jumping on them, dry-humping them and stealing their balls. I get football as an outlet for sublimating the homosexual tendencies. But Jackass? I wish Johnny, Steve-O, Chris, and especially Bam would just all wake up and realize the reason they keep shoving things up each others’ asses, grabbing each others’ penes, showing each other their nipples, and hitting each other suddenly is all a part of their unique romantic dance. It's their way of fucking each other without having to fuck. By the end of this movie, I think they should all be kissing, hugging, and blasting in each others’ faces. Now that would be something new and honest, wouldn’t it?
Jet Li’s Fearless: Yes, it looks exactly like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Hero/House of Flying Daggers, but I was a big fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Hero/House of Flying Daggers. I like wuxia epics much more than kung fu movies.
The Science of Sleep: Sounds like Eternal Sunshine Lite, only with Gael Garcia Bernal, an actor I really don’t care for.

27 September
The Last King of Scotland: Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin. 15 years ago, that would’ve gotten my attention. Now, after his shitty directorial career, I’m not even sure he can act anymore. I suspect his judgment, frankly. Meh.

29 September
Children of Men: I’m still not sure about this movie. While it would be nice to see a real science fiction movie come out and actually be intellectually stimulating, I have no real clear idea what this movie is about. Still, I’m honestly intrigued and I love the cast. I’ll have to track down a preview for this one, because I think it might be worth checking out, and I don’t want to just ignore it if it is.
Flyboys: I’m sure there’s a good movie to be made about the Lafayette Escadrille (and honestly, I’ve wanted to see one for the last eight years or so), but I’m not sure it stars James fucking Franco and is directed by Tony Bill, who made one good movie. In 1980.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints: How does the description “a bunch of rough, misguided kids” translate into “starring Robert Downey Jr”? Ugh, more of him? Well, it does have Shia LeBeouf, and I really do like him. And anything with Rosario Dawson in it, I'll see. I absolutely love her as an actor, and since Angelina Jolie doesn’t ever seem to be coming back, Rosie’s the perfect replacement.
Open Season: Maybe. I’m pretty sick of the talking animal CGI movie, but this looks cute…ish. I’m still such an animation fan, but the CGI fad is really trying my patience. Please stop making Shrek over and over again!
School for Scoundrels: Jon Heder. Strike one! Billy Bob Thornton. Strike two! Jacinda “Why Do I Even Know Her Name” Barrett. Strike Three! You’re out! From the director of Road Trip, Old School and Starsky & Hutch. Please leave the field.

30 September
The Queen: Stephen Frears directed this film about Elizabeth II and Tony Blair in the wake of Diana’s death. Could be very interesting; Helen Mirren plays Elizabeth. If it’s handled well, I think this could be an interesting film.

4 October
Shortbus: This is by the director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a movie I still haven’t seen. This is being described as a Woody Allen film about fucking, which could be either very good or very stupid. I don’t know yet.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: The sequel to the worst horror remake I’ve ever seen.
Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner: I do like Tony Kushner.

6 October
49 Up: I’ve never seen any of Michael Apted’s documentary series (beginning with Seven Up! in 1964), but I should really track them down. It’s fascinating how he’s followed these same people over the course of the last 42 years.
Breaking and Entering: Anthony Minghella? Fuck, are they still letting him make movies?
The Departed: Dude, it’s Martin Scorsese. It could be a four-hour movie about Mongolian sheep herders, and I’d see it. Actually, that sounds like it might be a more interesting film. And like it might not even have Leonardo DiCaprio in it… Although I actually did think Leo was good in The Aviator. Fuck it, dude, Scorsese.
Employee of the Month: Go ahead and make fun of me, but my love for Jessica Simpson dictates my attendance here. Jessica tries to choose between the angry, hostile, arrogant, smug Dane Cook and the angry, hostile, arrogant, smug Dax Shepard. Poor girl should eat glass instead. Nice, Jess, a whole movie about two losers in a pissing contest to see which one gets to fuck you. And it has Andy Dick and Harland Williams in it, too? Remind me to bring a suicide pill with me.
Stormbreaker: It’s basically a kiddie version of James Bond, which is what I thought Cody Banks was. And Cody Banks was a cute little movie. This one has a better cast, but after the so-so reviews it got in Britain and the fact that I really want to punch the little git pretty-boy that stars in the movie, I might just skip it.

13 October
Driving Lessons: Well, I know it has Laura Linney in it, which is good.
The Grudge 2: Didn’t see the first one, don’t care. If people are so into J-horror, why don’t they just import J-horror movies? Because I haven’t seen a lot of evidence that Americans remake them well so far.
Infamous: Another movie about Truman Capote, this time with an actor I like (Toby Jones) and an actress I despise (Sandra Bullock). I didn’t see Capote, either. Maybe I’ll see them both one day.
Man of the Year: I admit, the premise is amusing: a liberal talk show host runs for president as a joke and wins. And I can deal with Robin Williams. And Lewis Black is in it, which might be a plus. But directed by Barry Levinson? I don’t know, I thought Wag the Dog was obvious and overrated political satire, and if this film is that gentle… Levinson just isn’t very good. But he did make Good Morning, Vietnam. Maybe on DVD.
The Marine: John Cena is apparently a wrestler, and he’s starring in one of those revenge action flicks which are the only thing they can ever think of for wrestlers to be in. This easily sounds as awful as most of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies. Robert Patrick (whom Entertainment Weekly points out was “sinister” in Walk the Line, as though Terminator fucking 2 never happened) wastes his time as the villain.
Tideland: Fucking finally!

20 October
Fast Food Nation: Okay, you know what? Maybe I could stand Ethan Hawke (maybe), and maybe I could stand Wilmer Valderrama (he was pretty good in Party Monster), but not both together. I’m not a fan of Richard Linklater, and I’m not really interested in being told how my food is poisoning me. I already know that.
Flags of Our Fathers: I can’t deny my interest in the film; it’s directed by Clint Eastwood, and I always see his movies. Another director I’m completely loyal to. The cast is awful, but dude, it’s Eastwood.
Flicka: Trust me, it would behoove you to steer clear of anything written by Mark Rosenthal & Lawrence Konner. Go ahead and look them up if you don’t believe me.
Marie Antoinette: The truth is, I don’t care much for Sofia Coppola. I loved Lost in Translation and all, but I really, really hated The Virgin Suicides. To be fair, I hated the movie because it was based on a book I really like about how men see women, and I didn’t like that a woman who has no clue how men really see women made the damn thing. Plus it was boring as shit. And after the Cannes thing…I mean, on the plus side, it has Asia Argento in it, but on the down side, the other casting is pretty damn horrible. The trailer, with New Order’s “Age of Consent” playing…is it indicative of Coppola’s approach? Is she doing a whole Knight’s Tale thing with the modern music? And once again, she’s made a movie about one of the most significant political events of all time, but she claims she didn’t make a political movie. It seems like it’s going to be an apologia for Marie’s life and her attitude towards ruling the country. Give me a break. Of all the movies coming out this fall, this is the one I’m most intrigued by, and yet I’m very reluctant to even bother with it.
The Prestige: I keep getting this confused with The Illusionist, but this is the one I’m more interested in (probably because it has a better cast and Christopher Nolan directed it). This is one I’m actually really looking forward to.

27 October
Babel: More of that intersecting-lives bullshit. Sick of it.
Catch a Fire: I think I may be burned out on Apartheid movies, but I do like Philip Noyce as a director. I thought The Quiet American and Rabbit-Proof Fence were the best films of his career, so I do want to check this out.
Little Children: I didn’t like In the Bedroom for one moment, so I’m not sure I want to see another film by Todd Field. Sadly, it has Kate Winslet and the MIA-of-late Jennifer Connelly, two actresses I love. But it’s another of those tiring movies about suburban people and how pathetic they are and how they’re too constipated to solve their existential problems, and I’m honestly getting bored writing this. Patrick Wilson’s in it, too, and after a number of bad movies, I’d really like to see him do something as good as Angels in America again. Maybe on video.
Lucky You: I’m so bored of poker. I’m bored of Curtis Hanson. I still love my Drew Barrymore, and Eric Bana’s very good. But…seriously, I haven’t even bothered to find out what this movie’s about yet, because who cares? I’ll catch it on HBO.
Running with Scissors: This. Movie. Looks. AWFUL.
Saw III: I didn’t see the first two, and I don’t care.

3 November
Blind Dating: Why does Chris Pine even have an acting career?
Borat: Maybe… Sacha Baron Cohen hasn’t quite proved himself to me yet comedically. On DVD, definitely.
Flushed Away: It does look better than the other CGI movies coming out this season. Plus, it’s Aardman, so I’ll have to say yes to this one.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause: Fuck, another one? Pass.
Volver: The last Pedro Almodovar movie I liked was Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Fifteen or so years ago. So…I don’t know.

8 November
Iraq in Fragments: A documentary with no narration about Iraq from the viewpoint of Iraqis. I admit, that sounds fascinating.

10 November
Fuck: A documentary about the word. I’m listening…
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus: I’m sick of Nicole Kidman. The director made Secretary, which I thought was a pretty stupid movie.
A Good Year: Frankly, I think I’m done with Russell Crowe. And can Ridley Scott be a more boring director?
Night of the Living Dead 3-D: Enough with the Dead remakes, reissues, repackagings, and cash-ins. The fact that Sid Haig is in it is pretty cool, but they’ve done away with the racial issue that was basically the entire point of the original classic.
Stranger Than Fiction: Like Eternal Sunshine, only from the director of Monster’s Ball. Ouch, dude. I like the meta concept, but this could so easily be a total failure.

17 November
Candy: I find that movies about heroin addicts are almost uniformly boring. But I do love Heath Ledger.
Casino Royale: Thanks, but I think I’m done with James Bond. Don’t blame me, United Artists; it’s your fault.
Come Early Morning: I’m fascinated by the fact that Joey Lauren Adams wrote and directed this film. Ashley Judd stars as a woman who meets a man, and whatever whatever whatever. But I want to see it.
For Your Consideration: Christopher Guest has made Waiting for Guffman (about local stage actors), Best in Show (about dog shows), and A Mighty Wind (about folk singers). Now he makes the exact same film, only about the Oscars. You ever notice that they’re all the exact same film? This Is Spinal Tap.
Happy Feet: The previews are cute, but I’m done with penguins. Plus, didn’t Don Bluth do this movie, like, a decade ago?
The Hoax: Fuck, someone finally makes that movie about Clifford Irving and the Hearst biography, and it’s Lasse Hallstrom? I’ve sworn off of his shitty movies.
The Return: Sarah Michelle Gellar continues to keep her promise of abandoning genre films by starring in yet another boring horror movie.
Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny: Yes, absolutely.

22 November
Bobby: Personally, I’m just amazed that this many people wanted to work with Emilio Estevez. Where were they when he was mounting Men at Work? Or Wisdom? I don’t know, it has Lindsay Lohan in it, which just makes me want to stay away, but the more I hear about it, the more I’m interested in it.
Deck the Halls: Danny DeVito as a guy who wants to decorate his home for Christmas, and Matthew Broderick as a neighbor who gets all pissy about it. I guess the best news about this one so far is that DeVito didn’t actually direct it. Look, Hollywood, if I agree to like Christmas will you stop fucking beating me in the head about how I should? Fascists.
Déjà Vu: Denzel Washington and Tony Scott team up. You know, Man on Fire sucked, and I have a feeling this one will too. You know how I know? It stars Denzel Washington and is directed by Tony Scott. Just like Man on Fire.
The Fountain: I’ll have to see a trailer for this one, because I really kind of hate Darren Aronofsky’s movies. In fact, I hated Requiem for a Dream so much that that alone makes me want to not pay attention to this one.
The History Boys: Nothing has made this sound interesting to me yet.
Let’s Go to Prison: Frankly, I’m ready to chuck Bob Odenkirk’s entire non-Mr. Show career.

1 December
The Nativity Story: I thought Thirteen was excellent, so I’m definitely willing to see Catherine Hardwicke’s film about the Virgin Mary. I also want to see Keisha Castle-Hughes in another movie (another movie that’s not a Star Wars movie). This could be really something.
Turistas: I get it, Americans aren’t safe anywhere. Hey, if Brazil wants Josh Duhamel so bad, they can have him.
Van Wilder Deux: Rise of the Taj: Gee, would you believe I haven’t seen the original? Guess what? I’m not going to see this one, either.

8 December
Apocalypto: The Mel Gibson thing hasn’t ruined my interest in it. I still don’t expect much from it.
The Good German: I think it sounds great. Hope I’m not wrong. Soderbergh still hasn’t earned my tentative respect back since Ocean’s Twelve was so wretched.
The Holiday: And the annoying back-and-forth between divorced directors Nancy Myers and Charles Shyer continues. She makes Something’s Gotta Give to enforce the myth that all men really crave fascinating women their own age, he responds with Alfie, in which the stereotypical heartless cad is justified because even older women are shallow, and now she’s made another one--and with Jude Law, at that. I fucking hate Cameron Diaz, but I love Jack Black and Kate Winslet. But frankly, I’d rather shit glass than sit through another one of these.
Unaccompanied Minors: Sounds like shit.

15 December
Blood Diamond: Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou shed some light on African diamond mines. Edward Zwick directed, and I actually did like The Last Samurai, so maybe. If it doesn’t look too pretentious.
Eragon: I’m usually all over the big fantasy movies, but I just could not give a fuck about this one. Christopher Paolini is a smug little shit, it violates the written-by-Mark Rosenthal-and-Lawrence Konner rule, it has Malkovich in it, and it looks like Uwe Boll directing Dungeons & Dragons.
The Painted Veil: Naomi Watts puts me to sleep.
The Pursuit of Happyness: Someone tell Will Smith that I believe he loves his kid without having to watch him and his kid star in an entire film about loving your kid.

20 December
Charlotte’s Web: I’ve always loved this book; it was the first book I ever read, back in the summer before first grade started. The preview, with its forced-in celebrity cameos and its fart jokes, really disappointed me. Seriously, there are, like, six talking animals in the book. How many celebrities do you need? This is fucking Charlotte’s Web, not Racing Stripes; show a little dignity. I think I’m going to have to pass on this one. The preview was bad enough. Casting Julia Roberts to voice Charlotte is just unforgivable.

21 December
Dreamgirls: Well, I loved Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters, but I didn’t like Chicago (which he adapted). I don’t think Beyonce’s much of an actor, either. Admittedly, I’m curious about it, but I’m already tired of the hype (which they’ve been whipping up since last December). Why do a fan fiction version of the Supremes? Since they’re trying so damn hard to make Beyonce the next Diana Ross, why not just have her play Diana Ross in a movie about her life? Incidentally, the 1981 musical this is an adaptation of is by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen. That’s the one thing nobody’s been mentioning about this film. Way to give credit.

22 December
The Good Shepherd: This sounds like a very engrossing political thriller, and I like the cast. Plus, I loved A Bronx Tale, so I’m keen to see another movie directed by De Niro.
Night at the Museum: Well, I liked Jumanji and Zathura, and this looks the same, so maybe.
Notes on a Scandal: Maybe. Good cast, but I didn’t like Iris, by the same director.
Rocky Balboa: Adrian’s dead? Burt Young is still alive? Damn it, I know I’ll see it on DVD. I’ve seen the others, I like Rocky. I hate myself, but I love Rocky.
We Are Marshall: McG can kiss my ass, and so can McConaughey.

25 December
Black Christmas: I haven’t seen the original. This one’s got Trachty in it, so I’ll probably see it on video. Plus, Becca likes these dumb things.

29 December
Miss Potter: I’ll probably see it, even though I’m kind of done with Renee Zellweger.
Pan’s Labyrinth: Yay, a new Guillermo del Toro movie! Having just been disappointed by MirrorMask, I need a good weird fantasy.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer: This one looks really fascinating.

That’s certainly not all, but it is most of them. Man, I’m tired. Every year at the movies looks more and more boring.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Jessica's New Direction (Or Lack Thereof)

Something’s been bothering me for a while now about Jessica’s post-divorce image and the music from her new album, and I finally figured out what it is. Here's nearly six minutes of Jessica performing at her hairdresser's birthday party:

Look how detached she seems to be from the performance she’s giving. She’s being very professional and all, but it doesn’t feel organic, like she’s really doing what she wants to do. It feels somehow fake. And that’s the problem.

It’s this new glamorous, sexy image that she’s riding. I mean, Jessica was always glamorous and sexy, but it was always tempered with a grace and a sense of reality that came across as more caring and grounded than what she’s doing now, which is just acting like a lust object. It’s an image that’s been cooked up by her creepy lech of a father, who has always wanted to push Jessica as another Britney Spears. He’s always pushed her physical traits and her marketability much more than her sincerity and her genuinely amazing voice. Seriously, this is a girl who could sing almost any kind of music and make it sound like she owns it.

So, why isn’t she doing it now?

Well, that’s what I’d like to know myself. She’s been singing pop music for years now, starting with her first (surprisingly good) album, Sweet Kisses. Very much of its time (1999), it’s perfectly good teen pop with a couple of lasting tunes on it. Her second album, Irresistible, traded too much on her sexy image in a misguided effort to position her as another Kylie Minogue (and she lost way too much weight for that). Her third album, In This Skin, suffered because of a bad choice for lead-off single (“Sweetest Sin,” written by Diane Warren, so there’s your problem). In This Skin was her most realized album, but listening to all three there are a lot of disposable tracks. You could put all three of them together and make one really, really good pop album.

As it turned out, Jessica had done a sexy, soulful version of “Sweetest Sin” that the record company didn’t like. It wasn’t the type of radio hit they wanted; she stylized too much, kids couldn’t sing along with it. They made her re-record the vocals to make it more simple, more like an assembly-line production. And, lo and behold, the song didn’t hit. It was her second single, “With You,” which did. And it’s easy to see why; it capitalized on the image the public had of her from Newlyweds: a simple, silly, airheaded young girl who was genuinely in love and wanted to sing about her life. Jessica was a brat, she was a child, she was not terribly bright. But at least she was a nice girl with a homey image and a bit of class. She wasn’t Britney Spears the retarded redneck, or Lindsay Lohan the wild slut, or Paris Hilton the…Paris Hilton. She became much more confident, and her music followed that. Her soulful, stylized vocals on “Angels” (one of the songs they played at my sister’s funeral) were indicative of her gospel influence. She sounded so genuine then, so at the top of her voice. The variety show thing was a little forced, but her concert DVD, Reality Tour Live, shows a Jessica who is comfortable in front of a crowd, comfortable with her body and her voice, sexy without being slutty, warm without being condescending, and intensely likable.

And the music actually sounds better, because she’s with a live band that makes her music sound jazzy and comfortable, not clubby and hard. She’s so perfectly in her element. That’s why I got excited last year when she started talking about a new album.

Last year, when she was pushing The Dukes of Hazzard, she talked a lot in interviews about spending more time in the South, getting back in touch with her roots. She seemed to genuinely want to become more rounded, and she started reading a lot and getting into filmmakers like Woody Allen, because she wanted to expand the kinds of things she could do as an artist. When she started talking about what she was doing with her album (which was at that point being called And the Band Played On), she talked about doing more country, more jazz, dropping names like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Etta James. She seemed to finally be going in a mature direction with her music. She talked about helping with the production, with the songwriting, about doing personal music (and a number of the songs on In This Skin were personal confessions, revelatory tracks that are the best on the album). She was out singing an incredibly sultry cover of "Son of a Preacher Man."

But then three things happened. First, she got divorced. Then, And the Band Played On got delayed from its original December release date. And finally, Nick Lachey released his album, What's Left of Me (which, judging by the hostility of his confessional album, certainly does not include his manhood). These changes conspired to turn Jessica’s personal, country-and-jazz-inflected And the Band Played On into what we have now, A Public Affair. 12 songs that Jessica had co-written for the album were scrapped. Her cover of “Son of a Preacher Man” was scrapped. And new, sexy pop songs were written to once again make a misguided try of turning Jessica into a club artist.

And now, apparently, her parents are having a fight over which direction she should go in. Her father wants to play up her physical attributes once again, leading to this cover:While her mother wants her to be the fun gal next door, leading to this cover:Which both lead me to say, once again, that she needs to stop letting her parents manage her, and instead get some professionals who are going to help her find out what she thinks her image should be. Because she was right there, she was headed for it, and it seems as if her divorce has shattered last year’s new-found confidence and forced her to retreat back into an earlier image that did not work and is not going to work any better now that we’ve glimpsed the grown-up Jessica. Seriously, how well has letting their parents manage them worked out for Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan? Jessica needs some real perspective on this.

Right now, on the website for A Public Affair, you can listen to six of the tracks from her album and vote for her next single. First off, the correct choice is “You Spin Me Round {Like a Record),” because she needs to go heavier with her second single, not lighter (which it seems like the fans are favoring). But second, after all the talk about her Southern roots, and her country and jazz influences, her becoming a well-rounded person, her desire to grow as an artist, the music is all just really, really disappointing. I mean, “A Public Affair” is a fun Madonna pastiche, and a couple of them are pretty good, but it all sounds like the first teen pop album of a lesser artist. It’s competent, but it’s not special. And Jessica knows how to do special, she just isn’t doing it.

Where is And the Band Played On? THAT is the album I want. I want Jessica to be herself, all the way, all the time. I don’t want this contrived, forced, sexy, disposable Jessica.

I wonder when I see this sweet girl always looking so down in public: is this really what she wants? Is this really what she thinks people want from her? Is she happy with this? Is she happy being a plastic Popstar Barbie version of herself? Is she just scared of her emotions now that she’s suffered the trauma of a divorce, or does she just genuinely have nothing to say this time around because she’s too busy being a sexy party girl? The lyrics to “A Public Affair” say “Who cares, let’s rock, cuz the party don’t stop.” What happens when the party does stop, and Jessica’s looking at her life and thinking about how she wants to express herself musically? Is it empty? Is she scared and alone? Does she rely on her own inner strength to see her through? On her faith? On her belief that she is a worthy person, one who is powerful enough to control her own emotions and control her own destiny? I can’t answer those questions. She can. And she can sing about it. She can sing the hell out of it. And that’s what I want from Jessica Simpson. Not a disposable party album. Because she’s already got one of those, and it’s the one no one ever plays.

Jessica Simpson Footwear & Handbags

Here's some advertisements Jessica shot for her new line of handbags and footwear. This girl is quite the mogul; she's also got the wigs and the clothing line, and now she wants to go into lingerie (I can't wait to see those ads), which is funny considering she's upstaging her sister becoming the surgically-altered face of Victoria's Secret's Pink. She looks so damn classy in these pictures.



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How to Write a Hit Single

Take a song that has proven popular, like Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Exactly Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Then slow the music down so no one will recognize it. Then write new lyrics about being a whore and how much fun it is. Then give it to someone who can’t sing, but at least looks like a whore. Like a total whore. Some girl who is the sexual equivalent of Medusa, like if you looked at her for too long you’re going to catch seven or eight venereal diseases. Someone who is basically a back up singer, who will sing-song the lyrics in a really irritating, barely audible way. Then you call it “London Bridge,” shoot an unwatchable video, and voila, Fergie debuts at number one despite having the most awful barely-a-song to hit the radio this summer.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Will Somebody Please Bury This Zombie?


Seriously, I just threw up in my mouth. Posted by Picasa

I promise you, the only guys that want to make love to this are doing so out of a narcissistic desire to be able to see their own cocks through a woman’s skin. Girls, stop doing this to yourselves. Because it is not attractive. It is disgusting. Horrible and disgusting.

The Downstairs Saga Continues

At least in past months there’s been some warning before the monthly party. But last night those stupid bitches downstairs had some kind of back-to-school blowout that we didn’t know was going to happen, leaving me to grind my teeth in anger around 10:30 last night when they started rattling my floor with abusively loud music. The whole thing continued on until 5:30 this morning, as I was periodically awoken by the obnoxious slamming of doors, the needless screaming and yelling from the back stairs, the inexplicable running and stomping up and down the stairs, and the newest thing that pisses me off: people throwing empty beer cans up onto my balcony (where my garden is).

People are such assholes. It’s all little things, but they all add up to one overwhelming conclusion: people are assholes. The way people blast their loud music without even caring that other people don’t want to hear it or feel it through their floors. The way they cut you off in traffic because, you know, it’s incredibly important that they get to KFC right fucking now. The way they talk in movies, or bring their kids to R-rated films, because they just don’t give a shit that someone else paid to get in and you’re ruining it for them. The way you get DVDs from Netflix or the video store with fingerprints and scratches all over them. People aren’t stupid, they know you’re not supposed to touch the bottom of the disc. But it isn’t theirs, so they just don’t fucking care. Because they’re assholes. They don’t have the common courtesy their mothers should have smacked into the backs of their heads when they were growing up. To me, politeness, manners, courtesy, and thoughtfulness are second nature. I know it doesn’t seem like it when I’m ranting like this, but they are. Why? Because my loving and conscientious and socially responsible mother smacked them into the back of my obnoxious head when I was an obstinate fucking child, that’s why!

These bitches are going down. I stuck it out, hoping that they would learn or that, after a year, they would move out. But apparently they’re sticking around. Which means it is now my mission in life to get them kicked out of this place. I feel like a nerd saying that this morning I wrote an angry letter, but words are my business, and they’re also my weapons. Enough angry letters about them, and they’re going to get evicted for violations. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen soon.

Enjoy your hundred dollar fine for noise violation, cunts. You earned it.

Sunday Hottie 80


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