Saturday, December 30, 2006

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

I love Superman. He’s one of my favorite characters of all time. The problem is, I don’t think there have been a lot of adaptations that have been very successful in portraying the inner conflict of the character. Superman is a noble creature, but a troubled and, at times, very sad one. He is Kal-El, the last survivor of an alien race destroyed when he was in infancy. He will never know his world, his people, or his culture. But he was raised as an earthling, an American, and exemplifies the values he was brought up with: that you shouldn’t oppress weaker people; you should stand up for them. That truth and justice are important, as are understanding and compassion. And he loves his adopted people, so he walks among them. He becomes one of us to hide his great power and protect the people he loves. As Clark Kent, he is only human. But as Superman, he’s something more. He’s not just a symbol, he’s an example. He loves us so much that he shows us what we could be, what we are capable of. He loves us so much that he turns his back on the happiness he wants for himself. It’s a marvelous thing, Superman. No wonder people often compare him to a religious figure.

And there’s an excellent dichotomy that not everyone seems to get. Yes, Superman is very powerful. But he’s not just brute force. Superman can’t punch his way through social problems. And clever adaptations understand that.

For all the things I’ve liked, it still comes down to Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman as the one that works best for me. A great deal of that has to do with the writing; Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, and Tom Mankiewicz crafted a script that truly got to this heart of the character. The only problem was the script was very, very long. Too long for just one movie. This had been an issue for producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind in the past. Famously, the screenplay for the 1974 film The Three Musketeers was so long that the film had to be split into two, The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. However, both films were shot simultaneously by director Richard Lester with an absolutely brilliant cast who thought (Lester included) they were making one picture. When they attended the premiere of The Three Musketeers, they were surprised to see the film end with a preview for another movie; they cried foul, of course, making an issue of the fact that they were only paid for a single movie.

The Salkinds produced Superman with another monstrous script, and rather than making one 4 ½ hour movie, the decision was made somewhere (I’ve never been sure when this decision was made) to split the film into two films. Both movies were therefore shot, not back to back, but simultaneously. Richard Donner committed to it, shooting two films over nineteen months at the same time. Eventually, in order to meet the release date for Superman, all of the work on Superman II had to be suspended. Everyone focused on finishing Superman, and after its release work was to resume on the sequel.

Except for Richard Donner. There had been problems here and there with the Salkinds, differences of opinion and a lack of respect on both ends that grew and grew. It seems to have come to a head when the Salkinds decided not to include any more footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El in the sequel, because they didn’t want to have to pay him another 11.75% of the box office gross on a second picture. Donner was very public, saying the Salkinds had made a bad decision, vowing to keep Brando in the picture, and saying to Starburst magazine: “It has to be on my terms and I don’t mean financially. I mean control.” Donner had already gone wildly over budget, and there was talk of legal action. Donner accused the Salkinds of sinking the picture with their cheapness. The Salkinds thought he worked too slowly. Donner was still prepared to go back to work; he really wanted to finish Superman II, a film he had already shot 75% of, including all the character sequences and everything that takes place at the Daily Planet offices. He didn’t ask for more money for himself; he just wanted to expand Gene Hackman’s role and finish the special effects and action sequences.

But the tension between Donner and the Salkinds, as well as between Donner and producer Pierre Spengler, was too high. The Salkinds fired Richard Donner in 1979 and, funnily enough, replaced him with their Three Musketeers director Richard Lester. Lester, the director of a number of classic films including A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, The Knack…and How to Get It, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, had already been on the shoot, serving as a mediator between the Salkinds and Donner. It was his suggestion that work be suspended on Superman II to concentrate on making the release date for Superman. Richard Donner, heartbroken and betrayed, never spoke to Richard Lester again and even now has a hard time saying the man’s name. Apparently, the cast and crew nearly mutinied. Christopher Reeve spoke highly of Donner, publicly reprimanding the Salkinds for cutting Brando out of the picture just for reasons of money and saying: “In my view the way Superman II was produced is the lowest you can go without actually cheating.” He praised Donner for holding the entire shoot together against impossible odds and despite cheap conditions. Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth and production designer John Barry died during the hiatus; editor Stuart Baird and writer Tom Mankiewicz (brought in by Donner to make the film more realistic and less campy) refused to return to the production. John Williams did not write the score.

Though Donner had already shot most of the film, much of his footage was re-shot or completely edited out. Director’s Guild requirements for screen credit meant that 51% of the film had to be Lester’s. Richard Donner’s vision was edited out. The film then had to be almost entirely rewritten. Writers Leslie Newman and David Newman were called back to reinsert scenes that Tom Mankiewicz had taken out for being too silly. Even Christopher Reeve commented to magazines about the dip in quality. Margot Kidder has spoken about the lack of care involved in shooting Superman II; Terence Stamp has commented on the film’s “ordinariness.” It’s also been suggested that the only reason any of Donner’s footage exists in the Richard Lester film is because Gene Hackman refused to return and re-shoot his scenes. As a result, and despite the financial success and popularity of the released Superman II, many have hungered to see what Richard Donner would have done with the film had he finished it.

(For the record, this is where all the spoilers are going to begin.)

Warner Bros. have now released Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, with most of Donner’s footage put back in. The edit is new, and I must say it makes for a better film. Now, I always liked Superman II, don’t get me wrong. This version is just much better. All of Richard Lester’s penchant for silly comedy is gone, and the tone is much more serious and human, like the first film. This really does feel less like a sequel and more like the second half of a single film.

What’s different? Well, here’s some detail on what I liked about the changes.

1. The film starts with Brando (back in the movie) imprisoning General Zod, Non, and Ursa in the Phantom Zone. Then there is a reprise of some of the scenes in Superman, showing that the villains were freed when Superman threw one of Lex Luthor’s missiles into outer space. Nice touch to create continuity. There is more information on the villains throughout the first hour, explaining the premise better and making them much more of a threat. All of the comedy scenes with Non not being able to use his powers have been cut out, making him menacing instead of just stupid.

2. The credit sequence is much, much better, and pretty much like the first film. They’ve restored Donner’s director credit, of course. I think if we ever replaced “The Star-Spangled Banner” with a new national anthem, it would have to be the theme from Superman.

3. That ridiculous sequence at the Eiffel Tower has been cut out.

4. The opening scenes at the Daily Planet are different and less rushed. Lois catches on to Clark Kent’s identity in the first 14 minutes, going as far as to jump out a window to try and force him into action.

5. The scenes of Luthor and Eve Teschmacher escaping from prison are a good example of why I like this version much, much better: More of their banter has been included, making Lex Luthor more of a character. Gene Hackman’s role is fuller. Rather than being relegated to weasely comic relief, he’s much more opportunistic and much more of a bastard. More fun, too.

6. The Niagara Falls exteriors were shot by Richard Lester, and need to be here for continuity, but there are less of them used, thankfully. My favorite new line of dialogue occurs in this scene. When Superman saves the boy from falling over the railing, an old woman says: “What a nice man.” The line has been restored to its full reading: “What a nice man, of course he’s Jewish.” This movie is actually funnier than the theatrical version, because the comedy is more human and wittier, instead of Lester’s reliance on silly sight gags.

7. As for the Niagara Falls interiors, only one bit of Lester footage is used. The silly scenes in the hotel room are cut out. Donner and restoration editor Michael Thau make an interesting choice to use a scene that was written by Tom Mankiewicz but never filmed by Donner: Lois proves Clark is Superman by shooting him (with a gun full of blanks, unbeknownst to Superman himself). It’s a marvelous scene, and was used in the screen tests that Donner directed. Donner and Thau have opted here to put the screen test in as a scene from the movie, but it flows so well that it doesn’t stop the film. First, the dialogue is cracking. Second, Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder both act the scene incredibly well. The only thing different is that the interior looks a little cheap, Reeve hasn’t put on all of his muscle yet so he looks thinner, and his hair is slightly different in the close-ups. But it does work, and it’s a great scene. And it’s Margot Kidder in just a towel.

8. You really do, I think, have to marvel at Margot Kidder’s performance. Her intensity must be what won her the role. She’s sexy, she’s smart, she’s capable, and she makes Lois an appealing combination of bluster and capability. Her Lois Lane is utterly fearless, except when it comes to her love for Superman. When Superman was released on DVD a few years ago, it included a number of screen tests for the role of Lois Lane. I liked Kidder’s the best, because she was just the right intensity. When she spoke to Clark, she tended to blow him off and not pay much attention to him. When she spoke to Superman, she stared at him with this intense attraction. No wonder she didn’t figure out they were the same person; she doesn’t look at Clark Kent!

9. I’m so glad Brando is back in this movie. The “new” scenes really made me appreciate his performance as Jor-El. In the second movie, we get more glimpses of his emotional side, his caring and fatherly side. He comes across so much less remote and more human. Plus, putting those scenes back in mean Gene Hackman has more scenes when he discovers the crystals in the Fortress of Solitude.

10. The scenes with General Zod and his cronies arriving in America were shot by Lester, but have been heavily re-edited so they’re less, um, stupid. A lot of the humor has been cut out, making the villains seem more truly alien.

11. This cut makes it evident that Richard Lester wasn’t that interested in character development, either. There are two scenes between Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando that are impeccably acted and may have done a lot for Reeve’s reputation as an actor had they stayed in the film. The dialogue is superb, first with Kal-El begging to give up his powers so he can love Lois (with Lois watching, unknown to either—by the way, Margot Kidder wearing only socks and the top of Superman’s costume, delectable), and then with Clark begging for his powers back. They are beautiful, beautiful scenes, and the moment when Clark apologizes for his selfishness and for letting everyone, especially his father, down is probably the best scene in either movie. Why the hell would you cut these out? So you didn’t have to pay Brando? That’s insane.

12. The battle between Superman and the villains is much better and more intense. Lester’s footage remains, but is combined with Donner’s footage and some new effects. They’ve cut out the silliness and the slapstick and made it more intense and personal. They’ve included the reaction shots filmed by Donner, with Lois, Jimmy, and Perry watching in horror and fear. This is another one of my favorite moments that has been edited back in: Jimmy Olsen walking in with coffee and Lex nonchalantly grabbing it. “Hey, that’s the Chief’s,” Jimmy whines. Lex winks and says, “The Chief’s got it.”

13. The final confrontation at the Fortress of Solitude has been re-cut, editing out Lester’s footage (including that silly cellophane “S” that has irked many a fan) and keeping Donner’s more serious scenes. They changed the music in this scene, too, so it’s more serious and a little less triumphant. Still, it works.

14. There are some excellent scenes between Superman and Lois that put a new, serious spin on their relationship and what must happen now. Superman even destroys the Fortress of Solitude, saying goodbye to his Kryptonian past completely and embracing his new life on Earth.

It’s a very effective ending. And if the movie had simply ended the way the Richard Lester movie does, with Superman returning the American flag to the White House, it would have been perfect. But then there’s an error in judgment that irks me, marring this version.

The time-reversal ending of the first film is repeated. In the Richard Lester version, Superman (as Clark Kent) reverses Lois’s memory with a kiss. It’s a little silly, yes, but it works better than what happens here. As at the end of the first film, Superman flies into outer space, turns the world spinning backwards and (completely against the laws of physics) reverses time, then starts it forward again. It’s a gimme once in the first movie. To use it again is simply lazy. Apparently, Donner was planning on including Lester’s ending, but Tom Mankiewicz (who consulted on the restoration and seems to have been heavily involved in it) came up with, admittedly, a good point: we should never see Lois kiss Clark Kent. The time-reversal was apparently originally meant to end the second film, but was instead used to make the ending of the first film more dynamic.

A lot of people point out the silliness of the ending to Superman, but I have to admit I’ve always thought that it worked. My favorite scene in Superman is when Superman sees Lois’s car buried in the ground by an earthquake. He lands, pulls the car out of the earth, and rips off the door. Then, seeing Lois’s dead body inside, he tenderly reaches in and delicately places her on the ground. Overcome with emotion, he starts to weep. Softly at first, and then his entire body rumbles with grief and anger. Looking up at the heavens, he unleashes an epic scream and flies into the air. The face of his father appears, reminding him “It is forbidden for you to interfere with human history.” Superman, uncaring, flies into space and turns back time. You can feel the anger, the intensity of that scene. It’s incredible.

To use that device a second time not only cheapens that scene, but negates everything Superman’s had to do in the course of Superman II. The sacrifice of giving up his powers, the shame of asking for them back, and the horrible realization that his father has to die a second time in order for him to be Superman once more. It makes Superman look petty, as though he can erase his mistakes by simply turning back time. It lends some kind of arrogance to the proceedings that I find distasteful. By including this ending and keeping the scene where Clark returns to the diner to beat up a bully, Superman looks kind of mean. I really didn’t like that.

I wish they had kept the scene where Superman returns the flag to the White House. Superman can’t erase his mistakes, he has to own up to them. I’ve always loved the way he genuinely apologizes to the president: “I won’t let you down again.” Because Superman is that kind of man, one who knows he’s done wrong, apologizes, and does better next time.

Other than that, however, I have to say this is far superior to the released version. Christopher Reeve’s excellent performance has been saved and strengthened. This may now be the single best adaptation of Superman. Or maybe both this and the first movie taken together.

At any rate, it’s a far better movie than Superman Returns, and makes the people who praised that weak waste of time seem like idiots. This is Superman as he should be. Posted by Picasa

Notes on a Non-Scandal

As you may have seen, somebody posted a very, very long “comment” on this week’s Throwdown in response to my offhanded opinion that only an idiot would confuse pornstar Mary Carey with singer/”actress” Mariah Carey. It had a title: “Mary Carey Exposed, the real truth about & behind the ‘Carey Name Game.’” It’s so long that I haven’t actually bothered to read it yet, so I’m going to share that experience with you right now. My own writing and comments will be in italics and bold. Oh, and I’m leaving in all of the writer’s countless grammatical and spelling errors.

Mark J. Behar, who knows Mary “Carey” Cook Oh so well, said “Quite frankly, I’m shocked that know one has done anything about this up until now”.

He says, “The Truth must be told”. [Obviously, the truth—er, Truth—MUST be told now, before this thing gets out of hand. Apparently, this is also a way for Mark J. Behar, whoever the fuck that is. A quick search of “Mark J. Behar” on Google reveals…nothing. Except for some real estate owner in Florida. I wonder exactly how he “knows” Mary Carey “oh so well.” You think fucking? I’m thinking fucking.]

It is very common & well known that several porn movie titles are a “spoof”, and a “mockery” of real mainstream moves, such a “Rambone” (Rambo), etc., as well as using several music & movie Superstars names in the same way, such as “Britney Rears” (Britney Spears), etc. is “quite the norm, in this industry”. [Why all the quotes here? Those movies aren’t a “spoof” or “mockery” in some kind of ironic sense, are they? They’re pretty exactly spoofs. I mean, Eat Me III: The Extra Testicle or Edward Penishands or Crocodile Blondee are pretty much your standard porn parodies, so… Man, that really annoys me, putting “spoof” in quotes. Yeah, they’re spoofs, you dumbass.]

But these other adult entertainers, don’t really look much like there counterparts that there try and/or are portraying in there adult films, and in most cases they don’t have and use the mainstream entertainers first names, or they change the spelling of the first and/or last names, thus, no harm, no foul. [Wow, that sentence is almost indecipherable. His point is that porn actors don’t look like the people they’re portraying, and often misspell the names. I could point out that Mary Carey and Mariah Carey are, in fact, two different names, where as Dru Barrymore (pornstar) and Drew Barrymore are basically the same name, because they sound the same. But whatever, I guess Drew Barrymore is more sophisticated and has more faith in the intelligence of people than Mariah Carey does.]

But these adult entertainers are not in the media spotlight, nor have they had the media attention like Mary “Carey” Cook has received, by going on mainstream TV & News Shows, like Fox News-“Your World with Neil Cavuto”, as well as going to (buying her way into) “Republican Fundraising Presidential Dinners”, organized by the “N.R.C.C - National Republican Congressional Committee”, and trying to fool everyone into thinking that she is a “Sincere and Truly Serious Politician”.

Her real birth name is Mary Cook, and a few years ago, after feature dancing at several adult gentlemen clubs, decided to get into the porn industry, because she was told, that she could make some real serious money because she was attractive, athletic, had great stage presence, worked quit well in front of an audience, and had a very outgoing personality, that would come across well on camera.

People had told her in the past that she looked like & had some of the same features & physical characteristics as “Pop Diva Mariah Carey”, and that if she just enhanced some of those “Features” that, that wound be “Her In and Hook”, in the porn industry. [Well, that just makes her smart enough to have a business plan. Girl’s gotta promote herself somehow.]

So, Mary packed up and moved to California, and got started in the adult industry. She loves the attention that she gets, and most of the time, generates it herself, and she can’t survive without it. She always is seeking some type of ”Media Attention”. [This guy really has to quit it with the quotes now.]

In June of 2005, Mark J. Behar, who knew Mary, when she lived in Florida, a few years earlier, and who is a 39.yr old Young Entrepreneur/Business Owner & Investor of Major Multi-Unit Rental Properties & Buildings, in Delray & Boynton Beach, Florida, as well as “Chairman” & “Chief Judge”, with & on the City Of Delray Beach – Code Enforcement Hearing Board, and who also “Moonlights” as a “Celebrity Personal Security/Bodyguard”, and who also has received from the N.R.C.C - National Republican Congressional Committee, “The Congressional Medal Of Honor”, and “The Congressional Medal Of Distinction”, as well as Past Years & the Current “2006-Businessman Of The Year Awards”, had asked Mary (As they bumped into each other, a few years later in a “Home Depot”, in Delray Beach, Florida), if she wanted to attend the MTV Movie Awards with him, in California, she of course said “Yes”. [Oh, so it is the real estate guy. Someone has a very high opinion of this Mark Behar. I wonder what exactly his business card says. Let’s put this in real human terms, alright? Deciphering the above, this is what it sounds like to me (and this is my opinion, not anything I actually know, got that? Opinion, opinion, opinion, not fact.) Okay, he’s 39, and he’s in real estate. He has an honorary power title in a beach community. He’s one of those rich guys who likes to suck up to celebrities, so he hangs out with them and pretends it’s a job. He has the Congressional Medal of Honor, which does not impress me, because I’m sure Jeb Bush has gotten all of his Florida business cronies the Medal of Honor. Do you believe he “bumped into” Mary Carey at a Home Depot? I don’t. I have a feeling attempting to pay her for sex was involved. Maybe. And why is Home Depot in quotes? It’s not a title, it’s a name. I’m calling it right now: the only person who would have that high an opinion of Mark J. Behar is Mark J. Behar himself. Obviously, he’s the person who wrote this post in a bid for more publicity. There’s no celebrity fight out there without it’s useless rich Brandon Davis nobody yelling “firecrotch” and trying to get famous off of it. Pathetic. Well, maybe he’ll be like Kato Kaelin and at least get cameos in D movies. I wonder how many other blogs he’s “anonymously” posted this to.]

Mark attended the event with Mary, and that’s when he found out about the “True” Mary “Carey”. She had changed over the years, and was very much “into herself”, stuck up, snotty, and was not professional & intelligent like he had known her in the past to be. [Probably when she was a stripper and he was paying her to blow him. Hey, rich community leaders have to spend their money on something, especially if they want to get into Paris Hilton’s parties so damn bad so they can fuck young girls. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if he was the one who told her she looked like Mariah Carey in the first place? Wow, a stuck up pornstar…is that supposed to be a surprise? Jenna Jameson won’t shut up about how great and important Jenna Jameson is. Katie Morgan won’t shut up about how smart Katie Morgan is. I do have to say, though, Evan Stone would probably be awesome to hang out with.]

At that time, in the limo to the awards show, is where she started telling Mark about her whole “Mariah Carey Obsession Thing”. She kept on saying, “Don’t I look more like Mariah now, I had my boobs done, do you like them”, “I hope she’s there, I can wait to see her, and hope we bump into her”.

Mark says, “She has always said to me that she compared herself to Mariah Carey”. She has said that she looks so much like her, and that’s why she calls herself “Mary Carey”. She told me, that she has said this in several adult entertainment magazines, as well as in the past, on her & other web-sites and Blogs. [Okay, so…she’s a Mariah Carey fan. And this is a scandal how?]

Why else, and what other reason would she have to use the last name of “Carey”? “I bet you, she’s not using it to associate herself and you would never confuse her with actors & comedians “Jim Carrey” or “Drew Carey”. If this isn’t in fact true, then where, and why, did she come up with this “Last Name”, that’s the question, that I have, and would love to hear her response & answer to, and her take & “Spin” on? [Yeah, um, great work, Detective. I can’t even come up with an adequate way to describe how jaw-droppingly stupid this is. The guy comes to a very, very obvious conclusion and acts like he’s discovered something everyone else is too dumb to see. I love stupid people; they always assume that everyone is as stupid as they are and that they can be crafty and fool everyone. Entire countries are run like this. You know, like America.]

This is also when & where I heard of, and she had told me about her idea to “Trademark” the “Carey” name, knowing this would generate and get her even more “Media Attention” and herself in the “Spotlight”. [Oh…kay… And the problem is?]

And, “Hey look what happened, she was right, it worked”. She’s a very good self promoter. [Apparently, so is Mark J. Behar. Besides, don't pornstars make all of their money through events, appearances, and self-promotion? So far, all I'm hearing is that she's good at her job and that she's a Mariah fan. So are lots of people.]

She asked me my opinion on her idea, and I had advised, told & warned her, about the “Legality” of this, and told her to do some background on this first, to see if she can in fact “Legally do this”, as well as to seek out legal help from & to talk to an attorney that “Specializes in these types of matters”. [Translation: she asked my opinion, and then I apparently took a long time to tell her “See a lawyer.” Notice how the quotes are so out of control that Behar can barely keep up the illusion that he’s being quoted by his fictitious anonymous writer.]

Mark says, “That’s the last I heard of this”. Since then, Mary has asked mark on several occasions for business advice, and this topic has never come up again, until now.

After the awards show, and a week or so later, she went to, and was at the “2005” – “Presidents Dinner”, with her then Employer “Mark Kulkis”, the owner of the porn video production company “Kick Ass Pictures”, that she was under contract with, at that time. Mark (Behar) also was at this special event. [I love the attempt at pseudo-legal writing in this paragraph, it makes me giggle. My favorite is “she went to, and was at” the President’s Dinner. Wow, that’s amazing, she went somewhere, and she was there. And was there a sale on commas somewhere? Because that’s a lot more than actually need to be there.]

Mark was personally invited to this same event, but was invited because & due to his achievements of being a young, upstanding, outstanding and Quit Successful Businessman, and who is a true Political activist, from and in his State of Florida. [Which is governed by the president’s brother, so all of the cronies who helped steal the election and wanted to kiss ass needed to be there.]

Mary apologized to Mark at this event & dinner, and said that she got really drunk that night at & after the awards show. Mark forgave her & they took an “Official Presidential Dinner Picture” together at the event, which is the only “Official” one of Mary, at & from the event. Mary told Mark, that “They should stay & continue to be good friends, and keep in touch”. [Apologized? For what? Do you get the feeling ol’ Mark is pissed because he tried to fuck her and she turned him down, probably for the first time?]

Mark thought that she was actually serious about her political ambitions, at that time, because Mary told him, that she wanted to “Stop doing what she was doing, and leave the whole porn thing & world, and wanted to go Mainstream like Mariah”. [How does that translate into being serious about politics? I would’ve thought she was talking about being an actress or a singer. Did you see any of the videos Mary Carey did for the Playboy website revolving around her campaign? Yeah, saying “Touch my pussy” to complete strangers sounds like genuine political ambition to me. You know Mark’s just in this thing to get laid.]

6 to 9 months later Mary hired Mark to do some personal security & bodyguard work, as well as assist her with her personal matters & affairs at that time, as she was traveling throughout the country & across the world, doing feature & special personal appearances at several events. This turned out to be a strain on & where their friendship took a turn. Mary cancelled out at the last minute on Mark, as he was already at the airport, at the gate, and boarding his flight, to where she was at. This eventually cost him over $7,500.00 in “Out-of-Pocket” travel expenses, and costs that eventually became & is today, a legal battle, with two Civil Action Court Cases, being filed against her, and which are still pending, in Florida. [Ah, okay, this is the reason for the anonymity: he’s not supposed to talk about it, because two lawsuits are still pending. That’s also the reason for writing this very longwinded, pointless post; he’s trying to drag her reputation through the mud because he wants to win his court battles. The sad thing is, it sounds more like she invited him on a vacation while she was making some appearances, then either cancelled them or got cancelled, or decided that this relationship with this Mark guy wasn’t going to work out and called off the trip. She just did it at the last minute. And now ol’ Mark is suing her because he’s embarrassed that she broke up with him. I guess it sucks when your ambition to suck up to powerful people and celebrities is seen through. What a slimeball.]

Mary & Mark, stayed in touch & friends, on & off this past year, as they were going through & trying to work out & settle all these & their legal issues & matters.

In November, Mary asked Mark, to take her to another awards show, to go see & where Mariah Carey, was suppose to be performing at, the “AMA – American Music Awards Show”, where Mark was again, just like last year, invited to and was to attend, as a Special Invited Guest. [Stop using the ampersands! And the commas and quotes! Fuck, hire a proofreader, you’re so fucking important. I love that designation, Special Invited Guest. When you pay for your tickets, you can be called whatever you want. People are desperate to believe they’re so privileged. Obviously, Mark feels like he’s been strung along and wants a little more out of it.]

Mark, at first said “Sure, Yeah” and invited her, until they could not get past & settle their legal issues & matters.

Mark says, “I found out and heard about this, just like the rest of the world did”. “I can’t believe that she actually went through with it & is doing this whole PR Stunt thing, just to get more media attention, with her Mariah fixation & obsession”. “It’s a good thing that I didn’t take her, to the awards show, Thank God, who knows what would have happened”? [So, Mark comes out and does his own PR stunt by disparaging Mary Carey’s PR stunt. Real classy move. I’m sure you’re going to get to meet and fuck even more celebrities, because celebrities are always impressed by people who talk about them to the public in a vain attempt to win a lawsuit. Yeah, celebs actually seek those people out to become friends with.]

Mark also said, ”At the end of all this, Mary just wanted to & has used me, just to go to & attend these Special Events, these and this Award Shows, just to see, and “Hopefully bump into Mariah”, the “Real Carey”. [Dude, at least you got to fuck her, right?]

*For further information you can contact MARK BEHAR at: 561-637-6275 / 561-254-9605 or- Via E-MAIL at: MJBPROPERTIES@AOL.COM [Nice. Does that confirm my theory that Mark J. Behar is the actual author of this post?]

Wow, what a slimy, creepy thing to do. Is Mary Carey really guilty of anything other than being a PR genius?

Mary Carey Forever!

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Inappropriate Conversations

When I was 17, my dad took me around shopping for cars. One of the places he took me was Joe Madden Ford, where my mom usually got her cars from. Before I knew it, this saleslady comes up to my dad, young and pretty and named Arlene (which I always found a sexy name). She tells my dad hello, because apparently he's been shopping there for a while, picking out used cars for me to look at and test drive. Arlene is even doing the playful punches in the arm and stuff, really working it for my dad. When she sways back inside (doing the whole hip-swaying, ass-shaking number), I turned to my dad and shook my head.

ME: "What is it with you?"

DAD: "What do you mean?"

ME: "How come, every time we go anywhere, whether it's a restaurant or a car lot or the barber shop, you have the youngest, sexiest woman falling all over herself to help you? Why can't I get that?"

DAD (smiling smugly and touching me on the shoulder): "Well, son, it's because I'm a dude, and you're a dud."

*************************
I walked into my mom's apartment on Christmas day and saw a picture of a really beautiful girl sitting on the counter.

ME: "Wow, who's the hot chick?"

MOM: "That's your cousin."

ME: "Oh... She looks a lot different from the last time I saw her, so I didn't recognize her."

MOM: "Well, she's sixteen now."

ME: "Well, she is the most beautiful cousin I've ever had."

MOM: "That's true!"

ME: "Must be because she's half-Japanese. That can only be good."

*************************
I've been watching Arrested Development on DVD lately and really lusting for Portia de Rossi. In my sad experience, there have been no women like her who are all made-up and fabulous all the time in these stunningly sexy outfits. Putting myself in the position of the character George Michael, I said to Becca: "Man, who are these women who dress like that? I wish my aunt had strutted around like that. My Aunt Amy would've looked sexy in that!"
Becca just kind of gave me this weird look.

*************************
I've also had the pleasure of watching plump little chunklet Alia Shawkatt, who plays Portia de Rossi's daughter. I turned to Becca and said "I'd like to walk in and have a little girl like her in my own home." Becca, knowing my wish for a precocious and tuff daughter, turned and asked "Really?" To which replied I: "And then I want to hear those words every man longs to hear; 'Honey, can you drive the babysitter home?'"

*************************
My dad told me that my sister is having five of her friends sleepover on New Year's Eve. He made a derisive comment about how much noise that's going to be "with six 12 year-olds in the house." But all I could think was, yeah, having six 12 year-olds in their underwear running around is gonna be a real strain. These are the thoughts that make me think I should never have children.

*************************
One of the great unrequited loves of my life is a waitress named Anea who works at my favorite diner. I love her, because she likes a sort of verbal sparring and flirtatious joking that I always enjoy. Seriously, if I had to move out of town, the waitresses at the Junction are the people I'd miss the most. One day, I overhear her talking about how her 12 year-old daughter is going to have a sleepover, laments the noise and having to watch them, and jokingly says to a co-worker, "Do you wanna come?" I looked up and raised my hand; Anea sees me, laughs and says: "You're not invited!" Refilling my coffee later, she playfully admonishes me: "She's 12 years old, you should be ashamed of yourself." My reply? "She's old enough to start learning." I got a smack for that one, but it was worth it.

Another time, Anea made a joke about needing a new man. I raised my hand again. "Alright," she jokes, "but you have to do all of my errands for me. You need to go to the pet store, you need to buy some groceries, then pick up my daughter at school and take her to cheerleader practice." With a solemn face, I said: "I will absolutely pick up your daughter and take her to cheerleader practice." Another smack, but what a woman.

*************************
On one episode of Arrested Development, George Michael is in love with his ethics teacher (and it's Heather Graham, so who can blame him?). His aunt Lindsay, played by Portia de Rossi, thinks he likes the teacher because he wants her to marry his widowed dad. Lindsay says: "I must admit, I'm a little jealous that you didn't ask me to fulfill that role. But I'm just down the hall if you ever need me to."

I turned to Becca and gave her a thumbs up.

ME: "Man, that would be good. I would've loved my Aunt Amy to fulfill that role."

BECCA: "What is it with you and your Aunt Amy today?"

ME: "I don't know... I had a crush on her as a kid and used to try and see her naked. Is that weird?"

Becca just closed her eyes and looked away.

*************************
More words I figure I'll hear one day: "Dad, what was my English teacher doing over?" I justified this to Becca by saying: "Hey, I never got to fuck any of my teachers as a kid, and believe me I wanted to. I have to make up for it by fucking my kid's teacher."

*************************
Last week, Anea had her hair down and looked more beautiful than ever. She also has a great ass she packs into black jeans. I said to Becca that Anea looked fucking sexy. "I'll say it to her face," I bragged. So I did. I think it scared Anea a bit and she didn't come over to the table as often. Yesterday, I did it again. When Becca and I got home, she said that I must have scared Anea again. I promised not to say it next time, because I like Anea and I don't want to make her uncomfortable. I also, um, joked: "I guess I also won't tell her how she made me hot enough to go home and jerk off thinking about her." What can I say, I go there for the jokes.

*************************
My mom came over the week before Christmas and asked if we wanted to see a movie. I ran through the list of what was playing, and when I got to The Holiday, I winced. It's exactly the kind of lame crap my mom loves, and I turned and said: "No, we're not going to see The Holiday."

MOM: "I've already seen it twice."

ME (disappointed but unsurprised): "Oh, Mom..."

MOM: "I liked it! And Jude Law was sexy, oh man!"

BECCA: "I heard he was good in it."

ME: "Ugh. Jude Law can eat my ass."

MOM: "Hmm, he can eat mine."

ME: "Ew... That's going on my blog."

MOM: "No! I'm not going to say anything around you anymore!"

BECCA: "He does that to me all the time, and the worst part is, he exaggerates!"

ME (resting Wonder Woman on my shoulder while helping an elephant give birth and consulting on a reconstruction of the dinosaur Spinosaurus Aegypticus): "I would never exaggerate!"

MOM: "Fine. You'll forget about it, anyway."

Friday, December 29, 2006

Throwdown 12/29

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week. And they're all about chicks because there ain't no news this week and I had a lot of pictures of chicks just waiting to get posted on this blog.

1. Jessica Alba thinks she’s still too fat. I know, I want to slap the taste out of her mouth for saying it, too.

2. Jessica Biel, on the other hand, looks nearly perfect. I say nearly because she actually had achieved perfection, and now she’s starting to go overboard. Look at those shoulders and arms! Biel is officially at the point where she’s going to start losing all of that delicious femininity, and I really hope she doesn’t, because I’m getting sick of every celebrity I lust after turning themselves into ragged, wearying, ugly chicks. I lost Lohan, I lost Duff, I lost Ashlee Simpson…what the fuck?

3. The girl on the right is Jamie-Lynn Spears, the even more personality-free sister of Britney Spears. My sister used to watch her terribly boring show Zoey 101 on Nickelodeon (I know what you’re thinking, but I’m Disney’s bitch, not Nick’s), and I used to laugh at Jamie-Lynn’s horrible attempts at acting. But I see she’s suddenly displaying a personality now. And what appear to be brand new boobies, I’m just saying. Finally time to slut out, huh? Is she sixteen already?

I don’t know…trust me, I’m a perv, I would’ve remembered if they were that big.

4. Speaking of Britney, she’s just losing fans left and right. One of the biggest Britney fansites on the web, World of Britney, is closing down. Apparently, after all this time, they’ve finally decided she has no credibility and no future, and they’re just fed up. Well, first she’ll lose her fans, then her children and then…what else is there? Oh, and her publicist dumped her, too. Happy New Year!

5. Huh. Paris Hilton, an attention whore. Who would have thought it?

6. Hulk Hogan: you must let Brooke eat fatty foods at least once a week. I don’t know, is this really what men want to see? Look at her, she’s losing her shape and her glorious curves. She used to have these really wonderful breasts, and now they’re almost gone. Her dad has bigger tits than she does now! Seriously, what is wrong here?

7. Why does Maxim make all of their girls look so damn bad? I mean, what about this is attractive? They take the hottest girls and make them look like shit. And she looked so good in Playboy earlier this year. Ah, well, it’s only Willa Ford, it’s not like anyone’s going to remember next year.

8. Tara Reid… God love her, she seems like she really wants to try. The poor girl should just go away for a year, work out, get her body in shape (“lumpy” does not count as a shape), kick the drinking habit, then come back looking all hot and incredible. Yeah, it’ll never happen, but I just can’t bring myself to feel anything other than sorry for Tara.

9. Katie Rees: no longer Miss Nevada. The idea of a girl having any kind of sex or drinking anything was apparently too terrifying for America to handle. Meanwhile: Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton all still have careers. Well…Lindsay and Britney do. Anyway, I’m sure Shroom-Monkey is willing to hold Katie until she stops crying, stroke her hair, rub her shoulders, and then just kind of see what happens, you know, while I hold the camera and… Sorry, um… let’s move on.

10. What’s with Hilary Duff’s new adult direction? It’s like after years of whining about what her child fans expect and what she’s capable of, she’s finally just exploding into a brushfire of sexuality. She’s trying to be sultry and, yes, just a little slutty. I guess she’s still doing it in a somewhat classy way, but seriously, if this means she’s going to gain some more weight, I’m all for it. Seriously, check out her perfume commercial.


Ah, the perfume that helps your teenage daughter get fucked in an elevator like the whore she is. I’ll take ten, I have some friends who have daughters that I didn’t get anything for Christmas…

11. Rebecca Loos, Rebecca Loos… Wait a minute, this is the girl that David Beckham cheated on Posh Spice with? Yeah, no fucking shit! Look at her next to that weird, granite-breasted alien fetus Posh Spice and tell me why he ever stopped cheating on her with Rebecca Loos! Wow, she is one hot chick.

Rebecca Loos, come to me. Come to me…

12. Oh, come on, Mary Carey is way more fun that Mariah Carey. How could anyone confuse the two, really? Mariah just needs more attention.

13. Priyanka Chopra is supposedly the latest contender for the role of Wonder Woman. She’s a big Bollywood star. You know what? She’s one of the best choices I’ve heard yet, because she’s not frail little Sarah Michelle Gellar or Lindsay Lohan or hideous Kate Beckinsale, etc. I still say Charisma Carpenter. I want to see Chrissy Carpenter as Wonder Woman putting a beatdown on Jessica Biel as Medusa. Now that is a classic movie right there.

14. Sam Hueston, of the British version of Big Brother. How come they get people you’d actually want to watch on their reality shows, while all we get is Puck and the guy who tucked his dick back on Survivor?

15. And finally, Scarlett Johansson. There’s something very depressing about hearing the girl with the most perfect body in Hollywood complain that she thinks she’s fat and she’s never going to be thin. Hopefully, that means she’s not going to try to lose weight. Because at the moment, she is absolute perfection. Seriously, girls are supposed to want to look like her and not like Nicole Richie. That curvy plumpness is the most appealing thing in the world. Scarlett, listen, you are the most perfect creature on the face of this planet. But the fact that you don’t think you are just makes you that much more wondrous.

I've Heard the Links of the Vegetables

Slow week, but here's some more end-of-the-year lists.

CityRag has the 50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time.

Modern Fabulosity has the Best Albums of 2006.

ArtForum has John Waters's ten favorite movies of the year.

The Film Experience talks about the worst movies and actors of the year.

Postmodern Barney wraps up the year in comics.

And Toronto Star sums up the reasons why 2006 was yet another shitty year in pop culture.

Energy in 2007, I hope!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Film Week

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

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (1968)
The single best version of this play ever filmed. It’s due in large part to the amazing cast: Ian Richardson, Ian Holm (as a very spritely Puck indeed), Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg, David Warner, Sebastian Shaw, Derek Godfrey, Barbara Jefford, and especially Paul Rogers and Judi Dench. But director Peter Hall is brilliant enough to make the story visually interesting, changing locations quickly, sometimes in the middle of scenes, in order to give the movie rhythm and not let it lapse into just characters talking at each other while the audience stops paying attention. Let’s face it, this is a potentially great play about tripping and partner-swapping and bestiality that is nearly ruined by Shakespeare’s tendency to make stories way more complicated than they have to be. That this even manages to come close to 2 hours in length instead of three is an achievement in itself. Seriously, though, back to Judi Dench. Now, I’ve always had this weird attraction to Judi Dench. I say weird because she’s past the point at which I’m usually attracted to women. But she has those eyes that just kind of pierce you, and I think there’s something rather sexual about, say, her portrayal of M in the James Bond films or the title character in Mrs. Henderson Presents. I can’t say what it is, but I’m attracted to Judi Dench rather a lot. But seeing her in this movie, 38 years ago at age 34…wow. I am never going to get her as Titania, proud and almond-eyed, shining bright, painted green (all the fairies are green in this movie), long-haired, completely naked except for some modest covering in the important areas. Wow. She is an absolutely magnificent creature in this movie. Combined with the fact that she is, let’s not be modest, one of the greatest actresses who ever lived, she’s a fiercely attractive goddess for me. One day, somehow, someone’s going to offer me the chance to go back in time for only one thing, and I’ll tell you what it’s going to be: Judi Dench in 1968. What a generation of British actresses; you add Diana Rigg and my goddess Helen Mirren into this film, and that means one thing: I had a huge, aching hard-on the whole time I was watching this movie. Which is fine, because it’s Shakespeare’s sexy play. What they should have done was have Vanessa Redgrave play Lysander and Julie Andrews play Demetrius, and then…. Nothing… What a generation of British actresses… Anyway, it really is an excellent movie, a very full-blooded Shakespeare; **** stars.

MIAMI RHAPSODY (1995)
It’s a cute movie, for a total Woody Allen pastiche (right down to the casting of Mia Farrow). Sarah Jessica Parker plays a whiny Jewish woman who sees infidelity all around her and wonders if marriage is really the right choice to make. Sarah’s pretty good in this one, Carla Gugino is much better, and I always like Paul Mazursky better as an actor than a director. I’m not sure I believe Kevin Pollack could pull Naomi Campbell, but I can’t blame him for a second for trying. And I always like Antonio Banderas in everything. *** stars. Whatever happened to Gil Bellows, anyway?

SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (1973)
What a haunting movie this is. This takes place in postwar Spain; Spain had been isolated and not participated in World War II, recovering from the hard-fought Civil War. On the face of it, two young sisters see the movie Frankenstein and spend their time looking for the monster somewhere. Their father, meanwhile, studies the behavior of bees. But this film takes a very symbolic approach. The beehive is Franco’s Spain; the girls, Isabel and Ana, represent the Republican and Nationalist parties. The character Frankenstein helps to shape Ana’s reality; representing also the young of Spain, she is disappointed by the reality around her, and her search for Frankenstein stands in for the Spanish peoples’ hope for a future free from fascism. It’s a brilliant movie that is artful without being pretentious; the symbolism could be missed completely and the movie would still be enjoyable. Beautiful. **** stars.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945)
What a sad, sad movie. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson meet in a train station one day and, even though they are married to other people, fall passionately in love. They only spend one week seeing each other in stolen moments before they decide to part, possibly forever. The depth of emotion David Lean brings to the movie is astounding, and the movie is deeply moving as a result. Really, I just cried and cried through the ending, especially at that last line. Based on a Noel Coward play, but actually still good. David Lean was one of the true greats of filmmaking. **** stars.

THE NATIVITY STORY (2006)
Christianity really is the most boring of the mythologies, isn’t it? I was heavily disappointed in this film, which takes the story and its supposed importance for granted and completely fails to make an emotional connection with the viewer. What a boring, boring movie. Catherine Hardwicke’s direction is ineffectual, and I have to say I expected more from the director of Thirteen. The script is deadly tiring, and the actors are almost uniformly terrible, intoning the dialogue in slow, self-important monologues as though the dialogue…were…going…to be…incredibly…important…to people…two thousand…years in the future… Zzzzzzz… Ciaran Hinds is especially disappointing as Herod the Great, literally stroking his beard and talking as though he were an animated villain, bringing no depth to what could have been an interesting role. The three wise men are played for this comedy act that is so broad there’s no way it can be funny; it’s like watching an especially poorly-written episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Keisha Castle-Hughes does what she can with the role of Mary; unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to be capable of it. Where’s the little girl who was so fucking good in Whale Rider? Here she just passively lets things happen to her instead of really taking part. And don’t even get me started on the cartoonish depiction of the Romans. This movie is childishly simplistic, and furthermore it’s not really about anything, because it revels in its own importance. Maybe people who are really into the Bible will like it, but for someone like me who isn’t, it totally fails to make me understand why I’m supposed to give a shit. God, Christians need to take a cue from the Greeks, the Romans, the Norse, and the Jews and make their legendary characters flawed and well-rounded. Christians suck the life out of everything. The only real good acting in the movie comes from Shohreh Aghdashloo (as always in American films, making the most out of a pointless, muted role) and Oscar Isaac as Joseph. Joseph is the only character in the movie you can feel any real conflict in; he knows Mary’s child isn’t his, but he believes her and supports her because he loves her and has faith in her. If the rest of the movie only lived up to his performance, that would have been something. ** stars.

THE STUDENT PRINCE (1997)
Cute BBC movie that’s basically Cyrano de Bergerac. Robson Green (whom I just love) plays a British cop who is assigned as a bodyguard to the youngest prince, who has gone on to attend Cambridge. It’s a very Republican sort of movie, with a downright mean anti-royal streak; it’s also an examination of two outsiders in the old-boy system of Cambridge, ripping apart the idea of education as it’s practiced in universities, where precedence is given to making the right connections rather than actual learning. Both characters fall in love with an American student, and Green helps the prince romance her, Cyrano-style. The very British Tara Fitzgerald plays American in an almost offensive way, flat and emotionless and completely self-involved; she acts in such a way that makes me wonder if she’s even heard of Americans before. But Green is wonderful, as always, and actually does get to act the final scene from Cyrano de Bergerac; he should’ve just made that movie instead. Predictable, but cute. *** stars.

SCOOP (2006)
I know everyone hated this movie, but I quite enjoyed it. It’s amazing how much people seem to be tired of Woody Allen lately, really, and the critics seem especially to hate him when he indulges in magic realism, as he does here. Yes, it’s not as good as Match Point, but is that a valid criticism? It’s still a fun little movie that I had fun with. Of course, the present of Scarlett Johansson certainly helps. I am physically incapable of not liking her in something. Yeah, she does a bit of the nebbishy Woody Allen thing, but it’s not an outright imitation of him the way Kenneth Branagh did it in Celebrity, still Allen’s worst film. I really liked it, and I hope he keeps working with Scarlett Johansson for years and years. ***1/2 stars. And a side observation: that scene of ScarJo sitting by the pool, packed into a red bathing suit with her hair up? One hyphenate: ball-draining.

FISTS IN THE POCKET (1965)
A brilliant, twisted movie about a paranoid epileptic who decides to relieve his older brother of the burden of a troubled family. To balance this out, he plans to kill his blind mother, his retarded younger brother, and then himself. This is a hard movie to describe; suffice it to say that this movie is excellent, completely arresting to the attention, yet surprisingly sympathetic. Marco Bellocchio’s first movie, this almost seems like a direct precursor to Dario Argento’s more violent, equally as twisted movies. Excellent Ennio Morricone score (is there any other kind?). **** stars.

RE-ANIMATED (2006)
Total crap that Cartoon Network thinks passes for creativity. Fuck you, Cartoon Network. No stars.

ScarJo

Oh, that Scarlett Johansson backlash just keeps on rolling. But I don't fucking care. She's 22 years old and she's already the best actress of her generation, one of the greatest working today. Seriously, it's like, her and Anne Hathaway and who else? Somebody has to get those two kids in a movie together, I think.

I love you, Scarlett. You're capable of everything. And with all humility, all respect, can I please, please brick in your mouth?

Trailers for the Fifth Time

First reaction to the trailers for the late winter dumping ground.

Happily N’Ever After (1/5)
Hoodwinked, Round 2, I guess. Still haven’t seen round 1. I guess it looks kind of cute, and I might end up seeing it simply because it’s animated. But I’m probably going to wait until it’s on HBO all the time.

Freedom Writers (1/5)
Puke. Are we still making this crap? White lady teaches black kids self-respect. Yeah, that’s not insulting at all, is it? Seriously, why don’t you go and get fucked. The worst part is that it’s from a director I respect, but I can’t see how this movie can be anything other than shit.

Arthur and the Invisibles (1/12)
I was surprised to see just how much of the movie was going to be animated; I guess I was expecting a true hybrid. This is Luc Besson’s first movie as a director since 1999’s The Messenger, and I’m interested just for that reason. I like Freddie Highmore quite a lot, and I love Brian Froud’s character designs. And if that weren’t cool enough, Bowie’s in the movie, playing a villain. But Madonna as the female lead? Why the fuck would anyone do that after seeing her in Swept Away? That thing was scientific proof that she just cannot act.

The Hitcher (1/19)
Exactly like the original, only with Sean Bean instead of Rutger Hauer. Please, I am begging Hollywood, stop remaking everything!

Epic Movie (1/26)
This is another thing I wish they’d stop making once and for all. Scary Movie, only with epics and fantasy movies. This one looks worse than any other parody ever made, frankly; I’m just tired of this smarmy shit. I have to see it once on cable, if only because Crispin Glover is playing Willy Wonka (as it should be), but otherwise…wake me when it’s over.

Because I Said So (2/2)
I think the fact that I would even consider seeing this screechy, unpleasant-looking movie is a testament to my grand love for Mandy Moore and Piper Perabo. Because this movie looks BAD. How far has the director of Heathers fallen that he has to make another one of those movies convincing us that old ladies are still vibrant?

Norbit (2/9)
Ouch. This looks bad even for DreamWorks, man. Eddie Murphy once again playing multiple unpleasant characters; I can’t believe a studio would even bother trying to sell a movie on that anymore. Does Eddie Murphy really still have fans over the age of 12? All I took from the preview was that fat women are (and should be) objects of ridicule. Nice message, asswads. Aren’t thin women ever cunts? Put Cameron Diaz in this movie, I’m sure she’d make the role of an obnoxious bitch seem like a natural. I’d rather cut off and eat my own testicles than go see this.

Music and Lyrics (2/14)
One day, I’m going to be thin and healthy and I’m going to leave everything behind and marry Drew Barrymore, just like I've wanted to since I was six years old. So, you know, even though this romantic comedy is from the director of the idiotic Two Weeks Notice and even if it does star Hugh Grant in yet another charming jerk role and even if it looks rather silly, I am going to see this movie.

Bridge to Terabithia (2/16)
Okay, this is the kind of movie I always run out to see. I never actually read this book as a kid, but I feel excited about the movie. It just looks so damn cool.

The Number 23 (2/23)
Okay… So, Jim Carrey starts reading this book called The Number 23, becomes obsessed with the number 23, and then this huge numerological rip-off of Jacob’s Ladder happens, I guess. This is like sub-Da Vinci Code for math nerds. What’s surprising isn’t that it looks so goddamn stupid—I was pretty sure that was going to happen—but that director Joel Douchebagger is taking it so damn seriously.

The Astronaut Farmer (2/23)
It looks cute in a Field of Dreams kind of way, if a little overbearing. A guy tries to build a rocket in his yard so he can fly into space, government gets involved, blah blah. I don’t know, it could go either way, although the trailer is incredibly cloying.

Zodiac (3/2)
I’m not as impressed with David Fincher as everyone else seems to have been, so maybe it means something coming from me when I say that this movie looks great. Seriously. I’m not sure what else to say, but this looks like it’s going to be really good.

Wild Hogs (3/2)
John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy, and Martin Lawrence get old and decide the way to not get older would be to become more of those embarrassing middle-aged motorbike riders. If that sounds bad enough, wait until you see the trailer. I wanted to gouge out my own eyes just from that, so you can imagine how much the movies going to suck. Seriously, who would greenlight this thing?

300 (3/9)
This is one of the trailers everyone’s going gaga for right now… I don’t know, some of the visuals are decent, and some of them look like a bigger, gayer version of any movie where Steve Reeves plays Hercules. I’d like it to be good, because I like the original graphic novel and I’d love to see a movie about the Battle of Thermopylae (a good one, not The 300 Spartans, which is crap). But Gerard Butler? Is that really how we cast a movie when we want it to be good? Because this thing has B movie written all over it.

Lucky You (3/16)
I like Eric Bana, and I love Robert Duvall, but I am so fucking sick of poker. I just don’t see this masculine mystery that everybody reads into poker these days; it’s not sexy, it’s not glamorous, and it’s not that interesting. But Drew Barrymore’s in it, so you know…

The Last Mimzy (3/23)
???? I don’t know, it’s shrouded in mystery and there’s no real payoff. This could be good, or it could be Phenomenon. I also saw no gyring and gimbling in the wabe. What would the momeraths think?

Grindhouse (4/6)
I’m already sure this is going to be the coolest movie ever made. You saw the teaser, right?

Hot Fuzz (4/13)
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s new movie looks as cool as their Shaun of the Dead. Seriously, this is going to be awesome.

Spider-Man 3 (5/4)
The longer, fuller trailer? Fucking brilliant. Absolutely fucking brilliant.

Shrek the Third (5/18)
Meh. More of the same, only creakier and getting even older.

Surf’s Up (6/8)
Aren’t we done with penguin movies yet? Well, this time it’s surfing CGI penguins. I have to admit, I was surprised by the tone of the trailer. I actually was with it right up until about the last fifth, when that modern smart-assed quality jumps in. Why do all animated movies have to be so fucking sarcastic now? Seriously, just commit to your absurd premise and fuck the apologetic “jokes.” From an animation standpoint, I did like the way some of the scenes replicated a handheld look. Though I wonder if that’s going to be a distraction. At any rate, it looks better than Shrek the Third and Happily N’Ever After.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (6/15)
No, see, you’re supposed to do the Sub-Mariner next, then the Inhumans, and then Silver Surfer for the final Galactus-filled explosion. Well, I will admit one thing: the Silver Surfer looks so fucking cool. He really does, I’m impressed. That said, I really, really, really hated, hated, hated the first movie and I don’t expect this one to be any better. And more shying away from the ridiculous premise by being smartasses…And Chris Evans? Yeah, “flame on” is right, because just like I said about the first movie, this thing couldn’t look any more homoerotic if you painted it pink and set it on fire.

Nancy Drew (6/15)
Fuck, let’s face it: I’m going to end up seeing this movie. I don’t know why it is that I like kids’ entertainment so much; I’m sure it has something to do with being Disney’s bitch. But I think Emma Roberts is a cutie and is pretty talented, and I know there are some Disney kids in it (Amy Bruckner, Kay Panabaker, Josh Flitter), so I’ll end up seeing it. Probably on video, but still, I’ll see it. I sure don’t give a shit about Nancy Drew in general, though. And what kind of responsible kid throws a live bomb down a manhole with work signs around it? There are probably workers in there, you little jerk!

Evan Almighty (6/22)
I thought Bruce Almighty was cute but a little too smarmy and overbearing. This looks exactly the same, only with Steve Carell. But I like Steve Carell, so who knows?

Live Free or Die Hard (6/29)
Die Hard was a masterpiece of suspenseful action. Die Hard 2: Die Harder was a little sillier, but still a fun movie. Die Hard with a Vengeance was…shit. And this one? The trailer looks pretty generic. And did it have to be Justin Long? Fuck, will he die in a plane crash already? Kid fucking irritates me. And where’s the whole element of being trapped? I mean, the lack of it is kind of what made the third movie so lame and generic, why make this one equally lame and generic? And what’s with that stupid title? Does the movie take place in New Hampshire? Are they all going to be taken from license plates now? Choose Life, Die Hard. Big Sky Die Hard. Famous Potatoes Die Hard.

Transformers (7/4)
Meh. The trailer is basically nothing, and yet all of the geeks and even a lot of non-geeks are in a lather over it. But I have no idea why, because it looks like shit.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (7/13)
I still really like these movies, and the trailer did get me excited for the next one.

The Simpsons Movie (7/27)
I’ve seen both of the new trailers, and frankly they could have been gags from any episode of the series. I also think it’s disingenuous to slag off CGI in the opening of the trailers as though it’s so awful, and then have a scene with Homer driving a wrecking ball that’s obviously computer animated. I don’t know, after 119 seasons, maybe I’m just beyond caring.

Fanboys (8/14)
God help me, it looked funny. Yes, I’m a geek. I know that. It looks funny.

Bee Movie (11/2)
The debate: is this the dumbest concept ever for an animated movie? A bee falls in love with a florist (creepy enough), then finds out that humans eat honey and files a lawsuit against mankind. Huh? Jerry Seinfeld stars in what seems destined to be yet another crappy CGI DreamWorks movie, which he also wrote. The trailer takes Jerry Seinfeld’s supposed brilliance for granted, but I’ve really never thought he was any good. Some of his humor is cute, I suppose. The live action trailer is also as smug and smarmy as everything Jerry Seinfeld’s ever done. This does not look pleasant.

I LOVE Michelle Marsh When She's Aglow




Tuesday, December 26, 2006

One Last Link for Christmas

Becca has a new installment of Action Figure Theater up at her blog. Drunken antics, discrimination against Pokemon, implied Beastman-ality, and Lindsay Lohan going down. How could you not read this? Ladies and gentlemen, it's Colin Farrell's Holiday Party.

Miss Nevada Katie Rees

After two years of blogging, I reached 120,000 hits this weekend. That was thanks, in no small part, to people looking for these pictures of Katie Rees acting like a drunken idiot. Well, here they are, then.










I think this whole debate about whether she's fit to be a beauty pageant winner is hilarious. I love all this talk of role models. How is a beauty pageant winner a role model? Really, isn't she just the one woman in the room the men want to fuck the most? You might as well call a pin-up girl a role model then. Give me a break. It's so funny how upset people get when girls act like this; for men, it's okay to be a drunken loser--in fact, you can sue people for making you look as stupid as you actually are (see that Borat lawsuit). But for women? Oh no, they have to be good little girls and keep their legs shut and not drink anything, or we shun them. Give me a fucking break.

Really, if I think anything's a shame involving Miss Nevada, it's that it's always some undeserving douche in a baseball cap who gets to hang out with these drunken hot chicks. Katie Rees, you're already Miss USA to me. Posted by Picasa

The Health Report: Week 2

Good and bad news on the health front. I'll start with the good news, because it pertains to my overall weight loss. Last week, I mentioned with glee that I was now using the second hole on my belt instead of the first one. Since then, I've bought a new pair of jeans, my shirts are starting to hang looser (I can wear 2XL instead of 3XL now), and my stomach no longer brushes up against the steering wheel when I drive. All of which makes me feel very happy and I'm thrilled that this program of mine is working.

The bad news is that I'm fucking sick. I caught a bad cold the other day, and I work up this morning feeling like death, congested and heavy-chested and coughing like a motherfucker. I think it might have moved from bad cold to light flu. Which, sadly, is no great surprise, since I get sick once every winter. Hopefully this won't be like last year's bronchitis and will end quickly. I've become resigned to one major illness per winter as a matter of routine. At least this time I won't miss any school.

The whole eating schedule is doing exactly what I wanted when I asked PT for help with it: it's making the 5-6 small meals of healthier food a routine for me. I'm used to it now, and I don't think about deviating from it as much as I did the week before. I went out to my beloved diner for breakfast on Friday, and it didn't make me sick at all. I still had toast and bacon, but I cut the amount of toast I usually have in half. I got fruit instead of hash browns with my cheese omlet. Instead of feeling tired and sick after breakfast, I felt energized and refreshed. The rest of the day, I ate the way I normally do.

I got a little chancier on Saturday night when we had pizza for dinner. I'm testing my limits, basically, trying to see what this new eating program has done for me. I was being good about it, too, ordering a thin crust pizza and not getting that wonderfully greasy extra cheese that I love so much. And you know what? I didn't get sick. I ate in moderation. And it just made me that much more confident that I'll be able to eat pizza in the future if I don't push it. If I'm good about only eating it every so often instead of every night of the week. I didn't feel sick in the morning, and just resumed my eating program.

Christmas was nice, despite being sick, and I didn't overeat. In fact, I underate. I don't know who these people are who have the big Christmas dinner with the turkey like it's a second Thanksgiving. My mom doesn't really keep a lot of food in the house, she never did, and when I was younger, that was brutal. I remember one Christmas driving around for several irritating hours trying to find a place that was open that would sell us food. I didn't really eat that day. Yesterday, I had scrambled eggs for breakfast and again for a late lunch, and then Becca had some chicken made when I got home.

Question for my dad: Does the cat have to be allowed on the table? Because it actually batted food off my plate, for God's sake.

Oh, and here's a bad conversation starter. Walking into my mom's, I see a picture on her kitchen counter. And here's me: "Wow, who's the hot chick?" The inevitable answer: "Yeah, that's your cousin. She's sixteen." Yet another reason why I probably shouldn't have kids.

So, in a nutshell: The eating program is working. I am losing weight. I'm proud of the two pounds that I lost, because I've already lost my water weight, so I know that the two pounds were actual fat being lost. The downside, of course, is that I'm sick, and when I get sick I lose my appetite and eventually crave things like McDonald's fries and Wendy's cheeseburgers. Shit, that already sounds really, really good. Maybe with a Wendy's Frosty, too.

I'm trying to be good. The sickness means I just want to sleep or take long baths instead of, say, walking or doing anything that's going to help me shed more pounds.

This is not a setback. This is a lull.

Now... where's my nurse?
Anyone want to volunteer to help get me back to health? The adrenalin from sex does a lot to help you recover.

The History of the Middle East

Part 6 in a series.

Cyrus the Great

Kurush is a figure surrounded by legends. Whatever those legends might say, we first know of him as the chieftain of Anshan, one of the tribes absorbed by Media in the time of Cyaxares. These were an Aryan people who lived on the north of Fars. In Greek, this land is Persis. In English, Persia. We know Kurush as Cyrus the Great.

Cyrus declared Anshan independent in 559 BC. Astyages, king of Media, had no inclination to war; he halfheartedly sent a force to subdue Cyrus that was ineffectual and proved easy to defeat. The city Pasargadae (“Fortress of Persia”) was built on the site of the victory.

Nabodinus encouraged Cyrus at first. Media and Babylonia were at peace, but Nabodinus could gain from Media’s weakening. In 553 BC, he simply plucked his hometown of Harran away from a preoccupied Astyages. Cyrus’s war against Media was over quickly. He gained the support of the other Persian tribes through diplomacy, something he was as brilliant at as strategy. Soon, most of Media supported Cyrus and denounced Astyages. In 550 BC, Cyrus marched into the Median capital Ecbatana and deposed the king; the Persian Empire encompassed all of Media in a complete and nearly bloodless victory.

Nabodinus still had little stomach for war, and hoped that Cyrus would be happy with Media. But Croesus, king of Lydia, declared war on Persia. Within three years, Lydia was no more than the newest territory of the Persian Empire. Nabodinus, now realizing the full threat of Cyrus, joined with Egypt at the eleventh hour to aid Lydia. It did nothing more than give Cyrus the excuse he needed to march against Babylonia. Belshazzar’s weak defense fell easily. Cyrus had already made a deal with the Babylonian priests of Marduk, who welcomed him as a conquering hero; their support became full when he reinstated the powers of the priesthood and took on the priestly functions of the Babylonian king as a humble servant of Marduk. The priests were his; Babylon followed.

Cyrus was the first conqueror to create and empire through diplomacy. He inspired loyalty and was kind to the people he conquered. They loved him. They loved him even more when he allowed all of the exiles in Babylon to return home. Many Jews in Babylon were so impressed with Cyrus that they stayed behind. Under Cyrus, the Persians adopted cuneiform writing and the Aramean language, relegating the more complicated Akkadian to the liturgy, where it would eventually fade away and disappear. The Akkadian culture would wane and vanish. Cyrus’s influence spread even into central Asia, where no Assyrian had gone. He died there in battle in 530 BC.

The Persian Empire

Cyrus was succeeded by his son, Kanbujiya (Greek Cambyses). He had already been serving as regent in Babylon for a year and proved himself to be a strong leader. Cambyses completed his father’s conquest of Asia. In 525 BC, he took Egypt. Even by modern standards, Persia’s realm was immense; there was no other power in the world to threaten it. Except, of course, for itself.

When Cambyses went to Egypt, he killed his brother Bardiya (Greek Smerdis) so he couldn’t seize power. But while Cambyses was away, a Median priest named Gaumata claimed he was Smerdis and the nobles declared him king in 522 BC. Cambyses died under mysterious circumstances before he could return and reclaim the throne, but his third cousin, Darayavaush (Greek Darius) was with him and marched the army to Media, killed the false Smerdis, and declared himself king.

But some historians think something other than the official story happened. One popular theory, which seems at the least plausible, states that the false Smerdis and the assassination of Cambyses were engineered by Darius himself. Some even wonder if there was no false Smerdis; perhaps the “false” Smerdis was really Smerdis himself. The motivation for this conspiracy was, perhaps, religion.

In the time of the Median Empire, a religious reformer named Zarathustra (Greek Zoroaster) developed a dualistic religion concerned with the eternal conflict of the forces of good (represented by Ahura Mazda, god of light) and evil (Ahriman, god of darkness). Zoroastrian thought spread throughout the Persian Empire after his death, even having a profound impact on Judaism. And, like Judaism, Zoroastrianism was an intolerant religion. Cyrus and Cambyses may have served Marduk, but Darius could not stomach it.

The priests of Marduk in Babylon feared the oppression Darius would bring. They looked for a savior, and hoped to find him in Nebuchadrezzar III, son of Nabodinus. But his defense of Babylon was ineffective in the face of Darius’s cunning strategy; Babylon fell in 519 BC. Darius dealt severely with the priests.

Darius might seem so far like a murderous zealot, but the fact is he was the best Persian ruler in history. He actually didn’t allow his fervent Zoroastrian beliefs to cloud his judgment. He allowed the Babylonians the religious freedom they thought he would deny. In 516 BC he even allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. He extended Persia’s borders all the way to the Indian peninsula, as well as annexing Macedonia and Thrace. Otherwise, he had no interest in conquest. After all, what else was worth taking?

Instead, Darius devoted his time to organizing the empire. He created a system of satrapies to make administration smoother, then built roads and reestablished the postal system via horse courier. 50 years later, Herodotus said of these couriers something well-remembered today: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Darius reorganized finances, the tax system, the weights and measures; he established a coinage and encourage trade. The Middle East prospered as it never had before.

Darius established a winter capitol at Susa, the ancient capitol of Elam. He built a magnificent new capitol for Persia called Parsa, better remembered by its Greek name Persepolis. The city functioned as an enormous royal residence. Most importantly, he had the story of his rise to greatness (False Smerdis and all) inscribed on a cliff face in three languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian. It was this monument itself that allowed future historians to decipher Elamite and Akkadian, and eventually Sumerian.

Darius died in 486 BC; he had reigned for 34 years. During his reign he had married Cyrus’s daughter Atosia to legitimate his rule with the Persians. Their son, Xerxes, came to the throne as the son of Darius and the grandson of Cyrus the Great. But it was also a time of turmoil. In 499 BC, Greek cities encouraged by Athens had revolted. Darius crushed the result and sent a force to Athens to punish them. But Darius underestimated the capabilities of Athens and the small Persian force was soundly defeated at 490 BC at the Battle of Marathon.

Now it was up to Xerxes to continue the campaign. But Egypt, also encouraged by Athens, revolted first. Xerxes spent three years regaining control of Egypt, a delay that probably saved the embryonic Greek culture from destruction. Xerxes, a fierce Zoroastrian, felt the revolts were validation of his suspicion of other religions. Xerxes became frustrated and quick to anger, especially in punishing Jews and Egyptians. In 484 BC, Babylon revolted; Xerxes destroyed the temple, carried away the statue of Marduk, and put an end to the priesthood. That was the final end of the Sumerian and Assyrian traditions.

The Ten Thousand Greeks

When Xerxes could at last turn his attention to the Greeks, he suffered an enormous defeat. In 480 BC, despite larger numbers, the Persians were repelled. Xerxes returned home and went into seclusion, only interested in his harem and in enlarging the palaces at Persepolis. In 465 BC he was assassinated, the result of a palace conspiracy. His successor, Artaxerxes, was not strong, and the empire continued a course of stagnation. When Egypt revolted, no one cared. The ancient river cultures were all in decline.

To the west, the Greeks were flourishing. Their ships were raiding the Persian coasts. Their soldiers tore through the territories as mercenaries. Their civilization was in full bloom. But the Greek city-states were not united, and so their threat to Persia proved minimal.

In 424 BC, Artaxerxes died. The Greek cities were fighting amongst themselves, all of them allied to either Athens or Sparta. The new Persian ruler, Darius II, supported Sparta because it seemed less ambitious to spread into the east. Darius II died in 404 BC; that same year, Sparta crushed Athens.

Darius had left behind two sons, Artaxerxes II and Cyrus (called Cyrus the Younger). Artaxerxes ascended the throne; the jealous Cyrus, who was very capable and felt slighted, hired 13,000 Spartan mercenaries to augment his army and marched. For the first time, a large number of Greeks entered Mesopotamia. Cyrus and Artaxerxes met in battle at Cunaxan. Artaxerxes had superior numbers, but Cyrus knew that he had only to kill his brother and all the Persian army would rally to him. But because of the stubbornness of Clearchus, the Spartan commander, Cyrus was quickly killed and lost the battle. All of the Persians rallied to the king, leaving a Spartan army stranded in a strange land.

Clearchus would not surrender, so Artaxerxes offered to usher them out of the country. Clearchus agreed, not taking into account the long-standing grudge between Persians and Greeks resulting from the Battle of Marathon. Clearchus and his generals were treacherously murdered by the Persian generals; they now expected the Greeks to surrender and be pressed into service. But the Greeks chose a new leader from the ranks, an Athenian named Xenophon who proved to be much more capable than Clearchus. He led the army north, into the Caucasus Mountains. On the way, they passed the mount that had once been Nineveh and asked what it was; even the name had disappeared from history.

The Ten Thousand (as they were later called) fought together, defending themselves against mountain tribes and surviving. Eventually, they crossed Asia Minor and came out of the mountains in the Greek city Trapezus on the shore of the Black Sea. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, most of them had come home. They had been saved by their training, their determination, their teamwork, and the strong leadership of Xenophon. The Athenian wrote a book about the experience, Anabasis (“The Expedition”), which survives today. It entranced many at the time with its clear diction, its analysis of leadership, and the excitement of the tale itself.

One who would be entranced was the young prince of Macedon: Alexander.

To be continued.