Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween: The Graveyard Shift

My Cinema Autobiography

The first movie from 1986 that I remember going to see was GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords. I don't remember anything about it, except that some of the animation seemed weirdly perfect; I didn't know it at the time, but it was because of computer animation. I don't think I've ever seen it again; Transformers were much cooler than GoBots, and even though I know I watched both shows and had toys from both lines, I barely remember anything about the GoBots. But I have seen Transformers: The Movie WAAAAAYYY more times.

I also remember going to see The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, which visited the origin of the Care Bears, whatever the hell it was. (I thought Noble Heart Horse was neat, alright--he was a purple horse, come on... I can't describe it in any way that makes sense.) You know, as years went on, I came to feel more and more like the Care Bears were pushers, bullying you into caring about peoples' feelings. No wonder it didn't work; you can't force acceptance.

I just get the horrible feeling that someone, somewhere, is trying to develop this as a CGI/live action hybrid movie... probably those same assholes inflicting The Smurfs on us...

It wasn't until 9 May that a movie came out that I could really sink my teeth into: Short Circuit. I know, it's... well, I need to do an 80s Revisited on it, but I have a feeling it doesn't hold up. But when I was 9, I was pretty into it. The plot didn't really matter so much, nor did the humor (although it is the kind of movie a 9 year-old might find hilarious), but just the fact that it was about a robot was enough. And he was such a... roboty robot. With my intense interest in special effects still going full bore, I read a lot about the various puppetry and gadgetry that got Johnny Five to work. I was fascinated by it. I was really fascinated by how special effects could take unhuman things and anthropomorphize them into something a person could care about.

I saw this movie several times. And I saw the actual robot itself, I think the same year. The Museum of Science & Industry had an exhibit about robotics and special effects, so I got to see the robot in action. (I also got to see the shark from Jaws, among other stuff.)

And hey, the DeBarge song gave us Weird Al's Ed McMahon tribute "Here's Johnny," which is also a good thing.

:: Boy, how cynical a kid was I? I remember we were going to go see Top Gun, and I told my Mom I didn't want to go. "I don't want to see some movie where the guys are all drinking and swearing, acting like idiots, and trying to have sex." "You don't know it's going to be like that," my Mom said. "Yes I do," I answered. And it was. And it was a sucky movie. I didn't pick up on the homoeroticism, but hey, I was 9.

I didn't stay for the whole movie, which probably disappointed my Dad. I checked into another theater. I probably saw Short Circuit again.

6 June was the unfortunately-timed release of Space Camp. In January, the Chicago Bears had won the Superbowl, and feelings were high. (That game actually inspired me to play Panther Football in 1986, which I did, and retired after a single, undefeated season.) Soon after, the Challenger exploded during liftoff, and feelings were brought back down. I know this movie was hurt at the box office because of it. But even with the tragedy, I understood it was a mechanical failure and read a lot about it, and still was harboring my dream of being an astronaut. I wanted to go to Space Camp, so you can bet I wanted to see this movie. I actually went to see it a couple of times, too. Getting lost in space with smart kids and Lea Thompson was something I could've handled at that age. I'm sure of it.

:: 13 June was the release of two of my favorite 80s comedies: Back to School and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I didn't see either movie until they were on video, but what a fun weekend that could've been at the cinema...

27 June: Labyrinth. I was excited about that movie long before it came out. I was already reading about the making of the film in Starlog and Muppet Magazine. Again, my fascination with puppetry and special effects led me right to this film, and there were so many people involved in it that were just huge for me--Jim Henson, George Lucas, David Bowie (by this time, I'd almost worn out my Dad's 45 of "Let's Dance"), Maurice Sendak, Brian Froud, and years later I'd discover it was written by Terry Jones; I had yet to be exposed to Monty Python at this point.

I also read an article in the Chicago Tribune about how Brian Henson, who had so blown me away with Jack Pumpkinhead in Return to Oz, was doing the puppetry and voice of Hoggle, the dwarf, and that I had to see.

I LOVED this movie. I still do. It's one of my non-negotiable all time favorites. And I came away with an enormous crush on Jennifer Connelly that didn't die for over 20 years. I even taped the pictures of her from Muppet Magazine on the inside of my fifth grade locker door. Oy, childhood.

The next week saw a new Disney film, The Great Mouse Detective. So I think this is the first thing I ever saw with Vincent Price in it, even though he was doing a voice and not appearing on screen. I enjoyed it, but it seemed to disappear for years after that. I remember that when we went to see it, we were near a kid who wouldn't shut up and the mother who kept having a conversation with it. Even at 9, I knew this was wrong. My Mom had taught me and Jayne to not talk during movies. Tolerance of your kid talking in the movies just encourages rudeness. I'll bet that kid grew up to have profound ego problems of the "You mean the rest of the world doesn't think I'm the center of the universe?" kind.

:: Another Disney movie was released on 1 August: Flight of the Navigator. At 10, I needed to go see a movie about a kid having an adventure in space with a robot and weird animals, all while singing the lyrics to Beach Boys songs incorrectly. I loved it at the time, but I remember seeing it years later and thinking it was terrible and that the kid in the movie was particularly insufferable. But when I went to see these movies as a kid, I just saw myself, not anyone else. I was Joaquin (then Leaf) Phoenix in Space Camp and Henry Thomas in ET and even Luke Skywalker.

A week later: Transformers: The Movie. My Dad and I went to see this at a second-run theater; the Tivoli, I think. I was surprised by it. It was like the TV show, but half the characters from the show, including my beloved Optimus Prime, were slaughtered onscreen. If they'd taken Grimlock, too, I'd have been devastated. Characters swore, new characters were put up in front, and there was a heavy metal soundtrack. I watch that movie now--and sometimes I do; Becca and I just watched it a couple of weeks ago--and I think the filmmakers were under the impression that they were making Heavy Metal.

I had the soundtrack, and listened to it until the tape wore out. I still know all the songs by heart. (And I fucking love "The Touch" unironically, so eat my cock, Topless Robot.) I remember listening to it on my Walkman almost the entire trip to Minnesota the next summer, reading comic books the whole way. That was the summer my love for Marvel's more kid-oriented comics gave way and finally led me to Classic X-Men.

It wasn't until Thanksgiving that we went to the movies again, and that was to see An American Tail. I was excited about it, not just because it had Steven Spileberg's name on it (a much bigger deal to me then), but because I was really becoming a fan of Don Bluth now. The Secret of NIMH had quickly become one of my favorite movies, and even though I was terrible at it, I loved watching other people play Dragon's Lair at the arcade because of the animation.

Looking at the movie now, I see a lot of flaws. But as a kid I was just caught up in the animation and the story. I got sick of "Somewhere Out There" pretty quickly, though. You couldn't escape that thing for what seemed like two years.

Also, Song of the South was re-released this same weekend. I don't think we went to see it, though. But, since they had failed strong-arming theater chains into not carrying The Secret of NIMH, Disney's newest tack--and it would last up through the release of Titan AE in 2000--was to release a film the same day as Bluth's opened. It didn't really hurt this one because of the Spielberg connection, but I wonder now if this shitty business didn't have something to do with Spielberg deciding not to work with Disney and instead reviving Warner Bros' animation department. (Or it could be Spielberg's ego, who knows?)

The next weekend, 28 November, was the release of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. My Mom had finally, and only a few months before, hooked me on Trek. So this wasn't the first movie I saw (I saw the previous three on video), but it was the first I went to see in the theater. I was actually touched that it was dedicated to the Challenger crew. I really enjoyed this movie so much, too. It was just so fun and cute. We went to see it a few times and bought it when it came out on video (it was the only one we owned; now I have every Trek film on DVD except for the recent remake/reboot).

This was at a time, too, when the only Trek to be found was on video, at the bookstore, on local TV reruns, and conventions. I didn't know of any large groups of Trekkers. It was rare that I ever ran into a fellow fan. I went to the library and read books about the making of Star Trek and the Star Trek universe. I also went as Spock for Halloween in 1987. I was pretty deep into it, and of course it was exciting to me when Next Generation started. Then I just kind of fell out of it. Kirk and Spock still mean a great deal to me, but I just sort of moved on to other interests.

:: I think 1986 may have ended with the re-release of Lady and the Tramp, but I'm not sure. I don't really remember going.

An Open Letter to the Tailgating Guy Wearing the "God Hates Fags" Shirt

I am an atheist. I was raised Lutheran. I have read your bible. I have read your bible in three different translations from cover to cover. I still have the bible I got from my church for my confirmation. I have read it. I did a series on my blog summarizing, in plain English, exactly what the bible says.

And you know what? Nowhere in the bible does it say anything that sounds like “God Hates Fags.” Yes, the God of the Old Testament is a pretty fiery character, and murders his followers for doing anything he doesn’t like—heck, he even slaughters some of Aaron’s sons just for getting the mixture in the censers wrong during a service.

But Jesus said the laws of the Old Testament were in the past, and that the new way was not to build a church around anger and hate, but to love our neighbors as ourselves. When he said “I am the light of the world,” he was referring to his role as Messiah—that he would literally replace the Temple of Jerusalem, whose light could be seen for miles at night and which was, symbolically, the light of the world.

So I don’t believe in your God. I don’t believe in your bible as literal history. I don’t believe in Jesus as a human being who actually existed. But I’m relatively sure, as a somewhat studied outsider, that a belief system grounded in love has no business hating homosexuals or anyone else.

God doesn’t hate fags, sir. You hate fags, and you dragging a god you worship into your fight is why I find your beliefs small and petty. Because for every person who feels Christianity deeply and in a communal way that leads them to love, tolerance, and even acceptance, there is someone like you—someone louder than they are, who hides behind the supposed Word of God in order to pretend divine justification for their little prejudices and their fear-based hate.

You can’t speak it for yourself because you know you’re wrong. Don’t pretend God—who doesn’t even exist—is saying it for you.

Yours in tolerance,
SamuraiFrog

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dance of Death by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Translated by Edgar Alfred Browning.

The warder looks down at the mid hour of night,
On the tombs that lie scatter'd below;
The moon fills the place with her silvery light,
And the churchyard like day seems to glow.
When see! first one grave, then another opes wide,
And women and men stepping forth are descried,
In cerements snow-white and trailing.

In haste for the sport soon their ankles they twitch,
And whirl round in dances so gay;
The young and the old, and the poor, and the rich,
But the cerements stand in their way;
And as modesty cannot avail them aught here,
They shake themselves all, and the shrouds soon appear
Scatter'd over the tombs in confusion.

Now waggles the leg, and now wriggles the thigh,
As the troop with strange gestures advance,
And a rattle and clatter anon rises high,
As of one beating time to the dance.
The sight to the warder seems wondrously queer,
When the villainous Tempter speaks thus in his ear:
"Seize one of the shrouds that lie yonder!"

Quick as thought it was done! and for safety he fled
Behind the church-door with all speed;
The moon still continues her clear light to shed
On the dance that they fearfully lead.
But the dancers at length disappear one by one,
And their shrouds, ere they vanish, they carefully don,
And under the turf all is quiet.

But one of them stumbles and shuffles there still,
And gropes at the graves in despair;
Yet 'tis by no comrade he's treated so ill
The shroud he soon scents in the air.
So he rattles the door—for the warder 'tis well
That 'tis bless'd, and so able the foe to repel,
All cover'd with crosses in metal.

The shroud he must have, and no rest will allow,
There remains for reflection no time;
On the ornaments Gothic the wight seizes now,
And from point on to point hastes to climb.
Alas for the warder! his doom is decreed!
Like a long-legged spider, with ne'er-changing speed,
Advances the dreaded pursuer.

The warder he quakes, and the warder turns pale,
The shroud to restore fain had sought;
When the end,—now can nothing to save him avail—
In a tooth formed of iron is caught.
With vanishing lustre the moon's race is run,
When the bell thunders loudly a powerful One,
And the skeleton fails, crush'd to atoms.

Hell's Kitchen and Others

:: Let's get the most important thing out of the way first: Holli was back in Hell's Kitchen. A guest at the chef's table for the 100th dinner service... and in that dress... oh, christ, someone give Holli her own show.

:: Seriously, what is wrong with the guys this year? There is just no cohesion at all; these guys all hate each other, and for a while they were able to aim it all on Raj and then, with him gone, Boris. But on this week's two episodes, the guys were just falling apart at the seams, their seething hatred and inability to work as a team just spilling over into everything they did.

What is Rob's deal? I mean, seriously, cooking macaroni and cheese is that hard? Watching him grimace and stir was almost comical. Watching him pout like an asshole in the second episode when he was supposed to be fumigating was just ridiculous. I really hate this guy right now. Jeez, suck up the loss and quit being such a whiny little prick.

And even Trev is just falling apart or cracking under the weight of his own self-importance. He really thinks he's the leader of the Red Team, but the women don't feel that way at all. Once again, he can't enjoy winning without screaming at his team about his place and the respect he deserves, even after helping to shut out Sabrina.

Seriously, I don't know who the front runner is, but you could just get rid of all the men right now. Their little cliffhanger made me roll my eyes, but I assume Ramsay's just sending Trev back to the Blue Team to see how the women do without him; when he was gone, they did function a lot better.

Other stuff...

:: I dropped Shit My Dad Says after the second episode. I thought I could watch it and just enjoy Shatner and ignore everything else, but it was just too stupid for that. The whole bit in the second episode with Will Sasso imagining Nicole Sullivan's breasts as spaghetti and meatballs was gruelingly unfunny even for Will Sasso. I couldn't even figure out what the joke was supposed to be. Are spaghetti and meatballs inherently disgusting somehow?

:: I also dropped No Ordinary Family. Just too mopey and boring. I know, I know, Heroes was also mopey and boring, but it had a couple of characters I was invested in.

:: I've been watching Boardwalk Empire, and I think it's... okay. It's beautiful to look at, but I'm not really caught up in the characters or the drama. It's interesting, and I like some of the actors in it (particularly Steve Buscemi and Michael Shannon), but it's not something I'm married to.

:: Is The Office going to keep being this bad all season? I'd really like Steve Carell to go out on a high note, but it hasn't been one so far. The producers seem to want to make Andy and Erin the new Jim and Pam, but Andy and Erin are impossible to care about. I hate every character except Michael and Darrell right now, and the only good scene in yesterday's episode was his phone call to Holly (which was ruined by the herpes joke--an examination of Michael's over-romanticizing was a great idea, but the herpes thing was just unfunny and gross).

:: I liked the 30 Rock live episode. I wouldn't want to see another one, but as a one-off gimmick, it was funny.

:: I was really, really happy to see Melissa Rauch on The Big Bang Theory again. Personally, I think Howard is the least funny character on the show--the writers are too often laughing at him, and the character is such a stereotype I can almost predict his punchlines. Having someone like Bernadette pop up humanizes the character, so I'm glad they brought her back. I hope she's around more this time.

Last night's episode seemed purposely designed to address fan criticisms of two dropped plotlines last year: Bernadette and Howard's relationship, and Raj working with/for Sheldon.

:: I wasn't surprised to see Better With You isn't doing well in the ratings. I watched the first episode and almost immediately forgot I ever watched it until I read that it wasn't doing well in the ratings. And it had Joanna Garcia on it, whom I love, but whose last three series have all been so bad that I couldn't watch them.

Really? Because I...

Oh, they're talking about a movie.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween: Frankenstein

From 1910, this is the first screen version of Frankenstein. It's less than 13 minutes long; check out this piece of history. This was directed by J. Searle Dawley, whose later film of Snow White is the one that directly inspired Walt Disney.

Random Thoughts

:: I don't have the interest in going into the GOP's "Pledge to America." You don't even have to have read it (and sadly, I did read it) to know what a pile of shit it is. It's a bigger fantasy than Newt Gingrich's Contract with America was. I just wanted to mention the most obviously intellectually dishonest part, which is the pledge to cancel TARP without mentioning that Cantor, Boehner and Sessions all voted for it. So much for accountability.

:: President Obama to Rolling Stone: "If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we'd better fight in this election." Or, you know, we could have a president who doesn't keep invoking State Secrets and extending warrantless wiretaps and allowing federal raids on war protesters' homes...

:: President Obama and his aides also need to stop comparing themselves to Lyndon Johnson. Word on a lot of the political sites I follow is that the White House is genuinely shaken up by the "enthusiasm gap" because they think they've achieved a level of historic legislative success comparable to LBJ. Obama has said that he thinks he's accomplished 70% of what he promised in his campaign. He seems to be genuinely angry these days that the base isn't kissing his ass enough because of what he seems to think he's accomplished. (And the problem is, for the most part, he really does seem to get a free pass, even though he's actively killed the public option, made a lot of capitulations to big business, and failed to keep the unemployment rate around 8%, which is what he and his economists kept claiming the stimulus was going to do.)

I think Obama needs to stay away from such comparisons, lest he be reminded that Johnson also escalated an unpopular war while interfering in bordering countries in secret, and became so unpopular that he didn't run for a second term.

I think the cult of personality that's been clouding Obama's actions since before his presidential campaign started has been dangerous. And I think he really hates the "professional left" for not just helping him to sell his health care "victory"--his word for conceding to Big Pharma and the insurance corporations everything they wanted--as a major legislative achievement, and blaming it all on Republicans.

And if Obama really had guts, he'd address these criticisms instead of just being dismissive about it.

:: President Obama signed an executive order sanctioning Iranians who "share responsibility for the sustained and severe violation of human rights in Iran." Or, as Secretary of State Clinton put it, officials who were in command when Iranian citizens were "arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed." This order was signed because the Iranian government had "ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses."

The thing is, it's very easy to sign a piece of paper saying you condemn human rights abuses when they're committed by someone else. It's not like there's any power that goes with it, except cutting off business relations with Iran. So how about American officials who arrested, beat, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed foreign nationals over the last 8 years? Any word on that?

Of course not. This country loves its human rights abuses as much as it hypocritically loves to make hollow condemnations when others do it.

:: So, the same week BP's Oil Commission alleged that the White House deliberately downplayed just how bad the oil disaster was, Obama announces that he's lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling? What exactly is his strategy here, especially this close to the midterm election?

:: I need to talk about DADT and the recent string of gay teen suicides, which sometimes seems like it's just not going to stop.

First, this DADT crap.

This is an injustice. It always has been. It is a halfhearted compromise with a nasty, rotting core: legislated homophobia. It is legal discrimination meant to coddle those with hate in their hearts for those who are different.

Finally--finally--a federal judge ruled that this was unconstitutional, and made a very, very clear case as to why it was. An injunction was issued against DADT. 21 senators wrote to President Obama begging him to let the ruling stand.

Strategically, it's a no-brainer for Obama. If he wanted to finally energize the base and possibly win back the gay voters who are leaving him in droves over his broken promises on civil rights, all he had to do was let the ruling stand. The country is overwhelmingly against DADT.

Obama has been pretty fond the last couple days of saying "DADT will end, at it will end on my watch."

But it's another one of his hollow statements when he's got the Justice Department appealing the ruling.

Obama has so far been a failure on DADT. He tried to do the bipartisan thing, acted surprised when it didn't work, and he's now saying that he can't sign an executive order to suspend DADT (meanwhile, he's got executive orders and signing statements every day). Instead, he thinks it's a big deal that the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are committed to changing the policy. But it's isn't a big deal. They work for you.

He's also saying that the Senate has the votes to repeal DADT, but they don't: we tried this less than a month ago, and it failed.

I just don't understand what the president's message is on DADT. He says he's opposed to it, but doesn't act to end it. He says he's going to end it, but tells the Justice Department to appeal an injunction declaring this legalized discrimination unconstitutional. The Justice Department is also appealing the ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. He even has an injunction that he can hide behind and just let the rights fall into place, and he doesn't do it.

The fact that there is even a debate over whether or not we can legally consider homosexuals people with all the rights of every other American is absolutely disgusting to me. And for all of Obama's grandstanding about what he's going to do, he doesn't seem to be addressing it at all except to coddle the 20% of the country who thinks there actually should be a debate.

Meanwhile, we have these stupidities like White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, who sats that Justin Aarberg, a gay teenager who committed suicide, "made a lifestyle choice." Keep in mind that this woman is the closest adviser to the president on LGBTQ issues and she's talking about the suicide of a 15 year-old. That is horrifying.

I firmly believe that what's happening right now, with so many gay teenagers being bullied into suicide, is fallout from all of this. We have DADT. DOMA. Prop 8. National discussions on gay adoption and gay marriage. Legislative discrimination against gays. The government is sending a message that it's acceptable in this country to hate and marginalize other Americans, and so we have teenagers who are enacting that same prejudice in their lives.

This is literally a matter of life and death. It is not a theoretical debate about abstracts.

Of all the ways Obama has disappointed me, this is the one I will never forgive him for.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Film Week

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

WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967)
I liked Alan Arkin in this movie as a psychopath who, with Richard Crenna and Jack Weston, try to play a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) in order to get their hands on a doll filled with drugs. He was just so... off. So bizarre. With hair and glasses that made him look like Doctor Octopus. As for the film itself... it has some really good moments, but I'm still not an Audrey Hepburn fan, and I thought I knew too much about it going in. It starts with the doll being filled, then shows us the three criminals laying out their plan, and then suddenly becomes about this blind woman and her husband. I hate to second guess the writer of the brilliant Dial M for Murder, but I can't help thinking that playing up the confusion would've really benefited the tension. If we took these men, as Hepburn does, at their face value and wondered at the strange signals being sent, then it would've really been a tense thriller. As it is, it's not bad, it's just not compelling, either. But most of the performances are good, even Hepburn's. **1/2 stars.

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968)
Fantastic movie with Christopher Lee in a great role as a man trying to protect his friends from satanists. I can't believe I haven't seen this movie before; this is prime Lee and prime Hammer. And it's generally about smart people, which is always nice in movies like this; the motivations are clear and Lee especially is very intelligent about the situation. It's nice, too, that it's not overly sensational, but genuinely tense and scary. Charles Gray makes, as always, a great villain, uttering the most truly chilling words in the movie when he tries to mesmerize a woman into helping him commit some murders, and then, when he's foiled, tells her: "I'll leave. I won't be back again. Something will." Great make-up, too. **** stars.

DAISY MILLER (1974)
Wow, Peter Bogdanovich really hit a wall, didn't he? Targets is a chilling tension-builder, The Last Picture Show is an Americana classic, What's Up, Doc? is great screwball comedy, Paper Moon is fantastic... and then this is him just running into a wall and believing everything about his perceived genius. It's a mess of a movie, almost impossible to watch, and bleeding smug pretension from every frame. I really thought it wouldn't be as bad as I'd heard, but it suffers from the miscasting of Cybill Shepard in the lead on down. And I've seen Bogdanovich's next two films, Nickelodeon and At Long Last Love, which are just pathetic. Wow. No stars.

KILLER OF SHEEP (1977)
Neorealism is hard for me to get through, I'll admit, but this was an ultimately very interesting film about poor black families just trying to get through each day. It focuses mainly on one family, the patriarch of which works in a sheep rendering factory and tries to provide for his wife and children. It takes patience, but it's because the film simply (for the most part) observes its characters instead of manufacturing a heavy-handed message film. ***1/2 stars.

THE STEPFATHER (1987)
Terry O'Quinn is very, very good as a psychopath who murders his whole family and then moves elsewhere and marries a woman with a suspicious daughter. It starts off promisingly, but then meanders to its admittedly riveting conclusion. Even at 86 or so minutes, it seems padded. It's like a great episode of Ray Bradbury Theater pumped full of hot air. But O'Quinn, as I said, is great. It's just too bad the movie doesn't know where to trim. ** stars.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009)
I expected this to be bullshit, but I really got caught up in the build. Nice effects, too. It builds up really well, charting the developments of a couple who are filming their bedroom because they think they're being visited at night by a demonic presence. It's too bad it's all ruined by the final shot, which is cheesy and stupid. Just a couple of seconds shaved off the end would've salvaged it. *** stars.

THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)
I'd never seen a Herschell Gordon Lewis film before. Diablo Cody still has work to do to convince me that this guy's better than Dario Argento. The movie's basically sub-porno, with incredibly graphic violence that is at first disgusting, then funny (simply because it's so over-the-top ludicrous), then kind of cruel, and then just tiresomely gross. The only real pleasure in this ridiculous plot is the performance of Frank Kress as a famed private investigator who lives in an amazingly cheap apartment and spends a lot of time in, I guess, someone's garage made up too look like the smallest, dive-iest strip club in a non-porno movie. (The production values aren't really good enough to be porno.) I'm not even going to go into the arguments one could make about misogyny. It's not an offensive movie, it's just a stupid one, but it's a stupid movie with some moments of genuine humor and a fun central performance. I don't even know what the point of rating this one would be, since it just kind of defies attempts to bother, but I guess I'd go with ** stars.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Halloween: BOO!

And a bonus:

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Typically Cynical Columbus Day Greeting from Me

The Original Founding Fathers, via the Cave of Cool.

From left to right: Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Red Cloud.

A Brief Halloween Meme

I found this one going around Tumblr. Hopefully, I'll find a longer one closer to Halloween. I like to have a nice, long Halloween meme each year.

1. What is the worst treat to get when trick-or-treating?

I was never one of those kids who resented getting pennies or even toothpaste. I hated getting anything mint or Sugar Daddies or whatever the hell those things are in the black and orange wax paper.

2. What character from any horror film would you most like to play?

Willard. I just want to command the rats to do my bidding.

3. Would you rather be a zombie, alien, or psycho? (why)

An alien. Zombies are boring, psychos are predictable, but aliens at least get to travel in space.


4. How many Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street movies combined do you have on dvd?

None, actually. I wouldn't mind getting the Friday the 13th movies, because I finally saw them all last year and really enjoyed them. I had Halloween on VHS but have yet to get the DVD. I'd like to get the much-hated Rob Zombie version, too, which I actually dug.

5. What is the scariest movie you have ever seen?

Horror-movie wise, the ones that really scared me where the original Halloween, Phantasm, The Descent, Critters (I was 11 or something), and Poltergeist.

6. Lamest costume you have worn on Halloween?

I went as a wrestler of my own design one year. It was pretty lame. I think that was actually the last year I ever went.

7. Favorite Halloween treat?

Not necessarily a Halloween treat, but this is the time of year for my beloved pumpkin pie. What did I use to like to get when trick or treating? That crappy pink bubblegum, Tootsie Pops, Kit Kat, Reese's (Peanut Butter Cups or Pieces), Three Musketeers, and Pixie Stix.

8. Friendly-faced jack o’lantern or scary one?

Scary.

9. Have you ever had nightmares about a scary movie character chasing you?

When I was a kid, sure. These days, my dreams are all about mundane tasks or fucking rock stars. (Mostly 16 year-old Cherie Currie, these days.)

10. Best thing about Halloween?

Gosh, all of it. The costumes, the decorations, the blogs sharing stuff about Halloween. X-E Entertainment's Halloween Countdown. The increase of Hammer and Vincent Price movies on television. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Halloween episodes of sitcoms. Pumpkin pie. Halloween versions of cereal or Pop Tarts, because they're really fresh.

11. Strangest Halloween custom you’ve heard of?

I think never throwing my pumpkins away isn't necessarily strange, but very lazy. One time, I put my pumpkin out on the balcony, and didn't bring it in until the next Halloween. Just left it in the garden. And it didn't rot too badly for, like, eight months because it was so damn thick. The squirrels and birds ate it over the winter, so I didn't feel too bad.

12. Person in your family who most likes Halloween (not counting yourself)?

My wife. I don't think my Mom likes it as much as I do anymore, because she doesn't get trick or treaters where she lives. My Aunt Theresa, maybe, because it's her birthday.

13. Are you superstitious? If so, name at least one superstition of yours.

In the back of my mind, I am. I know it's stupid, but then there's that part of me that won't walk under a ladder...

Smell Like a Monster

Banksy Directing The Simpsons

I guess it was kind of a big deal for some people that street artist Banksy "directed" the intro to The Simpsons last night. Personally, I thought it was pretty stupid. He was trying to make a provocative point about Fox's treatment of the animators, but it doesn't really make your point if you do it by forcing the same animators to work. You know what I mean? You can't protest something by doing it yourself. You just can't. It's not putting anything on the line.

I don't know, maybe it's just me. Even if I were willing to concede that defacing private property were an art form--and as I get older and crankier, I'm not sure I am--I still don't get the whole Banksy phenomenon.

Need Movie Now Please

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween: Happy Meal Pails

Constructive Atheism

Somehow, I missed this speech Richard Dawkins gave last month during Britain's anti-pope demonstration. Once again, he does an excellent job delineating all the reasons why I'm an atheist.

Song of the Week: "Jealous Guy"

You'd have been more surprised if I hadn't posted a John Lennon song this weekend.

Hell's Kitchen

:: Russell, Russell, Russell... pull it together, man, they're just kids. What the hell was with him blowing up at that prom committee? Yeah, of course they're going to be pretentious little twats, they're high school students. Controlling the look, feel, and taste of the prom is going to be part of the legacy high school kids always think is so important, even though the school will forget by the start of the next year. Who cares? Just deal with it. You're in Hell's Kitchen, and these are clients of Hell's Kitchen, and swearing at a bunch of teenagers is not just terrible customer service, it also makes you look incredibly weak. He reminded me of a substitute kindergarten teacher I saw a couple of years ago who was actually trying to rationally explain to a bunch of six year-olds why they needed to be quiet and listen.

:: It was impressive the way the Red Team really pulled together and swept the prom dish challenge. Of course, it's practically a truism that being strong in a challenge means a weak dinner service. I'm not sure why that is. Is it the time away? Does it take them out of the zone so that they have to catch up again? This is why kids shouldn't get summers off.

Credit where credit is due: Sabrina did manage to pull her team together and show her worth in the dinner service. Good call she made when she picked Melissa and Emily to leave. Melissa was strong, but cooking 23 steaks at once? If there's one thing Gordon wasn't going to stand for, it was someone treating Hell's Kitchen like a fast food place. I was surprised he didn't send her off, but after watching the gears in Emily's brain grind to a halt time after time, it was really time to send her away.

(Although Russell trying to tell her to eliminate her strongest competitor, Gail, was pretty crappy. Good for her, too, for not listening to it. I've always noticed how badly Gordon takes it when he sees someone making decisions out of anger or strategy instead of really going with what's best for the kitchen. I have to admit, as much as I don't like her, Sabrina impressed me on this episode.)

:: What do you think? Is Boris a bad chef, or is it just that he's getting completely shut out by the guys now? They really do pick their targets, don't they? I don't know, Boris doesn't make much of an impression on me, anyway, but I'm surprised how quickly they turned on him. Guess he shouldn't have claimed to be the best chef in the kitchen.

:: On the second episode, we have Trev and Melissa switching teams. I guess Trev's whiny blow-up about his team not listening to him is what did the trick here; put him on another team where they might. I do hate it, though, when a guy is put on the gals' team and he comes over with this air of being the one in charge now. Still, good on him for staying on top of Sabrina, who is slow in prep and was overwhelmed on the garnish station.

I can't believe I was praising and am now defending Sabrina, though, because I don't think she was the one who deserved to be put up for elimination. Even though, once again, I had to endure her trashing her teammates as her major defense, Nona really should've been the one put up after the whole scallops debacle. And the guys don't like Boris, I get that, but they should have been smarter and put up Melissa for her scallop problem. Jeez, not only could she not cook them, she kept not cooking them until they ran out of scallops. That's not going to fly at all; she was rightly eliminated because of it.

I guess we'll see who goes next. Right now, it's looking like Sabrina and Boris are the obvious candidates, unless Nona keeps screwing up the way she did this week.

Sunday Hottie 297

ANNA KENDRICK

TV Report: SNL

ME: I promise you: Glee parody starring Gilly in the first 15 minutes.

BECCA: You're on.

Less than 15 minutes later.

BECCA: Sometimes, I hate it when you're right.

ME: So do I.

BECCA: What's on literally any other channel?

ME: As long as it's something without Kristen Wiig, does it matter?

BECCA: No, not really.