Saturday, June 18, 2011

There Goes My Last Shred of Respect for President Obama

What President Obama is doing right now in Libya is unconstitutional and illegal. He has run rampant with the War Powers Resolution. This is beyond interpreting its terms generously; this is just ignoring it. Publicly claiming that the WPR doesn't apply to Libya? Despicable.

It was wrong when Bush did it. I know Obama knows this, because he condemned Bush for doing it while he was campaigning. It's wrong when Obama does it, too. It's wrong when any President does it.

Nobel Peace Prize, huh?

At Last! The Muppets Trailer!

Here's the first full-length, non-parody trailer for The Muppets!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Time for a New, NSFW Banner

Very cute for summer, I think.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jim Henson, Animating in 1961

Film Week

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

SUPER 8 (2011)
This review will probably be worthless, because I adored it even as I have to be upfront and admit it doesn't hold up under intense scrutiny, especially in the last act. It's a well-made movie--probably a solid three to three-and-a-half stars for people who liked it--but then there's the damn nostalgia factor which worked on me completely. The movie not only takes place in 1980, it looks (for the most part, minus the CGI) as though it were made in 1980, which is one of the many details I love about this flick. It's about a group of kids making a monster movie for a super 8 film competition, who witness the derailment of a USAF train. After this, strange things start happening, and it's basically a Spielberg movie from the early eighties, with all of the strengths (likable and realistic kids, effective mystery, story techniques that pull you in to an enjoyable experience) and weaknesses (daddy issues, swooping close-ups of people looking open-mouthed into the distance, scenes where the symbolism gets so heavy-handed the film threatens to collapse into itself like a black hole) that implies. JJ Abrams has basically made a Spielberg flick from when Spielberg was still great, but with distracting CGI and a fuck-ton of lens flares. And yes, when we see the alien in the third act, it's pretty disappointing--yet another in the post-ID4 parade of things with too many arms and a lack of definition and jagged edges going in all directions because why not?

So, what did I like so much about this movie? That it has the same kind of sincerity as those movies I saw as a child. That at its heart it's a movie about kids who want to tell stories, and a likable kid who is neither outcast nor popular (Joel Courtney, who is as good as Henry Thomas was in E.T.) who falls in love with a girl worth falling in love with (Elle Fanning--who is already a better actress than her sister ever was or will be--playing one of those wounded angels that men never get over in their lives... it's a cliched character, one that is even insulting to some women, but one who rings true to guys who had them--I had two, Terri McGinnis and Jamie Drendel). It remembers a time when kids in movies were smart and curious, not little smartasses with internet accounts. It remembers a time when movies created mystery and invested you in characters who became involved in it, instead of our current situation, when movies try too hard to be cool and last way too long. For all of those things, I loved it. Again, I admit that it's a flawed film. It's not perfect by any means. But the experience of all of this--an experience that I don't think would be the same at all in front of a computer screen or on DVD--was something wonderful. And that plays into how much I dug it, too.

I feel like I should recuse myself from giving it a rating, to be honest. Like I said, a rating would be worthless coming from me. But I adored it as a whole, even if it isn't always made of the most quality pieces.

Oh, and one thing worth noting: the reason I had to rush out to the theater to see this is the feeling the trailers gave me. They sold this the way Spielberg used to sell movies before they just started saying eff it and revealing everything in the trailers. It was a combination of nostalgia and intrigue that got me in the theater. And, more importantly, the movie delivered on that promise for me--hell, even the great Michael Giacchino was scoring the movie the way John Williams would have. It was pretty much the same thing that got me to the theater to see Abrams' Star Trek--trailers that remembered a time in film when space exploration was dangerous, mysterious, and exciting. And that was another flawed film that I had one hell of a time at. I'm kind of willing to put myself in JJ Abrams' hands right now...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Song of the Week: "Dirty Work"

I've never been much of a Steely Dan fan, but this song used to be on the classic rock station all the time when I was driving for a living, and I guess I kind of miss it.

100 TV Things

After I did my 100 Movie Things post, which I had followed Jaquandor in doing, I thought to myself, Now I need to do a list of 100 TV things. Almost immediately after thinking that, I saw Jaquandor had done one as well. So now I HAVE to.

In no particular order, 100 memories, impressions, and things I like (or don't) about a life spent watching far too much television.

1. Well, I had to steal this one from Jaquandor, because I remember the excitement every time I saw this:

2. Rip Torn as Artie on The Larry Sanders Show. I've been watching the reruns on IFC the past few months. I hadn't seen the show since it originally aired, nearly 20 years ago, and had forgotten what a brilliant show it was. But Artie was always my favorite. One of my all-time favorite TV characters.

3. Another show I'm rewatching right now is Babylon 5, which is streaming on Netflix. I remember really enjoying it when it was in its third season and my roommate loved it, but I never got to see the whole thing. It's a slow starter for sure--the first 4 episodes or so are almost downright tedious--but when it picks up in episode 5 it never lets go. Now I remember exactly why I've always referred to it as one of the greatest science fiction series in the history of television.

4. Kids don't know what the hell I'm talking about now when I tell them that the first TV I remember from my childhood had two knobs: one to change from channels 1-13, and then a second one to switch to UHF stations. WFLD 32 (our Fox affiliate in Chicago) used to actually be on channel 32, not channel 10 like it is on cable.

5. That day in 1985 when my mother introduced me to Star Trek, rerunning locally on WFLD. My first episode was "Amok Time." That episode will create a Trek fan.

6. Watching the Rankin-Bass TV movie of The Hobbit with my Dad back in our first little apartment in Woodridge. "Down, down to Goblin Town, down, down to Goblin Town you go, my lad! Oh-ho, my lad!"

7. Rankin-Bass was a staple with its Christmas specials further back than I can remember. But the one I was most excited about was in 1985, when they aired a new special, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, based on one of my favorite L. Frank Baum books.

8. When Nick at Nite started and introduced me to SCTV, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and classic Saturday Night Live. That's when I first became interested in comedy as a social force.

9. The fact that The Simpsons started when I was in junior high school and is still on amazes me. I haven't made it a point to sit and watch new episodes for years.

10. The Perfect Strangers intro.

Why this one particularly? I'm not sure. I remember watching the premiere with my parents and, for some reason, it seemed grown-up to me to be watching a sitcom with my folks. And I love the song (I miss TV theme songs). I don't know, this is just classic to me and fills me with anticipation somehow.

Also, I loved as a kid that this series took place in Chicago. Extra points for going to a Cubs game.

11. Castle. Because Becca is not the TV fan that I am, and she doesn't like most of what I watch on TV, so for her to be really excited about a network show and for me to love it too is very, very rare. Castle is Our Show right now, and I like having one.

12. Racing home from school when I was in sixth grade to catch Fraggle Rock on HBO.

13. Waking up Saturday mornings as early as I could so I wouldn't miss Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears.

14. Saturday morning commercials. They were like gold to me as a kid, especially if they were advertising some mysterious new movie from Spielberg or Lucas, where they wouldn't show you every god damn thing right in the TV spots.

15. Watching channel 66 with my Dad and my sister Jayne on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, where we got our delicious fill of Godzilla movies, martial arts flicks, wrestling, the Three Stooges, and silly local commercials.


Speaking of local commercials, the Victory Auto Wreckers commercial will forever be my favorite. This ad--although the voiceover here is updated by Chicago's most overrated film critic, Dean Richards--has been playing since 1980. And, of course, the telephone area code was originally 312.

17. Other local favorites: those Empire commercials and Celozzi-Ettelson Chevrolet, "Where you always save more money."

18. Watching The Muppet Show with my parents while eating on trays in the living room.

19. Watching Sesame Street since before I can even remember. My first word was "Ernie."

(Hmmm.... maybe I'll have to do 100 Muppet Things sometime...)

20. That Sesame Street segment about how crayons are made. Why has that particular segment stuck in my mind and the minds of so many others over the decades? If you're a certain age, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

21. Picture Pages!
I actually still get this theme song going through my head sometimes. And it really fostered my early interest in drawing, which I never do much of anymore but did all the time as a kid, so I have Bill Cosby to thank for that, I guess.

22. Alex P. Keaton.

23. My earliest solid TV memory is being disappointed daily that my Mom chose afternoon kindergarten for me--who used to always wake up at six in the morning--and we had to leave just as The Banana Splits was starting.

24. The first time I went trick or treating, it was as Scooby Doo. The first time I got to wear a real mask instead of those smock things I went as Merman from Masters of the Universe. I also remember one year when Jayne and I went as Snoopy and Woodstock, but she wouldn't wear the mask because she was very little and it bothered her. I didn't wear my mask, either. Solidarity, man. Solidarity.

25. "Then away he'll schlep on his elephant Shep well Fella and Ursula stay in step."

26. "And now, here's something we hope you'll really like."

27. One season where I was a kid and it seemed like every show did a Very Special Episode about playing with matches. The Webster episode scared the hell out of me. Very Special Episodes are just scare tactics.

28. Watching M*A*S*H on our TV when my Dad was stationed in Fort Worth, Texas. I was very interested in a show about the Army because my Dad was in the Army. I've been a M*A*S*H fan my whole life; Radar was always our favorite because, like me and Dad, he was from Iowa.

29. Daisy Duke. The first of many childhood crushes on TV characters that would also include Janet Wood, Wilma Deering, Wonder Woman, Renee on Kids Incorporated and Kelly Kapowski.

30. Being in the audience at The Bozo Show and not caring all that much. Weird.

31. Mr. Rogers, who always made a hyperactive kid very calm. PBS always affected me like that, even as a teenager. I remember a day when Carl and I were flipping channels at his house when I was 15 or 16. We were making fun of everything, because it was awful. Then, when we flipped to PBS, we got caught up watching The Frugal Gourmet. After it was over, Carl said "Do you realize we didn't say a word for the entire half hour?"

32. Michael Eisner hosting The Wonderful World of Disney. I wish I could see Mr. Boogedy again.

33. By the way, remember when Disney Channel used to be a premium channel? It was exciting and brand new, and perfect for a young Disney fan, because they used to actually show goddamn Disney cartoons. And not only that, because that was the first place I saw many of the True-Life Adventures and tons of other shorts and old episodes of Disneyland. That channel used to be so worth it.

34. I never watched the show, but Dallas had magnificent theme music.

35. Thinking John Amos was dead as a kid because his character had died on Good Times, despite seeing The Beastmaster a dozen times.

36. Watching the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles with my Mom as a very young child, and then watching her funeral with my Mom less than 20 years later.

37. My Mom's obsession with Tom Selleck. I remember she would never go anywhere or do anything while Magnum, PI was on. It's funny, because today she looks at the show and says to me "What was I even thinking? Magnum looks like a gay pornstar with his mustache and slutty shorts."

38. Speaking of my mother's TV habits, she went out of her way to foster my love of science fiction and space exploration. She made damn sure I watched Cosmos with her, and I'm grateful to this day.

39. I also remember my Mom waking me up in the middle of the night to watch people tear down the Berlin Wall on CNN.

40. I remember when the Head of the Class kids visited the USSR. It seemed like such a scary place, because my generation grew up at the end of the Cold War, and we were still hearing all of those terrible things about communism.

41. That sad music at the end of The Incredible Hulk.

42. My sister putting on plastic bags and then ripping them off, pretending she was Hulk Hogan ripping his shirt.

43. Feeling a little more grown-up when my Dad would let me stay up to watch Johnny Carson's monologue.

44. I used to have MTV on all day when I was a kid. Lots and lots of music videos were staples of my early TV experience. The street lighting up under Michael Jackson's feet in "Billie Jean." Captain Lou Albano in the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" video. The bikers in "Rock Me Amadeus." And of course: "Give me a jelly donut and a bottle of anything. TO GO."

45. Transformers and GI Joe. Couldn't have one without the other. Both shows I was a little late to, and both shows I got flack for liking when everyone else had "grown up." 10 year-olds can eat my ass. (Um, not literally, of course.) My sister had Jem instead of the "boy shows."

46. "Where's the beef?"

47. I always liked how The Cosby Show would change it's theme intro every season. I remember the season 5 intro especially vividly because so many people were weirdly confused by it:

48. Dick Van Dyke. I used to love his show--well, I still do--when I was a kid and used to pronounce it "Dickanike." I still love that man.

49. I can't believe I live with a 34 year-old woman, who I'm married to, who loves Matlock. Like, the way Abe Simpson loves Matlock. She's always been this way. It's bizarre. She even gets me to watch it sometimes.

50. When Fox made its debut in 1987 (I was 10), my Mom told me I wasn't allowed to watch it. I watched it anyway. Married... with Children is still one of my favorite shows.

51. There are only three shows I've never gotten tired of watching in reruns: Married... with Children, King of the Hill, and Kids in the Hall. I would dearly love to add The Muppet Show to that list, but no one ever runs it anymore. Actually, same with Kids in the Hall, which I've streamed on Netflix. I remember when, every afternoon for years, Comedy Central played reruns of Kids in the Hall and I never got tired of it once. I was actively pissed off when they finally changed the schedule and stopped showing it. Of course it's fine, because Comedy Central is overall a putrid channel to have to watch...

52. If this is the end of South Park, it's at least two years too late.

53. I used to love Murphy Brown. I haven't seen it since it was originally on, and I wonder if it holds up or if, because it was so about contemporary issues, it's a chore to watch now.

54. Every time I would turn on The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it was always that same damn episode where Rabbit adopts the baby bird and then has trouble letting it go... ugh, there is no joy in the world. Watch that and listen to Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and you'll never want to get out of bed again.

55. How excited I used to get for the annual Garfield TV special. Sadly, that excitement had long worn off by the time Garfield and Friends hit Saturday mornings.

56. The devastation of Futurama, Invader ZIM, and Farscape all getting canceled in the same year. How unkind you are to science fiction fans, television.

57. Watching Harlan Ellison's commentary on SciFi Buzz back when the SciFi Channel used to actually be interested in being a channel for science fiction.

58. I quit watching Star Trek: The Next Generation in the middle of the third season, just before it got really good.

59. Watching All My Children during the summer vacations.

60. Watching the scrambled Playboy Channel.

61. Spending summer days watching local reruns, so I used to see I Love Lucy and Batman all the time. And Lost in Space. And I used to always flip stations when Emergency! would come on.

62. Watching my first Twilight Zone episode, "The Invaders," and being young enough to be blown away by the ending.

63. Racing home after school when in my sophomore year of high school to watch Batman: The Animated Series.

64. The greatest Disney show ever:

65. Doin' the Mario!

66. "Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al; an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap, will be the leap home."

67. Pee Wee Herman's Secret Word.

68. The unsold X-Men pilot, "Pryde of the X-Men," which felt so much more like the X-Men to me than that horrible show that was on in the 90s. God, comics were stupid in the 90s. Almost as much as they are now...

69. When people say they wish The Muppet Show was still on the air because they'd gladly watch it and I have to keep myself from snapping "I was watching Muppets Tonight, where the hell were you?" What those people really mean is that they wish Jim Henson was still alive and that they were still five.

70. Annnnnnnnnd cue my Mom crying:

71. Annnnnnnnnd cue me crying:

72. Doesn't it seem weird now that the California Raisins were popular? I like Will Vinton and all, but that's just weird.

73. The palpable excitement over the 1985 Bears and Superbowl XX. It manifested itself everywhere. I remember going to McDonald's and getting cards of all the players, and then buying "The Superbowl Shuffle" on 45. And we won. That was the year I played football and had an undefeated season. My favorite player was William "The Refrigerator" Perry. I still have his GI Joe figure.

74. The second season of Roc, when the show went live and actually didn't suffer for it. The show actually got better.

75. I read the other day that Michael Bay thinks his Aaron Burr Got Milk? ad is the worst thing he's ever done. Actually, it's still the high point of his career. That thing is brilliant.

76. I still make sure to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. Ditto It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I never liked the Thanksgiving special much, though.

77. I love The Critic. Why didn't more people like The Critic? What a Duke-tastrophe for this Duke-licious show. Its cancellation is a real quyzbuk.

78. The episode of ER where Dr. Green dies of cancer in 2002. I was very struck by the fact that he yelled "Shit!" as he was deteriorating, and it seemed so appropriate to the situation that it seemed like everyone barely noticed. They did cut it in syndication, but only eventually.

79. The Golden Age of Disney Channel Sitcoms, when their shows were surprisingly funny and worth watching, even for me as an adult: Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana, Phil of the Future, Wizards of Waverly Place, and the first seasons of Jonas and Sonny with a Chance. That Golden Age is definitely, definitely over.

80. Working at Target during the initial Power Rangers craze, and having to deal with that kind of parent craziness you get when the hot fad toys are out. Plus, working in the toy section, there was this video of the show that played over and over and over and over and over and over...

81. "Time to make the donuts."

82. The Hamburger Touch. I don't even know why anymore, but I really miss McDonaldland characters.

83. This always got me excited, too. But usually because it meant Dangermouse was on.

84. Even though it wasn't much of a show, really, I was genuinely sad when Michael J. Fox had to leave Spin City.

85. "Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic..."

86. Telling a girl I worked with that I liked the "classic" years of Saturday Night Live, only to be met with "Yes! I love Mike Myers and Adam Sandler!" *sighhhhhhhhh*

87. Finally seeing that new game show everyone was raving about and being mystified that anyone under the age of 80 could enjoy the snail's pace of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

88. Halmi miniseries. There was a little while there when I was excited about them coming on. I still dig Gulliver's Travels, Merlin and The 10th Kingdom.

89. The first time Becca ever saw Gilmore Girls and screamed out of frustration.

90. Game of Thrones. We've been loving every minute of this show, and it's kind of an event every week. Becca has friends over and we all watch the show. I'm sorry it's ending next week, but then there's next summer to look forward to!

91. The Doctor Who TV movie with Paul McGann. I know, I know, but it's what got me into Doctor Who.

92. John Crichton to Aeryn Sun on Farscape: "You can be more."

93. I wouldn't call myself a fan of either show, but I think American Dad is funnier than Family Guy. I'm sure it has something to do with American Dad not being so insistent that it's the funniest thing in the the history of television.

94. Watching the pilot movie of Superman: The Animated Series when I shared an apartment with a coworker. He just could not sit still, ever, and had to flip through the channels lest his eyes be soiled with a commercial. I wanted to bust his head open so he'd shut up and just let me watch my damn show.

95. Jaquandor's list of TV memories, in which he expressed surprise and horror that there was an episode of Diff'rent Strokes with a child molester, leading me to ask which episode it was: the one where Gordon Jump gets Arnold and Dudley drunk so he can molest them in the bike shop, or the one where Kimberly gets kidnapped by a rapist? Oy...

96. My precious Veronica Mars, which I only saw on DVD after it had been canceled.... Sorry, guys. I was part of the problem.

97. My precious Hellcats, which was stupidly canceled and which I will sorely miss.

98. Having Freaks and Geeks on DVD, which is about as perfect a season of television as you can get.

99. That episode of Gilligan's Island about the Jack the Ripper trial... man, I hated that thing.

100. My favorite TV theme song. Ever.