Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chick Flicks

In the site's futile quest to not be "just" a sleaze factory, Egotastic! put up a list called The Ten Chick Flicks Guys Love But Refuse to Admit Watching. It's been a long time since I commented on a list, and for some reason I decided to make it this one.

Of course, I admit everything I watch. I don't believe in trying to make yourself look cooler or manlier or whatever by hiding your tastes and opinions. I think most people who were bullied in high school don't give a shit by the time they hit their mid-thirties, and they shouldn't. So I don't have a single movie I can think of that I would refuse to admit I like. I'm always the guy discussing movies who says "I love Howard the Duck, I don't know what's wrong with everyone else."

Here's the list with my comments:

Mean Girls
I never really thought of this as a chick flick, but I guess it is. I went to see this in the cinema about 6 or 7 times or maybe more. I just thought it was so fucking funny (and I totally had a thing for Lindsay Lohan then). Tina Fey should really write another movie. I have it on DVD, but I haven't seen it in a few years. Tumblr made me very, very sick of it, with the constant gifs and memes and quotes, and even though it's calmed down about 95%, I still cringe when I see someone quoting it or putting up a gif. I'm going to need a couple more years away from this very smart, very funny movie.

The Proposal
I saw this one, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, but I've never had the urge to watch it again. The best part of that movie? The house in Alaska. That was a hell of a house.

The Notebook
Never saw it.

Bridget Jones' Diary
This is legitimately a great movie; I regard it highly, and even higher after that terrible sequel tried to make me hate it. Why did Renee Zellweger just disappear, anyway? I quite liked her for a few years. Anyway, yes, this is an excellent movie.

I used to like this movie, but if you recall, earlier this year I sat down to watch it again and found that it didn't live up to what I remembered. I wouldn't consider this a movie I like anymore. But I do think it's still, after all this time, very fashionable to say that you hated it even if you didn't. It's because it won the Best Picture Oscar. That just turned it into this thing you have to have a strong opinion on. Which is stupid, but, well, welcome to talking about pop culture.

Sweet Home Alabama
Never saw it.

Never Been Kissed
It's a cute movie, and very easy to like. Drew Barrymore is cute to the millionth power in this one, and I love her at even a tenth of that. I haven't seen this in years, but I have never stopped quoting Garry Marshall saying "Wieners! I got wieners! Here, have a wiener!" at the ballpark.

Legally Blonde
Saw it, thought it was cute, never saw it again. Just never had the urge. But it's a cute movie.

Love Actually
I still adore this movie. I love it every time I see it; it's like a big, gooey, English hug, and it's getting to be the perfect time of year to watch it. Becca and I always try to get this one in at Christmastime.

13 Going On 30
This is also a very cute, very easy to like. Jennifer Garner is at peak adorability in this movie, and Andy Serkis is just lovable. Come on, that "Thriller" scene is aces. Yeah, I dig this movie. I catch it on cable every so often. It's the movie that finally made me love Mark Ruffalo.

So, two movies I think are just excellent movies (Bridget Jones, Love Actually), one that I need distance from (Mean Girls), one that I just don't care for anymore (Titanic), two I liked but will probably never watch again (Legally Blonde, The Proposal), two I never saw (Sweet Home Alabama, The Notebook), one that's a lovely piece of fluff that I watch now and then on cable (13 Going On 30), and one that I kind of feel like watching right now because it's cute and I haven't seen it for years (Never Been Kissed) despite the fact that Luke Wilson's in it and I hate him.

There you have it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Update #2

Alas, Danforth. The squirrels have well and truly ravaged you. You will be remembered. As will your slow, painful, silent passing.

Goodbye for Now, Twinkies

I'm reading a lot of people lamenting that Hostess has gone out of business and that this is the death of a beloved American brand. People seem to be really hurt to be losing Twinkies and Wonder Bread, and since this is the kind of pop culture errata I used to deal extensively in, I've been exploring what my own feelings are as well.

And honestly, I don't think Twinkies have been very good for about the last 20 years.

People are sad at the loss of Hostess, but honestly, I'm not. Sure, I ate Hostess brand snacks when I was growing up. I used to absolutely love Twinkies. I ate Hostess Fruit Pies a lot in high school because they were literally the cheapest item you could get in the cafeteria, so if I was able to scrape up a lousy fifty cents, that would be a day I could eat lunch. And at one point in my life, I would only make my peanut butter sandwiches with Wonder Bread.

My earliest Hostess memories are of my Dad, actually. I always remember times when just me and my Dad were driving somewhere. Often, he'd stop at a gas station or a convenience store and buy a bottle of Pepsi and either a Hostess Cupcake or a pack of Ho Ho's. I always wanted to eat like my Dad, and I developed the same fondness for soda, bologna sandwiches, potato chips and snack cakes. So when I think of Hostess, I think of times in the car, watching my old man drive and listening to rock music, getting to sip the Pepsi and getting one of the two cupcakes in the pack. It was a great time.

But at some point, either my tastes changed or Twinkies did. They just became inedible to me. Oh, I've tried. Every couple of years I'd get nostalgic and try once again to eat a Twinkie, and it just... no. Didn't work. Not happening. They were no longer the sweet, pillowy treats I remembered from being a kid. They just weren't. And neither, for that matter, was Wonder Bread the same. They were just... bland. In fact, giving up Wonder Bread is what finally led me to multigrain breads.

I don't think this is really the end of these brands. Hostess is going to sell off its assets, and Twinkies will end up at Dolly Madison or Little Debbie or, I dunno, Keebler or Nestle or something. It's too iconic to disappear. I think most of those brands will end up at new homes, or maybe all of them will be acquired by one company. I wouldn't fret over that, but honestly, I don't think anyone really is. I think it's more the feeling that something that we loved in our childhoods isn't going to be the same anymore. It's just another thing to remind us of getting older.

But for me, Twinkies have been firmly in the past for some time. I don't lament them because I don't like them anymore. Maybe whomever makes them now will make them better. That would be nice. It would be lovely to enjoy a Twinkie or a Cupcake or a Ho-Ho again. And if not, oh well. I had them when they were good.

What's really unfortunate is the impact it'll have on jobs. I read that something like 18,000 jobs are going to be lost, and that's really a shame. I wish those people luck staying on their feet in this economy. I wish that for all of us.

Goodbye for now, Twinkies. See you when you get back. Maybe.

UPDATE 3:33 PM: Hostess is now blaming a union for its bankruptcy, despite freezing worker pay and raising their CEO's salary 300%. So there's the reason everyone should stop feeling bad about Twinkies going out of business. Fuck that guy, and fuck that company.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jay Pharoah and President Obama

One thing I didn't mention in my last TV Report was Jay Pharoah's impression of President Obama on Saturday Night Live. So far, his impression is good but the comedy is lacking. I think that has less to do with Pharoah than with the toothless nature of the political satire on SNL this season. Pharoah just hasn't had much to do because, I think, SNL has never really known how to approach Obama satirically.

But Pharoah showing up as Obama on Weekend Update was a bright spot in that increasingly weak segment. It lit me up a bit. It wasn't Drunk Uncle--I do love Drunk Uncle--but the impression was fun and Pharoah seemed to really be enjoying himself.

It's interesting how SNL has decided to approach Obama as a caricature: staid, moderate, slightly overwhelmed, never losing his temper and somewhat of a straight, boring guy. I was surprised that they never went the route of satirizing the right wing fears of Obama as a guy who was secretly something else and that his unscary moderate appearance was a put-on. But Fred Armisen isn't really that kind of comic--he keeps getting more mellow and low-key every year, and every time he showed up as Obama it seemed like it was just done out of obligation rather than a desire to make a satirical point. Armisen's Obama is ten times more boring than Obama himself ever came across. Jason Sudeikis has been doing a really funny caricature of Joe Biden for four years, but any time Obama showed up, you just knew all the energy was going to get sucked out. They just never knew what the hook was to a comedy version of Barack Obama.

It's a shame, because presidential caricaturing has been one of the great hallmarks of Saturday Night Live right from the beginning. Why aren't they doing a great Obama?

What's funny is that over on Tumblr people have taken a different characterization of Obama to heart, which is that he's a cool guy with a bit of a dorky side. He's like your dad. They've eased off the "I got this" Samuel L. Jackson character that too many people seemed to think they were voting for. But over on Tumblr a lot of people like this idea of the President as a cool guy who is put upon by Republican obstructionism. It's a more enjoyable characterization, and one that I've seen some funny stuff come out of. But Tumblr isn't SNL; Tumblr is young and hip.

I wish SNL would go that route. More relaxed, less stiff. More of a cool, confident dude and less of a painfully lame wannabe do-gooder. It would just be more fun to watch, especially now that you have a guy playing Obama whose impression is good and who seems to genuinely enjoy doing it. When I was watching his appearance, I actually thought to myself, "Why didn't SNL ever impersonate Obama before? No, wait..." This really feels like a different character than the one Armisen was playing for the past 4 years.

They have a chance now to have some fun with a political caricature. I'd really like to see something more akin to what Phil Hartman did as that slick version of Bill Clinton, or Norm MacDonald's hilarious cartoon villain version of Bob Dole. Just run with this and make it fun this time.


Dear GOP Officials: Stop Talking

Maine GOP State Chairman Charlie Webster: "In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out [...] I’m not politically correct and maybe I shouldn't have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that’s sleazy."

Wait, that's sleazy?

Also: "There’s nothing about me that would be discriminatory. I know black people. I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy. He’s a great friend of mine. Nobody would ever accuse me of suggesting anything."

So... now you do know a black guy?

The Republican Party wants to fix its image problem. Not putting the really stupid, unfiltered loudmouths in charge might be a good place to start.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Don't Really Want to Talk About Kevin Clash

I'm sure you've all seen that a young man accused Kevin Clash of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with him when the accuser was 16. I don't really know how to address that without being completely depressed about a man I admire and who works with my beloved Muppets.

Look, sex with minors is illegal. I don't want to get into one of those discussions I see online, where it devolves into an argument about age of consent laws in various places. Taking advantage of a relationship you have with a minor is abuse. I don't want to think of someone like Kevin Clash as capable of abusing a kid, because he's Kevin fucking Clash.

We'll never know the particulars of what did and didn't happen, and I really don't want to. I already can't work out how I feel about what I do know. It makes me a little queasy that the Sesame Workshop would conduct their own internal investigation without taking the move of bringing in the authorities. I think that has to be the first step, because you can't take a chance with an accusation like that.

But here's the thing: the young man, who is now 23, recanting his accusation a day later (after a six-figure settlement was reached) makes me feel very uneasy. Because there are two ways this plays out in my head.

The first is that the accusation is true: that Kevin Clash had an inappropriate, illegal sexual relationship with a minor. And probably the kid grew a little older, felt that he had been taken advantage of and abused, and came forward about it. And then Kevin Clash paid to make it go away.

The second is just as troubling: that this is legal blackmail. That this young man hit Clash up for money and threatened to go public otherwise, that Clash called his bluff, and then paid up when the reports came out.

I don't like either one of those options.

Because if it's the first option, then Kevin Clash--the guy in charge of the Muppets on Sesame Street--is someone with terrible moral judgment. And if it's the second option, someone who gets to remain safely anonymous has bullied Kevin Clash into paying out while ruining his reputation and very likely his career.

I can't climb into the head of someone I don't know and imagine their circumstances or motives. And I don't want to be a victim-blamer. I don't understand hearing "Kevin Clash had sex with me when I was underage" and then the next day after a check is written hearing "No, wait, I remembered it wrong, I was 18 after all."

It just makes me uneasy.

It makes me equally uneasy to think that Kevin Clash would have sex with a child and to think that there's a possibility that Kevin Clash had his career tarnished by a false accusation.

I don't give a shit about age differences. If two consenting, legal adults want to engage in sexual activity, I don't really give a damn if one is 18 and the other is 50. That's not a crime and it's not for me to moralize about.

But it just makes me sad that now, throughout history, Kevin Clash is always going to be remembered for being the performer of Elmo, and also the guy who was accused of having sex with a child. And even if the accuser is suddenly 18 after all when it happened, the accusation will never, ever go away. I'm assuming Clash won't be able to resume his duties on Sesame Street, because it's a show aimed at children. This is it for him. Parents got upset because Katy Perry showed a little bit of tit in a dress, for chrissakes. There's no way Clash will be allowed to keep doing Elmo like nothing happened. That's it. This is what he'll be remembered for.

But god, what if it's true? That possibility is even worse. And if it is true, paying the accuser off seems like letting him get away with it, even with the damage to his career, to his legacy, and to Sesame Street.

It's all so sad and I hate that this is a thing. Because I feel like the only two possibilities here are that Clash was blackmailed or that Clash is a criminal, and Sesame Street is collateral damage of someone's shitty judgment.

Fuck's sake.

UPDATE 5:40 PM: Because I don't want someone coming here and telling me I'm a victim-blaming monster who just wants to explain this away because it's someone I admire coming under fire, that's not the case. I think even if the relationship was consensual between two adults, it still shows iffy judgment, because Clash is in a position where he's around children and works with them. As a substitute teacher, I'm very aware of how suspicious society can be towards men who work with children. I will not allow myself to be alone with a child in a room for that very reason; even the slightest appearance of impropriety can have nightmarish ramifications.

But just to reiterate, what really gets me here is that the timing of the recant seems bizarrely swift to me if the original accusation is true, and that if the accusation is true, simply signing a check is just getting away with abuse.

UPDATE 11:02 AM: The accuser's identity has been confirmed. It now seems even more of a scam/public blackmailing to me, but, you know, there are two ways to look at this. Still. The dynamics are troubling, but it's not really my concern. What bothers me still is whether Kevin Clash will be able to move on from this, and whether moving on will involve Sesame Street.

TV Report

Okay, I really need 2 Broke Girls to keep Ryan Hansen on for some time. It's so nice seeing him on TV again, and his presence on my Weekly Kat Dennings Delivery System is only going to elevate it for a change. God, how fucking cute is he? Dick Casablancas forever, man.

:: I'm really liking this season of American Horror Story much better than the first (which I also dug). The first season was just throwing out every horror device as a sort of homage/mixer and creating something wild and unbelievable. This season is more focused, more direct. Both styles are interesting, but this one's more compelling.

:: Speaking of compelling, how incredibly good is Boardwalk Empire this season? I think this is the best season of this show so far. I didn't really care too much about Jimmy Darmody, to be honest, and with him out of the way and Nucky more in the center of things (he's finally stopped trying to be so above it all and finally accepted that he's a god damn gangster), I'm much more invested. Now that that whole over-the-top Jimmy/Commodore/Gillian freak show from season 2 is mainly over, the show gets to be more dramatic and more about bootlegging and this sort of Shakespearean figure Buscemi is playing and less about the surrogate father/surrogate son stuff that to me was always a distraction. Bobby Canavale is especially making this show energetic with his sort of chaotic, unpredictable energy. This week's episode was particularly intense and emotionally involving. It's one of my favorite shows going right now.

Also Homeland.

:: I am so tired of the guest hosts singing during the monologue on Saturday Night Live. It's been their lazy go-to for years, and it's almost never good. Yes, Anne Hathaway has a strong singing voice. Yes, she's pushing a musical. But unless you're going to build good comedy around it--and they almost never do--I don't care.

:: I always love it when Roger Bart's on Revenge. I guess after this week's episode he won't back for quite some time. Worth it, though, because the way the episode got to that resolution was pretty masterful. I saw a lot of people so far this season worrying that the show was getting too lost in its own mythology, but this week's payoff was handled so well that it makes the seven-week wait completely worthwhile. Sometimes the long con is worth the effort, people. It's storytelling, not constant instant gratification.

I do not, however, believe that Nolan Ross shops at Target. That whole thing was grating.

:: I kind of get annoyed when a show like How I Met Your Mother decides that supporting characters they need to get rid of are suddenly even more annoying or more comically stupid than they've ever been before. And it's stupid to keep the romantic tension of Barney and Robin going. Oooh, will they get back together? Well, considering last season's finale flash-forwarded to them at their wedding, I'd guess yes. Too many trips to the Robin romantic tension well, guys. She's so much better as comic relief or in the rare instances when who she's dating isn't the main element of her character. You get her mooning over Ted (again) or Barney (again), and she ceases to be an engaging character. It's like her agency dissolves, and it's boring as a viewer.

Just another week on How I Banged a Whole Bunch of Women Including Your Beloved Aunt Robin Before I Met Your Mother.

:: I feel like there are a lot of shows, sitcoms especially, that are phoning it in right now. It's weird to go online the next day and see people giving fawning reviews to Parks and Recreation or The Big Bang Theory, which I think are really just kind of coasting right now. I don't know what several critics were talking about when they were praising that absolutely wretched, completely unengaging South Park season finale.

:: Becca's got me completely hooked on RuPaul's Drag Race now. I'm also surprised by how much I enjoy Shark Tank; business is always kind of exciting to me in short bursts. Fox has started another season of Kitchen Nightmares, but I'm becoming really ambivalent towards it. I spent the summer watching a lot of episodes of Restaurant Impossible, and that show is much more practically interesting. I like seeing the process of rehabbing a restaurant on a certain budget and showing people how to cook (it's because of that show that I figured out how to do clarified butter, which has pretty much changed my life). It's not a wish fulfillment, overcoming-emotional-obstacles show like the American version of Hell's Kitchen. I'm just a little worn out on the soap opera aspects of it and wish it was more about the actual physical process and the practical, almost DIY aspects. Hell's Kitchen has too much of a tendency to go drama drama drama drama and then the triumphant results in the last 7 minutes. It's gotten stale.

:: I watched Malibu Country. I thought it was cute. It's traditional and not, you know, good exactly, but it's not the abomination the critics are bemoaning. It just doesn't try very hard. I like Reba. I like Lily Tomlin. It doesn't insult my intelligence, it just doesn't try to be the nation's 63rd clone of Arrested Development. NBD.

:: And then there's Castle, and all I can say is... thanks for actually being the show I used to love again. It's great to have you back.

:: Sidenote: gave up on The Mindy Project, don't miss it. Also The X-Factor.

Oz: The Great and Powerful

I'm on the fence about this one. Looks pretty, great cast, and I love Sam Raimi a lot more often than I don't, and David Lindsay-Abaire is one of the writers... And I don't really care about the idea of Oz continuity or anything like that, because no movie ever has. I'm not a stickler for exactness. I just want to see an entertaining movie and not a complete piece of shit like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. And the marketing campaign is playing up the similarities because that piece of shit Alice in Wonderland made so much money because, I guess, every kid in the world wanted to see a charmless, uninventive, unimaginative, faux-edgy piece of shit. So, I dunno, I just really hope this movie isn't a piece of shit.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Song of the Week: "My Hero"

Foo Fighters, 1998.

Pumpkin Update

Looks like things are getting worse for Danforth Remington de la Guerre. After being lobotomized to keep the horrible, damning secret he has inside, he's powerless even to stop the squirrels from eating his face. As you can see, his insides are rotting and he has very few days left. Oh, Danforth. What did you see? We'll never know now.

Seriously, though, I like to keep the pumpkins out for a little while because the squirrels are gathering right now and they love to come up and eat bits of pumpkin. Doing my small part for the community, or something.