Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden? Seriously? That...Might Be Brilliant...

Well, turns out Senator Joe Biden is Obama's pick for running mate after all. The media was right all along. Unfortunately, all of those Obama enthusiasts who signed up to be "the first to know" via text message or email or whatever knew the same time everyone else did. But hey, Obama built a nice email list. The media starting reporting on it before it was even announced after some reporters cornered Biden on Wednesday and he said, smirkingly, "I'm not the guy." Biden opens his mouth for yet another faux pas, in this case making a lot of people feel stupid for signing up for the text message. A petty concern? Sure. But I've seen elections turn for even pettier reasons than that one. (Just wait for the McCain attack on this one.)

It seems obvious that Obama picked Biden because Biden has more experience in defense and foreign policy than Obama does, and this is to counter the constant harping of John McCain that Obama doesn't have the delicate understanding of foreign relations issues that can only come from the five and a half years of being a prisoner of war.

Some pundits already seem to feel this was a status quo choice; that in picking Biden, Obama is showing the areas where he's weak instead of where he's strong. Biden is a Washington insider, a 65 year-old man who seemingly represents the old guard and not someone in keeping with Obama's image as some kind of new generation agent for change. On the other hand, it could be a brilliant choice. It's actually been frustrating for me watching McCain attack Obama all summer long, more and more viciously, calling Obama a pussy and inexperienced and an elitist. There was even an ad in which McCain basically played on those old Southern fears of a black guy fucking a white chick (the ultimate indignity for white men to suffer, at least back when McCain was a young man in the 1860s) by showing you, the potential voter/Klansman, that white women found Obama attractive. So if Obama is picking Biden to get down in the muck and attack McCain, thus allowing Obama to stand above the mudslinging, maybe it's a genius choice. I mean, a Washington outsider's not going to be able to do that and have it be credible. And even Obama is reportedly getting sick of the reverance being shown to his message of change and probably wants to make things a little more realistic.

And don't hit me with that hoary old chestnut that Biden voted to authorize the war in 2002. So did a lot of people. There's no shame in making the decision to authorize military force in Iraq when you're bombarded with lies about Iraq's weapons capability and a completely made-up connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The shame lies in either being among the people who made up the lies in order to force people into a decision, or in continuing to support those lies long after they've been shown for what they are.

Maybe Biden counters Obama's inexperience with his own experience. He doesn't have to be a dynamic choice, because Obama is a dynamic choice and a polarizing figure on his own. Biden can be an agent for change, too. God knows he's tried.

(I wonder how he feels now about his statement last year that Obama wasn't ready to be president. I'm sure we'll get a very long-winded, partially plagiarized speech about it...)

I'm not really a fan of Biden, obviously, and I'm not sure he's the person I would've picked. (I would've picked Bill Richardson, personally, so what do I know?) But maybe this is a strategic pick that will pay off.

32 Singles

Another birthday list from Tom the Dog, this one using this site to tell you what song was number one every year on your birthday. So, since I enjoy making them, here's another list.

2008 ... "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry
As I've said before, this song's just crap. And Katy Perry, former Christian pop singer, is riding it to however much she can get out of it, keeping up this idiotic image of a girl who's totally, like, hetero, but loves to make it with girls. First she wants to make out with Miley Cyrus, now she says the song was inspired by Scarlett Johansson... gods of the elder, will you please shut the hell up about it? Your song sucks!

2007 ... "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
I liked this; every Rihanna album is always good for two or so really good pop singles.

2006 ... "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
Would you believe this is still on my iPod? This is as good as modern pop music can get.

2005 ... "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey
All Mariah Carey songs blend together in my head. I think this is one of the slower ones. I don't know, I just like her music videos. The songs are incidental.

2004 ... "Burn" by Usher
I couldn't tell you; all Usher songs blend together. Not a fan of the guy.

2003 ... "Crazy in Love" by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
Another good pop single; I like this one.

2002 ... "Hot in Herre" by Nelly

2001 ... "U Remind Me" by Usher
See 2004.

2000 ... "Bent" by matchbox twenty
I guess it's kind of nice that in America people can become successful no matter how incredibly shitty their music is.

1999 ... "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny's Child
Meh. It was one of the less irritating Destiny's Child hits; well-produced.

1998 ... "The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy & Monica
Oh, yeah, remember Brandy? Jesus fuck, I hated this song.

1997 ... "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112
Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Hufflypuff/Puff the Magic Dipshit/Dip Shitty can suck it. He put about as much effort into this single as your average fourth-grader does when they realize they didn't do their science project the night before it's due.

1996 ... "How Do U Want It/ California Love" by 2Pac
Not a 2Pac fan. Now Pac Man, there's a guy I like.

1995 ... "Waterfalls" by TLC

1994 ... "I Swear" by All-4-One

1993 ... "Weak" by SWV
I don't even know what this is. I know who SWV is (an En Vogue wannabe group), but I don't know the song and can't be arsed to look it up.

1992 ... "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot
Amen, brother. I actually like this song, and not in an ironic way like a jerk. That said, I'm so tired of hearing white people sing this song because they think they're being ironically funny. Jerks. Ironic detachment is just a desperate plea for other people to notice how clever you are, there, I said it.

1991 ... "Unbelievable" by EMF
Unbelievably bad. And using it to advertise Kraft? What the hell was that all about?

1990 ... "She Ain't Worth It" by Glenn Medeiros with Bobby Brown
I don't know what this is.

1989 ... "Toy Soldiers" by Martika
I just remember being surprised that someone from Kids, Incorporated had a single. I never liked this song. 1989 was a year of really awful, confused music trying desperately to find the new pop tone once New Wave petered out. I think mainstream pop really blew hard from ca. 1988 to ca. 1995.

1988 ... "Hold On to the Nights" by Richard Marx
Sucks. Richard Marx sucked. The only song worse than this was "Right Here Waiting." Older women sure dug him; he was kind of a proto-Michael Bolton, only far more wimpy.

1987 ... "Alone" by Heart
Cheesy, but I like it.

1986 ... "Invisible Touch" by Genesis
I've made no secret of my love for this entire album; I think (and apparently so does Patrick Bateman) that this is the great unsung eighties pop album. What did this have, like six hits?

1985 ... "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran
I like this song, too. Not a huge fan of Duran Duran, but this is a good one. It shows up on my iPod now and then. So does "Hungry Like the Wolf."

1984 ... "When Doves Cry" by Prince
Wow, this song was played forever. It's a good one, despite how overfamiliar it is.

1983 ... "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
Another song that got played forever and ever and ever. I'm still sick of it, actually. Just to show you how close to the edge of insanity I am, I suddenly realized when I was in high school, about 1992, that I was still hearing the song on the radio all the time. I actually started noticing that not a day went by without me hearing this song somewhere. And it just haunted me for years, until some time in 2003 when I was actually able to consciously say, "This is the first day in over a decade that I didn't hear 'Every Breath You Take' at all." I like the Police, but that song...

1982 ... "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League
I love this song. This also shows up on my iPod every now and then, too.

1981 ... "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes
Okay little tune, but not a favorite.

1980 ... "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel
Not my favorite Billy Joel song, but not a bad song at all.

1979 ... "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer
Donna Summer ain't bad, but I can live without this song.

1978 ... "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb
Fuck no. Hate it.

1977 ... "Looks Like We Made It" by Barry Manilow
Blurgh. The only Manilow song I like is "Mandy."

1976 ... "Afternoon Delight" by The Starland Vocal Band
I admit, I have a soft spot for this song. It just weirdly makes me feel good. Probably the cleanest song about fucking I've ever heard.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Throwdown 8/29

Random thoughts, questions, and obervations for the week.

1. Don’t you just want to punch every one of the kids in the new 90210? I watch WGN News in the morning, which is the same channel which carries the CW, so every morning since late May I’ve seen about six commercials for the new show. And, wow, they just went out of their way to cast really punchable kids. Kids that need punching.

2. So, Megan Fox says that she keeps herself thin by drinking lots of vinegar? Wow, she must smell awesome. No wonder the only guy she could date for so long when she wasn’t having oily, watery diarrhea was Brian Austin Green. Wow, that’s just so gross I can’t even look at her anymore.

3. Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale had a kid and named it Zuma. Cue the inevitable sound of people ridiculing them for giving their baby a “weird” name and not making it the eight thousandth Jacob in the world like everyone else. I can’t imagine anything less worth getting worked up over than what someone you don’t even know names their kid.

4. The Sci-Fi Channel cancelled Stargate: Atlantis. And the current season will end with a cliffhanger. Par for the course with Sci-Fi. They did the same thing with Farscape, announcing just before the cliffhanger-ending of the fourth season that the show wouldn’t be seeing its already-renewed-for fifth season. Of course, they also canceled Battlestar Galactica, didn’t they? As in, their only recent program to gain a massive crossover audience? Wow, keep going Sci-Fi; they must need the money for some kind of Mansquito sequel. Sci-Fi Channel: forever shitting on fans.

5. So, even though it contains Heath Ledger’s final, incomplete performance, Terry Gilliam is still having problems getting his latest movie released. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus lingers without a distribution deal. Why the fuck is Hollywood so terrified of actually releasing Terry Gilliam movies, when all they do is rip him off constantly? Terry Gilliam’s look is the look of every freaking movie now. There is some nicer news about the film, I felt: the stars who stepped in to help finish the movie with Ledger gone—Jude Law, Colin Farrell, and Johnny Depp—all gave their paychecks to Ledger’s daughter Matilda, since she wasn’t provided for in his will. That’s nice. Now release the goddamn movie, Hollywood.

6. Hollywood is also going to remake Poltergeist. Go into the light, Hollywood.

7. Will Smith’s kid was in The Pursuit of Happyness. He’s going to be in the Will Smith-produced adaptation of the surprisingly good comic The Amulet. And now Will Smith is going to direct his kid in a remake of The Karate Kid. Is there anyone other than Will Smith who thinks that Will Smith’s kid needs an acting career? Hey, I saw that episode of The Suite Life that kid was on, he’s nowhere near as charming as his parents think.

8. Whoa. Look at the muscles on that dude.

9. I guess I was wrong when I gave Lily Allen shit about purposely exposing herself for attention. She says on her MySpace that she’s been keeping to herself lately, and if she was really looking for publicity, “I’d be accepting invitations, not to mention money, for turning up to glamorous events.” So I take it back: Lily Allen wasn’t looking for more media attention, she’s just dumb and doesn’t know how to wear a shirt.

10. Unrelated to anything else: is anyone else just fucking Christ-weary of penguins yet? I am so sick of the fucking penguins. Everywhere with the goddamn fucking penguins.

11. Roger Ebert: “That [Death Race] will no doubt do great at the box office is yet another sign of the decline of the national fanboy mentality.” God, I love that man.

12. You know what was embarrassingly weird yesterday? When a million news outlets took Joe Biden’s assertion that he wouldn’t be Obama’s running mate and turned it into “Biden is the frontrunner for the vice presidency!” (You know what will also be embarrassingly weird? If Biden now becomes Obama’s choice. God, I hope he doesn’t pick Biden.)

13. American terrorist organization PETA is apparently going to try to buy SeaWorld from their current owners in order to enjoy the bloody spectacle of freeing animals that no longer know how to survive in the wild and watching them get killed in all manner of accidents. Maybe they’ll just stick the animals in the freezer. Still, if you were going to eat Shamu, maybe you should hurry.

14. I don’t know if you remember that Los Angeles put a ban on all new fast food restaurants opening for one year. It turns out that this only covers South Los Angeles, the, let’s just say it, minority part of town. The low-income minorities in South Central are being told what they can and can’t eat, while whitey in the north can run their fat asses to McDonald’s anytime they get the urge. What the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? San Jose wants a ban of their own, by the way. Fast food is apparently the new cigarettes, and now we’re all supposed to be horrible people who deserve persecution for eating at Wendy’s. People love their misdirected outrage whenever it comes to public health, so just shut up and let them make your decisions for you.

15. Good for college students: they finally figured out they can pirate their textbooks. Those things are outlandishly expensive. Textbook publishers are dealing with this in the most douchebag way possible: by deciding to publish new editions every single year. Apparently no one thought that this tactic might just make the pirating problem worse, because with new editions every year, that means student bookstores won’t buy the books back. I mean, if you’re not even going to get your seven bucks back from buying a $115 text, what’s the point?

16. Wow, there’s some good news: Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is going down. Yeah, apparently more and more people are giving up on the idea of even finding a job. So they’re not listed among job-seekers anymore. It’s kind of like an employment version of No Child Left Behind.

17. Iraq has suddenly started rounding up and cracking down on the Sunni groups that America was paying off to fight against the insurgents and terrorist and boogeymen and what have you in order to stabilize the region. The Iraqi government is afraid that the Sunni groups will turn on them and start slaughtering Shiites, so the best thing to do apparently is to strike them first and cripple their organizations. So, one group dominating another for power. Congratulations, Bush administration: billions of dollars and thousands of lives and a surge we’re constantly told was nothing short of a miracle to achieve almost exactly the same situation we had in Iraq in 2001 when they had nothing to do with 9/11. But hey, at least gas is five dollars a gallon, right? (Oh, it will be again. It will be.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

80s Revisited: Two by John Hughes

Growing up in the eighties, these movies were pretty much viewing staples. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, they were mandatory. Sure, the kids in the movies were a little older, but we had big kids in our neighborhood, too, teenagers that we watched and observed. And John Hughes had them down. He had them nailed right down.

Sixteen Candles (1984)
Written and directed by John Hughes; produced by Hilton A. Green.

This movie might seem overfamiliar to some, as it's become something of a cliche. Not only is it the Rosetta stone for a number of the filmmakers of my generation (Molly Ringwald's "I can't believe they fucking forgot my birthday" might as well be Dante's "I'm not even supposed to be here today"), but it's just sort of accepted that everyone who was a kid in the eighties was deeply affected by this movie and it remains with them to this day. Hell, why do you think the kid Miley is in love with on Hannah Montana is named Jake Ryan?

I thought it would be overfamiliar to me, too. I'd seen it many times, but not for years. Sitting down to watch it, uncut on cable, I was surprised. It was familiar, yes, but not because I had seen it before. It was familiar because, well, I lived through that time. I wasn't a teenager in 1984, but I knew teenagers. Molly Ringwald especially reminds me of some of my babysitters, who seem impossibly older when you're a child but are really just high school kids going through their own shit. And the dynamics weren't that different when I was in high school; hell, if anything, kids went from being like the ones in John Hughes movies to purposely trying to imitate the kids in John Hughes movies. Because, did you ever notice, when you're a kid, you look at movies like this and figure--and maybe even want it to be true--that that's what your life is going to be like when you're that age.

Sixteen Candles is a predictable movie, sure, but it doesn't claim to be anything more than what it is: a funny movie about teenagers with a love story thrown in. It doesn't try to be insightful or revelatory; it's just a very funny movie that loves its characters and makes sure they get through one night alright. And I love it for that. This is a great movie.

The Breakfast Club (1985)
Written and directed by John Hughes; produced by John Hughes & Ned Tannen.

This movie was revered at my school, because it contained Deep Truths, the complete Dramatis Personae of teenagers, and the exact same kind of library furniture that we had. Chicago suburbs, baby. The movie was loved so much that some people--including me, I admit--are a little pissed off about the commercials that are appropriating something that was ours in order to sell clothes to kids who should get their own shit.

Does the movie contain deep truths? Yes and no. It's more in what the kids do, how they act, than in what they say. The things they say are hardly platitudes--we all knew kids like that, and some of us were kids like that--but the behavior is really the key. It's fascinating to watch these kids alternately attack and defend one another, playing that game that seems to be the reason the internet was invented: I can see right through you, but I'm more inscrutable than you are, and that makes me feel safe. I didn't understand that so much when I was in high school, but it's all over this movie.

It would be easy to dismiss this as another movie about teenagers, and sure it's a bit unrealistic (although I remember Saturday detention pretty well, too), but it also has a lot to say about how unhappy, uncertain, and even scared teenagers can be. I don't want to ascribe it too much mythical depth, but it's a very good movie. A very, very good movie.

The one thing I thought of while watching this movie, which brought back a lot of memories of the time, was that what teenagers want the most is to not be treated like they're still children. They're trying to live up to expectations while trying to discover who they really are outside of those expectations. And that they will find anyone's expectations to live up to, whether it's parents or peers. My thought was this: teenagers wanted to be treated like equals, but they don't want to treat their peers in the same way.

John Hughes saw the dichotomy and brought it up. He used to be really good at that.

A View to a Meme

Becca did a music meme which I did back in May. It's a cloudy, cool day today and summer already seems long over. I'm hopefully back to work next week. Everything sort of seems paused today, but not in a bad way at all. And since I always like a pointless music list, why not just do that today?

1. Put your iTunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must put down the song name no matter what.

What would best describe your personality?
"I Don't Wanna Grow Up" by Tom Waits -- Amen, brother.

What do you like in a guy/girl?
"I Thought I Saw Your Face Today" by She & Him -- Hm, wonder what I'm holding onto?

How do you feel today?
"Idiot Wind" by Bob Dylan -- It's wonder that I still know how to breathe.

What is your life's purpose?
"Pipes of Peace" by Paul McCartney -- Wow, I feel like a huge dork. I mean, the message is nice (teach children to love instead of to make war), but it's a pretty dorky song, I admit.

What is your motto?
"Another Day" by Wings -- It is just, isn't it?

What do your friends think of you?
"When You Were Young" by the Killers -- Maybe they just liked me better then.

What do you think of your parents?
"Positively 4th Street" by Bob Dylan -- Ouch.

What do you think about very often?
"You Ain't Going Nowhere" by Bob Dylan -- No, I probably ain't. But I like it here, it turns out.

What do you think of your best friend?
"Who Are You" by the Who -- Who? Who? Who? Who?

What do you think of your crush?
"When It's Love" by Van Halen -- How do I know?

What is your life story?
"Run of the Mill" by George Harrison -- That's going on my tombstone, I think.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"Dark Horse" by George Harrison -- Oh, you'll find out. You'll ALL find out. Mwa-ha-ha-HA! *cough* Mm-hmm. Um, moving on.

What do you think when you see your crush?
"I'm Looking Through You" by the Beatles -- That's right, babes. That's right.

What do your parents think of you?
"They Don't Know" by Tracey Ullman -- How perfect is that?

What do strangers think of you?
"Out of Touch" by Daryl Hall & John Oates -- Oh, I've been called that, for sure.

How's your love life?
"Peaches En Regalia" by Frank Zappa -- I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds pretty good.

What will they play at your funeral?
"I'll See You in My Dreams" by R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders -- What an amazingly perfect last song to go in the ground with.

What will you dance to at your wedding?
"Dancing with Myself" by the Donnas -- Oh, man. That can't be a good omen.

What is your hobby/interest?
"I'm Alive" by Electric Light Orchestra -- Just living every day, I guess.

What's your biggest secret?
"Hello Goodbye" by the Beatles -- Cryptic?

What do you think of your friends?
"Heroes and Villains" by the Beach Boys -- I like a nice mix of friends, whatever those are.

What song do you listen to when you are sad?
"We've Only Just Begun" by Paul Williams -- He does have a way of writing melancholy love songs.

In love?
"This Is Love" by George Harrison -- I guess so.

What song do you air guitar to?
"My Life" by Billy Joel -- I must look pretty stupid air guitaring the piano bit.

What should be your signature karaoke song?
"Snookeroo" by Ringo Starr -- That would be fun to sing, but I defy you to find a karaoke machine with this song on it.

What is your greatest desire?
"Young Girl" by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap -- That's just kind of creepy. Funny, but creepy.

What does next year have in store for you?
"Sailing" by Norm Lewis & Malcolm Gets -- That would be nice. That would be very nice.

What's your outlook on life?
"Octopus's Garden" by the Beatles -- That's a song that always makes me feel good.

How will you die?
"He Was a Friend of Mine" by the Byrds -- My killing will have no purpose.

Do people secretly lust after you?
"Beltane Walk" by T. Rex -- Answer uncertain. Ask again later.

The best advice you will ever get?
"Too Late for Goodbyes" by Julian Lennon -- Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is.

March of Dimes

Wow, I love this. This is a postcard from 1944 sent to people who donated to the March of Dimes. It's being auctioned off and it's probably going to go for more money than I would be comfortable spending on it... but that's so neat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

80s Revisited: Mannequin

Mannequin (1987)
Directed by Michael Gottlieb; written by Edward Rugoff & Michael Gottlieb; produced by Art Levinson.

So, do I give this the benefit of artistic origins and point out the similarities between Mannequin and the story of Pygmalion? Or do I start by pointing out that the director (brother of Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb) went on to direct Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny?

I went to see Mannequin in the theater when I was 11 or 12 years old, and I kind of liked it. It was really more of a hit with my sister (it's a tailor made girl's movie, complete with dancey dress-up montages and gay sidekicks) and my mother (who bought the 45 of Starship's crappy single "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" and would not stop playing it). I think this movie is the reason why I can never take James Spader seriously in anything that doesn't involve sleeping with Susan Sarandon, actually... I always picture him in those glasses.

Andrew McCarthy plays Jack Switcher, who, like a lot of guys in eighties movies with fantastic lofts, is a struggling artist. He can't keep a job because he's just too darn creative to buckle down and work. He also flails around and basically acts like he's Michael J. Fox, but badly. Meanwhile, Kim Cattrall is an Egyptian woman (?) named Emmy Hesire (?) who has been plucked from her own time, bounced around history, and finally landed in New York in the eighties as a mannequin created by Jack at one of his jobs. Jack already has a pretty creepy fixation on the mannequin (who makes him feel alive as an artist, hmm hmm), and manages to get a job doing window dressings at a down and out department store run by Estelle Getty and guarded by G.W. Bailey, basically playing the same role he plays in Police Academy--the militant bigot. (But he does have one hell of a cute bulldog; bulldogs are outstanding.)

Oh, and there's Meschach Taylor as Hollywood Montrose, the cartoonish gay sidekick. I remember thinking he was funny as a kid, but now I just see him flailing around, desperate to build up some excitement by being over-the-top and endlessly diving into shtick. He's funny in small doses; give him to much to play and he comes across like a panto artist trying and failing to hold the attention of a bunch of small children at a birthday party.

Well, Emmy can come to life whenever she's with Jack, but not when anyone else can see her. I find that more believable than the idea that Jack's window concepts are so incredible that it literally saves the store from bankruptcy (despite a corporate espionage subplot that's only half-baked). I wouldn't find that believable in a Frank Capra movie, much less here. And it's all besides the point, anyway. The movie is really only a slight love story with some other stuff to pad it out. It's not very good, but it's... I don't know. Inoffensively cute? I think a certain type of person would enjoy this very much, but it's certainly not me. (And that's not a dig, either; it's the same thing as me having seen What a Girl Wants a hundred times.)

And even though I know there are still a lot of fans of Pretty in Pink, the most unbelievable fantasy the movie indulges in for me is that Andrew McCarthy is in some way desirable to women.

This movie does bring back a lot of nostalgia for a certain time period, a time period that for me was not filled with dancey dress-up montages and mannequins coming to life, but filled instead with soccer practice, Spider-Man comics, and Samantha Fox records. To each their own. However, Kim Cattrall in this movie is one of my sexual icons. One of the big ones. And seeing her again in this movie was kind of cute. I saw this movie a lot as a kid (Jayne had it taped off of some cable channel or other), and Kim Cattrall became a firm fantasy of mine. And no matter how kooky she gets, I'm always going to love Kim Cattrall, and despite hating it, I'm grateful to Sex and the City for at least putting her in the pages of FHM.

There's this moment where Andrew McCarthy is dressing Kim Cattrall, and she smiles wide, makes this giggling sound, and scrunches up her nose. That moment was worth the whole film to me. Not that the whole film was worth much, but still...

More German Burger King Placemats

After posting the placemat from yesterday with the onion getting a rectal exam, I found some more wonderfully inappropriate Burger King placemats from Germany.

Those German vegetables have a boisterous zest for life!

Watchmen Lawsuit

20th Century Fox is seeking an injunction to prevent Warner Bros from releasing Watchmen.

It goes like this: Fox was the first studio to acquire the movie rights to the comic book back in 1986, but the rights lapsed in 1990. That year, Fox entered into a distribution agreement with Largo Entertainment, keeping distribution rights firmly in Fox's pocket. Fox would also be reimbursed for development costs (plus interest) and profit participation.

Those rights apparently were transferred to producer Larry Gordon when he withdrew from Largo Entertainment in 1993. Gordon and Fox put the rights into turnaround with the agreement that he could, at any time, acquire all of the rights and interest of Fox in Watchmen. This was apparently a personal agreement meant for no one but Gordon, who could buy Fox out of Watchmen at any time.

In 2006, Warner Bros acquired the rights from Larry Gordon, but Fox says this doesn't negate their distribution option. They're saying that Gordon didn't fulfill his contractual obligation to buy out Fox, and they're saying that Warner Bros knew this when they made the film. They brought this before a judge, charging copyright infringement and interference with contract; he didn't dismiss the suit, so it's going ahead.

Warner Bros points out that Fox has never tried to stop any studio from developing or producing a Watchmen film and has never even tried to properly regain the movie rights. Their view is that Fox is being opportunistic and trying to grab some cash as the film gains attention and buzz and seems like a surefire bet.

Does this mean the film's going to be delayed? Personally, I think Warner Bros will pay up. This is business as usual in Hollywood, especially when it comes to other media properties. This is part of the reason why it took so damn long to finally make Batman and Spider-Man movies; too many people thought they owned the rights to the characters, and that takes a long time to sort out. I remember reading in Starlog that Tobe Hooper was going to make a Spider-Man movie as far back as 1982.

Given the amount of money they're probably going to have to pay (and share with) 20th Century Fox, I can understand now why Warner Bros would move Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to next summer.

Film Week

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

Bob Hope is a baby photographer pretending to be a detective, and Dorothy L'amour is the dame who may or may not be leading him down the garden path. A parody of the hard-boiled noir films of the time, and I hate noir parodies, but this movie cracked me the hell up. Bob Hope is hilarious, of course, and two of the enemy henchmen are Peter Lorre (great knife-throwing gag) and Lon Chaney Jr. It's familiar enough if you've seen enough Bugs Bunny cartoons, really, but it's still hilarious. ***1/2 stars.

I was left cold by this potentially interesting film, with Joan Crawford as a woman who returns from a trip and has become religious. She wastes no time in pointing out the flawed lifestyles of her rich friends, trying to "expose" their lives as empty and shallow, but is challenged when her newly sober estranged husband shows up (Fredric March) begging for another chance. I like that the film doesn't judge too much, but there's not much meat here. ** stars.

An almost off-puttingly weird movie from Billy Wilder. Dean Martin plays a sleazy, unlikable version of himself (referred to in the movie only as "Dino") who takes a detour on his way from Vegas to Hollywood. He ends up in a small town where aspiring songwriters Ray Walston and Cliff Osmond delay him and attempt to sell him some of their songs. Dino makes it clear (without using the words) that he has a sex addiction and needs a woman every night, so they shuffle of Walston's faithful wife (Felicia Farr) and replace her with an imposter: a floozy cocktail waitress who, of course, has a heart of gold, Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak, insanely beautiful). It's really, really sleazy the way Dino chases after Polly; it's basically understood that he gets to fuck her and he'll buy a song or two. Meanwhile, Felicia Farr finds out what's going on and rushes off to get drunk, and Walston's insane jealousy about his wife transfers over to the woman pretending to be his wife. The gist is this: Farr ends up in bed with Dino, Walston ends up in bed with Polly, but it's all okay because it's evened out and in the end Dino performs the song on TV. Weird, bizarre moral equilibrium from a 1964 movie, Billy Wilder or no. Not the knock out of the park that Some Like It Hot and One, Two, Three were, but it's for the most part a breezy, funny movie, with Kim Novak especially good, Ray Walston quite solid, and Dean Martin doing a good job until he becomes far too cartoonishly sleazy to be likable. *** stars.

This movie is just really, really bad. Not in a way that makes me sorry I saw it, just in the way most movies based on bestsellers are bad. It's like The Da Vinci Code: it's ridiculous but it takes itself seriously and nearly comes close to being entertainment. But not really. Laurence Olivier plays a Nazi hunter who is alerted to a plan being carried out in Paraguay by Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck, more the old Mexican gentleman than I've ever seen him; seriously, Cesar Romero would've been less out of place) to clone Adolf Hitler. In fact, there are 94 boys out there in the world just reaching their teens who have been cloned from Hitler (despite their creepy blue eyes and their pretty, non-Hitler looks), and Mengele has operatives killing their fathers to replicate one of the traumatic, defining moments of Hitler's upbringing. It's very silly. The real fun of the movie is in counting the supporting players that I like in other movies (Bruno Ganz! Prunella Scales! Denholm Elliott! Michael Gough! Ew, fucking Steve Guttenberg! Wolf Kahler! The guy who played Slugworth! General Gogol from the James Bond movies!) and in figuring out in your head who has the absolute worst German accent in the movie. I'd say Rosemary Harris's is awful, but James Mason comes out better by just sort of letting it go and no longer trying by some point. Peck's is pretty bad, but the winner, hands down, is legendary ham Laurence Olivier, so caught up in his character tics and technical tricks and the fascination of getting to play an accent that he comes off as completely useless; an old man once again sitting on screen and thinking about his performance so much that he fails to give one, his cartoonish Boris Badenov voice FILLing the SCREEN with ALL SORTS of HAM! Jerry Goldsmith's score is awful. ** stars.

Now this is how you do black comedy. Director Paul Bartel has a hilarious premise here--that his wife advertise as a hooker so that he can kill the johns and take their money to put a down payment on a restaurant in the country--and plays it absolutely straight. It's genius, and it makes for one damn good movie. Bartel and beautiful, wonderful Mary Woronov play Paul and Mary Bland, whose scheme is discovered by a locksmith named Raoul (the guy who played Chakotay on the most dull of the really dull Star Trek spin-offs) who agrees to get rid of the bodies and promptly falls in love with Mary. John Paragon has a great scene as a sex shop salesman (Becca: "Ha, did you ever think you'd see Jambi holding a dildo?" Me: "Yeah, sooner or later."). What I love is that it's not a gory, exploitative movie; it's a genuinely funny movie played like a drawing room comedy. **** stars.

Paul Bartel's follow-up to Death Race 2000 is about David Carradine in a cross-country race... wait a minute... This film follows an underground race across the country by a group of characters trying to win a bunch of money. It's a bit of a slow pace; Carradine winds up in a pattern of break down-stop-get new car-break down again... But it's still not a bad movie. Mary Woronov is one of the drivers, sexy as hell, and Robert Carradine is another (I love Bobby Carradine). Gerritt Graham has a funny role as a country singer, the mighty Dick Miller is in the movie, and Bartel himself is fun as a piano-playing bookie. Good B-movie fun that throws everything at you. *** stars.

Cute-ish movie about a teenage girl (Alyson Stoner) adjusting to a new school and the death of her mother. Penny Marshall is surprisingly good as her teacher. You'd have to be a total moron not to know where it's all going, but it's not okay in a failed TV pilot sort of way. **1/2 stars.

A riveting B-thriller that is a precursor to the film noir that would soon become popular. A reporter's testimony sends a young man (Elisha Cook Jr.) to prison for murder, but his fiancee is tortured by the idea that the evidence is circumstantial. The reporter soon comes to suspect the real killer is a man he's seen wandering the neighborhood: Peter Lorre. The film has a lot of noir touches, from its cynical bent and its dark set design, to a fascinatingly odd dream sequence in which the reporter imagines himself accused of the murders. Lorre is barely in the movie (and it's a very, very short movie), but his impact is all over the film from the first moment you see him, with fake teeth and a blank stare. Apparently he owed RKO two days of work and used it here, and using him sparingly has a much bigger effect than using him all throughout. Just watch him slink around, running his hand over a car hood. He's great. ***1/2 stars.

MAD LOVE (1935)
Tremendously good movie, easily the equal of the great Universal horror pictures of the time. This MGM classic stars Peter Lorre as the imperious Dr. Gogol, in love with an actress named Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake, not the pirate). But Yvonne is married to Stephen Orlac (Dr. Frankenstein himself, Colin Clive), the famous pianist, who is in a terrible train accident. Dr. Gogol, moved by his love for Yvonne, transplants the hands of another person onto Stephen's body, giving him new hands. New hands that want to kill; the hands of a recently-executed murderer who was also a knife-thrower. Atmospheric and filled with high emotions, the film (directed by the great cinematographer Karl Freund) never wavers from its conviction even once. A fantastic movie, **** stars, one of Peter Lorre's best roles. This is destined to be one of my Halloween staples, along with a couple of other movies from the same year: James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein and Tod Browning's Mark of the Vampire.

Lifetime movie starring JoJo Levesque which I saw because I like JoJo Levesque. It wasn't terrible. She plays a Hollywood starlet who goes to rehab and is shipped off to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to live with a family friend (Valerie Bertinelli) to get sober and calm down. It's pretty much what you figure; there's not a lot of meat to it, which is a shame, because it could've been an effective satire with a better script. Lindsay Lohan could star; would that be an act of self-awareness if she did, or a gimmick? The funny thing is, JoJo is playing Lindsay Lohan in style, in looks, in mannerisms, and in tone of voice. She really is, almost exactly, and it's hilarious. I think JoJo could be a good actress in better movies if she really wanted to be. **1/2 stars.

Diagram: Science vs. Faith

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 36

MOM: So, how is the cooking thing going? Are you still cooking from the Rachael Ray book? Is that going well?

ME: Yeah, it's going great! We made scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and these tasty Swedish meatballs that didn't taste too fatty at all. I really enjoy the cooking, and I like feeling more involved in my personal food production. It really makes me feel capable, and a little better about what I'm eating.

MOM: Well, good. So you're still cooking Rachael Ray?

ME: Yep. And I'm still eating Rachael Ray, though not in the way I'd really like to--


Hey, Where's MY Kiss?

As far as I'm concerned, every year is the year of the frog.

Strictly Controlled Ingredients

There's a series of placemat illustrations for German Burger King that are causing a mini-stir here in the States for being scandalously inappropriate.

Of course, the real cherry of the image is the onion being cavity-searched at customs for, I suppose, not being the "right" kind of onion to enter the vaunted turret-encircled walls of the Burger Kingdom.

Man, that onion sure is scared!

I also find it hilarious that Germany has that same overly-mustachioed rent-a-cop stereotype that we have in America, too. What are you compensating for, pickle cop? Couldn't get into the vegetable army?

And you have to love what the onion is reading for relaxation:


Green & Horny

Wet Vegs

Ha, even the vegetables in Germany are into porno!

I don't know, you can call this a terrible idea or some sort of child-warping mess if you want. I just find it extremely funny.

The Other Boleyn Girl

I admit, I read this book because I was dissatisfied with the movie. It was an interesting story--for me, Henry VIII is always an interesting story--but there must have been a better way to tell the story of Mary Boleyn. My sister kept recommending this book to me, and I decided to sit with it and read it.

I liked this book quite a bit. It's a historical romance novel, let's be honest, but not in such a way that it becomes one of those ridiculous bodice-ripping mass productions. Philippa Gregory's story of Mary Boleyn is surprisingly gripping. It's the story of a girl who is married off by her family at the age of 12, only to be put in the path of King Henry VIII and made his mistress at 13, only to find herself rivaled by her own, dangerously ambitious sister, Anne.

The characterization of Anne is especially interesting. She starts as a young teenager desperate to be the center of attention, and moves from there into deliberate calculation until she ends up nearly mad. It's not done in a "girl-learning-a-lesson" kind of way, either; it's a solid characterization of someone who loses her chance at love and lives afterward only to win. As her brother George says at one point, the Boleyn credo is "More. Just more of anything. More of everything."

I'm always interested to see the way Henry will be played, and Gregory strikes a great combination of petulant child and horrifying megalomaniac. Mary observes how much like a boy he is; that he loves gifts and being told how clever he is, but also throws tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants. Dissolving the Pope's power in England makes him a monster who slowly realizes he has no master. Gregory gets a lot of history into the novel without pulling too much attention away from her story, which is Mary Boleyn being treated like a possession and yearning for a simpler life away from the rich English court. (At one point, she observes that she's tired of the gala balls and "being surprised that the man who looks exactly like the King in disguise is in fact the King in disguise." Gregory really turns the supposed fairy tale of courtly life into a plodding, dull routine.)

It's a very well-written, page-turning book. I read it fairly quickly, and really found myself caught up in Mary's story. There is some surprising complexity to the story, but more than that it's just a very entertaining novel.

(And yes, I know it plays fast and loose with history, but you'd have to be either really unsophisticated or really needy for people to know how clever you are to point that out. Every historical novel plays fast and loose with history; it's a novel. I won't apologize for liking it by pointing out what anyone should already know.)

The Mystery of the Lost World

When Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park came out back in 1997, an age when people were supposedly more enlightened than they had been in decades past, I remember the one thing that many people found confusing and hard to understand.

I'm referring, of course, to Jeff Goldblum's character Ian Malcolm having a daughter who was black.

Person after person told me they didn't understand how it could happen that Jeff Goldblum could have a black daughter. Surely, this was an impossibility. In a movie filled with living dinosaurs in the late 20th Century, the biggest scientific marvel was the sight of Jeff Goldblum's little black girl.

Finally I just started having this conversation.

YET ANOTHER RANDOM PERSON AT WORK: But Jeff Goldblum had a black daughter? How the hell did that happen?

ME: He fucked a black chick.

Mystery solved, fuckers!

Monday, August 18, 2008

100 Years Ago Today: Fantasmagorie

Fantasmagorie is considered by many to be the first animated film ever made. Just over a minute long, this witty, clever film of moving drawings was the beginning of an the animation era, which will hopefully continue for a hundred more.

For the birth of animation, here is a film about where it's been and where it's going: Endangered Species by Tony White (who also directed a great piece of animation I remember watching in my History of Japan class, Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook). This one is a little inside for some casual animation fans, but it's well worth watching if you're remotely interested in the development and eventual near-abandonment of great animation. The ending produced tears for me.

Mr. White made this film to illustrate certain points in his book Animation from Pencils to Pixels. More information can be found on his blog.

It's Childish, But I'm Going to Do It Anyway

George Lucas, via Digital Spy:

"We look at it as a different dimension. The laws of physics are different here. Star Wars is not science fiction at all. It's much more attuned to mythology, to psychology, to history than it is to science. It's more of a parable about the way we are, rather than the way we're going to be. That's why it starts out as a fairytale - a long time ago in a galaxy far away - once upon a time. It deals with princesses. It's purposely designed not to be about where we're going. It's about where we've been and what we can learn from the past in the present."

There: Star Wars, not science fiction. So, to the surprisingly large amount of people who've treated me like an asshole over the years for saying, not as a judgment or a comment on story quality, that Star Wars is fantasy and not science fiction, I just want to take a moment to childishly say:


Okay. Whew, pent-up annoyance there.

Not that most Star Wars "fans" take anything George Lucas has to say about "their" movies seriously. They're too busy pointing out why the work they've devoted so much of their lives and free time to is too flawed and stupid to devote so much of their lives and free time to. Nice.

(Side note:Dane of War has a nice post about how George Lucas also admitted that Star Wars is (GASP!) made for children. Excellent post title: "Attention Star Wars Haters - Stop It." I would've stopped there, but fortunately, Dane didn't.)

Star Wars Videos for the Hell of It

I loves me a good Thriller dance. This video's less than a minute long, which is probably a good thing.

This video is a sketch of Richard Pryor bartending on The Richard Pryor Show. Does anyone know the story behind this sketch? It seems to be the same characters, makeup, costumes, and sound effects from the first movie. It seems like there was a time when George Lucas was very tight-fisted about letting people do this sort of thing, but here he seems to have actually loaned Pryor the equipment to make this sketch. Richard Pryor is a much better Star Wars bartender than Bea Arthur, by the way... although how can I not love Bea Arthur?

Mandalorian Dance. There's some excellent stop-motion going on here. It's short, but fun.

Lethal Weapon 5

I've been hearing the rumors that Richard Donner, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joel Silver, and Shane Black are talking seriously about reuniting to make Lethal Weapon 5.

I think it's a terrible idea. I think the entire series was suffering from diminishing returns for some time, and I think it's best to just sort of let it die.

The original Lethal Weapon is one of the best action movies of the 1980s. I know people still slag off movies from the eighties, but there are some masterful films in there, even inside the commercialism. Lethal Weapon and Die Hard are, for me, defining action movies of a decade that saw those movies go far, far over the top. (And how much farther we go now; Lethal Weapon and Die Hard look like Hitchcockian suspense thrillers in comparison to Michael Bay's movies.) It's just a great action flick, a great guy movie, one of the best, no matter how silly it gets. Of course they were going to make a sequel.

Lethal Weapon 2 matches the original in quality; in some ways, it's better than the first. I think both films make a sort of perfect bookend with one another. And Joe Pesci is funny in it, too. And it has a good George Harrison song over the end credits. It's just a great, solid pair of superb action movies, much better than most of their contemporaries. For me, they're classic movies.

Lethal Weapon 3... well, it's a cute movie. All of the stuff with Rene Russo and Mel Gibson is fun. That's the best part of the movie. (And kudos to Richard Donner and the writers for realizing that was the next logical step for Martin Riggs's character development; it pays off.) It's a fun movie, but despite what the posters promised, the magic wasn't really back again. It doesn't help that Lethal Weapon became one of those ill-fated movie series, like Pirates of the Caribbean or Rocky, which decided to hold onto every character long after it made dramatic sense to even bother. What is the point of shoving Joe Pesci into this movie? This was that terrible period of movies like The Super, where Joe Pesci was being given these comedy vehicles that just didn't work (exception: My Cousin Vinny). Joe Pesci was shoehorned into the movie for no dramatic reason except that, thanks to GoodFellas, he was popular at the moment and they had an in with him since he was in the previous movie. Add that to a formula that's kind of wearing thin, and the cracks start appearing.

Lethal Weapon 4 just flat-out sucks. It is not a good movie. And they hold over Pesci again (for no reason) as well as Rene Russo (which at least makes sense, although all the spark has gone out of her in the fourth movie, which doesn't really know what to do with her). And then they decide to shoehorn Chris Rock in, who is rarely funny in movies (exception: Dogma), for no real reason except to give Danny Glover a foil. Which is part of the reason this series is so exhausted: wasn't Mel Gibson already Glover's foil? It just seemed like such a tired exercise, only there to give the series an end with everyone happy. Some people love that sort of thing, but for me, it doesn't really make a movie.

So now... Lethal Weapon 5? I just can't work up any enthusiasm for it. I'm sure Danny Glover would still be good in the role. He and Mel Gibson continued to be charming together, even as the series wore on (and on and on). I don't know that I'm necessarily interested in seeing Gibbo in a movie ever again, honestly, and that's not a slam at the drunken, insane Christian maniac he comes across as. I always liked him as an actor, but I'm fine with what I have and don't really look forward to seeing him again. Rene Russo (also crazy) seems so far in the past. I assume they'd have to shoehorn Joe Pesci in again for whatever comic persona he probably no longer has; I'd rather see Pesci do something with meat again, on the par with his cameo in The Good Shepherd. After Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I don't really need to see anything written by Shane Black again, either (does he just think it's still 1987?). The entire series really seems like it's in the past.

But, you know, even though I think this is a pretty lame mistake (does the series really need another ending?), I know I'll at least see it on DVD. Because I like the characters. And I like Richard Donner (the occasional terrible movie like Timeline or, well, Lethal Weapon 4 notwithstanding). And who knows? I spent years saying they should never make a fourth Indiana Jones movie, and I liked that when I saw it, too.

Just my two cents.

(Incidentally, MC feels the exact opposite of me, and has some interesting thoughts on why he'd like to see another movie in the series.)

A Favorite Director of Mine Is 75 Today

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Song of the Week: "Fantastic Voyage"

David Bowie opens his 1979 album Lodger, an album about Bowie's experiences in the wider world around him, with what I would describe as an anti-war song; a gentle plea to the powers that be not to destroy the lives of others simply because they can. Rather than take a strident, angry position as others might have, David simply asks that people become more adept at understanding and listening and taking others into account. I love this song. "Loyalty is valuable, but our lives are valuable too," he reminds those who need to hear it, but laments "The wrong words make you listen in this criminal world..." Amen, brother.

What Is the Sound of One Man Wasting His Entire Life?

I'm pretty sure it sounds like the guy who commented this on a message board: "The novelization of The Clone Wars is really great; usually I hate every Star Wars novel I read."

7 Things

Last week, Suzy tagged me as one of the people to do the meme where you tell seven facts about yourself. And here they are.

1. I'm becoming so laid back now that it's almost scary. In a political climate (and an internet climate) where every matter of opinion or disagreement has become a matter of life and death, it's becoming very hard for me to take anything seriously anymore. Am I jaded, or do I really just not care anymore? These are the kinds of navels I gaze at.

2. When I was six years old, I was so afraid of dogs that I once tried to climb up a freaking palm tree to escape one. My mom has a picture of it. Thanks, Mom.

3. I hate it when people act like I could be some kind of great blogger if only I'd stop posting so many pictures of women. I'm supposed to apologize for being attracted to women just so that my political and social opinions will be taken seriously? That's very limiting, isn't it? Besides, if people want to start advising me on what the content of my blog should be, they're going to have to start paying me a lot better.

4. 9 days out of 10, I'd much rather just sit around and watch movies with Becca than accomplish anything. I'm accomplishing happiness instead.

5. I don't really think my writing's very good, but I enjoy doing it.

6. I am Comic Sans.

You Are Comic Sans

You are a nothing but a big goofball. You're quite playful and fun!

You're widely known for your zany personality and your vivacious attitude.

To say that you stand out in a crowd would be a definite understatement.

Remember that you are overwhelming at times and that people appreciate you best in small doses.

7. In my three years of blogging and my many years of being a student and having strong opinions I'm not shy about, I've found that what most people want to hear is their own personal truths and opinions reinforced. The last thing people want is honesty.