Saturday, August 04, 2007

Breaking the spell of reality

So I'm reading Rachel Pine's The Twins of Tribeca, an "inside look" novel about a very thinly-in fact barely-fictionalized version of Miramax. You know the kind, a book where it's understood that these characters are "really" Harvey and Bob Weinstein, or that one is "really" Gwyneth Paltrow. Actually it's a lot of fun.

However, in reading Pine's title for a sitcom which is obviously supposed to be "really" Friends, I come up against a wall. It just makes me think that 128 pages in, Pine stopped trying to come up with believable alternate identities for the entities she wished to satirically skewer.

I'll believe a lot of things can be on television. I'll believe in obsessive-compulsive detectives, fake psychic ones, and that Bill Engvall is a doctor.

But I will not believe there is a "massive sitcom hit" named Fuckbuddies.

Certainly not on network, and probably not even on Showtime or somethin'.

Although, if there were, I would certainly probably watch it.

One of my favorite movies... Godspell. I consider it one of the great musical films of the past 45 years. I love watching the DVD, one of the relatively few I own; I love listening to the songs. I'm an unabashed fan of the drama, the performances and the music.

I first came to know the show through a production at the Palo Alto Children's Theater, probably in the late '70s but just possibly in the very early '80s. I'm not sure when I first saw the movie but it was sometime after that and it was on television.

I'm not what you might call a person of faith. For one thing, I distrust any faith that cannot handle irreverence, and I dislike people who call themselves Christians but so far as I can tell, don't act like it. But I'm not as hostile to the idea of organized religion as some are either. I just think the separation of church and state is a good idea.

My point is, I don't love this movie (as did Roger Ebert, BTW) so much for any particuarly religious reasons. Why do I? Damned if I know. Maybe because it's fun. Maybe because it's actually, genuinely, really, there's no other word for it...inspirational.

Victor Garber, who played Jesus, has said in recent interviews that it is very difficult for him to watch the film today because the concept and costumes are so dated.

I know what he means, and I can see how somebody could be cynical about both those things and maybe more. But there's just something about it that goes over and above all my mostly-prudent cynicism.

Anyway, this is a little tribute video that a youtuber called (counterintuitively) "Erotimanic" put together including the first three songs in the film. It runs about nine minutes.

This video leaves out the first five minutes or so, where John the Baptist gathers the disciples as they go about their various jobs in Manhattan. He does so by appearing to them in visions playing the shofar, after that, once the film proper begins until the end, no one else is seen.

I want to say something about David Haskell, who plays John in the movie. He's the bearded fellow who is the first you see singing. I've always felt warmly towards his performance because it seems to be, again I don't know how else to say it, full of love.

He's the kind of man--or at least he appears to be in this movie--that I was attracted to as a fatherless child. The kind of man I'd really, really, like to think is the kind my nephew sees me as today.

And, I'm immensely sorry to say, he died in 2000. Jeffrey Mylett-the guy who just sits down in the middle of the fountain-has died, too. Lynne Thigpen, the black woman with the tiny 'fro, and Merrell Jackson-the black guy with the huge 'fro-have also passed.

They're all on that list of people I would like to have told that their work meant something to me.

the greatest rap lyric ever

deny its brilliance if you dare. C'mon, "She's in yellow, she says hello, come sit next to me, you fine fellow..."

Oh, and this video has three pretty white high school (I'm guessing) girls moving to the beat, but why let that distract you from Young MC's lyrical mastery?

Besides, the one miming the lead vocal-I think her name is Brittney-seems to have one "black" move and one move only, and it's to grab her crotch.

Seriously, she does it so much that it goes beyond "celebration of life and virility" or "animal crazed by the beat," to the point where you start thinking: Yeast infection?

However, speaking of celebrations of life, check out the background dancer at left. She's in yellow...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Noted for the record

IFC is running a mini-series called Indie Sex, looking at the treatment of sex in various films. In an episode running tonight, the focus is sex in teen films.

One of the talking heads-I'm sorry I didn't catch the name, but it was a woman-brought up Fast Times In Ridgemont High. Specifically, the scene in which Jennifer Jason Leigh loses her virginity in a baseball dugout.

She praises director Amy Heckerling for visualizing the scene from the girls point of view. Specifically for things like the shots of the grafitti that Leigh's character, Stacy, sees on the walls and roof of the dugout.

Going on to smugly add that, if a man had directed this scene, it would have been all about how the guy was gonna "get some."

Well, all right...unless you've read the book upon which Fast Times at Ridgemont High was based, which I have. And remember that Stacy's noticing the grafitti was in the book, which I do.

And who wrote the book (and for that matter, although I'm sure it doesn't, the screenplay)?

Cameron Crowe.

Yeah, no man could ever see things from the girls POV, could they?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Doesn't count!?"

Suppose I told you that there was a great movie from the late '80s in which the evil plan of legendary monsters is uncovered by a bunch of "loser" kids who met them in battle, to save their town and, by extension, the world. What would you say I was talking about?

Stephen King's It? No-the book gave me more than one night of the creeps, but the TV-movie was only half of what it should have been.

The kids are a couple of monster fanatics; their younger and older sisters, a fat kid, and a sweet and tender you know yet?

The Goonies? No-I said a great movie. I know some people that were kids when they saw it think The Goonies is a great movie, but fuck 'em, they're wrong.

I'm talking Monster Squad.

Monster Squad is a great little monster movie played mostly at older kids and young teens, but enjoyable by anyone who thinks these sorts of movies are fun. Here's the story:

As led by Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Gillman (AKA the Creature From the Black Lagoon) descend on a small California town seeking an amulet of power. But they get more than they baragined for when they meet our mostly still pre-pubescent heroes.

Originally released in 1987 but largely unseen in theaters at the time, the film has built up a cult following on video & cable in the 20 years since. I don't know if I'd call myself part of that following, not the way I am for Veronica Mars, the Tron soundtrack, Terry Gilliam films, cartoons, and Doctor Who.

But I remember seeing the movie on video, probably when I was about 16; thinking it was a lot of fun and showing it to a friend or two. It's that kindofa movie, where you end up saying What? You haven't seen...

Anyway, whether I admit I'm in the cult or not, that cult did lead to the movie's recent release as a good-looking two disc DVD.

Though I haven't seen it in forever, I was pleased to rent the film yesterday to see if it still holds up.

It did without any doubt.

The movie was directed by Fred Dekker, who also made the almost-as-good Night of the Creeps, and written by him with Shane Black. Their script is joyful yet appropriately scary-bearing in mind that this is, more or less, a family film.

And the cast plays it just right, never tongue-in-cheek to the extent that it becomes irredeemably silly, but always with a sense of fun.

Dracula is played by Duncan Regehr in one of the two great vampire performances of the mid-to-late '80s (the other being Chris Sarandon in Fright Night), and an original addition to the "canon." This Dracula is pissed-off and he doesn't care who knows it.

The late Brent Chalem is Horace, or "fat kid". Compare his performance to Jeff Cohen's nightmarish work on The Goonies. Chalem's character posesses a knowledge of the right thing to do, even if it's hard, while Cohen's was just sour.

I think that's what you'd find if you compared them, but to be sure I'd have to watch The Goonies again, and you'd have to pay me money to do that. And to be fair, Cohen was working from a Chris Columbus script...

Ryan Lambert is Rudy, the tough kid. As the cast-and-director commentary points out, it's never really explained why he's hanging out with a bunch of younger "losers," but he manages to suggest motivations that the screenplay never articulates.

2006: l-r: Andre Gower; Ashley Bank; and Ryan Lambert

Ashley Bank is Phoebe, the five-year-old tagalong sister of squad leader Sean (Andre Gower, who does a fine job anchoring the film). It's a cool kid performance in a role that could have been very agitating, if played or directed wrong.

And as a side-note, as seen in present-day interview footage on the second DVD, damned if she didn't turn out to look like Alyson Hannigan's little sister...

Leonardo Cimino, like Regehr a veteran of the original miniseries V and about 25 other television shows or movies, is the "scary German guy" with a good reason for believing in monsters.

It's a moment in the script that Dekker is justly proud of when we find out what that reason is, and a great, subtle performance by Cimino.

Some wouldn't expect to find subtle performances in a movie like this, but they are a big part of why it works so well.

Jon Gries, who's been in about 5o movies and television shows but to me will always first and foremost be Lazlo Hollyfeld in Real Genius, is the Wolfman. Gries has very little "face time," but he effectively conveys the torture of a man who wants to do good...when he's in human form...

Lisa Fuller's character doesn't even get a name ("Patrick's Sister"), which is kind of sexist-even moreso considering she's the eye candy in the movie-but she does get to be part of one of its great moments.

And speaking of great moments, watching this movie today gives me the added bonus of getting to see Jason Hervey, who plays a bully, humiliated once or twice. Jason Hervey is a producer of that schmuck Scott Baio's reality show, and therefore deserves whatever he gets.

Shortly after co-writing this movie's screenplay, Shane Black went on to fame and fortune as the creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise. Director Fred Dekker went on to crash his career, by his own bitter recollection, with Robocop 3.

Which is at least a little bit of a tragedy. He should have had Stephen Sommers' career. Watching the Squad again, I couldn't help contrasting it with Sommers' Van Helsing. And thinking how it was evidence yet again of one of Ellison's theories:

That not only are "state of the art" F/X and 120 million-dollar budgets not necessary to the making of great movies, at least as often they inhibit them. I'd be surprised if from script to release, and including things like the promotional budget, Monster Squad cost as much as one of Van Helsing's effects.

But over two years after seeing Van Helsing I can't plum remember a thing about the plot, and certainly none of the dialogue. I've remembered lines and plot elements from Monster Squad for almost two decades.

It's got a fistful of 'em that just stay with you forever...including the one in the headline of this post.

Willow? My wand is tough but cute and perky?

Your Score: 9", Willow, Dragon

You scored 26 wisdom, 27 bravery, 36 emotional, and 22 martyrdom!

A willow wand signifies that you care deeply about emotions, art, and intuition, and that you have a particular knack for charms. Your dragon's heartstring core makes your wand very effective in hexes.

Link: The Harry Potter Wand Test written by sputnik845 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Thinking Blogger Award

Becca (of the inexplicably "G"-rated No Smoking in the Skull Cave) has nominated me for the thinking blogger award, for which it's really an honor just to be nominated.

The idea, as the name suggests, is to to nominate five spots around this amazing and expanding blog-i-verse that really make you think, following these rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post
that you wrote

Becca says of me:

He always has something interesting to say about news, pop culture, movies, music and there's always a picture of a pretty girl to ogle.

Oh I really that transparent?

Actually...I resent that implication. Not so much for me, but for the ladies, who are not here for you to "ogle."

Shame, shame.

Just look how Alexis Bledel disapproves... Jennifer Connelly judges you for having said it...

...and see the resentment on Nicole Kidman's face? I hope you sleep well, Becca...

...but anyway, back to what you said about my blog:

...I think I miss the can of soda in your profile picture.

Oh, you mean this little fella, courtesy of Kawaii Not? I'm sure he'll be back, but Dr. Zaius already gave me shit for replacing the picture of Marilyn and Groucho...

What, you got some problem with Naked Eyes? Just because they pinched the riff for "Promises, Promises" from Chic...

Anyway, on to my choices. I'd name YouTube-nothing makes me think more than those cute girls miming to "Barbie Girl"...think what, that's the question...but it's not really a blog, is it?

So I'll start out with Mark Evanier, writer of note. I said a lot of what I think about Mark in my reviews of his books (like this one), so to that I'll just add that his "POV" is always unique and interesting.

There is also my man Johnny Bacardi, readable in LiveJournal or on Blogspot. John hipped me to the art samples of Megan Murphy, the illustrator who created the above can of soda in the first place.

And Sherman, that Pop Culture Gadabout. 'Cos he always steps up and takes his memes like a man, and 'cos I like calling him Sherman since it reminds me of Mr. Peabody. Also, I haven't gone so far as to do an actual count or anything, but I think he may link to me more than anybody else. Yes, I can be bribed. And we have nearly as similar musical taste as me and Jeopardygirl-or rather, Sherman's tastes are so catholic they encompass mine as well.

Jim Emerson's "Scanners" blog not-infrequently offers some interesting little gems of thought-like his theory of Psycho III as underrated.

And Dr. Zaius with his eye for the lovelies, even if he does drive me mad sometimes because he won't just admit that George W. Bush could shoot a child through the back of the head on national television during The Singing Bee, and the democratic congress still wouldn't do shit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Miss a turn

Well, the "kinder, gentler" Second City reality series from Canada took a few turns tonight; one was kind, one was was neither.

The not-so-nice, in fact mildly unpleasant one was that Joe Flaherty was replaced as a judge by Dave Thomas. Thomas seems to have been brought in to be the bitch, but I just can't take him seriously in the role. It seems like a character he's playing, like Doug McKenzie or more like Rex Banner, because someone decided the show needed to be more like AI.

Don't do it, Canada. Don't sell out your people's birthright of joy, and this show's antidote to pessimism, in hopes of getting a little more space in the peridoicals. It's just not worth it.

Neither was an extremely brief and meaningless appearance by Colin Mochire, who I used to enjoy so much, but still haven't forgiven for sucking up to that repulsive truth-twisting piece of toxic trash, Karl Rove.

BTW, I know (or at least I'm pretty sure) none of you are watching this, making these posts an instance of my talking to myself even more than usual. But frankly, I kind of like the feeling of being the only man in North America who's paying attention to it.

If any of the cast-members are Yahoo! searching themselves, I still like Jeannie Cole and Kayla Lorette in particular. Lorette seems best at listening in scenes, and both got the most laughs out of me. Though, it would be better-if obviously impractical on a one-hour weekly show-if I could see more of the sketches.

Oh, and the nice turn that the show took tonight is that the queenie guy who I said last week I wanted to see eliminated...was eliminated.

Dude, this is pretty fucked up right here

A dismaying statistic brought to us by the good people at Media Matters:

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on July 30, MSNBC devoted a total of 23 minutes and 42 seconds to segments discussing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) "cleavage."

(Hides face in hand) Sigh...really? Really? This is what we're going to talk about when we talk abour Mrs Clinton? Nothing about her being a centrist masquerading as a liberal Democrat or, once again, the war the war the war the war?

Nothing about the gratuitious swipes she's had to endure? No concern over whether she has good insticts?

We're just going to talk about tits?

I have reached a decision. This blog is now officially endorsing for president in 2008...

A Liz Hurley/Tara Reid ticket.

If we're going to go to Hell, we might as well take the express train.

(And I know, you say to me, "But Ben! Elizabeth Hurley is not an American citizen!" To which I reply, watch the schoolgirl skirt scene in Bedazzled, then see how much you care.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Random Google image search-blogging

"How could the cute girl have meant what she said about 'if you hit on me one more time?!" Tom asked himself, preparing to give it one last school try. Meanwhile, Chris thanked the Goddess for letting her be here to see this, while Kari just...waited...

Some days you just know god's fucking with you

We have here, a picture of two good-looking young women. A picture of two good-looking young women, one of whom is wearing a Go-Gos t-shirt. A picture of two good-looking young women, one of whom is wearing a Go-Gos Tennessee.

This may ruin good-looking young women wearing Go-Go's t-shirts for me forever.

And they said all we need is love... With the Beatles...

Scooped up this Meme from Dr. Monk.

1. If you could be there to change just one event in history, what would it be?

One of the things I think I'd do if I had a TARDIS is go back and tell Ted Turner that a 24-hour news channel is a terrible idea. I miss the old days, when we had one, half-hour news program at the end of the day, so most of it had to be actually news. Instead, we just get people talking and talking...

Imagine if politicians actually had to make what they say count, instead of operating on the "if we throw enough gruel at the wall, something’s bound to stick" theory. Imagine if news people actually had time to connect the dots, rather than chasing after politicians like stenographer dogs? Imagine if there wasn't time to tell us which actress got how drunk where.

2. If you could be any actor or actress who ever lived, who would it be, and why?

Hmm...For an actress, I think I'll say Lisa Kudrow. What the hell, it's her birthday. Plus she's excellent. If you remember that charming "Marry fuck or kill" game, she's the one of the three women Friends that I would marry...

For an actor, I'd be Frank Sinatra. Okay, so he was more of an icon than an actor, and more of a singer than an icon...but I would get to win an Academy Award, and just think of the women with whom I'd be sleeping...

If I could, however, I would try not to take so many swipes at people. And I'd probably skip Mia Farrow.

3. What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon show?

The Bugs Bunny Road/Runner Show. "Overture! Curtain, lights!" For years, BTW, I thought that second line was "cut the lights" But I'm mad about animation and this show was and is a big part of the reason why. Oh, those classic cartoons.

4. Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Beatles. They're more influential; they wrote songs so good not even the biggest What the Hell Were They Thinking? movie of all time could hurt them irreparably.

If "I Want You" can survive Donald Pleasence, it can survive anything. The Stones couldn't even survive Devo.

Plus they broke up in time, they made better records with a fuller sound that progressed artistically, they had John Lennon, they had Paul McCartney, they had Lennon & McCartney. They made two or three of the great pop movies, they had George Martin and Geoff Emerick, George, Ringo & yeah yeah yeah...

The Stones had no insight and were only playing at being menacing. Who cares?

The first time I remember being aware of the Beatles is in nursery school or kindergarten, when the grown-ups used to play the Hard Day's Night soundtrack.

For some reason all I remember hearing then is the title song, but they must have played more. Later in life I would come to think of "And I Love Her" as one of Paul's best love songs, and "I Should Have Known Better" as one of John's most underrated (love that bridge).

But if memory serves, this is the first Beatles album I ever owned. I got it because...fine, I got it after seeing Jimmy Osmond singing "Penny Lane" on Fame. You happy? Respect where respect is due, he did a great job...

5. If you could be any fictional literary figure ever, who would it be?

Keitha, Colley or Annabel.

I'm not tagging anybody but if the spirit moves you...

Here's a colortini to you, buddy

Talk show host Tom Snyder has died at the age of 71.

I'm too young to remember the 1970s version of his show, but I enjoyed his return in the '90s. I remember disagreeing with a pal who liked to make fun of his occasional rambling, which I found a bit charming. I looked at him like a eccentric but beloved older relative.

Plus, the fact that he wrote the introduction to a book of Harlan Ellison's and frequently had the writer on as a guest, certainly didn't hurt him in my eyes. His show is also how I was introduced to Bonnie Hunt, with whom he had a great chemistry. He seemed to really enjoy the way she could make her every line come alive with humor.

I'm just glad we passed through the Craig Kilborne phase (shudder) and now Craig Ferguson is on...

Lauren Graham laughs that laugh one always hopes beautiful women will laugh when one says something funny

Random Flickr Blogging: 1922

Among knowledgeable theater folk, Josephine was known as the Sharon Stone of her day.


Sunday, July 29, 2007


This is kind of a follow-up to my last post: We have here an item putting out the idea that the short-lived Geena Davis vehicle Commander in Chief bodes ill for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign. As well as Katie Couric's plunging ratings as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

Here I thought Commander in Chief was short-lived because it was creatively unsatisfactory (it also didn't help that it was up against House, which isn't). And Katie Couric's ratings haven't improved because, I suspect, she is perceived as being frivolous and trivial, and people want their news anchors, man or woman, to at least have the appearance of gravitas.

(which is why Newt Gingrinch would make a great one, and I can't believe Fox hasn't snapped him up)

But seriously, folks...I'm left wondering again: Does quality mean nothing? If Geena Davis' show was cancelled, it's because people aren't ready for a woman president. If Katie Couric's ratings are bad, it's because people aren't ready to see a woman in Uncle Walter's chair.

The fact that the show was bad, and Couric was maybe the wrong woman for the job--and that CBS news is now being run by a bunch of dummies- has nothing to do with it?

If Hillary doesn't get the nomination, I hope it's for the same political reasons for which liberals would reject a man who has done the things Hillary has done. I hope it's not because they're not ready for a woman president.

And I hope it's not because of the lies conservatives are peddling about her. It occurs to me that one thing Mrs. Clinton has in common with her husband is that, taken on her own merits, she leaves a lot to be desired.

Myself, I don't fully trust her, but it's not becase she's a woman, it's because she's Hillary Clinton. But the attacks on her are so unrelentingly unfair and hideously abusive that she rarely gets taken on her own merits, merely because most of us like to stick up for fairness.

A stepping stone to a collective consciousness

Article in PopPolitics discussing "Chuck & Larry" walking the line between gay pride and homophobia, looking at responses to the movie by gay men including Alonso Duralde's for After Elton...

Duralde places "Chuck and Larry" on a continuum with such ground-breaking films as "Philadephia" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" as well as other consciousness-raising comedies like "Tootsie," where Dustin Hoffman plays a man impersonating a woman, and "Soul Man," where C. Thomas Howell plays someone white passing for black.

I was right with you, Alonso, till you got to "Soul Man"...

This approach can be tricky, of course – feminists didn't complain about Hoffman playing a woman, but many people were up in arms over the idea of Howell donning "blackface," even if it was with the best of intentions.

Well, yeah. I think you also have to allow for the fact that "Tootsie," although it's got one or two plotholes big enough for a basketball player to walk through, is a very good movie. Whereas "Soul Man" was a bush league comedy trying to pass as important.

But then again, Duralde sends me spiraling into the corner grappling my own depression, with the final paragraph of his review of the movie.

...movies that are this stupid about gay life, made by straight people, exist as object lessons of why it's so very important that queer artists tell our own stories from our own point of view. Because if we leave it to the heterosexuals, obviously, they're going to get it all wrong.


Remember: We're not just ogling a beautiful feminine body...we're fighting for the enviroment!

This picture of Spanish model Veronica Blume first appeared in a 2002 Greenpeace calendar...