Saturday, June 11, 2005

Truly, the Greatest Michael Jackson Video Ever...


I don't know if you, like me, failed to catch Conan O'Brien's show the other night. I used to watch Conan all the time, but it seems lately I've been watching a lot less television. Oh, I haven't been reading or exercizing or anything healthy and productive like that...Just watching more movies and less TV.

But that means I missed Triumph the Insult Comic Dog going to interview the fans supporting Michael Jackson at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Fortunately, the good people at Gorilla Mask have put the entire clip online here.

I urge you to check it out immediately. Robert Smiegel, you are a genius!

Fresh Bait (L'Appat)

Bertrand Tavernier has been a successful director in France since the 1970's, but his work has never really taken off in America. I vaguely recall hearing of his 1987 film The Passion of Beatrice, but I think that's because it features an extended nude scene with Julie Delpy, rather than its artistic merit. So, suffice it to say, I have never seen one of the man's films.

But now I'll have to, because his 1995 thriller Fresh Bait arrives on DVD this Tuesday for the first time in America, and it's really quite exceptional. Tavernier's film thematically is very similar to Larry Clarke's detestable Bully of a few year's back. It's based on a true story involving a nihilistic cadre of young people engaging in violent, criminal behavior for no apparent reason.

In the case of Bully, Clarke seems more focused on obsessively filming the nude, lithe bodies of stars like Michael Pitt and Bijou Phillips. When he attempts to address real social issues - like teen drug abuse, date rape and the foster care system - his movie crosses over from cheesy, somewhat questionable softcore into a full-on parody of itself.

But in Fresh Bait, Tavernier has attacked the problem from a different angle. Rather than go for shock, encouraging the audience to judge these kids as amoral or psychotic, Tavernier seems to indict a shallow and hopelessly materialist society in the crimes. There's something wrong with kids who could behave in such a reckless and gruesome a fashion, but there's someting wrong with a world that gives them so few appealing alternatives.

It's a fascinating and haunting vision, an intense and carefully crafted thriller that easily exceeds the other films in its sub-genre.

Director Tavernier has written a few books on American film, and Fresh Bait references American crime thrillers constantly. Its protagonists are obsessed with American movies (in one scene, they go to a video store and staunchly reject renting anything French, opting instead for Nightmare on Elm Street 6). In fact, their drive to become criminals in some ways derives from a desire to emulate movies heroes like Al Pacino in Scarface (a film they've watched so many times, they can quote it by heart).

Eric (Oliver Sitruk) and his girlfriend Nathalie (Marie Gillain) dream of going to America to open up a clothing boutique. Eric's a rich kid whose father has recently cut him off, due to his refusal to get a job. Nathalie has a somewhat happier home life, but still seems aimless and adrift. She works at a clothing store and, by night, romances older men in the hopes of meeting someone who will make her a star. But rather than any passion for performance, it's clear that what drives Nathalie is a taste for finery. She likes the men less because they can actually help her with a non-existant career, but because they shower her with gifts, praise and attention and provide her access to the secret world of high society.

Along with Eric's roommate and friend Bruno (Bruno Putzulu), they plan the entire American enterprise out to every last detail, and determine that 10 million francs will be needed for the venture. Using Nathalie as the "bait" of the title, they hope to sneak into her wealthy suitors apartments while she's being seduced in the bedroom and rob their victims blind.

Unfortunately, it never quite works out that way. Sometimes, the gentleman has made plans outside of the house for the evening. Other times, the guy lives in a high rise and the front door has a password. And a few times, the guys resist being robbed and things turn violent. Some otf the scrapes the trio get into are funny, some are decidedly more serious, but none of them end in the acquisiton of enough money for a trans-Atlantic flight, let alone seed money for a clothiers.

What's surprising is how many times this group is willing to give it a go. Surely a day job would be preferable to an endless string of failed, nighttime robberies. I was kind of reminded, both in terms of content and style, of some of Wong Kar-Wai's films about impetuous criminal urban youth. This is kind of like a French Fallen Angels or Chungking Express, but with nihilism in place of whimsy. So, in other words, like a French Fallen Angels or Chungking Express.

And though it may sound like these are simply awful, spoiled kids, the narrative is a good deal more complex than that. First off, there are no positive figures for the viewer to admire or respect. All of these men trying to get into Nathalie's pants are either scummy or pathetic. One of them, who winds up begging for his life by appealing to his attacker's Judaism, tells of buying all his nice possessions on bad credit, and seeing his five year old child only on holidays. Nathalie's mom leaves the house at night, with her young daughter home alone. And Eric's parents have coddled him his entire life, and now cut him off without any guidance, without any life experience and without a dime.

As well, the world these three inhabit is not exactly inviting. Several times, Nathalie is almost raped by lustful older men. Bruno tells of growing up alone and homeless, sleeping under stairwells. And Tavernier's nimble direction enhances this sense of paranoia. His uses long, jumpy pans to disorient the viewer and play with timing. He shoots scenes entirely in mirrors, sometimes not revealing that you're seeing a reflection until the action is over. The idea is that this is environment weights down on these characters, threatens them, and they see escape as the only resort. They will do what must be done to succeed.

Eric refers to himself repeatedly as an entrepeneuer, and the film is filled with capitalist language and business analogies. In some ways, it reminded me of Bigas Luna's similarly brilliant and satirical Golden Balls, in which Javier Bardem's hungry young man views the personal accumulation of status and wealth as the noblest of human endeavors. Eric and Nathalie are propelled by a sense of entitlement that's both unspoken and overwhelming. They are here, they want all of these expensive things, and why should they be deprived of them? When these perverted old men are allowed to be rich, why are charming and beautiful young people like themselves destined to remain poor?

So it's a thoughtful movie, but mainly it's just compelling. Well-performed, snappily directed and, of course, as with almost all French movies, a good deal sexier and more lively than its American counterparts. Well, unless you consider close-ups of Bijour Phillips' vulva to be "sexy," in which case Bully might have this one beat.

Friday, June 10, 2005

You Can't Touch This

Okay, nothing more to see here, folks...Move along...

Seems Like Old Crimes

German bank robbers known as "The Grandpa Gang" were finally apprehended this week. They are 74, 73 and 64 years old. That's awesome.

Can you imagine a 74 year old robbing you at gunpoint? Half of you would probably be really scared he's going to shoot you, even accidentally, and half of you has just got to be impressed that this old codger has the audacity to continue committing crimes. I mean, most Americans retire from their cubicle gigs by 74; this guy's still pulling bank jobs!

The oldest, Rudolf Richter, 74, was sentenced to nine years, while Wilfried Ackermann, 73, received a 10-year sentence. Both confessed to taking part in the robberies in Germany over a 16-year span when their trial opened last month.

"It's unbelievable how easy it is to rob a bank once you've done it a couple of times," Wilfried Ackermann said during his trial, adding that fear of having no money and spending the rest of his years in a nursing home drove him to commit the crimes.

He'll be played by Robert Duvall in my upcoming movie version. (For Richter, ideally we'd get Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman or Gene Hackman. I would also accept Gary Oldman in old age make-up.)

The guys were even using antique guns dating back to WWII! Seriously, this is too good to be true. If this story really hasn't already been snapped up by Hollywood, it will be in the next few days.

The three also were convicted of violating weapons laws, and they were accused of using handguns dating from the war, as well as automatic weapons and sometimes even fake hand grenades.

Fake hand grenades!

Richter said he was motivated by the fact that he had already served time in prison for a bank robbery he did not commit.

"Many years were already gone from my life," he said. "When I got out of prison I said to myself, 'Now I'm going to even.'"

Actually, now that I think about it, Lee Marvin was born to play this part. Providing he could master a German accent. And, you know, stop being dead.

The Fruit Basket

If you are offended by frank, honest discussions of places men can theoretically place their testicles, best not to read any further into this article.

Okay, so, to give someone a "fruit basket" apparently means to place your scrotum on their neck. According to Kevin Smith in today's New York Post, Ben Affleck used to fruit basket him on the set of Jersey Girl.

Smith explains: "I'd be sitting in the director's chair and I'd be watching a playback, and he'd stand behind me. Every once in a while I'd feel something on my neck. I'd be like, 'What the [bleep] was that?' And I'd turn around and he'd have his [scrotum] out and resting on my neck. I was like, 'What the [bleep] is wrong with you, dude?' What if it got out in the press that that's the kind of thing you do?' He's like, 'No one would ever [bleeping] believe you, sir.' "

Do I even need to blog this? That quote is probably enough.

My only concern with this is that Kevin Smith comes into our video store all the time, and so I'll probably have to speak with him (albeit briefly) within the next couple of weeks.

Now, am I going to be able to resist the temptation to bring up his having been fruit basketed? Or will the very thought of Affleck's nuts resting on his shoulder make me so ill, I'll be unable to provide him with any customer service at all? Only time will tell...I'll be sure to blog about it if I make an ass of myself. Or if, you know, he fruit baskets me.

Winnie Fucking Cooper!

Oh, what would Kevin and Paul say if they could see this?

For those few people who don't recognize the scantily-clad female in that photo, you clearly didn't watch a lot of network TV in the late 80's and early 90's. It's Danica McKeller, the girl-next-door of TV's "The Wonder Years," a very nostalgic show for people in my general demographic.

Which is why seeing her splayed out like this in Stuff Magazine serves as yet another reminder that I'm getting old. Old enough to see the youthful icons of my childhood starting to get desperate about their fading (or, in this case, nearly nonexistant) fame and accepting offers from wanky "lad mags" for lingerie shoots. It sucks.

Don't get me wrong...Winnie looks good. She's clearly been working on her abs. They're doing that thing where they stick in kind of, like they have some sort of divot, and not even every thin person has that going on, so that's something. I'm just tired of fond 80's and early 90's nostalgia. It's like we're all so fascinated that we were kids at the same time, and so we remember the same things. Like that sugary Batman cereal and Atari 2600 games and Voltron.

Yeah, I got it, it's weird to remember stuff like that. And, yeah, Flock of Seagulls, Karate Kid, it's great, it's great, just shut the hell up already.

I'm as guilty of cheap nostalgia as anyone, I suppose. I do pepper some of the posts with 80's music references and whatnot. But, hey, it's part of my consciousness. Why just tonight, at the video store, we had Over the Top playing on the TV in the back, and my co-worker Sig and I discussed that song from (what else?) Karate Kid.

You know...that one that goes..."You're the best...around...nothing's gonna ever keep you down..."

And, hey, I clicked on the FARK link to oogle the pictures of Winnie Cooper in the first place...I've really got no argument here.

So, basically, ignore this entire post. It's just a stupid excuse to post hot pictures of an old TV star. Forget I said anything.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Guest Blogger: Cedric the Entertainer

Note from Lons: Because he's doing me a huge favor and hosting the Braffy Awards, I thought I'd turn the blog over to Cedric the Entertainer this evening. He's got a new film coming out tomorrow, The Honeymooners, and I figured it would be nice for you, the Braffy voters, to meet the man who will be handing out the actual trophy itself. And who hopefully will be buying that trophy, because right now I have about $14 to my name, and it ain't for trophies.

So, may I present your guest blogger, Mr. Cedric the Entertainer.

Thanks, Lons.

How y'all doin'?

You all can do better than that. How y'all doin'?

Oh, wait, this is the Internet, so you can't hear me. In fact, I didn't even just say "How y'all doin'" out loud just now. I only typed it. So it was pretty silly of me to wait for a response.

Sorry. I think I'll start by telling you a bit about myself.

I was born in 1964 to Carl The Entertainer and Ruth Esther Goldenblatt. They named me Cedric after the old cartoon "Beanie and Cecil," having forgotten that kid was named Cecil and not Cedric. (That's also how rapper Beanie Siegel got his name...They really ought to put that cartoon back on TV to clear everything up).

I always knew I wanted to be a comic. I liked to make people laugh, and it took attention away from the fact that I was always wearing green suits and stupid hats. Plus, I figured good looking women might have sex wtih me.

When Spike Lee first asked me to star in the film Original Kings of Comedy, I asked if that wasn't a bit presumptuous of a title, considering that the vast majority of Americans had never heard of us, let alone heard and appreciated our comedy. Then DL Hughley said he didn't know what the word presumptuous means, and we all had a good laugh. Remembering that incident later, I realized that DL Hughley wasn't joking and genuinely didn't know what "presumptuous" meant. Nor did I, for that matter. But it was still really funny.

Now I know what you all must be thinking...The big movie star's only blogging on Crushed by Inertia because he's got a new movie to promote. Well, you couldn't be more wrong. I love white people's blogs, they so funny. They totally different from black people's blogs. Black people, they don't even have blogs, they all too poor to have computers! Ain't no computers in the ghetto. You want to play Minesweeper in my neighborhood, you better get your ass a broom. You know what I'm saying!

I'm just kidding, folks. You know me...I like to have fun with our differences. And that's why I wanted to talk to you all today.

Not to remind you that The Honeymooners opens tomorrow nationwide, and that I play the part of a cruel, self-aggrandizing wife-beater made famous by Jackie Gleason. I know you all already know that I'm starring in the film along side Mike Epps from the Friday movies...No, the two sequels, not the good one.

Yeah, that guy. He's been in some other good stuff too, man, he's a talented cat. Let me just pull him up on that IMDB site...

He's gonna be in Roll Bounce, the new hip-hop remake of 80's rollerskate dancing epic Roller Boogie. So I know y'all looking forward to catching him in that. [Note from Lons: Cedric's not kidding...They're really making a new version of Roller Boogie called Roll Bounce. I've read the script! Bow Wow is going to star!]

He had that cameo in Malbiu's Most Wanted, man, so you know, this guy is for real. He's playing Ed Norton, the name of that dude from Fight Club. Mike auditioned for Fight Club, but they ended up giving his part to Meat Loaf, on account of Meat Loaf had bigger titties to begin with. Which enhanced the realism.

Anyway, the buzz on the movie has aight, you know, just aight. I'm not gonna lie to you folks. Cory at Random Acts of Violence posted some really ugly reviews, like this one [Cedric hasn't yet mastered's the real Random Acts of Violence link...]:

David Hiltdbrand of the Philadelphia Inquirer gushes, "Not only an insult to the original, it should be shown at film schools as proof of how pointless a movie can be!"

David Hiltdbrand apparently never learned to hate the game and not the player. I ever see him around, my foot is gonna be an insult to his ass, if you know what I mean.

So I went over to Rotten Tomatoes, and the rating is 21% positive. Which sounds bad, but probably isn't that bad. I mean, come on, a kid gets a 21% on a test, you gonna give him an F? That's at least a C, right?

Anyway, here were some of the nicer comments. (I'm not gonna post the mean ones, cause Steve Harvey's just gonna call and read them all too me laughing anyway).

William Arnold at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said:

"It's not a complete travesty. At the same time, it's nothing at all special."

So there you go right there. It ain't no travesty.

Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press said:

"The script is no better than it has to be, and the movie doesn't stretch anyone's talents, but it's as efficiently entertaining as a classic record by the Spinners."

Chris Hewitt. There you go. A man who appreciates good comedy.

Here's Sarah Chauncey of

"Unless you’re related to one of the actors, there is absolutely no reason to see The Honeymooners."

Now, that sounds like a bad review, but Sarah may have found out about the many many hundreds of illegitmite children Mike and I have sired all around this great country of ours. So, she probably means that a good cross-section of Americans who could theoretically be linked by DNA paternity testing to the actors will enjoy our movie.

Anyway, folks, I'm not gonna take up any more of your time. I'll see you at the Braffies!

C the E

A Duck at 71

Donald Duck turns 71 today. He made his debut in a short called The Wise Little Hen on June 9th, 1934. I don't know about you, but Donald was always my favorite of the Disney stable of characters. I guess Goofy had his moments. Though I could never get over Goofy and Pluto both being dogs, even though Goofy lives in a house and wears clothes and goes on vacation and even competes in the Olympics while Pluto lives in the backyard behind Mickey's house and is naked save for a collar.

And let's face it...Warner Bros. cartoons kick Disney cartoons ass any day. I mean, how many Disney cartoon characters can you even name? (Remember, I mean the old cartoon shorts, not later TV shows and Darkwing Duck doesn't count, nor does Pocahontas or Thumper). They had all these bizarre extraneous figures, like Clarabell Cow, while every single WB character is classic and memorable. (Foghorn, I say, Foghorn Leghorn anyone?)

But back to's his big day.

Donald Duck cartoons are weird. I watched some recently on one of those Disney Treasures DVD collections. In one, Donald adopts an orphaned penguin. When the penguin eats his goldfish, Donald takes to chasing the small Arctic bird around with a shotgun for the rest of teh cartoon. He blows a hole in the wall, thinks he's killed the penguin, starts to cry and then...wait for it...the penguin reappears! A happy ending!

It was a different time, I guess. It's strange that Walt Disney personally approved stuff like that in the cartoons, cause we usually think of him as some kind of moral crusader on behalf of the family...but that came later. Back in '34, he was a guy trying to make a living doing cartoons who had some big ideas.

I think a lot of the oddness of these old shorts comes from the voice work. Rather than Mel Blanc doing all the voices, as in Warner cartoons, Disney had an eclectic cast of weirdos doing all kinds of strange, creepy voices. Donald himself was voiced by a guy Walt randomly saw performing silly voices named Clarence "Ducky" Nash.

One of the voices I always associate with Disney is a guy named Thurl Ravenscroft (seriously!) who died only a few weeks ago. He was Tony the Tiger, so trust me, you know this guy's voice. But he also sang the "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" song from Chuck Jones' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." And he's the guy singing the "Grim Grinning Ghosts" song in the "Haunted Mansion" ride at Disneyland. And I think he's in the "Country Bear Jamboree" as well, but don't quote me on that one.

Disney would find guys with strange voices like that for the background of his shorts, and it gives them a different feeling from the more talkative, witty, nasal sound of Blanc and Warner Bros.

But also the cartoons are just freaking weird. In another one I saw called "Modern Inventions," Donald goes to a museum of technical marvels and is constantly harangued and befuddled by the machines. One in particular is a strange butler robot that keeps taking Donald's hat (though he magically keeps producing more hats). It's not exactly funny, but it's far trippier than I remember Disney cartoons being. I guess as a kid, stuff like that sort of bounces off you.

Also, and friends will know that I've mentioned this before, as a kid I saw a Donald Duck cartoon that was so strange, it has stuck with me for life.

Donald and Daisy get into a fight. He leaves. While walking down the street, he's hit on the head by a flowerpot, turning him into a crooning romantic dreamboat. He goes and makes up with Daisy, and at first things are great, but soon enough he turns into an egomanaical jerk. Daisy misses the old spazzy Donald. But then at the end, he's hit on the head by a different flowerpot, and turns back into his old self. I think there might be more hitting-on-the-head-personality-changes in there as well, and I'm just forgetting about them. Give me a break...I was like 8.

I think something about the idea of head trauma shifting Donald's entire appearance and personality freaked me out. Or maybe because it's a light cartoon that gets so dark - he's confused, he's repeatedly abandoned by his duck girlfriend, and shit keeps nailing him on the head. Plus, he's Donald Duck, so he's becoming infuriated all the time. Just a weird, freaky cartoon that I'm not sure is appropriate for children. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Man Who Would Be Schumacher

Joel Schumacher is the ultimate example of what can happen to a franchise changing directors in mid-stream. He's the ghost that haunts the third movie in every current trilogy. When he took over the Batman franchise after Tim Burton's 1989 original and (to my mind) highly superior 1992 follow-up Batman Returns, Schumacher turned out two massive fiascoes that ran the character, and the future of DC comics adaptations, immediately into the ground.

(For anyone who cares, I think Batman Returns is among the better comic book films ever made, along with X2 and Blade 2 and certain sections of Spider-Man 2. Why are the second films always better?)

Only the Superman films can equal that level of crash-and-burn, though no film in that series even comes close to the atrocity of Schumacher's Batman and Robin, surely among the ugliest and quite possibly among the worst mainstream studio films of all time. The movie utterly killed off the notion of the Batman character in the marketplace. Schumacher had rendered the films into a $80 million joke, a garish collection of klutzy mugging, incoherent action sequences and bright pink and green neon.

Where the hell did he get that from? What Batman comic has ever made excessive use of pink and green neon? And need I even get into the nipples?

It has taken 8 years and several hundred million dollars to produce a brand-new Batman film. I use the term "brand" for a reason...They have had to entirely re-brand Batman, based on a new director's reputation, an entirely new cast's vitality and a chronological reset to the narrative. The only way they could distance themselves further from Batman and Robin would be to kill of Bruce Wayne and refocus the series on Barbara Gordon. (AKA Batgirl...duh...)

I bring up the legacy of one Joey Shoes, responsible for not just the destruction of the Batman films but also the cinematic dirty bomb known as 8MM, surely one of the most hypocritical and poorly conceived dramas of our time, for a reason. Fox Filmed Entertainment has turned over the reigns to one of the most successful comic franchises, The X-Men, to what reader and CineGeek Charlie Babbitt has generously dubbed a "fuckmook."

Of course, I'm speaking of Rush Hour veteran and all-around assclown Brett Ratner. Ladies and gentleman, I didn't intend for things to go this far...I thought Ratner would just get off with the sarcastic diatribe I previously posted here. But no, I'm making it official. Brett's in the running for the Braffy. In your face, Ratner!

And as long as we're making things official, here's a photo of Brett irritating legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis.

Dino, of course, produced Brett's highly forgettable and barely mediocre adaptation of Red Dragon, far more interestingly presented as Michael Mann's Manhunter in the 80's, or in Richard Harris' book "Red Dragon." Or probably by your friend who actually saw the movie but can vividly recreate for you the best scenes.

"Okay, so, at this one part, Hannibal Lecter is chained up to the ceiling and he's talking to Ed Norton and then he leans forward like he's gonna bite him. It's pretty sweet."

At least you'd be spared the oversaturated, glossy photography and relentlessly hyper editing that have become Ratner's stock in trade.

But I already goofed on Ratzo's filmography in that previous article. The one posted here. You might as well consider this one combined with that one to be a two-part Nomination Special for dear Brett.

Now the entire online film dork community is abuzz with talk of The Rat taking over X3. Most of the talk is as you'd expect for an artist of Brett's caliber - it's astoundingly negative. Cruelly so. And with good cause! This guy made Money Talks!

So he's doing what any sensible person would do when faced with nerds hammering him on nerd websites around the Internet. He fires back to (who else?) MTV. They proceed to tenderly lick his ass. Oh, and they ask him a few questions.

The 36-year-old Ratner, who proudly declares that he has "read comic books my whole life," had indeed been a candidate to initiate the X-Men franchise at the beginning of the decade. This is where things get real confusing: Singer instead took on the task of bringing Wolverine and friends to the screen, while Ratner came tantalizingly close to directing an earlier version of the Superman movie — yes, the same one that Singer is now overseeing.

"I think we bring stuff onto ourselves," Ratner said of the musical-chairs game with Singer. "He had dreams of doing Superman, that was his fantasy, and I had a dream of it too, and it didn't work out, but X-Men is a part of that dream as well.

Brett right here all but admits to accepting the X-Men gig as a consolation prize for losing out on Superman. Or maybe he just hopes he'll be Bryan Singer's go-to guy when Bryan's done kicking off franchises, and Superman 3 sounds too good to pass up.

Anyway, not the best attitude to come in with. "I dreamt of making a Superman movie, but this will be almost as good. Cause, you know, they have powers and stuff. It's almost the same."

"Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner are in that age range who grew up on comics," Ratner said, referring to himself in the third person. "Well, I don't know if he grew up on comic books, but in that generation where comic heroes are part of our society and part of our pop culture."

Bryan Singer left X-Men 3 because he didn't like the material," Ratner insisted. "But I don't think this movie is tainted; I think it is fantastic and the script is amazing.

Wow, so much stuff to goof on...First, he refers to himself in the third person. "Brett Ratner is in that age..." Lons thinks that referring to one's self in the third person makes one look like a total douche.

And what's this "that generation where comic heroes are part of our society" bull crap? As if that's not true of the current generation. Or the generation that came before Ratzo Spazzo. Or the generation before that, even? When did this guy grow up, the 70's? He was barely old enough for the "Batman" TV show.

Also, maybe it's just me, but it's probably a bad sign when the brand new director brought in to take over a somewhat troubled movie production starts referring to the material as "tainted," without provocation. Getting a little defensive there, BR.

"Jackie Chan says Brett Ratner is the luckiest guy in the world," the director said of his Rush Hour star's opinion of him taking over the comic-book franchise, "and I feel like I am."

Jackie Chan also thinks that images of him falling down are hilarious enough to propel 10 feature-length comedies. Who gives a shit what he thinks?

"I'm not Joel Schumacher," he said of the fan-despised director behind Batman Forever and the even more poorly received Batman & Robin, "and I'm not ... um ... who did the third Superman?"

That would be Richard Lester. "I'm Brett," Ratner said, "and all I know is what I know, what I can do and what I have to work with."

Yeah, Brett, you went to NYU film school. Richard Lester. He directed a little movie called A Hard Day's Night you might have seen in a class, if you weren't too busy doing lines off the ass of your sometime girlfriend while she edited together your latest slapdash music video for a local junkie/street poet/post-modern beatboxer known only as The Science. He's also the same guy that did Superman II, and The Knack, and also perhaps the best version ever filmed of The Three Musketeers. He's, how shall I put this, a lot better director than you. A lot. A whole whole lot. Even if, however unlikely, X-Men 3 should totally rule, Richard Lester would still be 100 times cooler than you. So shut up.

Ratner insists that the X-Men 3 script is up to snuff, that production will commence in Vancouver, British Columbia, in eight weeks, and that series stars Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn will return. As for what he'll add to the successful Singer recipe, the director said, "I want to stay true to the franchise and true to the characters, but I think it's elevated ... I don't want to be pompous and say I'm going to take it to the next level. I think the script that Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn wrote gives me a tremendous amount of confidence."

Oh, man...he said elevated, folks...What the hell is wrong with you, Ratner? And he wants us to be happy that he's keeping Halle Berry around? Didn't he see Catwoman or Die Another Day? Doesn't Brett Ratner get screeners?

Brett, write that bitch out! Send her urgently back to Africa to save her people from a drought or some shit! Or, better yet, outer space! It's a comic book, think of something! I'd rather watch her and Billy Bob Thronton have 2 hours of awkward floor sex than hear her try to squak out something with a Matobo accent ever again!

He also said you can expect his X-Men to have an enhanced sense of humor. "Not jokes for the sake of jokes," Ratner added, "jokes that come from character humor, that come from characters and that come from the situations."

Yeah, that's what we need. Brett Ratner to start bringing the funny. This guy directed Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2. His idea of funny is jokes about how black people be all listening to the radio really loud and shit. He thinks Chris Tucker making fun of peopel with Asian accents, and Jackie Chan falling down repeatedly, is the height of comic genius. I look forward to the stream of Cyclops fart gags, and Rogue's incessant mugging. It's gonna be quite a summer!

White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)

I think there's something we all need to publicly acknowledge, so that we can move on as a people.

Lindsay Lohan is definitely definitely definitely absolutely 100% on cocaine. Okay? Everyone understand? Do I even need to elaborate any further? Okay, fine, I'll prove the case incontrovertably with a series of 2 pictures. First, here is Lindsay in the tabloids a little over one year ago.

Fortunately, even though I'm including this photo for scientific purposes only, it just so happens that Ms. Lohan has a fripple effect going on. This is entirely coincidental, I assure you. It is very hard to find photos of Lindsay Lohan in which part of her breast is not exposed.

Okay, so clearly at this date, she already had a touch o' the skank to her. For sure. I mean, she's got to know you can see through that top, and that photographers are going to be hounding her all day with telephoto lenses. So what we have here is a young lady who's basically inviting the entire populated universe to oogle her goodies.

But at the very least, she looks tan, fit and ready, you know? Like someone who has had a decent night's sleep and shower in the past few weeks, at the very least.

Now here's that very same girl in a much more recent photo:

Quick, somebody get these girls a complimentary muffin basket, STAT! Jesus Christ, where has Lindsay been? Out clubbing or detained at Gitmo?

I'll say it again...Lindsay Lohan is definitely on cocaine. And she has apparently befriended E.T., which is only slightly less alarming.

I think The Superficial (also the source of the pics, as you can see from their nifty logo there in the corner) says it best:

Lindsay Lohan is either a coke freak or she’s been cursed by the Black Pearl. She’s an eighteen year old billionaire princess who for some inexplicable reason looks like she’s done two tours in ‘Nam.

Man, that's good stuff. I wish my celebrity blogging were that bitchy. But alas, I'm a straight male.

So now that we know, we can all stop talking about this, okay? She's just another pampered young celeb experimenting with drugs and going to far. I mean, this girl has problems at home, she's fabulously wealthy, surrounded by toadies desperate to stay in her favor in order to suckle at the proverbial teat of her celebrity and social status. She's either going to get into coke or become a Scientologist, and judging from some of Cruise's recent public behavior, she may have made the sensible decision.

Bound to Happen Sooners or Later

A whole lot of people in Tulsa are really, really stupid.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Plus, you probably knew that already.

The Tulsa Zoo has an exhibit outside the elephant area. It features images of the elephant throughout world cultures - there's the elephant as a symbol of the GOP and so on. And one of the symbols is Ganesh, the Hindu god who appears in the form of an elephant.

Okay, fair enough. But some Christian jackass with too much time on his hands, appropriately named Dan Hicks, has now insisted that the Zoo put up a creationist exhibit. I mean, after all, they have a Hinu exhibit, right? RIGHT?

The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday in favor of a display depicting God's creation of the world in six days and his rest on the seventh, as told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

The vote came after more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd.

What a great idea! I mean, why else would children go to the zoo, other than for the opportunity for evangelical Christians to preach their bogus whackjob theories about the finger of God molding Adam out of clay? Certainly not to learn about animals.

I mean, seriously, a Creationist exhibit at a zoo? You're going to fuck these children's minds up for life. "Here are the meerkats. God made them small and wiry because he was displeased with them. For they had tasted of the Grass of All-Knowingness! Let this be a lesson to you children. And over there is a hippo, so called because that's what God wants us to call them."

Those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune, argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying: "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father."

"I see this as a big victory," said Dan Hicks, the Tulsa resident who approached the zoo with the idea. "It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination."

Bill LaFortune, by the way, is deeply offended of the idea of the Earth being his mother. If those dirty Native Americans can force their religion down our throats, why not give Christianity a chance to be heard? I mean, when will Americans start being able to talk openly about Jesus all the time, to the annoyance of everyone else? Don't preach to me, Leaps With the Buffalo! Get your hands off my God, you damn Apaches! Stop discriminating against poor unminorities like Dan Hicks!

Don't Drink the Water

I've been trying to cut down on the amount of soda that I drink this week. It isn't easy, because I'm pretty addicted to soda. I've never been tempted to take up smoking and I rarely drink alcohol, but when it comes to marijuana or Coca-Cola, I'm like Gator from Jungle Fever.

So anyway, I noticed the other week that I'm starting to develop a Fat Man Strut. You know how big fat guys, when they walk, they kind of lean back as they walk and swing their arms from side to side? Probably to compensate for their bulbous guts? Well, I've been overweight for a while now, I'm pretty used to it, but I don't want to be developing a Fat Man Strut (or FMS). I'm theorizing that once you go down that road, there ain't no going back. You never see thin guys walking that's kind of the litmus test for lifelong obesity.

(Fat women have their own funny walk, that's almost inverted really. The Fat Lady Shuffle, or FLS. More on that in a future column, possibly, if I really get desperate for ways to goof on fat chicks.)

We have one immense guy who comes into the store with the most pronounced FMS I've ever seen. The guy can barely stand up on his own two feet, let alone move across a crowded retail aisle. Whenever he's near to a sturdy surface, he props himself up against it merely to remain aloft.

So, of course, what he needs is to sit around and watch a lot more movies, preferably whilst snacking on Flaming Hot Cheetos and Warm Mountain Dew. And that's where Team Laser Blazer comes in!

Anyway, despite my own personal weight problems to overcome, I refuse to ever ever be like this guy. So I'm trying to at least drink less soda and more water, just as a way to ease into a healthier life style without having to give up Flaming Hot Cheetos or Warm Mountain Dew. The latter of which, I can't grow up, because they're sponsoring my upcoming awards ceremony. (We've got several more nominations in, including Brett Ratner! And my friend Vineet told me to stop nominating politicans because it bores him!)

There are a few problems with this plan.

I can't drink the tap water in my apartment. The pipes are apparently filled with some sort of rust, causing the water to come out a shade of brown far too fecal in appearance for me to ever consider putting it in my body. I don't even like showering in the water that comes out of these pipes. Which is why I do so only once a week.

So every time I want to sip a cool drink, which is frequently considering that my room temperature hovers around 400 degrees in the afternoon, I need to go and purchase some bottled water. It is seriously that hot in here. I'm roasting a turkey on a rotating spit over my desk even as we speak. The gravy's simmering in my bottom drawer, where I kept my stapler before it melted.

And bottled water is idiotically expensive for something I should be able to access for free, if not for the plumbing in this building dating back to the Hoover Administration. It's ridiculous. That cave the Goonies fall into has more modern, better equipped facilities than my home. I went to Subway tonight (I know! Gag!) and a bottle of Dasani costs more than a bottle of Coke.

Now, explain this to me. Dasani is bottled by the Coca Cola Company at the same plant as Coca Cola. It contains merely one ingredient, water, whereas Coca Cola contains the following ingredients: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.

And while I'm on the subject, how can a product's ingredients include the modifier "and/or"? Which is it, Coca Cola Company? You make the stuff? You want to tell me you don't know? Either you put in high fructose corn syrup or sucrose or both. Only one can possibly be the correct answer, goddamit.

Okay, I feel better. My point is that Dasani sells to you, packaged, something Coca Cola gets for free. Tap water. Yes, for all of you who missed that episode of Penn and Teller's "Bullshit" show, Dasani is just tap water recycled into bottled water and sold to you. It's something the public already pays for (water services) sold right back to them a second time.

I don't feel bad paying a buck or two for Coke, because it tastes good and they have to add stuff to water to make it into Coke. I'm not just buying it for the design - I really want a delicious caffeinated beverage. But's just water, you got it for free, it should cost like 10 cents!Not more than the drink with the complicated recipie and distincitve, brand-related flavor! What the hell is going on?

Also, I don't like drinking water because everyone else I work with drinks water and I get my bottles mixed up with theirs. Whereas, when I'm drinking Cherry Coke, I know I'm the only one doing so. Because I don't work with any 8 year olds.

Oh, yeah, and water doesn't taste like anything. But on the good side, I'm burping less, and some of my teeth are no longer in constant, excruciating pain. So I got that going for me...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sweet Smell of Success

Sidney Falco is one of the least redeemable heroes in motion picture history. He's a snake, pure and simple, a low-level PR man who would do anything for a fast buck or a kind word in the press. As portrayed by Tony Curtis in one of his best performances, he's a completely insufferable slimeball, occasionally charming but only just enough to not get punched in the face.

And he's not even the most interesting character in the movie.

Sweet Smell of Success has one of the greatest screenplays ever written, a ceaselessly wry, witty and immensely sharp takedown not just of public relations or gossip journalists but of an entire way of life. It's based on a novel by former PR man Ernest Lehman, who had grown disgusted with a business he saw as hopelessly corrupted by greed and cronyism, and scripted by playwright Clifford Odets. The 1957 drama that resulted is an amazingly satisfying entertainment, a scathing indictment of elitism and one of the best films of its decade.

It also happens to contain not just the scariest performance of Burt Lancaster's career, but one of the greatest movie villains of all time. His perverse, ego-maniacal, short-tempered demon of a columnist, JJ Hunsecker, was based in part on Walter Winchell, but is elevated by Lancaster into an impressionistic fever dream of cruelty, a taskmaster who treats Falco and anyone else dependant on him financially or emotionally, with the utmost disregard and contempt.

Falco depends on getting his clients mentioned in Hunsecker's daily gossip-and-society column. A few kind words from Hunsecker can turn a zero act into a massive hit, and Falco's clients hire him in the hopes of a little publicity from his famous friend. Unfortunately, Hunsecker lords Falco's dependency on him like a schoolyard bully, extracting all manner of personal favors in exchange for future articles.

By far the biggest favor requires Falco to interrupt the courtship of Hunsecker's comely young sister Susan (Susan Harrison) to jazz musician and all around swell guy Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). The reasons for JJ's objections to this union are never made clear, but there's definitely a creepy subtext to the entire subplot. One could argue that Hunsecker protects his sister out of a sense of sexual jealousy, or merely that Hunsecker would view any man's claiming of his sister as a display of dominance, threatening JJ's sociopathic need for control.

But there is one scene, with Lancaster staring at Susan's sleeping form through a veiled window, that points me more towards the former interpretation. Sidney's forced to get very creative in trying to disrupt this couple, cause these kids really like each other. Throughout his misadventure, he'll repeatedly refuse opportunities to get out from under JJ's thumb, to reject his scummy way of doing business. And again and again, he refuses. The chance to make it as a top New York agent, the dream of living the high life with JJ and all the other swells...well, it's just too great to resist.

So he descends deeper and deeper into a cesspool of corruption, jealousy and anger. And the dialogue! Really classic tough guy dialogue is so hard to write, in many ways because so much of it has already been written by so many massively talented screenwriters, guys like Clifford Odets. At one point, Falco is begging Hunsecker for a second chance, and JJ responds: "You're dead, son. Get yourself buried."


And Alexander McKendrick's smooth direction ratches up the tension. McKendrick really excels and depicting the chaotic buzz of the city at night. The location photography of Manhattan is absolutely stunning, beautifully inky black and white set off by the stacatto lights of Broadway.

I could go on and on about this one, but it's all up there in that picture, isn't it? Hunsecker chats away on the phone, oblivious, while Falco sits behind him and seethes. Human nature at its most depraved, and yet its most vulnerable. This movie is brilliant. Rent it immeidately.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Ignorant American

The Braffies. Already a beloved American tradition, and they haven't even happened yet. For the first time, here is the full list of celebrity guests, musical acts and presenters who will fill out the line-up for Braffy Night 2005, The Worst Person Alive Awards, sponsored by Mountain Dew Warm (it's lukewarm 2 the X-Treme!).


And it will all be hosted by Cedric the Entertainer! Don't miss it. This is one of Satan's only two North American appearances this year (he's doing the Braffies and Bonnaroo, THAT'S IT).

Okay, on to the nomination. Tonight, we come to not praise an Angry American, a country singer who has paraded his own unique brand of racist xenophobia in front of the entire nation in a defiant rebel yell against good taste, decency and rational thought. Folks, you can't mess with God's America, but you certainly can mess with Toby Keith, and that's what I intend to do right now.

You hear the word "gobsmacked" occasionally, but I never knew what it meant until one night several months ago. I was dining with my parents at the very classy Orange County hotspot Opah when we got into an extremely bizarre back-and-forth with a couple seated at the bar. They seemed somewhat normal, if a bit gregarious and tipsy, until the conversation turned to their plans for later that evening.

My parents plans, of course, consisted of going home and going immediately to bed, because my parents insist on waking up before the entire donut-making industry. For them, the Farm Report is late-afternoon viewing. I have no idea what they expect to enjoy between 5 and 7 am that the rest of us are missing out on, but whatever it is, it negates even the possibility of remaining awake past 10 pm under any circumstances save, perhaps, worldwide nuclear war. And even then, only if the fallout has physically reached Orange County, California.

But I digress. This couple, who otherwise seemed somewhat sane, was going to see Toby Keith perform at the Los Angeles Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. "Toby Keith actually performs in California," I thought to myself. "I would have imagined only states in which the number of NASCAR collectable plates exceeds the number of people with all of their teeth had big Toby Keith concerts."

I was wrong. Toby Keith is popular everywhere. People actually like this horseshit.

I mean, okay, the guy sounds cheesy and lame like just about every country singer currently plying his or her trade in America. I don't want to hate on country music as a genre, because there are plenty of fine artists who have worked in the country-western milieu, even if it's not neccessarily my favorite. But, man, country music just sucks so badly now, just represents everything ugly in the American character - it's taste for oversimplification, it's fear and hatred of progress and displays of intelligence, its prejudicial and exclusion-oriented religiocity and its tendency towards really big, stupid looking hats.

Oh, if only his worst crimes were against fashion!

Let's take a lyrical look at the song that catapulted Toby to both infamy and superstardom, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)":

American Girls and American Guys
We’ll always stand up and salute
We’ll always recognize
When we see Old Glory Flying
There’s a lot of men dead
So we can sleep in peace at night
When we lay down our head

My daddy served in the army
Where he lost his right eye
But he flew a flag out in our yard
Until the day that he died
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy
In the land of the free.

Okay, nothing really horrible so far. It's incredibly trite, but it does have the virtue of being true. Keith's dad really was a patriotic, eyeless veteran.

Now this nation that I love
Has fallen under attack
A mighty sucker punch came flyin’ in
From somewhere in the back
Soon as we could see clearly
Through our big black eye
Man, we lit up your world
Like the 4th of July

More problematic...

Keith, like all ignorant Americans, confuses interpersonal policy with diplomatic American foreign policy. He equates how countries should behave toward one another with how people behave toward one another. What happens when you're in a bar and someone you don't really even know comes in and hits you in the face for no reason?

You get up, look around, try and real quick figure out who hit you and hit that motherfucker back, am I right? Well, okay, that's not what I would do. I would probably start to cry a little bit, in that way that you do when you don't want to start crying, and then go to the bathroom and throw up. But a manly man would do the throwing a punch thing.

So Keith approves of America responding in the same way. Someone crashed a plane into your building! Hit that sumofabitch. You don't know who it was? Just hit the sumofabitch closest to you. Right on!

Also, there's the whole "delighting in the conquest of your enemies" thing that's not very dignified or, can I say, American. After WWII, we didn't dance around in the ruins of Germany sneering and writing songs about how we messed up them Krauts what good. And considering the fact that this song was about Afghanistan, which was already a pretty janky country to live in to begin with, it's almost inhuman to write a catchy, radio-friendly country tune celebrating its further degredation and destruction.

I mean, that line "light up like the 4th of July," that's bombs. He's happy that we went over and dropped bombs on Afghani people, because 9/11 was a tragedy and they're brown and they had it coming.

Hey Uncle Sam
Put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty
Started shakin’ her fist
And the eagle will fly
Man, it’s gonna be hell
When you hear Mother Freedom
Start ringin’ her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you Courtesy of the Red White and Blue

Oh, man...Is this really what we want America to stand for in the world? The country that wants to stomp on every other country? Making this guy a popular musician is like sending Stone Cold Steve Austin to the UN. We're communicating to the world that this guy speaks for us.

Toby, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of international peace and brotherhood, you stupid fuck. It was a gift from another country, it's urging the world to send us its huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That's the whole point. It doesn't have a fist, for a very good reason! Nowhere on that inscription does it read, "unless you blow up some of my buildings, in which case it's on you camel jockey motherfucker!"

All this patriotic/militaristic imagery, conflated with the word "Freedom." As if a country representing real freedom would have anything to do with the merciless slaughter of innocents we call the War on Terror. As if any country interested in spreading freedom could also be telling Muslim fanatics to "bring it on." It's all right there in the song. Toby envisions a world in which "freedom" is raining down on people like napalm, making their world into a living hell. Sounds great, donnit?

Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
And you’ll be sorry that you messed withThe U.S. of A.
'Cause we`ll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way

You know what I never realized? This song was actually quite prophetic. It was written right after 9/11...He didn't actually know for a fact that we'd end oup in a long, protracted war of cultures. He was just postulating how America would respond, and he was 100% right. Remember, back then, the media was totally willing to let Americans believe this would be a brief, easy campaign to take out the Taliban. There wasn't yet strong talk of going to Iraq at all.

And Toby was so right. The battle is raging. We're a big dog, and we're sure fighting. Although the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks aren't exactly sorry they messed with the US of A. They got what they wanted. Hardline Muslims now dominate the world's focus. The US is involved in an extended, casualty-heavy military action against Muslims in the Middle East, enraging other Muslims and encouraging further activism. Suicide bombings and attacks against Israelis are on the rise. Issues involving oil pipelines in Afghanistan, the Saudi royal family's relationship with the US government and US military presence throughout the Arab world dominate international newspapers. Surely, we've played right into their hands.

And of course, Toby winds up with the sound bite, "We'll stick a boot up your ass" line. This song is disgusting. It's a national disgrace. Every time he opens his mouth to sing it, he should be pelted with manure.

A few years removed from the WTC attack, even Toby's kind of realized his song is inappropriate. Here's the message about the song from his website:

This was written a few days after the September 11th terrorist attacks. My father was a soldier in the Army in the ‘50s and always flew a flag to show his patriotism. I had just lost him in a car wreck six months before the attacks took place, so I wrote my feelings down. I never really intended for this to be a song. It was originally titled “Angry American.”

Notice the backpeddle? "I never really intended for this to be a song." Then why did you put it to music, record yourself singing it, release it as a single, perform it on live television and in concert and make a music video starring yourself singing the song? Jackass. Of course he intended to make it a song. What else could it be? Slam poetry? He's just trying to distance himself a bit from the song, because it's so inappropriate and hateful. So he's both ugly and disingenuous. What a combo!

In the summer of 2002, Toby was scheduled to appear on an ABC July 4th special and perform "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." Anchor Peter Jennings got hold of the lyrics of Toby's song and used his veto power to get Keith booted off the show. Toby Keith proceeded to slam Peter Jennings to any reporter that would speak with him.

I thought he never even intended it as a song?

From the USA Today article of July 2002:

"I find it interesting that he's not from the U.S.," Keith says of Jennings, who is Canadian. "I bet Dan Rather'd let me do it on his special."

Man, Toby is so patriotic, he's even prejudiced against Canadians! Mmmm...that's good jingoism.
ABC News spokeswoman Cathie Levine downplays the controversy and says that Keith's camp overstates the reasons he's not going to be on the show.

"They talked to him, but they talked to a lot of people," Levine says. "There were a lot of factors in play," among them a travel conflict, since Keith already had booked a show in Provo, Utah, that night. "The whole production is still in the planning stages."

So, ABC denies that Toby was ever offered an actual slot on the show. Would he possibly trump up all of these charges in an attempt to weasel himself a slot on a big, attention-grabbing network TV showcase? Hmmm???

"By the time the 4th of July gets here, that thing'll be No. 1, and it'll sit there for weeks," says Keith, who returned this week from a USO tour to the Balkans.

"It was a song I was inspired to write because I lost (my father) six months before 9/11. Nobody wrote an angry American song, and this was one. It was the way everybody felt when they saw those two buildings fall."
Toby's egomania makes Kevin Spacey look martyr-like in comparison. First off, he predicts his song will remain number 1 for weeks and week, because it's so freaking good. I mean, it wasn't even supposed to be a song and look how well it's doing!

Then, he ventures to say that his stupid little country song about kicking Muslim ass speaks for all of America. It was the way everybody felt when they saw those two buildings fall.

Guess what, Keith, you jagoff? It wasn't how I felt! I felt, "man, this sucks...I wonder who did this to us...I bet that ape in the White House will use it to start some war with some unfortunate country full of brown people...Do I have to go to work today?"

What I did not think at 8 am that morning, watching a New York office building crumble to pieces like it was nothing, was "Hey, you dumb A-rabs, we're a-commin' for ya. I'm gonna stick my boot up yo ass! Yeeeeeeeeeeee-haw!"

Not to change the subject so late in the game, but you wanna see what Toby looked like in the 80's?

Hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over...Seriously, don't dream it's over. We're got a ways to go yet. I know...this is a long nomination. But this is a total shitbag, and I want to make sure I've covered all the bases.

The Smoking Gun grants us a look at Toby Keith's rider, which has this illuminating factoid:

"Any opening act must match ARTIST'S merchandise price...ARTIST has his own roaming glow ring, glow rose and live rose operation. No glow products of any nature or any live roses are allowed to be sold by anyone other than representatives of the ARTIST in or around the venue."

TK, you are a delight...So, opening acts who don't have nearly the name recognition or ability to mass produce of a major act like Toby Keith have no choice but to charge his exhorbitant merch prices, just to make sure he can't be undersold. Bastard. And what's with that glow rose stuff...I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but how weird...little plastic roses with light bulbs in them? Who wants that again? And for what reason?

Submitted for your approval...Toby Keith. Redneck. Owner of a lonely goatee. Angry angry American. Hungry hungry hippo. Will that list soon include Braffy-winner? Only time will tell...

Case File #445-3399, J. Bruckheimer, The Coyote Ugly Session

Mr. Bruckheimer came in for treatment several years ago, complaining of feelings of complete and total alienation from the rest of humanity. After several years of producing escapist entertainment products such as Exhibit #12-3309, Top Gun, and Exhibit #1119-93890o894, Dangerous Minds, patient has disassociated from normal emotional connection, suffering from delusions of grandeur, manic tendencies, misanthropic disgust for the American citizenry and an intensely narrow worldview in which only commercialism and juvenile mysogyny register as worthwhile pursuits.

In this session with the patient, we focused on his 2000 project Coyote Ugly, otherwise known as Exhibit #44596589-20934, viewed immediately prior to the session from the new Director's Cut Unrated DVD copy available for review in the hospital's Media Room on Level 4. Herein, LH will represent myself, the lead doctor on the case, and BR will represent the patient, J. Bruckheimer.

LH: How are you feeling today, *****?

JB: I'm okay. Those PSP discs of Pirates have been selling pretty well.

LH: I'm glad to hear it.

JB: I'm still covered with ants, though.

LH: I told you, there's no ants. Why don't we talk a little about Coyote Ugly?

JB: What a fabulous journey. Director David McNally is a delight to work with.

LH: You've told me you thought Coyote Ugly was an honest, emotionally moving story about a young girl's discovery of life in the big city. Do you still agree with that statement?

JB: I sure do. It was very important to me to not only have fun with the story of a bunch of wild girls working at a bar, but to explore their personal journies as individuals, and as women.

LH: But surely you realize that these women are impossible male fantasies?

JB: Not at all.

LH: Please continue.

JB: New York City is filled with beauties on par with Tyra Banks and Bridget Moynahan, happy to douse themselves in alcohol and dance with strange, fat men on a bar top for $2 tips. Drug-free, talented, neurosis-free girls who pay the bills by bar-dancing until they can finish their Ph.D. programs or make it as a singer/songwriter.

LH: But all of the girls are so sexual, so outgoing, so available to men at all times, and yet they are also extremely innocent. Everyone dresses provocatively and shows a lot of flesh while bar-dancing, but only the main character has a real physical relationship with a man, and even that is tame by movie standards.

JB: So what?

LH: Don't you see how this film reflects a crass male fantasy about women, rather than any objective reality about their nature or situation?

JB: You're trying to steal my brain waves! You've been working with the government and the aliens living among us!

LH: I told you, *****, there are no aliens.

JB: They leave messages for me in my poo. That's why I can't go to the bathroom.

LH: I'll have the orderly bring you something to help you go. Let's talk a little more about the movie. I think we're making real progress.

JB: No, let's talk about Gone In Sixty Seconds. Now that's a picture! Duvall didn't want to do it, but then I hit him over the head repeatedly with a ball-peen hammer, and threatened to rape his golden retriever Ralphie, and he gave right in.

LH: We'll talk about Sixty Seconds more later. I think we're on the verge of a breakthrough. Let's talk more about Coyote Ugly. I want you to think about the viicous double standard on display in the movie.

JB: What do you mean?

LH: At first, it appears to be a parable of female empowerment. Violet, played by Piper Perabo...

JB: I considered murdering her and feeding her remains to Kangaroo Jack, but I like her agent, so I didn't.

LH: Kangaroo Jack was a computer-generated Kangaroo.

JB: No, he's real. I built him a compound in my backyard. But he's so noisy! He's always whispering things in my ear, telling me to do things...bad things...

LH: Violet finds that, by dancing and showing off her goodies to drunken male patrons, she earns money and gains confidence. Then later, she finds that her slutty behavior embarrasses her father and alienates her boyfriend. But then at the end, her belief that the dancing was healthy and empowering is confirmed by her success. So which is it? Should women empower themselves by dressing like whores and gyrating against men for money, or should they preserve their dignity and protect their reputations?

JB: The weirdest thing about Kangaroo Jack is that he never goes to sleep. He's always there, waiting for me.

LH: *****, isn't Coyote Ugly really about your mother? About how she always spent her time entertaining other men, about how she didn't make you feel loved, about how she was surrounded by so much money and booze that there was nothing left for little ***** when he got home from school?

JB: No, it's about some slutty chicks who work at a bar. But not too slutty. PG-13 slutty.

LH: Yes, yes. Let's talk a little more about that bar. Do you think it's a plausible setting for a movie?

JB: Sure it is! I have a bar in my mansion modeled after the one in the movie, with hot girls dancing on it and everything.

LH: But surely you pay those girls exhorbitantly to perform for you?

JB: No, I just keep their family members and loved ones hostage in my basement dungeon, and they dance for free whenever I tell them to. And they better dance good.

LH: What about the scene where the girls pour alcohol on the bar and then light it on fire. Surely this is an overly risky practice for a crowded bar?

JB: I like fires. And explosions. Big explosions. Did you ever see Pearl Harbor? Man, those were some big explosions.

LH: I mean, would it really be worth the risk of someone getting hurt, or of the bar being damaged by fire, just to pull off some silly stunt? Would the owner of the bar possibly approve of such behavior? And wouldn't the property damage to the bar alone result in this trick never bein attempted?

JB: Is it dinner time yet? It's corn dog night!

LH: I know you love corn dog night.

JB: I sure do!

LH: Okay, why don't you go have some corn dogs. We can finish up with this next time.

JB: Gee, Dr. ******, thanks!

LH: Don't mention it, *****.

Patient continues responding poorly to any discussion of the psychotic and inexplicable thematic material included in his filmography. His hallucinations concerning Kangaroo Jack indicate some ongoing untreated neurological disorder, possibly schizophrenic in nature. Suggestions for future treatment include an increase of lithium dosage, continued one-on-one counseling twice daily, and a greenlight for a Con Air follow up featuring convicts taking over some kind of zeppelin.

Jew Shook Me All Night Long

I can't tell if this website is really funny or immensely cheesy. It's called Jews Rock, and it provides background and information on who's Jewish in rock and roll. Which is, I'll admit, a great idea for a website, if a somewhat misleading name. Though individual Jews may, in fact, rock out on occasion, we're hardly what I'd consider to be an overall rockin' kind of people. Remember, we're the enthnicity responsible for Fiddler on the Roof.

But, mislabeled though it may be, the site is informative. I didn't know Beck was a Jew, or Pink, or the Bangles, or every member of J. Geils Band except J. Geils himself, and that is all vitally important information. I found all this out by taking the Jews-in-Rock quiz, where you guess whether an individual rock act is made up of a Jewish majority or not. I scored less than 50%, even though I thought I knew a bunch about this stuff. Namely, rock music and Jewry. Who knew every member of the Knack was a member of the tribe?

And I enjoyed the list of the very Jewy original names of some really famous musicians. Here are some interesting ones:

Marc Feld: Marc Bolan (T-Rex)
Kenny Gorelick: Kenny G (ha ha!)
Love Michelle Harrison: Courtney Love
Jeffrey Hyman: Joey Ramone (Ramones)
Lou Rabinowitz: Lou Reed
Gary Lee Weinrib: Geddy Lee (Rush)
Manfred Lubowitz: Manfred Mann

You know what? On second thought, we really don't need to claim Manfred Mann. Enough people hate Jews already...

But there is a lot of stuff I don't like about the site. It's full of really bad puns playing off of Yiddish (as opposed to really bad puns playing off of the word "Jew," as in my own headline up there). Like the list of all the Jewish rockers? Its' called the Challah Fame. Ba-zing!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

HAL We Dance

You've got to be freaking kidding me. Japanese scientists have developed a ballroom dancing robot. It's a pink girl robot that can automatically respond to a partner's dance moves. Here's an actual, for real photo that I have honestly not altered in any way:

Way to go, Bing Bong! That's an awesome invention. Japan, I'm so glad you have all this time to design pink chick robots with boobs and fake gowns to dance with you. Any luck on figuring out this global warming thing that has all of us so concerned?

The Partner Ballroom Dance Robot -- or PBDR in robot talk -- has a woman's face, a sensor around its waist and can move in all directions on its three wheels hidden underneath an evening gown.

As its partner takes steps, the robot analyzes his movements and figures out how to accompany him with its shoulders, elbows, waist and neck.

They say this is just one step they're taking as part of the ultimate goal of creating a robot that can care for the elderly. But come on! You don't need to go ahead and build a ballroom dancing robot just to make a robot that can carry a fucking bedpan. R2D2 could help out a guy with a wet hacking cough; you wouldn't have to teach him the fucking rhumba. They obviously built this robot because Japan is full of creepy middle-aged fucks who wanted to dance with a pink robot. Free yourselves, Japanese people...admit the truth...

Kosuge said good caregivers needed, like PBDR, to be able to guess what the elderly want them to do using the limited information available.

"It may be difficult to take care of bed-ridden people, but caregivers for people in need of help less than that would be efficient if they can know beforehand what support those people want," Kosuge said.

"Machines or robots would be able to preempt trouble if they can find what their partners want out from what is heard and seen," he said.

I'm still not buying it. Why build a dancing robot when what you want is a nurse robot? And why make it pink with a gown? And what's with the human in that photo? Is that a guy or a girl? And why isn't the robot facing him/her? Are they doing a tango?

The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox

Ugh. Double ugh. My co-worker recommended this wretched Western Comedy to me for God knows what reason. It's dreadful. I've never been a particular fan of Old West comedies in the first place. I tend to find them shrill or juvenile for whatever reason, probably because their lawless, male-centric settings provoke the silliest impulses in screenwriters.

But this is far far worse than most. It makes Mel Gibson's Maverick look like freaking Blazing Saddles in comparison. I'm usually a fan of both George Segal and Goldie Hawn, but not even their best efforts can save this limp, tired, aimless misadventure. I couldn't find a still from the movie worthy of posting along with this entry, as a testament to the lack of enthusiasm throughout the Web for this 1976 dud.

Segal plays Charlie Malloy, known as The Dirtwater Fox, a conman who occasionally takes up with a ruthless band of outlaws. He's just helped the outlaws steal $40,000 in cash, before ditching them with the money and taking off on his own. He's just getting on his way when he's conned out of the money himself by a prostitute known as the Bluebird (Goldie Hawn).

We first meet The Bluebird as she's performing an obnoxious, incredibly long burlesque song full of stupid innuendos along the lines of "enjoy a fuzzy peach, but please don't touch my plums." This is the first of three times director Melvin Frank will make Hawn perform this little number, in one of a variety of humiliations he will visit upon her throughout the movie.

As you could probably guess, the Bluebird (who eventually disguises herself as a Duchess in a brief subplot about marrying into a rich Mormon family...don't ask...) and the Dirtwater Fox join forces to spirit the money away from the outlaws who seek to reclaim it, and fall in love along the way. Did I already remember to say "ugh"? I hope so.

Let's get back to Hawn's character. She's meant to be light and bawdy, like so many other Goldie Hawn characters, but it just doesn't come off here. Prostitution's just not the best comic affectation. Hawn in her prime was bubbly and sexy, but also clever and kind of mysterious. She could turn you on in an instant, but also turn on you, as I recall from one really cool scene in the midst of the otherwise forgettable There's a Girl in My Soup. There was always something going on behind her wide grin. But here, her character's simply a sex object, and kind of an annoying, distracting sex object at that. More than once, she reminded me of Kate Capshaw from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and that's never ever a good thing. (Although, I'll once again say for the record, very few people truly appreciate the genius of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But that's a blog post for another time.)

The joke during all those "Duchess" scenes is how impossible it is for this woman to stop being a sexual object for even five minutes. "Ha ha," we're meant to think, "isn't it ridiculous that this filthy whore is dressed in finery!" It's not funny, really...just, as I said, shrill.

And Segal doesn't fare much better. He's supposed to be, I think, a charming rogue, but as written, the Dirtwater Fox is such a moron, it's hard to sympathize with him. Imagine if Han Solo never said anything clever, treated Chewie like shit, smoked cheap cigars and threw a constant stream of cliched one liners at any piece of ass that passed his way. That's the Dirtwater Fox in a nutshell. Oh, yeah, and there's no Millenium Falcon or Lando Calrissian, either.

The biggest problem with the whole enterprise is that it's not at all funny. None of the jokes work. None. One particularly painful scene finds Hawn (posing as a Duchess) pretending to speak French to the Dirtwater Fox, in front of one of the Mormons. Their French is really English with a series of bad European accents. It goes on FOREVER, and you get the sense about halfway through the scene that Hawn and Segal know the bit isn't working. I'm serious. You can actually see their enthusiasm for the material drain away mid-scene. Farce is hard, no one ever said it wasn't.

I realize I have gone on for a while about how bad this movie is, and not gotten to all the worst stuff. Every single big moment and set-piece in the movie is based around a tired movie cliche. When the characters are tied up, they use glasses to refract sunlight and burn the rope. Whenever the Dirtwater Fox is in a scrape, he whistles for his horse and leaps on to his back. The Fox even cheats at cards by hiding an Ace of Spades up his fucking sleeve. UGH.

Oh, and there's a long and pointless and unfunny scene in which the couple hide from outlaws in a Jewish wedding. Why put this scene in there? It has nothing to do with anything. It's only in there because Melvin Frank must have thought Jews are inherently funny. With that name, I'm thinking he's a Yid himself, and there's nothing inherently anti-Semetic about the scene. It's just random and kind of desperate, which is how the whole movie plays.

George of the Jihad

I wrote some post a few weeks ago about Iraq, implying that the United States needs to take a less visible role in Iraq, and a few people in the comments section (particularly Cory) took issue with this stance. We're already there, the thinking goes, and we already desposed the country's leader and instigated a war that destroyed much of its already slack infrastructure, so we have a responsibility to look after the place now.

For the most part, I've always agreed with this thinking. My initial point was more that we should be allowing other groups to take responsibility for the things that we do, maybe even going so far as to train Iraqi police and army officials outside of Iraq, so that everything doesn't seem so tied to US imperialism.

But I'm starting to shift in my thinking. I'm starting to think we should just get the hell out of there entirely. In a recent poll, 71% of Iraqis said they would like America to withdraw completely for their country. If they don't think they need us around, who are we to argue?

I like the way Dan Carol frames the question over at the Huffington Post. He suggests that Democrats pursue one of two strategies on the War in Iraq - either commit fully to the effort, increasing the military budget and extending the influence of the US in Iraqi society (by educating women, rebuilding cities, and so forth), or let the Iraqis vote on whether we stay or go (which will likely result in our withdrawl).

These do seem to be the only two options with any possibility of actually working out. Clearly, the Bush Administration's half-assery isn't going to get the job done. Things just keep getting worse and worse and worse but whenever Rumsfeld talks, everything's all puppy dogs and ice cream. "We're turning a corner," Cheney says. "The insurgency's in its death throes. Osama just called and apologized and we're all, like, totally cool now." Well, Dick, what's taking so long, then?

But what would become of Iraq if we simply cut and run? As I see it, there are a few possibilities, and it's immensely hard to predict. (Particularly for me, a guy who knows a reasonable amount about the contemporary Middle East situation, but isn't exactly a Ph.D. on the subject). Clearly, the whole thing could devolve a bit and become a full-out Civil War, with some faction eventually obtaining some kind of majority control and violently putting down the opposition. Or, with the US removed, other Middle Eastern and European countries may provide an extra boost, and any efforts to reform, even those that are Western in origin, will no longer be tainted by the imagery of the US military.

Post-Abu Gharib, these people just don't trust us any more, and they don't seem particularly receptive to our so-called "aid." In my lifetime, I doubt American relations with the Arab world will ever recover from the events of the past 4 years. I just think our military presence there day in, day out, only serves to make things worse. But hey, I could be wrong.

A Case of the Sundays

I don't like Sundays, because the rest of the world has the day off and I have to work. The two days I'm off in the week are Friday and Saturday, so it's not like I'm actually being gypped of a free day. I get a standard weekend; it's simply shifted up by one day. This kind of throws everything off, though. Friday night still feels like Friday night, even though for me it's Saturday night. And so on.

I sort of always feel on Sundays that I should have the day off, and kind of remember when the alarm goes off that, oh yeah, I have an a-standard workweek and need to go to the video store. Rats.

The other thing I don't like about Sundays is how everyone assumes they should bring their children with them wherever they go. You can't go out to eat on a Sunday afternoon, or go to the beach (not that I've been to a beach in years, despite living in a city famous worldwide for its beaches), or God forbid go to a video store without being bombarded by strollers filled with 4 year olds for whom the entire concept of a "day off" is meaningless.

And those are the 4 year olds. I also hate the Sunday couples bringing their babies with them everywhere. They're babies! They don't know what day of the week it is. They don't know what time of day it is. They don't know the difference between Sunday morning and Tuesday night. They know they like applesauce and screaming and they know how to poop, that's it.

Listen, jerky, just because the feed store gave you the day off and church lets out before noon, it don't mean I want your 18 rugrats running around and yelling while I've got work to do, you understand?

End rant.