Saturday, September 24, 2005

My 101 Favorite Directors, 91-101

Well, here it is. My definitive list of favorite directors, ranked from the lowly (but still admirable) #101 all the way to #1. Well, okay, #1 is still a week or two off. I'm going to give these to you 10 at a time, to give you adequate time to fully digest the complex logic of my choices, and fully appreciate my reasoning.

And, you know, I still have to finish writing all the stuff. 101 separate commentaries about directors can prove pretty time consuming to actually write up. In fact, if I had known how much work it would be, I probably wouldn't have bothered and just drafted some other column blasting the President.

But I did bother, damn it! And then, Blogger deleted the entire list. So I bothered again! What can I say? I have a lot of free time and my roommates hog the DVR. Anyway, here are #101-#91. And remember, these are my favorite directors, not the greatest of all time, so if you see that I've ignored some greatly-admired, historically important filmmaker, please try to refrain from telling me that I've forgotten about them. I haven't. I remember that Fellini exists...I just don't dig his movies as much as Terry Zwigoff's. Sue me.

101. Paul Schrader

Schrader's movies are awesome, just not in the way he intends. The mad genius responsible for the searing scripts to Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder directs deadly serious films about the moral decay of mankind that just happen to be fall-down funny. His diatribe on the tragic consequences of sexual addiction, Auto Focus, plays like some kind of sleazy-bag buddy comedy. True, there are some non-ironic great films on Schrader's filmography, but really I prefer the really bad ones. No one fails with more fiery passion and entertainment value.

MY FAVORITES: Hardcore, Auto Focus

100. Kim Ki-Duk

For the last five years, South Korea's Ki-Duk Kim has churned out brilliant, sumptuous and visionary movies at a fantastic rate. They weave a haunted, tragic spell with little to no dialogue, relying on dynamic, expressive performances and startlingly bright, colorful cinematography to convey complex, confused and even contradictory emotions.

MY FAVORITES: Spring Summer Winter Fall and Spring, The Isle, 3-Iron

99. Dario Argento

No one alive makes better, more stylish slasher films than Dario Argento. Granted, he kind of made the same slasher film over and over again for 35 years...But, hey, why mess with a perfectly good formula? Some of Dario's later work suffers from all the repetition, but it does have the benefit of starring his nubile daughter Asia, who gives pretty good blood-curdling scream and is extremely willing to go topless if the scene demands.

MY FAVORITES: Tenebrae, Deep Red, Suspiria

98. Steven Soderbergh

Soderbergh's brainy. Not just smart, but the kind of smart that's always making interesting observations and connections. Also, unfortunately, he's the kind of smart that feels the need to sometimes remind you that he's smart. Some of his films are nothing more than sophomoric wankery, tedious tracts consisting mainly of navel-gazing and self-congratulation. But, like I said, the guy is smart, and he knows a shitload about film, and if you give a smart, knowledgable guy a camera and a crew, sometimes he'll turn in a great movie.

MY FAVORITES: Out of Sight, Schizopolis, Sex Lies and Videotape

97. Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan movies just look so damn cool. The Irish maverick is a genius with atmosphere. I liked his movies way before I even knew he had directed them, just because of their gloss, wit and impeccable style. He makes crime films and horror films that are only nominally concerned with genre; they're more about tone than propulsive narrative or genuine scares.

MY FAVORITES: Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, The Good Thief

96. Alan J. Pakula

I love 70's paranoia thrillers and Pakula made some of the best ones. Three Days of the Condor gets a lot of undue attention, in my opinion, whereas something like the Warren Beatty conspiracy flick Parallax View really represents the best of the genre and have been all but forgotten by modern audiences.

MY FAVORITES: Parallax View, All the President's Men, Presumed Innocent

95. Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo's my favorite superhero movie director because his films are the only ones to capture the manic energy and adolescent wit evident in the comics. Surprisingly, his low-key Spanish-language horror films are even better, trading in the gleeful spazziness of his candy-colored graphic novel adaptations for unsettling stillness, shadowy atmosphere and slowly-encroaching dread. He seems destined to be one of thebest genre directors of his generation.

MY FAVORITES: The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy, Cronos, Blade 2

94. Gus Van Sant

People are always ready to declare Van Sant over, and he keeps finding new ways to reinvent his work to keep it fresh and challenging. Very few directors are as bold or brave as Van Sant, and though sometimes his tendency towards experimentation produces obscure, confusing or distracted films (like his ill-advised shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's Psycho), often it produces films of soft, dark and tranquil beauty.

MY FAVORITES: Drugstore Cowboy, Elephant, My Own Private Idaho

93. Richard Donner

Donner's no artiste. He started by working on pop culture-savvy, post-modern TV shows (like "Get Smart") and wound up making crowd-pleasing, big-budget Hollywood fare. But it's crowd-pleasing big-budget fare that's actually pleasing, and that actually has a scale and scope to match the inflated price tag. His movies were among my favorites as a young person, and many of them hold up for me now, 20-some years after their initial release.

MY FAVORITES: Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon

92. John Lasseter

Really, the award should go to Team PIXAR, but that would be kind of unfair to everyone else. I'll give it to Lasseter because he did the two Toy Story movies. Toy Story 1 birthed the entire genre, and I feel that Toy Story 2 is probably the best CG-animated film ever made. Anyway, Lasseter has overseen the film division at PIXAR over one of the most inspired blossomings of innovation and creative artistry in animation history. These guys produce absolutely stellar, beautiful, funny entertainment for the entire family every single time out of the gate. It's amazing.

MY FAVORITES: Toy Story 2, Toy Story

91. Mike Hodges

Hodges has had something of a career resurrection here in the United States after he catapulted Clive Owen to international stardom in Croupier. This is cool, because he's been among Britain's best crime film directors for 30 years now, starting with the wonderfully nasty thriller Get Carter in 1971. Hodges films are complex, subtle and terrifically mean-spirited in a way that's very British and really refreshing. In particular, I'd recommend a BBC TV miniseries he made in 1994 called Dandelion Dead, based on a true story from turn of the century Wales about a lawyer who slowly poisons his wife over the course of 2 years.

MY FAVORITES: Get Carter, Croupier, Dandelion Dead

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Helpful Filmstrip

Just like you used to see in middle school! Don't forget, when the movie begins, you have to press "play" on the tape recorder at the right moment or the sound will be out of sync. If you get that joke, congratulations, you're somewhere around the same age as me.

Very special thanks to Random Aggression for this terrific, funny link. It's a really fun site I've been looking at a lot lately.

A History of Violence

A History of Violence is a story about two men. One, Tom Stall, runs a diner in Millbrook, Indiana and lives nearby with his devoted wife and two children. The other, Joey Cusack, is a brutal Philadelphia assassin, who disappeared several years ago after attacking a powerful mobster and killing several of his henchmen.

Are Tom and Joey the same man? Fogerty, the mobster (brilliantly played by Ed Harris) thinks so. He sees Tom on a news report, after Tom has killed two violent criminals in the middle of a stick-up attempt at his restaurant, and is 100% certain the man he has seen is his old nemesis, Joey. Tom (Viggo Mortenson) on the other hand insists that he has been Tom Stall all his life, that he grew up in Portland and has moved to Indiana to raise a family, and has never even been to Philadelphia.

One man is telling the truth and the other is lying, and director David Cronenberg leaves it to the audience for most of the running time to decide which is which. (I wouldn't dream of revealing the answers in this review, though this movie isn't really about any "twists" or surprise conclusions.)

By doing so, he takes material that could have been either a stock bloody crime film or a psychological thriller or even a Mike Leigh-esque family drama and turns it into something more unnerving and unexpected. A History of Violence is an abnormally realistic horror film, a movie about terrifying secrets that must be revealed, and others that must remain buried. It's easily one of the best films I've seen all year.

Joey Cusack of Philadelphia, we gather, was not a nice man. He was a murderer and a villain, a man who could not be trusted by anyone, even those close to him. Tom Stall, on the other hand, is the complete opposite - a peaceful father of two who only wants to protect his children, love his wife and operate a small business. It is even be possible that a man like Joey could invent a man like Tom? And if he did, would that mean anything?

I was speaking to a film critic at the video store the other day about the movie (which I had not yet seen), and he told me that it was nothing like a typical David Cronenberg movie except for a few sporadic moments of gory violence. He seemed like a nice guy and all, but he was totally wrong. Cronenberg may be adapting a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, but he has made the material his own.

Like all Cronenberg films, the subject is what has been called "body horror." Rather than confront monsters or ghosts or other such supernatural foes, characters in Cronenberg films face off against internal antagonists whose identity is intermingled with their own. The horror comes from the realization that their enemy is them, and to kill off their nemesis would be to kill themselves. (This, in fact, is exactly what happens at the end of some Cronenberg films).

In Existenz, video game designer Allegra Gellar (Jennifer Jason Leigh) becomes trapped inside her own video game, and can't tell where her consciousness ends and the external mechanism of the game begins. In The Fly, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) alters his own DNA, and begins to transform slowly into a monster. In Videodrome, Max Renn (James Woods) watches a video tape that messes with his brain chemsitry, producing horrifying hallucinations. In The Dead Zone, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) emerges from a coma to find that he has strange, unpredictable psychic powers. In Scanners, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) has lived a miserable life of confusion and solitude because of his extraordinary ESP.

And now, in History of Violence, Tom Stall is confronted by the one force he can't possibly fight - his own past. What's past is complete, and can't be changed to suit one's present needs, so Tom is completely ineffectual to change his circumstances. It's a no-win situation...If he really is Tom Stall, with no connection to Joey Cusack, how can he possibly prove it to Fogerty? Or even to his wife? If marrying someone and raising a family with them doesn't prove you are who you say you are, what else possibly could?

But if he is Joey, or was Joey, or has any connection to Joey, how can he cover up the truth forever? Because even if Joey was the kind of guy who change his identity and lie to everyone he knows, Tom Stall isn't and seemingly wouldn't know where to begin.

These are exactly the sort of heady issues confronted by all Cronenberg movies. But, as with all his best work, the film itself doesn't feel academic or abstract. It's an extremely entertaining and very immediate thriller that's as gripping and engrossing as any film I've seen this year. As I said, History of Violence is not a movie littered with "scares," but it's full of sequences of power, resonance and startling intensity.

Tom is forced to commit all manner of violent acts through the course of the film. But the operative word in that sentence is "forced." Though he is clearly a violent man, or a man capable of great violence, he does not have a foul temper, or even seem inclined to rage or destruction. He's simply someone that, when pressed, responds in a primal and aggressive manner. As a society, we have apparently agreed that violence, even excessive and gruesome violence, committed in the name of protecting one's own family is acceptable. Even heroic.

So this is the dilemma facing Tom Stall. He does what he must to protect himself and his family. Does it matter whether or not he's good at it? Whether or not he's done it before? Or even whether or not he enjoys it?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost

So, last night, I watched the Hammer Horror classic The Mummy, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It may be the best all around Hammer film. It's not as gory as some of the later ones, but it's incredibly atmospheric and the make-up on the Mummy itself (played silently by Lee) is pretty astounding for 1959.

Man, that movie rules. So imaginative, so much fun...I love Hammer films!

Anyway, while I was watching and enjoying The Mummy, I was thinking about the origin of the whole "Curse of the Mummy" legend. I mean, most of those old Universal monster movies have really obvious literary or mythological origins. Dracula is a Bram Stoker book. Frankenstein is Mary Shelly. The Invisible Man is H. G. Wells.

But what about The Mummy? All mummy movies are basically the same anyway. Some ambitious English scholar unearths an ancient crypt, thus disturbing the slumber of an ancient evil hidden away for centuries. The mummy itself always has a back story too. It's never just some random ghoul.

Usually, The Mummy was in love with a princess or something, and sometimes seeks to resurrect her or at least find a new girlfriend who looks like her. (That's what happens in the Hammer version).

Even the newer Stephen Sommers version uses the old story, to rather middling effect.

But where does it come from? Based on a bit of Internet research, it seems that, yes, The Mummy was the subject of a long-forgotten Victorian English novel. Here's the British paper The Independent:

After years of detective work by the Open University Egyptologist Dominic Montserrat, the trail of the mummy's curse has finally led back to the imagination of a young English author in the 1820s and a bizarre theatrical "striptease'' show in which Egyptian mummies were unwrapped in public.

The show took place near London's Piccadilly Circus in 1821 and seems to have inspired a little-known 25-year-old novelist called Jane Loudon Webb to write an early science-fiction book called "The Mummy."

Anyone else notice something interesting? The first "Mummy" novel was written by a woman. As was, of course, the novel that inspired Frankenstein. So few novels were written by and credited to women in those days, it's kind of odd that two of our most popular all-time monster stories both come from female authors.

Also, this original book sounds kind of interesting. I wonder if any copies even exist any more...

Set in the 22nd century, the novel featured an angry, vengeful mummy who came back to life and threatened to strangle the book's hero, a young scholar called Edric.

That would be kind of a cool...A futuristic sci-fi mummy movie. Nobody steal that idea, okay?

The article goes on to explain how, after the opening of King Tut's crypt in the 1920's, the notion of a mummy's curse became popularized.

So in 1923, when Tutankhamun's burial chamber was opened, it was another novelist, the successful author Mary Mackay (better known by her nom de plume, Marie Corelli) who applied the literary motif of the mummy's curse to the real-life discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Corelli issued a dramatic warning that "the most dire punishment follows any rash intruder into a sealed tomb''.

Another woman? Why aren't more contemporary horror novels written by ladies? They seem to have a historical knack for it. Anyway, the plot thickens...

The unexpected death, just two weeks later, of Lord Carnarvon, the chief intruder into King Tut's tomb, propelled the curse concept on to the world's newspapers' front pages. A so-called "ancient Egyptian'' inscription "Death shall come on swift wings to him that toucheth the tomb of Pharaoh'' was invented; and any death associated with the expedition, however remotely, was put down to the curse.

So, yeah, that's how the whole "curse of the mummy" idea came to be. Kind of interesting.

I just realized, right as I was about to post this, that I don't know where the whole "werewolf" thing comes from. I mean, I can guess it's German or something, because of the term "werewolf," which has got to be Germanic...I'm gonna look it up...

Okay, I'm back. I was right about the German thing. In the town of either Collin or Bedburg, Germany (Internet accounts differ) in 1589, there was a trial for a serial killer named Peter Stubbe. He claimed to have killed literally dozens of women and children over the course of several months. Furthermore, he claimed to have been practicing black magic since the age of 12, and that The Devil had given him a magic belt that, when put on, turned him into a Wolf Man.

Oddly, when Stubbe was caught, the hunters who captured him actually claimed to see him transform from a wolf into a man.

That's a nice story and all...but why would he take off the belt when there are people around who could recognize him. Isn't the whole point of a magic transmogrifying belt that you can keep your true, non-murderous identity a secret? Peter Stubbe, you crazy serial killing Medieval Teutonic dumbass!

Rita's Gone to Houston

Another month, another major U.S. city being poorly evacuated. Rita is a large hurricane unfortunately shaped like a dong. No, seriously. Check it out:

Regrettably, unlike the enormous phalluses you typically see in South Florida, this one's not attached to a man performing a selection of Cher tunes in a sequined peacock outfit. It's attached to 100 mph winds.

And Rita is bringing with it a path of destruction not entirely unfamiliar to residents of the lower half of the United States circa 2005. So, naturally, everyone Houston and nearby areas likely to be affected by Lovely Rita want to get the hell out of Dodge. Wouldn't you?

And once again, we see that no one in charge of this country, or any small portion of this country, has any fucking clue what they are doing. Seriously. It's ridiculous. We're slower at getting people out of harm's way than a special-needs preschool on Fire Drill Day. We have a harder time with evacuations than Tom Arnold after a 12-pack of Old Milwaukee and four trips to an all-you-can-eat Seafood Buffet. that last one too much?

Anyway, I hereby promise not to complain about traffic in Los Angeles for at least a week. Here's the scene right now in the Lone Star State.

Don't mess with Texas. Also, don't drive on the roads when there's a natural disaster en route.

Seriously, I don't mean to make fun. If Rita hits and it's as bad as Katrina, granted, the whole "levee breaking" thing isn't an issue because Houston is on higher ground than NOLA, but we'll still see a pretty major humanitarian crisis. And these people can't even get out of the city. Their cars are stalling out or running out of gas on the roads.


Gas stations along some of the major roads out of Houston and Beaumont, to the east, were running low on gas, said Steven McCraw, director of the governor's division of emergency management.

Some Houston residents tried various routes out of the city only to become so flustered they returned home and thought about riding out the storm. Other Texans on gridlocked roads pushed their cars to help conserve fuel.

And ATM's and check-cashing places are running out of money, so people don't have the means to actually leave the city. Unbelievable. Hopefully, Rita won't be a Category 5 Hurricane once it hits mainland, or people remaining behind in Houston are going to be in for a world of trouble. My prayers would be with them, if I believed in prayers, but I don't. of luck, everyone.

One more photo before I go...Just had to include this, because when have you ever seen a photo of people desperately trying to cross the border...into Mexico?

Onward Christian Teachers, Marching as to War


It's really over. That whole "America" "freedom of religion" "separation of church and state" thing was fun for a while. Really. I used to enjoy it. All done with now. It makes sense, really. We like to say that this country was founded on the idea of being free to practice your religion, but that's not really true. It was about the freedom to practice one, specific religion - firebrand Puritanical Christianity. Everyone else can get the fudge out, as far as those weirdos are concerned.

I hope you guys are happy.

Seriously. I hope one day all these idiots who want to force their asshole personal beliefs involving angels and afterlifes and little decorative wood carvings replete with inspirational psalm excerpts on the rest of us realize how stupid that was. How now that your religion has become your government, it doesn't really belong to you any more. How people like George Bush will pretend to believe what you do, but really violate every last tenet of your shared faith. That you're sacrificing everything, including the meaning of your religion and the message of your god, for a little fleeting taste of power.

Today, the House of Representatives voted to allow faith-based pre-school and day care programs like Head Start to discriminate against non-Christians. Who exactly are these people Representing, these housed Representatives? No one was there representing my beliefs, I can tell you that much. I know because there weren't any reports of people flinging feces at the Republicans who backed this legislation.

The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances.

The Republican-led House approved a bill that lets churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion, yet still receive federal tax dollars.


Now, some of you out there may be saying..."What's the big deal? So a church pre-school that gets federal money wants to only hire people who believe what they do?" You don't get it, okay? You're not gonna get it. Probably because you are a person who regularly discriminates against others, so you find it to be acceptable behavior.

Maybe you don't realize you're doing it. Maybe you think you treat people fairly. But if you're the sort of person who finds it perfectly okay for the government to pay an institution to educate kids, and for that institution to turn around use that money to hire only people who fit a specific religious profile, you and I aren't going to be on the same page any time soon.

It's indoctrination on a political level. It's the government paying organizations to train kids to think in a certain, governmentally-approved way.

Launched in the 1960s, the nearly $7 billion Head Start program provides comprehensive education to more than 900,000 poor children. Though credited for getting kids ready for school, Head Start has drawn scrutiny as cases of financial waste and questions about academic quality have surfaced nationwide.

900,000 children! A large segment of a future generation. No one should have access to these impressionable young minds but rabid Christian ideologues? Excuse me?

GOP lawmakers, with backing from the White House, contend that preschool centers should not have to give up their religious autonomy in order to receive federal grants.

"This is about our children, and denying them exemplary services just because the organization happens to be a religious one is just cruel," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

Rep. Foxx knows her shallow, meaningless rhetoric. She does the classic GOP technique of turning a blatantly discriminatory policy and making it seem like an unfortunate reaction to other, more pernicious discrimination. In this case, a law giving a large organization the okay to ban Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and anyone else for whom Jesus is not operating as a co-pilot is not a response to discrimination. It is discrimination.

The Republican plan would, for example, let a Catholic church that provides Head Start services employ only Catholic child-care workers.

Democrats and Republicans offered different interpretations of whether the Constitution, federal law and court rulings protected — or prevented — federally aided centers from hiring based on religion.

There's an underlying issue here that the article isn't doing a good job of fleshing out. Really, the argument comes down to the role these church schools take in education. They should be getting federal grant money only if their curriculum is non-religious in content. Can we all agree on that, at least? That it's wrong for the government to give money to a school that teaches kids about Heaven, Hell, The Devil, transsubstantiation and the importance of smearing ash on your forehead periodically to "freak out the squares"?

But, then, if you concede that these schools merely function out of a church, and don't actually teach church teachings, then why do the teachers have to share the same faith as everyone else? Why can't they just come in and teach, and then go home and do their own thing? I mean, I'm not suggesting a strident atheist should come in to a church school and blow the kids minds with Sartre plays or anything. But, I mean, you know, come in and teach the multiplication tables or, I don't know, why you shouldn't hit another child in the face even if they steal your favorite Teletubbie from out of the communal toy basket.

Or are these religious weirdos just trying to segregate themselves from everyone else. They only want to deal with people who share their odd little worldview. Possibly because they know the free exchange of ideas exists only to tear down the weak, poorly constructed foundation of their closest-held beliefs. Any dissent at all might kill the whole effect for them.

The Power of Christ Compels You!

A Mexican bishop has apparently discovered a way to cleanse money of spiritual impurities.

No, seriously, what happened was, all these drug-running gangs have been giving alms to the Mexican Catholic Church. And the Church, which felt kind of bad about keeping money that was earned through such intense violence and social evil, had no choice but to spiritually purify the cash.

I mean, what else were they gonna do?

What do you mean, "not keep it." I'll remind you of what Paul says in Corinthians 3:26...

"And they that are given money by merchants of blow shall hold the finances snugly to their breast, cleansing it of all impurities in my name...Oh yeah, and The Holy Father hates fags."

Actually, that last part might technically be in Verse 27...I'll have to check my Bible.

Ramon Godinez, the bishop of Aguascalientes in central Mexico, said donations from drug gangs occurred "everywhere" in the country, adding that it was "not up to us to investigate where the money comes from," daily Reforma newspaper reported.

"You don't have to burn the money just because it's bad. It's better to transform it ... I've known of cases (where) it's been purified," he added.

You see, he's known of cases where drug money has been "purified." What happens is, first, you get an old preist and a young preist. Then, they throw some holy water on the money, count it, divide it into neat stacks of $5,000, place two tight rubber-bands around each stack, place all the money in a duffel bag and take it to Ramon Godinez's office...And the next thing you know, those bills are clean, baby! Christ himself would be proud to take them and purchase himself some 22 inch rims!

Godinez's remarks may have been out of step with the Catholic Church. Bishops in northern Mexico said earlier this year that the multibillion-dollar cross-border trade in cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines went against church teaching.

Godinez's remarks may have been out of step with the Catholic Church? I mean, I knew Pope Joey Ratz was kind of a cruel taskmaster who clearly dislikes the benders, but he won't even come out against drug trafficking and money laundering? What kind of Church is this?

America's Next Ex-Model

I genuinely don't understand this outcry over a picture of Kate Moss doing coke. I take it you've all heard about this, as clearly an aging stick-figure shoveling drugs up both nostrils in a studio simultaneously outdraws Hurricane 2: Electric Boogaloo and the appointment of a new Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in terms of newsworthiness.

What it is exactly about this story that people find so fascinating? Kate Moss promised to stop doing coke and then didn't go through with it? Folks, that's why cocaine is dangerous in the first place. Because it's hard to stop doing, even if you want to. Not to mention that it alters behavior and personality, so a normally-honset person (assuming Kate Moss is normally honest, which is unlikely) might be willing to be dishonest if it means scoring more coke.

So, it's hard for me to believe people are shocked that a coke fiend might want to keep doing coke, despite the fact that she's a mother and she promised not to do it any more. I mean, she was, until very recently, fucking Pete Doherty, the guy from The Libertines! That man is, I would guess, now composed of 75-80% illicit narcotics. If he were to suddenly spontaneously combust, everyone within a five mile radius would get loaded off the fumes.

Barely a teenager and posing topless in a Calvin Klein underwear ad, Kate Moss sashayed her way onto magazine covers 15 years ago amid criticism of her uber-thin "heroin chic" image.

Now recent pictures of Moss allegedly snorting cocaine in a London studio have turned the 31-year-old fashion icon into a pariah, with fashion companies canceling or not renewing contracts worth millions of dollars.

Moss was dropped by Burberry, Chanel and Swedish clothing giant H&M. The British cosmetics company Rimmel London said Thursday it was "reviewing" her $2.3 million contract.

A pariah? How can someone be a pariah in the world of modeling because of drug use. That's like saying a guy no longer fits in to the world of mechanics because he has a grease stain on his jumpsuit. A trendy drug habit is not just a possibility when you become a model; it's a goddamn neccessity. It's right there in the handbook, right after the chapter on suggested vomiting techniques and before the one about weaseling out of conversations with Ben Affleck when you find yourself at the same party.

Because normal girls who don't do 50 rails before 11 am don't look like this:

People, there are only two ways to cultivate this particular look.

(1) Swallow a whole handful of tapeworms and hope for the best
(2) Stop eating and start snorting

It's a sad reality of the fashion industry, and of the world in general, I'm afraid.

We start by teaching every young girl that they want to grow up to be a model. Then, we push models towards this ideal that's not particularly attractive or healthy. And then when they cheat a little bit to reach their goal, we ridicule and mock them relentlessly, and act as if they're the worst people on Earth for making those decisions.

I don't know if any of you watched the season premiere of "America's Next Top Model" yesterday. Okay, I'm sure most of you did. Anyway, once again, I was stunned at just how much these girls want to be models. And only models. There is no other career prospect that could create this kind of giggling, adrenaline-fueled insanity in young American women.

"Congrats, girls, you're still on your way to becoming neurosurgeons!"

Most can't even elucidate why they want to be models. One girl did seem to have it figured out - she answered that she wanted to be a model because she wanted to get her "hair and her nails done" all the time, and to wear nice clothes. That's a reasonable answer. But the other girls all fall back on the same extraordinarily telling phrase: "This is what I've wanted since I was a little girl."

ATTENTION PARENTS: If your pre-adolescent daughter wants to grow up to be a model, you fucked up. That's all there is to it. I know you're gonna read this and think, "It's the TV glorifying Paris Hilton!" But I don't want to hear those kind of lame excuses. Hell, I didn't tell you to spawn; you did this on your own. Wanting to dress nice and strike poses all day is not ambition, even if you are well-paid, and your kids should grow up knowing there's more to life than that nonsense.

But that's not even the best part about that show. I'm constantly delighted by how the producers, host Tyra Banks and her panel of "fashion experts" have been forced to invent, literally from scratch, a complex and nuanced conception of the "art of modeling."

Because really, really, when you get right down to it...there's not that much going on. A model is a woman with an attractive but unique look, with a frame and body size that's ideal for wearing contemporary fashions (this is where the coke habits come in...), who have the stamina and patience to capably pose for photographers over the course of several hours. Oh, and they have to be able to strut down a runway, and then turn around and strut back behind a curtain, often while wearing feathers, beads or other stupid crap no one generally wears in public.

That's it.

But that's not really enough for a whole show. That's not even enough for a half-hour episode. The prospective models would show up, most of them would be kicked out immediately for not being tall, thin or pretty enough, and then the remaining few would look at a camera and walk down a little runway in some ridiculous get-up made entirely of highlighters and industrial-strength adhesive. Done. You're a "top model," a job that, going by the show's example, consists of making brief appearances on the next season of "America's Next Top Model" and, occasionally, Tyra Banks' chat show.

But on the show, there's a lot to it. A LOT. For example, last night, on the season premiere, I girl tripped while walking down the runway not once but twice. Okay, now, that's the entire job, is it not? Walking in high heels? If you can't do that, you're probably just not qualified. But she's not the girl that got cut; they cut some other (and more attractive) girl for no good reason. Huh?

The UN doesn't hire Swahilil interpreters that don't speak Swahili, networking companies don't hire IT guys who have never used a computer and George Bush doesn't hire anyone who doesn't have ties to wealthy, corrupt industrialists. So why would Tyra Banks want to hire a model who can't walk around?

Oh, right, cause it's funny and I'm here talking about it on my blog right now...Right...

Movies Are Dead?

This wank job from PC Magazine has seen it fit to declare movies dead. Why? Because he is so impressed by the picture and sound quality he can get with a home theater.

First off, he begins the article by stating that movies will die a slow painful death, only to reveal that he means theatrical movie screenings. Movies themselves will obviously be fine, as what else does he expect to watch on his sweet new LCD projector? Oh, right, naked pictures of "Battlestar Galactica" cast members...

Yeah, I think the author's another one of these techno-geek assholes. Why is it that everyone who enjoys modern home entertainment technology has to go on these ridiculous spiels about how "no one will go to movie theaters any more" and "DVD and HD eliminates the need for theatrical film experience"? Like Robert Rodriguez. He's done some incredible work with digital cinematography - particularly Sin City - but every time he's interviewed, it's constantly about how traditional 35 mm film is going to die out completely. It's just not true at all.

The biggest impact technology has had on any social institution is moviegoing. I think moviegoing is doomed to die off slowly unless Hollywood can come up with a reasonable new experience. As it now stands, I can feed an HDTV signal into a standard Toshiba LCD projector through the composite video ports and blow out a 100-inch 16:9 image on a screen and get a theater experience in the home.

Um, no. That's not called a "theater experience." It's called high quality picture and sound. In a movie theater, ideally, the screen envelops you, both your primary and your peripheral vision. Not to mention the idea of sitting in a large, darkened room surrounded by other patrons watching and experiencing the same movie as you.

I agree that DVD's make going to the theater less essential, and with my watching rented discs from Laser Blazer every night, I find myself going to less theatrical films. But am I willing to say that watching a movie on a few pixels on a PSP is going to replace the experience of cinema-going? No, not at all.

So why do I now want to go to the theater? Do I want to go because it's more expensive than a DVD rental? Do I want to go for the greasy popcorn coated with trans-fat butter-flavored oil? Do I want to go so I can hear cell phones going off all over the place and people yakking on them? Do I want to go because most of the movies aren't shown on large screens at all, but in boxcar-sized rooms with screens not much bigger than my projector screen at home? Do I want to go because the sound is turned too loud and pumped through a mediocre audio system?

What an asshole. "Hey, it's easier and easier each year to watch movies at home, so I'm going to write a bullshit 'trend' piece about how movies are dying out because popcorn is greasy! Journalimism is so easy!"

If he really wanted to write an article about how the movie-going experience has worsened over the years, that's fine. I might think he's a lame bitter old crank, but hey, I can be kind of a bitter crank myself. But to write the article about how technology is killing movies, and then to fall back on the old "people talk on cell phones!" stuff is so weak. Are you a PC Magazine columnist or a bad 1980's stand-up comedian?

Now with the DVD and the so-called home theater, the average experience is simply better at home. You can stop the movie when you want. You can eat dinner while watching. You can pause the movie and examine a scene more closely.

The nerd who wrote this tripe is named John Dvorak. I'm telling you now, so if you ever read anything else by him, you'll know he has no fucking clue what he's talking about when it comes to watching movies. "You can eat dinner while watching"? That's certainly one way to enhance the filmgoing experience! Shoveling food down your gullet while half paying attention. I'm sure that's exactly what Tarkovsky and Kubrick had in mind...

"How can we create a piece of work that will enrich the viewer's souls, but can be broken up into easily-digestible 10-minute chunks to be viewed between bites of Salisbury steaks and trips to the can?"

The only thing you really miss is the group experience of sitting in an audience with a hundred or more strangers who react to the film, which is an important form of socialization. Of course, that experience has to be balanced by the idiot with the hat sitting in front of you or the girl who keeps getting up every five minutes to go to the bathroom or make a call.

So, Dvorak thinks socialization in movie theaters in important...unless annoying other people are involved. It's okay, John, no one's asking you to leave your house. ( one...) Hang out there all day and watch movies by yourself in between Halo 2 rounds. It's cool, none of us hatted people will disturb you. But the rest of us still kind of enjoy going to see movies, and we aren't swayed by the unconvincing "DVD and Internets kill movies" arguments.

He then goes on to compare it to the death of newspapers, which again shows a complete lack of comprehension of the basic structure of media. Newspapers aren't going to die out, you idiot...The delivery system itself might just have to change. Instead of printing up bulky papers every day, the entire process might go online. But it's not like The New York Times is gonna stop existing tomorrow...I guess that just makes for more interesting headlines.

Meanwhile, the newspaper publishers are clueless as to what they might do to stop the bleeding and Hollywood is more concerned about digital rights management than they are about their own future. Hey, guys. There is a huge locomotive headed your way. Take a look!

John, you're an idiot. You spend an entire article stating confidently that digital media will replace the old celluloid versions of movies, and then you wonder quizzically why movie studios care about digital rights management. Because if movies are all digital and anyone can copy any digital media they want, then anyone can get their hands on any movie for free. What's a bigger locomotive than that heading Hollywood's way, exactly? Snarky comments about greasy popcorn?

See, here's the thing, folks. The new technology never really eliminates the old completely, unless it does the exact same thing but cheaper. Home theaters don't exactly replicate the theater experience...You can't go out on a date to watch a movie in your living room. Kids can't watch a movie in their bedroom to get out of the house for a few hours in the middle of summer vacation. People need theaters.

What instead happens is old and new technology become integrated. Think about radio. When TV and movies came along, radio didn't cease to exist. Because TV and movies provide different kinds of entertainment than radio. So radio adapted, changed, morphed but remained around. And after Howard Stern goes to Sirius, most people who listen to radio will probably shift to satellite. (I know I'm planning to.)

Movies will likely be the same. Maybe there will be fewer theaters, or fewer films released theatrically. Maybe the business will shift to revival theaters, that play a mix of new and classic films (oh please oh please oh please that would be so awesome...). Maybe things like double-features, 3D or other 50's style gimmicry will come to replace traditional films. I don't know. But I do know that lots and lots and lots of people like going to movies, even if anti-social dorks like John Dvorak can't imagine leaving the safe confines of their studio apartments for a few hours just to catch a flick.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Porn Squad...In Color!

This article was pointed out by astute Crushed by Inertia reader Jenifer D. on her equally astute blog, The Wrecking Machine. It's quite possibly the best newspaper article I have read all week. You can tell just by the headline:

Recruits Sought for Porn Squad

Um...where do I sign up?

The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Oh...War on Porn...Never mind.

So Gonzales and Mueller really feel that fighting the spread of pornography is a "top priority" for the FBI? We caught up with all those pesky serial rapists and murderers? Oh, cool, okay...I was just checking.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Of course, the exasperated and anonymous FBI guy wants to spend that time fighting terror instead of porn. Here's my idea...why not forget about terror and porn and start worrying about the very real crimes that happen every day? Like serial rape and murder. And arson. And kidnapping. And embezzlement. And double-parking. Cause, seriously, sometimes you just want to hop out of your car and run to the ATM when some jackhole has pulled his Escalade across three spots on Pico and you just want to get out of your car, carefully remove the jack from the spare tire kit in the trunk, so as not to disturb the box of plates and books you have in there from your last move, and insert it directly into his ear canal.

No, I'm not saying we shouldn't spend any resources fighting "terror," but it's just one priority out of many. I also think preventative measures, like securing our ports more efficiently, does a lot more than crime-fighting investigative FBI kind of work.

Applicants for the porn squad should therefore have a stomach for the kind of material that tends to be most offensive to local juries. Community standards -- along with a prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit -- define criminal obscenity under current Supreme Court doctrine.

"Based on a review of past successful cases in a variety of jurisdictions," the memo said, the best odds of conviction come with pornography that "includes bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior."

Now, seriously, what's wrong with a little consensual urination between loving partners? I mean, really...We need to actually make a federal case out of it? I mean, I'm not saying I would delight in having a lover urinate on me, but I'm not the kind of person who stars in pornography. So it doesn't matter. If that's what people want to see, and there's a girl out there willing to go for it if the dough is right, I don't see the need for government intervention.

Plenty of soap, towels, air freshener and gum on hand? Yes. Those are essentials. But government intervention? No.

Popular acceptance of hard-core pornography has come a long way, with some of its stars becoming mainstream celebrities and their products -- once confined to seedy shops and theaters -- being "purveyed" by upscale hotels and most home cable and satellite television systems.

What utter tripe! Porno is way less acceptable now than it was even when I was growing up. Porn stars have been "famous" for years, not just recently. I mean, yeah, there's a Hustler store on Sunset, but that's a tourist attraction. It's taking porn and making it into mainstream camp. If you want an actual porno store, you still have to go to a "seedy" shop. Hell, seediness is half the fun in the first place.

And let's not forget, in the 70's, porn played in public movie houses all over the country. People went to see it with friends, with dates. Professional writers and columnists would openly consider its overlying themes and messages. There's a documentary out on DVD now about Deep Throat that features Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. Now that's acceptance of hardcore porn. Let's see a contemporary critic openly discuss the imagery and subtext evident in Jenna Jameson's The Masseuse some time. Try that sometime, Dick Roeper, and see how long ABC keeps your lame ass around!

So, yeah, people still consume pornography, but they do so on the Internet, in their home, with total anonymity and totally closed off from the rest of the world. That's not exactly a sign of greater acceptability, is it?

Sadly, Gonzales' Porn Squad is just the latest iteration of this stupid ongoing "culture war," which isn't a war at all so much as it is the Last Stand of the Uptight Prude Douchebags. They're the only ones fighting a "war." The rest of us just want to be left the fuck alone to enjoy our marijuana, gambling, prostitution and golden shower-themed pornography in peace.

But Gonzales endorses the rationale of predecessor Meese: that adult pornography is a threat to families and children. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."

Oh, that ridiculous "think of the children" claptrap.

Won't someone please think of the children!To borrow a phrase from Bill Maher - "New Rule: Politicians are no longer allowed to use rhetoric made fun of on "The Simpsons" more than 10 years ago."

And Gonzales isn't just saying "children," he's saying "families." Families are threatened by porn? How so? Dad can't afford to pay the electric bill because he's wasted all his money on a plastic vibrating vagina molded to resemble Tera Patrick's? Mom comes home at night and abuses Little Johnny because she got fired from her job at the string cheese factory and has turned, in desperation, to MILF gangbang websites for supplemental income? Isn't it possible that these people just think pornography is gross and so they want to get rid of it because it offends their delicate sensibilities?

But if you really want to get angry, check this next paragraph out:

Public corruption, officially, is fourth on the FBI's priority list, after protecting the United States from terrorist attack, foreign espionage and cyber-based attacks. Just below those priorities are civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime and "significant violent crime." The guidance from headquarters does not mention where pornography fits in.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Below civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime and violent crime? VIOLENT CRIME? That's FBI priority #1 right there, as far as I'm concerned. Look at that list, seriously...What do you see? I see a list of priorities determined by the interests of major corporations and organizations, not individual rights. Corporations don't care if someone kicks your ass. They don't care if the Mafia breaks people's knee caps or extorts them for all they have in the world. They don't care if racist demagogues threaten the safety, security and well-being of minorities. And they certainly don't want a large law-enforcement agency looking for criminals within their own corporate ranks.

No, they're worried about hackers getting into their systems, about foreign conglomerates spying on their technology and future developments, and of course, about the economy being jolted by more terrorist activity. And, why not distract the goobers with a little pornography witchhunt, just for old time's sake?

At the FBI's field office, spokeswoman Debra Weierman expressed disappointment that some of her colleagues find grist for humor in the new campaign. "The adult obscenity squad . . . stems from an attorney general mandate, funded by Congress," she said. "The personnel assigned to this initiative take the responsibility of this assignment very seriously and are dedicated to the success of this program."

That quote is going to be appear on a title card before the opening credits of the new show I'm co-producing with Jerry Bruckheimer. Check out the season premiere in a few weeks on the Fox Network. It's called "Porn Squad."

Each week, we'll follow the hard-working and dedicated members of Washington's elite Porn Squad. There's Chief Investigator Alex Hardy, the embittered and recently divorced detective who has seen every kind of perversity. Then, his second-in-command, hungry young Lieutenant Toby Garrett, who joined Porn Squad to avenge his younger brother, killed five years before in a tragic Sybian machine accident. Finally, there's the beautiful Annabelle Jones, the sassy rookie upset to have her first assignment out of the Academy with the Porn Squad, instead of getting drugs off the streets of her beloved hometown of Baltimore.

Each week, they'll have to work together (and against the clock!) to stop pornography from getting into the hands of children and the impressionable. And I wouldn't be surprised if everyone's favorite anti-porn crusader and Worst Person Alive Rick Santorum showed up in a surprise cameo as a creepy loner busted by the Porn Squad for his prized collection of used tampons dating back to the Eisenhower Administration!

Or have I revealed too much?

George W.'s Hitting the Sauce!

How can the National Enquirer get away with this? Seriously, I know the tabloids make stuff up all the time and all. Ffor example, Lindsay Lohan was never on a lot of cocaine that caused her to shrivel up until she closely resembled a Muppet with 3rd Degree burns...She was just on a diet. Plus, it was an optical illusion.

Okay, so sarcasm aside, I get that the tabloids sometimes include half-truths or rumors. But unless this is true...isn't it slander?

Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.

Okay, as much as I'd like to believe it, if only for comedic purposes, I somehow doubt the veracity of this story.

Like, for example, who could have possibly known about this who would tell the National Enquirer or all places? In the story, it's just Laura walking in on George drinking...Are we to believe Laura Bush, the First Lady, just called up some distant family friends who then gabbed to the Enquirer? I don't know if the magazine's publishers have noticed, but the Bushes are kind of media savvy...makes it kind of unlikely.

Also, the story is so non-specific. Bush had a shot of...booze? What kind? What's George's brand? I'm thinking he would probably say he's a Wild Turkey man or something, but he does pretend to be a Texan, so maybe he only drinks bullshots.

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

"Laura gave him an ultimatum before, 'It's Jim Beam or me.' She doesn't want to replay that nightmare — especially now when it's such tough going for her husband."

Okay, if I have any Texan readers, I need your help...what's a "Texas-sized" shot of straight whiskey? I have seen commemorative Texas State shot glasses before, and they seem to be the same size as a traditional shot glass. How much whiskey do you guys need to ingest in one gulp in order to feel manly, exactly?

Also, if I were presented the choice between Jim Beam and Laura Bush...I can't be 100% sure, but I think I'd go with the Jim Beam. Cause she's not really that hot. And Jim Beam will get you royally fux0red.

Another source said: "I'm only surprised to hear that he hadn't taken a shot sooner. Before Katrina, he was at his wit's end. I've known him for years. He's been a good ol' Texas boy forever. George had a drinking problem for years that most professionals would say needed therapy. He doesn't believe in it [therapy], he never got it. He drank his way through his youth, through college and well into his thirties. Everyone's drinking around him."

Dude, this article is so awesome. I so wish this were true. It's actually kind of complimentary to the President, when you think about it. It gives him a soul. To hear The Enquirer tell it, he's a conflicted, guilt-ridden man who drinks in order to quiet his inner demons. In reality, I think he's probably far too heartless and disconnected to actually care about much of anything at this point, except not getting yelled at by Cheney for leaving his toys out on the Oval Office carpet.

Another source said: "A family member told me they fear George is 'falling apart.' The First Lady has been assigned the job of gatekeeper." Bush's history of drinking dates back to his youth. Speaking of his time as a young man in the National Guard, he has said: "One thing I remember, and I'm most proud of, is my drinking and partying. Those were the days my friends. Those were the good old days!"

Did he really say that? It must have been before he sobered up, but who was even bothering to interview the guy back then? I mean, besides his arresting officers?

Dr. Justin Frank, a Washington D.C. psychiatrist and author of Bush On The Couch: Inside The Mind Of The President, told The National Enquirer: "I do think that Bush is drinking again. Alcoholics who are not in any program, like the President, have a hard time when stress gets to be great."

"I think it's a concern that Bush disappears during times of stress. He spends so much time on his ranch. It's very frightening."

Justin Frank's this psychiatrist who wrote a very specious book on the President, in which he claimed that Bush's demeanor in public evidences a variety of severe mental disorders. Though I have called Bush a sociopath here on the blog before, I'm just some snarky guy and I know you people take it wiht a grain of salt. I don't propose to actually diagnose psychological disorders via the Internets.

I think, once Bush is no longer President, this whole thing would make a great ad for Jim Beam. You've got Bush sitting in his ranch at Crawford, cowboy hat barely covering the flopsweat from his brow. He's slugging a shot of Jim Beam and pouring himself another one.

Laura enters from the other room.

"Now, George, I thought you'd given up the drinking."

"Leave me alone, woman. I ain't president no more!" responds George before slugging another shot.

We see the Jim Beam logo and hear the tagline..."You think you've got problems? Talk 'em over with some Jim Beam..."

I'm telling you, that stuff will sell like freedom fries. Trust me.

The Best and Worst of the Laser Blazer Tape Collection, Part 2

You may recall this previous post, in which I bitched and moaned about the video tapes we keep on in the store all day to entertain customers. I also along the way mentioned a few moments on the various tapes that I actually enjoyed, although I don't really enjoy much on them any more, if only because I've heard them so many times through.

We even got a new tape that the boss brought from home. Or rather, it's an old tape I had never seen, so it's new to me. It was a nice little change of pace.

Anyway, because it has been a little while and I'm thirsty for content, with the online community abuzz about little other than almost assured ascendency of the mysterious and elusive Judge Roberts to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

I don't want to get sidetracked here, but how is this guy just allowed to dodge every single important question asked of him? I mean, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a seriously goddamn important decision. I'm not saying we should just reject Roberts out of hand...I don't really know what he stands for. But we should surely be allowed to ask and get a straight answer, right?

I'm not saying we should ask him, "How would you vote on abortion?," because that's not what it's about. You can't select judges based on a popular referendum of how they will vote. But you can ask questions to determine if a guy is a crazed, maniacal ideologue or a level-headed type of guy. Roberts seems to think any question more penetrating than "do you think J.D. will work out as the new lead singer of INXS" should be off the table.

Dang...I got sidetracked...BACK TO THE VIDEOS!

The Good

(1) Radiohead playing "Paranoid Android" live

One of my all-time favorite songs, so I'm lucky in that regard. Plus, when customers dig the song and come up to me, asking who it is that's performing, I get to enjoy a smug sense of superiority for a few minutes.

(2) The trailer for Maximum Overdrive

This is that ridiculous Stephen King-directed 80's movie about killer machines. The trailer features Creepy Stevie himself talking about how no one seems to get his stories right on screen, so he was forced to make one himself. He goes on to say that "he rather enjoyed" the experience, and that his movie is "going to scare the hell out of you." Never mind that Maximum Overdrive is about as terrifying as Sharkboy and Lavagirl. The best part about this trailer is Stephen's far-out, space-nerd line delivery.

(3) The music video for "Big Trouble in Little China" by the Coupe de Villes

This is John Carpenter's band doing their theme song from Carpenter's awesome Kurt Russell movie Big Trouble in Little China. The song is weird and 80's and not all that good, but it features clips from the movie! And it's an new wave synthesizer-heavy band featuring John Carpenter (the "Coupe de Villes" is a made-up band comprised of Carpenter, Nick Castle and Tommy Lee Wallace)!

(4) An extended clip of the dubbed version of Princess Mononoke

What's cool about this clip is that Billy Bob Thornton does one of the dubbed voices. How fucking stupid is that? The film takes place in old Japan, and Thornton sounds like a guy selling hot wings at a NASCAR event. In particular, one line of his just sounds so ridiculously twangy...

"You fought like a demon, boy...Like something possessed..."

If you get a chance to watch the dubbed version of Mononoke, you simply must view this scene. It's priceless. About the least Japanese thing imaginable.

(5) The trailer for The Night of the Iguana

This is one of those old trailers with an oddly intense, monotone narration. Plus the copy in the trailer is just so, I don't know...exact...It's not even like they're trying to sell you on the movie, really. More that they're trying to warn you about how depressing it's going to be...

"The Major...He was the ideal of what any man should be. But on this night, he would find out just how powerful a woman can be. One man, two women, one night...The Night of the Iguana."


(6) A long clip from Airplane 2

I don't remember thinking Airplane 2 was all that funny, but this clip we have in the store of Shatner flipping out on the radio cracks me up just about every time it's on. I love recent Emmy Winner William Shatner...He and J.D. Fortune are my official Canadians of the Day!

The Bad

(1) The trailer for Mallrats

It's not one of my favorite movies or anything, but there's nothing specifically wrong with Mallrats. I just hate the guy they have doing the voice over in this trailer. It's obviously a younger guy than they usually use, to give the trailer that young, hip edge. Ugh. Also, the stuff he's saying has nothing to do with the movie, and the only real quotes they even have from the movie is Jason Mewes saying "snoochie boochies" about 100 times.

Oh, and then at the end, the tagline is "what else would you expect from the director of Clerks?" Um, how about "a movie with less cheesy, obvious marketing."

(2) This oddball bit with Leonard Maltin talking about the futuristic possibilities of the DVD format

Leonard Maltin is seriously the world's biggest nerd. He sort of staked out a little claim within the film critic business, writing exhaustive video and DVD guides, learning about obscure animation history factoids, reviewing stuff for Playboy. But he doesn't have all that much to say about anything, really. In this little clip, clearly from some early DVD sampler promotional pack or something, Maltin talks about how DVD makes viewing movies at home possible, as if such technology had never existed prior to 1997. It's dumb.

(3) The trailer for Jerry Maguire

Okay, first off, I fucking hate Jerry Maguire. It starts off with an interesting premise - a sports agent forced to reinvent his life following the loss of a job and a nervous breakdown - and then becomes this unbelievably forced, cheery, optimistic, feel-good romantic comedy about two folks that, well, they're just so cute together they just have to work it all out.

Oh, and there's an adorable kid that says precocious crap! And a silly dancing black man! What tremendous fun! Tra la la!

But the trailer actually manages to out-cheese the movie itself. I think because it lays over that Pete Townsend "Let My Love Open the Door" song over the action of the film. So, as if seeing shirtless Cuba Gooding requesting that you present currency before his waiting eyes wasn't bad enough, you're seeing that whilst you hear Mr. Townsend's own brand of douchy 80's wanker-pop.

The Ugly

(1) The song from Disney's Hercules, sung (in Spanish) by Ricky Martin

Dear Lord, what have I done to deserve this? I've always been good, haven't I? I've never stolen anything from someone that wasn't a giant faceless corporation. I always make sure, if I happen to collide with a pedestrian, that someone around can give them a lift to the emergency room before taking off. I've even considered giving some money to hurricane relief, before remembering that I'm only one paycheck away from moving into the Astrodome myself.

So why did you have the man who made these tapes include "Go the Distance," en espanol, as performed by Latin America's largest fancy lad, Mr. Menudo himself, Richard "La Vida Loca" Martin? Why? Anyone else could be singing the song and it would be better. Clay Aiken could do a duet of "Go the Distance" with Scott Stapp from Creed and it would be a significant improvement over the R. Martin version.

I would rather see R. Kelly do an on-stage interpretive scene, where he performs as mutliple characters while lip synching "Go the Distance," four times a day than see Ricky Martin do it ever again.

(2) The trailer for Mr. Roberts

I haven't seen this old WWII Merchant Marine movie, but my co-workers inform me it's quite good. Well, the trailer friggin' sucks ass. First off, the narration is ridiculous. "All the passionate, enthuasiastic men of The U.S.S. Reluctant...and the girls who weren't so reluctant!"


Then they introduce all the actors individually.

"There's James Cagney, an old sea dawg...Jack Lemmon as Ensign Polk, who could get a girl in his sights, even if he couldn't get one in his arms."


It also features a guy yelling really loudly "You stabbed me in the back!," which is the exact thing you want to hear a bunch of times a day.

Atrocious. I don't know if I could ever sit through this movie now that I have seen this trailer.

(3) The video for the title track from Drive Me Crazy

This was a Britney Spears video from a Melissa Joan Hart teen movie a few years back. I just don't like it because it's depressing to think that Britney Spears is someone's mother.

(4) Sharon Stone awarding the Golden Globe to Geoffrey Rush for Shine

After the trailer for Shine (an overrated movie, in my opinion), we have a clip from the Golden Globe telecast, where Sharon Stone announces that he's the winner. She does it in this fake enthusiastic voice, as if she actually had some stake in him winning the award. What a poser. You know damn well she would have done that no matter who won.

She probably didn't even know the nominees before she got out there on stage. She would have read, "And the winner is...Tony Danza for Extrava-Danza!" if that's what was on the card.

Then Rush gets up and does the usual mock-modest self-serving acceptance speech in which he thanks a bunch of off-camera Jews in nice suits.

Okay, that's a cheap shot and it's unfair...There's usually one gentile woman in there, most likely a publicist, and maybe the gay guy who did the make-up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Random Acts of Violence, the blog of my friend Cory, is no more. It has disappeared.

Well, okay, it didn't disappear. Cory took it down, because he is officially a Hollywood Insider Big Shot now with no time whatsoever to devote to blogging. Seriously. He has been swallowed up by the industry machine. I'll see him years from now with a bright-blue iridescent cell phone componant strapped to the side of his head, chattering incessantly about George Lopez's numbers the other night while striding down Sunset en route to the Starbucks for a second diet low-carb biscotti.

Maybe he'll stop and nod hello to me for a moment, or maybe he'll remember that he, by law, doesn't have to speak with anyone less famous than Dustin Diamond and just continue walking. I can't be sure.

But enough of making fun of the assholes and idiots who unfortunately run this town. We were talking about Cory's once-mighty blog that unfortunately is no more.

He wrote about the important issues of our day. Issues like the alcohol policy of Medieval Times, his own awkwardness around foreigners and, in quite possibly my favorite post ever, Mr. T's harsh entreaty that you treat your mother with love and respect.

Seriously, click this link for the Mr. T goodness. Do it. Do it now.

Do it or Arnold will kill this invisible baby. I'm telling you, he's serious. That guy's crazy, you don't want to mess with him. Better click the Mr. T link, just to be on the safe side...

No Direction Home

No Direction Home is Martin Scorsese's amazing 3 hour and 45 minute documentary film about Bob Dylan, covering the singer's life from his childhood spent in a small town in Minnesota through his rise to stardom, and ending with his motorcycle accident in 1966 and near-immediate hiatus from touring.

Scorsese really serves more as a conductor this time out than a director. This is not Taxi Driver auteur territory. He gathers interviews with those close to Dylan, an immense amount of archival footage and old sound recordings and the works of other filmmakers who have documented Dylan's life into an overwhelming experience, a movie not just about the greatest American songwriter of the last century, but about American history and mythology, what this country says it means and what it actually stands for.

And the soundtrack kicks ass.

PBS is going to show this bad boy in two parts on September 26th and 27th, and I suggest you record it on your DVR or your TiVO or whatever it is that you use at your house to commit unwatchable, commercial-inundated "live" TV to digital media.

Or, you can watch it on DVD starting Tuesday.

As I said, it's an incredibly thoughtful, and extraordinarily dense document. Dylan's story is one about which I know the broad strokes - the lonely rural upbringing, the early love of country music and devotion to Woody Guthrie, the young life as a wandering "musical expeditionist," the intimate gigs at Greenwich Village coffee houses with Joan Baez and, of course, his eventual integration of rock and roll into his act, causing a rift within his audience.

What No Direction Home does isn't just re-tell this fable but attempt to see through it, not just to "the man behind the myth," but what mattered about the myth in the first place. Through contemporary interviews with Dylan himself, we can start to see his process, his creation of the persona of "Bob Dylan" from the inside out.

Dylan talks about his feelings of being born in the wrong era, how he relates to old-time "roots" music better than anything he hears on the radio. (We're shown a clip of Bing Crosby brightly performing "Accentuate the Positive" as an indication of what a young Dylan rejected about popular music). He decides to leave home, that Minnesota has done all it can for him, and to never look back, to give up on the very idea of having a history. He wants to make music of the kind that inspired him, music which is all about living an individualistic, heroic and quintessentially American life, so he has to go out and live that life.

Scorsese and Dylan are clearly aware of the hypocracy of their mission. They are here to carefully document the past, when so much of Dylan's ethos in his early years was a rejection of this kind of note-taking and analysis. In various inteviews with the press (particularly with the strange, desperate-for-intimacy and frequently baffled European press), Dylan pointedly refuses to look introspectively into his songs for "meaning." Usually, when someone wants some insight into his music or his personality, he turns their questions around on them.

"Do you think of yourself as a protest singer," a man will ask?

"Do you think of me that way?" Dylan parries.

And yet now, here we are, 40 years later, scanning this archival footage looking for...what? Meaning? But wasn't the whole point that the music was the meaning? That the songs were what mattered, and anything else Dylan had to say would pale in comparison?

That's how I used to feel. Joan Baez during the film says something that rings very true for me...Some people hear Dylan and dismiss him. "Oh, yeah, that rootsy twangy jingle-jang stuff...Whatever..." But the people who hear Dylan and do, for whatever reason, appreciate him are genuinely moved by him. He's not a musicial with a lot of casual fans.

So my perspective was always that Bob Dylan just wanted to write songs and make music, and all the press and fandom and attention and rock critic think pieces about him were just distractions. So he goofed around and made himself an obscure enigmatic mystery, the wandering, surreal, half-mad troubadour whose behavior is beyond understanding.

But after seeing No Direction Home and reading Dylan's memoir Chronicles Vol. 1, I'm not so sure. He's more contradictory than that. He's a man who genuinely wanted fame, who pursued it selfishly at times. Joan Baez, though very gracious in the film, clearly still carries around the disappointment of being left behind by Dylan as he pursued greater and greater fame as a rock star. (An incident where he did not invite her on stage with him in Britain is clearly a sore spot).

As well, for someone who shies away from the spotlight so much, he's not exactly a humble man. Bob speaks frequently, as do those around him, about how his music will be played and discussed for decades to come. Now, it seems eerily prophetic to hear the session musicians for "Highway 61 Revisited" say that they knew it would be a classic album, but to know it for certain at the time takes a certain amount of arrogance.

Many, many more contradictions abound. That's really what the guy is all about, when you get right down to it. A moody eccentric genius who's also funny and incredibly charismatic. A writer of some of the most brilliant political songs ever written who denies caring at all about politics. Perhaps the most influential entertainer of his generation, yet he claims to feel like an outsider. A man who, at the peak of his fame and popularity in the mid-60's, was going on stage every night to thunderous cat calls and boos.

Scorsese spends a lot of time on the fan reaction to Dylan's famed switch from acoustic to electric guitar, and addition of a blues band to his live show. He interlaces footage of Dylan's infamous Albert Hall performance, where his set with the musicians who would become the legendary The Band was greeted with shocking negativity, throughout the entire film. Perhaps he sees this as Dylan's defining moment...his utter refusal to bow to the pressures of his fan community, his willingness to turn his back on his strongest supports in order to fulfill his own artistic goals.

Some of the footage in this movie is truly unbelievable. First, that there is material of such sound quality and clarity around of these historic concerts, and second, that these crowds are loudly booing during these amazing songs. I mean, if I could go back in time to 1966 and see Bob Dylan and The Band play "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Maggie's Farm," I'd be pretty excited. I certainly wouldn't think to boo and hiss and call him a traitor.

So No Direction Home provides some perspective. We see Pete Seeger, kind of the grandfather of the folk music movement at the time, discussing his disappointment with Dylan. It's less that Bob started recording rock songs, as it was that Seeger and the rest of the folk community discovered that he had never really been the patron saint they had thought. His songs were so brilliant, everyone just assumed that the man who created them was some kind of prophet sent to Earth to lead them.

When they discovered he was just a remarkably talented musician who had written these songs in an effort to sound like his musical heroes, and who was willing to leave folk music aside and go off in some other direction when the mood suited him, they were a bit crest-fallen.

And so they took it out on Dylan, buying tickets to his shows so they could sit there and howl at the stage. It's very powerful stuff. It makes you realize how closely people can come to identify with the musicians they listen to every day. These men become more than entertainers, but figureheads for an entire way of life. Even Dylan admits to feeling this way about his musical idols, like Woody Guthrie.

"You could listen to these songs," Dylan says, "and learn about a way to live your life."

But when fans tried to do that with Bob Dylan songs, he recoiled in horror and shuttled off in a different direction. Whether that's heroic or cowardly is left to everyone to decide for themselves. What isn't in doubt is that the music he wrote in his folk phase and the music he continued to write (and continues to write to this day) is of an amazingly high quality, and actively demands attention.

And all of that is only one facet of this wholly remarkable film. Scorsese also tackles Dylan's sidelong involvement in the civil rights struggle, his often contentious relationships with other artists of his time, like Allen Ginsberg (who discusses his long-standing friendship with Dylan at length in an old interview), the Beatles, Johnny Cash and Andy Warhol, and even some of his odd personal ticks. When it's all over, you hardly have a complete picture of Bob Dylan, but you're probably about as close as anyone's going to get any time soon.

Considering that the also-phenomenal doco Overnight was a 2004 film, No Direction Home is clearly the best documentary I've seen thus far in 2005.

Monday, September 19, 2005


After watching National Treasure, I recall having a conversation with my co-worker, Ivan, about puzzle movies. I commented that it would be incredibly difficult for me to write a movie in which the characters had to continually solve logic problems to move the story forward.

Mainly because I always find those scenes silly when I watch movies. I always think of that "South Park" episode where the detective solves the case using tortured, illogical clues. "Jackets...You wear a jacket when it's cold out...It's cold in Iceland...Many cities in Iceland are powered by hot springs...The killer is at the sauna!"

But also because it would be hard to sit down and think of five or six really satisfying, challenging but solvable puzzles. Usually, these kinds of movies get around that problem by cheating - they provide incomplete riddles, or ones that are unsolvable, or that don't actually make sense when you go back and consider them practically.

And that brings us to Renny Harlin's ludicrous 2004 film Mindhunters, which was delayed repeatedly in theaters before coming out essentially direct-to-DVD.

Mindhunters trots out a story that will be familiar to fans of the puzzle/serial killer genre (and to Renny Harlin fans, should there be any, as he's made this film at least two or three times before).

A team of FBI trainees, all on the path to becoming serial killer profilers, must undergo a radical test designed by a legendarily devious former agent (Val Kilmer in a glorified cameo). One of them is played by Christian Slater, another by Jonny Lee Miller (ex-Mr. Angelina Jolie and Sick Boy from Trainspotting) but none of them has a personality more complex than "The One in the Wheelchair".

Deep Blue Sea alum LL Cool J comes along for the ride as a Department of Justice investigator overseeing Kilmer's project. Cool James tries his best to add some humor to the proceedings, but is given very little to do outside of displaying his swollen guns for the ladies.

They are all dropped on a desolate island, an island fashioned to look like a deserted neighborhood and designed specifically for FBI and Navy simulations, with no way of communicating with the outside world.

Then, they will be led to a crime scene and asked to conduct an investigation. After a weekend, the team will report back with a report that includes a suspect and details of his crimes.

Soon enough, of course, the team members themselves are killed off one by one. At first, naturally, they suspect this is part of the exercize, but the deaths sure do look real. (Rare props here to Harlin for actually giving us some real gore in a mainstream horror movie, for once. Not all the deaths are logical, but they are all at least somewhat disgusting, particularly a sequence featuring an acid-laden cigarette with some kickass make-up effects).

It's a generic set-up for a movie, but that's not neccessarily a bad thing. I could see a pretty solid thriller being made from this exact material. The trouble is that Harlin is a clumsy director and the script by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brobin refuses to play by any sort of rules.

Harlin is frequently held up as Hollywood's worst working director, and though I can think of a few I like less (Paul W. S. Anderson, Zach Braff, Joel Schumacher), I can't think of any who try harder and yet so consistantly fail.

The constant interjection of weird, spazzy camera tricks, loud and inappropriate sound effects, jarring and awkward montages, cheesy one-liners and unneccessary effects sequences that define Harlin's style just tire me out instantly. It's like being told an elaborate but nonsensical story by a desperate speed freak, trying in earnest to win your approval.

Some of his movies succeed in spite of themselves - like Cliffhanger or Long Kiss Goodnight or even Deep Blue Sea, although it's still not very good. They are so silly, so hyperactive and campy that it's almost endearing. But for the most part, Harlin's an abysmal storyteller, overbearing and juvenile to no end.

And the script for Mindhunters doesn't exactly do him any favors. This movie is dumb with a capital D. And even a capital B, just for extra emphasis. Take, for example, the killer's trademark. He's known as "The Puppeteer," because after he kills his victims, he strings them up with fish hooks and dangles them from the ceiling like marionettes. At one point, one of the corpses springs to life via an elaborate pulley mechanism and does a fancy little dance.

I think this is supposed to be scary, but it's just really goofy. Really. It elicited a big laugh from yours truly, anyway.

Also, the thing is full of logical inconsistancies. Give us an example, you ask? Okay, how about this...In one scene, the killer has set up an elabrote death for one of the agents, in which a line of dominoes will fall over triggering a Rube Goldberg-esque chain reaction that turns quickly lethal. In addition to ripping off Final Destination, the scene makes no sense at all.

Imagine you're an FBI profiler, you're investigating a murder scene, and someone sets off a line of dominoes. Would you stand around and gawk at the falling dominoes, wondering what will happen next, or would you stop the dominoes from falling and just, I don't know, look around for what might be about to happen?

I mean, it's not like it's really hard to figure out what chain reaction someone has set up with some fucking dominoes. In this partiuclar case, as well, the "mouse trap" mechanism is clearly visible before the trap is actually sprung. These people are supposed to be brilliant forensic investigators. That's just dumb!

There are plenty more examples, but why go into such nitpicky details? The movie is wholly unconvincing from beginning to end. And the "twist" conclusion is extremely arbitrary. No real clues are provided at all during the action that would allow you to actually figure out the ending. It's just a crap shoot - one character is going to turn out to randomly be a killer with an incredibly agile yet psychotic mind, amazing and unknown skill sets and lightning-fast reflexes, and there's no way you can figure out which character until they're almost all dead.

Unfortunately, there's so much going on in this "story," Harlin has no time to explore the setting, develop a character or two, or really do much of anything. The plot is moving constantly, and for the most part, the actors look as if they don't know what to do. So they sit around and explain the story to one another repeatedly.

"There's no way off this island."
"We're the only ones here."
"So one of us is a killer."
"Well it's not me."
"We should split up."
"How do I know you're not a killer?"
"Oh my god, it's another clue!"


The serial killer genre is one that I greatly enjoy, but it's in a serious rut. Someone needs to come along and just completely reinvent this type of movie, like Jonathan Demme did with Silence of the Lambs. Here's a humble suggestion - write a killer who actually wants to get away with it, rather than toy with some FBI agents for a while. Oh, and if you're lucky enough to get Val Kilmer to be in your movie, don't sideline him after the first 10 minutes, okay? (NOTE: That's not a spoiler. Kilmer doesn't die right away, he's just written out of the story.)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Now, Hold Still, Jimmy

No real commentary to go along with this photo. It just took me about 10 minutes to stop laughing after seeing it, and I thought I'd share the joy.

Today's "overweight kid with head stuck in desk" photo courtesy of FARK.