Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Putrid Mr. Apuzzo

It's just a wee bit early in the year for official Braffy nominations..but anyone looking for an early favorite should focus pretty closely on one Mr. Jason Apuzzo. The columnists on are all ridiculous idiots, don't get me wrong...But this guy is really something special. Check out his Oscar recap, which for some reason appeared only a few days ago. I guess a turd like this requires a few extra weeks of polishing to make it suitable for publication on any level.

Right after the Oscars a lot of conservatives were celebrating - with good reason - the show’s low ratings, and the fact that relatively few people had seen the nominated films.

Really? Conservatives checked out the Oscar ratings and then celebrated the fact that the show didn't do well? Did you guys throw, like, a Poor Oscar Ratings Bash in the courtyard of your apartment building, complete with Orange Slice and Peanut M&M's, even inviting the girls from 8H even though they never come to your cool parties?

Seriously, don't you guys have anything better to do? Aren't there some rape victims or lesbians or hurricane refugees you could be attacking in print? Look, I'm a huge movie fan, I watched the Oscars and saw all the nominated films, and even I don't know what kind of ratings the show received. Because I recognize that, if there's one thing more superficial than the results of a movie awards show, it's the demographics of that show's audience.

There was Rachel Weisz, picking up a statuette for playing a shrill, anti-corporate activist in another left-leaning, niche film (“The Constant Gardener”) nobody had seen.

I wasn't a huge fan of Constant Gardener, but is Rachel Weisz's character actually "shrill"? She seemed pretty nice, and even kind of laid back, under the circumstances. I'm thinking, based on his shallow description, Apuzzo might actually include himself in the category of those who haven't seen the film. In which case he's, of course, qualified to make value judgements about the film's award worthiness.

He arbitrarily assigns movies "viewpoints" - liberal or conservative, left-leaning or right-leaning - and then harangues Hollywood for not nominating enough films with each "viewpoint." As if the Oscars is the Fox News Network, holding up some imaginary claim to being "fair and balanced."

There were pimps and ho’s strutting their stuff, gay cowboys - even a paleolithic Leftie like Robert Altman dropped in from overseas to pick up a lifetime achievement Oscar.

For Jason, whether or not a guy has a stellar filmography has nothing to do with giving him a Lifetime Achievement Award. I mean, he really wants to argue that the director of Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts, 3 Women, California Split, The Long Goodbye and McCabe & Mrs Miller doesn't deserve an Oscar?

It should only be based upon whether he's ever said anything mean about George W. Bush? (Also, if Jason was paying any attention, he'd know that his current project is A Prarie Home Companion, written by and starring Garrison Keillor, about as American a film as you could imagine). And what does he mean by "paleolithic Leftie"? Old guy on the opposite side of the political fence from me? Ooooh, how dare they award someone like that!

How quaint, how vaguely pre-9/11 it all seemed. “Those crazy Hollywood people,” you can almost hear conservatives saying, “they’ll never learn!”

Dude, Jason, no one's calling things "pre 9/11" any more. Just letting you know. That phrase is totally pre 10/05.

Or have they? What lessons, exactly, has Hollywood learned from this past year? Unfortunately they might not be the lessons conservatives had hoped for.

Unfortunately, Jace never spells out what these lessons are, exactly. What do conservatives want to teach Hollywood? Based on Jason's column, and a few other right-wing screeds I've read, here are my guesses:

  • God hates fags
  • Blacks, particularly rapping blacks, are vaguely unsettling and undeserving of awards
  • Violence in media is usually wrong, unless it's directed towards Jesus or A-rabs
  • Michael Moore is, like, seriously, totally fat
  • George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Joe McCarthy are the greatest statesmen in American history
  • Better dead than red

Any more vital lessons, JA, that I forgot?

Everyone knows by now that Oscar 2006’s low ratings were just the last gasp of a bad 2005 at the box office. The reasons for this box office downturn are many, and one of those reasons is certainly the"out of touch" liberalism of which Mr. Clooney is so proud.

Sure, that's one reason. I mean, rampant piracy, readily available and ubiquitous DVD's, the explosions of DVR's and TiVO...none of that even enters the equation. Americans just hate that stupid librul George Clooney. I've heard talk that he'll be officially rebuked by People Magazine as 1997's Sexiest Man Alive, so you know it's getting serious.

I'm not going to link the next few paragraphs, because they are long and stupid. I'll summarize: Jason argues that, because you can make your money back on DVD and international ticket sales, you can afford to ignore what "real Americans" in "the Heartland" want to see.

Of course, this is stupid. Hollywood has abosolutely no interest in appealing solely to coastal elites. Yes, yes, I know that most filmmakers and even a lot of the entrenched entertainment industry types are real left-wingers. I'm just saying that this is only represented in a small portion of their product, the portion that gets a lot of attention come awards season.

Most of the time, Hollywood is all business. Trust me, I know from experience...This entire town is about figuring out what yokels want to see and giving it to them over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Yes, those are not the films that are nominated for Oscars. Because the Academy Awards isn't about the most popular or mainstream movies in a given year. It's about the best, or in the case of this year, it's about the most loopy and insane and rooted in Scientology and beloved by Roger Ebert. How can Jason really think that an industry churning out Yours, Mine and Ours, "American Idol" and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo only wants to appeal to elite libruls on either coast? Looking at that list, it seems more like they want to appeal to slack-jawed rubes in every state in the union, right? Right?

The model Hollywood’s following here is that of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Michael Moore’s $6 million film from 2004 that generated $222 million in worldwide boxoffice. “Fahrenheit” opened a lot of eyes in Hollywood - but not about George Bush or Iraq. Those bulging eyeballs were staring at “Fahrenheit”‘s grosses.

Of course, Jason brings it all back around to Michael Moore. Conservatives really really hate this guy. So much so, that his little documentary from more than a year ago still comes up every time they write about movies. Yes, Fahrenheit did really well. No, it didn't really affect how anything is done in Hollywood. The only other documentary to do nearly as well since then? That completely non-political bullshit about how much penguins love one another despite having teaspoon-sized brains.

So here’s the bad news: Hollywood doesn’t need the Heartland anymore. There’s basically no pressure for Hollywood to change what it’s doing, because there are plenty of Blue State audiences and DVD sales out there to make even something like the gender-bending “Transamerica” a hit, so long as the film doesn’t cost too much.

So, now it's time to decide whether we think Jason is merely misinformed or deliberately trying to deceive his readers. This brief paragraph is full of inaccuraces:

(1) A movie like Transamerica is a small film that doesn't really reflect the typical product produced by Hollywood in any way, and which a mainstream audience would not even be aware were in not for the publicity surrounding its Oscar nominations;

(2) Hollywood needs everyone to keep going to movies in order to make money. Everyone, in Red or Blue states. I mean...duh...It's a big business, and like any other major American business, the executives want to make the most money possible.

(3) Who does Jason think is buying all of these DVD's? George Soros? Random exceedingly wealthy Manhattanites? George Clooney? No, it's all kinds of Americans. Americans love DVD. Hell, I love DVD. It's awesome. But he must think he's got some pretty naive readers, if they're going to swallow this "Hollywood only caters to Blue States" line. What about Harry Potter? We all know how much children in Iowa hate that four-eyed little bastard.

I’ve heard conservatives tell me for years that ‘market forces’ will eventually force Hollywood to change, become more mainstream. The argument goes something like this: Hollywood’s product will eventually become so toxic, so nakedly political, that there will eventually be a backlash’ from the public - at which point things in Tinseltown will magically change for the better.

Okay, I've decided, he's a liar. Because there's no way he's heard random conservatives tell him for years that eventually, "market forces" will cause Hollywood to start making movies the right way, damn it! Or, if you believe that, then I've got a story for you.

"People for years have been telling me that Jason Apuzzo is a schmuck who doesn't know shit about movies. And now, I've read his column, and I realize they are correct."

Also, dude, what are you talking about? There's a film opening in a few weeks called Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. Both this year's Will Ferrell summer comedy AND it's big PIXAR summer movie deal with fucking NASCAR. The top films at the box office right now are:

(1) Failure to Launch
(2) The Shaggy Dog
(3) The Hills Have Eyes
(4) 16 Blocks
(5) Eight Below

Now, out of all of those, none are political in any way. These are not "liberal" movies or "conservative" movies. They're just movies, some of which feature Tim Allen running around on all fours and humping stuff. That's at least 90% of Hollywood product right there. That's your Mission: Impossible 3's and your King Kong's. Unless you consider "don't piss off widdle Tommy Cruise" or "don't go on mysterious expeditions to Skull Island" to be political messages.

But, no, a few movies that came out last year offended JA's delicate sensibilities, so the entire industry is teeming with librul propaganda and should be done away with completely.

Guess what? It ain’t happening. Hollywood simply doesn’t need the Red States any more. Hollywood’s more interested in how a film plays in Mexico or France these days than in Kansas. After all, Charles Krauthammer may hate “Syriana” - but the Germans and the Brits love it! So do the Spanish and the Italians. That’s the global economy for you - Hollywood’s now out-sourcing its audience.

Can you believe it? Movies made in your country actually appeal to dirty foreigners? Aren't you angry about that? Worse yet, I've heard tell that some of these dirty, filthy, disgusting Europeans are actually trying to export their movies over here! The horror! How is one supposed to remain a closed-minded, myopic, ugly American under these sorts of circumstances?

All of this may be depressing to read, but here’s the good news: if the price of entry into the movie game is $5-$20 million, conservatives can play too.

Conservatives, as we already know, already are heavily involved in show business. They just call it "The Bush Administration."

Okay, before I go any further...Jason's already mentioned Fahrenheit 9/11. Please now say aloud the name of the other film he'll work into his analysis. Come on, think hard now. Conservative idiot columnist, talking about "Hollywood," trying to prove that conservatives can make good films...Okay, fine, I'll tell you.

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” grossed over $610 million worldwide on an initial investment of only $30 million. And guess what? There’s no reason to assume that conservative productions made on even lower budgets couldn’t be successful, as well. George Lucas even said recently that the economics of ‘blockbuster’ filmmaking no longer make sense, and that Hollywood’s future is probably in making films at about the $15 million level.

But, wait, Jason...Wasn't Lucas' 2005 film Revenge of the Sith critical in some side-long ways of Dear Leader? Then how can you use a quote from him as an...oh no wait...does not compute...system failure...YOUR HEAD ASPLODE.

Phillip Anschutz’s Walden Media turned a lot of heads in conservative circles last year by pumping about $180 million into “The Chronicles of Narnia.” It was a great, successful experiment - but you won’t see another “Narnia” until 2007 - and in the meantime Hollywood will go about its usual business, merrily bashing Bush.

Can conservatives really take credit for Chronicles of Narnia? Walden teamed with Disney to make the film, first of all, and if having Disney back you is an indication of conservatism, then there's a whole lot more conservative films in a given year than Jason would want to admit in his article. (Including this week's #2 film, The Shaggy Dog). And despite C.S. Lewis' strong Christian faith, merely being the work of a religious guy or even including some Christian allegory does not make a movie conservative. I mean...come on...that's just dumb. By that measure, every film Roman Polanski ever made is "conservative," cause they're all teeming with religious imagery.

Anschutz’s $180 million could just as easily support twenty films - maybe about the War on Terror? Maybe about loopy Marxist academics? Maybe about snotty West Hollywood liberals who drive gas-guzzling SUVs? Anything’s possible.

Oooohhh! Don't those movies sound awesome?! Apuzzo, you really ought to forget this whole columnist thing and start writing those screenplays. I can't wait to see the snotty Hollywood liberals driving SUV's movie! (Actually, I think Albert Brooks already made that one. It's called The Muse. Actually, he also made a film about the so-called "war on terror" just this year. Maybe he and Apuzzo ought to hook up.)

Wouldn’t it be fun if a conservative company followed the model of Participant Productions, and pumped out a few low-budget conservative films each year? Such a company could kick-start a conservative film revolution.

Honestly, folks, I wouldn't have a problem with some movies coming out with politics that differ from mine. Really. I'm perfectly open to watching a film that takes on a contrary viewpoint from my own. Zhang Yimou's Hero is a film with a worldview that's pretty much equivalent to fascism, but I didn't protest the film being brought to my local theater or write a column about how it's an outrage. I saw it, discussed it with people afterwards, and learned a bit from the experience. Because that's just the sort of thing open-minded, thinking people can do - encounter viewpoints that differ from their own without feeling personally threatened.

It would be a refreshing change from what we’ve become accustomed to - and wouldn’t it be great for our side to make George Clooney angry for once, rather than the other way around?

Why do you think George Clooney made Good Night, and Good Luck. in the first place, you twit?! Because George Bush and the right-wing media made him angry. Just like you are making me now, with your endless stream of juvenile nonsense.

[UPDATE: In one of the comments over at Townhall on this column, a guy named BountyHunter20 offers the following insight:

I have not watched a movie in a theater since that ghastly pc butchering of Robin Hood.

Haw haw haw! Ask yourself...Does he mean Prince of Thieves or Men in Tights? Does it even matter?]

Lies and the Lying Liars

Is every single person who works at the White House a total liar? I mean, is it an actual pre-requisite for employment therein?

"Well, Mr. Adams, this all seems to be in order. Now, if I could just get you to step into this examination room, so Nurse Barker can verify that your pants are actually on fire, we'll go ahead and get you started."

While doing some advance work in a Mississippi town set for a visit from our President, two "government employees" lied first about being Fox News reporters and then about being Secret Service agents. They were neither (though, to be fair, being a Fox News reporter and a White House employee are pretty much identical jobs).

This morning, the Washington Post reports conclusively that Secret Service personnel did not falsely portray themselves as journalists while doing advance work in a Mississippi town Bush was set to visit. An earlier article from a local paper suggested this was the case.

No, it was instead "two government employees" who first impersonated journalists from FOX News, and then impersonated the Secret Service.

Jerry Akins, the Mississippean who was the butt of the joke, had told the Biloxi Sun-Herald two days ago that he had "assumed" the two men were Secret Service, after they showed him "blue porcelain lapel pins" and a third man confirmed they were "with the Presidential entourage."

Obviously, these guys never saw those Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints commercials from the 80's, or they'd remember that it's hard to live with a lie.

Actually, at this point, it might be some sort of insider White House contest about who can tell the most pointless or outrageous lie. You'd think Claude Allen would be a front-runner, not only swindling Target stores out of valuable merchandise, but then allowing the right-wing blogs to advance the story that it was his identical twin brother.

But now I'm not sure...Two doofuses masquerading as journalists and Secret Service agents...Is this a presidential administration or fucking Police Academy?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sorry, Bride, But Your Bill Is In Another Castle

This has been making the Internet rounds for a while, so all of you may have just seen it be now. But it's too hilarious not to link, even if it's a touch belated.

So without further ado, I give you...The fight against Go Go Yubari from Kill Bill Part 1, redubbed with Super Mario noises.

This is Heavy

Please, do the world a favor and sign this petition. It's simply requesting that NIKE design an actual pair of sneakers like the ones worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future 2.

As I can recall from the film (and it has been a little while since I've seen the thing), the only truly "futuristic" aspect of the sneakers was their ability to automatically fit to a customer's foot. Certainly, here in 2006, such a thing is possible, right?

Also, while you're working on that, NIKE...Why not get somebody working on hoverboards? Just a thought.

I'm Gonna Devise a Virus, to Bring Dire Straits to Your Environment

Just returned from the doctor's office about an hour ago. I've been diagnosed with some sort of viral infection. (The actual specific disease remains mysterious and unknown). I'm to take an antibiotic, drink juice and sleep, which seems to be the basic course of treatment for every disease other than tuberculosis and leprosy. (For tuberculosis, of course, you're also instructed to walk around coughing up blood into a frilly handkerchief, as everyone knows).

I've been feeling kind of sick for the past three days, but it only got acute yesterday. My joints and muscles hurt, which is a weird feeling, particularly for me as I so rarely use them. I mean, it's not like my joints are going to hurt from vigorous exercize. Nope, only the Venezuelan Monkey Flu.

The worst part is that, when you feel this sick, all you want to do is lie in bed. But you can't, because you have to go to the doctor. So I haul my ass out of bed, shower and get down to Santa Monica to the doctor's office. But, of course, they won't see you right away, so you wind up in a waiting room for an hour.

Here's a question: Isn't the doctor's waiting room a horrifying incubator of disease? You're basically telling all the sick people in an area to coalesce together in one room, breathing on one another, for upwards of 60 minutes at a time. Usually, this doesn't bother me, because I'm already sick in the first place if I'm there, but what about healthy people accompanying the sick? Or the healthy people who work there? Doesn't make sense to me.

So after the 30 minutes of waiting-room waiting, I get shown into the back for the 30 minutes of alternate, private-room waiting. This is better, in that I don't have to listen to loud, snotty children any more, but also worse, in that there are no magazines in the smaller room and I'm asked to put on a thin little robe that amply shows off my hideous back fat. Also, it's friggin' cold in there.

Finally, the doctor gets in to see me and it takes, I'd say, about 2 minutes for him to figure out what's wrong with me and prescribe medication. It took so little time once the doctor actually arrived, this could been a drive-thru service.

[MUFFLED VOICE]: "What do you have?"
ME: Um, coughing, sore joints, general fatigue, sinus pain.
[MUFFLED VOICE]: Okay, that'll be one anti-viral infection anti-biotic. Drive up to the second window.

But here's the best part of the doctor visit experience. Once it's over, you still can't just go home and sleep. No, you've got to go wait in line at the pharmacy to fill your prescription. And I don't want to come down hard on those with chronic illnesses, but it seems that every time I have to go have a prescription filled, I get stuck behind some sickly moron who takes 10 days just to drop off the slip at the counter.

"Okay, so, you have all three of my prescriptions? Do these need to be refrigerated? Do I have a refill? What do I do if I lose them? Is this going to conflict with the 8 other medicatons I'm taking? Hang on, let me list them all off for you in excrucating detail..."

And even then, once you're done waiting in the long line at the pharmacy, you're still not done. No, you have to go back and pick up your prescriptions an hour later.

Do I have any pharmacist readers? Because I would seriously love an explanation for this. I bring you a sheet that says I'm supposed to take 10 doses of this or that antibiotic. Isn't it just a matter of going into the back, finding the big bottle of that antibiotic, and counting out the right number of pills? I mean, I know you guys have special schools you attend and all that, and that you're qualified to discuss the drugs and their effects with customers, but isn't that really the essence of the job? I mean, if I don't need you to answer any questions, aren't you essentially just pill-counters?

I don't mean any offense. My job is certainly more brainless than being a pharmacist. But I don't understand what takes an hour. (And if the answer is just constant backlog, shouldn't the place just hire more pharmacists?)

So, I'll have to take off yet again for the local shopping center in a few minutes to pick up my antibiotic, which I'd identify by name if I could remember or spell the thing. But that's a whole different rant for another time - why all antibiotics have names that sound like French films.

"New from Claire Denis...a heart-wrenching tale of love and abandonment...The hit of this year's Cannes Film Festival...Emmanuelle Beart and Vincent Cassel star in...Ammoxicillan."

Pig and Human DNA Just Won't Splice

If there's one thing we love here at CBI, it's good old fashioned news stories about men sexing up farm animals. And Pam over at Pandagon has a whole slew of 'em today.

First, there's this case from last week, in which Mesa, Arizona Fire Department chief Leroy Johnson is placed on administrative leave after being caught, um...molesting a lamb in a neighborhood barn.

Police say Leroy Johnson went to a residence and knocked on the door of a home where a 13-year-old girl was staying home alone this weekend. When she didn’t answer, he went into the back yard, police said, and took a lamb into a nearby barn.

"One could certainly ascertain that if you're in a barn and in a secluded area with a lamb and you’re behind her and your pants are down by your ankles, then an unnatural sex act is probably occurring,” said Lisa Allen of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office.

But if it's unnatural, Ms. Allen, why does it feel so right?

Officials with the Mesa Fire Department, responding to Johnson’s arrest , said he’s been an exemplary employee for the past 26 years, adding that they are shocked and surprised.

That's the understatement of the year. Imagine if someone told you that your boss has been arrested for fucking a lamb in a little girl's barn. I'd say shock and surprise would rank pretty high on my list of possible reactions, after, of course, the requisite 10 hours of riotous laughter and calling every person I knew to tell them the story.

Upt next, we have the sad tale of James Reynolds of Bainbridge, Georgia, arrested for having sex with a hog. (Actually, are we sure they meant James Reynolds and not Star Jones' husband Al Reynolds? It would be an easy-enough mistake.)

Police say Reynolds jumped a fence at a stockyard and had sex with a hog.

"I've never heard of anything like this, this is actually the first case I've ever personally had to prosecute of this nature, but I guess in the same sense, it's not necessarily that unusual for his case, because he's been arrested for the same conduct with animals before," said Joe Mulholland, Decatur Co. District Attorney.

Ugh...A multiple offender. People, this means the guy fucked a pig and enjoyed it so much he had to go back for a second round, despite being arrested the first time! I guess, once your entire community knows you as "That Hog-Fucker," you really have nothing to lose by going for it a second time. Is "That Repeated Hog-Fucker" really so much worse?

Finally, Washington State is about to make sex with animals a felony following an incident in which a local farmer died while giving it to his horse.

The measure would make bestiality a Class C felony, which is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Anyone videotaping such acts also could be convicted under animal cruelty laws, as could anyone permitting such acts to take place on his property.

Offenders could also be restricted from owning animals and required to undergo counseling.

So, okay, that's all well and good. But check out this quote:

"Animals are innocent. They cannot consent," said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the bill's sponsor. "It's wrong, and now the law says it's wrong."

The first time I brought up the whole bestiality issue (which I misspelled at the time), I had a number of interesting comments. One guest challenged me on the issue of "consent." We hunt and eat animals against their consent, so why not molest them as well?

Personally, I don't find this theory very compelling. Under that line of argumentation, basically anything you want to do to an animal, no matter how painful or unneccessary, is a-OK. In theory, at least, when we raise animals for food, they are treated in the most humane manner possible. Regardless, the point isn't to torture or torment the poor things, as is certainly the case when you put your penis in them unexpectedly. (By the by, this description actually doesn't apply to the Washington farmer who died...He was, erm, the bottom in that particular scenario.)

What I find more interesting is that first sentence. "Animals are innocent." Okay, first off, I don't really feel like innocence is even a trait that can be applied to an animal. They have no morality, they have no conscience, so there isn't really room for "innocent" and "guilty." I mean, if a dog bites someone, then yes, that dog is "guilty" of biting...But that's not the context in which Ms. Roach is using the term.

She's equating "innocence" with asexuality. Animals don't want to have sex with people, therefore they are innocent.

Not much of a point to make here exactly...Just thought that was an interesting quote to give the newspaper. I would have just said, "As soon as I found out it wasn't already a felony in Washington to fuck a horse, I wrote this legislation up. I mean, what, are we kidding?"

Finally, blog Good as You unearths an article from James Dobson's repehensibly hate-mongering "Focus on the Family" website equating, you guessed it, gay marriage rights with bestiality. (The link goes to Good as You, because I'd rather have some hot hog-sex than link to Dobson). Here's the money quote from author Carrie Earll:

"The polygamists are going to go through the courts just like the gay-rights activists did, because that's the only way they can move their policy agenda forward," Earll said. "There is no limit to the deviancy of humanity. It could go to anything from bestiality to pedophilia to things we can't even imagine yet."

And you just know Carrie has spent a lot of time trying to imagine what will come next. "Hmm...what will perverts be into after it's legal to have sex with young children and animals. This sounds like a good research project! Good thing I don't have any big Friday Night plans! That'll show all those deviants."

Good as You makes all the sensible arguments against this nonsense. I just can't believe the frequency with which religious conservatives bring up besatiality in public. Remember Rick Santorum and his man-dog sex analogy? Aren't they worried people will start to read a bit more deeply into this fixation.

Not know...I have a fixation...even though I just wrote a long blog post on the subject. Okay, this just got a little creepy. I guess I'll stop now.

I've HAD it with Snakes

I warned you all about 2006's most anticipated film, Snakes on a Plane, once before. Well, at long last, we have a trailer. Yes, this film is real, it's opening in August, and it features Samuel L. Jackson kicking the ass of a whole lot of snakes, whilst on a plane.

Check out the trailer here.

Is it just me, or does this trailer feature some of the worst CGI of the modern era? Those snakes could not look less real if they were made of rubber and still had an "Hecho en Mexico" sticker on them.

I guess New Line figured that it's really the concept that will get people into the theater, not the effects. I mean, who doesn't want to see Sam Jackson whip a guy with a venemous snake? That image alone's probably worth a $7 matinee.

Seriously, though, after watching this trailer - which admittedly feels thrown together - for a movie with a premise that sounds way too thin for a feature-length movie...I'm still thinking this might all be a joke. Is there a real movie with Samuel L. Jackson, maybe a Hollywood comedy, opening later this year? Can this thing possibly be an actual film?

[And while we're talking about highly anticipated 2006 films, have you all heard that Radiohead will provide an original soundtrack for Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. Honestly, I couldn't be any more excited about this film. An animated piece done in the same style as the brilliant Waking Life, adapting a Philip K. Dick story and scored by my favorite band. Hells yes.]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Chilling Effect

Free speech appears first in the Bill of Rights for an extremely good reason. Without a free press keeping the people informed with accurate information, any kind of representative democracy cannot stand. Obviously, if citizens are expected to support and vote for candidates, they have to know what these candidates do once they get into office.

Because of the extreme difficulty in actually getting around the First Amendment to the nation's Constitution, lawmakers and government officials who want to prevent the press or whistle-blowers from telling everyone all the evil shit they're doing have to suppress free speech in other ways. It's the "chilling effect" - you don't actually imprison or attack those simply voicing their opinions, you try to force people to think twice before they have a chance to say anything at all.

It first became clear that the White House intended to use paranoia and fear to control the media and keep the public ignorant in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. This was, of course, when then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer cautioned Americans to "watch what they say," when networks started firing comedians for failing to demonstrate properly enthusiastic patriotism.

This is only natural, this desire to keep the public misinformed and ignorant. If an administration is going to insist on activities that range from the sleazy to the fundamentally wrong-headed to the downright anti-American, they then have to make sure no one finds out about it.

So, yeah, that's been going on. It's not a surprise. But this new bill, introduced by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, is a new low in threatening anyone who dares speak out against the President or his cronies. My thanks to Glenn Greenwald for pointing out this rotten legislation:

Reporters who write about government surveillance could be prosecuted under proposed legislation that would solidify the administration's eavesdropping authority, according to some legal analysts who are concerned about dramatic changes in U.S. law.


Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the measure is broader than any existing laws. She said, for example, the language does not specify that the information has to be harmful to national security or classified."

The bill would make it a crime to tell the American people that the president is breaking the law, and the bill could make it a crime for the newspapers to publish that fact," said Martin, a civil liberties advocate.

That really goes beyond a mere "chilling effect" and into a direct threat. If you tell people about the illegal stuff Bush is doing, we will put your ass in jail.

Now, it's really really unlikely that anyone would actually do jail time under this law. It probably won't even pass (although with this knuckleheads making the decisions, who knows...) The point isn't to actually jail journalists and whistle-blowers. The legislation simply intends to threaten, to make people think twice before speaking out about something. Disgusting.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Upcoming Hollywood Sequels

Movies have become so costly and audiences so unpredictable, Hollywood is relying to an increasing degree on franchises and sequel projects. Not only do these films have built-in audiences (fans of the original film), but they are also more efficient to brand to the American people. You don't really have to give people the hard sell for Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, because you already sold them on Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

This means that some movies which probably don't deserve sequels - like Big Momma's House, say, or Carlito's Way - are getting them anyway. Here are a few you may not have heard about yet, because I have just made them up.

The Day After the Day After Tomorrow

When the entire Ozone Layer covering the Earth suddenly evaporates, Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid must outrun radioactive UV radiation en route to joining the rest of their family in the Florida Keys.

The Silence of the Lambs 2: Do Over

Jodie Foster wakes up to discover that the past two sequels to Silence of the Lambs have all been a dream. She then sets about the actual business of re-catching Hannibal Lecter, which is all anyone wanted to see from these movies in the first place, as opposed to mutilated Gary Oldman tending to his hogs and wheelchair-bound Phillip Seymour Hoffman being thrown into traffic.

Office Space 2: The Search for Milton's Gold

IniTech sends Peter, Michael and Samir to the tropics to hunt down Milton and reclaim all the embezzled money he stole.

Back to Brokeback

I can't really describe this one without giving away the ending to Brokeback Mountain. So let me just say it will be directed by the Wachowski Brothers, and that in addition to more gay sex in a pup tent, it also involves a freeway chase, evil albino twins, a monologue by an old guy in front of some monitors and a large-scale rave in a massive underground city.

Naked Lunch 2: Naked in New York

Peter Weller and Judy Davis move to Manhattan, where they run afoul some more evil exterminators and cockroaches with talking sphincters. This edition, however, will replace previous director David Cronenberg with Paul W. S. Anderson...You know, to appeal to the young teens.

The Sixth Element

Not so much a movie as it is 90 minutes of footage of Bruce Willis beating the hell out of Chris Tucker. Promises to be one of the biggest hits of 2007!

The Brown Bunny 2: A Walk on the Brown Side

Vincent Gallo wanders around in a daze for 2 hours, until Chloe Sevigny shows up and gives him a rimjob, followed by a mechanical reach-around. Roger Ebert has pre-emptively given the film one thumb up.

Lord of the Rings: The Simarillion

Peter Jackson directs this 3 hour collection of disjointed epic poetry about elves. Maybe he should have gone with his prior sequel idea, Kong and Konger, but I'm not sure audiences were really hyped for that one. (Actually, it would be really hilarious now if Peter Jackson decided to remake the actual follow-up to King Kong, the fairly-atrocious Son of Kong, which was initially released the very same year as its predecessor - 1933).

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Sideshow Bob and the gay art student from "Six Feet Under" join the cast as new mutants, while Jean Gray begs for death and Vinnie Jones prances around like an extra from the set of 54. Okay, I'll be honest...I didn't actually make this one up. But it fits in so well with all the fictional ideas...How could it be fairly excluded?

Meet Joe Black 2: Die Blacker

Brad Pitt returns as the Grim Reaper, killing large swatches of people using only the power of his slack-jawed stare and dull monotone. It will take the forces of a deaf and blind swordsman (Beat Takashi) to overcome his boringness and put an end to the massacre.

American Pie: Mid-Life Crisis

The old high school gang regroups one last time, to realize they are all balding and paunchy and sick to death of the girls they lost their virginity to and married years before. So they make a bet - they all have to leave their wives, buy a motorcycle or boat and start dating a stripper before Tax Day.

Donnie Brasco: Maximum Brascosity

Johnny Depp, after some plastic surgery to disguise his identity, goes deep undercover into the New Jersey mob. He discovers that the New Jersey mob, at this point, is a bunch of fat guys who own some strip malls and little else, which doesn't make for an exciting report but is relaxing after all his wacky adventures with those New York guys.

A Bit of Nerdism for the Screenwriters

Okay, as someone who tries to write films, this is what I've been thinking about tonight. If you have no desire to write movies, you may not be interested in what follows.

So, anyway, I've been watching Batman Begins tonight, and I'm in total awe of the tight storytelling. In the first ten minutes, screenwriter David Goyer covers a tremendous amount of ground. We establish Bruce Wayne and his future love interest Rachel Dawes as children. We discover the source of Bruce's childhood fears. We meet Bruce as an adult and view the beginnings of his quest to understand the nature of evil. We meet Ducard, the main villain of the film. We are not only introduced to the myth of Ra's al Ghul but see him in the flesh. And there is an entire self-contained sub-plot in which Bruce Wayne searches for and discovers a special blue flower containing magical properties.

Holy shit. That's some fucking lean, masterful writing. By the 15 minute point, we've seen teh circumstances surrounding the death of Bruce's parents and we've met the Man Who Would Be Comissioner Gordon. Amazing.

Seriously, throwing on Batman Begins tonight, as a writer, has been inspiring. This is how it's done.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I Don't Agree With That in the Workplace!

At least, that's what Eric Hitchmough would say, if he was here.

I've got to tell you all, I'm totally burning out on idiots. I'm just done with them. I've had enough. Reached my breaking point.

I don't want to single out any particular idiots in this post, as I'd rather not hurt anyone's feelings. At this point, I've had the blog for so long, and I've told so many random people about CBI, that I'm never sure who's actually going to read it and who isn't. I only get 120-170 hits a day, but my readers are a mysterious and ever-shifting lot. Some of them are in Dubai, which I'll admit unsettles me sometimes at 3 a.m. (I'm just kidding! Actually, I'd like to extend a hearty welcome to my somewhat-surprisingly-large Middle-Eastern readership! Marhaban!)

And I'd really rather not run in to someone tomorrow and have them get angry with me because I called them an idiot on the website I run that I didn't even know they'd ever visited.

But this is just an issue on my mind a lot these days. Because I work a retail job, because I live a building full of random strangers and because the city in which I reside has roughly a 78% insanity rate, per capita, I'm forced to deal with stupidity all the time.

Not occasionally, or every once in a while. That, I could deal with. In fact, I find occasional idiocy quite amusing, really. Like that time a customer in the bookstore in which I worked asked whether fiction was "the true stuff, or the not true stuff"? I laughed for hours about that one. My friend Nathan tells a story about helping a fellow student study for a Spanish mid-term, when they posed him this question: "What's a verb?"

And I'm always happy to recount for people my own brushes with idiocy, usually on this blog.

But I'm not talking about that stuff, the funyn little dumb crap that people do...That's universal.

I'm talking about idiots. Really stupid people who go around all day aggressively, arrogantly and forcibly foisting their stupidity on to others without even realizing what they are doing.

You want an example? How about whistlers? You know anyone who whistles compulsively, all the time? They haven't yet realized it, but people sound shrill and irritating when they whistle. I know that Disney cartoons and Lauren Bacall movies have convinced generations of Americans that whistling is either joyful or sexy, but it's neither. It's dumb and obnoxious.

But here's the worst, most bothersome thing about whistlers...If you mention how obnoxious whistling becomes after a few moments, it makes you seem irritable and petty. Seriously, you could be minding your own business. Say, putting movies away or something, and suddenly you hear someone inanely whistling. If you say, "Hey, dude, could you please stop whistling?," you're the bad guy. The grouch who doesn't like happiness.

And it's not just whistling. This dynamic applies to all sorts of annoying behaviors.

  • Twirling or otherwise playing with one's hair
  • Biting one's fingernails
  • Humming
  • Pacing
  • Jingling one's keys
Oh, I have to stop there. I used to know a guy, years ago, who couldn't stand still without jiggling the keys in his pockets. It would get really annoying if you were standing around, talking to the dude, because it would almost seem like he wasn't paying attention. He was more focused on making a tinkly sound with the metal in his pocket than on what I was saying.

There was a silver lining to that particular cloud, however. I learned eventually to do a kickass impression of the guy, based solely on wobbling around and jiggling the keys in my pocket!

Okay, on with the list...More things that are subtly annoying, but that you can't really call people on without seeming very small and easy-to-annoy.
  • Picking the underwear out of one's butt crack
  • Repeated, ceaseless blowing of one's nose
  • Making puns
  • Spitting
Wow...Spitting...There are people I hang out with who spit constantly while outdoors. Constantly. They are incapable of being outside, amidst concrete or asphalt or grass, without spewing their own saliva to the ground at 10-20 second intervals. Disgusting. Personally, I find people expunging saliva from their mouths constantly to be as offensive and unpleasant as farting. I've always thought other people's spit was just gross.

In fact, there's one guy I work with (and he only occasionally reads the blog, so I think I'm safe) who actually spits in the trash cans behind the counter. Ewwwwww! Now, I know that there's no good, specific reason for me to stick my hand in the trash can, but it does occasionally go near that area. And what if something gets accidentally chucked in there and needed to be retrieved? Thankfully, I've never been in a situation where I'd actually need to reach into the spit-laden trash can, but such a situation could theoretically arise, so it would probably be best never to spit in even a semi-full container of refuse.

Here are some specific annoying behaviors of which I'm growing particularly tired
  • Having dreadlocks and thus not washing one's head
  • Telling others about how one read the book a movie was based on, and how it was way way better
  • Constantly relating the same (or similar) anecdotes or repeating opinions that have been well established
  • Raving about Crash, which is like so two weeks ago/Hating on Brokeback Mountain, which is like so last week

What's this week? Raving about Russian vampire film Nightwatch.

  • Drivers who honk at you even though there's nothing you can do about an unfortunate traffic situation
  • Babbling

This last one needs some comment. The other day I was involved in a conversation with someone about our delusional psychotic asshole President. (I'm often involved in these types of conversations). At first, it seemed totally fine, like a nice little exchange of ideas by two like-minded individuals.

But the other guy just started babbling. He'd get on a topic and then bounce around from idea to idea, barely pausing to take a breath. It was exhausting to even listen to this person. And by the time he wound his way around to his own background in activism and his desire to write actual legislation (which would then be promptly mailed to Washington!), I was making my lack of interest in the conversation visibly apparent. You know, shuffling around, darting my eyes hither and thither. Anything to subtly let this person know that he was rambling and I was growing less interested in his stream-of-conscience monologue.

And it had no effect. The guy kept right on talking. And on and on and on and on it went.

Which brings me to the #1 thing that makes annoying idiots annoying:

Total lack of self-awareness

The real idiots, the ones that drive you nuts after 10 minutes in their presence, are the ones missing the vital ability to size up their surroundings. The people who completely lack social grace or a sense of propriety.

Any one of us can make an idiot of ourselves. Once, when I was young (probably 7-9 years old, I'll estimate), my parents took me to a large birthday party being held for the child of my father's co-worker (or boss...I can't quite remember).

At one point, all the partygoers gathered in a tent for the official "cutting of the birthday cake" ceremony thing. The family did a thing where they let the baby for whom the party was thrown adorably "cut the cake," which actually means bury his face in the frosting and jerk around for a while.

Obviously, the cake was ruined. Everyone had a good laugh, and it made a good photo. But I was just a kid who had wanted some cake.

"Well, no one can have any now!" I said.

And my mother pulled me aside and explained that this was not an appropriate comment. The family had held the party, and they had decided to have fun with the cake instead of serving it, and it was rude of me to insist that I be given cake anyway.

That lesson always stuck with me. When you're a guest somewhere, you go by the host's rules, or stated in more universal terms - you do your best to get along with people, even if it means putting yourself out just a touch.

Your real Grade-A morons never learned this lesson. (They obviously didn't have my mother). They just blunder around, irritating and bothering all that they encounter while feeling no shame. It may seem like a sweet deal...Doing whatever you want, bothering whomever you feel like. But I don't has to have its costs, too, right? I mean, these assholes must be lonely, what with driving away all potential friends and well-wishers by constantly picking their teeth and breaking wind.


This is Stupid, Even for Joe Lieberman

I'll be perfectly honest. I had no idea who Joe Lieberman was until Al Gore chose him as a running mate in 2000.

My first thought upon hearing the guy's name was that this was a bad decision, because he's a Jew. I just didn't believe Americans would be willing to vote for a Jewish Vice-President. What if something happened to President Gore? There'd be a Jew in the White House! They already control the banking industry and media...and we've got something in this country called checks and balances.

But as it turns out, I was wrong. Americans did elect a Jewish Vice-President, and then the Supreme Court promptly turned around and said that, no, actually, they didn't, because we can't take the time to count up all the votes that were disregarded, so let's just let this other swell guy take over, what do you say....But that's another story.

I wasn't wrong about nominating this sanctimonious assclown to an important position in the Democratic Party, however. It just turns out that, in addition to allegiance with the Jewish faith, the guy's also a villainous loon. Here's Firedoglake quoting the New Haven Register, which I'd quote directly if it didn't require registration for its website.

I hate website registration. Why should I have to tell you my e-mail address just to read your news article? Either charge people to read your shitty paper or don't...But I really don't need to receive 40 penis enlargement ads per day in my Inbox just for the pleasure of purusing your 500 word piece of Joe Lieberman's latest round of sellout nonsense.

This fight isn't exclusively being drawn along party lines.U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who often takes a conservative line on social issues, is facing a liberal Democratic primary challenge from wealthy Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. But that hasn't stopped Lieberman from supporting the approach of the Catholic hospitals when it comes to contraceptives for rape victims.

Lieberman said he believes hospitals that refuse to give contraceptives to rape victims for "principled reasons" shouldn't be forced to do so.

"In Connecticut, it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital," he said.

What a compassionate guy! Why, he's swell. He wants a girl who has just been raped to have to research which local hospitals will provide her with the care that she needs. IT'S A HOSPITAL, YOU BOOB! People aren't going there for religious counseling. They're going there because they're in desperate need of emergency medical treatment!

Seriously, if this world were worth a damn, that last sentence would cause this cruel little worm to be drummed out of public life. This is the kind of leadership we want? Twisted old men who want to deny medication to girls who've just been brutally attacked?

I mean, I can't help but think that if these Catholics are simply unable to provide proper medical treatment to a raped girl, they should get out of the hospital business. Why not open a chain of Catholic Bowling Alleys? You won't be asked to provide medicine to the recently-raped there!

Monday, March 13, 2006

TV Twofer

I meant to review the new "Sopranos" right after it aired last night, but I got caught up in other highly important tasks. Okay, okay...I was watching some 70's Italian erotic thrillers. But they were highly important 70's Italian erotic thrillers.

But I digress. On to last night's "Sopranos," the first episode of the last full season, Season 6. (Creator David Chase has said that, following this full season, there will probably be 5 or 6 final, wrap-up episodes in 2007).

Naturally, it was brilliant. Chase's show rarely misses a step. There have only been about 4 or 5 episodes of the show ever that left me less than pleased. (One was that Columbus Day Parade episode that was kind of funny at first but grew increasingly wan and silly).

Loved the opening 10 minute montage with William Burroughs on the soundtrack. A very creepy, unsettling way to "catch up" with some of the characters after more than a year away, and it clues you in immediately that this season will deal with paranoia, decay and death. Last season's emphasis on Tony's feelings of guilt and isolation (agonizing about his cousin Tony B. or Gloria's suicide, for example) frustrated some viewers, and admittedly made the series feel like it might be stalling out. Those themes just aren't quite as fun or violent to explore as Tony's impending sense of doom.

As for the episode itself...Aside from a secret desire I've had since about Season 3 that they'd just abandon Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Melfi - by far the least interesting major character in the show's history - it was pretty much flawless. Johnny Sack in jail, Junior aggressively going out of his mind, Carmela having visions of Adrianna, the informant taking a coronary, Christopher once again coming apart. This has all the makings of a classic season. (Also, Meadow continues showing off her smoking hotness).

Not to toot my own horn, but I have long predicted that this season would revolve around the selection of a successor to Tonly, and it seems that in some way this will inform the action this year. It's just how mob stories work - the transfer of power from one generation to the next. The show almost seems to beg the question these days...Who else but Tony could step in and keep this organization running? Paulie? Silvio? Christopher? Vito? None really seem to have what it takes, and yet all of them seem to yearn for the chance to take over.

Anyway, "The Sopranos" continues to be a fascinating show, one of the few that really uses the medium of episodic television to tell nuanced, complex stories that grow over time. While most series (including series I really like, such as Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under") grow repetitive over time, adhering to a formula and telling repetitive, cyclical stories, Chase and his writers have really found a way to continually move the Sopranos' story forward. We never feel like we're revisiting old territory for Tony, but instead constantly move towards ever-more-complicated and more high-pressure scenarios.

Our next TV item concerns the departure of Isaac Hayes, the voice of the legendary Chef character, from the cast of "South Park." Hayes hasn't been in the show much at all recently, but apparently his departure has something to do with the episode last season bashing Scientology. (Hayes has been a Scientologist for 14 years.)

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs and others begins."

Now, I know I've had my criticisms of Matt and Trey on this blog over the years, but I continue to find "South Park" one of television's more daring, amusing and worthwhile half-hours. And Hayes' statement is completely bogus. He had no problem with the show mocking various celebrities in highly personal, offensive terms, with mocking Christianity and Judaism and Buddhism and Islam, with mocking the disabled and retarded and transgendered and those with conjoined fetuses attached to their faces.

In fact, the whole point of the show is that it's unafraid to make fun of anybody. So exclusding Scientologists wouldn't even make any sense.

And that's basically what Matt and Trey called Hayes on in their statements to the press.

Here's their spokesman:

"Obviously, Matt and Trey are disappointed that he's not going to be part of the show, but they're not going to make him do something he doesn't want to do … (however they) feel that it's a bit disingenuous to cite religious intolerance as a reason for him pulling out of the show … Their premise is as long as you can make fun of everybody, then everybody is a potential target. The minute you start pulling punches, than the show's reason for being sort of gets compromised."

And here's what Matt Stone told the Associated Press:

"South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."


The Scientologists are famously sensitive about criticism. And I guess that makes sense, really. When you believe in nothing but nonsensical children's stories pulled from arcane science-fiction literature, and you sincerely mean to recruit thousands of new members, I guess you have to try and supress dissent. Why would anyone join your church if they know you're eventually going to try and foist this ludicrous Xenu bullshit on them?

Still, it sucks there won't be any more Chef. One of my favorite episodes is the one where the kids go to visit Chef's parents, and his Mom keeps talking about giving the Loch Ness Monster "tree-fiddy." Hilarious.