Saturday, June 16, 2007

Great Moments in Conservative Humor

Here's Dennis Miller discussing how Harry Reid looks old and encourages al-Qaeda:

Now, leaving aside the lunatic thesis of Dennis Miller's latest "rant," that it's borderline traitorous to point out how badly our President's war has gone, it's a perfect PERFECT example of my Great Moments in Conservative Humor thesis...That conservatives can't be funny because they are mean-spirited bullies who can't get over their hatred for the Other long enough to write a halfway-decent joke.

It's all there in Miller's little speech. He means to undermine Reid, but just makes himself look ridiculous in the process, like an angry little man lashing out at someone more powerful and significant than he. (And I'm not even a Harry Reid fan. I'd be perfectly happy to laugh to a series of cruel jokes at the callow and ineffective Reid's expense.) This kind of bilious screed isn't really funny; it's clear that Miller detests Reid, whom he expressly insists should never speak publicly again. (This gets the biggest applause of the night, an obvious nod to the pervasive authoritarian/eliminationist streak in Fox News coverage.)

Now, yes, Jon Stewart told Tucker Carlson to go away and stop talking, but not on his comedy show; he was a guest on Carlson's "news show" at the time and made that aside as part of a larger, and to my mind wholly sensible, argument. Stewart's attitude on "The Daily Show" is one of bemused concern. He's worried about the fate of our nation, sure, but he's also able to take a step back and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. The emotional connection is with the viewer, not the Party or the Issue.

Miller doesn't even try to connect with his audience. (To be honest, this has always been one of his faults as a performer). There's nothing about Miller's performance, really, that indicates he finds Reid funny or intends to make us laugh.

"[Reid's] is a mediocre man's Thermopylae."

300 references...Nice.

"Ironic that the Senator from Vegas would be such a dim bulb."

GOOD LORD THAT JOKE SUCKS! In fact, it's so hacky, I actually think Dennis Miller might have stolen that joke from Carlos Mencia! Here's your chance, Ned! Find out the next time Miller's going to be at the Laugh Factory and pull a Rogan on him. Oh, that would be so sweet!

Much of Miller's monologue here is composed of direct insults, and the more descriptive portions sound like the preamble to rounding up a posse and calling for the man's head rather than a bit of incisive satire. NOTE: I never find direct insults funny. Anyone remember the film Grumpy Old Men. Someone clearly thought that the idea of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon hurling plain-spoken invective at one another for 90 minutes would be funny. Instead, it's just embarrassing. Most of the exchanges consist of "You're a moron," "Shut up idiot" and the like. Miller's routine here is similar, calling Reid just about everything he could get past the Fox News Dept. of Standards and Practices.

I mean, the words that come out of Reid's "ashen piehole" sound like they're "oozing from a stuck caulking gun"? Jokes like this are why Edgar Allen Poe didn't get invited to many Friar's Club roasts...

Miller's extended simile jokes used to actually build to something funny. Here's one I remember, though I don't recall the subject of the joke.

"Finding a BLANK in the BLANK is harder than finding an outline of a naked girl on a mudflap on the back of a 16-wheeler in the parking lot of the Lilith Fair."

Not the best joke ever, sure, but it built up and had a punchline. Now it just seems like Miller's tries to squeeze as much hateful rhetoric into a single sentence as possible. The jokes don't build so much as they congeal.

"The bad guys look to you to reinforce their belief that we are the weak horse and eminently conquerable. You are making that assertion so easy for them that they no doubt view you as the derriere of said horse."


And, okay, yes, as an actual political statement, it's all completely senseless and vile. The "bad guys" give a shit what Harry Reid has to say? Most Americans couldn't pick him out of a line-up, let alone explain his position on the war. You think the guys who actually go out and try to blow up our troops day-in and day-out are paying any closer attention to the nuances of all of our Congresspeople's stated positions?

And, what's Miller's solution? The most powerful man in the Senate shouldn't criticize the President or else terrorists will think he, and by extension all Americans, are pussies? This is how middle-school students think, not grown-ups.

Some of Miller's claims are genuinely unbelievable. As in, I can't believe an adult male, let alone one who previously had a reputation as somewhat intelligent, would make these sorts of juvenile arguments on television. A critic of a failed war is a "constant bringdown"? A fucking bringdown? Oh, Dennis Miller, so sorry if Harry Reid is putting you off so terribly. I know you can barely make it through the day, with your comfortable salary and relative fame, without having to hear about your government marching a generation of American women and men to their deaths. It's all so very bothersome.

Reid deserves this drubbing, we're told, because he's "unrelentingly bleak." Yes, by all means, politicians should be shiny and happy! Cause it's just that kind of world.

Who need a Gloomy Gus interrupting our collective groove all the time? I wouldn't want to have a beer with Harry Reid, who's all old and defeatist, so therefore he should be drummed out of politics. Yeah, that makes sense. (Of course, Reid's not the one who went on TV for several years warning about all kinds of imminent terrorist attacks that never happened. Apparently, Miller feels that predicting millions of American deaths on a regular basis, Cheney-style, isn't bleak. Grim, sure, but not bleak.)

Miller also quotes from David Fincher's Fight Club in here, but I don't get the reference. Is he saying that America is Fight Club? And that Reid's betraying us by talking about what we're doing? There are two ways to read this: Miller didn't really get the point behind Fight Club, or Miller has embraced the straight-up fascist ideal of shutting up and surrendering your will to the State. (I mean...we all realize that Fincher's film doesn't actually agree with Tyler Durden's batshittery, right?...That's why Norton has to shoot himself in the face at the end?)

I would think Fight Club is a simple enough film for Dennis Miller to comprehend, so I'm tempted to go with Option B. But then again, he clearly didn't see the inherent contradiction of closing out an extended monologue on national television about Harry Reid with the observation that the man "barely matters." So anything's possible.

Da Cribbage

SuperDeluxe brings us this brilliant parody of both French director Michel Gondry and MTV's Cribs.

Some really fantastic little touches in here for anyone who has seen Gondry's uber-twee Science of Sleep. "I built this car myself out of a magic trick my father taught me when I was a boy."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Greenhouse Effect

Several of you have written me comments or e-mails asking how you can become a Mahalo guide. I knew there were some plans in the pipeline so I've held off from saying anything...


Presenting The Mahalo Greenhouse

We provide you with everything you need to make your own pages, and if they're good, we'll pay you to put them on Mahalo! $10 per search to start...and it just goes up from there.

CEO Jason talks a bit more about the idea here, and there's been a lot of discussion already on the blogs. (The thing only launched yesterday...) We've already received a lot of applications, and I think we're only going to take a select number of Part Time Guides (PTG's, in Mahalo-speak), so if this sounds interesting to you, I'd suggest some measure of haste in getting your application in.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Hilarity from the set of "Knocked Up"

It's a job like any other, so I'm sure it gets dreary after a while, but it looks like they were having a lot of fun on the set of Knocked Up.

James Franco gets fired as lead role in Knocked Up, Demoted to a smaller role.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Massive Egregious Sopranos Spoilers To Follow


Okay, so, for a second there...I was really pissed off.

They make us wait a whole season, they build up this whole face-off with New York, they go through all this terrorist-FBI nonsense and then it just ends with no closure whatsoever, while we're listening to Journey?

But then I gave it a few minutes...and I realized how much sense it made. So, okay, clearly Tony does get shot, and the last thing we see is the last thing he sees - the doorway at the front of the restaurant as Meadow's about to enter. The entire show has been, in many ways, about the conflict between Tony's suburban home life and the violence and horror of his criminal occupation. So it ends with the sudden and permanent interruption of Tony's life as he enjoys a family dinner, the ultimate ritual of suburban familyhood. We feel it as he would. "Hey, what just happened? I was all set to eat dinner with the family here!"

(You'll recall last week, when Tony remembered talking with Bobby about being killed, about how it all happens so fast, you don't even know what's going on. Foreshadowing!)

But beyond the significance of that final scene, it was just a brilliant episode throughout. I noticed that it was far more skittish and chaotic than a typical entry, skipping between brief scenes of no more than a minute or two for much of the time. At first, I suspected this was an attempt to tie up all kinds of loose story threads, as if writer/director David Chase had simply run out of time. But on further consideration, I think it was probably intentional. Possibly as a way to compensate for the audience's extreme expectations, that this one hour was going to "make sense" of the 85 that had come before, which of course isn't even possible. Or perhaps it was simply a reflection of Tony's increasing agitation and anxiety of his safety and that of his family.

The scene where he visits Junior was one of this final episode's best. Recognizing that the enemy he's been hating for months no longer remembers who he is, Tony begins to probe around the edges of his uncle's awareness. Does the old man remember his own brother? Does he remember that the two of them used to run North Jersey? All that power, all those years of scheming, and now it's all lost. He can't even remember.

Tony, as it turns out, was the same way, always intending to do more and to feel better but never quite getting there. Once he's dead, does all that struggle and inner turmoil add up to anything? Even if he had survived (and I don't think he did), it wouldn't be much of a life. Ever-dwindling returns on investment from an ever-shrinking crew. This season made clear that everyone pretty much considers the New Jersey mob to be small time. Phil Leotardo thought that three hits would bring down the entire organization, after all.

(Talk about someone incapable of change. His indifference toward compromise caused him to be literally crushed, in a classic bit of David Chase gallows humor, by a van containing his own grandchildren.)

People have compared the show to classical tragedy, but it's more like one of those parodies of classical tragedy that satirically elevate pedestrian or lowly narratives to the level of an epic.

Tony's just a thug. Chase has given us this opportunity over the last seven years to examine him closely, to see that even a thug still has a soul, but in this final season, he had to pull back and remind us once again that this is a terrible man who does terrible things. I guess it's the only responsible thing to do.

The scene where he offers A.J. a real chance to do something with his life, one that reflected some amount of attention to the boy's interests and needs, struck me as a real positive development for Tony, which pretty much signaled that Chase would have no choice but to kill him by the end of the episode. Finally, for the first time, Tony seems capable of adjusting his expectations to satisfy someone he loves. Rather than lash out at A.J. for not being the son he wants him to be, Tony alters his approach and comes up with an equitable solution.

This is the one thing he's never been able to do, so he may have actually learned a little something. And that's not really how things work on "The Sopranos." Once you gain a little genuine insight and prove capable of genuine growth, you're generally killed. I just realized I'm going to have to begin referring to the show in past tense. How depressing...