Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

Here's a short review for The Simpson Movie. It's very, very funny, and though it's extremely silly and cartoony like the present incarnation of the show, it has also brought back the sweetness and the warmth of the earlier era (say, the first 5 seasons).

Still reading? Okay. Here's why it's so good:

James L. Brooks
Joel Cohen
consultant writer
John Frink
consultant writer
Matt Groening
Al Jean
Tim Long
consultant writer
Ian Maxtone-Graham
George Meyer
David Mirkin
Michael Price
consultant writer
Mike Reiss
Mike Scully
Matt Selman
John Swartzwelder
Jon Vitti

These are the men who created "The Simpsons" as we know it today. Getting them back to collaborate on the film was the only way to ensure that it would work, and they have all risen to the challenge, composing what's sure to be among the year's most funny, rewatchable comedies.

I've been a huge "Simpsons" fan for what feels like my entire life. (I was 11 when the show made its debut on December 17, 1989.) Like a lot of long-time "Simpsons" fans, I still enjoy watching the show, but it no longer feels like essential viewing. Rather than a full 30 minutes of hilarity (most of the classic episodes manage to get at least one or two good jokes in every 60 seconds), recent episodes are easy-going, enjoyable-enough entertainment punctuated by one or two really sharp gags. Still, it's "The Simpsons," which for me makes it comforting and familiar even if it isn't a non-stop Kavalcade of Komedy. What I'm saying is, I no longer feel pressed to memorize entire episodes as I once did. But that's probably healthy...

I doubt I'll be committing the film to memory any time soon, but the experience of watching it in a theater was the most fun I've had watching "The Simpsons" in a long, long time. Sure, some of this is bound to be the excitement of opening night in a crowded theater full of enthusiastic fans, applauding after particularly good jokes and singing along to Homer's "Spider-Pig" anthem. Watching the film on my computer alone will be the true test of its staying power. But it just feels right, feels like "The Simpsons," from leaping over Springfield Gorge to Bart wilding through the center of town on his skateboard.

A few of the more inspired decisions:

- Bringing back Albert Brooks to voice the film's villain. He's one of what I'd consider the three All-Star "Simpsons" guest voices. The first is obviously Phil Hartman, who voiced one of the greatest characters in "Simpsons" history, lawyer Lionel Hutz, along with actor Troy McClure, monorail shyster Lyle Langley and too many others to name. Second would have to be Kelsey Grammar, whose Sideshow Bob stars in my favorite-ever episode, the Emmy-nominated "Cape Feare." And third is "A. Brooks," responsible for self-help guru Brad Goodman, Bond villain Hank Scorpio (from another Best Episode Ever contender, "You Only Move Twice.") Brooks is awesome here as EPA chief Russ Cargill.

- Making the movie PG-13. It feels different and a bit more risque, particularly one completely ingenious shot I would not dream of revealing here, but never dirty or inappropriate for a family audience. This is not "Family Guy." This is the show "Family Guy" secretly wishes it could be, amusing without having to rely on '80s references and innuendo. (I'm still entertained by "Family Guy" in fits and spurts, but it's hardly on the level of "Simpsons" or "South Park.")

- Improving the animation...but not too much. There's obviously been some attempts to update the show's basic 2-D style for contemporary audiences, but it's generally kept in the background or at the height of action sequences. It's "The Simpsons," but smoother and drawn with greater attention to detail.

- Not getting all meta. There's an opening sequence, recreating the opening sequence of the show but BIGGER because this is a HOLLYWOOD MOVIE, two or three self-referential jokes in the film and some extra gags thrown in during the credits but that's it. It's not a musical or an adventure story or a crazy chase. In fact, the plot unfolds exactly as an episode would - even starting with a misadventure that only somewhat relates to the main plot. (In this case, Grandpa revealing an omen and Homer obtaining a pet pig.)

It doesn't try to bring back every classic character or revisit locations from much-loved episodes. They've just ported the show into movie form, and basically made a 90 minute "Simpsons" episode with better animation. Done and done.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Doing Hard Time

This is the craziest piece of dumbassery I have read in some time...

A Broward prisoner accused of committing a sex act while he was alone in his jail cell was found guilty Tuesday of indecent exposure.

Terry Lee Alexander, 20, unsuccessfully fought the charge, which had been brought by a female Broward Sheriff's Office detention deputy who saw him perform the sex act in his cell in November.

The dude was ALONE in his jail cell jerking off, and for that, they're adding 2 months on to his prison sentence. I'm not sure what's more egregious in this case...The fact that prisoners who are doing 10 years in jail are expected to just go all that time without pleasuring themselves or the fact that the taxpayers of Florida had to pay for a masturbation trial.

In reaching the guilty verdict, jurors found that an inmate's jail cell is ''a limited access public place'' where exposing oneself is against the law.

Okay, I'm officially confused. Is there a lawyer in the house?

How can this law be consistently applied? If taking my clothes off in my jail cell is considered indecent exposure, does this mean I can't change in my cell? What about going to the bathroom? It'd be illegal for me to do THAT in a public place (say...the Sears Home Appliance Department), but I figure, in the relative privacy of a jail cell, it ought to be permissible. 10 years is a long time to hold it in.

The sole witness in the case, BSO Deputy Coryus Veal, testified that Alexander did not try to hide what he was doing as most prisoners do. Veal saw him perform the act while she was working in a glass-enclosed master control room, 100 feetfrom Alexander's cell. There was no video tape or other witnesses.

She sounds fun!

Alexander's attorney argued that the prison cell was a private place and that what Alexander was doing was perfectly normal.

''Did other inmates start masturbating because of Mr. Alexander?'' McHugh asked Veal. ``Did you call a SWAT team?''

''I wish I had,'' Veal answered.

SWAT Team? Because he was touching himself? This thief has already been locked away from everyone he knows and everything he loves for a decade. (Not that I'm defending armed robbery or anything). Now, he's being penalized for pleasuring himself? Is it our goal, as the society that has chosen to lock him in jail, to humiliate and degrade this man, to strip away his dignity as punishment for his crimes? Because that's the only conclusion one can draw from the decision to prosecute this case...

Veal, who has charged seven other inmates with the same offense, insisted that she was not against the act itself -- just the fact that Alexander was so blatant about it. Most inmates, she testified, do it in bed, under the blankets.

Anyone else think this woman might have some issues of her own going on? She couldn't look away from that particular monitor for a few moments? She has to charge Spanky with a crime?

Defense attorney Kathleen McHugh faced 17 prospective jurors and asked point-blank who among them had never done that particular sex act.

No hands went up.


Here's the crucial part of the whole article, to me:

While most prisons deal with such an offense internally, Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne -- and Miami-Dade Corrections officials -- are hoping to curb the practice among inmates by prosecuting them.

Janelle Hall, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Corrections, said that while no charges have been brought against inmates, the department is working with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office to discuss prosecution of such ''egregious'' cases in the jail.

''It has been a hot topic so to speak in our department,'' Hall said. ``In those cases that are egregious, where there is some sort of intent to deliberately expose themselves, those cases will be reviewed further in the courts.''

Wowzers. As I see it, there are only two possibilities here:

(1) The men and women of the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections are perverts who sit around in their comfortable offices all day discussing the masturbatory habits of male prisoners


(2) This is a deliberate, pre-meditated attempt to humiliate prisoners, by charging them with a crime for doing something people do all the time, in and out of jail.

And last I checked, attempting to humiliate people is wrong, even if they committed a crime a few years back.

Also, I'd just like to point out, for the record, that Scooter Libby is at home tonight, and I'm sure he would be masturbating with impunity if he wasn't a withered old troll capable of attaining sexual arousal only by sending thousands of American troops into the direct path of IED's for no good reason.

(Link graciously provided by Andrew Sullivan).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tonight, on a Very Special Crushed by Inertia...

A friend just IM'ed me this amazing clip from "Facts of Life," where Tootie and Natalie come home with a bag full of bongs. It really needs to be seen to be believed...

Clip courtesy of Jezebel...

Just Press Play

I was all set to write a post about how the one benefit of iMeem over SeeqPod is the ability to create and embed playlists. But...well...

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search

This is a bunch of stuff I've been listening to all week. I first grabbed a few songs by Everthus The Deadbeats because their name references perhaps the single most obscure line of dialogue in The Big Lebowski. (Woo says "Everthus the deadbeats, Lebowski" to The Dude after peeing on his rug). The only one that I still listen to is this "Some Terry's" one, but I've been listening to it a bunch. Something about that real sing-songy conclusion...I found it annoying at first, but it has really grown on me.

I saw some of these bands/musicians live this week. Sonic Youth played their entire "Daydream Nation" album as well as half of their most recent LP, "Rather Ripped," as an encore. (This track is the first on "Rather Ripped" and was, to my mind, one of the show highlights, along with "Total Trash.") It was a really cool show. I had seen SY live a few years back at All Tomorrows Parties, but I'm pretty sure they didn't play any "Daydream"-era songs.

My one complaint about The Greek is that, if you're sitting kind of far back, it's not really loud enough. I mean, this isn't Spinal Tap. I don't need to be blown out of my seat. But I don't know...I never really feel drawn into the show when I'm there; I've been in venues where you sit much further back, but can enjoy a richer, fuller sound. (It's gotta be The Greek, because I had the same exact feeling after seeing Belle and Sebastian there a while back, though I grant they're not ever going to be the loudest band).

I'm thinking it's not just me, because during the show (while the band was taking a little breather, I should add), a guy sitting in front of me asked me to stop talking. (I was, at the time, summarizing this week's "Hell's Kitchen" for the benefit of my brother Jonathan). You KNOW a concert's kind of hard to hear when people are actually asking their neighbors to shut up at an outdoor amphitheater! There could be a guy smoking crack right in front of me at an outdoor amphitheater and I wouldn't say anything. #1 rule of large-scale event attendance: mellow out and let everyone do their thing and enjoy themselves.

Anyway, even better was the John Vanderslice/Spoon show at Little Radio in the heart of Downtown LA's gorgeous Warehouse and Dumpster District. This was a tiny little not-club (I believe it's an Internet radio station by day) that was packed densely with about 300 people and a shitload of free Dewar's (the event's sponsor).

The chance to see not only a big band like Spoon but an acoustic set by Vanderslice in that kind of venue was worth the sweltering, inhuman heat. (No ventilation + bright stage lights + 300 human bodies = teh suck). I actually felt bad for Britt Daniel during the show - he was trying to sing and play guitar while sweat literally streamed down his face. They still played for 90 minutes...It was awesome, especially the epic rendition of "My Mathematical Mind" off their previous album.