Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Reason The Phrase WTF Was Invented

This is the reason Twitter exists, right here. So people can let their friends know about "Why Must I Cry":

Thanks to Sean P. for using Twitter the way it was meant to be used.

Not Sure About This One...

I like the idea of giving the writers behind The Onion a movie...but making a movie out of a parody newspaper? Is it really just going to be a film-length fake newscast with this old guy reading us old Onion articles? Cause, if so, I'm not shocked it's going straight to DVD:

It's eerily reminiscent of the Jerky Boys movie. The Onion is no flash-in-the-pan. Why not wait until a genuinely good idea for a way to extend the brand into films comes along?

Or maybe this is all a fakeout and there is no Onion Movie. Or maybe there is, but it's nothing like this. I'm not sure I still care.

[They're seriously excited about the trailer at Film Drunk. Tantalized, you might even say. "zOMG! They said cock! And I recognize that guy from my childhood in the '80s! Best Trailer Evah!"'

      Monday, March 03, 2008

      The Nines

        I feel very conflicted about The Nines. As a screenwriter, John August has done Go and Charlie's Angels and several collaborations with Tim Burton (including Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but his directorial debut isn't really like any of those movies. Or any other movies, now that I think about it, save maybe Donnie Darko.

        Here's the thing. August breaks tons of storytelling "rules" and conventions, and almost gets it to work for a while. I admire that. For example, the films opens with Ryan Reynolds lighting clothes on fire in a mansion, then leaving to go buy crack. We follow his character on a 10 minute crack binge without knowing anything about him. (A passing bus ad indicates that he's the star of a TV show called "Crime Lab," but that's about it for backstory).

        It's an excellent way to introduce you to this guy's world, which is chaotic and confusing, like a crack bender without the brief euphoria. It's this first story, with TV star Gary is placed under house arrest in the unoccupied mansion of another one of his agency's clients, that works the best, with August falling easily into laid-back LA comedy mode. Gary begins a peculiar flirtation with the bored married woman living next door (Hope Davis) while being looked after and scrutinzed by a expert in crisis management PR (Melissa McCarthy).

        This is where the Donnie Darko comparisons come into play. Before long, it becomes obvious to Gary that this house and his sentence in it is not entirely what it seems. He starts to notice the prevalence of the number 9, which starts showing up everywhere. And his attractive neighbor's visits start to develop an urgency, as if she's secretly trying to tell him something very important between all the banter.

        Two more segments follow, with Reynolds, Davis and McCarthy assuming different (but not entirely dissimilar) roles. In Section 2, Reynolds is a TV writer working on a pilot starring his long-time best friend (McCarthy) and overseen by a demanding network executive (Davis). Again, conflicts develop in his personal life and reality begins to unravel. In Section 3, where everything is nominally "explained," Reynolds is a video game designer stranded with his wife (McCarthy) and young daughter (Elle Fanning) in the mountains without cell reception. Davis plays a stranger who tries to help him get to the nearest town.

        It's weird and disorienting, but The Nines isn't ever boring, in part because August keeps his sense of humor amidst all the metaphysics and fantasy. Though some of the insider "Hollywood" material starts to get unnecessary and navel-gazing, particularly during the semi-autobiographical mid-section, this is probably a more insightful, humorous and on-target entertaining industry satire than most movies dedicated solely to that pursuit.

        Elaborate puzzle movies, much like professional illusionists, tend to develop an air of self-importance, a constant and aggressive presence to distract you from discovering what's really going on. But The Nines doesn't really get so serious or heady until the last 10 minutes. Which is when everything falls apart.

        It's not that August has thought up a stupid or poor ending, necessarily. As a short story, The Nines could work very well. But it doesn't work as a movie. You just can't do the things he wants to do with it. There's no way to speak some of this dialogue or play some of these scenes dramatically without sounding ridiculous.

        I'm reminded (and this is never a good comparison) of the ending of Neil LaBute's laughably atrocious remake of The Wicker Man. At the end, you've got a scene of brutal torture. If you read about such a thing, particularly if it were vividly described, it would make you recoil in horror. But watching it happen to Nicolas Cage while he screams and flails about renders it hilarious. The Nines, on the page, would likely be the kind of trippy conversation-inspiring mindfuck that August was aiming for. But watching Reynolds act it out is just...entirely fraudulent and impossible. I'm not sure how you could make this work on screen.

                  Sunday, March 02, 2008

                  Fetch Me My Fainting Couch!

                  This Washington Post editorial, nominally about swooning female Obama fans, has more lame gender stereotypes than I would have thought possible to cram into a single Op-Ed piece.

                  It's called "We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get." As it's written by Charlotte Allen, the we means women in general. Well, I suppose women who like Obama, as opposed to all the other women who aren't really women, I suppose, who prefer McCain or Hillary or Alan Keyes. (Okay, I'm one likes Alan Keyes.)

                  Allen opens by noting a recent trend among female Obama fans: fainting at one of the man's rallies. She then cites one woman yelling out "I love you" at another campaign event. From this, she draws a simple conclusion: Bitches ain't shit.

                  "Women 'Falling for Obama,' " the story's headline read. Elsewhere around the country, women were falling for the presidential candidate literally. Connecticut radio talk show host Jim Vicevich has counted five separate instances in which women fainted at Obama rallies since last September. And I thought such fainting was supposed to be a relic of the sexist past, when patriarchs forced their wives and daughters to lace themselves into corsets that cut off their oxygen.

                  Yeah, you thought right. But just because someone has still fainted without wearing a corset, it doesn't disprove the truth about Victorian women fainting because they were clamping shards of whalebone around their midsection to appear unnaturally hourglass-shaped. I mean, being fatigued and overheated in a large crowd at a big, exciting public event has been known to cause a few people to pass out as well.

                  I can't help it, but reading about such episodes of screaming, gushing and swooning makes me wonder whether women -- I should say, "we women," of course -- aren't the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial. Women "are only children of a larger growth," wrote the 18th-century Earl of Chesterfield. Could he have been right?

                  The most ludicrous thing about this article is how Allen pretends that these thoughts were inspired by women fainting at Obama rallies, as opposed to the other way around. What? A women fainted at a political event? I guess the Earl of Chesterfield, whose ludicrously misogynist and not particularly memorable quote I've long had memorized for no reason, was right all along!

                  I mean, clearly this is just a woman who loathes her own sex, for whatever reason (maybe she's religious!), and looks for any opportunity to "lash out" at her gender. This "some women are excited about Barack Obama" thing is a pretty poor excuse, though. I mean, women are actively engaged in politics and this is somehow a bad thing? I'd far prefer that the ladies be energized about Obama's campaign than any of the other pop culture ephemera that tends to occupy Americans of both sexes.

                  I'm not the only woman who's dumbfounded (as it were) by our sex, or rather, as we prefer to put it, by other members of our sex besides us. It's a frequent topic of lunch, phone and water-cooler conversations; even some feminists can't believe that there's this thing called "The Oprah Winfrey Show" or that Celine Dion actually sells CDs. A female friend of mine plans to write a horror novel titled "Office of Women," in which nothing ever gets done and everyone spends the day talking about Botox.

                  Seriously, now, this is just stupid. Plenty of men buy Celine Dion CD's and guys don't necessarily get all that much done while working than women do. Guess who invented Minesweeper? A man! I mean, how desperate do you have to be to make this case in the Washington Post? "Ugh, chicks are so lame. I mean, who watches 'Oprah', am I right? Up high!"

                  We exaggerate, of course. And obviously men do dumb things, too, although my husband has perfectly good explanations for why he eats standing up at the stove (when I'm not around) or pulls down all the blinds so the house looks like a cave (also when I'm not around): It has to do with the aggressive male nature and an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men. When men do dumb things, though, they tend to be catastrophically dumb, such as blowing the paycheck on booze or much, much worse (think "postal"). Women's foolishness is usually harmless. But it can be so . . . embarrassing.

                  What...the...fuck...He eats over the stove because he fears other aggressive men? Maybe he's just lazy. That's why I do it. I mean, she's just rambling now. What's the point of this digression? This column so far has said:

                  (1) Women pass out/yell silly stuff at Barack Obama rallies

                  (2) Women are pathetic

                  (3) Men are kind of pathetic too, but it's a rugged, more attractive kind of pathetic

                  Also, the notion that only a man would blow a paycheck on booze is just weird. Aren't there plenty of female alcoholics? I'm pretty sure I've met at least a few.

                  Let's continue:

                  Take Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign. By all measures, she has run one of the worst -- and, yes, stupidest -- presidential races in recent history, marred by every stereotypical flaw of the female sex.

                  Allen comes dangerously close here to admitting the truth, that she viewed Hillary's campaign almost entirely through gender stereotypes. Somehow, though, just like it's the fault of women that they have been pegged "the weaker sex," it's the fault of Hillary Clinton that everyone insist she stand in for all women and behave in a way that makes everyone maximally comfortable.

                  I mean, how did Hillary typify "every stereotypical flaw of the female sex"? How could anyone? Some of those stereotypes are contradictory!

                  Allen continues by saying Hillary's too dependent on her husband (whatever that means) and by calling her former campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, a "Latina queena." Charlotte Allen a nom de plume of Rush Limbaugh or what?

                  What is it about us women? Why do we always fall for the hysterical, the superficial and the gooily sentimental?

                  You don't. That's all in your head. I can honestly say that neither Barbara Bush or Margaret Thatcher fall for the gooily sentimental.

                  Take a look at the New York Times bestseller list. At the top of the paperback nonfiction chart and pitched to an exclusively female readership is Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." Here's the book's autobiographical plot: Gilbert gets bored with her perfectly okay husband, so she has an affair behind his back. Then, when that doesn't pan out, she goes to Italy and gains 23 pounds forking pasta so she has to buy a whole new wardrobe, goes to India to meditate (that's the snooze part), and finally, at an Indonesian beach, finds fulfillment by -- get this -- picking up a Latin lover!

                  It's a tough job, psychoanalyzing an entire gender based on the most popular book on the paperback nonfiction chart. Hey, what's the #1 hardcover nonfiction bestseller this week? Why, it's Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism!" From this, I will conclude that the average American IQ hovers between 56 and 60 and that public outrage will cause the entire Whole Foods franchise to be legally outlawed by the end of the next week.

                  Then there's the chick doctor television show "Grey's Anatomy" (reportedly one of Hillary Clinton's favorites). Want to be a surgeon? Here's what your life will be like at the hospital, according to "Grey's": sex in the linen-supply room, catfights with your sister in front of the patients, sex in the on-call room, a "prom" in the recovery room so you can wear your strapless evening gown to work, and sex with the married attending physician in an office. Oh, and some surgery. When was the last time you were in a hospital and spotted two doctors going at it in an empty bed?

                  Lots and lots of guys watch "Grey's Anatomy." Several of its writers, directors and members of the shows creative team are men. How is its stupidity (and I'm not arguing with Char here) the fault of women again?

                  It just goes on and on like this. Allen identifies something she doesn't like and then says women are responsible for it because they are so stupid. Except her. She's one of the cool ones.

                  Women have lamer mental conditions than men. Women are worse drivers. She even says this! "The theory that women are the dumber sex -- or at least the sex that gets into more car accidents -- is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence." Is this kind of thing really still acceptable in mainstream discourse?

                  That paragraph, by the way, continues by presenting neurological evidence that comes nowhere near to proving that women are dumber than men. She closes with: "While the two sexes seem to have the same IQ on average (although even here, at least one recent study gives males a slight edge), there are proportionally more men than women at the extremes of very, very smart and very, very stupid." But that's not what she said! She said Women are the dumber sex!"

                  I honestly can't believe the Washington Post would print something so insipid. Presenting this as a worthwhile perspective on contemporary feminism is like asking Andrew Dice Clay to do the keynote at the 2008 National NOW Conference.

                  Writing About Las Vegas While Avoiding the Phrase "Vegas Baby"

                  After this sentence, I will attempt to keep the words "Vegas" and "baby" a minimum of four words apart...

                  So, I'm going to Vegas next weekend to meet up with a bunch of college friends, many of whom live in far-flung locations and whom I get to see rarely. It promises to be a lot of fun, and as if the reunion aspect weren't enough, I'm getting an excellent rate on a suite at the Venetian. So a good time will hopefully be had by all.

                  I always drive to Vegas. I hate everything about air travel, for starters, and would almost always prefer to just control my own itinerary by driving myself. Not having to subject myself to ritual humiliation at the hands of TSA employees (us Semitic bearded guys tend to get a bit of extra attention these days) is an added bonus. Also, it just seems silly to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight when it's only 4-5 hours away by car.

                  My only concern is this: several years ago, I drove back from Vegas on a Sunday night at it took forever. Granted, that was a holiday weekend (Thanksgiving), but still...I'd prefer to not have to inch through several hundred miles of desert for 8+ hours again if at all possible.

                  There is nothing in this world more frustrating and depressing than sitting in traffic in the middle of the desert. (It took us about an hour to get through Baker! Population: 12 if you include the Bun Boy!) It made me feel so predictable, like a robot. This massive expanse of land all around me, and I'm waiting in a workday-length line to follow the identical single path everyone else is following, towards our mutual destination. Plus, it's not like you can just pull off the road and wait it out, unless you'd enjoy the company of salamanders and meth labs for the evening. (I don't even want to know what's down Zzyzx Road).

                  So I'll either have to leave Vegas way way early on Sunday to beat the crowds (an unappealing option, as I'm only arriving late on Friday), or I'll have to wait until way way late on Sunday to avoid the crowds. I'll probably go for the latter and just show up late for work the next day, but then there's the question of how late I should wait? 8 p.m.? 10 p.m.? Midnight? It's just a shitty situation to be in, trying to outguess my fellow LA visitors to Vegas.

                  If only we could organize it somehow...Like, everyone who will be driving to Vegas this weekend signs up on a website and picks their three favored departure times, and then they get an e-mail telling them when they've been assigned to leave for LA to allow for maximum traffic dispersal. I guess it's unenforceable, but at least people would have some kind of clue. This way, I'll just end up falling asleep at the wheel before I can hit Barstow, or foregoing the return trip altogether in favor of a new life as a slot jockey. Anything's better than sitting in one of those Vegas-to-LA traffic jams.