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Friday, 28 January
Moving Violations

Theater dweebs start getting excited around this time of year, because OSCARS! We start to think: Wow. This is something I can actually speak knowledgably about! People will respect my opinions! Well, not really. We can maunder on like a pro about how Hotel Rwanda's emotional intensity was masterfully channeled by Don Cheadle, but I think most people know instinctively a few things: 1. These things are very subjective; 2. People who talk about their "craft" are usually untrustworthy windbags; and 3. Like everyone else, we haven't really seen Hotel Rwanda either.

Like pro sports, the Oscars tend to attract a fan base where everyone has strongly held feelings, sometimes deeply irrational and weird. (Once, hung over, I made some baldly idiotic comments about Cal Ripken to friends, who gently talked me down from the ledge--instead of just pushing me off it, which I richly deserved.) But then again, many sports fans are deeply immersed in knowledge of the game, statistics, win-loss ratios, etc. (Some, like me, are just loudmouthed dilettantes.) Oscar fans, however, have no such tools to employ, and so arguments about this and that tend to usually just boil down to "Well, I just liked this one more." Or, if you're me and my friends, "Man, are you stupid."

Some people watch a lot of movies. Some people are Oscar fiends, and can recite chapter and verse from its history. Some people--very few--actually work in movies, but you don't know any of them. But most people are just loudmouthed dilettantes.

Here's one of them, talking about the Oscars. Bear in mind, straight up: I haven't seen most of these films, because going to movie theaters is a pain in the ass. Some of them I have no intention of ever seeing. This has never stopped me from opining on them before, and it shall not this time either.

BEST ACTOR

Nobody sane is betting against Jamie Foxx on this one, which makes me wonder if the Academy is going to pull out one of their perverse gestures and give it to Clint or something. Johnny Depp, a fine fellow, I think has no chance, least of all for a film whose presence nobody can seem to justify, and Don Cheadle, another fine fellow, is similarly doomed for being in a film that nobody saw. Leo DiCaprio in this crowd, I'm sorry, is like seeing Tanyon Sturtze being mentioned in a Hall of Fame discussion.

Prediction: Paul Giamatta. Oh, wait, he's drinking poison, sorry. I meant Jamie Foxx. And Clint has an Oscar already.

(Note: I have seen none of these films, but I and my friends would like to say that Million Dollar Baby is a hauntingly bad title. We like to pretend it's about a barbershop quartet.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jamie Foxx again! Don't split the vote, Jamie! He won't get this; it's Ray or nothing. Morgan Freeman is here, and I love this guy, always (I forgive you for Bruce Almighty, Morgan), and he has a chance, and I wish him well. Sorry it was a movie about a barbershop quartet, though. Clive Owen, on the other hand, I think has no shot, because I can barely conjure up an image of what he looks like. (And to be honest, he was an odd choice for a biopic about Mariano Rivera.) Weirdly, rounding out the contenders is Hawkeye Pierce and The Guy From "Wings." This is proof that the Academy has a droll sense of humor.

Prediction: Thomas Hayden Church, if only because Alan Alda makes me remember Sidney Friedman, the cloying pop psychologist character from M*A*S*H, and now I have to drink.

(Note: I also have seen none of these movies.)

BEST ACTRESS

Oh Kate! Sweet Kate! I would love for you to win! You will not. Because, apparently, your movie is a doleful bowl of treacle. (But go ahead and wear something low-cut.) Imelda Staunton made an interesting choice to do a movie in which she portrayed X-Man Bobby Drake's lesbian aunt, but it's not going to get the statue. As for Catalina Dressing Sandino Bambino Rita Moreno . . . I'm sorry, your name is too long and too ethnic. (The Academy is not known for its fiery insistence on multiculturalism. Besides, they get to pat themselves on the back for Jamie Foxx.) So that leaves Annette Bening and Hilary Swank. Nobody on earth saw Being Julia, or has any intention of doing so . . .

Prediction: Hilary "I am the product of a trout-antibody transfectoma" Swank. I'll be happy if I'm wrong.

(Note: I saw one of these films, Eternal Sunshine,) and right now is as good a time as any to just point out that THIS FILM GOT FUCKED, AND IT SHOULD BE BEST PICTURE. Okay, got that out.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Laura Linney is an interesting actress who consistently makes quirky choices and generally does really solid work. For this, the Academy will always give her nothing. Virginia Madsen is here too, a stalwart actress who might one day set a longevity record for being kind of hot. She will get zip. I was all set to dismiss Sophie Okonedo because of Jamie sitting over there with his statue, but you can't forget about that guy . . . the one who got the Oscar for The Killing Fields? What the hell was his name? The Academy might decide to go for that again. But to do that, they'd have to vote against Cate. And that will be decidedly hard to do.

Prediction: Cate Blanchett. Man, whatta gal.

(Note: I have seen none of these movies. Astute readers might also note that I neglected to mention Natalie Portman. This is because she is beneath mention, and is, in fact, worthless. Dear Natalie: please stop.)

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Is there anything to discuss? The Incredibles. I don't think even the legendarily boneheaded Academy is dumb enough to vote otherwise.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Nobody cares.

MAKEUP

Nobody cares.

MUSIC (SCORE)

Nobody cares.

MUSIC (SONG)

Interestingly, I usually care, if only to validate my longstanding belief that the Academy routinely picks out the absolute worst song every time. (Remember when Elliot Smith lost out? Holy Jesus.)

However, this year, they are all reliably horrible, except perhaps the one from Motorcycle Diaries, which I have not heard.

Prediction: "Learn to be Lonely." Nobody's more horrible than Andrew Lloyd Weber, at least in a non-Phil Collins year.

ALL THE OTHER CATEGORIES (YES, INCLUDING BEST DIRECTOR)

Nobody cares. Why would you? You haven't seen any of the documentaries or short films, you don't know dick about sound mixing or editing, nor art direction or, really, visual effects, unless you count "This looked cooler than that" as knowledge. These are filler categories, and you might as well throw darts to figure your picks. Best Director gets a lot of play, but when you think about it, why wouldn't the winner of Best Picture dictate who gets Best Director? Oh, right, because of all those filler categories that you don't know shit about. So it's back to the dart board.

BEST PICTURE

As I think I've made plain, I haven't seen any of them. As usual, this doesn't mean I won't get into it. I've already said that I think it's a crime that Eternal Sunshine isn't in there--Finding Neverland? Good God. Using my I Prejudge Movies powers, I already know that this film is stillborn (dammit, Kate!). Ray is unlikely to get anything for anyone past Jamie Foxx. The Aviator hasn't had the handjobs that the remaining two films have received, so I figure it's dead too. That leaves Million Dollar Baby and Sideways.

Prediction: Million Dollar Baby. Yeah, I'm taking the musty route and figuring that the Academy will get their usual quease over voting for anything remotely perceived as "indie" or whatever. I don't even know what that word means any more.

Now, a final thought experiment: Pick any movie referenced in this post. Pick the one you liked best. Now ask yourself: Which would you rather watch? The one you picked? Or 28 Days Later?

Be honest.

Wednesday, 26 January
You Say It's Their Birthday

In a week and a half, the wife and I will be throwing a modest gala for her parents to celebrate a couple events: her father's 60th birthday AND their 40th wedding anniversary. Wow! Either way, that's a lot of years. Sometimes I have nightmares thinking about the cubic volume of cheese they must have consumed in that time, and I wake up sweaty--"Oh God . . . so much cheese . . . lodged in their bowels . . . "--but mostly I'm happy for them. They really are lovely people, and I do look forward to making with the happy.

And they really deserve it. It was kind of a shitty year for them; they lost both their longtime cat Peanuts (known in his later years for staring mournfully at, oh, the refrigerator, or walls, or middle distance; also, for getting trapped in the shower stall) as well as their longtime dog Travis (known for, in livelier days, chasing Peanuts through the house as the family howled in lusty enjoyment and laid down twenties betting on winners).

So we're treating the good old bastards to a sprightly night out at an Irish bar up on 15th. Many friends and family will be in attendance, and later in the evening, we've got some entertainment in store, in the form of a bagpipe player, who we assume will drive everyone away early so we can get some fucking rest. In the interim, people can chat and drink whiskey, except for the wife's parents, who barely drink at all, which allows me to order double whiskeys on their behalf, and then drink them.

And the gifts! I can't wait to unveil mine, which is a sassy, pop-culture-savvy farting robot named Vera. I can just see their faces. "What the devil is this?" they'll ask. "It's Vera!" I'll exclaim. "Do your stuff, girl!"

She springs into action! "What are you talking about, Willis? Eat my shorts! Kiss my grits! Ayyyyyyyy!" And then mechanized flatulence. BRAAAAP! I'm pretty sure that they've never seen anything like it, much like the wife and I had never seen anything quite like the Christmas carousel they gave us last year, the one that when wound up plays Fear's "Beef Baloney" while gnomes frantically sodomize a few terrified reindeer.

It's going to be a special night. I hope the bagpiper knows "Beef Baloney." It would mean a lot to them.

Tuesday, 25 January
The Goggles Do Nothing!

As the month wears on, money of course becomes a little tighter in the Pfaff household, and so the wife and I decided to stay in this weekend. Also, our lousy friends didn't call us or anything, the miserable bastards. So while they were all out giving each other handjobs and stuff, we stayed at home and engaged in an entirely different sort of wanking: we watched terrible movies.

(The following post contains spoilers about two perfectly horrifying movies: The Day After Tomorrow and I, Robot. [Alternate title: Me, Drinking.] Blah blah blah don't read if blah blah blah ruin the movie blah blah blah you have brain damage.)

The Day After Tomorrow is the latest damp sack of crap dumped on our porch from Roland Emmerich, the auteur who perpetrated such grisly crimes as Independence Day and the Godzilla remake; basically, he's Renny Harlin dressed in Gap clothing. TDAT is Rollie's big fucking cautionary tale about how GLOBAL WARMING might DESTROY THE PLANET . . . when? THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW! The whole thing is really depressing, and you know it's depressing, because just look at Jake Gyllenhall! He's mopey as hell. Mostly because he wants to fuck this nerdy gal, but also because the planet has turned into a Slushee.

You don't really have to be a climatologist (or, really, a mammal) to pick apart the hilariously dopey science that the film relies on--one utterly unchilling scene features various characters literally running from cold. Seriously. There's some horseshit about supercooled air being funneled down from the mojosphere or whatever that totally FREEZES YOU WHERE YOU STAND . . . and so people run . . . from the cold. Cold, incidentally, also travels sideways, you'll be interested to learn. The characters' only hope? Get inside . . . something! Preferably with a fire. Which foils the . . . cold, which can only creep insidiously around walls and stuff and not get to you while you're . . . inside? I don't know, honestly.

There is also a uniquely hilarious sequence involving--I can't really believe someone wrote this--(1) a Soviet ship lying frozen in the streets of New York City, (2) a daring raid on said ship for medical supplies (but the cold!), and (3) CGI wolves. Because in Hollywood, it is impossible to find actual trained dogs. "I need CGI wolves!" "But . . . we have real dogs . . . it's much cheaper . . . " "Nonsense! This scene involves . . . uh . . . stairs! Dogs don't look right on stairs. They look like voles." "Voles?" "Possibly stoats. One of those faggy British animals. Don't argue with me! I need CGI wolves!"

It's hard to pick favorite moments from this film. At one point, Dennis Quaid, looking kind of forlorn that he has no Ellen Barkin to put the boots to this time around, decides--insanely--to wander up to frozen Manhattan to grab up his glum son. It is, of course, a dipshit mission, and of course, his two assistants immediately insist upon accompanying him. It's a real Moe moment: "Hey, Homer, wait up! I want to die too!" This naturally leads to a scene of self-sacrifice, and one really sheds a tear when one of the nameless mooks dies for the greater good. I know I wept. "No, guy who is always an asshole on 'Law & Order'! No! "

I could go on more, but why? I won't be so lengthy about I, Robot, just because while it certainly is wretched offal, it wasn't nearly as clamorously dumb as TDAT.

What it is, is mostly just mindless. The movie starts by listing the famous Three Robot Laws or whatever that Asimov geeks can probably recite by heart. Then there's a fairly nonmysterious murder which seems to implicate a robot. "But no!" scream many insensible characters. "It's impossible! Robots can't murder people, by definition! It's in their programming!" I sat for a moment (drinking), and wondered: "What if someone just made some robots without that programming?"

This from a guy who never really got past BASIC.

10 PRINT "THIS MOVIE EATS THE ASS OF THE WORLD"
20 RUN
30 GOTO 10

Partway through the movie, the wife asked me, "Why do the robots have musculature?" I don't know. Why were their faces so expressive--CGI again--when their joints had exposed machinery? It was like Restoration Hardware and IKEA competed for the contract. And the end result was something like Alfred the Butler being encased in a Starkist tuna can (design by Nike).

We continued drinking. There really was no alternative. There were a few loving shots of a shirtless Will Smith, which I assumed was an economical decision: "Nobody went to see Ali, but there's no point in squandering the conditioning."

Postscript: As everyone knows, Johnny Carson died. I heard a lot of talk over the weekend from a number of friends, and there were some opinions I agreed with, and some I didn't. Everyone, however, admired the hell out the guy--this from a pretty harsh group of critics. What I know is this: that man could turn an audience around like nobody I've ever seen. Dead joke? No problem. Crummy interview? Please. He was one of the most effortless people I've ever seen on camera.

(His was also the only TV show I've ever seen live. I drew a bad one: Father Guido Sarducci and Belinda Carlisle. Eeesh.)

My favorite moment of his was--in an otherwise forgotten episode--when he came out and gave his first joke, the one that sets the audience up for the whole night. The first joke should always kill, otherwise you're fucked, and you're working your way out of a hole.

It died horribly. The first joke was met with dead silence.

Johnny put on that mock-sorry face and backed up towards the curtain. "Good night," he said quietly.

The place erupted in laughter, as did I. It's pretty wan right there on the page, but let me tell you: it was fucking comic genius. And he pulled it right out of his ass. I never knew the guy, of course, and why would I? But the man could make the audience walk and talk. That's worth commenting on.

Johnny, you made a lot of really good jokes. And, let's be fair: you made a lot of really terrible jokes. And I'll be fucked if we weren't with you either way, you son of a bitch.

Back towards the curtain; it's time.

Good night.

Thursday, 20 January
Inconsequential Brushes With Non-Greatness

Just a few recaps of my encounters with fame and how they failed to shape me in any way, unless they contributed to me being kind of a dick.

Leaving on a jet plane

When I was a lad, I would visit my grandparents most summers in LA. When I was about eight or nine, I was at LAX with my grandma waiting for my plane back home to Idaho, and my grandma said, "That looks like that girl from 'Little House on the Prairie!'" She was pointing to some plain-looking broad. I glanced at her. Whatever. She looked like anyone else, and besides, "Little House on the Prairie," as far as I was concerned, was the most miserable piece of shit around anyway. Fuck, I lived on the prairie. In a little house. I didn't need to see that shit on TV.

We got on the plane, and as usual when I was flying alone as a kid (does this still happen?), they seated me next to another kid my age. I found him intriguing, as he was an Arab child, and had exotic dietary requests to make of the staff. (I considered trying to order a beer or something, and planned to cite "Methodism" as my justification, but didn't. Probably because I didn't know a Methodist from a Method actor.) Anyway, the plain broad was seated right across from us, and she eventually revealed herself to be, yes, Melissa Gilbert. My buddy a seat over didn't know who that was.

"Do you ever watch "Little House on the Prairie?" she asked.

"Yeah," the kid said. "That show stinks."

Next to . . .

In 1993 or so, when I was in college, a bunch of us went to Portland to see a production of Burn This, a really, really overrated Lanford Wilson play about a complete asshole. The production's naturalistic high point was when Pale (the asshole) makes breakfast, and HOLY GOD HE REALLY COOKED EGGS RIGHT THERE ON STAGE! Yeah, theater fucking magic.

At the end of the show, my technical director asked me how it felt like to sit right next to the legendarily filthy and profane playwright David Mamet. "WHAT?!" I screamed. I had no idea. (In fact, even now I couldn't pick him out of a lineup.) And to this day, whenever I wash my left arm, which surely touched the tweed of Mamet's clothing, I think, "Now I am washing my left arm." It really made an impact.

The Wreck of the Chevy

Okay, I wasn't there there. But I saw it, right on TV. Remember the "Chevy Chase Show"? Even if you don't, the hallucinatory first episode has been mocked by "The Simpsons," so you know what I'm talking about. But I was there, I watched as the incredible unfolded: Goldie Hawn mounted Chevy's desk and earnestly began singing "Look At That Face." This was possibly the most damaging thing I've ever witnessed.

I kept waiting for the joke to come, for the hideousness to be interrupted with a punchline. But Chevy kept sitting there, with that awful expression of beatific smugness, while Goldie kept singing, and I thought, in a moment of satori: Oh, God, they aren't joking. Fall down, Chevy, fall down! Preferably onto Goldie Hawn! With your elbows!

He did not. As I say, I was not there, but I am privileged to announce that I watched that, and survived. I am also privileged to announce that neither Goldie nor Chevy survived it either.

The Sullen Man

When I was in college (and a theater major), I had the chance to see the great-ish playwright Edward Albee speak at our library. I would have been stupid to miss the chance. (Note: The first syllable of his last name is not flattened, as in the name "Al;" it is rather the more snooty "Ahl-", so "Ahl-bee.")

On the day of the meeting, I was walking in the quad and spied an English professor of mine walking with what I assumed was either a desolate hobo or a shambling janitor. Perhaps her pipes had failed.

I approached her and immediately ignored the bum. "Going to the library to see Al-bee, Carol?" (She was one of those profs who liked to go by her first name. In fact, I cannot remember her surname.)

"Going to the library with Mr. Al-bee, actually!" She said this primly, probably to get me in trouble.

He stared at me, for some reason (Hey, everyone's fucking up your name!). "Ahl-bee," he intoned in a gravelly voice. I refrained from explaining that that I was surprised that the renowned playwright wasn't swamping out our dorm toilets.

I can't imagine why I'm not famous yet.

Wednesday, 19 January
Absence

It has been a week since
I saw you last--
I see you now, wondering
Where has he gone?
What has he done?
Where are my pants?

I understand.
(Your pants are in a puddle at your feet.
You are on the Internet.
You were looking at pornography.
Speak, memory!)

It is true that I left you
For a week, maybe longer--
And I have so many tales to tell you
Of my time away . . .

One night was spent carousing with friends
At a local tavern, taking in idle beer
(Oh ho! And one was spilled into the
Wife's lap, and we laughed!)
And good company;
Someone ate pretzels.

I forget who.

This is why we blog. For these
Jewels of our lives.

On another night, we had dinner with
Good friends, and ate heartily of tapas
(Spanish food! It is all very small.)
And drank exotic concoctions in no small measure;
One was spilled into the wife's lap, again.

It is humorous!
And we made many a jest of wet crotches
(Some of them salacious!)
For we are a comical group.

The small Spanish food was uncommonly good,
And much remarked upon;
And if fond Memory serves, metaphors were
Employed comparing the quality of the Meal
To an Or-Gasm, a strange practice found in
Certain Eastern humping rituals.

I do not know. But it was a good meal,
And we ate it,
And, later, paid for it
With money.

Days later, we watched an entertainment,
A Moving Pict-O-Scope entitled
Arachno-Chap Versus Mollusk-Man!
Which was arresting, for the maiden in
The "moovler"--as the children call them--
Insisted upon a rather extravagant
Display of her . . .

I must leave off ere I stray into waters
That fashion--Satan's wanton tart ever--
Has polluted. Save it to say that I saw
Buttons.

(And yet I must confess it to be a
Superior spectacle to its predecessor,
A wretched thing entitled
Spid-O-Lad Battles A Large Cabbage.)

How did you live before without
This knowledge?

Ah, but in truth, I do confess that I
Abandoned you, left you to
Freeze for a time, for I also confess

That I was not moved to write; nor move,
Really, at all, least of all when there was
Foot-Ball on. I have had trouble
With a block in my brain that seems to say:

Perhaps you should just sit around.

I will try not to listen to that voice,
And will try faithfully to visit you more, friends,
My good friends,
You few,
You unlucky few
You tens of readers.

Wednesday, 12 January
A Visit To Queens

The wife and I tonight went out for some local Chinese food, and I overheard this from another patron: "I just saw 'Ginger Beef' on the menu. That would be a good name for a drag queen." This was spoken in, from what I could tell, total sincerity.

I put down my fork and immediately ordered another drink.

That this is, of course, a monumentally horrible name for a drag queen is kind of the point. I wasn't sure if it was the stupidest thing I'd heard in a while or the most brilliant. I started to build a mental picture of what Ginger Beef would look like, and stopped when I got to Tina Louise wearing steaks around her tits and crotch. (I would like to say that it took me a long time to get there. It did not.)

Here's some other nominees for horrible drag queen names that I either do or emphatically do not ever want to encounter.

Snatch Adams

Who doesn't want a terrifyingly hairy clown as their OB/GYN? This sexy man-gal is all yours for bachelor parties and live births! Thrill with laughter, ladies, as you convulsively shoot out your newborn into the painfully unfunny arms of what might be a John Wayne Gacy painting! Ho ho ho!

Sean "Vanity" Hannity 6

Let this conservative pundit escort you into the sexy side of unquestioning Republicanism! Mmmmmm. After ten minutes, you're not going to wonder how Prince bedded Alan Greenspan . . . you're going to want the recipe. This is one drag queen who will happily talk about inflation. Whew!

Chike "Cheeky" Okeafor "Okeafor"

Yikes! This Seattle Seahawks defensive end--defensive end!--is cheeky indeed! No seriously, don't bother this guy, because he's crazy strange and might kill you for making fun of his name.

Dame Judi Dentures

For the older set. At the climax of her routine, "Dame Judi" spits out her false teeth into someone's uncovered Manhattan glass. Charming attempts to return the dentures results in Dame Judi's explanation that they really won't be needed for the rest of the night.

United Nations Security Consuela

I really feel that this is the best possible drag queen name ever. In keeping with my recent Khruschev theme, I'd like this drag queen to pound her shoe (politely) on her desk, while shouting, "We will bury you . . . in fabulousness!" And then stylish shoes would drop from the ceiling, raining podiatric havoc for attendees, but ultimately ending in sartorial bliss for all involved.

Tuesday, 11 January
The Hours

The wife and I spent the entire weekend doing jack shit, which was, frankly, great. The weather reports were all about SNOW SNOW SNOW, and we waited anxiously for the stuff, which finally fell, in less than massive quantities, sometime early Sunday AM. Pretty pathetic: it all melted in hours, which made enduring the horrific cold (translation for non-Seattleites: anything below 40 degrees is purest agony) a rather hollow experience.

(Speaking of hollow experiences, I also watched the NFL wild card games, which were predictably hilarious. I always enjoy watching third-rate quarterbacks throw surgical passes right to cameramen and hot dog vendors. Seattle, of course, managed to lose to the riotous St. Louis Rams, whose team motto seems to be, "But We Can Beat The Seahawks!" The Rams are, of course, walking corpses.)

We coped by renting movies and playing Settlers of Catan (summary: I destroyed the competition while still managing to complain about every single unfavorable dice roll. I rule!). Stunningly, the movies . . . didn't suck. Well, much.

[Spoilers may start here, so if you're one of those types, don't read. The movies are Collateral and The Bourne Supremacy.]

First up was Collateral, the Michael Mann-directed bit of nonsense whose plot threatened all reason, but one ignores these things in an action movie (anyone see Face/Off?). Jamie Foxx is, as has been strenuously argued practically everywhere, really pretty good, and Cap'n Cruise--with his head covered in vanilla icing--is (and it pains me to say it) not bad.

Cruise is one of those actors who, when given a strong director (which is to say, not allowed to do whatever he feels like), can actually act. See also: Jim Carrey, who, when given actual work to do, can really shine (for example, The Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine [in my mind, the best film of '04]) and when not, is abysmally bad (See any other Carrey or Cruise film, or, better, don't). Mann is a pretty good filmmaker--he's certainly slick as hell--and Collateral was a nice job, more entertaining than I had expected; it had me right up to the end, where I thought he stumbled while trying to tie the whole thing up into a neat little package.

The Bourne Supremacy was a different dealie, and a much more straightforward action flick--what would you expect from a Ludlam adaptation? Matt Damon continues to make non-insane and non-Affleckted career choices, and he done good again, reprising his role as the mechanistic Bourne. We are given far too little of the nuclear Franka Potente, who is, really, just way beyond yummy. Like Cate Blanchett, this actress is just fucking hotter than reason, and I wonder if it's because she's (let's admit it) not even remotely the Ideal. She has a big nose. She has small breasts. Her ass is bigger than the typical Hollywood Starvation Plan allows. And yet she is abnormally sexy.

Anyway. We loved this movie (and confession: the wife and I are huge fans of the first one); Joan Allen is once again stuck playing a dried-up snitty creature, and Julia Stiles gets to extravagantly cry, and there is also . . . Bryan Cox! Yay! He's in every film ever made! Fuck you, Jim Broadbent! Eat a dick, John C. Reilly! Bryan Cox is here to shake his jowls! And shake them he does, at Joan Allen, who stands her ground, because she's a desiccated mummy who is dedicated to . . . oh, who cares? You can't make sense of this movie anyway.

It's never going to fucking snow here, is it?

Friday, 07 January
Warehouse

When I got done with college--sporting a mighty Bachelor of Theater degree--I of course had to get a job. Strangely, Hollywood casting directors (or, for that matter, Hoboken casting directors) were not exactly scratching at my zipper or anything, so I had to find, as they say, a "real" job.

When actors say things like "real" jobs, that means: Jobs that suck. You know, like the ones normal people have. And we always say it in a tone that suggests that these jobs are beneath us--we're trained actors! We want unreal jobs! Like, say, acting! This is partly why actors are such a pain in the ass. We've trained extensively for a job that barely exists, and when it does, it usually pays nothing. And then we get snitty about it. Why you people tolerate our ilk is beyond me, because frankly, we're fucking deluded and strange.

Anyway, I got a job working at my roommate's dad's company, which was a "paint sundries" warehouse, filling orders. "Paint sundries" really just means: "Paint-ish shit that isn't paint." Like deck sealant, varnish, rollers, tarps, caulk, etc. It was hardly a challenging job, but it was actually--in the sepia-tone of easy nostalgia, anyway--sometimes fun. A particularly respected skill was being able to master the flinging of empty shipping tape rolls (those big cardboard disk) in such a way that they'd glide for yards. It takes a kind of wrist-flip that only practice brings. Even more respected was the ability to throw the things with velocity and accuracy, because the real idea was to hit another guy in the head.

See, the place was all boys. Of course it was, and I don't mean that in any demeaning way--any woman could have done the job. But it was just a boy place . . . even for the men. There were 40-year-olds there, with families. On the job, they were boys. Watch out for that tapeball!

They were:

Gary

Our fearless leader, the supervisor. Gary had buck teeth and three DUIs under his belt, so Gary always needed a ride. But as boss, this was hardly a problem, since anyone was happy to drive him around wherever (not me--I had no car), which was usually--surprise!--to a bar. Gary was also meticulous about the hazing of new employees, which is what led him to body-check me into several gallons of xylene (yay!). But then, he liked me. Less lucky was Mike (more on him later), who was shrink-wrapped into a shopping cart (which we used to carry orders) and sent sailing down the parking lot. Unfortunately, Mike's cart jumped a small abutment and he continued down a hill, screaming like a deranged bat. When the cart finally fell over, we rescued him, and then mercilessly castigated him for making us walk so fucking far to get him. Later, Mike would fail to notice when Gary fingerpainted "I WANT DICK" into the dust on his tailgate.

Bobby

Bobby was a fucking beast of a man, and I took good care never to piss him off. (Anyone who knows me can tell you that this takes a heroic effort on my part.) He was the strongest person I've ever seen. He was a stocky Irishman, and built like a walking sub-basement. I once watched him carrying six five-gallon cans of deck seal: two on his shoulders, two in the crooks of his elbows, and two more in his hands. He was also the one who, on a lark, casually picked me up and tossed me into the cardboard crusher (again, when I was new). Then he turned it on, knowing full well that the giant steel crush-plate stopped a good three feet above from bottom; he laughed like mad as I screamed piteously at what I assumed was imminent death.

Brian

Brian drove a Camaro, and wore Gargoyle shades; he had a mullet. For all that, Brian was, I swear, a pretty good guy. If I have relatively little to say about Brian, it's only because he had exactly three interests: 1. His car 2. Getting hammered. 3. Chicks. I liked Brian a lot, but let's just say that his plan was only about 2/3 successful.

Kevin

What to say about Kevin? Kevin . . . made me sad. Kevin quite clearly had something wrong in his head, and I couldn't figure it out for a long time. He stuttered a bit (not much), and would make bizarre, nutty errors (he had trouble with the whole concept of alphabetization, and was made famous once for putting a box knife in his mouth for storage when he needed both hands--of course the blade was out, and he cut the shit out of his tongue . . . bad). But finally, after a conversation with Kevin, I guess I got the story, and it was a little heartbreaking. Over beers, Kevin said, "You know, I used to be smart. Nobody believes me. But I wasn't this way." I didn't say anything. He continued. "Look, I was dealing some coke, okay? And this guy hit me over the head with a fucking pipe. He stole all my shit. And then . . . " Kevin raised his arms to half-mast in that universal gesture of "who knows?" "Ever since then . . . I can't think right. It's kind of fucked up."

Mick

Mick, another Irishman (big surprise), will probably die at the warehouse, if he isn't dead yet. Mick was all of these things: a drunk; a junkie (though he battled it mightily); an asshole ("Mick, would you--" "No."); a dreamer (he enjoyed Castaneda, the freak); a husband (to another, much more afflicted junkie); and a devoted father (particularly to his damaged little girl, who at the age of four still had never spoken a word . . . I of course figured on the heroin). Mick was also given to drunken pronouncements: "Skot . . . you're almost there, man. You're so close to . . . you'll see." I think I miss Mick most of all. He was a good man trapped in a horrible scenario.

But I do remember this: During the week, we would listen to the fucking classic rock station, but I finally managed to allow us to listen to a "modern rock" station on Fridays. One Friday, a Blondie song came on, and Mick came up to me.

"Is this Blondie?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"If I wanted to hear junkie bitches scream, I'd go home," he said.

The aforementioned Mike ended up challenging Mick to a drinking contest. Pretty stupid; Mick drank Mike into a coma, almost literally. Mike really was a stupid guy.

I don't know why I miss these guys.

Wednesday, 05 January
All You Have To Do

The new year is underway, of course, and though I've never been a resolution kind of guy--except from 1981-1987, when I quite determinedly avowed to get laid, and those years were a real goddamn bust--this year I've decided, what the fuck: It's time to make myself over into a better man.

I got off to a miserable start, naturally: one of the first things I did was watch the woefully bad Secret Window, as previously mentioned. This did not make me a better man. In fact, I would argue that it made me a worse man. Some adversity is expected in life, and many would argue that one emerges stronger from having endured it. But I was not strengthened by Secret Window; I was, I am sure, immeasurably weakened: by its embarrassing transparency; its wholesale theft from other, more superior films; its occasionally hilariously humid performances; but most of all, for its use of steamed corn as a dramatic device. Nothing here is remotely strengthening, and so I am a worse man now than I was mere days ago.

But my spirit is still willing! Or, if not willing, then at least really bendy. As in, Listen up, spirit! We're gonna change for the better! And then spirit sighs and goes, Whatevs. I doubt it. And then I go, Oh burn! We're doing this thing! And spirit once again says, Whatevs. You see, I have the spirit of a jaded hipster who is easily talked into things because, hey, whatevs. My spirit can't wait for the next Ted Leo show! Unfortunately, my spirit is kind of overruled by my body, who would rather watch CSI reruns.

Anyway, here are some resolutions.

1. I'd like to bone up on my besmirching. Clean linens, the reputations of the innocent, automobile upholstery, whatever. I miss besmirching stuff.

2. Championing neglected berries. Loganberries, elderberries . . . fuck, even the cran-man gets relatively few props. I've also come up with a snappy ad campaign, where I go on TV and pound my shoe on a desk, promising America that "We will berry you!" Then we advertise our website "crushvideos.com." This one's a sure winner.

3. I'm no one-trick pony in the business world, though. I also have big plans for another company in the works, RoBoBloJos. I think there's a big market out there for men who desire fellatio, and that's just what my giant clanking robots with fearsome metal teeth will be programmed to perform.

4. I'm pretty sick of our flag. And that's why I'm in touch with Jasper Johns to create a new one. I'm thinking of a color scheme with some dynamism, like cream, bone, eggshell, buff and lace. Basically, I've got kind of a hard-on about color in general, really, so I am also talking to Tommy Hilfiger about a new line of jeans made of translucent tarps. If my vision comes to fruition, look for "Whatevs!" to be replaced by the amusing phrase, "I can see your weird boner!" soon.

5. I think the next step is obvious. "Hey, I can see your weird boner through your translucent pants!" Enter robot. "Would-you-like-me-to-chew-on-that? Five-dollars-a-minute!" Customer: "This is a great new world!"

I'm a dreamer, though. Maybe it won't come to pass. I can always hang and watch CSI.

Whatevs.

Tuesday, 04 January
It's Time Again To Prejudge Movies

Happy new year and all that; I have nothing to tell. The wife and I went out for dinner with a friend, and then we came home and drank booze. At midnight, we watched the Space Needle ejaculate some wan pyrotechnics. (Really. Is there anything more boring than fireworks?) Then we went back inside to play Settlers of Catan. (Okay, this is more boring than fireworks.) Yes, we are getting old.

Tonight the wife was delighted to hear that Monday Night Football was back in its grave for another offseason, and so we watched a movie. Unfortunately, that movie was the thoroughly ungripping psychological weenie roast Secret Window. (This was, I shit you not, the least unappealing choice from the video store.) Starring Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp's witch-tangle of dyed hair, John Turturro's hi-larious accent ("Uh wunt ma indin!"), and, totally incidentally, Maria Bello and Timothy "Oh God! Another disastrous Stephen King movie!" Hutton.

It was, of course, deeply stupid and about as hard to figure out as a soup label. But you have to give it up for a film that genuinely tries for "Gotcha!" shocker-shots featuring (I wish I were making this up): (1) an ear of corn, and (2) a squirrel. How I wish I could have heard the director setting up these shots. "Okay . . . I want a musical stinger when Johnny bites into the corn. Then . . . blackout!" "Are, uh, are you sure, boss?" "Are you kidding? We can't lose! It's corn!"

Anyway, as usual during these horrible winter months, Hollywood is pulling a Love Canal on us, and shamelessly dumping off horrible toxic bullshit. Here's an incomplete roundup of some of the noisome refuse being offloaded by the sadists in LA. I once again reiterate my position on these horrors: I have not seen any of them, and if destiny favors me, I never will, since I am wholly certain that they are all rotten piles of shit.

Elektra

The ruiners of that extraordinarily repellent Daredevil--who really simply got every single thing wrong, right down to the delightfully embarrassing Colin Farrell--try again with the character of Elektra, for no good reason other than the knowledge that searchingly horny nerds will watch anything with Jennifer Garner wearing not much. The ads are riotously awful, and showcase such mind-wrecking things as people's tattoos erupting out of their bodies to do battle with . . . other tattoos, I guess. "My Navy anchor versus your Celtic cross!" "Oh no! Here comes Henry Rollins!" "Oh fuck! Deploy Dave Navarro!"

Constantine

Yet another comic book adaptation, this one features . . . oh, boy . . . Keanu Reeves. This despite the fact that the original character from the Hellblazer series is a blond English rake. Keanu, unfortunately, cannot act as well as your average garden rake. Improbably, the movie also has in its cast Gavin Rossdale and Tilda Swinton. When I said "improbably" a moment ago? Yeah. This is like finding a movie featuring Lauren Bacall and Izzy Stradlin.

White Noise

Michael Keaton--remember him?--hears dead people on his MODERN ELECTRONIC DEVICES! One assumes that it's his agent. "Michael . . . I have another terrible film for you." I love the idea that the dead had to sit around on their rotting asses long enough for MODERN ELECTRONIC DEVICES to be invented, just so they could nag us. "MAURY!" screams a blender somewhere. "GO SHOVEL THE SIDEWALK!" And then poor Maury twists his ankle, or is eaten by electron ghouls, or something. Jesus, who cares? We all thought that Michael was back when Out of Sight came out, didn't we? No.

Racing Stripes

It's a zebra who is a race horse! Shut up! No, really, shut up. Frankie Muniz? David Spade? Mandy Moore? Let's just watch some Pepto-Bismol commercials, where people are still miming diarrhea. I was totally sold when I saw the ad for this where David Spade makes a fart joke. Unfortunately, I thought it was an ad for Capital One.

Alone in the Dark

Christian Slater and Tara Reid! Have you run screaming yet? I'm not done.

Stephen Dorff.

Hey, come back! I didn't even get to the part where I mentioned that there is an actor named "Haggquist." He plays a character named Agent "Krash" Krashinsky!

There you go running again.










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