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Monday, 21 June
Is The Sun Out Yet? Yes? You Should Go Somewhere Dark.

Well, here we are at the beginning of summer, and the hot summer movies are coming at your face like a pack of hungry coyotes! Let's take a look at what's in the offing and how terrible they will be sight unseen! As always, I have never seen any of these things, nor do I intend to (which is a complete lie, since I will probably watch them all some starless, bible-black night when nothing else is on cable).

Knight and Day

With a title that inspired, it's got to be good! See, why doesn't everyone in Hollywood be this creative? If only "Cagney and Lacey" were titled "Frilly and Lacey" they could have squeezed out a few more decades of television's favorite lesbian cop team. Kramer Versus Kramer could have been so much more had they called it Kramer Versus Krammer, a tense actioner pitting Dustin Hoffman, a reluctant dominant, against Meryl Streep, the woman who is simply tired of being relentlessly fisted every damn night.

I frankly don't know why I'm not writing for Hollywood.

Anyway, this noxious thing pairs up Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in some sort of doubtlessly ludicrous caper film; I'm guessing that at some point Diaz dances in her underwear and Tom "Tom (TM)" Cruise shoots several dozen ethnically-something goons while Diaz screams girlishly and then dances in her underwear again. The film also features Peter Sarsgaard, a fine actor who apparently only wishes to appear in dreadful garbage, and Paul Dano, who probably fruitlessly wished that, like the first half of Little Miss Sunshine, he didn't have to say anything.

Grown Ups

"Saturday Night Live" has been an American institution for decades now. We watched through thick and thin, and we made a lot of these people a lot of money. We sat through the great--John Belushi, Eddie Murphy when he was genuinely hilarious--the middling--Tim Kazurinsky, you were intermittently grin-worthy!--and, well, the rest. Let us not speak of Victoria Jackson.

So what do we get in return? Vicious dick-twisting like this fucking thing. Adam Sandler! David Spade! Rob Schneider! I ask you, Christians: what part of God's plan do these guys fit into? The same part that includes fleas and mange and back hair? Eat hot shit, SNL.

Maximizing the cruelty, the cast also features Kevin James--hey, he's pretty fat! That's funny. Certainly funnier than Chris Farley, because that guy died, which was pretty weak. And there's Chris Rock--who is funny, when he's not squandering his talent, which is apparently now always. And then there's just the weird, like Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Steve Buscemi. Then again, I guess even these guys have comedy backgrounds: Hayek's eyebrows in Frida were good for an extended laugh; Bello famously cradled Bill Macy's junk onscreen; and Buscemi was in Con Air. So maybe I'm shortchanging them on the comedy front.

Excerpted from an IMDB user review: "One or two sections were flat and a few too many fart-jokes" NO WAY.

The Last Airbender

Nobody could have predicted that after the very fine and atmospheric ghost story The Sixth Sense that M. Night Shyamalan would move to an extended series of knee-slapping comedies such as Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, and, perhaps his pinnacle as a comedic filmmaker, The Happening. (If you didn't laugh at Marky Mark attempting to reason with murderous trees, I simply don't know what to say to you.)

This auteur's career arc has been nothing less than breathtaking, and the idea of him welding his unique slapstick sensibilities to tiny little headshaven kung-fu masters who--evidently--bend air is really the ne plus ultra of what the film medium is capable of. What is next for Mr. Shyamalan? I'm guessing porn. It's really the last frontier for him. I even have a script for him. It's called She Sucks, and it's the chillingly hilarious story of a vampiric porn star (Christy Canyon, out of retirement!) who has to give blowjobs to exist. (Haley Joel Osment won't stop calling me asking about the status of this project.) Gary Cole has already signed on as the bumbling vampire hunter/former fluffer.

Despicable Me

Isn't it adorable watching other studios attempt to compete with Pixar? It's sort of like watching second graders doggedly following their older brothers to sandlot baseball games, except Pixar is patient enough not to scream, "Jesus, would you fuck off? You don't even have a mitt, you little bastard!"

Despicable Me might or might not be a good film, but when the ads for it prominently feature a fart gun . . . well . . . yeah. But hey, that's the sort of thing we all want to see in 3D! (Incidentally, I'm not sure I'm ready to experience Kristen Wiig in 3D, even in animated form. That woman freaks me the fuck out.) Extra stunt/cred casting points for Julie Andrews and nerdstorm sensation Jemaine Clement.

Predators

OH FUCK YEAH. This is going to be utterly terrible. I can't wait!

Look at that fucking cast! It's Ed Wood-level insane! Adrien Brody! Topher Grace! DANNY FUCKING TREJO! (Hurrah!) Laurence Fishburne! Walton "The Shield is Justified" Goggins! AND Mahershalalhashbaz Ali! (I have no idea who that is, but man alive, that is a name and a half.)

*doubles over, plants hands on knees, breathes deeply for a while*

I wonder if my friend Warren knows this is coming. Warren is a deeply disturbed individual who routinely advances the screamingly insane argument that Predator 2 is one of the finest action movies ever created. Warren is also a big martial arts fan and practitioner, which means that he regualarly enjoys being savagely beaten by close friends, so make of that what you will. I have any number of friends that have really dubious film tastes. My friend Erik insists that Sly Stallone's Cliffhanger is nothing short of brilliant, an assertion that generally leaves me in weak-kneed tears. On the other hand, physician, heal thyself: I really, really enjoy anything that dumblord Uwe Boll releases under the demented aegis of German government funding.

It's summer! Do you feel stupider yet? Wait.

Tuesday, 13 April
I Prejudge Movies: It's Been A While

Oh, boy, it's springtime! You know what that means! It's right before the summer movie blockbuster season where the studios quickly offload their awful second-rate fodder to the masses! It's the most wonderful time of the year, and there's no better time for another round of I Prejudge Movies, where I review movies that I have not seen and probably have no intention of seeing! Hooray? Let's see what swill is about to be dished out to YOU! The unfortunate audience!

Kick-Ass

Tired of comic book superhero movies yet? I hope not! Because here comes Kick-Ass, based on the comic by the ridiculous hack Mark Millar, a comic book author noted mostly for stepping in to destroy established, decent franchises. But maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe everyone but me really is excited about a movie adaptation of a rock-dumb comic book in which allegedly endearing smart-ass kids (and it's about time Hollywood paid attention to this long-neglected demographic) sass and beat the shit out of dimwit adults. It'll be like Home Alone, only with poorly-constructed hero costumes and no Daniel Stern mugging. Which I think is what everyone has been clamoring for. BONUS POINTS: features one Mr. Stu 'Large' Riley as "Huge Goon." I expect Mr. Riley to be as tremendously winning and large as he was as a bouncer in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, another movie that I have never seen and would not watch at gunpoint, and neither did you, nor would you.

In summary, parents with kids of a certain age, I'm sorry in advance. I recommend bringing a flask.

Death at a Funeral

SUGGESTED VARIETY HEADLINE: "Death at the Box Office." Variety editors: call me!

I like the electrifying tagline listed on IMDB for this . . . object: "This is one sad family." Does this make you want to actually see the movie, even in context? Or does it make you want to sit on the couch and eat Pringles? How about if I told you that the director is Neil LaBute, whose best and only comedy to date was the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, face-mopping spectacle The Wicker Man, a movie so unhinged that when we watched it, all our doors and cabinets fell down? Then we were attacked by angry bees, so we lit ourselves on fire.

This seems to happen a lot when we try to watch LaBute's clumsy, misanthropic hairballs. Except for Possession, which was actually genuinely hilarious. (That's a joke. Literally nobody on earth watched Possession, including the reviewers who wrote reviews about it. They didn't see it. They went into the bathroom and jerked off into their popcorn. Nobody who was unfamiliar with the book could give a shit, and everyone who actually read that terrible book already felt punished enough. It's the first movie ever made that nobody watched, even the cast and crew, who spent red carpet night doing whippets and playing Cranium. The projectionist came closest to watching it as he dolefully sat in the empty theater, but he quickly and mercifully had a massive stroke and died.)

The Back-Up Plan

Hey, did you know that Jennifer Lopez has a prominent, attractive ass? ROLL CREDITS!

Seriously, this could be the most efficient rom-com in recent history. Anonymous white guy falls in love with spicy Latina scat star; J-Lo's underwear comically falls off; someone pitches forward into some sort of cake, dip, or bowl of mustard; wedding! Then anonymous white guy aggressively fists J-Lo while a soulful Elbow song plays. Hollywood directors: call me!

Iron Man 2

This doesn't really properly fit here on this list, as it will definitely be a blockbuster and will make a shit-ton of money. And why not? The first one was certainly a very nice surprise thanks to some awesome casting and a pleasingly light touch. Hell, it opened the door for even more superhero movie roles for Robert Downey Jr,. as evidenced by the recent Sherlock Holmes, in which he played a two-fisted brilliant detective/pugilist/opiate enthusiast/indestructible person.

This movie looks to continue the fun casting choices. It must have been excruciating for the studio execs to finally hit on the plan of casting Scarlett Johansson as the superspy Black Widow, and even more reluctantly squeezing her in black leather and dying her hair red. Even worse must have been when the original Terrence "Rhodey" Howard reportedly asked for ownership of the moon to reprise his role, and the studio balked.

"What are you gonna do, get Don Cheadle? AW HAW HAW!"

(Ten minutes later)

"Good news, everyone! We got Don Cheadle."

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Everyone bitches about about George Lucas--and for good reason--for taking a beloved trilogy (not perfect, mind you--fucking Ewoks) and so utterly crushing it, so relentlessly cashing in on it, so demolishing a legacy that you'd think he'd torched an orphanage. And he deserves all of it.

As does the astoundingly talentless Michael Bay, who has never created anything good in his life. I mean, I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps he's a really talented whittler whose house is filled with whimsical little wooden boats. Maybe once he furtively fingered a nun and gave her brief illicit joy. But somehow I doubt it. I suspect he actually spends his downtime at home twisting the heads off of dolls.

And here he comes again, making yet another nihilistic remake of a classic horror film that 1. didn't ever require a remake, and 2. was plenty nihilistic in the first place. But no, we're about to be treated to an "amped-up" microwave version of the goofily fun original, which will likely be poorly lit, filled to brimming with jump cuts and laden with pointless CGI shots of people's weird teeth.

If there is anything to take cheer in this blight of a project, it's that Bay managed to convince Jackie Earle Haley to play Freddy; he is almost always terrific. Not that his (no doubt) effective portrayal of Freddy is likely to hold a candle to his harrowing performance in Little Children, a non-horror film that makes most conventional horror films feel like Heidi.

It has come to this: Michael Bay must be stopped. Preferably murdered in his sleep by a Bill Cosbyish besweatered, horrifically burned psychopath. We must organize. We must convince Dokken to get the band back together. Yes. We must summon the Dream Warriors. (Dokken: call me!)

Tuesday, 01 September
Let's Put The X In Horrible Beer Ads

[The Most Interesting Man in the World is shown. He is eating a fox that he has stolen from Polish peasants.]

VO: He will eat your foxes.

Pursuing Polish peasants: Come back! We are starving!

[The Most Interesting Man in the World is shown having sex with Mindy Cohn.]

VO: He will fuck former television stars. Here he can be seen banging the shit out of Natalie from The Facts of Life.

Mindy Cohn: He's got such a bumpy dick! It's like he has cleats for that thing.

VO: He can disarm you with his words. Or his hands. Or his alarming penis.

Mindy Cohn: Seriously, it's pretty terrifying at first, but I really needed the money.

VO: He can speak French . . . in Canada.

Quebec Resident: Yes, it is not remarkable.

[The Most Interesting Man in the World is shown playing a game of contract bridge.]

The Most Interesting Man in the World: I meld these hearts for nine hundred points.

Opponent: Have you ever played this game?

VO: He is clinically insane.

[The Most Interesting Man in the World is shown sticking circus peanuts into his ears.]

Mindy Cohn: He wasn't that rough with me. I've had worse.

VO: He routinely receives barium enemas. Not for diagnostic purposes. He just loves those enemas.

The Most Interesting Man in the World: My asshole, it is a Chernobyl.

Mindy Cohn: I got so tired of those enemas. Talk about no fun.

VO: He is the most interesting man in the world, if you find complete douchebags interesting.

The Most Interesting Man in the World: I don't always drink beer, which seems like the last thing you'd want me to say for a beer commercial, but when I do, I vaguely prefer Dos Equis. They almost never make it out of donkeys any more.

[Final tableau shows Mindy Cohn's mutilated body staring blindly into the camera.]

I really hate Dos Equis' latest ad campaign.

Monday, 20 July
Let's All Go The Prejudgment . . .

I LOVE YOU, CLIMATE CHANGE! This has been the most stupendously ridiculous Seattle summer since the year I first moved here in 1992, where there was a tremendous drought. Day after joyous day of no rain and plenty of griping pale people! It's glorious. Usually we get like two weeks in August of decent heat, and the rest of it is spotty nonsense where you can never tell if some wan sunshine is suddenly going to give way to a hellish trout rain or some fucking thing. But I could get used to this. We're even starting to get reliable snowfalls in the winter, which of course shuts down this poor city, and everyone yells HEY CLEAR THE ROADS YOU ASSHOLES at the city, and I'm like, What, you want to go to work?

Fuck, I went out and bought a whole bunch of screaming two-stroke engines and have them running 24/7 out on the sun-blasted patio. My neighbors scream at me about them--I assume they are applauding my efforts to continue to ruin the environment and preserve this glorious ongoing atmospheric clusterfuck--but I cannot hear them over the din, so I can't be sure. I blandly wave at them while they make complicated arm gestures at me, and I grin happily.

And with improbably fuck-nuts summers come predictably babble-mad summer movies! Let's see what's on the docket. As usual, I have seen none of these movies, nor do I intend to, but I probably will, because of Comcast's siren song.

G-Force

Sometimes I feel sorry for parents, where "sometimes" = "constantly." This is a movie that actually advertises the fact that Jerry Bruckheimer is behind it, which is a lot like trying to promote your new line of Ed Gein lampshades. This is directed by the legendary Hoyt Yeatman--a visual effects guy with no prior directing experience--and his talents are being employed here to lend 3-D effects to what everyone thinks of when the topic of 3-D comes up: guinea pigs.

Sorry, moms and dads. The rest of us will simply consider this Hollywood's continuing efforts to provide us with visual birth control.

"I hate condoms."

"Listen, do you want to find yourself one day watching a 3-D guinea pig spy movie?"

"I, uh, I'll go to the store; back in five."

The Ugly Truth

IMDB plot synopsis synopsis (abbreviated on the home page thusly):

"A romantically challenged morning show producer (Heigl) is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous..."

I defy anyone to give me any good reason to keep reading or thinking about or acknowledging this movie. Anyone?

[Silence.]

Well, there you go. Incidentally, those of you who watch movies like this? And therefore encourage their creation? Could you please fucking stop? Seriously, I'll blow a lonely zoo tiger for everyone who swears off this shit.

Orphan

Hey, looks like another entry in the "little girls with dark hair are terrifying" genre! Hollywood really is just delusional. Every sane adult knows that little blond girls named Dakota Fanning are the most terrifying filmic entities ever thrust into an unsuspecting public's collective face.

I mean, you all saw--to pick only one out of untold millions of films where Fanning spreads her reign of terror--Spielberg's War of the Worlds remake, right? Where we all desperately rooted for the Martians to blast Dakota Fanning into oblivion if only to stop her incessant screaming, but then Tim Robbins showed up and ate the entire set? And Spielberg kind of went, "Hey, where's all our stuff? That cost $100 million!" And the audience went, "Why, why didn't he eat Dakota Fanning? Won't somebody? Cruise has the teeth for it, even if she is kind of gristly."

But he didn't. So thanks for fucking nothing, Robbins. Now we'll have to wait until 2010, where Dakota Fanning stars in The Fanning, a taut thriller about a young, needle-voiced blonde girl who collects antique fans and sits and fans herself for two hours while receiving blood transfusions in a desperate directorial attempt to make her actually appear in color on film, but to no avail,andt she keeps on fanning her numinous Dakotian self, ceaselessly, while countless exsanguinated children die in a growing pile at her side, and then Tim Robbins eats everything in the universe, and Dakota Fanning screams into the gaping void. I think it's a Werner Herzog film.

Funny People

Hey, it's Judd Apatow! I wondered what he'd been up to. It's been almost half an hour.

Look, I love The 40 Year Old Virgin. I own it. Superbad and Pineapple Express are much, much less beloved to me, as they begin to exhibit a certain disease that afflicts directors who become popular and celebrities in their own right: a refusal to edit. Both of those latter movies wear out their welcome well before the endings, and begin to display an unwelcome attitude towards young asshole males: that they are inherently funny. (Jonah Hill's character in Superbad is emblematic of this; Pineapple Express is excruciatingly long.) (Oh, and Knocked Up is a chickenshit drag that's even more cowardly than Juno.)

It's hard to say what Apatow's up to here. It looks like a comedy with "heart," which is a nearly chilling idea in most hands, but 40 Year Old Virgin, at its core, pulls it off, mainly thanks to Steve Carell and Catherine Keener, particularly the latter, who is unfailingly great.

But there is cause for worry. There is always the troubling presence of Adam Sandler, but then again, he's shown that he is not always completely useless with an actual directorial presence, a la Punch-Drunk Love. There's also the troubling inclusion of--and I find this truly mystifying--Eric Bana, a mostly faceless actor who has, as far as I can recall, never displayed anything resembling a sense of humor ever. I'm happy to be proven wrong, but the man just strikes me as dry wheat bread.

And there's one other thing that should give everyone pause. It is this, again from IMDB's cast list:

Andy Dick ... Himself

Now I question the entire marketing campaign. This might be a horror movie after all. Do you think they got Dakota Fanning to do an uncredited scene with Andy Dick? The screaming will never stop! Until Tim Robbins shows up and eats the multiverse.

Tuesday, 02 June
Prejudgment Not At Nuremburg

Jack in the Box seems to be trying to dethrone Taco Bell as the purveyor of "most annoying fucking ads ever" lately. I'm speaking specifically of the stoner-centric ad where the asshole tries to order 99 tacos for two cents at the drive-through. These ads are nearly as insulting as Hollywood's upcoming summer lineup. Let's take a look.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Leaving aside the perpetual embarrassment that John Travolta has become; leaving aside the goodwill that Denzel Washington seems insistent upon squandering; leaving aside the residual greatness that Luis Guzman continues to exude despite appearing in one out of every three movies ever filmed including Hey, Don't Fuck My Butler!; the inescapable fact exists that this is a Tony Scott movie, and so it will be intolerably awful.

Scott has made approximately one and a half entertaining movies during his zombie reign--True Romance, which my friend Rory probably wisely suggests that benefits from a Tarantino boost, and Crimson Tide, which is a risible submarine movie that is more or less rescued by the nearly unbelievable straight-faced performances that are loaned to Scott interest-free in service to a patently ridiculous movie.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, I am almost positive, will continue to drain my sympathy for Denzel Washington, and will also probably fail to feature a scene where John Turturro is doused with robot urine. And really, what other use is there for John Turturro?

Moon

I like Sam Rockwell, but it's a little precious to shoot a feature film where he just presses his ass against the camera for 87 minutes. Also, it's sort of irritating to give your movie a title that obligates asshole humor bloggers to say things like "M-O-O-N, that spells box office failure!"

What's that? Yes, I do hate myself.

Imagine That

FUCK YOU, HOLLYWOOD! That's YOUR job! I work too hard and too long to imagine things! That's all well and good for the French, who work like 8 hours a week, but we Americans demand you imagine shit for us!

Except that you imagined something with Eddie Murphy and Thomas Hayden Church. Say, would it be okay if I worked sixty hours a week until this film isn't in the theaters any more?

Year One

This might be the most awesomely bizarre collection of comedic talents ever assembled. Will blank-faced Michael Cera be able to withstand the incredible onslaught of muggery that will be brought by Jack Black, Oliver Platt and David Cross? Or will he succumb to the pressures of a John Turturro-like tsunami of robot-urine comedy-face? (Forgive me if I'm stretching this metaphor. I can't seem to let it go.)

You know, I actually like all of these actors, for all of their various foibles. I even have serious affection for Harold Ramis, who, for all his crimes, has made the world a better place with some of his earlier films. But this just looks like a catastrophe.

Tetro

Hey, a chance for Francis Ford Coppola to redeem himself!

Vincent Gallo--Tetro

Or a different thing.

Monday, 13 April
Prejudgment; The Blowjob Edition

You know what you probably don't get much of? ESTONIAN COMMENT SPAM! But I get it! Lots of it! I have no idea what the dude is saying, but I think I recognize the phrase "turkey hump," which my grandmother used to babble endlessly about before she went insane and died. Or maybe that was while she was going insane. Perhaps she was always insane; she did used to croon "Tiny Bubbles" to me as a child, which would explain a lot. No defenseless kid needs to have unstable grandmothers howling Don Ho songs about champagne into his face.

Anyway, this is the sort of brain damage that leads someone to post vicious comments about movies that he has no intention of seeing in the theaters. Let's roll!

Earth

When did polar bears become a common trope for piously earthing shit up? I guess we're starting at the beleaguered poles and working our way up to the Equator. Makes sense, I guess--penguins and polar bears, SAVE THE EARTH!--but of course that just makes assholes like me go "Well, wake me up when the otter die-offs start."

Look for 2011 for the sizzling sequels "Wind" and "Fire." Say, how come Air always takes it up the ass?

Obsessed

Here's an example of a film that they just should have folded with the name, like Unfaithful. What more do you need to know? I think I'd be more intrigued by something called Bowling or Mumbly-Peg. So someone is obsessed. WHOO! It doesn't help that that someone appears to be Beyonce, and even less so that Jerry O'Connell appears to be involved in the equation. I'll go ahead and advance my argument--which I have been developing for years--that in any Jerry O'Connell equation, he comes out as negative b. Solve for x and you get Ali Larter. This is why everyone hates math.

State of Play

This is sort of the flip side of something as terrible as Obsessed, title-wise. Trading in thunking obviousness for dimwitted nonspecificity, State of Play opts for a faux-moodiness that, semi-formidable cast aside, it probably will not earn. The producers could have easily opted for the title Plate of Stay and retained the same amount of unearned gravitas, but then again, that was probably the working title when they were filming Marley and Me.

But who knows? I'm happy to be wrong. Tony Gilroy is one of the writers, and he has given me much joy with his Bourne movies and the estimable Michael Clayton. On the other hand, he has drained joy from my life with such atrocities as The Cutting Edge and Armageddon, which is perhaps the most aptly named movie ever made. Then again, he also wrote The Devil's Advocate, which is so frothingly insane that it makes me think of other insane things, like "BJ and the Bear," which contains neither 1. blowjobs nor 2. bears. Basically, people like Tony Gilroy are why I don't sleep at night and instead pace around while screaming.

The Soloist

CHECK THIS SHIT OUT, YO


Robert Downey Jr.
Catherine Keener
Jamie Foxx
Stephen Root

That's three really talented white actors turning up to help out a schizophrenic black cellist! Most films would only spring for one noble white person. I commend the filmmakers for their commitment to really mobilizing caring white people who only want to help the black insane musical homeless community. It's almost as if it's straight out of Hollywood.

Fighting

Sleeping.

Crank: High Voltage

I have been chewing my hands off waiting for this fucking thing. "He was dead . . . but he got better." COME ON! If you don't want to see this, then you are dead inside, or possibly Amy Smart's immediate family. But seriously, what's not to love? It has BAI LING! If you don't read Go Fug Yourself, you rightfully might not know who she is, but all you need to know is that if you put her names together, you get "bailing," and that's pretty fucking awesome. What? You need more? Okay, well try this on for size, cowboy: it also has David Carradine playing a character named "Poon Dong." Still not sold? Two more words: Corey Haim.

*screams*

FOR GOD'S SAKE, PEOPLE! You lapped up defibrillation parties like Moulin Rouge like nobody's business! Jim Broadbent gets played in gay disco bars thanks to that! Does that make any sense to you? What the fuck are you sneering at? You don't want to see Jason Statham fuck Amy Smart in a hippodrome? You're damaged. I can't even talk to you.

Go ahead. Go watch The Soloist. You'll be the only ones there. We'll catch you next time at Iron Man 2. That's the one where Robert Downey Jr. gets gobbled by Gwyneth Paltrow at the county dump. Sweet!

Wednesday, 04 February
We're Overdue For Some Prejudging!

We don't have to dwell on the Super Bowl, really. Well, you can. I really didn't give a fuck, unlike our host Warren, an old Arizona resident who made it clear that anyone in the room who happened to be a Steelers fan was welcome to drink toilet water. Fortunately, everybody else in the room seemed to share my deep uncaringness; I was happy to root for the Cards--who at least made it a great game--if only because Steelers fans are the ubiquitous biting nits of the NFL world. They're everywhere, they're obnoxiously painful, and they swarm.

Along with the Super Bowl, of course, you also get the ads--oh, the ads! You don't want to miss those, either, so the Super Bowl presents real challenges to the average smoker. I don't even want to dwell on the ads, though--Seth Stevenson has that niche pretty much covered, although I was disappointed that he neglected to mention the cut flowers telling the crestfallen cube worker "Nobody wants to see you naked."

A couple of other ads carried fell portents: Transformers 2 is apparently in the works, hopefully--please--featuring even more robotic micturation upon John "Heineken Shaman" Turturro; and, not to be dismissed lightly, Land of the Lost, featuring one of my many nemeses, Will Ferrell. May he be eaten by Sleestaks.

(A lot of my friends--many of whom are sketch comedians--adore Will Ferrell. I emphatically do not, but I only mention this to say that I understand if you think I'm a complete toolbox for thinking this way. I only want to say this: Will Ferrell is not any kind of actor. He's just Will Ferrell. Say what you will about Robin Williams or Bill Murray [to pick a couple easy examples], they are capable of turning in nuanced performances [especially when matched with good directors]. Will Ferrell could dig up Kurosawa to remake Throne of Blood and still find a way to make sure the Macbeth character had a scene in his underwear. Fuck Will Ferrell.)

(I also don't find him terribly funny when he's trying for pure comedy, though he is a gifted mimic and seems fairly fearless, which is a good trait in any performer. At any rate, ask yourself, even if you're a fan of his: is mugging in front of CGI dinosaurs your idea of the best way to exploit his talents?)

I don't promise that I will stop with the parentheses, but now I'm aware of them. Anyway, let's see what else is coming to the movie theaters soon, and let us declare them terrible before even seeing a single scene.

The Pink Panther 2

Speaking of comedians who are capable of layered, complex performances, I am certain that Steve Martin will pull off a bravura performance in this film, much like he did in The Spanish Prisoner, Shopgirl and Cheaper By the Dozen. Plus that movie where dwarves shit on his back for a couple hours; I think that one was an Errol Morris flick.

Jesus Christ, what do you even say about this? Who watches this? Here's a few other prominent slummers in this thing: Jean Reno (okay, he slums professionally), Lily Tomlin, John Cleese, Jeremy Irons, Alfred Molina. WHAT THE FUCK, ALFRED?

There's a common joke/folklore that men sometimes, during sex, think of things like baseball statistics or the quadratic equation to stave off premature ejaculation. I'm a little different; I think of these things as a sort of mental bunker I can retreat to when ads for The Pink Panther 2 show up.

He's Just Not That Into You

Maybe if you bend your ankles back some more. HEY-OH!

This just kills me. A date movie featuring emotionally distant men. Sounds like a winner to me! Perhaps a double feature with "Playboy Presents the All-Shawl Girls."

Incidentally, girls, do you really want Ben Affleck or Justin Long into you? In any sense?

Push*

Thanks a fucking lot, Heroes. I know you're trying to unsuck, but movies like this aren't helping your cause.

This is just Doug Liman's catastrophic Jumpers updated to include more flying cutlery. On the other hand, it might be kind of fun to watch just because of Dakota Fanning. Now listen, I used to hate Dakota Fanning, but she's grown on me as she's, well, grown. This is mainly because that I like to think of how awesome it would be if in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that Brad Pitt would gradually transform into Dakota Fanning. I think that Charlie Kaufman could script this in like three days.

Friday the 13th

For the fans who have been waiting for the directorial reappearance of Marcus Nispel (the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, 2004's "Bone Thugs 'n Harmony: The Collection Vol. 2"), he's back!

I don't know about you, but I sure can't get enough of the remakes of old, shoddy, nihilistic 80s slasher flicks being remade into shiny new shoddier, more nihilistic, ghastlier films. I mean, don't get me wrong: I'll watch them. I won't enjoy them, but I'll watch them.

On cable. These movies are basically like spending a night drinking Natty Boh and staring at a bug zapper.

*Not to be confused with the OTHER Push, which recently won over Sundance audiences, and which frankly everyone should see. This harrowing yet ultimately human movie features over twelve hours of footage of my mother's excruciating labor. At the movie's climax, I am seen emerging from the womb, clawing at the nurses and wailing "NO! NO! CORD BLOOD IS SO DELICIOUS!"

It's directed by Marcus Nispel, of course.

Tuesday, 14 October
October Nonsurprises

Because of extremely favorable economic conditions as of late, the wife and I leave for France in a week and a half! We're looking forward to missing this oncoming shoulder season that Hollywood has planned in favor of staring dully at euros flying out of our pockets and doing hasty back-of-the-envelope-if-we-can-afford-envelopes equations to determine how much debt we're racking up. Whee!

In other words, it's high time I prejudged a bunch of what you suckers will be watching while we empty our pockets at some of Avignon's finest couple-friendly brothels.

Saw V

NOBODY TOLD ME THAT COSTAS MANDYLOR WAS PART OF THIS FRANCHISE! I gave up on this repellent series right after Saw II--which I think we watched in the same month that we endured the cheerless moral vacancy that was Hostel--for the usual reasons. There's no reason I'm going to put up with this fucking shit. It's the Faces of Death of this goddamn decade, and I'd sooner gnaw on live rats than . . . no, scratch that. I have more respect for rats than I do for the ghastly bastards that churn out this horrid garbage. So I'd sooner gnaw on the filmmakers.

That said, Costas Mandylor! He was on "Picket Fences"! Remember? Does Tobin Bell repeatedly shove glass rods up his urethra? I might have to reexamine my position on these films. Mainly because I seriously enjoy typing "Costas Mandylor."

W.

I think we can all agree that Oliver Stone, as filmmaker qua filmmaker, is primarily noted for his nuanced point of view and his easy touch as a humorist. It's ginger, light-hearted movies such as Platoon, Natural Born Killers and JFK that have ensured his legacy as the rightful heir to, say, Woody Allen and Billy Wilder. So it should come as no surprise that . . . listen, I can't even finish this sentence at all.

Stone is not entirely without gifts; he can fashion a fairly harrowing scene when moved to, and he has an occasionally interesting eye when it comes to framing. Unfortunately, he is also frothingly insane. The idea of him crafting some foamy comedy about our (also unfathomably demented) president is roughly along the same lines as assigning Costa-Gravas directorship of the next American Pie sequel.

(Now, horribly, I'm imagining some debased blowjob scene where Sally Field is going down on Jason Biggs. I hate myself.)

Max Payne

It's The Happening meets Constantine meets Hitman!! What on earth could possibly be better than that? IT HAS BEAU BRIDGES IN IT! Granted, he's no Costas Mandylor, but who is? I mean, other than Costas Mandylor.

It also has Ludacris and Chris O'Donnell and Donal Logue!

Seriously, do you think the casting directors all got together over an apple pipe in some back room and went, "You're kidding. They bought that?"

(BONUS DVD RENTAL NOTE: The wife and I genuinely enjoyed Hitman. We consider it the finest video-game movie adaptation to feature Timothy Olyphant and digitized pubic hair released to date.)

The Secret Life of Bees

Cast list includes:

Queen Latifah
Jennifer Hudson
Alicia Keys
Sophie Okonedo

UNCOMFORTABLE! Too many black people. Also, bees.

Upon further review:

Dakota Fanning
Paul Bettany

Well, that's certainly adding some cream to the coffee. Listen, are there any robots in this?

Sex Drive

Astonishingly, Judd Apatow does not appear to be connected to this film. Disappointingly, neither does Costas Mandylor.

Tuesday, 26 August
After The Fall (Prejudgment)

Watched this weekend: The Bank Job, with good old Jason Statham stolidly refusing to act as usual. Verdict? Surprisingly not very terrible! I mean, it wasn't as life-changing as the frankly incredible Crank, nor was it as 80's-saxophonically transporting as The Transporter, but it was a thing that didn't manage to horrify me, unlike the jaw-dropping Uwe Boll choad-poker In the Name of the King. Well done, Jason!

And then along comes Death Race, apparently for the sole reason of restoring Statham's singularly depressing reputation for allegedly acting in whatever nauseating thing that presents itself. Let's prejudge it first up.

Death Race

Let us not speak further of Statham, nor let us mention Ian McShane, because . . . let's just not. Let us instead discuss Joan Allen, who has gotten a laughable amount of weird press over her appearance in this astounding pile of crap. Some critics seem personally affronted that Joan Allen has deigned to appear in this drag queen of an action movie.

This kills me.

Does it occur to nobody else that Joan Allen was dying to do a movie like this? Why not spend a couple hours chewing on this cinematic bacon when all she's done for the last fifteen years is play these emotionally brittle fucked-up broads? Here's an abbreviated list of some of her previous movies:

Searching for Bobby Fischer
Nixon
The Ice Storm
Face/Off
Pleasantville
The Contender

Jesus. I'm surprised she hasn't just moved to dom-porn yet. Twisting Jason Statham's nuts seems like a moderate exercise considering the logical alternatives.

Babylon A.D.

IMDB tells me:

Veteran-turned-mercenary Thoorop takes the high-risk job of escorting a woman from Russia to America. Little does he know that she is host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah.

With Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Gerard Depardieu and Charlotte Rampling. I predict that this movie will make eight hundred billion dollars at the box office. If I have any quibble with this movie--which I predict is going to shatter every cinematic record in history--it's just that I wish they had found a way to include Alan Alda in what is otherwise a spectacular, sense-making cast.

Traitor

Aptly named! Don Cheadle not showing off dialect work? Traitor, indeed. If you love America, you will not see movies where Don Cheadle doesn't speak with an accent. Disgusting.

College

Awesome. Why not just call it Movie? Or, say, Boobs? Or how about But If We Came In Their Faces, It Would Be Porn? I'm just trying to be helpful.

I'm obviously not the target audience here, but I'm also struggling to think of who is. Is it really college students? And if so . . . are they taking their dates with them? Are their girlfriends really going to put up with this shit? And if so . . . why? Do they hate themselves? Or do they like vengeful after-movie hate-fucking? It's a confusing world.

I can't really talk. I once took a girlfriend to see Bonfire of the Vanities. She rightfully broke up with me a week later. Still.

Anyway, all that said, I do recommend this film to anyone--and I know you're out there--interested in following the career arcs of talented actors such as Drake Bell, Andrew Caldwell, Carolyn Moss, and most especially Wendy Talley, who, as "Kevin's Mom," I can only assume has got it going on.

Bangkok Dangerous

I . . . I'm so tired.

The funny thing is, while there are certain movies that I'd sooner die than go see in the theaters, there are movies like this that I also think to myself: I cannot fucking wait for this to hit pay-per-view. It's strange how many of these movies seem to feature Nic Cage.

Disaster Movie

Needs more Nic Cage.

Really, these goddamned fucking blighted legfucking garbage scows just make me channel my inner Travis Bickle.

Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up.

Here is a man who is standing up. I will not take this fucking shit any more. Joan Allen is standing right here with me: she's a strong woman who is also saying "I will not take it up my professionally tensed ass any more! I will star in wretched projects like Death Race rather than playing neurotic housewives for the rest of my career!" We stand side by side; over there, out from the wings, comes Nic Cage, waving his proud mullet. WE STAND TOGETHER, OR SOMETHING!

Meanwhile, the assholes who unleash shit tornadoes like Disaster Movie on us--I see that the movie visually quotes at least five different non-disaster movies--just repurpose Travis Bickle quotes right back at us:

I got some bad ideas in my head.


Wednesday, 18 June
Prejudge Dredd

It's almost summer (proper)! IT'S THE MOST EXCITING TIME OF YEAR FOR HORRIBLE MOVIE LOVERS!

*breathes into paper sack*

These are heady times, folks. We've already seen the release of a surprisingly good superhero movie (Iron Man) and a surprisingly dismal assault on precious childhood memories (Indy and the Great Big Pile of Feculence). What could Hollywood possibly have on tap now?

Could it be more comic book movies? YES, SIR. WE MAY HAVE ANOTHER. In fact, you're going to choke on them. You, the viewer, are going to have to decide: whose superhero penis are you going to suck? The Hulk's irradiated, engorged, treelike member? Or Christian Bale's slightly sociopathic yet smooth and well-proportioned phallus? I know I've made my choice. (I deliberately left out Hellboy's fiery crimson member on the grounds that . . . I don't know. I'm having weird dreams lately.)

The Love Guru

I always hated the Austin Powers movies. Mike Myers is less a comedian or an actor than he is simply a comedy bazooka aimed directly at the camera, ready to fire catchphrases, midget jokes and, most of all, Mike Myers' winking goddamn fucking face directly at your forebrain. Myers is never content to let his material stand up for itself--not surprising, since his reedy caricatures are, at best, soggy cardboard golems--and unrelentingly fills the bald spots of his comedies with anxious mugging, often directly to the camera. His is a comic form that somehow manages to sell despite its near-overwhelming stink of comedy's anathema: desperation.

The few early reviews of this thing are, I am pleased to report, sometimes verging on murderous, which is hardly surprising given the threadbare talents Myers chose to surround himself with: do you associate Jessica Alba with anything remotely resembling comedy? (Pause for comments about her acting chops.) I see that Jessica Simpson makes an appearance too, and while she certainly can be very funny, it is never due to any actual intent on her part. Vern Troyer is here too! Oh boy! He has no verifiable talent at all! I wonder what possible gags could result from his presence?

Ben Kingsley also shows up for his semiannual paycheck, but really, Sir Ben long ago proved he is utterly without shame. BloodRayne is potent evidence for this. Seriously, watch BloodRayne before you watch this reeking thing. Spare yourself Myers' flop-sweat grins to the camera, advertising his unique sort of "ain't-I-a-stinker?" appeals to the audience. Mike Myers isn't funny; he's a strange caveman buffoon who has somehow parlayed wretched dialect work and a supernatural talent for insinuating instantly-irritating catchphrases into our society. Think of it as a public health project: we'll all feel better if nobody sees it. Yeah, baby.

See?

The Wackness

I can't decide if this is the most terrible name for a film in a while or the best. I do know I really enjoy looking at the cast list. Hey, it's Ben Kingsley! Disappointingly, he does not play a character actually named "The Wackness," because, as I've already alluded to, he already did that in BloodRayne.

Joining Mr. Kingsley is the utterly pneumatic Famke Janssen, the terrifying marionette Mary-Kate Olsen, and Method Man, the only person on earth who advertises his acting technique right in his name!

I have nothing further to contribute about the merits of this film. You're all going to be watching Wall-E anyway.

Wanted

I assume the film was titled ironically, like I Heart Huckabees. Nobody hearted the Huckabees. Nobody wanted this.

Hancock

If anyone can think of a better Matt Bettinelli-Olpin summer vehicle than this, I'd like to hear it.

Oh, now I'm just being snotty. To be honest, the trailers for this movie did make me at least grin, and the premise--a gone-to-seed drunk superhero--is pretty ripe with comedic possibility, though it gives one pause to note that the director is Peter Berg, the person responsible for the entirely humor-free The Kingdom as well as the astoundingly repellent Very Bad Things. So . . . approach with caution.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Awww, it's that Abigail Breslin girl that caught America's heart for a few minutes! Soon she'll be doing lines in a bathroom at Harrah's with Haley Joel Osment wondering what happened. In the meantime, I continue to love improbable cast lists:

Julia Ormond
Chris O'Donnell (?)
Jane Krakowski
Wallace Shawn (!)
Glenne Headly (. . . )
Joan Cusack
Stanley Tucci

It also has Max Thieriot, and can I just say that it's refreshing to see unremarkable Cubs infielders branching out into the arts? ANYway, that is a really awesomely white cast. It's like staring at a glacier.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The Dark Knight

I have only two things to say about these movies once I remove all these superhero penises from my mouth:

YEAH, BABY, YEAH!

Ain't I a stinker?

Tuesday, 20 May
Nameless

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Well, I haven't actually seen any of those things. I did once see a monkey washing a cat, but that was the Daily Show, and another time I saw a guy light his hair on fire at a bar, but that was me. None of these things are important, however. Because this last weekend I saw In the Name of the King by noted auteur Uwe Boll. So it really is time to die.

I'm no stranger to the work of Mr. Boll, having previously seen cinematic uppercuts such as the grindingly dull House of the Dead and the operatically inchoate BloodRayne. (Twice a year I complain to my video store that they still haven't bought a copy of the really promising-looking Alone in the Dark.) I was expecting the goods. By which I mean the bads. By which I mean the good-bads.

In the Name of the King is neither good nor bad, and yet it is both at once. In the Name of the King is the Schrodinger's Cat of garbage movies; until watched, it remains in a state of quantum superposition, and then when it is watched, the waveform collapses right along with your body's hemodynamics, and as you die, you think, "My last moment on earth was spent watching this movie."

This is, after all, a movie that stars Jason Statham as a farmer named Farmer. Farmer's wife is Claire Forlani, and his best friend is Ron Perlman, both of whom look distinctly embarrassed by the events unfolding around them. Statham, however, is incapable of looking embarrassed; Statham is in fact incapable of looking anything other than vaguely pissed off in any role he's ever had. In every role to date, Statham resembles nothing so much as Surly from Duff Gardens.

The rest of the performances range from simply slumming to baying-at-the-moon psychosis. In the former category I'd put John Rhys-Davies, who was apparently on loan--much like several set pieces--from the LOTR movies and Burt Reynolds, who looks so uncomfortable in his role as the titular king that when his death scene arrives, he appears to plunge into that good night like a man easing himself into a warm jacuzzi. In the latter, you've got Ray Liotta, a man with a truly puzzling film career that has seemingly rested entirely upon his tight, thin-lipped grimace-grin; he's the evil magic-guy villain, and he's about as frightening as a bent Slinky. Topping him, however, is Matthew Lillard, whose performance as the drunken fop who aspires to the throne is approximately as nuanced as the Dresden firebombing; halfway through the movie I wondered if Jeffrey Koons had paid him five hundred bucks in order to claim Lillard's performance as his newest art installation.

Somwhere in the middle of this miserable pack were questionable entities such as Kristanna Loken as the leader of a group of fierce dryads who are impeccable vine aerialists, and the always dependably awful Leelee Sobieski, as usual deploying her blankest brand of marble-mouthed dialogue and weirdly stiff gait. Both of them lose points in the end; Loken for not taking off her tunic like she pointlessly did in BloodRayne and Sobieski for failing to get punched in the face by Nic Cage like she pointlessly did in The Wicker Man. Frankly, I expect more from these ladies.

Boll's approach to action sets here is typically and magisterially Bollean: in order for the actors to not have to learn anything more than rudimentary combat moves, he simply makes sure that each scene is edited to contain no more than two seconds of action at a time. That way, you can see Jason Statham wave his sword within three feet of a combatant, and in the next shot, a basketball covered with hair and ketchup is thrown into the air next to the boom mike, and then you get a cut of John Rhys-Davies eating some corn. In the meantime, there are ninja archers performing balletic moves before firing synchronized arrow shots directly towards the moon and Loken and her band of Cirque du Soleil vine-winders are all swooping up and down failing to fall out of their shirts. The overall effect is not unlike having a small child describe his fever dreams to you. "And then the demon snowmen showed up but Superman and Matt Damon beat them with their science fart machine."

Did I mention the cannon fodder that Our Heroes are constantly battling? They are called the Krugs, and they appear to be cripples with scoliosis outfitted in armor made of artichokes. Their main battle strategy seems to consist of hunching over, running in circles and waving their arms in the air, creating the interesting effect of appearing to be a maurading band of vegetable-based addled ravers.

I mustn't keep thinking about this movie. Watching this film is like self-administering the Ludovico technique.

I can't go on. I must go on. It seems it wasn't quite time to die, but I also don't see Godot anywhere on the horizon. So: nothing to do but keep talking to you.

Let me tell you about my mother.

Wednesday, 14 May
Game Shows Touch Our Lives

Earlier tonight, staring at the gaping void that is the Wednesday 8:00 PM time slot, I made a choice. I watched The Price is Right. There he was! Drew Carey! Asking people penetrating questions such as: "So, how much do you think this can of beans is?" I love America.

(Please don't eat canned beans.)

The producers of The Price is Right were smart in that they have preserved nearly every embarrassing, half-assed aspect of the show, from the "Come on down!" hucksterism and hysteria to the bemused contempt of the host: Drew Carey treated most of the adrenalized contestants much like a cruise hypnotist treats the mooks he yanks from the crowd that he's about to force to act like homosexual construction workers. Carey seemed momentarily vitalized by the sudden appearance of a contestant wearing a Bernie Kosar jersey--he very nearly came within shouting distance of actual charm--before settling torpidly back into his colossal suit, like a hermit crab wearily withdrawing into a discarded Ding-Dong wrapper.

When I was a younger fellow, I had an unearthly love for game shows. I do not know why, apart from humanity's seemingly bottomless appreciation for these polyester spectacles. Wikipedia gives 197 pages of virtual ink to American game shows alone (out of 248 possible); I didn't have the heart or the intestines to even see what including the Brits would tot up to.

There was nothing I loved more as a kid than, when staying home sick (or in the summers) waking up to gargle joyously with a potent cocktail of daytime game shows.

(Apart, of course, from Saturday morning cartoons, but even then, I'm not sure. For one thing, I have way too many memories of the fucking Macy's Day Parade ruining everything. There I'd be sitting, at 7:00 AM, nearly in tears, as I saw a giant Pluto float fill my tiny TV screen. FUCK YOU, Macy's Day Parade. That was always the worst day of the year for me. "Look, it's a big Snoopy float!" my mom once said, trying to cheer me up. "You like Snoopy." "Not today!" I shrieked. She gave up and told me that the Smurfs would be back next Saturday. I was unmoved. I hated the Smurfs. Then a Smurf float went by on TV at the fucking parade, and I retreated into autism until I was old enough to smoke and legitimately practice sneering.)

But game shows! And not to get all 'mudgy on you all, but back in the day? THEY WERE GAME SHOWS. Sort of. At least they weren't botulism vectors like Deal or No Deal, which dares to ask the question "Can you count to 26?" Here were some of my favorites.

The Joker's Wild

Joker! JOKER! JOKER!

This one is probably the earliest I remember, almost certainly because of the completely Mephistophelean appearance and demeanor of the host, Jack Barry. It welded all the tedium and dumb luck of slot machines with all the tedium and dumb luck of general trivia questions, and even better, when contestants missed a question, Jack Barry would explode into a cloud of stinging insects and eat his eyes right on camera. Winners were simply allowed to sob emptily as God turned his face away from them; it was a real sinner's game show.

Sale of the Century

I don't remember a lot about this one except again for the host, the diabolical asshole Jim Perry, who would periodically haggle with the contestants over the opportunity to "buy" prizes like robots that juggled dog turds. A surreally unctious douchebag, Jim Perry set the bar high for all future game show hosts to come. The show itself is also a sobering historical document: at the beginning of the show, each contestant had twenty bucks to spend. Awesome. Twenty bucks. That's like getting the opportunity to check your tire pressure at Conoco today.

(On edit . . . does Conoco even still exist? I think I hear my joints gabbling.)

The $(X) Pyramid

Oh, you all remember this; it long ago passed into the Emersonian Oversoul. A relative of the hoary Password game, this one paired B-list celebrities with fools from the crowd you attempted to get your partner to say a word or short phrase without using that word or any variants. I can't tell you how many hours I spent shouting out helpful clues for Michael J. Fox as he attempted to induce his partner to say things like "furburger" or "Morey Amsterdam."

Famously, the big prize money came at the endgame, which was basically the same thing only more restrictive. When (rarely) the contestant actually won, viewers would thrill to the sight of the ageless, ossified Dick Clark rushing over to perch on the back of the winner's chair and ecstatically shit onto the contestant's hair.

Press Your Luck

Another American classic, and another American classic TV hero, host Peter Tomarken, a charmless, witless haircut whose notable character trait was his sadistic good cheer displayed whenever one of the contestants hit a "Whammy," thereby losing all of their accumulated monies and causing some truly primitive animated shenanigans to take place, which featured things like the unfortunate Whammy being assaulted with hooks or date-raped or some such, and all the while Tomarken would be chanting things like "Guess you fucked it!" or "Pulled off your dick-skin there, didn't you!?" This show was really marketed mostly towards self-harming epileptics.

Name That Tune

"I can name that tune in one note."

Nobody can name any tune in one note. FUCK YOU, NAME THAT TUNE.

This wasn't a show for a young kid; they always played fucking garbage like Marvin Hamlisch. The producers probably got a little sweaty when they felt like being nervy and dared to plunk out seven notes of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Game shows are by definition hopelessly square, but Name That Tune was nearly a hypercube of curdled lameness.

The Hollywood Squares

I don't really have to summarize any of these, do I? They're almost all culture roadmarkers. Anyway, this wasn't even really a favorite of mine except for Paul Lynde, who for years I figured was a brilliantly inventive comic improvisor. "He is so funny!" I would screech at my parents, who would trade worried looks. "Wayland Flowers and Madam aren't nearly as funny," I'd solemnly proclaim. My parents traded a new set of looks, ones that said, "Well, at least he doesn't like bad queeny puppet acts."

I really didn't figure out for a long time that those fucking fools were being fed their zinger lines. And by then, Peter Marshall had left, so who cared? Also, I eventually had sex with women, which cheered up my parents. Sorry, gays! Seriously, you didn't want me lurking around anyway.

Tic Tac Dough

Another tic-tac-toe-inspired game (obviously), also salted with moronically easy trivia elements. Notable mostly for the immaculately lacquered host Wink Martindale (who, seemingly unchanged, now shills for Orbitz). I really only remember this show because my father once called him "Stink Fartindale," which I considered the finest example of comedy ever dreamed up by man.

Clearly, I still do.

Wednesday, 16 April
Let's Just Stay In The Lobby, Let's Just Stay In The Lobby

Summer's coming! And so too are summer movies, all of which are based on comic books. You know you're going to see Iron Man, right? Even though it is clearly going to be terrible? And there's another Hulk movie for some reason! Apparently, we all did something wrong, and this is our punishment. All we can do is hang our hopes on possibly awesome things such as the next installments in the Hellboy and Batman series, and happily, they both look like they might be cinemagasmic.

And if they're not, it'll all be okay. Uwe Boll is hard at work on Bughead Jughead: Riverdale Insect Blood Massacre Tit Bomb.

(Just kidding. He's actually working on Alone in the Dark II. Seriously. It's got Lance Henriksen, Michael Pare and PJ Soles! Wow.)

Let's see what's coming to the theaters in the meantime. Late April means never having to say "I'm sorry I watched these terrible movies."

88 Minutes

It's nice of the producers to let us know ahead of time exactly how long we're going to have to tolerate Al Pacino's peculiarly canine take on diction and inflection. This movie also features Leelee Sobieski, who is rapidly emerging as my Favorite Actress That Indicates Total Disaster: she was last seen (if we stretch the literal definition of that word) in In The Name of the King (Uwe! Never die) and also the indelibly deranged remake of The Wicker Man, which might have been 2006's finest comedy. I never particularly admired nor even enjoyed the work of Nic Cage, but you can say this for him: he got to punch Leelee Sobieski in the face, which in these dire times in America, is really something to aspire to.

As usual, IMDB's plot keywords tell the whole story here: Exploding Car / Female Nudity / Seaplane

Fuck it, I'll rent that.

Pathology

I love horror movies! Hey, and it has Milo Ventimiglia, who was nice and inoffensive in Heroes, even if that second season was ridiculously bad! This might be fun! I wonder why they're dumping this off in the shoulder season?

Alyssa Milano

Oh. Never mind.

Well. Okay, so it's not going to be any good. But, I mean, it's not like these guys are stupid, right? It's not like they'd make any other bizarre, campy casting choices that would torpedo this film, you know?

John de Lancie

Oh.

The producers are smart in a diabolical way. They know the movie will make ten dollars in the theaters. But when it hits DVD, it will make millions from the GenCon crowd, who will breathlessly wait for the scene when Samantha Micelli gives Q the old juicy squat.

Deception

Buzz is all around this film mainly due to rumors that Ewan MacGregor failed to wave his enormous penis around due to complaints from the notoriously nubby co-star Hugh Jackman.

HA HA! I made a dick joke.

No, seriously, I'm kind of excited about any movie that features the phrase "sex club" in its synopsis and also has Maggie Q listed in the cast. Unless it turns out that she has a giant Scottish penis, which would be just my fucking luck.

Plot Keywords: Nun / Mother Superior / Nun's Habit

HOT.

Speed Racer

Remember when Bound came out and everyone sort of gasped at these audacious fellows who dared to weld pretentious, showy cinematography with incredibly hot women fucking each other? Remember when The Matrix came out and redefined sci-fi forever by introducing turgidity and incoherence to a genre that had previously never known such concepts?

They are breaking new ground AGAIN. This existential take on the inexplicably beloved cartoon features Speed pointlessly driving in circles forever while dodging guided missiles, evil ninja motorcyclists and Chim-Chim's occasional semen blasts. It's like life.

Except this time, Spritle suffocates in the trunk. SPOILER ALERT!

Tuesday, 11 March
March Mprejudgeness

You know what we haven't done for a while? Prejudged movies! It is, of course, one of my very favorite times of the prejudging year: just before summer, a legendary dumping ground for unloved and underfunded projects that only got greenlighted because some frowsy flack gobbled some flap-handed, excitable producer a few years ago.

The usual note for those unfamiliar with the format: These are movies that are coming out soon that I have no intention of seeing, but unfortunately probably will someday on cable. They are almost always movies that I have decided ahead of time are undoubtedly horrid based on IMDB, any ads or trailers available, or simply by their titles or cast members or, really, anything else. They may contain spoilers--often inadvertent--because I have also decided that due to their speculative and subjective wretchedness, such niggling details could not possibly make a difference in terms of these drain-circling films' possible enjoyability.

Never Back Down

For one thing, fuck that. If I have learned anything in this life, it is this: frequently back down. Disagreement at the office? Back down! Wife upset with you? Back down! It's really just easier.

Clearly Djimon Hounsou agrees with me, as this two-time Oscar nominee is now capitulating to his agent's agonized pleas for monthly paychecks. (I know this is unfair. He also recently did Blood Diamond, a movie that everyone pretended to see and which carried the ghost of respectability, but he's also been in laughable turkeys such as Eragon, Constantine, and, my favorite, the risible The Island.)

IMDB PLOT OUTLINE: At his new high school, a rebellious teen (Faris) is lured into an underground fight club, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran (Hounsou).

I think it's fair to say that we all know somebody from high school who had a similar experience. For me, my mentor was Hunkle, whose skin color was different from mine, and taught me valuable lessons about fasting and shitting into colanders to examine the contents of my frantically confused intestines, which he would then examine in order to divine my future.

"You will one day write reviews of horrible movies that you have never seen," he told me gnomishly one day, rattling around some marbles in my colander. We never spoke again.

Horton Hears A Who!

Skot hears the anguished screams of unlucky parents! I do love Hollywood's complete lack of concern for history in these sorts of things; Jim Carrey voices Horton here, and his last kiddie flick voice work was for the unilaterally reviled How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Leaving that stinking disaster aside (and which, yeah, probably made millions anyway), Mr. Carrey hasn't exactly been knocking them out of the park for the adults either: The Number 23 is aptly titled in that it is exactly 21 spots down the list of "things more unpleasant than number 2, i.e. human feces," and Fun With Dick and Jane was, after a court judgment, released on DVD under the alternate title We Make No Claims As To Your Filmic Experience With Dick and Jane.

Carrey has his work cut out for him, however: Jonah Hill is also doing voice work for this movie, and it's going to be a tough call as to who can be more fucking irritating even while not actually appearing onscreen. I think the kid has a shot, if he can be heard over Steve Carell, who, in addition for being known for being loud as hell, also manages, in the way of all the best voice actors, to always sound exactly like Steve Carell, which makes him a sensible choice for a vocal performance.

Sleepwalking

IMDB PLOT OUTLINE: The drama follows an 11-year-old girl's struggle to come to terms with her mother's abandonment.

RUN! RUN EVERYBODY!

Charlize Theron ... Joleen
Dennis Hopper ... Mr. Reedy
Woody Harrelson ... Randall

YOU HAVE TO RUN FASTER! IT'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

Sample dialogue: James: [to Tara] My whole life I feel like I've been sleepwalking. But you helped me. You woke me up.

You didn't run fast enough. Now you're dead. Nice work, stupid.

BONUS IMDB NONSENSE: "If you enjoyed this title, our database also recommends: Shaft."

Drillbit Taylor

In three years, every film produced in Hollywood will be written by Judd Apatow, one of Judd Apatow's friends, or someone who is holding a screwdriver to Judd Apatow's throat. I really can't wait for Elizabeth: The Fingerbanging, where Cate Blanchett succumbs to the fumbling digital advances of Seth Rogen, who then spends 94 agonizing minutes rummaging around in her immaculate bustle.

IMDB TAGLINE: You get what you pay for.

Ah! So they're only charging fifty cents to go see this. Well, that's nice.

Superhero Movie

I'm not sure what's left to say about this pestilential series of alleged satires. I guess I'll just mean-spiritedly rag on some of the principals and call it a fucking night.

Craig Mazin, writer and director: Appeared as a contestant on "Win Ben Stein's Money" (1997). He didn't win.

Craig Bierko, actor: Was originally cast as Chandler in "Friends" but turned down the role and was replaced by Matthew Perry.

Leslie Nielsen, Van Helsing to comedy: Is entirely horrible. Born in 1926, is unfortunately also apparently immortal.

Djimon Hounsou, actor: Not in this movie. Don't back down, Djimon.

Monday, 12 November
Prejudgment Day

Happy November! Miserable yet? No? You must have not seen Fred Claus yet! I mean, I haven't either, but its existence still makes me deeply unhappy. Here it is only the first bit of fucking November, and what do we get unleashed on us? A clearly awful holiday movie with Vince Vaughn. I regard Vince Vaughn as clear proof of one unassailable fact about Hollywood executives: they hate happiness. What else other than purest misanthropy could move them to cast Vince fucking Vaughn in a holiday comedy? The man hasn't ever bothered to act a day in his life. He just gets out there and Vaughns. Yes, Vince, give me more of those hilarious clicky-eyes and rapid-fire speech! You're like a Touretter, only less funny! Remember when we all thought he was "money" in Swingers? Can we get a fucking refund yet?

Oh, let's see how else Hollywood is planning on ruining things for us soon enough.

Beowulf

THIS! IS! SPARTA!
I! AM! BEOWULF!
WE'RE! OUT! OF STAMPS!

One of these phrases can be heard resounding throughout the Kurruk household during the holidays. Can you guess which one? Hollywood has taught me that overdramatic screaming is the only way to get my point across. Mike Mignola knew this. BABIES LIKE IRON! Mike Mignola is a genius.

You know who isn't a genius? Robert Zemeckis, of course, the genial hack who never met a gimmick he didn't like, such as de-legging Gary Sinise in Forrest Gump or pretending there was anything more to the story of Death Becomes Her other than gleefully doing hideous things to Goldie Hawn (inspired, I agree).

Beowulf ventures into the same Uncanny Valley that Polar Express explored, but still without creepy sex objects--except, of course, for Angelina Jolie, prompting a horrified audience to wonder, "Wasn't she already creepy?" Zemeckis is the guy over in the corner, hunched over and humping the motion capture machine Grendel's mother emerges naked from a steam bath on the video monitor.

Love in the Time of Cholera

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Hey, where is everybody? Oh, right, cholera.

Oh, cheer up. It's got Javier Bardem! Everyone wants to fuck him, even me! It's also got . . . ah . . . Benjamin Bratt! He . . . he was in Catwoman! Huh? Huh? And--wait, don't go!--wait, we've also got . . . John Leguizamo!

I predict this will be the most successful holiday film ever released with "cholera" in the title, and I'll stand by that.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

It didn't take me or any of my friends very long to draw parallels to Troy McClure's magnum opus The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel, except that Troy McClure is terribly funny, and this movie has Dustin Hoffman and the inexhaustibly ghoulish Natalie Portman, who is only capable of being funny when she is deadly serious.

Here is the only thing this film has going for it:

Jason Bateman ... Henry Weston, the Mutant

Enjoy!

I Am Legend

This is apparently the ninth or so adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel, which I admit I have never read, but I did see The Omega Man as a kid, staying up late when nobody was watching, and it scared the fucking shit out of me. To this day I can barely read Green Lantern comics, because those fucking Guardians of Oa look just like those goddamn little freaks.

Anyway. Let's take a look at Mr. Smith's filmography, shall we? (NOTE: Selectively edited for the sake of embarrassment.)

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)--Turkey.
Hitch (2005/I)--Horrifying.
I, Robot (2004)--Horrifying turkey.
Bad Boys II (2003)--Despicable.
Men in Black II (2002)--RUN! RUN!
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)--HAHAHAHAHAHAHA--hey, wait, where's Dorf?
Wild Wild West (1999)--This is the REM song of comedies.

So go ahead, people. Take your chances on I Am Legend. I'm not seeing it without a power ring.

Wednesday, 24 October
Viva Lost Hours From My Life!

Okay, so about a week ago the wife weirdly decided to leave the house for some cultcha--she removed herself in order to go see a production of Twelfth Night. Fuck that, I said. I stayed home so I could see CSI. Which as we all know is the Shakespeare of our time, except for "Prospero" insert "Gil Grissom," and for "dramatically drowns books of magic" insert "clinically observes blowflies." I did this because I am America's greatest hero.

So I saw that, and because I am almost pathologically sedentary, I also left the TV on when the program ended.

That's when everyone else in the world sensibly turned off their televisions. But I did not! I stuck around. You fucking cowards.

That's when Viva Laughlin started, and my eyes were opened. Glued open, practically, except for the parts that I simply couldn't watch out of shame and embarrassment.

Where to start? Oh, the title, I guess. Viva Laughlin? Are you kidding me? This show was apparently ripped off from some unloved BBC show, and this is the American title they come up with. What's next, CBS? Hubba Hubba, Walla Walla! Holy Fucking Shit, Davenport! My Ankles Hurt, Grangeville!

Hopeless.

This . . . thing . . . which has already been nuked was purportedly a musical drama. This despite the fact that two of the principal actors demonstrated no singing skills whatsoever. More on this in a minute.

It also inexplicably had the very charming, very talented Hugh Jackman in it. Jackman's character's introduction was to sing the song "Sympathy for the Devil" as he strutted through his hot-ass casino. But here's the thing. They just played the Rolling Stones song behind him while he sang along. In other words, the show displayed an incredibly accomplished song-and-dance man basically singing along (nearly inaudibly) with the radio while grooving to some seriously uninspired dance moves. They hired Hugh Jackman to sing and dance, and then hamstrung not only his singing but also his dancing. It was the weirdest thing in the world. It was like hiring Rowdy Roddy Piper to sit quietly in a chair and calmly read from the encyclopedia entry about "professional wrestling."

It got much, much worse. I mean, even when utterly crippled by production bear traps, a pro like Jackman still isn't going to look too stupid. Other people?

Well, it would be nice if they could sing. The main guy--it's also telling that Jackman wasn't "the main guy"--displayed no evidence of singing talent whatsoever. But since he was also singing along with Elvis, it was hard to tell. (But I'm pretty sure that the guy could not sing at all. I know whereof I speak, as I myself am a depressingly horrible singer.)

The whole show opened with him singing along with "Viva Las Vegas." Remember that this show is--was--called "Viva Laughlin." Anyway. The man could not sing. I think. And even if he could? WHO FUCKING CARES? This is one of the most worthless songs Elvis ever recorded; Elvis at his pandering worst. (Frankly, I hate Elvis. I'm like the Chuck D. of hating Elvis, only I'm white and stupid and I also can't rap.) "Viva Las Vegas" is simply "Copacabana," except that "The King" recorded it, and therefore it is good. Fuck that horrible song. Fuck this whole show! I thought. It's so awesome! I thought moments later. I'm not good for me, obviously.

It got worse.

Did you know Melanie Griffith was in this . . . object? Did you know that Melanie Griffith trying to sing is a lot like listening to macaques being burned to death? Did you know that Melanie Griffith attempting to be sexy any more is a lot like watching a Sci-Fi channel movie called "Attack of the Deteriorating RealDoll"?

Melanie Griffith "sang" "One Way or Another"--again, with the full original song playing behind her, thank God--while doing some hideous seductive routine at the main guy, who mostly hung onto his tie for dear life and tried not to look too mortified.

"ONE WAY! OR ANOTHER! I'M GONNA GETCHA!" squealed Griffith in her patented moron-slash-babydoll voice, looking about as sexy as Will Ferrell dry-humping a rancid ham. (I assume that that is the premise of his next movie.) The only thing I can think of more horrifying than that scene, frankly, was her whore turn in Body Double where she insisted to her client that he must not come on her face.

I'm really going to miss this show.

Monday, 01 October
Nic At Night

Oh Nic
Nic
On Friday we watched
Next

It was so terrible
So was your wig
We wanted to call
Animal control
To report a dead
Something
Perched on your skull

You won an Oscar once.
Leaving Las Vegas.
That was a terrific movie

(Though I do have to carp
A little
That rape scene wasn't very funny)

What happened?
What tipped you over?

Why are you doing these things
To us?
Ghost Rider?

The Wicker Man?

(You wore a bear suit
And punched a woman
And later you complained
Of bees in your eyes . . .

Okay, that was pretty funny.

I secretly whisper to you,
Nic
Lost Nic
I actually adore that movie.)

ANYWAY . . .

I cannot let you go
You were H.I. McDunnough--
What happened?

You were in
Fast Times--
What happened?

You were in
Red Rock West
What happened?

(While we're on the topic
Can you also find out what happened
To John Dahl? Thanks, Nic.)

You don't have to do these
Tawdry things.
(I whisper:
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
And we all tremble.)

You don't have to. You can stop.
Look at us. We stopped.
We stopped watching your movies
Because they are horrible.

They stain us
Like your hair was stained
Because you made
Next

Listen to your hair

It was terrifying in Adaptation
It said: People really like this movie
Even though it is a pile of shit

Listen to your hair

What will your hair look like
I wonder

When you film that thing
With 50 Cent

Will you be bald?
Will it be threadbare?
Will it grow up your legs to coil malevolently on your head?

(Nobody will see these movies.
Your head will be a failed latchhook project.)

We shall not see you.

You are lost . . .

. . . nic . . .

Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of Brylcreem.

Thursday, 13 September
I Can Barely Be Bothered To Prejudge

Well, I've done my course of antibiotics--Z-pack--so thanks, Ryan Zimmerman! For nothing. My symptoms persist. Awesome. However, in order to feel better, I can always look to Hollywood's post-summer offerings for some serious entertainment. Let's see what's in the movie dumpster for this fall!

The Brave One

I have mentally rechristened this movie The Dull Movie. Ah, revenge movies. It's an actor's playground: you get to really shine by registering the gamut of emotions from crushing grief to white-hot rage! From self-absorption to self-pity! From gun-buying to gun-using! Actors always get compared to whores because our whole job is to fake emotions we're not really experiencing, but we are terrible whores in that we love to pick the least interesting emotions to fake.

NEW FEATURE OF I PREJUDGE MOVIES! Minor actor you've never heard of who is in this film, and his or her previous project!

Victor Colicchio, who plays "Cutler" in this movie, previously worked on Mattie Fresno and the Holoflux Universe (2007) as "Janitor/Devil."

Mr. Woodcock

The promotional materials for this film show Billy Bob Thornton holding two basketballs in front of his groin. I assume this has some comedic symbolic value, but it evades me. Perhaps this is a documentary about hypergonadism.

No, that would be funny.

(Jesus Christ, Susan Sarandon is in this? I hate the world.)

I'm not sure what happened to the Hollywood mainstream comedy. It appears to be a dead art form, sort of like lithographs or Broadway. (It occurs to me that I have no idea what a lithograph is. Happily, I don't really care.)

Mr. Woodcock also showcases the talents of one Suzanne Friedline, apparently as the "voice" of Meredith Viera, puzzlingly enough. She was previously seen in such films as A Day Without A Mexican and the immortal short Crickets & Potatoes.

The Hunting Party

RICHARD GERE! TERRENCE HOWARD! JAMES BROLIN! Hey, where's everyone going?

You might also remember cast member Lejla Hadzimuratovic from her indelible turn in The Scary Side of Randall Coombe (2001).

Good Luck Chuck

Good luck, movie. In the plus column, it does feature Annie Wood--boy, "wood" she!, haw haw haw!--who you might remember from Cellblock Sisters: Banished Behind Bars! (1995)

You know what? I'm going to stop. I'm clearly losing interest. My next weak joke was going to be about 3:10 to Yuma, which I was going to abbreviate to 3:10 to Yum and make a crappy blowjob joke, and nobody needs that. Plus, that film has already been released over the agonized, non-blowjob-related screams of Russell Crowe.

(3:10 To Yuma does feature the talents of Lennie Loftin, who managed to find himself in not only the completely despicable Daredevil, but also the astonishingly horrible Time Machine. Kudos!)

And good night.

Wednesday, 08 August
Test Ease

Hello hello party people those of you avoiding work people who are kind of wondering what Michelle Pfeiffer looks like naked these days everybody!

Sorry about the recent drought. Here's what happened: I meant to post more last week, but then I didn't want to, so I didn't. I AM FUCKING AMAZING. Then on Monday, I also didn't feel like posting anything, so I once again didn't, which frankly confirms how awesome I am. Then last night, my wireless connection--which I steal from my neighbors--broke down in some unidentifiable way, which caused me to more or less toss the laptop around like it was a discount tin of anchovies--remember, I don't actually pay for wireless access, and therefore have no real right to get pissy about it when it goes sideways--anyway, I'm a complete asshole, I think must be the final point here.

And also anyway, here I am stealing from my neighbors again. Which makes me sort of on the plankton level of morality, until you consider--here in midsummer--what Hollywood is unloading on us. THAT'S RIGHT! It's once again time to prejudge some inconsolably awful movies.

Say, let's try a theme this time, and see if I can stick to it! I'm going with . . . testicles.

Daddy Day Camp

Jesus. Really? Cuba Gooding Jr. long ago joined that immortal group of Academy Award winners who are asterisked thusly: "No, seriously." Brian Doyle-Murray is also in this movie, but then Brian Doyle-Murray is contractually bound to be in every movie that nobody ever wants to see, forever. When they dig up John Travolta in 2025 to film Battlefield: Earth II, dead John will huskily rasp, "Tell me Brian Doyle-Murray is here."

Or you could just slam your testicles in a car door for two hours.

Stardust

Am I a creep for being kind of delighted that this movie features an actress named "Bimbo Hart"?

"Hey, who was that chick you fucked last night?"

"Bimbo Hart."

(Pause.)

"You are the greatest man who has ever lived."

Anyway, Michelle Pfeiffer looks kind of hot. And if Bimbo Hart turns out to be a nine year old girl, I'm going to feel really awful. Particularly in my testicles.

The Hottest State

Ethan Hawke wrote this novel that absolutely nobody at all read and now he's directing the film. Can anyone explain to me why we put up with Ethan Hawke? Here's IMDB's plot synopsis:

A young actor from Texas tries to make it in New York while struggling in his relationship with a beautiful singer/songwriter.

I defy anybody to tell me that they really want to see this film. I defy them with my TESTICLES. Nobody will watch this nightmare.

Invasion

It's directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.h Line up, folks!

Happily, it stars Daniel Craig, who in the last Bond movie got some serious testicular damage courtesy of a giant rope. Even more happily, it stars the Aussie favorite Nicole Kidman in all of her exsanguinated glory. Kidman is one of our more wonderful actresses, mainly because with every film she does, she pares down the number of emotions that she is willing to portray. Back when Dead Calm came out, she was all, "Shirt? I don't need this shirt." Then when the indefensible horror that was "Moulin Rouge" came out, she was all, "I might be persuaded to cough on my bodice." And now we have this thing--a third iteration of what was--let's be honest--a pretty stupid allegory, where she's all, "I'm out of blood! I have lipstick and hair dye!"

She should have stayed married to Tom Cruise. Now that guy knows how to manage his testicles.

Monday, 23 July
Here Comes The Prejudge

Today on my walk home from work, I encountered an old fellow on one of those four-wheeled scooter things. He was driving in elliptical loops in the middle of a fairly well-used intersection. He evinced no enjoyment in this activity; he simply drove and drove, staring grimly ahead of him. Cars maneuvered cautiously around him while he continued his peregrinations; he gave no evidence of stopping any time soon. I thought to myself, That is totally the guy who greenlighted License to Wed.

If I am correct--I am certain I am--then tomorrow I fully expect to see Joel Schumacher joylessly and ineptly masturbating on a park bench.

The point here (I have one?) isn't that Hollywood can churn out nearly anything at this point and fully expect to make its money back. After traditional box office receipts (no matter how humiliating), cable rights, DVD sales and rentals and overseas returns, Hollywood can clearly make any horrifying thing and make its money back. The point is: why do they feel the need to keep on proving it?

It's the middle of summer, so we're officially at the hammock point where the first wave of blockbusters has come, thrown up on your shoes, and left (Transformers; Born Free or Die Trying, Motherfucker). Now we get what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of the . . . oh my God, what the fuck is this? Are we still on the air?" I am purposefully excluding such clearly superior horror offerings such as I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hairspray on the grounds that their mere existence terrifies me beyond lucidity, and I refuse to acknowledge that whatever deviant fuckhorns conceived of them actually draw paychecks. A man can take only so much, and I am definitively not a man, and so I can take that much less.

Who's Your Caddy?

Clicking more or less at random on the cast list, I see that this movie has a person in it named Andy Milonakis. (Okay, I picked his entry because his IMDB photo makes him look like a sort of a failed Kabuki experiment.) Apparently, this guy had his own show on MTV! Whatever! I also offer here Mr. Milonakis' upcoming projects:

2 Dudes & a Dream (2007) (post-production) .... Ned
Wieners (2007) (completed) .... Drake Hanswald
Killer Pad (2007) (completed) .... Dinko's Geek

This is all I need to know to keep me from seeing Who's Your Caddy? That and the completely obvious fact that it's going to be galactically horrible.

Skinwalkers

Hey! Isn't this all of us? I mean, you know, those of us fortunate enough to be able to walk. And who have skin. Maybe it's an apocalypse movie about Us vs. the Skinless and Legless! Maybe!

No, that I'd watch. This is just another fucking terrible werewolf movie. Although the IMDB page does contain this simply awesome line: "This movie does not compare to the werewolf classics in the past as far as story line, but it does a good job showing that not all werewolf's believe in the werewolf philosophy of biting people and taking names."

I plan on working the phrase "werewolf philosophy" into my next conversation, and frankly, I'm going to plan on that conversation being my next performance review at work. I smell a promotion! And human flesh!

Charlie Bartlett

I have decided to stop watching movies that are titled with the name of someone I've never heard of.

(Confession: We do have a used copy of Charlotte Gray in our DVD collection, which I bought for the wife at some point. I assume she watched it.)

Bratz: The Movie

A nation deliriously awaits this uplifting movie about hydrocephalic teenaged whores. I assume that Christina Ricci plays one of them.

This Is England

This sort of ties in with my impatience for character name titles. Did Public Image Limited come up with this name? I mentally rechristened this thing as This Is Movie and pictured it being delivered to theaters in blue and white logo-ed film canisters.

Underdog

Jesus fucking Christ. I'm getting in my car right now to go run down that guy in the scooter. Just because.

Monday, 18 June
It's An Odd Name For A Skateball Team, Don't You Think?

This weekend, as usual, the wife and I went movie-hunting at our local video store. It's a barren time for this sort of sport: none of the summer blockbusters are out yet, so all you get are the off-season offloads: Breach, for instance, the fairly turgid based-on-real-life story about espionage that features a thickening Ryan Phillippe, another wasted role for Laura Linney, and Chris Cooper mostly just looking like someone is pinching him for two hours. Lame. Lamer still, all the copies of Ghost Rider were rented. I cannot wait to see that film, mainly because of Nic Cage's previous effort The Wicker Man, which set all kinds of new standards for pure embarrassment, ineptitude and people punching other people who are wearing bear suits.

But there was nothing. I couldn't even work up the enthusiasm for any of the transparently crappy b-horror offerings, many of which seemed to feature either alligators, unconvincing zombies, or unconvincing alligator zombies. Then something caught my eye.

It was an older movie that I remembered a friend of mine had offhandedly recommended! Sure, it was from the eighties . . . kinda old, probably cheesy . . . but my friend had thought it was good! He said so! The movie was called Solarbabies. I picked it up.

(A side note: My friend did not recommend this movie at all. My memory just stinks. He had offhandedly mentioned an entirely different movie called Night of the Comet, and in point of fact, he didn't really recommend it so much as just sort of mention it. I apparently just took one eighties movie and, in my poisoned brain, decided to substitute in a different one because I was desperate to find a movie. Also, I'm a fucking moron.)

Solarbabies, huh? Kind of a stupid title. But it's some sort of future sci-fi thing! I like that stuff. I looked closer. Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, Lukas Haas, James LeGros and . . . Charles Durning? Wow, that's pretty . . . odd. But it can't be all bad! For one thing, my friend said he liked it! (He never said any such thing, and he didn't say that about a totally different movie.) And besides! If it were crappy, why would it be here, in my video store, in a brand-new DVD edition? Obviously it was a good movie!

We rented Solarbabies.

Solarbabies is about an orphanage in the future where Earth has post-apocalyptically burned off all its oceans, and so as a consequence, the orphans spend their time playing roller hockey. The Solarbabies play a bunch of meanies called the Scorpions, who CHEAT! And occasionally Adrian Pasdar shows up, displays no emotion, and communes with wild birds.

Then Lukas Haas finds in one of their roller caves--look, I didn't make this fucking thing, but I'm just saying that I suppose roller hockey makes sense in light of a nuclear-ravaged world that also happens to be paved with convenient roller paths every single place you go--a glowing ball named (it has a name!) Bodahi. Having made a new friend with glowing sentient ball, Haas does the logical thing and stuffs Bodahi into a storage trunk.

BUT! He can't keep that secret for long! Not from his roller hockey buddies in the orphanage, which is run by the "E-Protectorate" (the E is for Eeeeeeeeaaaawesome!), whose warden is Charles Durning, but who is ordered around by some terrible asshole in a truly amazing giant blue vinyl fascist zoot suit. He's mostly around to sneer. Adrian Pasdar wanders around some more, and some more birds land on him for some reason (it was clear I needed to step up my drinking early, so things get hazy).

Anyway, the gang discovers Haas' amazing lo-tech glow ball, and there's a truly humiliating Soundball moment (any actors out there?) where they spend joyous moments passing the ball around to each other while Maurice Jarre synths torture the audience. Hey, can you guess what happens when the single black orphan gets Bodahi? Yes . . . he sort of breakdances. It is the breakdance equivalent of Lou Diamond Phillips' speech in Young Guns where he delivers the standard-issue "the squaws were cut down in the night by the army marauders," which is to say, uncomfortably horrible and deeply embarrassing.

Then I think Adrian Pasdar wandered around for a little while more, resolutely not moving his face.

Okay, it wasn't all awful. By which I mean, it was. But we at least were laughing. The same way I guess we'd laugh if we realized that we were going to die in five minutes by being crushed under an avalanche of Swatches. You'd have to laugh, right? There was also, of course, the writing, which was delightfully wretched, featuring such gems as "Get out, you creature of filth!" and Durning's immortal "Stick with us, learn to serve the Order, and you'll achieve a decent life-grid." You have to sort of love terrible sci-fi movies where the writer attempts to create some sort of futuristic nonsense patois (dedicated aficionados of this sort of thing are directed to Sam Shepherd's unintentionally hilarious The Tooth of Crime as perhaps the ne plus ultra of the genre) that they cannot even bother to try and sustain for any reasonable amount of time. The Solarbabies would spend extended periods speaking in entirely conventional English before bizarrely lapsing into some brief comment about "putrid thinking." On my third beer, I was starting to indulge in some putrid thinking myself.

What was the movie that my friend had actually recommended, you ask? Night of the Comet, as I found out later after angrily (and incorrectly) accusing my pal of steering me into some horrible disaster. I don't know anything about that movie either. But I might just check it out anyway. It has to be better than Solarbabies. Right?

And even if it's not, I'll bet it's more fun than Breach. God knows that Solarbabies was.

Thursday, 14 June
Prejudge Not, Lest Ye Be Prejudged

IT'S THE MOOOOST WOOONDERFUL TIIIIME OF THE YEEEEAR! It's summer movie blockbuster time! Let the killing rain of dreck commence! I want to run naked in your murderous downpour! I want to prejudge you!

(Normally right here I'd make some nonsense claim about having no intention of seeing these movies. I'd be lying, so I'm not going to say that. Except for Evan Almighty, which nobody will see.)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The tagline for this movie is "Rise." Presumably they are referring to the penises of teenage boys whenever they find another dumb reason to show Jessica Alba wearing nothing.

Ha! See what I did there? I made an erection joke because of a hot chick who can't act. Not everyone can do that, mainly because it's pathetic! But I can! Practically every day! Hey, Anna Paquin! You're putrid! But sometimes you give me a boner!

See? I did it twice. Leave this kind of thing to the professionals, folks.

Anyway, this second FF movie carries a lot of promise because once again it features Ioan Gruffudd. This is awesome because: "Ioan Gruffudd." Also, I kind of hold out this desperate hope that they get so lost for ideas that they bring in the Black Racer.

DOA: Dead or Alive

What? Are we sure this is an actual movie? Shouldn't I have seen ads for anything that's supposedly being released in the next two months? It appears to be yet another video game movie, and it stars somebody named Jaime Pressly, whose name is familiar, but of whom I really know nothing except (thanks to IMDB) that she has enormous cans.

"Hey Jaime! You're probably putrid, but you . . . " Oh, forget it.

This movie is clearly going to be disastrously horrible, which means I cannot wait to see it on cable some fuzzy night while I clutch a bottle of off-brand rye. Here's some sample dialogue!

Bass: Tina! It's showtime!
Tina Armstrong: Dad! Not now I'm in my underwear.
Christie Allen: Which I hate. Why can't you just sleep in the nude like me you'll never know.
Bass: Oh my god.
Tina Armstrong: No dad, she's just another fighter we're just sleeping together.
Bass: Yeah I can see that.
Tina Armstrong: No. I mean we're not sleeping together we're just... sleeping.
Bass: Seems to me like my baby girl's found a special friend. We'll settle it tomorrow sweetie. Nice to meet you miss.
Christie Allen: Oh it's Christie.
Bass: Tina's real name's Christina!

Yay!

1408

When did John Cusack go from being to one of those rare actors who was liked by males and females alike (kind of a nerdier Johnny Depp) to . . . this? I submit that it was the terrible one-two combination of American Sweethearts, which audiences reacted to as if it was the offer of amateur surgery, and Identity, a movie that was a lot like amateur surgery.

I looked at the cast list hoping to see yet another embarrassing Stephen King cameo where he wanders around sucking on his teeth and acquitting himself terribly, but alas, he's nowhere to be found. Instead you get Tony Shalhoub, a fine fellow who apparently picks roles by blindfolding himself and throwing darts at piles of scripts, and Samuel L. Jackson, who--let's face it--has been coasting ever since he realized that after Pulp Fiction, he wasn't required to do anything at all resembling acting. He just has to show up as Big Sam, do his bit and cash his check. Sweet gig!

Evan Almighty

Seeing the ads for this day-glo nightmare, I was forced to wonder What the fuck, Steve Carell? Coming off of two pretty great comedies--The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine--this is what you want? Jim Carrey's sloppy seconds? By the director of such . . . items as Patch Adams?

Then I figured it out. This is not a comedy. (It is, after all, directed by the noted drooling sadist Tom Shadyac.) This film is dead serious.

What it is, is a dedicated atheist's attempt to posit the inherent ridiculousness of the existence of God. This is a movie whose entire intent is--it must be--to portray a world in which God is such a terrible buffoon that His existence becomes, in light of the onscreen evidence, a world that cannot possibly exist. There is also the hard-to-ignore fact that God here (again) is played by Morgan Freeman, which would seem to point out any number of troubling issues, such as why God would be such a dick to people who actually were in his image as opposed to a bunch of white assholes who can't dance and perpetrate such crimes as Matchbox 20 and Tom Shadyac.

Another supporting point to this argument: I am frankly certain that Evan Almighty will share one overwhelmingly common trait with atheism: a complete and total absence of humor. Or anything resembling humor. Have you ever met a really fun atheist? A real cut-up, life-of-the-party atheist? Of course you haven't. They don't go to parties. They sit at home, chewing on their legs, dreaming up witty ripostes to esoteric Biblical quotes.

It's about time Hollywood finally embraced its Godlessness. I just wish they hadn't picked Steve Carell to deliver the message. He's too funny for a serious film like this.

God help us all.

Tuesday, 12 June
The Blackout Jungle

Some of you might have heard the news that The Sopranos concluded this last Sunday if you were paying close attention to the news. I think the weirdest moment of that next day--the day the Internet went sideways--was coming home and turning on Baseball Tonight and seeing various ESPN analysts stammering to respond to hopeless fucking questions like "So what do you think happened after the blackout?"

"I . . . well, I think Tony . . . Tony's concerned for his family, and his family is right there, and Tony, he cares for them. This show is all about family, both kinds of, uh, family, and Tony is finally with his family and I think he's happy about that."

"Karl, I think that the real message is right there on the screen: Don't stop believing. Tony never did."

Or some such nonsense from people named "Buster" or "Orestes" or "Gorp." Yes, hope and happiness have always been running themes on The Sopranos.

Weird. Weird and horrible. Look, I'm not pretending I know myself--Chase clearly didn't feel like providing anything resembling a conventional ending at all, and he's obviously enough of a misanthrope not to give a shit about it anyway. I have my theories--just like old Buster and Gorp up there--but when ESPN babblers start horning in, it's time to open up the floor to everyone, I guess. So I took the trouble to poll some of the best and the brightest, present and past, to get their take on the most important TV event since Princess Di missed her exit.

So what did you think about the final episode of The Sopranos?

Elmo, psychopathic Muppet

"Hee hee hee! Elmo liked when the old man got his head run over like an rotten melon! Ha ha ha ha ha! Elmo liked that! Elmo saw the bystanders making sick! Hee hee hee! You know what Elmo also likes? Skin! Elmo wants to eat young skin!"

Izzle Pfaff: "I, ah, I see. Any thoughts about the startling ending?

"SKIN! SKIN! ELMO NEEDS SKIN! HA HA HA HA HA!"

Richie Sexson, .200-hitting Mariners 1B; loathed member of current fantasy baseball team

"What? Hey, stop touching my skin."

Camille Paglia, loudmouth, professional terrifying person

"My generation of Sixties rebels wanted to smash the bourgeois codes that had become the authoritarian totems of the Fifties. As a feminist and a champion of the gay male, I find Tony's struggle to--"

Interview terminated.

Sylvia Plath, poet, Siouxsie Sioux progenitor, cruel posthumous punchline

"Tony, Tony, you bastard, I'm through."

Green Lantern, aka Hal Jordan, Guardian of the Universe, reciter of silly doggerel

"What the fuck was that? Even Rot Lop Fan thought that sucked. On the other hand, he really wants to hear more Journey."

IP: "What did Mogo think?"

"Mogo doesn't socialize."

Erwin Schrodinger, quantum physicist, pothead icon

"Until Mr. Chase agrees to another season, a superposition of states exist where Tony is both alive and not alive. Only when we receive new episodes will the wave function collapse and we may observe the result. I'm so high right now."

Thursday, 07 June
Fat Lady, About To Sing

Note: This blog entry contains mild spoilers about The Sopranos. Don't read if that's going to bother you.

This coming Sunday evening, HBO will be airing the final episode ever of its landmark dramatic series The Sopranos. This event is momentous enough that the wife and I have made plans to travel to her brother's place to watch the thing with him and his wife. They are, of course, making lasagna. We've decided to take this all in together, for we are, obviously, utterly devoted to this brilliant, often maddening television show. We're all in agreement that nobody will fucking talk during the show, something we've experienced before when watching this show with nonwatchers who ask unwelcome questions. The phone will be turned off, just in case.

Back when I was obsessed with The X-Files, in the middle set of seasons when it was awesome and long before Robert Patrick and that other broad came along to ruin everything, I remember watching the show with the uninitiated or simple half-ass fans. They were intolerable. "So you gotta stab those weirdmouth guys in the back of the neck?" SHUT UP SHUT UP I'M WATCHING HERE SHUT UP

We won't have these problems come Sunday. We will watch the final episode as if sealed inside a large thermos. I believe the wife's brother has sworn to murder the dogs mid-show if they start making a ruckus from their imprisonment inside the garage.

The Sopranos is, as everyone knows, one of the most lauded shows in television history; some make the claim that it's the finest TV drama ever made. I don't know if I'm ready to go to bat on that one, but I'd sure rank it way the hell up there. (For one thing, there's that other HBO fan favorite, the unjustifiably maltreated Deadwood, which was a practically Jacobean take on the American western.)

There's been the writing, of course, which is routinely splendid, intelligent and knowing, whether it be something like Christopher unexpectedly spouting Bruce Springsteen lyrics to an annoyed Tony, or the utterly perfect description of Richie Aprile's eyes as "Manson lamps," or, most recently, the gorgeously crass joke of a storefront sign that read "Flatbush Bikini Waxing."

This is not to say that the writers have been perfect. The Sopranos is in fact famous for its litter of abandoned storylines, many of them dumped unceremoniously on the streets like little blind Gorey waifs. Famous ones include things like the otherwise ridiculously great Pine Barrens arc--apparently that indestructible Russian mobster is still lost in the woods, eating bark, unless he horrifyingly pops up in the final episode to stick a fork into Paulie's ear, which, if it happens, should surprise nobody. Or maybe they could revisit the Adriana/rap impresario storyline, which irritated Christopher so much that, later, he hilariously retaliated by crushing her dog to death by sitting on it. (I'm only sort of lying. He didn't vengefully crush her dog; he was just stoned out of his mind. But it really was hilarious.) More recently, there was the extremely bizarre amount of time detailing the doomed, gay Vito, which left many viewers wondering if they had accidentally tuned into a different show.

What is rather perfect about the show, though, is the acting. I don't know quite why, really--none of these people save two are what I'd call amazing outside of the context of the show (more on the outliers in a minute); it just seems that the show has caught these people at exactly the right time in exactly the right way. As a whole, they are amazing--but then you see something like Gandolfini in things like True Romance or Crimson Tide, and you're like, "What's the big deal?"

But Gandolfini is a big deal, at least for this show. He is terrifying, mostly when he's not doing anything, but simply thinking about doing something. He has never once on the show hit Carmela, for example . . . but I can describe for you in detail the times he has come close. And I'm pretty sure I'm never going to forget the number he pulled on Meadow when she mouthed off to him about being "the big mob boss."

But here's my half-assed theory regarding ensemble pieces: everything hangs on the secondary characters. Without those guys, everything else just withers. And, against all odds, The Sopranos delivers the goods practically every time. There's Silvio, Steven Van Zandt's utterly singular creation, Tony's consigliere, whose very posture seems to suggest that he spends most of his life wadded up in someone's pocket. There's Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts, who, disturbingly, might actually think he's a genuine gangster if some of his police reports suggests, but Paulie's unfailing need to make himself the center of any single event in the universe is readily identifiable--and is what makes him such a natural foil for Michael Imperioli's Christopher, who evidently feels just the opposite, and which is why he drugs himself up at every possibility. And then there's Robert Iler as A.J., Tony's son. Iler is either preternaturally gifted at playing an utterly loathsome, unsympathetic fuckup--in which case I applaud him--or he is a preternaturally depressing actual fuckup, in which case I would like to kill him. I will be charitable and assume it's the former.

There is also Jamie Lynn-Sigler, who is a very pretty girl.

Oh, there's millions of others--this is a show that's gone on for seven seasons, after all--but there are really just two left to talk about.

Edie Falco plays Tony's wife Carmela, and for me, she's the linchpin of the entire series. Not Tony. It's through her reactions to Tony that sets everything in motion, I think (I'm taking some liberties here). Leave aside the obvious blast that the costumers, makeup artists and hairstylists have with Ms. Falco. She's the heart of the family, and she's the heart of the show, even when she's selling out everything she believes in to buy a spec house. Falco is ridiculously terrific, and this show would have died in a ditch without her.

And finally, the lost and lamented Nancy Marchand, who played Tony's incredible black hole of a loving mother figure Livia. Marchand--a veteran screen actor, who, like Falco appeared reliably in crime dramas like Law & Order--managed to out-Macbeth's wife with Livia, a character so utterly corrosive that Tony--the mob boss--and his wife, Carmela--no shrinking violet herself--were apparently totally powerless to even step up to. True to the spirit of the series, though, Livia was--again, Marchand needs a lot of credit here--fucking hysterical. The wife and I are still fond of saying to one another in times of strife, "Oh, someone just open a window and push me out!" I will never in my life forget the scene in the hospital when Gandolfini is chasing her down the hall while she's strapped to a gurney, and she's smiling at him, and Gandolfini screams, "She's smiling! You see what she is? She's smiling!"

Christ. I could go on and on. I have gone on and on. I'm really going to miss this show. I'll miss the common language that I used to have with friends and family when it goes. I don't want to sound like a "Well, I know better than you because . . . " kind of dick, but I think it's telling that most of our friends--who are nearly all actors--all adore this show. I do think it's extraordinary as a TV drama, that very marginalized art form.

But as has been said so many times: If this isn't art, then what is?

And if you disagree with me, then I'm just going to shoot you. Which is fine. What won't be so great is when I start dreaming of fish.

Monday, 14 May
I Know What They're About To Do This Summer

It's time for the new crop of summer blockbusters . . . almost! In the meantime, Hollywood has some choice offerings that they're dropping like they're hot soaked in burning acid! I love my job. Let me again assure you that I have not seen any of these movies, and while I usually also append some lie about how I never will, I'm dropping that bit, especially since this weekend the wife and I watched Smokin' Aces, a movie so horrendous and mind-flaying that it has resulted in some sort of neurological trauma that has turned me into a sociopath who no longer cares about human life, much like every single character found in Smokin' Aces. Also like the creators of Smokin' Aces, I also do not care about coherent storytelling, competent editing, nuanced acting or unfiltered camera work.

In other words, I am perfectly equipped to watch all of these movies at some point. Pity me.

Even Money

Plot Outline: (All of these are lifted from IMDB) Gambling addiction bring the stories of three otherwise unconnected people together as it destroys each of their lives.

This caper comedy is made for all of us who have been waiting for Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and Kelsey Grammer to get together and bring the yuks! How can you lose?

Oh. It's not a comedy of all. It's a crime drama. With Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and . . . Kelsey Grammer. Gee. That sounds . . . good . . .

Hey, it's also got Ray Liotta and Jay Mohr! That sounds . . . good . . .

Is it getting dark in here?

What can be salvaged from this nightmare? Oh, let's go for the fun actor names. There's the appealingly salaciously named Amy Boatwright. One wants to approach her and say, "Hey, baby! I'll set your boat right!" Or there's also the equally wonderfully named Michelle Greathouse. "Hey, baby! Wanna give me a tour of your great house? I'm really interested in the downstairs." But then I'd probably run afoul of the truly awesomely named Texas Battle, who would forcefully remind me of the Alamo in several brutal ways.

I can think of worse ways to go, really. One of them includes watching this movie.

Mr. Brooks

Plot Outline: A psychological thriller about a man (Costner) who is sometimes controlled by his murder-and-mayhem-loving alter ego (Hurt).

Kevin Costner ... Mr. Earl Brooks
Demi Moore ... Detective Tracy Atwood
Dane Cook ... Mr. Smith
William Hurt ... Marshall
Marg Helgenberger... Emma Brooks

Dear filmmakers:

Were we bad? Did we do something? We are so sorry. We don't know what we did, really, but please, just tell us what it was. We won't do it again. Look, we bought these whips! We became flagellants when we saw the ads! We've lost so much blood . . . mommy . . .

Once

Plot Outline: A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

[CLUNK]

Oh my goodness! Did I pass out for a moment there? Jeez, I did. It seems that just reading those shattering words gave me a transient ischemic attack. I'd best move on.

Gracie

Plot Outline: A teenager faces an uphill battle when she fights to give women the opportunity to play competitive soccer.

[CLUNK]

Ow! My brain! Oh, this isn't going well. I keep having tiny strokes! I fear that my dangerous mind may not be healed even by the cutting edge musical therapies that offer to bring it on through the talents of Mr. Holland and his opuses or even a drumline! RUUUUUUUUUUDY!

I'm entering a fugue state now, I fear. Must! Keep! Prejudging!

Rise: Blood Hunter

Plot Outline: Supernatural thriller in which a female reporter wakes up in a morgue to find herself a member of the undead. She vows revenge against the sect that put her there and hunts them down.

USA! USA! USA!

Er, well, it was shot in Belgium, but . . . USA! USA! USA!

Good lord, what happened to Lucy Liu? There was a time when she was on top of her game and all and then . . . what? My best guess is Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever happened, which is apparently the cinematic equivalent of Hodgkin's Disease. I myself watched it one night after the wife had sensibly retreated to bed, and I can confidently say that the movie made me wish for chemotherapy.

Which might explain why the formerly ascendant Liu is skulking around this disaster taking off her shirt on demand while grips dump buckets of stage blood on her. Michael Chiklis is also in this thing (ha! Get it?), presumably running around beefily and showing his lower teeth at anyone who happens to be around; so is Robert "Will act for Corn Flakes" Forster, who is a perfectly fine character actor; as is Marilyn "Brian Warner" Manson, who is a perfectly fine fake gimmick musician, just like previously fine fake gimmick musician/actors such as David Bowie and Alice Cooper. (Bring on the hate mail! I'm used to it. I've endangered more than a few friendships over my confusion as to why people kept falling for Bowie's incredibly cynical "No, really, this is the real me" line year after year after year, which was later completely ripped off by Madonna, also to great success. On the other hand, not even Bowie was stupid enough to do Monster Dog or Shanghai Surprise.)

Well, this is obviously going to be a mephitic horror. So why am I looking forward to this more than any other film?

I told you at the beginning. I have brain damage. And after watching these night-gaunts, so will you.

Thursday, 05 April
Here Comes The Prejudge

Hollywood never sleeps! It just occasionally dozes, and when it does, then all of its foul, misbehaving children immediately sneak out the window and into theaters where they then grope us and engage in all kinds of hideous cinematic frottage. For some reason, this always seems to happen right between Christmas and the summer blockbuster season. My only conclusion is that Hollywood executives cope with the post-holiday blues by drinking heavily, since no sober person could possibly decide that these movies are good or marketable or even tolerable.

Year of the Dog

This movie's riveting plot synopsis on IMDB is "A secretary's life changes in unexpected ways after her dog dies."

This movie's ad tagline is "Has the world left you a stray?"

LINE UP, EVERYBODY!

This movie, with Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, John C. Reilly and Peter Sarsgaard, appears to be Mystic Pizza, but with dead dogs instead of Annabeth Gish and Julia Roberts, and really, that might be an improvement. Unfortunately, I still wouldn't watch Mystic Pizza again even with the really audience-friendly inclusion of dead dogs, so . . . yeah, nobody will watch this.

The Reaping

Hey, not for nothing, but this movie is currently meriting a whopping 5% rating at RottenTomatoes.com. Oh boy!

I don't see why this should be, since the ads for this film strongly suggest that the hideous meat-golem Hilary Swank gets eaten by locusts, and fuck, I'd watch that. I'd buy that video. And I'd watch it on half-speed for hours on end, if it were sufficiently graphic.

Yet another alleged horror movie themed on the Biblical plagues, The Reaping appears to be just about as useless and unasked-for as the stunningly pointless remake of The Omen. You'll know exactly what's going to happen each and every moment, because you've seen this film a million times before. Remember Demi Moore's horrid The Seventh Sign? No? Then by all means, see this film. It's the same thing, except when you watch this one, instead of anxiously hoping for the lead actress to take off her shirt, you'll hope for the opposite. (Assuming you are a teenaged male, which I clearly still am.)

BONUS POINT: Also starring William Ragsdale, aka Charley Brewster from Fright Night! Boy, that was a terrible movie, but not as bad as this one will be. Welcome back, Mr. Ragsdale!

EXTRA BONUS POINT: Some IMDB member comments: "Instead of paying for this, go and buy or rent Signs." Wow. Since Signs is an astonishingly horrible pile of unwatchable shite, that's saying something.

Are We Done Yet?

Now this is the movie you want for pure, unadulterated horror. Answering the question that nobody ever asked--"Who wants a sequel to Are We There Yet?"--this movie is this year's Cheaper by the Dozen 2, a chilling disaster followup that resembles nothing so much as a dog returning to eat its own vomit. Rumor has it that there is a scene where the hilarious Ice Cube--noted for his comedic talents--falls down and/or makes faces. Also, John C. McGinley (CAN WE GIVE THIS GUY SOMETHING BETTER TO DO THAN "SCRUBS" AND THIS SHIT?) plaintively looks into the camera at one point and mouths "Please help me."

I can't wait for the third installment in this horrible series, entitled Am I Dead Yet?

The Hoax

From the cast list:

Richard Gere
Alfred Molina
Hope Davis
Marcia Gay Harden
Stanley Tucci
Julie Delpy
Eli Wallach

I thought for a while that this was a comedy project with the working title "Who Wants To Humiliate Richard Gere?" where the director surrounded the poor man with vastly superior actors and watched what happened. But then I noticed that the director is Lasse Halstrom, who has no identifiable sense of humor at all, and I was crushed.

Then I saw that Zeljko Ivanek is in it and I was cheered for a moment. That guy just doesn't look like a Zeljko to me! He's peachy.

BONUS POINTS: This will surely be the finest movie released this year that was filmed in Armonk, New York.

Slow Burn

This movie--which has been rotting in the can for about two years--carries the tagline albatross "The truth is just a trick of light."

My response: "God, fuck you."

Oh, what am I saying? Ray Liotta doesn't do bad movies. He's quality! I cite Smokin' Aces and Wild Hogs! Hey, what's up next for Ray?

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

Director: Uwe Boll

Cast List:

Jason Statham
Jonathan Rhys-Davies
Ray Liotta
Matthew Lillard
Leelee Sobieski
Burt Reynolds
Ron Perlman
Claire Forlani
Kristanna Loken

Oh my God. What does it say about me that I'd rather watch this film than Slow Burn?

Who wouldn't?

Monday, 26 March
Hardly Any Of The World Is A Stage

On Friday, I went to the THEATAH! To see my good wife in action; she opened her show The Duchess of Malfi this weekend, and, I must say, it was strangely interesting to see my wife murdered twice onstage: once when her neck was cruelly snapped, and another when her other character had her faced smushed into a poisoned bible. While watching these atrocities, I thought to myself, as I have so many times before, "Why is this art form dying?"

It's not a new thought. I've been thinking about the stiffening corpse that is theater for years. In fact, I confess, I tire of it. I'm probably more or less done with acting myself. And for the really large majority of you reading this, live theater is probably something right up there with bearbaiting or illicit donkey shows: if it's even available to you, you'd still probably never consider going.

If you do have any kind of local theater, it is likely either community theater of the "Let's put on a show!" variety, featuring calcified horrors like The Star-Spangled Girl. Or, if you live in a larger town, you might have "fringe theater," which is what I did for years, and consists of youth-skewed dynamos with the energy to put on things like Eric Bogosian pieces or strange adaptations of The Trojan Women with a sound design that incorporates Primus. But nobody is seeing those shows except for damaged perverts, because they're probably in the better, non-warehouse part of town watching the local regional theater put on a well-lit, technically sweet production (in an actual theater) of Pirates of Penzance.

Everyone else--which is still, I must stress, hardly anyone--simply waits for that NYC trip where they make the obligatory trip to Broadway, which is to actual theater (that is, everyone else, good or wretched) as Cirque du Soleil is to the hometown carnival where they serve poisoned hot dogs.

Those scrappy kids in the fringe theaters do occasionally score. My longest run was in a comedy called Poona the Fuckdog and Other Stories for Children, written by a very funny sociopath named Jeff Goode. It ran for close to half a year, and you don't do that if a show isn't genuinely funny: it certainly was, and featured such characters as a singing penis, God, and a Shrub (me). But it would be silly for me to say that people didn't show up merely for the title: It has "fuck"! Right in the title! Other shows have learned this trick. Shopping and Fucking comes to mind, as does Urinetown.

The Duchess of Malfi doesn't have this sort of thing going for it. The Whoozits of Say What? It was written by a disturbed person named John Webster, a late contemporary of Shakespeare about whom virtually nothing is known, except for the inarguable fact that he was a demented grump who wrote shows that featured tremendous bloodbaths, torture, dismemberment and lycanthropy (Duchess features all of these). Why wouldn't anyone not want to see this? It's not that far from any episode of "24" or "CSI: Miami," and it has the added virtue of the absence of desiccated ghouls like Kiefer Sutherland and David Caruso.

Almost thirty years ago, a playwright and novelist named William Goldman wrote a marvelous book called The Season, in which he reported on an entire year of watching Broadway shows. Despite some clanging, poorly aged comments regarding gays, women and minorities, it is perhaps the finest document I've ever read about the state of live theater at a given moment in time (1967-68). In it, he describes several shows that were produced (even if some of them never made it past previews). I'm listing some of them below, along with some complete fakes that I just made up out of thin air. See if you can figure out which ones are inventions. No peeking! (And you can just be quiet, theater geeks. I'm looking at you, Brad!)

How Now, Dow Jones

Mysteriously absent a question mark in the title, this musical comedy might have a claim on the stupidest title in history, possibly only behind How to Stuff A Wild Bikini. Featuring, among others, Brenda Vaccaro, this show --which had some success--was about a young lady engaged to a fellow who would only marry his fiancee when the Dow average hit 1000. So she goes out and gets pregnant by another dude, and then tells her beau that the Dow hit the mark, and everyone, instead of looking at the newspaper, believes her.

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Another outstanding title. Nothing brings 'em in like death! This play actually has the distinction of being really very, very good; it also has the distinction of being an English comedy about a couple whose marriage is slowly but inexorably being torn apart due to their daughter, the eponymous Joe, who when not catatonic, suffers from shocking epileptic fits; the couple's coping mechanism is to perform laceratingly funny comedic skits to the audience about Joe's condition.

The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N

God, I love these titles. This musical smash featured Tom ("Mr. C") Bosley and Hal ("Barney Miller") Linden. It is, I assume, about the education of someone named Hyman Kaplan as told through internet forum flamewars.

Leda Had A Little Swan

Set in the future, this comedy thinkpiece was directed by "My Dinner With" Andre Gregory, and was written by the delightfully-named Bamber Gascoigne. An examination of childhood bestiality, it posited a future where, in order to help the kids cope with puberty, they were assigned animals to have sex with during this difficult time. The last act featured things like windy discussions about the morality of underage sex acts with farm animals.

The Seven Descents of Myrtle

One final horrible title. A justly forgotten Tennessee Williams piece--and he wrote dozens of simply pathetically awful plays--in which a clearly gay Southern farmboy enters into marriage with a blowsy, dimwit stripper in order to screw his musclehead brother out of the farm's inheritance, but then he puts on his dead mother's dress and dies, right before a dam bursts and floods out the farm, but the musclehead and stripper survive. Hooray!

I'll let you know in the comments which ones are the fakes, presuming that you didn't cheat or know up front which ones were real. I'm not even sure I even have a point, other than to dick along about crappy shows through the ages, or their terrible titles. Like I said, I've been doomsaying about the death of live theater for years.

So was Goldman. He said the same exact fucking thing thirty years ago in this book. So maybe we'll hang on a little more. I might have given up, but my wife hasn't, and neither has anyone else in the show they're working on.

Incidentally, John Webster got a shout-out in the popular movie Shakespeare in Love (written in part by Tom Stoppard, who is a very respected playwright indeed). There is a grubby little tatterdemalion in the movie, who is accompanied by a pet rat, and he professes his love for the astonishingly bloody (and really not-so-good) Titus Andronicus to Mr. Shakes: "I like it when they cut heads off. And the daughter mutilated with knives."

Who doesn't like that? Maybe there's life in the old girl yet.

Thursday, 15 March
Bads

GEICO

GEICO has two basic sets of ads these days: the ones with the gecko and the ones with the cavemen. I know a lot of people who hate these ads (the cavemen ones, anyway), and I can understand. For one, they really are overaired, and for another, they vary wildly in comedic value. (For those of you TV absolutists, the basic thrust of these meta-ads is that cavemen are still living amongst us, and they are offended that GEICO would suggest that getting insurance is so easy that "even a caveman" could do it. This isn't admittedly Wildean territory.)

I know I'm fucking sick and tired of the caveman in the airport (though I still like the little touch that he has a tennis racket) if only because I hate that fucking Royksopp song, which sounds a lot like what Air would sound like if they were transported back in time to 1974 and castrated.

But honestly? There is one caveman ad that kills me every time, and that is the caveman party. Two cavemen are outside the party on the balcony, and one is depressed. As he speaks to friend caveman, it is revealed that despite GEICO's offensive anti-caveman ad concept, he bought insurance with them anyway, resulting in his friends ostracizing him for his betrayal of his caveman brethren. "It's my life, all right?" he bridles hilariously. The whole ad is really fraught with the kind of Seriousness that you'd normally expect to see on something like "Law & Order," which is what makes what happens next so great.

A third caveman bursts out onto the balcony, interrupting this heavy dialogue. "Tina's here; we're getting back together!" he happily informs the first two. "Hey! Give us a minute!" cries friend caveman in frustration.

It is awesome, and I am willing to forgive GEICO the other, much lamer spots for the pure nailing of this particular moment.

It is a goodwill that will instantly be extinguished when ABC--if this dreary network insists on following reported plans to do this horrible thing--actually airs the TV show that is reportedly in development that involves the GEICO cavemen.

Our culture has a rich history of television cavemen: Captain Caveman. The Flintstones. Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Two were hideous, unfunny cartoons and Phil Hartman was murdered. Are you listening, ABC?

Note: I'm not forgetting Encino Man, although that would be nice. I just would like to mention that Brendan Fraser, who played the title character in that alleged film, went to college with my wife, and that once, some years ago, they stole some guy's dog because he abused it. Hooray!

Freecreditreport.com

If you're not one of those aforementioned anti-TV drones, then you've certainly already got this hellish jingle running in your brain. And you're probably already remembering the astonishingly annoying over-gelled blonde kid who stretches his lips at the camera and says, "I'm thiiiiinking of a number!"

The number this little manque is referring to is, of course, one's credit score. The ad for this bunch of lousy suckpoles is for this fucking website that will, for only $12.95 a month--wait, that's not quite free, is it?--give you your credit report and also email you "changes" to your credit report. What a deal! It isn't free, but hey, I'm willing to trust a website that lies to you right in the URL! And never mind that by law, the credit bureaus are required to provide everyone with a copy of their credit report each year. Or never mind that one can always pay Experian to provide one whenever one wants for fifteen bucks. Or, for forty bucks, you can get the reports from all of them, should you really need to get that information twice or more in the space of twelve months.

Maybe Freecreditreport.com just didn't know any of this! It's probably all a vast mistake and they thought they were actually providing a valuable service! One that's free! Or pretty close to free, at thirteen bucks a month! From their website:

ConsumerInfo.com and Freecreditreport.com are not affiliated with the annual free credit report program. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. To request your free annual report under that law, you must go to www.annualcreditreport.com.

No, they knew it all the time. They also knew enough to print that information in helpful blue-on-blue text. Because they just want to help.

Quizno's

I have nothing against Quizno's. In fact, I've never eaten at Quizno's. Actually, I'm not even sure where the nearest Quizno's is. I don't even have anything against their ads, generally: they tend to be a lot of man-on-the-street stuff with ord'nary folks really enjoying their sandwiches and aggressively pointing out how horrible Subway sandwiches are by comparison.

"Now this is prime beef," some ordinary Joe will say while erotically fingering a gorgeous sandwich, resplendently bursting with meat and cheese. Invariably, a Subway sandwich is lying next to it, looking like something fished out of a landfill. The Joe regards it with revulsion: "You can really smell the rat meat. Do they serve these on Death Row?" Nothing special going on here.

But there is a new ad. It's only a small part of the ad, but it is so horrifying, it stands out every time I see it. Again, regular folks are sampling a Quizno's sandwich, and are all uniformly transported to nearly religious experiences when eating these subs. One is a reasonably attractive woman who is holding her half-eaten sandwich insouciantly, perhaps as if it were some sort of metaphoric meat-stick that is somehow inherently enjoyable to hold in one's hand and occasionally put in one's mouth.

Then, unfortunately, she speaks.

"It's not lackin' any meat! And that's what real women need!" Then she laughs.

It isn't the vapid, idiotically charged line that she volunteers; that would be bad enough. Real women want lots of long cock. This is no sandwich for dykes! Hee hee! No, the real horror here is her laugh, believe it or not. I'm not sure I can describe it. It's a multi-toned sort of loathsome giggle, the kind of maniac laugh that every man fears to hear after some ill-considered one-night stand. It's the laugh you dread to hear waking up naked next to a stranger, and it is followed by the phrase, "By the way, my love for you burns me like hot irons. Oh, and speaking of which, I've got a hot iron. Don't move."

If we could hear the cries of bats hunting in the night, it would sound like her laugh. It is the sound of a lumbar puncture. The laugh is the granite grinding of millwheels in Hell as the femurs fall into the stones, and you're the one pushing the wheels, and the Quizno's gal is striping your tattered back with the lash.

And the music you hear as you push along is: "Freeeee creeedit repooort dot com!"

Thursday, 08 March
March Of The Prejudgments

Well, the Oscars are over, and we're nowhere near May. So you know what that means! It's time for Hollywood to clear out the fridge and dump out all the fish heads, rubber carrots and skinned-over stew and put it where all that crap belongs: into the theaters!

Frankly, I love this time of year. If there's nothing quite as awesome as hooting at horrible movies, hooting at advertisements for clearly horrible movies comes in a close second. If the fall shoulder season is the time for dismal weepers, then pre-spring is the time for unleashing its appalling flaccid comedies. Fall is Life As A House. Spring is Cosmonauts Vs. Porky's.

Wild Hogs

Oh, God! Who ordered this?

The majority of my friends all screamed, "Bill Macy! What are you doing?" when the ads for this radioactive zombie turkey came out, and it's still kind of a wonder, given the nightmarish quality of the rest of the cast, featuring drained batteries like John Travolta and Martin Lawrence alongside odious people such as Tim Allen and the incomprehensibly still-living Sklar brothers; Ray Liotta and Marisa Tomei are also skulking around in this thing, no doubt thinking about that few weeks or so when everyone wondered, "Maybe they don't stink," a grace period that ended, well, here.

BONUS: It also features Jill Hennessey, who owes all of her comedy chops to her stint on "Law & Order," where, I have to admit, she was hilarious.

300

THIS! IS! SCHPOTTA! I swear that's what the guy screams in the ads right before he kicks the other dude into a well. Then the bearded guy triumphantly turns to his cadre of nearly-naked compatriots, selects the beefiest, hottest one, and joyously ejaculates onto his chest. Those Greeks!

All kidding aside, it's refreshing to see an openly homoerotic movie about a small group of highly athletic, gorgeous half-naked white guys who are willing to sacrifice their lives to fight against an unstoppable invading force of foreign, occasionally nonwhite devils who have no honor. I get so tired of "issues" flicks.

Blades of Glory

A proud greenskeeper in the twilight of his years (Morgan Freeman) unexpectedly finds love on the links when he meets Helena (Helen Mirren) while mowing the back nine at Greensboro Country Club, only to find himself in conflict when news arrived that his estranged son (Dave Chappelle, in a surprisingly moving dramatic turn) has contracted lupus . . .

No, just kidding, it's just another fucking formula comedy with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, two of our finest comedic actors who achieve consistent success by steadfastly refusing to play anything other than Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.

Movies like this fucking dogsack just irritate me. Wigs = funny! Sure, they're a step up from ghastly heart attacks like Date Movie or Epic Movie or, and I'm sure it's coming soon, Sad Movie, but that's a lot like saying krill is a step up from plankton.

Dead Silence

This purported screamer from the same sadists who are responsible for the Saw franchise dares to ask the question, "Is anyone using these old props from Magic?" The answer, sadly, appears to have been, "No, go ahead!" Even the tagline is pathetically lazy: "You scream. You die." How novel! I'm so tired of those lame horror movies with deafmutes being silently slaughtered.

We'll probably never get tired of tales of the vengeful dead; this one seems to be about a murdered ventriloquist. That's okay by me, really, as I am a bad horror movie enthusiast, but someday maybe some courageous director will have a film where the dead person comes back and says things like "You know what I miss? Gum. Do you have any?" or "I'd sure like to play some cards."

I can't even figure out the awful rhyming tagline that this movie's ads chant: is it "she'll rip your tongue out at the seams" or "she'll rip your tongue out at the scene"? On the other hand, I don't care.

Must be March. Tune in next week when I report on my own real-life horror experiment: the wife and I are taking a trip on the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train!

Monday, 22 January
The Jason Statham Of The Union

STOP THE I-PRESSES! Lo! Big news!

At least two of my tens of readers have alerted me that I have been heralded as one of "The 12 Funniest People on the Internet!" That's nice.

I do have to confess that I do not know these fine discerning people at Valleywag, but I thank them for their vote of confidence. I also note that they quote me making a dick joke, so that's heartening; the world clearly needs more dick jokes, and so I fill a niche. With my dick, apparently. Enjoy, niche! (Hey, it's another dick joke! Worship me.)

But really, if I sound slightly uncomfortable here, it's because 1. I am generally uncomfortable, because I am a neurotic trouble case; 2. I feel like kind of a tool because I don't know over half of those other people (but hey, Hiya, Matthew!); and 3. To be honest? Reading something like this makes me feel sort of like people who say, "Oh, you're a comedian! Say something funny!" And all I can come up with is some stammering nonsense like "Your boobs smell" or an extended riff on canned beets. Or more dick jokes.

OR, PERHAPS, MORE DREADFUL COMMENTARY ON THE AWFUL MOVIES WE WATCH

Oh, most of you know what's coming. This week, stop right here if you simply can't bear to have plot elements ruined for you for fine films such as Crank and The Covenant. Also . . . are you okay? Anyway.

The wife and I settled into watching this object with no real hope at all, but we came alive when the screen lit up with the magic phrase "Directed by RENNY HARLIN." Like sedentary Kool-Aid pitchers, we looked at each other and yelled "OH YEAH!"

But sadly, there were no resounding "yeahs" to be had from this nothing of a movie. It's about a bunch of rich white kids who are actually witches who essentially wield some dull brand of pickup magical powers that can be passed around and dribbled like basketballs, and digitally-rendered spiders that enjoy crawling up people's noses. It suffers chiefly from: well, did you read any of that? I'm actually not really making much up. It also suffers from Indistinguishable Young Actor Syndrome, which I first identified when I saw Black Hawk Down, and I realized that a bunch of young white kids with shaven heads and fatigue uniforms were completely indistinguishable from one another. "Was that the helicopter guy? Or is it the sniper guy? Or is it . . . fuck, I don't know who anybody is." Similarly, in this listless ass-wave of a movie, I found myself asking, "Is that hair guy? Or is it basketball-force-guy?" In the end, I wound up eagerly hoping for more digital spiders crawling into digital nostrils, and, well, as low as my standards are, that's just kind of a bummer.

Our disappointment in that film was leavened by our delight with the pugilistically inane Crank, a movie with the pleasingly and frankly idiotic premise that an assassin--Jason Statham, the man with a face and emotive range of a dented shovel--has been poisoned by a nemesis with some sort of Ancient Chinese Secret potion that will kill him if his adrenaline levels drop too much.

The actor playing the villain in this delirious movie is worthy of note; when he's not leering maniacally, he's punching innocent pillows as he awaits the sure death of the deathlessly energetic Statham; his overacting is so spine-tingling that I contracted meningitis early in the film, right about at the point where Statham Shovel-Face addresses the camera to announce that "It's time to kick some black ass!" BRAVO!

Also in this awesome spectacle is the fresh young girlfriend Amy Smart (who I do miss from the not-very-lamented, short-lived "Smith"). I would be genuinely interested in the conversation she had with her agent when she accepted this role, since right in the middle of the movie, she and Statham have a fight out in public Chinatown, which kind of turns Statham on, so he attacks her, and in one of those Hollywood moments, she initially resists, but then gets SO WEIRDLY TURNED ON that she can't help herself, and blah blah blah, and then he bends her over a newspaper vending machine.

But then he can't get it up. Weird! I've fucked so many hot chicks in Chinatown in broad daylight, and I'm always walking funny. "You can't get it up?" she screams. Statham looks embarrassed, not that you can tell. He looks like he lost a book of stamps. "This is just like you!" Smart wails puzzlingly. It is? Who are you, lady? What is your miserable life like? Can we have a movie about her? After a few excruciating moments, Statham presumably manages to ring up his long-lost hard-on, and finally puts the boots to the still bent-over Smart, while she's stuck with dialogue like "Oh, baby, you're so big!"

Later, in a car chase scene, she gives him a blow job, only to hold up before the inevitable. Statham protests, of course, shovelly, and she says "So you can fall asleep like you always do? I don't think so." Okay, really, at this point I must demand that a movie be made about this woman's backstory. She sounds like Oriana Fallaci and Jenna Jameson on a meth bender. Fittingly, this woman-positive movie includes a scene in which Statham asks another character, "Do I look like I got 'cunt' written on my head?" At this point, the moviemakers cleverly put the word "cunt" on his head in white letters, possibly just in case that their fears that this movie might make people's ears fall off were justified.

In summary, Crank is the finest movie of 2006. You're insane if you don't watch it.

Thursday, 04 January
It's The Most Prejudging Time Of The Year

The holidays are over and summer is nowhere in sight! Woo! It's time for everyone to sit glumly and realize that there's absolutely nothing to look forward to for months. I mean, honestly. Valentine's day? For couples, it's a bunch of fucking stress, and for the loners, it's an opportunity to resent the couples.

Hollywood feels our pain, of course. In fact, they enjoy exacerbating it. This is the most horrible time of year for moviegoers, so I feel fortunate that I don't go out to see movies any more. Instead, I sit at home and prejudge them.

Smokin' Aces

Awwww! I always have a soft spot for movies with lousy titles, mainly because they are almost always 1. like the titles, horrible and 2. doomed. (There are exceptions. I cite, for example, Forrest Gump. It was massively popular. I suspect it was also horrible, but I cannot say for sure, as I never bothered to watch it.)

Like the similarly horribly-titled and horribly doomed Lucky Number Slevin, this seems to be another hitman/mobster movie. Which is fine. What's less fine is that the star of the picture is Jeremy Piven. I mean, I have no real beef with Mr. Piven--in fact, that's kind of the problem. I actually don't think of him at all, including whenever he's onscreen. I know I've seen him in a dozen movies or so; it's just that he's so workmanlike and efficient, I never even notice him. He's like the washing machine: it makes noise, but you don't really pay any attention to it.

Maybe the supporting cast can help out! Let's see, there's Ben "Remember me?" Affleck, Peter Berg and Jason Bateman! Now, those are . . . other people who exist in the world!

Oy.

Miss Potter

Who pitched this?

"Okay, check it out. It's like Finding Neverland, only instead of J.M. Barrie, it's--"

"Who's J.M. Barrie?"

"The Johnny Depp guy. Anyway, this time it's Beatrix Potter!"

"Who's Beatrix Potter?"

"The rabbit chick. Uncle Wiggly or some shit."

"What the fuck are you--listen, gimme the bullet."

"Oscar bait. We've got Renee Zellweger and Ewan MacGregor and that pinched, pasty English chick with the limp hair."

"Kristin Scott Thomas?"

"The other one."

"Emily Watson?"

"Bingo."

"I love it."

The Hitcher

Anyone get the feeling that Hollywood is kind of scraping with the whole horror remake thing? The original 1986 movie with C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh was memorable mostly for the infamous french fry scene and the slightly toe-curling ending. This film was hardly crying out for a redo, except possibly for Howell, who must surely be asking, "Uh, can I try that again?"

I can't wait for pointlessly gore-filled remakes of such timeless classics such as Lifeforce (with Patrick Stewart and an always-naked Mathilda May!) or Knight Moves (with Christopher Lambert, Diane Lane and a thankfully not-naked Tom Skerritt!)

Epic Movie

You know, I'm sorry if you're one of these people, but I kind of want to take people who go see things like Scary Movie and Date Movie or whatever and shake them until their teeth fall out. Why do people put up with this fucking shit? Why do they pay money to watch this depressing crap? Jesus Christ, man, SNL is just as horrible, and it's free and comes right to your TV.

Whatever. This latest sewage attack features a bunch of no-name fuckholes (and, depressingly, a couple of genuinely funny people in Fred Willard and Jennifer Coolidge) listlessly gumming the half-erect jokes that are to be had by lampooning such cinematic events as the Harry Potter films and that wretched Narnia movie.

IMDB lists one character as "Breast Bite Girl" (and boy is that actress' listing . . . something) and another as "Manboobs!" Another is "Crotch Bite Guy" and poor Coolidge is apparently "The White Bitch of Gnarnia."

Look, I like potty humor and blue jokes well enough--hell, just look at my last entry. But is this the best we can do? Is this what people are crying out for? Maybe they can work in some Britney Spears jokes? Some dwarf footage? Maybe someone can just take a shit right onto the camera lens.

Please don't see this fucking movie. I'm begging you. Don't give these jackholes your money. I know it's the dead of winter and there's nothing in sight to look forward to, but I'm telling you . . . we can get through this.

Wednesday, 08 November
Mid-November Prejudging!

HERE COME THE HOLIDAYS!

And you know what that means! Horrible movies! Diabetic treacle! Appalling children's fare! Numbingly earnest juggernauts of capital-D Drama! Bizarre, unclassifiable projects that . . . uh . . . got done shooting! I guess!

Let's prejudge some of them.

A Good Year

Noted director Ridley Scott (White Squall, GI Jane) teams up with one-trick pony author Peter Mayle to deliver a moving character piece in which a rich white asshole (believably played by Russell Crowe) manages to find spiritual peace after inheriting a French vineyard and subsequently fucking an enigmatic, attractive woman.

Hey, we've all been there! I can't wait for the ironic scene where Crowe's character throws a phone at the woman's head for accidentally pinching his nuts during the candlelit handjob scene. In an honest world, A Good Year would also carry the subtitle: A Horrible Movie.

(NOTE: Firefox 2.0's spellchecker doesn't like "handjob." Interestingly, it also doesn't like "spellchecker.")

Deja Vu

Speaking of punishingly ticcy directors with the surname "Scott," here comes Tony Scott! Coming off the universally loathed, spectacularly unwatchable Domino, Scott once again looks to induce seizures with Deja Vu, which, if he keeps to form, will be edited in such a way as to make you want to pull the lobes of your brain apart. (I will confess here that True Romance remains one of my fonder guilty pleasures.)

Deja Vu apparently posits the idea that the familiar phenomenon is actually a government plot to . . . oh, who fucking cares? It's a summer movie that . . . didn't get done in time for summer! Jim Caviezel is in it, so maybe he'll treat us to a little more of that Aramaic that we've been longing for since he did the Jesus. "Please, Tony . . . I had to learn this shit. Please let me use it." Tony will probably let him; it's not like Tony Scott has ever demonstrated anything resembling restraint or coherence.

BONUS! IMDB lists some gripping character names such as "Time Window Lab Tech," "Ferry Survivor #3," and, my favorite, "Guy with Backpack's Girlfriend (Featured)." It should be noted that the listing for "Guy with Backpack's Girlfriend (Featured)" is listed before a character with an actual name, "Janice." Suck it, Elle Fanning!

Bobby

This serious ensemble piece about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy was written and directed by Emilio Estevez (Men At Work).

Fast Food Nation

Eric Schlosser's muckraker was a provocative and popular piece of extended journalism that sold millions. How to cash in further? Make it into another sprawling, confused ensemble piece, directed by the insufferably overrated Richard Linklater!

(Linklater fucking pisses me off. I wish he'd stick to what he's good at, which is disarming comedies like School of Rock and Dazed and Confused, rather than cardboard pretensions like the execrable Waking Life or Before Sunrise, which I mentally renamed Before Suicide.)

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

What a title! This movie will make millions. That is, if frat boys assume that it's a film about some porn actress's incredibly amazing pussy hair. If not, then this movie will not be seen by anybody on earth, as it is the worst title since (still my reigning favorite) Soft Toilet Seats.

Speaking of horrific movie titles . . .

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

I . . . well, this is bad. I didn't think the badness of the Diane Arbus title would be topped soon.

Here, let me try.

The Hat That Gives Me A Hat-Crease. (You Know, In My Hair)
Pants!
Robin Williams Eats A Cantaloupe
How Stella Got Her Library Card

No. I'm not up to the task.

Thursday, 26 October
It's The End Of The World As I Know It, And I Feel Fabulous

CORRECTIONS DEPT.

My friend D. wrote me after my last entry to complain that I had misrepresented his utter dominance over C. and I at darts on football Sunday. He is correct. For the record, D. beat us stupid three games in a row, not two, as I reported. I would also like to point out that in one game, thanks to C.'s fuckup with the electronic dartboard, I was accidentally awarded 40 free points, which means that my defeat in that particular game was spectacularly humiliating. In my defense, all I can say is: D. wears hoodies and enjoys baking. So I've got that going on.

D. and I also noticed that day a rather irritating TV ad that kept cropping up. In fact, you see it all the time. It is an ad for Chevy trucks, and it features Mr. John Mellencamp (nee Cougar) playing one of his signature bland roots-rock songs, this time called "Our Country," while showing footage of, well, America. I guess. Mr. Mellencamp seems like a decent enough fellow, I suppose, though I still think he has to answer for John Cafferty. That, or he should really stick to licking Bruce Springsteen's shoes to a high shine.

The ad images that Chevy uses for the "My Country" spot are puzzling at best. "FROM THE EAST COAST!" John bellows, and you see a craggy hand picking up a doomed, delicious lobster headed for a barbecue. "TO THE WEST COAST!" he screams, and you see . . . a violent forest fire. Really? That's what we get? It gets more confusing. "TO THE DIXIE HIGHWAY DOWN HOME!" Winding up this uninspired Guthrie-lite chorus really moves the editors to baffling new heights, because all of a sudden you're seeing images from the aftermath of Katrina intercut with mighty Chevy trucks power-braking on dirt roads. "THIS IS OUR COUNTRY!" he concludes.

America: Delicious seafood; frequently catches on fire; rampant drownings; enjoys trucks.

The other spot that's really added to my bruxism habit is for some fucking shampoo and/or conditioner called Sunsilk. The ad features bullshit footage of women with alarmingly shitty hair being critiqued via voiceover by some insultingly fake flaming queen, who says things like "Fluff up all you want, but that hair is flatter than a training bra!"

Sigh. Look, I'm delighted that more and more, gay culture is becoming more accepted and prominent in American culture, whether it be via the astonishingly legless "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" or the underground success of "Grizzly Man," an unflinching documentary about the bear scene.

But the Sunsilk ads manage to make you just depressed as hell over the whole state of things. The flamier-than-thou voiceover work is grating and insulting, and at the same time serves to make sure to ram home the salient point: without Sunsilk products, you will not only look like trashy whores, but you will be put on television and derided by millions of anonymous screamy queens. By the time the ad has finished showing you these pitiful excuses for women--why don't they even care about their hair? What harridans!--and milked the fake-gay crap for all it's worth--"THUN-THILK!"--all you're left with is this gut-dropping feeling that any progress made in the last twenty years or so has all been for naught.

I know, that sounds like I'm overreaching, and maybe I am, but this particular ad just fucking infuriates me. It perpetuates the idea that women are lame or deficient or dumb if they don't show a less-than-perfect public face; it utilizes a boring stereotype of queeny gay males and their supposed (and bizarrely insensible) obsession with females; and, for Christ's sake, it's fucking shampoo. It's the same damned sulfates that are in every shampoo.

Now I have this dream of driving a Chevy truck into a big vat of Sunsilk, perhaps with John Mellencamp tied up in the passenger's seat. As I claw my way out of the greasy mess, I'll look back on poor John, struggling in his bonds as the goo rises above the red bandana I've gagged him with. "MMMF! MMMF!" I sympathize, Mellencamp. But you must be drowned for your crimes. Also, your split ends are horrendous, and anyway, the sibilant voices with prominent lateral leakage tell me I'm in the right.

THUN-THILK! I will make sure your corpse gets Hairapy.

Monday, 16 October
'Tis The Season To Prejudge Movies

It's that time of year again! Summer has come and gone, and with it goes all of the big summer movies! It's fall! It's fall! It's time to ROLL OUT THE HORSESHIT!

God, I get all tingly. Let's prejudge some movies!

Saw III

As everyone knows, the first Saw was made for twenty-five cents by a couple of dreary perverts who listened to one too many Rob Zombie songs and then went on to make equivalent of the GDP of Chad, and all of this despite a risible performance by Cary Elwes, who appeared at times a little too eager to chop off his own foot. Maybe he wanted a fair shot at the director. God knows I'd need to be chained down if someone handed me that script.

But for all that, the wife and I kind of liked the gummy, dumb atmosphere of that first one. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was garbage--heavily machined, clumsily shot, Danny Glover's spinal block--but earnest, infectiously gleeful garbage all the same.

Then came Saw II, a thoroughly repellent and nauseating affair that carried the Mephitic stink of cashing in. Cut from the same dreary cloth as Eli Roth's nauseating torture porn film Hostel, Son of Saw featured touching scenes like the one where a girl is thrust into a well full of hypodermic needles, where she thrashes wildly, provoking heart-rending sympathy from the viewer, who feels exactly the same way.

So, what's in store for Saw III? Here's a tidbit from IMDB:

Trivia: According to 'Darren Bousman' , the fans of the "House of Jigsaw" Message board heavily influenced this film.

This is excellent news and should cause fans to take heart. People who hang out on internet message boards are the only people worth listening to these days. I think we can all agree on that. Thumbs up, producers! I can't wait for the scene where the vampire Democrats come on Paris Hilton's hair.

Flags of Our Fathers

Well, my father is Estonian. I look forward to loving shots of that proud Baltic banner waving in a chill wind.

Sigh. Look, I admire our veterans as much as the next guy, but after being anointed as The Greatest Generation and all the rest, can we give it a fucking rest? Clint Eastwood trades in his burnish-cam for gritty-cam in this story, I guess, about one of history's favorite staged photos. It all kind of bums me out, since I really liked Unforgiven. Then came the execrably titled Million Dollar Baby and its Hillary Swank stick-armity, and now this fucking pile of shit.

You heard it here first! Fucking pile of shit. I have no intention of seeing this movie any more than you have any plans to go see whatever that laughable thing called The Marine is that's being limply flogged these days.

I turn again to IMDB to provide damning evidence of this film's badness, and IMDB always comes through:

1. Jared Leto turned down a key role in order to commit his time to his band, 30 Seconds to Mars.

Read that a few times to yourself in a dark room late at night. That one sentence is ten times more terrifying than Saw III could ever hope to be.

2. Writing Credits: Paul Haggis

Yes, the same guy who wrote last year's Oscar winner, the widely loathed Crash. Oh boy!

3. Ryan Phillippe .... John "Doc" Bradley

Hold me.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Oh my God.

Look, this isn't even fair. Are there parents who are really so pliant, so completely fucking desperate to shut their awful children up that they will willingly succumb to nightmares like this? There must be, because there's three of them now.

This . . . object . . . features two of planet Earth's most offensive personalities, Tim Allen and Martin Short, and then for further abuse, throws in the once-blazing-hot Ann Margaret, apparently just for the pure sadism of it all. The writers probably have her breaking her hip or eating a pile of reindeer testicles or something. Meanwhile, I'm sure Tim Allen can be found gruffing it up while making fart jokes and then we can cut over to Martin "Will Mince For Screen Time" Short licking a dog's ass. Hey, it's a holiday movie!

Note that IMDB lists Kevin Pollak and Judge Reinhold in the cast. You have to kind of feel bad for Kevin Pollak. You kind of have to judge Reinhold.

Pffft. Saw III? Give me a break. We've found this season's true horror movie. Torture doesn't come any purer than this.

Monday, 02 October
That Was The Weekend That Was

It was another chilling weekend at Chez Pfaff! Oh, how the icicles pierced our hearts! We visited a thoracic surgeon! "There's nothing wrong with your hearts," he declared flatly. Fuck you, surgeon.

It didn't start that chillingly. On Friday we were at the video store staring at the dismal, picked-over "Recent Arrivals" section, glumly noting that the only thing left to rent was some limp horror thing called, imaginatively, Stay Alive. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming sequel Why Don't People Listen? and then the capper of the trilogy, I Don't Know Why We Even Bother To Tell People To Stay Alive, Since These Dipshits Always Die. Naturally, we leaped to rent it.

But we needed a first act, something to watch while we were still lucid. I glared at a shiny DVD cover advertising Dorf on Euthanasia and suppressed a shudder. We wandered over to a section called "Controversial Classics," and looked over titles like Crash and Caligula and, troublingly, Dorf on Fisting.

In the end, the wife and I decided on Midnight Cowboy, a film neither of us had ever seen. All I knew about it was that it had won best picture, the only picture to do so when saddled with an X rating. "All riiiight!" I thought. "Bring on the fuckin'!" I was inwardly pleased that the wife agreed so easily to bring home a critically acclaimed spank movie.

What a rip! Midnight Cowboy features no sex at all! Unless you count the spectacle of Jon Voight getting blown in a theater by no less a personage such as Bob Balaban, and really? I don't count that as sex. I count that as cinematic ambush. "Hey, weird! I think that's Bob Balaban! Boy, he's young! Say, what's he doing? He's . . . he's . . . oh, NO, PLEASE STOP THAT, BOB BALABAN!"

All kidding aside, the wife and I were both utterly charmed by this movie, which is frankly touching as hell. The X rating, incidentally, was later rescinded by the still-idiotic MPAA to an R once cooler heads prevailed (the X was stamped on the film evidently only because the main character was a gay hustler), and the questions the film mainly raises today are: What happened to Jon Voight in the lonely years after this film? Did he eat himself? And: Should we reinstate the X rating after all these years because of the scene with Bob Balaban?

This fine film--which is, I stress, awesome in practically every way, including its reluctance to SPELL OUT EVERY FUCKING THING FOR Y'ALL--also of course has Mr. Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo, in a lauded performance which I frankly found pretty showy in a really Hoffmanesque manner that would later re-manifest itself in things like Rain Man, but I could handle it. Hoffman anyway has since attained the kind of silver-haired eminence that allows he and his ilk (Bobby DeNiro) to act in skin-peeling horrors like Meet the Fockers without the opprobrium that he would otherwise so deservedly receive.

The less said about Stay Alive the better, so naturally, I will speak more about this acid bath of a movie. Starring a bunch of anonymous young long pig marching ever onward to slaughter, this movie manages to deal with the following issues currently confronting society: Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous Czech slaughter queen, who inexplicably, in this movie, at some point moved to a black obelisk in Louisiana, and her taste for the blood of virgins; LAN parties; Bathory's subsequent insertion of her digital self into a bootleg video game, and also real life; the nature of the ultimate betrayal of the "Pause" function in certain un-beta-tested video games; and Frankie Muniz, America's least attractive child-cum-teenage actor, whose unsuccessful deployment of a visor rivals only Brian Austin Green's efforts in his post-90210 appearances. Muniz, who at all times resembles a small, worrisomely wrinkled mammal, does succeed in stirring minute amounts of sympathy in the audience, at least until everyone remembers that he was central to the nightmarish success of the unwatchable Malcolm in the Middle, and then everyone screams for blood.

But it was Sunday that really ruined things. For you see, my Seahawks unwisely entered Chicago, and were summarily steamrolled by the fucking Bears, who have obviously, after many years in the desert, sold their souls for an offense. The Seahawks were summarily blown completely off the field in a humiliating rout, and several Bears players were seen to have been reverently clutching squirrel heads as they gave thanks to Baal. For our part, several Seahawks simply abandoned the field after falling to 100,000-6 in the second quarter, and several cameras caught franchise stalwart Walter Jones wander to the sidelines to sell ties to any comers. "GETCHER TIES HERE!" screamed Jones, as he watched Matt Hasselbeck's spine collapse under a murderous hail of cheesesteaks.

While the Seahawks offense stuttered and made "No mas!" gestures, its vaunted defense was seen to take an urgent telemarketing call in some other stadium, and the massacre was on. Walter Jones continued to ply his trade on the sidelines: "TIES! These are really good ties." At halftime, Brian Urlacher was seen to approach the table.

"What are these made of?" inquired the All Star.

"Our dignity," replied Jones.

"I'll take three," said Urlacher.

Wednesday, 27 September
Project Cynicism

If you don't watch the Bravo show Project Runway, you can stop reading now. On the other hand, if you have Bravo, and have ever watched it for more than ten minutes, then it is highly likely that you have seen Project Runway!

(Incidentally, I will be revealing some stuff about the latest episode, so if you're all wiggy about that, you should probably go away.)

We had a couple friends over tonight to watch the latest episode of this show, another "reality" show that features young, talented fashion designers who compete to be top designers while weekly enduring torrents of scorn and abuse and invective from a panel of fashion mavens like Heidi Klum and Michael Kors. Having nothing but scorn for most of the ridiculous fashion industry in the first place, this turns out to be kind of fun, as is mouthing off about these poor designers, like I do to my wife, when I manifestly 1. already admitted that I hold this shit in low esteem in the first place, and 2. what the fuck do I know about fashion anyway? It was the wife who turned me on to this show in the first place, as she really likes her some fashion. It's all sort of tiring, really, so I don't think about it too much, and content myself at hooting things at the screen like, when the wife jokingly said, "So when is Tim Gunn going to come out of the closet?" Replied me: "I think the closet just sort of collapsed all around him. He just stood there blinking one day with the remains of a closet lying at his feet."

Project Runway is an oddity of sorts in the reality TV world in that it is highly subjective. Not like The Amazing Race, where it's pretty cut-and-dried: who came in last? OUT! Or even the dreary Survivor: got the most votes? OUT! No, each week of Project Runway has the celebrity panel simply bouncing whoever fucked it most that week, or sort of, or not really at all, quite frequently, since the panelists routinely contradict themselves, sometimes within seconds. Like, say: "Uli, we've seen this same dress from you before. We'd like to see you stretch." Moments later: "Jeffrey, this design is really you. It's what you're good at. We loved it." And then you get to see poor Uli wilting while Jeffrey flares the gill flaps on his neck.

The other thing one has to remember about Project Runway is the heavy (and largely unapologetic) mediation from the producers. This show really makes no bones about the fact that they keep people around purely because they're entertaining, or beloved, or deranged. Hence the ridiculously cruel longevity of hopeless contestants, such as Vincent, a harmlessly unhinged B-talent with a penchant for erupting into sustained gouts of baffling nonsense; and the heartbreakingly sweet and heartbreakingly doomed Kayne, who spent every single runway session nodding his head ruefully, grimly acknowledging the panelists' heaping invective upon his heartbreakingly clownish designs. These guys hung on late into the game while the incomparably adorable Alison was sent packing earlier on, prompting the kind of outraged screams from fans of the show that TV producers probably record on their TiVo and fall asleep to at night.

In other words, the whole affair is a tremendous pile of complete horseshit, which probably explains why I enjoy it so.

The big deal tonight was that they were to winnow the final four designers down to the final three who would then all go compete for the big fuckin' prize. The challenge was: design a garment that most essentially defines "who you are." As an added third-grade touch, the designers were to come up with three words that described their point of view. MESSAGE: "We think you are so hilariously shallow that you can be summed up in three words." SECONDARY MESSAGE: "It's going to be so hypocritically awesome when we crucify you for your designs in which we claim that you don't know you better than we do." TERTIARY MESSAGE: "We've never given a shit about anything you think or claim to think; in all honesty, we ran out of ideas, so this is what we pulled out of our asses."

Honestly, this was really stupid. What designer (or artist) ever thinks, "Hmmm. I'm going to approach this project as someone else, using their point of view." Wouldn't every single design they attempt be representative of the individual's point of view? This is ignoring the show's long-loved convention of making ridiculous demands on the designers, like "Here's a bunch of recycled garbage! Make a dress out of this." (Really.) Anything would have been better than this weird challenge to the axiomatic. "We're going to judge how well you do, uh, doing you." How about:

"Your challenge this week is to create undergarments for your models as you imagine her in dog form."

"What we're looking for this time can be summed up in one word: bukkake."

"We want to see how you would design a cocktail dress for an actual cock. Your next challenge is to design a bouncy outfit for Tim Gunn's gray penis."

But no, we got this lame shit, this "You do you!" crap that is perfect for the judges to cross themselves up riotously with self-contradiction. Michael got creamed for his (in my opinion lovely) evening gown, with Kors declaring "He's a sports clothing designer." Note that Michael is black. Hmmmm! Laura's insipid gown was rightly derided for being more of the same, with me shouting, "Yeah, boobless!" Laura routinely features plunging necklines on these models who have absolutely no real estate. Jeffrey, he of the neck literature, featured a strange mess that was all right up top but whose bottom looked like someone who had rolled around on a tablecloth. Ultimately the "winner" of the challenge was the much-maligned Uli, who spent all season being ragged on for serving up one flowy print dress after another, and this time came up with . . . a print dress that wasn't flowy for a change. Great. This is sort of like Disneyland announcing a bold new direction by declaring that they're closing down Space Mountain for a while. It's the same dress as ever! I just cut the bottom off of it.

Anyway, here's the big moment! Who is going home? OUR TWiST ANSWER? Nobody. Michael and Jeffrey are the two in peril, but there's no peril, because, as Ms. Klum says, "We have faith in you. You're all going." There's no final three! It's a final four!

And this, really, sums up reality programming. It sure as shit is programmed, from this show's cynical production-team heavy hand to its fairly standard requisite amounts of product placement. But what it really knocks out of the park is the reality. The TV part is practically secondary, except for the potency of the method of dissemination.

Here we have a show that purports to be meritocratic, even-handed and thematically coherent; it is none of these. This is also how we like to imagine (or how we cope with) life itself. Here is a show which is cynical and hypocritical and capricious and cruel. This is a program that portrays itself--its panelists and its contestants--as civilization itself, a dynamic between the you that puts yourself into the world of others by saying this and the they that either welcome you or crushes you with the inevitable that. What it never talks about is how arbitrary the whole process is. This is a show that almost exactly mirrors real life: one person is elevated to the pinnacles of success; many others are relegated to shit jobs, shit lives, shoveling shit. And the arbiters are the people we revere and also the people we hate, and they never, ever have to even make sense.

And when these unfortunates get shown the gate, bounced, sent off, they all say the same thing: "Thank you." This after weeks of routine humiliation and nonsensical punishment. ("We're bitterly disappointed in you for failing to live up to the theme of 'The History of Aluminum' after we generously gave you twelve hours to complete the garment using nothing but lichen. Get lost." "Thank you.")

Maybe this is the realest show out there.

Monday, 25 September
Video Killed The Nearly Everything

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself staring at the TV with nothing, nothing on. Nothing at all. I mean, yes, I know, TV is a vast wasteland, blah blah blah, but this was serious.

There were like nine college football games on. I fucking hate college football. (Why? I don't know. Well, I did go to college, and I did meet football players, and they were all fucking assholes. But then that begs the question as to why I like the NFL, since it stands to reason that those guys are even bigger assholes, and then I start to get kind of queasy with the self-examination, and then I do something silly like read a book, and we don't want that.) I mean, there wasn't shit on at all.

That's when I hit--up in the early 200s of my digital cable package--VH1 Classic. It already sounded gruesomely fantastic. VH1? Horrible! VH1 Classic? THRILLINGLY HORRIBLE! It was like stumbling across the Urethra Scraping Channel. What would they serve up?

Classic '80s videos. Yay! Cannibalizing 20-year-old pop culture artifacts as some form of manufactured nostalgia for demographic has-beens just like me! Since I'm past 35 now, it's easy to understand why my targeted programming showed up in the 200s on the channel listings.

What still isn't easy to understand is . . . well, the 80s. Music videos were of course still in nascent form--it says something about a quasi-artistic genre when early iconoclasts of the medium include such dubious entries as Duran Duran and A-Ha. About as respectable as it ever got was with Peter Gabriel, a guy who used to dress up as a flower or a pyramid onstage.

I list here a few of the spectacles I witnessed in that happy hour of reliving Night Flight.

Party All the Time

Widely acknowledged as one of the worst singles ever produced in this troubling decade, this shriekingly horrible joke of a song barely rises above ad jingle musicianship, and is, also universally agreed, simply another ugly wing to the gaudy mansion that is Eddie Murphy's phenomenal ego. How fitting, then, that the video is simply a laughably false "document" of his recording this auditory debacle, showing Eddie entering the studio to record the song, along with a couple dozen of his very closest sycophants, toadies and ostensible fluffers.

Oh, when Eddie sings! The camera cuts to his crew head-bobbing unconvincingly, his boob girls gyrating unenthusiastically, his in-studio session musicians flashing frozen smiles as Eddie wails about yet another bitch who treats him poorly, opting instead to party all the time. That nasty cunt! She parties all the time! But it's producer and collaborator Rick James--himself a noted paragon of How To Treat Women--who cannot help himself, and towards the end of the video, he manufactures a truly cringe-inducing double-fisted orgasmic shudder over the incredibly funky groove that Murphy is exuding and races into the studio to join him, and wastes no time agreeing with Murphy: "She parties AAAALLLL THE TIIIIIME!" Thanks, Rick! Until you joined in, I had missed this song's message.

Walk of Life

After the unintentionally hilarious horror of the Eddie Murphy video, I was suddenly presented with this drab offering from Dire Straits, a band which, if there was ever a band who should not show its members on video, was surely it. Taking the laziest possible route, Dire Straits simply did a "Hey, film us at sound check" pile of crap occasionally intercut with some deeply lame footage of a busker in some pedestrian tunnel while various KOOKY actors walked by doing various versions of their own "walks of life." Some of them awkwardly did that "turn into the camera to the side and lip-synch" thing that, twenty years later, is a lot like watching terrible porn. "When you're coming on her back, turn over to camera right and say, 'Now that's accessorizing!' "

But it was still better than watching Mark Knopfler grump around onstage, hunched over like an uglier Little Steven, while they pretended to fumble through the song at what was clearly like four in the afternoon. There's a reason that rock shows and Vegas must only be experienced at night: in the light of day, they both look ugly, cheap and embarrassing.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

NOW WE'RE TALKING! Bonnie Tyler was never known for her restraint; a previous minor hit, It's A Heartache, sounded like she was drinking whiskey while hitting herself in the skull with a stained ashtray when it came out, but Eclipse sounded like a transmission from the New Gods. It's the kind of song that makes Meat Loaf think, "Hmmmm. I could take some lessons from that crazy broad."

Eclipse seems to take place in some windswept English boarding school as decorated by art fags who all now work for Target. It is, to be kind, utterly baffling. Tyler wanders the darkened halls like a Gothic banshee, tapestries blowing in the wind machines, and is so impatient to take her raspy whisper to a full-throated scream that she actually startles all of reality around her with the force of her bombast: this must be why, for no explicable reason, ballet-dancing football players appear around her, right after the troupe of ninjas. Meanwhile, every now and then, a terrifying young boy with glowing eyes appears and stares unnervingly at her. I kept waiting for Stevie Nicks to ambush her and conk her on the head with a pot of herbal tea.

"I REALLY NEED YOU TONIGHT!" she howls to the galaxy at the song's climax (though this is kind of bullshit--the song is nothing but climax, starting at around the thirty second mark), which I am convinced produces the same reaction in every single straight male that it arouses in me: the recall of that incredibly damaged ex-girlfriend that we all once dated who would call up and scream frightening things like this. (Girls have their stories about creepy, awful boyfriends. Boys have theirs about terrible, nightmarish girlfriends. The bottom line seems to be: We will fuck just about anyone.)

This might be the most upsetting music video ever committed to film.

She Bop

In Cyndi Lauper's brainspace, I assume it made perfect sense to set her perfectly catchy paean to female masturbation song's video in a futuristic dystopian burger joint. After all, Captain Lou Albano was in it (again)! What doesn't move your average teenage girl towards self-love if not Orwellian fast food and has-been professional wrestlers?

This video exemplefies the whole 80s tendency towards this emerging phenomenon, the music video, as "I stole my parents' video camera! This is going to be hilarious!" Lauper, who is not without her limited croaking charms, comes off as basically an idiot (though an enthusiastically pro-jilling-off idiot, so there you go); and the video tells a baffling story of the young burger lass bucking the system in some unspecified way and winds up in front of a judge, but by the end of the thing, she's in some Busby Berkeley thing as done by arthritic dance extras, and, oh, it's all just so painful, you end up thinking, "God, I hope she's going upstairs to masturbate."

This sort of thing should really be left to Prince. Or even Duran Duran.

Just don't let anyone see Mark Knopfler. Nobody will ever masturbate again.

Monday, 18 September
My Eyes Have Seen

I have before confessed my love for police procedurals on TV. I have very, very low standards when it comes to these shows, be it the skeletal and venerable Law & Order (in any iteration save the appalling "Criminal Intent"), or the needlessly solemn Without A Trace, or the solemnly needless Criminal Minds. I'll watch that bullshit until the sun goes out.

The CSI franchise is a peculiar strain of this old TV stalwart. The original still soldiers on capably enough--it is, of course, laughable and bad, but it is the original mold from which the others would sort of follow--with its noirish labs and stony emphasis on Science and Evidence and Clear-Eyed Rationalism and whatever. It also set the template for the detached, monklike male lead in Gil Grissom, whose asceticism is tempered by his fanatic devotion to his job and, of course, The Truth. It's not William Petersen's fault that the standard-bearers to follow interpreted his character as an excuse to give up acting entirely. In Gary Sinise, this is really sort of galling. In David Caruso . . . well, it's become really awesome.

Okay, look, when CSI: Miami debuted, I was as embarrassed as anybody to admit to watching it. It was (and certainly remains) a cynical excuse by CBS to dump another Boobs & Crime show on us, and the program has never been shy about its ridiculous trapped-in-amber cinematography or the number of women falling out of their shirts in every episode. (The original CSI, set in Vegas, naturally has a rich history of loving stripper and hooker shots.) CSI: Miami originally featured Kim Delaney when it first aired, setting her opposite her old NYPD: Blue costar David Caruso, was almost instantly written out of the show when it turned out that she and Mr. Caruso had about as much chemistry as Waylon Flowers and Madam. The show was, to sum up, a nightmarish dud, and I never told anyone that I watched it.

Not any more! HEAR ME NOW! You need to watch this amazing show.

You see, it has morphed from a disastrous, insulting failure--not to mention a criminal waste of talents like Emily Procter and Khandi Alexander--into possibly the most overwrought, over-the-top, hilariously ridiculous spectacle since . . . I don't know. The Piltdown Man? Any Cirque Du Soleil show? This show is so awesomely misguided and bizarre and campy that it could only top itself by having everyone perform in drag. And I feel bad saying that, because I have friends who are drag queens, and I don't want them to feel insulted.

Tonight was the season opener for this mind-eating show; I was giddy with anticipation. Last season had wrapped up with Caruso's character, a certain "Horatio Caine," marrying a subordinate's leukemia-afflicted sister, whose need for chemo-relieving pot made problems for said associate, but who then was shot to death (the sister) by a drug cartel member, who floridly promised Caine/Caruso, "I weel keel everywon you loave!" It's important to note that this threat was delivered alongside GREAT BIG DRAMATIC TEXT that appeared next to the actor giving the line. Why? Nobody knows.

Meanwhile! The lab has some sort of government mole inside, but more importantly, the drug cartel guy, who has murdered Caine's wife, and subordinate's sister, has been released back to Brazil, where . . . Caine's former unrequited flame lives with her husband--who is Caine's brother, who is a former ex-undercover vice cop--and his nephew! Caine still carries a visible torch for her! Despite, uh, the fact that he married improbably gorgeous Leukemia Girl Who Got Shot, So I Guess Chemo Is Out. Anyway, last season's closer ended with a tight shot on Caine saying, "You know what this means, Eric?" (Pause.) "We're going to Brazil."

Oh man.

Tonight's episode was . . . well, it was brilliant. What can you say about a show that starts out with Caine--somehow magically locating the cartel guy right when he's exiting the courthouse--and says, without a hint of acting at all, as if his young wife hadn't been shot before his eyes, "I know exactly how this will end," and then does a famous "I'm disappearing behind a passing bus" thing, while the cartel guy is blown away by this truly inspired bit of Copperfield magic. Then, two seconds later, you see Caruso at the feet of the Corcovado, kneeling in an attitude of . . . I don't know. Nothing about this show makes sense at all. Why did he go to the Corcovado? How the fuck did he get there? Why does he look like he's doing some sort of mangled deep plie, which has to be wreaking havoc on that poor old Irish groin? I suppose it's all supposed to be symbolic, like, "In this shot, we'd like to grotesquely imply that this terrible actor is doing Christ's work on behalf of the Dead Leukemia Chick Who Always Looked Positively Healthy To Us, But Whatever, Can We Go To The Beach Shots Now?"

It's sort of impossible to get into this with any level of comprehensibility. Later, Caine finds his brother, savagely beaten and strung up like a ham by the cartel guy. Caine cuts him down, and of course he dies right in front of Caine's eyes. (Just so we're up to speed, that makes his wife and brother killed by this guy, not to mention that Cancer Wife was also subordinate's sister.) Caruso removes his sunglasses long enough to say, pointlessly, "I love you," to the dead brother, and despite my desperate mental pleading, the corpse refused to fulfill my every wish to spring back to life to gasp "I LOVE YOU TOO, MAN!" before clomping back down on the floor. I was kind of surprise that they resisted.

Later, after ABSOLUTELY NO EXPLANATION AT ALL, brother of Leukemia Lass finds himself on a gorgeously scenic helipad (!) with cartel guy, and is facing him down barehanded as his nemesis unpockets two switchblades. HUH? This scene is dropped down out of the sky without any explanation whatsoever. How did he find the guy? How did he get there? Why doesn't he have his gun? You know, the one that CSIs regularly are not issued? Why were crime scene investigators sent down here in the first place? Oh, never mind.

Grief-stricken brother does heroic knife battle with cartel guy, and of course, he is awesome. He disarms him of one weapon, and things look relatively evenly-matched until . . . Hey, what the fuck, here's Caine, also on the helipad! It's way the fuck up on a mountain, and there wasn't any explanation for anything else, so maybe he borrowed a Zeta Beam from Adam Strange or something, but anyway, then Caine gets involved in the knife fight, and it's some really sort of bizarre Mexican Standoff, but with knives, and with nonacting, and it's such a big surprise that Caine is also an awesome knife-fighter, and so he guts the cartel guy and then they just leave the guy's corpse to rot on the helipad.

WHAT?

Having betrayed everything they usually profess to believe in, the dedicated CSIs then head back to the states and complete the episode's secondary who-gives-a-fuck storyline, and we're reliably back in the series' usual state of shambling irrelevance, and it's sort of shocking, mainly because we're back again to a lousy storyline relegated to some unlucky actors who can, well, act. One expects Caruso to gut them all unconvincingly with a switchblade.

You should all be watching this show. It's the most amazing thing you'll ever see, unless, I don't know, you film guys blowing loads on crocodiles or something.

Shit. I hope I didn't just telegraph next week's episode.

Postscript: Look, am I going crazy? Is Apple really trying to sell computers based on the idea that tripping over their power cords is A-OK and probably won't kill you? As opposed to those death-dealing, data-destroying PCs, with their CORDS OF DOOM? That's swell. I can't wait for Apple's next Mac pitch, where they explain that most homosexuals own PCs, and you don't want that, right? This is such a shitty ad campaign.

Monday, 21 August
A Wink And A Smile

From child to man I have grown, and he has always been there. He has, in a way, been there from nearly the beginning, and it stills me to think that he might be with me towards the end. He is eternal; he is good; he abides; and I will always revere him.

You must know that I am speaking of Wink Martindale.

As a child, I must confess: I really liked game shows. Though I eventually outgrew such fripperies, growing up, I was charmed by any and all game shows, from the sublime (Joker's Wild) to the banal (Sale of the Century) to the incomprehensibly deranged (Let's Make A Deal). And there, early on, was the ageless Wink (born Winston Conrad Martindale in 1934), hosting a tepid little nothing called "Tic Tac Dough," a suck-o cousin of the gruesome "Hollywood Squares" where contestants answered trivia questions while playing the most boring game ever invented outside of the card game War. But I watched it, all the time. What was it about Wink? Was it his unswerving professionalism? His irremovable high-wattage grin? His . . . brown suit? No, I think I first fell in love with Wink Martindale one evening when my father referred to him as "Stink Fartindale," which was at the time, the funniest fucking thing I'd ever heard. For months, I would see him, and I would instantly think, Stink Fartindale! and then dissolve into helpless giggles. This would be, it should be obvious, the beginning of my interest in sophisticated comedy.

(To further illustrate my immersion in classic comedy from early on, my father scored another palpable hit one night while we were watching the hopeless show "That's Incredible!", featuring a thrillingly dismal trio of wildly mismatched hosts: the vaguely vampiric John Davidson, the hellishly perky nonperson Cathy Lee Crosby, and, most inexplicably, the unbelievably homely Minnesota Viking QB Fran Tarkenton. My father referred to these ghastly humans as, respectively, "White Bread, Hagged-Out and Potato Nose.")

(It also occurs to me that an entire entry could be composed in this space devoted to nothing but "That's Incredible!" but I just don't have it in me.)

After the demise of the miserable Tic Tac Dough, I was later delighted to find Wink taking over the show High Rollers, replacing Alex Trebek. Wink hadn't changed one bit. He still grinned like a seasoned pro, and he wasn't starting to go gray like that show-your-age puss-bag Trebek. Fuck no! He was all man, all game show host man. I felt, at the time, that Wink had rejoined my life, and would serve as a kind of life-guide. Wink was telling me: "I will never leave you." It also delighted me that Wink had moved from one awful, dull game show that relied on hoary gameplay--tic tac toe plus weak trivia--with another, only worse. High Rollers married weak trivia with dice rolling. There is an excellent reason why televised craps has never found an audience, and this show was far, far removed from craps. This show was simply crap.

But I watched! How could I not watch my life guide Wink? Wink was so devoted to me that he took this terrible job on this insulting game show! He was watching out for me. Not like that creepy fucking tool Dick Clark and his countless Illuminati-backed Pyramid shows. Did Wink do any fucking shows with obvious Masonic plants like Nipsey Russell or Michael Gross? I don't think so. He may be boring and kind of "Man in the Gray Flannel Suit"-ey, but at least his terribly tedious game shows are apple-pie American. As long as there are pork chops and electrical storm-related power outages in this country, there will always be citizens listlessly tossing dice, unhappily playing tic tac toe.

Wink is turning 72 this year, and he's still not letting me down. He's not on a game show any more (as far as I know), but he could be: he still looks exactly the same as when I first saw him back in the seventies. These days, he's doing ads for the lousy travel search engine Orbitz--but he's playing a game show host! So that's okay.

Well, it's mostly okay. He's got this recent spot out that kind of makes me think that he's unsteady on the beam. In the most recent piece, it's a pretty lame sell: Orbitz is pushing $200 discounts for travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. Whatever. Good old Stink is paired up with a racky brunette, which is nice, but at the end of the ad, something very alarming happens: Wink, still in his omnipresent suit, taglines to the camera, "And always remember to use protection!" The racky girl applies suntan lotion to her lovely frame, and then Wink, who has apparently become unhinged, applies the same to the arm of his suitcoat, rendering the sleeve a lovely cumshot sheen of white.

WHO WANTS TO TRAVEL?

But really, that's not the most damaging aspect of the ghastly scene. What's really crushing is hearing Wink talk in any way about "using protection." Now . . . look. Does Orbitz really want its potential customers to be in the frame of mind, when contemplating travel arrangements, to be thinking of a Methuselian game show host elliptically referring to rubbers? In the words of I. I. Rabi, who ordered that?

In the end, though, I forgive Wink everything. I want him to be with me forever. And I'm certain that he will be.

Monday, 07 August
The Incredible Dourness Of Prejudging Movies

Ah! It's August! We're nearing the end of summer, and therefore we're entering another gorgeous Hollywood time where the studios roll out all of the appalling detritus that was deemed unworthy of an actual summer release. It's a glorious time to be alive, particularly if you assiduously avoid movie theaters. Let's see what's coming up, and slag things accordingly!

Pulse

I have made it clear that I love IMDB wholeheartedly for so many reasons. One of the reasons is leering at cast lists for things like sure-to-be-disappointing J-horror movies. Pulse does not disappoint. Why do you not post a photo to IMDB, Tate Hanyok! If I had ovaries, I'd be clamoring for your essence, Ian Somerhalder! Please do not eat my face, Joseph Gatt!

(Mr. Gatt, whose credited role is that of "Uber Phantom," also has a delightful bio entry on IMDB, and the first sentence reads: "When Joseph discovered he was color blind at the age of 14, he realized that he would never be able to fulfill a lifelong ambition to be a pilot and fly fast jets." I was kind of a chickenshit kid, and only dared dream of paralyzingly slow jets, the kind that wait for baby ducks to cross.)

As with a lot of these movies, I fully plan on seeing it on cable someday. In fact, I might already have seen it! I think it was called White Noise. Maybe Joseph Gatt ate Michael Keaton's face! In fact . . . fuck all this! Can we have a two-hour movie with nothing but Joseph Gatt eating Michael Keaton's face? I'd watch that! Who wouldn't! It's the perfect horror movie. Or comedy. Or the feel-good feature of the year!

Say it with me! Joseph Gatt Eats Michael Keaton's Face! It's the Snakes on a Plane for 2008!

Speaking of which . . .

Snakes on a Plane

Yes, yes, the internet phenomenon that single-handedly catapulted a one-liner of a title into the Next Big Thing; a little help from willing caricature Samuel Jackson didn't hurt, and neither did his sudden enthusiasm for Shatneresque self-parody. Honestly. Does anyone really believe that this movie can possibly live up to the ridiculous heights of badness-slash-goodness that it promises? NOW WITH 25% MORE MOTHERFUCKERDOM! Jeez, Sam, really? You're not without talent, but is this where you wanted to go?

Look, I don't mind amusing internet memes or anything, but all I'm saying is, look what You're The Man Now, Dog metastasized into. This is going to be the movie analogue of YTMND. However, I fully expect that the incredibly fireproof Mr. Jackson--whose resume includes such excruciating feculence as S.W.A.T. and the Shaft remake--will come out utterly unscathed. Motherfucker.™

And speaking of trade . . .

World Trade Center

The career of Nick Cage is really puzzling. I first remember him lurking around the peripheries of Fast Times at Ridgmont High, where he apparently lost out the Spicoli role to Sean Penn, back before Penn had his sense of humor surgically removed. Here's some of Cage's more recent screen gems, some of which were allegedly seen by people somewhere, perhaps in the Kalahari:

The Weather Man (2005)
Lord of War (2005)
National Treasure (2004)
Matchstick Men (2003)

Hmmm. (National Treasure 2 is in the works, by the way, for everyone who breathlessly awaits more footage of Cage walking on rickety stairs. So is Ghost Rider, for comic book fans, and also people like me who would like to see Nick Cage's face on fire.)

So now we're faced with World Trade Center, Oliver Stone's plonking, minor-key tribute to heroic moustaches, as played by Nick Cage, looking for all the world like some guy who missed the cut for a Tom's of Finland poster.

Look, I'm not insensitive to the topic or its aims, but Nick Cage? And the gentle ministrations of legendary crank Oliver Stone? I can't wait for the soaring soundtrack featuring a soulful Blink 182 acoustic cover of "For What It's Worth." Frankly--and yeah, I haven't seen anything but the damn ads, so whatever, BUT--fuck this movie. I don't want to see it.

It doesn't even matter what I say, of course. It's going to get its ass handed to it by Talladega Nights. Make of that what you will. Oliver Stone and Will Ferrell.

Swell.

Wednesday, 19 July
Ads Have Started Something In My Soul

I ask you all again: since man discovered the joys of being able to sell stuff for other stuff--oh, let's say money--we have had advertising. So WHY, WHY are our advertisers still so terrible at it?

There are exceptions, of course, but not unexpectedly, the exceptions are 1. unusual and 2. have a lousy shelf life. For an example, try walking up to a group of friends some time and greet them with a hearty "WHASSSSSUP?" And now you're being hit with tire irons, if you're lucky!

The liquor industry has once again reclaimed the airwaves after a long hiatus, and while there are some interesting efforts, born (I assume) from a long absence, most of these spots are ridiculously horrible. Morgan's Rum tries to cash in on its strange, calisthenic Pirate mascot, and Southern Comfort seems to be lamely trying to self-start a meme involving the term "SoCo." Go ahead! Order a "SoCo" or a "SoCo and lime" at your local bar! Watch as the bartender stares at you with naked horror. You are communicating many things by doing this: 1. You watch too much TV. 2. You actually listen to your TV. 3. You enjoy undrinkable brine such as Southern Comfort.

We don't have to get into the deeply alarming ads for Disaronno again, but suffice it to say that it has resulted in a massive exodus of females from bars ever since. Disaronno, once regarded as a fey liqueur for Yale cricket teams, is now known as the only drink out there for self-immolating chicks who enjoy waking up with simian bartenders.

Who thought these ads were a good idea? It doesn't even get much better on the malt liquor front, but perhaps that's not too surprising. Corona at least is intermittently clever and playful with its minimalistic ads, while the penniless-seeming Mike's Hard Lemonade commercials appear to be generated by people who got bounced from the Gong Show. J.P. Morgan says: "When I'm out of cough syrup, I almost always drink Mike's Hard Juice!" CUT! Honest, what do you say about an ad campaign that features an intern who holds up an empty bottle to the camera? "Mike's Hard Lemonade: The Beverage That We Can't Even Bear To Show On Film."

The sum of it all is, I don't get how advertisers, or the corporations who employ them to make these embarrassing spots, are so fucking terrible at it after all these years. Car ads are another good example. Car ads are routinely dull and humiliating and completely uninspiring. Car companies, when they feel they've siezed on some sort of memorable tagline, tend to keep it in their teeth, like a hungry leopard might gnaw on last week's gazelle. Think of things like Mazda's calcified "Zoom Zoom" campaign--oh, that adorable African child chorus! They'll only have to work for nine hundred years to afford your cars!--or Dodge's superannuated "Ram Tough" bits, which these days only makes me think of the Saint Louis Rams, which is perhaps not the ultimate example of "toughness." Earlier tonight, thinking about these things, I realized that I really missed those old 80s Infiniti ads where white-gowned divas prowled in marble hallways wailing about . . . I don't know . . . moss? Let's say moss. "Buy Infiniti cars! Or fuck off. We don't care."

There is a new car ad that frankly freaks me the fuck out. I can hardly bear to watch it, because it's even stupider than those old Infiniti ads. It's for Ford.

There's this guy in a suit; he has salt-and-pepper hair, and he is trapped in some strange circular neon-lit stage that seems to double as a star chamber, or perhaps Arkham Asylum's Neon Cabaret. I don't know: for all I know, he's dancing insied a digital watch. He's singing. I'd like to say I've written down all the lyrics, but I can't be bothered, but it's something like:

I know what I want!
I get what I need!
I snargle glampers
Mortimer Sneed!

Then he screams into the camera, "POSSIBILITIES!" He looks sort of like Adam Arkin, which somehow adds to the horror of it all. Then, of course, there's many cuts to a bunch of fucking cars driving around. Hey! You can drive cars! Good to know.

But it's really the trapped singer that makes this ad so nightmarish. For one thing, GET OUT OF MY FACE! The guy attacks the camera as if it owes him money. For another thing, where the fuck is the audience? Nowhere. This poor fool is trapped in some sterile orbital station and forced into lunging it out for nobody at all, which probably explains why he's so desperately trying to Arkin all over the poor cameraman.

"POSSIBILITIES!" he shrieks again to the bad music, and then his arms fall off. He's still in the empty digital watch, and I want to cry. Never in my life have I wanted to not buy anything so much as right now.

Fuck all this. The world has become confusing. Bartender? Give me a SoCo and lime.

Monday, 10 July
I Just Died In My Eyes Last Night

Ah, a long weekend of doing nothing. Well, that's not strictly true--we tried to do nothing, but we were helpless to passively do a series of little somethings. One of those was listening to the fevered screams of the people at the Summit Avenue Tavern who were watching the World Cup. SCREEEEEEEAAAM! I would flip over to ESPN to see guys running around like murder suspects. Then I would remember that I don't care and flip back to a baseball game. "Was that Italy or France?" asked the wife. "I don't care," I replied. "Why did you go look?" she asked. "I'm a fucking tool," I said. The wife then returned to her book, quietly happy that there were still a couple sports I don't give a damn about. I secretly noted, however, that the World Cup was, even in that moment of not-caringness, still infinitely more interesting to me than the NBA has ever been.

Other little somethings included maintaining our simmering resentment of the pool people as they marched past our glass sliding door. I was cheered, however, when our upstairs neighbor, an elderly Middle European widow, stalked downstairs to chastise the pool rats to stop slamming the metal gate all the fucking time. "Can't you shut eet qvietly?" she demanded. "Qvietly!" I kind of hoped that she'd start throwing ice cubes at the Trust Funds, like she did when our pool had visiting ducks, but no luck.

What else? Oh, of course! We watched movies. Terrible movies, for the most part, which my wife actually picked out herself, for she knows how much I enjoy rotten action movies. She also tempered the pain by actually renting one decent movie, but she was still really hitting for average pretty well. Here they are! Spoilers, blah blah blah. You know the drill. Again, I say, if you're actually watching these fucking things, there's nothing to spoil. It's like complaining that someone really ruined your future expectations by explaining that someday you're going to die. In fact, two of these movies really will make you want to die, and really? It's sort of unexpected that you don't!

Millions

This was a nice movie! It is genuinely charming, which in itself is surprising, given the large Charm Deficit that movieworld has been experiencing over the past ever. In this sorta-kid film, Danny Boyle moves from his last completely brilliant idea--"What if zombies were really fast?"--to another one: "What if we remade A Simple Plan, but instead of Bill Paxton, we use an adorable Scottish kid? And instead of Bridget Fonda, we use another great Scottish kid as the big brother?" It's a lovely film, and I'm not saying that just because of its chief virtue, which is the absence of Bridget Fonda.

Great line: "The French have said au revoir to the franc, the Germans have said auf wiedersehen to the mark, and the Portuguese have said... whatever to their thing."

Ultraviolet

This stylish action flick stars our new reigning nearly-straight-to-video queen Milla Jovovich! And her midriff! Mostly her midriff. It also stars Nick Chinlund as "Vicecardinum Ferdinand Daxus," but to me he is forever Donnie Faster from "The X-Files." For some reason, he wears mesh nose plugs throughout the entire movie, which, speaking as an actor, has to kind of cramp your style. "Do I have to wear these?" "Yes." "Am I a diving champion?" "Maybe!" "Sigh."

It also has William Fichtner, who is a terrific character actor (oh, look him up, you'll know who he is immediately), and who looks vaguely embarrassed, but not too embarrassed to pick up his check. It also has Digger Mesch! Whose name is Digger! Good enough for me!

Anyway, Ultraviolet is, weirdly enough, a future-dystopia thing where Milla and certain others are just trying to cope . . . as vampires--no, wait, "hemophages"--just trying to make their way in a society that for some reason don't like them much, and would like to exterminate them. Stupid humans! Always hassling the vampires! And so she must battle against the MAN--or rather, thousands of men--all of whom seem to have been luckless enough to draw the world's most incompetent armorer, for these soldiers all seem to be wearing battle suits made of highly shatterable plastic. All the grand battle scenes looked like Milla was taking out a highly mobile squad of snow globes.

Ultraviolet is, of course, bad and stupid, but it really commits the ultimate sin of any action movie: it saddles its heroine with that most pace-killing of all MacGuffins, the Kid Who Must Be Protected. So here's the Gumblety-Fifth iteration of MUST KICK ASS WHILE PROTECTING CHILD against the PVC army, and it all rests on Milla Jovovich's shoulders. And midriff. And carefully applied saline drops that allow her to dump copious tears all over her wet little charge, who is really too young to appreciate what a dreadful place he's been dropped down into.

I look forward to the upcoming Dale Chihuly movie where, when he's not piratically crying one-eyed tears over a little lost moppet, he's totally kicking ass against the Army of the Future, represented by little unposeable green plastic army men controlled by the Eely Glass Hive Mind. Go, Dale, go!

Great line: "Hello. My name is Violet and I was born into a world you may not understand." YOU THINK?

BloodRayne

Oh my. This gem of unobservable luster was of course served up by the uncontested heavyweight of unspeakable filmmaking, Uwe Boll. The most incomprehensibly awful pile of noisome spittle ever to be penned by a woman named "Guinevere," BloodRayne stands tall indeed in the pantheon of cinematic embarrassments. "If I have stood on the shoulders of giants," this film proclaims, "I don't remember it at all. I think I stood on the shoulders of midgets drowning in backyard pools. God bless those thrashing blue-faced midgets."

There isn't anything about this movie that doesn't inspire cthonic feelings of deep unease and anxiety. There is the cast: Kristanna Loken, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Madsen, Michael Pare, Billy Zane, Meat Loaf and . . . Ben Kingsley? It's like some entry from the Book of Lists where John Updike names all the people he desperately never wants to have dinner with.

It's hard to even know what to say. Michael Madsen, legendarily arrogant and hilariously unemployed Hollywood prick, slouches through the movie as if he might avoid actually being caught on camera. Hey, maybe you should have been a vampire, Mike! They don't show up on film! Sadly, Ben Kingsley does, and his performance could possibly be described as "phoning it in," except that there are no phones in the Castles 'N Hassles world of BloodRayne, so Sir Ben is forced to send his performance via wheezing, consumptive falcon.

Meat Loaf (billed here as "Meat Loaf Aday"--really? Each day? Will it keep the doctor away?)--seems to have some brief fun, mainly thanks to the bare-breasted whores surrounding him, but this movie really belongs to Kristanna Loken, and by "belongs" I of course mean, "should return immediately for a refund." Apart from a really back-tingling sex scene where she fucks some guy with a truly funereal haircut against prison cell bars--comfy!--Kristanna is stuck with series after series of unchoreographed fight scenes where her opponents were evidently advised to ram their heads directly into her swords. It's probably not a good sign when the fight choreography on your film makes the Michael Jackson video for "Bad" relatively terrifying.

BloodRayne, we desperately hoped, would be so wrenchingly awful as to be fun. It was not. It was simply ghastly and dreary and Michael Madsen-y. It was more boring than a penetrating documentary about stairs.

Here's the last word on this movie. This is the entirety of IMDB's "memorable quotes" for BloodRayne. All two of them.

Elrich: Would you stop throwing things at me?!
. . .
Darius the Kid: Can I see your teeth?

You know, I don't think I'll ever forget those lines. No matter how hard I try.

Friday, 09 June
Ad Rock

When I was a junior in college, I began taking what I thought of as the "serious" acting classes. They were called the "studio" classes, for some reason, perhaps because it feels kind of dumb to call a group of five people a "class." It's a studio! Whatever. At any rate, we were the acting lifers, as it were, the dedicated fools who simply couldn't stand to wait another minute to ruin their futures. We were the ACTORS! The rest were dilettantes.

Our professor for the course that year was a preternaturally genial fellow named R. R. was a modestly successful actor who had done extensive commercial and voiceover work; he was one of those artists in residence types, and while we all got on with him nicely, he seemed, at times, genuinely aggrieved at our less-than-professional habits, like not shaving every day, and our staunch refusal to show up for the class (at 8:00 AM) not hung over.

R. decided, sensibly enough, that since we had presumably mastered all the basics of acting--don't say your lines until you're on stage, try and remember other character's names (there's no "Ted" in Hamlet! I'll never forget that), that sort of thing--that he would conduct a class that dealt with Real World issues. Things like how to present an audition piece; the dos and don'ts of head shots, the proper way to land an agent, etc. (It's interesting to note that, reviewing even that brief list, that I myself have not bothered with any memorized audition pieces since 1999, I have never had any head shots done, and have never bothered to even try to get an agent. Huzzah! Tuition well spent.)

One thing that R. taught us was that working in TV ads could be very lucrative. Really! So he brought in several actual pieces of ad copy from spots he had done or auditioned for. He also brought a video camera in so we could review our efforts on camera.

We were, every single one of us, completely hopeless on camera. In fact, "hopeless" is too generous a term here, as it contains the base word "hope," and we clearly, the lot of us, had none at all. We were . . . what? Anti-hope? Ahopal? No, those neologisms, awful as they are, still plainly allude to some concept of hope. The adjective I need is something like "hopeless," only encrypted with a one-time pad, and then someone merciful simply eats the one-time pad before it can ever be seen again.

We all started out working on a common script. It was from a Zest commercial. I can still remember the beginning of it.

"I don't use soap. But I'll bet I'm cleaner than you are! That's because I use Zest. And Zest isn't soap!"

That's all I remember now. (What the fuck was Zest, then? Industrial degreaser?) What I do remember is how gravely funereal we all looked on video playback, no matter how much enthusiasm we tried to inject into this dead-bird text. It turned out: It's hard to fake enthusiasm about something so pedestrian and lame as soap. (Or not-soap.) Every single one of us, no matter how chirpy and gleeful our affect (we thought), looked like recently slaughtered revenants on camera, glumly holding up a bar of unsoap for the camera, grinning rictuses with bad posture. Grimly clutching unsoap in tensed fingers.

R. explained this dismal showing with typical good humor. "Commercial acting is horribly difficult. When you're in a play, the playwright does a lot of the work for you. Even bad actors can get by sometimes by just stepping back and letting the playwright do all the heavy lifting. But in TV ads, it's all on you. You think Shakespeare is tough? It is, sure. But the hardest line I ever had to deliver was for a commercial. The hardest line I ever had to deliver--to sell--was, 'Great white bread, honey.' "

Which, really, is totally true. Actors like to give a lot of lip service about "being in the moment" and "emotional truth" and all kinds of other horseshit, but that pretty much all goes out of Arthur Miller's leaded-glass window (don't talk to me about that gnomic, deathless spanker) when you get stuck with some line like "Is this the right turn, Doug Doug?"

R. then cruelly assigned us our very own ad scripts to learn and to be humiliated by on camera. J., a perfectly lovely young woman, shot her ad touting a pizza place. And, as we watched her playback (it certainly looked good live), we watched in perfect horror as the camera somehow made her previously unnoticed slightly discolored canine all but unstareable-at. It looked like a tiny gravestone embedded in her gums. Worse, halfway into the ad, the video camera caught with undeniable, horrible clarity a truly flinch-inducing minor facial tic, where her left eye did a sort of slow roll and wink, which magically transformed her instantly, on camera, from a charming young woman into a lecherous old man. "ROLL IT BACK!! ROLL IT BACK!!" we screamed, as she died a thousand deaths. "You look like Patricia Neal!" exclaimed G. We watched it again. J. strokefaced again as we cackled. "I take it back," said G. "Patricia Neal makes stroke look good."

But none of us did any better. Granted, we were being shot on single-cam videotape, but it was clearly obvious: None of us ever belonged anywhere close to anyone even remotely conversant with video technology. (I should say that G. did manage to land a national spot in a few years: It was my supreme pleasure to see him in a Rogaine ad. And I will also say that he acquitted himself well. I was also happy that he was, well, naturally, losing his hair. If it isn't clear yet, actors are such turds.)

Me? Mine might have been the worst. For one thing, R. decided, inexplicably, to assign me a dog food ad where the guy was supposed to be a sort of "Rugged Dad" character. Say! Yes, that's perfect for the 140-lb. ectomorph. So there I was on video, in some supremely unconvincing flannel shirt, extolling the virtues of MANLY KIBBLE. It was like David Schwimmer shilling for MegaBulk Protein Shakes. And this is leaving aside 1. my terrific ineptitude in front of the camera, and 2. the depressing fact that I'm uglier than David Schwimmer.

Ah, well, it all ended up all right. I mean, I'm not famous or anything, but I've been able to get my share of work over the years--fringe work, but hey. It was clear to me early on that I was neither motivated enough nor energetic enough to bother with the stupefying grind that any dedicated actor has to endure. I have been content to simply toil away at a level I'm comfortable with.

After all, I'm opening a show tomorrow. It's a good show--and the wife is in it too, along with a bunch of good people. They're good actors, all of them, and it's a good show. I've been in bad shows with bad actors--too many of them--so this is a real blessing. What's doubly good about working with good actors is that they make you also want to do good as well. So I've also been motivated.

Can you guess what I think about every night, while I'm smoking and thinking over my lines--searching for weak spots--and getting myself ready to go? I go over my lines, I probe trouble areas, I restlessly smoke, and I also think:

Great white bread, honey.

Wednesday, 24 May
Stand In The Place Where You Are

After a long hiatus from acting, I have been lured back in to do another show. I started rehearsals on Tuesday, where we gathered for some basic blocking and initial scene work. And as I returned to the old routine, I remembered some of the reasons why I'd taken a break. It is because theater people are completely fucking ridiculous.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love the cast. I've worked with almost all of them before, and that happens to include my wife. They are fine folks, artistically committed to their crafts, and with talent to burn. They are also, however--just like me--mostly incomprehensible, opaque and risible. Why did I come back to work with such people--including my wife, whom I love dearly, but really, why? I don't know. It's too early to tell, really, and I frankly don't want to jinx the fact that so far I'm having a good time.

Despite the aforementioned ridiculousness et cetera--or, to use pithier term, horseshittedness--that pervades pretty much every aspect of acting and theater.

Actors maunder about over every possible nuance they can find. Last night, I wondered out loud, "Do you want two beats, then break, then another beat? And then go back in to her? Is it too much?" C., our director, managed somehow to take this absurd sentence completely seriously. "I think you can do three beats, then break." I fretted. "I don't know," I said. "Just hit all your moments," she replied. "I'll tell you if it's too much."

Go ahead and try and think about what the phrase "Just hit all your moments" could possibly mean. I'll wait. In fact, while I'm waiting, I'll go ahead and have a little think myself over the fact that at the time, it made perfect sense to me.

Minutes later, in the same discussion, we discussed a line, which referenced a waiter in that particular scene. The line indicated that the actor playing the waiter interrupted us: "He chirped and fluttered about them." The actor wondered: "So . . . how much flutter?" C. said, "You're interrupting them, but I don't want that much flutter." No word on whether or not she wanted some wow to go with that flutter. "And no chirping." We all nodded sagely. J., the actor, made a note in his script. I wondered if it was DON'T ACTUALLY CHIRP.

Later, C. told me during a break, "I know that none of the characters have a name in the show." (Without getting too much into it, the piece is a cabaret-ish sort of thing that is all derived from the writing of Dorothy Parker. So it's not your standard-issue dramatic thingama.) She continued, "But I think you should all have a name. I mean, that you know what your name is. Even if you don't tell me." I decided right away that this was one of those things that some actors spend a lot of time wrestling with, and also that I was none of those particular actors. "My name is Skot," I replied. "You name is Skot," she said. "So that's easy. Good!" Yes, well done, Skot! You know your name! Hopefully, I won't learn that my wife has decided that for the purposes of the show, she'd rather be thought of as "Skeeze Beasley." But she could if she wanted. That's the thing. Actors are really encouraged to be as ridiculous as possible.

(As are directors. Here's two of my favorite directorial hits from the past. Once, in an ensemble avant-garde piece in college, the director instructed us thusly: "All right. I want you all to enter . . . like mist." Got it. Enter like mist. None of us knew what the fuck he was talking about, but okay, we entered like mist. This evidently, to all of us, meant moving in a stealthy crouch while hissing. SSSS! We're mist! "STOP!" he cried after only a few seconds. We stopped, and he ran his hand through his liberal arts hair. "No, no." Pause. "More like blue mist."

Needless to say, we just crouched and hissed a little more, but bluely. Anyway, I always vacillate between that anecdote and this one for "favorite" status: he was also the guy who gave this stunningly evocative and stunningly unhelpful bit of impossible directorial criticism: "You're giving me October, and I'm looking for November." What can I say? I'm looking California and feeling Minnesota. I'll try and bring in a hint of picnic table and lose some of the calamine lotion. Purple monkey dishwasher! Pass it on.)

Later on in the rehearsal, C. instructed me, re: another scene, "Okay, here I want you to try touching her. Well, don't try. Touch her. But don't hold her! Maybe you could brush her hair out of her face." I deadpanned, "Oh, is she vomiting?" This is where even dumb humor fails theater people. C. said, with some concern, "Why do you think she's vomiting?" "I was kidding," I said. C. stared at me for a moment.

Probably for at least two beats. Maybe three. Tell me if that's too much.

Look, be honest. Am I giving you too much October?

Thursday, 16 March
Now Is The Time For All Good Men To Prejudge Movies

It's still the shoulder season for Hollywood right now, so this should be almost too easy. Which is good, since . . . I've got nothing else to write about.

Basic Instinct 2

There's almost too much material here to work with. Coming what, 14 years after the original, here is a film that has run through directors like a bull through drunken Spaniards (at one point David Cronenberg was attached) as well as leading men, including the truly cursed Benjamin Bratt, who was vetoed by Sharon Stone for the role for being a bad actor. That's got to feel good. It's like being blacklisted by Larry the Cable Guy for not being funny. And of course this is all while ignoring the elephant in the room, which is: is anyone ready for Sharon Stone to . . . you know. That? Look, I'm just saying: she was born in 1958. I guess this is going to be the acid test for whether or not we really are living in the age of the MILFs.

It might be so, really. I see on IMDB that she has another film in production. It is called Cougars. Her character's name? Mrs. Robinson.

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to . . . uh, well, I guess you're trying to show me your snatch." (Pause.) "I, uh, it's really working."

A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater, the bizzarely overrated director of horrid swindles like Slackers and Waking Life (alternative title: You'll Want To Take Your Own Life) takes on professional insane person Philip K. Dick's murk-o-babble story in which you and everyone you know are crazy, on drugs, and probably cops, maybe. Clear? For reasons unfathomable to everybody, it makes great use of that animo-filmy thing that is already so tired that it's been picked up by brokerage firms for their ads. Also, it stars Keanu Reeves. Squandering whatever audience goodwill he earned with genuinely watchable (if lightweight) films like Dazed & Confused and School of Rock, Linklater's film promises to be this year's Constantine: a debacle that embarrasses everybody within its blast radius.

Slither

Huh? I honestly don't really give a fuck, except to note that 1. It has Michael Rooker in it, aka "Henry" the serial killer; 2. It also has Rob Zombie in it, which amuses me for no good reason; and 3. I like to think of it as an appetizer for Snakes on a Plane. You know what would be a rad movie? Michael Rooker Vs. Samuel L. Jackson. It would totally be like AVP, but with . . . actors. Two man enter! One man leave! With snakes! I don't know.

V For Vendetta

Ah, it's the big one. Poor Alan Moore, who is clearly insane, but surely does not deserve the filmic insults delivered in his name. Maybe this one won't be as stunningly horrible as From Hell or League of Extraordinarily Insulting Moviemaking, but look at what a paltry statement that is. The ads for it cynically make it sound like the Wachowski brothers directed--they don't, and maybe that's a blessing, considering the horrible mess they made of the Matrix franchise. (Come on--the first one was a lot of fun, but was also really flabby. The next two were painfully wretched. And yes, if you must ask, I own the whole lot of them.)

Natalie Portman gets her head shaved, and then she gets assaulted by Siguorney Weaver, who screams, "I DID THIS FIRST!" Then Hugo Weaving speaks without moving his jaws at all, but nobody cares, because he's wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Awesome! At the end, all the fat old guys die. Just like in real life.

Monday, 13 March
Return Of The Bing

I have a confession: for the past year and a half or so, I've been in kind of a funk. And despite what you might think, it hasn't been a Bootsy Collins kind of funk. (Though I did play bass on a Dee-Lite comeback track--which went NOWHERE--further leading to more bad funkiness.) No, there's been something . . . odd and distracting and absent from my life, and it has led me into a grayish kind of everyday existence.

It's hard to pin down, but at the same time, it is pervasive. For instance, I just now happened to see a TV spot for the upcoming feature film with Larry the Cable Guy, and . . . it seems perverse to even write it out . . . it did not make me happy. Which is weird, since the whole point of advertising is to make me happy and anticipatory and, ideally, excited. But Larry the Cable Guy left me dispirited and angry. What the hell is wrong with me? The man is on Comedy Central! He's not on Wretched Pull-Your-Brains-Out-Your-Ears-Angry Central! Something is obviously off with me.

It's been this way for a while. I have failed to find even a glimmer of entertainment in many of the past year and a half's movie offerings. It surely could not be Hollywood's fault: they know what they're doing. For nearly a hundred years now, they've been making movies! So I assume it is some deficiency of my own that rendered me incapable of enjoying such films as The Chronicles of Riddick or The Fantastic Four. Even a popcorn thriller like The Fog, which we rented this weekend, left me wanting. Really, I thought, what kind of asshole am I that I cannot be moved by the plight of disenfranchised seafaring leper zombie ghosts? NO KIND OF MAN AT ALL. Even highbrowerier films like I Heart Huckabees have failed to give me any pleasure in recent times. Even a bummed-out Philistine like myself should be able to appreciate an existential comedy featuring the hilariously embarrassing mugging of Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin. Alas, I could not, and deemed the movie unwatchable after a mere twenty minutes. Clearly, again, more evidence that something was wrong with me.

It wasn't just movies. I tried to endure such unreadable horrors such as the widely sneered-at and exasperatingly smug Gilligan's Wake, for instance, but it was impossible. It remains embedded in my sheet rock. Surely this tepidly and falsely high-minded bit of sophistry would crack my glaciered heart? No. And even the most universally fellated books brought no comfort. Curtis Sittenfeld's incomprehensibly lauded and stunningly pointless Prep failed to move me to anything other than a stabbing kind of nausea; and Jonathan Safran Foer's unreadably precious Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close provoked feelings in me best described as Exuberantly Horrified and Incredulously Get This Fucking Book Away From Me.

Even music brought me no shelter. It wasn't even the music I've been bummed out about. It's the band names. Test Icicles? I hate it. Happily, they broke up. Wolf Parade? I think this is a new evil supergroup in the DC universe. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Eat My Dick Say Mmmph.

Clearly, I haven't been enjoying myself. It's taken so long to figure out what's gone wrong. What's missing.

Food, even! The other night, the wife prepared a lovely dinner of sausages and crap. I pushed aside the crap--I've just never liked it.

"What's with the sausages? It tastes like ashes. What did you put on these?"

"Rosemary," she replied. "Dip it in some mustard."

"It still tastes like ashes," I said.

"Maybe you shouldn't smoke while you eat," she said wearily.

"Maybe you shouldn't use rosemary!" I screamed as I lit another cigarette.

So it's been a pretty dreary fifteen months or so. I was really getting pretty low; at any number of times, I considered taking my own life--which of course I did not. I thought better of it, and took some other peoples' lives, which my attorneys have advised me not to get into too much, but I will say this: Gina in admin could not copy for shit, okay? I mean . . . look, Tom isn't going to miss her much is all I'm saying, unless he can break through solid concrete.

Man, I didn't mean for this to turn into such a downer. The fact is, I'm feeling so much better. Better than I have in ages. You see, on Sunday night, The Sopranos returned. After such a long absence. And I feel lighter. Happier. More content. I'm not having problems with my burning rectum any more.

It's been so long since I've felt such serenity. Such . . . calm. And if any of you fuckers try and interfere . . . I swear to God I'll gut you like a dead elk.

Peace!

Monday, 06 March
Ang: Tough

For the past few years, the wife and I have regularly attended the Oscar parties of our friends S. and J. Unfortunately, in the past year, S. and J. shamefully and lily-liveredly moved to fucking CHICAGO, leaving our circle of friends partyless for good old Oscar. (Actors are, of course, genetically required to watch this shit, if by "watch" you mean "cavil at" and "pretend not to notice the roomful of cognitive dissonance." Actors would like very much not to care, but they do care deeply, but would also like very much for everyone else not to realize that they care, while recognizing the same about everybody else in the room. This is another reason why we drink.)

So the wife and I decided that we'd half-assedly host our own this year, and invited dozens of our friends. We cleaned! We tidied! We spruced up the place! (We vacuumed, basically.) And for our pains, about ten people showed up, a little over half of whom stayed for the whole gloomy affair. I don't really blame all the people who didn't show up. For one thing, I am a notorious asshole with a well-documented predilection for shouting horrible vituperatives at the screen. For another, everything about our announcements screamed, "We are not emotionally invested in your attendance." Awesome.

We did the little bring-a-themed-food thing, which was met by yawning indifference by everyone but D., who showed up with a crock pot. "Whatcha got?" I asked. "Cinderella Manwiches," he replied. Even if anyone else had brought properly-themed food, D. would have easily won. The best I could come up with was "Tang Lee," which at least was a decent choice for someone on a budget. I could not actually bring myself to buy any Tang, however. Our friend M. showed up with a bottle of wine and some microwave burritos. I didn't ask.

Oh yeah! There was also the show. Well, that was dull as hell, wasn't it? Jon Stewart was clearly awkward (nervous?) at the top, but later settled in, with some gems, including a nice Scientology wink as well as his standard fare of clever Jewish-themed gags. I didn't take any damn notes, and this has all been done to death anyway, so I'll just hit what high/lowlights I remember.

Early on, of course, there isn't shit to do but mercilessly evaluate the womens' wardrobe choices. A couple of gals had made yet again the baffling choice to garb themselves in skin-ish colored dresses, which always weirds me out. So. . . you look naked . . . but also, either 1. textured or 2. lumpen. Both of which are, I think we can agree, two of the sexiest adjectives in the lexicon. Naomi Watts in particular, who is a ridiculously pretty woman, did herself no favors in an outfit that seemed to highlight prominent abdominal tumors. Or there was Charlize Theron, another lovely actress of South African extraction, whose shoulder anomaly prompted me to speculate that is where she keeps her supply of Krugerrands. Then I imagined the Lethal Weapon boys chasing her down, and her screaming "DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY!" but old Mel Gibson blows her damn shoulder off anyway, and then he and Danny Glover roll around in the apartheid gold. Or something.

Nicole Kidman looked, at first blush, as dynamite as usual on the red carpet. Then something unfortunate revealed itself under the podium lights: she had been lacquered to within an inch of her life. Onstage, her sheened face suddenly began to display unusual sunspot activity; she'd turn her head and one cheek would suddenly fluoresce, and then with another turn, her forehead suddenly appeared bacon-ready. It was terribly freakish. "She has Zellweger Face," intoned D. Indeed. Not to be confused with later presenter Jennifer Garner, dubbed "Man-Jaw," at least until all the guys in the room stopped looking at her face. She had a jaw? She had a face? The men in the room were suddenly silent as we watched her holy jigglewalk. I wasn't even worried when she stepped on her own dress and went into a couple little skids: she laughed it off charmingly, and plus, she had front-impact airbags if she happened to go down. She almost--almost--made Salma Hayek seem like a letdown.

The March of the Penguins guys were met with jeers and derision from our crowd as they took the stage with giant stuffed penguins. "They're French," I moaned, having no real point. D. opined that it would have been better had they lost, so they could be filmed leaving carrying their loser fucking penguins. I then offered that it would have been even better if the Murderball guys had won, because then they could have stormed the stage hoisting giant plushy cripple dolls. Conversation only deteriorated from there, and somehow wound up with the idea of dead babies being dropped from the skies, like the toads in Magnolia. I don't know. This is what happens when we don't want to listen to French documentary filmmakers give acceptance speeches while holding onto stuffed penguins.

Did I mention Ben Stiller? No, I did not, because Ben Stiller fucking sucks. He's milked this not-really, not-really-convincing rageboy act so insistently and so single-mindedly that this comedy cow's tortured udder is chapped beyond medical repair, and the cow has taken the trouble to learn human speech so it can turn to him and say, "Let go of my teat, you fucking tool." He is as funny as a shaving cut.

And blah blah blah. When it came down to it all, nothing was very surprising at all. Even in our small field of entrants (five), I took the prediction contest. The only big category I lost was the same one everybody else did, when Crash took Best Picture. My friend K. screamed, "NO!" with more force than the rest of the room, since she was the only one who had seen it. (I really don't give a shit if I ever do. It sounds awful.) I yelled, "Cut to Ang Lee! I want to see all his hair fall out!" There was more than one of us who thought that when Jack "RRRRR!" Nicholson was simply making a horrible, cruel joke when he barked out that fateful syllable . . . but no.

In the end, after all the talk of whether or not Hollywood (and, by laughable extension, our whole beknighted country) was ready to fully laud a film where rabbit-eyed cowboy Jake Gyllenhall happily takes it up the ass . . . the answer was a clear "Nope." We just weren't ready.

Ang Lee, though? Well . . . bend over.

Monday, 20 February
I'm Bobsledding As Fast As I Can

It was a THREE DAY WEEKEND! And I am proud to report that the wife and I truly made the least of it. Well, I did, mostly. The wife actually ventured out of the house on Sunday to go see a play with some friends in it. I didn't, because as has been extensively documented before, I am a cranky shut-in who only snarls at things like The Arts any more, because, after years and years of being some tiny, irritating presence in the world of The Arts, The Arts can frankly all go fuck themselves.

These days, I'm all about the Non-Arts. Like say . . . the Olympics! Again.

I've already spleened about this before, so no need to make this too long. But I just have to say: I am pretty sure I knew that this one . . . I will not say "sport" . . . existed before. I had to have. But my brain obviously rejected its existence as too abhorrent to retain. I assume that every four years I witness--and then immediately forget--this thing, this Galactus of Non-Art, ice dancing.

Ice dancing. Where to start? How about in some of the early rounds, where I watched in horror as these ghastly people did decidedly not-thrilling things like . . . skate around, not jumping at all! I felt like apologizing to figure skating. Here were identical-looking people doing identically idiotic things on skates, but without any acrobatics at all. And at another part of a routine, being informed that "this is the part of the routine where the dancers are not allowed to touch." That's fucking awesome! Because you know what the best part of dancing is? Not touching! We all know this, which is why, at the prom, you routinely see kids enthusiastically not touching each other, particularly during the Prokofiev numbers that have gotten so popular.

I swear that one resplendently pink-clad skaterina looked exactly like Jackie O. would have had she been assaulted by Hollywood drug mules and former Cirque De Soleil costumers. Her partner fared no better, and simply looked like an epauletted bovine tongue. Naturally, the only gratification I got out of the whole thing was seeing these people being dropped horribly and efficiently on their iliac crests.

Ice dancing is figure skating's dumber, embarrassing little brother, the one who suddenly shows up wearing your underwear over his pants when you're hanging out with your friends. The Olympics have more of these annoying siblings. Take for example the bobsled.

Now I can respect this sport as qua sport, really. Get in this ridiculous contraption and go fast! Well, all right. There are stupider sports, and hey, there's no style points or judging going on here. Get in! Go fast! Don't crash. Fine.

But where the dumb-brother thing comes in--and also where I get completely baffled as to who schedules this shit--is that, well, we've already seen things like the luge and skeleton. Hey, stupid! Get on this tiny board and throw yourself down hell's own sphincter! Try not to crash! Hey, you don't mind if your face is eight inches away from the ice, do you? Swell! I mean, hell, they even have cool names. "Luge." It's mysterious, or something. "Skeleton." It is called Skeleton. Bobsled? Bobsleigh? "Make room in the sled for Grandpa, kids! Randy, I know he farts a lot, but it's not nice to say."

After things like skeleton, watching these big-assed beasts ponderously clatter down the tracks is like watching morticians shove discount coffins down a broken escalator just for laughs. Memo to Olympic planners: schedule the bobsled competitions first, for God's sake.

I said I wasn't going to spend a lot of time on this, didn't I? Sorry. Let's move on to the other Non-Art things we subjected our eyeballs to this weekend: horrible movies! In the interest of space--and my total disinterest in spending more time thinking about said catastrophes--I will try to keep this in mini-format. Standard spoiler disclaimers apply to these also standard terrible turkeys.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

A love letter to Jesusland masquerading as a horror movie, but which is actually a dreary courtroom drama. Puzzlingly, the demons win, which you would think would dilute the message, but Laura Linney, the world's bendiest agnostic, seems to disagree after finding a discarded necklace. Tom Wilkinson says things like, "Emily's story must be told!" before leaving the set to go laugh hysterically into some blankets in his trailer.

Cry Wolf

Actually, just cry.

Garden State

Hats off to Zach Braff, whose very name sounds like a gypsy curse, for finally creating a movie about a disaffected white twentysomething who finds love and comes to terms with his distant father. And all it took was the completely not-clunky death of his mother! Zach's big emotional turn comes when he and Natalie Portman, for some reason, scream into an abandoned quarry; later, he fucks her. I think we can all learn from this: when screaming into some New Jersey abyss with Natalie Portman for reasons that defy all logic, resist the overwhelming urge to push her in. She may fuck you.

Monday, 06 February
Things We Were Not Meant To See

There are probably few things more boring than hearing a sports fan complain about his vanquished heroes, his stolen dreams, his fallen arches, whatever. So I'll try and get this out of the way quickly. Besides, as D. said, "You're not allowed to blog about our tears." No problem. Can I blog about the astonishing rancidness of your farts? Hey, I can!

Speaking of rancid, so there was the Super Bowl. Let me just say this: I am not one of those wild-eyed people who will claim that the refs handed the Steelers the victory (though of course those thoughts are tempting). The Seahawks had plenty of chances, and can really thank any number of sheerly inept moments to pick to blame. (Clock management? Anyone? No?) But in the end, what we were really faced with was this: the Super Bowl XL was a wholly dispiriting, dreary game played by two dreary teams making mostly dreary plays, the exceptions to which only seemed to underscore the fact the whole rotten affair was an embarrassment to everyone involved. Particularly--and you knew this was coming--for the officials.

I'm pretty sure this wasn't what Matthew Arnold had in mind when he wrote about ignorant armies clashing by night. On the other hand, it seemed apt at the time, and anyway, I really enjoy his other NFL-related poetry.

ALL RIGHT. That'll do.

To distract us from our woes, there was always the reliably crappy halftime show, this time featuring the Rolling Stones, looking very mossy indeed these days. Up front, as always, was the eternally embarrassing Mick Jagger, jerking arrythmically like some japing, fibrous pemmican golem; behind him, too desiccated to do anything but rasp for water! water! while they arthritically hunch-fucked their instruments, wringing terrible atonal noises out of the things as if they were strangling starving derelicts. Struck with creeping horror at this ghoul circus, we were forced to eventually change the channel to watch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

"This is better than the game," I said in doomed tones. The other guys said nothing, and dug mutely into their congealing beef brisket sandwiches, which did nothing for the Venusian methane atmosphere permeating the house. There is nothing more poisonous than the unholy reek of grimly heartsick male sports fans. C. cracked open his fifth beer with all the enthusiasm of a melancholy hermit coroner.

And of course there were the ads! I particularly liked the GoDaddy spots which resolutely did not much feature the chick with giant tits actually displaying . . . her tits. Effective! And the other one I really like was the Bud Light piece where Alan Cumming shat in Carmen Electra's hair while the Incredible String Orchestra covered Whale's indelible hit "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe." It was easily the realest of all the ads.

In the end--and I have tried to leave out all the football-intensive shit from this post, so that everyone can read and attempt to enjoy it, if possible--here is the final judgment on that damned night: the ads were more fun, and they were phenomenally horrible. The Puppy Bowl was more fun, and that was dog-on-dog action. Yes, dogs screwing--dogs badly screwing-- was more fun than the Super Bowl. Me making up horrible bullshit about Alan Cumming taking a dump on Carmen Electra's head was more fun than remembering the Super Bowl.

It was a really terrible game. Here's the final verdict: that game was actually worse than the movie the wife and I watched the night before.

House of Wax.

Tuesday, 10 January
Baddington Station

Here in Seattle, as we enter the ninety fucking billionth day of rain, it seems proper to reflect on how we coped over another rainy weekend.

We stayed home and watched TV. Yay!

More specifically, I watched football while the wife watched . . . anything else on her shiny new portable DVD player. The secret to a happy message? Separate media delivery systems. But in the evenings, it might gladden your heart to learn that we came together in the spirit of no more football being on and watched us some movies.

Standard warning for the spoiler-sensitive: if you don't want these bad movies ruined, don't read on.

War of the Worlds

It's sort of unfair to lay the "bad movie" blanket on WotW, honestly. I was talking earlier today about this thing with some online friends--yeah, shut up--and it's true that I described Spielberg as "the worst kind of hack," backing this out-of-ass observation with the opinion that he isn't a hack because he lacks talent. To the contrary, the guy is a dazzling filmmaker and brimming with talent. It's that he constantly betrays his gifts--and his audiences--by routinely crapping all over them with his weird, nannyish tendencies.

His filmography is a gruesome thing to behold, really, if only for all the depressing lost promises lying around like corpses on a battlefield. To just use recent examples, he runs from films I like, such as Minority Report--which was marred by its idiotic ending, whose tone seemed schizophrenically opposed to, I don't know, the rest of the movie--to films I hated right down to my DNA, such as A.I.--whose jaw-droppingly idiotic, insulting, sanity-testing ending seemed to be at odds with rational thought.

I guess WotW falls into the former camp for me, despite--what do you think?--its credulity? schmedulity! ending. (Hey, here's the big spoiler! Everyone "important" lives, even the wayward son who is apparently immune to cataclysmic explosions! Also, the aliens were tasteful enough not to level a perfectly lovely Boston brownstone.)

Spielberg, when the aliens start to play their Alien Games, makes for some good, tense watchin'. And when they're not . . . well, then you've got Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning a'grimacin' and a'screamin'. I leave it to you to figure out who does what, but I did turn to the wife after one particularly filling-loosening shriek, "Why couldn't the little girl have run off instead of the dopey kid?"

At one point, the movie does turn deeply bent, when Cruise and Fanning find some shelter in a farmhouse . . . somewhere. Hey, farmhouse! All right. Anyway, the owner of the farmhouse is--hey, it's Tim Robbins! What's up, Tim? Tim doesn't respond, probably out of confusion, because he doesn't appear to be in the same movie as anyone else; in fact, he appears to believe that he's in a remake of Deliverance. Tim crazies it up as best he can while Tom and Dakota stand warily back, waiting for him to bark something alarming about dropping his pants. Then Tom Cruise slaughters him, and everyone relaxes.

Really! And to be honest, it really was a lot more relaxing once he got killed.

The Fantastic Four

Obviously, this movie was nothing at all like WotW. It didn't have a crappy, idiotized ending. It had a crappy, idiotized beginning, middle AND ending! I'm pretty sure even the craft services on this movie were crappy. "Who wants nut loaf?"

TFF literally has nothing even remotely redeeming about it; not as a movie, not as a comic book movie, not as a shiny disc to cut people with. This movie is a failure on a cellular level; my bones still ache from watching it. It is a cataclysmic embarrassment for everyone involved, and should only be shown to violent inmates who seem to exhibit any remote glimmer of hope or optimism about our race. It is a chillingly irrefutable document of the nonexistence of God.

Naturally, I loved it.

I was telling my friend K. about this nauseating little bit of digitized claptrap, and he said, "Doesn't Jessica Alba take off her clothes in it? That's not bad. She's hot."

Yeah. Fucking great. You know what qualities I want in all the hot chicks I look at? Invisibility. Hey, that incredibly pneumatic babe is taking off all of her clothes! Oh my God! This is . . . HEY, WHAT THE FUCK? This is why Braille Hustler is really burning up the sales tallies. PEOPLE! She is INVISIBLE GIRL. INVISIBLE NAKED GIRL. Woo woo! This is like going to the carnival to see the ping-pong ball woman only to discover that they're not ping-pong balls, it's popcorn, and it's being served by your Aunt Doris, and she's wearing Osh Kosh B'Gosh coveralls.

Jesus, people, go rent Sin City, for Christ's sake.

TFF honestly has nothing going for it, nothing at all. Poor Michael Chiklis as the Thing looks like an animate sack of nectarines and his voice has been digitized so that it sounds like he's been resequenced through a chorus of digeridoos. Actually, my favorite moment of the film involves good old Ben Grimm, the poor soul who has irrevocably (THOUGH NOT IN THIS FUCKING MOVIE) been shorn of his humanity: he discovers that he is too heavy to be carried by an elevator. He gets off and fixes the Unfantastic Other Three with a soulful hearbreaking look of a man who has not only become The Other, but also has to take the fucking stairs all the time.

Why even go on? This film manages something I hadn't really thought possible: it is genuinely dumber than an actual comic book. I should know. I read them. (For this I thank those fucking online friends who got me hooked on them again. Turds.) Even the stupid really mainstream ones, sometimes. (Hint: if the phrase "The Ultimates" is even remotely familiar to you, go seek the help that I am too weak to find.) And this movie betrays even its source material, which, considering its fan base is suicidal in the extreme. There is nothing to recommend about it whatsoever.

Naturally, I recommend it highly. In fact, I'm rooting for a sequel. I'll go so far as to suggest a plotline!

Jessica Alba loses her powers! Come on. Do it, Marvel. Bring on Visible Girl.

Tuesday, 03 January
Pop Goes The Weasel

You know, I don't want to wear out any one beat, really; I know I recently took the lash to that horrifying Disaronno ad, but I saw . . . something today that I cannot chase from my mind. In fact, for a few minutes, I thought I dreamed it. But I did not. So yes, this is another post about a truly mind-destroying advertisement.

Unlike the Disaronno horror, this one isn't national. It's local-ish--Washington and Oregon only, I believe. Now, local ads have long been great sources of wonderful entertainment everywhere. ("If you wanna buy a car, go see Cal . . . ") And the fellow in question here is no exception. His name is Vern Fonk, and he really wants to sell you insurance. And he's not afraid to look like a frightening buffoon in order to do it. It doesn't hurt that his name is Vern Fonk, which sounds right up there, plausibility-wise, with, say, the concept of the Cleveland Steamer. (I'm telling you right now, don't Google that.) In fact, why not go the distance? CLEVELAND STEAMER INSURANCE, LTD.! "We truly give a shit."

Vern Fonk commercials are a part of life here in the Pacific Northwest, just like walking pneumonia and . . . uh . . . non-walking pneumonia. We've got it all! The formula, if such a term can even be applied to such an elegantly psychotic body of work, usually goes as such: Vern finds some sort of meme-y thing going on, and then creates a demonstrably damaging insurance ad to make fun of said phenomenon, usually featuring the thrillingly bald Mr. Fonk himself in some hellaciously embarrassing role that requires him to scream into the camera. Just who you want holding coverage on your car: the adenoidal bugfuck who spends too much time at AdTunes when he's not too busy Away From Keyboarding to sport-trap some wild lizards.

Okay, here's the ad I saw today. The whole thing consists of our Mr. Fonk in an insurance office with some oily insurance guy. Oh, the meta! Vern wants auto insurance. Vern also has--I can still see it--an extremely prominent fake pimple right in the center of his forehead. It is about the size of a quarter; a giant phony whitehead, like a target. And Mr. Unctious Insurance Person is explaining to Our Hero why he can't get car insurance. But of course--he is distracted by this titanic zit.

Vern blinks with uncomprehension as the Insurance Guy tells him they won't cover him. But the joke--the joke!--is . . . Insurance Guy keeps staring at his incredible carbuncle! He's getting flustered! "You have too many zit-heads . . . uh, I mean tickets . . . " Vern furrows his gleaming, befestered brow. "What I mean is, Mr. Pimple . . . " It goes on like this for agonizing seconds. You simply cannot believe what is being presented to you, the viewer. It strains credulity to believe that bona fide humans not only cleared this idea, but that they went ahead and filmed it, and that somewhere else, TV execs decided that they should run it. It's like someone greenlighted a very special episode of Romper Room filmed on location at Jonestown. "Who wants juice, kids?"

Towards the end of the commercial, I had merely given up all hope for our species. This is, to be sure, normal. Car insurance ad aaaaand . . . big zit joke. Hey hey, our civilization is in decline! Whatever. Next! But it wasn't done.

At the end of the ad, the Insurance Guy finally can't stand it, and leans in to Mr. Fonk's personal space. "I'm sorry," he says. "I can't help it." AND HE REACHES OVER TO FONK'S ZIT. Oh my God! Who made this commercial? Dario Argento? I sat rooted to my chair; I think my chilly ass nerves laid down rhizomes to nourish me and my agony. They can't possibly film this guy popping that fucking zit. Right?

The camera cut away. I relaxed slightly. Good God. That was close.

Unfortunately, what they cut away to was a shot of Insurance Guy wincing as his face was blasted by a jet of pearlescent liquid. Yes. He popped the zit.

(You know, it's difficult to ignore the not-very-ignorable secondary suggestion of this image here, so I won't even try. It looks an awful lot like someone is blowing a huge load onto Insurance Guy's face, but here we enter into some psychosexual territory that I confess I am too terrified to follow into. I am sorry. But I will not venture into the alien terrain where Vern Fonk prowls here, erect insurance penis in hand, defying any chickenshit agents to defy his ejaculatory prowess.)

I'd like to say the ad ends there, but it does not. There is one more cutover, back to Vern himself, babbling to the camera. He still wears the fake exploded zit on his forehead, leaking some leftover goo. This is an insurance ad. He smiles into the camera. I cannot--will not--remember his exact words, but they are to the effect of: "Don't worry about blemishes on your record." There is a toothpaste-sized gob of fake pus on his brow as he grins this.

Remember to honk when you drive by Vern Fonk!

(Postscript: I have been accused--fairly--of sometimes making stuff up. I am not doing so here. You may view many of Vern Fonk's legendary ads at the following URL, including the one I write about above, if you have the guts. As a pre-test, see if you can even endure the tiny thumbnail screenshots. I think you'll particularly enjoy the one of him pretending to be Osama Bin Laden. If you're up to it, go ahead and click on the one I've been talking about. It is, of course, called "The Zit.")

http://www.vernfonk.com/asp/videos.asp

Tuesday, 13 December
Do You Smell What I Smell?

This weekend, of course, I had to do the show, so I found myself once again down at good old Open Circle theater's decrepit space, preparing. That's when I heard the cry go up from J., who is also in the show.

"I found the rat!"

There's nothing that says Get ready for comedy! like that phrase, I've found. J.'s voiced called out again. "Aw, man. There's maggots." A pause. "And I'm the one who's been puking all day!" Someone else's voice joined this hellish chorus. "Oh no! Are you sick?" Pause. "Naw. Hung over."

I don't want you to get the idea, now, that this is in any way emblematic of pre-show activities at your local fringe theater company. I want to hammer this into you as forcefully as possible: this is entirely in keeping with your average night getting ready for a show in a converted loading dock with exposed nails everywhere and a thriving C.H.U.D. population living in the unseen basement, feeding from leaky sewage pipes and mutant rats.

The smell from one particular backstage area had been horrific for a few days. "Rat!" was the unquestioned opinion of all. Not in any surprised way. Nobody was really shocked that a rat had croaked somewhere in this dismal edifice. "Dead rat," people exclaimed, holding their stomachs. Nobody was spending a lot of time looking for it, either, which made some sense: you could either 1. deal with dead rat smell and maybe even walk away from it, or 2. you could go hunting for the dead rat, and find a dead rat. Let me again point out that fringe theater actors--well, the ones I hang out with anyway--find that smelling decomposing animals is sort of par for the course, or at least a bizarre form of penance to be exacted by the gods for choosing such an idiotic vocation in the first place. "Act! With passion!" I imagine Bacchus declaiming. "And also! Smell dead rats!"

But I guess J. couldn't stand it. He tracked down the rat, which I don't suppose was any kind of saga . . . Br'er Rat certainly wasn't running off, except in the sense that I suppose he was gradually liquefying. I happened to be onstage at the time, checking my setup, when J. appeared, wearing elbow-length powder blue kitchen gloves, and holding a plastic bag with an alarmingly large oblong object in it, shaped roughly like a loaf of peasant bread. He held it up, and it swayed hypnotically.

"Found the rat!" he said again. "Want to see it?" He shook the bag playfully.

"Get the fuck away from me!" I snarled.

"There were maggots," he said. I wondered if the horror of the situation had reduced his ruined mind to reciting the only salient facts about the past few minutes. I made violent warding gestures, and he walked towards the hall leading outside to where the dumpsters are; he then evidently encountered someone else, as I partially heard the exchange:

"Found the rat! Want to see it?"

(Inaudible, but unmistakeably horror-tinged reply.)

"Okay." (Pause.) "There were maggots!"

After some shaky laughter re: dead rat disposal, another member of the cast had a bit of a confession. One actress let it drop that she had figured that the incredible stench had been emanating not from a decomposing animal, but rather from a fellow actress. This was met with much hilarity, even from the offended party, to her credit, I suppose. I'm not sure I'd be so sanguine in her situation. "Oh ho ho! You just figured I smell like putrescine!" On the other hand, the mistaken party has to be credited as well. She sat there for at least one weekend, silent, yet thinking, "Oh, great. So I get to sit next to the person who smells like Love Canal. Or Courtney Love. Or Courtney's Love Canal."

There then followed a predictable number of douche jokes. Because theater is a serious art, people, practiced by serious people. Get ready for comedy!

So come on down to Open Circle Theater! We've been rat-free for . . . a few days! Well, dead rat-free. As far as we know. And those other fringe theaters? The ones who proudly trumpet their "zero tolerance" policies on dead rats? They're a bunch of lying sacks. I once did a show at Theater Schmeater, and they served a deli plate piled high with rat meat. And don't get me started on Book-It Theater. The reason they sell so much Dr Pepper? They dip a dead rat into each soda. It's their "flavor secret." Open Circle at least owns up to it. It's in their mission statement. "Fantastical theater for a daring audience that isn't afraid of some dead fucking rats." Plus, we can drink all those other nerds under the table. In fact, we drink before every show. We have to. Why?

We're still working on the maggots. Get ready for comedy!

Friday, 09 December
Drink Me

There is a television ad that's been running for some time now that has become a real staple of the Pfaff household here. For one thing, we can't get enough of it. For another thing, it is possibly the creepiest ad I've ever seen; the wife and I can't quite believe it hasn't been laughed off the screen. But it hasn't. I just saw it again tonight.

The ad is for Disaronno. Disaronno, despite sounding like the name of some noxious laxative, is actually, according to the website, an "Italian liqueur flavored with herbs and fruits soaked in apricot kernel oil." So, my bad! It is a noxious laxative! And, apparently, a really sophisticated way to spend your evening getting loaded. And you know? I really think we don't soak enough stuff in apricot kernel oil.

(Incidentally, one of the first page of Google hits on "Disaronno" is this: "Amazon.com: So You'd Like to... Enjoy a Disaronno Margarita." I imagined that the extended body text on that page read: "Unfortunately, actually enjoying this is totally impossible. Instead, consider drinking a regular fucking margarita, you freak." I know that tonight I will sleep uneasily, dreaming of Disaronno margaritas.)

The ad is simplicity itself. As the spot begins, it's LIGHTS UP on an upscaley bar, where beautiful young people cluster about (but not claustrophobically! They're socially bunched, but warmly so), celebrating their youth, their beauty, and their utterly improbable diversity. "We have a black friend!" A gaunt bartender is serving drinks. "Disaronno sour," he intones (I don't really remember what drink he actually says), setting down a glass. "Disaronno martini," he says, putting down another.

(Let's leave aside my sort of hard-line martini stance, which is that martinis are made with GIN and ONLY GIN as the base. Drink your vodka martinis if you must, but really: must you? Anyway, needless to say that this "Disaronno martini"-purveying whey-faced ghoul is already my enemy when he lays the drink down.)

And then a lovely lady sidles up to the bar and fixes the ghoul with a provocative look. Her hair is immaculately glued to her aerodynamic skull, and she smirks at ghoul provocatively as she says, "Disaronno on the rocks." Cut to ghoul, who is transfixed. The corners of his mouth jerk up uncomfortably, as if he were thinking, I can tell to the pound how much you would weigh as carved-up meat. "Disaronno on the rocks it is," he gurgles.

Then there's some meaningless voiceover horseshit extolling the WARM LAXATIVE taste of Disaronno as the guy turns to pour her drink. Oh, and by the way? Behind the bar are liquor shelves with nothing but bottles of Disaronno. Hey, what a great bar! It's like being at an airport bar, but with fewer choices! Say, what's on draft? Disaronno! Okay, what's your special? Disaronno! Hey, why is this floor sticky? Hopefully . . . Disaronno!

Finally, the hot chick--honestly, though, she's really kind of a stick, but if you like that sort of Kate Mossean clatterbones thing, go nuts--gets her drink. She gives ghoul another smoldering stare, as if to say, "You sure can pour liquid over ice, buster!" and then ecstatically takes a quaff before returning to ostentatiously laughing with her friends, including the black one. Good for him! We've come a long way.

There is then a cut to her glass, basically empty. Ghoul reaches for it . . . and . . . she stops him, laying her alabaster hand over his! He's surprised! He's touching her! Holy shit! Cut to her face. She impishly shakes her head at him in a flirtatious reprimand. She fishes out one ice cube from her glass and slowly, oh, so slowly, reaches up and puts it sensuously into her mouth, much like any gal would do with a booze-covered ice cube, or, geez, I don't know, an erect penis. Maybe I'm just projecting here.

Anyway, she closes her eyes as she sucks on the phallocube. And here's where the commercial truly knocks it out of the park. Because right then they cut back to ghoul, who is again totally rooted to the spot watching this wanton display of oral gratification. He's stunned! He can't believe this chick! And then he smiles the most alarming, simian smile ever caught on video. The smile slowly starts at the corners of his mouth and crawl horribly up towards his terrible face. It really is impossible to describe; in overall effect, imagine how the Tall Man from the Phantasm movies would look if he were very slowly getting an erection. It's the kind of face that says, "I sure would like to date-rape you . . . but I don't think I can wait that long!"

That's the whole ad. But that indelible face made by ghoul will stay with you forever, I promise. It is kind of a ritual that after the wife and I see that ad, I will inevitably turn to her and try to replicate that nightmarish leer. I cannot do it, of course--I came close one time when I imagined two leeches clamped onto the sides of my mouth, both trying their best to slowly crawl into my nostrils, dragging my lips up into an unwilling rictus. "Ew, God!" said the wife. But I can't bear to try that mental feat again.

Anyway. DISARONNO! Order it in your favorite bar! Or, even better, go to a bar that doesn't have anything else! Get loaded! And don't forget, when you're pinned against your car by that knife-wielding bar ghoul that you've been cruelly teasing all night: Hey, at least you'll be regular in the morning. It's the apricot kernel oil.

Wednesday, 07 December
Oh, Hell, Let's Prejudge Some Movies

The holidays! It's that special time of year when Hollywood encourages parents to punish their families by taking them to see holiday-themed movies, usually over the loud, keening wails of everyone else who wants to see stuff like King Kong. It's not that every single holiday movie is horrible--The Ref was appealingly misanthropic for a little while, and the legendary Bad Santa cheerfully served up child abuse and anal sex for the season's merriments.

But most of the time, you know, it's going to be things like Christmas With the Kranks. Which simultaneously failed to feature the sodomization of Jamie Lee Curtis AND the vicious face-punching of Tim Allen. (I might have watched it then.)

Let's see what's coming up for this year!

Yours, Mine and Ours

You know, I really do love IMDB. They do all my work for me. This horror, directed by the immortal Raja Gosnell, is a remake of some 1968 film that I've never seen, and don't really care to, and features Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo as a couple of frighteningly fertile parents who marry and then have to contend with their respective immiscible broods of horrible children. (It kind of cracks me up how many holiday family films feature as a centerpiece the fact that children are horrible little fuckfeet who should all be put down immediately.)

Anyway, let's go to IMDB and see what they have to say!

Trivia: The party band in the movie is a Christian alternative rock band called Hawk Nelson.

This sounds like text from a surgeon general's label. CAUTION! This product contains Christian alternative rock music.

Quotes:
[from trailer]
Frank Beardsley: Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! Move it! Move it! Move it!
Ethan: Move it! Move it! Move it!

I like to think that in whatever scene this is quoted from, Frank and Ethan are either 1. being caught in a raid on a gay bathhouse or 2. really enjoying themselves in a gay bathhouse.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2

It's strangely wonderful watching Steve Martin completely whore himself out for this clearly ghastly sequel to the utterly unloved first film, especially after his bid for teenage poon in Shopgirl, where he seemed to be saying, "Bill Murray gets to fuck these girls? Why not me?"

The ads for this film are beyond comprehension, and seem to emphasize the director's fundamental loathing of Martin, who suffers more than the usual amount of genital abuse even for a movie of this ilk. Once due to the efforts of Eugene Levy, which is kind of like being kicked in the nuts twice. Bonnie Hunt, who plays Martin's wife, evidently, seems to be doing her best to hide behind trees while Martin mugs it up and gets his nads eaten by angry dogs.

Quotes:
[from trailer]
Tom Baker: That's not gonna fit in your tent, Lorraine.
Lorraine Baker: Oh, I'm gonna make it fit, Dad!

Hilary Duff's career has taken a supremely disturbing turn with just this one line. I also enjoy this threadline from the IMDB message boards: "Hilary looks so ugly now!"

The cast also features Piper Perabo and Carmen Electra. Line forms to the left, folks!

The Family Stone

Seriously, again, thanks to IMDB, no heavy lifting is necessary here.

Tagline: Feel The Love.

Holy crap. SERIOUSLY? That's all they could come up with? Fuck, man, I can do better than that! Here: The Family Stone: Holy Crap. See?

But wait! Check out the ensemble! (Partial list.)

Claire Danes
Diane Keaton
Rachel McAdams
Dermot Mulroney
Craig T. Nelson
Sarah Jessica Parker
Luke Wilson

Hey, it's the Improbable Nose Brigade, and they're all in one film! All they need is Fran Tarkington to round out this existentially proboscicized group. This is the most bizarre group of actors I've ever seen since Caligula Goes to Amarillo! featuring Malcolm McDowell, Roddy McDowall and Andie MacDowell.

Whatever. It's no crazier than any other holiday movie season. I mean, I guess it could be worse. It's not like anyone made a Jesus movie with Liam Neeson or anything.

Whew.

Tuesday, 29 November
No Parking

On one of our nights in Chicago, one of our gracious hosts, S., had lined up some theater tickets for us. At Steppenwolf, no less! The wife was very excited; more so than me, I admit. "That's right . . . you hate theater now," said S. Or, more accurately, as my friends V. and J. independently pointed out, "You hate everything." I thought of the reasons for hope: respected theater . . . uh . . . free tickets, I guess . . .

"I looked it up online, and it's only seventy minutes long anyway," said S. I started to feel better. I can endure anything for an hour or so. I have watched "CSI: Miami." Nothing can do permanent damage in an hour.

"What's it called?" I asked, starting to feel better for mere seconds; then S. told me. " '4.48 Psychosis,' " replied S. I started to feel worse suddenly. It's by a local group that's really got a good rep going," S. continued. Hey, what the fuck? "Yeah, Steppenwolf, right?" I was starting to get short of breath, but that was probably also because the cat was stepping on my balls and waving his ass in my face. "Oh, it's not a Steppenwolf show," S. explained as my eyeballs pulsed and wowed. "The company is just renting their space." S. averted his eyes. "Well, their garage space."

All my blood immediately turned to aspic. S. was really enjoying himself watching me enter a fugue state as I contemplated spending a quality evening in Steppenwolf Theater's fucking parking garage watching a band of sweaty little macaques performing the oh-so-primly titled "4.48 Psychosis." S. smiled sweetly before delivering the deathblow. "Oh, and it's environmental theater," he said. "So, no chairs."

Environmental theater, you see, eschews such pedestrian trappings such as audience seating. No, in environmental theater, you, the audience member, wander like a bedouin around the spaaace, maaaan, being careful not to fuck with the actors who are totally right there begging to be fucked with or to kick over their water bottles or anything. Exploooore the spaaaace! Whoops, not that space or that space or that space, though, because those are for acting.

And so it came to be that one night we travelled to the world-famous Steppenwolf Theater Parking Garage facility for a little show.

A word about that show, by the way. "4.48 Psychosis" is an ostensibly poetic piece about a woman who wants to kill herself. (SPOILER: She does!) The playwright, Sarah Kane, achieved some fame in the theater world, particularly when, in 2000 or so, a few months after writing this play, she killed herself. Go ahead an insert your own really easy joke here. The 4.48 in the title refers to 4:48 AM, which Kane describes as the only time of the day when she feels lucid. Or, perhaps, psychotic. Or, these days, cold.

It blows off any real attempt at linear plot, which is fine, were it not for the fact that what she replaces the plot with is an excruciatingly tedious litany of "poetic" imagery, fractured non-sequitur, strained therapeutic hoo-ha, and an awful lot of "Look at me! I HATE ME!" Get in line, sister! I was here first!

It is a truly awful script, and I wish that whoever decided to do this show had, oh, I don't know, read it. Or sobered up and reread it. The opening line in the show is the lead actress': "I am sad." Gee, lady, we just got here. Should we go? Kane's play also features her therapist, who in at least one scene should be amusing as she tells Kane (yes, I'm just saying that the play is about Kane and not worrying about it) that everything is all her fault, but the actress isn't up to it, or the director didn't notice that it was a grimly funny scene, and anyway, there died one potential moment of amusement under the carriage wheels of this abysmal production. In another nice bit of me-against-the-world-ism, Kane's boyfriend sleeps through the entire production, except for one scene where he inexplicably gets some giant thing rammed up his asshole. (Then he goes back to sleep.) The subtext seemed to be: "My boyfriend sure is a turd. He sleeps while I'm sad, which is all the time! He should get something rammed up his asshole." At the risk of sounding insensitive--which I'm sure will be a first--if I were this woman's boyfriend, I think I too would sleep as much as humanly possible.

I actually like to imagine this actor's internal monologue during the show:

ZZZZZ.

ZZzzzz.

(Snuffle.)

ZZZZzzz.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! MY ASSHOLE!

ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.

As if all this weren't enough, the show also features three young women who function as a sort of chorus. You can never get enough mileage out of three women, can you? Just ask the Greeks! Or Niel Gaiman. Fates? Furies? Graces? Oh, who cares. They wore some nice costumes, though, sort of ballerina costumes with kind of a Bride of Chucky spin on them. Unfortunately, they also had some odd halos which were actually dead baby dolls hanging over their heads. You know? If you bring out the dead babies, you'd better be ready to pull the trigger on the whole dead baby topic.

But no. So that was pointless too.

It was all very agonizing, of course. S., happily, did find some worth to it: he thought the director had some good visual ideas and nice staging (at least for a piece where the actors are forever shooing you away from wherever they need to be writing in chalk on the floor, or eating oranges [yeah]). I couldn't disagree; for one thing, I'm no director, that old saw about all actors just wanting to direct notwithstanding.

(It actually sounds like the worst punishment in the world to me. Here you have an artistic vision for some show, and then you have to sit around for weeks and weeks and watch cantankerous, scuttling backfuckers like me utterly fail to make it come true, every night. It's much easier to act. Directors come home every night and wail, "Those cretins are destroying me by inches!" Actors come home and flatly think, "Ruined the director's dreams again. Hey, whiskey!")

The show was a preposterous dud in nearly every way, then. We autopsied it afterwards as we shambled to a bar, any bar; S. was still finding good things to say about the direction, I was muttering darkly about dead baby-halos, and the wife as usual made up for my horrid manners by thanking S. for procuring the tickets for us in the first place. (Hey, it was a very sweet thing of S. to do.) We had a perfectly lovely time whiling away the rest of the evening.

That night--or that morning, really--I woke up. I felt strange. I looked at the clock's glowing numbers with a chill. 4:48. I did a quick mental inventory: Was I sad? No. Was I suicidal? No. Was I really fucking sleepy? Yes.

Then the wife rammed something really huge right up my asshole. I screamed; I screamed with pain . . . but also exhilaration!

I thought, I'm totally going to write a play about this!

See you in the garage.

Tuesday, 25 October
All These Zombies

I might as well start off by saying that it was a pretty boring weekend, really. Hurrah! Tell us more, Skot!

All right!

On Friday, as the wife trundled off to do her show (note that I have abandoned the Ethel Rosenberg thing, as it was only ever funny to me, I'm pretty sure), I did my usual thing and . . . sat around. Then I ate some pizza. Slow down, tiger! It had been a while since I had a whole Friday night to myself to . . . stare at the awful things they put on Friday night TV. Is that shit even legal? I think I watched a whist tournament on the ESPN You're Too Tired To Even Masturbate channel, and then some reality show where the contestants ate their own feet.

Eventually, the wife came home. "How was your evening?" she asked brightly. "Boring," I snapped back. What a great husband! "We could go out," she offered tentatively. "Nah!" I spat. Honest to God. No, wife! I want to stew in my own manufactured misery! What's not to understand? Basically, what you need to get here is that I am a ridiculous child and that the wife is a patient, patient woman.

[Let's shoehorn in a story here to illustrate this, from earlier tonight! A sample bit of marital dialogue; it is of note that the wife's birthday is approaching:

Skot: (teasingly) "I got a special someone a gift today!"

Wife: (faux-naively) "Ooooh! Who was it for?"

Skot: "This bitch I've been banging."]

I eventually (back to Friday now) got out of my stupid-ass funk, probably, sadly, because of the fact that trolling through the cable listings, I noticed: Resident Evil 2. Oh God! Thank you Starz! "You mind?" I inquired, and the wife replied--as if I needed more proof of her fundamental goodness, "That actually sounds perfect."

So we watched. It was . . . Resident Evil 2! I mean, what the fuck do you expect? It's a video game movie. With Milla Jovovich and some other hot skinny broad. It's 2! 2! 2 times the hot! Whatever.

Although really it must be said that at some point we stopped asking enough from our zombies. Early on in the movie, it's established that you need to shoot the poor moaners in the brain. Hey, fuck that! I'm of the old-school zombies, where you sever an arm? THAT ARM STILL CRAWLS AROUND! Killing zombies? Bah. Fuck that. THEY'RE ALREADY DEAD! IT'S THE WHOLE POINT! Body parts must crawl around. But no. This is the age of zombie adulteration, and so you get a bunch of brain nonsense.

On the other hand, you do also get some zombie hookers, who have really pneumatic chests wandering around. Apparently hooker-shirts and -bras are incredibly delicious to other zombies. And also, strangely, zombie hookers are evidently real sticklers for job performance, as they sort of stroll around being hooker-y with their dead tits hanging out. I didn't see any of the zombie accountants trying to fuss with their double-entry bookkeeping during the movie, or any zombie gas station attendants fumbling with the pumps. How uplifting that the topless zombie hookers still wanted to suck some dick for money! But only live dick Or, perhaps, chew off said dicks. For nutrition!

I spent a little too much time thinking about the zombie hookers and what they'd do when they only had dead dicks to deal with. On the other hand, I was really overthinking the zombie thing anyway. They always fall on a live human with a real appetite--it is a standard scene in any zombie movie to show these folks gnawing the fuck out of any living person, preferably all as a group. So how come all these other fucking zombies are suspiciously un-gnawed? All you ever see are these gray, shambling bastards with barely a tooth mark on them! Who forgot to chew on these guys? Is there some sort of unspoken (or, maybe, unmoaned) zombie code for when it's no longer really flavorful to eat the bodies?

"Ah, leave it be, Earl. She ain't even wriggling no more."

"MUUUUUUUHHH!"

"You are boring as shit, Earl. Oh, hell, you might as well finish up that ear."

I think I could write these things, really. It's apparently not difficult to get Milla Jovovich to take off her shirt. Eat my dust, Uwe Boll.

Tuesday, 11 October
This Just In

This is just to say
I want to strafe the Smurfs
And hear the lamentations of their women

Thursday, 18 August
Let's Prejudge More Movies!

Well, the meat of the summer is behind us, and so are all the summer blockbusters. Or at least they thought they were. What happened to War of the Worlds? Spielberg and Cruise, together again! With that awful little blonde child, Dakota Fanning, the one who always makes me wonder why nobody feeds her or lets her sleep! Oh, how the money . . . stopped rolling in!

(I blame Fanning for purely malicious reasons. This consumptive little wench was born in 1994 and already has 18 fucking IMDB entries. She will either flame out and become, if she's very lucky, Drew Barrymore; if very unlucky, oh, Lauren Tewes.)

And who can forget Stealth? Nobody! Because it's impossible to forget an experience you never had. Me, I'm looking forward to seeing this horror on cable, if only to experience lines like this:

Lt. Kara Wade: "Just tell me you love me, you pussy."

HURRAH! Proposed response: "Okay. I love your pussy." Hollywood, I await your calls.

But nothing seemed to die faster than Michael Bay's latest extrusion The Island, which disappeared with such incredible speed and gruesome efficiency that one began to suspect mob involvement. Which is nice to think about: Paulie Walnuts shoving Michael Bay off of a Jersey cliff? MWAH!

What else is lurking in the wings? Let's see.

Four Brothers

Alternate title: Oh, Brother.

Anyone else remembered when John Singleton was hailed as a major new voice in cinema for his didactorama debut Boyz N the Hood? Since then, he's helmed such horrendous insults as the incredibly awful Shaft remake and, God help us all, 2 Fast 2 Furious, which should be included in the annals of Films Titles That Not Only Describe Themselves But Also The Audiences' Reactions. IMDB says that he's signed on to direct a comic book movie, Luke Cage. (Comic book dorks will know this as the name of Power Man, HERO FOR HIRE! His sailient character attributes were: He's really strong, and he's also black.)

I have already mentally rechristened this film as Box Office Leukemia.

As for Four Brothers, all I can say is: is the mom who gets murdered the same actress who killed the Crystalline Entity on ST: TNG? I think it is. That's how excited I am!

The Dukes of Hazzard

I will let forgo commentary on this . . . this object . . . and let some post titles from the IMDB boards speak for me:

"Disgrace"
"The worst."

And, most damning:

"The General Lee's Doors Opened!!!!!!!!!!"

That's ten exclamation points, people! How they have shamed Redneck Nation.

The Transporter 2

Holy Jesus. Why . . . why . . . I mean, what . . . *paces for a while* . . . what the fuck? What? Why would . . . anyone . . . *long pause* . . . WHAT?

FUN FACT! Take a look at IMDB's cast list. 20 entries down you will see the name "Matthew Modine." Yep! There's no character name actually listed, but right on, Matthew! He's right under "Damaris Justamante" and right above "Todd Nasca." Which, I think, is every actor's dream.

The Cave

Clearly, a misogynistic allegory about the horrors of a woman's vagina. This film should be picketed across the country. Did you see the taglines? "Below Heaven is Hell . . . and below Hell is . . . a woman's vagina." That's just rude.

This filmish thing appears to be no different than, say, Alien or Pitch Black or, really, Friday the 13th: it's your standard "Group of dweebs, stuck somewhere, waiting to be killed/eaten/absorbed/converted to Scientology" plot. But, again, look at the cast!

Credited cast:
Cole Hauser .... Jack
Morris Chestnut .... Buchanan
Eddie Cibrian .... Tyler
Rick Ravanello .... Phillip Briggs
Marcel Iures .... Dr. Nicolai
Lena Headey .... Katherine
Piper Perabo .... Charlie

Holy cow. Cole Hauser? Piper Perabo? I think I'm rooting for the vagina.

Wednesday, 03 August
He's Going The Distance

It's been an odd few weeks. Some of my tens of readers have no doubt been wondering, "Why isn't Skot talking about the horrible movies he watches on cable?"

I haven't watched any.

Others may be asking, "Well then, why isn't he unfairly bitching about the horrible new releases that he hasn't seen?"

I don't care right now. This despite the existence of films like Stealth and Must Like Dogs. So something's going on. (I will say that I enjoy pretending that the latter film is actually called Must Eat Dogs, a documentary about speed-eater Kobayashi.)

And still others might think, "I'm kind of bored with my vibrator. I should get a new one." To whom I say: I'm kind of bored with your vibrator too. You know what you should do instead?

You should tune into Game Show Network every night at nine and watch the reruns (every night!) of "The Amazing Race." It's what we do! And it's why we're not watching horrible movies, prejudging horrible movies, and why we're not interested in vibrator retail. GSN is running every season of TAR in order, one episode a night, and boy are we slaves to it.

We are not ones, honestly, to be seduced by reality TV. I confess I had a brief affair with the first season of "Survivor," and I once attempted, in a fit of madness, to deal with "Joe Millionaire"--I lasted about 20 minutes--but apart from these lapses, we have been immune to these unspeakable shows. The formulae are all pretty much the same: amiable throw rugs vs. the Machiavellis, with a few pitiable dolts thrown in for spice. Grrr! We hate the Machiavellis! Go throw rugs! And then sometimes the pitiable dolts fuck a mule or something, just to make things briefly interesting.

I'd like to say that TAR is fundamentally different, but it's really not. The doomed weiners are pretty evident from the very beginning, like, say, old people. Watching Season 2, I had to laugh at the "Gutsy Grandmas," especially when they (distressingly often) complained that they "couldn't run." I agree! Most grandmas cannot run! Which is why they're a perfect choice for entering . . . a race. Who could have imagined that it involved running?

TAR is very skillful in how it arranges the shows, but the Grandmas are a perfect example of how it loads the deck. Of course you have to have the Plucky Old Contestants, lest the producers be accused of agesim. Plus, it fills out the demographics. There are other must-have contestants:

ALPHA MALE + DOORMAT

He screams, she beams. Lovely! This is easily my least favorite aspect of TAR: the creepy freak who goes nuts at every turn, and the gal who loves him. At least with the second season they gave us a variant on this theme with Tara and Will: they're both screamy and intolerable! Will's tactics: threaten to quit the game at every inconvenience; occasionally call Tara a moron. Tara's tactics: behave at every moment as if you're going to fuck the brains out of some other team member. Also, tell Will to shut up.

THE FAGS

Oh, where would TAR be without the gays? In the first season, unpleasantly, the gay team was a couple of loathsome schemers. Embarrassingly, their schemes were usually really stupid and vile, and their arrogance was somewhat overarched by the naked fact that they would usually place very poorly. (It didn't help that they dressed in matching outfits.) The Season 1 gays were just depressing and horrid, and richly deserved the every humiliation they received, which were frequent. Sadly, they were too stupid to realize when these humiliations were actually happening on television.

Season 2 was marginally better, in that the gay couple--they're just friends, you know!--were hilariously entertaining while also being completely blase about the whole game. When other teams were scrambling for . . . I don't know, really . . . these guys would go to the mall. I don't know. They just kind of cracked me up. Particularly when, after an afternoon of FREAKING OUT by the other teams, these guys would laconically show up at some pit stop, wondering what all the fuss was about.

THE GRAY DILAPIDATED PANTHERS

Like I said. Doomed. But aren't they plucky? Or something? No. Doomed.

BEST FRIENDS FOR-EVAR

I'm not saying that all of these people are closet gays, but the show invites the viewer to think so. (Should I sound unclear, I'd like to point out that I don't really give a fuck.) These teams always seem to work extremely well, actually! They always get close to the finish line. And then they don't. Which, if you think about it, is kind of in keeping with what I imagine as a network attitude. "Are those guys fruits?" "I don't think so, boss." "Well, we don't need it one way or the other. Let's back off that angle."

AND FINALLY, THE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY

Mom and eighteen-year-old girl! Separated parents who may or may not have children! Separated couples trying (or definitively not trying) to rekindle the spark! Gimli and Boromir! Awful. And even more awfully, these teams will always make it into the final run.

Don't be like me. Don't watch this show.

And whatever you do, don't root for Gimli. Have you seen that guy's legs? I think he's gay.

Thursday, 09 June
Once More, Sith Feeling

Today the wife and I and a friend went to see a matinee of Revenge of the Sith. If you're worried about spoilers, you should stop here. Also, if you're bone-tired of reading pretty much the same thing everyone seems to be saying about the movie, you should also stop here. Because I don't think I have anything new to offer.

I took off from work an hour early to wander over to Cinerama, which might just be the best theater ever, with its Face-Of-God-sized screen and hellaciously great sound system. I unfortunately then had to go and ruin everything by getting hungry--pre-movie, I unwisely bought and ate a hot dog, which by the film's end, was sloshing around uneasily in my stomach. PEOPLE! Don't be dumb like me! For God's sake, eat the fucking popcorn.

My guts are still restive, frankly. Fucking hot dog. Not that George Lucas' famously tin-eared dialogue helped; it might have been more than just rancid squirrel meat twisting my bowels while Natalie Portman said things like, "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo."

But I get ahead of myself. First of course were the trailers, which are important for people like me who Prejudge Movies. Impressions? Batman Begins might, against long odds, actually be good. I got a little happy when I saw the Scarecrow, anyway. And as you all know, even if it is terrible, I'll probably enjoy it anyway.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith? It's a tough one. On paper, it looks almost risibly bad, but I confess . . . it might just work. I was not horrified by what I saw, but perhaps that was thanks to the countless leering shots of Angelina Jolie's vertiginous decolletage. But still, I have hopes that it can be saved from itself via a "we're all just having a good time here!" vibe like you got with Ocean's 11 and were so viciously denied in Ocean's 12.

And then there are the spots for The Fantastic Four, which looks so dire, so ghastly, so embarrassing that it might just be the neutron bomb of movies: after this thing goes off, everyone involved with it and their careers will all be dead, while the movie still stands there, placidly and horribly untouched. IT'S SOBBERIN' TIME!

Anyway, so we watched Revenge, and as you've no doubt heard, it's way better than the last two catheterizations--which I recognize is faint praise at best. And, really, that's about as much praise as it deserves. Don't get me wrong, I mostly enjoyed myself, but really, we all know that these movies are barely a step up from Independence Day anyway, and we all know also that George Lucas is if perhaps a technical wizard (or one who handsomely employs them) then also a second-tier talent and the bottom-rung screenwriter who happened to luck into a shockingly popular franchise that he has mercilessly milked for every fucking farthing he possibly could.

At least here, possibly cornered by inevitability--well, it's time we made a Darth outta this boy!--the movie seems to move along at a decent clip, with great action sequences (though it still runs a good 20 minutes over one's goodwill allotment). It does, unfortunately, still have to include horrible, pace-murdering sequences with Anakin and Padme, and as usual, the actors are not remotely up to the task of trying to inject any kind of pathos into Lucas' wrenchingly hilarious dialogue. I've made my opinions on Ms. Portman known before--that she is an utterly hopeless actress--and they emphatically have not changed. And why does she glisten so? Maybe she's allergic to Midichloreans. For whatever reason, I kept wanting someone to show up with a chamois and wipe her down to a clean finish.

And Mr. Christianson fares not much better, settling for one strategy through the entire movie of lowering his head and staring at everything from under a furrowed brow. This has the unfortunate effect of making him look like he just doesn't quite get what's happening most of the time, so he has to think about it really hard. Or that he's smoldering all the time. You know what the problem is with smoldering? Smolders are easily extinguishable with a glass of water. It's hard to take the future Dark Lord very seriously when you figure you can take him out with a bottle of Dasani.

What else? Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits continue their pitched battle to determine which one of them gets the title of Most Improbable Fit into the Star Wars universe: Jackson, who can be a charming performer, utterly defanged of any of his sense of danger at all? Or Smits, who looks vaguely lost without a Droid Sipowicz to help slap some fucking sense into these intransigent assholes he's surrounded by? They should have given him some Spock ears and let him be Mace Simone or something. And Darth Sidious . . . well. Let's just say that 30 or 40 minutes of "I am so delighted to be evil that I must cackle all the time!" gets really, really, really old. I imagined him taking a foul shit and calling in people to take a look. "Look, my minions! Look at my shit! See how it is cakey and malformed! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" And the Stormtroopers (or clones, or whatever) all kind of look at each other and go, "You know, this guy is just a pud. Why did we back him again?"

Oh, there are all kinds of other questions, of course. Why, for instance, in Episode IV, does Cap'n Vader evince no emotion nor recollection at all about the droids? Why, since he is an android, does Grievous seem to have a debilitating case of asthma? (He wheezes! He coughs! Though never when in hand-to-hand combat, much like Yoda all of a sudden gets spry and ninja-y and caneless.) Why would a medical robot say, when revealing that Padme is dying in childbirth, this: "We don't know what is wrong with her!" And then, immediately after that, "She has lost the will to live." You know what? For a minute there, so did I.

But the biggest question of all is, who in the NAME OF GOD failed to say to Lucas, "Um . . . you know, George . . . that scene where Darth-man finds out that Padme croaked? Maybe you shouldn't, uh . . . show that." But nobody did. And so in the movie you are treated to Darth busting free of his medical restraints to bumble around all Godzilla-like--for some reason, it appears that he cannot move his arms--and then shout (now of course in James Earl Jones' calypso-tinged basso), "NOOOOOOOO!"

Ah well. We all knew it wouldn't end well. We knew that after the nightmarishly bad Episode I, didn't we? This, at least, is nothing like Episode I. For one thing, you can watch it--even with a poisoned hot dog in your body--without wanting to die.

For another? Well, you can pretend that Natalie Portman really died.

Friday, 03 June
Heather And Puggly Drop A Deuce

Has there ever been a finer filmography than that of Debbie Rochon? I ask you.

"Mulva 2: Kill Teen Ape!" is, I argue, the best movie title ever.

Friday, 27 May
I Prejudge Movies Again Because I'm So Very Lazy

So it's been a slow week here, huh? Sorry about that. After devoting about nine million words to the SF trip, I have found myself mired in the old routine of days, and as a consequence, I've been kicking at a rather large hunk of writer's block. Which I hate.

I hate it so much that last night I came very close to writing about this wretched game show I happened to torpidly watch called "Dog Eat Dog." Fortunately, I stopped myself before that happened, but I'll give you the short version: Racky host, racky and/or ripped contestants, pointless physical endeavors usually involving the contestants getting wet. Remember a more innocent time when girls swooned over croutons like Scott Baio and guys furtively jerked off to the bra section of the Sears catalog? Well, me neither. (I stole Oui magazines from gas stations.) But make no mistake, "Dog Eat Dog" is really just spank material as imagined by the good people at Circuit City.

And since we're on the topic of lazy writing habits and manufactured spank materials, let's prejudge some movies!

The Longest Yard

From a pure marketing standpoint, it makes a good deal of sense to pair up Adam Sandler and Chris Rock: they are both beloved by the Rohypnol crowd, and those people have money. It hardly matters that Sandler, who is not funny at all, and Rock, who certainly can be when he isn't being lazy, are totally immiscible--call them comedy's Black and Tan--this movie will nonetheless make a mint. And it's not like it took much effort: the film is a remake of a 70s Burt Reynolds comedy, for Christ's sake. It's almost too bad: the idea of a convict vs. prison guard football game could lead to some wickedly pointed commentary about race, homoeroticism, and all kinds of social fuckall, but I am assuming that those will all be swept away in favor of Sandler's eternal manboy obsession with the gunk that comes out of our bodies along with a thoroughly surgical defanging of whatever Rock might have to say about racial issues.

Do you enjoy watching Adam Sandler work up his usual tired spittle-flecked rage act? And do you also enjoy watching Chris Rock dutifully stitch on his high-wattage grin when he has nothing else to do? This is your movie.

Madagascar

This is Dreamworks' latest perverse attempt at demonstrating how inferior they are in every way to Pixar. Huzzah, Dreamworks! I applaud your ongoing Quixoticisms! Though I will never watch them. Why would anyone? (I realize I say this as someone who is not cursed with the yammerings of children.) Why eat at Arby's if the cost of the meal is the same as a good steakhouse? Dreamworks has failed every time with this shit, but again, you have to admire their moxie. Especially after such dreadnoughts of horror such as Antz and A Shark's Tale.

But maybe Dreamworks smells a hit here! After all, they shelled out top dollar for such vocal talents as Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock (hey there!) and Jada Pinkett Smith. Me, I smell something else.

Is it incipient failure? Is it bottom-drawer talent? Is it Andy Richter?

BONUS I PREJUDGE MOVIES EXTRA!

IMDB tells me that yesterday was Helena Bonham Carter's birthday! That's nice. My wife absolutely detests you! Happy birthday!

Cinderella Man

It would be awfully easy to get irritated with Russell Crowe, given his overexposure in the media and his tendency to behave like an obnoxious boor, but the fact is--this always burns me--he's actually a good actor. No, he's really good, even when he's relegated to mindless horseshit like Gladiator, a film that is insulting on so many levels that it's virtually non-Euclidean.

No, the real enemy here is Ron Howard, good old Richie himself, who has somehow, impossibly, found a weird, unassailable perch in Hollywood from where he seemingly cannot be dislodged. He is a humorless gargoyle of cinema, and it seems that nothing can remove him, not even memories of laughable dreck like Backdraft, whose most hilarious claim on trivia is that its theme music was adopted by the original Japanese TV series "Iron Chef."

Look, I can't even deal with shit like this, honestly. Ron Howard is my total enemy in movies these days, and I've tried to keep my end up on this, but as I said before, I'm having trouble lately, so I'm going to cheat. Here's a verbatim comment from IMDB about this miserable fucking thing:

Howard makes the Depression a visceral reality with the scene of near-hopeless men at the docks, begging for a day's work; a stolen salami; Crowe's giving his daughter his breakfast piece of bologna, telling her he dreamed he was full.

Mmmmm, visceral. Thank goodness we've gotten past the days where men begged on the streets for work! Well, white men, anyway.

It suddenly occurs to me that I would like this film a lot more if it were a Ron Howard Huge Important Film In Burnished Tones Just Like All Of My Other Fake Important Films That Actually Have Nothing To Say Nor Any Viewpoint At All, and he could call it: Breakfast Piece of Bologna.

Actually, I'm a little suprised that the title didn't end up being He Dreamed He Was Full. Maybe because it would beg the question: Full of what?

Thursday, 28 April
We All Fall Down

My friends, I have seen the future of horror cinema, and strangely enough, it's arriving not on the silver screen, but rather right through your humble television set.

I have not actually seen the movie yet. I do not need to. I have seen the advertisements, and even those tiny glimpses into this movie fill my bowels with icy fear; my brain screams for reprieve from the roiling sensations bombarding it; my skin writhes with creeping dread. Just a few 30 second spots have done this to me. They have exhausted me and debilitated me and now it is all I can do to master my shaking hands enough so as to pour my calming whiskey.

It is getting more difficult to sleep since seeing what I have seen.

Do you know this terror? Have you seen? It is coming, and I do not know if I can survive the full gale force of this picture's dark promises. I will tell you:

It is called Riding the Bus with My Sister. From the twisted people at Hallmark's Very Special Cloying Theater That Makes You Want To Die Studios comes this ebon thing, this shambling mass, this abomination: it stars, cruelly, Andie MacDowell, one of our most potently untalented actresses and Rosie O'Donnell, beloved TV personality similarly bereft of any gift for acting. They are sisters, you see, but THERE IS MORE! For Ms. O'Donnell's character is, from what I can only assume from these morbid clips, retarded.

This is really all I need to know, which makes the ads so brilliant and disturbing. (Though I suppose there's some ancillary bus-riding going on in there too, as the title suggests.) We have long been accustomed to the tabula rasa that is MacDowell, and it doesn't appear that she disappoints here either: even in these brief ads, her uselessness shines out from the screen like a beacon of sadness and quelled hopes. (She has been used effectively only once in her career, in sex, lies & videotape, where her implacable blankness was exploited by Soderbergh brilliantly, setting her passivitey against the other firebreathing personas in the film. Or I'm full of shit and he just got really lucky. Whatever.)

But it's Ms. O'Donnell's presence that really commands attention. I have never, ever been . . . what's the word? . . . so destroyed by such tiny glimpses into a performance before. I felt--I feel--crushed, almost oppressed by what I have seen.

Why?

It's hard to explain. These are, after all, only 30 second spots. But even in those fleeting 30 seconds, the humiliation one feels is astonishing. Humiliation for Ms. O'Donnell, humiliation for the art of acting, humiliation for sharing a taxonomic affiliation for the creatures--if they are human--who were responsible for shepherding what I was viewing into the public domain. Every time I see these ads, I want to apologize to . . . well, anything. I go over to my neighbor's and knock on the door, and when they answer, I say, "I am so sorry for Rosie O'Donnell." "What?" they ask, but I do not answer. I am already on my way outside so I can apologize to the curb, a passing dog, and the concept of free will. I apologize to all of them for Rosie O'Donnell.

People will cry, perhaps, that I am unfair in my assessment, that I'm judging a book by it's shabby, lurid, nightmarish cover. I disagree. When a filmmaker (here the director is Angelica Huston) creates something so shattering that even the ads for it are nearly Lovecraftian in their air of suffocating madness, I think a masterpiece has been created. I did say, after all, that I had seen the future of horror. I stand by that statement. This is unquestionably going to be the most sinister and terrifying film of our generation. I challenge everyone out there to see it, to confront it head on. And having lived through it--I'm assuming that some strong-willed people will perhaps actually live through it--then discuss it.

I want to hear all about it. Because I'm not strong enough to see it myself.

Tuesday, 26 April
See? Saw.

Hello hello! Sorry it's been longer than usual, but . . . well, fuck "but." I didn't have any motivation for a few days, so I didn't write anything. But now I'm motivated! Sort of! See, the wife and I have watched a bunch of bad movies over the past couple weeks, and I'm anxious to complain about them. If you see a movie title that for some reason you don't want spoiled, skip the section, because I'm going to complain about them in detail. Well, the ones I remember. And the ones I finished watching. Anyway.

As I've mentioned before there are Bad Movies--movies that everyone knows are rotten the very first time you see a trailer, or even hear about it . . . a sequel to XXX? With Ice Cube? A family comedy with former XXX Vin Diesel? These are obviously going to be real gobblers. And then there are the movies that really should be good, and you watch them, and they take a shit on your sneakers, pick your pockets, and run off with your money while you stare at ruined suede.

I Heart Huckabees falls in the latter camp. This "existential comedy," as it is sometimes called, is of course neither: the phrase itself is a pseudointellectual oxymoron, a little in-joke to the audience that signals that it's time to give an arch smile and remember that one time in college that you had to read Nausea and hey, it wasn't funny at all!

Neither is I Heart Huckabees. It is, in fact, far less funny than even Sartre, which is saying something. At least "No Exit" had a nihilistically funny punchline: Hell is other people. In Huckabees, hell is Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin. Other actors in the film like Jude Law and Naomi Watts seem to try to do the sensible thing during all the pallid, miserable clowning going on around them, ducking the metaphysical custard pies flying about, but that just leaves poor targets like Marky Mark, who has no defenses at all against the awful onslaught of the Hofflin, and just seems horribly picked on. At least, that's how it felt at about the 45 minute mark, when we turned off this horrible movie and shot some heroin into our gums.

Nobody should ever see this film.

If you're hungering for a more glossy comedic treatment of repugnant people, you might turn instead towards Sideways, another film by Alexander Payne, a director who is apparently endlessly fascinated with people who are, pretty inarguably, complete shitheads. Lots of my friends really liked Election, a film I found completely cruel and unfunny, so maybe I missed something. Then came About Schmidt, which the wife claims made her sterile. And so along comes Sideways, a cheerful road movie about a couple of never-been losers looking to drink and fuck away a pre-wedding excursion into wine country.

The forthcoming bursts of infidelity are handled with purest unconcern: the director doesn't seem to care, nor do the characters: it's a guy thing, right, to want to get some last-minute sex right before marriage, right? And plus, who cares? The bride is obviously a shallow bitch anyway. Who could possibly condemn this doomed fucker's last wish for some final illicit screwing?

Hmmm. Am I so old-fashioned as to suggest: Anyone?

Look, it's not even that I didn't enjoy the movie for what it offered at the time. It is occasionally amusing, and has some much remarked-upon good performances, etc. etc. It's just another damn movie with some pretty rotten things to say about its characters (and so, us), and it either hopes you don't notice them, or it disingenuously pretends they aren't there in the first place. I leave it to you to decide which is worse.

Getting away from movies that at least take a stab at relevance, we can now move on to the movies that have no pretension at all about being good in the first place. (At least I hope to hell not.)

The Grudge is another one of those Japanese-remake-movies-featuring-yet-again-dead-people-who-will-hassle-you, and also with the little creepy girls, and also with the hot blonde actress that all the teenage boys are praying will take off her shirt, and no, she will not.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is the not-taking-off-shirt gal this time around, and she spends her time mostly gibbering in fear and not taking off her shirt. The most interesting observation I have about this film is that nearly every anemic scarelet to be found somehow revolves around hair. So, if you are endlessly freaked out by . . . hair . . . uh, this one will fuck up your whole world. For the rest of us, this film is about as unnerving as cleaning the bristles of your hairbrush for two hours.

Ocean's Twelve is beneath mention, and has the sneaky rotten tang of Soderbergh cannily filching the studio's millions of dollars so he and his gang of Li'l Rascals could all take a nice European vacation. Oh, and send along Catherine Zeta-Jones! Brad thinks she has a hot ass!

Even further beneath mention--several hundred feet of geological strata beneath it, honestly--is the reprehensible, unwatchable Exorcist: A New Beginning. Or whatever it was called. Poor Stellan Skarsgaard, moping around . . . someplace while . . . uh . . . . horrible things happened.

Look, I'll level with you. The next day, the wife said, "I know I drank a lot of whiskey last night, but I have no idea if we finished that movie." I replied, "I don't either." We came to embrace the theory that our brains were simply driving us to drink in self-defense. "MUST PROTECT SKOT-SHELL! MAKE SKOT-SHELL DRINK TO SAVE BRAIN! NOT CARE THAT LIVER COMPLAINS! EXORCIST MOVIE KILLS US!"

This finally brings us to my last film: the sublime, superb, unassailably magnificent Saw.

Here, finally, was a truly wretched movie; so wretched, in fact, that it was completely enjoyable, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to deranged afficianados of filmic rottenness like myself in a hot second.

Saw takes approximately no time at all establishing its provenance: it so desperately wants to be Se7en that I wouldn't be surprised if in the DVD extras it featured its director giving a smoking handjob to David Fincher. Like Se7en, (which I really like, to be honest) the film assumes that really inventive depravity is a valid substitute for artistic creativity, and therefore gives us yet another uncatchable psychopath with a knack for ridiculously elaborate murder games, such as crawling through a maze of razor wire, or deactivating a jawbone-ripping bomb-mask. (Really.) What really impresses me about these killers, though, is: Where the fuck do they find all that great warehouse space? And how do they pay the rent?

"So I hear you're interested in our dank condemned building."

"Yeah!"

"Are you a developer?"

"No. I plan on constructing elaborate murder theater involving kidnapped victims."

"I see. And how would you like to pay for the deposit?"

Saw is embarrassing, wonderfully so, on a lot of levels. But mostly, it's the performances, which range from Cary Elwes' jitter-tastic, moan-a-riffic, unconvince-o-matic soprano shrieks to Danny Glover's (oh, Danny) growly rowly "I'm so obsessed I could just sweat!" baritone. Poor Glover looks like the director simply bought him underwear three sizes too tight and then turned the poor bastard loose.

I'd like to say I'm not going to watch this shit any more, but who's kidding who? Of course I will. What else would I write about?

And besides. Sometimes it's fun.

Friday, 15 April
Ad Drop

When I watch TV, a big part of it is naturally watching a lot of ads. Which isn't news at all, really, in any sense. Advertising is something that's been with us since the beginning. Courtship is nothing more than an elaborate sort of self-promotion: Seriously, baby, it's in your interest to fuck me. Bad advertising = genetic breakdown lane.

Religion, too: God X is way cooler than God Y. God Y leaves greasy stains on your couch, for God X's sake! Also, I heard that God Y contains emulsifiers. Do you want addititives in your deity? And don't tell anyone, but . . . well . . . the Book of God X? It has some racy parts in the back. It's kind of a secret, you know, but you should check it out. Then have a look at God Y's . . . what? I think it's a pamphlet or something. Cheap card stock, uneven printing. It's just embarrassing.

So if advertising--in whatever form (I know I'm stretching things here, but Jesus, it's just a blog)--is so omnipresent, and has arguably been so for a long, long time . . . why are we so terrible at it still? Why must TV ads be so numbingly ghastly? We've had thousands of years to get this right!

A recent favorite was a truck ad whose tagline ostensibly touted the thing's cargo capacity. On a black screen, in giant white block letters then came the tag:

FEAR NO LOAD

I thought that was astounding, and frankly, really hilarious. I kind of hope some ad exec got that off the cover of a porn video. I honestly think that the porn industry should put billboards up all over Chatsworth in the Valley, just to reassure its nervous starlets. It could have a really nice-looking fellow grinning out at the populace--a nice guy!--with his tumescent cock in hand, and a cheerful lass on her knees giving us a sunny smile and an A-OK sign with her hand, signaling to everyone: She fears no load! Nothing to worry about! It's just like taking out the garbage--not much fun, but after a little wash-up, you're done!

The indefatigable credit card merchants Capital One have been flogging their plastic for quite a while with their "What's in your wallet?" campaign, which is neither the most inspired nor dead stupidest tags ever thought up--it's just boring and staid and slightly annoying. I mean, fuck you what's in my wallet, really. But they had a (apparently, given how long they milked it) successful run with a bunch of thematically identical ads where various schmoes avoided certain death by Mongol hordes, Vikings, C.H.U.D.s, etc., by whipping out a Capital One card at the last minute. Oh, how civilization would be different if only we knew back then what we know now: barbarian conquerors are utterly cowed by low interest rates.

And then Capital One took a left turn. They kept the "What's in your wallet, not that I know you, so this question is kind of intrusive and inappropriate" tag, but the new ads now featured one of the most grating and unappealing personalities to ever achieve celebrity: David Spade. (If you stop and think for even a couple minutes, it's a little astonishing to realize just how much SNL has to answer for.)

In these spots, Spade splints up the legs of his woefully broken one-trick pony yet again to portray a snarky, devil-may-care snotface who routinely tells his callers (all begging for travel considerations or something) "No." The spots all invariably end with the caller threatening to call Capital One, which finally breaks through Spade's veneer, causing him to exclaim, "No!" GET IT?

Leaving aside what you personally think about David Spade--I for one am a complete whimpering wuss, but I do think that even I could be moved to knock his pasty block off--was this a good shift in advertising strategy? Consider: the first spots suggested that the mere aegis of a Capital One card was sufficient to ward off marauding bands of vicious savages. The second round of spots, however, suggested anemically that, eh, if you fail to call Capital One, you might have to deal with an intransigent no-talent douchebag. As if dealing with shitheads on the phone is something new to the public. And what kind of sad boasting is that anyway? We proudly do not hire shitheads! Well, neat, but nobody should hire shitheads! It's hard to give Capital One credit for this.

But really, it's worse than that. Because since all the new spots prominently feature Spade pulling his awful schtick, the opposite effect has been achieved: the viewer now hopelessly associates Spade-as-tormentor with the name Capital One itself (at least I do). Which was entirely the opposite of the inteded effect. So not only has the company (1) abandoned a reasonable (if totally silly) marketing gimmick--with Capital One, nobody will rape and dismember your wife!--they then replaced it with (2) an alternate universe where not only you may be telephonically insulted without reprieve, your wife may also be raped and dismembered by David Spade, especially if you try to call Capital One. It's too late. All it takes is one wrong phone call.

And I don't think Spade cares if she says "No."

Thursday, 31 March
Funny About That

I've seen an ad for a TV movie a couple times now. It is called "Mork & Mindy: Behind the Camera."

This might be the worst thing I've ever had no intention of seeing, and remember, I saw the movie Prospero's Books. (Well, some of it.)

It is obviously a tawdry travelogue of the various horrible things Robin Williams shoved into his body during his well-known drug years, including, presumably, cocaine, heroin, meth, speed, cough syrup, Belladonna suppositories, hair loss agents, books on tape, extract of vole glands, certain smooth vegetables, exotic forms of rennet, and possibly Ginger Baker. The man was a machine, let's face it.

The movie seems to feature an actor that, if you squint hard enough or medicate yourself with Morkish levels of drug toxicity, sort of looks like Robin Williams, but of course with none of the . . . how does one put this? Gifts? Hellacious tics? (Anyway, the guy kinda looks like Scott Bakula too, so maybe he can parlay this role into something like "Quantum Leap: Dean Stockwell Is A Great Big Turd.")

The thing is, Robin Williams wore out his welcome a helluva long time ago, at least as a comic actor. Think about how bizarre that is for a moment. This is a man with undeniable improvisational comedic skills, who came to celebrity utilizing same, and is now--in my circle of friends, most of whom are actors and comedians--nearly universally reviled for being an insufferable jabbering asshole.

Couple this with another weird fact: when Williams got into serious roles--where he abandoned his awful, nerve-ripping schticks as found in Mrs. Doubtfire, say, or the utterly reprehensible The Birdcage--he actually turned out to be . . . pretty talented. Check out his restrained work in Insomnia or Good Will Hunting and tell me I'm wrong. This is good work.

(It may be that, like so many actors, he requires a good director to achieve this sort of thing. That lots of actors don't like to admit this is kind of stupid, really: I know my best work has been done with the help of good directors. Otherwise, why the fuck have one? Anyway, notice also that Williams was pretty manic and yet non-annoying in The Fisher King, where he was presumably listening to Terry Gilliam. Let's move right on by the aforementioned The Birdcage, which was directed by Mike Nichols, but Nichols made about two and a half good films when he was young and has been pretty much totally useless ever since.)

But while Williams is most effective dramatically, a cursory glance at his rather alarming IMDB listing reveals that he regularly depends on weak comedy. It's hard to find the most depressing nadir amongst the many listings. Was it Jakob the Liar? Was it Patch Adams? Was it the astonishing fact that he managed to be in BOTH Shakes the Clown AND Death to Smoochy?

I have no intention of watching the TV movie about Mork & Mindy, even though it promises to be utterly terrible (has there ever been a TV movie that wasn't?), and I certainly hold out no hopes for the future: announced for 2006 is a film called The Krazees. How promising. Here's the IMDB bullet:

"Unable to deal with his daughter reaching puberty, a psychologist (Williams) has to get a handle on his emotions, which have come to life as different characters."

Oh and here's the writeup for The Big White, supposedly coming out this year:

"To remedy his financial problems, a travel agent has his eye on a frozen corpse, which just happens to be sought after by two hitmen." This one has Woody Harrelson and Holly Hunter!

Here's Pam Dawber's most recent IMDB listing:

1. Don't Look Behind You (1999) (TV) .... Liz Corrigan
... aka Du entkommst mir nicht (Germany)

It's a tough old world.

Wednesday, 30 March
These Eyes

Well, I was all set to go last night with some writing, but evidently the site's "host" needed to "switch servers" or "degauss the router" or "oil the packet switches" or "beat off" or something else I "totally don't understand," so I had to wait a while.

(I'm kidding a little bit, of course. I really do understand beating off.)

As usual over the weekend, the wife and I watched a couple of terrible movies. I watch these things so you don't have to, people!

The reality is actually more disquieting than that flip comment, though. I've started to ask myself: Why? Why do I watch these fucking horrors, time and again? And there's really only one explanation: I enjoy it.

How is this possible? What could I ever find enjoyable about such miserable spectacles? Why would I clap my hands in anticipation of two hours or so of being subjected to such insulting tripe?

The two easiest answers are: 1. Since the overwhelming majority of the movies out there are going to be grisly and foul, you might as well accept that and try to enjoy yourself, and 2. It's so much easier to make snotty fun of these rotten things than it is to engage with a decent film (should you find one), so it's easier to simply avoid the latter. In other words, I apparently seek out terrible films to make fun of them rather than take the bother to think about genuinely good ones. Basically, I'm terrifically lazy and kind of an intellectual coward.

(Oh, I'm just being self-lacerating for the fun of it. But I really am very lazy.)

Let's get to the terrible movies! As usual, turn on your spoiler-vision if you don't want the alleged plots of either Gothika or Alien Vs. Predator somehow ruined.

Gothika

As the film opens, the viewer is presented with a real showdown of powerhouse acting: Halle Berry (a psychologist--oh boy!) is talking with Penelope Cruz (a ca-razy person--oh God!); Halle is all businesslike and cool and smarter than hell, and you know this because she taps her pen efficiently. Berry is all about nuance, at least with pens. Cruz is totally bent and has some tale about being raped by THE DEVIL, which is nutty, but you really know she's a loon because then she takes a page out of the Christian Slater Acting Handbook and frenziedly slaps her forehead a couple times. The viewer then thinks, "Oh, man, this broad is fucking out of it. She's stealing from Christian Slater, for God's sake."

(This was where I turned to the wife and said, "This is going to be a great movie.")

And it was, but not for any reasons the filmmakers intended. It's a standard-issue "the dead must hassle the living until the living fix whatever gripe the frankly pushy goddamn dead are in a snit about" thing, with the usual what-the-fuck elements, like 1. If the dead have all these powers to hassle the living, why the fuck don't they use their hassling-powers to take care of their own shit? And 2. why do they always menace (or, in the case of this film) physically assault the hasslees so relentlessly? (Twice!) And 3. Why are the hassling dead so goddamn cryptic all the time? In Gothika, Berry's dead hassler carves up her arm with a meaningless message that won't make sense until the end of the film. This instead of, I don't know, not carving it into her arm and maybe writing it on paper? Or just manifesting yourself and explaining to Halle Berry, "Look, you have to avenge my icky, silly death, or I will hassle you forever. Here's what to do. I helpfully wrote it down on paper, rather carving it into your flesh. Get going!" I think I'd be motivated.

The answer is clear: the dead are just a bunch ofj peevish, self-serving, dissatisfied assholes. I can't imagine why Hollywood filmmakers would be so interested in them.

Alien Vs. Predator

I had really high hopes for this one in terms of being just horrible as hell, and I must say, it was a lot less awful than I expected. I mean, yes, it's a brainless handjob of a film with sorrowful acting and a completely threadbare plot, but for all that, it was pretty entertaining! Certainly more so than the morosely pretentious Gothika. Even the title is better and more utilitarian: Alien Vs. Predator! Well, okay, there you go. Gothika? Except for a penchant night scenes in the rain, there was no reason for that title at all, leaving aside the irrelevant "k" in there. It was about as Gothic as a ham sandwich. (They should have called it Hamm Sandwyche!)

Anway, AVP. Befitting a movie that wears its geek in-jokes on its tattered sleeve (I found references to The X-Files along with several DUH gags that pointed at the Alien and Predator movies, and there were probably dozens of others that I missed), it features Lance Henriksen, the Man Who Can Appear In Any Movie At Any Time, As Long As It Is Probably Horrible. And also a faceless army of cannon fodder (depressingly, one of them was the stupid guy who shit the bed in Trainspotting) who diddle around waiting for page X in the script when they are either eaten, impaled, crushed, shot or facehugged.

Also in evidence: Mommy Alien, whose mucus-tastic egg-laying scenes have given so many foley artists so much joy over the years; a pointless buried pyramid that a la Cube (aha! Another sly reference!) shifts internal formations every ten minutes; and of course, a puny human vermin that HAS TO PROVE HER WORTH to one of the rampaging Predators bent on exterminating the Aliens. (The Aliens, you see, are captive practice dummies for the Predators to hunt. Why the Predators settled for hunting total pussies like humans in the Predator films is mercifully left unexplained. Never mind that this is sort of like Navy SEALs opting out of a training mission in order to go kick the piss out of first-graders instead.)

All that said, AVP was, as I mentioned, pretty entertaining. It was far better in execution and pacing than, say, something analogous like Jason Vs. Freddy, which I realize is really, really faint praise. And it was exponentially better than the dismal Gothika (I'm really hung up on that crummy, mystifying title now), whose merits are limited to, frankly, the idea of Halle Berry being set on fire.

Hey, wait a minute! I can pitch this movie! Cruz Vs. Berry! One of them gets set on fire!

I'd totally watch that.

Tuesday, 22 March
The Watcher

[Hey, I just lost the first draft of this! Thanks, fucking CLEAR key! If I were less stupid, I'd probably know how to undo that, but I'm not! I'll be attacking you with pliers later, CLEAR key!]

Today I came home from work feeling a bit peckish, so I dug out a bag of peanuts from the cupboard. Sweet peanuts! Little oily things that will cling to my teeth in paste form! I began eating them in a time-honored way--particularly if you are male--which was to take a small handful in your palm, raise up your arm, and then clap your now-opened palm against your maw, letting the delicious hail of nuts clatter against your teeth and hopefully not carom down your trachea.

But I got distracted. Something went wrong: maybe I got engrossed with something on TV, or perhaps I was absorbed in some studied thoughts about current political imbroglios, or perhaps I simply got hung up trying to both maneuver my limbs while also attempting the complicated process of radiating body heat.

Instead of deftly executing a very standard peanut-eating routine, what happened was this: I grabbed some peanuts. I swiveled my arm upwards and then facewards, anticipating delivery of the nutty payload. Then I totally failed to open my peanut-filled hand. Basically, I punched myself right in the mouth with a handful of peanuts (which all cascaded down my front immediately afterwards). In pain, I stared hatefully at my enemy hand for a moment. Because yeah, that was the problem. My hand.

It sort of reminded me about my recent trouble with renting horrible movies. I wondered if I could blame my hand on those, too. Were they responsible for Van Helsing? Or The Forgotten? Unlikely. I don't know what is, but something in my body is trying to betray me. Possibly my shins. I also haven't ruled out my hair.

[Standard disclaimer here that I am going to talk about movies. If you don't want to know specifics about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind or Torque (my preferred title: Turque), then don't read.]

So we watched Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It wasn't anywhere as horrible as the movies I namecheck above, and it certainly wasn't a busted mouth and a lapful of runaway nuts (that would be another Kaufman flick, Adaptation, whose admirers I will never understand), but it wasn't . . . well, very good.

Sam Rockwell was very good in what amounted to a skilled display of mimicry, but I always think, Isn't this sort of cheating? I mean, actors are sort of supposed to observe human behavior and then take those observations onto stage or film and then recreate believable facsimiles of same. But when you've got some person that you're supposed to more or less reproduce this way--particularly if you have hours of videotape with which to perfect your mimicry, and more particularly when that person has some very well-known tics and familiar behavioral traits--well, nothing on Sam, but come on. I hope I don't sound like an ego-junkie, but really, it's not that hard. Vegas hacks have been doing this for years.

Anyway. I've been told that I'm too hard on the movie--which struck me mostly as a lot of strange shaggy-dog silliness borne from the fevered diaries of a monomaniacal coke fiend--and maybe that's so. I didn't hate it, I'll say that.

(I will say this: the cable company warned the wife and I that the movie contained NUDITY! I was really happy. Drew Barrymore was returning to her Poison Ivy years and was going to remove her shirt! Imagine my disappointment when all the nudity turned out to consist of curiously long shots of Sam Rockwell's ass. There was a lot of his ass! I was going to lodge a complaint about this, but really, it's just fair. We guys see NUDITY WARNINGS and we just assume, "Hurrah! Some chick is going to pop her top!" I think it's only fair that every now and then it means that we have to stare sullenly at some dude's butt for a while.)

Torque was . . . well, holy cheesemaking Jesus. That was quite a thing. (We watched it right after Confessions, which was sort of like reading "Maxim" right after putting down Bleak House. And while I do emphatically assert that this movie was made my syphilitic otters on fire, I also point out that the wife commented later that it was "one of the best comedies I've seen in a while."

This was undoubtedly true. The movie is essentially a 90-minute music video, but so much more. The lead character, whose name I could not possibly imagine, is rugged and tough in that Hollywood way, where he has perfect stubble, and looks as if he could really beat the shit out of some cardboard boxes. He can ride the bejeezus out of a motorcycle, though, as can every single person in the movie, which leads to spectacular sequences where people jump from moving cars onto cycle seats; people pop wheelies at 150 mph (wouldn't they suddenly turn into parasails?); and nobody seems to mind when a $20K bike gets run over by marauding hillbillies.

This was a truly great movie. For one thing, you don't have to think about one single fucking thing. The most challenging part of the movie involves a running joke (well, an intermittently dripping joke) about how the main character--the Conqueror of Cardboard--recently spent some time in Thailand. He laboriously explains to more than one person that it is, in fact, ethnographically inaccurate to refer to the Thai people as "chinks."

Really, the whole movie is like The Matrix as conceived by the producers of "Hee-Haw." In fact, they lift the whole awful "Zion as rave party" sequence from The Matrix and set it instead in some blasted desert outhouse where the band seems to be waiting for Roy Acuff to come out and praise the outlaws' beards. The entire film is deeply weird and should be seen by everyone.

[Spoilers over.]

One final note: Sandra Bullock was on "The Daily Show" tonight, promoting her new film, Miss Congeniality: Armed and Fabulous. This on the same day that I read of her mission to do more important films, edgier films. Like what? Practical Magic?

I jerked my thumb at the screen and sneered to the wife: "I hate this bony scag." The wife made an unconvincing smile-face at me; she probably wonders how long it will be before I assault her with a corkscrew.

I would not assault my good wife. But I would mount an attack on Sandra Bullock's career. "Armed and Fabulous"? This is the equivalent of a puffy lip and a lapful of peanuts. A selfpunch in the face. A Charlie Kaufman script.

I'd rather watch Torque.

Tuesday, 08 March
The Goggles Do Nothing

Continuing a long streak of seeing absolutely miserable movies, Friday the wife and I endured the Julianne Moore unthriller The Forgotten, a title that is surely wishful thinking for everyone involved, and I'm including myself here. For those who wish yet again to be spared the ruining of the pre-ruined, skip the next paragraph or so until I warn you that the spoilers for this stupid chancre are all done.

The Forgotten is another hunk of chum from the Hollywood fishbucket whose only raison d'etre seems to be, yet again, to challenge the validity of Occam's Razor. See, Julianne Moore is an ex-mom and grief-junkie who lost her adorable widdle son in a plane wreck. I leave it to you to evaluate the relative probabilities of some alternate explanations: 1. The NSA, in cowed collusion with powerful alien entities UP THERE SOMEWHERE, routinely helps to cover up that children are stolen by said aliens for . . . some reason, and in fact helps to erase these unfortunate blonde white children from the memories all involved; OR 2. Julianne Moore NEVER HAD A CHILD, and is in fact a raving psychotic being not so much talked down from the ledge by professional milquetoast Anthony Edwards (husband) and Gary "I Can't Move My Jaw" Sinise (shrink); OR 3. Julianne Moore's kid was killed in a plane wreck and then, after an appropriate mourning period, she comes to terms with the fact that life blows sometimes.

Hollywood, naturally, picks 1 and 2 as the most logical choices.

Okay, spoilers over.

Saturday the wife had a work fundraising event, leaving me my own cheerless devices, so I called my friends K. and K. and harangued them into meeting me for a bite to eat. They showed up in dual states of misery, with male K. suffering horribly from allergies and looking like a ringworm victim around the nose and eyes, and female K. who troublingly explained to me that the previous day she had undergone some form of HMO torture: "I had to have some veins in my nose cauterized." So basically they shoved a hot poker up one of her nostrils and then sent her home laughing. "Can you believe we can bill them for this shit? I feel like Torquemada with a waiting list!"

I told them about The Forgotten, and presently we found ourselves in a discussion about really shitty movies. Like, the shittiest movies we could think of. Not tediously rotten trifles like The Forgotten, or deliberately obvious crimes against the mind like Freddie Got Fingered: no, we talked about films that are so egregiously bad, so cosmically wretched, that it actually makes you mad that they were ever created.

I had an idea, a dark one: one weekend, on a Sunday (preferably we'd all take that next Monday off), we would watch our three picks. In a row. With, necessarily, a lot of booze on hand. Here were the three films we picked (admittedly after only about 20 minutes of discussion):

Very Bad Things
Dogma
What Planet Are You From?

I don't know if we'll have the courage to follow up on this plan. I have many fears. Our eyes could understandably rebel and run out the door to seek new lives, like Gogol's nose. We could, in a Foster Wallacean development, find ourselves so hopelessly mesmerized by the spectacle that our bodies are found by law enforcement officers after a long deliquescent process. Or we could perhaps helplessly succumb to some nameless cellular defense mechanism that would cause us to devolve into some form of crustaceans doomed forever to hopelessly mate with discarded cola cans because we don't know any better but it's better than watching those films.

Later that night, I went with K. and K. to the video store and lolled around while they tried to find movies. I found myself looking at the import shelf and saw something momentous. It was a DVD of a movie called Made In Estonia. Of course I picked it up. Oh, my people! What have you wrought?

The woeful little case showcased some embarrassing photos of actors displaying broad comic expressions--it is possible that one person was in drag, but then again, it's eastern Europe, so sometimes it's hard to tell; they're still trying to figure out porn, late in the game, and so sometimes they throw up photos of women who look like Harvey Korman, which is probably what nobody needs on a site like, say, Czechmelons.com.

Later at home, I took the trouble to IMDB the title "Made In Estonia," and sure enough, it's there: the native title is Vanad ja kobedad saavad jalad alla. I'd love to know what that actually means, since I know it's not "Made in Estonia;" my fractional bit of Estonian knowledge tells me that much. IMDB also provides the embarrassing tagline (well, the English version anyway): "Beautiful country. Beautiful people. Smile through tears."

If Estonians didn't loathe the Russians so much, I'd almost expect this to be drafted by the Politburo. "SMILE THROUGH TEARS! Otherwise we lash you!"

No, I think this was a 100% Estonian effort, if only for the little sub-tag on the DVD box (female-K. was the one to point it out). It charmed the hell out of me. Down on the right of the embarrassing box photos there were a couple of rah-rah rent-me lines, and this one was great:

"MADE WITH PEOPLE!"

There's an idea. Hollywood . . . meet Estonia. I'd like you to hear them out.

Tuesday, 01 March
Golden Showers

Now that everyone else on earth has written their minds about the Oscars, I figure I'll do my usual and come in a day late with mine. It's kind of a challenge, especially when so many of my lousy jokes were stolen right out from under me; but in a way, it's not really a challenge, because the Oscars and its attendees are such incredibly rich targets.

As usual, the wife and I went to a party where for the most part, the real sport is shouting awful imprecations and insults at the screen and drinking booze, both of which help to alleviate the almost sinister fog of boredom that the entire spectacle so reliably exudes. (Our contribution to the numbing agents were, following the theme, The Passionfruit of the Christ cocktails, which were delicious and, predictably, lethal.)

We waited for a while, enduring but not paying much attention to the insulting Gauntlet Of Fashion that the celebs had to run before getting inside: someday an actress is going to make me very happy by showing up in overalls and gushing about the incredible job Osh Kosh B'Gosh did on her outfit. This heroic person (let's say . . . Bjork!) could bring someone reliably insane like Billy Bob Thornton as her date, who in the spirit of things would probably show up with his dick in a sock.

Eventually Chris Rock hit the stage and wasted no time savaging various people (the most punished of which were conspicuously not there), much to our glee: nobody in the world appreciates the cornholing of people like Nicole Kidman or Colin Farrell so much as a roomful of actors who know in their souls that they would just kill to be those very victims. Of the actors who did happen to be present when they got shanked, most displayed a good sense of humor about it, except for Halle Berry, who's probably going to need that TMJ looked at after gritting her way onstage after the "Catwoman 2" crack. (Maybe I'm wrong, since she showed up to accept her Razzie award, but she sure looked pissed.)

Much ballyhooed were the format changes, ostensibly to speed things up, but were really just creative exercises in pure cruelty. Some of the luckless "technical award" nominees had to stand on masse on the stage during the announcement, looking like expensively tailored nervous cattle--I would have enjoyed seeing some snarling border collies in tiny little dog tuxes keeping them in check. Then, after the winners were announced, the sad livestock all had to troop offstage in a group, herded down some Temple Grandin-designed animal chute before being collected into the loser-cage where they could low mournfully while awaiting a boltgun to the head. Hollywood hates losers, and once you have the stink on you, forget it. Look at Marty Scorcese.

The other innovation was the nominees who didn't even get to move from their seats while the presenters stood in the audience nervously, giving the affair a real "talk to the audience" feel. ("Oh God! This is always death!") Cate Blanchett seemed genuinely fazed by the weirdness of the scene, but maybe it was her luminous yellow dress floating amidst the red carpeting and the black tuxes: she looked like some otherworldly lemon that had accidentally materialized onto someone's backgammon board. Or there was Scarlett Johanssen--who continue to proudly display her love for older men by arriving wheeling in Nick Nolte in his iron lung--weirdly appearing in one of the upper boxes to present some meaningless awards. Flanked by the nominees, I could only imagine several descendants of John Wilkes Booth emerging from the shadows to fulfill their genetic heritage by shooting them all in the head. Sic semper celebritas!

The musical numbers, always a horror, reached a kind of apex of shame this year, with the ubiquitous Beyonce performing three of the numbers (presumably undergoing extensive sandblasting between each number). The Oscar voters have a mesmerisingly reliable tin ear in picking these things, and even when some fluke sneaks through ("Blame Canada," "Miss Misery"), it gets murdered by something awful from Disney or Phil Collins or both. Probably next year it'll be Vin Diesel singing a ballad with string arrangements by that guy who used to be in Ratt. The two songs not sung through the eyeballs of Beyonce were handled by, unbelievably, Counting Crows (many Sideshow Bob jokes have been made, but my favorite comment from the party was "Is that Kid? Or Play?") and, even more unbelievably, by Antonio Banderas with Carlos Santana nearby, making his usual guitar-porn faces.

I'd like to say more about all of this dreadfulness, but in honesty, every time a song came on, I'd last about thirty seconds before deciding that I'd rather have a cigarette. I was usually joined by my friends K. and D. and E., who couldn't handle it either, and so we diverted ourselves by gathering up handfuls of ice cubes from the beer cooler and throwing them at our friend V.'s car, which was parked across the street. I recognize that this basically means that we are chimpanzees that can somehow afford clothing.

I'm not even going to bother to say much about the winners and losers, because in many ways, it was the most boring part of the show. There weren't any surprises at all, except for maybe Annette Bening managing not to attack Hilary Swank with a steak knife (I feel a deep ick for Ms. Swank, and won some enemies when, during her interminable acceptance speech, I shouted, "Shut up! Go chop some firewood with your face!"). Swank is apparently Bening's kryptonite . . . or, perhaps, her Bizarro. "Bening do American Beauty! Bening waste time on overrated movie that not like women! I do Boys Don't Cry! Swank is moist-eyed and dead and beloved. Bening do Being Julia! Nobody see film. Swank do Million Dollar Baby! Everybody see Swank! Everybody forget about The Core."

In the end, everyone just kind of stared fatelessly as the Raspy Bloat rumbled up the stage steps to collect the Big Guy--the truth was, by this point, we didn't care: most of us didn't give a solitary fuck about any of the films up for anointment. There was the Eternal Sunshine faction (including me), the Sideways faction, the Incredibles faction, and even the Shaun of the Dead faction (which I can kind of mentally get behind, but let's be serious here), all of which as usual felt a kind of glum betrayal at the typically plodding, hidebound Oscar CW. But "betrayal" doesn't even work, not when the Academy has been so consistently laughable for decades, if not since its inception. It's like getting mad at Shriners for wearing dumb hats. Anyone who wants to is free to champion the Independent Spirit awards, or the SAG awards, or the Drama Desk awards, or whatever. But for better or worse--and let's not be silly, it's for worse--it will be the Oscars that are always going to matter.

You can get mad. I do, sometimes. You can boycott. I could claim to do this, but really, I just don't like going to movie theaters any more. You can rail against the big, empty spectacle, the pampered stars, the idiotic media frenzy, sure, but you might as well also abandon the Super Bowl and political conventions and, well, maybe society. They're all valid responses, I guess.

Or there's always passionfruit cocktails. I think I'll make some next year too. I'm going to need one for the Vin Diesel song.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Tuesday, 05 October
The Mediocrity Is The Message

This weekend was just what the doctor ordered, provided your doctor is mendacious buffoon with a degree from the Online University of Frozen Toe, Canada. We spent the whole time on our asses absorbing the vast spectrum of terribleness that our media has to offer.

Friday I watched some of the retirement ceremonies for Edgar Martinez, Seattle's creaky old DH for years. It was pretty touching for a while: unveiling of various memorabilia, checks presented to various causes in his name, a street named after him, etc. Edgar sat around, seemingly bemused at the parade of accolades while his children sat around with the dull knowledge that they had to be good and sit still until all this shit was over or they would be killed.

But then bad things started to happen, like the appearance Bud Selig, who is the obverse of a Dorian Gray, and physically wears his unspeakable evil like an unhappy suit. Bud droned on for a while, and I stared at his hair, which is, like that of so many wealthy, powerful people, mesmerizingly horrible. I don't understand this about wealthy powerful people. Jesus Christ! Fix your fucking hair! During his speech, the Puget Sound silted up, ruining trade in our region, and several small children flung themselves under horse carriages; it has been widely acknowledged that Selig's hair was responsible.

By the time an apparently drunk and deranged Bret Boone took the stage--Boone is Seattle's not-very-beloved second baseman who has made a comfortable living out of dashing the hopes of thousands--it was time to change the channel; I believe they were about to bestow upon Edgar several thousand endangered butterflies, which he could "eat at any time," because, fuck it, it's YOUR NIGHT!

Saturday night, driven to madness by the ongoing wasteland of regular TV, the wife and I decided to take matters into our own hands: did we have to sit there and just take the horrifying crap being handed to us by the networks? Fuck no! We were going to pay extra for some different horrifying crap!

[There are major spoilers ahead for a really worthless movie, but some people are rabid about that shit, so, if you genuinely believe that a dented turd of a film like Taking Lives can be somehow ruined, you may want to skip the next bit. But I reserve the right to call you weird.]

Yeah, we rented Taking Lives on pay-per-view. This Angelina Jolie/Ethan Hawke . . . vehicle, I guess, though "vehicle" usually connotes something that moves . . . is, even from the opening credits (during which I said to the wife, "Se7en has a lot to answer for."): empty, derivative and . . . not even bad. It wasn't good enough to be actually bad, which is to say, badness, to me at least, implies effort. Someone attempts something, some work or craft, and they fail miserably; they did badly, the result is bad. But not this thing. It doesn't even try to be anything other than pure mediocrity, mindless gruel pumped out of a blue and white tube marked INGREDIENTS: MINDLESS GRUEL. Some people consider this worthy of the title of "bad," but would you consider a latch-hook rug "bad"? Or Guinness records? Or are they just stupid, trifling things that only weirdos and the infirm would comment upon favorably?

The plot is so blindingly stupid I won't even try. Jolie is the usual driven investigator who does semi-mystical things like lie down in graves, staring intently at the sky, or takes baths with crime scene photos posted here and there, because not even relaxing baths must intrude up her single-minded purpose: to do the job, dammit. And Hawke is the MacGuffin role: Is he an innocent unkempt lad caught up in extraordinary circumstances, or . . . IS HE THE KILLER? Never mind that the answer is screamingly obvious (He is! Oh my God! I think I need a haircut! Oh, right, the film isn't over.): Jolie knows what she has to do--fuck him. Fuck him BUT GOOD.

The inevitable sex scene that results is baffling by even Hollywood standards. While Hawke peels off Jolie's clothes enthusiastically, he himself remains fully garbed in what appears to be a three-piece suit. They fall back onto the bed, humping the bejesus out of each other, and he's still dressed; and further, the wife and I both noticed that Hawke never even did that actor-y thing of miming the reach down to pretend to unzip and fumble his dick out. So the unlovely mental image I was left with was Angeline Jolie crammed chock full of an indeterminate amount of hot, stretched wool.

I slept fitfully that night, plagued with uneasy dreams about dry cleaners.

[End the world's dumbest spoiler.]

Finally, just tonight, after watching (what's wrong with me?) "CSI: Miami," a humdinger of a show which features David Caruso palely refusing to act, ever . . . and hold on, let's stop a minute. I'm used to Caruso standing around being all Tough Irish; he did that on "NYPD Blue" constantly, despite the fact that he looks about as tough as a potato chip. The real crime of this show that needs investigating is the utter waste of its other actors, such as Khandi Alexander, from the much-missed "NewsRadio," and Emily Proctor, who deserves better than the Kitten With A Gun Fetish role that she is routinely saddled with. John Heard occasionally shows up as Proctor's drunk dad, too--poor John Heard. Maybe he livens things up by actually showing up drunk. I would.

Anyway, at the end of the show, they played the usual "Next week on CSI!" teaser, and it was kind of shattering. The voiceover: "Next week on CSI: Miami, a murder is discovered . . . at a flashmob!" I jerked in my seat as if someone had sharply jabbed my asshole. Flashmobs? On an ostensibly stylish crime show? On CBS?

There's going to be a blogger crime thriller soon. Mark my words. Some lucky blogger is gonna get to crawl all over Angelina Jolie.

Hey, don't look at me. Hell, give it to Kottke.

Friday, 24 September
I Continue To Prejudge Movies

Mr. 3000

Sports movies are almost always disasters; exceptions like Raging Bull and Bull Durham only emphasize this. (Apparently, if you're making a sports movie, take care to include the word "bull" in your title. Perhaps "Ryan Leaf's Horribe Bullshit Crimes Against Humanity" is a viable project.) This film looks like a bare notch up from such fare as Major League, which is faintest praise at best. It clearly depends on the questionable star power of Bernie Mac, who, while not actively horrible--though I have not seen his sitcom--does not fill one with hope. In the ads, Chris Noth looks entertainingly greasy and weird, but that's a more David Lynchian kind of effect that the film was probably aiming for. Like going to see a Broadway production of "Annie" and then noticing that Daddy Warbucks really has no eyeballs.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

A film that will surely benefit from nonexistent expectations. "Well, that wasn't even close to the worst thing I've ever seen in my life! Huzzah!" Sort of like those old episodes of "Moonlighting" when Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis attempted to create chemistry. It was kind of charming in that "Holy Jesus, this is going to be terrible" kind of way.

Nobody on earth will see this movie, and I refuse to acknowledge otherwise.

Cellular

Kim Basinger preserves a long tradition of mediocre actors who win an improbable Oscar and then who go on to making awful films here. See also Undeserving Award Recipients such as Helen Hunt and the forever cursed Marisa Tomei, who is actually not horrible, but has become the default mascot for Death Oscars.

Apparently, the same mook who wrote Phone Booth also wrote this pile of hooey, as a sort of weird "I boringly see, or perhaps manipulate, both sides of this equation!" As a comment on, well, anything, I'm probably not getting it.

But then again, I thought Sky Captain was a big ball of dumb fun, so what do I know?

Friday, 10 September
Second Cruise

To continue with the Cruisectomy, it occurs to me that some people might get the idea that I simply don't like Tom Cruise much as an actor. Which I confess is true. I grant that he looks dynamite in front of a camera, is technically proficient, and frequently has an engaging manner, but you can also say these things about people like Ann Richards, or Lassie. Look what it got those two.

Cruise is less an actor than some weird, pervasive phenomenon that has assumed some sort of unkillable social currency; his female analogue would be Julia Roberts, whose tiny bag of Actor Tricks rivals Cruise's for its astonishing shallowness and superficiality. That Roberts won acclaim for Erin Brockovich would be purely astounding if not for the associated cred of director Soderbergh, whose legitimacy apparently rewarded a performance that was one degree removed from that of Flo. Kiss her grits! She's got an Oscar!

Having gained some improbable credibility from Rain Man--was it a dry Levinsonian joke that Cruise's character was introduced with the song "Iko Iko"?--Cruise made his real bid for Cap'n Oscar with Born on the Fourth of July, a movie that I have happily never seen. Unfortunately, I did see the dreadful Bruce Willis catastrophe In Country, and they seem to be nearly the same story, so I will simply ignore the fact that this film was ever made.

Next up was another Bruckheimer/Simpson horror, a retread of Top Gun called Days of Thunder, which everyone pointed out was simply the Air Force moved to a NASCAR venue. Written by the briefly talented Robert Towne in his free-fall career stage and directed by indefatigable hack Tony Scott . . . oy. I don't know how to finish that sentence. Nobody on earth went to see this movie.

Then was Far and Away. Which is exactly where audiences sensibly remained. Nobody on earth went to see this movie either, despite Ron Howard's attempts to shove heather and burnished wood into every scene.

Sensing doom, I think Cruise then must have decided to bank on an easy winner, and found it in the hilariously clunky Aaron Sorkin project A Few Good Men. This military potboiler--directed, incredibly, by the previously sensible Rob Reiner--throws midlevel stars at the camera willy-nilly (Hey, it's that guy! Hey, it's that other guy!"), mostly to distract the viewer from the troubling fact that for the first time in her career, Demi Moore fails to take off her shirt. Sorkin's awkward scripting doesn't help much either--"I want the truth!" now being a comedic infield error--nor does the fact that journeyman Kevin Bacon makes eveyone else look kind of stupid and inept. Demi! Quick! Take your shirt off!

The Firm. What to say? John Grisham is to writing as Sidney Pollack is to directing: they both deserve Tom Cruise. Pollack actually pulled off something remarkable in that he managed to make a film exactly as long, dreary and unsuspenseful as the original novel (Actual line from the book: "Damn, they wanted him."). Whenever I go to empty the garbage and catch a whiff from the dumpster, I think of this movie.

Mission Impossible, a typical Brian DePalma mess, was troublesome. It combined some really great action sequences with an utterly incomprehensible storyline, with a by now totally rote Cruise performance as Indestructible Beautiful Guy. That this movie has many websites as it does protesting about its brilliance is, in my mind, the most damning thing about the movie. If I have to closely read bloggers telling me what the fuck went on in a given movie, it failed. And just so you know, I'm not even going to talk about the horrifying John Woo sequel, which was abominable, and if that's not obvious, then I fold.

In fact, I'm getting tired of all of this. It's depressingly easy to make fun of this guy, and it's also depressingly a tired topic. Tom Cruise? It's like taking on the Vatican: You can write and write and write, but really, who cares? Tom Cruise is forever part of our lives; there's nothing I can do to change that.

Jerry Maguire? I haven't seen it. I don't care.

Magnolia? A ghastly mess. So many friends disagree with me on this. While Cruise Respects His Cock, Jason Robards outacts him by lying around dying. How humiliating.

Let's not even discuss Vanilla Sky, a movie so stupid it seems to wonder when Gallagher is going to show up to smash some melons.

I know I'm leaving out Cruise's latest films like The Last Samurai--which I don't believe anyone on Earth, again, ever saw; and Collateral, which I feel that nobody will.

This whole thing petered out pretty badly, I know. I don't know what to say. I got tired.

So why didn't Tom Cruise?

Thursday, 09 September
Displeasure Cruise

I was just watching a rerun of a Daily Show that I hadn't seen due to Olympic nonfever, and it featured an interview with Tom Cruise. What a toothsome bantam! I decided that, over the years, this fellow has received more than his share of jabs and insults, and I realized, Man, I'm way behind. So here I give a very abbreviated overview of Mr. Cruise's film career.

Cruise began with a dinky role in Endless Love, a movie that dared to ask the question, "If I show Brooke Shields fucking, will that make up for her acting?" Though the answer was an unqualified "NO!", nothing ever stopped Zeffirelli from making his terrible movies anyway.

No, Mr. Cruise first caught everyone's eye in Taps, where he first hit upon his dramatic technique of indicating raw intensity by clenching his throat muscles. Clench, Tom, clench! Pretend you're eating from the craft services table!

After Taps came a movie that I'm sure made sense to everyone (read: no one): Losin' It, a tepid sex comedy with . . . Shelley Long. I can only assume that this project was the brainchild of some incredibly willful pervert who browbeat every dumb development nerd in Hollywood into something like catatonia. "Yes . . . Jesus . . . shoot your horrible movie . . . just get out of my office . . . " Interestingly, the movie was directed by Curtis Hanson, later of LA Confidential fame (a bona fide really good movie), as well as 8 Mile. I think I'd lay awake at nights pondering a career which saw me describing the decidedly strange arc from Shelley Long to Eminem; I imagine myself drawing weird, abstract shapes as I connected the cultural footnote-dots in my brain.

Cruise of course hit it big with Risky Business, really just another sex comedy, albeit a clever one, where he creates a brothel out of his own house while his folks are away. I'm pretty sure the infamous "sex on the subway" scene with Rebecca DeMornay also had a lot to do with this film's success. In retrospect, the film is interesting for a couple reasons: one, it's slightly baffling that one of the most famous lines from the movie contains the uninspiring phrase "What the fuck?", and two, Rebecca DeMornay is still pretty hot. How the fuck old is she?

Moving along, there was the relative failure of All the Right Moves, which was clearly not in any way. Cruise plays a steeltown jock from the wrong side of the tracks and hey hey, everyone's bored! If I recall correctly, he gets the dubious honor of putting the wood to Lea Thompson, a strenuously incompetent actress. This wouldn't be the first time Cruise had to endure a blandly pretty placeholder as a love interest.

Next was Legend, which I can barely even think about. Tim Curry was in there somewhere, with hilarious rubber devil horns, and Cruise I think shook weary locks a lot. Horrible. It needed more Oompa-Loompas.

If Risky Business set Cruise up for stardom, it was Top Gun that cemented his career. And I do mean "cemented," mainly with a gigantic shot of implied male ejaculate. An ode to men who work hard, play hard and generally stay hard, this homoerotic hooey was a shockingly huge hit, and doomed us to the evil reign of Simpson/Bruckheimer for years to come. I'm still waiting for the Platinum Edition of this horrendous turkey to come out, featuring the loving mutual fellatio scene between Maverick and Iceman. Maybe Goose is even in there to give a helpful reacharound. Meanwhile, Kelly McGillis sits in the greenroom drafting prenups.

The Color of Money: While one can argue that Cruise has nothing to do here--and he doesn't--he certainly does nothing enthusiastically. When your role is mostly remembered for singing "Werewolves of London" while dancing with a pool cue, perhaps you deserve it. On the other hand, I might be dinging him unfairly for exhibiting pure common sense. It's possible that he was simply getting the fuck out of the way of Paul Newman, in which case, maybe the guy isn't as dumb as I thought.

Next up was Cocktail, which is of course supremely horrible. Cruise here is improbably outacted by Bryan Brown, the Aussie actor you may remember from such fims as F/X and, uh, Cocktail. Not good. In this film, Cruise gets to stick it to Elisabeth Shue, who is only mildly more interesting than, well, a shoe.

After Cocktail, Cruise teamed up with Barry Levinson for Rain Man, a bit of naked Oscar bait for Dustin Hoffman, who played the remarkably functional autistic. Cruise shrewdly stood aside while Hoffman essentially welded two performances together: Brad Dourif's indelible Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest combined with Hoffman's own gaze-down work in The Graduate sufficed to make Rain Man an icon. Cruise was again smart enough to get the fuck out of the way, to his credit, and spent most of the film deferring to the Golden Retard. It was to be another brilliant choice.

Christ, this guy has made a lot of pictures. Let's pick this back up tomorrow. Plus, this will give much-needed time for people to yell at me.

Tuesday, 20 July
Lies, Damnable Lies, And Theater

Rehearsals continue apace for my upcoming show Red Noses, which is being played outdoors at a local park; to this end, we have occasionally been meeting to rehearse on site outdoors. Such as yesterday, when we met for a casual four hours of actorly horseplay (or, given that the actors are vocally competing with overflying planes, childrens' birthday parties, and roaming packs of feral dogs, "hoarseplay").

The weather was intermittently overcast during the afternoon rehearsal, with temperatures soaring into the high 70s, which, by Seattle standards, is roughly equivalent to an industrial kiln. It doesn't help either that Seattle residents tend towards the fishbelly-white part of the body spectrum, at least amongst its Caucasian population, but it's also worth noting that one of our black actors also promptly burned horribly. Seattle likes to think of itself as diverse, but in reality, living here actually promotes physiognomic changes that tend towards the whitest of white. In fifty years, every Seattle resident will look like Jonathan Pryce, and will behave like the terrified children in The Others.

As the rehearsal began, I and the other actors and I lolled about bonelessly under the beating sun, wanly smoking cigarettes while our imperious, Teutonic director strode about waving his arms madly at the park scenery and emitting clipped commands to nonexistent assistants: "Zat tree is NOT GUT! Ve must strike zat tree! STRIKE IT!" He stared wildly around at nobody. "GOTT! Ze fringe theater, she is a mangy bitch. I haff nobody to verk vitt here," he noted morosely. He noticed a small refugee from the adjacent childrens' birthday party lurking about the periphery of our "stage," staring with wonder; despite the incredible heat, the child wore a full-body Spider-Man suit, replete with rubber mask. It must have felt like wearing scuba gear into a sauna. S. (the director) tried to recruit the poor little fool: "YOU! DER SPINNE-MANN!" S. screamed lustily, "Remove ze tree! You haff powers!" The little Spider-Tyke ran away fearfully into his mother's arms, clearly disturbed. S. swiveled his neck around at the rest of the park, apparently scanning for any other 3 1/2-foot-tall superheroes that might be lurking nearby to help with tree removal, but sadly, nobody like Kapitan Amerika or Wunder Frau showed up to help S.'s set-logging needs.

At this point, the actress playing "Flagellant 2" burst into flames, sending an impressive column of flame into the sky as she howled piteously. The unlucky actress had been seen earlier applying pure forty-weight motor oil to her nearly pearlescent skin in an attempt to stave off this incendiary result, but to no avail, and she burned like a flare while S. jumped up and down in apoplexy. "NO! NO! NEIN! ZEE FLAGELLANT, SHE BURNS!" The rest of us knew better than to try and move; we were being relentlessly beset by angry swarms of photons, and any false move could be our last. I idly mourned the woman while also pondering what kind of project I had gotten involved in that required the presence of multiple Flagellants. Then I passed out briefly and experienced strange dreams about dogs licking my heart until I was revived by the wife dribbling cool water onto my cracked lips.

"Wake up," she whispered. "I don't want to die alone." That's always what you want to hear. In fact, that's how she wakes me up every morning: with some horrifyingly dire implication, or a diabolical Situationist brainwallop. For instance, this morning, she viciously jabbed me in the lower spine with a salad fork. "That's how meningitis feels," she cooed. Or last week, when she convincingly bellowed, "EEL ATTACK!" and then dumped a box of moldy banana peels on me.

In the end, obviously, we (the wife and I) somehow endured the day, while others succumbed to violent heatstroke, dehydration, or the dreaded Estonian Cellular Die-Off, which claimed our unfortunate "Mr. Dibble," the character who rather improbably dispensed homespun wisdom over a cedar fence. The last did not concern S. too much: "I don't get ziss fucking play at all. Go home. I must drink now!" He shook his head. "I need much brandy. Zo many dead actors. And yet you scheisse-narren remain!" We hung our scorched heads, brooding.

Fringe theater, when you get down to it, is a real fucking drag. Long live fringe theater.

Wednesday, 23 June
Buyer's Remorse

In my ongoing campaign to subject myself to things I find very irritating, I continue to watch TV. But there are gradations in the irritation scale, like, say, reruns of "The Simpsons," seasons 3-7 (Irritation factor: 0) to ESPN personalities (Irritation factor: 5 [Exceptions here are for Stuart Scott's crazy eye, Irritation factor: 3, and also for John Kruk's stolid crappiness, Irritation factor: 7]), and all the way up to State of the Union addresses (Irritation factor: 10, regardless of the administration).

Two recent-ish ads have caught my attention.

One is, on the face of it, a relatively inoffensive and unremarkable ad (which really just means that its fundamental stupidity is within what you'd expect at baseline). It's for some dreary website called Overstock.com, which evidently has the dubious allure of hawking crap that failed in the marketplace at least once already. In other words, it's an internet outlet store. I don't know about you, but in my mind, outlet stores rank very low on my mental list of "things that are sexy."

So what's the theme of the ad? Sex.

The camera finds an attractive brunette (dressed all in white, wocka wocka--this virgin wants to suck your retail cock!) seated on a couch. She looks at the camera with a saucy grin and says, "Have you heard of (tiny pause) the big O? A restless nation sits forward: Yay! Orgasms! I want those! What, is there porn on the net now?

The brunette smiles and gives the big letdown: "Overstock dot com!" she says somewhat chidingly, as if we were naughty for thinking about something else. There's something hilariously Phyllis Dilleresque about this, only typically watered down for the mainstream--say something utterly salacious and then express mock surprise. "How could you think that?" Of course when I say 'The big O,' I expect you imagine a website that hawks vertiginously devalued clothing items!" Then I guess you dispiritedly obey this weird message by going on line to browse the newest offerings from noted clothing designers like Gloria Peterbilt and Timmy Stinkfinger.

On top of this strange meta-ruse is the actress' not-quite-trained-out vocal patterns. Her vowels are revealingly flattened and labored: "Ovuhstack dut cam!" It's really kind of charming, as this simply screams, "Well, HELLO MIDWEST GIRL!" Chicago girl makes good with crummy ad! You just want to kind of serve her some corn to make her feel like she was home again.

Irritation factor: 5 (modified down because of entertaining regionalisms)

The other ad is . . . I don't know where to start. It's like watching surgery. No: botched surgery. The ad is for Pepto-Bismol, which I understand from the get-go is a toughie. I mean, one needs to advertise, but when the product is of a sensitive nature, I suppose it's limiting. Knowing what you can get away with is, therefore, important.

Pepto-Bismol apparently hasn't the faintest idea.

The ad features five or six random "office types" in some depressingly omnicorporate room, all displaying faces of purest woe. Who will help these unfortunates? Why, a jaunty British accent will! For no explicable reason, jaunty British accent proceeds (with musical accompaniment) to explain just what Pepto helps out with, employing some tortured rhythmical feet that is irreproducible here. Trust me. The Brit voice crisply chants: "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion/Constipation, diarrhea!" And a terrifying offscreen chorus screams, "HEY! PEPTO-BISMOL!" I hope this guy got a good paycheck, because he continues, again: "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion/Constipation, diarrhea!" Only this time, the office workers are dancing to his horrible nonrap. They clutch their chests, their stomachs, their hips (this when constipation is mentioned, which made me wonder if they all had colostomy bags), and finally, their asses, all in time to the listed maladies.

And every time the unseen chorus howls "HEY! PEPTO-BISMOL!" a tuxedoed arm blasts into the screen with ruffly hot pink shirtcuffs showing, because Hey, stupid, our product is pink! I believe the AMA recently found that of all noxious medicine colors, pink was most efficacious. Look forward to "Queer Docs for the Sick Cocks." (Oh, calm down. I get to make dumb jokes every now and then.)

I can't really help but watch this ad whenever it comes on, but the real horror comes after (seriously: you've seen this ad, right?) the four or five fucking iterations of its horrid theme song. At the end, when the plummy announcer is making his little "Buy a bottle of this rancid potion" bit, the camera is still on the unfortunate office workers, who have been forced to continue doing their pantomime-dance along with the cheerless music. At the end of the commercial--I cannot tell if this was planned--they are all dancing, backs to the cameras, attempting to draw us in to their baffling Gastrointestinal Hop. At least two of them insistently point to their asses; one of the dancers grabs his buttocks and shakes them threateningly at the viewer.

I don't know what this means. It certainly doesn't say "Buy our poo-goo" to me, but nothing in this commercial does. Does he have a bomb in his ass? Is it a coded message from the Pepto Rebellion?

This is possibly the most disquieting commercial I've ever seen.

Irritation factor: 9. It would get a 10, but I have a feeling that this is a meaningful cultural artifact. It must be studied.

Tuesday, 15 June
A Friend In Ben

As my tens of readers know, Izzle Pfaff is dedicated to bringing you, the work-shirking reader, the finest in celebrity interviews. This week is no different. Noted Hollywood star Ben Stiller, who must be stopped at all cost, joined me at a local establishment to talk about his success and his remarkable body of work.

IP: Hello, Ben.

BS: Hi there. Good to meet you.

Waitress: Hi, can I get you--[she clearly recognizes Stiller]--oh, Jesus. You're that guy.

BS: Oh, gosh, here we go.

Waitress: You were in Mystery Men, right? I saw that!

BS: So did four other people! What a world. Listen, what do you have on tap?

Waitress: How about a nice big glass of piss? That's what your fucking movie tasted like. Jesus Christ. That movie cost me my marriage.

BS: You're adorable. Whatever's on tap.

Waitress: You're getting piss. Comin' up.

IP: Can I get--

[Waitress exits.]

BS: She's sweet. I get that a lot.

IP: So, Ben, thanks for joining me. Let's talk a little about your body of work.

BS: Sure.

IP: You have been bizarrely hailed for starring in what is possibly the ghastliest array of hopeless piles of shit for many years now. It's really quite impressive. How do you manage it?

BS: Well, it does take some work. I read a lot of Artaud--Theater of Cruelty and all that--and I try and go from there. It doesn't always work. For example, take The Royal Tenenbaums. What a disaster. Some people ended up thinking it was a good film. They were wrong, but the point is, that's not what I'm shooting for.

IP: I agree; that film is an overstuffed catastrophe with some decent performances. [Stiller visibly blanches.] Oh, sorry--no, not yours! Sorry about that. No, you were outacted by your hairdo. But I can see where you'd get worried. Some people did repsond positively to the movie.

BS: Yeah. It still creeps me out. It's just not the reaction I look for from my audience. As soon as Gene Hackman got attached, I got nervous, but I kept telling myself that I could still torpedo the movie despite his involvement. I think I held my own.

IP: You had a little help from Gwyneth Paltrow, didn't you?

BS: I really did. If the audience managed to get past my hair, there was no way they were going to just blow off her eyeliner. We beat those viewers stupid.

IP: That's great. Let's talk about another film that nobody with any brains bothered to watch, the very unharrowing cautionary drug movie Permanent Midnight.

BS: What an interesting experience that was. I really enjoyed that role; it's not every day you see Hollywood make a brave movie that explores the dark side of drug abuse these days . . . it's more like every other day. And I think I reached a lot of people with that terrible movie.

IP: Why do you say that?

BS: Because I looked at the statistics. The release of that movie coincided with a dramatic increase in drug use among moviegoers. It was pretty startling.

IP: Why do you think that was?

BS: Most of the people involved in the studies point to the fact that the movie seemed to indicate that heavy drug use tended to correlate strongly with Ben Stiller vomiting helplessly, Ben Stiller being unconscious, or Ben Stiller not making any more terrible movies because he might die. I guess people responded to that message with decisive action.

IP: That's super.

BS: I thought so. I wish more people had seen that movie. So many needless lives not lost.

[The waitress returns.]

Waitress: Here's your piss. I microwaved it, so it's kind of hot. [To IP:] Here's your nothing.

IP: Uh . . . thanks.

BS: [Drinking.] This is good piss.

IP: Things really took off for you when There's Something About Mary hit big, right?

BS: I guess so. People really identified with that "come in her hair" joke, for some reason. I think that guys really want to come in people's hair.

IP: That is funny.

BS: This is awkward. You don't want me to come in your hair, do you? I don't really go that way.

IP: No, no. Please don't.

BS: [Laughing] Oh, man, cool. I was worried. I'm saving a blast for that waitress, though. She's hot.

IP: After Mary came some more success with the wildly successful film Meet The Parents. This movie featured your character being emotionally and physically humiliated by a horrifying family populated by utter psychopaths for two hours. How was it working with slumming, will-mug-for-cash Robert DeNiro?

BS: That guy . . . wow. That guy can slum. Did you see Analyze This?

IP: Christ, no.

BS: How about Analyze That?

IP: I'd rather die.

BS: That's what I'm saying. The man is a pro. I'll do any horrible film with him. There's nobody in this business that can live down to the nadir of standards that he exemplefies. You can quote me on that.

IP: What's next for Ben Stiller? Can we look forward to Duplex 2?

BS: Boy. Probably not. I really liked working with Drew--she has a rack and a half--but it was not an easy project. I mean, how can you remake The Money Pit and not come out looking like an ass? I mean, I admire the work of Danny DeVito--who doesn't loathe Hoffa, for God's sake? That's practically unwatchable. Or The War of the Roses? Michael Douglas eats his dog? Come on! You can't compete with that.

IP: I guess I see where you're coming from.

BS: Yeah. Poor Danny. He's just an awful little man. I don't know where he went wrong. He's kind of a role model for me, except for the unspeakable string of failures.

IP: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ben. It's been illuminating.

BS: Oh, hey, thanks for the piss. I've had worse. [Conspiratorially] I have to run. I'm totally going to see if that waitress will let me come on her hair.

IP: Uh, good luck.

BS: You just spent an hour grilling me about my unforgivable career. Don't you know anything about luck by now?

IP: Good point.

[Make sure to catch Mr. Stiller in his mindbendingly awful new movie Dodge Ball, where he is sure to astonish as he plays a vile moron. Here's hoping Ben keeps reaching for new heights.]

Wednesday, 09 June
Oogy Nights

The wife and I went out tonight to attend a new weekly sketch comedy thingie that several friends of ours have set up. It's to promote SketchFest, basically Seattle's own Burning Man festival of abbreviated comedy, but less hirsute. (But possibly more stoned.)

The leadoff act--names have been removed to protect the identities of the truly terrible--was truly terrible. They performed only two sketches (mercifully), but in that time, managed to fill me with an odd combination of suicidal ideation and somnambulism. I have left my own body and it walks without consciousness now, I thought. My body wants to hang itself! Perhaps I should let it. They might attempt another sketch. Then the somnambulist took over again before I could do myself in. Rest, child. The body knows what to do. See? It is buying more whiskey.

The second act was a stand-up comic, who deserved better than a tiny room that felt too reserved to laugh. She made a joke about a pot haze settling over Eugene, Oregon every day at 4:20, and I laughed alone. "Thank you, one guy," she said drily in my direction. This got a real roar, while I sat and pondered why I out of all my friends laughed. I haven't smoked pot in many years, while a good number of my friends are walking Three Strikes sentencing casualties.

The night concluded, shudderingly, with that grand tradition of ours (one that I've written about before), karaoke. It is nearly impossible to write about karaoke, particularly karaoke featuring actors who really don't give a damn how they come out, but hey, I'll try again.

K. led things off with a quavering rendition of "Cold As Ice," wearing a horrid wig of wavyhair and tremendous eyeglasses; he looked like a very bookish porn star, perhaps trying to recite some epic Foreigner poetry. "You're as cooooold as iiiiice! You're willing to sacrifice our looooooove!" His gutshot coyote delivery was very moving.

Next up was the always dazzling T., who again didn't disappoint in his magnificent high-sticking of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." What's that, you say? But that's a duet! Right you are. And T.--who is sporting a rather alarming pussy-tickler of a mustache these days for a role--handled both parts equally inexpertly, shifting between querulous falsetto and plummy ignorato, managing to singlevoicedly mockerize Streisand and Mathis all in one bravura vocal performance. By the end, he was alternating these effects with every word. [Yelp] YOU! [Croak] DON'T! [Whine] BRING! [Basso] ME! [Drill bit] FLOWERS! [Resounding belch] ANY! [Audible-only-to-dogs mixed tone] MOOOOOOORE!

It went on. Legendary V. even performed a truly horrific mangling of (karaoke favorite) Phil Collins by turning "Sussudio" into an extended grapeshot attack on the song's very essence. "SUUU! SUDIO! SUUU! SUDIO! SUDIO! SUDIO! OOOOOHHHHH!" V.'s Primal Scream treatment was harrowing in the extreme. She then interrupted the shattering flow of the song to comment on getting tested for STDs after throwing off a crummy boyfriend. "I'm clean! I could have got something from his towels!" she howled arhythmically, while awful 80s keyboards cheesed on inexorably in the background. "I hate my life. I'll never find anybody," she moaned dramatically. We all said "Awwwww!" and V. proceeded to then joyously improvise a one-woman kickline as the chorus romped back in.

SU-SU-SUDIO!

I have the best friends in the world. Or at least I did until I wrote this.

Thursday, 20 May
Family Devalues

They've been airing some ads threatening yet another round of episodes for the eternally ghastly "Fear Factor" show, a program that asks the question, "What will the planet run out of first: horrible wavy-limbed insects, or awful people who are willing to eat them on national televison?" I've actually never watched this show, only partially because of the fact that I really don't want to watch idiots eagerly debasing themselves for unclear reasons--that's what weblogs are for! No, I avoid it for the presence of Joe Rogan, whose very existence I find to be the single most terrifying thing about this program. Everything I've seen of Joe Rogan since he left the estimable "NewsRadio" has made me embarrassed that I ever enjoyed his character on that show, and I wish him mostly a protracted, consumptive death.

Well, maybe "protracted" is stretching it a bit. A quicker death would protect against him actually saying anything. And Joe Rogan is certainly at his best when he is emphatically not saying anything.

At any rate, the "Fear Factor" ad also mentioned something truly unspeakable: "Family Fear Factor." Oh, yay. It's like the dark matter equivalent of family counseling; I imagine this sprang fully formed from the mind of Kang. The spot showed a heartwarming clip of Angry Mom hissing at her kid: "Are you gonna cry? Don't cry." Honestly, I'm not a parent, but adults are real turds when it comes to kids. I know that kids are maddening and weird and so forth, but putting on a frightening, pinched look of horrible, clenched anger and then hotly insisting that a child "don't cry" is guaranteed one thing: Many tears. I certainly wanted to cry, and I'm about to turn 35.

I can only imagine the whole exchange between foul mother and miserable child:

"Mommy, I don't wanna wrestle the squids!"

"Look, buster, you're going into that tank full of terrifying, multi-limbed horrors from the deep, and you're going to fight!"

"Buh-buh-boooooo-hooooooo!"

"You gonna cry? Don't cry."

"Squids are gonna eat me! They got suckers and poison!"

"Yep. And the producers have been starving them for weeks. I don't care. We're on TV. You're going in, or you're gonna have to deal with Mr. Sad."

"M-mr. Sad?"

"You heard me. Mr. Sad. Mr. Sad comes to your bed at night with needlenose pliers. He peels your ears off with 'em and eats 'em."

"I don't like Mr. Sad!"

"Nobody does. That's why he's Mr. Sad."

"Mommy, are you talking about daddy? Is that why he left you for the woman at the DMV?"

"No, honey. I'm not talking about that worthless shithead."

"Then who is Mr. Sad?"

"Joe Rogan. Joe Rogan is Mr. Sad. Do you want him to tear your ears off?"

"No, Mommy, no! I'll be good! Please let me into the squid tank! Please, please, please!"

"That's a good boy. You'd better beat the shit out of those squid. Mr. Rogan won't like it if you fuck it up."

"I hate Mr. Sad."

"We all do, honey. Now get going. Mommy needs digital cable."

Tuesday, 18 May
The Condensed NYPD Blue

[The squad room; or rather, the squalid room. Detectives bustle around, except for Andy, who sits at his desk eating a dead bird. He glares at middle space.]

Gay John: Detective?

Andy: Yeah?

GJ: Phone call for you.

Andy: Take a message.

GJ: Ah . . . your son died.

[Andy overturns his desk with a mighty YAAAAARRR! Squalor flies everywhere, mixing with the squalor. Andy stalks into the bathroom, his pate steaming magnificently. John Kelley enters.]

John: Hey, partner. I heard. I'm sorry.

Andy: This whole thing's got me twisted up, John! I can't . . . aw, John. [Andy cries manfully. John consoles him.]

John: I know. I know. Listen . . . you and me are gonna talk about this. I'm gonna reach out to some people, all right?

Andy: Yeah . . . yeah?

John: Yeah. Namely, my agent. I'm gonna move on to movies, partner, so I've got to go. All right? You all right?

Andy: Yeah. You go. You gotta do what you gotta do.

[They hug manfully, then Kelley exits to take up a brief, horrific film career before plummeting back into TV years later. Ricky Schroeder enters.]

Ricky Schroeder: Hey, I'm your new partner. Sorry for your loss.

Andy: This isn't going to work out, junior. Nuh uh, asshole.

RS: You wait, buddy. I'm an unbalanced hothead with undying commitment to the job, just like you. We're going to last, partner, you wait.

[Ricky exits. Lt. Fancy enters.]

Fancy: We got a double homicide. I need you out there.

Andy: Yeah, yeah, that's just like you people.

Fancy: What?

Andy: Black bosses.

Fancy: You racist bastard.

[They punch each other for a while.]

Andy: I learned a lot from that. You're a stand-up negro.

Fancy: I like you, former drunken psychopath.

Andy: So what's this double homicide?

Fancy: (checking note) Your wife and your new partner.

Andy: YAAAAAAAAAAARRRR! [Fade out on Andy knocking over some squalor.]

[Fade up on Andy standing at a bar staring at a shot of liquor. He wants that sweet, sweet liquor, because he isn't insane. An unreasonably hot fellow detective approaches him.]

Hot detective: You don't want to do this.

Andy: Of course I do. I'm not insane.

HD: No, Andy, don't. Come home and fuck me instead.

Andy: (Looking wildly around) Is this a joke?

HD: Not for what the producers are paying me. Come on, it's time for our sex scene where I come perilously close to showing a nipple.

Andy: Right on!

[Sex scene. There are many side-boob shots, and one paralyzing shot of Andy's naked, glaring ass.]

[Cut to next day, squalid room. Andy strolls in and encounters Medavoy and Ratlike Detective.]

Medavoy: H-hey, Andy. S-s-sorry aboutcher w-wife. And partner. Boy, he w-wasn't around long, huh?

Ratlike Detective: You might notice my unfortunate tie. Jesus, these people hate me.

Medavoy: Congratulations on the s-s-sex.

Andy: Yeah, thanks! It's really turned things around for me.

[Saved By the Bell guy enters.]

SBtBG: Hey. You Andy? I'm your new partner.

Andy: This isn't going to work, junior. Nuh uh.

Gay John: Saved By the Bell Guy? Message for you.

SBtBG: What is it?

Gay John: Your dad got drunk and killed himself.

Andy: YAAAAAAAARRRR! (Andy fitfully rolls around in squalor.)

SBtBG: This guy is really wound up.

New Lieutenant: Hey, I'm new.

Ratlike Detective: Yeah, and I'm leaving.

Medavoy: Ah--ah--ah . . .

NL: Let me introduce several forgettable new detectives, including this incredibly beautiful guy who's nine feet tall.

Beautiful Guy: Hey. [He smolders.]

NL: Andy and new guy, we've got someone we like in interview two. We think it's the skell who did your wife and Ricky Schroeder.

Andy: This asshole.

SBtBG: We're on it.

[Cut to interview room. The scuzzy skell sits like an asshole.]

Andy: Tell me what you know!

Skell: I don't talk to cops. Especially asshole cops.

[Andy and SBtBG beat the skell savagely for a while. The skell kind of blends in with the squalor.]

Skell: Awright! Awright! Don't beat me no more! I'll talk, and incidentally, I definitely don't want a lawyer! Nobody who comes in here ever does, and I'm one of 'em!

Andy: Talk. Or junior and me here, we're gonna take you out in the alley and run over you with a garbage truck.

Skell: It was me! I did it!

SBtBG: (Slapping down legal pad) Write it down.

[Cut to squalid room. The detectives are enjoying some desk time, except for Andy, who glares into middle distance, and Beautiful Guy, who smolders.]

Medavoy: Anyone w-want to go out for a beer? Job well done an' all that?

SBtBG: Sure, I'll go.

Hot Detective: Sure. Andy?

Andy: Yeah. I guess.

Gay John: Detective? Phone for you.

Andy: What is it?

Gay John: The jury came back on your double homicide fellow. He was found not guilty.

Andy: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRR! [Squalor.]

[Cut to a local bar. The detectives are enjoying beers, except for Andy, who grumpily sips tonic water.]

New Lieutenant: Good job today, people. You did good work.

Medavoy: Th-th-th-th--

Andy: Shut up, Medavoy.

[There is a reflective pause.]

Hot Detective: It seems like we're missing something. Something big.

Medavoy: Oh, yeah. Hey--A-andy, ah . . . didn't you have another partner in there? Like, for years? You guys were really close.

Andy: Oh, yeah. Bobby. Bobby Simone! How could I have forgotten about Bobby? Jeez. What ever happened to that son of a bitch?

New Lieutenant: He died of a heart infection.

(Pause.)

Andy: YAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR!

[Fade out on squalor.]

Tuesday, 30 March
Everyone Into The Pool

HERE THERE BE SPOYLERS!

If you don't want to hear stuff about the new season of "The Sopranos," you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

The wife and I are devout fans of this show, and have been known to kick people out of our home on Sunday nights so as not to be bothered with off-topic blather while we watch this most anointed of programs. As we are both trained actors, this show is like purest manna for us: I simply don't think there is a show out there that can challenge this cast for sheer firepower. And the hi-lariously fabulous misanthropic writing doesn't hurt either: this is a show that hates all humans, and to make sure we in the audience understands this point of view, it frequently kills many humans, most of whom are guilty either of (a) total venality, (b) lack of observance of The Rules, or (c) making the grave mistake of simply existing within five city blocks of a bunch of terrifying sociopaths.

And you can't tell me there isn't a better show for lining up jaw-dropping, baffling guest stars. The most recent episode featured luminaries like David Lee Roth and Lawrence Taylor. In the same scene! Aren't these guys like antiparticles? Rothons and LTinos, when intermixed, will produce a powerful, killing burst of HasBeenos! Use caution, and wear safety overalls!

And in a very Sopranos development on the home front, the much-mentioned pool has attracted guests: a pair of ducks. This is just fucking adorable. Yes, two mated ducks have adopted our pool as their hangout of choice, and it's killing us. (I frankly have no idea how they are cool with the chlorine--I saw the male take a nice long drink from the water, and I was beset with worry that he was poisoning himself. Nice duck! Don't drink the beastly toxic man-brine!) The wife and I inched up to the pool to coo at them in their throaty language, and we hoarsely cackled: "Mak! Mak! Mak!" The ducks, clearly no strangers to the Big Pink Food-Vendors, waddled right up to us and angled their beaks expectantly. The message was unmistakable: Pink things! They will throw us yeasty sponginess! That is their function. However, since the building management was already notably aware of--as they termed it--"the duck problem," we suspected that they would take a dim view of our feeding them.

So we didn't feed them, which made me terribly depressed. Stupid building. You put a crystalline pond out right in the open air! You're going to get pissy when inncocent ducks think, "Hey, rad water! Let's go take a dump in that!" Of course, this is also a building--condo--where they have bylaws describing in detail the various protocols to be observed while washing your fucking car ("Not to be done in the roundabout!").

I'm pretty sure that they hastily added that last bylaw onto the books once they saw that we were bringing a morose, swaybacked '82 Honda into the covered garage. "Good God!" they said. "It's bad enough we have David Lee Roth in this building. We don't need his hearse out front."

Don't worry, Diamond Dave. When you finally kick it, you're not going anywhere bad. We're going to feed you to the ducks. LT says he'll help heave the body into the pool.

Tuesday, 23 March
Meh Squared

I have been reading a book called The Devil's Candy--which I believe was also the title of a documentary film--that is about the legendarily awful film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's holy-fuck blockbuster novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. I was in college when I read the book, and at the time, thought it was just fucking great; and while I've moved on since then, I still think it's a good book and some really biting satire. I don't think it's easy to write an enormous novel filled with a nearly full roster of loathsome people and still be engaging, but I think it helps that Wolfe can be horrendously funny--boiling teeth!--see also the almost painfully hilarious The Right Stuff. For the flipside, take a try at Wolfe's highly anticipated (and wholly wretched) follow-up A Man in Full. You shouldn't have any trouble finding dozens of copies at your local used bookstore.

I went to see the movie with my old college girlfriend, and she was kind of mystified at my anticipation. "Did you read the reviews of this movie? It's like they filmed this thing at a concentration camp built on an Indian burial ground." But I was hopelessly hooked. I had promised myself that the filmmakers wouldn't fuck it all up, and maintained a childlike sense of trust about the whole thing.

They of course fucked it all up.

I'm halfway through The Devil's Candy, and so far luckless director Brian DePalma is looking pretty good, if perhaps willfully naive. He's foisted some pretty offensive manure on us in the past; in fact, it's easier to list his good movies rather than catalog his utter disasters: Carrie, The Untouchables: these are good, well-crafted movies. But good gravy, anything else? The rest of the time, he's unleashing Hollywood pit demons like Body Double, Mission to Mars and Body Double onto unsuspecting audiences who were only looking to eat some popcorn, snuggle with a loved one, and maybe score a nice handjob. I defy anyone to maintain an erection during a terrifying debacle on the scale of 8 MM. (Uh, make that Snake Eyes. I continue to suck.)

There literally isn't anything good or redeeming or funny or non-shoot-yourself about the film version of Bonfire of the Vanities. Tom Hanks was the first star cast, as the broad-chested, hale and hearty bonds trader Sherman. Tom Hanks is about as hale and hearty as a fish stick, but whatever. Next, Uma Thurman--herself not exactly a synonym for DYNAMO ACTRESS--lost out to, of all people, Melanie Griffith for the role of the duplicitous fuck-hive Maria, Sherman's mistress. I'm afraid that I cannot imagine anything more depressing than the idea of losing out on an acting gig to someone as thoroughly useless as Melanie Griffith. It's no wonder that she despondently agreed to let Ethan Hawke fuck her. You do anything when you hit bottom.

The less that is said about Kim Cattrall as Sherman's wife the better. Let's just say that she was fantastically more dynamic as her last role in Mannequin, in which she played a store dummy who unenthusiastically boned the eternally unappealing Andrew McCarthy (aka "I Stare Blankly For A Living").

Then there was the role of the fiery, aged, vituperative judge Myron Kovitsky. Kovitsky is in many ways the least compromised character in the book, a stalwart being in a crumbling world where everyone else is in a desperate hurry to fuck everyone else over if it only means their own salvation. Of course he gets burned in the end, but not in Hollywood. DePalma ended up agreeing to have the wizened, crabby, profane Jewish judge played by: Morgan Freeman, fresh off of his acclaim from Driving Miss Daisy. Now I think that Mr. Freeman is a terrifically great actor, someone with a great interior "life" that he brings to his roles, but this was just awful. His big scene involves him lecturing the courtroom attendees to "be decent to each other!" This from a book that suggests that people are very close to being genetically incapable of being decent.

Let's not even talk about Bruce Willis as the dissipated drunk tabloid reporter Peter Fallows, who in the book is British. Willis isn't a terrible actor, just a terribly limited one, who had approximately none of the chops required of the role. Willis gets better as he ages, but in the same way that you describe your shoes: he just gets more familiar and more comfortable. Good for him, but it's not very helpful when he's ruining your shoe collection. Besides, it's not exactly ringing praise to compare an actor to everyday footwear. Especially when you're tempted to bring up Terence Stamp as a Nike avatar.

UNRELATED HORSESHIT

Disappointing phrases heard this weekend, #1:

(Man at the bar, evidently talking about a friend): I guess he had HIV. I wish he woulda told me. (Long pause.) So I coulda shot him.

I really try not to hate everyone, but sometimes it's hard.

#2:

(Skot approaches store. The electronic eye opens the door for him. Two young women are standing close by.)

Is my butt opening that door? My butt always opens doors. I point my butt at doors, and they open.

I opted not to respond to this, despite the screaming of my brain.

THIRD-HAND THINGS

I got this one from the wife. She was talking to a sorta-friend, who recently had to attend a funeral. There was evidently a little girl there, who was the picture of good behavior for the entire service. At least until the end, whereupon she turned to her mother and hoarsely whispered (referring to the coffin prominently displayed), "When do they open the big box so we can get our presents?"

Thursday, 18 March
TV Party Tonight

Occasionally on the Travel Channel, I see ads for a show that exudes a certain sense of mystery about it. That show is "Made In America with John Ratzenberger." They show John Ratzenberger--Cliff from "Cheers," who is really falling up here, huh?--driving around in an RV, surveying the sun-dappled terrain of our great land, and occasionally stopping off to see people make crap. The mysterious part of the ads, for me, is: Who on earth wants to watch this fucking thing? Was John Ratzenberger just making a terrible pest of himself around the studio lots? "Come onnn, you guys, I was Cliff! America's favorite ugly, clumsy, virginal, mommy-fixated, alcoholic mailman! That's got to be worth something!" "Jesus Christ. Stick this asshole in an RV and get him the fuck out of here." I cannot imagine watching this show.

But it does give me hope for project development! With the inspiring example of John fucking Ratzenberger in mind, here are some shows I have planned.

The World Crossword Tour. Building on the same audience base as the World Poker Tour, it seems reasonable that people who enjoy watching unattractive, sedentary men sitting around playing cards will also enjoy them sitting around solving crosswords. Breathless play-by-play and color commentary will be given by renowned crossword-maker Will Shortz and hungry D-list actor Ian Ziering. "Look at that! Bill Katz is filling in nine down!" "He sure is, Will." "Over at table two, things aren't going so well for last year's champ Terry Benton. I think he's given up." "You're right, Will. He is no longer solving the puzzle and is instead filling in blanks with dirty words like 'jizz' and 'boob.' "

The Making of The Making of Mona Lisa Smile. This intriguing meta-documentary will feature some of the technical challenges and the creative talents that went into the creation of the short film that told the story of the talented crew and luckless cast who worked on the dismal box office catastrophe, Mona Lisa Smile. Not featured will be interviews with stars Julia Roberts and Maggie Gyllenhall. Don't miss "behind the 'behind the scenes' scenes ", such as where key grip Chuck Haverson uses the rest room, or when this one other guy eats a sandwich!

Omahaw! This weekly series, hosted by Alan Greenspan, will feature routines from many of Omaha's favorite stand-up comedians. Alan Greenspan dourly intones in the opener, "These people are all from Omaha. They are sporadically amusing. I encourage you to try and enjoy this television program." Oh, Alan! You so crazy! With emphasis on prop-based humor, filthy limericks, and plenty of jokes about corn, this program is sure to take off! It tested like gangbusters in Omaha.

The Ears of Laura Mars. A darker, edgier program about a female photographer (Justine Bateman) who realizes that, on the whole, for her age, she has pretty good hearing. The show will follow Laura around her work and home life as she hears things like traffic noises, various ringtones, and corduroy pants. In a nod to the groundbreaking show "The Sopranos," a centerpiece to the series will be regular visits to her ear doctor, "Dr. Melgi," who serves to reassure Laura that her hearing is "still pretty good."

Beach Blanket Boggle. As an homage to the old "beach" movies, which featured attractive young white people frolicking in the surf and sand, septuagenarians (or possibly their reanimated corpses) Annette Funicello and Frankie Valli Avalon* play spirited games of Boggle on a desolate, rocky Oregon beach while tightly wrapped in large, scratchy blankets. Some of these episodes are already in the can, including "PLOTZ is not a word!", "These cubes are too rattly", "It's cold and gritty out here", and the soon-to-be classic "Fuck the Mouseketeers, fuck all the Mouseketeers!"

*Check me out, I suck!

Wednesday, 11 February
Madison Avenue Encourages Me To Stay Home

My old nemesis, the television, has been acting up again. I think it might be getting frisky after totally boning us at the Super Bowl. It's getting a little sad. To wit:

The ads for Starsky & Hutch. Does anyone really want to see this fucking catastrophe? I mean, look at it: it's got Owen Wilson-- he's the uninteresting portion of the Shanghai movies, and look at how damning that judgment really is--and Ben Stiller, who needs to stop. Just stop, Ben. He's been doing the same awful schtick for about six years, and look at his glories: Mystery Men. Meet the Parents. Zoolander. Along Came Polly. The only exception has been the marginally tolerable The Royal Tenenbaums, a movie that is a slightly funnier version of Magnolia, a similarly sprawling disaster whose threadbare charms are also, again like Magnolia, thanks entirely to an irritatingly talented director.

Chevy has a series of horrifying ads out as well, and you've seen them: they're the "hemi" ads. Bafflingly, they feature a highly icky couple whose prominent dynamic seems to be mutual loathing for one another. And this isn't very surprising, as the actors both come off as utterly repulsive people. The progenitor of this set of misanthropic ads has the mom cooing at the kid in the back about the gentle ride of the ginormous SUV they are navigating, and extolling the virtues of the DVD player and the gentle shocks. The irritable husband chafes at this, and says, "What are you DOING to him?" The terrible wife, adopting a rather glacial tone, responds that she's just trying to educate the doomed little sprite as to the relative benefits of their war machine. The husband rolls his eyes extravagantly, as if to say, "I can't believe I put up with this horrific cunt every day." The wife of course looks like a vengeful rodent.

Next you see the brutish dad holding up the kid and pointing to the vehicle's huge-ass motor: "There's only one thing you need to know about this car--HEMI! Can you say "hemi"?" The kid does, completing the circuit of dysfunction that will surely earn this guy periodic weekend visits once his terrifying wife destroys him in family court. Well done!

But by far my favorites are the new tampon ads. I don't know what it is, but there's something truly weird about these spots. Inevitably, the viewer is treated to many low-angle shots of women doing things involving her legs, like running up stadium steps or perhaps just bending over to do something stereotypically matronly, like digging out the vacuum. "Now for more comfort . . . " these ads soothingly say, particularly the O.B. ads. I'd really like these to be more direct. Say, something like, "O.B.! Designed by a female gynecologist. Now with thirty percent less snatch-pain." Or testimonials: "Since I switched to O.B., my pussy feels like a hungry cougar. It wants some fresh meat." Then they could cut to nervous-looking men. It might be a good tie-in with Cialis. Those unfortunate bastards with the alarming four-hour erections could finally have something to do with their time.

We have to make sure that Ben Stiller isn't attached to any of these projects.

Monday, 02 February
It Wasn't Really Super, Supergirl

My convalescence has been proceeding . . . slowly. I've been feeling somewhat better, and managed to check out a movie over the weekend (Lost in Translation, which I quite enjoyed); however, at work today they more or less hustled me out of there early, as my wracking coughing fits were discomfiting the rest of the skittish staff. Geeks are fragile little rodents, and get twitchy when they see someone nearby getting hammered sideways with coughing attacks and spuming out microdroplets of some hideous, unidentifiable plague into the air. Go figure.

Probably a big impediment towards achieving good health--pointedly ignoring the cigarettes--was actually watching the Super Bowl. My friend D. came over to watch it with me and the wife (who, it probably doesn't need to be said, really could have gave a fuck anyway). Things did not start auspiciously (do they ever?): some idiotic flack unwisely exhumed Aerosmith and turned them loose onto the stage for the pre-show. Aerosmith. These antediluvian fucks. Whose idea was this? Anyway, there they were, prancing ridiculously; they looked like the Living Avatars of Fruit Leather. Joe Perry arthritically strangled his guitar like a recalcitrant stepchild, and Steven Tyler . . . good god. He clutched frantically at the microphone, like a drowning man, as his glassine bones moaned under the weight of his terrible array of scarves. And of course his voice is just ruined any more: he searched myopically for notes the way a frustrated man looks for a missing sock in the back of the dryer, and unable to locate any, resorted to some terrible, grainy shrieking. At this point, mysteriously, tiny men began parachuting into the stadium, for unclear purposes. Tyler eyed them nervously, and I thought, ecstatically, They're coming to kill Steven Tyler! Finally! But no, the weird 'chuters touched down and just kind of scampered off, pointlessly, and Tyler flashed a relieved smile at the apparent reprieve from Death from Above.

That was just the pre-show I caught. Christ only knows what the network sackheads inflicted on an unwary public before I bothered to tune in.

Well, there was a bit more: Beyonce was dragged in to spang out a typically flashy rendition of the National Anthem, and there was a whole bunch of thumbs-uppery and backslapping for the good NASA folk in the wake of the shuttle debacle, but it really just kind of felt . . . out of place. Especially the "what the fuck?" moment (little did we know how many of these we would have over the evening) when the stage birthed up a freaking astronaut, with a big, stiff flag, miming the famous old moon photo. They stuck that poor bastard there for the entirety of the National Anthem too; one fervently hopes that at least his helmet rendered him immune to the singing.

Anyway, the game. It sure looked like it was going to be a sack of wet shit for a quarter and a half--D. howled hopelessly at one point, "This is fucking boring!"--but then both teams caught fire, and a real game was to be had.

Meanwhile, the weirdness continued to pile up (I know everyone's heard this shit before, but hey). There were, of course, the ads, which were, by and large, tremendously terrible. Come back, dot-coms! All is forgiven! Come back and make us more freakishly expensive, mind-shatteringly terrible advertisements!

Oh, they're not coming back. Which means we're stuck with the brain ticks over at Budweiser, whose "farting horse" ad achieved instant legend in the house. (For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, the nitty is this: a horse farts explosively at a woman who happens to be holding a candle, and she is burned terribly, while her boyfriend asks, "Hey, you smell barbecue?") This one pretty much blasted our synapses all to hell, and we sat, stunned. "Did that just happen?" I said. D. blinked erratically. It was like the TV had farted explosively in our face, and in a way it had: I certainly smelled something, but I'm not sure it was barbecue. As the evening progressed, I wanted desperately to see that . . . thing again, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and I periodically screamed, "FAR-TING HORSE! FAR-TING HORSE!" But my exhortations were ignored, and I knew, desolately, that the awful thing would never see the light of day on TV again. (Later, of course, I found it on the internet, where nothing is ever allowed to die.)

Budweiser ads were front and center on the evening, but also omnipresent were the various get-a-boner! drug ads. Most egregious, of course, was former Bears coach and current mustache-gnawer Mike Ditka, who barked at us like erectile dysfunction was something vaguely all our fault. Never mind that I don't need visions of Mike Ditka in my head when I'm thinking about sex, please; but I did note that Levitra's little logo consists of a tiny flame. "Levitra!" I shrieked, "It'll set your dick on fire!"

Considering the prominence of advertising featuring alcoholic beverages and boner drugs, I idly wondered, Maybe if American men weren't drinking all that booze, they could get it up once in a while. I was soon disabused of this notion by another beer ad: This one showed a ref being screamed at by a coach on the sidelines, and wondered how he could take such scorching abuse so stoically. The answer: The wife at home is a hysterically shrieking shrew who berates him at all times! Now I understood: men don't get boners any more because of (a) a tremendous beer deficiency, and (b) their wives are all nightmarish harpies. If I suffered from these incredibly dystopian views, like apparently Budweiser's ad men all do, I'd need something pharmaceutical to help me get in the mood too.

I won't even get into the halftime eye-poison, as it will be gummed to death over the next few days, except to note that there was spirited discussion amongst us as to what the exact notional sound was made when Ms. Jackson's boob flopped out depressingly on national TV. "Muuuh." was suggested, as was "Blop," but in the end the winner was something close to "Lllllurp." Just so you know.

And these were the sounds of my evening: Aerosmith. Equine flatulence. Screaming wives. Mike Ditka obliquely talking about his penis. Lllllurp.

I don't know if I'll ever get better.

Wednesday, 24 December
Everything's Gone Green

A little bit ago, the wife and I got done watching Hulk on pay-per-view. It took a while to get going, for sure; waiting 40+ minutes to see Mr. Enormous Mint was kind of tedious. But then we got some nice action sequences featuring [NOTE: I give stuff away here, if you're one of those people] some hilarious CGI gamma-rayed dogs--Fifi the French poodle as interpreted by Rob Zombie--as well as some enjoyable tank-flinging and general artillery abuse. Also, Sam Elliott, whose moustache did not go unremarked upon; the wife commented on its exactitude: "That's a really neat moustache." Probably not a good thing to notice in the middle of what is ostensibly an action movie. "Holy shit! Did you see Hulk's skin get pockmarked with bullet strikes?" "Actually, I was thinking about Sam Elliott's moustache." Uh oh.

But still; those were some fun sequences, and the CGI wasn't horrible, but let's face it: ever since Peter Jackson spent the equivalent of Brunei's GDP on Gollum, everything else is going to look like something off of the shelves of Goodwill. I tried to keep this in mind while He Whose Pants Must Never Burst wreaked all kinds of havoc, and I did okay. In fact, I ended up thinking that everybody who pissed all over the movie were just being twerps.

Then the ending happened. Now, I wasn't a huge Hulk fan when I was in my comic book youth-mania, so maybe I missed something big, but . . . what in the holy fuck was that? It just didn't make any goddamn fucking sense on any level--and this is leaving out the fact that poor old Ang Lee decided not to cast Nick Nolte, but instead the shambling husk of his infamous mug shot. I swear that the Smoking Gun got some casting credit for his role, as poor Nick rattled on through every scene as if he had just wandered onto the set after being maliciously cornholed by LAPD's finest billy clubs. Where was the Nick Nolte from 48 Hours or Q & A? Or even from when he famously sat like a gigantic, angry stone a couple years ago, refusing to give tribute at the Oscars to the tremulous, confused Elia Kazan? He's gone. Now he just makes weirdly discomfiting overtures to Jennifer Connolley and goes back to his trailer, where he naps fitfully and dreams of haircuts.

Anyway. We got done with the terrible thing--that ending! Jesus God!--and tuned into Bravo, where everyone will be stunned to find out that we caught an episode of "The West Wing." We fortunately just missed a repeat of "Celebrity Poker," the show that dares to ask the question, "How can we make generally decent-seeming people like Hank Azaria and Allison Janney somehow seem unappealing?" It's to Bravo's credit that they make their dreams happen.

It's also to Bravo's credit that they are utterly single-minded in their desire to ram every fucking thing they can think of down our throats. I've already mentioned "The West Wing," which they play with a kind of evangelical zeal, and also "Celebrity Poker," the ne plus ultra of shows we never asked for. They are also responsible, as any person with a nervous system knows, for the phenomenon known as "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," whose charms are there, I must admit, but Bravo's fervid dedication for flogging the thing are bordering on the monomaniacal. STOP SHOWING ME ADAM ZALTA! DON'T MAKE ME USE THIS DISPOSABLE RAZOR!

Bravo, however, occasionally proves frisky, perhaps only when they are desperate and exhibiting a taste for the weird and un-figure-out-able. To wit: It seems that, on Christmas Day, they are eschewing a QEftSG marathon, or even a Celebrity Poker Bore-A-Thon, and are instead running, inexplicably, three separate showings of The Terminator.

Whatever. It's a loser's game trying to figure out mysterious entities like network programmers. It's almost as difficult as trying to figure out the ending to Hulk, except to perhaps conclude that Hollywood is run by maniacs and nutbrains and dubious gaseous entities that occupy suit-space. Hollywood is, clearly, a comic book all of its own. It's just one that nobody can read.

Have some good holidays, and I'll see you on the other side.

Friday, 05 December
Ho, Ho, Holy Shit I'm Tired

Nothing like back-to-back shows! Oy. No wonder I'm taking so long to get well. Tonight I open up The Eight: Reindeer Monologues and run it for three weekends. You're all invited, particularly those of you in other countries. Tickets are a mere $12, a figure so astonishingly cheap you can't afford not to spend $500 on plane tickets to take advantage of it.

Thursday, 04 December
I Was Born For Advertising

A staple of car advertising is the old "I surprised my honey with the gift of a new car!" ad. You've seen them: one spouse figures out a cute way to sneak a car key into the hands of his/her mate (I'm really hoping for one that features someone stuffing it into a pork chop or perhaps a "SO YOU'VE GOT CANCER!" flyer), and the momentarily perplexed giftee quickly adopts an expression of holy shit-ness and then spastically whips his/her neck around to the window to behold the iconic shiny new car reposing in the thoroughly upper-middle-class driveway, usually with a big fucking ribbon on top, leaving the reader to wonder exactly how the giftee managed to enter the home without noticing that an enormous piece of mysterious machinery was quietly squatting just off the lawn like some weird magical toad waiting for the kiss of his appropriately-keyed princess.

It doesn't make much sense. So, fuck it, I wrote one of my own.


(Spot begins with shot of upper-middle-class home, aggressively clapboarded. The WIFE enters the house and encounters her not-quite-but-almost paunchy HUSBAND. He's fucking adorable, and knows it.)

WIFE: Hi, honey!

HUSBAND: Hi, sweetie! I've got a surprise for you!

W: Oh? What's that?

(The HUSBAND produces a tray of oysters.)

H: Oysters! Just for you! Because I love you.

W: Oh my God! You're so sweet! That's so romantic.

(The WIFE reaches for an oyster, but is stopped by the HUSBAND.)

H: Not that one. I ruined that one. Actually, I ruined all of them. These fucking things don't keep at all. I don't get it. It was only a week in the guest bathtub. These are totally pussy oysters. Anyway! Take this one.

(The HUSBAND points out one startling oyster. It has been duct-taped shut.)

W: What's this? God, this is . . . yick.

H: Just open it! Little fuckers don't like to close back up after they goddamn die. Stubborn goddamn crappy oysters.

W: Uh . . . boy. Okay.

(The WIFE opens the oyster. Inside is a LEXUS car key sitting atop a dispiriting grey mass of former oyster meat. The WIFE squeals.)

W: What? Wha--? Is this . . .?

H: (Beaming) That's right. It's a gorilla-cock huge Lexus, my darling. Merry Christmas!

W: AAAAAHHH! Oh my God! This is . . . I love you! I love you! I . . . ah . . . hold on. Aren't these things around fifty thousand dollars?

H: Oh yeah.

W: But . . . my God . . . where did you get the money? I mean, where did you get our money? We both have to pay for this, right? What the fuck, Jake?

H: Now, now, calm down. It's okay. I . . . I handled it. I cut some expenses. Because I wanted this for you. I don't want to get into all this, I just . . . oh, gosh. Look. Don't make a big deal out of this, but I . . . I'll just say it. I gave up my mistress.

W: You WHAT?

H: I gave her up. I wanted you to have this. I really did.

W: Your MISTRESS?

H: Yeah. You know Inez. She's in billing? Christ, she's cost me a fortune. Jesus, I spent thousands just on cab fare.

W: I . . . I don't know what to say . . . Why? Why, Jake, why? WHY DID YOU DO THIS?

H: Well, the horrible little scag got knocked up. I'm not boning any pregnant broads. Gross.

W: This is . . . this is . . . amazing. You did that for me? Oh, God, Jake, you're the best.

H: Oh, you're welcome, baby.

W: You know what we should do? Right now?

H: What's that?

W: We should fire Inez.

H: I'll tell you what. You drive.

W: And you can call INS.

H: Word to yo mutha! (HUSBAND makes upsettingly inept rapper gestures.) Or, rather, word to the mutha of my illegitimate child, who is going to be deported back to Cuba tomorrow!

H&W: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

BUTTERY PROFESSIONAL VOICEOVER: Lexus. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.

Tuesday, 25 November
I Malign People For No Good Reason

I spent the weekend closing down the show, which is always sort of bittersweet: you're glad to be done with a project, but it's always a little like burying a vague acquaintance that you were fond of. You wish you knew them better. However, I immediately (tonight) jumped into a mini-rehearsal for the next show, which amounted to me doing my monologue twice and then sharing a beer and a smoke with the director (we go a ways back). Now I just have to make my irritated brain commit six pages of text to memory, and my brain isn't really thrilled about it. It complains. "This sucks," it whines. "Can't we download some porn instead?" I sympathetically answer it. "No," I explain to myself, "we are on dial-up. The best we can do is Fark's 'Boobies' posts." "Ugh," replies brain, "that's terrible. It's like buying jerky at the 99-cent store." Brain is pretty irritating, so I dump scotch on it and wait for it to become quiescent.

Speaking of brain-quiescence, the wife and I pay-per-viewed The Italian Job over the weekend; it was like consuming a generic blue-and-white package of MOVIE. As in: "I am absorbing this [MOVIE]. It features [TALENTED ACTORS] (alongside a certain [CHARLIZE THERON] who fails, impossibly, to [REMOVE SHIRT]) involved in [CRIMINAL ACTS] and [UNSURPRISING BETRAYALS] that, after [UNCONTORTIONATE TWISTS] finally results in a showdown between [OH WHO GIVES A FUCK?]" But in the end I must give it up to both Marky Mark, for displaying a heroic, Theronesque stubbornness against removing his shirt, despite the fact that failing to do so renders his entire presence somewhat puzzling; and also to Edward Norton, who somehow managed to grow the world's most depressing moustache, and then ceded his entire performance to the hairy little lip-mongrel.

"Action!"

(Sotto voce) "Quick! Depressing moustache! What do we do?"

"Go buy a boat or something. I'll sit here on your lip and kind of spaz out or something." (Notices dailies) "Look at us! We look like Hal Linden!"

"I love you, depressing moustache."

"You big lug. Just don't shave me like Courtney Love does."

"You've got a deal."

Friday, 21 November
Reasons To Stay Home

Something's up. Over the past couple days, I have been sort of unrelentingly obsessed with the incredible terribleness of the films of Cuba Gooding Jr. Seriously, I'll just be walking home from work or eating dinner or something, and then all of a sudden I'll think, "Cuba Gooding Jr. released Snow Dogs and Boat Trip in the same year. Christ, that's depressing." Maybe it's a hangover from suffering through the toothachey ads for Radio, the movie that seems to ask the question, "Why doesn't Ed Harris fire his agent?"

Now, of course I haven't seen any of these films, and I never intend to, because (I've said this before) I Prejudge Movies. And it works pretty well for me; Cuba Gooding Jr. has become a definite warning sign, although I do have a fondness for his work in Coming to America as "Boy Getting Haircut." But there's plenty of stuff out there to be frightened of.

I don't even think I have to say anything about The Cat in the Hat, as it is clearly wretched, and was made by demented, crabwalking shadow beasts who hate children.

Gothika requires the audience-endurance of Penelope Cruz, so that's out. Timeline is scripted by indefatigable hack Michael Crichton and features intolerable creatures like Billy Connolly and that little shit from 2 Fast 2 Furious. Doomed. (I noted the luckless David Thewlis lurking at the bottom of the cast list too.)

You know, even if it turns out that The Last Samurai is a good film (directed by Edward Zwick?!), nothing will prevent me from laughing at Tom Cruise. I've seen the trailer in the theater a couple of times, and the audiences were, shall we say, less than reverent at the spectacle of professional tiny person Cruise boshswuckling it up on the big screen. (Alarming detail just noticed: this film also, mystifyingly, has Billy Connolly.) In anticipation of what I predict will be terrible box office, I have mentally rechristened this picture: Far And Away 2: Kung Fu!

A promising offering, though, might be The Haunted Mansion, which could turn out be the flat-out fuck-you nutclutcher horror film of the year. Anything that has Eddie Murphy playing the lead these days certainly makes me clammy; but the real clincher is this IMDB summary: "When a workaholic visits a haunted house with his family during a job interview, he meets a ghost that teaches him a lesson about the importance of the family that he has neglected."

Brrrrrrrr.

Wednesday, 19 November
Actually, Seventh Grade Sucked

Tonight, rather than luxuriating in the usual nothing that is my non-performance evening, I had to instead travel down to my old theater haunt and do a FIRST READ of the next play I'm doing. Yes, I am leaping from one show directly into another, mostly because I'm fucking nuts.

It's actually a role I've done before a few years ago: the show is called The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, a darker-than-obsidian holiday show about whether or not Santa Claus raped the reindeer Vixen. The story is told through eight monologues by the eight reindeer--I play Donner, the rather sad, nearly cataleptic father of Rudolph (and there is some question as to what happened to the poor, retarded Rudolph, who apparently spends his days mumbling alarming nonsense about penises and mistletoe). It's basically the Anti-Holiday show, and should appeal to an entertaining demographic of sociopaths and aspiring misanthropes. We'll know we're doing a good job if people despairingly vomit into their laps. Or, you know, clap enthusiastically. Whatever works.

When I got home, the wife and I eventually settled in for a "West Wing" rerun on the indefatigable Bravo (Motto: "Even liberal fairies enjoy television!"). It's a decent enough show, and some pretty good leftie spank material--but even that's not really fair. The show portrays a government that we all kind of fantasize about in a sort of seventh-grade way: "I HEART DEDICATED PUBLIC SERVANTS!" Surrounded by curvy hearts in our mental Trapper Keepers. Never mind that we can't nervously shake our shapely, ungravitied asses in the direction of our almost-needs-a-shave dates to some ripping J. Geils band music, but at the very least we'd like to imagine staring across the auditorium at our government, nervously clutching our watery punch, and hope they notice us. On "The West Wing," every character is a quarterback, and every play is fourth and long, and the cheerleaders all scream, but it's seventh grade, so in the end nobody scores. The show is teen pathos embodied.

There is another meta-level on which this show kills me, which is the utter conundrum that is Mary Louise Parker; or, more specifically, how much she is hated by the wife. Tonight's barb: "Is she supposed to be funny? Or witty? Or attractive?" The wife smoldered for a moment before posing a kind of koan: "Is she for men?" I had no real answer to this. "Well, she's not for me." I wasn't lying: I think she's about as sexy as sheet rock. Her nearly Martian intonations are kind of the kicker for me; she pronounces almost every line as if she has an impending dental appointment. The wife and I have some favorite moments, and tonight didn't disappoint: one of her lines was, "Not so much with the talking for you." Now, this is of course as much writer Aaron Sorkin's fault as anyone's, but her read on it was just otherworldly; the line--which was, I believe, supposed to be a sort of snarky come-hither dissing to Josh--came out mostly like someone bloodlessly evaluating the relative quality of some locally produced jerky.

I'd go on, but not so much with the talking for me.

Thursday, 13 November
The Reviews Are In!

And they're lukewarm! USA! USA! USA!

But in case you were wondering, I am wonderful.

Now,if you doubt my greatness, please know that I nicely play the unplayable. (scroll down)

But if neither of those raves convince you, just read this one, as it will surely make the case that I play someone named Willie!

It is clearly time to celebrate the unbelievableness that is . . . well . . . me. I sit here and await peeled grapes. GRAPE ME, MY LOVING PUBLIC!

*sits*

Hey, where did everyone go?

Tuesday, 11 November
Cry "Fuck!" And Let Slip The Dogs Of War

So we got the show open, and it all went fine. Nothing serious got fucked up--an actress forgot a rather important prop one night (a phone), which she had to leave the stage to retrieve, stranding an actor briefly, but he sat placidly and waited--and then we drank some champagne, and talked about the press (we had some, nothing published yet) and had a good time.

After opening night on Thursday, there was the usual polite after-show get-together, and one of the crew members prepared some lovely food. I wandered up to the counter. "Any beer or wine back there?" "I, uh, I think someone forgot it." I stared emptily at the counter full of dreary nutrition. FORGOT? This is like me forgetting to take my feet with me on my way to work. But ah, well, a minor blip. I merely filed it mentally away along with all of the other minor grievances to take up with The Director, alongside the Issue of the Whorish Wig and That One Time She Threw A Stuffed Monkey At Me.

After our Sunday matinee, we held a little "talk to the audience" thingy where the actors all gather onstage and field questions from the lonely souls who choose to stay behind and query us about this or that. It was a decent lot; there were relatively few weird or silly questions, although we did get that old chestnut, "Do you really think it was necessary to use the f-word so much?" She was a sweet enough woman, but it's hard not to roll your eyes. "It's true," you want to reply, "I'm so bummed that 'to blazes' has gone so far out of vogue. That would make for some really corking dialogue!"

Mac: Argh! These blasted critics! To blazes with them!

Jenny: Daddy! I will not tolerate this scurrilous tongue-waggery!

Mac: Fie! I heap befoulment upon them! 23-Skiddoo!

Jenny: Oh! Oh! Your invective--! You rail like a fiddle-fingered Brobdingnag oyster-shucker!

Mac: Are you saying I am not boss? For I am totally boss!

Jenny: O nutsackian incourtesy! 'Swounds!

Another great question was: "Why is the play called Abstract Expression?" We kind of looked at our shoes and collectively willed the spirit of the playwright to visit the room and give us an noncorporeal lecture on her reasoning. As that didn't seem to be in the cards, I dithered at some length to offer my D-minus answer: "Uh, well, I think the playwright might be trying to make the point that all human expression is kind of muddled--or abstract--whether it be painting or music or acting or just talking. We talk around or past one another all the time, in all mediums, I think." I left out the suggestion that perhaps the title came from the fact that one of the central characters is an abstract expressionist.

The other woman piped up again. "I just don't know that you have to keep saying the f-word."

I wanted to hand her a can of paint and a canvas and say, "Show me what you mean." Maybe that would be getting somewhere.

Tuesday, 04 November
'Til Tuesday

This last weekend was a living bitch; you see, the wife and I endured what is known in theater circles as "tech weekend." This is the time when all of the technical elements get introduced to the mix: actual props, light cues, sound cues, and, when appropriate, onstage food. Cranberry juice (later to be doped with a couple drops of blue food coloring) becomes red wine. Unadulterated apple juice serves nicely as white wine. Stale bagels become staler bagels with each passing day, which suits me fine, as I contrived not to have to eat any of the fucking bagels, citing a (wholly truthful) loathing for the accompanying lox spread. I think lox spread ranks right below "octopus ink" and right above "candied Yanni" on the List of Things I Don't Want In My Mouth.

As theater people well know, tech weekend is an exercise in tested patience. It is, really, for all involved, basically where fun goes to die: scenes are repeated, over and over and over, and really, not just scenes: mere moments are repeated over and over and over, e.g., Stage Manager: "We're going to take that back again. Can we start with the line 'You're a cold bowl of fuck!' ?" Actor: "You're a cold bowl of fuck!" (The actor is suddenly attacked by an angry stage ape.) Stage Manager: "Hold please! We had a problem with the ape wrangler." (Actors sit dumbly while the wranglers knock out the recalcitrant ape's teeth with hammers.) Stage Manager: "Let's do it again from the same place! When you're ready!" Actor: "You're a cold bowl of fuck!" (Sudden, mysterious blackout.) Stage Manager: "Hold please! We have a bad light cue!" Actor, making conversation during another lull: "Was that an Equity ape? I think he ate his shorts for Act II."

This tech weekend was actually far less painful than a lot of those that I've endured in the past. Friday, our director showed up unexpectedly in a lovely blonde wig; I asked her what that was about, and she replied (courteously leaving out the "duh"), "It's Halloween!" Duh indeed. The wig (a platinum blondish thing) made her look like kind of a whore, but in a good way; women tend to get upset when men describe them as looking like whores, but I rather suspect that they're missing the somewhat obscured compliment. Men like whores. Anyway, we'll soon see if I'm suddenly out of a job for this.

The most grueling part about these tech rehearsals (and will continue to be pretty challenging) is the BLACKOUT aspect of the show--the blackouts are fucking serious blackouts: there really isn't any goddamn light on the stage between scenes. It's like navigating purest basalt, and one wrong turn could result in you running into (a) other actors, (b) walls, (c) parts of the set, (d) anything else, or (e) Atlantis, as far as you can tell. The next thing you know, the lights come up for the next scene, and there you are, plainly visible onstage, looking very much like a living avatar of flatulence: Nobody wants to acknowledge your presence, but you're kind of hard to ignore.

To this end--that of making it easier for actors to clear a dead-black stage--we employ that fantastic quasi-solver of problems called "glow tape." Glow tape is a phosphorescent adhesive that theaters put on just about fucking anything that can possibly get in anyone's way, usually out of the audience's sight lines. With judicious use of glow tape (provided that they've been "charged" with some light ahead of time; they're about as sophisticated as those old solar system thingies you used to stick on to the ceiling above your bed), one can map out stairways, entrances, exits, or, if one felt the urge, the Chicago el.

However, this show uses, as I've mentioned, some serious-ass blackouts, so there is glow tape all over the fucking place, and God help you if you misinterpret it: If you're not careful, you can end up, like I did the other night, flailing helplessly at a backstage curtain while the lights come up inexorably to reveal your dumb ass beating on a hunk of cloth. It's pretty sexy. And this is leaving aside the amount of glow tape we've got on the set: When the lights go out, it looks like a radioactive Habitrail; it makes my thyroid throb nervously. Glow tape kind of weirds me out, clearly, but I'm a damaged person.

Anyway. We open the show this week, barring any more savage ape attacks, and it's going well. I'm monitoring my kidney output with a Geiger counter (fucking glow tape!), and I'm doing okay on my lines (I'm only mangling every six or so), so I think we're good for launch.

But all you need to know is that tech blows. Anyone will tell you this. Even the deranged apes.

Monday, 27 October
Whites In Night Satan

Ah! Another weekend has passed! And I really don't have much to show for it. It was, I confess, full of unexpected surprises: for instance, the wife and I had no idea it was time to set our clocks back until our stage manager reminded us of this. Or, rather, since we had no earthly idea in the first place, one could say he minded us of this. Anyway. We're both a little fried with rehearsing (tonight was our first day without rehearsal in a week--as Equity rules disallow work on Mondays. Would that this obtained for my day job). The wife promptly responded to this direness by immediately getting sick, and spent much of today in bed. I'd like to blame this on our frantic schedules, but I suspect it has a deeper root: the movies we watched over the weekend.

When we got home from rehearsal on Friday night (after, of course, full days at work), the wife was pretty whipped, and already feeling kind of ucky, but I was kind of keyed up, so I began a hunt for some movie on cable that I could watch without fear of having to actually think about anything. Cable is good for this sort of thing--I reluctantly passed up "Bikini Squad" as being possibly too cerebral--and indeed I found a winner: Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever. Now, I knew going in that this movie was going to be fucking ghastly, but not ghastly like "I can't believe how ghastly this is!" More like a "I know exactly how ghastly this is!" It's hard to explain. For example, there are movies that I deem utterly ghastly even before I see them; I deem them ghastly when I see the ads. Examples of this a priori judgment include unspeakable debacles like, say, K-PAX and What Planet Are You From? I haven't seen these movies, and I never intend to. I pre-determined their all-encompassing worthlessness long before their actual release, and I stand by my decisions. They were clearly wretched from inception to releases, and there's little point in verifying this by actually watching the things. Garry Shandling as an alien? Kevin Spacey (also as an alien) enjoying large bananas? These themes are best explored by our nation's robust porn industry.

But B:E.V.S. (a happy acronym I didn't even notice until I just typed it) was of a different stripe: it was a movie that I knew I could watch despite its completely obvious emanations of pre-horror. I had no illusions that it wouldn't stink. Of course it would stink! It features two actors whose talents tend towards the monochromatic: Antonio Banderas, who takes sweaty, coiffed brooding to its logical extreme; and Lucy Liu, who will apparently die before expressing a non-steely emotion. (Can someone cast her in a spectacularly unwatchable tearjerker like Love Story some time, just to say they tried? It would be a great phenomenological case study of some sort. "Well, that was a disaster. Let's never do that again." "Agreed! What's next on the agenda?" "Mike Nichols has proposed a sequel to Sweet November with Chris Rock and Madchen Amick." "Whoa." "Mike agreed to direct, as long as he gets to jerk off in her trailer." "Let's get ink on that.")

As usual, I'm acres off, afield-wise. Suffice it to say that I watched that horrible film (the wife sensibly immediately fell asleep), and it was everything I couldn't want in a movie, except for the dumb violence. They even (SPOILER ALERT! And if a spoiler for B: E.V.S. is actual cause for alarm for you, may I gently suggest analysis?) included a CUTE KID IN DANGER! HE MAY BE KILLED! I genuinely wish for the day that they kill the cute kid. Like, in the opening credits. That would be something to talk about.

[Credits roll.] "A McG Production!" [Shot of cute kid playing on swings.] "INTRODUCING ECHIDNA VARGAS!" [Shot of cute kid being run over by Soviet tanks.] "Featuring Darius Rucker as AGENT GRACKLE!" [Shot of cackling evil black man.] "Salad services by HOLLYWOOD GREEN GROCERS!" [Shot of celery.]

But it was really also everything I was after: basically, a witless dogfuck of movie whose incomprehensibility amounted to a wholly undefinable kind of zero-divide of one's intelligence: no matter how you parsed its retardate conditions, it obstinately refused any attempt at honest analysis.

And you know what? The next night, we rented The Core.

It's all our own fucking fault.

Tuesday, 26 August
Worst and Ten

Tonight I watched, mainly out of purest inertia, ESPN's new drama "Playmakers," an intensely realistic look at the inner workings of an NFL team. And when I say "intensely realistic," I of course mean "screamingly demented," because this is after all TV; and while I have no special insights into any particular NFL teams, I can observe that this team basically resembles the cast of Passions, only with horrific scars, spinal trauma, and a predilection for the almost-naughty-for-cable expletive "shit." No NFL team can possibly have such a storied collection of ridiculously fucked-up players.

Okay. Maybe the Bengals.

The series starts by highlighting a few choice characters, all of them spectacularly fucked up; in fact, there doesn't seem to be the stock "grounded wise person" character floating about tsk-tsking over his friends' awful life choices and dispensing pithy observations about same--in fact, nobody in this show appears to even have any glimmer of self-awareness at all; professional football in this context appears to be something akin to Scientology or Amway: a fundamentally silly venture that somehow makes its followers completely unaware of its drastically inane premise.

There is the aging running back, who just came off a harrowing rehab; he is having illicit thoughts about an apparently amorous newscaster, which presents a threat to the family that he loves. Yes, this sounds plausible: when it comes to football groupies, they always chase the nearly-washed-up old guys whose careers are in twilight. He is also threatened by the rookie phenom just hired who is basically taking his job, and anyone with working synapses can see that the TERRIBLE TEMPTATION OF PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS is in this character's near future. Suspenseful! This is like waiting to find out if Yogi Bear is going to steal a picnic basket sometime soon.

The aging running back has a good buddy linebacker, who has problems of his own: he nearly tackled a guy to death recently, paralyzing him, and is wracked with guilt over the memories, because he's clearly a nice guy. See, he even brings his erstwhile victim some DVDs in the hospital, while the guy lies there and calls him an asshole and explains to the linebacker, "I can't even feel my dick." The linebacker looks away ashamed, and so does the viewer. Later, we see that the linebacker is so guilt-burdened that he sees a psychiatrist about it, and the viewer looks away again, because god damn it, "The Sopranos" clearly has a lot to answer for; the viewer then goes to make a drink while the shrink and the killer linebacker exposition for a while: turns out that not only is the linebacker all fucked up over nearly killing the numb-dick guy, he also had an obsessively creepy fucked-up father who killed the linebacker's brother by coaching him into a heat-stroke when they were teens. Next week, I imagine we'll find out that his mother was a cross-dressing lesbian ace pilot for the Luftwaffe, because he doesn't have enough psychologically damaging freight to haul around yet; he's like Job in shoulder pads.

There's also the aforementioned hotshot rookie runningback who has some voiceover bits (though everyone has voiceover bits in this series; evidently the producers are iconoclastic revolutionaries dedicated to overthrowing the notion that in visual narratives you don't say it, you show it) detailing his crummy crackhead parents. He says, more than once, like a mantra, "Don't do drugs." You're going to really freak out when I mention that he does drugs. YOU CRAZY PRODUCERS! What nutty curve ball will you throw me next? No, don't tell me! He . . . has an pathological urge to collect old Ranger Rick magazines? He . . . eats asparagus obsessively and then performs gas chromatograph tests on his urine in order to create a "smelliness index"? He . . . enjoys frolicking with incredibly pneumatic chicks who possess the unearthly ability to wake up with artfully arranged clothing and blankets that just barely cover their nudity? (This always kills me. I've known so many women who, after a night of frenetic fucking, carefully make sure to put their bras back on, because they're just so comfortable.)

I knew I'd finally hit on it. Anyway. He's a swaggering crack addict who's a really talented football player. You now know utterly everything about his character.

There's also some head office shenanigans involving the team owner, who is anonymously reptilian and evil, which is actually fine. My inner pinko really kind of believes that people who are that rich are probably pathological fuckheads anyway; I realize it's not at all fair, and probably provably false, but really, take a look around you: are the ridiculously rich not, as a general rule, kind of awful? Hell, if you want, just take a look at most sports owners. I don't have a problem demonizing them: they're hideous.

And finally, as if this litany of woe weren't wretched enough, there is the head coach, who is typically tough as nails, godammit, and you've got to be there for the TEAM! and if you're not, well, godammit, you got no place here, all right? He's got tough decisions to make, like whether or not to start (1) the aging running back who is old and slow and has been out for eight months or (2) the rookie hotshot who, apart from the fact that he runs like his asshole is on fire, is wildly popular with the media. I wonder who he'll pick? Again, this is about as suspenseful as Frog and Toad Are Friends.

But I haven't really gotten into the heart of the head coach's character, for there is a deeper secret. A shocking secret. A disgusting secret.

He is apparently pissing blood, and won't see a doctor. Yes, you read that right.

The viewer, once again, looks away. It's time for another drink.

Wednesday, 13 August
The Night We Drank Everything

Well, I have successfully lived through two staged nights of the Match Game. People seemed to enjoy themselves--particularly on Monday night; I suspect that people who go out on a Monday might think, "I know that tomorrow I'll be miserable, but Tuesdays are always miserable, so why not have something fun to be miserable about?" It was, for a first venture, at least moderately successful as well; we had lots of people both nights. From a profligate-drinking standpoint however, it must be rated as an astronomically smashing success on all fronts, and possibly some backs and diagonals as well.

For those of you who don't remember, the Match Game was a game show from the seventies where two contestants tried to match answers to blindingly dumb questions with "blanks" in them with a rotating (sometimes) cast of C-list "stars" like Gary Burghoff and Fannie Flagg. The thinly veiled non-secret of the show was the fact that more or less all the time, the stars were utterly tanked out of their minds, and delivered their answers with no regard for coherence, relevance, or sometimes even physical reality. Especially witty or wink-wink smutty responses earned hysterical cheers from the audience; terrible or particularly surreal answers got people viciously booed.

So it was with us. Pretty much all of it. Taking a gin-soaked page out of the How Not To Method Act workbook, most of us started drinking well before the show; a few people might, to judge by later misbehavior, have started even earlier, like say the previous Friday. We figured, hey, let's do this thing right, you know? This unfortunately led to the startling spectacle of six ridiculously dressed actors trying to imitate dimly-recalled celebritilets (I was doing my best to emulate the reptilian Richard Dawson, and I must say, I was, uh, challenged) while also trying to answer brain-eating riddles in a somewhat clever fashion. It was, of course, booze-fueled mayhem, and we became more and more bellicose as the debacle went on, and we pestered our harried "production assisstant" with increasingly imperious demands for more gin--er, water, I meant water. Heh heh. At one point, "Fannie Flagg"--drag queen, naturally--ran out right during the Super Match. So she stood up and announced, "Nobody ever picks me for this," and wandered over to the bar. Wild cheers! Nobody cared.

In the end, much fun was had, many livers creaked and spat, kidneys howled like dogs, and at least one person told sad tales of experiencing the sudden, unpleasant closeness of the bathroom floor. For myself, I can only solemnly advise you never to find yourself in the position of needing to remove your contacts after several double gin and tonics, because chances are excellent that you will do some mysterious, fumbling damage to your eyeball, causing you the next day to frequently grab at your skull and moan at the sudden pain and blasting jets of tears.

Oh, I can also tell you that there is one thing worse than getting all stupid on a Monday night and then trying to endure work the next day: Doing it all over again on Tuesday, knowing full well that Wednesday looms in the blurry distance.

Friday, 08 August
These Are Apparently Unremovable From My Brain

WONN HON-DRED MEEEEL-YONN DOH-LLARS!

And . . . and . . . twins!

. . . Hoover power . . . Hoover power . . .

Tuesday, 22 July
CSI Yi Yi

Helicopter shot of the Las Vegas strip with hip, ominous music. Cut to montage of cleavage, poker chips, slot machines, cleavage. Cut to tracking shot of sidestreet leading to a nondescript small church. Police tape can be seen, and CSIs are milling around snapping on rubber gloves. Nothing gets to these people, including any kind of characterization that causes me to remember their names, so I'll just make most of them up. Tight shot on Grissom, the fearless and analytical leader; in a hopeless and futile attempt at injecting some continuity and pathos to this show, the writers have decided that he's going deaf for some reason. The Flinty Young Gal CSI is speaking to him, but all he hears are Charlie Brown-parent noises.

FYGCSI: Waaah waaah wa-wa-wa-wah. Waah.

Grissom says nothing, and nods sagely. He realizes that FYGCSI always looks kind of like someone who just found out that they were out of milk. He's staring at something on the church doorstep.

Cut to a wheelbarrow filled with the hacked-up remains of a person, a stuffed rabbit, and a dildo autographed by Stockard Channing. Like all CSI premises, this is wildly improbable, but by the end, all will be made quite clear.

Grissom: (Unneccessarily) Looks like we've got a hack-and-bunny job with a geographical twist.

FYGCSI: It's no church offering.

Grissom: (Impassively examining the body parts) You need a lot of force to get through bone. I'm thinking axe. Or possibly badger attack.

But then Grissom spots something! ZWIIIIIP and the camera does a vertiginous zoom down to a close-up of a knuckle of bone; it has curious scrapes on it. The whole thing is incredibly repulsive.

Grissom: My mistake. Machining marks. Unless I miss my guess--and I never do--this person went through a tree debarker.

FYGCSI: A debarker?

Grissom: Yes. In this case, the bark is definitely not worse than the bite.

Having drawn yet again on his inexhaustible store of nightmarish puns, Grissom raises an eyebrow and the camera cuts away to the opening credits while Roger Daltrey screams the lyrics to "Who Are You," which makes me vaguely sad. Then I remember I'm watching the merely ridiculous CSI as opposed to its ghastly sequel, the inventively titled CSI: Miami, and I feel a bit better.

After commercials, we see The Big Clod and Warrick (or however you spell it--the token black guy with the gambling problem that he spent two heroic episodes irrelevantly getting over) chatting with a Quirky Lab Rat. QLR has hair that looks as if it is home to exotic birds.

QLR: I gotcher DNA results. Dos equis.

Warrick: (Glancing at The Big Clod) Two Xs. Female.

TBC: Buh.

(Note: It is deeply uncool for CSIs to ever relay information in a straightforward manner. Terms must always be couched in cute shorthand or mouth-breaking jargon. Hence, QLR's stupid pun.)

Warrick: Grissom still processing the scene?

QLR: That's what he said on the phone.

Warrick: I'm going to go have a look at the vic. You take the bunny?

TBC: Boot.

Cut to Warrick in the lab, watching the Jaded Forensic Guy carefully and dispassionately rearranging the puzzle-woman.

JFG: Nasty. I figure she got tossed into the debarker about . . . six or seven hours ago, based on the degree of lividity in the severed buttocks. Her corneal glaze index is five, which agrees with that, as does the liver temperature and the thymus gland squeeze coefficient.

(CSI can keep this horseshit up indefinitely. It's best not to actually listen to the words.)

Warrick: So our vic went down around midnight.

JFG: Yeah. And see this abrasion? (ZWIIPP! Close up of a graphic skin wound. It is utterly horrifying.) Classic palmar shear. Definitely had her arm grasped by . . . I'd say a left-handed panther wrangler.

Warrick: (Totally unfazed, almost thinking out loud) . . . animal act at the Tropicana . . .

We are treated to a flashback "possibility" montage; blurry figures are struggling; we hear a woman's scream; we see we are in a sawmill; a man is wrestling with her atop some awful chain-driven device, and then the woman is plunged into it. Loving closeups of the machinery rending her body into chili meat. It is unbelievably revolting.

Suddenly, the Sexy Older Female CSI sticks her head in the door.

SOFCSI: Warrick? You'd better come see this.

Warrick: What?

SOFCSI: The Big Clod locked himself in the bathroom again.

Offscreen we hear a muffled cry. "GLUD!" Warrick and SOFCSI crack up. The JFG stares at them like they are misbehaving petri samples.

Cut to Grissom in another lab, staring at a computer screen. He is statue-still, and one can imagine actually seeing his hair grow. Obligingly, ZWIIIP! The camera zooms in to Grissom's scalp, down the the follicle, being fed by tiny capillaries, and the hair-root pulses malignantly as it squeezes a bit more hair upwards a fraction of an inch. The whole thing is unbelievably disgusting.

Grissom: (Loving his follicular vitality) Rrrrr.

He clacks at the keyboard, and the computer does something unnecessarily flashy and cool, especially for any kind of government-related programming, which normally looks like it was designed by blind accountants.

Grissom: Now I see.

We don't. We don't know what the fuck is going on. It's too dim to see anything in the lab anyway; it looks like it's lit for some incredibly clinical porn shoot, and the blue light pools around Grissom noirishly.

Suddenly, the author of this website realizes that he's pulled just about enough out of his ass for the evening, so he cuts to the end. Grissom is sitting across from the perpetrator, who sweats perfectly. Grissom interrogates the victim, which is kind of puzzling to the actual police detectives lounging uselessly in the room, not to mention the viewers.

Grissom: The rector ID'd the bunny as his. And it's got your DNA all over its fur. And we know that the dildo came from your girlfriend's memorabilia collection, didn't it?

Perp: (Sneers) You can't prove any of that.

Grissom: Oh, but I can. See, at the sawmill, you left behind traces of panther hair. Which we traced to your female, Bathsheba. A panther, sir, that appeared in a movie with Stockard Channing, who autographed your girlfriend's sex apparatus. QED.

The viewer gasps in amazement and utter perplexity. What the fuck is he talking about? It doesn't matter.

Perp: (Hissing) Damn you. Who the hell do you think you are?

Grissom: I'm just the man . . . who finds the truth.

The perp looks poleaxed by this piety while the viewers guffaw at the writers' shocking ineptitude. They make Harold Pinter seem like free 'n' easy natural dialogue. The perp is led away, probably still thinking, "Did he really say that? What a dork."

The Big Clod and FYGCSI come in.

FYGCSI: Another day's work at the lab.

Grissom: I don't work for the lab. I work . . . for the victims.

The viewers go crazy! Stop it! You're killing us!

FYGCSI: Well, nice work.

TBC: Carl.

Grissom: You too. She came. He sawmilled. We conquered.

Cut to credits as the viewers scream HOLY FUCKING SHIT! That was really something. Suspenseful, creative, and, as always, incredibly revolting.

Monday, 21 July
How Many Times Will We Say "Tinkle"?

It seems that I have been coaxed into a soon-to-happen project that was all my damn idea in the first place: a staged version of the old Match Game shows. The idea is, we get a bunch of comic actors onstage and recreate the game show with them mimicking the old bunch of seventies C-list drunks like Bret Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, etc.

So I guess I'll be there, on one side of me Fannie Flagg (man in drag, of course), and on the other, Betty White. And I will sit there, trying as best I can to ooze unctious charm, studio lights glinting from the ostentatious necklace resting on my turtleneck, kissing anything that moves: Richard Dawson.

Oh, dear.

Wednesday, 16 July
Star Trek: The Dumb Generation

(The bridge of the Enterprise.)

Picard: Ah, space. The inky expanse; the cold glitter of the stars. How it soothes me with its limitless wonder . . . we are adrift on the sea of night, and I captain this fragile vessel through its troubled waters. What manner of being might we meet next? Ferengi? Borg? Mormons? No matter what foe or what crisis, I will remain courageously bald. Yessss. (Pause.) Christ, I'm bored. WESLEY! Status!

Wesley: Everyone hates me, sir.

Picard: Yes, I've seen the mail.

Wesley: I hate our writers.

Picard: Quiet, ensign. Number One! I require entertainment. Please favor us with a gratuitous trombone solo.

Riker: Aye aye, sir! (He begins playing trombone. As he skronks away miserably, the rest of the bridge staff roll their eyes and pantomime vomiting. Worf in particular seems quite afflicted, and his forehead prosthesis quivers threateningly.)

Worf: (howling) RES IPSA LOQUITUR! ANNIKA SORENSTAM! DONDE ES LA CASA DE PEPE?

(Worf launches himself at Riker and beats him to death with the trombone. The bridge staff stares in horror.)

Picard: MISTER WORF! Explain yourself! This is the ninetieth time you have lapsed into incomprehensible Klingon and completely defied all Federation protocol, for which I have never once punished you! Tell me now why I should not do so now!

Worf: Did you hear him?

Picard: . . . well . . .

Worf: And don't tell me you weren't sick of that mustache.

Picard: . . . well . . .

(Another Riker enters from the turbolift. He is clean-shaven.)

All: ANOTHER RIKER!

Riker: Yes, you see (mumble mumble) transporter reflection (mutter mutter) bounced the signal (mrrf mfff) creative desperation (ugga oob) so you see, I am an exact copy of the old Riker! (He sees the mangled corpse on the floor.) Uh, but friskier!

Picard: I see.

Troi: He's dreamy.

Riker: Deanna. Darling. I only have eyes for you, and several dozen other women.

Troi: I know, my love. You are a pussyhound. I understand.

Riker: Rad.

LaForge: Fucking shit!

Picard: Mr. LaForge!

LaForge: Captain . . . I've picked up something on long range scanners. I think it's the Crystalline Entity! Oh, this is a frightening fuck in the deepening dark!

Data: Confirmed, Captain. The Entity is approaching at warp nine.

Picard: The Crystalline Entity. Jesus wept. Can't somebody put this fucking thing through a dishwasher cycle or something? What's next, the Ming Vase Monster?

Worf: Captain, not that you asked, but I recommend DOING GLORIOUS BATTLE WITH THIS STUPEFYINGLY POWERFUL BEING THAT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY MEAN THE DEATH OF US ALL!

Troi: I can't believe I dated you.

Picard: Silence! I'm bald! (Tense pause, then he taps his communicator badge.) Bridge to Doctor Crusher!

Crusher: (audio) Yes, Captain? And before you say anything else, you haven't had your regulation physical in over six months. You will comply with my wishes or I will once again peevishly threaten to remove you from command.

Picard: (sotto voce) How many times does this woman have to fondle my nuts? (To Crusher) Acknowledged, Doctor. You have as always been no help at all. I will contact you later so we may generate fruitless sexual tension. Picard out.

Crusher: Crusher out, much like my husband whose death you are responsible for.

Picard: You kill one husband and that's all you hear about . . .

Data: Captain! The Entity is closing.

Picard: What are its coordinates?

Data: Relative to what? We're in space.

Picard: Belay that order!

Data: (bewildered) What?

Picard: No time! Geordi, can you get a transporter lock?

LaForge: No, Captain! Fuck my ass! The transporters are down! Motherfucker!

Worf: Captain! My two-hundred pound honorific metal bandolier is extremely heavy and is chafing my nipples!

Data: Sir, we are running out of time. If you wish, I can do things really fast on the computer.

Picard: Faster than talking to it?

Data: No, sir. But it looks really cool when I do things fast.

Picard: Make it so!

(Data does things really fast.)

Wesley: Captain, I'm beginning to glow with dewy innocence.

Picard: Understood, Mr. Crusher. This will push the NAMBLA numbers way up.

Wesley: What?

Troi: Quiet, Wesley, not now. Look at my breasts.

Wesley: Hey, those are great!

Data: Captain, I am afraid I was unsuccessful in doing things really fast. The Crystalline Entity is about to . . . shine bright lights at us or something.

Picard: (grimly) Damn.

LaForge: Fuck me with a vault pole!

Picard: The Entity must not be allowed to take this ship. (Tense pause. Riker is glancing nervously at the mangled trombone.) I have to activate the self-destruct sequence.

(Everyone on the bridge rolls their eyes and groans, except for Worf.)

Worf: YES! All Klingons want to die! Let's die already! This will be so cool.

Riker: Sir, will this be the self-destruct sequence that requires both the captain and first officer to agree, or the one where only the captain is required to initiate it. Because if you don't need me, I could use a shave. I'm about to grow another mustache.

Worf: Uh, wait. Is this still honorable? Self-destructing? It's kind of cool on the one hand, but on the other, it's not really battle. I don't want to be a wuss. (Pause.) Whatever. This never works anyway.

LaForge: (apropos of nothing) FUCK! Man, I like swearing.

Data: The Entity has reached something cool sounding, such as imminent proximity.

Picard: Brace for impact!

Troi: Captain! I sense another presence! Something else is here!

(Q appears on the bridge and begins mincing.)

All: Q!

Q: Well, well, Pee-kard! Got yourself into a bit of a folderol, haven't you? Hmm? A fooforaw? Fiddlesticks!

(Q minces some more.)

Picard: Q! Is this your doing?

Q: Oh, Pee-kard. Remember when I was on Days of Our Lives?

(Q continues mincing.)

Picard: Q! Explain yourself! I don't have to take any guff from capricious omnipotent beings!

Riker: (menacingly, reaching for his dumb phaser) Q, don't make me . . .

(Q turns Riker into a banana.)

Q: He really was much more butch with the mustache.

Picard: (pate steaming) Q! Help us for ill-defined reasons! Now!

Q: Oh, all right, you tiresome little mite. (Snaps fingers.)

Data: Captain, the Entity has vanished.

Picard: Cancel red alert.

Wesley: Uh, you never called for a . . .

Picard: Q, now that you have imperiled us, and then saved us, get off my ship.

Q: Oh, mon capitaine, we shall meet again! (He vanishes.)

LaForge: Fuck, man. I mean, hell. Hell, hell, hell. Also, damn.

Worf: Christ, I swear, I'm never going to die. (Morosely) Man, I want to die.

Data: Orders, captain?

Picard: First star on the left, Mr. Data. Straight on until morning. Engage.

(Pause as the bridge staff contemplates the majesty of space.)

Troi: Is anyone going to eat that banana?

(Fade to credits.)

Monday, 23 June
Voorhees A Jolly Good Fellow

A confession: for reasons that defy all comprehension, the wife and I actually spent time yesterday watching--o my heart--Jason X. Yes, that would be Friday the 13th Mows Down Teen Space Meat, its lesser-known working title. Why did we do this? I don't know; we were free to leave, take a walk, go get a drink, make love, conquer small equatorial dictator states, anything but watch that movie. But watch it we did.

Trying to describe it is a useless affair. I mean, the best scene in the movie featured good old Jason beating a girl to death in her sleeping bag using another girl in another sleeping bag to bludgeon her on a campground. But then you'll say, "In space?" And I'll have to mumble something stupid about holograms, and you'll say, "So he's killing fake women? Who cares?" And I'll reply, "You know who's been pissing me off lately? Equatorial dictator states."

I don't think I'll be impressing anyone by saying that I was a few steps ahead of this movie. At one point, some soldier idiots are trying to track Jason down, and are, unfortunately for them of course finding him. One guy I see walk by a gigantic vertical augur-bit thing (because in THE FUTURE people will have DUMB ARCHITECTURAL IDEAS that people like filmmakers don't feel the need to EXPLAIN), and I say, "You know that guy is going to wind up impaled on that stupid-ass thing." Duh. Three minutes later, Jason has tossed him onto the bit like a crudite, and with that loving gore-porn kind of tracking shot, I'm treated to him slowly spinning down the bit. Moments later, he is discovered and reported by another female corpse-to-be, and the commander asks his condition. "Screwed!" I howl. "He's screwed," the aspiring cadaverette dutifully repeats. "I could write these things!" I yell, and then realize that this is the artistic equivalent of claiming to have mastered the gas pump.

It must be said that the Friday the 13th movies more or less adhere to Joe Bob Briggs' dictum regarding sequels: If you're going to make a sequel, make the exact same movie all over again. Ft13 has taken pains not to mess with this structure: gather a bunch of hot youngsters (please include one stoner dolt), one or two older adults (who will be stupid and evil) and a virtuous heroine. Make sure everyone gets good and poled early on in the film except the virtuous heroine just so everyone remembers that hearty fucking = a well-deserved death. Then mixmaster everyone into pate except the virtuous heroine and maybe one other person, before the final ambiguous ending showing the "death" of our Favorite Unkillable Goalie. I assume these films really give our Canadian friends up north the shrieking whim-whams. I'm surprised they haven't sent Jason to Flin Flon yet. Jason Pucks Shit Up. Or Highschticking.

Jesus. I may have my first screenplay here. What the fuck am I doing pumping gas?

Thursday, 12 June
Man Alive!

I've been seeing ads recently for a new cable channel coming soon called "Spike." It bills itself as a "channel for men," which I think is fucking peachy: we men have been fucked out of decent programming for years, haven't we? I mean, there you are, trying to watch a baseball game, and then all of a sudden, "We now take our viewers to 'Murder, She Wrote,' already in progress." It happens all the time. We guys can't catch a damn break when it comes to TV programming.

It's kind of icky to me, this new resurgence of what I more or less lazily call the Maxim effect: it's perfectly okay to be a dumbass pig as long as you wink hard enough while you do it. Sure, I'm a shallow creep, but it's okay, because I'm acknowledging that I'm a shallow creep! (I know I'm using a wide-ass brush here, and that all guys who take a look at Maxim or whatever aren't all assholes, but I'm talking epiphenomena here, or whatever ten-cent word actually belongs at the end of that phrase.)

Seeming to take its cues from horrible tripe like The Man Show, which more honestly would be called The Idiot Man-Child Show, it looks certain to jump up and down on familiar guy themes: tits, sports, drinking, and farting. Now, as a man, I happen to like at least three of those things, and am ambivalent about the fourth--does the world need more butt-humor?--but it's pretty thin gruel as any kind of regular diet. And for this we needed a whole channel? Right; up until now, men have been frozen out of modern programming altogether. All that Buffy-watching made our chest hair fall out.

Weirdly, one show they are heavily promoting is an animated comedy--something else the world was certainly crying out for more of--featuring that paragon of manliness . . . Kelsey Grammer. Yes, Kelsey Grammer, who rose to stardom playing a pretentious, prissy, bumbling windbaguette of a man; an actor who seemingly defines "mid-life crisis" as a condition that begins at age 29 and ends at death; a C-list talent who consistently proved himself outshone by the comic lights of people such as Woody Harrelson. Also, he perpetrated the Geneva Convention-violating Down Periscope, for which he of course will burn like a Salem midwife. This is their heavy hitter?

I might be worrying over nothing.

Monday, 09 June
Here There Be Spoylers

I'm sure most of you blog-readin' geeks have already seen The Matrix: Reloaded, but if not, fair warning: I saw it yesterday, and I'm going to jabber about it, so if you might want to skip this if you want your movie viewings pristine and uncluttered by my clucks and titters about it.

Okay. When it comes to movies, I'm basically either really hard to please or extraordinarily easy to please, depending. For example, if we're talking a Serious Drama or an Art Film or a Smart Comedy, I'm extremely hard to please; I tend to pick at these sorts of movies pretty minutely, because the filmmakers ostensibly are putting forth considerable effort, and I figure that merits serious attention, and that attention can sometimes reveal some pretty glaring holes or chancres or fuck-alls; art is hard.

On the other hand, when I'm going for a good summer popcornholing, I am extremely easy to please: I am in this way very much a guy. Make stuff go boom and look cool! Fine. Movies that have no real (or, let's say, very easily dismissed) pretensions I can let wash over me pretty easily; I'm pretty forgiving, even when, as in TM:R, those pretensions are pretty bongwater-sticky. So while I didn't appreciate the dorm-room smell, it eventually washed off.

Because honestly: did they learn nothing from the first one? Did they ask any of the millions of people who bought the DVD how they were used? "We just skip around to the fight scenes." No, they had to get all soggy-dick fake philosophical again on our poor asses, with bafflingly dotty exchanges between Neo and Morpheus and the Architect and whomever. And watching poor Keanu attempting cagey ripostes is a lot like watching a fashion designer trying to be relevant. It's always going to be a rotten failure.

Architect: No, Neo, you are here to see to the fall of Zion. It has always been thus.

Neo: I exist to save Zion. I know your code, I've seen the heart of the Matrix.

Architect: Neo, you have seen Trinity in your dreams. You know I am right. I resemble Donald Sutherland.

Neo: You are a bake sale. I'm the hungry ants.

Architect: Child. You are enameled bakeware in the back of the store. I am a lonely porch swing. You know this.

Neo: (Thinking hard.) I thought that other guy was John Voight for a second.

Architect: We all did.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm pretty sure they just took a bunch of the dialogue outtakes from the first one and rammed them into this one, because it all makes about as much sense: not much. But who cares? One thing about the Matrix movies is, you always know when it's safe to go to the bathroom. "What did I miss?" "Nothing. They're still talking."

The less said about the terrifying hippie orgie, the better. If they wanted to show footage of Keanu and Carrie-Anne squonking it, I can't think of anyone who would object: why ruin it by intercutting it with what appears to be Burning Man as imagined by Maxfield Parrish?

But fuck all that; what I was there for of course were the effects and fights and ignoring that little voice in my head that asks, "Why do they sometimes use guns and other times not use guns? And why do the agents dodge bullets so effortlessly, but they can't dodge a punch?" Shut up, voice! Lookit the hundreds of Agent Smiths (and they let Hugo get kinda cheeky, didn't they?)! Lookit the cooool tracking shots on the freeway that go under axles and stuff! I mean come on! This is good CGI! (I'm so easy, I know. Well, that, and I don't get people who complain about stuff that looks "too CGI-ey" when it comes to movies like this. Do people go to Italian restaurants and complain about all the pasta everywhere?)

So I liked it. But I was primed to like it, and as I said, I'm easy on these types of movies. And everyone knows it's just a waiting game until the real show hits town. You know the one. The one in December.

Yes, I'm talking about Dumb and Dumberest.

Wednesday, 21 May
Their TV Is Different From My TV

Well! I was just now about halfway through composing a longish post in Movable Type, and accidentally, somehow, managed to delete the whole fucking thing! Isn't that just twist-your-dick superb? I know how pleased I am. I'm too irritated to go back and rewrite it now, so instead I'll just cut loose on the BBC, which the wife and I would watch in the hotel after a long day of fun and frolicking and not fucking deleting things.

What's going on with the sudden auction craze in Britain? I noticed at least three different shows that all involved some way of getting people to dig up their old shit and hustle it for cash at auctions. The only American near-equivalent I know of is "Antiques Roadshow," but that program doesn't even show you the auction itself, which is sort of the focus of all the British shows. But the format is similar: show a huge crowd of local hopefuls all clinging maniacally to garbage they rummaged out of the attic who will all go home sad, and then cut to the three lucky souls who actually managed to scrounge up non-crap items. The items get a teasing little analysis by the experts, who then inevitably ask, "Do you have any idea what it's worth?" This always gets me. Of course they don't, you fuckhead. This would be like your accountant calling you up and baiting you for a while before then asking, "So, any idea what you owe this year?"

But the British shows then go ahead and show the items actually being auctioned, which is pretty smart: auctions are naturally tense little affairs, tiny mini-dramas. By comparison, the hopelessly staid Antiques Roadshow is depressing and boring and sad, like Quaker pornography. So you watch the items being auctioned, and naturally they cut back and forth to the seller, who usually fidgets around trying not to look too avaricious as the bidding goes on. And of course they show the bidders, most of whom have some odd personal tic or spasm that indicates a bid increase, even though they all have handy signs they can wave, but rarely do. There are also the paid lackeys on cell phones there too, bidding for someone too rich, famous or snotty to show up on their own, and you can kind of tell that the bidders who actually bothered to show up don't much like the phone-monkeys at all, and why not? There's a little bit of gamesmanship to the process, and watching people's body language, and not a little excitement too, and suddenly when you're bidding against some gum-snapping tart with a phone screwed into her ear, nodding cutely every time Robbie Williams or the Duke of Filligrinigainian or whoever costs you another twenty fucking clams, well, that's kind of a shoe-pisser, I would think.

The most popular of these programs seems to be the one with, to American ears, the most wonderful title: Flog It! It also has the very best cheeky voiceover when it's over, spoken in a lovely proper plummy British voice: "You'll have another chance to flog it tomorrow at seven-thirty . . . "

The other program of note is familiar to Americans: The Weakest Link. Now, as an American, I know full well I'm on pretty shaky ground when it comes to complaining about the export of cultural horrors, but really Britain: What the fuck? It's worth noting that the show didn't last over here with the British host Anne Robinson, and was quickly relegated to daytime programming with a new host who is about as barbed and biting as polished marble, but it's still going strong across the water, and it bewilders me. Why would so many otherwise nice-seeming chaps and ladies willingly submit to the sort of awful bullshit that happens on every program? For those that don't know, this quiz show features nine contestants every program that steadily vote each other off until only one person is left standing to take home the loot. But the real horrifying nonfun of the program is between rounds when the dominatrix-cum-schoolmarm hostess Anne Robinson hectors and harangues the contestants, insulting their intelligence, their hairlines, their weight, their jobs, everything. One favorite trick is insinuating that people are gay. Another is, weirdly, boob size. One poor bastard was a toilet salesman; she gnawed on him like a Christmas ham. Another guy sold condom-dispensing machines, but while he was being mauled, he at least managed one terrific--if inadvertant--line. Anne had barked at him, "Any hobbies?" He said, "No, just work." She repeated with icy contempt: "A condom salesman." "Yes," he replied. "Does your wife have any hobbies?" she fished. He sighed and began wistfully, "Well, she doesn't really have any time, Anne . . . " and the whole place gave one huge stifled snort of laughter; even the normally cutting-torch demeanor of the host broke down, and she snuffled into her collar.

But that was a rare moment of levity. Almost all the rest of the time, it's just mean-spirited abuse for the hell of it, and it really just makes my stomach hurt. I once woke up from a nap because it had come on and I felt like Anne Robinson had climbed out of the set and started pouring poison into my ears. Honestly, Britain, how can you watch this terrible program?

That's what we're here for. That's why we take the trouble to cough up old episodes of Alf and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to the BBC for! Jesus, don't do this to yourselves. Watch our appalling dreck. Or anything else! Anything! You'll feel better. That's it. Sit back. Relax. And flog it.

Tuesday, 08 April
Win, Lose, Or Drawl

Did anyone see The Practice last night (and why, why am I forever addicted to cops 'n law shows)? Anybody? No? Yeah, that's part of the problem.

The Practice is pretty obviously desperate of late for eyeballs, because there's been a few troublesome things happening. One, they changed its broadcast day and time slot, never a good sign. Then, David E. Kelley tried to go back to the well one more fucking time with the pathetically pandering Girls' Club, a show featuring dynamite little hottie gals who were, um, let's see, what shall they be . . . lawyers? Yes, lawyers, says the indefatigably inventive Kelley. Fuckable lawyers! The show was on for about ten minutes and was seen by half that many people, one of whom was emphatically not me, because I pronounced it beastly from the moment I saw the first ad for it, and decided I'd go into ditchdigging before I'd watch it. So Mr. Kelley's TV cred took another kick in the sack.

Also, they're trying to manufacture some oompahs by having Lindsey leave Bobby. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, let me try and capture some of the nuance that this plotline has revealed. Give me a second. Okay, I've got it: Lindsey is leaving Bobby. Yes, it is that exciting. I think I need a fucking shower.

However, the really bad sign was last night, when they had a guest appearance by Andie MacDowell. Andie MacDowell? This is clearly the work of people with brain fever. Anybody who has any mind at all knows that this woman cannot act. She couldn't even act in a role that almost literally required no acting: I cite St. Elmo's Fire. All she had to do was stand around and be lusted at from afar by Emilio Estevez, which I grant is an alarming prospect in itself, but she didn't really have to do anything. Yet, incredibly, she was terrible at it, and everyone who's ever seen it has the same reaction: "How can she be so bad at doing nothing?" Somebody who can't act while doing nothing is likely going to be problematic when called on to do, ah, well, anything. So, not a good sign.

A worse sign was early on when somebody described her character as "incredibly smart." OKAY, EVERYBODY OUT OF THE POOL! I'M SORRY, OUT OF THE POOL! IT'S BEEN CALLED TO OUR ATTENTION THAT IT'S FILLED WITH BULLSHIT! I mean, I'm sorry. Look, Ms. MacDowell may be whip-smart in real life, I don't know her. But her acting has all of the depth of an onion skin; asking her to play "smart" is like asking Courtney Love to play "The Magic Flute." (I'll pause here a moment to ponder that startling arrangement of words and then quietly move on.)

So of course the episode was a fucking disaster, and it twitched bewilderingly from Bobby and Lindsey who-caresing us into the grave and then horribly moving to some ghastly scene featuring Ms. MacDowell clawing her way all over the set with a ham sandwich caught in her fangs. I think we know what has to be done. We take Andie MacDowell, and we seal her in a crate, and then paint the crate with terrifying biohazard symbols. A message will be painted on it: DANGEROUS MATERIALS INSIDE. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN UNLESS YOU ARE STEPHEN SODERBERGH.

Wednesday, 19 March
I Continue To Prejudge Movies Because Certainly Nothing Else Is Going On These Days

Well, we're at war.

(Pause while washed by wave of despair.)

Yeah, fuck that. Let's make fun of things.

So, movie wasteland. While most of us (the ones who like their shit solidly blown the fuck up, anyway) eagerly await The Hulk, The Matrix II & III, X-Men II, LOTR:ROTK, and of course BARL:VPN--NAMBLA III, the studios are having a field day flinging poo-balls at a slavering audience and watching us make terrible faces as we tentatively lick their dire swill. Basically, spring and fall movies are proof positive of Hollywood's fundamental contempt for its audiences. "Look at those fucking jackals," they hiss, "twisting our dicks over release dates on the blockbusters. Christ, I hate them. That's it, I'm greenlighting Autumn in New York, just to see them howl." How else do you explain such ghastly, unwatchable, incomprehensible movies? Oh, and now would be a good time to point out that I am passing judgment on all these movies purely on their ads and some judicious faux-research at IMDB. I haven't seen any of them, and have no plans to, barring some sadomasochistic impulse. So yes, I'm full of shit.

But you can't tell me any of these movies are any good. Well, you can. I just won't listen to you.

Anyway! What else have we got? Oh, yes, there's The Hunted, with slumming Oscar-huggers running around playing soldier; one evidently hacks civilians into chum, and the other one tracks him with silent, steely, baggy-eyed determination. Maw! Best take the bottle away from Brian Dennehy and give him a sponge bath! He's gonna be pissed when he finds out they remade First Blood without tellin' him! Directed by William Friedkin, a man who actually seems uncomfortable with dialogue, but who has obviously found his dream actor in Benicio Del Toro, a man who seems to revel in incomprehensibility. Also featured: minor characters with names like Crumley, Stokes and Boggs. At least one of these people, I am certain, will be chomping on a cigar.

Moving right along, we find Basic, a troublingly eponymous title. One is further discouraged by a relentless ad campaign that features an anonymous radio "critic" being quoted as saying "John Travolta proves once again that he's one of America's best actors!" Yes. And Jenna Elfman shall be his queen. Give me a fucking break. But the biggest danger sign here is the heart-stopping phrase, "Directed by John McTiernan." AIIIEEEE! This is the same man who last year perpetrated the Rollerball remake as well as such turgid, humorless fare as The Hunt for Red October, Predator and the execrable Last Action Hero, itself an immortal Hollywood joke. A final stake in the heart: the IMDB capsule review from the user boards (always a pithy bunch) simply contains the rather direct summation: "AWFUL FILM." I bet Ain't It Cool News spends about three pages of gibbering ink to this effect.

Then there's Stephen King's latest, Dreamcatcher, which is of course directed by . . . Lawrence Kasdan? Oooookaaaay. Anyway, this movie is obviously about the voracious insects that live in Jason Lee's brain and eat the sections of his mind that would normally allow this talented person to select good roles in good movies. He used to have this ability; I cite Almost Famous and . . . uh . . . Almost Famous. Okay, maybe he got lucky once. Perhaps Kevin Smith (this is flamebait, but it's sincere flamebait: Kevin Smith is an awful hack who should be slow-roasted to an internal temperature of a million.) gave him this awful infestation. But things are looking up for Jason, yessirree! IMDB lists such stellar upcoming roles like "PR Exec #1" and "Dishevelled Man." Yes, I'm serious. Anyway, this movie is evidently about weird aliens who inhabit human hosts and then are birthed via explosive, bloody anal expulsion. WHO WANTS POPCORN?

And finally, because I can hardly bear to go on, we have the obligatory Screemy-Queeny Offering! Fags are soooo funny, aren't they? Especially to straight people! Hence, Boat Trip, which features the further horror of watching the Toboggan Ride of Terribleness that is the horrific career of Cuba Gooding Jr. See, Cuba is straight! And for some idiotic reason, he finds himself on a cruise! A gay cruise! Then he mugs a lot and runs away from the Scary Fairies until oh no! He has to pretend to be a ca-razy gay person! Holy fucking shit! Somebody kill me! Better, someone kill Cuba. He's clearly begging for it. BONUS: I know the IMDB site chops off plot summary quotes on the main movie pages more or less arbitrarily, but the cut-off point for Boat Trip's is really good: "Jerry and Nick are two best buddies whose love lives have hit rock bottom, Jerry's especially, having just vomited... (more)"
Yes! More! More!

It's just too bad we have to wait until fall for Autumn in New York II.

Tuesday, 18 March
I Prejudge Movies

We're still in that no-mans land between winter movie season and the feeding frenzy of the summer season, so the current crop of movies in release (or about to be released) are, of course, rotten piles of shit; the outcasts, the lame, the crippled, the unwanted. I say this with the attendant admission that I have seen none of them, nor do I intend to, because a mere look at most of the ads for these things is enough to confirm their intrinsic badness. I admit as well that this is not fair; I don't care. It's basic preservation instinct; sort of the same instinct that whispers to me, should you ever need a lawyer, you probably should not call one that advertises on TV in drag, or also, avoid eggplant at all costs, as it is a violent emetic and is harvested from old, deserted Superfund sites.

There are, as ever, the kids' movies. For the youngsters, we've got Piglet's Big Movie, a sensible enough title for a movie whose ads relentlessly feature, uh, Tigger, who is still tirelessly bouncing around, wisecracking maniacally. The really unfortunate thing about Tigger is, for me anyway, is that he just continually reminds me of Robin Williams any more. Have you seen any of the man's horrible interviews? He's up! He's down! He's speaking in an allegedly funny voice! Christ, he's a fucking firecracker! Won't he please stop the schtick for one goddamn second please? That's Tigger. But if you've got little bastards, well, you're probably fucked, because they're going to scream until you go see it, and you wouldn't want to miss Disney's last bit of horrible money-grabbing before they lose the rights to pillage Pooh's good name, would you? Of course not.

So while you and the little screaming bastards are gritting it through Piglet, you can send your twelve-year-old daughter off on her own--because as far as she's concerned, you're a frightening embarrassment-beast now anyway--and she can crack her bubblegum all the way through the not-at-all formulaic What A Girl Wants, in which another gleaming teenybopper girl--this time her name is Amanda Bynes, whom I'm evidently supposed to be familiar with, but I'm old and creaky--asks the question, duh? What does a girl want? Apparently, it's to lose her dad at an early age, and then discover that he's actually a really wealthy British guy who lives in a manor and has ready access to harmless cute boys who will indulge her in a bit of chaste necking before she scurries off to put on a godzillion-dollar gown and just knock the shit out of the stuffy English people, who all turn out to be really nice after all and everybody lives happily ever after. I don't think that's too much to ask! But then again, I'm not Colin Firth, whose every second even in the TV ads, appears to be broadcasting the message "I'VE MADE A HORRIBLE MISTAKE! CONTACT MY AGENT!" on all psychic airwaves.

But maybe you're lucky and you don't have kids. Whoops! You're not lucky at all! There's many fresh horrors lurking out there ready to indian-burn your helpless mind! My favorite guilty pleasure so far--right out of the gate, and I've already taken many shots at it--is The Core. This is a movie so strange, it almost cries out for the inclusion of Angelina Jolie, but alas, it has an almost aggressively b-list cast: Aaron Eckhart ("Call me Mr. Brockovich, won't you?), Hillary Swank, Stanley Tucci, and Delroy Lindo all apparently have to go to the center of the Earth for some reason because the planet is going to stop spinning, and they have to go blow something up. The whole idea just makes me giddy, giddy like Amanda Bynes!!! in a Dior dress!!! because, well, what? This might be up there on the fun-o-meter in the "so bad it's good" way were it not for a couple things: one, the actors. I have a feeling that Mr. Eckhart and Ms. Swank are going to be taking the whole thing way too seriously, while Mr. Tucci and Mr. Lindo are going to be skulking around wearing hunted, Colin Firthlike expressions. Oh, also, Alfre Woodard plays a character named "Stick," which is a bad omen recognized by all rational people. And two, there's the whole problem that this thing is clearly so fucking dumb, you're going to be stuck in a theater filled with science dweebs who are going to loudly bitch about the stupid technical aspects and theatrically groan at every violation of natural law, which one assumes will be frequent. Geeks cannot be quiet at the movies.

The less said about Bringing Down the House the better. It is clearly a hateful thing created by sociopaths to punish the stupid and weak.

Certainly the most baffling entry out there crabwalking for your movie bucks is the unexplainable widget called View From the Top. This thing is pretty evidently a cookie-cutter bit of feelgood glop, but it features people who ostensibly have much, much better things to do with their time, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Myers. It then teams them up with people who probably really didn't have anything better to do, like Christina Applegate and Rob Lowe. It's kind of like you and a buddy going to the gym and finding Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson hanging out waiting for a game: it just doesn't make much sense. So: Gwyneth is of course the small town girl who with just a little gumption and whole fucking lot of positive attitude makes it big time in the stewardessing game! You go, girl! Please? Will she succeed? I wonder if she finds true love somewhere along the way? Maybe she sportfucks Rob Lowe, and then gets a riotous case of the clap? Whatever. Oh, and also, Candace Bergen is lurking around in there somewhere biting the heads off pigeons and throwing hateful looks at Christina Applegate, who still looks really great in a bikini.

You know what? This is good fun. And I don't even have to know what I'm talking about! It's the whole premise! I may have to do more tomorrow. Whoopee!

Wednesday, 12 March
The TV Party

By Harold Pinter.

Skot sits facing a television. It plays advertisements. Skot lights a match and watches it burn.

TV: We'll tell you how the flooding can affect your commute.

S: I live on a hill in an urban center. I walk to work.

TV: Be prepared for the Romulans.

S: I always am.

TV: Q13 Fox shows you the latest ads to get you to go see the Mariners in action.

S: They do, and I almost always resist.

TV: What does Boonie think?

S: I guess he's disappointed in me.

TV: WILLARD!

S: Rats.

TV: Foster Farms Chicken.

S: Chicken is good too.

TV: That, my friend, is the sweet smell of Windex.

S: Uuuuuuuuuuuhh.

TV: Somebody hasn't discovered the new Metamucil.

S: Please.

TV: You can enjoy eggs without the cholesterol.

S: Please.

TV: Inspector Gadget is back with even more gadgets.

S: You're making me sick. My fiancee will be worried.

TV: Dont trip! U luv her?

S: Of course.

TV: This mother's day, why not show her you care?

S: Mother's Day?

TV: Give someone special the night off.

S: I'll try.

TV: Foster Farms Chicken.

S: I'll try.

TV: You can enjoy eggs without the cholesterol.

S: I wanted--I wanted--I wanted--

TV: Which came first?

S: She wanted--

TV: Chicken?

S: I--

TV: Egg?

S: I--

TV: Which came first? Which came first? Which came first?

Skot screams.

TV: Do you know your own face?

Silence. He is crouched in the chair.

S: It was a lovely party tonight.

TV: You were the belle of the ball.

S: I was?

TV: Oh yes.

S: Oh, it's true. I was. (Pause.) I know I was.

Curtain.

Friday, 07 March
Look Away, Look Away

So there's apparently a movie called Irreversible coming out now making the outrage-rounds. You see, it apparently features a very graphic anal rape scene. And it's nine minutes long. Nine. Minutes. Are you very surprised to learn that it's a French movie?

Now honestly. There's no fucking hope in hell that I'm going to willingly watch a movie knowing that for nine endless woe-washed minutes, I will be watching an anal rape scene. I'm just not; fuck that, if I want to immerse myself in hopeless anguish, I can always watch Emeril. I can't get over it. Nine minutes is an eternity of screen time.

Someone once tried to make the argument with me regarding the immortal Caligula that the "what the--?" out-of-nowhere X-rated sex scenes were an experiment in confronting the viewer with how much they could take; forcing them to understand their own mental limitations. Or something. So I watched the movie, and afterwards I was all, "Uh, dude. That's just porn." I mean, fine, watch porn if you want, but let's not gloss it over with any bullshit.

And frankly, even the idea of commiting a graphic rape scene to film is one thing, but to stretch it out to nine minutes just strikes me as a cruel device, just rubbing the viewer's face in it because . . . I don't know why because. Because someone could? That's not good enough for me. And I don't wanna come across all shrill and dumb and bluenosy; I'm not saying don't go see it, or it should be banned, or anything of the sort. I'm just saying why I'm not seeing it. I don't see how it's anything other than nasty and cynical and almost worst of all, probably totally unneccessary to the film overall.

But as I pointed out, I haven't seen the film. Knock wood.

I'm waiting for The Core. Now that's going to be some horrible, insulting filmmaking I can really enjoy!

Tuesday, 11 February
Shows That I Can Unfortunately Watch At Any Time of Day

7:00 USA Network

JAG Rabb is joined by Mac to help defend their friend Comb against false charges. They are not helped by hostile Judge Berm or their suspicious commanding officer Admiral Yurt. Facing burnished Republicans at every turn, Rabb and Mac enlist the aid of CIA special agent Beet (Dabney Coleman). Also featuring Justin Bateman, Eric Bogosian and Danitra Vance as Gunnery Sgt. Womb.

7:30 FOX

Friends The familiar five friends disinterestedly read an old "Mad About You" script from metal folding chairs in front of one camera, and then rise up and hector the terrorized staff for "paychecks, fucking paychecks!" In this special one-hour episode, they all make foul, unwatchable movies, and weakly rail against their individual fates, which all clearly point to tedious, unnoticed deaths.

8:00 NBC

Law & Order An aging, ferret-gnawing detective and his younger, attractive, possibly ethnic partner discover a dead body of some sort and make trenchant observations about the perils of New York City life. While eating at a hot dog stand, one of the detectives gets an idea, and is seen running off determinedly, the hot dog forgotten yet symbolic of forgotten hot dogs. Various people lie, and then immediately come clean under the laser-like interrogation of either lizardy Michael Moriarty or maybe Sam Waterston, who has small stones in his throat to aid in digestion. Interchangeable female attorneys slink around uselessly, giving nothing away about the deus ex machina twist that will happen in the last five minutes, shocking everyone into a dazed walk to the elevators, where they will trade trenchant observations about the perils of New York City life.

8:30 FX

The X-Files Mulder and Scully investigate an eerie lagoon whose black waters appear to be harboring a mysterious creature that is claiming the lives of young women; Mulder suspects government conspiracy. Scully disagrees, snapping at Mulder, "You've got piles, and nobody likes you." It turns out to be a dog. Whatever. Guest starring Bruce Vilanch.

9:00 CourtTV

NYPD Blue Andy is tossed between extremes of violence and grief as everyone he knows and loves is raped, tortured, killed, and then horribly defiled before his very eyes by a succession of frightening ethnic people. In an edge-of-your-seat confrontation with his boss, he at once seems to be lashing out while lacerating himself in the process, culminating in a savage mooning. A montage at the end showcases many side-boobs; tasteful luxuriating asses; and finally three minutes of Jimmy Smits listlessly masturbating on camera.

Wednesday, 05 February
How To Get Through Your Daytime Preview Theatrical Performance

1. Get up at last possible minute. Practice morning ablution rituals with machinelike precision. Execute efficient coffee transaction. Discard cigarette 1 second before entering office doors, no strides broken. Arrive ten minutes late anyway. Feel stupid.

2. Take note of tech people hurling themselves around the office, weeping brokenly and babbling in their creepy alien tongue, and occasionally bursting into flames. "Oracle! SQL! Down! Hardware! Two network drives! Fucked! Firewalls! Remote servers! Choking on vomit! Noam Chomsky!" Eventually tire of this puzzling scene, go to office.

3. Read sweaty, dense emails from aforementioned incontinent tech staff. Finally decipher that all databases are somehow royally fucked all to hell, and might be for some time. Note with rising pleasure that this means it is basically totally impossible for any work to be done.

4. Get bored, torture office mates. Hang sign on Tiny Administrative Girl's office that reads "ACTUAL SIZE SHOWN." Maliciously inform Caftan Guy in dark tones that the database was no doubt "a problem way, way down on the hardware end. I'm pretty sure a backbone got hit with a DDOS, because the staff is saying that the DNS issues here are propogating across multiple networks." He nods sagely.

5. Leave work early to walk to theater to get ready for inexplicable Wednesday afternoon preview performance. Greet other actors and note that they--a notably nocturnal species--look kind of grey and wilted in the bright sunlight, like old mushrooms left forgotten on a countertop. The sun beats down with oppressive, cheery wrath; enter the vaguely sinister dank theater for refuge from the awful sleet of photons.

6. Greet tech staff, who are performing their mysterious preshow functions while gabbling amongst themselves. Like the tech staff at work, these are freakish, incomprehensible beings with a chittering, insectoid language. "Leko fresnel!" Or something. Then, incredibly, someone on a ladder says something murky about Phoebe Cates, and everyone laughs. What? Run downstairs.

7. Walk into dressing room, immediately deal with the psychic strain of inadvertantly being presented with fellow actor's bare ass, pointed directly at you as he bends to change pants, as if it were some sort of siege weapon from a William Burroughs novel. Note also that actress in next room (actually just a curtained-off area) is singing along to Sting's "We'll Be Together." Hazily think that God really did exist, He would probably be a lot like Adam Sandler.

8. Shave angry, overshaved neck, while fellow actors struggle with their ties. They look like clumsy fishermen wrestling with handfuls of madly thrashing eels. Stare at own tie, which you realize appears to be a sophisticated homage to quantum string theory. Actors, for no explainable reason, cannot dress themselves.

9. Perform! Huzzah! It's showtime! Aaarooogah! It's two o'clock on a Wednesday! There's twelve people in the audience, including the director, who is furiously writing a note chastising you for some awful, bumbling thing you just did! Also, there's the twisted local amateur drama critic, who is writing down a cutting remark about your belt, for some reason! Listessly wander through rest of show. The acting all around is half-speed and blunted. Receive perfunctory applause at curtain call.

10. Immediately feel nine times better upon removal of costume. Note sudden re-animation of rest of cast, exactly two minutes after leaving the stage, where it was so desperately needed. Reflect: this is why you never, ever go to the preview performance of a show.

Friday, 10 January
I'm The Good Kind of Whore!

I started working on a new show this week; AR Gurney's Far East. And if I am not mistaken, tonight I will be given a paycheck. A paycheck! For acting! Weekly! This is a great feeling; it's like at the end of the week, they're so moved by my artistic prowess, they'd love to give me an enthusiastic handjob, but it wouldn't quite be proper, so here's a check. Fools! With that check, I can buy several handjobs!

Most of the time in "fringe" theater (read: community theater without the bored housewives), you get a "stipend" at the end of the run. A stipend can mean anywhere from a hundred bucks down to, uh, simple good will. (Rarely a handjob. Those happen during the cast parties, and are not considered taxable income.) And I do appreciate them; I understand that these producers are doing the best they can, and I'm certainly not doing this for the riches.

But a paycheck! I can't get over it. When I get home tonight, I'm going to throw it on the bed and roll around on it, Scrooge McDuck-style. Then I'll probably have to peel it off my back and iron it. That's cool. Paycheck!

And what did I do to earn it? Of the four hours I spent at the theater last night, approximately fifteen minutes of my time was spent onstage "working" (read: acting, so technically, not working). In fact, I was literally taking my first steps onstage to say my very first line when the stage manager called out: "Okay, we're done, folks, time to go home!" And everyone laughed at me, because I was standing there onstage with my metaphorical dick in my proverbial hands. Laugh away, suckers! I'm the one getting a paycheck for sitting around eating potato chips and taking luxurious smoke breaks!

It's incredible to have a job where they pay you good money to sit around and not do anything. It's even more incredible to have two of them. The grass is always greener, though. Somewhere, someone is getting a handjob.

Some Celebrities Should Have Ad Slogans

Cate Blanchett: "Stealing Roles From Tilda Swinton Since 1998!"

Kate Winslet: "Pay Me to Take Off My Bra and I Throw in the Panties for Free!"

Sandra Bullock: "Why Have Jumbalaya When You Can Have Plain Rice?"

Jm J Bullock: "Are You Going To Finish That Sandwich?"

Aaron Sorkin: "Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat."

Andrea Dworkin: "Get Away From That Sandwich, Jm J Bullock!"

Friday, 20 December
Peerless Conversational Skills Belong to Other People

There is a co-worker of mine who is a stage actress. We frequently talk about theater, etc. commiserating about lack of work or whatever. She is currently in a production of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales, which is surely one of the most boring shows in the world. I was in it once in college, and I got bored even while acting in it. You could be operated on while watching it.

My co-worker approached me today.

"It's the last weekend of my show."

"Oh, that's right. You must be excited."

"Yeah. So . . . are you going to come see it?"

(I pause. I am caught. Quick! Make an excuse!)

"No."

(You shithead.)

"Oh . . . how come?"

(This is horrible! MAKE AN EXCUSE!)

"Because I'd rather die. I'm sorry."

(I fold.)

"Yeah, I can understand that. It's a boring damn show. See ya."

Is there anything sweeter than a completely undeserved success? I think not. UN-DE-SERVED! UN-DE-SERVED! UN-DE-SERVED!

Thursday, 19 December
Food Can Make You Want to Die

It is with caution that I inform you that I often watch the Food Network. It's kind of embarrassing, really; I like to cook, but I'm a total amateur. I am cautious about fucking with recipes too much, and it would never occur to me to, say, add fennel to anything unless specifically directed to. But that doesn't have much to do with the Food Network, because the Food Network has about as much to do with cooking as Hustler magazine has to do with human relationships. Most of the time, cooking is utterly ancillary to what is actually going on, whether it be cult (or, depending on the person, "occult") of personality (the odious Emeril, the cloying Wolfgang Puck, the unclassifiable asshole Bobby Flay), naked advertising presented as infotainment (how do they make Milk Duds? We need a half hour on this!) or simple addleheaded travelogue tripe (The Thirsty Traveler mugs his way through Spain! Somebody forgot to ask the important question, "Who gives a ripe fuck?").

It's not wholly without its pleasures. If you're not a fan of the Iron Chef, that's fine, but I must question why anyone couldn't like a show that combines incredible, over-the-top theatrics with such utterly conspicuous consumption, and finally culminates in forcing cheerful, ridiculous rich people to eat concoctions such as deep-fried chicken brains and eel-flavored ice cream. ("It tastes like Autumn to me." Groovy! I prefer my food to taste like . . . food. But sadly, I'm not a fatuous rich person.) Another good show--and it goes without saying that because it is fairly intelligent, it is woefully underpromoted--is Good Eats, in which the affable Alton Brown patiently explains in lay science terms why cooking works the way it does. It's smart and charming and endearingly low-fi.

And of course there are the cooking shows. They are, to varying degrees depending on your affinity for whoever's hosting, all basically intolerable (apart from Good Eats, which is really a different animal). I won't even go into Emeril, unless I have a hatchet, in which case I will enthusiastically "get into him." Wolfgang Puck carries the lingering stink of the Eighties, and just kind of looks desperate and tanned in that panicky way that says, "I can't possibly be irrelevant. I'm tan!" And Bobby Flay is about as entertaining and informative as formica. He is resolutely unenthusiastic as he tours America, tasting various regional dishes, and invariably pronouncing said dishes in a bored monotone, "Delicious." "Delicous," in his context, makes it sound like it means "This gives me a wasting, consumptive disease." He speaks of other people's cooking as if he were clinically evaluating their toilets by licking them.

And finally, there is Jamie Oliver, a young, handsome Brit who makes food as if someone off camera has a rifle trained on him. But in a fun way! This moppet is so relentlessly cuddly that they gave him two shows, neither of them watchable (though I obviously managed, because I suck). Hyperactive Jamie scooters about London terrorizing fishmongers and vegetable stands, and then goes back home (or wherever--I think one episode had him cooking halibut on an agreeable Tony Blair's engine block) and maniacally cooks the fucking shit out of whatever he has found. He grabs . . . something. You don't know what. It's green. "Gitchyer mortar en pessle and bash the hell ou' uvvit!" And bash it he does, as if the food owed him a lot of money, his curly blonde locks flying madly. "There we are thin luv!" He's thrown the mortar and pestle into the plaster wall of the set and has now flung the whole green mess on to some fish morbidly shrinking in a pan. "Stir it oop, mates!" he screams, as if in the grips of a fever. Twenty minutes of this, and you can feel your pulmonary capillaries howling for oxygen, but whew, now he's done. and he's finally calmly devouring the ninety-two dishes he's prepared along with two dozen of his ridiculously pretty friends, also known as "paid extras." His demeanor suggests a man who, having come off of a shrieking adrenaline rush, has now made his peace with the unseen rifleman.

Food Network is, as I said, not without its charms. It is, in fact, a little more charming than the equally awful major networks, if only because of its single-minded nature. You can't really claim undue surprise from the Food Network the same way you can with the Big Four when they assault you with something as soul-wrenching as, say, Joe Millionaire. The Food Network is, after all, going to be about food. The worst they can do is prepare it.

Tuesday, 10 December
Only Pansies Don't Watch Lots of Television

TV Guide listings I'd kind of like to see:

CSI: Omaha
Everybody Loves Emo Phillips
NYPD Blue Cross
Fox's Cavalcade of Self-Loathing
The Manx Show
Candid Cameroon
Grungebob Flarepants
Malcolm in the Middle East
Where in the World is Chloe Sevigny?
The Amazing Racist










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