Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yippee ki yay, mother trucker.

I told you!!

As I conjectured last week, and as "Rob H." confirmed for me in the comments over at Dave's Long Box, the PG-13 rating of Live Free Or Die Hard resulted in the censoring of the catchphrase for the Die Hard series, which of course is "Yippee ki yay, motherfucker." Per Rob H., the end of the line is drowned out by gunfire, just as I suspected it would be.

Ah, yes. Once again, I made the right call. You just have to trust me on this kind of thing.

Do my awesome powers of prescience frighten you? Well, they should! I know all, I see all. Sadly, this means Billy Bush will indeed be our 46th President, as I once predicted. But heck, that's not so bad. He can't possibly do a worse job than his cousin.

Friday, June 29, 2007

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition (Part 3)

Part 1. Part 2.

And finally, in Part 3, I get around to looking at the actual list. The number in parentheses following each movie indicates the number of positions it moved up or down since the last list, ten or nine or whatever years ago. (S) means it holds the same position as before; (N) means it's new to the list. Movies in bold are the ones I've seen. And I can already tell you, they're far fewer than I should've seen by now.

1. Citizen Kane (S)
This film has become so firmly entrenched in the #1 spot, it's going to take an awful lot to ever dislodge it. And I think that's great. I love this movie, and I will often say it's the best movie ever made. (I change my mind a lot. Sometimes I say it's one of three other movies on this list, which I will mention when I get to them. Sometimes I say it's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which should be on this list, but isn't. And sometimes I say it's RoboCop.) I envy those who have yet to see it, and pity those who don't want to. I think those who avoid it just don't understand how damn entertaining it is. It's no dry exercise in style, though it is a visual masterpiece. It's funny, and warm, and mysterious, and chilling, and exciting. And it's the granddaddy of the "twist ending" school of film -- who is Rosebud? -- even though, all in all, that's got nothing to do with its greatness.

2. The Godfather (+1)
Here's another film I'll sometimes call the greatest ever made, even though I'll have to have recently seen it to give it that kind of endorsement. Otherwise, it's merely very, very, very great.

3. Casablanca (-1)
Switched places with The Godfather since the previous list, and I think that's a step in the wrong direction. The more I see it, the greater I think this movie is; it seems there is no possible way I can treasure it more, and then I rewatch it, and I do. It's just unbelievably perfect in every way. It's another movie I often claim to be the greatest ever, and I expect it soon will move into my #1-of-all-time slot permanently and without challenge -- but for now, I still think Kane edges it out.

4. Raging Bull (+20)
Big move up the charts for a film I like and respect, but never really loved. It's been a long time since I've seen it, is perhaps why; I need to rewatch it soon with fresh eyes.

5. Singin' in the Rain (+5)
Wonderful, wonderful entertainment, but I'm still surprised to find it in the top ten. Though I find it hard to argue against that ranking.

6. Gone With the Wind (-2)
An epic classic, but maybe not true greatness. I think it's a bit overrated -- not a lot, but a bit.

7. Lawrence of Arabia (-2)
Now this is a true epic, one which should be placed above GWTW. More beautiful, more awe-inspiring, better acting -- better everything. A masterpiece. (But not a film I have ever called the greatest.)

8. Schindler's List (+1)
First on the list I haven't seen. I intend to, some day, but it's hard to get in the right mood. "Hey, let's rent that three-hour black & white film about one of the most horrific crimes in human history!" "Great! I'll get the popcorn!!" Some day, I promise.

9. Vertigo (+52)
A huge leap up the chart for the film widely considered Hitchcock's best. I disagree. I've given it a couple chances to win me over, but it always leaves me cold. I acknowledge its technical brilliance, and I love Jimmy Stewart, generally, but he, and the rest of the film, just don't work for me. I don't hate it, I just don't love it.

10. The Wizard of Oz (-4)
This, I love. One of the few children's films that is equally as magical for adults. And dig those flying monkeys!

11. City Lights (+65)
Another gigantic leap up for a movie. I've never seen it. I don't think I've ever seen any Chaplin film, aside from random clips. I really should.

12. The Searchers (+84)
The biggest move by any film on this chart, up or down. Its critical reputation has solidified over the past decade, it would seem. I think it's great, but I haven't seen it since college. I should rewatch it.

13. Star Wars (+2)
I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it, even though it will never affect anything: Star Wars is not a good movie. It's simply not. Visually impressive, yes. Influential -- of course. But the acting, writing, and directing, with a few exceptions, range from passable to awful. Also: HAN SHOT FIRST, dammit!!

14. Psycho (+4)
I don't know, maybe it's the lateness in life in which I first saw it, but I just don't think this film is that great. The high moments are brilliant, I admit, but in between them, I get bored.

15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (+7)
And then, there's a film like this, which many people find boring, and I can even understand that point of view -- but I find every frame fascinating. And I don't even get stoned to watch it! Still, might be ranked a little high, especially after the leap up seven spots.

16. Sunset Boulevard (-4)
Probably my favorite Wilder film, and I've never seen a Wilder film I haven't loved. So: that's high praise, is my point.

17. The Graduate (-10)
I used to love this movie so much. I still love it, but I'm over my extreme worship phase. I think the move down is a good thing; it didn't belong in the top ten.

18. The General (N)
I've never seen a Buster Keaton movie. I need to have a Keaton/Chaplin film festival some weekend.

19. On the Waterfront (-11)
I think this is overrated. Not in general, just in this particular list. It's very good, and Brando is great, but top twenty is overdoing it.

20. It's a Wonderful Life (-9)
It's hard to objectively judge this movie these days, having been bombarded with it every Christmas since its copyright expired and it entered the public domain. But I do love Jimmy Stewart, as I may already have mentioned, and the "Buffalo Gal won't you come out tonight" sequence, with the breaking the old house's windows, and throwing a lasso around the moon, and Donna Reed hiding in the bushes, and so on, is one of the most purely wonderful scenes in film history.

21. Chinatown (-2)
This is the third of the movies I mentioned above that I sometimes say is the greatest film ever, rather than Citizen Kane. I think it is genius, absolute genius. I love every single thing about it, from Burt Young eating the Venetian blinds right through to "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Jack Nicholson's greatest role, with epic performances from Faye Dunaway and John Huston as well, and a jaw-dropping cameo from director Roman Polanski ("You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat"). A brilliantly perplexing mystery, about a crime as big as the city of Los Angeles, and an achingly tragic and twisted romance as well. (Personal trivia note: I was an extra in the sequel, the not-nearly-as-good The Two Jakes. Which is what makes me two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.)

22. Some Like It Hot (-8)
Another from Wilder. A comedy classic, starring my favorite actor who's not Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon. The last time men wearing dresses was ever funny. Take that, England!

23. The Grapes of Wrath (-2)
Never seen it. Never read the book, either. I have the book, somewhere. I should read it. Maybe after I finish with all that Vonnegut.

24. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (+1)
I haven't seen this movie for so long, I want to believe it's not that great. It probably is, but my admiration for Spielberg's films, with few exceptions, generally diminishes over time. I need to watch it with a grown-up's eyes for the first time, and see how it holds up.

25. To Kill a Mockingbird (+9)
Another movie I keep meaning to see, another book I keep meaning to read. Oh well.

26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (+3)
I love Jimmy Stewart, as I may have said eight or nine times by now, but I would not rank this among his three best (as this list does). I wouldn't rank it among his ten best. It's very dated, and a little boring.

27. High Noon (+6)
I've always thought this was a highly overrated movie, despite the presence of Grace Kelly, the most beautiful woman ever to have lived. It's been so long since I've seen it, I think I could watch it again and judge it with unbiased eyes, see if I can't appreciate it more. (Or confirm in my mind that it is overrated.)

28. All About Eve (-12)
I started watching it once, and stopped, for some reason. Never went back and finished it. I really should.

29. Double Indemnity (+9)
Another master work from Billy Wilder. I like that it's moving up the chart.

30. Apocalypse Now (-2)
Great stuff. I always wonder if it's really that good, if maybe it wasn't just all my friends who loved it so much (and there were a lot of them) who convinced me that it was so excellent, and then I see some of it again, and yes, it's really that good.

31. The Maltese Falcon (-8)
Wow, is this the first John Huston film on the list? (As a director, that is; we've already seen him as an actor in Chinatown.) That's surprising. He's one of the best directors ever, no question. And this is a fabulous movie.

32. The Godfather Part II (S)
The first movie since Kane not to have changed positions on the list! It's weird seeing Part II so much lower on the list than the original; you tend to think of them as one piece of work. I think this is probably an appropriate ranking. I used to think it was nearly the equal of the first, but that's not really so. As good as this is, the first is better by leaps and bounds.

33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (-13)
A surprising drop for a great film, but I think it's about where it should be.

34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (+15)
I like that this has moved up so much. I haven't seen it for ages.

35. Annie Hall (-4)
Haven't seen this for ages, either. I remember not liking it nearly as much as everyone else always seems to. I still like it, though.

36. The Bridge on the River Kwai (-23)
I also remember not liking this nearly as much as everyone else. I thought it was kind of boring, actually. I should give it a second chance.

37. The Best Years of Our Lives (S)
The last movie on the list not to change positions. I don't feel much of a desire to see it.

38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (-8)
I'd call this John Huston's best movie, and if not for Casablanca, Bogart's best as well. He is amazing in this; his greedy, treacherous Fred C. Dobbs is light years from his cynical but inevitably heroic Rick Blaine. Just an awesome movie.

39. Dr. Strangelove (-13)
I love this movie, but I've only seen it once.

40. The Sound of Music (+15)
I've seen this one a million times, and I keep loving it. So I'm a softie; so my heart melts at "My Favorite Things." So what? I'm only human.

41. King Kong (+2)
I haven't seen this since I was a little kid. I don't really feel any urgency to see it again.

42. Bonnie and Clyde (-15)
This blew my mind when I first saw it. So ahead of its time. Legendary performances from Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

43. Midnight Cowboy (-7)
Rated X when it was first released, but I don't know, most of the stuff without Dustin Hoffman kind of bored me. Not nearly as shocking or titillating as I guess it was once considered to be. Nor as interesting. That ending devastated me, though.

44. The Philadelphia Story (+7)
This is my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie. This is my favorite movie of everyone involved. Love it, love it, love it.

45. Shane (+24)
I'm perplexed by the big jump up the list. I thought people were finally starting to realize this isn't all that good.

46. It Happened One Night (-11)
I loved it when I saw it, but that was at least a decade ago. I'd like to see it again. I thought Claudette Colbert was heavenly. And I liked Clark Gable a million times better here than in GWTW.

47. A Streetcar Named Desire (-2)
I really, really should see this.

48. Rear Window (-6)
Probably my favorite Hitchcock. Definitely like it a lot more than Vertigo. Another great Jimmy Stewart performance, and the presence of Grace Kelly doesn't hurt.

49. Intolerance (N)
I doubt I'll ever see this, though I wouldn't object to seeing it. I'm just not ever going to seek it out.

50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (N)
I loved the whole trilogy, but as I said before, it just seems weird to be putting it in a list like this so soon. Maybe in a few more years, and with a few more viewings, I'll be okay with it.

That's plenty enough for now. And hey, I've seen more of the list than I'd thought: 41 out of the top 50. Not too shabby.

I'll finish up with the last half of the list tomorrow or Sunday.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition (Part 2)

Part 1 tackled the new movies added to this list since the original was created ten nine years ago. Part 2:

The Dropped Movies

Twenty-three new movies were added to the list, which means 23 old movies had to get their carcasses booted off. I'll go in order of highest position on the old list.

Doctor Zhivago is the highest-ranked film suddenly to be deemed unworthy of inclusion. Formerly hailed as the 39th greatest American motion picture ever made, right between Double Indemnity and North By Northwest, it now joins Weekend at Bernie's and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo in unranked limbo. I've never seen it, so I don't know, perhaps it deserves that comparison. Funny how opinions can change so quickly. Hell, nine years ago, I still thought Robin Williams was humorous. Wait, no I didn't.

I touched briefly in the last post on The Birth of a Nation being dropped from the #44 spot. As I said then, it feels like over-sensitivity is what caused this film to get the axe. I recall this film, though offensive in many ways, also to be a significant technical and artistic achievement. Maybe I'm alone here.

From Here to Eternity, formerly #52, is one of the landmarks in movie history that I keep kicking myself for never having seen. I'm amazed it's no longer on the list. Well -- screw it, then. Guess it's not that good after all. I can skip it. Thanks, AFI!

Amadeus is gone from #53. I haven't seen this since I was a kid, in the theater. I've heard that it holds up fairly well, but I have yet to see for myself. I've never seen All Quiet on the Western Front, which used to be #54, and I'm in not much of a hurry to see it, really.

Out at #57 is The Third Man, which is a shock. I think this is a pretty fantastic film, with a tremendously cunning performance from Orson Welles. I'm also shocked by the omission of Fantasia, which was ranked #58. Though it didn't make much of a splash on its original release, it's more recently come to be widely acknowledged as a major leap forward for feature animation. Looks like that perception has slid somewhat over the past decade.

Rebel Without a Cause, #59, is gone, as is (skipping forward a bit) #82's Giant. That's a bit of a blow for the cult of James Dean. I like Dean, and I admire both of these films, to a certain degree. I thought his performance in Rebel was every bit as primal and riveting and excellent as it's been built up to be, though the film as a whole doesn't hold up as well. I thought Giant was a beautiful film to look at, if bloated and boring for long stretches. Giant, I'd say, is a fair cutback to the list. Rebel probably should've snuck in somewhere.

Stagecoach is one of the rare John Wayne/John Ford collaborations I haven't seen; it's gone from the #63 ranking. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which followed it at #64, is also gone, and I think that's okay.

The Manchurian Candidate probably made it to #67 on the original list because, at the time, it had still only fairly recently been rediscovered. It's a great film, a harrowing Cold War-era thriller about brainwashing and assassination, with some standout work from Frank Sinatra, and especially Angela Lansbury, as the worst film mother ever. But I don't think I would say it merits inclusion in the top 100, and I have no problem seeing it get left out.

Never seen An American in Paris, #68, nor Wuthering Heights, #73. I have seen Dances with Wolves, dropped from spot #75. I liked it a lot when it first came out, but I rewatched a bit of it recently, and I didn't grab me the same way. So, oh well.

Removing Fargo from #84 on the list, though, is a real crime. This is a brilliant movie from two of the best filmmakers alive today. And now, the Coen brothers are entirely unrepresented on a list of the great American films, which is absurd. I think a strong argument could be made for several of their films making it to this list, such as Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and of course Fargo. To include none of them ignores some of the most creative, influential, and entertaining work of the past 20 years. I'm tempted to call this the biggest, most glaring error of the entire enterprise (second only, perhaps, to adding Titanic).

I've never seen Mutiny on the Bounty, 86ed from spot #86. And I still haven't seen the original Frankenstein (#87), though I recently, finally watched Bride of Frankenstein. And why that film isn't on the list is a real headscratcher. What an amazing piece of work it is! Just flat-out amazing. And far different from what I had been expecting.

I'm almost equally outraged by the absence of Patton (formerly #89) from the new list as I am by Fargo's. Maybe even more so. This film is incredible, and George C. Scott gives one of the most powerful and iconic performances in American film history. For the opening speech alone, Patton deserves to be counted. Just watch it, you sorry sons of bitches, and dare to disagree with me!

The Jazz Singer is deleted from position #90. I've never seen it, but I've heard that aside from it being the first talkie, it really isn't very good. I liked My Fair Lady, which was #91, but I don't care that it's gone. And I've never seen either A Place in the Sun, #92, or Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, #99. And I don't much feel the need to see them.

Man, two big-ass posts already, and I haven't really even looked at the actual list yet. Tomorrow -- I probably still won't.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition (Part 1)

Last week, I watched the TV special for AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies -- 10th Anniversary Edition. And before I get to anything else, let me note that, since the original version of this list came out in 1998, this is actually the 9th anniversary. Also, if this is supposed to be the 10th anniversary (which it isn't), shouldn't it now be AFI's 110 Years...?

Anyhoo. The original list was the American Film Institute's attempt to catalog the 100 greatest American movies ever produced. The updated list reflects changes in opinion over the past ten years, as well as considering for inclusion films made during that decade. As anyone could tell you, putting forth a list like this is an exercise in sheer folly; anything it gets right will be undone by the inevitably huge amount it gets wrong.

And yet I love lists like this, and I love this list specifically. For two reasons: #1, it serves its purpose by getting me swept up in the wonder of brilliant moviemaking, and reminding me of the many landmark films I still have yet to see, and #2, it includes a lot of idiotic decisions I get to rip apart.

Over the next few days, I'm going to look at:

1) The new movies on the updated list
2) The old movies bumped off the list
3) Some of the films' changes in position on the list
4) Which of the films on the list I've seen

So buckle in for a lot of movie talk, is what I'm saying.

For much of my reference material, I'm using the chart on this Wikipedia page. It's a nifty resource... assuming, of course, it's not completely wrong (this is Wikipedia, after all).

Here we go!

The New Movies

There are 23 new movies on the updated list. So nearly a quarter of the old list was wrong, is that what you're saying, AFI? Then why should we believe what you're telling us now?

The highest debut is Buster Keaton's The General, at #18. So, ten nine years ago, nobody at AFI had ever heard of Keaton, is that it? Then, all of a sudden, everybody was like, "Oh, yeah, Buster Keaton existed, didn't he? And he was pretty much a genius! Gentlemen, we have our number eighteen!"

At #49 and #50, we have D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, which is the oldest film on the list (1916), and The Fellowship of the Rings, which is the newest film on the list (2001). I find it very interesting that Griffith's Intolerance joins the list at such a high spot, while his Birth of a Nation was the second-highest ranking film (#44) to be dropped from the list. Seems to me AFI wanted to recognize Griffith's importance to filmmaking, but political correctness overwhelmed them, and they suddenly became overly-sensitive to the racism of Nation. Look, any film that seriously posits the Ku Klux Klan as American heroes is obviously deeply flawed; nobody's going to argue that. But that doesn't mean it's not still historic, revolutionary cinema. This feels like cowardice on AFI's part to me. So there.

As for Fellowship -- when the 20th anniversary list is created, in nine or ten or eight years, I'd be very surprised if it doesn't drop severely, perhaps even right off the list. Sure, I loved the movie, but this ranking seems more a product of proximity to its release than a true judgment of its historical significance.

Nashville, a shameful oversight on the original list, is added at #59. Which makes two whole Altman movies on the list (the other being M*A*S*H). Maybe someday his actual best movie will get added, too (that would be McCabe & Mrs. Miller, FYI). Sullivan's Travels, perhaps bolstered by the recent success of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, whose title and various plot elements are taken from Sullivan, joins the list at #61. (More on O Brother and the Coens later.) Cabaret is added at #63; I've never seen that film, but this seems questionable to me. I've also never seen Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but its inclusion at #67 seems right to me. In at #71 is Saving Private Ryan, the second of the four new films made in the last decade, which I think is an appropriate addition.

At #72 is The Shawshank Redemption, which I think is silly. It was okay -- I would even go so far as to call it pretty darn good -- but I really don't understand the cult of worship which has built up around it. I know a few people who think this is literally the best movie ever made. Sorry, guys -- but these are the kind of people who have never watched a black and white film; these are the kind of people whose second favorite movie is something starring Adam Sandler. Or Scarface. These are the kind of people who have made the film #2 on IMDb's top 250, and who clog IMDb's message boards with passionate defenses of its genius -- some bloated with delusions of grandeur:

Can Hollywood, usually creating things for entertainment purposes only, create art? To create something of this nature, a director must approach it in a most meticulous manner, due to the delicacy of the process. Such a daunting task requires an extremely capable artist with an undeniable managerial capacity and an acutely developed awareness of each element of art in their films, the most prominent; music, visuals, script, and acting. These elements, each equally important, must succeed independently, yet still form a harmonious union, because this mixture determines the fate of the artist's opus.
...and some, raving morons:

youre stupid. ive the audiance wants this film to ahve high ratings thatn u and the minority of ppl that dont have to deal with it.
These are the kind of people who mistake Shawshank's dimestore philosophy, sledgehammer emotion, and magical Negro for originality and brilliance. These are the kind of people who have never watched a truly great movie.

Not that I've given this any thought before.

In at #75 is In the Heat of the Night, at #77 is All the President's Men. Never seen 'em. New at #81 is Spartacus, which is fine by me, but I wasn't much bothered by its previous absence. #82 is F.W. Murnau's Sunrise, a silent film from 1927 that's supposed to be brilliant. (I began to wonder why Nosferatu isn't on this list, but then I realized it's a German film, not American.)

Titanic is new at #83, and if you know me, you know I have two words for that: HORSE. SHIT. The worst thing is, I knew it was going to be added to this list. I fucking knew it. And it is such a bad, bad movie. Some of the worst acting, writing, and directing ever. But it grossed a half a billion dollars domestic, so on the list it goes. This just infuriates me. Hopefully, within the next ten years, the stink of this crapfest will become evident to the populace at large, and we'll never have to hear a serious suggestion that Titanic belongs in the ranks of movie greatness ever again. (Hell, more likely, in ten years Titanic and Shawshank will be #1 and #2. America is dumb, is my point.)

A Night at the Opera enters the list at #85, and I wholeheartedly concur with its inclusion. 12 Angry Men is at #87, and I guess that's okay. The Sixth Sense comes in at #89, and I think that's a temporary fluctuation, a recognition of the "twist ending" school of film that has flourished since its debut. I fully expect it to drop back off the next version of the list.

Swing Time, from 1936, is apparently considered by many to be the best Astaire/Rogers production; it's new at #90. #91 is Sophie's Choice, which feels like an attempt to throw some recognition to perhaps the greatest actress in film history, Meryl Streep, who is otherwise only represented on this list by a supporting role in The Deer Hunter. And I can live with that.

#95 is The Last Picture Show. Eh, I don't know about that. #96 is Do the Right Thing, which is outrageous, both in that it wasn't on the list before, and that it's barely on the list now. Should be much higher, and will be in future revisions, I expect. #97 is Blade Runner. Which version? Interesting choice, and one I don't disagree with, though I expect many will.

The last new film to be added is Toy Story, at #99. I can agree with that; though I think a few later Pixar films are better, the CGI animation boom started here, and that's worth noting.

I was originally going to try to fit all my notes on this list into one post. You can see by the already-bloated length of this post why I changed my mind. You people have suffered through enough gigantor-sized entries over the past couple weeks as it is. More on the list tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The traditional gift is leather. The modern gift is crystal.

June 26, 1483: Richard III becomes King of England.

June 26, 1819: The bicycle is patented, the same day the inventor of baseball, Abner Doubleday, is born.

June 26, 1963: John F. Kennedy delivers his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

June 26, 2003: Strom Thurmond dies, at 387 years of age.

June 26 births: Pearl S. Buck, 1892. Peter Lorre, 1904. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, 1911. Mick Jones, 1955. P.T. Anderson, 1970. Derek Jeter, 1974. Jason Schwartzman, 1980.

This blog, 2004.

I'll let you decide which event is the coolest and most significant.

No, I won't. It's this one! This blog right here! Yay me!

It's been three long years since I began this goofy thing, and, mirabile visu, it's still going strong. In some ways, stronger than ever: I think some of my most interesting, entertaining, original, and, if nothing else, lengthy posts have come in the past couple months. Such as my third annual Unfair Previews of the Fall TV season (now added to the Sidebar). Or there was my rundown of the cancelled shows from last year, which a lot of people seemed to like. There was that completely random salute to Neil Flynn, which not a lot of people seemed to like, but at least I got a kick out of it. There was my tribute to the Discovery Channel, and my comparison of Showtime and HBO, both of which I thought turned out nicely. And there was the Pussification of the American R-Rated Franchise, which I plan on revising into list form and submitting to, so no stealing! I'll know you did it!

I've also started experimenting with picture posts a little more, such as the one about Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and Robert De Niro. There was also the Joe Francis/Paris Hilton/Zombie Tom picture, the lolzombie, and of course, the sad little dead cat (which I thought was hilarious, but which garnered exactly zero comments; note to self: dead cats are not as funny to everyone else as they are to you and Stephen Lynch, apparently).

In other ways, the blog has not been going as strongly as it was about a year ago. Traffic has dropped off somewhat since the Comic Weblog Updates page went kerplooey; that page was the single best funnel for traffic this site has ever had. And my dropping regular posting about comic books (due to my dropping regular buying of comic books), I think, had already lost the majority of that comics weblogging crowd anyway. Now, when I post about comics, such as my two huge entries on Free Comic Book Day, or my Supergirl/Milo Manara post -- they generate scarcely a ripple of interest. I mean, come on, you've all seen how easily comics fans get bent out of shape over nothing. I can't get even one person outraged at me for comparing the new, supposedly more youth-friendly Supergirl art to work by a legendary hardcore porn artist? That disappointed me, I have to admit. That hurt.

And also, there's been some real-world stuff taking precedence over the blog for much of 2007. Things have gotten stabilized, thanks for asking, and I've gone back to trying to post every day (and I'm coming pretty darn close -- for me, anyway), which, really, in the end, is the best thing a blogger can do to build up traffic. How some of you people never miss a day on your own blogs boggles my mind, and more power to you. This will be my 828th published post, which, if you do the math, and I did, is 267 less than one daily post over three years. Oh well. I don't think I'll ever quite get there, but I hope what I do manage to throw up here keeps you coming back.

Anyhoo. Thanks for visiting, folks! Looking back on what I've written over the last three years -- an awful lot of it has made me happy. I hope some of that rubbed off on you, too. And as your reward for making it through this self-indulgent post, here's a self-indulgent finale: the greatest ending to any movie since "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Get your hankies ready!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monthly Sidebar Update

This month's Object of My Affection is Anna Faris, a little cutie who has a grin I might go so far as to call "impish." Yes, I might! In fact, I will! I do! Impish, it is! She's a very charming performer, but she seems to alternate between interesting work in great movies (May, Lost in Translation, Brokeback Mountain) and making a quick buck in hacky crap (the Scary Movie series, The Hot Chick, Just Friends). I hope she gets a shot at more high quality films in the future; I think she has the potential to really deliver with A-list material.

The Kurt Vonnegut Project is rolling along like crazy. Since my last Sidebar Update, less than a month ago, I've finished Galápagos, Cat's Cradle, Player Piano, and Breakfast of Champions, and I've begun Hocus Pocus. I can't tell you how much I've fallen in love with Vonnegut's oeuvre all over again, and how invigorating it is for me to be reading a greater quantity, and quality, of books than I have since probably during, and the first few years after, college.

I feel a nagging urge that I should be writing a review of every one of his books I finish here, and maybe I will at some point, but this is a more personal project for me. I wanted to reacquaint myself with a writer and a thinker who was more important and more influential to me than any person I never actually met in my life (and hell, most everyone I have met).

Just a few quick notes:

--I forgot that Vonnegut's books are as interconnected as those of, say, Stephen King -- most of his novels (at least, the ones I've reread so far) refer back to an earlier character (usually Eliot Rosewater or Kilgore Trout), or setting, or event.

--I find it interesting that Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano, about the menace of rampant industrialization, defends the intelligence and dignity of the common man, while much of the rest of his body of work tends to refute the intelligence and dignity of the common man.

--I found Breakfast of Champions at times uncomfortable, even difficult to read, due to Vonnegut's all too frequent and casual use of the N-word. I don't believe Vonnegut was a racist; I know (or I believe that I know) that his use of that epithet was to underscore the vast inequalities and barriers between classes and races in America. And I think the era in which the book was published has something to do with the casualness of the word's usage; in the 1970s, a white man using the N-word for a punchline was so common it wouldn't raise an eyebrow (see Blazing Saddles, The Jerk, Kentucky Fried Movie, etc., etc.). Still -- it's a little discomfiting to read in this day and age.

--Aside from that complaint, Breakfast of Champions is so brilliant, so breathtakingly original, it boggles my mind.

--Cat's Cradle is even better. In fact, I would probably say it's the best book I've ever read.

--Vonnegut really likes destroying the world.

Watching (and Hating, and Loving): Dodgers baseball. I've been watching more baseball this year than in about the past five years combined. (And coming to appreciate Vin Scully even more as the true genius he is. He's like a master magician; he makes the incredibly complicated look so darn easy.) It's been tremendously exciting at times, and at times tremendously frustrating. As usual. The Boys in Blue are fielding a better team than they have in ages, it seems (though the absence of closer extraordinaire Eric Gagne, now with the Rangers, pains me greatly), but they're still not breaking out of the pack they way they could, and should. They've been in a virtual tie for first with Arizona and San Francisco Diego for weeks now. Which makes for thrilling viewing -- as long as L.A. comes out on top in the end. Which recent experience (as in, nearly the past two decades) tells me will not happen. Well, that's what being a fan is all about: rooting for your home team, even while you're simultaneously screaming at the TV, "STUPID DODGERS!!!"

Bonus OoMA: while doing some random Googling (it wasn't even for the Dodgers!), I discovered that Alyssa Milano maintains a Dodgers-devoted blog, called *touch* 'em all. That is hot. And she is way more into the Dodgers than I am. Way more. That is super hot. Of course, that's probably partly because she's dated some of the players, which would naturally make her closer to the game than I could ever get. (I mean, hey, I could date a ballplayer, if I wanted to... ah, who am I kidding -- even if I wanted to, they're out of my league.) Check out that picture of her in Dodgers gear. That is HOTTT, with all caps, three Ts, and an invisible Q.

I've got nothing for Listening this time out, since I haven't bought any new music in the past month. But if I were going to list something, it would be Fountains of Wayne's new album, Traffic and Weather, which I keep meaning to buy, but never do. The Lyric of the Month comes from the lead single from that album, "Someone To Love," and I leave you with the video for that song, featuring alterna-comic Demetri Martin.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die.

It's about frickin' time:


On November 6, the two Kill Bill films will finally be released as a single 4-disc special edition DVD set. If, like me, you held off on buying the individual DVD releases of Volume 1 and Volume 2, because you knew a combined set would eventually be issued, your patience, at long last, is about to be rewarded.

I expect a plethora of brand-new shiny extras will be included in the set (two whole discs' worth, it would seem!). And some shiny new gore, as well: Amazon says the set will be rated NC-17. (More likely, it'll be unrated, since the MPAA doesn't give official re-ratings to DVD director's cuts.)

Via ADDTF, further via Cinematical.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Pussification of the American R-Rated Franchise

The upcoming Live Free Or Die Hard has me thinking about R-rated movies in America. Specifically: if an R-rated movie becomes popular enough to spawn a franchise, that franchise will almost inevitably be juvenilized to reach an even wider audience. Violent, sexy, adult entertainment, if it lasts long enough, will generally lead to watered-down, PG, family fare, either in the film world or another format. Or both.

The Die Hard series is only the latest example. It actually looked like it might be an exception to the rule: Die Hard, Die Harder, Die Hard: With a Vengeance -- all R-rated. And with the last having been made in 1995, for years it looked like the series would stand pat at one perfect little R-rated trilogy.

But why stop at three? So now we have the fourth movie about to premiere. And yes, it's PG-13. Which may make Live Free Or Die Hard the first film in history whose own catchphrase can't be spoken in the movie.

What's the catchphrase to the Die Hard movies? You all know it: "Yippee ki yay, motherfucker." And check me if I'm wrong here, but you can't say "motherfucker" in a PG-13 movie.

That hasn't stopped the marketing campaign from teasing us with the phrase. Watch the end of the trailer at the official site (make sure you turn off the music on that site -- it's loud and annoying, and drowns out the sound from the trailer). It's at the end: "Did you wanna say something?" "Yippee ki yay, mo--"

And check out the "email signature" provided for download at that site:


(John is John McClane, Bruce Willis's character, and 6.27 is the movie's release date.)

And you can also find that truncated phrase all over the movie's MySpace page.

But I'm willing to bet the one place you won't find that phrase -- the full, uncensored phrase -- is in the movie itself.

Yes, you can say "fuck" in a PG-13 movie. More than once, sometimes. (As in The American President, where I believe the F-bomb gets dropped thrice, which may be a record.) But only if it is used purely as an expletive. If it refers to the sexual act -- that's an R. And I'm guessing the MPAA will deem the term "motherfucker" to be inherently sexual in nature (a motherfucker is one who fucks his mother, no?), and thus taboo, which means the movie will wind up cutting away from Willis before he can finish the word, or covering it up with a gunshot or an explosion, or something like that. (Who knows, I might be wrong -- I'll lay odds at 12-to-1.)

Whether or not that word makes it through, the fact that the movie went for a PG-13 in the first place is just another example of the ongoing pussification of the American R-rated film franchise over the past 30 years.

Police Academy may be the most extreme example of this phenomenon. The original film was a hard R-rated raunchfest, featuring, for example, a nude shower scene and a man getting his head stuck up a horse's ass. The second film was PG-13, and the third through seventh (seventh!) films were watered down to an innocuous PG. What's more, the franchise eventually morphed into pure children's fare, including a Saturday morning cartoon:

In the movies, the character on the left spies on naked ladies in the shower. The character on the right gets a blow job while he's giving a speech.

And a comic book based on the cartoon:

Did I mention where a man's HEAD gets stuck up a horse's ASS?

Some of you may be aware of my near-insane love of the original RoboCop, and its legendary ultra-violence. But that franchise suffered a wimpification equally as ignominious as the Police Academy series. RoboCop 2 held on to an R, but RoboCop 3 couldn't even hold on to Peter Weller, let alone an adult rating (it was PG-13). There was also a wimpy live-action TV series, and even worse (shudder)... a children's cartoon. It went from this:

And a dude getting melted by toxic waste isn't even CLOSE to the most violent image in the original movie.

To this:

Is he GRINNING?? RoboCop does NOT grin!!!

Let's look at some comedies. The Scary Movie series lost its balls with the third installment (and I'm guessing it's no coincidence that's when David Zucker took over as director from Keenen Ivory Wayans). Caddyshack and The Blues Brothers: classic R-rated original films; shitty and unnecessary PG-13 rated sequels. (Though I hesitate to classify films with only one sequel as "franchises.") I could've sworn the third Beverly Hills Cop was PG-13, but it looks like it was actually R.

Looking at a few action series: Mad Max was R-rated, The Road Warrior was R-rated, but Beyond Thunderdome was PG-13. (Side note: if Mel Gibson really wants to win the public back to his side, I think he needs to make another Mad Max movie.) Conan went from R for the first entry to PG for the sequel (and I guess you could count the PG-13 Red Sonja as part of the Conan franchise, even though Schwarzenegger was playing a different character). The Jack Ryan series is most unusual, not just because three different actors have played the lead. The first, The Hunt for Red October, was PG; the second, Patriot Games, was R; the third and fourth, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears (forgot about that Ben Affleck one, didn't you?) were both PG-13. I can't think of any other movie franchise which has gone from PG to R (though a few have gone from PG to PG-13). At least it followed the rule and went back to PG-13 for the latter flicks.

Some R-rated franchises pussied out by going the TV-movie route. Revenge of the Nerds, the movie which introduced the phrase "We've got bush!" into the pop culture lexicon, produced two toothless TV movies as parts III and IV (part II, which was a theatrical release, had already been watered down to a PG-13). The Omen, a landmark in modern horror, and R-rated through three theatrical releases, was turned into a weak TV-movie for part four. (The recent remake returned to the series' R-rated roots, thankfully.)

How have other horror franchises fared? Let's see... Terminator? Went through three R-rated movies, but is being turned into the Fox TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles for 2008. Aliens? Predator? Both of those R-rated series were combined into one PG-13 suckfest, Aliens Vs. Predator. (I know, we all want to pretend that film doesn't exist... but it does.) Blade produced three R-rated theatrical films, but was then turned into a TV series on Spike (all of which, of course, were based on an all-ages comic book to begin with). Even The Toxic Avenger, the low-budget, hardcore gore franchise from the legendarily transgressive Troma Studios, spawned both a kiddie cartoon series and a Marvel all-ages comic book.

The Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises have always been R-rated, up to and including the one starring both Freddy and Jason. They've never gone soft, right? Wrong! You're forgetting about the syndicated TV shows: Freddy's Nightmares and Friday the 13th: The Series, both of which by necessity had to tame down the sex and violence for the small screen. (Note: there seems to be a question as to whether the Friday the 13th TV show was meant to be connected to the film series at all. The TV show didn't feature Jason, nor any plot connection to the movies; basically, one of the producers of the film franchise ripped off the name for an unrelated TV show. That's still watering down the franchise, in a way, but you can ignore it if you like.)

I find the Matrix trilogy to be a fascinating exception to the general rule. Fascinating in that I believe the second and third movies should have been rated PG-13, but weren't. Think about it: is the F-word used even once in those two films? I'm pretty sure not. I'm also pretty sure there's no nudity (though Monica Bellucci's near-transparent vinyl dress pushes the boundary, bless her heart). And I think the violence, though still present in abundance, was less explicit than in the original film; I know I've seen more gore in PG-13 films -- hell, I've seen more gore on CSI or The X-Files. I'm hard-pressed to see how those two films exceeded the PG-13 standards; perhaps the Wachowskis made it clear that they were looking for an R, and the MPAA granted their wish. (I wouldn't put it past 'em.)

Oh! Wait! There was The Animatrix, the collection of cartoon shorts tied into the Matrix world. That was rated PG-13. Ha! The Matrix is no exception, after all.

Still, there are exceptions; the Godfather saga is one example. But the majority of the exceptions are horror-related. Scream appears to have wrapped things up with an R-rated trilogy. Same with the Evil Dead series. Child's Play is at five R-rated films and counting (which surprised me; I could've sworn the last two were PG-13). Silence of the Lambs has had three R-rated follow-ups, one of which, Red Dragon, was a remake of the R-rated, pre-Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter Manhunter. Both Hellraiser and Halloween have produced eight movies (though many of them were direct-to-video rather than theatrical), plus the upcoming Rob Zombie remake of the original Halloween, all of which were (or will be) rated R, with, as far as I can tell, no watered-down spin-offs of either franchise. You can probably name a few more yourselves. (Hints: George Romero; Tobe Hooper.)

And American Pie, which was widely credited with reviving the R-rated teen sex comedy genre, made it through two theatrical sequels and (so far) two direct-to-DVD follow-ups, which have all garnered a hard R; this is the only comedy franchise I can think of (aside from Beverly Hills Cop, mentioned above) that's stuck to its guns. (The Porky's trilogy was Canadian, thus exempted from consideration. Those crafty Canadians!! And, okay, there were a million R-rated sex comedy series in the '80s I'm also not considering, since the premise here is that the first film in the franchise was a blockbuster theatrical hit, not a barely-broke-even, made-just-enough-money-to-hire-more-topless-girls sleazefest. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

You can probably think of a couple more exceptions -- but you can probably also think of many more franchises that follow the rule.

And just why does this happen? Greed, for one, of course; a more family-oriented rating means a bigger potential audience. For another thing, the people behind the original film in a franchise -- the people with the actual vision and creativity -- frequently aren't involved with the follow-ups, leaving assorted jackals and leeches to squeeze every possible nickel out of new, weak product under the old, beloved name.

History shows that most sequels which follow the way of pussification are not very good at all (but then again, most sequels aren't very good, period). Which does not bode well for Live Free Or Die Hard. Despite that, I'll probably go see it (and regret it, because I'm a chump). But what about the rest of you? Does the ratings change for the new Die Hard set off any alarms? Did you even notice? Any franchises left off this list you want to bring up, whether they follow the rule or not? Leave a comment, let me hear about it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A little snippet to tide you over

Random thought while looking at a banner ad for the upcoming You Kill Me:

Hey, remember about ten years ago, when Téa Leoni was being shoved down our throats 24/7 as her generation's next great comedienne -- indeed, as the second coming of Lucille Ball?

Wasn't that fucking stupid?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Slacking off

Family's in town visiting, so posting will be light to non-existent this week (though I'm almost finished with a big post I'd like to have up by Friday).

I did catch the third season premiere of The Closer last night. There's a lot I like about that show -- all the supporting characters, primarily, especially J.K. Simmons -- but Kyra Sedgwick continues to bug me a bit, and the crimes always seem to be solved in a haphazard fashion that never quite satisfies me. Anybody else watching?

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I has a brain bucket

I just Zombie Tom just posted this over at his blog. And I thought it was too damn awesome not to share with you here.

You're welcome.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

This Cat Is Dead Now.

Everybody else is doing that lolcat site feed thing, so I had to do it, too. Sample result:

Brains. Meow.

Most of my entry titles don't really work to create humorous cat captions, but I really, really enjoy that one. That is one laid-back uprising!

P.S. The title to this post is meant to create a very sad new picture.

EDIT: It worked.


Friday, June 15, 2007

TV: Showtime vs. HBO

Holy crap, I thought this day would never come. I've long been confident in the perpetual also-ran, inessential status of Showtime as a network -- I've written about it more than once. But with last Sunday's series finale of The Sopranos, it looks like the end of an era for HBO. And it looks like, as far as original programming goes, mirabile dictu: Showtime has surpassed HBO.

I'm not saying that The Sopranos was all HBO had to offer, nor am I completely dismissing the channel as it stands now. For example, there is still to come the final season of The Wire, which many fans and critics consider to be the best show on television, period. (I still have yet to really get into it; I promise I will rent the DVDs one of these days!) But the ending of The Sopranos feels like, and is largely being reported as, the closing of HBO's golden age; it is the end of HBO's reputation-making, identity-defining string of mass brilliance.

The Sopranos joins on the slag heap quite an impressive list of series which were A) incredibly popular, B) lavishly praised by critics, C) touchstones of popular culture, or D) all of the above. Among the recently departed: Deadwood (which I personally think was the best of the crop, and one of the best shows ever aired), Rome, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Da Ali G Show, Oz, Carnivàle, Extras, and Sex and the City (which, if you're a long-time reader, you know I did not care for at all, but which, I must admit, gets filed under "all of the above").

The controversial, and widely-unsatisfying, finale to The Sopranos didn't do HBO any favors. I said a few days ago that I don't have HBO anymore, and did not watch the finale, but I could not avoid hearing about it, try as I might. So I broke down, and watched that much-talked about, much-misunderstood, much-maligned final scene on You Tube. I thought it was excellent, a perfectly ambiguous, non-gift wrapped ending; it gave me chills. I may be in the minority on this. Oh well. My point is, the majority of viewers seem put off by it, to say the least; many are expressing resentment for having invested so much time in a series and its characters, only to be disappointed by such a poor ending. (Honestly, a part of me finds it hard to blame them -- after all, I'm still pissed off about the last episode of Seinfeld!)

That bit of HBO backlash in the offing was compounded by the show airing immediately afterward: the premiere of John from Cincinnati. I haven't seen it (again, no HBO), but it's being derided by critics and fans almost unanimously as a mishmash of mystical nonsense. The best reviews I've read are the ones which don't come right out and say, "This is what HBO cancelled Deadwood for???" (David Milch, creator of both Deadwood and John, basically abandoned the former to devote his efforts to the latter.) And, now that I think about it, I'm not 100% sure there has been a review which hasn't said, "This is what HBO cancelled Deadwood for???"

And what else has HBO got to offer? There are two returning scripted series: Big Love, the Mormon polygamy drama starring local hero Bill Paxton (Ojai's favorite adopted son!), which I got sick of midway through the first season, and which is not exactly setting the world on fire; and Entourage, which I enjoy a great deal, but which, despite the luminous presence of former OoMA Carla Gugino, was having a mediocre third season before I parted ways with HBO, and which is not really a prestige program HBO can hang its hat on in the first place.

And joining John as a new series, there's Flight of the Conchords, whose first episode I was able to watch in its entirety on HBO's website. It's a comedy about an unsuccessful acoustic music duo who live together, sing humorous songs relevant to the plot, have one rabidly devoted fan, and have wacky misadventures largely culminating in failure. So, basically, it's exactly like HBO's Tenacious D series, except with lead characters from New Zealand. And much less funny.

Summation: HBO is hurtin'.

Now, let's look at Showtime. For a long while, they were like the Network That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Every decision they made was wrong. Failing to turn Spike Lee's brilliant pilot Sucker Free City into a regular series? Wrong! Cancelling Dead Like Me, their best program, prematurely? Wrong! Allowing Fat Actress to exist? Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!

But they've gotten things on track in a big way. Their highest profile program right now looks to be Weeds; soon to enter its third season, it continues to be a big hit, critically and popularly. And the first season of Dexter was a buzzworthy, groundbreaking success; the second season will air later this year. (I caught a couple episodes of each during a free Showtime preview weekend; Weeds didn't wow me, but I thought Dexter was amazing, and I can't wait to check out the DVD of the first season when it's released in August.)

The terrorism drama, Sleeper Cell, which has finished its second mini-series, and the recently completed premiere season of historical drama The Tudors have both garnered critical worship (though not, I think, huge ratings success; it's kind of hard to tell, with a premium channel like Showtime). Brotherhood, about an Irish family in Providence split between politics and crime, has also been highly praised. Masters of Horror, an anthology series showcasing new work from acclaimed genre directors, has grabbed a lot of attention; I've rented a few episodes on DVD, and, while I found them to be wildly uneven in quality, I admire and appreciate the boldness and creativity Showtime has shown by backing up such an endeavor. And two of the network's longest-running shows appear to be rolling along quite nicely: Penn & Teller: Bullshit! just completed its fifth season, and The L Word is about to begin its fifth.

That's a hefty roster of existing talent, and Showtime is adding to that list two new shows debuting this summer. I watched the pilot of the first, Meadowlands, on the Showtime website, and was intrigued and impressed. It's about a family which, for mostly unexplained reasons, changes their names from the Foyes to the Brogans and moves into the mysterious, isolated community of Meadowlands, part Witness Protection haven and part "The Village" from The Prisoner. It turns out that everyone in Meadowlands is in Witness Protection, but only the Brogans know this little fact (along with Wintersgill,who serves as the "police force" for Meadowlands, and who is prone to shocking violence). And what a seedy, strange, and scary lot they all are. Interesting premise, with the hint of plenty of dark secrets yet to be revealed. I'd like to see where it goes from here.

The other promising new show is Californication, which heralds David Duchovny's return to a regular TV series. I don't know much about it, other than it also stars the lovely Natascha McElhone, and Evan Handler, who is always awesome. And that Duchovny plays a popular but self-destructive novelist struggling to straighten out his life. Early buzz is good, and I'd like to check it out when it debuts.

Which brings us to the final comparison test: as things stand right now, would I rather subscribe to HBO or Showtime? As of this moment, HBO doesn't have a lot to offer me. I can wait for Entourage on DVD, and I'm not interested in the remainder of their scripted programming (though I will miss the excellent talk show Real Time With Bill Maher). So HBO is out. But would I pay money for Showtime? Honestly... I still don't think so -- but it's close. Very close. To me, Dexter has the most appeal, but it's not quite Deadwood, which was what actually got me to sign up for HBO. There's nothing on Showtime that demands to be watched immediately; rather than shell out for fresh episodes weekly, I think I can wait for the DVD of any show that catches my eye. In fact, taking into consideration the virtual guarantee that any pay cable program will eventually wind up on DVD, I don't think I'll ever feel the need to pay for a premium channel again.

But if I had to pick, if I had to spend that money, it would be Showtime in a walk. No contest. Wow! What a crazy, upside-down world we're living in!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Zombie Uprising

Well, I see from Zombie Tom, the Zombie Uprising has begun. Hell, it might as well. There's nothing good on TV anyway.

You're not going to believe it, but I swear to you, I was already reading The Zombie Survival Guide before the Uprising began. I'm totally serious. Just saw it in the store last week and picked it up. Lucky for me! I'm on page 124. I hope that's far enough for me to get through this thing with my brains intact.

Okay, I'm on the second floor. I've got a bathtub full of drinking water (a handy tip from the book: if this turns into a long-term siege kind of thing, you're going to want all the drinking water you can get in case the pipes are destroyed), all the food in the house, a camping stove, a first aid kit, and a crowbar, an axe, and a carving knife for weapons. Also, I've destroyed the staircase (zombies can't climb). Oh, and earlier, I killed my next-door neighbor. He was making moaning noises like a zombie, so I figured, better safe than sorry.

Now that I think about it, those might have been wheezing noises. Larry always did have bad asthma. Man, if this turns out to be some kind of internet hoax, I am going to be pissed.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hard To Believe

How Whoopi continues to avoid Gitmo is a national shame.

At the time this picture was taken, all three of these people were widely considered to be among the funniest people alive.

If you pay to see this, I will smack you.

She's no Paul Lynde.

Still waiting for Analyze The Other.

If I were under, say, 16 or 17 years of age, I would believe that statement to be a blatant, pathetic lie. (Hell, I'm 36, and I still can't believe that anyone ever thought Whoopi was funny.)

That last poster reminds me... I would also find it hard to believe that Robert De Niro had once been considered the greatest actor in the world, who mainly appeared in the most prestigious of projects helmed by the finest directors.

Hmm... how should Robert De Niro follow up a phoned-in performance in a third-rate thriller?

How about with the exact same thing?

People also once thought Ben Stiller was funny. It's true!

Whoopi is in this piece of crap, too. DAMN YOU, WHOOPI!!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A tribute to the Tonys, minus the actual watching the Tonys part

The Tonys were on last night, and I continued my long-standing tradition of completely ignoring them. (As for the other Tony on TV last night, Tony Soprano -- I don't have HBO anymore, so I didn't watch the finale. I was a couple seasons behind, anyway. The Sopranos is just one of those shows I'll have to catch up with on DVD some day.)

I'm not a huge fan of Broadway, or the stage in general. But I do have a fondness for a few musicals. Not very many, but still. So, in faux-honor of the awards show I couldn't care less about, here are a few video highlights of some of my favorite musical moments -- some from Tony-winning plays, most from random crap.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Despite this film's rave reviews, I avoided it a long time, because it sounded just too bizarre for me to appreciate. Poor, sheltered Tom! I finally caught it on IFC a few months ago, and it blew me away. It's lovely, and powerful, and hilarious -- such originality, so fully realized. The clip is "Angry Inch," a raging punk narration of the lead character's painful transformation into his/her new identity, Hedwig; it was this song's bold fury that reeled me into the rest of the film. Crank up the volume!

Jesus Christ Superstar
This is probably the oddest of my favorites: I don't love many musicals, and I certainly don't love that Jesus fellow. But there's something about the story of Jesus -- the tale of a deity's murdered son -- that grabs me, and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is one of the most vivid and captivating renditions of that story ever told. This 1973 dirty hippie film version features Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson giving fantastic performances as Jesus and Judas, respectively. The clip here is "The Last Supper," in which Judas's betrayal of Jesus is revealed. It takes almost three minutes to begin the riveting, passionate portion of the song, in which Jesus and Judas angrily confront one another, but the build-up is worth the wait. Dig it when Judas lashes out at Jesus with this accusation: "A jaded mandarin, a jaded mandarin, a jaded, faded, faded, jaded, jaded mandarin." I don't even know what that means, but it's awesome.

The Sound of Music
Yes, I love The Sound of Music. I'm only human. "I'd like to stay and taste my first champagne -- yes?" "No!" If your icy heart doesn't melt like Captain Von Trapp's at "So Long, Farewell," there may be something wrong with you.

The Wizard of Oz
Yes, I love The Wizard of Oz! What kind of monster do you think I am? One of the most perfect movies ever made, and "Over the Rainbow" is one of the most perfect songs to go along with it.

I didn't want to put more than one Disney musical song in here. So I went with what's currently my favorite Disney animated movie tune, "I'll Make a Man Out of You," from Mulan, one of the lesser-beloved Disney cartoons from the past couple of decades. I mean, I love the movie, but it's not up there with Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King in most people's estimations. It's a bracing, rousing song, a dramatic call to arms, performed by Donny frickin' Osmond. And here, just because you deserve it, is the Cantonese version, as sung by Jackie frickin' Chan.

West Side Story

It takes about two minutes for the song to start, but when the electric Rita Moreno begins singing "America," you can see why she's one of the handful of people who have ever won a Tony, an Emmy, a Grammy, and an Oscar (the Oscar coming for this role). She's so brash and sexy and funny here, and the song is one of those that can get stuck in my head for days. "Smoke on your pipe... and put that in!"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling
For a while there, TV shows turning episodes into musical events was a bit of a fad. I'm not sure if Buffy started the trend, but by far, it did it best. Pretty much every song from this 2001 landmark episode was a winner -- finely polished, perfectly tailored to each character, building on the entire season, and series, to date. "Walk Through the Fire" is my favorite tune: catchy, cleverly layered, with spots of trademark humor ("I think this line's mostly filler") and intensely dramatic visuals (the racing fire engines, Buffy's crashing entrance at the climax).

The Music Man
The clip is murky for the first ten seconds, but then it clears up, don't fear. This is, of course, the show-stopping "Ya Got Trouble," performed by Robert Preston, giving one of the most amazing performances in musical history. "Ya got Trouble, right here in River City, with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Pool."

Avenue Q
The video quality is horrible, but what better way to end an internet look at musicals than a musical tune illustrating what the internet is really meant for? "The Internet Is For Porn," as if you needed to be told. And now that you're done with this post, you can get back to it!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Ken "Ringwood" Lowery has tagged me with a meme. Hey, I don't have any better ideas lined up for the weekend, so here we go!

1. Go to
2. Find the year you turned 18.
3. Pick a random selection of hit songs from that year, and wax nostalgic on them.
3a. Special Ken Addendum: Heap scorn on a bunch of songs. Because most of them are worth no more than that. (Fine by me!)
I feel like I've done something similar to this before, but I can't find it in the archives. Sorry if I'm repeating myself.

First of all, that website is busy. Makes my eyes cross. A little less clutter, folks! I finally found the list I was looking for here: 1988 Hits. My #1 reaction to seeing this list: this was why I was getting into '60s and '70s music (Beatles, Doors, Hendrix, Floyd, Zeppelin, etc.) at the end of high school -- all the contemporary music sucked.

Here's the top ten:

1. "What A Wonderful World" -- Louis Armstrong

Stop. I call bullshit. I refuse to believe that this 1967 tune, great as it may be, was the biggest hit of 1988. I concede, following some research, the song achieved a revival in popularity due to the Good Morning, Vietnam soundtrack... but #1? Not a chance. How exactly was this list assembled? The website claims these are the "Most Requested Music Hits of 1988." What does that mean? Requested by whom? Of whom? By what authority is this claim made? This is so absurd, I almost want to quit right here. But, like I said, I've got nothing else. So....

2. "It Takes Two" -- Rob Base & E-Z Rock


3. "Da Butt" -- EU

What? I didn't listen to a lot of 1988 pop music, but I don't even know what the hell these two songs are. And I doubt they were #2 and #3 on any list.

4. "Pour Some Sugar On Me" -- Def Leppard

Ahhh. This seems more likely. This song has tremendous staying power among a very narrow, specific target group. Or, as I said recently at a poker game when this song came on the radio: "It feels weird listening to this when I'm not getting a lap dance." (That was a joke. Or was it??)

5. "I'll Always Love You" -- Taylor Dayne


6. "Sweet Child Of Mine" -- Guns N Roses

Okay, it's "Sweet Child O' Mine," by Guns N' Roses. Get your apostrophes straight, Pop Culture Madness! And I will add that not only is this most likely the best song of 1988 (on this list, anyway), it's one of the best songs of the entire decade. I imagine some will disagree, but Appetite For Destruction is a landmark album, and this is a fantastic song.

7. "Hot Hot Hot" -- Buster Poindexter

Just hearing the chorus in my head, I want to burn my ears off with an iron. Hated it.

8. "Just Got Paid" -- Johnny Kemp

No idea on this one.

9. "Paradise" -- Sade

I know Sade, but I can't call this song to mind. I almost certainly would not like it.

10. "Kokomo" -- Beach Boys

I actually liked this song at the time, a fact by which I am now duly embarrassed.

What a weak, and questionably valid, top ten. Here's the remaining 65 songs listed, with a few notes from me.

11. "Man In The Mirror" -- Michael Jackson
12. "Red Red Wine" -- UB40

I hated this song so much. Still do.

13. "Don't Worry, Be Happy" -- Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin raped my grandmother.

14. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" -- Poison

I've said it before, but I always enjoy saying it again: when I first saw the cover to Poison's debut record, I said, "Oh, hey, does Heart have a new album out?" You see, because they all look like girls on the cover. Am I right? What with the hair... and makeup.... Moving on.

15. "Welcome To The Jungle" -- Guns N' Roses

When I hear this song these days, I find myself thinking less of Axl Rose and more of Jim Carrey performing it in character in the Dirty Harry movie, The Dead Pool. Is that just me?

16. "Pump Up The Volume" -- M/A/R/R/S
17. "One Moment In Time" -- Whitney Houston
18. "Wild, Wild West" -- Kool Moe Dee
19. "Roll With It" -- Steve Winwood

This era of Winwood is very hit-or-miss with me. This song was a miss.

20. "Push It" -- Salt N Pepa

I always liked Salt N Pepa in theory. Never enough to actually buy an album.

21. "The Flame" -- Cheap Trick
22. "Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird (Medley)" -- Will To Power

What the hell is this? Somebody combined Peter Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd? Really?? I find that hard to imagine.

23. "1 2 3" -- Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
24. "Power Of Love" -- Laura Branigan

This isn't a cover of the Huey Lewis Back To the Future song, is it?

25. "Need You Tonight" -- INXS

I've never liked INXS. Not for one song, not for one moment.

26. "One More Try" -- George Michael
27. "Can't Stay Away From You" -- Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
28. "Hot Hot Hot!!!" -- The Cure

Was this a Buster Poindexter cover?? I don't recognize this, even though I assume this comes from the album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which I used to know fairly well. It's probably very good.

29. "The Promise" -- When In Rome
30. "Don't Be Cruel" -- Bobby Brown

Was this an Elvis cover??

31. "Nothin' But A Good Time" -- Poison
32. "Chains Of Love" -- Erasure
33. "Bad Medicine" -- Bon Jovi
34. "Honestly" -- Stryper
35. "The Way You Make Me Feel" -- Micheal [sic] Jackson
36. "Strangelove" -- Depeche Mode
37. "Angel" -- Aerosmith
38. "Always On My Mind" -- Pet Shop Boys

Was this a Willie Nelson cover?? Oh, wait -- it was. (Or at least a cover of the song Willie famously covered.)

39. "Candle In The Wind" -- Elton John

This was the live version, which I think destroyed the original in terms of power and feeling (though I still love the original).

40. "Tomorrow People" -- Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers
41. "Forever Young" -- Alphaville

There are two "Hot Hot Hot"s and two "Forever Young"s on this list?? (See two items below.) That's a strange coincidence.

42. "Pink Cadillac" -- Natalie Cole

This is a cover of the Springsteen song, which I didn't realize until I looked it up. Lot of covers/remakes/re-releases on this list. I don't recall ever hearing this. Seems like it might be good.

43. "Forever Young" -- Rod Stewart

My mom is a big Rod Stewart fan these days. I think this single began his transition from sexy rocker to Cole Porter cover artist.

44. "Parents Just Don't Understand" -- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
45. "Tall Cool One" -- Robert Plant
46. "Beds Are Burning" -- Midnight Oil

I love this song. Just wanted to point out one of the few remaining highlights I'm finding in this list.

47. "In God's Country" -- U2

Decent. One of their lesser hits, I'd say.

48. "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" -- Information Society
49. "Just Like Heaven" -- The Cure

I think this is one of the loveliest songs ever written, haunting and filled with passion, with one of the greatest opening lines ever: "Show me show me show me how you do that trick/The one that makes me scream," she said.

50. "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" -- Moody Blues
51. "Wild Wild West" -- The Escape Club

Wait a minute. "Wild Wild West" by the Escape Club, and at #18, "Wild Wild West" by Kool Moe Dee? This list is just screwing with me now, isn't it? 1988 was not a big year for originality, it seems.

52. "So Emotional" -- Whitney Houston
53. "Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble" -- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
54. "Wishing Well" -- Terence Trent D"Arby
55. "It's Money That Matters" -- Randy Newman

I would've thought I would recognize a Randy Newman song. Turns out, no.

56. "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" -- R.E.M.

I spent many hours transcribing the lyrics to this song in college, and then arguing with my friends over their differing transcriptions. I wish I still cared about music like that. Then again, I wish I could find more music worth caring about.

57. "Under The Milky Way" -- The Church
58. "Like The Weather" -- 10,000 Maniacs
59. "Tell It To My Heart" -- Taylor Dayne
60. "Kiss Me Deadly" -- Lita Ford
61. "Never Gonna Give You Up" -- Rick Astley
62. "Never Can Say Goodbye" -- Communards
63. "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" -- Robert Cray Band
64. "What's The Matter Here?" -- 10,000 Maniacs
65. "Groovy Kind Of Love" -- Phil Collins
66. "Fat" - Weird Al Yankovic

Now you're speaking my language. The language of awesome.


67. "Monkey" -- George Michael
68. "Rocket 2 U" -- Jets
69. "Hazy Shade of Winter" -- The Bangles

I always liked this song. But I can't believe it's yet another cover.

70. "Piano In The Dark" -- Brenda Russell
71. "Tell That Girl To Shut Up" -- Transvision Vamp
72. "I Found Someone" -- Cher
73. "Spotlight" -- Madonna
74. "When Will I Be Famous?" -- Bros
75. "Englishman In New York" -- Sting

A pretty little ditty, but I question its place on a chart like this. Which I guess is a good way to wrap up this whole questionable list.

I wonder if someone from this Pop Culture Madness site started this meme, because I don't know who else would have sought out and relied on such dubious lists of songs (I'm assuming the other years are as wonky as 1988). I'll skip tagging anyone with this meme, just because of my doubts on the site's reliability, but if any of you feel like taking a shot at it, don't let me stop you.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Short, shameful confession

I've played along with every episode of National Bingo Night so far. And the show is so much worse than you probably think it is. Much, much worse. Truly awful. Yet, still I play along.

I did get a Bingo once, but I wasn't picked in the random drawing so I didn't win anything. Rats.

Friday, June 08, 2007

As if she weren't having a hard enough day already

Paris Hilton was in jail, then she was released from jail, and now she's back in jail. I find I have one more mean thing to say to her.

In or out??

That's not the mean part. This is the mean part:

Which, coincidentally, is the exact same thing she says to every guy she meets.

I actually feel a little bad about that one. I think no more Paris jokes for a while. You're welcome.

TV: Discovery Channel

You know me: I hate learning. I'm almost violently opposed to the betterment of myself or others through education. So when and how did the Discovery Channel become my favorite TV station?

I used to actively avoid the channel. Science? Learning? Bah! But then my friend Forrest told me about the wonders of Mythbusters, primarily: "They always blow a bunch of shit up!" Well, as I've found, that's not all they do, but giant, unnecessary explosions are indeed a large part of the show and its appeal.

I quickly became enraptured with the show, in which hosts Jaime Hyneman (the dour one with the absurdly bushy mustache) and Adam Savage (the personable, goofy one with the catchphrase, "I reject your reality and substitute my own") put myths and urban legends to the test with a combination of rock-solid science, guesswork, model-building, firearms, insane stuntwork, life-sized mannequins destined for destruction, and, yes, a liberal amount of explosives. The myths are always fun and interesting, there's always one show-stopper experiment to top thing off (even if it's not strictly required), and it doesn't hurt that one of their assistants is a former Object of My Affection, Kari Byron.

Is this some kind of a bust?

Hit me with some science, tiger!

So Mythbusters drew me into the Discovery Channel, and once I was there, I began running across several other shows that roped me in. The first was Cash Cab, which, aside from Jeopardy!, is my favorite TV game show (sorry, 1 Vs. 100!). Host Ben Bailey drives a regular, non-descript taxi in Manhattan. But when passengers get in, they find that they're in the middle of a quiz show. Bailey begins driving, and asking them trivia questions. If they get them right, they win money when they reach their destination. But if they get three wrong answers, the cab pulls over immediately, and they get kicked to the curb! The questions are no harder than the average game show these days, but the elimination aspect makes it wonderfully entertaining.

One of my new favorites, which my sister got me hooked on, is Deadliest Catch, which is insane. It follows deep-sea fishing crews who risk life and limb -- literally -- to catch king crabs. These people are maiming themselves (a recent episode featured one of the crewmen prying the remains of a shattered tooth out of his own mouth with pliers), and fucking dying, for your seafood. And, with this show, for our entertainment as well. Huzzah! Every episode is packed with gut-wrenching, heart-stopping moments of danger. Plus, Bon Jovi rocks the theme song, so you know it's awesome.

Mike Rowe, the narrator of Deadliest Catch, also hosts his own program, called Dirty Jobs. Basically, he finds the people who have the toughest, most thankless, most disgusting jobs in the world, and he goes to work side-by-side with them. He's been a road kill removal specialist, a fish gutter, a racehorse inseminator, a shark suit tester, a sewer inspector, a swine groomer, and a chick sexer (which entails determining the sex of baby chicks with one's finger; he told this story when he was on The Daily Show, and it was nasty and hilarious). And he was even a crab fisherman, which I presume is what inspired Deadliest Catch. Rowe's easy-going manner and quick humor are what make this show so captivating, even when the tasks he's performing gross you out.

Recently, Discovery aired one of the most incredible programs I've ever seen: Planet Earth. It's an 11-part mini-series, narrated by Sigourney Weaver, all about nature -- seemingly every single facet of it -- epic and awe-inspiring, so majestic and gorgeous it brings tears to your eyes. Each episode focuses on a different natural environment (deserts, caves, the great plains, the poles), and it is photographed in stunning, revolutionary fashion. From the brutal to the beautiful, from sub-oceanic volcanoes to the tops of the Himalayas... I guarantee, even if you are a connoisseur of nature programming, you have never seen anything like it. Everybody should watch this, and be richer and wiser for it.

Also in the inspiring category is Ted Koppel's recent three-hour special, Living With Cancer. Koppel spoke to some of the 10 million Americans who have battled, or still battle with, cancer, including John Edwards' wife Elizabeth, Lance Armstrong, and Leroy Sievers, Koppel's longtime executive producer and close friend. Equally sad and uplifting, frightening and hopeful, it was brilliant television.

But it's not all highbrow fare on Discovery, and it's not just the big topics that seize my interest. It's gotten to the point where the smallest things will fascinate me. For example, with How It's Made (a program exported from Discovery's sister network, the Science Channel), I've found myself watching, with rapt attention, for minutes on end, the process by which frozen pizzas are created. Same goes for kayaks, or hockey sticks. It reminds me of the little educational videos they used to have on Sesame Street, about how eggs or peanut butter are packaged.

And there's also Stunt Junkies, in which lunatics and fools throw themselves off bridges or launch themselves off ramps or drop themselves out of planes, performing tremendously dangerous and idiotic stunts basically just for the hell of it. And I say: bravo to you! Your death-defying feats give me momentary diversion. Well done.

It's getting to the point where I could almost watch Discovery all day (and, now that we're in the dead zone of summer programming, if it weren't for Dodgers games, I just might do that). Check it out, why don't you. But beware: as Bill Cosby once warned us, if you're not careful, you might learn something.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What a country!

Zombie Tom is embarrassed by public nudity. Public brain eating is cool, though.

Right now, tonight, at this very moment, both people in that picture are in jail.

You can't tell me America isn't getting back on track!

(Thank you to Zombie Tom for volunteering his mug to cover Paris's shame. Maybe someday soon, he'll get back to blogging.)

Joe Francis is a Piece of Crap

EDIT, 6/7/07: And already this post is no longer true. As Sleestak points out in the comments, Paris was released at 2 A.M. this morning for undisclosed "medical reasons." She is now under house arrest in her 2,700 square foot Hollywood Hills home. And just that quickly, America goes back in the crapper.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Neil Flynn, Officer of the Law

A tribute to Neil Flynn.

You seem unhappy. I like that.

He's gained a certain level of success and recognition these days as the Janitor on Scrubs. But it took him a long time to get to this point. A long time, and a lot of small roles... a lot of small, suspiciously similar roles. Here is a partial list of this long-suffering but law-abiding actor's credits, a list I like to call...

Neil Flynn: To Serve And To Protect.

Kung Fu: The Next Generation -- LAPD Officer

Sable -- Real Security Guard

Doogie Howser, M.D. -- Policeman #1

The Fugitive -- Transit Cop

Baby's Day Out -- Cop #1

To Sir, with Love II -- Detective Dennis

Chain Reaction -- State Trooper Nemitz

Seinfeld -- Cop #1

Early Edition -- Cop at Newsstand

Home Alone 3 -- Police Officer #1

Sliders -- Officer Phil

Then Came You -- Cop

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation -- Officer Yarnell

Brainwarp -- Detective Jim Fist

...and, of course, what must be his finest moment in fake law enforcement:

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy -- Police Officer (uncredited)

He doesn't even have to be credited to play a cop! He'll just show up on set, in uniform, and try to jump in front of the camera!

You'll have noted, of course, that if a script called for multiple law enforcement officials, Neil Flynn always played said law enforcement official #1. Never #2, or, god forbid, #3. That's taking pride in your work, people.

Here's to Neil Flynn: the most dedicated fake cop in the business.

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