Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dramatic December

So in between the myriad World War II melodramas and heavy-handed Pay It Forward holiday schlock, we moviegoers get to wade through insanely dramatic Oscar bait like Doubt or Revolutionary Road. Here's the trailer for the latter of those two:

Now to me, it really just feels like the creators of "Party of Five"

decided they were going to make their Merchant-Ivory film.

Color me excited...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Man on Film: Slumdog Millionaire

This is a review that I have somehow managed to not get around to until now, about three weekends after I actually saw the film. That I have not gotten around to this review--or reaction, or whatever the fuck it is--should not be perceived as an indicator of a lukewarm response to the film.

I am a fan of Danny Boyle's work. I loved how visceral and stark he made the zombie genre feel in 28 Days Later--and yes, it's not technically a zombie film in the strictest sense of the genre, but if you're denying its essence of zombie-ness you are on angel dust. I loved the rollick through the heroin haze that was Trainspotting*. I thought Sunshine was brilliant in that for the first half of the film it is this stunning, coherent 2001 that suddenly turns into a hand-wringing space horror flick yet at no point did I feel like I was watching two different films or that the transition was anything but a smooth one. Hell, I even enjoyed A Life Less Ordinary, despite all of its flaws.

*This is totally not related to this film, but I think my favorite weird travel moment was while I was just dicking around in Edinburgh one afternoon, and I was walking down a hill when it dawned on me that the stairs I just passed were where Spud and Renton were being chased by the cops and Renton ran right into a car on the street, iconically putting his hands down on the hood of the car, staring at the driver for far too long as the police close ground quickly.

All that being said, I absolutely loved Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, of Boyle's body of work, this has to have been my favorite, which is no small compliment. As the film begins, we are introduced to Jamal Malik, a Muslim teen in Mumbai who has been arrested on suspicion of cheating on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Over the course of the interrogation, Jamal's biography is explored in epic fashion with his life's story providing the explanation for his knowledge of the answers a young man of his background should not know.

As nearly any film set on the seedier side of life in the slums of a third-world city, it is nearly impossible to view this film without at least making mention of Fernando Meirelles' City of God--for better or worse--and honestly, Slumdog Millionaire holds up exceptionally well. At their cores, though, they're different in that Slumdog Millionaire is propelled as much by a love so strong it seems to have been fated while City of God is a tale of personal perseverance. Past the driving forces of each film, they are both powerfully presented narratives rife with the struggles and dangers of the vast and violent third-world slums.

Where Slumdog Millionaire sets itself apart is the joie de vivre that pulsates from the film. Despite many, many shitty things that happen to our hero Jamal, there is always an overwhelming hope and determination to find the girl he loves, Latika, that overrides his many defeats. Sure, this Dickensian tale can at times border on manipulative, but in the end nearly every film has just a little bit of manipulation and this one seems to ask from its onset for the viewer to subscribe to its fated journey and outcome thus suspending his or her disbelief if ever so slightly. It is the ride itself that is so enthralling so as to make any tugging at the strings from the puppeteer seem welcome.

Regardless, this film is so alive that to miss it would be doing a disservice to yourself.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whilst dicking around on the internet

I found out that Jason Isbell's new solo record is coming out February 17th. For those of you who aren't like, "Oh shit! A new Jason Isbell record!" Jason Isbell was a member of the Drive-By Truckers up until about two years ago. While he was mainly brought in because of his prodigious talents on guitar, by the time Decoration Day came out, he was contributing songs that were often some of the best tracks on some amazing records. The following were just a few:

"Goddamn Lonely Love" off of Dirty South

a live performance of the title track from Decoration Day from September of 2003

and maybe my favorite song of his "Outfit" originally recorded for Decoration Day but in this instance performed with his new band

Well, if you go to Jason Isbell's myspace page, you can stream his new single "Seven Mile Island", and I've got to tell you it's pretty fucking great. But you should decide on that yourself.

The Best British Baseball Band Ever

Here is an example of something that does not happen nearly enough. Validation of The Outfield ahead:

While Play Deep, their debut album featuring the song covered above, has probably proven to be their work that has left a lasting impression on the public, their 1992 album Rockeye is the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart. When Michael Jordan and the Bulls were winning championships left and right, "Winning It All" was all over NBC's finals coverage to glorious effect. I want to say it was even present when the Bulls won their first title against Magic and the Lakers. If memory serves me correctly, the song was also over the closing credits of the first Mighty Ducks movie. To take you back to where I was then, I was in my living room in La Crescent, elated and this was on (the good stuff hits at about the 3:45 mark--the NBA does not want me to embed it, though).

And, if you'd like a taste of the song covered above, the video for the song is right here (this time there's Sony BMG to thank for me having to redirect you to YouTube). Here's the audio:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Let me see a show of hands.

Who else gets pissed when they see that ProActiv commercial with the piano going on in the background that is very clearly ripping off Bruce Hornsby and the Range? I mean, the music doesn't sound like it's note-for-note but it very obviously seems to be borrowing heavily from Hornsby. Maybe it's just the piano track, but I'd be shocked if Hornsby sold out.

See for yourself.


By the way, it took me about ten minutes to find a version where it was actually the album track. What the fuck, YouTubers?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Notes on "Footloose"

The following notes were taken while watching Footloose, which I'd not seen in years; they are in sequential order and alternate between inane, mundane, and profane at random:
  • When the lead actress, Lori Singer, is straddling the center line standing on both the car and the truck, the truck swerves while she's supposedly standing on its door. She totally would have died there.
  • Either Kevin Bacon's short or Singer's really fucking tall.
  • Was Chris Penn trying to play retarded?
  • Nice ADR when they're getting pulled over...
  • Rock confuses minds and bodies?
  • Red boots are only worn by trollops.
  • Chris Penn is most definitely playing retarded.
  • I miss the 80's convention of name-dropping bands in movies. I suppose when they do it now, though, it only pisses me off (see: Juno).
  • He only maintains his air of coolness because he's wearing sneakers.
  • That high school drug dealer is fucking retarded. Worst. Drug dealer. Ever.
  • His uncle is the missing link between John Ford Coley and Sonny Bono.

  • Oh shit! Here comes the big solo dance scene... Emilio Estevez eat your fucking heart out! David Lee Roth, too!
  • The gymnastics though... Gay.
  • What the fuck accent is she trying to pull off?
  • Did Ren just insinuate that Ariel is a tramp?
  • Is he afraid to kiss her because he knows that she won't be attractive by 2008 standards?
  • I never really thought about this, but John Lithgow is kind of a dick in this movie.
  • I keep waiting for my childhood memory of this movie having taken place in Indiana to be confirmed, thus making the mountains in the background hilarious. Nothing yet. Was I combining a memory of Footloose and Hoosiers?
  • Was that old lady with the tinted glasses Kermit's (from "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues") mom?
  • Maybe I was a really smart kid and drew the John Cougar Mellencamp - Indiana connection...
  • There are those red boots again...
  • Chris Penn's unibrow is really something.
  • Hearing "Footloose" makes me want to dance.
  • Was that Allyce Beasley in the bar?
  • "Why don't you just flake off." Really? Was this originally going to be Rated R like I always suspected Empire Records was supposed to be before the studio presumably interfered?
  • Child abuse!!! Lithgow = Dick.
  • Vi? That's Dianne Wiest's name in this? Weird.
  • His wife called him out--will he slap her, too?
  • Whoa, "dumb sonuvabitch fag"? Shit.
  • Male ass! More male ass!
  • I swear I saw a movie within the last week with "Let's Hear It for the Boy". Maybe I'm thinking of something in Fletch or the other Herbert Ross movie I saw this week, The Secret of My Succe$s.
  • She be gettin' slapped. Again? If there's a lesson to be learned from this movie, it is that it is all right to slap preachers' daughters. Sam, if you're reading this, don't get any ideas.
  • They're gonna throw the Bible at 'em.
  • Who the fuck would want to live in this town? Bomont sucks.
  • Was that a bespectacled Brandon Routh?
  • You know, I wasn't sold on dancing, but after Kevin Bacon's presentation to the city council...
  • The Byrds? That's that fucking Rock and Roll?!?
  • Yo, Rev. Jesus wants these kids to dance! Check Yo' Self.
  • She's not a virgin???
  • Book burning? This shit is getting out of control.
  • Lithgow's human? Fallible? Fuck. The walls around me are crumbling.
  • What town big enough to have its own high school only has one church because that's the impression I'm getting of this town.
  • Dianne Wiest looks like Crispin Glover in that doorway.
  • Holy shit! Lori Singer was Don Johnson's wife in Heartbeat.
  • Chuck is a dick.
  • I love that these kids who can't dance by law can somehow dance in step with one another.
  • That rubber-armed guy is at least two-thirds legs.
  • The weird thing--other than my Indiana memory that is clearly not based in fact--is that I had the fight and the dance reversed in my memory of this film with Chris Penn dying at the end of the movie. I must have been on crack when I first watched this.
On a very odd, yet entirely related coincidence, I turned the channel to Short Cuts once Footloose was over and shortly after I turned the channel I was treated to full frontal Lori Singer nudity with Chris Penn peeping through a fence as she stripped down, jumped in a pool, and played dead.

And for your patience:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Comments and Answers

Since there are so few comments on this little-read blog, I'll take this time to answer/respond to some of them.

"Weibel" just posed the question as to whether reading The Old Ball Game will make him better at fantasy baseball. Well, "Weibel"--if that is your real name--no, it won't. But it will help you appreciate the game more through exploring its origins, if that's any consolation.

"Weibel" also in the midst of his quest to become this blog's most prized reader--yes, I rate you all on scales of importance and frequency of visits like an internet Santa--heaped praises upon Rachel Weisz. I generally like her, but her character was so mean to the Greatest Chiefs' Fan, Paul Rudd, in The Shape of Things that I have a hard time looking at her now. As for Jessica Biel, the writers of this blog are very fond of her. Very fond indeed.

"Ryan" said that he knew that I wanted to head to the House on the Rock. I have actually been there before, although I'd not object to going again. The distance between here and there is insurmountable for the time being. I am working on building a pair of wings. That should solve that. Or I'll die.

Yes, "Little Brother", "The IT Crowd" is awesome. Thanks for the head's up.

There were three comments on the Role Models portion of the two-reviews-in-one-post. I'll address them in bullet points:
  • I did used to dislike Seann William Scott, Weibel--your frequency of commenting has absolved you from the quotes; congratulations (and, yes, I used a fucking semicolon there)--but in recent years my distaste for him has waned as the memory of the shitheap that was the American Pie franchise gets more and more distant in the [cracked] rearview.
  • Little Brother--your contributions to this blog are not lost on me either, nor is your blood relation, hence the quotation mark disappearance--I, too, found the SWS character more likeable than Rudd's.
  • KRD--OK, so I've abandoned the use of quotes now; but not semicolons; I guess I have to do my part to the abuse that Cormac McCarthy has committed against the English language, and it begins in this post--I think Ryan Reynolds is really funny. Do you really want me to explain why Wet Hot is so funny? Well, I'll first absolve you from eternally landing on some imaginary shitlist of mine by telling you that it's all right. You don't have to like Wet Hot American Summer. If you want to know why it's funny to me, I'd have to go on for ages while watching it. In brief, Paul Rudd is absolutely hysterical in it. For the entire movie. I'm kind of lukewarm on Michael Showalter in general (and Michael Ian Black, for that matter) but line that his character "Coop" drops when Marguerite Moreau's "Katie" is walking away is a line that I at least think in my head once a week and laugh out loud. How is "I want you inside me" not hilarious? The string of Chris Meloni aggression followed by depraved sexual admissions followed by lame cover-up attempts is fucking great. The training sequence, along with "Higher and Higher" or "Turn Me Loose"--it was one of the two, but I'm pretty sure it was "Higher and Higher"--is pretty damn sweet, too. I could go on. Watch it with a bunch of people. Drunk. They even like Wet Hot American Summer in Portland.
Little Brother, I knew that you'd like that "Fame" clip. Almost as much as we both liked Carl Peterson's resignation.

I'm glad the Cynicism post stirred up some discussion among you three diligent posters. Too bad the other jerks that come here didn't chime in. I know who you are...

So that covers the last twenty posts or so. Anything further back would be so far back that it isn't really worth commenting on. I do read your comments, though, friends. Thanks for making this more of a communal forum than a meaningless stream of my mental masturbation.

Enter the confessional

I am watching "Definitely, Maybe".

There, I said it.

It's on TV, and I am not keeping it here without a modicum of guilt.

And no, I am not talking about some music doc about Oasis' first album. I am talking about the movie with Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin.

For starters, it is not particularly good. Moreover, I saw most of it the other night before heading out to a party Saturday night.

Still, I sit here with it on. Again.

What is wrong with not-so-young Josh, you might ask? The answer to that question is not a short one.

In this instance, I will have to say that I like Ryan Reynolds. Say what you want, but I think the man is funny. I like his energy. I like his delivery of lines. I think Van Wilder is very funny, and I am not entirely sure that it is the source material that amuses me or its star. He made an otherwise unwatchable "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place"* entertaining.

*I'll admit that once Nathan Fillion joined the cast there were then two reasons to watch, as his goofy work as the affable blue-collar boyfriend/fiance/husband was pretty enjoyable. Whether or not his addition contributed to the official name-change to "Two Guys and a Girl" is kind of irrelevant because I still refer to the entire series by it's full, first season name--much like the Washington Bullets, the California Angels, or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the reverse of "The Hogan Family".

Back to the film, though, I could try to justify my watching this by citing the fact that his character works within the world of politics, which I might like to do someday. I chalk up my motivation for watching the film to liking any or all of the following actresses: Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, and Elizabeth Banks.

While those things all have a shred of truth to them, to use one or all of them as an excuse for watching this would be a lie. I am watching this because it's a Ryan Reynolds star vehicle.

So fuck you.

Or something.

P.S. He smokes Morleys in the film. I have to wonder if that's a shout-out to "The X-Files".

P.S. (Part II) Was the hanging of the sign in the deli Two Guys Deli a nod to Reynolds' sit-com past?

Reading Rainbow: The Old Ball Game by Frank Deford

For whatever reason, The Old Ball Game marked my first foray into the writings of Frank Deford--at least past the possible Sports Illustrated article I may have read or his pieces for NPR's Morning Edition.

The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball tells an historically vital story about how baseball was revolutionized by the unlikely pair of John McGraw and Christy Mathewson. McGraw was a symbol of the old guard--the coarse, hot-tempered, ever-competitive, occasionally violent manager of the New York Giants beginning in 1902, having left his beloved Baltimore after feuding with the founder of the American League, Ban Johnson. Mathewson was nearly McGraw's polar opposite. Where McGraw had come from an impoverished working class background rife with family tragedy, Christy Mathewson was raised by God-fearing people in the classic American household. He was, quite literally, the archetype for Everybody's All-American, having been the Big Man on Campus at Bucknell and chosen what was then the fairly risky path of the professional athlete. Mathewson was the mild-mannered, even-keeled, devout superstar with matinee idol looks to contrast McGraw's squat, everyday plainness.

While there wouldn't have seemed to be a common ground between the two were one to put them in a room without either having prior knowledge of one another, the two got on famously. It was their work together and their contrasting personas that--in the largest city in the United States--that helped capture the collective imagination of the public and catapulted baseball into the status it long held as America's pasttime.

With Deford's deft wordsmanship and keen eye for colorful source material, their story comes to life, complete with enough tragedy, success, and consequence for ten books. The read is an enjoyable one and can be completed easily within a few short hours, making it a must read for anyone with any interest in the history of Baseball or the turn of the 20th century, as both are covered vividly and deftly within its pages.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

For Little Brother

As I'm about to post in your comments section on your blog, there are a fair amount of videos of Bonnie "Prince" Billy on YouTube. First, there is this video that he shot with Zach Galifianakis:

Clearly, that one is not indicative of one Will Oldham's catalog, seeing as though it's a Kanye song, but it's obviously pretty fucking sweet.

Here's a excellent, albeit weird video for "The Seedling" off of The Letting Go:

This one's got trucks:

Then, there's this weird little tidbit from about two years ago, when Will Oldham (who is Bonnie "Prince" Billy--well, and also was Palace Brothers and Palace Music--for the un-indoctrinated) took to stand-up.

And finally there's this:

Will Oldham seems kind of like he might be a weird dude. All the better for everyone else.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reading Rainbow: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Well, Ryan, I finally read it...

A few weeks ago, I read Coraline, which I found to be entirely enjoyable, but for the obvious reason that it was written for children slightly less than substantial. Not that Coraline was insubstantial, per se, but American Gods was a much meatier read. Richly imbued with characters from myth and folklore, the book was a contemporary fantasy which appealed to me on an even more personal level in that much of the action took place near where I grew up.

Regional favoritism and partiality aside, the ex-con hero, Shadow, and the dark places--both real and surreal--he travels to through the course of the narrative are vividly drawn out by Gaiman. To my delight and relief, Gaiman's prose seldom comes across as overwrought (certainly far less than my own) and is almost entirely engaging. While the first few hundred pages were a bit of a chore for me, due to an increased work schedule, the last 300 pages or so flew by over the course of a few days.

So essentially, if you're interested in a contemporary, adult* fantasy that references Greg Brown, Robert Frost, Tom Waits, and e.e. cummings while intrinsically being about America and its melting pot of cultural influences complete with a largely unpredictable storyline, then American Gods is the book for you.

*And by adult, I mean that there are at times some fairly graphic sexual acts depicted. No, we're not talking the coprophilia and such that got Gravity's Rainbow knocked off the Pulitzer Prize stand, but it is by no means tame, and disturbingly degrades Lucille Ball in "I Love Lucy", which is just weird.

If you're not, then that's cool, too.

I guess.

Late night gift*

*from the sublime "The IT Crowd"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Maybe it's just me

but doesn't it seem just a little bit cooler if the John Carpenter in Bob Crane's life were the John Carpenter? They were both film enthusiasts.

Man on Film: Let the Right One In and Role Models

What follows are two untimely, brief reflections on two films that I saw a few weeks ago. Obviously, these films are not exactly fresh in my mind anymore. I probably could have written this stuff up when I was typing up that entirely masturbatory Kuffs entry last week, but I didn't. Maybe Kuffs just needed the more immediate attention. Regardless, here it goes.


Let the Right One In (or Låt den rätte komma in in Swedish) is first and foremost the best pre-teen vampire movie you will ever see. Its source material was an international bestseller by the same name that was adapted for the screen by the novelist himself, John Ajvide Lindqvist. The story is simple enough: Oskar is a 12-year old brutally bullied outcast who befriends and becomes enamored with a mysterious girl, Eli, who has just moved in next door with her abiding fatherly guardian. Upon their arrival, people start disappearing while a sweet and innocent love blossoms between Oskar and Eli.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In deftly balances subtlety and nuance with a generous smattering of suspense while ultimately telling a cute story of love and devotion. The film is very Scandinavian in humor and pacing to go with its wintry climes, and it makes the inspired choice to have many of the onscreen horrors committed by humans, further endearing Eli to the audience.

If you get the chance, it's a great little film that should be seen before the American remake (oh, don't worry, it's already been greenlit--much to Alfredson's chagrin--and is to be helmed by Matt Reeves, the director of Cloverfield) surely tarnishes its name.

If that didn't convince you, maybe the trailer will help:

If you have already seen it, here's a little interview with the director, his diplomatic response to the remake is much more subdued than his initial response at moviezine.se later reported here.


On an entirely different note, after three attempts I finally got to see Role Models, the latest directorial effort from David Wain of "The State" and "Stella" notoriety who previously directed the superb Wet Hot American Summer and the uneven but occasionally funny The Ten. I'd imagine just about everybody who comes here with any degree of frequency is already well aware of the film, so I'll pare my thoughts down to a reaction more than anything else.

The film was pretty funny. It came highly recommended by two readers here, and their enthusiastic reactions were probably responsible for my lofty expectations, which were not met. The kids didn't bother me, somewhat surprisingly since most kids in comedies tend to come off as too broad and/or precocious in the Cop and a Half/Problem Child/Atonement way--which are not good things if you are an adult. Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd were both funny enough, as were many of the supporting cast. There were diatribes on bullshit Starbucks-inspired coffee sizing and running jokes involving bagel dogs, both of which are topics that are near and dear to my heart. Jane Lynch always surprises me at just how funny she is in that awkward alpha-female role. I think the movie is legitimately funny. It just fell shy of my surely unreasonable expectations--which is pretty much the reason I did not ever bring myself to write an entry on Burn After Reading.

Soon to come

I should have plenty of time tomorrow to catch up on posts I've wanted to get done as I'm getting an unexpected, recession-related day off. In the coming days, I hope to have posts up about the book I'm reading, two movies I've seen lately, possibly a long-simmering rant I've been piecing together in my head, and whatever random other things come to mind.

The last post was obviously a little nonsensical if you don't know who Carl Peterson is. If you want a further explanation, feel free to wander on over to my Royals blog for a non-Royals entry about King Carl.

Otherwise, I do intend to take care of the non-Royals blog entries I've put on the back burner for the past week. My apologies.

And now a gift--an old one, but a gift just the same...

Friday, December 12, 2008

"He's Gone" (updated)

Hall and Oates* doing a tribute to Alan Colmes? On the Daily Show? Awesome. As soon as the video is up, you best believe that it'll be embedded in this post.

*By the way, what the hell was up with their minion in the stocking cap behind them on a third acoustic guitar? Weird.

There were weird issues with trying to embed the video, so here's the link for now.

And as consolation:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"So I was watching Kuffs this morning..."

That's pretty much how every one of my conversations start. At least in my imagination.

But for today--and really every day for the past fifteen years of my life--that is a true statement. Anyway, here are my notes on yet another Kuffs viewing:
  • The Old Lady woke up in the middle of the movie (at about 10:15 am) and said, "Are you watching Kuffs?" She immediately fell back asleep.
  • It seems to me that the score in the film is the evolutionary step between Tango & Cash and the Misty Mundae soft-core re-imagining-of-Hollywood-hits oeuvre (i.e. Witchbabe: The Erotic Witch Project 3 and Play-Mate of the Apes).
  • I find it interesting that the villain in the film is the man in the world who, in 1992, was what would have happened if you mixed the genetic traits of the doctor from The Dream Team and Fisher Stevens in a super sperm cell, impregnated a passive ovum that would then allow for only the male characteristics to be passed on to the baby, and then traveled back in time to have that person be a contemporary of theirs.
  • It occurred to me part way through the film that I no longer know which way to pronounce Milla Jovovich's first name. Upon further research, it would appear that it is 'Mee-la'.
  • In case you were curious, the score I was speaking of earlier was composed by the inimitable Harold Faltermeyer. I went to sleep last night watching Fletch, in a pure coincidence. He was also the brilliant mind responsible for the Tango & Cash score.
This is what my life is.

Monday, December 8, 2008

10cc of Self-Esteem Boost

No, this is not going to be a second-straight entry pondering my deeply damaged psyche.

Instead, this is related to having spent about ten minutes watching E! last night. The Special Lady Friend turned it there last night to go to sleep to the Bring It On sequel* starring Hayden Panettiere. In addition to asking its audience to believe that there were no hot African-American females on the Crenshaw cheerleading squad, the ten minutes of film that I saw was fearfully stale and managed to make Panettiere merely moderately attractive. What kind of retard was in charge of casting here? The answer to that hypothetical question is that there were two retards, and their names are Devon Marie King and Pamela Lynn Thomas. You can rest at ease this evening in knowing that neither has been given the opportunity to act as casting director in more than one other film, so you'll not have your escape into a world of more attractive people tarnished by either of these two tasteless fools.

*I was astonished to find out that this was actually the third unrelated installment of the Bring It On franchise. While I actually liked the first one, I don't think anyone could possibly explain to me the necessity for a second, or even more bafflingly (if that's actually a word) a third. What the fuck?

But what is even better is watching the ads on E!, which are life-affirming to say the least. The most ridiculous are the ads trying to add a degree of importance or vitality to E!'s own programming. No fucking way! Both "Hulk Hogan & Family" and "Lindsay Lohan: True Hollywood Story"? "15 Most Infamous Child Star Mugshots" (two whole hours devoted to that). "THS Investigates Cults, Religion and Mind Control" (yet another entrant in the two hour special)? Oh, here's another "True Hollywood Story"... This time it features none other than Star Jones. I'd keep going but that covers about 15 hours of programming, with four hours being eaten up by Paid Programming and at least another hour of Celebrity News programs.

Going so far as to implicate that there was even an iota of quality to that docket of shit is insulting, but obviously there is a demographic that finds this to be a compelling argument. Allowing for that, you can re-evaluate your life, and pretty much no matter how far short you've come of where you thought you would be when you envisioned your life as a wide-eyed 15-year-old, at least you are not so sad as to be won over by their profiles of psuedo-celebrities and masturbatory countdowns.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Nature of Cynicism

There is one item of self-aggrandizement to get out of the way, and then on to the blog: I have been interviewed in regards to my new-ish, Royals-only blog over at Royals on Radio etc. Obviously, I am not often interviewed, so this is noteworthy if only for that reason. I'm sure this will be the last interview that is asked of me, so feel free to waltz on over there.

Now that that is out of the way, my brother called up on the way to the Cities for the weekend (he is stuck working in St. Cloud right now--an undesirable place to land in his judgment) and posited the question as to why we (he, myself, and to a slightly lesser extent, my sister) were so cynical in light of our very normal upbringings. This wasn't meant as a negative assessment of ourselves or our states in life, but he found it odd that we could be enriched (how's that for a positive take on cynicism) with such cynical gifts while people we know who enjoyed largely less stable childhoods have turned out much more wide-eyed and optimistic.

Perhaps it is the same trait* in humanity that leads the poor and infirmed to cling so tightly to their gods, invoking his name with a fervor that other less slighted persons do not appear capable of.

*And I'd hate for this statement to be misinterpreted as insinuating that the poor and infirmed, or for that matter the spiritually-inclined, are somehow less intelligent. That is not what I am getting at. I think it is more a hope that in the next life things will be better, which to this cynic is probably much more reducible to a coping mechanism than a show of lacking intelligence.

So I shall ask this question: What is it that produces such cynicism in people who have not, by and large, been dealt a shitty hand from the start?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Great Darkplace

So after speaking to a few people over the course of the past week or so, it has come to my attention that many have not seen the supremely funny "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace". For whatever reason, the show did not gain traction with viewers in the U.K. initially. After it had already been passed over for a second series, it caught a second breath of life on this very internet that you are using, of course.

The show's premise is that its creator, Garth Marenghi, is finally getting to air the episodes of a programme that was originally taped back in the 1980's only to be deemed too extreme for audiences by Channel 4. The episodes we're seeing are being aired only because of the "worst artistic drought in broadcast history".

Much of the cast has been involved in other cult hits that have made their way to this side of the Atlantic ("The IT Crowd"--which is currently airing on IFC--and "The Mighty Boosh", for starters) before and after, and their talents are on display in all of them.

I posted a brief clip of an episode a while ago, but what follows is the first episode. To my knowledge, all the episodes are available on YouTube.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Men in Film

After seeing the second--and last--Bart Freundlich movie I've seen in my life, World Traveler, I have discovered that I am both upset* by his films and have grown to dislike Billy Crudup.

*I would hate for my use of the word upset to be taken the wrong way. In no way am I insinuating that writer/director Bart Freundlich is hitting a chord that strikes too close to home and therefore disturbs the very core of my being to the point that I am physically revolted with myself. I am not giving that much credit to Mr. Julianne Moore. Any further elaboration will exist outside of this clarification of the word usage, however.
As far as World Traveler and to a lesser extent Trust the Man are concerned, it seems as though his preoccupation with male desertion is a deep-seeded pathological issue that he would prefer to use the chair of director to masturbate--er, pontificate--but while doing so, he is wasting the time of the audience. His take on the dilemma of the weak, self-absorbed modern male is simply not interesting, and his preoccupation with the subject makes me feel bad for his wife, who surely has to deal with his wanderlust on a consistent basis. Moreover, the ease at which his philandering heroes win back their doting spouses is insulting, especially in World Traveler.

All attacks on Freundlich aside, it is actually Billy Crudup who finds himself atop my shit list right now. It seems like the more I see of him in film, the more his fatal character flaw resulting in the abhorrent desertion of then seven months pregnant Mary-Louise Parker comes through in each character he plays, with World Traveler serving as a harbinger of what was to come. Moreover, he left the incredibly cute Parker for the much younger but less attractive/talented Claire Danes, which calls into question his taste in addition to his character and his ability to fulfill his duties as a man.

Even more so than his inability to commit to a relationship or weakness when faced with the prospect of fatherhood, his choice of roles in which his characters are almost largely afflicted with his internal struggle that he faces seems both sad and would indicate a possible lack of range that I had previously not occurred to me.

Men have obligations, dude.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Adult Things In Kid Places

No, not that. Get your head out of the fucking gutter, you pervert.

Jack Attack is watching Happy Feet right now, and some kid penguin (I'm sure the character has a name, but it's a fucking penguin and I'm not paying attention, so I'm leaving it at "some kid penguin") started singing "The Message". Seriously. If you need a refresher or don't really know what I'm talking about (and if you don't, for shame...), here's the song:

Obviously, there have to be little things in kids' movies for their parents to get some sort of enjoyment, but that? Talk about something random. I guess it could've been weirder and been the "Check Yo' Self" remix.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Three Steves and a Little Annuity

Upon dicking around on wikipedia for a while, I came across a strange little factoid:

When Steve Young signed his then record 10 year, $40 million contract with the L.A. Galaxy of the USFL, he agreed to have that money put in an annuity to pay him $1 million every year for 40 years in an effort to alleviate the strain on the less than solvent organization.

As of 2008, despite the team and league having gone bankrupt more than 20 years ago, Young still receives his annual check for $1,000,000.00.

Now of course, I got to this point while looking at the career of Steve DeBerg, who preceded Joe Montana, John Elway, and Steve Young as starting quarterbacks on successive teams.

When I look back at that Chiefs team that Steve DeBerg was a part of, I completely forgot about the other two quarterbacks on those teams: Ron Jaworski and Steve Pelluer. Now that I thought of Steve Pelluer, I wish I could forget him--much like I wish I could forget this season...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tube Steak: 24: Redeemed?

At about two-thirds through its last season, I lost interest in "24" and fell behind. I haven't seen the last few episodes of the sixth season and it's more than a year-and-a-half later, but tonight's airing of the "24" television movie is leading to a re-examination.

Jack is doing missionary work and subpoena dodging in the fictional country of Sangala in Africa (presumably for something he did at the end of last season), but my first question rose about ten minutes in when I saw Gil Bellows and couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking when he went with those sideburns. I didn't know diplomats operated in a time vacuum and the 1970's were still alive and well. Moreover, I'm pretty sure they have dress codes...

After the first commercial break, we finally get the first sexy girl shot of the season, with a scantily clad Carly Pope (daughter of Pope John Paul II, I'm sure) post-coitally dressing. Not complaining.

Shortly thereafter, we're treated to our first Powers Boothe (native of Snyder, Texas--formerly home of one of the only Taco John's in Texas) appearance. Status: seething and lame-ducking.

If "24" has taught me one thing--well, one thing other than the fact that Presidents die all the time, and Jack Bauer is a badass who stops at nothing to do what needs to be done--it's that the first new character that interacts with Jack is going to have someone close to the maimed, kidnapped, blackmailed, shot, and/or killed. That would be true in my life, too, which is why I like the show so much, I guess.

New development: the UN are pussies. Jack Bauer obviously is not. UN guys go hiding in shelters with all of the innocent children while Jack Bauer blows up militant warlords' shit with dynamite and then shoots them with his handgun. He is also faster than fucking rockets.

Can Robert Carlyle ooze badass as much as Kiefer Sutherland? I guess I have to wait until after the commercial break...

Well, now I have to wait while Ally McBeal's balding boyfriend (or whatever the hell he was) is getting all the Americans airlifted out from the embassy. This just in: Gil Bellow's Frank Trammell = Tool of the Man.

Jack Bauer can withstand all sorts of shit though. And is cagey.

Answer to the Carlyle quandary: Well, it wasn't much, but he saved Jack, kind of. Oh, and Jack can kill anyone at anytime with anything.

This Roger Taylor character looks a little too much like adult Anthony Michael Hall for my liking. Apparently, this guy is Blake Lively's brother, Eric. At least one of them is doing something cool (hint: it's not Blake on "Gossip Girl").

Speaking of lookalikes, Colm Feore (playing the First Husband) must be Michael Gross'* twin brother. Steven Keaton being tough is a hard sell to me. Wasn't he a pacifist?

*Isn't it a little fucked up that when you're choosing between various Michael Grosses, this Michael Gross is listed as being the Michael Gross from Tremors? Seriously? Gary Coleman's credit to identify him is not "Diff'rent Strokes". What the fuck?

Tim Roth is going to be in a show based on a Jonny Lang song? I don't know about that one...

Well, I guess kids in Africa love scarves. Carl Benton likes kids. Scarves win out every time.

What a short season 7 preview during the last commercial break.

If Jack ends up in a situation in which he gets to kill people in this last fifteen minutes I'd be shocked.

Fuckin' A. Jack Bauer shoots a bunch of guys in the streets of that city in Sangala without killing any civilians and gets the machete wielding kid from the teaser to drop his weapon.

How can Benjamin Franklin Gates' dad be such a dick?

And all Jack Bauer needs to do at the embassy is drop his fucking name and those military dudes go running to do his bidding. Frank Trammell? Still a dick.

And Jack has to turn himself in. But the kids are safe.

Now-President Taylor's inaugural speech was a little substandard. She should have asked Barack Obama to write it for her. Alex P. Keaton's dad was moved, though.

My main question upon the completion of the TV-movie-event-of-the-new-century-that-wasn't-Category-7 is will Jack be all of these refugee children's foster father in the new season, and if so, will this be a new action packed season of "Diff'rent Strokes"?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Hearts

As I re-watch "Trapped in the Closet" on IFC, I can't help but wonder why the fuck I haven't gotten around to seeing the second installment. It is so goddamn good. Not that this is news to anyone.

I think my favorite part of "Trapped in the Closet" is when R. Kelly is doing his white girl voice.

It is weird that everyone seems to be strapped in the film.


If you didn't get the chance to read this, it is probably the best album review I've ever read. Don't forget to get your free Dr. Peppers.


"The midget faints again"


A couple days ago, I watched Hustle with fellow Burt Reynolds aficionado, Mark. Pretty good. I loved the longing looks at the calendar of Rome, which brought me back to a simpler time in my life when I first watched the masterpiece Heat. Heat, much like Hustle, was marked with numerous longing looks at Venice.

One weird note on Hustle: Fred Willard was an officer at a desk in the police station about half-way through the film. I'll tell you this, it was weird seeing 1975 Fred Willard.

On a downer note, in the world of Hustle, Burt Reynolds' character, Lt. Phil Gaines, does not live past the end of the film.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

How the hell does Burt Reynolds ever have his character die in a film? He's Burt Fucking Reynolds. Neither Mark nor myself could think of a movie in which Burt was not alive at its end, and honestly I don't like to think of a world without Burt, so this ending disturbed me. As Paul Winfield walked into the airport where Catherine Deneuve was waiting for Burt at the ticket counter, my world was getting turned upside down, and I didn't like how that felt.


Upon finally seeing the airing of the Iron & Wine Austin City Limits episode, I have to say there was a lot of show cut. I guess I'll have to wait for a potential DVD to come out to see what was truly a great show. I was pretty disappointed that they didn't decide to give him a full hour.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bruuuuuuuuuuuce News

When he busted out a new song on Monday Night Football, I think most of us Springsteen fans were hoping for (and almost expecting) a new album to follow.

Well, his site officially announced the news that "Working on a Dream" will be coming out January 27th, five days before what will surely be a glorious Super Bowl Halftime performance. This will be another E Street Band record, which I am totally behind as I liked "Magic" as much as all of his other recent, non-E-Street projects--even the Seeger Sessions material, which I was absolutely obsessed with.

Now, as soon as I found out, I wanted to chime in with my excitement. I was coincidentally listening to "Devils & Dust" today (actually, I listened to it twice), reconnecting with a great album. As soon as I spied the news in someone else's New York Times, I got excited and jumped--fairly quickly--to the hope that he'd be touring again and rolling through Texas.

In honor of the new record, much of which he had been playing on the campaign trail in support of Obama, here's a little clip:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Affirmation of Faith

Every once in a while you get into a situation in which you unexpectedly get a gut feeling confirmed. Tonight was one of those nights.

For the sake of privacy and anonymity, I will refrain from sharing the details of the conversation I had this evening at the neighborhood watering hole. But if there is one thing that should be abundantly clear to anyone who has spent anytime speaking with me or reading this blog, it is that I am a person who is full of opinions. Obviously, I am fairly excitable.

So over the past few months I have grown to have quite a bit of disdain for a character on a television program. The program is not important, really. What is important is that I happened to find myself in a conversation with someone privy to the inner-workings of this show, and my disdain for the character pales in comparison to the disdain that many have for this person on set. Color Me Badd. Or at least delighted.

See, I like to think that my reaction to a character is really a reaction to the person playing the character. Whether or not there is any actual truth to this belief is more than likely dubious, but it still makes me feel special in some vain way to believe that I am more attuned to these things than the average joe. I am [kind of] sure that this is not true, but this is the first time I've been able to get confirmation that the character I dislike is portrayed by a person that no one seems to like either.

What this means is clear: There is a deeper douchebag within that seeps into the characters that Ray Milland, Kim Cattrall, Ed Westwick, Julia Roberts, Ron Rifkin, and Cameron Diaz play.

And, yeah, I think Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz are probably terrible people. Is someone going to disprove my inklings?

This all also means that James Garner, Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Ben Affleck are fucking awesome.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reading Rainbow: Recoil by Jim Thompson

For those of you who may need a refresher or a cluing in, Jim Thompson is the brains behind the books The Grifters, Pop. 1280, The Killer Inside Me, and The Getaway. He also wrote the screenplays for The Killing, and Paths of Glory. I recently read Pop. 1280 and rather liked it, but Recoil, which I couldn't have finished more than five minutes ago, was really great. I will refrain from too much exposition for fear of spoiling the element of surprise, but Recoil follows a paroled con through a labyrinthine mess of shady characters with murky motives in a way only the greatest noir does--unpredictably. Sixty-five years later it reads like it could have been written today, with its protagonist being just hard enough to do whatever it takes to not be a pawn but being just a step behind where he needs to be. The book reads faster than this entry--which I'm cutting off here--but Thompson's hard-boiled prose will burn your eyes into used lumps of charcoal, and that's a lot better than you can usually hope for.

Post Script: While finishing the book and writing this entry, I was watching Brick. If for some fucking reason you didn't see Brick, get your shit together and get a hold of it. It's been on the movie channels lately, but it's a great modernization of the noir genre starring the superb Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


L. Ryan Luecke,

What the hell were you doing up and on the internet before 7:00 am? Unacceptable. Get some sleep.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


While watching the latest installment of everyone's favorite Canadian teen show, I couldn't help but wonder why the fuck they can't get real advertisers. In the last episode of "Degrassi", there was a homo-aggressive kiss while sparring, a closeted (and apparently not fully self-realized) aggressor calling his victim a "fag", the copasetic victim trying to maintain a friendship electing against retorting by dropping his own "you're the fag" line, and churchy prude girl finding a vibrator only to end up having it go off in class with her teacher pulling it out of her bag. Seriously.

All that shit happened in 22 minutes of programming.

Eight minutes were just sitting there for opportunistic advertisers, and I'm stuck fast-forwarding through Cash 4 Gold ads for an entire commercial break, a Switchfoot Greatest Hits album* and then the obligatory Playtex spot.

*Switchfoot? Who the fuck are they? Switchfoot? Upon initial inspection, these guys are "Alternative rock band from San Diego". Huh. Well, if they're from San Diego, they must be good, right?... Apparently, they're one of those non-Christian rock Christian rock bands. Regardless, I have no idea who the fuck these guys are, and apparently they have a greatest hits (plural!) album. What fucking world do I live in?

Now, I get the Playtex spot. For as long as I can remember, all teen programming has inundated with skin care and menstruation advertising. Hell, I think the whole world--and by whole world, I mean everyone that matters (i.e. people between the ages of 21 and 35 or so)--remembers Rebecca Gayheart as the Noxzema girl. I'd imagine that each person that knows Rebecca Gayheart as the Noxzema girl, which is really just about everyone who knows who Rebecca Gayheart is, would first name the program they saw that ad air during as being "Saved By The Bell". Sure, the ad aired during "Hang Time" and "California Dreams" and probably even "USA High". Maybe it even aired during the original "90210".

And you know what? It makes sense to have that kind of ad on those shows because teens are the only people watching these shows without any sense of irony or guilt, and they're more than likely going to be the only people watching the show who would buy anything advertised on it. I mean, are advertisers going to decide that they need to pursue the ironic fans of a show and have only Busted Tees, Hall & Oates, "The Colbert Report", and drug paraphernalia ads? While there may be more disposable income in that viewership demographic, it not exactly one you can market to with any degree of effectiveness.

But this fucking ad? What the fuck? What kid has a fucking dearth of gold that they need to turn into cold, hard cash? I know the show's Canadian, but these kids ain't prospectin'.

P.S. The Darcy's sister finding the vibrator storyline was fucking awesome. If you get the chance, watch**.

**Go to full episodes of "Degrassi". The episode is called "Man With Two Hearts".

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Man on Film: Kevin Smith and the Path to Redemption

There was a time that I was a big Kevin Smith fan. As a high schooler, there was not an auteur I liked more. Sure, his films weren't visually arresting--hell, they weren't even visually interesting--but they were fun and at times he could reach into his limited bag of tricks and have you caring about his characters on a deeply personal level.

But as his films became more and more insular, they started to carry less and less weight. While Dogma marked a foray into a weightier realm narratively and technically speaking (read: tackles religion and has special effects and a crane shot), it was also a departure from the aspects of his two early films little films that worked*: believable stories with the right amount of heart.

*I think it's safe to say that whatever juvenile enjoyment can be derived from Mallrats does not outweigh the fact that the film does not work. I know it's a little revisionist of me to deride the film because there was a time that I loved that movie, but it really doesn't work. While attempting to hearken back to the John Hughes teen flicks of the 1980's, it lacks the heart that they had and is saddled with a shockingly leaden performance by that London tool--the one who wasn't in "Party of Five"--and erred to the comic book-y aspects of the 80's teen sex romps that did not work then and did not work in 1995. And while I am understanding of the fact that this was a young director given his first studio film which was then meddled with in the way that studios mess with films (i.e. Jim Jacks and ill-advised casting mandates), these problems do not except the film from criticism.

Where his debut feature Clerks excelled in telling an engaging, dialogue-driven personal story, Chasing Amy showed a growth as a writer and director that gave one hope. Then he embarked upon a rather disappointing ten-plus years. Dogma pretty good but certainly nothing special, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was intermittently funny but mostly masturbatory. Both relied too heavily on the characters Jay and Silent Bob who are amusing the first time around but bring very little on the table upon repeat appearances. Of course in between the two features, Kevin Smith busted out that ill-fated "Clerks" cartoon, which wasn't given a fair shake by the network but was a trip back to the juvenile and added insult to the injury of becoming overly reliant upon Jay and Silent Bob. Then came Jersey Girl, which to this day I've never been able to finish, and this is coming from a very public supporter of one Ben Affleck, who is fucking awesome but even his presence was not enough to make me actually finish watching Smith's ode to fatherhood.

When I'd all but written him off, I happened across Clerks II. In spite of its obviously unfortunate inclusion of the characters Jay and Silent Bob, the movie struck me as not being horrible. In fact, at moments, it was very funny. Ownable? Probably not. But they show it fairly frequently on cable, and I've watched it more than once. Maybe it was the benefactor of low expectations or familiarity, but I was pleasantly surprised with the movie despite some of the absurdity that lied within.

Then came Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which finds Smith back in the territory that he explored to success in Chasing Amy. What works here, and I'll try to err away from spoiling anything, is that Kevin Smith has gone back to creating sexually complex situations for normal people.

More importantly, he's also enlisted a new cast. Frankly, Jason Lee and Ben Affleck are probably too big at this point to be doing this film, especially when factoring in their image. Seth Rogan is the current star of the raunch fest, and I mean that in the best way possible. But I don't think the change lies just in the casting. I think the simple act of working with different people and getting new perspectives from the fresh blood can't hurt in broadening a filmmaker's horizons. Enlisting the services of someone as talented a writer as Seth Rogan can't hurt in helping things be as crisp as possible.

Hopefully, Zack and Miri is the first in a series of films that redeem Kevin Smith in my eyes. I've got my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America, The Beautiful

Last night, I went to bed with visions of Liberty dancing in my head

overcome with indescribable joy. I was so giddy with excitement that I actually that I woke up about three hours before I needed to this morning. The emotions coursing through my veins recalled a time in which I had no worries, a time of innocence. A time of hope. I watched the news and was stirred by Jesse Jackson's tears. I sauntered around the house in a daze, replaying the events of the night before and couldn't help but think of James Brown

while picking up the camouflaged cans of the Champagne of Beers scattered across the living room.

As I showered, birds chirped, and bees buzzed, and the sun shone brightly with puffy little white clouds floating harmlessly in the sky. And as I left the house to walk to work for the pleasure of it, the wind blew gently across my cheek,

cooling it ever so slightly.

From high above in the sky, a bald eagle slowly glided towards me--circling kindly--and gently came to rest on my shoulder, and as he nuzzled his head against my cheek, he began to sing...

Upon finishing his song, he told me that he thought I'd been doing well in my life and to keep up the good work. Then he said he had to go save a puppy that was going to get hit by a car and flew off to do good.

As I walked into work, I jumped up on the counter and sang

while everyone started dancing

just like that.

I wore myself out, though, and had to take care of business. When I rose from the throne and went to wash away my refuse, I was shocked to find that roses had sprung forth from my excrement, and it was at that point that I knew,

well, you know...

Upon returning to the counter to help the endless line of smiling patrons, I belted out the following:

and they all wept tears of joy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Shittiest Thing About Al Gore Inventing the Internet

My childhood was an idyllic one.

It was a simpler time.

A time in which we had little to worry about.

At least little to worry about past hearing that Mark-Paul Gosselaar dying in a car crash. Or Donnie or Jordan (or you can really pick your New Kid, I guess) going to the emergency room to have a gallon of semen pumped from their stomach--which was really just Rod Stewart updated for a new generation. Or Richard Gere going to the emergency room to get a dead gerbil lodged firmly in his ass. Or Marilyn Manson having a rib removed so he could fellate himself. Or Marilyn Manson being Paul from "The Wonder Years". There were a lot about Marilyn Manson, actually.

And these little things filled our lives with unimaginable joy. Or more precisely imaginative joy. Each time we heard something like Live being Satanic because their name spelled "Evil" backwards, we thought to ourselves, "Well, Ed Kowalcyk does have a shaved head, so I guess he could be evil..."

But once Al Gore's invention took the world by storm, all that speculation on the verity of such celebrity-centered urban legends was essentially killed. With the advent of the internet, we were suddenly cursed with the ability to check up on the truth to the rumors. In that regard, Al Gore ruined my life.

So on the eve of this election--eight years after our lives were to be changed for the worse with the "election" of George W. Bush--I find myself not wondering what could have been if Al Gore had never "lost" that "election" but yearning for the same feeling of shock when realizing that Zack Morris isn't dead upon seeing the teaser for "Dead Man on Campus".

Depths unplumbed

I don't think it's any secret that I am fond of the pre-1992 song stylings of Phil Collins. Quite frankly, you're a lunatic if you don't like "Sussudio" or "In the Air Tonight", and I try not to surround myself with the radical element.

If I were to admit to liking Peter Gabriel, that probably wouldn't shock anyone, or any monkeys for that matter.

But while Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins are the two members of Genesis to make a name for themselves as artists, I don't think either of them plumbed the depths of the human existence in a way as affective as Mike Rutherford--the brains behind Mike and the Mechanics. Where Paul Carrack and Paul Young were the voice of the project, it was clear that they were merely the megaphone for Rutherford's heart to shout out to the world.

I don't think there is a clearer example of this than the following:

I don't think there has been a song in my life that affected me as much as that song did when I was 10.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tube Steak: Appointment Television

We're too far removed from an HBO schedule that was largely cannot miss. In the past (roughly) ten years, HBO brought us "The Wire", "Six Feet Under", "Carnivale", "Deadwood", "Da Ali G Show", and "Extras"--all of which were shows that I loved. They also brought "Sex and the City", "Rome" and "The Sopranos"--all of which I found personally underwhelming but were nonetheless embraced by many others ("Rome" clearly less than the other two).

There are still vestiges of the old guard, of course. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is coming back soon. "Entourage", which is merely arguably good, is currently running through a season. "Real Time with Bill Maher" is still engaging, even if they can't seem to book a Republican more than twice a month.

Really though, HBO has been firing what could kindly be categorized as blanks recently. The seeds sewn have proved to be infertile largely. Only relatively new show, "Flight of the Conchords"--which is returning in January--seems to have broken from the yolk of mediocrity that has saddled the "It's not TV" net for the past few years. Past that entry, HBO has become generally average in varying degrees.

Starting with the worst, "Little Britain USA" was so awful that I actually stopped watching part way through the first episode. Little Brother was a fan of the British version, and he, too, was unimpressed. The Little Lady shared my unenthusiastic response, and she has been very much the anglophile of late.

While I didn't see any "John from Cincinnati", it didn't seem to register with the subscribers, as is indicated by its swift cancellation.

"Big Love" was largely quite dull. When it first began airing, I watched in a timely manner, but as the story began to develop, the show began to lose its priority status as I began to lose interest with it. Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin are simply irritating (and not just in the way that their characters are written), and the political wrangling and power struggle within the polygamist Mormon sect did not manage to seize my attention in any meaningful way. I have not even bothered in trying to watch past the end of the first season, despite my long-running free DVD renting status.

New animated show, "The Life & Times of Tim" was marginally amusing but surely not enough to make me tune in to the program even though it's on every day.

"Lucky Louie" was awkward at its best points. Not in the good way. With a couple of rare moments serving as exceptions, the show was bad.

While at times engaging and emotionally intense, the experiment "In Treatment" was a little too cumbersome in that the time commitment necessary to truly watch the show was too much for the average viewer, despite its heavy replay schedule.

As for the new crown jewel of the HBO schedule, "True Blood" is too hokey and out of touch to resonate with me. Most of the actors are asked to imbue their characters with accents they don't seem able to pull off. Anna Paquin's acting ability seems to have disappeared in about 1995*. The vampire effects, which I've touched on before, are comical and not in a way that I would deem intentional. And in a BSG-way, the show seems to have grown more and more reliant on sex to draw in the viewer, as if the tawdry makes up for the fact that the storytelling is subpar. The good part about that is that at least "True Blood" is on HBO, therefore nudity is involved. So unlike BSG, which only sells the idea of sex, "True Blood" is selling sex.

*If it was ever there at all. I generally feel that child actors are cut too much slack. The simple act of not sucking somehow paints them as being good when that's simply not the case. The only child actor that I can think of that transcends this phenomenon is Rory Culkin, who I think has been extremely good in almost everything he's done, especially You Can Count on Me and Mean Creek.

Now, if you are an observant reader, you may notice that a fairly high percentage of new HBO shows have a common trait. Where HBO was at one point a network whose docket consisted of original material, they have now erred to the side of safety in the form of adapted works. The best HBO shows--"The Wire", "Carnivale", and "Six Feet Under" at its high points--were original concepts. They were stories never-before-seen in any form. They were fresh. Even delving into the history books proved an opportunity to re-form the Western in the form of the vulgar and verbose "Deadwood".

Many of the new HBO programs are adaptations. "True Blood" is based on a book series. From what I gather, much of this season's story arc is basically the first book in the series. "Little Britain USA" is an Americanized version of a British show. The upcoming "Summer Heights High" is merely a re-airing of an Australian hit show. "In Treatment" is an adaptation of an Israeli serial. Hell, "Flight of the Conchords", which is actually good, is just a show based around a stand-up routine that aired on "One Night Stand" to a warm reaction.

It seems to me that the formula that helped HBO distinguish itself from other networks has been thrown out, and they're now content to rest on their laurels. Unfortunately the product has been suffering as a result of their complacent programming.

I for one hope they can re-evaluate their erred philosophy and right the ship.

250 = Earth-Shattering News

This entry marks my 250th. It also marks a distinct point in this blog's "history" (those were McCain air-quotes), insofar as this blog's future will be shifting.

Inconsiderate Prick was initially driven largely by Royals-centric posts. Over the past few months, it became increasingly clear that I was getting two disparate kinds of traffic and was probably turning off each group with posts directed at the other. This (and a particular trade that just happened, but that I've gone in depth analyzing elsewhere) have spurred me on towards starting another blog, solely devoted to my Royals fandom. While the domain name that I wanted was taken in every form (The Royal We), I persevered and yesterday launched Royalscentricity, to much fanfare, I'm sure...

Now, for those of you who only enjoy reading my quasi-retarded Phil Collins entries or ridiculous Kenneth Lonergan inspiration posts, keep coming back here. If you are coming to this site for Royals/sports entries, then you'll have to look at my writings for Sports Grumblings and at Royalscentricity, both of which are linked to in the 'Go Here' menu to your right.

Now I have to hope I can keep my writing energy up while devoting time to writing for three different places.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rediscovering the Past: God of the '80s

Over the course of the decade in which the foundation for the person I was to become was laid, there was one man whose influence over popular culture was more widely felt than all others.

Now this man was no stranger to the world in 1980. For the ten years prior, his workmanlike devotion to precise percussion cut a swath across pop music, laying down drum tracks for such vital and varied acts as Brian Eno, Thin Lizzy, Daryl Hall, Brand X, Mike Oldfield, John Cale, and of course Genesis--which he joined initially as a replacement drummer, but eventually took the reins with Peter Gabriel's departure for a solo career only to take the band to greater heights commercially than they ever reached under Gabriel's leadership.

As Genesis became more and more successful, the necessity for the embarkation into a solo career became more and more evident. In 1981, the world's thirst for more Phil Collins was quenched with the release of Face Value, a tour de force of historic proportions. And within a year of its release "In the Air Tonight" had imprinted its signature drumline and haunting vocals on the psyche of music listeners worldwide.

As the 80s rolled on, Phil Collins rolled on. It could easily be argued that this decade was his. While acts like Guns 'N Roses entralled the record-buying public with their bad-boy antics, Phil Collins was selling a fuckload of records. Moreover, one would be hard-pressed to think of an artist that released the mass of material that Collins did while maintaining the commercial success he did for the entire duration of the decade. While Thriller sold better than any record in the decade, Michael Jackson only released two albums in the decade. Madonna didn't release an album until 1983.

Really, the only other artist whose volume of output and commercial appeal could be considered to rival Collins' 80s success was Prince. Prince put out 10 records in the decade, and wrote the music for other bands like The Time, Sheila E., and Mazerati. Collins had four solo records and five Genesis records. Each were given films to star in--Buster obviously being the less successful of the two. But Prince's ascent to superstardom really wasn't complete until 1984, when Purple Rain was released. Collins was already well-established in 1984, when his career took off on a streak of 13 straight top ten hits in the U.S. through 1992*. That is a feat of consistency that Prince could only have dreamt to acheive.

*One could argue persuasively (and Chuck Klosterman has, although with a slant) that the 1980s really didn't end until 1992, as the decade really spilled into the early 1990s with the "80s" being officially killed by Nirvana's release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". What Nirvana's success also meant was an end to 80s style, mindset, and culture. For evidence of this phenomenon, you need look no further than "Parker Lewis Can't Lose", which saw its embrace of what was essentially late 80s style--including the titular Corin Nemec's hair--change drastically in its third season. The more I think about it, the more I should be blaming Kurt Cobain for the death of my beloved TV show...

Most importantly, though, is something else--something more incredible. Where androgyny, a driving force in rock success, helped Prince in his ascension to the pantheon of 80s idolatry, Phil Collins had no such help. His most successful record, and perhaps his most culturally relevant year were driven by an album with this record cover.

That man was selling more records than just about anybody in the decade. In an industry driven almost entirely by sex appeal, Phil Collins--the man pictured above--sold more than 100 million solo records and more than 100 million records as a member of Genesis.

Just to reiterate how his success defied all logic, here you go:
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