Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Bad news, America... the Weekly World News is shutting down operations.  Probably because the internet does a much better job of providing weird stories, with the added benefit that the stories are real.  When the only true story you run in almost 30 years is Bat Boy, you know you're in trouble.

Anyway, another publishing death we can blame on the internet.  Stupid internet.  I hate a inernetEf a dumb inernet is a dumb.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rock Beats Scissors, Gun Beats Rock, Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry Beats Gun

While reading this week's Chatological Humor (a.k.a. Tuesdays With Moron, hahaha) there was mention of a recent incident near Lincoln Park here in DC, wherein a gunpoint robbery at a wine and cheese party was foiled by offering the would-be assailant wine and cheese.

My thoughts on this are scattered...

* This is the sort of thing that a screenwriter or novelist could have written, using the "imagine what's expected, then imagine the opposite of that" rule.

* It's a beautiful example of humanity and kindness overpowering antagonism.  The only thing that could have made it better is if the robber left the wine glass behind.

* Actually, it's just a beautiful example of humanity and kindness period.

* Not to mention poise and courage.  It takes courage to watch someone put a gun to the head of a 14-year-old girl and not exacerbate the situation with your fear.  That they not only composed themselves, but went so far as to be civil to this person, is astounding.

* On the flip side, I wonder how many people are sincerely outraged that none of the victims thought to disarm the guy during the "group hug" sequence.  I wonder if those same people have considered what consequences their suggestion would have had on the story, or whether they themselves would have been successful.

* Weingarten's point was spot-on: how likely is it that the gun was loaded?  Probably not very.  Would the victims have considered this in their calculations?

* Were they calculating at all?  Was this truly spontaneous, or did this just happen to be their collective fight-or-flight mechanism in all its weird glory?  (I never knew that "food" was an appropriate answer to "fight or flight.")

Either way, it makes for great reading.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Tube Of Boob

(If only such a magnificent apparatus existed...)

Before I get into it, I wanted to note my tendency to review things almost exclusively in ones and threes. How many pairs of things have I reviewed without either comparing or contrasting? Or dare I say both? (Four, of course, is right out.) That's all I had to say on that. Just thought it was weird.


Finally got around to the American version. It is indeed a different beast. It's not nearly as historic as the British version, and Michael Scott isn't anywhere close to the singularity of David Brent. On the other hand, they manage to make every single character in the office memorable and insightful.

But it's certainly reached the stage where the comparisons must end. The new version is consistently funny and fantastically written. A great sitcom.


I love this show. It defies explanation; no demographic pigeonholing is possible. Not a comedy, not a family drama in the strictest sense, not a show "about surfing," not an angry man's weirdo HBO show... just an ingenious little story about forgiveness.

Its structure reminds me of The Wire, in that not a lot happens on a daily basis, but the universe of the show is so compelling that nobody cares. Six episodes in, I'd say only three or four things have actually happened. And that sparseness doesn't matter, not even a little. Imperial Beach is just that fascinating, in and of itself.

The amazing, iconic dialogue these characters have been given certainly helps. John's tendency to parrot sentences contributes to the iconic feel of each turn of phrase, but they're also great turns of phrase to begin with. I can't get over the incredible stuff they come up with on a weekly basis for Ed O'Neill... off-the-charts hilarious and heartbreakingly sad and crazy at the same time. He's both the most and least normal person on the show. But this is a guy at the periphery of what action there is... and he's totally gripping.

Most of all, it's impressive that they can shape such coarse dialogue into a show that has so much soul. No show has its heart in the right place more than this one.

Strongly recommended to anyone with a little patience.


I have watched two episodes, but it only took the first episode for me to lose my shit that this show got fucking cancelled. I'm totally beside myself right now.

This show should be taught in schools. This show gets Judd Apatow a free pass for life. So he wants to make a TV show about paint drying? Give the man a chance! That's how good it is.

And yet it was aborted before being given any kind of a chance. There's more genius in fifteen minutes of Freaks & Geeks than you'll find in entire seasons of shows that weren't cancelled. JAG was on the air for ten seasons. FUCKING TEN!!! I can't name a single notable thing about that show, and it got 242 episodes. (I looked.) And these knucklehead networks can't figure out a way to keep a show full of broke-ass nobodies on the air? Out of 22 hours of prime-time programming every week, they can't take one hour and devote it to vegetables... it's all gotta be ice cream. What a joke. Fuck you, NBC.

The only explanation that makes any sense is that the show was somehow cancelled by accident. Like, they meant to cancel one of the fourteen Law & Order spinoffs, but some first-day-on-the-job intern clicked the wrong button by accident, and by the time someone figured out what had happened it was too late. That makes sense, because at least the incompetence can be chalked up to human error.

Yeah. This is all after two episodes. I have no idea what else happens, but I strongly suspect that whatever comes next won't change my mind.

So I guess I haven't really said anything yet. Turns out I'm angrier about the cancellation than I am insightful about the show. But I have some basic impressions:

  • Seth Rogen is a genius.
  • Jason Segel is a genius.
  • Martin Starr is a genius.
  • Screw it, they're all fucking geniuses.
  • Even James Franco is a genius. Who knew he had an actual pedigree??? I'm stunned. I mean, I thought he was good given the expectations of yet another cookie-cutter James Dean wannabe... but he's pretty good without any qualifiers. Like, you can tell he's bigger than the show. I never would have guessed.
  • I found myself getting kinda attached to Linda Cardellini, and feeling like a creep about it. I mean, she's in high school, right? So I felt all weird and dirty... until I found out she was about 24 years old when she made the show. Sweet! I don't have to go to jail!

I admit that this wasn't much of a review. "This show kicks ass" doesn't help much. But hey, I haven't exactly seen it either, so I shouldn't say much anyway, right? I just know what I love, and I love this.

And NBC... go fuck yourself. Did I say that already? Well, just in case, fuck all of you. Seriously. Because apparently the rest of the world agrees, for the most part. That's right. Eat shit, NBC. Eat my shit. All of it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Knocked Up

Given my love of The 40-Year Old Virgin, one of the defining films (let alone comedies) of the decade, a letdown was inevitable. But I was still expecting a lot more than I got from Knocked Up, which tries and fails to resonate like its predecessor.

The heart of my objection is in Knocked Up's refusal to play by its own rules. The film is littered with astute observations about parenthood, marriage, and adulthood. But the sheer quantity of laughably contrived behavior on the part of each main character invalidates all of those observations. The setting is Sturges, but the story is Shadyac, i.e. a bunch of horseshit. It's a sheep in wolf's clothing... a fairy tale hot dog slathered with the mustard of modern-day moral philosophy. (Sorry.)

A model relationship... circa 1832

Don't get me wrong. Knocked Up is hilarious. Just as a comedy, it succeeds. But once it starts taking itself and its story seriously, the whole thing falls apart. It tries to be more than just a funny movie, and fails. While I respect the effort, its failures reflect on the rest of the movie.

Instead of another 40YOV, it's another Wedding Crashers... a very funny movie with lots of caveats.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Today's Edition Of "If You Think YOUR Life Sucks..."

This guy has been hiccuping for five months.  The only cure is getting shitfaced, which doesn't cure it so much as distract him.  Poor bastard.  I hope he figures something out.  Or inspires a made-for-TV movie about his predicament that could fund a clinical study or three.  (Potential titles: "Don't Hold Your Breath," "Counting To Forever," and "House Of 1,000 Hiccups.")

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dream Free Or The Good Shepherd Dies Hard

Well above my expectations.  That it's as good as it is, despite some glaring weaknesses, speaks volumes to Bruce Willis' charisma.  It's not really a Die Hard movie, but plenty of fun nevertheless.

Two things bothered me:

1) The vacuum of faithful D.C. details was just egregious.  A tunnel with a toll booth?  A downtown street called Concord St.?  14th Street running east-to-west?!?  Have you people ever BEEN to Washington?  I won't even get into the invalid license plate numbers given for the escape vehicle.

2) Similarly, the environment isn't nearly as much of a character as it is in the three previous entries.  They keep moving around the mid-Atlantic region... Jersey, Washington, West Virginia, Baltimore... why???  There is no need for it.  The first movie took place in one building.  The second took place in one airport.  The third, up until the tacked-on ending, took place in one city.  (Die Hard With A Vengeance is a shining example of geography as a distinct character.)

If you want an explanation as to why this entry doesn't stand up to the first three, there you go.  A total lack of regard for environmental detail.  Take the setting seriously, and the story will carry weight.  Don't, and you'll end up with a forgettable movie.  Live Free or Die Hard doesn't, and it shows.

overall: 3 1/2 Washington streets assigned the wrong fucking cardinality out of 5

Great musical, and outstanding production (sets, music, photography)... but not a great overall movie.  The storytelling in the second half is too messy.  Years fly by, characters disappear into the background, there's no lead story to follow... just kinda pointless.

Maybe it's a problem with the "leads," which I'd use lightly.  Jamie Foxx, though effective, didn't bring anything to the table; neither did Beyoncé, despite putting in a great effort.  Meanwhile, Effie and James "Thunder" Early blow everyone else off the screen, for the most part.  The second act's failure is due in no small part to the reduced role of those two characters, beyond the excellent "One Night Only" and "Jimmy Got Soul" beats that are easily the back end's highlights.  (To say Jennifer Hudson is worthy of her Oscar is a gross understatement; for Eddie Murphy to lose to Alan Arkin is an absolute joke.)

Basically, from the bring-the-house-down "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" moment through the finale, there was nothing particularly moving or devastating other than "One Night Only."  Given that the story comes to rest on Deena and Curtis, I would have liked to see more from them.

overall: 3 thinly-veiled portraits of Berry Gordy out of 5

As dry throwback movies go, this one's a big winner.  Unflinching, thought-provoking stuff.  Matt Damon's  unsentimental performance is up there with his best.  The movie's climax is a legitimate make-you-gasp messed-up moment.

It's a tough movie to love, though, because of the subject matter.  I could not relate to any of the main characters: Edward damages his personal life at every possible moment; his wife and kid, who were forced upon him, also suck; his coworkers are a bunch of Skull & Bones/Ivy League/scum-of-the-earth CIA cronyist assholes.  And they're all pricks.  The portrayals are all impeccable, but watching their cold, distant machinations is disconcerting.  (It's no accident that the "mistake" around which the film revolves is a scene of passion and intimacy.)  Just as they hold each other at a distance, the film holds us at a distance as well.

And that's why films like this are such a difficult proposition.  The point isn't that Edward Wilson is a prick who should have spent more time with his family.  The point is that the CIA needed a cold-hearted prick like him to get off the ground.  How could anyone tell that story while making Wilson at all sympathetic?  There's no way around it.

I'm not saying the film is bad for that reason; far from it.  But I am saying it doesn't speak to me the same way a similarly-themed film, Munich, did.  (Quick aside: same screenwriter, Eric Roth.  He does an outstanding job in Munich with the same "patriotic antihero" angle, and with better results.  The tepid reception of that film still astounds me.)  So despite acknowledging its quality, I can't say The Good Shepherd is a great film.  But it's very, very good.

To close on a positive note, there was indeed one lovable part of the movie: making Joe Pesci look exactly like a little old Italian guy.  That was honestly my favorite part of the movie.  Yeah, he actually is a little old Italian guy now, but it's great to see an old face look so weathered.  Big, bulging nose, balding head, old-man sunglasses... just perfect.

overall: 4 blueblood scumbags out of 5

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Taking A Leak: The New Pornographers

I've been sitting on this one for a while, allowing it to marinate in the hopes that my ability to explain its appeal would improve.  It hasn't.  (If you thought Twin Cinema was a grower, just you wait.)  But we'll try anyway.

I'm very happy with Challengers.  It's a textbook "bet you didn't think we'd do this" album... a significant but successful departure for my beloved New Pornographers.  Despite working in an area well beyond their wheelhouse, it still feels like the New Pornos, albeit a version low on sugar and high on lush Fleetwood Mac/Beach Boys references.

You won't find any catchy, bouncy classics along the lines of "The Laws Have Changed" or "Sing Me Spanish Techno" on Challengers, despite the hooks being as great as ever.  It's just that those hooks are set against mid-tempo, rolling arrangements that have more in common with "Bones Of An Idol" or "The Bleeding Heart Show" than anything off of Mass Romantic.  Even "The Bleeding Heart Show" isn't an appropriate point of reference; where that song builds towards a climax, the comparable songs on Challengers stay in their mellow little place.

Is that a bad thing?  Given that "My Rights Versus Yours," "All The Old Showstoppers" and "Go Places" (for example) are so excellent without the usual dandied-up riffs, that's an emphatic "no."  In fact, somewhat ironically, the songs that are most like the Pornos of old, namely "All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth" and "Mutiny, I Promise You," are the weakest and least compelling.  The superiority of the "new" sound with respect to the "old" sound is probably the biggest surprise to be found on Challengers.

This development was foreseen, in part, by The Slow Wonder, the Carl Newman solo effort released between Electric Version and Twin Cinema.  As with Challengers, Newman keeps the energy level low on The Slow Wonder (with the exception of the lead track) and plays with deeper, more brooding arrangements than had been seen on New Pornos records at that point.  Flashes of that work found its way onto Twin Cinema, but the whole she-bang pops up this time around.

I give Challengers 4 out of 5 transient lead singers.  I might have preferred another Electric Version in my heart of hearts, but Challengers is brilliant nevertheless.  It's a change of pace that draws you towards its side rather than failing to reach yours.  It may not be the band's 100-mph fastball, but you can still strike someone out on an 75-mph curveball.

But Will They Play It During The Service?

Yesterday, we celebrated our independence.  Today, we mourn the recent loss of an American hero.

Boots Randolph, the genius behind "Yakety Sax," has died.  Thank you, Boots, for making our lives just that much better.  Now, cue the mental image of Boots, St. Peter, and St. Peter's large-chested assistant chasing each other around at 48 frames per second.  Bawwwwwwwww, baa-baa-bupupupu, bapapapa-bupupuuu, baa-ba-bup-pa-buppa-bap!

More importantly, these sorts of deaths tend to happen in bunches.  Watch your ass, Herb Alpert.  (Aside: lyrics!)