Thursday, September 25, 2008

This is why Entertainment Weekly is my favorite magazine...

Up-to-the-minute and yet sublimely silly. This cover is just genius.

Is anyone else getting scared?

I was at the gym this morning watching the news. No making up dialogue this time; what they were actually saying was far too serious. The hole that the American economy is in is over 15 Trillion dollars. This new "bailout" they're talking about will possibly cost taxpayers $38,000 a year by 2010. Excuse me? I seem to recall already owing $5,000+ in credit card debt and $15,000+ in student loan debt without the government piling more on! The Bush administration and these greedy capitalist pigs got themselves into this mess, which has in turn hurt all of us, and now we're supposed to bear the burden of digging them back out? This is so ludicrously wrong on so many levels. Adding to the ire is John McCain trying to pull out of Friday's debate with Barack Obama, supposedly because putting the campaign on hold and helping out in Washington is "the patriotic thing to do." Or maybe, just maaaaybe, McCain is unprepared for the debate, nervous about the polls now showing Obama in the lead, and hoping for some more distracting PR? (In a sense, America's financial crisis is the new Sarah Palin! Only much less attractive.) I agree with Obama: this is exactly the right time to hear from both candidates on what they intend to do to fix this giant mess. I only prey that whoever wins protects our wallets, and not just the bank accounts of ludicrously wealthy businessmen.

W. is coming

Visit this link for a new trailer and a clip of George's first meeting with Laura (Elizabeth Banks, who I've always loved). I'm really getting psyched for this movie.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy birthday, Jim!

Since this blog is named after the Kermit the Frog song "It's Not Easy Being Green," I thought it would be appropriate to give a birthday shout-out to the late Jim Henson, who would have been 72 today. Your rich creative legacy will never be forgotten!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Exit politics, enter histrionics

This weekend I went to see Lakeview Terrace, the new drama starring Samuel L. Jackson as an ornery cop who harasses his new neighbors, an interracial couple played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. Though the movie earned poor reviews, I still thought the subject matter looked interesting, and Patrick Wilson didn't hurt, either. (I've been in love with this guy since Angels in America. He's damned talented, too.) I myself found the movie to be enjoyable and relatively well done, although I agree with critics' assertions that Neil LaBute's movie (his first time directing someone else's script) just scratches the surface of the provocative issues it raises-- and ultimately devolves into a fairly typical Hollywood potboiler, rather than a truly insightful look at race relations. (At least it's less pompous than the overblown and overrated Crash, which acted like it was the Definitive Look at Race in America-- when in reality it was pretty much a glorified soap opera about bitchy Los Angelenos.) Tellingly, the movie opens not with our nominal heroes, Chris and Lisa (Wilson and Washington) but on Abel Turner (Jackson). One morning Abel wakes up to find new neighbors moving in next door. He watches them with a quiet, nosey intensity; first he thinks it's a May-December couple, as Lisa giddily shows the place to her dad Ron (Harold Perreau). But when he realizes the white "mover" is actually the husband, his surprise and disapproval are written all over his face. Abel introduces himself to Chris with an unsettling car-jacker fake out, then drops some passive aggressive comments about his rap music. "No matter how much of that noise you listen to, when you wake up in the morning, you'll still be white," Turner says. (No, it's not a subtle picture.) Before long, Abel is needling his neighbors left and right, with everything from piercing security lights that he refuses to turn off to a blunt directive that Chris and his wife should move somewhere else. At Chris and Lisa's dinner party, Turner manages to demean and embarrass virtually everyone present within a few minutes. The couple try to fight back, or at least learn to live with the hostility, but events inevitably come to a head-- exit racial politics, enter thriller histrionics. The film is essentially built around Jackson's performance: at this point, he can do this type of steely, aggressive character in his sleep, and the part is by far the most developed one in the movie. We get some insights into what drives him (his grief over his wife proves particularly trenchant), even if we still don't like him. Chris and Lisa, on the other hand, are likable but bland; the actors have good chemistry and bring what they can to their characters, but there's ultimately not much for them to do but react to Abel and have fights with each other. The arguments are generic and shed little light on the very real difficulties interracial relationships can pose; those issues were better explored in 2006's romantic dramedy Something New, with Sanaa Lathaan and Simon Baker. More interesting is the subplot involving Abel's two children; in one scene, Celia (Regine Nehy) and Lisa share a sweet vignette by the pool, only to have it violently interrupted by Abel, who wants to know what his neighbor is "teaching" his daughter. It's too bad the kids vanish from the film with little resolution (shortly before the climax); the narrative of their rocky relationship with Dad could have been a bit more profound than the film's central conflict. In the end, we're left with a decent enough movie that tackles important, rarely handled issues, but on a fairly surface level. Lakeview Terrace is passable entertainment with a higher-than-average IQ, but it could've been so much more.

I'm diggin' it

I previously wrote about Oliver Stone's W. and it's arresting first poster. I saw a series of ads (including these two) on the way to work today. However the movie turns out, this is a very well done campaign.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Head Games

So I was at the gym this morning (I haven't been going as often as I'd like to, but I'm working on it) and for the first time I was facing the TVs. Normally I don't work out on that side because there's an intimidating lineup of super-fit people running on the treadmills (I can manage a mere brisk walk myself), but today they were absent. The sound was off, of course; I was listening to my iPod, anyway. (By the way, Weezer makes pretty good workout music. Who knew?) But I found myself inventing dialogue for the people I saw up on the screen. (Please note that I stole a few of these jokes. It was my brain, so I think I'm allowed to rip things off.) First it was Kyle MacLachlan on Live With Regis and Kelly; it took me a while to realize that he wasn't just a guess but a special co-host. What could he and Kelly be discussing? They had shown a montage of pictures of Kyle and his wife and new baby. KELLY: And how was the baby conceived, Kyle? Were you and your wife flailing in a pool? KYLE (chuckling): No, Kelly. It was a bit more romantic than that. KELLY: I have to tell you, Kyle, Showgirls was a big influence on me as a young woman. KYLE: Yes, I hear that from a lot of people. It's an extraordinary film. KELLY: The scene when Gina Gershon falls down the stairs, was that really her or did she have a stunt double? KYLE: Well, I don't know, Kelly. I wasn't on the set that day. KELLY: Because that was quite a fall. KYLE: Well Gina was athletic from a very young age, so it easily could have been her. KELLY: Now Kyle, you costarred on Twin Peaks with David Duchovny. Was he a sex addict then? I mean, could you tell? KYLE: I'm not sure. I was a bit of an addict myself in those days. I still am, to be honest. KELLY: Really? Remind me to get your number. We should meet up after the show. ....At this point I had pretty much exhausted my knowledge of Kyle MacLachlan, so I turned my attention to the news station. They were running footage of Sarah Palin because of the "TrooperGate" scandal. (Side note: can we declare a moratorium on "Gate" as the go-to scandal nickname? It was kind of cute when they did "MonicaGate," but now it's gotten really old, especially since it never makes any sense.) Sarah was speaking. SARAH: I firmly believe that man coexisted with the dinosaurs. Yes, approximately 4,000 years ago. The Flinstones was actually a remarkably accurate depiction of life during that time. What's that? No, I can't say for sure whether The Jetsons will be accurate. There are researchers looking into that right now. They are predicting that the future is going to be much more futuristic than we had originally thought. ...A while later John McCain joined her. JOHN: Yes, she's really something, isn't she. She's a woman! Yes. Sarah believes, as I do, that God created the AK47 so that man could fight the dinosaurs... and the homosexuals. ...After that I gave up on the game, except for a brief imagining of what Kid Rock and his hoochie girls might be saying in his new video. (KID: Yeah, yeah! HOOCHIE GIRLS: We're shaking our booties! Mm-hm!) I was somewhat horrified by MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen, though: onscreen, legends revealed that the episode's twitlet had a $26,000+ birthday. I found myself trying to remember what I had gotten for my sixteenth birthday. A Fozzie Bear puppet, maybe? And who were these families dumping thousands on their daughters' birthday parties while the rest of the country faces increasingly bleak economic circumstances? More importantly, why wasn't I auditioning shirtless hotties for my birthday party wait staff? If you're looking for a point to this post, by the way, there really isn't one-- it's thesis-less. Just a peak inside my head. Hope you enjoyed. Have a good weekend, all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What a rip!

I’ve always been amused by rip-offs. In a popular culture filled with derivative crap, these are some of the most blatant examples—and sometimes the most perversely enjoyable, for their sheer “oh no they didn’t!” awfulness. The first rip-off I can remember seeing was Mac and Me. For those of you unfamiliar with this little 1980s gem, its sole purpose was to promote McDonald’s… while ripping off ET. (Well, that’s not entirely true; Coca Cola backed the movie as well, so numerous references to them pop up.) A boy in a wheelchair (gag me) befriends a grotesque little lost alien and nicknames him “Mac” after his favorite Mickey D’s sandwich. (Great, as if the kid doesn’t have enough to deal with being in a wheelchair, now he’s a prime candidate for childhood obesity.) The two have adventures… or something. I honestly can’t remember a thing about this stupid movie, besides one scene with the mom getting dropped off at Sears (product placement #3!) and a later scene in which the boy’s female friend, dressed in her McDonald’s uniform, gives Mac’s dying mother a sip of Coke from a McDonald’s cup. According to IMDB, the film ends with the onscreen legend “We’ll Be Back,” but since it bombed, they, well… weren’t. What follows is my loose and by no-means-complete list of other notable rip-offs.
Battlestar Galactica—Calm down fanboys, I’m not talking about the critically acclaimed new version, which is apparently some of the most brilliant TV around. I mean the atrocious cheesefest original, which according to some was “like Star Wars every week!” even though it lacked that film series’ quality acting, writing, special effects, or anything. (Yes, there was a time when the Star Wars franchise was well written and acted.) The similarities to Star Wars were so glaring that George Lucas and co. supposedly considered taking legal action. Which is understandable, because we all know Lucas would neeeeever allow his Star Wars legacy to be tarnished.
Friday the 13th—Perhaps no horror film has inspired as many imitators as Halloween, the 1978 horror classic whose massive success ushered in a new era of “slasher films” with holiday based titles: Mother’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Happy Birthday to Me, New Year’s Evil, Graduation Day… the list went on and on. But the first was this slapdash concoction, a dull and irritating film that somehow managed to become a “classic” in its own right. Once again we’ve got killer POV shots, a mysterious stalker, and a creepy “holiday” setting, plus lots of promiscuous teens and one plucky virgin. Audiences were so starved for another Halloween that they flocked to this film, despite the fact that director Sean S. Cunningham and star Adrienne King were a far cry from John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Sunset Beach—Okay, I confess, I loved this show. But in the grand tradition of daytime soaps, which have ripped off everything from The Exorcist (Days of Our Lives) to the death of Princess Diana (the kooky Passions, which was forced to scrap that storyline because of the uproar it caused), this sadly short lived sudser ripped off with abandon. The two I remember the most were its aping of MonicaGate, with an intern/politician affair and prosecutor Ken LaMoon (har, har); and a Scream-ish “Terror Island” storyline, with a masked killer stalking the cast. But it didn’t stop there; in a late-in-the-game bid to jazz ratings, the show had an earthquake and a tidal wave, which capsized a cruise ship filled with characters enacting their very own Poseidon Adventure.
Dawson’s Creek—Even nighttime soaps have a tendency to rip things off, as evidenced by this teen melodrama (another favorite of mine). In Season 2, the characters enacted kinky Titanic-esque scenarios like a nude portrait session (“Except, I’m Jack and you’re Rose,” Joey remarked to not-yet-out Jack) and steamed-up car make out session. In Season 4, a dramatic Perfect Storm take-off served as a larger-than-life backdrop for the deathless Dawson/Joey/Pacey triangle (cause hell hath no fury like horny, jealous teens!) and a goofy Blair Witch episode was less than successful.
Lipstick Jungle/Cashmere Mafia—Is it possible to rip off yourself? Seems that way, given that these two Sex and the Wannabes are from Candace Bushnell and Darren Star, the minds behind the original single gals in the city series. Viewers saw through one of these duds (the cancelled Cashmere Mafia, which deserved to die for the title alone), but Lipstick Jungle is back with the beyond-bland tag line “Bright lights, big city, best friends.” Personally, I prefer Saturday Night Live’s pitch perfect parody, Lady Business: “Now that I’m here there are gonna be some changes. Meetings are no longer mandatory—they’re womandatory!” At least the creators of that sketch acknowledged just what it was they were ripping off.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Check it out

Since the name of this blog is inspired by Kermit-- along with the picture at right-- I figured it would "behoovie" me (as they say in Strangers With Candy) to include the following link. It will forever change the way you look at Kermit, Christian Bale, and possibly the world.

Remember the rules

This weekend I picked up a new copy of Gremlins, Joe Dante’s 1984 horror comedy. In this Steven Spielberg-produced classic, creatures run amok in the Capra-esque town of Kingston Falls on Christmas Eve; it’s the kind of odd mix (of humor, heart, and horrific satire) that shouldn’t work but does. The premise is beyond ludicrous: Gizmo, a cute as a button “Mogwai,” multiplies with water, and these new, meaner creatures transform into vicious armor plated beasties once they eat “after midnight.” (What are we talking about here, 12am-6pm? And what about time zones? A technician wonders about this in the sequel, and is brutally mauled for his trouble.) As a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with this movie and especially its sequel, the unbelievably entertaining Gremlins 2: The New Batch. You know how kids have their comfort movies and books that they can watch or read over and over again and never get tired of? Gremlins 2 was mine, though the original got its fair share of viewage—after twenty years, the VHS was finally showing its age this weekend, which is why I broke down and bought the DVD at Virgin Megastore. But I didn’t just watch the movies; I bought the puppets, trading cards, and toys, and drew my own Gremlins comics and stories. In elementary school, I got upset when I tried to draw a rabbit and everyone in my class—including my teacher—was convinced I’d drawn a Gremlin! I can also remember asking Santa if Mrs. Claus could sew me up a Gremlin puppet (only Gizmo had gotten one at this point), as my horrified parents shook their heads “no” in the background. (They’d already been forced to tear apart the house looking for the missing Nutcracker I was convinced “Santa” could find years earlier.) I’ve never really thought about just what it was that so fascinated me with Gremlins. I was always a “spooky” kid—the one whose preschool teachers deemed him in need of evaluation because he was always talking about witches and monsters—so Gremlins definitely served my appetite for the latter. And maybe, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gremlins subversively spoke to my need to make Halloween extend all year long; at one point, Kingston Falls’ DJ yells, “Hey kid, this is Christmas, not Halloween!” Besides, I was a Catholic school student, and the oppression of my environment was brilliantly skewered by the Gremlins’ anarchist sensibility. These creatures are gleefully nasty, spitting in the face (at times literally) of order. Mrs. Deagle, the cantankerous bitch (as unforgettably embodied by Polly Holiday) gets her comeuppance in one of Gremlins’ most famous scenes; her automated wheelchair zips up the stairs and out the window, and for a kid who nearly had a nervous breakdown because of his third grade teacher, this ghastly demise probably filled a deep psychological need. On another level, fresh scrubbed cutie Billy (Zach Galligan, an appealing actor who went on to not much of anything else) was an early indicator of my sexual identity. (From the sounds of his sibilant commentary on Gremlins, Zach and I might have something in common.) Beyond all this self analysis, though, Gremlins was just an original and fiercely entertaining franchise. The movies are campy and extremely dated, but they hold up surprisingly well. Slickly produced and cast, they offer laughs and chills and go out of their way to be as wild and enthralling as possible. I’ll always have a place for them in my heart, and I have a feeling my own children will, too.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A real gym bunny (??)

So I’ve decided to get in shape—at long last!—and so have joined the Chelsea Piers Gym, right by my work. (“Does your gym inspire you?” ask their ads. Umm, I dunno, but that dude in the Speedo sure does.) I went in the morning, to get a workout in before my shift. It was quite nice, actually. Not many people there. The views were pretty cool, too. Naturally I worked up a sweat—I haven’t been to the gym since the mid-90s!-- but it felt good to finally be doing something to improve my own health. I stuck to the treadmill and the cycle; I was a little freaked out by some of the wacky, intense machines being used by other people. A blond woman in her 30s was on her back, moving her legs which were slung in some kind of weird strap configuration. I thought she looked like Chelsea Handler, and then wondered what if it was her? But then I figured Chelsea must have her own private gym. I mean, can you imagine how annoying it would be if you were her and at the gym, getting mobbed by random muscle Marys? “Oh my God, I loooove your show! What do you think of Sarah Palin?” And you’re trying to be nice, and accommodating, and think up some quip about Palin but really you’re just sweaty and annoyed and needing to be left alone so that you can do your Cardio. (By the way, I checked and it wasn’t her.) Afterwards I hit the showers. (Wow, I’ve never written that before. Doesn’t it sound soooo butch?) I’ve always been a modest person, and so the locker room freaks me out a bit. I’ve never understood how guys tuck in their towels so that they cling perfectly to their bodies. Whenever I try that—and I did today, believe me—the towel always falls off really easily. Luckily there weren’t many people at the gym at that time, so I wasn’t too freaked. But when I returned to the locker area, there was a gorgeous, buff boy sitting on the bench—not the kind of person I want seeing me naked in my current state. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I was in the wrong row, and my stuff was in the next one over. Thank God for small miracles! Maybe in a few months I’ll be ready to do the Full Monty in front of the cast of Another Gay Sequel, but not right now.