While losing my regular gig at OC Weekly sucks major butt, at least this year I won’t have to write yet another column about the utter tediousness of the Oscars.
February 21, 2007
February 16, 2007
Here’s one for my fellow aging Gen-X’ers. You know that crazy-ass kiddie show that was on in the morning when you were a kid, the one that nobody but you seems to remember? With the kids on the asteroid and the weird-looking puppets and the cartoons and stuff? Well, here are the psychedelic credits. And here’s Knock Knock the bird busting Goriddle Gorilla’s balls. And one of those freaking cartoons about the the little line man with the gibbering baby nightmare voice. And finally, Gary Gnu! (“I’m a gnu! How do you do?”)
Weird bit of trivia: Kevin Clash, the guy who did the voice of Goriddle, went on to do the voice of Elmo. While normally Elmo would be enough to earn somebody a piece of prime real estate by the Lake of Fire in Hell, it’s possible that Clash has earned a free pass through the pearly gates thanks to Goriddle. We’ll just have to wait until the Day of Judgement to know for sure.
February 14, 2007
I am about to make your internet experience so, so much better.
What if I told you that with the click of a button, you could make all of that horrible Flash go away? No more blinky banner ads. No more “punch this monkey and win a brand new car!!!!” No more three-minute trailers for the latest Ashton Kutcher movie sneakily downloading themselves to your desktop. No more dealing with an internet that increasingly resembles one huge, noisy, ugly-as-hell MySpace page.
Well, that sounds great, you say, but what about when you actually need Flash? Like, to see stuff on Youtube, for instance? What about that, then? Huh?
Ah, friend, I’m not talking about doing away with Flash altogether. (Although that idea is certainly tempting.) No, I’m talking about the the power to turn Flash on and off at will. You turn Flash on to see somebody’s grandma breakdancing on Youtube, then turn it off so you don’t have to look at all the winky, blinky, noisy crap everywhere else! Just imagine it! It’d be an earthly paradise!
Well, friend, you don’t have to imagine it… just click here and take you first step into a great, big, beautiful tomorrow.
February 10, 2007
Just reprinting my old articles is getting a little tired, so I’m going to start up a new section here on FAT LOT OF GOOD. EYEBALL FOOD will showcase all sorts of interesting video crap I find online: obscure music videos, geeky tech stuff, people in gorilla suits… whatever the heck I feel like, really. So, here is today’s deliciousness.
MARGO GURYAM’S AMAZING, TERRY GILLIAM/YELLOW SUBMARINE-ESQUE, ANTI-W MUSIC VIDEO . As much as I love this thing, even a pinko like me has to admit the last few seconds are rather thumpingly unsubtle. (Spoiler warning!) Either show the dummy growing devil horns, or have its nose grow, but both? Why not go all out, and show him speaking with a forked tongue while his pants catch on fire?
DINOSAURS! LIVING! LIVE DINOSAURS! This thing sure makes the modern Hollywood CGI crap look like the crappy crap it is. I almost want to hop on a flight to freakin’ Australia, just so I can see this show in person.
HOW THEY BROUGHT THE DINOSAURS BACK TO LIFE. Behind the scenes special effects geekery, with giant rubber lizards. Heaven.
NORA, THE PIANO-PLAYING CAT. Admittedly her music is an aquired taste… but what stage presence!
February 6, 2007
(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, 06-09-05)
Every year, it seems like we suffer through more and more woefully ill-conceived, big-screen remakes of old movies and TV shows. This summer’s outbreak began with The Longest Yard, which we shall not sully ourselves to comment upon save for noting that the Hollywood hack who pitched this film should have been immediately escorted off the studio lot, tossed into the back of an unmarked van, roughed up for a few hours and then deposited, dazed and bloody, in a trash bin behind the Denny’s on Sunset.
If The Longest Yard seems to set a new low for human artistic endeavor, it looks like freaking Macbeth compared to this week’s all-black remake of The Honeymooners. Now, was anybody on earth clamoring for a Honeymooners movie? Are Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton beloved comic icons of the African-American community? No, and no. But some coked-up studio marketing exec apparently calculated that a cheaply produced, crassly written urban comedy, plus the gutted shell of an established property, plus presumed insufficient audience familiarity with the original property to know what they’re missing, might just equal the cash to acquire enough coke to get through the next weekend. If there’s any justice, The Honeymooners will bomb so big that that exec will finally experience his personal Moment of Clarity and immediately check himself into rehab, vowing to mend his wicked ways. And then three weeks later he’ll fall off the wagon, overdose and die.
Another upcoming remake looks a little more promising from a distance, but take heed of the suggestion contained within this movie’s tagline: “Be Warned. Be Ready.” A big-screen version of the goofily charming ’60s sitcom Bewitched, with Nicole Kidman as Samantha and Will Ferrell as Darrin, might have been a frothy cauldron of supernatural comedy goodness. But sadly, director/co-writer Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail and other crimes against humanity) decided to stir some of her own crappy ideas into the brew. You see, this is not actually a remake of the sitcom: it’s a movie about the making of a movie remake of the sitcom, with Ferrell as the actor playing Darrin and Kidman as the actress playing Samantha. Except it turns out that the actress (the actress played by Kidman, I mean, not Kidman herself) really is a witch! Yes, I can hear you scratching your head from here, and I don’t blame you. It takes real black magic to assemble such talents as Amy Sedaris, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell and waste them all in a plot this dopey. After Bewitched hits theaters, audiences will surely be calling for Ephron to be burned at the stake.
Johnny Knoxville exploited his masochistic compulsions for plenty of good, sick laughs back in the Jackass days, but when he took a baseball bat to the crotch on that show, nobody was harmed except him and his future progeny. Since Jackass wrapped, Knoxville has been getting his self-hating kicks by starring in one absolutely wretched movie after another, making us all suffer along with him. Now he and that Dude, Where’s My Car lunk who isn’t Ashton Kutcher are co-starring in the peerlessly unnecessary big-screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard, with a supporting cast that makes you pine for the days of Sorrell Booke. No matter how cutely she fills out her Daisy Duke short-shorts, Jessica Simpson is a RealDoll© who simply doesn’t deserve to be in the same room (let alone the same movie) as Willie Nelson, while we can only forgive Willie’s involvement in this fiasco if we tell ourselves he’s still desperately struggling to pay off the IRS. The casting of Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg is particularly dispiriting, since between this and The Longest Yard Burt’s now dangerously close to a comeback, just when we were almost rid of him. Besides, he’s not even fat. Boss Hogg is supposed to be a fat cracker whose chins quiver when he hollers, “Them Dukes! Them Dukes!”—not some gaunt senior citizen who looks like a walking Madame Tussaud’s exhibit. I don’t want to believe that a movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard could possibly be a hit, because that would say things about where we are as a culture that are simply too terrible to accept. Between that and W’s re-election, the rest of the world would be justified in concluding that we’re a nation of trogs running around in torn overalls and rope belts.
But there is hope on the horizon. Eventually Hollywood will run out of old movies and TV shows to remake . . . and it looks like the day is arriving very soon. There are now plans afoot for a sequel to Zack Snyder’s recent version of Dawn of the Dead, a film that was itself a remake of George Romero’s 1978 sequel to his own film, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead (which was itself remade in 1990). That’s right, this new film would be a sequel to a remake of a sequel to a movie about (all too appropriately) ravenous, unstoppable, undead cannibals. Should this new film actually reach theaters, scientists predict that it will result in what has been described as “a massively recursive, apocalyptic aesthetic event,” at which point mainstream Hollywood will vanish from the space-time continuum, traveling at warp speed directly up its own asshole.
In the meantime, millions of Americans will endure a seemingly endless summer of big-screen reruns, slouched down wearily in our theater seats, trying to work up the courage to demand our money back and hiccupping queasily as our crappy popcorn, like our crappy movies, keeps repeating on us.
An unrequited crush can be a painful thing, but it’s even worse when the object of your sweaty affections is a movie star you’ve never met, who will never know your name and who is so far out of your league that you may as well be members of different species.
My crush began sometime in early 1991, when I saw the trailer for a dire-looking John Hughes comedy, Career Opportunities. I was barely paying attention, when suddenly there was young Jennifer Connelly, wearing a white tank top that showed off her spectacular curves to perfection. She was bouncing up and down on one of those little mechanical horsy things you see at the mall, and she had this kinda bored, pouty expression that–oh, sweet Jesus, I still get woozy just thinking of it.
I’d first seen the New York native way back in 1986, when she’d starred alongside a fright-wigged David Bowie and a few dozen Muppets in the Jim Henson cult classic Labyrinth. But that Jennifer was just a kid, boobless and buttless, with the big, sad eyes of a lost kitten. She was old enough to be in my same grade at school, but entertaining sexual thoughts about her would’ve felt wrong—like pedophilia, almost. Now here we were, just a few short years later, and she’d grown up real good. I was instantly smitten, but it didn’t became a full-blown, John Hinkley-esque obsession until a few months later, when she appeared in the Disney bomb The Rocketeer. She spent much of that picture dolled up in this old-timey, low-cut, white dress, and she was simply too gorgeous for this world; it was like the skies had opened and a zaftig angel was walking among us. I saw that stupid movie at least three times in the theater, and I resented every moment when my girl wasn’t onscreen. Who cared about that dork and his jetpack, when we’d just seen Jennifer in her bedroom, putting on her lipstick?
There is a reason why they call a crush a crush: it can be oppressive and exhausting, like a big, fancy, perfumed millstone around your neck. My Connelly crush began before the Internet became ubiquitous, so I couldn’t just hop online for a quick Jennifer fix. I had to stay up to catch her (all-too-brief!) interviews on Letterman, or pounce on any magazine where she appeared on the cover. I never saw any Jennifer Connelly posters for sale, but I wouldn’t have bought them anyhow. Owning posters would’ve been admitting to myself that she was the untouchable star and I was just one of her many anonymous fans, doomed to go to my grave without ever once knowing the smell of her lustrous, midnight-black hair. When I learned that she was studying English at Yale–brains and beauty!–I nearly perished.
I loved everything about Connelly: her smarts (after two years at Yale, she transferred to Stanford), her little mouse voice, her chubby cheeks, her untamed brows, and . . . well, let’s not kid ourselves, the girl was built. On those rare occasions when I confessed to my girlfriends that I was hung-up on Connelly, they invariably sneered, “Oh, of course,” rolling their eyes and cupping their hands about two feet in front of their chests. Sadly, my girlfriends weren’t the only ones who had trouble seeing beyond Jennifer’s double-Ds. Casting directors were equally blind to her other assets, and through most of the ’90s she played a lot of bimbos in a lot of forgettable films. Her talent was obvious even in these thankless roles, and the two words that critics most often used to describe her were voluptuous and underused.
For a long time, Connelly’s sexiness actually worked against her professionally. Sure, Hollywood likes beautiful actresses, and some sexiness is okay. But if an actress is, like, porn-star hot, with big, distracting boobs, it doesn’t matter how talented or ambitious she might be—she’ll still have a hard time ever being more than a pinup. Marilyn Monroe famously struggled with this, and she was cursed by being so far ahead of her time, so desperate to please, and so damn stacked. She was a Lee Strasberg girl in a Jayne Mansfield world. On the contemporary scene, Angelina Jolie strains the limits of acceptable sexiness. Usually, American leading ladies are the “pert,” willowy, girl-next-door type: your Megs, your Julias, your Camerons, girls so well-scrubbed it’s hard to imagine them ever getting dirty. The only time anybody noticed Julia Roberts’ rack was when she shoved it in our faces in Erin Brockovich, and that was pure stunt casting. Roberts’ utilitarian prettiness left her free to do drama, comedy, romance or whatever she felt like, while Connelly, Roberts’ contemporary, spent much of her career playing pillowy girlfriends in whatever movie she could get.
Connelly briefly dropped off my radar in the late ’90s, and the next time I saw her, sometime in the new millennium, I literally didn’t recognize her at first. She’d lost so much weight I wondered if she’d been ill. (Seriously, she could practically live in one of her old bras now.) She looked grumpy, like she’d kill for a Twinkie. But what do you know, suddenly people were treating her like a “serious” actress, and she was winning awards. She won an Oscar, for Christ’s sake! My Jennifer!
In interviews today, Connelly talks about how she almost gave up acting in the ’90s because she was so frustrated with the unchallenging roles she was getting, how she’s never been happier than she is right now and never felt more like herself. Even if looking at her just makes me sad now, if starving away her curves made her happy, if she did it for herself, well, God bless her. Still, I have this awful feeling that sometime around 1999, Connelly’s agent took her aside and told her she was never gonna win an Academy Award with those boobs. She’s so grimly, insistently thin. It looks like hard work. I miss her old, crazy brows, too.
The Jennifer I fell for, half a lifetime ago, was too big for the movies she was in. It was like they could hardly fit her on the screen. Today’s Jennifer actually looks much more like the teenage Jennifer of Labyrinth: tentative and wispy, like a strong wind could blow her away. You see her in some grim, big-deal drama like Blood Diamond, and there’s absolutely nothing, at all, to distract you from her performance. I still respect her talent, but her makeover has brought her full circle, and once again, entertaining sexual thoughts about her feels wrong somehow. Sadly, I suspect that was kind of the point.
I turned in the following It’s a Living column just before Christmas, but it didn’t reach the right editor in time and never ran.
It’s a Living: Santa Claus
Joe Bays is a seasonal Santa and W.C. Fields impersonator
By Greg Stacy
Do you mostly appear at malls or kid’s parties, or what?
Mostly private parties, for adults and children. I haven’t done a mall in I don’t know how long, maybe a decade. I just did a Chamber of Commerce this last Wednesday – in Artesia, I believe it was.
How are the kid parties different from the adult ones?
Well, you give out nicer presents (at the adult ones), I’ll tell you that! Mostly you’re there to take pictures… it serves as a kind of yardstick to measure kids as they’re growing up. You can look back, year by year, at the child with Santa, and you see the attitudes change, as the child goes from total belief, to not believing or being skeptical and somewhat standoffish, to then, when they’re older, they want to sit on your lap so they can be a child again, and pretend they believe, even if it’s only for a moment.
Do you get a lot of smart-aleck questions? “How can Santa visit every house in one night?”
Well, the obvious answer to that question is that it’s magic. Kids will ask, “If you know everything, what’s my name?” Kids can ask some very difficult questions. One time, a child asked if I could bring his dad back to life.
What did you say?
I told him there are some things Santa can’t do. I said, “Always value yourself, and take care of yourself, and do the right thing, because as long as you’re alive, a part of your dad is alive.”
Wow. That’s amazing.
Well, it wasn’t what he wanted to hear. But there are no stock answers.
What about when a kid asks if you know their name?
You look at the child for cues, to see if they’re actually testing you, or if it’s a game you can both play. They have such a short shelf life of belief, and you never want to do anything to break the magic of the moment. In modern life, I think we’ve lost the ability to believe in something yet not believe in it. The ancient Greeks didn’t think Zeus literally existed, but they believed in the power of him, as an idea. Santa is one of the last myths like that, where we know he doesn’t literally exist… but we want our picture taken with him anyway! He appeals to the better angels of our natures, and we look for a part of him in ourselves. I’ve had everybody on my lap from 10 days to 80 years, and I’ll tell you, an octogenarian’s giggle sound a lot like a 5-year-old’s!