You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Is Anyone Reading This?

Seriously, is anyone reading this? Leave a comment. Pass along a Twitter mention. Effusively praise us on Facebook (where no one will believe you). It's the least you could do besides nothing.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Best Be Moving Along Now!

It's that time of year again, the time when I suddenly remember, "Hey, we have a blog!" and "Oh yeah, the stupid Academy Awards are this weekend, and I haven't mocked it once yet!"

Fortunately for you, devoted reader (because there's only one of you), my OCD will not let me go a year without maintaining this, my annual ritual of confusing people who drunkenly Google about movies. Years from now, I'll be on my deathbed, struggling for my final breaths, and quietly whispering into my loved ones' ears, "Did I remember to mock the fact that Frozen 7 got nominated this year?"

There's a wide variety of cinematic selections on display among the Best Picture nominees this year, mostly because you can't help but have variety when you've nominated an absurdly high eight films. (Editor: They nominated nine last year.) Yes, but some of those were good films.1

Anyway, roll film, as they say... or digital, or whatever the hell it is these days...

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A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper's directorial debut treks the well worn path of cinematic iconoclast (or what producers call "cranks") Terence Malick in this dynamic tale of the birth of the star Sirius (Lady Gaga), symbolically depicted as the rising career of a pop music entertainer with a predilection for food-themed outfits.

Ally Sirius Campana, a struggling singer, runs into a big country music star named Sirius B. Maine one evening at a rather unique drag bar (cross-dressing funny car drivers). They quickly fall in love and have a lot of hot duet scenes under even hotter lights, with roadies fanning stage smoke across their sweaty, denim-covered bodies. The 20 minute scene where Ally pulls off Sirius's left boot while the band plays the extended guitar solo from Freebird is particularly salacious.

Even more impressive is the way the smoke (hickory) cures Ally's suit of bacon.

(While I know our astronomy buffs, even Neil De Grasse Tyson, can already see where this is going, please bear with me for the sake of our normal readers.)

Soon, it becomes clear that Ally's career is rising into the entertainment stratosphere like a brand new Vought Corsair, while Sirius's is spiraling in the opposite direction, like a not-so-new Vought Corsair whose propeller has fallen off.

Sirius takes to drinking, smoking, and other reckless behavior (handling angry cats) in a failed attempt to come to grips with their disparate fortunes. Eventually, he is reduced to doing intros for Sunday Night Football, and commercials for the General auto insurance, but even those indignities pale in comparison to the moment Dolly Parton mistakes him for Ryan Reynolds (an ad-lib by Parton, who didn't realize they were rolling).

On the other hand, Ally's fortunes take her to the Grammys, the Oscars, and even the rarefied air of the Kids' Choice Awards (where she is proclaimed "Queen of All that is Awesome Dude"). She never forgets Sirius though, as he is now her shoe butler. Cooper renders this final, tender scene as a lengthy zoom shot of a giant burning shoe orbiting around the star Sirius.

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BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee's riveting story (20 minutes of the film is a documentary about steel building construction) about an African-American police officer who goes undercover to join the Ku Klux Klan.

John Stallworth is an African-American police officer (or didn't you read the previous paragraph) who is investigating terrorist activity by the KKK. One day, he is cornered by angry (and stupid, which should go without saying) Klan members. Unable to escape, he accidentally falls into a vat of talcum powder and emerges, just as the Klan members catch up to him. Covered with the talcum powder, the Klan members mistake him for white and make him their Imperial Grand Wizard Dragon Vizier Poobah because he's whiter and smarter than all of them combined.

Stallworth uses this opportunity to probe the organization about their upcoming plans and learns they are preparing to attack a civil rights rally by dropping a 10,000 lb. bomb from the bottom of a Vought Corsair. Realizing the bomb is far too large for the plane, Stallworth allows the plot to go forward, which results in the Klan pilot blowing himself into a 1,000 pieces on takeoff. (Think of the Death Star at the end of several Star Wars films.)

The Klan's next 37 plots see similar results. Their plan to unleash a ravenous tiger in a multi-racial crowd fails when the three Klansmen who try to steal it from the zoo are savaged, because the tiger mistook their robes for a giant chicken. Their plan to lob grenades into a parade from a helicopter fails when the person handling the grenades counts to three by using Mississippis. (Also, they get stuck in his robe.) Their plan to roll a steamroller into a black church fails when they leave the steamroller in gear and their robes get caught underneath it (17 Klansmen are killed in this scene alone). Etc. etc...

Stallworth is finally able to arrest the two surviving Klansmen and their co-conspirators in the police department when he convinces them to walk into a jail cell disguised as a strip club.

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Black Panther

Marvel Studios finally brings to vivid cinematic life it's first and most famous African superhero. T'Challa (Scarlett Johansson)... (Just kidding! It's James Earl Jones) is a prince of the majestic hidden nation of Wakanda who must rise to the level of king when his father (Eddie Murphy) is killed by horde of angry ants, upset that they were left out of the Ant Man films.

T'Challa takes on the mantle of the Black Panther, the legendary, super-powered defender of Wakanda (and not Huey Newton's grandson, President Trump), in order to lead the nation and investigate his father's death. Soon, he finds himself hot on the trail of a Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), until he realizes he's wandered into the wrong film. He then takes a Vought Corsair (Stan Lee) back to the right film, only to find out that Wakanda has been taken over by Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who quickly realizes he's in the wrong film, and, after a lengthy apology and a fairly protracted arbitration between Marvel and DC Comics, muscles his way back to the famous water tower at Warner Bros., where they filmed most of his underwater scenes.

After this, the story (Academy Award Winner Mahershala Ali) gets really confusing, due to the fact this thing was largely plotted by comic book writers. T'Challa loses his powers, gets them back, dies four times, does a crossover series with Dr. Strange (Randy Quaid) and finally reclaims his throne back from a Dr. Evil (Albert Finney, in his final role). He also marries and divorces Mary Jane Watson, but who in a Marvel Comic hasn't?

Under T'Challa's beneficent rule, Wakanda can return to its primary economic activities: Hiding Vibranium from the world and selling Black Panther merchandise (Scarlett Johansson) to Amazon Prime customers (Stew Miller).

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Bohemian Rhapsody

A literal depiction of the famous Queen song, the film begins with a guy (Rami Malek) confused about real life and fantasy, who spends the next 35 minutes complaining to his mom (Raquel Welch) about it, along with the spree killing he committed a few moments ago. It's at this point the audience (Gene Shalit) realizes this guy might be smoking some of the reefer.

He turns away from this domestic clustersquawk to assist famed astronomer Galileo (Jerry Lewis, in his final role) on an experiment involving electricity, lightning, and comic Italian dancing of the commedia dell'arte period. The highlight of this scene is when he is frightened by his shadow (Ellen Degeneres), causing the experiment to catastrophically fail, to which Galileo exclaims, "FLAAAVEN!"

The guy tries to flee his shadow, but is held in place by a crowd of choral singers (The Manhattan Transfer) who refuse to let him go until he explains his relationship to the devil (Bryan Singer) and also what the heck "Bismillah" means.

Unfortunately, all of the singing involved results in an excessive amount of spit (Kevin Spacey) being flung into the guy's eyes. This infuriates him, and he rips off his shirt, swings about his mic stand (striking Dr. Brian May right in the plectrum), and leaves his baby (a vintage Vought Corsair XF4U-4) to follow the wind (Saoirse Ronan) wherever it goes.

He then comes back out to roaring applause and does Fat Bottomed Girls as an encore.

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The Favourite

The wacky story of Queen Anne and the rivals for her courtly affections.

Queen Anne (Gary Oldman, in a tour de force performance) is the ruler of the British Empire and has an obsessive mania for horse racing. (Her bookie is composer George Handel.) Depressed by her inability to correctly rate horse flesh (beyond spotting it in dodgy royal meals), she turns to making her ladies in waiting race one another across the gardens of Windsor.

Sarah Churchill (Cher) is rated the Queen's favourite, mostly because she gets 3-2 odds for every race. However, Abigail Hill (Dame Judy Dench) is a terrific mudder, and, after paying off 15-1 during a St. Crispin's Day downpour, AND, given that they are in England, where rain is as common as syphilis in the early 18th century, she quickly gains the Queen's favor, or as the English say, "favour."

Much plotting and scheming and weighing of jockeys (Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire) ensues, and finally, after having the umpteenth bucket of troth water dumped on her head from buckets perched above doorways (the plotting and scheming being of a particularly low variety), Queen Anne decides to settle the whole thing by having Sarah and Abigail race across the English Channel.

Two centuries later, after Sarah and Abigail's drownings, the British government (Ralph Fiennes) issues a half-hearted apology to their families and names a Vought Corsair in their honor. The film ends with the RAF Horse's Ass flying off into the distance.

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Green Book

This is the story of the publication of Monty Python's Big Red Book (which is blue in real life, but is violet in this film, because blue and green messed with the digital effects and caused all the books to look like Terry Jones's buttocks in the extended dream sequence).

Famous classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Academy Award Winner Mahershala Ali) is traveling the southern United States in the dark, oppressive era of segregation, looking for places to stay and eat. He hires a driver named Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson) to fly him by Vought Corsair from place to place. This proves impractical, as Tony does not have a pilot's license, but does have a pathological fear of heights (developed after reading the plot of Vertigo in a Wall Street Journal film review while being thrown into a ravine).

After selling the Vought Corsair to Elvis (Andy Kaufman), Shirley and Vallelonga travel the country by car (the Batmobile). They have many remarkable and improbable adventures together. At one point they nearly invent the "Surely you can't be serious" routine, except that Don keeps responding, "Well, my name is Shirley."

Eventually, they run into a very young John Cleese (Eddie Redmayne), who admires the Green Book that Shirley uses to locate hospitable accommodations on their travels. Cleese vows to use that experience in a joke someday, but notes he has a terrible memory for colors, and the film ends with all of them laughing in freeze frame.

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Roma

Roma is director Alfonso Cuaron's deeply personal ode to his favorite variety of tomato (or as the British say, tomato). "They look like plump little red sausages!" he would squeal during the press junkets for the film.

He even had 40,000 of them dropped from an airplane (a Vought Corsair, natch) at the premiere. It looked like the conclusion of a Brian De Palma film.

Anyway, there are a lot of tomatoes in the film, so many that it really obscures the plot (ostensibly the rise and fall of a 1930's Mexican gangster with a massive Jones for pico de gallo, but really a wistful reboot of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes).

There's also a great deal of romance in the film, with everyone calling each other, "My saucy little tomato!"

The film ends with a whole lot of tomatoes blowing up in slow motion, which Cuaron says was inspired by the conclusion of Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriske Point, as well as a YouTube video of guys shooting up jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce.

**********
Vice

Christian Bale (or possibly Jim Carrey... it's hard to tell at times) plays Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney is selected by President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell or possibly Rich Little) to be his Vice President. After winning a contentious election in 2000 (2016 or possibly 1960), and facing the crisis of 9/11, Cheney decides to expand the role of Vice President in the U.S. government from its traditional conception of Presidential shoe polisher. (He is finally sent over the edge by Bush telling him to, "Wax my spats, Dicko!")

Cheney's controversial actions make many people mad and others happy, depending on their politics. At one point Cheney shoots one of his hunting buddies in the face with a shotgun, exclaiming, "I'm so sorry! I thought you were a basket of puppies," after which the screenwriter (John Doe, possibly Allen Smithee) is replaced with someone who takes their job a little more seriously.

Cheney is then proclaimed king for life, demanding that Prime Minister Tony Blair (whoever is hosting the Oscars this year) to kiss his boots, after which the screenwriter is rapidly replaced again.

The third choice satisfactorily changes Cheney's remaining dialogue to lines from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. (The scene where Cheney tells Donald Rumsfeld [himself], "Swear to me!" is particularly droll.)

The stress of being Vice-President eventually catches up to Cheney, causing serious heart problems and also his heavy makeup to melt into goo.

In the end, Bush and Cheney's terms end, and they both fly away from Washington in a Vought Corsair F4U that is plastered with Haliburton logos, arguing the whole way over who has control of the joystick. A big chyron, which reads "SATIRE" runs across the bottom (Cheney's).

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1 - There are no footnotes this year. Tough.

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

Now You Know the Best of the Story!

And so the hour has come around once more, dear children, as the shadowy tendrils of winter begin to melt into the riotous, verdant new season, when I take up my virtual quill and scroll between my curled1 fingers and scribe irreverent lines of blank verse2 to you conveying my weary perceptions on the year's outstanding cinematic artifice.


In other, less florid words, I''m back for the usual Oscars nonsense!

Yes, for the fourteenth year running, prepare for the most original, exciting, entertaining, and unreliable rundown of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences Best Picture nominees you will find on the interwebs. Even though I broke my wrist over the holidays and have all the dexterity of a lion seal working a Rubik's Cube, I'm still here to give you the lowdown, the rundown, and maybe even the sundown (I went for poetry there - it doesn't always work) on the choices the friendly folks behind the Oscars have made for the greatest film of the year.

As usual, they were wrong. It was Wonder Woman.

Anyway, sit back and hold on to your magic lasso, because here we go! I hope all three of you enjoy it.

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Call Me By Your Name

The coming of age story of a young man who comes to believe he is the mirror image of a striking older man with whom he has become obsessed.

Elio Perlman (Justin Bieber) is a 17 year old on vacation with his family in Lombardy, Italy. One night, he is accidentally struck on the head by a pizza oven at an outdoor showing of Duck Soup, during the famous mirror sequence with Groucho and Harpo. He immediately comes to believe he is the mirror image of a striking older man (just in case you forgot the previous paragraph).

As he awakes from his injury, he sees the striking3 doctoral student, Oliver (Tommy Wiseau) and begins to do everything Oliver does, only reflected. This leads to several complications, such as when Oliver goes tightrope walking, when he puts his head in a lion's mouth, when he has a prostate exam, when he stands in front of an actual mirror, and when he flies a Vought Corsair and Elio only has access to a Grumann F4F Wildcat.

Things come to a head when Oliver has a bad fight with Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who is in the wrong film. Elio gets angry at Lisa also, and this confuses her so much she calls Actor's Equity and gets the lot of them in trouble with the Screen Actors Guild, whom she should have called in the first place.

The situation becomes completely intolerable when Elio confuses his own image in another mirror for Oliver and starts screaming the film's title while Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings plays in the background. (All of this happens in slow-motion, of course.)

Finally, Oliver solves the dilemma by putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger, which Elio does as well. However, Oliver's gun is only a stage prop, whereas Elio's is a .44 Magnum.

Fortunately both guns jam (Hollywood!) and while trying to fix his gun Elio accidentally pistol-whips himself back into sanity. The film ends with both young men throwing their guns into the air and laughing in in freeze frame, as Leslie Nielsen smiles down on them from heaven.

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Darkest Hour

The story of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's terrifying experience with what appears to be a solar eclipse.

Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) has spent World War II inspiring his fellow Britons with stirring rhetoric and massive, Freudian cigars. In the midst of the conflict, he briefly retreats to the Isle of Wight to reflect, plan, and smoke the hell out of 12 cases of Cuban Cohibas.

While meditating (drinking heavily) early one morning, he spots a wayward Vought Corsair4, careening towards Shanklin. Naturally, Churchill concludes this is an RAF pilot in trouble and looking to make an emergency landing; either that or someone gone AWOL to get a good seat at the nascent music festival a quarter century early ("Damn bohemian music lovers! Where's my tenth cigar?")

This thought is quickly extinguished, along with all of the available light in the area, by a massive shadow that seems to chase the plane. The sun is blotted out faster than Kevin Spacey's acting career. Electric lights dim and fail in the rapidly encroaching darkness (meaning the darkness was full of roaches). Even Churchill's cigar lighter fails him, sending him into the depths of despair ("Despair" being the name of the bunker in which he keeps his matches).

He is also frustrated by his inability to come up with something pithier to say than, "Odds bodkins!"

Soon, the entire world between Ventnor and Wooten Bridge is a gloomy sea of lightlessness. Churchill sits, lost in his thoughts - mostly how his valet is going to manage to serve him his seafood lunch in these conditions.

"It is always darkest before the prawns," he observes.

This cheers him up a bit.

Finally, as suddenly as it disappeared, the light returns. Churchill sees his harrowing experience as a metaphor for the conflict with Nazi Germany and is so overjoyed he invents the Jed Clampett dance.

Meanwhile, at Sandown Airport, just outside of Shanklin, a young Rubeus Hagrid (Zack Galafianakis) climbs out of a Vought Corsair. Searching for sweets, he puts his hands in his pockets only to pull out a small device.

"Blimey! I left my putter-outer on!"

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Dunkirk

The story of the last days of Federation officer James Tiberius Kirk. (The title is a misprint that the studio left in, hoping the Academy would confuse this film with the more widely known Christopher Nolan-directed tale of the World War II British evacuation - Mission accomplished!)

Contrary to the original Star Trek canon, Kirk's life actually reaches its conclusion when he accidentally takes the USS Enterprise into the past (AGAIN!) and beams down onto the beaches of Dunkirk, France a week before the evacuation. Consequently, everyone is a little on edge, because there are a boatload of Nazi divisions coming for them. (Get it? Dunkirk. Boatload. ...Listen, they can't all be diamonds,)

Kirk being Kirk, he immediately falls passionately in love with a French woman who just happens to have a mysterious condition that makes her entire body green. Also, she enjoys wearing skimpy outfits and dancing the tarantella, which causes her skimpy outfit to move a minuscule amount (because it's the 1940's, and people don't stand for more than that). Kirk finds all of this "strangely familiar."

Meanwhile, Spock is on the bridge of the Enterprise, obsessively calculating whether Kirk's presence on Earth will change the history of the planet dramatically. He identifies a number of alternate timelines, including one in which the Beatles don't break up. (Their 25th album is titled, "We Always Get Along So Well!")

Spock begins to conclude that the longer Kirk spends on Earth in the 1940's, the greater a chance there is that the Kardashian family never become famous and also that the Nazis win World War II. Though strongly tempted by the Kardashian thing, Spock concludes that Kirk must leave and urgently implores him to beam up, no matter how much "coitus he is enjoying with the green lady."

This all happens as the Dunkirk evacuation is starting, and in the confusion of the British army's calamitous retreat, Kirk's green girlfriend runs off with a Spanish bullfighter holidaying in the area.

Rejected for the first time in his life (technically only because it's the past and he hasn't been born yet), Kirk becomes despondent. He single-handedly (because it's a one-seater) flies a Vought F4U Corsair into the teeth of the German assault, literally crashing the plane through Hermann Goring's ugly Nazi teeth. (Yes, I know I used "teeth" twice. It was better than the line "ugly Nazi goiter.")

Kirk is killed, and Spock quietly mourns his friend's death by observing, "He really is Dunkirk."

He then does an extended version of the Napoleon Dynamite dance, singing, "I'm the captain, now, baby! Get down, Jack!"

**********
Get Out

This horror buddy film tells the story of what happens when Elaine Benes from Seinfeld takes up residence next door to an African-American family in a predominately white neighborhood.

After being released from jail for violating New York state's Good Samaritan laws (ten years for not knowing what the words "Good Samaritan" mean, with time added on for shanking George Constanza in prison), Elaine Benes moves to a suburban neighborhood, mostly to get away from George's psychotic parents, who are determined to make her a "Festivus sacrifice."

Her next door neighbors are a friendly and helpful African-American family, the Evans family. The parents, Florida and James, welcome Elaine to the neighborhood, commenting on how much more pleasant she is than Florida's old boss, Archie Bunker. Elaine is especially fascinated by their eldest son's obsession with TNT.

Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when Elaine starts uttering her catch-phrase "Get out!" at inopportune times when the Evans family are passing by. For example, one day as the Evans's are unloading groceries, Elaine is entertaining her best friend, Jerry Seinfeld, on her front porch. Suddenly, Jerry points to the sky.

"Is that a Vought Corsair flying overhead?"

"Get out!" Elaine responds in shock.

"I'm sorry, were you talking to me?" Florida exclaims, pulling a bag from her hatchback.

"Oh, I didn't see you standing there, Florida!"

"Mmm-hmm," responds Florida.

This continues on throughout the film, finally leading the Evans to move out of the neighborhood. Elaine is distraught at the damage she has single-handedly and unwittingly done to race relations. She vows to do better with her new neighbors, a very sweet family, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Out.

**********
Lady Bird

This historical film covers an erratic and life-changing road trip, taken by Lady Bird Johnson, wife of the irascible President of the United States, Lyndon Bird Johnson.

Shortly after the death of her husband, Lady Bird (Cher) buys a Ford Thunderbird convertible, a case of Wild Turkey bourbon, a case of Swisher Sweets cigarillos, and takes off on a cross country voyage of self-discovery, accompanied only by her beagle, Grassy Knoll (Tom Arnold), her hulking manservant Tor (The Rock), and four dozen Secret Service agents (The bass section of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).

After ditching the Secret Service agents at a Texaco station in Mount Vernon, she, G.K. and Tor continue their trip, taking in the sights and occasionally picking up hitchhikers who Tor refers to as "my little squeezies." It is at this point that the ex-First Lady figures out why the case of bourbon is half-empty.

Somewhere between Tuscaloosa, Alabama and El Dorado, Arkansas, while stumping Tor in a game of "I Spy" (she is looking at a modified Vought Corsair cropduster, which the sodden Tor thinks is a gassy turkey vulture), she picks up a young man named Willie (Jimmy Fallon), who reminds her of her first love in the days before her shotgun wedding to LBJ.

She and Willie wind the days down, taking turns driving, wolfing down Stuckey's chili dogs, and talking of life, mostly about how each of them got stuck with a name that's a euphemism for a wiener.

She feels herself drawn to Willie, but the age difference is too great for their times, and also Willie reveals to her that he is in fact the Zodiac Killer. Shocked and heartbroken, because he won't tell her how to break his code, Lady Bird knocks him unconscious with a shovel (because it's more cinematic than empty bottles of Wild Turkey) and leaves him at a rest stop outside Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

She swears G.K. and Tor to secrecy, which isn't hard, because they're both passed out from the liquor, and carries the dark secret into the murky future. (It's foggy and her headlights are out.)

**********
Phantom Thread

This is the story of a young woman's experience in an online discussion board where she slowly begins to suspect that she is exchanging messages with the comic strip hero The Phantom.

Alma (Bjork) is a young waitress who whiles away the time between shifts at Waffle House by spending time on online discussion boards.

One night she decides to branch out from her usual "Hot Women, Hot Bacon" boards. After wandering through the scrambled eggs forum, several muffin fetish forums, and an engrossing forum dedicated to the refurbishing of vintage Vought Corsairs, she spies a forum that intrigues her: Bangalla. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a typo for the words "bang gals."5

After three weeks, and several dates, she quickly finds her way from that forum to the actual Bangalla forum and begins exchanging posts with someone whom she thinks is Christopher Walken (the voice of Christopher Walken). After he repeatedly fails to get all her jokes about "The Continental" and "champagne," she realizes his name is actually Christopher Walker. Putting two and two together, especially after all Christopher's references to tights chafing and mask sweat, she begins to believe he is the legendary comic strip hero The Phantom.

Soon, Alma's evenings are a whirlwind of reading her online friend's exotic tales of crime-fighting, intercontinental travel, and wolf grooming. Her life is so transformed, she buys her own set of magenta tights and begins to fight crime in her home town of Poughkeepsie6. This mostly consists of screaming at jaywalkers and ominously warning people not to make unauthorized deductions on their IRS 1040 long form.

All of this unravels when one evening C.W. starts referring to her as "Christine" in posts. After doing a little sleuthing, which mostly consists of asking questions in a Sherlock Holmes forum, she realizes she has actually been exchanging posts with the Phantom of the Opera, who was only pretending to be the comic strip hero The Phantom to pick up chicks.

Despite this falsity, when she confronts him with the truth (in a 12,000 word post titled "You're Not That Phantom!") she realizes she is in love with him and consigns herself to lifetime of reading posts about organ music and sewer fog.

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The Post


Steven Spielberg's venture into the dark and murky world of war, politics, journalism, and Meryl Streep's obsession with winning Academy Awards, The Post is about a determined newspaper publisher who makes a post on social media that goes insanely viral.

So, in other words, it's everyday on Twitter.

Kathryn Graham (no relation to Billy, Chapman, or crackers) is the new publisher of the Washington Post, having taken over from the little known interim, Bob Barker. As the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, Graham wants readers to know that she's as tough and uncompromising as her male predecessors. She establishes this with a few savvy moves. She adds a extra sports section to the paper (bringing the total to four). She insists that each daily crossword puzzle include at least seven auto or woodworking clues. She replaces Dear Abby with Ann Landers, whom most readers regard as the more butch of the two. She even replaces Ziggy with the short-lived comic strip "Welding While Flying the Vought Corsair."

All of these moves backfire with the Post's audience. (For example, several thousand Ziggy fans attempt to burn down her house.) Also, Dear Abby goes after her with a machete during a lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill. This leaves the talented yet overcompensatory publisher in what is known in the newspaper business as "a tizzy."

Editor Ben Bradlee offers his assistance (in exchange for Bob Woodward's cushy parking spot next to the local pretzel vendor). Reluctantly, Graham agrees, but only if Woodward will tell her who Deep Throat really is. After a fantastic montage of Bradlee patronizing Graham for a month (set to Neil Sadaka's "You're Having My Baby"), the editor lets Graham in on the news that they have uncovered a huge cache of secret papers from the Pentagon.

"The only thing we don't know is what to call them," Bradlee growls in a voice strangely reminiscent of astronaut Jim Lovell.

Graham solves the problem and the rest is history.

Later, she posts the story on America Online and the post goes viral, mostly from all the hostile responses from Ziggy fans who still bear a grudge.

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The Shape of Water

This documentary overview of Bruce Lee's philosophical works covers a great deal of ground (much like people who got into fights with Lee).

The central focus of the film is Lee's famous remark about being like water. However, the film goes beyond the familiar quote and into the vast array of permutations and examples Lee used to show how to put his philosophy into practice all upside someone's face.

"If you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup."
"If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle."
"If you put water into a bottle with a leak, it becomes a bottle taking a leak,"
"If you put water into a silly straw, it becomes the silly shape of a straw."
"If you put water into a pipe clogged with hair, it becomes a hairy pipe."
...
"If you put water into a Chia Pet, it becomes a damp Chia Pet."
...
"If you put water into a stretch limousine, it becomes the hot tub."
...
"If you put water into a Vought Corsair, it becomes the cabin of the plane, including the butt groove in the pilot's leather seat."
...
"If water leaves a town on a train traveling at 30 miles an hour, and more water leaves on another train traveling 35 miles an hour, and the waters are 100 miles apart, how long will it take the waters to become a mongoose?"
...
If you put water into gravy, it becomes water floating on top of gravy, and, quite frankly, it ruins the gravy. This makes me deeply angry, because I love gravy."
...
"If you put water into a giant reservoir, behind an enormous dam, and then the dam is blown up, the water becomes a massive, raging torrent of death. Kind of like me in Enter the Dragon."
...
"If water is distributed into an aquifer, and the region the aquifer serves is exposed to higher than average temperatures, with elevated humidity and consistent prevailing northerly winds, the water will be distributed throughout the atmosphere as it evaporates, unless, of course, the water is tapped and removed before this can happen, which is a strong possibility in a heavily populated area with a large manufacturing base. Be water, my friend."

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Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

The intense tale of a woman, touched by tragedy, who becomes obsessed with putting up Burma Shave billboards outside of her hometown of Ebbing, Missouri.

Mildred Hayes is a local woman who, infuriated by the lack of police progress solving the murder of her daughter, rents space on three critical billboards on the main highway. This inspires the police to get off their lazy, doughnut-shaped asses and solve the crime. (It also helps that the murderer had confessed two weeks earlier.)

Flush with her billboard-inspired success, and still left with six months on her billboard rental contract, Mildred starts using the space to get other things she wants. In a scant four weeks she manages to convince the local McDonald's franchise to Super Size value meals for free (infuriating local crank Morgan Spurlock), gets everyone double coupons from the downtown Kroger's market, convinces the manufacturing plant to donate to the county soup kitchen, and blackmails the mayor and the county judge into a nude mud wrestling match during a school board meeting.

Despite the mixed reaction of this last effort, Mildred's endeavors make her a hero to the community. However, Mildred begins to grow bored with the work. She decides to do something just for her herself for change. Being an obsessive connoisseur of mid-Twentieth century popular culture (her Twitter handle is @LileksPopCulture), she decides to recreate the famous Burma Shave signs.

Unfortunately, she quickly realizes those messages usually required five to seven signs. Refusing to give up - and also being battier than a Louisville Slugger factory - she has four additional billboards built on the highway and sets about bringing the kitschy past to life.

The universe is against her however, as every new billboard she erects is destroyed by a freak disaster. A Vought Corsair from a local air show crashes into one of them. Another is carried off by twister. The third is toppled by an angry Sasquatch. ("Sasquatch don't like shavin'.") The final one is destroyed when the Sasquatch throws the third billboard into it.

Eventually, Mildred decides that this is the spirit of her daughter telling her to move on. She donates the remainder of her billboard rental time to the Shoji Tabuchi Theater7, and turns back to her first love, pole dancing. The final shot of the film shows her dangling from a pole in front of the billboards, waiting to receive her Best Actress Oscar.

1This is not an Olympic Curling reference.
2No, not ACTUAL blank verse. Since when did you mistake me for Shakespeare or Marlowe?
3Three strikings and you're out!
4Congratulate me! This is the first Vought Corsair reference in 14 years that isn't out of place.
5Turns out it's hard to type when you're "getting busy."
6Voted funniest town name in the U.S. from 1987-2013.
7Unfortunately, Branson, MO is in the opposite direction.

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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Politics!!!

One of my big regrets in letting this blog slide is that we missed the whole political scene of 2016 and much of 2017. Oh, I'm glad we missed much of it, except for the jokes. There were so many jokes.


And they were all on us.

However, politics, like death, taxes, and venereal disease, can always be found. So, it's never too late for a dose of the political clap, so to speak.

One thing that political analysts really enjoy is predicting things and being wrong. I write those two together because over the last half decade or so they have gone hand in hand. Well, we can predict things and be wrong, too. So, here are some predictions about the political landscape. I feel confident that one or two of these will almost certainly come to pass.

  • President Trump will be impeached, but will be exonerated on the Senate floor when Claude Rains rushes in and yells, "Expel me! I did it!" After the vote acquitting Trump, Rains will protest that he wasn't referring to the President but to Senator Mitch McConnell, expelled earlier that day after he was mistaken for cartoon legend Yertle the Turtle. Also, Rains will realize he's been dead for decades and crumble into dust. A bad day all around for the Senate.
  • Hillary Clinton will also be impeached and acquitted, just for the hell of it.
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senators Chuck Schumer and Rand Paul, and incoming Secretary of Commerce Kid Rock will form a Def Leppard tribute band. Only Paul's hair will prove superior to the original. 
  • Governor Bobby Jindal will release his book, "Hey Everyone, Remember Me?"
  • Vying for the legacy of Hillary Clinton, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris will marry unfaithful, slick-talking politicians, take dubious contributions, jack up their speaking fees by 1000%, and react to fireworks like they are on PCP.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will form a boy band named "You Just Knew This Would Happen."
  • President Trump will take to responding to all press questions with the line, "I don't have time for this ****. I have to pee." His popularity will go up 15 points, solely on this change. The irony? It's a lie. He peed in the hallway on the way in.
  • The Mueller investigation will end with a single conviction: Former White House Advisor Steve Bannon will be convicted of egregiously violating federal limits on body oil and sweat. He is sentenced to life imprisonment and to be nightly visited by the ghost of Andrew Breitbart, who beats hell out of him.
  • Congress will replace the current tax code with the rules for the board game Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
  • Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson will get stoned. A lot. (I can't go wrong with this one.)
  • Senator Ted Cruz will announce the publication of his new book, written entirely in code, "Yes, I am the Zodiac Killer. What the Hell Are You Going to Do About It?"
  • Senator Bernie Sanders and Actor/Writer Larry David will finally confirm that they are, in fact, the same person.
  • The meme "But Her E-Mails" will quickly die out when investigators announce that Hillary Clinton's e-mail server contained her explicit orders for Fox to cancel Firefly and for CBS to renew Two and a Half Men for several seasons. 
  • President Trump will announce the following at a news conference: "Twitter just expanded to 280 characters, which just happens to be the length of the nuclear code! In fact, I just tweeted it!"


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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

How to Ruin Your Social Media Company or Why Twitter Sucks

You may be surprised to see a new post here, given how little activity there has been over the last few years. To be honest, I've concentrated my efforts on Twitter for some time, because the jokes fly faster and are seen by more people. All of this is changing now, thanks to one group of people: the staff and management of Twitter.

If you're a longtime Twitter user, you're probably familiar with Twitter's ongoing quest to resolve their weak (some might say calamitous) financial model by slowing becoming "Facebook-Lite." In practice Twitter's change process goes like this:


  1. Announce a new change that doesn't accomplish anything besides eroding Twitter's unique qualities.
  2. Watch as the vast majority of Twitter users declare their utter contempt for the change.
  3. Go ahead with the change anyway, because "**** the users; we're losing money on this crap."
  4. Lose even more money than before and fall further behind other social media companies.
  5. Turn attention towards the next big change that will fail.
It's a vicious cycle, marked primarily by Twitter's stubborn refusal to acknowledge they made a bad choice, something even Microsoft is capable of doing on occasion.

Seriously, I can't think of a change Twitter has announced that they backed away from after the inevitable complaints from users. If there is one, it's obviously a minor, inconsequential one, because on all the big ones, they've blown it like the Atlanta Falcons at last year's Super Bowl. Just off the top of my head, here are a few:

  • Changing the trends list to favor popular tweets, a case of the rich (celebrities and famous Twitter accounts) getting an edge over the average Joe and Josephine.
  • Changing Favorites to Likes (and the insipid hearts that came with them)
  • Expanding tweets to include additional media at no count (the most obvious offenders are the awful, seizure inducing animated GIFs - yes, I have used them on occasion, but only ones I felt were reasonably smooth and not idiotic, which limits my choice to about 2% of the available lists).
  • Over policing people's tweets, resulting in accounts being frozen for political disagreements, while actual stalkers, terrorists, and other malfeasance goes untouched. 
  • Changing the avatars from rectangular images to space-wasting circles, despite the near-universality of rectangular framed photos.
And now, in their latest FUBAR, they have expanded the size of tweets from 140 characters to 280 characters.

Listen, I realize this is, as they say, a "first-world problem," but I'm a writer, and this affects one of the principle writing activities I engage in these days. So, for me, this is serious business, even if what I tend to write is silly and occasionally slightly deranged. (It's all on purpose, of course!)

The original genius of Twitter is two-fold: 

First, it allows people from all walks of life to freely communicate with one another. I've exchanged tweets with comedy heroes, famous actors and writers, and people who are as famous as I am (which is to say, not at all). I have Twitter followers who are quite accomplished in their fields. It's a kind of technological miracle that doesn't really happen as much in other social media. And those famous people didn't have their publicists and agents between them and us. It was really them, which is often thrilling, and occasionally disappointing.

Second, the 140 character limit created a form of writing that minimized blather and rambling, creating, at its best, a place where people exchanged pithy, witty, and even thoughtful statements. Yes, there was still plenty of junk, vulgarity, and stupidity, but it was stupid, vulgar junk that didn't run on for a dozen paragraphs. Twitter placed a premium on economy, if not elegance, which is a commodity every writer, even those of us prone to the eccentrically baroque, should value. 

Yes, Twitter isn't the greatest place to have an argument, but even the arguments on Twitter forced people to pare their thoughts down to the essentials. And the short tweets made for a natural tool to share breaking news, leading to a kind of communal experience most people haven't experienced since cable TV exploded.

And now they've ruined it. Extending the limit has already produced thousands of tweets that are nearly unreadable in Twitter's format, especially on smartphones. More so, it's made Twitter into something all too familiar - just another social media format where people can blather and ramble on and on. It's made Twitter ordinary and boring, if not annoying.

Twitter's owners and managers have made it more and more like the other social media outlets, and, sadly, the more and more this has happened, the more people are learning that Twitter doesn't really serve a purpose anymore. We can do everything we can do on Twitter on Instagram or Facebook or Blogger.

And that's the beginning of the end for Twitter. And the sad part is, like the line in the Radiohead song, they did it to themselves, and that's why it really hurts.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Besting Out!


It's that time of year again, the magical, exciting time when the shimmering Illuminati of Hollywood congregate in their finest regalia and rarest baubles to ostentatiously celebrate making... well, making the same junk they've made for decades.

It's also the time when I struggle to write a new blog post title with the word "Best" in it. My apologies to Rick James for this year's entry. It was either that or "We Must, We Must, We Must Improve Our Best."

As you can see, I didn't have very good options.

Anyway, the 2017 nominees for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Picture of the Year do not include any Star Wars films. But, as regular readers may have guessed, they include a helluva lot of Vought Corsairs...

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Arrival

This entry probes deep into the depths of outer space, asking the question, "Are we alone?" and answering it with, "Are you nuts? Have you been to midtown Manhattan recently?"

Amy Adams plays a woman pretending to know nothing about extraterrestrials - even though she's dating a very famous one, known for his cape and tights. (No, she's not dating Thor. No, it's not the Martian Manhunter either. No, Silver Surfer doesn't even have a cape... what are you people smoking?)

The humdrum, day to day monotony of her boring life as a journalist who flies with and snogs Superman (Duh) is shattered when several, super-cool looking, alien spacecraft land in different parts of the globe. She immediately begins investigating the story, mostly because she's got a serious Jones for aliens, but also because Perry White won't get off her back about getting exclusives with extraterrestrials.

"Great Caesars's Ghost! Do you want the N.Y. Post to catch up with us on super interviews?!"

She travels to the distant and exotic lands of West Virginia to see the largest of the craft, accompanied by Jimmy Olson (Seth Green), who makes at least 69 "size doesn't matter" jokes on the way. They fly to the location in a Vought Corsair, mostly because Jimmy can't get Google Maps to work on his product placement Windows Phone.

"Siri, show me the route to West Virginia."

"I'm not Siri. This is Google Maps. On a Windows Phone."

"Stop kiddin' around, Siri!"

Arriving in darkest West Virginia, they confer with military types who don't really want a couple of snoopy* journalists hanging around. Lois (Yes, Lois Lane!) convinces them to let her and Jimmy stay by impressing them with her pitch perfect pronunciation of "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto," which is always handy in these situations.

Also, they are afraid Superman will punch their lights out if they detain the two.

After exploring the area around the spaceship, Jimmy clumsily trips over a tank and falls into an area explicitly** marked "RESTRICTED." This sets off numerous alarms (and at least one dazzling glitter bomb), which then causes the ship to become active. In a remarkable display of smoke and lights (remarkable in that it exactly duplicates Def Leppard's 1986 stage show) the ship opens up, and from its deep and mysterious bowels strides a purposeful, solitary figure ...a figure wearing tights and a cape.

It's Superman, who proposes to Lois in what must be the hokiest and most expensive proposal stunt ever concocted. She says yes, but only because he went to Jared's.

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Fences

Fences is a story about a guy who really loves fences. No, seriously, Denzel Washington plays Oxnard Bandersnoot, the neighbor of poet Robert Frost (Chevy Chase). Frost is writing what will one day be a very famous poem about fences but at the moment is a somewhat risque limerick about "a dame who fell off a fence."

Oxnard inspires Frost to rework the poem into an American classic. (There's a great scene where he says, "You know, you should change this poem so that it becomes an American classic.")

Also, he points out that the first line doesn't work in a limerick at all.

Impressed, Frost observes Bandersnoot for days, concluding that he is a hard working, plain-spoken man with a sensitive and inquisitive soul, but who knows absolutely nothing about farming. (The scene where Oxnard tearfully tries to milk a rooster is especially poignant.) However, he does love fences. He loves wooden fences, rock fences, barbed wire fences, stolen goods fences... he even loves fencing (epee, sabre, etc.). However, he doesn't love walls, because he's not a Trump guy.

"If you ask me, instead of a wall, Trump should build a fence, a big, ole' fence."

The more Frost learns about Bandersnoot, the more fascinated he becomes. He follows Oxnard through his daily routine of chores: planting fields, plowing fields, planting fields again because he accidentally plowed up the planted ones, and a rigorous four hour workout in the local Gold's Gym.

Frost even goes so far as to rent a Vought Corsair (the vintage, two-seater O2U biplane, so he can take photographs while the pilot flies) to observe Oxnard from the air. This scares the actual crap out of Oxnard, who was trying to take a number two in the field to avoid a long walk back to the house (and also because he couldn't afford fertilizer).

This leads to the final confrontation between Bandersnoot and Frost, an amazing light sabre fight ("En Garde!"), and Oxnard's inspirational final words to Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors."

Of course, that was the final edited version of the poem. An earlier draft contained Bandersnoot's full quote, which was, "Good fences make good neighbors. So, stay the hell away from me, you freaky, rhyme-happy stalker. Seriously, back the crap up Frost, and take your freaking leopard skin-bound, JFK-signed Roget's Thesaurus with you!"

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Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Mel Gibson's long road back to respectability in Hollywood.

However, the actual film is about a pacifist who serves in World War II, endures the horrific violence of the Battle of Okinawa, the horrific violence of Mel Gibson's reenactment of the Battle of Okinawa, flies to Tokyo in a Vought Corsair to taunt Emperor Hirohito ("Your mother smells of elderberries!"), receives the Congressional Medal of Honor, and returns to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia to sell hacksaws for a living. Ironically.

This all happens in the opening five minutes of the film. Then things get weird.

The world is suddenly destroyed by a nuclear holocaust (Thanks, Trump!), leaving the soldier (Mel Gibson) alone in a vast desert wasteland, with only his souped-up car and 1,000 gallons of gasoline (which for some reason he refers to as "petrol") for company.

He is not alone for long. He is soon joined by Sting (Sting) riding giant sand worms through the desert and singing "Don't Stand So Close to Me" - the better, upbeat version.

Next, they are joined by FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), also riding sand worms, who insists that the desert wasteland reminds him of something. However, he can never place his finger on it, because every time he's about to remember, someone distracts him with coffee and pie.

Suddenly, Dennis Hopper (Digital Dennis Hopper) and a VERY nude Isabella Rossellini (Brittany Spears) arrive on the scene. Between hits of nitrous oxide, Hopper blathers on about his missing "chopper." Rossellini spends most of her time draped around Agent Cooper, calling him her "secret lover," and refusing offers of "a bathrobe, towel, a empty barrel held up by suspenders, anything to get this film back down to a PG-13 rating."

Finally, the world is swallowed by a giant, luminescent moth, who digests it for a billion years with the rainbows in his stomach. Which is the sequel to the film, to be directed by Terence Malick.

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Hell or High Water

This comedy is about ex-President Obama's attempts to hold back the rising of the seas with his personal magnetism. When this fails, resulting in Miami being renamed "New Atlantis," the president turns to a number of far-fetched schemes, each more hilarious than the other, according to the press releases for the film (all written by George Stephanopoulos).

The film opens with President Obama (Denzel Washington) arriving in Florida in a Vought Corsair. (To cut down on carbon emissions, the White House has loaned Air Force One to Al Gore, who paid carbon credits so he could use it to go skydiving.) The president is visiting the disaster areas of Eastern Florida, including the ones created by flooding.

The president realizes he must do something about the ecological nightmare, so he calls over his right-hand man, Shirley (Anne Hathaway) and explains the situation.

"Shirley, we must do something about this!"

"I'm on it, Mr. President. And stop calling me Shirley!"

"But it's your name."

"Oh, right. Good catch."

The first solution Shirley devises involves a very large bucket, but she quickly realizes that literally bailing out the coastal states isn't as easy as arranging financial bailouts. (Sad trombone)

Next, she attempts to have Western Europe lowered, so that the oceans might go there instead, preferring the more cosmopolitan atmosphere. After scientific advisers (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in multiple roles) explain to her The Netherlands have already tried this, she decides instead to have the coastal states raised. This involves the massive relocation of dirt from other, drier parts of the country (mostly Arizona) and is accomplished in a massive cinematic sequence, accompanied by the theme music from TV's "The A-Team."

Unfortunately, this only results in the accumulation of several piles of wet dirt in the Fort Lauderdale metro area.

Shirley's next plan is more complex. She attempts to confuse the oceans by renaming Florida "Tennessee." Other than the temporary relocation of the Grand Ole Opry to Wewahitchka, Florida (which was already pretty wet to begin with), this plan also fails.

Finally, just as Shirley is about to nuke the water out of the oceans, President Obama's term ends, and they all fly to Hawaii to play golf.

President Trump then takes office and tries to turn back the tides of the oceans to with the force of his own personality, which only makes the oceans angry.

**********
Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is the story of three African-American female mathematicians who help NASA put a man into space, and who also play an elaborate practical joke on astronaut John Glenn by hiding his vintage Disneykins figurines (the 'Hidden Figures" of the title).

The film opens with pilot John Glenn (Buster Poindexter) landing his Vought Corsair F4U at an airfield in Anaheim, California. While wasting the government's time loitering around the airfield gift shop, he spots a set of Disneykins figurines. He is immediately taken with them, especially Minnie, because "Va Va Voom!" Also, the figurine of Pluto instantly inspires him to become an astronaut.

"One day, I will land on Pluto!"

Cut to several years into the future at Cape Canaveral. Mathematician Katharine G. Johnson - "no relation to Lyndon B." (Taraji P. Henson - No relation to Jim) is starting her first day on the job for NASA. She meets new friends Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle MonĂ¡e) over a light lunch of ham sandwiches and differential equations.

The three women strive valiantly to maintain their human dignity and professionalism in the face of the evils of racism and segregation, which they do beautifully, of course. Duh.

However, they are constantly irritated by the astronauts' penchant for playing practical jokes on the staff, and, after two months of having their office furniture flipped upside down, their cars festooned with toilet paper, and their algorithms littered with the Riemann hypothesis, they decide to plot their revenge.

Their brilliant plot comes together during John Glenn's orbital flight. Aided by an eccentric physicist named Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Bradley Cooper - What, did you think it would be Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory? It's the 1960's!), and in a caper scene rivaling Ocean's Eleven, the ladies break into Glenn's locker and Bogart his figurines, hiding them in an undisclosed location (initially, the same one Vice President Dick Cheney used in the early 2000's).

Glenn is informed about the practical joke in the middle of his flight to the amusement of everyone (especially Alan Shepard, who wishes he had thought of it). Unfortunately, Glenn is so upset at the thought of anything happening to his precious Minnie ("My precious!") that he loses his concentration and sends the ship off course, headed straight for Uranus.***

Fortunately, Katharine, Dorothy, and Mary devise a brilliant equation to put Glenn's capsule back on course, no thanks to Dr. Cooper, who is too busy arranging his comic book collection to help.

Glenn safely splashes down and is greeted as a national hero. Later, back at NASA, the ladies reveal that the figurines were in his spacesuit the whole time.

"So that's what was floating around down there!"

They all laugh in a closing comic freeze-frame shot that aesthetically undermines the rest of the film.

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La La Land

La La Land is the musical story of a place where no one wants to listen to anything anyone has to say. So, everyone spends the entire day with their fingers in their ears, shouting, "La, la, la, la! I can't hear you!"

Clearly the film is a metaphor for Hollywood. And Washington. And the UN, and about 75% of Thanksgiving family dinners after the 2016 presidential election.

Emma Stone plays Babette, a young, aspiring actress with a speaking voice that could strip the bark off of a redwood (Think Lena Lamont from Singing in the Rain, only voiced by Harvey Fierstein). However, her singing voice is so beautifully ethereal it could melt the face of a Nazi.

After flying into La La Land in a chartered Vought Corsair (because she refused to fly United), she is at first overwhelmed by the constant chatter and waxy fingers of the local citizenry. After several attempts to make friends, she finally befriends a young-ish man named Aloysius (Ryan Gosling) at the local Tim Horton's by talking to him when he takes his fingers out of his ears to eat his apple fritters.

"How do they taste?"

"Like apples, sugar, and beeswax!"

However, her voice proves so sonically appalling that he immediately puts his fingers back into his ears.

After several weeks of this, Aloysius is near starvation. Fearful that her only friend may die, she sings to him in a production number that would make both Florenz Ziegfeld and Beyonce blush. Recognizing that her voice is beautiful (and that she doesn't look bad in a sheer toga, either) he realizes that she can communicate to him in song, enabling them to fall in love. After a few dozen Honey Crullers to regain his strength, the whirlwind romance begins.

Alas, they quickly find out that he wants to Make America Great Again (TM) and She's With Her. They both quickly plug their fingers into their ears and life goes on in La La Land.

**********
Lion

Lion is the story of an adopted Indian child who dreams of playing the Cowardly Lion alongside Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, despite the fact that the role was performed by Bert Lahr in 1939.

Saroo (Dev Patel) is separated from his family in Khandwa, India when his house is suddenly swept up by a freak tornado. Being a bright child, and having a preternaturally fine sense of fashion, he passes on wearing the gaudy red shoes that fell off the witch on whom his house landed.

However, he is now thousands of miles away from home, lost, alone, unable to speak the local language, and extremely dizzy from all the spinning around.

He is quickly adopted by an Australian couple (Mel Gibson and Meryl Streep) and raised as though he were one of their own children, which he actually is, because they legally adopted him. So, it's weird that they keep making a big thing about it.

Eventually, he grows up, watches The Wizard of Oz 10,000 times (wishing he'd taken the shoes so he could have gotten home by now), and becomes convinced he would be perfect for the role of the Cowardly Lion, because he loves wearing fake fur and knows how to sing and pout at the same time.

He leaves Australia, flying a Vought Corsair back to India, which scares the hell out of several million people, 1) because he forgot to remove the bomb strapped to the belly of the plane, and 2) because he never learned to fly and his landing approach consists of diving into the runway in an out of control spin.

Coincidentally, his spinning landing kills yet another witch (the annoying, condescending one in the giant bubble) and he uses her wand to locate his parents, travel back in time, and star in the role of a lifetime.

He and Judy Garland marry and have a daughter, named Liza Saroo Minnelli. She later moves to India, starring in some of Bollywood's greatest musicals, and her daughter gives birth to a little boy named Saroo, giving this film the creepiest ending ever imagined.

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Manchester by the Sea

This film answers the question, "How do you tell apart Manchester, England from Manchester, Massachusetts? The answer is, of course, one of them is right by the sea.

Unfortunately, it takes a two hour and seventeen minute slog through the dysfunctional personal relationships of several New England residents (no, not the Affleck brothers) to get there. Along the way, things get bizarre.

Lee (Casey Affleck) is a handyman disturbed by the past. When his brother, Biff (Ben Affleck) suddenly dies by falling out of a Vought Corsair, he returns home to comfort his nephew Chad (Matt Damon) and to solve the mystery behind Biff's death.

Lee hires The Batman (Ben Affleck) to solve the mystery of his brother's death. Batman (Christian Bale) determines that the death was murder and that the murderer is someone in the town, possibly the Joker (Jack Nicholson).

Lee asks Batman (Michael Keaton) to interrogate all of his family members (The Baldwin Brothers), and a few old high school bullies (Gary Busey, Rosie O'Donnell), just for fun.

Batman (Val Kilmer) romances both Lee's ex-wife (Julie Newmar)and his brother's ex-wife (Jennifer Garner). He also befriends Chad, and Lee's other cousins, Todd (Tom Brady), Trevor (Conan O'Brien), Jared (The guy who owns the chain of jewelry stores), Ross (David Schwimmer), and Doug Niedermeyer (Mark Metcalf). This involves a lot of shooting pool and cheap, domestic beer drinking.

Batman (George Clooney) concludes that all of them are guilty of the murder, and that also, Biff was a real jerk. Batman (Adam West) then defeats them all in a zappity-pow climactic fist-fight, aided by his "ward," Dick Grayson (Burt Ward).

Batman (Will Arnett) then confronts Lee with the evidence that he is the ringleader of the murder crew. Lee starts to deny it, but finally confesses, exclaiming, "And I'd have gotten away with it too, if not for you meddling kids and your "ward!"

Batman (Lewis Wilson) then turns over Lee and the gang to Chief Inspector O'Hara (Ben Affleck) who laments "the sorry sight of such a dastardly family," punctuated by a few heartfelt exclamations of "Begora!"

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Moonlight

The tragic tale of how Beethoven was inspired to compose his Moonlight Sonata begins with a young African-American man (Ashton Sanders), sitting in a roadside diner, listening to Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." The young man, named Chiron - after the little logo widgets at the bottom of cable channels and NOT the boatman at the River Styx, because that would be terribly pretentious - is fascinated by the idea that, despite being deaf, Beethoven composed music so beautiful it inspired a Chuck Berry guitar solo.

Due to a combination of powerful, illegal narcotics, and powerful, probably illegal, diner-strength Sloppy Joes, Chiron falls into a deep sleep. He dreams he is transported to 19th century Vienna, into the parlor of Beethoven himself (Chuck Berry).

Beethoven shows Chiron all the marvels of Vienna: The Opera Hall, the Composers Guild, the House of Parliament, his mistresses' apartments, and the factory where they make the bland little sausages that smell like wet salt.

Beethoven then takes Chiron for a flight over the city in a Vought Corsair O2U. (It's a dream, people... so BACK OFF.) From the air, over one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Chiron realizes his own personal problems seem small and distant and hardly worth worry.

However, this passes as soon as they land when the plane is suddenly surrounded by a group of very racist musicians who are upset that Beethoven is spending so much time with a young man of color, and also that he arranged his Ninth Symphony for electric guitar, bass, drums, and "duck-walkin' shoes."

Also, there's one guy who keeps pulling out his hair and shouting, "A giant mechanical bird!!!"

Chiron and Beethoven barely escape with their lives by driving off in the 1968 Ford Mustang Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt, (DREAM!) They drive from Vienna to San Francisco, where Beethoven has a concert scheduled with Little Richard (Franz Liszt).

Just as they arrive, Beethoven announces that their adventure has inspired him to write the most amazing piano sonata, and he composes the Moonlight Sonata in 120 seconds flat, maiming several band-members foolhardy enough to venture close by while he's stabbing his pen into the inkwell.

Chiron awakes with a new respect for his own life and vows to make something of himself, as well as to never eat another Sloppy Joe again as long as he lives.

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*A confusion abetted by the "Joe Cool" t-shirt Jimmy is wearing
** The sign has at least three F-bombs on it.
***Admit it. You knew I'd make that joke sooner or later.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Not Your Grammy's Grammys!

As usual, I sat out the Grammys, having little tolerance for televised, partially lip-synced, live, recorded music. However, I'm told it was quite a hootenanny, and so, being the conscientious reporter of popular culture that I am, I felt this was as good a time as any to make my first non-Oscars pop culture post in 3 or 4 years.

As I didn't actually watch the show though, most of this report is based on Internet accounts of the program, some of which may be less than reliable -- although if you can't trust accounts like @crazylyingoldbastard, who can you trust?

The show opened with a dazzling Beyonce number. She arrived astride a unicorn, wearing a classic Bob Mackie "ToomuchfabricforCher" number, only made of gold silk and encrusted with platinum, diamonds, and a relatively safe level of iridium (for the perfect glow). She sang a medley of Slim Whitman tunes (the danceable ones).

Kanye West then interrupted the first presenter to announce that Beyonce should have won whatever award she was going to lose later that evening.

Snoop Dogg then presented an award. Well, I think it was Snoop. By all appearances it was only a large cloud of thick smoke with elegant shoes. However, in addition to Snoop's voice, Martha Stewart could be heard from within the cloud, exclaiming, "These cookies are going to be delicious!"

This was followed by a Beyonce number. She sang Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" while riding an ornate (gold, diamonds, the usual crap) nineteenth-century stagecoach pulled by Adele and Taylor Swift. The whole thing ended when Cash's face was projected on her baby bump, which she proceeded to gyrate in such a way to make it appear that Cash was finishing the song.

The lady is a marvel.

Kanye West then interrupted a Lionel Ritchie presentation to announce that when The Commodores wrote "Brickhouse" they must have been thinking of Beyonce, despite the fact she wasn't born yet. 

"Imma let you finish," West intoned, "but you all were ******** Nostradamuses!"

This was followed by several angry speeches by various performers criticizing President Donald Trump and threatening to back out of playing his casinos and resorts if he doesn't "ease up a bit."

Next was a new Metallica number, which fans at home only heard as a loud, amplified shriek and guitar chord. Kayne interrupted the finale to remind everyone that the Atlanta Falcons were more deserving of the Super Bowl win than the New England Patriots. He then suggested someone should "blow up Tom Brady's balls (pause) ...his footballs! (heavily-amplified rim-shot)"

This was followed by a Beyonce number consisting of her riding on the outside of an actual 747 that plunged into a life-sized reenactment of the destruction of Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius. People called it the most euphemistic cover of Spinal Tap's "Sex Farm" ever done.

Next, the award for best classical composition was given to a very famous European composer who was booed off stage when he or she* made a plea for "tasteful, moving music." 

Kanye West then interrupted again. "Imma let you finish, but would the owner of a Red Lamborghini please send a member of your posse to the parking lot. Your lights are on. [19 different people get up]. Sorry, that's a *cherry-red* Lamborghini! [14 sit back down] ...A convertible [3 more sit down] ...With a custom spoiler! [1 more sits down] Thank you."

Lady Gaga then did a recreation of her Super Bowl set, only with more drones and dancers.

This was followed by songs memorializing David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, and a very befuddled CeeLo Green, who was sitting in the audience, dressed as one of Auric Goldfinger's victims. This depressed the hell out of everyone, despite the cocaine.

Adele won the award for Best Everything, but explained to everyone that she thinks Beyonce should have won, and also that she loathes herself as a human being for daring to even touch Queen Bey's award and is thinking of becoming a nun, or maybe just switching to folk music, which is "the same thing except without the chastity." 

This was followed by a Beyonce number where she performed nude while hypnotizing the live and televised audience into thinking she was wearing a very detailed and exotic costume (the usual stuff, only with pearls).

The show ended with Morris Day and the Time reminding us all of why we used to listen to pop music.

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*This happened during the commercial break, so no one is sure.

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