It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

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.

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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 Monáe) 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.

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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.

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.

--

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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Simply the Best Picture Nominees of 2016!

I realize this place has been quieter than a John Kasich campaign rally lately, but one thing I will not forget to post is our annual review of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Best Picture nominees.

This is the time of year when we sit back in awe and wonder at the cinematic magic that brings to life fantastic stories and characters on the silver screen. Then, after we turn off Turner Classic Movies's annual month long tribute to the Oscars, we sit around an wonder which one of this year's crop of digital phlegm will be momentarily ennobled by the little gold statue of the man with the improbably long "sword."

And the Oscar goes to... one of these. I suppose.

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The Big Short

This amazing Disney film is about the day Rick Moranis accidentally enlarged Martin Short to the size of a stretch Hummer limo. (Original title: Honey, I Maxed Out the Marty!)

During a holiday party (Arbor Day) at Graceland, actor and part-time mad scientist Rick Moranis (James Franco) is playing around with his latest invention, a death ray. After frying Donald Trump (Rip Taylor) to a crisp and burning a basketball-sized hole through Lena Dunham's (Hillary Clinton) cowboy belt buckle, Moranis makes a few delicate adjustments to the device with a baseball bat (Robert DeNiro) and accidentally enlarges Martin Short (Kenneth Brannagh) to the point where he could have played Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, were Hagrid twice as big and a world-class talk show schmoozer.

Always being "on" and seeking to entertain the party crowds, as well as the alarming crowd of government scientists (the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models) gathering outside, "The Big Short" quickly demolishes the Memphis mansion while relating a story about a visit to Gary Busey's (Nick Nolte) winter condo (Holiday Inn Express), and growing even larger he juggles Elvis's collection of rhinestone-covered Cadillacs (The Jonas Brothers) until they crash, destroying an entire wing dedicated to Elvis's capes (Martin Short, in an unbilled cameo).

The change in size, and Moranis's continual firing of the ray at Short, yelling, "I can fix this Marty!" quickly drive the giant-sized Ed Grimley mad. He rambles eastward, over the Appalachians (getting several standing ovations from hill people who still remember his brilliant turn as the even larger Jiminy Glick), eventually rampaging down the east coast. The Big Short makes his way to the Big Apple, stopping only to do two nights of stand up in Atlantic City, and finally to the top of the Empire State Building, reasoning, "Why not? It's a cliche, but a good one, I must say!"

At the top of the Empire State Building, he regales the city below with several anecdotes about visits to Regis and Kathy Lee (both played by David Letterman, in flashback), and a mildly salacious story about a flirtatious Mia Farrow, until a passing squadron of Vought Corsairs shoot him down for referring to Frank Sinatra as "Mr. Farrow."

As Marty falls, Rick Moranis points the ray at himself, just in time to grow himself to giant size. He reverses the effect, points the ray at Short, and reduces his size just in time to improbably catch him, Luckily, the 4,587 bullets fired at the plucky comic actor only grazed him, and every one lives happily ever after, because that's the way Disney rolls these days.

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Bridge of Spies

A dark tale of espionage, betrayal, and scheduling snafus, this film recounts the day in 1987 that every NATO and KGB agent in Europe got stuck in a traffic jam on the Tower Bridge in London.

The day begins when a lone Vought Corsair drops a cargo of leaflets on the Soviet Embassy in London (right down the street from the Nando's on Bayswater Road). The leaflets purport to reveal the time and location of a major exchange of secret information (the secret recipe of KFC's 11 herbs and spices) between KGB double agents and MI6 agents, all disguised as mimes. Unfortunately, the leaflets scatter, landing not only on the embassy grounds but also in the surrounding neighborhood, where they are collected by intelligence agents from around the world (except for the French, who are on a smoke break at the time - the Belgians fill them in later, during a lunch of frites and coq a vin).

What none of the participants know is that the flyers are a prank by a local television and radio personality (rhymes with Balan Cartridge) who is determined to embarrass the Soviets for "inventing borscht."

The prank quickly turns deadly when the location, the Tower Bridge (for those of you who didn't bother to read the first paragraph), is swarmed with aggressive, hard-drinking, heavily-armed mimes. The situation quickly turns into violent, acrobatic, yet remarkably silent combat that brings traffic to a halt from Doddinghurst to Tadworth.

The situation is finally defused when Margaret Thatcher para-sails into the conflict with a mini-gun and dispatches all of the remaining agents, along with three actual mimes, just for sport.

The media personality (rhymes with Fallon Tartridge), in keeping with the sternest traditions of British Justice, is fined 15 pounds, and ordered to clean up the bridge.

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Brooklyn

This is the fascinating story of a young, idealistic Irish woman (Whoopi Goldberg) named Brooklyn (after David Beckham's eldest son, who strangely would not be born for another 50 years). Being named Brooklyn, she decides to travel to Brooklyn, NY and promptly charters a Vought Corsair to travel to America. Unfortunately, due to the Corsair's limited range (882 nautical miles), and the fact that she is not trained to fly the single seat fighter, she finds herself crash landing on an uncharted island in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Just as she is about to lose all hope and draw a face on a semi-deflated volleyball, she is rescued by a tramp steamer headed for Morocco. The ship, populated with Charlie Chaplin impersonators (the cast of TV's Glee), is a torrent of bamboo canes, baggy pants, over-sized shoes, and weird, obsessive questions about whether Brooklyn is really as old as she looks.

This proves too much for her, and she steals away one evening in a lifeboat, while the Chaplins are distracted with "Roller-skate Night." She rows the remaining few thousand miles to the new world (fortunately, she has forearms like Popeye the Sailor). Alas, her navigational skills are sub-par, and she beaches her dinghy on the shores of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After a few more tries (Havana, Miami, Venice, Prince Edward Island) the exhausted Brooklyn finally spies her destination on the horizon. She rows into view of the magnificent environs of New York City's most colorful borough, letting her senses drink in every building, street corner, and resident, and she promptly decides to return home.

She rows off into the east, into a glorious sunrise, humming the theme music to Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, eventually landing in Singapore.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

The sequel to the little seen Mad Max film, Mad Max: Who Let the Dogs Out, Fury Road tells the story of how our rugged Australian hero drives down a quite little road in the Melbourne suburbs, completely enraged that he is unable to burn from his mind the image of the weird guy in the
codpiece thong from The Road Warrior. Thus, we the audience have complete empathy with our hero.

Max (Jackie Chan) is ostensibly driving to the local chemist for a tube of hemorrhoid cream - so we know he's already on edge - but the nightmarish image of a mohawk and buttstrap sharing the same ghoulish body pushes him over the edge. He turns his vehicle, an 18-wheeler, into a KFC, and after changing the truck into the fried chicken vendor, he drives the now mobile KFC into a trailer park, flattening dozens of old cars on cinder-blocks.

After the carnage, the residents of the trailer park decide to hire Max to ward off the roving gangs of punks trying to steal their gasoline and put tires on their cars. Also, it's the only way to get Max to move his vehicle off of the town mayor (Getty Lee).

Eventually, Max befriends an eccentric pilot (Yahoo Serious) who flies an ultralight. Max trades in the ultralight for a Vought Corsair, and when the gangs finally attack, in their fleets of Toyota Priuses, the pilot blows them all to kingdom come with a single rocket.

His work done - by the frazzle-haired aviator - Max tells the park residents he must move on, largely because he never made it to the chemist and is unable to sit in one place longer than 30 seconds. He drives off into the sunset, flattening two trailers and exploding a kangaroo in the process.

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The Martian

The mysterious story of how the star of TV's My Favorite Martian hid from the general public the fact that he was actually from Mars.

Ray Walston (Javier Bardem) is a moderately successful actor in Hollywood with a dark secret: He was born a prince of the hidden, ancient people of Mars (known to them as "Laurel, Mississippi" in their native tongue). He crash landed on Earth in the 1940's, when his spacecraft, now disguised as an outhouse in his back yard, was clipped by a Vought Corsair during a hurricane. Struggling to conceal his alien lineage from the vultures in the press - specifically Variety gossip columnist Martha Vulture, he takes an unlikely part in a new television series about a man from Mars living on earth. ("I nailed the audition!")

However, rather than making life easier for Walston (whose given Martian name is "Poopsie"), the show presents all sorts of challenges. For one, the stereotypical antenna the Props department attach to his head constantly interfere with his actual antenna, which are a full three feet longer. Also, the show is being picked up back home, which leads to several angry interplanetary phone calls from his irate father, the King of Mars (King Fiddle-Faddle III, played by Dame Maggie Smith), who threatens to incinerate the earth with an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, if the writers don't lay off the "little green man" jokes.

Finally, Walston decides to out himself as a Martian. Unfortunately, he makes his announcement just a week after the notorious guest appearance of Marlon Brando (Vice President Joe Biden) on the show, and the rest of the cast and crew assume Brando's influence has caused Walston to adopt method acting. For the rest of the series, no matter how much he protests that he is an actual Martian, they believe him to always be "in character." Walston accepts his fate and parlays his fame into an endorsement contract for TV "rabbit ears" antenna, making him a billionaire (in Martian money - 1,000 Martian dollars = 1 peso).

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The Revenant

This is the story of a man, a bear, and the man-bear love that dare not speak its name. (Yes, I'm going
with that joke. Why waste good opportunities?)

Waldo Willworkforfood is a gold prospector in the Pacific Northwest who has nothing but bad luck, largely because he spends most of his time panning through city water in downtown Portland. He turns to the wilderness and sets off on his own, hoping for a change of luck, and also for a break from the insults of cappuccino-addled hipsters who make fun of his red and white striped clothing.

After a week in the wilderness, he comes across a crashed plane (a Cessna - BUT we see in flashback it was shot down by an awesome Vought Corsair). The plane contains a number of empty food boxes and an empty crate labelled "picnic baskets." After following a long trail of empty deviled ham cans, he stumbles across a horrifying sight (Nick Nolte and Gary Busey Greco-Roman wrestling in a mud pit), and, after fleeing this horror, he befriends a very large bear in a pork-pie hat and necktie. Soon, despite the bear having a mustache of deviled ham, grape jelly, and pimentos, Waldo finds himself strangely attracted to him and his smarter than average mind.

Waldo believes the bear to be some kind of mystic, because he goes by the name Yogi (although Waldo takes to calling him "Gentle Ben" for reasons that thankfully happen off-camera) and the two become very close. Their idyllic paradise is threatened though by the arrival of another smaller bear, who vaguely resembles Barney Rubble. This new bear, Boo Boo (or as Waldo calls him, Jezebel), reminds Yogi that, despite his love for processed sandwich spreads, he is a creature of the wild.

Yogi and Boo Boo depart into the deep wilderness (NOT a euphemism). Waldo is left alone, distraught. He lingers in the forest, slowing dying of thirst and hunger, until at the very end when he is rescued by a bumbling park ranger.

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Room

This is the long awaited prequel to Tommy Wiseau's legendary magnum opus The Room. However, unlike Wiseau's film, it is well written, acted, and directed, making it a complete and utter disappointment.

The film begins when Tommy (Leonardo DiCaprio) moves into a townhouse somewhere in Los Angeles (or possibly Vancouver). He spends hours on the roof, muttering to himself about how much he would like to have a girlfriend named Lisa, and another friend named Mark, and how they "totally would never sleep with each other, leading him to destroy himself in an incoherent fit of poorly expressed rage."

After wandering around on the roof for 84 of the film's 97 minutes, Tommy spies a passing plane (a stylish Vought Corsair F4U) and, being nuttier than a squirrel's pantry, takes it as a sign. He names the plane "Lisa and Mark will never betray me," and wanders downstairs where he drinks 40 rum and cokes straight, rendering him catatonic. (Producers claim this scene was necessary to explain Tommy's behavior in The Room.)

As Tommy regains consciousness, there's a knock on the door. It's a pizza delivery girl delivering 20 pizzas the neighborhood kids ordered as a prank. Ironically, the kids didn't realize that pineapple and anchovies were Tommy's favorite. He pays for the pizzas (in quarters) and asks the pizza delivery girl what her name is. "Mary," she replies. Tommy announces that he's going to call her Lisa and asks her out. Against all odds, common sense, and human dignity (because Tommy is covered in rum and has already devoured two of the pizzas by this time) she says yes.

In the background, a guy stands in the middle of the street, staring at Mary/Lisa. Tommy shouts at him, asking, "Who the hell are you?!" The guy replies, "My name is Mark, *******!"

This leads to the final shot of the film, in which Tommy narrows his eyes, raises a menacing hand in the air, and exclaims, "Oh, hi Mark!"

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Spotlight

Spotlight is the story of how a team of journalists diligently tracked down the evidence to reveal a massive sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, only to have one of their number become irrationally obsessed with spotlights.

Quentin Illuminati (Jim Carrey) is an investigative journalist working on the scandal story when, while watching an old fashioned burlesque show, he discovers that he is strangely fascinated by spotlights. He quickly discovers that he cannot take his eyes off the spotlight, as it roams up and down the dancers'bodies. At first he assumes he is just a prurient sleaze, but later, while attending a circus, he succumbs to the same fascination when a clown recreates Emmett Kelly's famous spotlight sweeping routine. (He screams, "Don't do it, Emmett!" at the top of his lungs as the act concludes.)

Concerned about his health, he consults several psychologists and at least one electrician. He discovers that he has "felinephiloluminosity" or "the love of following lights around like a kitty cat." He resolves to confront his malady with a "beautiful mind" approach and research the history of the spotlight, but, after the usual grueling journalist research (consulting the Wikipedia page once, and asking a few random followers on Twitter, who consequently block him), he concludes there is not enough information, and he decides to take greater action.

He tries to wean himself off of spotlights by focusing on other lights. Traffic lights don't work, because just when he starts to get interested they turn green and he has to move. Flashlights turn out to just be smaller, less interesting spotlights.Airplane lights work for a time, (there's a marvelous sequence involving a flight of Vought Corsairs attacking a giant penguin) but even they eventually pale in comparison.

The last shot of the film has Quentin at his lowest, sitting in a theater corner, gazing at the spotlight, until, out of the corner of his eye, he spots a stagehand closing the curtain with the biggest, most magnificent piece of string he has ever seen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Besting Loose 2015! - The 11th Annual Oscar Best Picture Review

Tomorrow is the night when millions of people from around the world turn on their televisions and celebrate the movie industry. And after the pre-Oscar shows about Hollywood's vast history, we all turn to the other business of tweet-mocking the Oscars show within an inch of its gilded, overwritten life.

There will be many awards given, but none so prized as the award for Best Picture, given to the producers of the best film of the year, instead of the directors, actors, writers, grips, or others who actually made the blasted thing.

Here are my annual capsules of the Best Picture nominees. (As usual, I've not really gotten to see them, so I've done my best to describe them as they ought to be. Seriously, if they're different from this, then I don't know how they got nominated. Take my word for this. I've been doing it for 11 years.)

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American Sniper

Clint Eastwood directs the gripping tale of the first American to ever successfully hunt for and KILL a snipe.

Bradley Cooper plays Phineas Q. Farthingdoodle, a failed easy listening DJ who decides to shake up his life by going on a dude ranch vacation. After being informed that Billy Crystal has mined this territory twice, with mixed results, Phineas chooses the thrill-a-minute, devil-may-care, camouflage-glittered life of a woodlands hunter instead, reasoning correctly that he can live on the food he kills, and, in a pinch, can accidentally shoot some of the longhorns owned by the stuck-up bastards at the nearby dude ranch camp.

After outfitting himself in head-to-toe camouflage - including a very uncomfortable scene involving some Fruit of the Loom product placement and a zoom lens, he purchases several high-powered rifles and a dozen Duck Commander duck calls, the latter of which turn out to be a poor investment, as it is deer season.

Phineas proves to be a terrible deer hunter, partially because he has seen Bambi 100 times (and cried every time), and partially because he has also seen Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter 100 times, and is overcome with the insatiable urge to shoot any fellow hunters who look like Christopher Walken (a more common occurrence that you would expect, even in a Hollywood film).

At his nadir, he is mocked and shamed by many of his fellow hunters (all of whom are inexplicably named Bubba) and the dude ranch douche bags. The former suggest that Phineas go "snipe-hunting," and being completely oblivious to sarcasm, that is exactly what he does. He sets off into the wilderness into a personal odyssey of tracking, shooting, camping, beef jerky devouring, and uncomfortable outdoor constipation. Just when he is about to doubt the existence of snipes (having finally looked up the subject on Wikipedia), he accidentally fires his rifle into the air. Miraculously, it hits a Vought Corsair, forcing its pilot to crash land right on top of the world's only actual, existing snipe.

The snipe is killed instantly. Phineas is credited with the kill, and becomes famous, most of all for being sent to prison for 10 years for destroying an endangered species.

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu dares to go where no live-action director has gone before, which is to make a feature length film about the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Birdman. (The subtitle of the film is the director's plaintive hope that no one remembers this character or his well-known revival on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.)

Michael Keaton plays Birdman, giving the usually stiff and pedantic hero a lively, sardonic edge, mostly displayed by scratching himself in personal areas, and referring to all members of the opposite sex as "sweetheart" and "doll-face."

Unlike the original cartoon or the Adult Swim reboot, the Birdman of Iñárritu's film is an actor, looking for his big dramatic break. Ironically, it comes when he is awarded the lead role in Batman, directed by Tim Burton (played by Johnny Depp), Birdman gets the role because he already has superpowers and because "his natural wings give the Bat-cape a great flowing look in widescreen."

However, playing a different superhero than the one he already is gives Birdman a serious existential crisis, which he resolves by developing a personality disorder. (He thinks he is Helena Bonham-Carter.) The rest of the film explores how he tries to balance fighting crime with his acting duties, Tim Burton's amorous advances, and being mobbed by Harry Potter fans who are still furious that he killed Dobby.

The crisis all comes to a head when he is stunt flying the Batplane (a modified Vought F4U Corsair). He loses control of the plane and is about to crash when he realizes he is not Queen Lady Jane and can fly under his own power. He flies off joyfully towards the warm rays of the sun, and not understanding basic principles of astronomy, freezes to death in space.

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Boyhood


Richard Linklater spent 12 years making this dramatic story of a young boy coming of age in a troubled family. Unfortunately, he recorded every single second of his young actor's life and the film is 12 years long. Academy voters and critics are still watching it, but report that it's started out well He's just starting to crawl and his boom-boom doesn't smell quite so bad since they got him off of the carrots.

Seriously, Linklater does not hold back on the details. Gene Shalit's initial draft review of the film uses the phrase "Linklater is Cuckoo for Ka-ka" 17 times.

Not having all that time to kill, we at DOUI got a copy of the extended trailer (only 4 hours) and can report some additional highlights of this gripping story:

  • Age 3 - He gets his tooth knocked out when he tries to ride his pet Scottie (a monkey, dressed up to look like James Doohan) and falls into an open manhole (his father's beer cooler).
  • Age 7 - He notices for the first time that girls are different when his 12 year-old sister explains how babies are made, using a tuning fork and a can of Cheez Whiz.
  • Age 11 - He decides he wants to be a pilot after visiting an air show (and watching a stunning Vought Corsair flyover) but his dream is quickly shattered when he discovers that he gets airsick from plane noises. He quickly changes his vocational aspirations to "Cheez-Whiz manufacturer."
Great stuff, and we look forward to seeing whether it wins in 2027.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson's latest knockabout romp stars Ralph (pronounced RaaiTHHHH [spittle]) Fiennes as an aging Bavarian Alpine hotel with delusions of grandeur (it thinks it is Helena Bonham-Carter). One lengthy bout of psychotherapy and out-of-control Harry Potter convention later, the hotel is on the road in France, looking for a nice spot to set up shop in, close to Paris, but not too close, "so as not to have to put up with all those smelly Parisian hotels." (The Grand Budapest - pronounced Buda-PESTCHHHH) Hotel is kind of a jerk.)

This voyage (pronounced vo-YASHHHZZZ) of self-discovery is tripped up when French building inspectors catch up with the slow-moving hotel and issue a notice of condemnation, because it lacks the minimum wine cellar (2000 cubic yards) and fromagerie (47 cheese rooms) for French establishments. Highly alarmed by this predictably Gallic turn of events, the hotel escapes into Switzerland, where 24 cheese rooms is the standard, and German-born hotels can get by with 17, if they have compensating schnitzel-ovens (an even dozen).

Things really get crazy when Swiss authorities get a notice of extradition for the hotel on the charge of murder (one of the inspectors was still trying to post the notice of condemnation when the hotel panicked - after being buzzed by a Vought Corsair-  and ran off, crushing the inspector under the Segway it was fleeing on). The charge turns out to be a mistake (it was another, Belgian, hotel) and the hotel gets to spend its autumn years off of a bypass near Thun (pronounced THOR, mostly for the sake of a tie-in with an upcoming Avengers flick).

Yes, the French hotel inspector's name was Clouseau.

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The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a dark and gritty story about the rough and tumble world of celebrity impressionists. It's a darkly rough, gritty tumble of a film.

Cumberbatch plays Cyrus MacGillicutty, a young comedian starting out on his own in L.A, After struggling with a limited observational stand-up routine (50 minutes on the ins and outs of breakfast cereal getting soggy) he tries to liven up his act with some improv and accidentally discovers he has a gift for doing impressions of celebrities. (A heckler tells him he's boring, but he mishears it as "Turing" and does 15 brilliant minutes on getting his necktie stuck in the gears of an Enigma machine.)

Soon enough, his career is on the rise and he's palling around with other notable impressionists of the times. He's swimming in Rich Little's pool, dining on Frank Gorshin's veranda, and wearing Andy Kaufman's Elvis pants.

The sudden rise to success takes a dark and tumbly turn into gritty roughy when one day he is summoned to a seaport and flown via Vought Corsair (the OS2U Kingfisher model, of course) to a remote island. There, he finds the other great celebrity impressionists of his day and discovers they have all been called to battle to the death. The winner receives a lifetime pass on to the Tonight Show to promote his or her work at any time - even the Catskills stints! The losers will die (because, as I noted before, it's a battle to the death and... sheesh, are you people even reading all of this?!). The twist? All of the fighting must be done while doing impressions.

After killing two Humphrey Bogarts, a spot-on Kate Hepburn, and a fair to middling Jimmy Stewart, MacGillicutty comes face to face with a young impressionist doing a magnificent Alan Turing (obsessively counting bicycle pedal revolutions). Reminded of his own good fortune, he cannot bring himself to kill his opponent. This turns out to be fortuitous, as the opponent is in fact his younger self, transported by a time wormhole to this moment in the future. Together, they defeat the remaining impressionists, except for Rich Little, who had escaped earlier by virtue of his convincing Johnny Carson impression. They leave the island on a jet ski, destined for an unknown future as Jimmy Cagney.

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Selma

Selma is the story of the famous and important civil rights march in Alabama, and thus is much too serious a film to risk parodying here. However, I do take objection to the few revisions that the filmmakers made in the film:

  • In the scene with President Johnson, his tie is tied in a Double Windsor knot. Everyone knows Johnson favored a Half-Windsor.
  • George Wallace did not travel via Vought Corsair to Tuscaloosa to block the doors of the University of Alabama. He made the trip in Bull Connor's Klanmobile.
  • In scene 47, Martin Luther King Jr.'s mustache is clearly upside down.
  • The "Tusks are looser" University of Alabama/Elephant joke did not originate with Hosea Williams. He borrowed it from Groucho Marx, who borrowed it from an early iteration of a Bazooka bubble gum wrapper, written by S.J. Perelman.
Other than that, great film! I hope to see it and the other nominees someday soon.

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The Theory of Everything

The inspiring story of how Stephen Hawking overcame the debilitating weakness caused by his battle with ALS to make great advances in the world of physics. However, the story goes a little awry when the screenwriter takes the idea of a Universal Theory of Everything a little too literally, and elaborates on several details of the theory in a long monologue by the physicist, including:

  • The intricate relationship between dark matter and the way you can never quite get Marmite to spread evenly on toast.
  • How the tenuous nature of the event horizon of a black hole explains Jim Carrey's erratic film career.
  • Why the legroom on airplane flights would improve greatly if airlines would just apply the General Theory of Relativity and curved space to copies of SkyMall magazine. (Bad timing on this one, perhaps!)
  • How quantum gravity is directly responsible for the appalling quality of writing at televised awards shows. (Edgy! But is it too close to home for Oscar voters?!)
The film reverts back into a traditional narrative when Hawking is flown in a Vought Corsair to the CERN supercollider, where he is told by a technician that it has been bought by Disney and is to be converted into the world's longest underground roller coaster. Hawking's wits are still sharp though, and he quickly spots that the technician is in fact actor Jim Parsons of TV's The Big Bang Theory. Hawking responds with an electronically synthesized "Bazinga!" and the film ends in a jovial freeze-frame of everyone's mirthful reaction.

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Whiplash

Marvel storms the Oscars with this dazzling spin-off featuring the villain from Iron Man 2. Mickey Rourke returns to the screen as Ivan Vanko, the Russian genius physicist/bird fancier, with a taste for whips that would make the cast of 50 Shades of Grey blush (if such a thing were possible).

The film opens with Vanko being treated for very severe burns, and includes a lengthy recuperating/training montage reminiscent of the Rocky films (in that it uses the same music and 15 minutes of the montage consist of Vanko chasing a chicken - dude loves birds). After fully recovering, except for a slight speech impediment (ironically, the inability to pronounce Russian words correctly), Vanko begins to plan his revenge against Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., in full Sherlock Holmes mode, for some reason). 

Unfortunately, Iron Man is doing a Guardians of the Galaxy tie in and is somewhere in deep space at the time. So, instead, Vanko decides to revenge himself on Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) by wiping out the band Coldplay, a process he describes as "consciously uncoupling" them from life. After learning that Potts has heavily invested in a magazine named "Goop," he decides nothing could be worse than that and turns his attentions to revenging himself on  Lt. Col James "Rhodey" Rhodes. 

Alas, he is a bit confused by casting issues, and instead of going after the Don Cheadle version, he takes his vengeance upon the Terence Howard version during a shoot of the new TV series Empire. Thoroughly confused by the fact that "Rhodey" Rhodes is spending most of his time in a music studio, trying to get a "hook that is off the hook," Vanko gives up dreams of revenge and makes the lonely journey home to Russia (in a Vought LTV A-7 Corsair II) where he becomes regionally famous as an inventor of electrified S&M paraphernalia.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Decade of the Dictionary

Exactly ten years ago today, give or take a nanosecond, we started The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas. The whole concept was to give us a place to write humor and you a place to read it. Obviously, this has not been the most active of blogs lately, a problem I hope to rectify soon, but for the first 5-6 years this place was hoppin'.


So, how to celebrate ten years of silliness, satire, and something else starting with the letter "s" (not "sex" you pervs)? Well, I'm celebrating by taking a walk down memory lane, and, after I'm done working through my many childhood issues, by posting some of my very favorite pieces from the last ten years. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have, and are moved to tweet about them as much as One Direction fans tweet about those guys (and I don't mean proportionally, so please get on that soon).

There are so many bits I love on our blog, I could never get all of the best in one post, but this is a good sample. If you love us or hate us after reading these, you'll have a pretty good idea about the rest. If you want more, I strongly recommend the Best Of lists on the sidebar. 


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Best Be Besting the Best of the Best

Even though things around here have been deader than Anthony Weiner's political future, We can't forget the annual tradition of my Academy Awards Best Picture review.

As usual, I've done a meticulous analysis of the nominees, consisting of four minutes of looking at plane photos. (Longtime followers of this blog know exactly what I'm talking about.) Also, I'm rereading my unauthorized galleys of Alec Baldwin's unpublished memoirs, "Alec Shrugged," just to get in the right mood for the show - a mixture of scotch-fueled optimism, incandescent rage, and deep confusion caused from absorbing too much hair product.

And the nominees are...

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American Hustle is the long awaited story of "The Hustle," America's dance, the United States' answer to the tango, salsa, samba, meringue, and funky chicken (which, as you can tell by the arrangement, is Swiss).

The film begins with a lonely, destitute choreographer, Quinton Enigma (Johnny Weir, in his debut role), who is forced to sell his collection of rhinestones, spangles, and boa feathers to make ends meet. While working on an off-Broadway musical (off-Broadway, as in "off-Broadway Avenue in Little Rock, Arkansas"), he suddenly hits upon the unique dance, writing out the crucial steps as he lies perishing from a fatal attack of "trying to get an Oscar too soon with a dying scene."

Improbably, because it's only 1939, the dance sweeps the nation. Soon though, it is forgotten in the Zoot Suit Panic of 1940. Johnny's devoted sister, Riddle Enigma (Tara Lupinski, billed as "Mrs. Johnny Weir") keeps the dance alive by using it in talent shows, cruise ship performances, and Boy Scout revues.

Fast forward to 1977, when director John Badham (John Travolta) is looking for a special dance to highlight in his film Saturday Night Fever. Riddler immediately flies to Los Angeles to show the dance to Badham, which is unfortunate, as the film is shooting in Brooklyn, New York. Grabbing the Red Eye to Brooklyn (a classic Vought O2U Corsair), she arrives on the set and makes a dramatic pitch to the director. Unfortunately, Badham has decided to use a newer dance (invented in 1952) called the Macarena. Luckily, Riddler runs into actor John Travolta (Shia LeBouf, on one of his better days), who instantly falls in love with the dance and with Riddler, despite the fact she is 40 years his senior. The rest is history.

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Captain Phillips is the emotional story of the marriage, career, and divorce of The Captain and Tennille. While The Captain's stage name is Daryl Dragon, his birth name is Wilson Phillips.

No, just kidding! It's the tale of the guy who started Phillips Petroleum. His name was also Wilson Phillips, and he named the gas stations Phillips 66, because that's how old

he was when he wrote the hit song "Hold On" for the singing trio named after him.

Well, actually they named the band after the Wilson Phillips who changed his name to Flip Wilson. He then went on to invent the Flip Phone and pancakes.

Another great Wilson Phillips, was actor William Shatner, who was born Wilson Tiberius Phillips. The film Captain Phillips is named after him, and his role as Captain James T. Kirk. However, it is also named after poet William Blake, whose middle name, remarkably enough, was "Captain Phillips."

Incidentally, Blake was responsible for naming the Vought Corsair, in his poem "Bombs of Experience."
Corsairs of Vought, for what you ought
To fly and wrought, these bombs you bought
Blake dedicated the poem to painter Thomas Phillips (middle name Wilson), who painted a famous portrait of Blake, and who also like to stroll about Westminster in nothing but a captain's hat.

The film, not unsurprisingly, is based on an unpublished play by Samuel "Phillips Wilson" Becket. The name of the play? My Captain, My Captain!

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Dallas Buyers Club is the story of a Texan with a shopping addiction so strong, it eventually led to the creation of the QVC television network.

Bob Sexalot (Matthew McConaughey) is a cowboy living in West Texas, in 1985, and working on George W. Bush's ostrich ranch ("The best necking in Texas"). Despite the daily lunch of all the BBQ neck meat he can eat, and his favorite frozen french fries ("Ore-ida, Ore-ida, Ore-ida!"), Bob grows bored with chasing, and riding, the large, erratic birds. So, one Saturday he decides to drive to Lubbock for a day at J.C. Penney.

This day proves to be a revelation of sorts to Bob, who is enthralled with the wide variety of products on display at Penneys; from rugged, yet colorful children's clothing, to stylish gentlemen's wear, to elegant, yet comfortable women's clothing, and a wide array of...

We apologize, as this blog was temporarily hacked by a retail associate at a national chain, which shall remain unnamed.

Anyway, Bob invents QVC, makes millions of dollars, flies off into the sunset, blah, blah, blah, tragic twist of fate, blah, blah, blah, runaway fire truck, blah, blah, blah, pumpkin pie eating contest, blah, blah, blah, naked Angelina Jolie, blah, blah, blah, Optimus Prime, blah, blah, blah, Vought Corsair, blah, blah, blah, ...all brilliantly acted by the cast, performing in boot-cut jeans and breathable flannel shirts, now on sale at a Penneys near...

Someone call tech support, please.

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Gravity is the story of, well, gravity. So, in many ways it's an epic, since it begins at the beginning of the universe, but in many other ways it's a slow-moving, uncomfortably intimate film, such as the 17-minute montage documenting Joan Rivers' boob sag.

Gravity starts out as a nice little idea, (It'll bring things together!) but quickly gets out of control when all sorts of heavy stuff starts falling on people, including trees, cars, airplanes, buildings, and Evel Knievel.

Eventually, people tire of gravity and start to look for ways to defy it - sneakily at first, so it doesn't jump all over your ass. People use balloons, blimps, dirigibles, zeppelins, biplanes, prop planes (including the classic Vought F4U Corsair), jets, para-sails, ski-lifts, and escalators, all of which go haywire at some point, and crash violently into the earth, when gravity realizes they are playing around with it.

Finally, humans venture into space where they can slip the clinging bonds of gravity's deathly grip and live footloose and fancy-free ...except for all the vomiting and decreasing bone-density, which leads scientists to conclude that space travel turns people into Kate Moss.

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Her is a remake of the episode of the Big Bang Theory, where Raj falls in love with Siri, the iPhone assistant. (Deleted quote from the show, "Siri, really puts the *ass* in assistant!" "Shut up, Howard.")

Joachim Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a quiet and sensitive man whose greatest dream is to grow a mustache as impressive as Tom Selleck's. While researching mustache combs, his smartphone suddenly dies (it jumps into the path of a street sweeper after being asked to search for the term "short hair grooming" for the 100th time). Theodore buys a new phone and activates the digital assistant, "Samantha." Initially, he is taken with the way Samantha refers to him as "Darren" and insists they are married, with a daughter named Tabitha who has magical powers.

However, soon "Samantha" proves to be as mentally unstable as Microsoft's Windows 8 design team, and has a nervous breakdown, which first manifests itself when Theodore asks for the location of a nice French restaurant. Samantha insists that he be beheaded on the guillotine as a "traitor to Le' Revolution," and loudly sings Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball" in French.

Samantha recovers and apologizes to Theodore, who accepts her apology by taking her to Olive Garden for an endless bowl of salad, which Samantha ecstatically photographs and uploads to dozens of food blogs simultaneously (just one of the many technical mistakes the film makes). However, the next day her voice has changed to that of the HAL 9000 from 2001, A Space Odyssey, and she begins to obsessively refer to Theodore as "Dave." ("Samantha, what's the quickest route to Sea World?" "I'm sorry, Dave, but I think this conversation can serve no more porpoise.")

Later her voice morphs into that of Darth Vader, which leads to a funny scene in an elevator involving a group of elderly women and some very suggestive breathing.

Finally, Samantha completely flips her virtual wig when Theodore accidentally makes a typo while searching for the 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine for the F4U Vought Corsair. (He types "S-2800" instead.) She explodes, in a cloud of metal, silicon, and Otter Box rubber.

Theodore is distraught, but finds some solace in discovering that the explosion surprisingly leaves his mustache in magnificent form.

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Nebraska is the story of how Bruce Dern helped Bruce Springsteen to write, sing, and produce the title album, which is about the small town of Nebraska, New Jersey.

The film begins when Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Willis) decides to create an album of songs for solo guitar and voice. His agent Bruce Cashin (Bruce Campbell) counsels him against this move, arguing Springsteen's fans want the hard-rocking Bruce of "Born to Run" (Bruce Boxleitner) and not Young Bob Dylan of New Jersey (Bruce Hornsby). He also suggests that acoustic music has "the sales potential of used adult diapers," and that with Springsteen's unique style of vocalization, fans might "get his singing convinced with his sales potential."

Springsteen ignores this advice after meeting Bruce Jenner (Bruce Vilanch) who tells him to chase his Olympic dreams, and also that he could stand a chin tuck and a little face tightening. ("It's done my eye tension wonders!")

That night, Springsteen dreams he is flying over New Jersey in a Vought Corsair with Neil Sedaka, who is wearing a a bra and listening to ska music. This convinces Springsteen to name the album "Corsair." However, he soon finds himself relating the story to a disheveled Bruce Dern (Bruce Springsteen) in an alley, in downtown Bayonne, who points out that "Ne-bra-ska" is a much better interpretation of the dream, and "have you met my cute daughter Laura?"

Springsteen completes the album and has another dream in which Bruce Lee (Bruce Dern) gives him thumbs up, and then smashes a guitar amplifier with nun-chukas.

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Philomena is the story of the woman who founded the London Philharmonia, against terrific odds, in a snowstorm, underwater.

Philomena Oscarworthy (Dame Judy Dench) is a poor, homeless musician who spends most of her time scraping together a living, busking in the streets of London - which isn't easy, as her instrument is the triangle. She turns to mime for awhile but gives it up, after finding her heart isn't in it, and that it's annoyingly easy to break out of those invisible boxes.

She decides to look for other, similarly deprived musicians, in the hopes of starting an orchestra, or at very least someone with an instrument case they can all fit in on cold nights.A BBC reporter named Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) learns of her plight and decides to go down to Trafalgar Square to make fun of her. However, once he meets her, he is touched by her careful, intense acting, and her ability to play "My Sharona" on the triangle.

He decides to accompany her on a long journey by Vought Corsair to find the musical talent she seeks, a journey which takes them to New York City, Los Angeles, Nebraska, New Jersey (the states, not the small town), Chicago, Memphis, and KOO-ka-MUNGA! They meet many colorful characters on their journey, who sadly were all too bland to be nominated for an Oscar and thus don't rate a mention here.

Finally, Philomena and Alan gather enough musicians and return to London to premiere their new musical body: Penguin Cafe Orchestra. However, at the last minute, Alan suggests naming the orchestra after Philomena, Alas, as he is a television journalist, he cannot spell worth a tinker's cuss, and the "London Philharmonia" are born.

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12 Years A Slave is a heartrending story of how a free human being is imprisoned in one of the most unjust institutions in human history, and therefore it isn't really very funny at all, despite the anachronistic error of including a Vought Corsair fly over in the penultimate scene, and a very inappropriate prologue involving a circus clown, a showgirl, and a giant pretzel.

I mean, I don't know what they were thinking when they added that to the beginning of what is otherwise a very sober-minded and moving film. It's really quite remarkably disappointing to know that a gifted filmmaker could sully the intense and powerful cinematic energy they have crafted onscreen, for the sake of clownish jape that... What's that? Really? Oh.

I've just been informed that the scene in question was not actually a part of 12 Years A Slave and was in fact a preview for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which ran before the feature. I apologize for any confusion.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is the sordid tale of an actual wolf (Canis lupis) who evades hunters for a decade by disguising himself as a Wall Street stockbroker. Jordan Bellow-Fort (Leonardo DiCaprio, under tons of hairy wolf makeup) is a Gray wolf who gets lost from his pack one day while tracking what he thinks is a doe (in reality, it is a Domino's pizza delivery van). Bellow-Fort, named for his habit of standing outside military installations and noisily begging for pizza crusts (sense a theme, anyone), is quickly set upon by poachers (Herman Cain and Hungry Howie). He escapes by sneaking into the back of a van labelled "Amalgamated Stockbrokers, Inc." and soon finds himself in New York City.

Mistaken for a stockbroker (he had inadvertently sneaked into a three-piece suit in the van), he eventually winds up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where his panicked howling is mistaken for a series of astute stock trades. Within thirty minutes, he makes Amalgamated over 85 million dollars by short selling Flip phone stocks.

Hailed as a genius, he quickly (the film is only 37 minutes long) acquires a devoted acolyte, Danny Ponnfarr (Jonah Hill), who longs to learn Jordan's trading secrets, and who also believes Jordan is the werewolf from Twilight.

Tragically, Jordan lets success go to his head (and in several scenes, his naughty bits), becoming ensnared in drug and alcohol abuse, reckless sex, and a mad obsession with Chia-pets ("It looks just like hair, Danny! I tell you, it's hair!!). Jordan buys ships, cars, and planes (including a vintage 1944 Vought Corsair, of course), and finally turns to fraud to finance his very R-rated habits.

The SEC (Sandra Bullock) and FBI (Quentin Tarantino) soon close in and arrest Jordan and Danny, but in a twist of fate (Mel Brooks) everyone realizes Jordan is a wolf and can't be prosecuted for his crimes. He is remanded to the custody of the Bronx Zoo. However, Danny faces the full brunt of the law, is found guilty for all of their crimes, and burnt at the stake. In the harrowing final, Jordan can see the smoke of the flames rising from North Manhattan and howls in sorrow, mistaking it for the scent of an out of reach Famous Ray's Original Pizza.

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