You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Monday, February 10, 2020

We're 15!

Listen, I know there hasn't been much going on here, but we did turn 15 just last month, and like most teenagers, we're pretty sullen and flaky about things like deadlines, keeping up appearances, and run-on sentences.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Not the Best Timing

Yesterday, I glanced up from my plate of Pâté aux pommes de terre avec Salade Aveyronaise to my smartphone to discover there was only a limited slate of Premier League football matches scheduled for the weekend. After I got over the shock of that (I nearly spilled crème fraîche all over my intérieur de la cuisse), I also noticed, to my horror, that the Academy Awards1 are tonight.

Usually, the Oscars are saved for late February, but apparently the organizers of the program this year wanted to time the show so that it would be a huge party celebrating the successful impeachment of President Trump.

Anyway, as is my tradition - not unlike Sisyphus, here are this year's nominees for Best Picture award.

**********

Ford v Ferrari

This riveting legal drama is an Italian version of Kramer vs. Kramer. No, it's not the Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep picture, but rather the lost episode of Seinfeld where Kramer sued himself in order to collect damages from himself. (It was very meta.)

Ford (Michele Richardsaroni) discovers one day that he has been left an enormous sum of money by Neumann (Waynio Cavaliere) but can only collect it under the legal surname of Ferrari, a pseudonym he used in the episode where he and Neumann try to sell an old man's records (Season 4, Episode 18: Il Vecchio).

Rather than legally change his name to Ferrari, Ford decides to sue "Ferrari" in court, in the hope that the judge will have pity on a miserable wretch. While Ford waits for the decision, Jerry, Giorgio, and Elaine wait interminably for dinner at an Italian Restaurant in what was is ostensibly a reference to Season 2, Episode 11: Il Ristorante Cinese, but is in fact a film within a film remake of Luis Buñuel's Il Fascino Discreto del Borghese.

The film ends as Kramer... I mean Ford walks out of the courtroom, thoroughly defeated by the logic of Ferrari's attorney (a vibrant, and weirdly young Al Pacino). A solitary Vought Corsair soars overhead, disappearing onto the horizon like Cosmo's dreams. (It's symbolic!)

**********

The Irishman

The surreal story of a collection of Italian mobsters who, Benjamin Button-like, suddenly begin to grow young again, only in a weird, CGI, Polar Express sort of way.

Directed by Martin O' Scorcese, the film opens with the solitary figure of Seamus Yeats (Robert McNiro) aimlessly wandering the New York City docks with his chicken, looking for opportunities to stage illegal cock-fights. Sean Heaney (Albert O'Pacin) catches up to him, trying to entice him with bigger, more lucrative jobs and also bitterly reminding him that his chicken is actually a frozen Butterball turkey.

Suddenly, a Vought Corsair passes over, emitting an eerie green light that washes over the docks like seagulls over a picnic. Our protagonists are at first concerned, but, after feeling no ill effects aside from the desire to binge-watch Netflix shows, they forget about the incident.

However, the next day, both of them find that they now look mysteriously younger, like Joan Collins, after a double face lift. Their newfound vitality inspires them to pull dozens of risky, exciting, and expletive-laden jobs that result in lots of "guys gettin' wacked and gals gettin' slapped around for bein' too mouthy" (from the Leonard Maltin review).

It all fails to last though, as they are revisited by the Vought Corsair (actually a benevolent alien entity named Krinkles), who explains that the gift of their newfound youth was meant to help them turn over new leaf and find redemption outside of the usual crime films. Disgusted with their corruption, and creeped out by their oddly robust hairlines, Krinkles absorbs their youth, eventually transplanting it into a grateful Mickey Rourke.

**********

Jojo Rabbit

The tragic story of a rabbit who is hit on the head by a falling rivet from a passing Vought Corsair and comes to believe he is Adolf Hitler.

One day, Jojo is bouncing around a meadow, doing what all rabbits love to do best: eating grass, procreating, and annoying the hell out of gardeners. While in the middle of a particularly good salad of fescue, Dandelion, and bluegrass, a metal object falls from the sky, dinging Jojo smack dab in the mullet. When he wakes up, he feels the irresistible urge to organize his fellow rabbits into a marauding horde of vicious killers, persecute Jews and other minorities, and invade Poland (Farmer Poland's cabbage patch). He quickly builds a munitions factory in the burrow behind the pond, and begins churning out the instruments of death. He harangues his fellow rabbits with racist speeches about how low the squirrels and chipmunks are, despite the fact they are watching him from the treetops, and incites them to attack pretty much everything that isn't a rabbit.

Fortunately, because he's just a rabbit, and unable to effectively wield automatic weapons, Farmer Poland blows his scum-sucking little Nazi face off with a shotgun in mid-rant. The End.2

**********

Joker

The grim tale of the most forgotten card in the deck, this creepy little horror show opens around a table of poker players in a smoke-filled casino room. The dense clouds of cigarette and cigar fumes drift over the gathering, as the players eye one another, looking for some tell or weakness that might give them the vital edge they need.


It's at this point, through some mysterious quirk of fate that only the plotters at DC Studios (or possibly Marvel) could explain, that the Joker of the deck, sitting unnoticed and unloved on the edge of the table, suddenly becomes sentient... murderously, malevolently sentient.

Swiftly, the card throws itself around the room through the necks of the players, like a Ricky Jay deck through a watermelon, it's sharp, unworn edges easily severing the jugular veins of the players. Finally coming to rest, like a Vought Corsair after a long and turbulent sortie, it sits, blood-soaked, perched against a half-empty stein of Michelob Ultra.

The rest of the film details the grisly reign of terror of the card, it's superficially comical exterior hiding the relentless homicidal energy beneath. The body count of the monstrous game piece only comes to an end at the hands of the Caped Crusader, as he trounces the Boy Wonder in an exciting, death-defying game of Go Fish.

**********

Little Women

The 750th adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, this version is significantly more upbeat and traditional than the last one (Thelma and Louise).

Meg and Jo March (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) are the elder two of four sisters, all of whom were raised by martial arts master Black Mamba (Betty White). Feeling the need to support the family (Colin Hanks), Meg and Jo enter a martial arts tournament sponsored by the Cobra Kai school (Ralph Macchio), under the belief that the grand prize of a year's worth of Domino's Pizza will see their family through another hard winter (Roseanne Barr).

The younger sisters, Beth and Amy (Meryl Streep and Daryl Hannah), spend much of their time avoiding Harvey Weinstein (Kevin Spacey) at parties and knitting black belts for the family to wear during formal competitions. Beth contracts scarlet fever (later called "Mexican beer virus" by all of the characters, without explanation). Her hallucinations are so vivid, she claims to see a squadron of Vought Corsairs (Jane Fonda and Keanu Reeves), decades before the invention of powered human flight.

Meg and Jo easily win the martial arts competition after becoming enraged by the Cobra Kai sensei's dismissal of them as "little women." They sweep both his hobbled legs (Randy Quaid and Jack, the Wonder Spaniel), apologizing profusely after he explains he was simply reading the title of the script.

Faced with a complex and hostile world through which women martial artists must roundhouse kick their way, the sisters retreat to their cottage of karate boards and pizza crusts, hoping that change will come for the better (so they will have some cash with which to tip the fetching delivery boy[Regis Philbin]).

**********

Marriage Story

Marriage Story is the story of, well, a divorce. I suppose you have to have a marriage to get to the divorce, but the producers seem to have left this part out, preferring to zoom straight to infidelity, court trials, custody battles, and make up sex (the last of which takes up 90% of the film).

Husband Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his wife Rey (Scarlett Johannson, taking all the roles again, as usual) are reaching the end of their New York City-based marriage, as there is only so much time the light and dark sides of the Force can share one bathroom, if you know what I mean.

Rey leaves town for Los Angeles in a Vought Corsair F4U prop job (despite John Denver's song Leavin' on a Jet Plane blaring in the background), and the two begin new, separate lives. This proves confusing for their son Henry (Dean Winters) who is stranded at a bus stop in Burning Mattress, Arkansas and wondering why the breakdown of his parents' relationship caused them to be so inept at parenting, child safety, and planning coach excursions.

Eventually, they become reconciled to the notion of being apart forever, which, of course, means they are not actually reconciled, meaning they become reconciled to not becoming reconciled, which further confuses Henry, along with the audience, who were hoping for them to resolve their differences with a really good light saber battle.

**********

1917

The story of the year 1917 opens on December 31st, 1916. As the big, electric ball thingy3 drops down to the sound of cheering throngs of pre-Prohibition, inebriated revelers, the spirit of 1916 departs, leaving the newborn 1917 with these sage words of advice: "You're on your own, you creepy little bastard."

1917 quickly matures, soaring through the winter like a Vought Corsair through barn doors... in other words, leaving its wings and tail fin behind in a cow stall. It careens into spring, stopping to smell the roses, only to realize the roses are dead, because they were all killed by the Kaiser's mustard gas deployments.

Things get even grimmer for our plucky little year, as it waddles, Chaplin-like, into the summer, sweating like Tom Arnold surrounded by a pack of drug-sniffing dogs. The mayhem of the war, combined with the lack of proper air-conditioning and the insistence that everyone wear at least three layers of wool clothing, leaves the year perspiration-sodden and as wrinkled as Robert DeNiro wasn't in The Irishman.

Autumn arrives, which is the name of its plucky housemaid, but fall soon follows, and 1917 is quickly covered in leaves and Sears-Roebuck catalogs. The pangs of age rapidly begin to creep in, and the year knew that, as with the World Series champion Chicago White Sox, corruption and disgrace could not be far away.

Finally, the year limps back to Times Square, facing the giant, shiny ball and the unbearably smug and cherubic face of 1918. As the new year faces the old one with hushed expectation, 1917 departs, leaving the only advice it can think of: "Fiddlesticks!"

As it turns out, fiddlesticks stocks went through the roof the following summer, and 1918 retired a very wealthy year.

**********

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

An adaptation of the most little known of the Grimm Brothers' tales, this film opens with Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlett Johannson, natch) walking through the woods on the way to her grandmother's house. Red is interrupted by the Big Bad Wolf (Tom Waits) who explains that he is down on his luck,
having sworn off grandmother meat since becoming a vegan, and could Red spare him a few bucks for some tofu or edamame.


Meanwhile, Hansel and Gretel (Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson), upon reaching their 21st birthdays, are told that they are in fact not brother and sister. When asked the reason for this ruse, their step-parents (Billy Crystal and Carol Kane) respond, "To keep youse from getting it mit the jiggy," after which Hansel and Gretel get quite jiggy indeed (in the film's only 3-D segment).

Meanwhile, Sleeping Beauty (Saoirse Ronan) and Snow White (Beyonce) go prince shopping in Beverly Hills, not realizing that there is only one Prince, that he is deceased, and that he lived in Minneapolis. After purchasing a variety of handbags and platform shoes, the two decide to form a punk band called 40 Winks.

Meanwhile, Rapunzel (Gal Gadot, with hair extensions) decides she's had it up to here (holds finger halfway up her hair) with life outside the tower, and decides to free climb her way back in. However, Prince Charming (real name: Howard Farnkle - see above) talks her out of it, convincing her that her tresses would be invaluable as a giant wind sock for passing Vought Corsairs (like I would forget those).

Meanwhile, I'm out of space for this segment.

**********

Parasite

Parasite is the feature-length dramatization of the Big Brother television series, and consequently is too horrific (rating "Incredibly NC-17") to be discussed on a PG blog like this one.

Listen, all I can say is that they were finally blasted to kingdom come by Lupita Nyong'o (flying a Vought Corsair LTV A-7) while trying to decide who got to eat the last package of Tim Tams. There were crumbs everywhere!

**********
1. Motto: "We put the 'scar' in Oscar."
2. Actually, the film ends with Farmer Poland's wife announcing that she's pregnant by saying, "The rabbit died," to which Farmer Poland responds, "What a coincidence!"
3. I told you I was writing this at the last minute. There aren't a lot of Thesaurus entries for "ball thingy," at least not ones I can use here.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

HEEEENNRRRYY! HEEENNNRRYYY FONDA!!

Turner Classic Movies is showing several Henry Fonda films this evening, including John Ford's classic adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. I suspect a lot of people don't know that the famous "I'll be there" scene was originally much longer. For your edification, the original version of the key part of this wonderful scene is below.

TOM

Well, maybe it's like Casy says. A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then...

MA

Then what, Tom?

TOM

Then it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be ever'-where - wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.
Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad -
I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready.
An' when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.

(PAUSE)

Wherever a guy is runnin' for his life from an angry mob, I'll be there.
Wherever a man is cryin' over spilt milk, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way ladies say, "bless your soul" to a dumb guy -
I'll be in the way commuters push an old fella to the ground, trying to ta' make their train.
An' when the people are sittin' in the john, enjoying indoor plumbin' in a warm room, while readin' a good book - I'll be there too.

(PAUSE)

Wherever a dog is ridin' a skateboard, I'll be there.
Wherever priests in cassocks do handstands on a merra-go-round, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way little kids make sloppy raspberry sounds wi' marbles in their mouths -
I'll be in the way athletes say, "Y'know" a lot 'cause they failed English and can't wait to get out of that interview.
An' when the people are playin' Twister in the nude on a crisp, autumn night - You better believe that I'll be there too.

(PAUSE)

Wherever a guy is eatin' a comically large bowl o' ramen noodles, I'll be there.
Wherever people dance the meringue in feather-lined thongs, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way Abraham Lincoln's top hat never seemed to fall off in a high wind -
I'll be in the way banana peels are slick on one side and weirdly rubbery on the other.
An' when the people are transgressin' the laws of nature in ways that defile and degrade the human spirit so that we're little more than the basest animal in mind and body - I'll be there too.

MA

I don't...

TOM

(SUDDENLY)
Wherever a Dali Lama is ridin' a horse sidesaddle while jugglin' kumquats, I'll be there.
Wherever contortionists run parkour through M.C. Esher constructions, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way bosons and fermions play tenuous games of passionate courtship in the quantum realm  -
I'll be in the way Existentialists and Logical Positivists share raunchy stories about each others' metaphysical underpinnin's behind their backs.
An' when the people are defenstratin' artificial mechanical intelligences in defense of their personal bodily autonomy while yet strivin' to stretch the flimsy tentacles o' careless human knowledge into a vast and seemin'ly unfathomable universe - I'll be there too.

MA

I don't understand it, Tom.

TOM

Me, neither, Ma, but just somethin' I been thinkin' about.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

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...

**********
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.

**********
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.

**********
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).

**********
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.

**********
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.

**********
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.

**********
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).

**********
1 - There are no footnotes this year. Tough.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

**********
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.

**********
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!"

**********
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.

**********
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.

**********
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."

**********
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.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!"


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,