|You Are An Invisible Ex|
You're so over your ex, you hardly even remember you have an ex
You prefer leave all of the baggage behind you - far, far behind
As they say, indifference is the opposite of love!
(By the way, Steve Martin is really starting to look old, but he still moves like a classical dancer. I thank the charity of fate for every classic movie Martin doesn't help remake -- but if there's anyone who deserves Jacques Tati's mantle, it's Steve Martin.)
As a shitty guitarist, I'd like to think that I'm not like my peers, who are intractably conservative about gear and how modern it's allowed to be. Nothing would make me happier than to have the sound of a '50s Bassman in a box I can hold in my hand, because I own a '50s Bassman that sounds great but weighs a ton [actually about 55 pounds; I'm a weakling] and looks like a swell scratching post to every cat who has ever seen it. Really, if/when I A/B my Bassman and the pedal running into, say, a Pignose amp and they sound pretty close to the same, I'm selling the amp that day. It still sort of bothers me that the '59 BOSSman pedal isn't finished in a faux-tweed finish -- blond tolex wasn't an option for that model then. Yeah, I'm that nerdy about gear.
I've never been a fan of the blackface-era Deluxe-Reverbs, but that emulator can't possibly clone the sound of the amp's vibrato or spring reverb. BOSS made a functional, fairly versatile analog vibrato pedal in the early '80s that sounded better than a cranked-up chorus pedal -- but chorus vibrato sounds only slightly better than a freshly wounded infant -- but they've never made a great solid-state or digital reverb. Passable, yes -- certainly more versatile than an old spring tank if you're looking for new sounds and audio techniques -- but not nearly as natural, warm and complex as a Fender spring-reverb. So the idea of BOSS making a Fender reverb is just weird.
UPDATE: I just went to Musician's Friend to price the '59 pedal out, and listened to the MP3 demos they have of the pedal in action. Blergh. I guess we're supposed to believe that the "classic sound" that guitarists spend years seeking out a vintage tweed Bassman to get is an awful lot like BOSS' other overdrive/distortion pedals. I'm not going to look at the '65 D-R page.
This one probably goes without saying -- despite its reputation as the crudest of classic comedies, this film is still smarter than all the movies currently playing at your nearest cineplex combined.
Co-BRA! I love that Sylvester Stallone dropped out of making BEVERLY HILL COP because it was too comedic for his serious tastes, and then used his ideas for the project on this movie, which is almost as funny as SADDLES. It's like if Paul Verhoven was an indentured servant forced to direct a totally lunkheaded blockbuster and all he could do to retain his sanity and dignity was crank his sarcasm up to 11. [A warning: If you're my friend, don't buy this: At a mere five bucks each, I may or may not have bought a dozen copies to send to all my snotty pals.]
My last Soderberg movie, but still a fun actor's movie. The obvious stand-ins for the Wilson-brother characters should have just worn OWEN and LUKE t-shirts, but Clooney and Pitt work beautifully together and Don Chedle steals every scene he's in. It's a shame that the filmmakers didn't showcase Eliott Gould's back hair a little; it's part of Gould's greatness. The framing for Carl Reiner's character throughout the plot is ingenious if shamelessly manipulative -- maybe ingenious because it was so shamelessly manipulative -- like they designed it as a custom-made slower-motion Oscar montage in case he died the year O11 was released. The initial ending is interesting -- unlike most homages, this one probably makes less sense to cineastes than to the regular audience. I mean, an homage to THE RIGHT STUFF at the end of a heist caper based on a glacially slow and woodenly acted Rat Pack movie?
SCOOBY DOO/SCOOBY DOO 2:MONSTERS UNLEASHED
Assuming this two-fer disk has the extras from the original releases, it's a nice deal. Two of the least annoying TV-cartoon-to-feature-film adaptations, especially if you still have a crush on Linda Cardelini. Matthew Lilard's flexibility and commitment to even the stupidest of characters is sometimes stunning. Fred Prinze should have shaved off that five o'clock shadow between takes, though,
THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH
Campy fun at Jesus' nuttiest followers' expense. Orson Welles does a brilliant, textbook job of narrating. And it was only $4.99
Warner Bros. Special Editions -- I would recommend virtually all of them, especially the older movies. Warner made a huge leap forward in their DVD packaging with the SE series -- they're the finest movie presentations this side of Criterion -- but because I'm such a cheap ass, I'll only direct-link to the 63% off ones I bought and/or like:
ENTER THE DRAGON
I'm not sure this is Bruce Lee's best film -- that's probably either FISTS OF FURY or WAY OF THE DRAGON, depending on if you prefer a bulk-lot of canned whupass or merely want to watch Chuck Norris get his ass kicked for your movie's climax -- but ENTER is my favorite for a few, mostly parochial reasons. Hidehiko "Hidy" Ochiai is something of a local hero; I'm pretty sure he's the first person I saw on television whom I recognized from life; I somewhat regret not taking his "Zen and the Martial Arts of Japan" class, but I already had more than enough Anthropology credits for my major. Master Ochiai taught Lee the nunchaku and appears in the movie, which is still pretty cool to me. Anyway, this set is packed with solid extras, including the documentary A WARRIOR'S JOURNEY, which seems to includes Lee's intended edit of floor-by-floor penultimate fight from GAME OF DEATH, which somehow seems to contain more actual footage of Bruce Lee than the entire finished film did. Did I mention how great Lalo Shiffrin's score was for ENTER? I bet it sounds nut-rattlingly awesome on a good sound system.
I only have one shut eye and one jaundiced eye for film-school-generation filmmakers, but these movie won me over on cable a little while ago. I really liked Nick Pieleggi's WISEGUY but an Scorcese adaptation of it sounded like it was sure to be a pedantic drag of gangster-movie references and homages. Which it often is, but I was surprised by how remarkably true to the tone and reality of the book -- strangely enough, virtually all the fudging the movie makes centers around Joe Pesci's character, which makes me wonder if there's a backstory there. I appreciate the movie's almost Easter Egg-like details, like the yellow sweaters the mooks at the cab stand wear for no apparent reason for a scene [in the book, it's explained how the guys wound up with a shitload of yellow sweaters from one of their robberies] and Ray Liotta's ironic voiceover explaining how intra-mob killings are handled in negotiation [the movie doesn't spell out that that's what Paul Sorvino's character does with Billy Batts' people so that they can whack Pesci in retribution, which is what their real-life models did].
Is this considered a horror movie? It's a fairly smart and visually sophisticated popcorn movie, regardless.
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE: DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION EDITION
They don't make movies like this much anymore -- ones where the heroes are more loathsome and creepy than the heavies. There's not a single character in it worth rooting for -- except maybe the shot of Karen Allen giving the finger, before settling into The Sensible/Nagging Girlfriend role -- which I admire about it.
THE LITTLE RASCALS
I've heard this movie is awful, but only from blue-haired assholes; either aging OUR GANG fanatics for whom no adaptation could satisfy, and uptight-PC vegan douchebags who consider the source material racist and misogynistic in the first place. I'm still mildly concerned that the movie sucks but, for six bucks, not too much.
OUT OF SIGHT
This is one of the few movies made in my lifetime that I could watch over and over. I'm fuzzy on the chronology, but: THREE KINGS showed that George Clooney could really act and then OUT OF SIGHT showed that he is a bonafide movie star in the classical sense. Unlike OCEAN'S ELEVEN, here Soderberg's extra-curricular genre play [using ideas, techniques and influences from outside the thriller genre's expectations and standards] dovetailed cleanly into the material -- in other words, he made something marvelous out of equal parts of Francois Truffaut, Nic Roeg, Gordon Parks and Elmore Leonard. He even got a performance out of Albert Brooks that was more than Brooks playing a slightly exaggerated version of himself! And we get to see the greatest scene-stealers of our day [Don Chedle and Steve Zahn] battle it out Godzilla vs. King Kong style. And there are a few shots of Jennifer Lopez's marvelous ass and the sexiest elided sex scene in film history.
THE PALM BEACH STORY
My favorite Preston Sturges comedy that's not SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. I'm not a fan of these older-movie releases that are only nominally better packages than what one can achieve with a DVD recorder and basic cable -- if TCM consistently ran the trailer for the film they're about to air before it, they could put these bare-bones DVD lines out of business in a few months -- but BEACH is the kind of movie that DVD chaptering was invented for.
10,000 BLACK MEN NAMED GEORGE
I didn't buy this one nor have I seen it and can't make a recommendation either way. I just wanted to apologize for seeing the title pop up regularly over the years but thinking it was a movie about George Foreman's children. Sorry.
BE MY VALENTINE, CHARLIE BROWN
This one also contains YOU'RE IN LOVE, CHARLIE BROWN and IT'S YOUR FIRST KISS, CHARLIE BROWN. This collection is funny in how it charts the [de]evolution of the Peanuts cartoons, even as it goes off the shark with Charlie Brown actually making the moves on the [seen] Little Red-Haired Girl.
A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN
The first of the four Peanuts feature films, and the highwater point of the animated franchise for my money. The art direction and animation are clever, the jokes are funny, the music is catchy and memorable and it has a story rich enough to justify the broad canvas of a movie-movie.
A CHARLIE BROWN VALENTINE
What sold me on this disk [which also includes SOMEDAY YOU'LL FIND HER, CHARLIE BROWN] is the inclusion of THERE'S NOT TIME FOR LOVE, CHARLIE BROWN, which is one of my Top-Five favorites of the series. There's something glorious about a Valentine's Day special that focuses on the kids going on a field trip but winding up in a supermarket instead. And this version of "Joe Cool" is the best Peanuts song not written by Vince Guaraldi or Rod McKeun.
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING
This one I have in an attractive little slipcase with the Christmas and Halloween disks. THANKSGIVING includes THE MAYFLOWER VOYAGES, a mild mindfuck starring the Peanuts cast as the Pilgrims.
I WANT A DOG FOR CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN
It's pretty clear that Charles Schulz was gone by this one, but I love that Rerun, Schulz's last great character and the focus for his classic final year on the strip, stars in this one. The disk is supplemented with a decent documentary about A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and a grabbag titled CHARLIE BROWN'S CHRISTMAS TALES.
IT'S THE PIED PIPER, CHARLIE BROWN
Sparky's swan song for the animated specials doesn't rally and reach new peak the way that the PEANUTS comic strip did, but it's an amusing half-hour of entertainment. The disk includes a nice Schulz retrospective/interview.
LUCY MUST BE TRADED, CHARLIE BROWN
I'm not much of a baseball fan, but it's Charlie Brown! Includes CHARLIE BROWN'S ALL-STARS and IT'S SPRING TRAINING, CHARLIE BROWN.
SNOOPY COME HOME
Another feature-length film, this one is more episodic than BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN, but it's third act is startlingly, shamelessly effective in its crudity. I still get a little misty trying to watch it.
Bernardo Bertolucci has made other great movies, but the sun rises and sets on his early sex-and-revolution-minded thrillers; This is my second favorite; there's something about the deliberate pace and color palette of THE SPIDER'S STRATAGEM that haunts and delights me.
IT'S ALL TRUE
The project that did helped end Orson Welles' charmed life as a filmmaker. The fragments and vignettes that longtime Welles aide Richard Wilson assembled for this documentary on the South American "Good Neighbor" PR project Welles took on after THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and JOURNEY INTO FEAR. The Welles footage is gorgeous and dreamy, despite being incomplete.
KIDS IN THE HALL: BRAIN CANDY
There is a sizable chunk of alternate-take jokes and deleted scenes for this greatly underappreciated gem, but they're nowhere to be found on this bare-bones DVD. But considering what a flop the movie was, we should be happy to have a decent widescreen transfer until the day I win the lottery and bankroll a Special Edition of the project myself.
I'm a Rachel McAdams fan -- she's a character actress trapped in a cover girl's body. This movie was a pleasant surprise; it's surprisingly smart and honest about the eternal dynamic of high-school life. Sue me.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
It's unfortunate that Steven Spielberg eventually matured enough to want to make movies with a moral compass other than the inherent rules of movie genres. But there's almost nothing wrong with this movie's wobbly moralizing that can't be fixed by skipping the Arlington opening scene and going straight to Omaha Beach; Capt. Miller and most of his squad died saving Ryan, not saving Ryan so that he could father a very large, very blonde upper-middle-class family. Lopping off that half of the Arlington bookend makes the ending, when old Ryan begs his wife for a redemption she's in no position to even understand much less give, all the stronger. The more that's shown of Ryan's post-war life, the smaller and more meaningless Miller's sacrifice becomes, because there's nothing you can do to make up for that kind of sacrifice. That Spielberg seems to think a large brood of WASPy children and grandchildren can even partially fill that hole in Ryan's soul is telling.
This is an amiable enough chunk of holiday laffs, but I cite it for the textbook example of how throwing a sirloin steak into a sausage machine doesn't produce sausage and a steak in sausage casings, it produces sausage. I don't know who or what watered Michael O'Donoghue and Mitch Glazer's savagely funny script -- basically, imagine a world written by Bill Murray's character -- into something so bland it makes you wonder why they didn't just drop Mr. Mike's script entirely and make a modern direct version of the Dickens story from scratch. But I would guess that Richard Donner was largely responsible and not just because I think Donner eats balls.
Screw THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, this is John Frankenheimer's masterwork. This is a fine little package, boasting one of his best commentary tracks. The "Is there anything left, son?" one-shot scene just destroys me every time.
SOMEONE TO LOVE
I'm not a Henry Jaglom fan -- like Albert Brooks, he's clearly playing an exaggeration of himself in his autobio/essay movies, but that doesn't mean we have to like him any. Sally Kellerman, Monte Hellman and Welles are what sold me on this one, which I would have paid more for if I had known the disk was out earlier.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
In general, the even-odd rule for TREK movies is accurate, but this one has a tone I really like. It has far more in common with 2001 than that post-Lucas space-opera bullshit or even the original TREK television series.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
Just as I like the first movie more than I should like an odd-number TREK movie, I don't like this one as much as most Trekkies would say I should. I'm always impressed by Ricardo Montelban's manly chest, however.
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
It's a two-disk set for less than seven bucks, dude. I like what a mensch Nimoy comes off as in his commentaries.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
The strangest but most effective series. It's odd that the Roddenberry ideal of using adventure fiction to consider real-world concerns didn't really kick in for the movies until this late in the series and then skipped the next movie entirely.
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Even if he had the time and the budget he would have needed to fully realize this project, the Shat still would have produced the most odd-numbered TREK movie of the odd-numbered TREK movies. Has anyone else ever noticed Dr. Phil more or less uses Sybok's high-speed therapeutic technique?
STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
This is my favorite of the Trek movies. I like that it's sophisticated without being overreaching, it's funny without being farcical, and it's slightly ridiculous at times with what it asks us to believe these post-middle-aged men are able to still do. It's great that all of the original crew get a chance to shine in a logical [hrmph] way, especially Sulu getting his own command [helmsmen are typically the last position before the Captain's chair nautically]. In a lot of ways, VI is the only character-driven movie in the series.
I was not a Trek fan when I first saw this documentary, but it still cracked me up. It's loaded with funny moments, not so much because the director cut the footage to make these dorks look ridiculous as people with a passion for their hobbies are often just funny. The only documentaries about nerd culture that can't make you laugh are the ones about your particular interests. My favorite nerds in TREKKIES are the lead Spiner Femme [she's a dead ringer for a girl I should have slept with in high school] and of course the mighty Gabriel Koerner, the living embodiment of our collective awkward adolescence. I hope he cut off the mullet shortly after being interviewed and has never ever grown a beard or goatee to "hide" a double/triple chin. [Gabe, you had to have grown up to be someone who Googles himself daily -- we have five bucks riding on when you discover this, so if you drop me a line when you do, that would be just swell. Thanks in advance.] Actually, I really like the cute Klingon-language student in the mohair sweater, the Mexican fast-food clerk who smiles when he's asked if he's ever served a Klingon before too and the rosy-cheeked convention-table merchant who trades Gabe for some rare action figures; the guy looks like a goddamn Raggedy Ann doll.
ESSENTIAL HOWARD THE DUCK
I'm sick of reading just the Musician's Friend and Cheap Joe's Art Supply catalogs on the toilet. I like that this book has Steve Gerber's complete Howard work complete in one volume; it should be an entertaining read, even if it's not as good as I remember it. WAAUGH!
WILL AND ABE'S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE
I've been excited to see this book since someone on the LIFE IN HELL yahoo group found its pre-order page on Amazon a few months ago. Matt Groening's strip is still my favorite weekly strip and the Will & Abe pieces are the best work he's ever done, so a collection of them is sure to be a funnybook of the year. I'm surprised and ecstatic that the decade-long gap between LiH books is ending with a W&A volume, since I've often heard that Groening got a lot of crap from his papers about the W&A strips, and more or less stopped doing them.
Good grief, that took forever. I'm too tired to proofread for corect name spelling -- whoever sends an email with the most numbers of typos in this post wins a prize.
I dearly hope that the Aceman's archive of earlier shows reappears somewhere on the net in some form, both as a public health service and so more people can experience the surprisingly great few months between Adam Carolla's departure and Stryker's squatting where it was Drew and guest five nights a week. If I had a website, I would happily host those episodes and/or David Alan Grier's best appearances on the show.
[Dear comics publisher with enough printer credit to afford printing a thick partial full-color book: Please give Mark a contract and a pile of money for a COMPLETE TOP OF THE WORLD collection immediately. It's an overlooked classic, you know. Then do the same for JAMES, since the two collections aren't enough. Thank You.]
While I'm relieved to know the Iranians are pardoning the 15 British troops for Easter and I'm delighted to hear that they treated the troops very well, part of me wishes that they have some of the troops pose for photos mirroring/parodying the Abu Ghraib shots before they leave. Not actually torture anyone, mind you, just strike a few poses to see if a moral victory is mitigated any if you tag a photo of it with "LOL PWNED."
UPDATE: Keith Richards' father died in 2002.
THURSDAY UPDATE: I forgot to add a bit about Richards I thought of before dismissing the story as a hoax: Despite his reputation for excess, at first I thought that even Keef wouldn't bother snorting some of his father up his nose because even he would be content with already having his father's blood in his veins. Then I remembered all the stories of those total-blood transfusions he had to kick heroin in the '70s.
In comparison, I called CS for my AT&T Universal Card because my March bill there is for a few cents more than the cost to cut a check and mail it in. Total time on the phone: 5 minutes, 37 seconds and it would have been a minute less if Jennifer hadn't needed me to pass on signing up for their bullshit credit-card-protection program, which offers a FREE Credit Report [just like the ones citizens can get FREE once a year from three different services] upon signup. I spent twice as long on hold waiting for the first CS clerk at BoA/MBNA.