Archive | April, 2013
26 Apr

This video of Tarantino talking about who is cinema heroes were/are back around Pulp Fiction when he was still the earnest, lovable film-geek-turned-film-god popped up on my youchube suggestions. He tells about a time when he was really obsessed and idolized Chow Yun Fat, but not so much anymore. I was blown away by the idea of thinking one of my idols thinking an actor was cool, I was even a little offended. I thought “How could anyone consider an actor cool? A character, sure, but an actor? The audacity.”  But it didn’t take too much brain power to realize why I hold actors in such low regard; They’ve been completely demystified and turned into tools of manipulation to sell their own fame. It sucks that no matter what happens in the public eye my first reaction is always, “That could be a publicists doing.” Jennifer Lawrence trips at the Oscars; just an attempt to earn her publicist a Pubby for Biggest Risk Biggest Reward Gamble. Kim Kardashian said she cried when a blogger called her Shamu; her publicist must have let the intern put that out there. Armie Hammer and Channing Tatum’s whole existence are just an experiments from a collective of gifted publicists with geneticist aspirations and hit-or-miss naming abilities. I’m not sure if I still believe in cool, but I am certain that I don’t believe that any actors are cool.

 

And then I watched Mad Men and had to throw myself over the back of closest chair to perform the self Heimlich maneuver to keep myself choking on the words I swallowed too quickly. A-doy! Jon Hamm is always the coolest mother fucker in the coolest fucking room. This blind spot in my fervent opinion that actors couldn’t be cool by nature, made me really dissect my stupid opinion. So, I sat down, put on my thinking t-shirt (visual puzzle shirt mentioned here) and set out to think long and hard about the Jon Hamm exception. And it’s really simple, Don Draper is a character of infinite cool that requires a cool demeanor as much as it does acting skills and a roomful of very uncool writers put the cool demeanor in situations to shine. Which is why I feel no shame admitting to fanboy-esque crush, and slight idol worship of Mr. Hamm.

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I usually reserve my undying admiration for fictional characters like Henry Chinaski or creative stalwarts like Charles Bukowski and I have no difficulty separating the difference between the character and the creative force behind them. But Jon Hamm is different, because, well, he’s awesome even when he’s not playing Don Draper. His 30 Rock extended guest character is another great character, and his character in Bridesmaids is what happens when most people aspire to be as Don Draper-y as Don Draper. Then on top of all that he just seems to be an honest and modest dude that says things like “It’s nice not to have to worry about how you’re going to pay your bills. And it’s a problem I’ve had for far longer than I haven’t had it. Not worrying about the bills is still very new for me.

 

I don’t need to run down a list of why Jon Hamm is great and the coolest. The conclusion I came to was that his has a great track record of choosing roles. He sticks to his bread and butter of Mad Men and then gets to dabble with not so serious stuff as an exceptional guest spot on comedies that are excited to have his clout around. He’s genuine when he’s not acting and knows how to wear the shit out of a suit. He may have a publicist, but if he does that publicist has the easiest job in the world, I mean, not even Pete Campbell could screw that up.

Movies I Don’t Want

17 Apr

If recent terrible movie trends are not put to death soon, more movies are likely to be made that will disappoint me in the future. I’ve thought about this and developed a complicated algorithm to predict such possibilities. Then those results were run through a probability matrix to sift out the most likely outcomes. A sneak preview of the horrible cinema atrocities are listed below, peek at the future if you dare.

Action figures used to be made based on movies but now movies are being based on action figures like TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE. There’s also a supposed LEGO 3D movie in the works I’m sure that discussion went like this:

“Gentlemen we need to make another movie based on popular toys.”

“I’ve got an idea…Lego the movie!”

“Well what is it about?”

“Doesn’t matter, people will watch it because it is called LEGO. And it will be 3D!”

“Brilliant here’s $70 million. Now go.”

My prediction for the next toy to be ridiculously screen adapted is STRETCH ARMSTRONG. Pretty much going off the commercial from the 90’s. A baby will stretch out his arm through the crib across the room to grab his bottle. Grows up to be a guy sporting black underwear who foils criminals by stretching his arms out to stop the getaway car by lifting up the rear axle. He’ll eventually retire from the life of crime fighting and become the world’s most sought after yoga instructor.

(Addendum: The fates are cruel and ironic.  A friend informed me that STRETCH ARMSTRING is being planned. I don’t want to be right, if this is what it means! )

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There’s a growing pattern in making movies in a style I call “pseudo cool” where the movie sets out to be cool, it tries way too hard and fails miserably, examples include; SUCKER PUNCH, JONAH HEX, HANSEL AND GRETEL, and anything with Milla Jovovich. Their only goal was to be cool by forcing cool down our throats. After seeing SUCKER PUNCH I thought, “How does a movie like this even get made? Did an executive at Warner Bros. say ‘Hey Zack Snyder how would you like $82 million to make 110 minutes of masturbation material, for Zack Snyder.’?” Besides everybody knows cool movies don’t try to make you think they’re cool they just end up that way. It is only a matter of time before someone ruins DON QUIXOTE under the guise of being cool. Where the self proclaimed knight, Don and his squire Sancho Panza (played by a hot Latina girl, Selena Gomez, if they’re lucky) fight actual giants that styled their hair, beards, and moustaches to look like windmill blades. It has all the spectacle of flashy camera moves, slow motion matrix shots, over the top CGI, and copious kung-fu with absolutely no meaning at all to any of it. You know, all the cool stuff.

Remember that really boring game with no characters, excitement, strategy, based on the luck of calling numbers and letters? No, not BINGO, worse; BATTLESHIP. That movie was made. It promised Liam Neeson, then gave Rihanna more screen time. Surely, a CANDYLAND isn’t far away. Hopefully, it will avoid the sugar coated, kid cozy, Candyland of color corrected CGI shit-fest. Maybe if they put Tim Burton on the project, and let him make it like one of his stop motion animation style movies, it might not be terrible. The neighborhood of Nightmare Before Christmas or Frankenweenie, in that type of dark and weird look that’s still pleasing to the eye, would be an interesting look for CANDYLAND. And a Tim Burton movie has to have Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, so Deep will voice the maniacal Lord Licorice, and she can voice the kooky Grandma Nut. Lord Licorice is secretly heating up candy land so that King Candy’s castle which is made out of ice cream will melt. The design of all this stuff could be great; Molasses Swamp home to the Glops, or The Gumdrop Mountains. I’m not saying this movie would be necessarily good, but this is at least the best bad movie on my list.

So hopefully with a little warning we can all be prepared the next time we see one of those trailers that makes you go “I can’t believe they made that movie.”

-Carl Wells

Unorganized Stupid Opinions About Game of Thrones and Mad Men

16 Apr

WARNING TO Angela, Caitie, Carl, and Ester: Even though I’m fairly confident you are the only people who will read this, I still feel obligated to say I will be SPOILING a few plot points in this discussion of these fictional dramas. So, if you’re a season or two behind or are using shaman like will power to wait until the end of the season to gorge yourself on everything at once, please click on one of the other 38 stupid opinions.

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The whole winter I’ve been sitting and waiting for an hour-long drama to bring meaning back to my life. I got involved with Downton Abbey solely to fill the hour-long hole in my heart, but now both Mad Men and Game of Thrones are on and my heart is bursting with joy. And thanks to Man Men’s two hour long premiere, the arbitrarily numbered episodes both aired the third episode of the season last Sunday night.  Which is more than enough master-crafted moving images to discuss some stupid opinions about them.

-Both of the shows used very similar mother guilt with the mom Lady Stark and Megan. They both felt/feel super guilty for wishing that babies die. John Snow didn’t die, but Lady Stark still couldn’t keep her end of the bargain and is racked with guilt over not loving the bastard, and if that is a template for women’s feelings it will be interesting to see how Megan reacts in upcoming episodes. She seems to have calmed down with some laser focused attention from Don and his understanding and openness to the situation. Luckily she won’t be in the same shoes as Lady Stark being forced to daily be reminded of her husband’s infidelities, the wool is still drapered (horrible pun intended) extra tight over her eyes. If the idea stick with her, she might make the association with her future acting success and each time her star starts to shine a little brighter, she’ll remember the time she wished that her unborn baby was dead and then it died, but she could also take a page from Don’s playbook and fail to make that association.

-Which speaking of Don’s playbook, we got a good solid look at it in this last episode. The dinner alone with his mistress was something like a thesis of his philosophy, which boiled down to; you can’t enjoy the moment, if you’re worried about anything other than what is right in front of you. Those are his broad strokes on his canvas, and his detail work is full of looking at his wife as “good company” and justifying affairs with abstract terms like “drifting apart.” I’m mixing metaphors here, but the moral and philosophical hoops Don must mentally jump through and the deftness in which he does takes both the athletic prowess of playbooks and artistic beauty of a painter at a canvas. Don’s internal life must be a ballet of mental strength and beauty in which he takes a bow to a resounding standing ovation every time he gets exactly what he wants. And in Don’s world, getting exactly what he wants is the standard, not the acceptation.

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-Speaking of getting exactly what someone wants, Jaime Lannister got a very rude awaking on that front. Lord knows that karma doesn’t exist in the realm of Westeros, but losing a hand could be the closest thing to it. It was fitting that he lost his hand, for all the times he evoked his father’s name, or did just as he pleased for no other reason than he wanted to. Even if it was cosmically equal, losing a hand seems particularly harsh for man who backs up all of his arrogance by welding a deathly blade, especially those first few frames after it was severed when we could see his arm trying to move the hand that just sat motionless on the table. Chilling. That, and after teasing us with a brief battle between Jaime and Brienne of Tarth, we’ll never see a true battle between the two of them, but getting something that the viewer wants is definitely not how Game of Thrones operates. And this is the big difference between the two shows, the joy of watching Mad Men comes from seeing how Don Draper gets every thing that he wants and all of the mental gymnastics and semantic massaging he does to get it. While Game of Thrones never gives the audience a chance to even find a surrogate to latch on to. There are so many characters and the formula for GoT is so well established, that the best I can hope for when I like a character is that their storyline will be neglected for a few weeks before returning to have something horrific happen to them. It’s an emotional horror show, while Mad Men is a cathartic look at the best way to be the worst person ever. Both things that were vitally missed during the cold dark winter months.

C. Charles

 

Edited to correct the title from Unorganized Stupid Opinions About Game of Thrones and Man Men t0 Unorganized Stupid Opinions About Game of Thrones and Mad Men

Movies I Want

10 Apr

With sequels, prequels, series, remakes and reboots, I’m over it, let’s see something I haven’t seen dozens of times already. Movies are becoming more like TV  with 3 – 8 episodes per series. I understand advantages to making five soul numbingly awful Twilight movies over making five unrelated movies. I get that it is easier and makes money. But it has gotten out of hand. In 2011 all of the Top Ten highest grossing movies were sequels or prequels, this pattern shows no signs of slowing. When there’s no sequel they just remake a movie from decades ago. I’ll pose a couple of alternatives that haven’t been put on film. There is still great content out there waiting for screen time. So in four years when you see these movies, remember you heard it from me first.

D.B. Cooper – I can’t believe there hasn’t been a movie about the only unsolved airplane piracy in America. If you’re not familiar with D.B. Cooper it is a fascinating real life story, check it out. Since it happened 40 years ago, younger people aren’t familiar with it so it will seem fresh. There’s growing interest in the last half of the 20th century i.e. Mad Men, The Americans, Argo. So make it as much about 1971 as it is about an airplane being high-jacked. How an airline ticket was $20, people could smoke everywhere, and how the F.B.I. investigated the case without G.P.S., D.N.A., or any of the tools on C.S.I.
     Here’s how it goes down. The movie starts in 2007 when the F.B.I. is going to attempt to get some D.N.A. samples from Cooper’s clip on tie. You have the old F.B.I. agent who’s been with the case for decades and the possibility of a D.N.A. match is his last hope. He’s going to have to pass the case off to a younger agent and since the D.N.A. will take a few days to be sequenced, him and his young counterpart are going over the case history. They spend a little time going over the folklore of the case and how nobody died, except maybe D.B. Cooper himself. The older one says something like “Back then getting on a plane was like getting on a bus.” flashback to November 24th 1971. The bulk of the movie is spent portraying the events that took place from the Portland Airport until D.B. Cooper jumps out of the back of the plane. Keep it as real and true to the actual events as possible.
     I see someone like brunette Michael Fassbender playing D.B. Cooper, he is calm, intense, collected, smokes and drinks a lot. After jumping out the back of the airplane with the $200,000 we never see him again. The old agent spends a little while narrating the investigation, highlighting the minute evidence that trickled in over the decades ending up in 2007. It is time to get the DNA profile, they were successful in obtaining a usable DNA sequence from the tie but it doesn’t match anything in the database. Another dead end, the mystery for now, remains unsolved.
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My Teacher is an Alien – What a great title. This was a popular kids book published in 1989.  Three 6th grade kids; the nerd, the bully, and the good girl find out that the scariest thing at school isn’t a pop quiz. While pondering the disappearance of their normal teacher, Susan and her classmates keep noticing that their new substitute is very strange. One day Susan follows him and discovers the awful truth. She sees him peel away his face to reveal an orange eyed, green skinned alien head. The horror builds when the three friends discover their alien teacher plans to abduct children into space and stage an alien invasion of Earth. The children have to stop the extra terrestrial menace while not showing that they know his shocking secret identity.
     What a perfect idea for younger audiences. Since the Adolescent / Young Adult geared movies are big now this would be a much needed sci-fi addition to the genre. It would have to be properly scary and suspenseful which wouldn’t be hard since all kids know that teachers aren’t actually people. The difficulty would be in not making it corny like a 50’s sci-fi flick. But giving it a tone similar to the way scary kids movies were a couple decades ago. Once the first movie does well there are three more book sequels to supply movie studios with the series franchise they desire. As the books progress they deal with bigger, more mature issues. The tone of the movies would get darker and deeper little by little, like Harry Potter.
Maybe someone will take my advice and gamble on something new but I doubt it.

The New Gods

2 Apr

During some of my eternal putzing around on the internet and the youchube, I began putting a few pieces of an idea together. It’s an all-encompassing idea that establishes the foundation of zeitgeist of a new era, that or just a really good topic for drunken evenings at the bar. Here is the premise: Let’s say that entrainment and/or pop culture has been the comparable to religion, or at the least a way to learn how to live a moral and hip life, for the current and past few generations. So, going forward for the next two-thousand years or so, who will be the gods of this new religion? And instead of breaking it down in to a simple Judeo-Christian trinity plus the devil way, let’s kick it Hellenistic style and bust out some pop culture equivalents to Greek gods. The arbitrary set of rules state that each possible god has to perfectly embody a trait of the current zeitgeist and be universally recognized. So, as much as I’d like to put Bukowski down as a Dionysus-esque type of god, there is no way that my parents’ neighbor or eighth grade geography teacher would know who he was, so that’s a no go. Other than that the rules are pretty loosey-goosey, fictional character, twitter handle or iconic pair of kicks anything is game.

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Aphrodite: Kim Kardashian

I may have already lost you, but here’s the rational why KimmyK should be the goddess of love, sex and beauty:  It’s pretty well established that she has nothing going for her other than her beauty and her booty, and while she isn’t the first person to be famous for being famous, or becoming famous because of an heir and a sextape, she’s done it the best. Turning an hourglass figure and dark eyes into a string of hulking athletes, fame and fortune for her whole family and a special place in every male’s, adolescent or otherwise, fantasies. All while staying out of prison. The only trouble she’s really drummed up is over her sham marriage, which is exactly the kind of thing you’d want a modern goddess of love, sex and beauty to be a part of. With her marriage to Kris Humphries she re-defined marriage as nothing more than a currency for fame, something to be exploited for personal gain, and simultaneously squashed virtually every claim that marriage is a sacred institution. That is the work of pop god if I’ve ever seen it. All of that, plus think of the tragic ending to this story when she’s hospitalized for nearly working out to death trying to regain her pre-pregnancy body.

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Ares: Dick Cheney

Let me explain why this isn’t as obvious as it may first appear. Yes, Dick Cheney was a horrible war criminal, and yes, Ares is the god of war, but that’s not why this association works. I would suggest in my novice, unclassically-trained, rudimentary understanding of Greek culture that war held a very similar place in the hearts of Athenians, as capitalism holds for present day pop culture enthusiasts. Where as we know it’s important, we have a rudimentary knowledge of how it works and it’s very easy to blame a whole lot of things we don’t understand on it and have a fair chance of placing the blame in the right vicinity. So, that being said, while it is convenient that Cheney is a warmonger, I’m putting him here for his brilliant execution of turning the humble position of Haliburton CEO to the vice president of the USA, and the president of handing out defense contracts to former employers. That is a move that would bring a tear of joy to Ayn Rand’s super-human eye. Let’s face it, when corporations are buying positions a elevated as the VEEP the whole political system has become nothing more than another American pastime to allow people root for their favorite team.

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Dionysus: Harry Potter

As I’ve stated before, I haven’t read nor will ever read a syllable of a Harry Potter book, but the amount content and the massive cult following it has already evokes a religious-like devotion. But, the reason Harry Potter gets put on the list is because of the explanation I get about why the books are so popular; “It makes you feel like a kid again. All the magic and wizards, it’s so much fun.” The residual effects of a generation of latchkey kids are at the heart of the popularity of Harry Potter. That longing for a perpetual childhood and life free of responsibilities fits nicely with the Dionysian ecstasy of wine. There are college students that do more than just break a sweat while pretending to play Quidditch with brooms between their legs. They play a fictional game on college clubs while their parents pay for them to learn adult independence. The line between irony and earnestness has vanished under the pursuit of the Golden Snitch. So, get drunk on whatever fictional booze appears in these children books, change your name to Hagrid or Hermione and get Harry Potter face tattoos cause childhood is never ending.

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Hades: Bill O’Reilly

So for this one I am going to go slightly Judeo-Christian angle. If entertainment has become the new religion, then the most blasphemous form of entertainment has to be the O’Reilly Factor. My stomach just turns thinking about someone asking me, “Oh did you see that segment on the O’Reilly Factor. . .” in reference to anything, I can’t imagine the shock I’d go into if I found out someone relied on that show for their pop culture news. Bill O’Reilly gets the same reaction out of people that devil-worship did in the eighties. If I was a teenager forming a hardcore death metal band, I wouldn’t call myself a devil worshiper, I’d just get a membership to The O’Reilly Factor fan club. And while nobody wants anything to do with Hades’ domain, there are still plenty of people in the underworld, just like the millions of people enabling O’Reilly to bully his way to 1% status. In fact, any Fox News programing and the culture section of People Magazine have to be the ouija board and Satanic bible to the culture makers at Pitchfork and The AV Club. Don’t be surprised when offensive music really becomes offensive again by simply idolizing the seediest aspects of the conservative middle-America.

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Hera: Jennifer Aniston

Here she is; Jennifer Aniston: the woman that really got into the wrong business. Poor, sweet Jennifer would have been an amazing mom. All of her son’s friends would have a crush on her, and all of her daughter’s friends would want her glamorous life, married to an executive or a partner at a law firm. Or at least I’d like to think that since she’s awful at being a movie star. At this point, the only reason she’s still in movies is so the tabloids have an excuse to talk about her. Nobody cares about a Jennifer Aniston movie, but everyone cares about Jen’s personal life. That is the kind of charisma that makes bake sales profitable, the kind that drives next door neighbors to go to the gym to keep spouses interested, that fuels accessions up the corporate ladder. The kind of charisma that makes little girls feel alright when they realize that they’ll never be Audrey Hepburn, but instead she’s a lonely tabloid star that everyone feels bad for. All that heaped on top of the box office success of Mr. & Mrs. Smith makes her the tragic choice for the goddess of marriage, women and child birth.

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Hermes: Internet

According to LexisNexis, Hermes was the messenger of the gods, god of commerce, thieves, travelers, sports, athletes, border crossings and was guide to the Underworld. So, basically everything the internet is used for. Twitter was the Martin Luther and 95 Theses equivalent of gaining access to celebrities, or the priests and priestesses of pop culture as religion. Now fans could have direct access to their idols’ lives. The internet opened up insane amounts of devotion that isn’t just reserved for tweens. The level of pop culture following, consumption, commentary and regurgitation online is insane. There is more written about an episode of Girls or The Walking Dead each week than is was ever written about the death of Alexander the Great, which is both amazing and depressing at the same time. Amazing since this is most certainly the most documented era ever. Depressing because even consuming at a below average rate means that there is so little time to spend in personal creative endeavors, meaning there will be a disconnect between the experiences of people creating the content and the people consuming the content. So, it’s also fitting that Hermes was the guide leading lost souls to the Underworld.

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Poseiden: Steve Jobs

If Steve Jobs isn’t already on the path to being elevated to a deity, then the PR firm he’s got working for his estate is failing at their job. So, it’s an easy call to put him on this list somewhere, but he is one of the main reasons why pop culture and entertainment have taken such religious-esque space in today’s world. His impact on present day pop culture is the size of an ocean surrounding a peninsula. With his Think Different campaign he appealed to the artistic part of everyone’s soul and told the world that all you really need to be an artist is a MacBook or an iPod. This opened the flood gates on amateur produced content. Some of the content, in conjunction with the internet, turned out pretty good, thus prompting more people to buy iPhones and iPads under the guise of giving themselves the power to make the next Avatar, or write the next Hunger Games or produce the next Postal Service album. Rightly so or not, Apple products have built an empire appealing to the creative side everyone thinks they have, the same aspect of our humanity that allows people bow down at the alter of pop culture. Everyone became a more committed member of the church of pop culture thanks to Steve Jobs.

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Zeus: Kanye West

When news broke that the new Kanye West album was going to be titled “I am a God” I mis-read the tweet I and thought it said “I am God” which was shocking, but much more fitting for Yeezy. That is a title for the follow-up to a perfect ten album. Kanye makes amazing content and he’s self absorbed in his own greatness. Sure, he’s a douche bag that makes horrible choices while in the public eye, but that is only a byproduct of what truly makes him best embodiment of the pop culture as religion idea. Here is a guy that has no shame jamming out to his own album, which means that not only does he think that his music is the best things he’s made, he literally thinks that it’s the best thing ever made, and he has the creative chops to back it up. This is the kind of pop culture deity that embodies all of the self-absorption that everyone wants, but in the name of humility holds back. We all, simply because it’s all we’ve ever experienced, feel that we are the center of the universe, but we also know it isn’t true. This is the dichotomy that makes society hum along, and Kanye doesn’t live or create music under the same pretense. He steps outside others peoples tastes and makes things that will appeal to him, which brings a freshness and enthusiasm and passion to all of his work. He doesn’t let his rise up the social ladder degrade the quality. He can rap more about cars and high fashion because the content is just the medium for the universal aspects of his art.  Turns out his album isn’t called “I am God” or “I am a God,” but that’s ok because he already lives and creates like he is, and that is why he should be the head of all of the pop culture gods..