Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Monday, December 31, 2007


Why I Wanted to See It: (Faint praise alert) The comedy troupe Broken Lizard can be amusing.

Why I Hadn't Seen It: Alcohol is a foreign concept to me, and I almost never root for America in movies (other countries tend to be demonized in such films, turning me off altogher), so a story following 5 Americans' quest to become the world's best drinkers might as well be designed to deter me.

Why I Just Did: Honestly, it was on TV and I was feeling mindless.

Why I'm Glad I Did: I would like to say that, as with Kal Penn, I follow director Jay Chandrasekhar's ground-breaking career with much pride, that Chandrasekhar's ability to defy on-screen South Asian stereotypes in Hollywood while simultaneously establishing himself behind-the-scences makes him eminently interesting to me. For whatever reason, this is not the case; I'm perfectly willing to subject myself to the likes of Epic Movie[1] for Penn, but there's no way on earth I'm ever watching The Dukes of Hazzard. Chandrasekhar's alcoholic gigolo "Barry" was satisfying in his inobtrusive desi-dom, but not so much to keep me watching.

No, the best part of this movie is its smattering of quotability. Cleverness doesn't exactly pervade the movie; there are only brief flashes, but they are brilliant flashes. These 40 seconds alone [warning: cussin!] have fulfilled me more than any movie since...well, actually, Alvin & the Chipmunks, but that's another story.[2]

Why I Wish I Hadn't: My aforementioned problem with stereotypes in US[A]-v-Them movies applies, although there's not enough time spent on anybody but the Germans to get me really riled up. Belching jokes abound and are repetitive without ever attaining rake-bit redemption. The least whorish woman in the entire movie is an actual whore.

From a critical perspective, however, the film's flaws are more fundamental. Beerfest is blatantly aware that it's a sports movie. This places it on that slippery slope between parody and derivation. Using genre tropes can rarely be avoided, but announcing to audience members "Look, we're retreading old ground" isn't witty; it's smug and lazy. If they weren't so content to be overbroad most of the time, you could mistake Broken Lizard for a bunch of hipsters.

[1] Trust; that review is still coming.
[2] Long story short: Vocal percussion + Sped-up vocals + Daniel Powter=Awesome

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Step Up

Why I Wanted to See It: Step Up is a cross between Good Will Hunting's genius janitor and Save the Last Dance's ballet/hip-hop fusion.[1] Usually I decry copycatting, but I'll take a pass this time because I like the templates.[2]

Why I Hadn't Seen It: Much like Accepted, Step Up didn't stand out between the hype of Talladega Nights and SoaP.

Why I Just Did: The official description of Step Up's forthcoming sequel was so cookie-cutter I initially thought it was a genre-parody:
When rebellious street dancer Andie lands at the elite Maryland School of the Arts, she finds herself fighting to fit in while also trying to hold onto her old life. When she joins forces with the school’s hottest dancer Chase to form a crew of classmate outcasts to compete in Baltimore’s underground dance battle The Streets, she ultimately finds a way to live her dream while building a bridge between her two separate worlds.
Obviously, I'm going to see that movie — almost-cleverly titled Step Up 2 The Streets — so I need the backstory, right?

Why I'm Glad I Did: De'Shawn Washington and Alyson Stoner have just the right amount of adorable in their little-sibling roles.[3] Heavy D has a "Wait, was that Heavy D?" cameo. Not since 8 Mile has "The White Negro" been portrayed so thoughtfully. Most importantly, there's ostensibly narrative-sustaining dancing. Take THAT, Hairspray.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Lots of little things piled up to bother me, from the token douchebag boyfriend to the overly melodramatic B-stories to the randomness of the relationship between leads Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. For the most part, I can put those quibbles behind me; they're just vehicles to get us to more dancing.[4] I am given pause, however, by the elision of both race and class conflict from the story. Conflict emerges not from the characters' different backgrounds, but because they keep making stupid, snap decisions like stealing cars and applying to Cornell.[5]

I semi-joked that Step Up is a landmark in progressive "wigger" cinema à la 8 Mile, but in the latter race was openly deconstructed as but one aspect in an individual's wider identity. Step Up has only 2 references to Tatum's whiteness before it is pushed aside and we are asked to unquestionably accept his urban authenticity as a balance to the ballet of Dewan. This reeks of a calculated attempt attempt at mass appeal, and the fact that the sequel also features two white leads can't be a coincidence.

[1] Obviously Save the Last Dance didn't invent the story of lovers from different worlds, but it's safe to say Step Up owes more to ...Dance than Dirty Dancing, let alone Pyramus & Thisbe.
[2] Ditto the pair-DMX-with-a-martial-arts-star template. I miss you, Dark Man (pause).
[3] Stoner might have been criminally underused given her dancing background, but better that than forcing her into the spotlight as with Lil Romeo in Honey. Tangentially, Washington is really good at geography.
[4] Although the dancing wasn't exactly exceptional so maybe I shouldn't.
[5] ZING!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bottle Rocket

Why I Wanted to See It: I liked Rushmore, I like the Wilson brothers, and the title reminds me of October Sky.

Why I Hadn't Seen It: The weekend it came out I was in the Bronx watching Rumble in the Bronx.

Why I Just Did: After I told someone that The Darjeeling Limited was not made for me,[1] she said you either like Wes Anderson films or you don't, but I felt on the fence.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Owen Wilson had hair like Guile from Street Fighter. The Wilsons have great chemistry. George Lucas may have stolen Anakin's "I don't like sand" speech in Attack of the Clones from the pool scene with Inez and Anthony. No Bill Murray.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: My distaste for the post-Rushmore Wes Anderson films stems in part from their featuring the likes of Bill Murray and Gwyneth Paltrow, thus undercutting Anderson's eccentricity. Movies like The Royal Tenenbaums are pop-arthouse affairs, and although I can enjoy one or the other aesthetic, like A1 and orange juice[2] they don't go well together.

Looking back on Bottle Rocket puts me in an interesting position, because nobody involved was a star at the time, but I've only heard of the movie because its participants have since attained pop status. Can I parse my reaction to the performances from my reaction to Oh My Gosh It's Luke Wilson? Before-they-were-famous is a common framing device for various products,[3] but its relationship to the star system is more parasitic than synergistic. The star system is made for the here and now; it has not programmed me to deal with decade-old productions on shoestring budgets.


More to the point, Bottle Rocket bored me. Guess I didn't like Rushmore after all.

[1]I tend to identify with Indians more than I do with Americans, but Darjeeling is a very-American take on traveling through India.
[2]Trust me on this.
[3]Especially news and music

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ポケモン Movie Money (OR Squirtle Sequel Specie)

In honor of the
Transformer DVD's release today, the fact that I spent at least an hour today sending messages from Optimus Prime, and being too upset over 松坂 大輔 to watch baseball, I figure now's a good time to explore the latter half of Google Docs & Spreadsheets.


South Korea, Mainland China and Japan were far-and away the largest non-English markets for Michael Bay's Transformers, and in that order. My surprise at this has three layers of diminishing affiliation to anthropomorphic automobiles:
1) Transformers is based on Japanese toys, the cartoon had more iterations in Japan than it did in the US, and the Japanese localization also roped in old voice actor[s?], yet in Japan it grossed less than half of either Pirates or Potter. In the US, it outgrossed them both.
2) For some reason I assumed Japan was a more sophisticated movie marketplace than Korea. However, through October 7th, the Japanese box office is averaging ≈$14M[1] a week for 21 movies, and RoK $16M on a whopping 60 movies.
3) 'Pokémon 2007' was the #6 movie in Japan when Transformers opened. All told it's made ≈$42M, a good $8M more than Transformers grossed there.

Even considering residual hype from the 2006 release of Nintendo DS PokéMon games, such revenue seemed really high; at the time it was Japan's biggest home-grown hit.[2] I went back to see how the other films in the series did.

Guess it's that's not that weird after all.

Next time, 宮崎 駿 v ゴジラ, the Fantastic Four Double-Feature in Korea, Stomp-ing the Yard in Japan, and Tonic Google Presentations.

[1]US Dollars (exchange rates perplex me). FTR: the PRC's weekly average is 9 movies and 45.8M 圆/圓
[2]Since surpassed by Hero, an adaptation of the same-named TV series
[3] Grosses 2003-2007 are from Japan only.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Death of Superman

Why I Wanted to Read It: After feeling disrespected by last year's Braniac Attacks, Superman: Doomsday--an animated take on the "Death of Superman" comics from 1993 -- was refreshing. I started to believe the '93 story could also be similarly thrilling.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Having Infinite Crisis and World War III [1] less than a year apart soured me on the whole One-Threat-vs-the-world comic. The fights you want to see get restricted to only a couple panels, and often The Threat is made so powerful that you're just hoping whatever ploy the writers devise to wrap things isn't too cheap.[2]

"Death of Superman" has none of this, because it isn't a vs The World deal. The Threat (aka Doomsday) only fights the Justice League, an at the time inconsequential collection of superheroes and since J.M. DeMatteis wasn't writing this, we shouldn't care.

The rest of the story occurs over maybe a half-an-hour period. We can assume any other superhero who heard there was some monster tearing through the Justice League decided everything was okay once Superman was on the case. Except it wasn't, mostly because Superman is an unimaginative boor.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Guess how many times Superman used his freezing breath against Doomsday in the comics. ZERO. It was the first thing cartoon-Superman tried in the DVD. Sure it failed, but it provided variety. All comic-Superman did was try heat vision and punching. The point was made that Doomsday was too "agile" to be flown away, but how is failing to do that a couple times a worse idea than hitting Doomsday with trees? Do you have any idea how boring that is to read?[3]

Finally, why-oh-why did Bloodwynd/Martian Manhunter "teleport" away? If I know my friend is just as good a fighter as I[4] and when we team up against a bully that bully dusts us, how is retreat a good strategy?[5]

Why I'm Ambivalent: Killing Superman was a risky move, even considering that superhero comics had been killing and resurrecting characters for some time now ::cough::Jean Grey::cough::. At the same time, its success inspired a host of other "risky moves," like turning Green Lantern into a homicidal maniac, breaking Batman's back, and having Spider-Man turn out to be a clone. Some of those were great reads -- I actually enjoyed the Clone Saga -- but most were inconsequential. Does it matter for current continuity that any of them happened? Not really. You can't say that about 80s-era gimmicks like the death of Jason Todd, Barry Allen's sacrifice in Crisis, or Spider-Man gaining cosmic powers.


Okay, maybe you can about that last one.

[1]& Zero Hour & Amazons Attack & Day of Vengance & Our Worlds at War & Graduation Day &...
[2]Justice League's 4th Season Finale is one of the best examples of a cheap but thrilling trick. World War Hulk may just redeem itself yet, but I doubt it.
[3][Joke about how boring this entry is to read]
[4]I can go on and on about this, but it's done much better here, there, and in this.
[5]Phil Morris-Manhunter better make up for this in the 'Smallville' premiere...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Non-Revolution Sparked by St Elmo's Fire[1]

Box Office Mojo's list of the top "Twentysomething" movies displays something curious: the top two movies -- St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night...-- are from the mid-80s. Mind you, these are unadjusted grosses; those two sold twice as many tickets as the nearest competitor: 1994's Reality Bytes. According to this list, there wasn't anything approaching a hit between 1994 and 2004's Garden State. What happened?

Caveat#1: Some of the movies on the list did well outside of theaters, and/or built up cult followings. The fact that Clerks and Before Sunrise both received sequels is testament to this.

Caveat#2: The list is incomplete. A distinction should be made between movies about people who happen-to-be-in-their-twenties and movies about coming to terms with adulthood, but even that narrower definition certainly applies to more than 29 films over the past 27 years. Knocked Up immediately comes to mind, and it's sold more tickets than St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night combined.

The notion that Demi Moore and Rob Lowe could carry two Twentysomething movies in consecutive years and not be followed by copycats seems inexplicable. Even Clerks begat Telling You (not to mention Waiting).[2]

At the same time, I don't know if I can think about many Twentysomething movies that did well, Knocked Up and The Graduate aside. It's entirely possible that some St Elmo's-lite[3] happened and bombed, escaping the BoM editors' notice. The reason for all this still eludes me, though. What is it about post-college coming of age stories that are unappealing to Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials alike? Or is it the producers who shy away, aiming broader with high school comedies and midlife weepers? Could the fact that we still need to grow up even after we "graduate" be too depressing a concept to dramatize?

[1] Watching I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With put me in the mood to listen to "Rod Stewart Sings the American Songbook," of all things, but the first song that popped up was "Some Guys Have All the Luck," and I got in an eighties mood instead. Hence my viewing of St Elmo's Fire, which started out as a standard Ti'No article, but became this (in no small part because St Elmo's Fire must already have been covered by nostalgic bloggers ad wackseum). My notes on that never-to-be entry can be viewed [warning: cussin!] here.
[2]Why isn't there are quarter-life crisis keyword on IMDb? I tried combining keywords to get there, but no dice. I
did discover that slackers and yuppies can coexist.
[3]Acknowledging that St Elmo's Fire:The Big Chill::Summer:Ethan Frome

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Maybe there's Something to Swizz Flying Away on a Unicorn

Despite having engaged in multiple debates about The Verve Pipe's "The Freshmen" meaning, its Wikipedia entry still leaves me unsure. I also thought Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say" was brilliant until I realized the lyrics:
Can I at least get a raise on a minimum wage?
And I know the government administered AIDS
were a conspiracy theory, rather than a commentary on the welfare system. My point is that I have a track record of egregiously misinterpreting lyrics. Cases in point:

Lil Wayne's verse to "Viva La White Girl" has been out around two months, and the original's been out for over a year, but I've only been listening to both for about a day and six months, respectively. Excuses, excuses, right? When WayneWeezy comes in with:
As the white stallion bucks
And kicks me in my nose
Until my face busts

I thought, "Oh, cute, he turned a song about Travis McCoy's white girl-fetish into a song about cocaine." Then McCoy's lyrics came in and I guess I really heard them for the first time:
We all lust/to the glamorous
White girl/so fine.
Going up /on the downtown line.
Take your razor/ break down my line.
Put your nose to the speaker/Now breathe in
Since I've been dismissive of both Kanye's "Crack Music" and USDA's "White Girl"[1] in the past, I'm ashamed this snuck past me when it's just the two concepts stuck together.

As much as I can blame the referentiality of rap for that misunderstanding, when it comes to Kanye's "Homecoming," I've got nobody to blame but myself. It's essentially a remix of a song he did with John Legend called "Home," and I've been listening to that one for over 3 years now.[2] The thing is, I had always heard the line:
My name is Windy [aka the Windy City] and I like to blow trees
My name is WENDY and I like to blow trees

so I thought it was about how Kanye misses some woman he knew before he hit it big.

What makes this all really sad is that Kanye spells it out:
If you don't know by now
I'm talking 'bout Chi-Town

but I just took to that to mean that Wendy lived in Chicago. The good part about knowing it's all about a city is that I'm a lot less disturbed by the knowledge he was taught to go downtown by some woman he met at 3.[3]

[1]Its Rick Ross/Fab/Weezy remix, however, is endlessly endearing, both because of and in spite of the triplicate Lindsay Lohan references.
[2]You'll note the song supposedly came out in '02. Look, I'm slow on the uptake. I'm probably missing Kanye tracks left and right because I pretty much rely on someone updating his discography Wikipedia entry to find new ones. Where's "Good Night"? "Young Folks"?
[3]How is Memoirs of a Geisha not universally accepted as creepy?

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Why I Wanted to See It: I've seen Knocked Up four times, and I saw Superbad. Although I wouldn't call myself a Jonah Hill stan, I'm definitely a fan.

Why I Hadn't Seen It: For the same reason NONE of the people I'd seen Knocked Up with saw Superbad with me;[1] it looked like the same sort of outcasts-navigating-college story by which I've always been underwhelmed.[2]

Why I Just Did: Somehow I've gone four month since my last capsule-review. I didn't realize I'd even been blogging here for four months!

Why I'm Glad I Did: Columbus Short is a star. The principal is the first gynecologist from Knocked Up. Ann Cusack is somewhere between Joan and John in terms of adorability. Scott Adsit (Pete from '30 Rock') plays one of the parents. James Garfield references are great, but James Garfield meta-references are made of awesome and win.

Most of all, it was surprisingly quotable. I humbly suggest these gems that were left off of the IMDb "memorable quotes" list:

"Stalking is an ugly word; I like to think of it as obsessively shadowing"

"This is so cheesy in the greatest way"
"There is nothing cheesy about a clap-on disco ball"

"Does the 'run-of-the-mill' college experience include stripping you of your dignity"

"If a stupid piece of paper is going to make us acceptable then let's go for it, then why not?"

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Screenwriters Adam Cooper and Bill Collage are responsible for the Olsen twins' New York Minute, while storywriter Mark Perez also provided the story for Herbie: Fully Loaded.[3] Now I almost want to watch those, but that seems like Nathan Rabin territory.

In all seriousness, the flippancy with which Accepted tackled the question, "Is college for everyone?" made me uncomfortable. There is probably a humorous way to address it without resorting to the standard freaks-v-establishment[4] plot the writers went with. A dichotomy like that plays into the framework of society and, in the end, undercuts itself. Not to get all Althusser up in this piece, but if the cookie-cutter structure of college suppresses the imagination which would allow many "failed" students to succeed -- which seems to be the point of the movie -- then how far can the "failed" ever get appropriating that structure?

Otherwise, what happens to everyone who doesn't get into the movie's self-learning school South Harmon? Do they form their own school? Will there be self-learning rivalries? Could Harmon propose a merger with South Harmon, combining the former's superior resources with the latter's specialized curriculum in exchange for eliminating the whole point of their being separate?

[1]The person I saw Superbad with was, however, converted and we later saw Knocked Up.
[2]However, I will cop to crying during Amy Heckerling's
[3]Lindsay Lohan's final film as far as I'm concerned.
[4]For the record, not everybody that goes to a fraternity is an evil blonde nor is the "hot" gal always dating the "douche."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Where Was Kang? OR Token July Post!

I slapped together Box Office Mojo's separate lists of TV-to-film adaptations -- Cartoon-to-Cartoon, Cartoon-to-Live Action, and Live Action-to-Live Action[1] -- to see how The Simpsons Movie stacks up. At current estimates, it has the highest opening-weekend gross[2]:
The Simpsons Movie $71,850,000 7/27/07
Mission: Impossible II $70,616,300 5/24/00
Mission: Impossible $67,641,300 5/22/96
Scooby-Doo $61,332,500 6/14/02
Charlie's Angels $48,988,100 11/3/00

Even more surprising, of the 56 cartoon-to-film transitions BoxOfficeMojo's tracked since 1980, The Simpsons Movie already has the 14th-highest total gross[adj]:
The Flintstones $205,477,300 5/27/94
Scooby-Doo $173,610,300 6/14/02
Casper $151,760,800 5/26/95
George of the Jungle $150,900,300 7/18/97
The Rugrats Movie $139,477,700 11/20/98
Inspector Gadget $126,163,900 7/23/99
Popeye $121,872,000 12/12/80
Pokemon: The 1st Movie $110,927,500 11/10/99
Rugrats in Paris $92,925,900 11/17/00
Beavis and Butt-Head $92,1877,00 12/20/96
SpongeBob SquarePants $90,357,400 11/19/04
Scooby-Doo 2 $89,234,600 3/26/04
Garfield: The Movie $79,860,200 6/11/04
The Simpsons Movie $71,8500,00 7/27/07
South Park $67,403,000 6/30/99

A few things about that list (and f00 things about the data set):
1) The Simpsons Movie made more in its first weekend than Bigger, Longer, Uncut made in its whole run.
2) Popeye, Beavis & Butt-Head Do America, and George of the Jungle made a lot more than I remember.
3) Box Office Mojo doesn't think Transformers ($287M) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($210M[adj]) count as TV-to-film adaptations.
π) MST3K ($1.5M), Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy ($3.95M), and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ($8.9M), made less combined than the opening weekend of the 1994's Little Rascals ($15.8M).[3] In fact, MST3K has the fourth lowest overall gross of the 117 movies in the set.

Given how much of its gross was due to upfront demand, The Simpsons Movie is a longshot to surpass The Flinstones, so there's no way it's getting to the dataset's overall leader: The Fugitive ($292M[adj]). I'd go into where its chances stand in terms of animation-in-general, but then I'd have to contemplate the possibility of Shrek the Third grossing 150% of Ratatouille,[5] and that's just not right.

[1] Why aren't there Live Action-to-Cartoon adaptation? I would argue that 'Clone Wars' was better than AotC, Fox Kids' 'Godzilla' was better than Tristar's G.I.N.O., and I have fuzzily fond memories of 'Teen Wolf.'
[2] Inflation-adjusted, 'natch.
[3] All Ibid.
[4] カウボーイビバップ 天国の扉
, 劇場版ポケットモンスター 水の都の護神 ラティアスとラティオス, and Gumby bring up the rear.
[5] Not counting foreign box-office, which is going down in my list of future-entry-ideas, along with comparing the Marx Bros & Cary Grant Monkey Business-es and concocting an "Everybody Votes" Omnibus.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

TransFanwanking (OR Autobot Apologetics)

My housemates were discussing an AP article on Orson Welles and Transformers[1], and one displayed shock that Transformers the Movie made ≈$6 million. It was a bust for a many reasons, but the thing to note is that animation in general had just finished bottoming out in 1986. The highest-grossing cartoon that year was Amblin's initial animation effort An American Tail,[2] which didn't even break the annual top 10; Disney made more off its Lady and the Tramp re-release than it did with the Independence Day debut of The Great Mouse Detective.

Never heard of The Great Mouse Detective? Time to put Walt Disney [Feature] Animation Studios in context. Here's the original-release and adjusted grosses of all Disney cartoons since Uncle Walt awakened to the life immortal:

Title (Original Release Date)------------Original Gross---Inflation-Adjusted Gross
The Jungle Book (1967)--------------------------------$73,741,048----$404,346,747

The Rescuers (1977)------------------------------------$29,000,000---$85,569,507
The Fox and the Hound (1981)------------------------$39,000,000---$92,309,353
The Black Cauldron (1985)----------------------------$21,288,692----$39,459,040
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)-------------$25,336,794--$44,936,955
Oliver & Company (1988)-----------------------------$53,279,055----$85,298,341
The Little Mermaid (1989)----------------------------$84,355,863---$139,814,000
The Rescuers Down Under (1990)--------------------$27,931,461----$43,448,939
Beauty and the Beast (1991)---------------------------$145,863,363--$227,976,468
Aladdin[π] (1992)----------------------------------------$217,350,219--$528,161,032

Disney was only just getting out of some 20 year-doldrums. The Smurfs and Care Bears had moderate success translating to the big screen — The Care Bears Movie actually made more than The Black Cauldron — but most cartoons of the 80s pulled in poor box office numbers. Cartoons released into 400+ theaters averaged a $2.24 million gross. In the 90s, there were over twice as many 400+ cartoons, and they averaged $5.84 million. There were more 400+ cartoons from 2000 to 2006 alone, and they averaged $8.72 million. Even accepting that current ticket prices are 2.4x those in 1980, it's clear there's simply a bigger market for animation then, even if none of it is has fire-breathing robotic dinosaurs that can fly.

Back to my housemates: they suggested that the forthcoming Transformers[4] is intended for people who could remember the first cartoon, and I brought up the fact that Shia Labeouf is getting to be a bankable star for precisely those people that couldn't tell Optimus from Opie. I don't know enough about the toy market — I mean, really, knights are popular??? — to track those trends, but I'd say the base for Transformers nostalgia can't be very big. Unlike Harry Potter there isn't a creepily large contemporary base, unlike LoTR the story was too vapid to keep people interested,[5] and it hardly has the pedigree of any superhero movie this side of Mystery Men. When the director is suggesting people would rather die than watch the '86 movie[6], you can't seriously believe Dreamworks is wooing anybody with a soft spot for Stan Bush.

For now I'm inclined to believe that there's nothing like Transformers: it's a movie built on an awesome premise that was almost never well-executed and has minimal staying power. I'm also inclined to end this post because it is long and increasingly esoteric.

[1]Personally I prefer my paper on Orson Welles and The Incredibles
[2]Which of course lead Don Bluth to believe he could beat Disney at its own game. Let us hope Chris Sanders learns from his mistakes.
[3]BoxOfficeMojo doesn't have the grosses for
The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), or The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
[π]At which point Disney "realized" if it made pop-cultural references for the old-folks, it could be entertaining for more than just kids, meeting its logical end in the surprisingly charming but nonetheless unprofitable Emperor's New Groove. Then for some reason they decided to make aesthetically unpleasing action movies like Atlantis (cel-shaded CGI is boring), and Shrek latched onto the pop-culture-caboose, putting Spielberg back above Disney for the first time since...An American Tail! ... Well, I think that's funny.
[4]Produced by Steven Spielberg. Dun-dun-dun.
[5]No offense to Bob Forward and other folks behind 'Beast Wars.' Seriously, it was good stuff.
[6]Wired used "urtext"? +3. +Less Than Three, even.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Deez Postmodernuts

I've recently encountered two fairly old memes:
1) Lolcode, a "love letter to very clever people who are slightly bored" which is dying as a meme even while I write this.
2) DeezNats apparel[1], in particular, the "Mets Suck Deez Nats" shirt, which is at least a year old in meatspace time.

Both are examples of what I call "the pomo rake bit." Kung Fu Monkey[2] defined the notion of "the rake bit as:
Something that's funny, goes on too long so it's not funny, then goes on so long that it becomes INCREDIBLY funny.

A "pomo rake bit" transcends time and/or space to reference a prior joke, especially a prior rake bit. I advance this neither as a new theory or new phenomenon, but as something I enjoy. Layers of indexicality often elude me in other genres/media, such as musical motifs, literary allusions, and cinematographic styles. Comedy, however, is often brash and immediate; consider that if you reach the proverbial parking lot before you get a joke[3], then it's relatively deep. You are not supposed to need to unpack a joke, and so to have referential rake bits — to have humor that on its face proclaims to always, already entertain — is both comforting and refreshing.

Some people might think that either rake bits are lazy and/or appropriating them under the aegis of postmodernity/irony/unabashed-hipsterdom just highlights the cultural bankruptcy of the contemporary era. We might be so far removed from originality that reiterating a phrase that was tired a decade ago, or making an ever-increasing-array of websites dedicated to games of write-your-own-caption is what passes for clever. I admit insecurity regarding where to demarcate the distinctions between smugness, salience, and stupidity when the object of contention is Star Trek-cum-kittens.

Then I think about would I would do if I saw a "d33z n4+5" shirt: sigh, chuckle, and write a contented blog entry about it. Maybe[4] it's just me.

[1]Why not "DC's Nats"? Too far from the urtext?
[2]I've actually been calling it "the rake joke" for at the past year or so, which is still better than what it's called on the TV Tropes Wiki.
[3]Ron G told a joke once and said, "That's some clever stuff; you gon' get that in the car." How did Ron G not win? Anyway...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Raise Your Hand if You've Seen 'The Adventures of Ford Fairlane'

In full on MSM-hater/symbiosis mode:

The Los Angeles Times made a list of 8 "summer sleepers," in anticipation of Knocked Up being the next one[1]:

1) 40 Year-Old Virgin (8/19/05)
2) Wedding Crashers (7/1505)
3) Mean Girls (4/30/04)
4) My Big Fat Greek Wedding (4/19/02)
5) The Sixth Sense (8/6/99)
6) There's Something About Mary (7/15/98)
7) Forrest Gump (7/6/94)
8) Ghost (7/13/90)

I'm not going to suggest additions but I did double-check to see if these movies were really unexpected hits. For example, Mean Girls was the widest release on the weekend it opened and the 4th widest release in April[2]. Calling Mean Girls one of the greatest summer sleepers of all time is like calling Disturbia the same because both had no real competition.[3] With the MTV Movie Awards coming up tomorrow, it also reminds me that Shia LaBeouf was once just "That curly-haired kid from Holes[4] with the thing for Lindsay Lohan."[5]

Ghost is the one choice that really enlightened me. It was the number 2 grossing movie of 1990 — behind the juggernaut Home Alone — but had the 71st biggest opening. Of the 70 opening wider, I can remember seeing about 20 in theaters, and of the other 154 below it, I saw but one (Fantasia) in theaters and can at least recognize only 5 others.[6] Point being, Ghost really did come out of nowhere, and, furthermore, I'm probably not going to remember Mr Brooks in 2024. As is, I've already forgotten everything else Kevin Costner did between and Thirteen Days and The Guardian.[7]

[1] Although it seems paradoxical (if not quite oxy-moronic), I can't convince myself that something shouldn't still be a sleeper if everyone picks it to be, and for that I blame Bill Simmons
[2] Behind
13 Going on 30, Kill Bill vol. 2 and Home on the Range, the last of which I really do still plan to review.
Disturbia was acutally this April's widest release. 2, 3, & 4 were Are We Done Yet?, Firehouse Dog[!], and Next.
[4] /'Even Stevens' which I assure you I never watched. Really. ¬_¬
[5] Just My Luck, Prairie Home Companion & Georgia Rule COMBINED made less than 'Disturbia.' Let's not even speculate on Surf's Up, Transformers, and Indy freakin-4. Considering how things have been going for him, I'm surprised LaBeouf doesn't have Justin Long's role in Live Free or Die Hard to boot.
[6] Mo Better Blues, House Party, Dances with Wolves, The Freshman, Green Card, and Edward Scissor Hands.
[7] Ooooh...stylin on Kevin Costner? I'm mad edgy, manky.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kanye @ the Epicensor

Back in pre-'Late Registration' 2005, Kanye West almost-apologized for using "the n-word" — henceforth "neighbor,"[1] because I feel stupid typing "the n-word" — in his music by arguing that not using it when dialect so demands just distracts from his message. Yet, judging from the video for (ironically enough) "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," he's capitulated to the current angst over the word "ho." Specifically his third verse has the lines:
How he move in room full of nos
How he stay faithful in a room full of hoes?
Except you won't hear the "hoes" in the official video@≈-1:46[2].

What's really interesting to me is, @≈-0:27 you can hear "neighbor" said very clearly by Young Jeezy.[3] So, basically, Kanye was willing to put the 'neighbor' on the internet and on iTunes (for Free Ninety Nine), but balked at "ho"? I'm too shocked to really evaluate this decision, and what it says about the apparently zero-sum game that is Women v Black People.

What's really meta-interesting to me is: I was going to mention this last week but I couldn't find time, and had sort of assumed somebody else would. I actually came to the ol' blogspot to write something on the pomp-pomo-sity of Kanye sampling a Daft Punk song that was sampling Edward Birdsong, but I was beaten by over a week and nevertheless still felt the urge to write. Luckily, it turns out that nobody else seems as obsessed with music self-censorship as I.[4] No doubt this is derived from my adolescent affection for DMX's ad libs, but that's a story for another time. A proper grad student would actually want to expound[5] on any of these points, but that's because proper grad students write theses.

[1] How did I manage to never write a paper on Lisa Lampanelli?
[2] The mixtape version proves "hos" is indeed the censored word. Also, when will Google add its link-within-a-video feature to YouTube?
[3] Jeezy/T.I./DJ Toomp's "I Got Money" may or may not be the sample upon which "Can't Tell Me Nothin'" is based, which would open the shortest song-to-sample window I've seen since Kanye sampled Alicia Keys's "If Ain't Got You" in order to remix it. How I love recursive loops.
[4] See, again, my Foucauldian analysis of 'I Wanna [Fsck] You.'
[5] To think, had I written this when the blog-iron was hot, I could have beaten Breihan (chronologically, of course — never content-wise)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

LeBron James ♥s Unicorns

Thanks to my supposedly-professional interest in pictures, I've taken to scouring delimages, a site that indexes graphics based on del.icio.us[1] tags. It's not the first time I developed an affinity for an image-aggregator; I've spent far too many hours of my life playing around on decontextualized LiveJournal image generators. What makes delimages different is[2] two things:

α) Since del.icio.us is already a link-list — albeit one created by people and not robots — and is automatically integrated with fellow-Yahoo! Brand Flickr[3], delimages is a third-order-aggregation. Pump them all through some Pipes and you'll have constructed one fancy echo-chamber. As is, I'm solidly a part of the Google Ecosystem, so I'm fine with just delimages, but the recursive possibilities certainly amuse me.

β) "venilla_pdy" has a Russel's Teapot comic that mentions unicorns being in Numbers 22:23. I checked the King James Bible and, apparently, unicorns get mentioned nine times. Near as I can tell this is one translation of the Hebrew "re'em"/"rimu" which might refer to an ox, or something. Frankly, I'm a fan of cryptozoological bestiaries, so, sure, maybe most unicorns are sideways oryxes, maybe mermaids are manatees, maybe dragons are just rationalizations of dinosaur bones, but wouldn't life be grander if they were real? They don't have to have magical powers or anything; I may be silly but I'm not crazy.

[1] I can't decide if not knowing what del.icio.us is makes this entry more interesting or more opaque.
[2] "are"? Can "what" be plural?
[3] There's some question whether Flickr is the biggest photo site or not. Comscore says it has the biggest unique audience. Hitwise says it's 3rd in hits. Yahoo! Photos says Yahoo! Photos is "the largest," but can we really trust them? Okay, I'm giving myself a Oh-Wait-I'm-Not-a-Real-N3RD headache with all this website-traffic-metric talk. @_@

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Biting the Onion

Let the record show that I am not a 'Family Guy' hater. At the very least, it has the most interestingly named creative staff of any American TV show. Case in point: tonight's episode, written by "a.bo." That's my favorite non-nom de plume since "Jennifer 8 Lee"[1].

Unfortunately a.bo also seems to be kinda a copycat. The following joke about women being unable to serve as politicians because they'll be too busy visiting their Aunt Flo is a lot like "Rich Durban"'s quote in this Onion article.
It's possible that:
1) a.bo has never read the article
2) In shades of 'Studio 60'[2], a.bo actually wrote the original article. A similar thing happened when Mike Henry got his "Kicked in the Nuts" character on an episode in 2005.[3]
3) There are a gajillion other bloggers making the exact same connection right now (my housemate might be one of them, since we both caught the similarity).

Maybe one of them can make sense of all of this, because I would rather finish my game of imaginary baseball. Go fake RedSox!

[1]Link chosen solely for irony
[2]Whoever made this graph is inspiring me to make more charts. p_^
[3]That doesn't explain away these, though...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wii Users Smell Nice

It turns out I was wrong: most Wii-voters (51.5%) wear perfume or cologne. For women this rate is 64.4% and for men it is 46.6%. What this shows is that the vast majority of Wii-voters (≈72.5) are men[1] and a little under half of these men are emasculated dandies. Nice job proving the haters wrong, guys.

Honestly, I'm just bitter that I've guessed incorrectly on 5 of the last 7 polls. Apparently buses, doppelgängers, coffee shops (as places to read) and — global poll alert! — heat aren't nearly as popular as I thought. With the global poll, generally hot countries didn't like heat and cold countries didn't like the cold[3]. The grass is always greener...

As a check, I looked at the global Wiilectorate's sex ratio, and men are once again the vast majority (≈70.8%[2]). Learning this mitigates my prognosticatory pessimism, as does the hilariously low prediction success rate of my fellow amateur statisticians (40.3%).

The current crop of questions includes: "Have you weighed yourself in the last month?" and "Is there such a thing as a soul mate?" on which I am predicting "No" for the former and "Yes" for the latter. Presumably Wii-men are just romantic enough to believe in an ineffable and inimitable connection to another human being, but still don't care about their health because, after all, they're spending their time voting through Wiis. Although, considering their 2:1 preference for trees over coffee shops, maybe Wiivoters are both Romantic AND romantic[5] enough to head outdoors.

Let's not forget: Wii is its own workout. @ Brian: I feel your pain (literally[6]).

[1] If % of all Wii-voters are men then .466♂+.644(1-♂)=.515 —> -.178♂+.644=.515 —> .129=.178♂ —> 72.5≈♂
[2] If ♂% of all global Wii-voters are men then .530♂+.465(1-♂)=.511 —> .065♂+.465=.511 —> .065♂=.046 —> 70.8≈♂
[3][4] See: The amazing desultory YouTube clip I've embedded, which is scored with a sped-up version of the 'Dynasty' theme for no real reason
[4] How badly did the out-of-order footnotes mess with your head?

[5] Who thought Vin Diesel and Wesley Snipes were "ugly" enough to get on that list Preposterous. p_^
[6] In the past, at least; I'm in a deep enough MLB withdrawal to play the GCN 2k6 >_<

Making Meta-Meta on Metahumans

IdlewildThe forthcoming Aishwariy...Ashwary...Naveen Andrews movie serves as a good excuse to deconstruct another Kal Penn performance, since one Desi dude deserves another. While waiting for Epic Movie to "arrive from Netflix" I fought my TiNo inclinations and caught up on some 'Smallville.'[1] I started with 'Noir,' which sets itself up as an homage to films like The Big Sleep, which made me want to review The Big Sleep.[2]

First I had to make sure nobody else had tried this, because I hate being one of those people who attempts to be insightful but really retreads commonly held pop-cultural sentiments.[3] I fired up the ol Technorati, and I didn't find a straightforward Sleep v 'Smallville' comparison, but I found enough other entries to make me not want to try:
A running commentary (and an ironical use of the word "irregardless")
Screencaps galore
(and an Erica Durance/Rita Hayworth comparison)
Iceman References (and different text from the TwoP site)
Pointing out that Philip Marlowe isn't Sam Spade (and the least text taken to spoil a plot ever)
Hair hangups (and synergy)

My favorite, however, has to be Smallville Guide's dueling reviews + transcript. That's love.

[1]You would hard pressed to find a sadder sentence in the English language.
[2]Si le haces una fiesta a una cerdita...
[3] Reason #[limit n—>∞((1+1/n)^n)] that I should never get a PhD

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Alien Costume: Part 1

Why I Wanted to See it: In anticipation of Spider-Man 3 I rewatched the beginning of the 94 cartoon's alien symbiote saga. Why this series isn't on DVD in its entirety, or why I don't know of a blog devoted to it is beyond me.[1] Granted SM[:TAS?] lacks the groundbreaking seriousness of the Timmverse Batman, the convoluted comics wonkery of FOX's 'X-Men'[2], or the animation fluidity of post-Saturday Morning ghetto superhero shows like 'Teen Titans' but it had its own charm and, in any case, is likely the source text for the movie.[3]

Why I'm Glad I Did: Much like Spider-Man's origin, there's no way to explain his black costume that's not stupid.[4] That doesn't matter, though, because it's simply awesome: shape-shifting, strength augmentation, turning one into a jerk and, I mean, look at it: it's black! How is that not enough?

The best part is the nightmare Spidey has when the not-yet-revealed as a symbiote takes over his body as he sleeps: he envisions the suit and his original red-blue-threads battling it out 怪獣 style. Once the black suit wins by shoving the original on some power lines, it swallows Spidey-as-Peter Parker, and then he wakes up hanging upside down in the "emo" outfit. If that sounds familiar, it's because the movie trailer clearly swipes it. Whichever of the six writers[5] for this episode came up with that, you better get your residuals.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Every animation misstep in this episode has stuck in my mind for the past 13 years because it vacillates between excellent — Message to Sony Imageworks: this is what Spider-Man looks like swinging webs — and blatantly cost-cutting. No other series so shoddily reused animation: when the super-villain Rhino fights Spidey in a space shuttle teetering on the edge of the GWB[6], they used the same footage of the shuttle tilting back and forth a half-dozen times within two minutes.

'Alien Symbiote' is actually one of the better episodes in that regard, so my main problems are little script issues. Why does Peter Parker just leave his Spider-tracer-locator in his closet? How did transforming the symbiote into a police uniform let Spidey escape, when he did so in the middle of daytime traffic? I don't see how the security guarding "the specially enhanced control rods" the Kingpin was stealing for Alistair Smythe expected to stop The Rhino[7] by (irony of ironies) randomly charging.

Why I'm Ambivalent: Spider-Man's voice actor is really unconvincing as someone with edge, and this approaches ludicrous heights in the next episode. It's very uncomfortable to listen to, but haunting in its own way. Picture Greg Brady maniacally screaming "I'll tear you limb from liiiimb!" and you should get my point.

[1] Given how large the comic sub-blogosphere is, there might be lots, but I'm just not indie enough to get into that set. I do follow a decent blog on the Spider-Man newspaper strip, though.
[2] They revealed that Immortus was the main character behind this huge time/reality traveling story arc...except they never explained who Immortus was.
[3] Simply because there's no space for either the Beyonder or Richard Parker in a movie already packed —
Batman & Robin style, it seems — with three villains.
[4] I don't know what was worse: Todd McFarlane's rationale in Spider-Man #13, or Bendis' rationale post-Civil War.
[5] Stan "The Man (aka The King's Second Banana)" Lee, Avi "Got Out While the Gettin Was Good" Arad, Len "Wolverine" Wein, Meg "I'm Sorry But I've Never Heard of Her" McLaughlin, Stan "Paul Dini Don't Run This" Berkowitz & John "Oh Shoot, He's Black!" Semper
[6] An equally awesome and unreasonable setting
[7] Wow, y'know, the cast list for this episode actually seems to be a lot longer than the movie. There's hope yet.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Contemplating a Fandom-Lead Critique of Canon

Thousand Year Door has been tough for me to get through because it seems designed to avoid/prevent grinding, and I'm very big on over-preparation.[1] I want to ditch it altogether and go onto Super Paper Mario, but I need to follow protocol. However, leaving the ol' blogspot lying fallow all week has left me feeling like an absentee landlord, so I provide two fillers:

1) Nearly three weeks ago I promised to report on a Wii-pole and, per my prediction, Wii-voters prefer comedy movies (62%) to action (38%) ones. More to the point, I wondered what this would say about the gendering of the Wiilectorate, as men would obviously be more likely to prefer action.[2] Indeed 42.2% of Wii-men prefer action to comedy, while only 25.5% of Wiiwomen do. The most interesting thing out of all this is that only 58.4% correctly predicted the preference, which means some good chunk of people who prefer comedy thought they were weird outliers. Come on people: try some statistical analysis of box office receipts, why don'cha[3]

Another current question asks if Wiivoters wear perfume and/or cologne, which will test the metrosexuality of Wii-men. I'm torn between the stereotypical wussyness of Wii-owners and the stereotypical poor hygiene of gamers, but I'm going with the latter. For the record, I'm 21 for 26 with predictions.[4]

2) Even though Comcast claimed to have the final Spider-Man 3 trailer last month, on Thursday "Trailer 4" popped up on Apple's Trailer site. It's pretty much the same thing as what's on the Comcast site, but they use different clips of the villain Venom. At first I decided to write an entire post about this, but then I was reminded of this XKCD comic.

With Spider-Man 3, Transformers, and — to a lesser extent — The Simpsons Movie and The Order of the Phoenix — young professionals are seeing their fandoms realized on the screen in a big way this summer. Although fandom has been allowed to take over the official before,[5] the fandoms I was part of haven't. Venom is coeval with my interest in comics and Transformers: The Movie has been my favorite video to watch for the past two decades years; I am fairly certain I know more about these characters than any of the screenwriters, but do I know more about it than the reviewers? The depth of niche knowledge that some reviewers have never ceases to amaze me.

So, I wonder, is there a professional reviewer out there who will invoke Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen when describing the CGI in Spider-Man 3, or will debate picking Peter Cullen over Gary Chalk to voice Optimus Prime in Transformers?

[1] It's what makes me a such a great PokeMaster, but that's a story for Tuesday.
[2] One could quibble about the masculinity of Men-who-use-Wiis — or Women-who-play-video games for that matter — but I will only do so through apophasis.
[3] Based on Box Office Guru and IMDb data from July 1997 through November 2003. I had yet to discover the beauty that is BoxOfficeMojo.
[4] Who knew so many people owned furry fish?
[5] FTR, I don't claim to add anything to what people already know about the interplay between fandom and "canon."