Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Blue Velvet in the NY Times

The New York Times has a great article up on my favorite movie of all time, Blue Velvet , and how even after 20 years it's still as powerful as once it was. I gave it a spin just a couple weeks ago, and found that it means just as much to me this year as it did last year, and the year before that.

UPDATED!: Check out this hee-larious movie trailer for "Something Blue".

Special thanks to The Don for pointing it out to me. "No Donny - Mommy loves you!!!"


Some teenage boys have taken to smoking pot outside my bedroom window. It happens during the school day, so I'm guessing they're cutting a class or have some kind of "free hour" when they're supposed to be doing something else. This entry will give them a credit in Subterfuge 101.

Most people would be pissed off by these kids. Many would rap on the window yelling, "Get the fuck out of here!" Some might even phone the local authorities or alert the principal at the high school across the street.

But not me.

I'd prefer to listen to them toke up, having a good time, while I lay in bed, seething in envy. There's a big part of me that wants to find out if they'll let me join in, but something inside tells me that no matter how counter culture I may appear, despite the length of my hair and the beardness of my beard, or how "cool" I see myself, I know I'll scare them away, ruin their hiding place and spoil what may well be the one moment of bliss to which they look forward every day.

I refuse to be "that" guy. Maybe I'd be the Lester Burnham to their Ricky Fitts (Angela Hayes will never figure into the equation)? I'm not 17 anymore. If I were a character in Logan's Run, much like Lester, I'd be dead.

I didn't even do drugs when I was their age, because I was so freaking square. It took me years to perfect the masquerade of coolness I now appear to exude. But listening to them outside that window, and peeking through the blinds at them, I sure wish I had. Waxing nostalgic about the past isn't something I engage in too often; waxing nostalgic about a past that never happened even less so, but man alive...

The weather in South Texas is ideal right now. It's the kind of weather people in California pay big money to exist in 365 days a year; in S.A., it lasts for about a week. These guys look like they're having the times of their lives. Outside it's that perfect mix of sunlight and morning chill that makes you feel just so alive. And the cherry on their cake is they're stoned! Goddamn them!!!! They've got no idea of the horrors and disappointment that are in store later on in life, and I'm not about to be classified as one of those horrors or disappointments.

The most horrific thing a baked junior could have to deal with is a long-haired, aging hipster lumbering toward him like some kind of dire warning from the future, indicating he'd better shape up or this is what's in store for him. They should suffer in delusion just as long as the rest of us had to. Far be it from me to be their wake-up call.

I know people who think high school was the best time of their life and I'm pretty sure most of them were high most of that time. I don't begrudge anyone the right to yearn, but if I thought it had all been downhill since high school...just kill me now. End it all.

But there is no fucking way that's the case, as I can't recall a time in my life when I was more confused, frightened and worried about what was around the corner than high school (except elementary school, but that's another story). The irony is I was absolutely correct and justified in my thinking. Maybe if I'd been high throughout high school I would've had more fun. This must be the reason it's called high school, right?

Click here to read Part Two: "The Narc, A Ho & Tinkerbell".

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm Not Crazy, I'm on the Phone

There was a time when a person wandering around talking to themselves conjured up an image of the town drunk or some sort of paranoid schizophrenic. You know the sort of dazed weirdo, stumbling past you in the middle of the afternoon, grumbling loudly, "And another thing!!!"

Not so today, thanks to that handy little invention known as the cell phone headset. Now you can go about your business, in the middle of a public place, talking to your husband about what to have for dinner or how you'd like to spend your weekend, all the while appearing as a total lunatic nutball to anyone who doesn't see that you've got one of these little thing-a-ma-bobs neatly hidden beneath your carefully coiffed 'do.

I can imagine a time, not too far in the future, in which an entire grocery store full of people mull about, engaged in conversations with anyone but those around them in the flesh. The hushed rumble of intimate discourse...that I'm not a part of!

What if every single person on the other end of each line coincidentally told jokes at the exact same moment? The entire grocery store erupts into laughter, only nobody's amused by the same thing. (Unless, by an even greater coincidence, it was the same joke being told through every single headset. But I mean, come on - I'm trying to operate on a plane of reality here.)

What if everyone broke into song simultaneously? It would make the absurd logistics of the Broadway musical a thing of the past. I see this happening in the meat department.

What if aliens were able to intercept and warp our technology and fry all the brains in one fell swoop? Why would they do this, you ask? Well, that's easy: aliens want all of our Ding-Dongs and they haven't mastered the art of shoplifting. I say give 'em our Ding-Dongs now, and let's save our brains for better uses later on.

Like building smaller headsets, because that's what we need. These headsets need to be so tiny, that they can simply be surgically inserted as a couple chips in the ear canal and inner lip, preferably at birth. When technology has reached this point of orgasmic perfection, we can sleep soundly at night, and "I'm not crazy, I'm on the phone!" will be a simple, expected part of everyday speech.

Now I'm not crazy, and I'm not on the phone, but I am off to write an outline for a Broadway musical about Ding-Dong thieving aliens who tell bad jokes in order to lull Earthlings into a false sense of security because shoplifiting is something they just never thought of.

Stupid aliens. Damn them and the damn Ding-Dongs. I always preferred Twinkies anyway.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts & Darren McGavin

The loss of two class acts over the weekend has me just a little bit bummed today.

When people think of Don Knotts, Barney Fife probably comes to mind first and foremost. Not me - I think of Mr. Furley from Three's Company. I'm just a swingin' Furley kind of guy, I guess. I've always been a huge, unapologetic Three's Company fan, and strangely enough, if you were to ask me Roper or Furley, I'd always say Roper...until today. The kind of good will Don Knotts inspires is the kind that forces me to put aside my fanboy love for Mr. Roper and honor Mr. Furley.

Here's a great Furley observation: No sane Three's Company fan would dare argue that Priscilla's Terri Alden was superior to Suzanne's Chrissy Snow. It's just a given fact - Suzanne Somers was irreplacable (and Jenilee Harrison isn't even in the equation). Despite my love for Norman Fell, a "Roper or Furley?" debate/argument is well worth getting into, because Don Knotts was so damn perfect for the role and he brought a special kitchy lack of style to a series that was shifting with the times. Furley was a leftover from the mid-70s; he didn't realize that Reagan was president, disco was over, and the times they were a changing. This is a gag that lasted some five plus years on the show and never petered out.

One of my favorite eps of the series was when Jack and Furley were locked together in the freezer at Jack's Bistro, and to stay warm a certain amount of "closeness" was required, and in the process Jack revealed to Furley that he was in fact not gay. When they finally got out of the freezer, Furley insisted it was only because Jack thought they were going to die and was willing to lie to Furley to make him feel better, so they could huddle together for warmth. Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid to read (what Three's Company plot doesn't on paper?), but John Ritter and Don Knotts sell the entire premise down the line.

If you dislike Three's Company, I'd like to recommend the film Pleasantville, which was one of Don's final great performances, and it's fitting that so late in his career he was cast in a prominent role alongside such actors as Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William Macy, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen and the late J.T. Walsh.


Darren McGavin's Carl Kolchak is one of the great genre TV characters. So great was McGavin in the role, that the revival series from last fall was quickly canceled not because the show itself wasn't any good, but because Stuart Townsend's take on Kolchak was constantly overshadowed by memories of McGavin. There wasn't a candle to hold, and the series never had a chance.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker has been directly credited as being the inspiration of The X-Files and in fact McGavin guest-starred on the series a couple different times. Luckily, last autumn, the entire Kolchak series was released in a DVD box set, and also available is an MGM double-feature DVD of both original Kolchak TV movies, The Night Stalker & The Night Strangler. I know what I'm going to watch tonight. Some of you may want to check him out as the dad in A Christmas Story.

Two iconic men have passed on, but what great vid fodder they left behind for us to enjoy.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Seaquakes and Reekquels

(This commentary originally appeared in Voices of Art magazine. - RR)

You’re tired of sequels and remakes – if you weren’t, you wouldn’t have picked up a quality mag like Voices of Art. If you enthusiastically play the whole sequels and remakes game, you’d likely be re-reading the Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview issue that’s been sitting next to your toilet for the past four months. On second thought, those who embrace sequels and remakes have hygiene concerns, too, soooo…

This commentary inadvertently went straight to the crapper, which coincidentally is my point. Sequels and remakes. Remakes and sequels. You say those two words enough times, over and over, and you start coming up with terms like “seaquakes” and “reekquels” – both describe the oft-found content at your local multiplex.

Who stole the movies and will we ever get them back? Has the invention of digital filmmaking ushered in a new era of ones and zeros? Art seems reduced to strung together components, creating something “new and familiar”, by which I of course mean “old and tired.” Oddly, most of it’s still shot on film.

Hollywood has become blandly innovative in peddling such goods, as if they’re aware audiences can only be snookered for so long. The latest buzz phrases, “prequels” (thank you Mr. Lucas) and “reimaginings” (thank you Mr. Burton), inspire little hope. Of course there’s always the old tried and true standby: simply tacking the number 2 or 3 on to the latest installment of a franchise. Currently Steve Martin is shooting Cheaper by the Dozen 2. May I suggest killing off 6 of the kids in the first reel and titling it Cheaper by the Half-Dozen? Call ‘em whatever you like, either you’re making something new or you’re not.

Is it all lifeless, unimaginative fare? To be fair, no. But for every reekquel that works, there are probably nine seaquakes that suck. “Two out of three ain’t bad” makes sense, but one out of ten is laughable. Make the argument that the same could be said of movies in general? I’d argue back that even a lame original screenplay is a greater achievement than a passable exhumation of an old TV show. Why? Because it’s original and originality is the one department in which Hollywood’s clearly gone bankrupt. Without experimentation, the art form refuses to move forward; it becomes stagnant and dies.

Most disturbing is that there was a time when we turned to cinema to teach us something about ourselves. Morality was pondered, death was explored, and love was ripped apart. Remember when a pair of tits onscreen actually meant something!? The 3 or 4-month Oscar-bidding season aside (which itself is pretty whore-like), the kind of fare that made us think is virtually absent from multiplex screens the rest of the year. But you know where you can find it?

Your television. The so-called idiot box, which we once turned to for mindless thrills, is now the breeding ground for the real drama. Thanks to cablers like HBO, Showtime and FX, our great morality plays unfurl weekly, serialized on shows like The Shield, The Sopranos, Queer as Folk, Nip/Tuck, Huff, Deadwood and Six Feet Under. When Glenn Close agrees to do an entire season of a series that’s been on for three years, it’s time to pay attention. Prime rib is still available; you just gotta know which butcher has the best cut in town.

Vote with dollars and awareness, be it at the box office, the video store, Netflix or your DirectTV subscription. What you support is what you’ll get more of. Frustrated? Stand up and say “I’m bored as hell and I’m not gonna watch it anymore!”

Here’s a list of summer fare that illustrates, for better or worse, what I’m talking about: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Longest Yard, Batman Begins, Herbie: Fully Loaded, The Honeymooners, War of the Worlds, Bewitched, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Fantastic Four, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Bad News Bears and The Dukes of Hazzard. That, folks, is how your local theatre marquee reads.

The Good: Revenge of the Sith. The Lucas opera is a dazzling conclusion to a wholly unique sci-fi fantasy series. This film begged to be made and it isn’t without a fair amount of reservation that I proclaim it’s my favorite of all the Star Wars flicks (yes, nostalgia aside, even more poignant than The Empire Strikes Back.)

The Bad: Batman Begins. Bad in concept, even if abundant in content or masterful in execution. With four movies, the Adam West TV series (which itself spawned a theatrical film) and countless animated versions (one of which also played on the big screen – so wait a minute…that’s SIX movies!), Batman is a guy that logically needs no further theatrical examination. We get it: cape, cowl & karate - let’s move along.

The Ugly: Herbie: Fully Loaded. Another installment of the Love Bug is something I’d never considered coming into cinematic existence. Maybe you’ve seen it. I guaran-goddamn-tee you I haven’t. However, I may keep an eye out for the inevitable, similarly titled pornographic parody.

Now please, please, please - I beg of the Film Gods (or Studio Execs, whichever is more corporeal), don’t ever let anyone remake The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

All the above boldly proclaimed, any interested Hollywood bigwigs who may be reading, please contact me. I’m not above selling out. Fantastic idea for a Flying Nun movie! Paris Hilton is the Flying Nun. Sally Field is the Mother Superior (to lure fans of the series). The Plot: Incidental. Hilton’s Habit WILL blow up in the wind ala Marilyn Monroe – you need know nothing else. And Catholicism is HUGELY marketable right now. Even if it fails at the box office, it’ll be a gigantic rental. The kids are gonna love it. Fer sure, man.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


If you haven't already noticed, the planet has gone blog-crazy, and in setting up my own, I feel like such a follower. But given that I actually have the ability to string words together to form coherent sentences (which, if you've spent enough time on the 'net, you know is a rare commodity), it seems like something I ought to give a shot at trying.

One thing you'll always be able to count on from The Rued Morgue is a total lack of any sort of serious political discussion. I'm a politidiot; I know nothing and claim to know even less.

What I DO know: Movies, TV, and some Music. Wow, right? I'm really revolutionizing cyberspace here. (But do bookmark this blog because I may decide to post some porn links.)

Perhaps most noteworthy is that I really, genuinely like people - that is, when I'm not busy tearing my hair out over their murky motivations, thoughtless thinking and absurd actions.

People kinda-sorta rock and I'm continually amazed by this thing called the human race. The unpredicability of "What's gonna happen next?" is very likely what keeps me going from day to day.

If there's one thing I admire about myself it's the ability to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, knowing (hoping?) that while we're intrinsically self-centered creatures, we'll more often than not do the right thing in a given sticky situation. It's a two-sided coin to be sure - I also believe we're basically dumb beasts that haven't made much social progress since we moved out of the caves. It seems as if mankind genuinely wants to make a better world for itself, but is constantly being kicked down by old habits and apathy.

Even moreso than politics, I can guaran-goddamn-tee you won't see any talk of professional sports, unless it is to deride and mock them. Football - and America's obsession with it - is concrete proof of the "dumb beasts" comment above.

Yet digital watches and boom boxes are things of the past - sure signs of progress, not to mention indications of style and class. Most people recognize that wrestling is fake; I'm old enough to recall when it was viewed as reality (or maybe I was just naive?). "xXx: State of the Union" made no money at the box office. Everywhere you look there exist positive signals that humans are methodically sharpening their minds.

Of course we created the cell phone and that knocked us back down a couple pegs. Nobody needs to be reachable all the time, as nothing is that important. Do me a favor and turn your fucking phone off when you go to the movies. That message they play before the film starts means everyone - yes, even you. If you don't want to do this, then stay home and watch a DVD.

One more movie-going tip: don't take your three-year old to the latest R-rated flick because you're too cheap to hire a babysitter, and yet you must see the new Eli Roth fiasco. There are no positives in that situation and when said child is of thinking age, they'll vividly recall the images of violent sex and sexual violence to which you exposed them when they really should have been watching "Sesame Street" reruns. You've presumably responsibly procreated, now please responsibly recreate as well.

DISCLAIMER: Any and all theories and/or advice espoused here do not, of course, apply to me.