Wednesday, May 31, 2006
This is what we’ve become, eh? I gotta give credit to Ugly founder Liliana Lovell (pictured). Her true talent - despite what the photo may lead you to believe - is in how she turned bullshit into an empire. Did you know that “being a Coyote is all about making the transition from girl to womanhood”? She tells the hopefuls variations on this theme over and over.
Really, Lil? Here I thought the Coyotes were essentially a bunch of glorified pole-dancers. Not so! This is all about – in the fabled words of Helen Reddy – “I am woman, hear me roar!”
But it’s not…not really. It’s more like “I am slutty, so down this shot and I’ll take your money.” Or “Look at me shake my ass as I slide that twenty out of your wallet.” Could even be “These tits will never be yours but I’ll give you the illusion they could be…if you weren’t a fat, smelly beer-guzzling letch.”
The show purports to give these girls a shot at realizing a dream, when all it really wants to do is dish up the same cheap thrills that any other random reality series is built on. Think “American Idol” only without the pedigree.
But perhaps Lil is woman – hear her roar! She’s taken two of the most easily and oft exploited aspects of American culture – tits & ass – given it her own personal touch, and made a swank killing off the entire affair.
We’re used to men exploiting women. I mean, it’s “ze vay of ze vorld”…but a woman exploiting women? Oh so few have the right plan to pull it off, but Lovell has realized her own dream in doing just that. Her plan is an insidious, vile creature. When men exploit women, they’re not so smart. They just do it and it’s an understood sort of thing: “Hey I get what I want and she gets a little cash and a little fame.”
But Lil’s brand of exploitation is far more dangerous. She convinces women that this is right and proper – that selling stupid guys shots and taking their money is what being a woman is all about. Now I am not a woman, but I've spent plenty of time with women in my lifetime, and I don't believe I know any who aim for this level of unsophistication.
In one scene this little tidbit of wisdom is proffered up: “Don’t get too close [emotionally] to a customer.” Wow! Strippers live by the same code, only they know it intrinsically, as if it's part of their DNA. The Coyote girl must be told this. Either they are very thick or very underestimated; my $20 is going on a combination of both. Do the potential Coyotes believe the philosophies Lil spews? To be real women, I sincerely hope not. Hopefully they see this is all a case of "you scratch my back Lil, and I'll scratch yours". After all, without the Coyotes, there would be no Coyote Ugly and Lil might have to do porn to pay the bills. I would be happy to direct and script that film...talk about intelligent exploitation. Ooooh - now that was ugly.
Lil also is not a particularly nice person. When a girl doesn't cut the muster, she's frequently insulting and rather rude to them. Please - we already have one Simon Cowell and we don't need another. At least take a few lessons from Paula and kill 'em with kindness, lady. Oh dear, I just called Lil a lady which she clearly is not. And thank goodness she's not my wife.
In the midst of all this crap, somebody also says “A real woman wears heels and makeup”, which goes to prove what I’ve always suspected – that RuPaul is indeed a real woman, and so was Divine for that matter.
I only viewed the San Antonio episode, as I didn’t have the stomach for more of the marathon. You, however, can indulge – there’s another marathon tonight, Wednesday, May 31st, starting at 6PM (CST) on CMT, and in fact the S.A. episode (#4) plays at 8PM (CST).
This is recommended only for the cheap thrills, but make sure you’ve got a shovel handy so you can clean up the bullshit that emanates from your TV. You’ll need a small crowbar as well - to pry your jaw from the floor when the end credits roll.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
One of the more stimulating postulated the Doctor wasn’t the Doctor at all; that he was an imposter using the Doctor’s identity and place in the universe to his own benefit – a bad wolf in sheep’s clothing. The true Doctor would return in the season finale to banish the false Doctor. This idea probably arose from the fact that Chris Eccleston’s impending departure was leaked early on in the season. High concept to be sure - there was a big part of me that wanted this to be true on some level as it would have been such a mind screw.
Here is a list of the Bad Wolves thus far...
1) Ep. 2: "The End of the World":
The Moxx of Balhoon tells the Face of Boe that being trapped on the exploding Platform One is "the classic Bad Wolf scenario..."
2) Ep. 3: "The Unquiet Dead" :
Gwyneth the parlour maid looks into Rose's mind and sees "The Big Bad Wolf".
3) Eps. 4/5: "Aliens of London/World War III":
A child graffiti's "Bad Wolf" onto the side of the TARDIS.
4) Ep. 6: "Dalek":
Eccentric billionaire Henry van Statten’s helicopter has the security call sign "Bad Wolf One".
5) Ep. 7: "The Long Game":
In the year 200,000 there's a TV channel called BadwolfTV.
6) Ep. 8: "Father's Day":
"Bad Wolf" is scrawled across a 1980s club poster.
7) Eps. 9/10: "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances":
The missile about to land on the Chula spaceship has "Schlechter Wolf" (which roughly translates to Bad Wolf in German) written on it.
8) Ep. 11: "Boom Town":
The nuclear power station about to destroy Cardiff is called "Blaidd Drwg"...a Welsh translation of the phrase.
In “Boomtown”, the Doctor finally picked up on it. Upon seeing the name “The Blaidd Drwg Project” (which, incidentally, would be a fantastic name for a Welsh band…especially if Alan Parsons engineered their albums), something snapped. He processed the info, appeared boggled, and then promptly moved on to the Slitheen business at hand.
As this is the Internets, the solution is out there and you can find it without too much trouble - although the Morgue highly recommends you not do that. Discover the mystery of the Bad Wolf with the rest of the Sci Fi viewing audience.
(To be continued...)
Monday, May 29, 2006
Of course, the main reason these films are successful is because they work on "two" levels. Don't get me wrong - just a few years ago I was going to the movies with Jake to see Finding Nemo - I understand the value of true "family" fare that manages to work for everyone. Jake is now 13 and his interest in this sort of stuff is waning.
Now that I'm free from the shackles of Di$ney & DreamWork$, I want animated fare that works on one level - and that is for adults only.
Enter Free Jimmy, a CGI-animated film from Norway, which ain't for the kiddies (click here and hammer around the film's website). Its tagline is "Four stoners, three gangsters, five vegans, and a million reasons to free one junkie elephant." I am vaguely reminded of Peter Jackson's Muppet movie Meet the Feebles, which amused me so in the youth of my twenties.
From the site:
FREE JIMMY is a burlesque, satiric comedy involving greedy slackers, murderous gangsters, fanatic activists and a junkie circus elephant on the run. It is sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll with aesthetic comic book violence smeared out in slow motion, splattered with blood, vomit and intestines.
Variety just posted a review of Free Jimmy (it premiered at Cannes last week). While it isn't a glowing piece of criticism, it really only served to pique my interest. Assuming we someday get this movie Stateside, this is true opening [mid]night fare.
Ralph Bakshi has been absent for far too long. In order to suffer through another animated incarnation of Mike Myers, I'll have to stick a needle in my arm. I am a junkie elephant in need of a fix. Free Jimmy and bring him to the U.S.!
Friday, May 26, 2006
From the article:
The restored "director's cut" will debut on home video in September and will remain on sale for only four months, after which time it will be placed on moratorium. Blade Runner: Final Cut will arrive in 2007 for a limited 25th-anniversary theatrical run, followed by a special-edition DVD with the three previous versions offered as alternate viewing. Besides the original theatrical version and director's cut, the expanded international theatrical cut will be included. The set will also contain additional bonus materials.
There's no doubt this is all well and good, and it's hard to believe that by the time this "Final Cut" hits, it'll have been 15 years since the "Director's Cut" (whereas there were only ten in between the original '82 release and the D.C. in '92). Mostly this just makes me realize how quickly time is passing by. I want more life.
I once met Gary Lockwood in the hotel bar at a sci-fi con in Chicago. We talked for a loooong time. The conversation was mostly jump-started by me asking him about Kubrick, although the chat eventually turned to film in general.
Lockwood insisted there were only ever two great movies made (in the history of film! What balls this man had!!) and they were 2001 & Blade Runner.
I asked him which cut of Blade Runner he preferred, and his face kind of screwed up, and he said [words to the effect of], "It doesn't matter. It's Blade Runner. Just Blade Runner. You can call it whatever you want to, but I love Blade Runner."
It was a revelation of sorts for me as a Blade Runner fanatic, and I saw in his opinion that it really was splitting hairs to debate the merits of the various cuts.
It will no doubt be fascinating to see what tricks Ridley Scott has up his sleeve for this "Final Cut", however it is indeed difficult to envision him dishing up anything that will enhance my ongoing fascination with the concept itself. I'd still be perfectly happy with only the original 1982 version, sunny ending and all.
Ross: You've done a man's job, sir. I guess you're through, huh?
Now if I have to type the movie's title or the word "cut" again, I'll insist someone give me a Voight-Kampf test to get to the bottom of this nonsense.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Maybe neither. Maybe the real artistry of the film was buried with Alan Berg, the Denver talk radio host who was gunned down in his driveway by white supremacists some four years before the movie was made. Berg’s story was later crafted into a book, “Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg”, by Stephen Singular. Since much of that book was conscripted into the film, Singular likely deserves some credit as well.
I’ve been a Talk Radio nut since I first saw it on late night cable when I was in high school, which was the ideal venue in which to view it. The story is told in a way that seeing it at home alone, by accident, in the darkest hours of the eve can only add to the disembodied, hollow radio vibe Stone & Bogosian aimed to emulate.
One thing is for certain – no other combination of talent could’ve created a movie on this subject half this compelling. (Many have tried both before and since.) Take Stone out of the equation and you lose the fluid camera work and the buildup of paranoia & claustrophobia. Take away Bogosian and you lose Barry Champlain and the best goddamn lead for whom you could ask.
For those in the unknown, the movie details the sordid antics of late-night Dallas radio host Barry Champlain (Bogosian). He’s an obnoxious guy, who pokes and prods at his callers with equal amounts of contempt and enjoyment. Eh, maybe not so much the latter – he always seems to be in a pretty bad mood. One night he is killed as he leaves the station to go home. Then the end credits roll.
The movie is everything that happens around the above - the details of the finer points of Champlain’s mundane life. He’s Barry when he’s on the air. When he’s not, he’s as confused and frightened as his callers – so much so that when his show goes national, he begs his ex-wife Ellen (Ellen Greene) to fly to Dallas and “be with him” for the first broadcast. Jeez…what a weenie. Even his boss (an insanely effective Alec Baldwin; a precursor to his Glengarry Glen Ross role) puts him in his place several times. One of Baldwin’s great bits of dialogue: “What you are is a fuckin’ suit salesman with a big mouth!”
The movie reveals much about guys like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. What’s probably most noteworthy is how timely it remains, despite being made 17 years ago. (Someone even had the foresight to keep the topical politics of the day out of the dialogue.) Talk radio hasn’t changed all that much: It’s still a guy, his microphone, his callers & guests, all bandying about tawdry, unsolvable issues for a few hours. It is rare that a movie becomes the definitive take on its subject matter, but Talk Radio achieves the distinction.
Such was my fascination with the film that when given the opportunity to engage in on-air gab myself, I accepted. A talk radio producer once told me that people who call in to talk radio shows are basically stupid – after a year and half on The Chris Duel Show, as Sir Celluloid the movie guru, I heard little that would lead me to believe otherwise. (Note: This opinion is not necessarily shared by Chris Duel, his show, or any employees of KTSA, the station which airs the program.) It is not an easy task to wade through the swamp of bloated ignorance that is talk radio today. Why hosts do not regularly goad their callers to the point of gunning them down in their driveways mystifies me.
The last time I saw Talk Radio was a year ago with Jeanne at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin - the bonus was having Bogosian in attendance. Unfortunately, much of Austin didn’t share our enthusiasm. There were maybe 50 or 60 people at the screening, tops. Come on A-Town - you cats are supposed to be the cool ones! Maybe the movie is a tad angry for you hippie freaks. Still, Bogosian and Linklater did immortalize your city in subUrbia…
Surprisingly, Bogosian himself was fairly enthusiastic after the screening. He seemed happy to field as many inane questions as people were willing to throw his way (as if he were Barry once again), concerning a movie whose shadow he’s probably sick of living in by now. I hate typing that, as he’s an immensely talented personality, but it’s a shame very few have made good use of his acting talents since Talk Radio. Sure, he’s been in many films, but never commanding the sort of screen time he can clearly handle. (No, Under Siege 2 does not count.)
He was also pimping his latest novel "Wasted Beauty", a copy of which I bought and he happily signed, with my favorite Champlain quote: “There’s nothing more boring than people who love you.”
For more information on Eric Bogosian, check out his website.
For more information on Oliver Stone, contact your local FBI agent.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
“We” worship our Spurs down here in S.A. – and with a blinding, shortsighted passion, too. People are aghast and hurt over last night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks and big chunks of the city will be in a pissy mood for the next several weeks, if not even longer. The fans are currently rationalizing the loss by saying stuff like “Avery [Johnson] deserves it. We’ll get behind him (but not behind Mark Cuban!).” The familiar chant “Go Spurs Go” has quietly morphed into “Go Texas!” Is it asking too much to say “Go Dallas” or “Go Mavs!”? Guess so – and until you do say “Go Mavs!”, you can take your faux love for Avery Johnson to someone’s ears who will listen. (By the way - let me just say from a totally uninformed, non-obsessive P.O.V. - Dirk Nowitzki is a mesmerizing basketball player.)
I usually only get into the whole fervor around this stage of the game. I’d only been following the playoffs over the past two weeks on a purely informational basis, and yet last night’s game was undeniably something to which attention must be paid (i.e. I was watching the game for about the last 30 or so minutes; prior to that, I listened from the other room). The Mavericks ruled the roost for the first half of the game, then in the third the Spurs surged ahead somewhat...but it wasn’t until like the last minute of the fourth quarter that Parker & Co. leaped forward, tied the game, and sent it into overtime.
Now at that point a Spurs devotee is likely in a dual frame of mind: “They will win this!” as well as “They can’t lose…can they??”
They can and they did, and I’m reminded of the dialogue some old man has about the town basketball team in Pleasantville: “Maybe that’s where they get that saying?: ‘You can’t win ‘em all’”. Then J.T. Walsh steps in (symbolizing a typical blinded Spurs fan) and says “But they do win ‘em all!”
The Spurs are a fucking great basketball team – this cannot be argued. But they are not gods and their losses make their wins all the sweeter. If they “won ‘em all”, what might be a Spurs fan's frame of reference for reality? Can they play better next year, if they’d won this year? Another old saying I’m reminded of is “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”, and too many people get caught up in a win-or-lose, do-or-die frame of mind and don’t think about how well they’re playing the game.
In the last minute of last night’s fourth quarter, the Spurs danced around the floor in this delightful dribble ballet that was as exhilarating to view as any big budget Hollywood feature I’d seen in a good long while. It was outstanding TV drama in those moments. If it’s only a good game when they win, then that is not being there for your Spurs.
I can’t believe I’m typing this, but is it possible I’m a “better” Spurs fan than the ones who buy season tickets and decorate their vehicles with flags and signage? Typing this, I’m feeling like I am.
Get behind the Spurs when they lose, as fervently as you do when they win. Let them know you’re aware that they can’t win ‘em all, it means a lot to you when they win some or most of them, but that mostly you're at your happiest when they're just playing the game.
Friday, May 19, 2006
In the weeks preceding the transmission of “Boom Town”, the sole tagline attached to the story was something like “The Doctor meets an old enemy he’d long since thought dead.” Fan speculation ran rampant. Who could it be? The Master? More Daleks? When “The Doctor Dances” ended and “Next Time On…” played, there must have been a collective groan heard across the UK. (Except for the kids in the audience – British pre-teens loved the Slitheen.)
“Only three episodes left and one of them is a Slitheen story!?!?! Argh!!!”
At least it starred the one Slitheen I liked - Margaret Blaine (Annette Badland). Badland is one of those quirky, reliable actresses you’ve seen here and there over the years if you’ve watched enough British film & TV. I recognized her instantly from Angels and Insects, but perhaps her most noteworthy role is also one of her earliest: Michael Palin’s one true “love”, Griselda Fishfinger, in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky - she who threw the potato at Dennis Cooper. Badland also recently scored a small role in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“Boom Town” has much working against it, couched as it is between two mammoth two-parters, designed as an intimate character piece and well, the Slitheen. Upon my initial viewing, I wasn’t annoyed by it as I was by the previous Slitheen storyline – quite the contrary. It got me to actually like the Slitheen concept, which was a triumph and due in no small part to Badland's perfect portrayal of an alien stranded on a planet it detests.
However it also seemed bogged down in the soapier aspects of the season, notably Rose and Mickey’s ongoing story and for the first time, we’re given some straight-up social debate - the death penalty, and who has the right to enforce it. Wasn’t sure I was comfortable with that, either. The resolution felt pat which was the polar opposite of the story I’d just seen. It mostly seemed a throwaway “let’s save some money and catch our breath before the big finish” episode.
Multiple viewings & hindsight have proven me wrong. “Boom Town” is arguably Russell T Davies’ tightest DW work. It’s the one script of his that directly plays on what he does best, which is write engaging characters, at odds with one another, finding a way to work it out. Davies could pen an entire episode with just the Doctor and Rose sitting in the TARDIS talking to each other, and it’d be one of the highlights of a given Doctor Who season (actually, I’d love to see him do this).
The death penalty debate is the tale’s crux, and what sells it is that the argument is leveled squarely against the Doctor. Anyone familiar with the classic Tom Baker story “Genesis of the Daleks” will recognize “Boom Town” is Davies’ answer to the Doctor’s moral “Do I have the right?” dilemma for which that story is so famous. He has changed since wearing the scarf. He now feels he has the right, and that’s not the most reassuring notion about our hero. In this episode, more than any other, we see exactly what the Doctor has become in light of the many tragedies he’s endured and Margaret’s accusations against him will have a deeper resonance sooner than you think.
What initially bothered me in the soapsuds arena, I’ve also come to appreciate. The two “dates” that occur in the story are well conceived, played and executed (no pun intended). Rose and Mickey share quiet, personal drama that tells much about both, provided one bothers to listen. It’s a great piece for Noel Clarke who’s finally given some meat to chew – stuff set up here with Mickey is still playing out in the current season.
“Boom Town” is the type of affair only a show runner could write. It comes from a mind that knows the bigger Doctor Who picture and wants to plant seeds for the future. It’s easily the most underrated episode of the first season, and the one I find myself loving more and more upon each subsequent viewing.
Note to Viewers: It appears Sci Fi is taking a week off from Doctor Who and are having some kind of all day movie marathon next Friday. Oddly, one of the films they're playing is Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, starring Captain Jack himself, John Barrowman. (My friend Lee tells me this film has one of the greatest bits of atrocious dialogue ever written.)
The Doctor and Rose will return on June 2nd in "Bad Wolf"!
In the midst of my lecture he starts making faces - contortions and distortions of agony. I get a tad louder, pleading, “Come on, man! Just do this one thing for your mother! And for me!” (Surely that split-second add-on would help.)
The faces became sillier. I finally balked at him, “Look - what’s the problem? It’s not a big thing to ask!”
He says, “It’s just…with this song…”
At this point it finally snapped – we’d been partaking in Korn’s version of “Another Brick in the Wall” the entire time, on a CD that I gave him, no less.
So I briefly considered my mid-thirties hypocrisy and realized this was a pretty funny moment, but I also knew I had to save some face.
And that’s when I offered up my off the cuff, shiny pearl of wisdom:
“We Don’t Need No Education, but we do need good grades.”
And the more I thought about it, the more I felt justified in saying it. If I’m not teaching my kid some crackerjack B.S. thinking that could really be of use in his life, I am only doing some of the job.
He shot back with, “I think it’s pretty hard to get one without the other”.
Wow…to be so quick on the uptake and yet so naïve. If I could bottle that, I’d sell it and rule the world…but that matters not. My intention was only to give him advice concerning getting through the last week of school.
I replied, “It can be done. You’re a smart kid. Think about it for a while and you’ll figure it out.”
Hopefully he doesn’t figure it out and remember it at the start of the next school year.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I can critique film, TV, theatre and the odd piece of music or literature, but I don't feel justified in critiquing art of the canvas sort. I do, however, know that I like Johnny's work immensely.
The feeling is mutual, as Johnny loved Ravenswan - he hooked into Bill Gundry's Gavin in a big way...which is sorta weird, if you ask me. When he was asked to do a Ravenswan poster, he quickly accepted.
But when I started telling him how I wanted the piece to look and what information it needed to convey , he was having none of it. My desire was to have (perhaps predictably) all four characters represented on the piece, but he refused. He was going to do it, and he was going to do it his way, and that was that (although he did include my "Leave Your Baggage at the Door" tagline). His attitude, while frustrating at the time, was in hindsight intensely admirable.
I was both bowled over and perplexed by his finished work. It's not like any other movie poster I've seen, which seemed a plus. It may never sell tickets or DVDs, but it certainly doesn't look like a piece of nonsensical advertising, photoshopped-and-cobbled-together on a computer, like some type of "and then wacky consequences - via the minds of Poe & Wilde - ensued" affair.
His poster pleased me, as does his other work. Most of the pieces in the above gallery are subway-poster sized; expansive, all encompassing stuff - impressive to stand back about 10 feet and stare at.
If you know anyone who'd pay these prices, don't hesitate to let me know...and he will do commissioned work.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Friday night I had the pleasure of attending an original theatrical production, The Return of the Shrew, written, directed by and co-starring one of San Antonio’s best kept secrets, John Poole.
I first became aware of Poole many years ago when he was part of the local improv group, the Oxy-Morons. He exhibited a unique edge, laced with a type of manic behavior that made one wonder if he might spontaneously combust in the midst of any given performance. Poole could always be counted on to deliver the most unexpected improv material.
By no means am I an expert on local theater, but I do wonder why John Poole is not in greater demand by the community. Perhaps it has something to do with my ongoing theory about talent that “makes it look easy” rarely receives proper respect and recognition.
John and his wife Laurie Dietrich (along with a host of other hard-working people) eventually founded The Shoestring Shakespeare Company, which over the years has staged all manner of Bard-like productions in S.A. This is no mean feat, mind you, in a city where most theatergoers tend to be the audience in the pit – myself included. (Titus is my favorite Shakespeare movie, if that tells you anything.)
The Return of the Shrew is, as its title implies, a sequel to The Taming (although not the first I’ve discovered). It’s a frenzied, bawdy romp and I suspect if Will were around today he’d give it a wax seal of approval. The plot isn’t terribly complex, nor does it need to be. It does, however, need to be true to its source material, which I believe it is; The Dukes of Hazzard movie this mercifully is not.
Set a month after the events of a story written some 400 years ago, the characters have all been largely screwed up by what went down at that time, and most notably by Katherina’s monologue from the finale which, as Poole explains in the theatre program, details “a woman’s duty to her lord and husband, whose true meaning is still debated.” To go into too much detail might ruin the show’s pleasures, but suffice it to say, some characters believe that Kate’s “shrew” has merely gone into hiding, and under the proper circumstances, could easily be resurrected and thus life will return to “normal” for these people. Duplicitous schemes, wicked behavior and a fair amount of Python-esque cross-dressing ensue.
If that sounds too complicated, J.T. Street put it far more eloquently and succinctly: This is a play for people who enjoy watching other people getting beat with foam swords. See it and you too will realize actors smacking the crap out of each other with foam swords is an immense amount of fun. Like I said, I view this sort of thing from the pit, and clearly so does J.T.
The play alternates between spoofy faux-Shakespearian dialogue and modern speech. The two coagulate in an imperceptible fashion, as John the writer has an instinct for hitting the right beats in the right places. I was frequently reminded of Blackadder, which may be the highest form of praise I could give the material. In my mind’s eye I could see this play performed by Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson and the rest of those lunatics.
Which is not to imply the cast isn’t up to par, because each does a fine, distinct job. Singling out Martha Dickman’s Bianca exhibits bias, since Martha is one of the stars of Ravenswan, but I’ll do it anyway because 1) Martha, like John Poole, is a hugely underrated talent in this city, 2) she’s an absolute scream in the role, and 3) it alleviates the task of singling anyone else out. Working as a unit, the cast gels & sells the script, and perhaps more importantly, these people have huge amounts of fun. And when actors have fun, so does the audience.
Kudos to Barbara Zuniga’s costume design as well. Like the play, it's a meshing of the past and present – spiked heels and corsets, codpieces and denim. And then there’s the paint! Bianca, for instance, has the word SPOILED emblazoned across her ass. The costuming provides quick information about the characters, like little comic book panels dancing across the stage.
Go see The Return of the Shrew – you’ve got two more weekends to do so. Have a couple beers or a few glasses of wine. Laugh ‘til you begin to annoy the actors. Shrew is presented as theatre-in-the-round. The Cameo has two different areas from where the play may be seen: an upper level, which puts you at eye level with the actors, but keeps viewers at a distance...or the pit, which surrounds the actors & the stage and immerses you in the action.
I viewed Act I from the upper level and Act II from the pit and the difference was night and day. Embrace your inner-S.A. theatergoer and see it from the pit.
Run Dates: May 5, 2006 thru May 27, 2006
Times: Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm. Saturday matinees on May 20 and May 27 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15 General, $12 Military, Senior, SATCO, Groups, $10 Students, $8 - Student Groups of 15+
Phone: (210) 472-2636
For more info, check The Cameo Center website.
And speaking of Blackadder & Shakespeare, here's a rarely seen sketch, that even I - who am obsessed with all things Adder - hadn't seen until recently. Methinks John Poole would get a kick out of it...
Friday, May 12, 2006
Rose: Doesn't the universe implode or something if you dance?
The Doctor: Well, I've got the moves, but I wouldn't want to boast.
There are numerous aspects of “The Doctor Dances” that elevate it above not only other Doctor Who, but other television sci-fi fare as well. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the resolution of the plot, which, if you’re an avid watcher of sci-fi TV, is such a refreshing surprise that you likely never saw it coming.
I’ve become accustomed to sci-fi shows falling back on MacGuffins and technobabble to escape sticky situations. Viewing “The Empty Child”, when the gas mask zombies were initially unveiled, I took for granted it would all be explained in a way that was wholly unremarkable. When it was revealed that the gas masks were made of flesh and bone, and were actually part of the heads of these creatures, I assumed that it was some sort of “weird Doctor Who thing” I’d come to accept by the end – hey, the imagery was cool enough that I’d have accepted most any explanation without balking too loudly.
The nanogenes hovered covertly above every other aspect of the story and were quietly set up early in Part One. The answers were there all along, and writer Steven Moffat's seeding of the affair is so expertly handled, the viewer wants to kick himself for not seeing it coming. The resulting dramatic effect engages on levels that sci-fi television rarely achieves, and the viewer feels the Doctor’s euphoric reaction as well.
“Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!” – The Doctor
Could the nanogenes fall under the heading of “technobabble”? Since the premise makes perfect sense within the context of the story, I’d argue no. Technobabble typically falls under the “don’t ask, just deal with it” category, and the nanogenes are so deftly explained, that the viewer, provided they’ve paid attention, should have few - if any - questions about them by the conclusion.
Together, “The Empty Child” & “The Doctor Dances” form perhaps the greatest Doctor Who “movie” ever created: History, sci-fi, romance, action, scares, humor, double-entendre, social commentary, dancing and Glenn Miller all come together, delivering exactly what the Doctor ordered. They are a perfect argument that all stories in the new series should be two-parters, if not for the fact that few writers would likely be able to achieve what Moffat does, were they given twice the amount of time.
All from a man whose greatest prior accomplishment was the Britcom Coupling, which often redefined the sitcom format. I’ve got massive love for Coupling, but even as well written as the series is, I’d never have guessed that based on it Moffat could pen sci-fi drama so well. (He proved himself no one-hit wonder with the recent Series Two DW installment “The Girl in the Fireplace”.) Up next for Moffat? Something called Jekyll starring James Nesbitt. Don’t know much about it, but between Moffat and Nesbitt it’s gotta be a winner.
“Rose! I just remembered…I can dance!” – The Doctor
Anyone not sold on Christopher Eccleston by this point in the series may as well give up. By the time the Doctor dances, he’s proven that he gets exactly where the character is coming from. The Doctor and Rose’s relationship is taken to yet another level and the arrival of Captain Jack is a wake-up call for the Doctor to appreciate her in areas where he’s thus far been negligent. Eccles plays the notes perfectly, and it's fitting that the story ends with a class act like Glenn Miller.
My overview hasn't done this story justice. I could write 20 pages on it and maybe still feel I hadn't paid it proper tribute. (I never even got around to praising the outstanding special effects work both episodes feature - perhaps the high point of which are the sequences in "The Empty Child" with Rose dangling from the barrage balloon, high above London, in the midst of an air raid.) I would never say that this is as good as Doctor Who gets, because that might imply it's all downhill from here, which isn't the case. But the story was a bold, risky experiment (it doesn't even feature a "normal" monster of the week) that paid off on every level. It may not be as good as Doctor Who gets, but it's certainly better than I, as a long-term fan, ever imagined it would be.
Rose: Actually, Doctor, I thought Jack might like this dance.
The Doctor: I'm sure he would, Rose, I'm absolutely certain. But who with?
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Here, Eddie Izzard, from his Glorious concert, explains the finer details of being an evil giraffe:
Since both Planes, Trains and Automobiles & Brokeback Mountain have been discussed here recently, here's an amusing movie trailer:
This is one of the most underappreciated Bugs Bunny cartoons, Racketeer Rabbit:
Fleetwood Mac didn't exactly set MTV on fire with their music videos, but I've always admired the amount of work that went into "Gypsy":
Ahhhh...fan music videos! Back during the great Farscape fan video craze, "SopranoScape" was one of the very best:
Started with comedy from Eddie, so I'll close with some thoughts from Bill Hicks:
A fair amount of cynicism has also been expressed over the announcement, as just as many people feel it’s a case of Lucas once again gouging fans out of money. Well certainly he is...but only if they go out and purchase them. Nobody can make anyone do that, and one cannot argue that he isn’t giving people what they want - which is only mildly perplexing as he’s for so long insisted this would never happen. But money is a force far stronger than, um...the Force, right? Moving on...
There was a time when I’d have been excited about these releases, but the news was strangely disinteresting to me. It’s not a matter of Star Wars burnout, even. Am I one of the few who has come to enjoy and appreciate the new editions of the old films and in many ways regard them as superior to the versions I grew up on?
Heck, one of my biggest beefs with the New Hope redux was the infamous Greedo-shoots-Han-first debacle, which was tweaked and tinkered with further on the recent box set release so that it doesn’t seem nearly as phony. I’ve pretty much gotten used it and don't give much thought to how it was "back in my day". The Jabba/Han scene in the docking bay is as good it ever could be given what they have to work with, so that’s really a matter of “use it or lose it”. (I prefer to use it.)
They got rid of Luke’s scream as he falls down into Cloud City and added Ian McDiarmid into Empire. The former was imperative; the latter is just a swank bonus. In fact, the Empire redux is unquestionably superior to the original.
If there’s one disc of the new releases I may buy, it’s Jedi, mainly because I didn’t care for what they did to the band in Jabba’s palace and the new song was lame. I’ll even geek out in the most hideous way possible and admit that I’ve got a sick fondness for the Ewok “Yub Nub” tune. Don't ask - just accept. Jedi might be the only one I’d prefer viewing in place of its redux version and at the moment that’s a big “might”. I’d have to do side-by-side taste test comparisons to know for certain.
Lucas has largely made better films out of the old Star Wars movies by tinkering with them. What seemed controversial at the time has proven to mostly be an instance of father knows best. The new versions of Episodes IV-VI fit together far better with Episodes I-III than the old versions do, and I like the new trilogy more than enough to look at this as a solid series of six films. Given how important these movies are in film history, they really do deserve to hang together and congeal in the most cohesive ways possible.
All of the above pompously pronounced, I’m glad these discs are coming out for the people (some of my closest friends among them) who’ve longed for crisp, clean commercial copies of the originals. By no means should they be hidden away, unseen by and unavailable to the people who appreciate what they were and are. I mean, come on - it's fucking Star Wars, which is as close to a religion as some people I know have. (OK, I don't really know anyone like that - but I know they're out there... somewhere.) If people want to see Han shoot Greedo first, then goddamnit, that choice should be made available to them.
But for the record - my childhood was never even remotely raped over this nonsense.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
In this day and age of the glorious availability of TV on DVD, fans desiring to amass collections of their favorite series have it so easy. Up until just a few years ago, this wasn’t the case.
In order to collect your favorite series, one had to stick with a program - night after night - through erratic rerun schedules, accept that cuts were made to the episodes due to more time being made for commercials, and make a huge amount of space on your shelves for VHS tapes that only held two-to-six hours max per tape. Indeed, if anything likely kept entire TV series commercially unavailable to the general public for so long, it was the cumbersome VHS format, which was simply an impractical way to store a hundred hours worth of a show and hardly an easy thing to market to the consumer.
Now I can store four seasons of Soap in the same amount of space as only 4 VHS tapes. Had I stored the same material on VHS, I’d have had to devote no less than 25 VHS tapes to it! (I was never one for recording in EP mode.)
And yet amidst all of this pig-in-cloverdom, there is a gaping hole in my TV on DVD collection:
WKRP in Cincinnati, the greatest American sitcom ever created, at this time unfortunately seems destined to play in a state of perfection in my mind only. Expensive music rights have kept it from being released on DVD and there doesn’t appear to be a break on the horizon. Does it really matter if the tunes played by Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap are carried over to a DVD release?
I think it does. The show was as much about the music of the late '70s & early ‘80s as it was the insane people working at the radio station, and the songs used in the series often keyed directly into plot points and dialogue:
(Mr. Carlson enters the DJ booth. Floyd's "Dogs" plays throughout the scene.)
Johnny: Gripping music, huh?
Mr. Carlson: Yeah, that's good all right. What's the name of that orchestra?
Johnny: Pink Floyd.
Mr. Carlson: Oooh, is that Pink Floyd? Do I hear dogs barking on that thing?
Johnny: I do.
What if it was suddenly announced that the music rights for Goodfellas had expired, and something besides Donovan’s “Atlantis” would now be used for the scene where Tommy stabs Billy Batts to death for saying “Now go home and get your fuckin’ shinebox”? Sometimes a tune played on WKRP was just the perfect song for the moment.
There’s a great scene that exists solely in my memory, but it was moving, and it occurred after something emotional had (or perhaps hadn’t?) happened between Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) and Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman). Bailey stood alone, in a darkened hallway at the station, as Earth, Wind and Fire’s “After the Love Has Gone” soothed her damaged ego into the night. I haven’t seen that scene in probably 20 years, but if I saw it today without that song, I’d feel cheated in a big way. Similarly, I vividly recall an episode that ended with Johnny playing James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Face” for someone special in the listening audience. Again, if I saw that with another tune, I’d throw my remote at the TV.
So the debate rages on. Should WKRP be released on DVD without the proper music in place? Or should the series just sit, locked away in a vault somewhere, because of this issue. Clearly, the powers that be realize that this isn’t a case of “Let’s just go ahead and throw it out there and maybe nobody will notice”. Would I buy it if they did? Well, I’d at least buy the first season, and see how I felt about it – but if it stung enough that multiple viewings of the set weren’t even in the cards, you can bet I wouldn’t pick up season two.
If it’s truly just a money issue, I’d easily pay at least 50 or 60 bucks (maybe even more) a season if that would get it out there (for most of these older sitcoms, $20-30 is the going rate per season). I wonder if other WKRP fans would do the same? Pay twice as much to make sure they’re getting the show they want? Or would a pricetag of twice as much still not be enough to justify a DVD release of the series?
I found this site, which features a huge number of quotes from the series, arranged in an episode by episode manner.
A link on the same site, features this page full of WAV file sound bites from WKRP such as this and this and this.
Be sure and check out the recent Rued Morgue entry, WKRP on DVD...Finally.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Find out which Best Picture winners are considered, by a collective of 129 people, the very Best of the Best.
Again, huge props to Ed for all the hard work, especially since the last week has been a difficult time for him.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Tonight Sci Fi hits the final stretch of the first season of Doctor Who. Of thirteen episodes, we’ve got five more to go, but these final five fly by with such effortless grace that before you know it, it’ll all be over.
Since tonight’s installment, “The Empty Child”, is part one of two, I’m not going to write much about it. Part Two, “The Doctor Dances”, is as perfect a sci-fi resolution to what’s set up tonight as anything I’ve ever seen. I wrote last week that “Father’s Day” was my favorite of the season with the possible exception of these episodes. After giving it thought, these, taken as a whole, must surely be superior. I had some minor niggles with “Father’s Day”, but I have no complaints whatsoever with “The Empty Child” & “The Doctor Dances”.
After next week's episode, I'll write more about the pair, but right now I’d like to focus on Captain Jack Harkness, who is certainly one of the most coolly scripted characters ever written for a family sci-fi fantasy series.
Jack (John Barrowman), a con artist & ex-“Time Agent” from the 51st century, crosses paths with the Doctor and Rose amidst the madness of the London Blitz in 1941. Jack has frequently been written about as being bisexual. While that’s an easy label to apply to him, it’s also somewhat incorrect.
In a speech the Doctor gives Rose in “The Doctor Dances”, he explains that by the 51st century, human beings have surpassed thinking of their sexuality in such limited terms and have in fact “danced” with all manner of lifeforms across the universe; in other words, in the 51st century, sexual identity has gone beyond the archaic terms in which it’s thought of today. Two human men gettin' jiggy isn't out of place in a time when humans are doing it with other species, whose sexual organs are likely far different than mere penises and vaginas. If you go back to the second episode of the season, "The End of the World", you'll notice that some groundwork had already been laid for this idea.
Lest it be perceived that you’re in for some sort of sexual romp tonight or even next week, that’s simply not the case. I’ve expanded here upon ideas that are nonchalantly worked into and presented on the show. We never even see Jack romancing anyone except for Rose. Numerous sci-fi series have approached these ideas (Farscape, even Star Trek to a degree), but I don’t think any have succeeded in putting them across in a way as effectively and subtly as what’s done with Jack Harkness.
Another accomplishment here is that it’s done on a family TV series. When it played in Britain, there were no protests and people didn’t start tuning out. Part of the achievement is the ease with which the ideas are presented. Sure, a small but vocal minority of hardcore Doctor Who fans have accused Russell T. Davies of having some sort of liberal “gay” agenda. For all I know he does - but if that agenda works in tandem with presenting the concepts under a sci-fi banner, in such a way that it’s a logical extension of the story, I call it “doing his job”. Science fiction is supposed to give us radical thoughts about what our future may hold.
It’s also a minor triumph that Jack is played by an openly homosexual actor. Had Jack been written as “straight”, would audiences be as accepting of Barrowman in the part? Is it because of the character’s fluid sexuality that people accepted a gay actor trying to seduce Billie Piper? Or is it just that the Brits in general are more accepting of these sorts of things? How will uptight Americans react to Jack Harkness?
Regardless, he’s with us until the end of the season and Barrowman rocks in the role. He’s charismatic, good-looking, wittily charming, and brings an “American” sensibility to the program. Jack was such a huge success with British viewers that he’s even being spun off into his own series, Torchwood, this fall. (Rearrange the letters in "Torchwood" and what do you get?) He brings an immense amount to the table as the season heads toward the finish line and perhaps becomes the greatest male traveling companion ever to grace the series.
UPDATE: The first season of Doctor Who took several honors at the BAFTA Television Awards, including Best Drama series. For a full list of the winners click here.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Steve Martin is a talent capable of befuddling like almost no other.
On the strong hand, he’s recorded some of my favorite comedy albums of all time, made some of the funniest and most poignant movies I’ve ever seen, and been the best Oscar host in years – he’s done that last one twice, but nobody seemed to pay much attention on either occasion, which in itself is cause for befuddlement. He also writes thoughtful books and plays that seem to often times go unnoticed.
On the weak hand, he’s a guy who does crapola like the Father of the Bride & Cheaper by the Dozen movies, that, alongside fare such as Sgt. Bilko & Bringing Down the House, the public eats up with forks, knives and spoons. The monetarily successful Steve is the boring, predictable Steve. I haven’t seen his Clouseau, but I live with a feeling of dread that I someday soon probably will. I'll grant him this work I don't care for, because I'm sure it gives him the clout to do the stuff I adore. However, I read once that he said out of everything he’d ever done, in his entire career, he was most proud of the Father of the Bride films.
And that depressed the hell out of me. One would think he'd be more stoked by the work that he's got real creative investment in.
Which brings me to Shopgirl – a recent Steve Martin film that also depressed the hell out of me…but in an odd, bittersweet sort of way. He had two movies out in 2005: Cheaper by the Dozen 2, which grossed upwards of $80 million, and Shopgirl, which only took in about $10 mill. Guess which of the two was based on a novel by Steve Martin, and whose screenplay was also written by Steve Martin?
One of the great Steve flicks is L.A. Story – another film he wrote and starred in. It’s a movie that’s both in love with the city and intent on poking fun at it. I was recently saying to Jeanne that we don’t often see movies that are in love with L.A., unlike New York, which is frequently romanticized on film in a way that Los Angeles rarely is.
I believe Steve Martin is a complex individual who perhaps lives a very isolated existence which is also peppered with shades of hope and romantic ideals. It was difficult for me to watch Shopgirl and not think about his character, Ray Porter, as being a fictitious extension of Steve the person.
Ray also leads a life of isolation, until he meets Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes), another isolated spirit, who works the glove counter at Saks in Beverly Hills. Together, they attempt a May-Decemberish sort of romance that in a very unspoken way seems to exist solely to put an end to both character's feelings of isolation. To tell you if they achieve this would be to ruin the film, so I won’t.
Also in the mix is a third loner, Jeremy, played by Jason Schwartzman. His story runs mostly parallel to Ray and Mirabelle’s, and is the least successful section of the piece, and yet it’s important to the overall tale.
To look at the DVD cover of Shopgirl, you might think it’s a comedy, but save for a few laughs I could count on a gloved hand, it’s by and large a sublimely dramatic piece. And yet I couldn’t escape the feeling that the movie was L.A. Story II, and that the pair would make an ideal Steve Martin double-feature.
Shopgirl is a strange, complex work. It’s a movie - like I recently spoke of on the subject of Freaked - that somehow slipped through the Hollywood system and got made, despite there being no viable target audience for it. It left me feeling anxious and uneasy, and yet, in the final scenes, its threads all come together in the proper order. Huge chunks of the film are about mood and vibe – it’s a character piece, make no mistake, but the characters exist to serve a higher function or idea.
It also uses a noticeable color schematic, and that color is green, in many different shades, but more often than not the drab ones. Green is displayed so frequently in this film, that anytime an opposing color is brought into the picture, you know it’s something of which to take note. This is rarely seen in studio fare anymore, and certainly not with the color green.
The film has stuck in my head over the past week since viewing it, even though when it was over, I was certain I’d likely never watch it again. Now I know that reaction to be incorrect. On the next viewing of Shopgirl, I’m sure I’ll have a much different experience from the one I had the first time.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
My sci-fi buddy Tom (Teafran) is a big fan of the Farscape episode “...Different Destinations” and it’s possible “Father’s Day” is the DW equivalent of that benchmark sci-fi installment: The problems associated with time travel, and what happens when a time traveler makes what appears, at first, to be a simple mistake, and the disastrous consequences that follow when trying to fix the mistake.
In all fairness to Farscape, “...Different Destinations” is likely the more compelling piece, because the problems are only exacerbated through the attempted fix, whereas “Father’s Day” offers up a fairly tidy solution – but not without putting its characters through hell first.
You would think that throughout 26 years of TV time travel, Doctor Who would have done this sort of thing before, and on certain levels it has, but never as emotionally as what we’re shown here. In many ways, this is the Doctor Who episode I waited my entire life to see.
It’s an important episode for Rose on many obvious levels, but mostly it’s important because up until now she’s been unable to truly conceive of precisely the sort of life she’s been leading with the Doctor - here's where the fun and games come to a screeching halt. “Father’s Day” not only introduces her to the father she never knew, but it also allows her to save him from a death she’d grown up knowing as finality, and then forces her to watch him die that death not once, but two different times, under two different circumstances.
Writer Paul Cornell is no stranger to Doctor Who. He’s been responsible for what are widely considered the most lauded DW novels over the past decade, and given the chance to finally make a go of it onscreen, he passes the test with flying reapers...I mean colors.
This is not to say it’s without a few faults. The Reapers seem somewhat shoehorned into the storyline, as if they’re there because the series must always have a monster of the week. The story could likely have been told more or less the same way without the creatures. Also, the various supporting players and extras reacted rather laconically to the entire situation – frankly, there just wasn’t enough freaking out. I don’t think the story would necessarily have worked better had there been, but it seems a bit odd to have people practically falling asleep in the pews of a church as their world caves in around them.
Lastly, how is it that Jackie Tyler actually looks older in 1987 than she does in 2005? Bad, bad make-up people! This would be less bothersome had I not been rather lusty towards actress Camille Coduri back in the early 90’s when she smoked the hell out of the movie screen in both Nuns on the Run and King Ralph and she was much closer to the age she's supposed to be in the story.
But in the grand scheme, these complaints are minor. It’s an emotional ringer that grants its viewers a simple notion we all think at some point in our lives: If I could save the life of someone I knew was going to die, I would do it, and the world would be a better and more right place for it.
And that person, in "Father’s Day", is Pete Tyler (Shaun Dingwall) - the writing of whom is a major high point in this episode. What I primarily love about Pete is that he’s no idiot. Pete figures out what’s going on long before anyone else, save for Rose and the Doctor. In most other sci-fi fare, he’d drift through being none the wiser until it came time for him to be sacrificed. The writing of the character justifies the entire story, as we too see that Pete Tyler was a father worth saving and risking the world over. In the end, he was in fact such a good man, that he was willing to save the world and his daughter by simply doing the right thing, and in the process, he does indeed become the most important person in Rose's life.