Sunday, October 10, 2010

We all have to go sometime...

I belong to a film society that meets every Saturday and Sunday morning at the Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles. I’ve been a member of it for years. The Royal is part of a dying breed, an old art house standalone that has been a constant in the neighborhood since 1924, when it was called the Tivoli, and that portion of Santa Monica Blvd. was part of the original Route 66.

The size of the Royal's concession stand would be dwarfed by the typical Los Angeles lunch truck. The bathrooms are so small and cramped, it’s best to simply hold it until the end of the movie and pee in the alley behind the building. For decades I've frequented my own private spot in the alley near what is now a stunted Sycamore. Apparently, there is only one stall for the women, since the line after any movie snakes around so far out the door, you would think you were attending the Hollywood Bowl.

I first discovered the Royal several days after I first arrived in Los Angeles in 1971, and I've been a regular patron ever since. The foreign fare, documentaries, and hard-to-find films shown there are superb. I also enjoy sitting for two hours in seats that worsen my spinal stenosis exponentially.

However, the film prints received for the specific society screening, look and sound as if they’ve been dragged through the dust of a Sergio Leone western. My twenty year-old car radio has a better and cleaner amplification system than many of these flicks. That's not the Society's fault. They show what the producers and studios send them and most of the time the copies are not of the finest quality.

At least once every screening, the film either stops dead or the automatic projectors fail to correctly time the end of one reel and the beginning of the next. This is like a seventh inning stretch for this crowd. These precious seconds allows the audience to mumble and groan and sometimes even wake up to check for text messages. These are minor inconveniences because the film society screens hundred of movies a year at the Royal and elsewhere. Measuring the quantity of cinema against its annual fee adds up to pennies per picture.

But the film members themselves drive me away from acknowledging my AARP membership. I’m almost ready for Social Security myself, but damn, if I don't think I’m the youngest guy in the theatre on any given weekend. No sooner do the lights go down but the coughing and wheezing and hacking and sneezing come up. The unintended audio for any movie, regardless of its genre, therefore resonates across the 600 seat auditorium like an old style tuberculin ward. Thomas Mann never visited Davos, Switzerland to write The Magic Mountain. Instead, he spent a couple of weekends with at the Royal simply listening to all the lung congestion disorders in the audience.

I’m no heartless soul. I understand old age. Several years ago I tore my back up so badly I thought I would end up moving around like an amoeba for the rest of my life. I’m now of that advanced age where people use the word “sir” twice when addressing me. My prostate has a mind of its own and takes off on all national holidays and most dates where the numerals 1,2, or 3 appear. My skin now sags so badly people mistake me for a Shar Pei. My gray hairs send each other death notices.

But for crying out loud people, does everyone in the audience need to begin hitting the restroom at the five-minute mark of every movie? There’s more traffic up and down the theatre aisles at the Royal on the weekends than can be found on the 405 during a Friday afternoon rush hour.

God bless them, but each step of theirs is as labored as walking shoeless through the Mojave at noon. If it weren’t for the theatre doors opening every 30 seconds, allowing for morning sunlight to cascade through the never darkened theatre, these poor sods probably wouldn’t be able to see where they were going.

At least these old timers can walk without assistance. The ones roaming up and down the aisles with the use of their walkers and steel tipped canes have an uncanny ability to pick the exact moment when a story point is revealed, a pivotal character is shot, or some cheap egregious sex scene is just about to play out. Their rattling and clanging are enough to scare off Marley’s ghost.

Today was especially aggravating because screening was the Swedish thriller, “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” For all I know, the movie could have been called, “The Crowd that Needed to Go Potty.” My Swedish is a tad worse than my Norwegian or Finnish which is none existent. I’m the only one in the world who hasn’t read the Steig Larsson novels so I was expecting at least to gain some understanding of the story from the subtitles.

Subtitle reading is an art form. White subtitles against white backgrounds takes on a whole new level of perspicacity. Craning around hacking, slow-moving Sisyphean seniors as they empty their seats and travel the long road to salvation would normally make me want to scream bloody murder. But I know better. Such exertion now agitates my bladder, and I only wear two layers of adult diapers to weekend movies at the Royal. If I tried to pee in the alleyway any longer, I'd be there until the next weekend.

Friday, September 17, 2010


While looking for a candy bar recently, I unearthed an unfinished e-mail draft for a kids' programming pitch. Why I thought I could find a sugar rush on my hard drive I can’t rightly remember; but several weeks earlier I had discovered week-old warm pizza behind my stove, so perhaps that was the motivation. I’m very lucky in that regard: I’ve located edible snacks in the strangest places in my apartment.

The “whos and whys” and “how comes?” of this particular idea are really not important any longer. I’ve typed up millions of thought bubbles over the last 150 years I’ve been in the business. After a while, each concept bleeds into the next. With so much flowing blood, I should have the Red Cross on speed dial.

Thanks to the good Lord of Turnover, the executives meant to read this e-mail have long since departed the business of children’s programming. One trundled off to get a degree in animal grooming and is still plying his handiwork in Duluth, Minnesota. The other became a professional gay rights advocate who occasionally pops up around the country during various marches and demonstrations holding up signs that read “Look at me!”

Glancing over the e-mail after so many years made me wonder whether I was pitching a program idea or laying more pipe as evidence of my schizophrenia towards the business. Had the concept been taken seriously, it would, no doubt, have increased my Fitzcarraldo factor 10-fold among my peers while simultaneously being quarantined as a malware virus immediately upon its release into civilized company.

TV Land is an interesting world. We spend a third of our lives trying to get into this business, a third of our lives trying to get out of this business, and the final third writing tell-all books about the perverseness of this business. Hey! It beats doing anything legal for a living.

Pitching show ideas is a humbling and humiliating experience. Much like going home for Thanksgiving and being singled out by your loved ones as total career failure, minus the great food. I’ve done more pitching than Roger Clemens and struck out more often than Reggie Jackson. Were I a Christian in the Coliseum, I would have made it no farther than the outdoor concession stands before being torn apart by both the lions and the crowds. Television is such a cutthroat business that most seasoned professionals retain their own MASH units. All of us would be in bankruptcy court were we to purchase our sutures and needles retail.

Most of us on the writing side pitch what we believe are fantastic and visionary concepts to those on the production or network side, who prefer looking at us the way the Donner Party looked at each other.

I work in children’s programming, so most of my ideas do not involve humans as much as things that bark, meow, crawl, fly, squawk, slither, or growl, or do strange things to themselves like parthenogenesis. I’ve pitched out every phylum mentioned in Genesis, the Origin of Species, and the kettle bell-weighted, Eldra P, Solomon Biology Text Book.

The point of an initial pitch session is to survive the first round of glares, stares, and boorish activity. The speech must be passionate, provocative, yet non-threatening. Like the Blake character from "Glengarry Glen Ross," sans the salty language and the threat of personal doom. I am, after all, in kids' programming and my animated show is about the adventures of two wacky badger buddies and their wolverine friends, not fraudulent real estate deals.

Usually standing in front of you is some glassy-eyed, bottled water-swigging Amory Blaine type: An Ivy League Humanities major whose entitlement spoon is shoved so far up the rectum as to give the kid a perpetual tongue depressor. This is one angry individual, the low person on the totem pole, taking all the pitches no one else wants or can be bothered with. This executive would much rather be writing his or her own screenplay or giving notes on a multi-million dollar production. Instead, the graduate sits or stands or paces waiting for the meeting to end wondering, “WTF have I done in a previous life to warrant listening to some pot bellied has-been who probably never was pitch me a show about badgers and wolverines?”

We creative types realize that’s what the executive is thinking, but one soldiers on, always talking and forever smiling. Stand stalwart and unbowed like Gunga Din before he was shot. Your heart might want to exit your chest and rush to PINKS, but you’ve initiated the long march by walking through the door. Man up and take the verbal bullets to all of your vital organs. Hell, they’ll grow back after a case of Black Label.

Speak past the loud yawning and ball scratching (males only) the perpetual fingering of the Blackberry; the playing of YouTube video; the doodling; the room exits for coffee, bathroom, or nooky; the sound of a breast pump playing somewhere in the background. It is all about moving up the development mountain to the next level and beyond, avoiding the rock slides of “Nos," “Not interested,” “We have the same idea in development,” and the ever popular, “Get Out of Here before I Call Security.” The audience might be a crowd of one, but one paid quite handsomely to watch a fellow human defecate in one’s Dockers.

The pitch is over when the phone suddenly rings and the executive slaps himself awake explaining he has to take this very important call from the coast. The phone call is always from the coast. It could be the coast of Nova Scotia, but it is always “from the coast.” Usually an assistant generates the call, no doubt using egg timers to calculate the exact length in seconds a pitch artist should remain in the boss’s office. The security guard at the front gate tells you that, "They'll get back to you."

No one ever knows what will sell, so those of us who are required by a chronic desire for self-immolation to load up our scatter guns full of ideas, concepts, proposals, and napkin writings and shoot them out from the hip, the lip, and any place else that feels good. I’ve fired off so many shotgun rounds, I could have been part of the Earp Vendetta Ride. That’s why I never quit my night job as Floyd, the best wheel man in West Los Angeles.


Dear S- and G-:

Yes, it’s me again. This time instead of coming in and spilling drinks and vomiting over your faux IKEA furniture, I thought I would save us the time and clean up by e-mailing my idea instead. The fact that you don’t pay for valet parking was also a consideration.

I was recently told by agent W- that your network was once again in search of programming to break the stranglehold that N--- and D--- have on both the Saturday morning time period, as well as the early evening prime time hours. I believe I have just the idea for you. It can be done either in animation or live action. The concept is that versatile and unique.

It goes without mentioning (so why then am I reminding you) that several of my last projects directed towards you guys, had they been pursued with a little more imagination and ingenuity, might have secured for your network ratings above the three shut-ins and a blind mule Nielsen says currently watch your programming.

Come on boys, give me a break. You thought that crap iteration of RUNWAY MODELS SUPERHEROES where the girls were so top heavy they crushed their opponents by tipping onto them, or that weird bisexual ant detective series, KETTLEDRUM AND HORNED TOAD, were weird enough for the viewers to pull you out of the mess you found yourselves in? I heard from viewers that both shows were so deadening, they were using nail guns on each other to see whether any of them were still breathing. Those winners certainly got the advertisers to bang down your doors…but only to ask for their money back.

You should have taken me up on my ideas DANCING NINJA FIREFLIES and that intergalactic musical series where all the ETs were shaped like twisted paper clips. You remember the name: THE TWISTED PAPER CLIPS SHOW?

Both proposals are sailing along the development road, thank you very much, rather smoothly at your competitors, and should soon be into production. Pity I gave both ideas up in the heat of passion to two scum-sucking ex-girlfriends now conjoined (finally they want to be in the same room together) as that writing team whose names will never be mentioned by me again, either very slowly or very quickly.

So let’s cut to the chase. Our main character, BUTCH, is a time-traveling dog that’s also a nondenominational angel. Yes, you read me right. Call it something like TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL…YOU DOG! I was thinking of making him a mastiff because I’ve always loved dogs larger than a split level. Anyway, who ain’t going to listen to spiritual advice coming from a dog that size? Like QUANTUM LEAP, except for canines, BUTCH jumps through time, his regular doghouse being located to the right of the Pearly Gates. Location. Location. Location. BUTCH is in good with THE MAN.

Butch is sent down whenever a human calls out for help during an emotional or spiritual crisis. With a premise like that, we’re talking more episodes than Scooby Doo. You know stuff like ‘Should I abandon my kids for the women next door?” or “Should I rob this bank to pay for cosmetic surgery?” or “Should I go into teaching or make real money on Wall Street?” I know these topics don’t sound much like kids programming storylines, but that’s what development is for, right? Anyway, we always open with him roaming around heaven, non-tethered and unfettered. Since he’s in heaven, he doesn’t poop so there is never a need for anyone cleaning up after him.

We’ll have him receive his marching orders straight from THE MAN through his dog collar (great licensing opportunity). Then, faster than a jump cut he’s floating down to Earth reading his new client’s crib sheet. He won’t burst onto the scene in ablaze of celestial light because that would be far too corny and probably scare everyone into fatal coronaries. So let’s have him singing a catchy pop tune (yet another revenue stream) as he enters into Act I. At the end of his mission, he sing something else, perhaps a love song.

BUTCH has no idea where he’s going until he gets there. That’s the fun of it. Confuse a giant mastiff. The only information BUTCH has is some stiff is in trouble and the trouble is big. We’ll have him four legging into such hot zones as The Alamo, The Little Big Horn, Pompeii, and the deck of the Titanic. I don’t know quite yet what a dog, even a big dog, can do in situations like these, but that’s what development is for, right?

BUTCH marks the human he’ll help by reflexively lifting his leg as an introduction. I’m not sure yet whether pee will come out. Checking the Theological Works of Emanuel Swedenborg certainly does not supply the answer, but that’s what development is for, right? Anyway, upon the raising of the leg, our human in need will immediately here the thoughts of BUTCH causing much hijinks to abound…

And then the draft e-mail stops. I don’t remember why I ceased working on it. Perhaps I sobered up or Monica came over demanding more money for the kid, or there was another ATF raid on my building. Or maybe I just got tired of the concept, believing that in such a secular world, a telepathic angel dog with a communicator collar straight to THE MAN just would not get confirmed. Also if you're not cool on a mastiff, we can always work in a schnauzer or a Lhasa Apso. After all, a dog is a dog.

And then it ends.

I do remember that the next concepts I began working on were Shoe Flies Don’t Bother Me, where flies inhabit various types of shoes and go on adventures, and Buffalo Mozzarella Girls that Come Out at Night in which slabs of vampiric cheese shaped as a girl band battle evil stuff by the light of the moon. Both remain somewhere in development.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

40 Years Ago and Still No Lessons Learned

Okay pigs, now listen and listen good. There's a bomb in the Army Math Research Center—the university—set to go off in five minutes. Clear the building. Warn the hospital. This is no bullshit,man.

I was staring up at the ceiling, lackadaisically listening to my parents loud whisperings about what an ongoing bloody wastrel I had become, when the bomb went off. The explosion was so intense it rattled all the windows in the house, knocked books off my shelves, and moved my bed several inches. I read later that it knocked around milking machines some 30 miles away. There would be no contented Guernseys that morning in Southern Wisconsin.

My parents made believe the deafening blast was just me stumbling home drunk after a night with one of my slutty, no account, floozy girlfriends though I had been at home for the last six hours. Actually, if any slutty, no account, floozy babes had existed in my dull as dirt life, I would have been living with them rather than within a Dickensian workhouse that forced me to do chores as if I were a high schooler. I would soon discover I was less than a mile away from what would eventually be labeled The Sterling Hall Bombing.

(As an aside, both parents knew immediately it was a bomb. My mother had survived the London Blitz and my father had fought all over Europe during WWII.)

My curiosity got the better of me. I grabbed my pants, stole a Twinkie from my sister's dresser, and told my folks I was lighting out for the territories. They wished me luck, telling me to write if my expensive college education had taught me how. Following the sound of sirens and dozens of running onlookers, I was at the site of the explosion within 30 minutes. It did not occur to me to take my camera. I lost the Twinkie around Mills and Johnson.

Forty years ago today at 3:42 AM Madison time, four angry young men exploded a stolen Ford Econoline, packed to the gills with 2000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. The blast blew away parts of the Physics Building known on the campus of the University of Wisconsin as Sterling Hall. The initial blast killed Robert Fassnacht, a brilliant post doctoral researcher and anti-war sympathizer working alone in the building's basement and injured several other late nighters within the building.

Blown out windows, shattered concrete, gaping street holes, black billowing smoke, tossed around cars, downed electrical lines, the putrid smell of gasoline in the air. So that's what a bombing looked and smelled like. A person or persons unknown had finally decided to bring the war home and make good the years' long war chant to shut down Army Math.

It would be discovered within a few hours that the intended target of the bombers' revolutionary zeal, the highly polarizing Army Math Research Center, housed within several floors of Sterling Hall, had suffered minor damage in relation to the rest of Sterling Hall and surrounding buildings. The bombers understood the rudimentary chemistry of bomb making, but apparently like most males, never got around to ask directions about exactly where Army Math was located within the Physics Building.

I was soon mulling around with a festive crowd of dope smokers when some long-haired, scrawny looking white boy wearing an outfit better suited for a Grateful Dead concert walked over to us and said in a forced friendly tone that tornadoes certainly act funny in this area of the Midwest.

WTF!!! This fool thought a tornado had caused this damage? Right away the air smelled of something other than fuel oil. Could this be a stoner gone rogue? A homeless lunatic? Someone who watched too much television? I told him that twisters don’t normally need to read bomb-making manuals to slap around the landscape nor do they zero in on specific buildings for retaliation.

A bunch of people began chanting "Power to the People." The Grateful Dead guy asked me why I thought it was a bomb and not a tornado. Before I could ask him to produce his badge, a guy the size of three Black Panthers strolled up to him and, pointing one of the meatiest fingers I'd ever seen on a man, demanded to know what government agency he worked for. The guy jumped backwards so fast as to make it an Olympic sport and disappeared amongst other bystanders.

I always wondered whether that character was actually a government stooge working the crowd for any loose lips information or just someone visiting from Ohio State. An sudden influx of black suits walking around the crowds convinced me it was time to get my ass out of there. I walked down Regent Street to get a couple of fresh donuts.

No one needed degrees in advanced rocket science to know this was all about Army Math on campus. Army Math, its very presence protested daily by some of the most radical anti-war demonstrators in the country, was a Pentagon-funded think tank that had set up shop on a six floor addition to Sterling Hall 14 years earlier, Whatever the several dozen mathematicians were calculating on those floors, many at Wisconsin believed their work was detrimental to all living things, especially those suffering through napalm attacks and B52 carpet bombings in Southeast Asia. Apparently, someone had taken their disagreement with the think tank to a whole new level.

Over the next several weeks, as the police presence at Sterling gave way to pissed off Silent Majority construction workers clearing the rubble while cursing out the commie-bastard-out-of state-students, I snapped dozens of pictures with my boxy Kodak camera. Years later a basement flood destroyed all but the three posted here.

For those interested in the history of The Sterling Hall Bombing, just Google the words STERLING HALL BOMBING and thousands of sites come up. The act remains silly, stupid, and mindless, an action conceived by individuals who might have read history books, maybe even believed they were real revolutionaries of a sort, but who had no comprehension of the ripple effects such an event would have on the innocent lives of others. Yes, one of them did call the police to warn them of the impending blast, but still...

The narrator's flat as Kansas intonation makes the viewer wish for a quick and painless death.

A number of articles lay claim to a theory that this act of wanton violence and the May, 1970 Kent State massacre facilitated the derailment of the anti-war movement. Looking back it is easy to say that Sterling Hall did absolutely nothing to halt the war machine. The American side of the war would last for another two years as tens of thousands more perished in that jungle meat grinder.

I maintain an act meant to equalize the induction of males into the Armed Services instead created the first schism between those who remained committed to ending the war and those who could now concentrate on something more important in their lives… like a future making money.

The event was the nationally televised Military Draft Lottery which took place in Washington D.C on the evening of December 1, 1969, nine and a half months before the Sterling Hall bombing. This little bingo dance, the first since 1942, would classify and coordinate in one night the eligibility of all males born between January 1st 1944 and December 31st 1950.

I hadn’t planned to watch the proceedings. What would be the point? Either I would end up marching off to war, shooting off one of my toes to get 4F status, or buy a bus ticket north to Canada. Since all of my friends were gathering at the Memorial Union to witness their future, so I too found myself crammed up against one of the walls of the Paul Bunyan Room awaiting my fate.

After a bunch of interminable speeches some old Republican congressman began the process of pulling the first of 366 plastic balls (how appropriate they were colored blue) out of a large transparent fishbowl. He was soon replaced by others, far younger and more smiley faced. The first 195 numbers drawn and the birth dates written on slips of paper inside the balls would be the first called for military induction, at least that's what the newspapers were reporting.

Every number drawn brought forth the reality of life and now the potential of death. Males screamed in anger, curse words like balled fists flew against walls and tables while girls burst forth with tears fit for a national day of mourning. The crowd thinned out as more and more numbers were called.

Yet, as the process continued into the 200s and beyond, I noticed a palpable set of relief come over the faces of many of the males who remained. One student standing next to me let out an audible “Thank you Jesus” when the number 295 was called. The higher the numbers, the more relaxed the crowd became. Tears still flowed, but they were ones of joy and thankfulness.

I remained until the last blue ball was picked from the fish bowl. I had become so hypnotized watching others go through various stages of grief and relief that I failed to hear my own number called. I asked a woman across the room who had kept a meticulous record of the evening what my number was.

It was an event to remember. Those of us males between the ages of 18-26 suddenly knew what America had in store us. It was that simple, that random, that insane. Some of us had a future ahead for ourselves while others would now need to worry whether any future existed at all.

There would still be demonstrations and draft card burnings, the rage over Kent State and, of course, draft dodgers fleeing in droves to Canada, but for a sizable community of males, the fix was now in. Certain aspects of life could now go forward.

As for me, well my lottery number was so stratospheric I spent the night avoiding telling anyone what it was. I was safe but somehow really embarrassed by my good luck. No dodging or fleeing or shooting off toes. I could plan post undergraduate life, perhaps even graduate studies at UCLA in film.

But the evening left me shaken. The whole process reminded me of those old WWII movies where the Germans lined up a bunch of males and an officer walked down the line just randomly picking out the unlucky ones to shoot.

On the way out of the Union, a pretty little co-ed tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had a lighter. An anti-war rally was beginning and her boyfriend along with a bunch of others were about to burn their draft cards in protest. I pulled out my lighter, actually lit a cigarette, and gave the lighter to her. I told her to light up the sky with it.

She asked about my number. I told her I was on the cusp, you know, betwixt and between, so I was still in a personal no man's land regarding my future. She wished me good luck. I thanked her then turned around and went in search of some thick luxurious Wisconsin ice cream for the walk home. It was cold outside, but the perverse randomness of a blue lottery ball radiated all the necessary heat I would need for the moment.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Boy Who Bicycled Away

Once upon a time, as the young Greenbush Boy bicycled around his world, he received some advice from a crusty old soul who had seen much in his 80 years as the neighborhood rag picker.

Now the rag picker was well known in the neighborhood. Any old clothes no longer worthy of another wash or a patch up were boxed up and given to him. No one knew what he did with any of the threads or even where he lived, but his pick up truck was a shiny 54 Cadillac Fleetwood and his wife always rode shotgun on his pick ups.

"Boy," he said, "The most confounding word in the English language is the word commitment. Beware of its implications. Run from its obligations. Hide from its all-seeing eyes. Most importantly, never ever look back from the one who bellows forth its medicinal remedies because, should you ever glance back, you, like Lot's wife, will be doomed." His wife then punched him in the nose and told him he had chores back home to do.

The young Greenbush Boy became so unnerved by what the rag picker said that day, he remained on his bicycle for the next fifty years. Worse yet, he never asked any of the rag picker's three grand daughters out on a date even when he discovered years later that all three had ended up as strippers outside of Sun Prairie.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Last Time I Laughed This Much I was Subpoenaed

Many videos make me laugh, but there are few examples of comic brilliance that have me on the floor coughing up hairballs from both ends. Whatever marketing genius designed the new Old Spice commercials with former wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa as the pitchman deserves a special place in the Jerry Della Femina Advertiser Hall of Fame.

Mark the words of Greenbushboy. Mel Gibson's rants will be parodied with the same creative frenzy as the recent spate of Hitler-spawned hissy fits: Der Fuhrer screaming as Spain wins the world cup; expressing his disgust that Steve Jobs sucker-punched him again by persuading him to purchase the latest IPhone 4, bugs and all, or his head-exploding tantrum when he mistakenly dials an Indian call center for some computer help. This humor can't be contained, not even in the Thunderdome.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Saturday evenings are usually spent with my favorite girlfriend, Credit Card Olga from the Ukraine, some loaded weapons, a bottle of Grey Goose, and the Sci Fi Channel. I love their movies. Ridiculous scripts, atrocious special effects, acting from the school of "hey you with the nippley big hooters, want to be in a movie."

Titles like Bone Eater (not worth the sexual pun even for me), Flu Bird Horror, Dinocroc vs Supergator, House of Bones, Hellhounds, Mongolian Death Worm, and SS Doomtrooper are the grandchildren of such endearing cinematic gems as Little Shop of Horror, the Poe adaptations, The Raven and House of Usher, and Creature from the Haunted Sea. While other Madison Central High students in the early 60s were learning them educating skills for a normal adultifying life, I was a kid sneaking into the Capital and Orpheum Theaters on State Street waiting in the dark for the next Roger Corman brain blight.

50 years later Corman is still The Man. His latest assaults against the ongoing waste of big budget Hollywood movie making are for the Sci-Fi Channel. His current epic of eye wincing wonderment, SHARKTOPUS, proves what I've always said about him--and probably one of the reasons why I got tossed out of UCLA Film School. Roger Corman is the greatest film maker of all time. Even the influential French film magazine, Cahieres du cinema said he was the greatest maker of du film ever. As I don't read French, I believe somewhere in their many Jerry Lewis tribute issues that remark was made. Some lovers of film crave Chateaubriand a la Bouquetiere with Marchand de Vin Sauce. I'll take chicken gristle cocovan with a side order of Eric Roberts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

But What About Vincent?

Don’t Matter Brother

I had planned to never again blog about LOST. What's the point? Life is short. The death of a show is longer. Once a program is over and done with, then, like a relationship gone as sour as milk left overnight next to a litter box, it is time to concentrate on other passions, other obsessions, other inconsequential ways of wasting time.

I loved the show for six years. Much of it, like my lifestyle, made absolutely no sense. Yet, the writing was so gloriously convoluted ,wickedly obscure and powerful that it forced me away from questionable online adult sites and onto the pages of Wikipedia -- and beyond. I spent so much time investigating the show's Easter Eggs that I developed a yolk. Jeremy Bentham, Michael Faraday, John Locke, and Rousseau, among others became new and cherished friends. Thank you LOST writers for helping me finally complete my GED.

The ending to LOST elicited two responses from me: WTF did I just waste six years over? and Holy Mary, Mother of God! I can’t wait to crash land on a island and go through years of pure unadulterated hell before finally coming to grips with some highfalutin concept and landing the babe of one's dream to canoodle with for all eternity. The heavenly light at the end of the show was so intense, I sat in front of my set wearing sun block.

I would have preferred for my last LOST meal less of a salad of greens Psalm 23 amply tossed with a tangy In the Sweet By and By and more red meat. I understand why it was necessary to make sure that all the broken love affairs somehow reconnected somewhere at some time. That's why love songs are written in a major key. Make us believe that in the afterlife there still will be some form of physical recognition with those we knew on Earth. What's really heartening is that where these couples are preparing to spend eternity, neither Viagra nor Estrogen cream will be necessary. That, in itself, is worth leading a righteous existence. Also taking time to answer even a modicum of the questions posed throughout the series would have been far too practical for a show built on sand.

LOST left more dangling mysteries out there than can be seen at an all male nudist camp. When were you guys planning to tell us about the Island? Now or when the novelizations come out? It was as if the writers came in pitching "Swiss Family Robinson" but left behind an ending fit for Pat Robertson.

Several immediate questions came to mind after pulling myself up from the floor and when the frothing had stopped. They are in no specific order of psychosis.

Any more information on the big-toed statue? Was it part of the Lighthouse at Alexandria that somehow drifted away.
What was that Temple all about? Who built it? What about The Pool of Life? And why was that a sanctuary against the Smoke Monster?
Did the polar bear in the series pilot have a one show contract? Was his presence truly ever explained?
Who made the Island so mystical? Why would pulsating electromagnetic fields do that? Is this alien technology? Why did the Island need protecting? Why isn't it on anyone's flight maps? Is it clocked? Why hasn't it been subdivided yet?
Why didn't MIB simply turn the damn Wheel of Time and leave? Did he know of its existence? Who created the Wheel of Time? Was it ever used before, and, if so, by whom?

Why didn't MIB steal some C4 from the Others or the Dharma drillers and just blow the plug? Why couldn’t he just steal a raft and leave?
Who took over after Hurley and Linus? Did Hugo have to crash a plane as well to get the next group of “candidates?”
How could Desmond punch in the sequence every 108 minutes for years without any weird form of sleep deprivation. Was he saving the world by doing this repetitive action? Let's face it people, the one time he fails, only one lousy airplane crashes. A plane, incidentally, destined for the Island.
How did Jacob leave the Island? How did he get around the world without credit cards? Who supplied him with his clothes? What was the MIB doing while Jacob was hobnobbing off the Island?
Why didn’t Jack or Desmond turn into a smoke monster? Must one be dead or the murderer of one's mother for that to happen?
This is nuts. I quit. Except for one last item.


What eventually happened to Vincent, the funky LAB that ran in and out of episodes looking for guidance love, and, depending on whether he was fixed or not, his own Kate, Shannon, or Juliet? Vincent was a harbinger. When that canine sauntered into a scene, odds were some real weird shit was about to hit the proverbial beach.

When Jack finally breathed his last, it was in the same bamboo field and position that we first met him six years before. Vincent was there looking sad-eyed both times. Am I missing a Van Gogh reference here? If only Jack had been eating a potato at the end, amidst sunflowers looking up at a starry night. But alas, he wasn't.

After Jack dies, what does Vincent do? Bury him? Snack on Jack? Rush off to Hurley and Linus? So many people died violently on the Island that logic would dictate Vincent probably bit down on some morsels other than Dharma kibble. The wild boars and any loose polar bears couldn’t have feasted on all the femurs themselves.

Noticeably absent from the Church of We Let Most People Come In were Michael, Walt and Vincent. Is this an oversight? I thought all dogs went to heaven? Were none of them worthy of this form of salvation reunion or was the real Smoke Monster still very much alive and well in the form of battling agents and lawyers?

These questions will never be answered until the LOST conventions begin and the writers are held at gunpoint. I heard it through the grapevine that the first LOST movie is in pre-production. Its entitled LOST: THE MISSING YEARS OF BOO RADLEY.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Will Always Be LOST

The series LOST ends Sunday evening. In preparation, I plan on serving myself the sort of food most of the survivors ate during much of their stay on the Island: wild boar, polar bear, Dharma crackers, electromagnetic current, sea water, sand, and grass, all nicely plated alongside fatal knife wounds, flaming arrows to the chest, gunshots, explosions and drownings. More major characters died on this show than in a dozen Sergio Leone westerns. I loved them all and cried over each one of them. Then I turned on Fox News and cried for a different reason.

Of course the real mystery at this moment is how the show will end. Two and half hours to go before the Monday morning post-LOST shakes commence and I start reading Wikipedia entries all over again. So LOST, go out with a blast and not a Seinfeld whimper. It will make all of those insufferable late night readings through the philosophy of John Locke worth it.

Okay enough bellyaching. Now about the ending: If I had any talent in writing, how would I close out the final chapter of a series so full of signs and cosines, tangents and time travel, cul-de-sacs and sacks of C4, overwrought metaphysics and broken metacarpals?

I've been giving this problem some thought while waiting for the phone to ring with the call from the escort service. Hopefully my credit card will go through this time. I hate watching series finales by myself.

So many people. So little time. If I were the network suit in charge, I'd say bring everyone back to the Island for one last gang shootout. Not because I get a cut of SAG benefits, which by doing so would secure medical benefits for most of the actors for another season, but because it is the only logical thing to do. The adversary that floats in and around the palm trees of this unincorporated paradise must be destroyed. This bag of cumulus psychotic wind is awesome and pernicious, and it will take a big body count to blow this bad boy away.

The dead, the people that should be dead, the Dharma initiatives and those never initiated, Jughead the hydrogen bomb, the parallel universe inhabitants, the incidentals who we never really met but ended up as floating bodies or convenient sides of beef for errant bullets must be avenged. So everyone come on down, the water's fine.

All lives lost, all broken existences, all the time travel, the sweat, tumult and murder of six years on the island is due to the singular motivation of one brother wanting off Gilligan's Island paradise and the other brother saying, "Like hell you are!" If Mister Black Lung ever leaves the Island, all of us are doomed. Doomed I tell you! I'm tired of putting night lights around my apartment after each screening of an episode. It's so unmanly and really freaks out any female visitors I pay to come over.

But how to destroy Mr. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes? Let me tell you right now we need muscle vs muscle and not some whiney wet blanket or exhaust fan discussion involving sacred daggers or snipers from trees. We fight fire with fire or, in this instance, smoke with smoke. Apparently created when good brother Jacob tossed bad unnamed brother, who had just murdered the woman both had believed was their mother, into the Island's energy source, this plume of evil cigar smoke just couldn't wait to escape and wreck havoc. Talk about the underground coughing up a Super Fund size hair ball. Sooner or later it's going to come out that both British Petroleum and Halliburton had something to do with this little disaster.

Incidentally, to understand many of the Jacob allusions in LOST, begin thumbing through that book called the Bible beginning with Genesis Chapter 25. Some of the favorites themes alluded to are such ITunes hits as Jacob stealing the birthright of his brother Esau, tricking his old man Isaac, colluding with his mother, hightailing it out of Dodge, working 14 years to marry the right woman, and wrestling with an angel of God. I've noticed that more Bible references waltz in and out of this series than can be found misquoted on any Sunday morning Heap O Money My Way Tele-evangelist Hour.

The black smoke monster is like your drunken ex: a roaring mess that crashes your parties, throws up on your guests, burns down the house and then disappears before the cops show up. For such bad JuJu and ill manners, the islanders would need its counterpart: racial insensitivity aside, a white smoke monster created in an identical fashion. Someone needs to be tossed into the cave of light that needs to find redemption and resolution to life. I see the ending as a steel cage match simmering towards an EPA smack-down between two forms of salsa gyrating circulating air. Which one of our last four has not only the cajoles but the blood lust to make the jump into the light? I nominate Sawyer.

Sawyer is the blustery con man, a fast talking carnival barker without a freak show. When a con goes south, hustlers like him get in their Porsche and drive north. They take the first boat to China, climb the highest mountains, dissolve into crowds, create new identities for themselves. They leave in a hurry to go smell out the next gullible mark. What they don't do is stand and fight (unless, of course, one has found among LOST luggage a US Marshall's hand gun and a Dharma Initiative polar bear is charging straight towards you).

Since crashing on the island, Sawyer has had his brains screwed with and his masculinity dampened more than any of the other final four Oceanic 815 contestants. I guess that's the reason why he tends to go shirtless. Disregarding his peacock strutting bravado bullshit, his one real heroic act of jumping into the sea from a crippled over loaded helicopter to save others fleeing the Island ended up, eventually, to be simply the sound of a man hitting water. There is one other thing about Sawyer that feels important. He's the only remaining "candidate" (Kate name is not on Jason's wall of graffiti) of the three who never escaped the Island at all. His life has encapsulated more of the Island's history than either Jack or Hurley. Pretty wonky stuff, eh?

Not a killing machine like Sayid, but a smooth talking lady's man like this blogger, Sawyer was conned into killing the wrong guy in Australia and tricked into snuffing Locke's old man, Anthony Cooper on the Island. He did mean old Tom Friendly because I hated mean old Tom Friendly. I simply starred at my DVR box for weeks thinking vile thoughts about Friendly until Sawyer cracked. Who says all those years of reading X-Men comic books didn't serve a purpose.

Sawyer failed to keep alive what viewers have come to believe was the only woman he didn't think of as a patsy in Juliet Burke; and he finally developed a heart rendering conscience several weeks ago, blaming himself for the deaths of Jin, Sun and Sayid. Ingloriously at the same time, he was saved from drowning by the other alpha male of the group, Doctor Jack Shepard (always leading his flock), a guy who never really wanted to swing his dick in a chest thumping response to any crisis at hand yet was always forced to.

So if this scenario of smoke vs smoke holds true, who else but Sawyer would take the leap into the light as a last heroic act to vindicate his rather tawdry existence. Or if he doesn't want to take the plunge on his own, Miles or Hugo could give him a stiff push. Or maybe not.

You know what. I don't care how LOST ends. I've had six seasons of enjoyment. I own all the DVD s to date. I can't wait for the LOST compendiums to come out and will look forward to the eventual LOST autograph conventions that one day will follow. Always a beautifully produced and well written show, filled with smart intellectual clues and gorgeous scenery, my one regret remains it was never a series on HBO. That way there would have been the de rigueur bare breasted shots of all those tee shirt wearing hot babes prancing, running swimming and sweating through this wonderfully picturesque jungle island of LOST.

PS. The Island will end up at the bottom of the ocean, maybe.

PPS. The Smoke Monster will escape and come to Los Angeles where it will blend right in with his cousins the Smog Monster and the Cookie Monster.

PPPS. Hugo will survive but run like hell to do it.

PPPS. Frank Lapidus is alive.

PPPPS. Ben Linus will die, and if he lives, I will hunt him down and kill him myself.

PPPPPS. Kate will remain bouncy and flouncy until the end.

PPPPPPS. The Dharma Initiative will open up an office in Santa Monica and begin recruiting all over again.

PPPPPPPS. Has anyone commented that Matthew Fox is once more in a party of five: Kate, Sawyer, Hugo, Locke and himself?

PPPPPPPPS. Miles ends up writing a book about his adventures and ends up being institutionalized at Hurley's old asylum.

Have to go. Someone on the other end of the phone named Svetlana tells me my credit card will once again make me a happy camper. Now where is my pup tent?

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Well, once again I exploded my budget, ripped the screen door of fiscal responsibility clean off its hinges, and climbed willingly into the twin caves of excess and endangerment. As Mr. Schenck, my math teacher, once said to me, “Life is short, death is long; mister, you’re making a mockery of both simultaneously. Life is meant to be lived, so live it to the fullest, you dolt.” So instead of rushing to the beach on this beautiful May day, I sat in front of my computer, phone in hand, as I participated once again in the biennial Open Fields GREAT GOOSE EGG AUCTION. The quality of the eggs present and the exuberance of my bidding will, as usual, force me to eat dust bunnies until the next auction in 2012. I did remember, however, to put on sunscreen.

I am not an alumni of Open Fields which produces some of the smartest youngsters in that neck of the woods. Given my grades from ages 4-12, my enrollment chances would have been nil had I even applied. Somehow, being placed on a wait list until I turned 80, or being directed in Middle English by an eight year old towards some open fields in another state would have been more in line with my academic abilities.

I’ve been participating in this charity event ever since 2000, although, unfortunately, I've never made it back to sit in the audience myself and raise a paddle in person. I've had some very wonderful surrogates instead doing paddling for me. I keep saying "next biennial in Hanover" but that chant, like so many others, fall on ears stuffed with cotton.

My history with the city of Hanover is blighted at best. The last time I was in the town Dartmouth calls home was in the late 90s. Over a cup of smoking joe and a bagel at The Dirt Cowboy, I was given the boot by a woman who basically told me at gunpoint that our relationship was not only over but so over. She was a kind sort and did wish me all the luck in the world hitchhiking back to California without shoes or any personal ID. She then gave me directions towards the Canadian border for good luck. I'd love to Facebook her and tell her that, after several years and a couple of months in jail for vagrancy, I did make it back to Los Angeles. I don't believe she has Internet service in her shack up on Mt. Washington though.

I recommend taking a gander at this year's Open Fields catalog. While dreaming of owning any of these very special items will do you no good now, there is always 2012. Knowing how smart the Open Fields people are, no doubt they will schedule the next goose egg auction well in advance of the end of the Mayan Calendar.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Version of Roughing It

A friend of mine who swims in Edmonton oil shale for a living sent me this site. The web cam is shut down at night, but during the day and early evening it's a real hoot watching mom in action. The male shows up, as most of our species does, only to take out the garbage, toss some change on the table, and move leaves around. I caught her once accusing her mate of spending his nights after work at the duck pond across town. The feathers flew during that conversation.

Watch the Journal Goosecam

Here is an eagle nest:

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Worst Julius Caesar Joke of All Time

On the Ides of March in 44 BC, Julius Caesar, the man who single-highhandedly brought down the Roman Republic, walked into the wrong end of several daggers. If you want to learn more about this man whose innards were turned into a salad of the same name, I suggest something called school -- but as assassinations go, this one ain't no Jean Paul Marat.

I wasn't looking for one, but recently a friend named Pig-Iron told me a Julius Caesar joke. He calls me up like clockwork whenever an arcane holiday hits the calendar: Arbor Day, St. Vitus Dance Day, Wash Yourself Properly for a Change Day. I think most of the holidays he comes up with are from the Mayan Calendar. Fortunately for him all play wonderfully at 2 AM at the Laugh Factory after three shooters and two Long Island Ice Teas.

Pig-Iron is also a plagiarist: Most of his humor can be found wherever the Internet survives. Since I owe him money from some bad investments involving the words "Texas" and "Hold-em," I let him use me as a sounding board for his stand-up patter.
Julius Caesar was addressing the crowd in the Coliseum.

"Friends, Romans, and Countrymen, lend me your ears. Tomorrow I take our glorious army to conquer Northern Europe and I shall start with France. We shall kill many Gauls and return victorious."

The crowd are up on their feet "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, Hail mighty Caesar!"

Brutus turns to his mate and says ," He doesn't half talk some rubbish, eh? He couldn't fight his way out of a wet parchment bag."

Six months later, Caesar comes back having conquered France and addresses the crowd in the Coliseum: "Friends, Romans and Countrymen, I have returned from our campaign in France and, as I promised, we killed 50,000 Gauls."

The crowd are up on their feet again. "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, Hail mighty Caesar!"

Brutus once again turns to his mate and says, "I'm sick of his nonsense, I'm off to France to check this out."

So Brutus sets of for France and three weeks later he comes back to Rome. Caesar is addressing the public in the Coliseum again: "Friends, Romans and Countrymen, tomorrow we set off for Britain and we are going to sort those b*stards out"

The crowd are up on their feet. "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, Hail mighty Caesar!"

Brutus jumps up and shouts "Caesar, you are a liar. You told us you had killed 50,000 Gauls in France but I've been there to check it out and you only killed 25,000 !!!!"

The crowd is stunned and all sit down in silence.

Caesar gets up and looks slowly round the Coliseum then across at Brutus and says, "Brutus, you are forgetting one thing.........

Away Gauls count double in Europe."
For those who don't get the joke either, here is an explanation of the term Away Goals.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I Want Some Action...I Want To Live

I love movies, but the Academy Awards program is prolonged, tedious, and redundant. There is about as much surprise in an Oscars broadcast as there is in handing a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic grandparent suffering from incontinence then plopping him on reupholstered couch just to see if the inevitable happens.

In contrast, the Grammy broadcast is like a couple of healthy teenagers who, upon discovering sex, try out every position at least once. It’s wild, silly, unpredictable, energetic, and messy.

The Golden Globes broadcast resembles a European soirée where, in the beginning, everyone is on their very best behavior; by the end all are drunk, rude, pawing at each other’s spouses, and ready to attack the Balkans.

Yet as boring as I find the Oscar ceremonies, every year I faithfully watch them...

Tonight is Oscar night and as I do with every other jumbo cultural event broadcast in America, I will be seeking shelter elsewhere. The guy below me has a 50-inch plasma screen with a volume setting that ranges from Michael Bay to Michael Bay IMAX 3D. He and his girlfriend are both mixed martial artists, bodybuilders, and bow hunters of small game. I think Ted Nugent visits them in their dreams. I don’t talk knuckle dragger so I have no reference point of communication with them.

A young couple recently moved in next to me. Their entertainment unit is even larger than Punch and Judy’s downstairs. It radiates so much light I can see the screen through my wall; this is fine because I never got around to ordering the full sports satellite package. I contemplate talking to them about the noise coming from their apartment, but I just don't have the heart. They are newly-weds who speak to each other coquettishly while making love. I don’t know whether they are writing a “How To” manual for the Pilates set, but their nocturnal and early morning sounds apparently have scared away any reason to tent this building for termites.

Every Sunday evening, the Iranians across the courtyard broadcast Farsi versions of South American telenovelas. So really, where's my starting off point there?

So I am off to look for an Oscar party I can crash. Everyone I know puts on the same sort of Academy Awards night get-together: a lot of cold cuts, beer, big charts with all the nominees, and gambling pools. While the food is upscale, all the talk remains somber and the subject is usuall about the business of downscaling expectations. These parties are no longer fun; they end up as extended therapy sessions for those running out of Cobra insurance. And I am tired of cold cuts.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been calling up coffee shops, sports bars, hotels, and restaurants to see whether any of them will be blending Oscar parties with America’s newest craze: open carry. I’m looking to attend an event where strapped on pig iron competes with dainty, bite-sized finger foods before the real fingers get blown off.

Open carry is tough guy street lingo for openly carrying a firearm in public, usually a handgun strapped inside a very fancy-looking holster. Each state’s laws vary on public swaggering around like you're Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson traipsing down the streets of Laredo, but then who has the time to read statutes, pilgrim? Proponents argue that the Second Amendment allows the normal law abiding citizenry to twirl weapons in public and show off their own peace makers anywhere they damn well please. Fat, thin, manicured, young, old arthritic, and twitchy. All fingers need apply.

I want that party where coke flows, liquor is available in wide abundance, no one knows anything, and everyone packs enough firepower to make John Wayne look like the leader of a Quaker movement. I want to witness a face-off between a guy who bets he can outdraw anyone in the room who knows the difference between sound mixing and sound editing. Perhaps I'll be lucky enough to witness a firefight over the merits of The Cove vs The Most Dangerous Man in America for best long form documentary.

Does it sound like I will do anything to be part of a Academy Awards party that has some buzz?

The only heat I will be carrying on me will be the body heat generated by driving around with both an expired license and fake DMV tags. If I’m going to listen to an opening monologue as humorous as a Joe Biden speech or award’s presenter chitchat more canned than Del Monte, then like Alicia Bridges, “I got to go where the people dance. I want some action …I want to live!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Second Annual You Don’t Know Dick about the Oscars

All I do on weekends is watch films from the local Blockbuster. I rent so many I think I might be the only one keeping the chain solvent. I am a hold-out: I don’t use video on demand nor do I Netflick by mail. I leave my apartment so rarely that the opportunity to meet anyone to practice my grunts and groans is worth the journey into sunshine and smog. I stay in my apartment so much I have to take night classes at UCLA just to learn how to reuse a fork. Video on demand might be the wave of the future, but I never learned how to surf and chlorinated water makes my skin itch.

Even with all of my expertise in film watching, I have never won an Oscar pool. Ever. I have never even come close. I’ve been betting on the awards since “Wings,” and all I've earned is derisive laughter. Years ago, I worked with a woman who promised to sleep with me if I could pick even one winner that year. Okay, so I didn’t think “Titanic” was that big a deal. Who knew?

I’ve lost to people who base their choices on astrological signs or the names of their deceased cats. I knew an accountant who used a complex algorithmic system to figure out his choices. It worked well for him in the Oscar pools although the IRS frowned on his methodology during tax season.

So these are my 2010 picks. I offer them knowing full well that by Monday morning no one will remember the results other than those who won and those who lost and are now too drunk to care.

BEST PICTURE: “The Hurt Locker”

I saw all the candidates and found this one the most compelling: There is no truer statement about how war warps man’s basic survival instinct to stay clear of danger. Second choice goes to "District 9." Not since the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with its veiled commentary on McCarthyism has the use of a science fiction trope been used so effectively to make a political statement regarding current hellish attitudes. The budget of the entire movie was the honey wagon cost for “Avatar.”

BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow

This is the year that a female director finally bests the males. Her film is superlative; her credits substantial. Even her ex, James Cameron, is rooting for her.

LEAD ACTOR: Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Yes, I know it will go to Jeff Bridges. If I could actually vote for Oscar, I’d go with journeyman actor Renner’s breakout performance over Bridges who really should have won it years ago for “The Big Lebowski.” “Crazy Heart” is “Tender Mercies” lite and I have the black eye and the video bar fight to prove it.

LEAD ACTRESS: Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire"

“The Blind Side” gave me peripheral vision problems. Sandra Bullock will take the award playing a strong-willed, southern white woman helping a confused black kid out of a world far too difficult for him to escape on his own. Yawn! The movie itself is an excellent example of a feelgood Lifetime Network weepie. I’m waiting for the movie where an ornery black woman takes in an unloved overweight white kid and turns him into whatever the good Lord damn well wants him to be. I loved Helen Mirren in “The Last Station,” but then she could star in a Uwe Boll movie and I’d still watch her (as I did with Sir Ben Kingsley in “Blood Rayne1”).

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds”

This is the first time I ever rooted for an actor playing a Nazi to win anything other than execution at dawn. Waltz’s performance is, at times, riveting, frightening, ghoulish, and gentlemanly. Find an American performer who could slide effortlessly between four languages and I’ll show you no one I know. Second choice: Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”. He continually amazes me as one of today’s most versatile actors though I still prefer him killing zombies and declaring that the world will end in 2012.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire"

Her performance so infuriated me that I burned both my “Phat Girtz” and “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins” DVDs, although somewhere I still have a few VHS copies of “The Parkers” that I should see sometime.


Odds on favorite looks to be “Inglourious Basterds,” although my second choice would be “The Messenger.” Did anyone notice that “Inglourious Basterds” is nothing more than a bunch of set dialogue sessions between shoot-outs? I thought Trini Lopez’s character was better developed in “The Dirty Dozen” than Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine.


This is a Hubble long distance outer space Hail Mary shot. It looks like a slam dunk for “Precious.” but I keep drifting back to “District 9." Maybe the Academy would have paid more attention to the script’s merits had the movie been entitled "District 69" instead.


I liked them all. I picked “Up” because it’s the shortest title of the five and I have other things I need to work on today.

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE: “The White Ribbon”

This is a pure guess given that I only saw “The White Ribbon” which I thought was very evocative of the herky-jerky deconstructional negative space cinema movement of post-war Europe with its neo-realist approach to the vagaries of small town life against the forces of the bourgeoisie influences of urban encroachment. Actually I have no idea what I am talking about, but every time I sit through a subtitled film I go all Manny Farber or Dwight MacDonald on myself. Second choice would be France’s “The Prophet,” because who doesn’t love French prison movies?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Sing The Body Electric

Today was the day of my annual physical. I usually have them in February so I know whether to celebrate my upcoming birthday in March or just buy the coffin and sit in the dark and wait for my Cheney episode. I’ve been going to the same doctor for 36 years so he knows who I am. I am his chronological patient number 114 out of close to 10,000 that he's examined in his office though he has examined many thousands more in hospitals. He says he will retire when his heart does. I tell him that I don't open his bill unless I have my defibrillator charged up and ready to go.

I am now treated so well he uses two fingers during the prostate exam. In fact there is something about this procedure that forces me into saying really stupid things during the only time of the year when I have any reason to look at my swollen ankles.

“If you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have any sex at all.”

“Have your fingers gotten longer since last year.”

“Are you expecting to find Judge Crater up there?”

“Are you now using a miner’s helmet this year?”

“Check to see if my personality wants to come home.”

“I keep all loose change you find.”

"Did you just send in a surveying team?"

“I’d rather have you blow smoke up my ass.”

“Do I get a medical discount if you want to do it a second time?”

"Did I just hear a rimshot?"

"Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener."

“You just pushed my tonsils into my sinus cavity.”

“So this is how babies are made.”

“We do this because you think I need practice for prison.”

And today:

“Would a female doctor expect a phone call the next morning?”

My doctor never laughs. I believe he just adds a few extra dollars to the bill as compensation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Flawless Logic and Lawless Logic

Finally picked up the DVD of “Law Abiding Citizen” and screened it last night. I can only imagine the development meetings behind this gem.

Okay people we don’t have much time to act. I just got word that both Gerald Butler and Jamie Foxx are available to star in our next Wasted Talent Production. Of course the script doesn't yet exist, but that has never stopped us before. We have to get something, anything for them or we lose our window of opportunity. What do we have in the slush pile?
Remember that western written for Lee Marvin after "Cat Ballou?" I think it was called “When Billy met Jesse." It’s about the years Billy the Kid rode with Jesse James when both were scouting for Custer. I guess we can make one of them black. The original writer left the business or shot himself or became a doctor.
Who's Lee Marvin? Maybe this has potential -- and we do have a bunch of Native Americans still on contract from the "Dancing with Wolves" sequel we optioned back in the previous century. Check to see if we’ve placed it in turnaround yet. On second thought, westerns don't appeal to the young unless we can attach vampires and video games somewhere. Kids today have no understanding of history.
I read a script during my last stint in rehab that has two lesbian detectives working out of Cleveland, Georgia going undercover to break up a white supremacy ring that deals crystal meth. We could get some A-list writer to do a quick touch up and pitch it to their reps. You know like a "Bad Boys" type thing.
I got this great script called "Boyd and Lloyd" about two gay guys who battle each other in court to adopt this kid from Tibet who might or might not be a reincarnated god. Hijinks ensue throughout. Doesn’t Jackie Chan have a kid we could use here? Maybe we can get Gary Marshall to play the judge?
Don’t both of these guys sing and dance? I know that musicals aren’t in right now because of "Nine," but I read a couple of blogs that explained "Nine" tanked because it was about a bunch of foreigners. Let me check to see who has the film rights to that Huck Finn musical written by Glenn Miller. I remember from my Spark Notes reading that there are both white and black characters.

Butler might be too young to play Finn. Doesn’t Finn always scream out the word "mendacity" at his son Brick? I hate it when writers use big words unless they're English and it's a show for PBS. Anyway, wasn’t "Showboat" about guys floating down the Mississippi? It might work for our bottom line. Let’s check the tax credits for all the states that the river flows through. Better yet, see if we can borrow Cameron's green screen.
Science fiction is hot right now. Maybe we can do an updated version of "Alien Nation" or some other kind of buddy film set in outer space. I’ll post a log line on some bulletin boards over at UCLA and USC. Some student has to have a script like that lying around.
I’m just vamping here, but how about if we throw away Butler’s singing ability and his good looks and make him a crazed serial killer. He works as a brain for the CIA so he knows everything and can build the Panama Canal in his living room using tin foil and margarine if he needs to. But his family gets killed in a bungled home invasion, although we really don’t know why his place was picked and it is only the catalyst for the entire movie reprisal motif. Am I using the word "motif" correctly? Butler’s character is so smart that he spends 10 years planning his revenge on all the lawyers who helped get one of the bad guys off. He sets car bombs, murders a judge with an exploding cell phone, and buries someone with just the right amount of oxygen pumping into his nose to keep him alive until 30 seconds before rescue. Butler's character has accumulated enough C4 to rival Blackwater -- or maybe that's where he buys it all from. He digs into a maximum security prison by himself and knows exactly which cell in solitary will be his after he kills his prison bunk mate. And he goes in and out of prison without anyone suspecting anything even though he is on 24-hour lockdown.

We make Foxx an obsessed hot shot prosecutor who is married to a beautiful woman and has a cello-playing daughter to whome he pays very little attention. In fact, let's make sure no pianos are around for him at all. Viewers might then ask questions about why he isn't playing duets with his kid. We have Butler’s character go after Foxx’s character when all the other characters relevant to the case are killed in extreme ways. The audience will believe Butler has a partner on the outside but the surprise is he doesn't. It's like "Saw" meets "Phantom of the Opera," except no one sings anything. Maybe over end credits Butler and Foxx can perform an old standard like "Me and My Shadow" -- unless you guys think that might have some racial overtones attached to it. We can set it in Philly because that’s where I come from and I can visit my folks on the production’s dime. And…
Enough. I love it. Tight. Concise. Energetic. That’s why I hire kids with math degrees. You guys put everything down so logically, and I don't even need to understand the difference between algebra and trigonometry. Okay, we’re shooting next week. Where’s the rewrite already?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

One Line Says It All

Over heard today at the local grocery store:

My ex is so brutal that in the divorce settlement, I’m only allowed to talk to the voices in my head every other weekend.

A Vietnamese neighbor saw me coming upstairs with several pizzas for the Super Bowl. Later that afternoon, she knocked on my door and asked if she could borrow a pizza because she and her friends had run out of food.

In addressing a Tea Party audience this past weekend, Sarah Palin was seen with cribbed notes written in black ink on the palm of her hand. I wonder who will be the first person to remark that such an act adds new meaning to the term hand job.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things to Watch For During Tonight’s State of the Union

Obama’s Introduction of foreign dignitaries including the Na’vi, the Cylons, and those creepy characters from District 9

Congressional members showing populist support by hanging tea bags from their $2000 Armani suits

The “You Lie” Glee Club receiving more applause than the President

Fox News Cutting In to Broadcast a 1994 Newt Gingrich Rebuttal

Supreme Court allowing large corporations to begin construction on luxury box Seats behind the President

Representatives of Indiana and Louisiana already drunk in anticipation of Super Bowl Game

Rachael Maddow in a Low Cut Pants Suit

Glenn Beck walking up and down the aisle hawking gold coins

The words “Saving Middle Class”, “Employment Opportunities”, and “Non Defense Measures” end up as a drinking game.

The best post analysis of the speech comes from John Oliver of the Daily Show

Sasha and Malia signal their father to wrap it up before the start of “American Idol”

Newly elected Senator Scott Brown showing off his own stimulus package

Friday, January 15, 2010

Smurfs on Steroids

Sitting in theaters watching 3D movies has always given me migraines. It is not the 3D process itself, which is enjoyable with or without an attached storyline. No, the migraine problem is rooted in my inability to keep my hands off the 3D glasses. I spend most of the screen time moving them up and down the bridge of my nose or taking them off completely just to see the contrast between 3D and blur. I have four eyes going into the screenings. Adding two more eyes becomes too weighty for me to bear.

These actions drive what few dates I have crazy -- especially my patented three-hand balancing act of glasses, barrels of popcorn, and several soft drinks in and around my lap. If I had had a fourth hand, I might spend some time actually holding my date’s hand, for my father told me that’s what is required of a good gentleman during a movie. I think the last movie my dad saw was the original "All Quiet on the Western Front." I told him times had changed.

A date once asked me why I couldn’t simply watch the movie without all the vertical hand gestures to my face. I didn’t have an answer for her. Luckily we stopped seeing each other during a "House of Wax" retrospective when I spilled a tall order of Coke down her left leg.

I hate going to movies by myself, so I don’t, if at all possible. That’s why I always carry singles in my wallet. Going to things alone reminds me too much of my teen years in Madison when I did everything as a gang of one, both legal and otherwise (and if truth be told, doing “otherwise” was even more strenuous).

Back then I couldn’t find a date even amongst the homeless. I spent most Saturday nights with a deck of cards, a pea, a card table, and three thimbles. The State Historical Society has pictures of me running for my life down State Street being chased by Madison’s finest and a few angry roughnecks from Black Earth and Portage.

I decided to see "Avatar" with a woman who fidgets in her seat even more than I do. I’ve known Adele for decades and it was she who coined this line after our first blind date:
"Not if you were the last guy on Earth and there were no German shepherds around."
Nor was I immune to her Dorothy Parkeresque insults even when I was with someone else:
"If breasts were brains, your cheap looking friend would be running MIT."
I still think about the psychologically damaged children the two of us could have produced. They might also have looked like police dogs. But I digress.

Adele is a member of one of the fast-growing subspecies in the world of web journalism: an online movie critic. She gets paid nothing for her reviews, but they show up all over the Internet. Since she uses big words and quotes Eric Rohmer in French and knows the difference between Heinrich von Kleist and Otto Von Bismarck, her remarks are taken earnestly by the literati.

Adele had already seen "Avatar" once in IMAX 3D, so she had no difficulty in allowing me the opportunity to pay the king’s ransom admission so she could see the movie a second time. She needed to continue to compile her "Avatar" cliché list for her column and one viewing was not sufficient. Since she hates sitting next to me during a screening, as it could construed a date with someone who was not a vegan, I bought her a ticket several rows below me and to my far left. The person sitting next to me was a little girl accompanied by her parents who became fascinated with my ability to juggle my glasses, soft drinks, and popcorn. Her mother kept muttering something to her about not imitating the strange man next to her.

This particular IMAX screening was packed with repeat viewers. I know this because half the audience kept whispering to the other half, “Wait till you see what happens next.” Crowds like this drive me nuts. Homeland Security should worry less about gun toters on airplanes and more about gun toters in theaters.

While I settled down to play with my glasses, Adele was fast at work jotting down notes. She can write in the dark without use of any illumination. She picked up that trick, she told me, from years of undressing in the dark with her dates. I never understood the correlation, and she always walked away from me without explaining. She had already counted as many story clichés within Cameron’s movie as the number of dollars it took to make the film, excluding the cost of prints and advertising during her first viewing. She decided to go a second time to check her math.

During the fifth or sixth or seventh flying sequence, my mind began to wander further than the hills of Pandora. This film had everything: the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Polynesian unison swaying, pidgin English, pantheism, and animism. It was anti-military, possibly anti-American, certainly anti-imperialist, pro-environment, and, I decided after witnessing the interaction with all the animal life, creationist to the core. Here was a place in the universe that obviously did have an Intelligent Designer: Humanoids flying around on cool looking pterodactyls while Venus flytraps waved at them from below

And the Tree of Souls. Who else but an Intelligent Designer would come up with a world where you blow up a big tree and everyone comes out of the woodwork to seek revenge?

I expected to engage in a spirited debate with Adele after the screening, perhaps at some vegan hot spot. So I began making a mental list of the questions I thought should have been answered somewhere within the movie:

Why didn’t the Tree of Souls do a smackdown at the first sign of environmental trouble?

How did the scientists obtain the Na’vi DNA in the first place? Was Gitmo still open 150 years in the future?

Why are the Na’vi blue and ten feet tall rather than red and the size of a Munchkin? Forget that question since this is a science fiction movie and not a fantasy.

How did a humanoid species evolve in an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide?

Why are the Na’vi wearing African tribal jewelry?

Why don’t the Na’vi immediately recognize the avatars in their midst, since they speak the language like Berlitz dropouts? Why didn’t they just kill them and turn a 160 minute movie into a six minute short?

Do the Na’vi walk around naked or are they wearing blue jump suits over their natural blue skin?

Why is it always the Marines who have to do the dirty work?

How did the Na’vi evolve when so many odd looking gigantasaurs could swallow them whole and use their spines as ten foot long blue toothpicks?

Why is their religious ceremony a cross between a Polynesian singalong and a Chautauqua revival?

Where did they get their culture and why wasn’t anyone smart enough to invent gunpowder?

Why just ride buzzards? Why didn’t they domesticate the hounds from Hell or any of the other wild life?

Why didn’t the white colonists simply drop fancy looking bows and arrows laden with small pox bacilli down on them to clear out the indigenous population? Who would know the difference?

Why hasn’t colonialist weaponry advanced in the 25 years since "Aliens?"

Am I the only one who sees a similar look between the Na’vi and some of the blue characters of "ThunderCats?"

Why does every pro-environmental film end with half of the environment destroyed or up in smoke?

Why does the unnamed transnational company give up so quickly? Why weren’t more soldiers sent in? It’s not like the Na’vi have lobbyists in Congress.
I never had that conversation with Adele. She met some guy coming out of the theater, waved goodbye to me and left. I threw my list of questions away, looked at the clock, and sneaked into “Daybreakers.” I also kept the 3D glasses.