Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The tin duck







About a month ago, I was eating lunch in the park when this man who appeared to be in his sixties walked up to me with a notebook and a pen. I looked at him in his white button-down shirt and black pants and figured, oh great, what is this asshole gonna try to sell me.

The man was very apologetic and proceeded to give me this whole tale about how he needed to pay for a procedure he was going to have or already had, I don't remember, because by that point I was too busy noticing that the man only had half a jaw and I'm guessing the procedure had something to do with that. I'm sure I also heard the word "cancer" somewhere during his spiel, but I couldn't be too sure because I was too busy processing the overwhelming sight of a man with HALF A FUCKING JAW.

Now I don't know if this was special effects, maybe it was. But it looked real. This guy was trying his best to talk and he did pretty well considering his condition. What he was asking for was a loan of any amount to help pay for the procedure. He needed something like $1500 and he already collected  about $1100. He showed me that he had the names and addresses of the people who loaned him money in his notebook, plus the amount they loaned him. It was a thick notebook and nearly all the pages had been filled out. He said he was going to make it his mission in life to pay everybody back as soon as he could.

For all I know this half-jawed gentleman was full of shit. I mean, he probably was, he probably got half his jaw shot off in a gang fight or something and now he was using this as a way to make some money off of people and he'll probably then have one of his buddies break into these people's houses and steal shit or kill them or rape them or all of the above.

But if there's any possibility of his story checking out 100-percent, well, I'd rather err on the side of wanting to be helpful.

But there was something else -- a nagging feeling somewhere within, and it always comes up when someone comes up to me and asks for help or charity of some kind. It's a kind of fear, a fear of I don't know what, maybe fear of some kind of karmic retribution or something. Maybe the person asking me is really a beautiful enchantress with the power to turn me into a beast or a gypsy with the power to curse me to keep losing weight until I'm nothing but skin and bones.

Or maybe I really am a sucker who wants to help. Whatever the case, I ended up giving him $20 but I didn't give him my name or address. I told him there was no need to pay me back; he could pay me back by doing a kindness for somebody else who needed it. Also, I didn't want to risk being home invaded by his friends.

Whether it was true or not, his story felt real enough and if it wasn't, at least he put in some effort into the ruse, and that's all I ask for. Just make the effort. Don't just walk up and be like "Hey man, got some money?" This dude gave me a notebook, a story that worked on my emotions, and oh yeah, HALF A FUCKING JAW.

But I don't think all the Greg Nicotero special effects makeup in the world could convince somebody like Ebenezer Scrooge to give any amount aside from the grand total of jack shit, based on how I saw him treat a couple of dudes taking up donations. But more on that a little later.



Well, thanks for the trailer, TNT, I guess nobody has to see this movie anymore, now that you've told the whole story. Don't see any point in rambling about this. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!

I'm kidding. Most of us know the story already, so it's really about the telling, right? There are many film adaptations of Charles Dickens' immortal classic A Christmas Carol, and in her second long-unfulfilled request, Karen from Florida has asked me to ramble about one of them. With her help, I narrowed it down to either the 1984 version starring George C. Scott or the 1999 version starring Patrick Stewart.

I ended up going with the Stewart film because I'd never seen it, and also because if I went with the Scott version, the entire time I'd just be making references to that scene in the film Hardcore where he watches a porno starring his daughter. Trust me, I can make lots of references to that. I suppose I could do the same with Stewart by making "Star Trek" references, so I'll do my best to keep them to a minimum.

All right, so for those who came in late, I was saying earlier that the main character of this tale, Ebenezer Scrooge, is pretty harsh with a couple of dudes who are looking for donations to help supply food and warmth to the less fortunate in this cold and bleak 19th century London. They tell him how tough it is our there and that people can die from such poor conditions, and this piece of work responds with something like "Well, they should die as soon as possible, that way can stop suckling on the city's titties."

To be fair, these donation dudes kinda brought it onto themselves; when they visit Scrooge and give them the whole spiel about helping feed and shelter the poor and hungry, they end it by asking how much money he plans to give. That's mighty presumptuous, guys. You can't assume everybody is going to want to give, you gotta close it out by saying something like how appreciative you'd be and how helpful it would be if the person could donate any amount if possible. No matter what, you have to ask, just to be polite -- kinda like the no-jaw dude who hit me up. He had no jaw and he still asked politely, he didn't assume.

If I had to guess, I would say Scrooge is the kind of person who throws in the word "bootstraps" a lot. Usually, you can tell who is and isn't a jerk is by whether or not they use the word "bootstraps" preceded by something like how a person should pick him or herself up by them. Not that I'm against working hard in an attempt to elevate yourself to a better station in life, I mean, I have no issues with the concept of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

It's just that in my experience, the people who usually say that are people who didn't actually have to do that. It's usually those who were born into money or had more than a few other hands pulling their bootstraps for them. Now, I'm not saying that those who were born into privilege or were closer to achieving their goals should feel some kind of shame or guilt or should have to keep their mouths shut about how others should be working hard for what they want. I'm just saying there's a way to say all of that without sounding and looking like an asshole.



Scrooge doesn't say "bootstraps" but he does have a moment later on where he remarks on how a young girl already has a job, and he's saying it like Wow, this girl is a real go-getter! and he doesn't understand that this girl has no choice but to work because her family is dirt poor. Because there's a big difference between getting a part-time job after school so you can buy sneakers, and having to get a full time job -- forget school at this point -- in order to help feed the rest of your family because your father's employer is a lousy skinflint named Scrooge.

Yeah, Scrooge only has one employee at his money-lending firm, his clerk Bob Cratchit -- played by his future antagonist in Logan, Richard E. Grant -- and while it seems like this place does all right, you wouldn't know it from how stingy he is when it comes to keeping the place warm; Cratchit wants to add a couple of measly chunks of coal to the fire and Scrooge is like, you better put some water on that damn shit -- no, no, he says to just poke the current coals and keep what little fire there is barely burning.

It kills Scrooge to spend money, it just kills him that he has to give Cratchit a paid holiday on Christmas Day -- and he has to say this poor old Bob, he can't keep it to himself. Why do people do things like that? Let the poor guy enjoy his one paid day off, man.

On top of that, Scrooge has no use for Christmas. No, he's not Jewish or a Jehovah's Witness or Phoebe Cates in Gremlins, he's just a miserable man; a group of Christmas carolers know better than to go sing in front of Scrooge's place -- except for one poor child who learns that to go sing to Scrooge is to invite a possible Singapore-style caning.

I love Christmas but I might be with Ebenezer when it comes to carolers. I figure back then carolers were like the flash mobs of their day, which is to say that it's really more about themselves than in the people they're purporting to be entertaining.

Anyway, Scrooge's nephew Fred shows up all joyous and triumphant about the holiday and Scrooge doesn't want to hear it, it's like it irritates him that other people have hope and joy during this time of year. He apparently doesn't know about the high suicide rate during this time, otherwise he'd probably dig Christmas a lot more.

I wondered why Scrooge was so cold towards his nephew, he seems to be upset that Fred is able to enjoy the holiday season despite not being as up on the monetary hustle as he'd like to be. Scrooge also seems to disapprove of Fred's marriage. Like, why does it bother him so much that Fred is married? Does Scrooge have a bit of a thing for Fred, like some pervy forbidden taboo love between uncle and nephew, or is it more of a player hater kind of thing, because Scrooge messed up his chance at true love right around the same age that Fred found his? I'm thinking maybe the latter. But I won't count out the former, because a very sick man like me loves the idea that Scrooge dreams of making his nephew cry uncle, if you know what I mean.

I mean he wants to bang his nephew, is what I mean.

Fred, by the way, is played by Dominic West, or as I prefer to call him, McNulty from the HBO series "The Wire". Man, I'd been hearing about the show for years, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally got around to seeing it, and you know what? It's as good as everybody says it is. Although considering how things are going nowadays in this wonderful big blue world, I don't think I will ever give a series as cynical and depressing and true to life like that one a rewatch ever again.

Speaking of depressing and true to life, you could've made a 19th century version of "The Wire" with this London setting. It's very glum and there's no chance of Christmas cheer in how things look, which I think is the idea -- I mean, I think that's the idea, you know, finding the ability to enjoy this time of year regardless of your surroundings. We see that in the way Bob Cratchit and his family are able to make the most of what little they have during their Christmas dinner, and how appreciative and happy for what they have, as meager as it is.

Then there's a sequence where Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present watch as various people celebrate Christmas by singing "Silent Night"; the keepers of a lighthouse, the crew on a cargo ship, workers at a mining facility -- not the most ideal of conditions to be in good cheer, and yet, they are able to have the Christmas spirit. Even if the conditions were better, these people are working on Christmas Eve, which has to be a little bit of a bummer -- for those who celebrate the holiday anyway.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the whole Ghosts of Christmas deal. OK, for those who aren't familiar with A Christmas Carol, what happens is that Scrooge gets visited by his old business partner Jacob Marley, which sounds all fine and dandy except for the fact that Jacob Marley has been dead for seven years. Marley tells Scrooge that the afterlife sucks because he's forever tortured by his past actions -- or more like his past inactions, because like Scrooge, Marley didn't do shit for his fellow man and was just as much a tightwad as Ebenezer. Now he's wearing heavy chains he can't take off and walking around all morose and shit, being as much a drag as those heavy ass chains.

Scrooge tries to dismiss this as hallucinations brought on by indigestion or maybe someone dosed his stew, the same way somebody dosed James Cameron's clam chowder on the set of Titanic in a possible attempt to Christmas Carol that Hollywood Scrooge. But Marley doesn't let up, and he has some tricks to really get into the old man's head that this is in fact The Real Deal.

Marley then gives Scrooge a peek into the lives of the dead, specifically those who like Jacob Marley, led selfish and uncaring lives. Now they have to spend the rest of forever watching the living who in need of help, and these sad specters are unable to do anything about it because they're dead. Their opportunity to do something has passed. This is a lesson they've learned too late. But it's not too late for Scrooge!

At least that's the idea, and to help prevent Scrooge from getting fitted for his own chain ensemble, three ghosts will visit him: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Joel Grey, who looks like a pale transgender in mid-transition here. That's not a knock against transgenders, by the way, I've met plenty of transgenders at functions and parties and they've all turned me down.

Anyway, GC Past shows Scrooge his, uh, past as a little Scrooge, taking him back to his old school -- which Ebenezer seems pretty jazzed about. I don't know, man, maybe you had a better time back then than I did. You take me back to my old school and I'd probably start going into convulsions before reaching towards the small of my back for a pistol that I'm not carrying. The fun ends for Scrooge, though, once he sees himself as a sad little boy all alone in class because his father is a piece of shit.

This is the second film in a row that I've rambled about featuring grown-up assholes who were raised that way by their asshole fathers. The first was both versions of Disney's Beauty and the Beast -- which I guess makes this movie the third film in a row -- and now this one. And both were requested by Karen from Florida. If you're trying to tell me what I think you're trying to tell me, well let me make it clear, ma'am: I wasn't raised to be a douchebag, my father was great to me -- as is my mother. No, ma'am, my high level achievements of being A-Prick-Number-One are a result of being a self made kind of shitheel. Now this could mean one of two things: the whole "bad father equals bad son" thing is bullshit, or maybe I, much like Michael Myers, was just born under a bad star.

I'm pure evil, is what I'm trying to tell you good people. It's why I keep to myself. I'm a loner, Dottie, a rebel. And you don't want any of me. Unless you're ready to give up the goods. And by goods, I mean sex and/or food, but not both at the same time.

GC Past then shows Scrooge an older younger version of himself, back when he was working for Mr. Fezziwig. Now that's a cool boss, right there; Fezziwig is very cheerful -- at least during his company's Christmas party -- and he insists that all employees who are still working to stop what they're doing 'cause he's about to ruin the image and the style that they're used to: that is, if the image and style is of a Scrooge type who won't take a break to enjoy life every once in a while. You see Fezziwig and his family getting down with their bad selves on the sing & dance floor, and even Ebenezer knows to have some fun because he hasn't grown into old Scrooge yet.

Let me talk about office Christmas parties. I can do without those too. In fact, I have been doing without them for most of my work life, as well as any other social functions and gatherings at my places of employment. I'm polite to my co-workers and treat them with kindness and respect, but I don't want to be reminded of work during my free time. It's my time! It's why I've turned down company softball games and work picnics and Christmas parties. I don't want any of these assholes to see me drunk -- hell, I don't want anyone to see me drunk, and I certainly don't want to see any of those assholes drunk, fuck those guys.

Old Scrooge gets to observe Young Scrooge fuck it up with the love of his life, but is it really his fault? I get where he's coming from -- he's not ready to marry poor because he's trying to make that fuckin' money, bro. It's like the great Tony Montana once said: First you make the money, then you get the power, and then you marry your sweetheart. Stewart is great in the film, but I really liked his performance during this scene, as he witnesses one of the biggest -- perhaps the biggest mistake of his life -- and starts talking back at his young self like some overly emotional housewife watching her "stories".



After that, comes The Ghost of Christmas Present, who's a big dude in a robe, looking like party animal from a frat house movie. He ends up showing Scrooge that whole deal with the various people having Christmas spirit, singing "Silent Night", despite of or in spite of their situations, preceded by the whole Christmas dinner at the Cratchit crib, where the lovely family digs into their meal -- Christmas goose with all the trimmings, followed by plum pudding. It all looks nice but it's all too small for a family that big -- which is what an overeater would say.

Because when you really look at the portions given to the Cratchit clan, that really is the ideal serving size. It's how much we're all supposed to eat -- particularly we heavy Americans, who eat our food in way too large portions. Also, why so many kids? Great googily moogily, Bob, couldn't you keep it in your pants a couple times here and there? You know what, I take that back, Bob -- I can see why you and Mrs. Bob would do so much fucking. I mean you have to keep warm in that cold weather somehow.

Scrooge, this fuckin' miser, he asks GC Present about the infirm Cratchit boy Tiny Tim, he wants to know if things will get better for him and GC Present responds with something like "I see an empty seat and a crutch without an owner....something something if the future doesn't change, the child will die". That line and the delivery of that line, left me thinking what a great public service announcement it would make, preferably played on digital over-the-air television.

Have you ever watched digital over-the-air television? I'm talking about those stations that have dashes between the numbers, the ones that show cool old programs and cool old game shows. They're really cool but then come the commercial breaks and it's always a horror show filled with injured old people, dead old people, mistreated animals, dead animals, and kids with cancer. So an ad for some kind of charity towards helping little gimpy kids would be great with that line about the empty chair and crutch.

GC Present then takes Scrooge over to Fred's house where they're all having a great time, friends and family alike. "It's been so long" says Scrooge, regarding the old timey Christmas dinner party games being played. Man, it's been so long for me as well. The last time I played a game at a Christmas party, it was 14 years ago and we played Jenga Truth or Dare.

It's a good thing they didn't have Jenga Truth or Dare back in Scrooge's day, because one of the guests is this fuckin' panty-sniffing creep named Topper, who should be thanking his lucky stars they hadn't invented sex offender registries yet. Although considering how long ago this story takes place, they probably hadn't invented the term "sex offender", that was just how gentlemen rolled. You had to be Jack the Ripper to be considered doing something wrong to a lady back then. God, Topper made my skin crawl, talking to ladies about their "pretty little mouths" and making sure there's mistletoe in the immediate vicinity of his most likely syphilitic johnson. Who knows what this bucket of unwanted sex would've done with something like Jenga Truth or Dare.

Following all that pervitude, Scrooge gets the ghost he fears the most: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, looking like a half-decent Halloween display outside one of those Halloween stores that only operates during September and October out of some recently closed business. The Ghost shows Ebenezer how his homies at the stock exchange will not really give much of a care about him after hearing news of his death. They'll only attend the funeral if food is being served, which I kinda understand too, provided we're talking about serving the food after the funeral. That would be weird to eat during the actual service.

It all bums Scrooge out, the way people react about his him going tits up. Some of the help from his house end up selling his silk shirts and bed curtains, and even the undertaker makes some money off of him. Nobody seems particularly bothered, save maybe Fred, but in most cases, people's lives are improved, such as the couple who were in debt to Scrooge, but now that he's merged with the infinite, they have time to save up and pay the new piper.

I think at this point, Scrooge would've been like "Fuck it, if these assholes are going to ditch my funeral and sell the fillings from my teeth, I might as well keep up the shitty attitude and really earn my postmortem disrespect!" but then of course, here comes Tiny Tim to gum up the works with his own death, and now Scrooge is super bummed. Then he catches the sight of his sad-ass tombstone and his cold-ass corpse in the coffin and for some reason he embraces his own corpse and off they go, swan-diving cheek-to-cheek into the black void like a couple of twin fruits.

But it was all a dream! Scrooge used to read Word Up magazine! And now he's awake, back in the real world and he hasn't missed Christmas! He's so overjoyed at this, he tries to laugh but it's such an alien reflex to him at this point, it takes him like half a minute of choke-filled attempts before he finally gets it right and laughs like a goddamn human being again. He then pays some street urchin to buy the biggest goose this side of Footloose and send it over to the Cratchit residence -- but he makes sure that it's done anonymously, so that Bob and company don't know who the goose is from.

I like that, it shows real altruism, that move. Most people in Scrooge's place would've made sure that Cratchit would know who got his goose, for the same reason I want the baristas at Starbucks to see me when I put a buck in the tip jar. Scrooge is so beyond that bullshit by this point, he doesn't care and maybe it'll have Cratchit believe it was some kind of Christmas miracle HAHAHAHAHAHA miracle.

Scrooge then goes to church because He is the reason for the season, you know. We gotta remember who put the Christ in Christmas, and that's something you heathens don't understand and will never understand unless you give yourself to the one true God. Instead, you try to make it secular for all the libtards who hate my Christ, love paying taxes, and want to take my guns away. Well to that third part, I quote my good boys from Gonzales, Texas: Come and take it.

The following day, Scrooge pulls one of those bullshit pranks where he acts like he's pissed off at Bob for coming in late, and he talks all serious to him, until he pulls back the false dickhead facade and reveals himself to be the new and improved Scrooge by giving Cratchit a raise and allowing him to warm up the place with all the coal his heart desires. Then McNulty narrates over footage of the Cratchit family visiting Ebenezer -- including Tiny Tim, who did not die -- talking about how "ever afterwards, he knew how to keep Christmas well" and I start tearing up and getting choked up because that's where I am in my life, I fuckin' cry at everything, especially with stories like this, because the older I get and the more I experience in this life, the more these tales about people changing their negative ways to become better people increasingly feel like science fiction.

What they don't show us is Scrooge visiting his supposed pals at the stock exchange, followed by giving them a solid thrashing with his cane for being fake people showing fake love to him, straight up to his face, straight up to his face. But I guess I'll have to make that version myself, where I devote a good twenty minutes to Scrooge taking care of business with those stock exchange fucks by giving them a little stick time.



OK, well, I pretty much went through the whole movie but you already knew the story -- so the question is: how does this 1999 adaptation of A Christmas Carol do in telling it?

Pretty damn well, I think. This has less of a Christmas-y feel to it compared to others, but I think in exchange for that, there's a bit more of a, I don't know -- real tone to it? The setting is suitably bleak and a good part of that should be credited to the production designer, Roger Hall, who had previously worked on such classics as Chariots of Fire and Highlander II: The Quickening. One of those films won the Academy Award for Best Picture, by the way.

I haven't read the Dickens story in nearly two decades, but based on what I remember of it, this adaptation is very close, including things like that "Silent Night" sequence, which I don't remember ever being in other film versions of the Scrooge story.

The film was directed by David Jones, a stage director who went on to work on television shows like "Law & Order: SVU" and films like Jacknife starring Robert De Niro. He does a fine job telling the story, moving things along at a fine clip and getting good performances from his cast. Speaking of which, Patrick Stewart is solid as Ebenezer Scrooge, but I feel his doesn't quite match up in comparison to previous Scrooges like Alastair Sim and George C. Scott. He doesn't seem as particularly upset by the otherworldly sights he's treated to, it's a little too stiff upper lip compared to the way other Scrooges handle seeing ghosts and freaky mutated ghoulish children named Want and Ignorance and Tiny Tim. I think what he does best is show us the regret Scrooge feels over his past mistakes during the Ghost of Christmas Past sequence.

More than anything, I was left wishing I had seen one of Patrick Stewart's one-man performances of A Christmas Carol, where he played over thirty characters without the use of props or costume changes. He's performed the play on and off since the late 80s, but it doesn't look like he's going to do it again anytime soon, which is too bad because it sounds fascinating. I now kinda wish they filmed one of his shows rather than make yet another standard film version of the Dickens classic. But they did make another standard film version of the Dickens classic, but it's a good one, so I'm not complaining. I can definitely see myself checking this one out again come next December.

OK, that's it. I haven't done a rundown like that in a while, where I pretty much just go through the movie from beginning to end, but I figure it's no secret to most people how this story plays out, so why not.

Anyway, if you happen to be reading this during the holidays, have fun and be safe.

Also, this won't mean anything to those who are listening to the podcast which is only a few episodes old at the time of this recording, but the day that I'm putting this out, December 25th, in this foul year of Our Lord 2018 also happens to be the tenth anniversary of the Exiled from Contentment blog, from where these ramblings come from. I can't help but feel it's all been a colossal waste of time. But hey, it beats sitting on my ass and doing nothing, right?

Don't answer that.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Not worth the wait.





There was an advertisement from one of those charities that help out wounded veterans, and I felt both sympathy and a great feeling of gratitude to all those brave men and women who served in the military and fought in the name of this great country that I was lucky enough to be born in -- the United States of America.

They are the ones who were sent to fight, and while some were wounded physically, others came back with wounds of the soul, returning home only to find that the sunlight was no longer as bright as it used to be.

I knew a man like this. We weren't close friends, but he lived in my neighborhood and I'd run into him from time to time. I never knew his name but everybody knew him by the nickname "Easy", because he always took life that way. After high school, Easy joined the Marine Corps, and a year-and-a-half later he was sent Over There. I didn't hear about him after that, having moved on from the neighborhood myself.

A few years later, I was back home for Thanksgiving, and before meeting the family I had stopped at a bar for some liquid fortification. As I exited the bar, I saw Easy standing by himself across the street, his head tilted upwards, staring out at something apparently only he could see. He was unshaven, wearing a stained shirt, wrinkled worn out cargo shorts, and was now about a hundred pounds heavier.

I called out to him but he did not respond. I called out again -- louder this time -- and he looked over in my direction, a medicinally glazed look in his eyes. He slowly nodded to me while giving me a weak open-mouthed smile. Easy did not recognize me but had done his best to give a polite acknowledgement.

"It's no use, bro" said the man standing a few feet behind me, smoking a cigarette. "Easy hasn't been the same since he came back from Afghanistan. Something there broke him."

I looked back at Easy, who had gone back to staring at the invisible, and I nodded back to him before walking away.

Wow. This guy, Easy -- he seemed so together and now he's barely a shadow of his former self. The stuff he saw over there must've really messed him up, and if so -- what a fuckin' pussy.

Shit. It's one thing to have experienced war back in the 1930s and 40s when all Johnny America knew was small towns and Daisy the high school sweetheart, who he was going to marry as soon as he came back home. It was so innocent back then, when American ingenuity and know-how were Number One.

Back then, America was great, Negroes knew their place, and all Our Boys knew before going to battle was apple pie and "Moonlight Serenade". Back then everybody wanted to fight the Krauts and the Japs -- and they had no idea what was in store for them, so of course it made sense that they came back with scarred souls after seeing their friends lose arms and legs and their dying buddies piss and shit themselves while crying for mommy. But c'mon, man. Since then, we've had countless films that have presented war in the most vividly graphic terms -- exploding heads, severed limbs, miles of exposed guts, rape, murder, suicide, dehumanization, atrocity after atrocity, and the screaming OH MY GOD the screaming.

After all those movies and television shows and documentaries with old survivors, how can someone still come home all fucked in the head? You've been fuckin' programmed to be desensitized to it by now, how the fuck can you come home all wacky in the cabeza?

Jesus Christ, Easy -- you played hours and hours of "Mortal Kombat", "Grand Theft Auto", "Call of Duty", you watched fake death on Faces of Death and real death on YouTube and yet somehow the sight of Private First Class Duggan shoving the barrel of his M4 up some Haji's rectum is gonna give you nightmares?

Yo yo yo yo yo Easy Easy Easy -- how is it that you, a fuckin' failed cholo millennial who's seen all those movies and actually trained for that madness still come back a shell of your former self, while a soldier in the 18th Century -- a Frenchman, of all people -- not only came back OK from his battles, but still had a thirst for killing that he satisfied by being a badass hunter? I'm talking about Gaston, you fuckin' Hispanic Birdy, I'm talking about the motherfucker from the 2017 film Beauty and the Beast.



This is a request from Karen from Orlando, Florida and I will withhold her last name to save her from both public humiliation and possible loss of employment due to being associated with me. Karen has requested this film over a year ago and like everything else, it took forever but I finally got around to rambling about this film -- thanks to it being available on Netflix, which I was able to easily access through my sister's account.

Beauty and the Beast is a live action adaptation of Disney's 1991 animated film of the same nameYes, I know about the 1946 version directed by Jean Cocteau, but that wasn't part of the request, so you film geeks can quit your whining and go back to throwing yourselves off bridges because they got rid of Filmstruck. 

It's directed by Bill Condon, who also directed the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Dreamgirls, the Oscar-nominated film Kinsey, and a movie that I'm sure someone with the name "Oscar" really liked, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. He also won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film Gods and Monsters.

This is a tale about a strapping young beast of a man named Gaston, a former captain in the French army turned current animal hunter who has the whole town of stupid peasant proles wrapped around his strong finger. This man knows he's the shit and everybody else agrees, as we see and hear during one of the film's many musical sequences, this one focusing on the man himself.

Gaston has everything he needs: the admiration of an entire town, the company of his close gay friend Lefou, and all the single ladies are on his jock 24/7. But like most of us human beings, Gaston doesn't know how to appreciate what he has and instead wastes his time and energy on going after what he doesn't have -- some weirdo bookworm named Belle.

She's played by Emma Watson, who turned down the lead in La La Land to do this movie, which financially was a good move on her part; Beauty and the Beast didn't get the Oscar attention of the other film, it ended up making about three times more at the box office -- profits of which Miss Watson was contractually entitled a decent chunk.

Meanwhile, Ryan Gosling turned down this movie to do La La Land, and so he and Watson passed each other like two pretty ships in the night going opposite directions.

So yeah, this chick thinks she's too good for my boy, she has this whole thing about wanting to leave the village she lives in because she thinks she's too good for this town. I don't get people like that, but maybe it's because I never grew up in a small boring ass town either. I grew up in a decent suburban area with malls and mini-malls and plenty of chain restaurants and movie theaters and bars and that's really all I needed. If I wanted to see a beautiful view from a mountain side, I could go the local library and rent Cliffhanger. Nowadays, I can just look that shit up online.

Eventually, I moved but I always remained in and around Southern California because I like the weather and I like the women. The women don't like me -- neither do the men, for that matter -- but that doesn't stop me from introducing myself to new ones at a friend's baby shower and making a bigger ass than usual: Oh hi guys, I'm Princess Sparkle, oh hi I really appreciate how you would thank me by my name when I picked up my tickets at the booth, oh hi there, you go to the New Beverly Cinema too? Did you hear about how the owner Quentin Tarantino installed new cameras on the floor, that way  he can see everybody's feet a-hyuk a-hyuk a-hyuk hey, where's everybody going? Hey sir, can I borrow your gun, I just need it for a second *gunshot*

Then the pain ends.

Except it didn't, because nobody had a gun -- this is pussy ass Southern California, after all, the only thing these liberals carry concealed is their medical marijuana card.

Anyway, yeah, Belle -- a name that sounds a lot like Bella, the name of the girl from the Twilight books and movies. No wonder they got Bill Condon to direct this -- he also directed some of those Twilight movies. But don't hold that against him, I mean, homeboy's gotta make those mansion payments somehow.

So Belle is bored with her small town because they don't have Applebees or a Sonic, and she's not down with the same routine day in and day out, and reading all those books have infected her brain with the idea of a great big old world out there filled with so much to do. She wants a life like the ones in the books she reads, and well, guess what, honey -- it is! This film and the 1991 animated joint are based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la BĂȘte and if you only knew what was going to happen to you, girl!

And what does happen to her? She ends up in this spooky run-down castle somewhere out in the boondocks because that's where her goofy-ass father ended up. The poor old man was trying to get some peace and quiet because he can't even fix a goddamn clock at home without hearing his daughter sing all over town, so yeah, he took off with his horse and then some wolves try to eat him and now he's locked up in a dungeon and his jailer is this big ugly beast named Beast.

We never know what Beast's real name is but I'm guessing it's Prince Douchebag, because the opening scene shows us that before he was the Beast we all know and fear, he was this young handsome wealthy prince, and like most handsome wealthy princes, this guy was a douchenozzle twatface asshole who wouldn't know empathy if it came into his home on a dark and stormy night asking for shelter. Nope, he would look at this old lady and laugh in her face -- this fucking human garbage who grew up with everything and yet that wasn't enough for him, he's taxing people and using the money to buy more stuff he doesn't need. Yeah, not only does he laugh in her face, even his servants and employees laugh at her.

It fuckin' figures it'd be that way; we all want to be the motherfucker, and if we can't, we'll settle for  riding the motherfucker's coattails because even being on the motherfucker's coattails is a higher level than the rest of the peons. And I'm like OK fine, if you want to be that way, then enjoy your slightly higher status in life, but don't look down on those below you as if you were King Shit of Fuck Mountain, because you're not. That's the same kind of unearned asinine behavior exhibited by maitre d's and house n's.

But if you are gonna be that way and join your master in Ha Ha Ha-ing the poors, then you better be ready to take any possible punishment headed your boss' way. Because this old lady? This old lady that the prince and his people are laughing at, well, she actually happens to be a beautiful enchantress -- and these people are so fucked, it's fucking beautiful, man.

The enchantress curses the prince and his servants and makes it so that the people who knew them don't know them anymore, so basically these assholes won't be missed. Prince Douchebag is turned into a beast and the servants are turned into walking/talking furniture, appliances, and various other housewares -- even the dog gets it, which I'm fine with because I'm sure that dog ate human food everyday like a king and ran around biting beggars in the butt.

This prince tried to beg forgiveness from the enchantress, but when it comes to this chick once you're fucked, you're fucked and there's no turning back, you can't even offer an insincere apology the way most celebrities do on social media after they've been caught being scumbags.

I like that because that's how I roll. I don't believe in forgiving pieces of shit. Like the song says, it's easy to be hard -- and that's why I use up so much energy everyday in not being an asshole. It's why I get so exhausted at the end of the day and go to sleep after I get home from work, causing me to not work on this blog/podcast and next thing you know, I have a backlog of three or four of these goddamn things and I still haven't written about the Aero Horrorthon back in October even though it's just about Christmas right now. But as tired as I get, I still manage to say Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me to people -- people who don't even have the common courtesy to return the favor.

Everyday I have to see these people living awesome lives despite having zero empathy or sympathy or any pathys for their fellow human and very rarely do these amoebas get their comeuppance -- so when I see or hear of actual justice being served to these people, well, lady and gentleman, to be as delicate as I can be with what I'm about to say:

It gets my dick hard.

So imagine how much Viagra I didn't need seeing what happens to this dude -- cursed to live as a Beast all alone in that castle -- talking furniture doesn't count, chief -- and nobody from the outside world even remembers that he exists.

Later in the film, we find out that his assholishness wasn't something he was born with, he was raised to be a shit by his shit father -- much like our current president. But unlike *that* walking shit stain, Beast eventually shows himself later in the film to be a kinder and deeper person than we took him for -- which I think is supposed to be a way to get the audience to be more sympathetic towards the guy, but I don't buy it. I think that's just what the curse did to him.

What I'm saying is, if you live an awesome life with zero consequences, you're not going to change. If anything, you might actually start pushing it to see how much you can get away with, because that's just human nature. But if something or someone knocks the wind out of your sails and your awesome life isn't so awesome anymore, you're going to eventually have to adapt to a new way of living, not out of a sudden realization that your fellow man deserves respect and kindness, no -- but because you have no choice.

It's like this: say you're a hot chick, right? You're a hot chick and so your life is pretty cool because everybody wants to bang you. But then somewhere along the way, you hit the wall and guess what? You don't look like Ava Gardner anymore.

Suddenly your jokes aren't so funny, you start getting called out on your lack of manners, and your questionable personal hygiene isn't acceptable anymore. No longer fuckable, you have to adapt your way of life and be nice to people, and you better learn to juggle or play the piano or something because these bills aren't gonna pay themselves either.

Well, the Prince was a hot dude and so there you go.

So Belle goes to the castle to free her father and ends up taking his place as the Beast's prisoner, but ends up getting to know the Beast better in his adapted state and she starts digging the dude and he's starts digging on her because she's a nice person who appreciates his immense library -- plus it's been a long time since he banged a lady, and I'm sure he hasn't even been able to get rid of the poison on his own, on account of all this sentient furniture in his castle.

I mean, I wouldn't be able to jerk off knowing that my bed is alive and can see and hear what I'm doing. I can't go the bathroom to do it because the sink, toilet, and shower can see what I'm doing. I can't go outside because then one of those wolves will bite it off and even if they didn't, I certainly can't convince one of them to let me put it inside him, because I don't know if you know but wolves are extremely homophobic.

In the meantime, my boy Gaston tries to help free Belle, but when her stupid father tells Gaston that she would never marry him, Gaston leaves his ungrateful ass out in the weeds where he belongs.

But I think the movie is trying to say that what Gaston did was wrong.

Once I got over the fact that the film was going to focus on Belle and the Beast and not on the awesome Gaston, I was able to enjoy what played out for the most part. The new songs didn't really do it for me but the songs from the 1991 film still sound nice. Emma Watson does a fine job singing them but she was nothing spectacular, either. But hey, she doesn't embarrass herself and I think the dude playing the Beast is a better singer overall but maybe I'm the last person you'd want an opinion on singing, considering that I thought Pierce Brosnan did OK in the Mamma Mia! movies.

Acting-wise, I thought Watson and the Beast were pretty good together, there's nothing wrong there.
I also dug the interactions between all the items in the castle; they're voiced by Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, and Emma Thompson. They were my favorite characters in the film, and I honestly would've preferred a lot more of them and less of Belle and the Beast because there scenes are a lot more fun to watch. What I'm saying is that I felt that in their attempt to make a more grown-up version of the animated film -- specifically during the scenes between Belle and Beast -- the filmmakers sometimes confused "grown-up" with "dull" and so I found myself checking the time more than I should.

It's not like I had anywhere to go or something, but I kept checking my non-existent watch as if I did. This film is about forty minutes longer than the animated film, and I definitely felt the extra running time without feeling I got much out of it. It felt less like a deeper and more detailed version of the story and more like a simple story being padded out for reasons I don't understand. If I did understand, I'd be making these goddamn movies rather than bitching about them.

Things get a lot more interesting in the final third, when things come to a climax with the stupid villagers storming the castle and getting their asses handed to them by a candelabra, a harpsichord, a feather duster, and a teapot and teacup. They'll never be able to live that embarrassing shit down.

But a few of them will leave the experience wiser and happier; three of these assholes are Gaston's friends, or as Cogsworth the walking/talking clock calls them, "third rate Musketeers". And when they end up getting swallowed up by a walking/talking wardrobe, they are spat out dressed in women's clothing. This freaks out two of the Musketeers, while one is left digging his new look -- a moment that I'm sure left the more conservative members of the audience walking out in a huff over what they feel is Disney's pro-perversion propaganda:

"How am I supposed to explain to my child why there are Men who like to dress up as women?!"

It's easy, sir. In the same manner that you take your kid aside to tell him or her why the Chinese can't be trusted or that the Jews control the media, you tell this fucking tyke that much like there are people who like Coke over Pepsi and vice versa, there are dudes who go out as dudettes and some of them still dig women while others dig on each other, and there are also chicks who dress like guys and some still dig guys and some dig on each other, and there are both guys and girls who don't even dress like the opposite sex but they play for the home team, and that's just the way of the world.

Then you can go back to telling your kid Obama almost turned the entire country into Muslims.

By the time the closing credits come up, things have ended happily ever after for the characters and if you think I'm spoiling the movie, then you need to go blame your parents for homeschooling your sheltered ass and leave me alone. Now I'm gonna spoil something else -- the end credits look like the opening credits to a soap opera. OK, I'm done.

Between watching the film nearly a month ago and rambling about it today (thanks flu!), my opinion more or less remains the same -- leaning towards the "less" section. The reason for that is because after watching the live action Beauty and the Beast, I wanted to make sure if this version did in fact suffer in comparison to the 1991 film or if I was just looking back at it with rose-colored contacts. Because it's easy for me to say "oh, the original was better" when the last time I watched the original, it was 17 minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock.

And so, I immediately went to the movie site Vudu and plunked down twenty bucks on the 1991 version because Disney doesn't believe in a Rental option when it comes to streaming, the greedy fucks.



Well guess what? Not counting the hooker in San Antonio last month, this was the best twenty dollars I spent in a long time. The 1991 version is the same story as the 2017 one, only before that one gained all that extra fat over the years. This one is lean, mean, and damn near obscene in how goddamn good it is. When you compare this one, the 1946 Cocteau joint -- are you happy now, geeks? -- and the 2017 version, what you'll get is one that's more fun, one that's more dreamy, and one that's more, well, uh, blah.

Holy cats, does this sucker move! Maybe it doesn't feel that fast, but after watching the slower current version, the '91 film feels like you're riding shotgun in one of Dominic Toretto's muscle cars and he just unleashed some NOS. It gets down to the nitty gritty -- the brass tacks, as it were -- and brings you up to speed in a couple minutes by telling you about the whole backstory between the Beast and the Old Lady; how he turned down her request for shelter, and how she cursed him and gave him a rose as a kind of countdown in which he'd have to find a woman who will love him for who he is before all the petals fall, otherwise he's cursed forever.

We get our introduction to Belle which is similar to the live action version only this one is better; it's a lot more energetic, a lot more entertaining, and Paige O'Hara is a far more talented singer than Emma Watson, who has a nice voice but is no Paige O'Hara. I turned on the subtitles and started singing along to the songs in this version, it was so infectious! My neighbor started shouting at me to keep it down but then I stepped out with the Sig Sauer P320 and continued singing while waving my piece around like a conductor's baton, and that bitch went back inside to watch the rest of "America's Got Talent" faster than you can say "justifiable homicide".

Not only is Paige O'Hara a better singer, everybody's a better singer in this version, like Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, and my man, muthafuckin' Walk Proud himself, Robby Muthafuckin' Benson as the Beast. I know, he was the bomb in City Limits, but you gotta see my Semitic brother Robby B play a Chicano gang member in Walk Proud. As far as I'm concerned, he's got a permanent invitation to my Sunday afternoon carne asada backyard cookouts.

This Belle is a better Belle, that's what I think. She just comes off more likable, while Watson carries too much of that snotty English girl vibe, which to be fair is probably closer to fitting the character of a French village girl than some All American type like O'Hara's portrayal, but hey, this is merely my opinion. I like nice people or at least people who exude the illusion of being nice and 1991 Belle does a better job of that. I mean, look at how everybody seems to like her, despite being a weirdo bookworm.

In this version, Gaston comes off more -- ahem -- cartoonish, like some big dumb oaf who thinks he's the shit, and he doesn't seem particularly threatening, but that's why his heel turn later on is far more effective than in the 2017 film. You look at the live action Gaston and you don't have to had already seen the '91 movie to know this guy is trouble, you just have to look at this guy's face to know you don't say No to him. Or you just had to have seen Fast & Furious 6.

There's more humor in this, compared to the more recent film, which does feature the occasional gag but they all stand out like studio-mandated sore thumbs, whereas the older film does a better job segueing between the moments of levity and the stronger emotional scenes.  Plus, the jokes are better here, they hold up. The live action version has jokes but they already feel old seconds after they play out.

Look, I'm not bashing the newer film, I think it's fine. But watching the older film immediately after, reminded me how much more lovely and magical it is in comparison. Your mileage may vary, but I feel this one goes a lot farther in a lot less time.

By the way, if you're gonna watch the animated film, may I suggest you watch the Special Edition cut? After watching the movie, I looked at the accompanying special features and saw the Special Edition was one of the viewing options. Still under the film's spell, I ended up watching it again for the first time and I found out that in addition to fixing some continuity issues and mistakes here and there, this cut also includes an extra musical number, adding some welcome character detail to the Beast's cursed servants. This isn't a George Lucas kind of Special Edition, it's more like what Ridley Scott did when he released the Final Cut of Blade Runner, and I think it's the one to check out -- but it's good times with either cut, either way.

Both films will appeal to most people; if you're a comic book nerd, you can pretend that the castle in the film represents your house and that the rose the Beast keeps protected under glass is like your most prized issue of Spider-Man, that way when the scene comes up when Beast loses his shit over Belle fucking with it, you can nod your head and be like "I know what that's like".

I figure ugly people can also enjoy watching a beautiful woman learn to love this hideous smelly hairy fuck for the good person he supposedly is on the inside. And if you're half a fuckin' furry, I already know you love this movie. You probably dress up like the Beast all the time or have your significant other dress like the Beast before you guys get it on -- doggy style, of course. AWOOOO!

In conclusion, grow some fucking balls, Easy.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Two weeks late and a dollar short









My favorite time of year has begun. This is also my least favorite time of year because it's when I begin to live my own personal version of every killer virus movie ever made as everybody around me gets Down With the Sickness. Out comes the hand sanitizer and down goes the Emergen-C powdered vitamin drinks and there's me standing back from people from even greater distances than usual, as they tell me why they didn't bother getting a flu shot because it's only, like, two percent effective from this year's model of influenza. Then they cough and sniffle while I try to keep my cool, when all I really want to do is point at them while screeching a la Donald Sutherland at the end of 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (Spoilers.)

I'm forced to walk a tightrope of good health that puts me at risk of missing out on the fun stuff if I get sick -- stuff like Camp Frida, an all-night horror movie marathon being held at The Frida Cinema located in the city of Santa Ana. But thankfully, I was able to keep the evil viruses away long enough to attend on the rather crisp evening of October 7th.

Camp Frida is a summer camp-themed 12-hour marathon of horror films scheduled to run from 8pm to 8am, hosted by an 80s-era camp counselor named Aly; I did not attend the previous year but my friend Cathie did and she covered the inaugural event on her blog -- I highly recommend that you give it a read.

I arrived just in time as the theater opened its doors and started letting the people in line inside, where we were greeted to a lobby that was done up with fog, cobwebs, and various other spooky decorations. My favorite was a large black curtain or shroud or blanket, whatever it was, it was covering a large part of a wall and there was a sign that read something like "Look under here if you want to see a dead body"; I watched as someone began to lift the curtain when all of a sudden a zombie hand popped out and swiped towards the victim's leg causing her and her friends to scream and/or jump while I stood by looking all cool and stoic because I'm better than that and thank god I was wearing dark pants because then nobody could tell I had just pissed them.

There were also many cupcakes being offered to us, and there was nothing scary about that unless you're diabetic; we had a choice of Camp Frida S'mores or Deep Red Velvet Braaaaains. I went with neither for the same reason I didn't get snacks or bring a blanket and pillow or come dressed in ultra comfy pajamas. In my experience with marathons, comfort -- too much comfort, in both what you wear and what you eat -- is the enemy. That goes double for the popcorn and soft drinks available at the snack bar, and triple for the blood bag cocktails they were also serving at said snack bar.

This was my second time at the Frida; it's a nice non-profit two-screen cinema that screens a good variety of films both classic and current. For Camp Frida, the auditorium on the left was called "The Graveyard" and the one on the right was called the "Main Lodge". After being hand stamped, we were told to go to the Graveyard first, which had a spooky cemetery setup under the screen along with a tent. Waiting for us was a photographer who was taking pics of each of the attendees, who were then told to go to the Main Lodge.

A little before 9pm, the evening finally got under way with a little scene being performed on stage for us as a group of young campers gathered around the fake campfire and told a scary tale about the legend of camp counselor Aly, who had hosted the previous Camp Frida and met her unfortunate fate at the hands of Jason Voorhees. One of the kids pulled out her trusty Necronomicon and read from it, and so we didn't have to wait long for the sudden appearance of the now undead Zombie Counselor Aly as she arrived, who despite obviously having been dead for a while, had not lost any attitudinal spark in her delivery. She told us that even though she was a zombie now, she was still a vegan, and so we shouldn't be too worried about her feasting on us -- but that she wasn't above murdering anybody who didn't behave either.




First up on the menu was the 1996 film From Dusk Till Dawn, written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez. This is the one where Tarantino and George Clooney play brothers -- so you know this is a movie -- who are on the lam and kidnap a family in order to hijack their RV so they can get across the Texas/Mexico border. Once they're on the other side, they stop at the mother of all dirty biker & trucker bars called the Titty Twister, and that's when things go from crime movie to vampire movie.

This was my third time seeing it on the big screen -- the first was during its original release in 1996 and the second was at the New Beverly Cinema in 2015 -- and this was the best crowd yet, with lots of laughs and cheers throughout. I think a big part of it was that the sold out event made for a packed house full of people who were already well into their blood bag cocktails. My only real complaint was that there were quite a few piece of shit cocksucking asshole scumbag douchebag fucks who started recording video and/or snapping photos with their phone -- one award winner even used the goddamn flash on the camera!

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that a couple scenes early on with Tarantino's rapey Richie Gecko felt a bit more uncomfortable to watch this time. I'm guessing it might have had something to do with the fact that mere hours earlier, a rapey piece of shit had been confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. That might've painted an unfortunate shade to some of the proceedings.

But at least I wasn't in full pearl-clutching mode, like the guy I stood next to outside the theater while getting some fresh air between films. I overheard him telling his friend something like "I forgot how racist and misogynistic it was...it was just so gleeful." As far as the racist part, I can only say speaking as a filthy spic that I didn't find anything particularly racist about the movie. I mean, yeah, they're dealing with Mexican vampires in the movie, but I don't know, was it the language being used by Seth and Richie Gecko that bugged him? Well, their characters aren't exactly choir boys. And plus it helps that I just assume everybody talks like that in real life anyway, even the pansy liberals, they just do it behind my back -- and that's all I ask, is to keep your secret hatred of my people behind closed doors. Save it for your weekly poker game in the garage, you bitter honky fucks.

As far as the misogynistic claims, I can't really speak to that because I'm a misogynist. But I have a legitimate reason to hate women -- they won't have sex with me.





I'm happy to report that between films a gentleman from the Frida whose name I can't remember came out to kindly tell people to cut it the fuck out with the goddamn cameras and to also calm down with the conversations while the movie is playing or else he would feed them to Zombie Counselor Aly, even though she's vegan.

A few minutes later, Zombie Counselor Aly returned with one of the young campers, Ethan, who was now a zombie himself. He seemed pretty bummed out because being undead at 16 years of age meant that he would forever be in puberty. Aly claimed to have only killed him but didn't snack on him, instead having let other zombies take a bite out of him. Aly then told us that they were trying something new for this year's marathon based on something they did last year; at one point, both the Main Lodge and Graveyard were showing a different movie and audience members were able to choose which one they wanted to see. It went so well, they decided to do that for this year's marathon, only this time instead of one movie, they would give the audience a choice for the next four films.

After a guessing game where audience members were given an on-screen clue as to what the next set of films would be, the choice was revealed: those who wanted to see the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King's Pet Sematary could stay in the Main Lodge while those who wanted to see the 2004 rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead would have to go to the Graveyard. I went with Shaun because I had already seen Pet Sematary in the past and have even rambled about it in a past blog entry, and to be honest I'm not a fan of the movie. So I went with the Edgar Wright-directed film which I had only seen once during its theatrical release.

Shaun of the Dead is the one about the dude who's pushing 30 and is kinda stuck in that limbo between growing up and enjoying your goddamn life. I mean, I kinda get it; it's that choice between hanging out with your friends and getting drunk and playing video games OR having a girlfriend and spending a whole day at fuckin' Ikea or something and trying not to fall asleep as she gets all excited about a stupid table. It's a table! I don't give a fuck about it aside from Can It Hold My Keys, My Remote Controls, and My Dinner? If it can, then cool, let's buy the fuckin' thing.

That's the conundrum that Shaun, played by Simon Pegg, is going through -- and to be honest, it's pretty clear that he's better off becoming a fuckin' responsible adult and living life with his special lady friend Liz. At least that's how I see it. I mean, his friend Ed has his moments but goddamn he can be a real fuckin' style-cramper, man. He means well but, I don't know. I don't have friends like Ed and I'm glad I don't, to be real with you. Maybe it's because in reality, I'm closer to someone like Peter Serafinowicz's character in the movie, especially in that scene where Shaun and Ed are blasting that goddamn Electro in the middle of the night and out comes Peter's character losing his shit about how he's trying to get some goddamn sleep because he has work in the morning. That's pretty much me everyday with this whole goddamn world.

And come on, Shaun, you had one job: make the reservations at the place that does all the fish. See what being friends with Ed does to you?

Anyway, it's all very interesting, and it almost makes you forget that this is a zombie movie, and it almost kinda bummed me out when it got to that point because I would've been fine with a movie just about Shaun, Ed, and Liz that has nothing to do with the undead. But I was just as fine with what did happen, because once zombies come into play it becomes a most amusing tale about how to deal with these goddamn things and live through the day while trying to get from point A to point B. What really makes the film is all the details, though. I mean, not just visual setups and payoffs and quick little bits that are easily missed the first time because they go so fast -- I mean, just all of the dialogue is a pleasure to listen to but not in a snappy comeback sort-of-way, it's all very funny and there are just as many setups and payoffs in the things that they say.

That's why I would've been cool with a non-zombie version of this movie, because the characters are so well-written and lived in. And as funny as it is, it also manages to have a serious moment or two -- and it all blends together well, it never feels forced or tone deaf. I found myself actually caring about what happens to these people, although maybe not so much that douchebag David. Fuck that guy. It's a good zombie movie from the Romero school of the undead -- it gives you the goods while also being About Something, which I'm choosing to see Shaun as being about having to grow the fuck up and move on to the next stage of your life. Because as much as it pains me to say this, we can't be kids forever, man. But you can still have fun, so long that you can keep your indulgences on a leash and visit them once in a while.

Edgar Wright's direction has pretty much always been this way, hasn't it? I forgot that he was already doing things like long takes and scenes synchronized to songs in this film, way before Baby Driver. It's good stuff and the dude's already had cinema running through his veins.





After another break, I went back to the Main Lodge where another visual guessing game was played; the next choice of films turned out to be either stay and watch the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead or go back to the Graveyard to watch the 2010 film Insidious. I had never seen the latter and had been meaning to see it, and so eight years after its release, I finally did.

Insidious is a tale about a well-moisturized married couple living in an old grandmother of a house with their two or three children -- I say two or three because I swear they had another kid and somewhere along the way that motherfucker just disappeared not unlike Chuck Cunningham on the television series "Happy Days".

What I know for sure is that there are at least two kids; one is a little boy and the other is a fuckin' baby who never shuts the fuck up with her goddamn crying. I don't know how you parents do it, or did it; I don't know how you are able to take in the sound of that horrific crying without wanting to tear the nearest human being limb from limb. But the mom in this movie, played by Rose Byrne, seems to be used to it. The father, played by Patrick Wilson, has an easier way to deal with it: he leaves for work and stays out late so he doesn't have to hear that shit.

The son, he deals with it even better than the others -- he falls into a coma.

In addition to having a comatose child, this family has to deal with lots of spooky haunted house type of stuff going on in their grandma house. It's all very effective because I jumped quite a bit every time some scary red faced demon thing popped up, along with the accompanying music sting. It wasn't so much the idea of the house being possessed that got to me, no, I was afraid because every time a potential scare scene was coming up, it meant that the wife would scream, which would cause that goddamn baby to cry again and I don't go to the goddamn movies to hear babies cry. If I wanted to hear babies cry, I'd be banging chicks without a condom and then wait nine months.

Insidious was director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell's return to low budget independent filmmaking following the failure of their big studio fright flick Dead Silence back in 2007; I haven't seen that movie but I did see Saw. I mean, I saw Saw. I mean -- OK, you know that movie Saw? That was their first film and I watched it back in 2005 and I liked it. I liked Insidious even more. It has more of a classical horror film style compared to the MTV flashiness occasionally exhibited in their debut, and it manages to display that Wan and Whannell have the ability to supply the scares without having to get all NC-17 on us (this film is PG-13).

Halfway through the film, Insidious turns into the cinematic equivalent of Wan and Whannell asking the audience "Hey, did you ever see Poltergeist? Me too! Wasn't it awesome?!" but that's OK because they ask that question in an entertaining manner. It's fun to watch Lin Shaye enter the film as the resident paranormal expert who is gonna Get Shit Done. Her underlings, played by Whannell and some other dude, are a little too goofy for my taste but at least they don't raid the fridge like their equivalent characters in Poltergeist. In fact, one of them shows up having brought a Hot Pocket. That to me shows a person who is prepared and considerate.





The next guessing game revealed the choice of either Friday the 13th Part III in 3D or Beetlejuice. As much as I love me some Winona Ryder, I had already seen Beetlejuice on the big screen twice, but have seen Jason Voorhees in 3D zero -- so I stayed at the Main Lodge and put on a pair of 3D glasses handed to me by one of the volunteers.

I guess this is as good a time as any to bring up the format of the films we watched that evening; they were all digital, which is not a dealbreaker for me. These marathons are more about staying up all night watching movies and less about the privilege of watching them in 35mm. Although that would be nice too.

I bring this up because I'm not 100-percent sure whether what we watched of Friday the 13th Part III was a DCP or Blu-ray; it looked fine but I had my suspicions. I don't know what a 35mm print of this film is supposed to look like in 3D but we watched this one with the old school red and blue anaglyph glasses, so we weren't getting modern quality three dimensions with full color, but like I said it was watchable. The color was kinda whack and there was occasional "ghosting" where some of the image would split into a slightly visible double, but if I'm grading it on the 3D scale where you have Captain EO on top and the Nintendo game "Rad Racer" at the bottom, this film would reside right in the middle.

As for the film itself, it's pretty important to the series because in addition to being the one in 3D, it also introduces the hockey mask to Jason's ensemble and gives us the theme song that makes me want to break out the cardboard and go Boogaloo Shrimp on all you motherfuckers. It's also one of the better films in the Jason saga, which isn't to say it's one of the more intricately plotted sequels -- far from it, it's actually pretty simple even for a Friday the 13th film. But it's the simplicity that makes for the film's strength: people show up, drink, do drugs, have sex, then get killed by Jason. After a time-padding prologue that replays the climax of Friday the 13th Part II, the film gives us a good pace in between the kills so that we never get bored. Or at least I never got bored, I can't speak for the rest of you jokers.

In this film, a girl named Chris and her friends go up to her family's cabin in the woods where she had previously survived an attack by Jason -- because that's exactly what traumatized victims of violent attacks should do, I guess, return to the scene of the crime as way to own that shit? I don't know. But what becomes bad news for these characters becomes good news for the audience because that means Jason gets to murder these morons for our entertainment.

I can't say I was gonna miss most of these victims; early on, there's a dude named Harold who owns a general store along with his wife and a bodega rabbit, and this piece of work has a habit of eating everything on the shelves. It's disgusting, not just the fact that he'll take a dirty backwashed swig of Sunny D and then put it back on the shelf for some unsuspecting customer to purchase, but the fact that he eats more like a stoner than the actual stoners in the film -- stoners who look about ten years older than everybody else, by the way. So yeah, Harold eats peanuts, donuts, the aforementioned Sunny Delight, fish food, and god knows what else. So it's no surprise that we're then treated to the sights and sounds of him having a production session on the toilet.

I don't know why we had to hear that in addition to seeing it -- and I don't know why we get two separate scenes of characters taking a shit in this film, and I *really* don't know why both of these dudes get up and put their pants back on without wiping their asses. I mean, OK, fine, they heard a strange noise and they want to go check on it. But I'm telling you, if I'm in the middle of taking a dump and suddenly my firstborn starts screaming for help, I'm sorry, I have to clean house at least a little bit because going back out onto the field to make a play -- and you bet your unwiped ass I'm washing my hands too, and not just a quick once-over, I'm singing Happy Birthday twice before drying them.

This also might be the first Friday the 13th film that introduces raza into the cast -- poor pretty Vera Sanchez, and I don't just mean "poor" as in her unfortunate fate in the film as one of Jason's kills (Spoilers). I mean, she's financially poor and she's rocking food stamps, because of course you have to have the wetback on welfare. You find this out during a scene in a store, where she's told by the cashier that they don't take food stamps, even though Vera never mentions food stamps, she was just reaching into her shirt pocket.

OK fine, in this case, the cashier assumed correctly, but that still ain't right. That would be like me assuming that the Asian lady driving in my opposite direction is going to make a sudden left turn in front of me without signaling. Just because every single Asian driver that I've come across in my life couldn't drive for shit, I can't assume that the next one is going to drive like shit as well. It's wrong to think that way.

Anyway, Vera is saved by her fellow camper Shelly, who according to the Friday the 13th Wiki has the last name of Finkelstein. Bucking the trend of his heritage, Shelly eagerly gives Vera some of his money so she can pay for the groceries. Although when you consider that Shelly has been dreaming of dipping his kishka into her mole, maybe he wasn't really giving the money away so much as he was paying for something he hoped to get in return.

Eh, I kid those two because I liked those two. I also liked the character of Debbie, because she was played by Tracie Savage; those who grew up in the L.A. area in the 90s might remember her as a reporter for KNBC-TV Los Angeles, because that's what I knew her from and it's funny how long it took me to make the connection that the attractive anchorwoman on the news was the same hot chick from this movie. After working on Friday the 13th Part III, Savage retired from acting and went on to have a successful career in journalism, where her previous experience with murderous slasher Jason Voorhees served her well when she covered the O.J. Simpson trial.

At one point, Savage herself was called to the witness stand at the trial, where she was asked to give up the identities of her confidential sources regarding some incorrect information about O.J.'s bloody socks. She refused to give up her sources, even though Judge Lance Ito had threatened her with jail time if she didn't cooperate. But what Judge Ito got instead was confirmation that Tracie Savage would rather rot in jail than be a fuckin' rat, because she sure as hell ain't no stoolie. Jail? Fuck jail! What can jail do to her that fuckin' Jason Voorhees didn't already do?!

Today, Miss Savage teaches journalism in college, where I'm sure among the many things her students learn are the two most important things in life: Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.






Up until this point, the guessing games were hosted by Zombie Counselor Aly. But in the last round when it was revealed that a Jason movie was among the choices, she got upset because Jason was the reason she was now a zombie, having killed her during the last Camp Frida. Then the real Jason Voorhees showed up at the theater and followed after her as she ran away. After the film, when I walked back into the Main Lodge for the next guessing game, I did not see Zombie Counselor Aly but instead there was a bedsheet-clad ghost with a male voice. I asked the guy next to me who that was supposed to be and he said it was supposed to be the ghost of Zombie Counselor Aly, having been killed again by Jason. He was chuckling the entire time and he reeked of the blood bag cocktails, so I can't be too sure if he was telling me the truth or just having me on. But that is what I was told.

Anyway, for the final choice of films we were given either Blade II or 30 Days of Night. I've always wanted to see 30 Days of Night and so it was back to the Graveyard for me.

This adaptation of Steve Niles' graphic novel of the same name takes place in Barrow, Alaska where an extended month-long period of night is about to fall. For those who are night people, this sounds like a pretty cool time, but unfortunately vampires are also night people and they're about to swoop in on this little sad town and have themselves a good ol' time all month long with the bitin' and the chompin' and the drinking of the blood.

The town sheriff is played by Josh Hartnett, who based on his obvious youth must've graduated from the same police academy that Ben Affleck's sheriff character from Phantoms attended. I'm not saying that there aren't really young sheriffs out there in real life, but it's hard for me to buy dudes in their 20s walking around these small towns acting like grizzled seen-it-all types. But I'm gonna give Hartnett a little bit of slack because maybe the pickings were slim as far qualified police officers who wanted to move up to the northernmost city of the United States. Nobody wanted to go up there, they wanted to patrol in the contiguous United States, baby. So maybe the best they could do was hire some kid fresh out of the academy who was willing to move out to the goddamn tundra if that's what it took to move up the ranks.

I don't know if you're familiar with Barrow, Alaska, but based on what I saw and read about the place, it's super cold and barren and there's not much to do there as far as having fun. It's also a dry town, where you're only allowed to drink at a bar -- which is bullshit for a solo drinker like me who prefers to stay home when it comes to getting fucked up. I mean, I'm not gonna get drunk alone in a bar and have the paranoia set in every time I have to stumble my way to the commode to take a fuckin' piss while some assholes in a booth chuckle at my drunk ass, fuck that shit. It's better to get drunk while home alone, that way no one laughs at me if I fall and crack my head on the nightstand and bleed out like William Holden. I deserve a little dignity.

So yeah, vampires. They're led by Danny Huston and I'm guessing this film takes place in the Blade universe because they all look like nouveau riche Eurotrash who came out of some ultra elite VIP only nightclub at 2 in the morning and are looking for a place to eat -- which in the case of this film is the town of Barrow, Alaska. They swoop in and start with the feeding and it's very impressive and scary as fuck. There's a great sequence where they're attacking everybody in town and it employs overhead tracking shots of the carnage that look like they could've been done with drones but I'm not too sure about that, but whatever the case the filmmakers really give us an unforgettable mini-apocalypse to "enjoy".

It's a very well made film with style to spare; once night falls, the film takes on a nearly monochromatic look as nearly everything is dominated by the black of the night or the blueish white of the snow, punctuated by crimson red blood or yellow-orange flames. It brought to mind the 1954 film Track of the Cat, starring Robert Mitchum, another snowbound film with a similar visual color scheme.

Early on, I was sure I was watching a slept-on masterpiece. "Why don't more people talk about this movie?" I thought to myself. The chilly setting, the shocking sudden moments of gore, and an overwhelming bleak sense of doom reminded me of John Carpenter's The Thing -- had that film been randomly hacked down by about forty-five minutes. And there's the rub; the more 30 Days of Night continued, the more disjointed it felt, as if it were missing important scenes -- and maybe it was, maybe the studio forced the filmmakers to cut stuff out so they can fit in more showings at the local cineplex. Because what I saw felt like it could've used a lot more meat on the bones, particularly the scenes involving the survivors of the initial attack as they wait out the rest of the month in an attic. I never got to know the supporting characters well enough -- so as a result, I didn't really give that much of a shit if anything happened to them.

These vampires speak another language and I thought it was interesting that the film didn't have subtitles, or at least that's what I thought until a random subtitle popped up here and there. It happened twice in the film and I even remember the lines: "The heads must be separated from the bodies" and "We cannot give them reason to suspect".

I thought that was a strange choice by the filmmakers and it didn't feel right to me, so the following day, I streamed the film from Starz On Demand -- and it turns out that all the vampire dialogue is subtitled! Oh my God, is it subtitled. These vamps are subtitled up the wazoo, I gotta read subtitles three times a day, I got fucking subtitles coming out of my fucking ears, mang.

Anyway, the film started out as Great but eventually downgraded to Good Enough. I don't know why the digital print at the Frida held out on us with those subtitles, but I wonder how many first timers in the audience were as confused as I was, and like me, how many of them would've had a higher opinion of the movie had the subtitles actually shown up for work that night.






Everybody gathered at the Main Lodge to watch the final film of the marathon: the 1982 Steven Spielberg production of Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper.

That's right, motherfucker -- directed by Tobe Hooper. The Frida volunteer who introduced the film made sure to let his movie douche flag fly by loudly stating that it was directed by Steven Spielberg and I held back on grabbing this motherfucker and showing him the life of the mind because I must remain pure. But I don't get these people who seem to get giddy when spouting off their garbage that somehow Tobe Hooper was sitting in a corner on the set tripping out on mushrooms and playing Atari the whole time while Spielberg really directed the entire thing.

I harbor no delusions of Poltergeist being purely a Tobe Hooper film, but I feel it was indeed a collaboration between him and Spielberg, with Spielberg having the final creative say. The final product looks, sounds, and feels every bit as much a Tobe Hooper joint as it does a Spielberg flick. Maybe Hooper didn't deal with the actors as much and maybe he wasn't involved in the post-production process after turning in his cut of the film, but there's still enough here visually for me to point out similar types of shot compositions and lighting set-ups and camera movements in his other films -- not to mention a kind of coked-up hysteria that occasionally rears its long-haired sweaty-toothed head in all of his films. That in particular is a Tobe Hooper specialty.

So give the man his due.

Anyway, I'm sure most of you have seen this one or know about -- and if you haven't seen it but have seen the remake, I'm not gonna judge you but I'm going to politely yet firmly suggest that you remedy that shit most ricky-tick or I'm gonna have to show you the life of the mind.

As I mentioned earlier, the film Insidious is mostly running plays from Poltergeist's playbook. Both are about suburban families dealing with spooky stuff happening in their nice house, and eventually both families have to deal with the spooky stuff snatching one of their kids. In the case of Insidious, it's the kid's consciousness that is taken, and in the case of Poltergeist, the supernatural forces literally take the child -- body and soul -- to the other side. And in both movies, the parents employ the help of paranormal investigators who try their best before finally bringing in the big guns: an older woman with an extraordinary ability to make contact with the otherworldly.

Insidious does a pretty good job at remaking Poltergeist -- even better than the actual remake, I've heard -- but there's no beating the original, and it still holds up as a top notch haunted rollercoaster of a cinematic experience. You want quiet, you got quiet. You want loud, you get loud. You want a family that you actually like and care for, but most important of all, believe as real human beings? Poltergeist 1982, baby.

Part of why I buy these people as a real family is because there's enough here -- the way the house looks, the way they're dressed, even the kind of cereal they eat -- to remind me of my childhood in the 1980s. I don't remember my parents ever smoking a joint in their bedroom like Coach and JoBeth Williams do here, but otherwise, this all feels familiar. Anyway, it's one of the movies that brings up the most nostalgia in me.

Something that I'm not nostalgic for is anyone who thinks they can come to my house and eat whatever they want; I'm referring to that one scene where visiting paranormal investigator Marty looks at himself in the mirror and...well, you know (or don't know, which is why I don't want to spoil it). When talking about Poltergeist, people often bring up that scene as one that genuinely disturbed them, but I was more bothered by what preceded it; so Marty and his partner are staying over at the Freeling family house to record evidence of paranormal activity, and late at night Marty decides to raid the fridge for a snack. He takes out a leftover chicken drumstick, and that I can understand.

But then he pulls out a big raw steak from the fridge, and I'm like Wait a Minute, and then he puts a pan on the stove, and now I'm like WAIT A GODDAMN MINUTE.

The fucking balls on this guy!

Steak is, has been, and always will be expensive. It's one thing to jack some cheaper stuff from someone else's fridge, but a goddamn steak?! I didn't see him ask for permission, or maybe that part was in Tobe Hooper's original cut of the movie, I don't know. Then he places that steak on the kitchen counter with nothing underneath it -- no cutting board, plate, foil, paper towel, Fangoria magazine -- just plop that raw bloody steak anywhere, chief. And don't beat yourself up about not washing your hands at all during this.

He never gets around to cooking that steak. I bet you he didn't even bother to put it back in the fridge either. Next time, bring a Hot Pocket, you inconsiderate fuck.





It was a little before 9 in the morning when the marathon ended. After the final film, the campers all gave a big round of applause to the volunteers and the projectionist, and then we all got up on stage together to pose for a picture.


Following the picture, we all stepped out into the lobby where we were greeted by the sounds of Semisonic's "Closing Time" and treated to one more cupcake for the road. We were also given a Camp Frida badge/lanyard, featuring the late Counselor Aly's picture; the badge also served as a voucher good for one free drink at the Frida, but I figure I'm just gonna hold onto it because I'm sentimental like that.

I then went down the block to Eat Chow for my post-marathon breakfast; I had the "A.M. Burger" that consisted of two eggs, crispy onions, cheddar cheese, hollandaise sauce, applewood smoked bacon, chipotle aioli, tomato, and avocado, served between two brioche buns. I recommend that you get one and I highly recommend that you ask for extra napkins.








Sunday, September 30, 2018

The disappointed optimist






I have friends and coworkers who will bring up a movie and then tell me what Rotten Tomatoes has given it, as if I care. I'm far too nice to tell them that I don't give two shakes of a lamb's tail what Rotten Tomatoes has to say about a movie I want to watch. I have no use for that stupid critical barometer because I want to know as little as possible about a movie -- aside from what I already know that got me interested in the first place.

Also, I really don't care what other people think about a new movie that I want to see. At most, I'll search out a couple reviews from critics I respect, but it'll be after I see the movie. So I don't waste my time with Rotten Tomatoes. Get out of my face with that garbage.

So I was on the Rotten Tomatoes website one day when I noticed a feature there called Five Favorite Films where whoever was promoting a movie on the site would give his or her list of, yup, you guessed it, their five favorite films. They had Amy Adams there promoting a film, and of the very few people in Hollywood that I can stand, number one with a polite bullet on that short list is the lovely and talented actress known here as The Adorable Amy Adams. Regular readers of the blog have known about my admiration of Ms. Adams for years, and new listeners of this podcast have known about it as of about five seconds ago.

As for her five favorite films, The Adorable Amy Adams gave the following: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Vertigo, The Shawshank Redemption, and the 1998 family film Paulie directed by John Roberts. 




In the interview, Adams admitted that Paulie stood out like a sore thumb on that list but she wanted to be honest and include a film that she's watched many times. She also brought up Paulie in another more recent interview on Leonard Maltin's podcast "Maltin on Movies"; in that interview, both Maltin and his co-host Jessie Maltin gave Ms. Adams plenty of praise for her performances in her new films Arrival and Nocturnal Animals and they were sure Oscar was going to finally -- finally! -- give her her long overdue gold, Best Actress-style. Which of course, did not happen because Emma Stone won that year for La La Land.

But I don't blame Emma Stone; she did a great job and I guess all pale redheads look the same to the racist Oscars. No, I blame the Academy for instead giving Our Amy's nomination slot to the much-ignored Meryl Streep, finally giving that criminally underrated starlet some much-needed awards attention for some movie called Florence Foster Jenkins about an old lady who can't sing and it's funny funny funny oh ho ho she can't sing! It's com-e-dy!

While I had already seen the other films she mentioned on the list, I hadn't seen Paulie, and so I put it on my watchlist along with the thousand other movies I'm sure I'll get around to as soon as I win the lottery and then I can just stay home all day & night catching up to these movies and not have to worry about how I'm going to pay my rent.

Oh, it would be beautiful too, I would just sit there and watch movies and eat and watch movies and eat and occasionally use the bathroom and if there's company coming over, I guess I could take a shower. Then I can become one of those fat hogs who are too big to leave the house, then my body will give and I'll die and my fat 800-pound corpse will be somebody else's problem. Ha ha ha, kiss my fat dead ass, you skinny necrophiliacs -- and don't forget, I want to be buried, so good luck recruiting six pallbearers with both the strength and disregard for the concept of hernias.

So I was reminded to watch Paulie when I saw my friend Cathie mention it on her Twitter timeline, and so I tossed away the movie I had intended to watch that night -- take a hike, The Rules of the Game -- and here we are.

The film begins with Tony Shalhoub as Misha, a Russian immigrant in the United States, beginning his new job as a night janitor at the kind of research laboratory where animals of all species are kept in cages that I'm sure in no way affects their well-being and therefore ensures that any research done to them is 100-percent accurate. I'm just saying, if you want to know what shoving an electric prod up a monkey's ass will do to the monkey for the purposes of research, maybe you want to get a monkey who's been living a comfortable life in something remotely resembling the monkey's natural environment.

Because if you take a monkey that's been living in a small cage in a strange room and shove an electric prod up its ass, I'm guessing at that point the monkey has already given up on life and is all like "eh, my life has been shit ever since they took me away from my family in the jungle, my confusion and fear of this new place has faded, and now I'm just resigned to this hellish existence of having different shampoos applied to my fur and being injected with various experimental vaccines until I'm embraced by sweet, sweet death and the rest of my eternity is in a black void because animals don't get to go to Heaven or Hell because apparently only humans have souls. What's another twelve inches up my ass?"

No monkeys get electric-prodded up the ass in this film, by the way. I'm just saying. And for the record, animals do have souls and they all go to Heaven. All of them. They're too pure to ever end up in Hell. Fight me on this and I'll make it so that you find out personally whether you're going to Heaven or Hell.

Anyway, a couple of nights into the job, Misha is by himself and he's busy Good Will Hunting the floors when he hears somebody singing from the basement. He goes downstairs to this dark dungeon and finds out that the singing is coming from a conure (or parakeet or parrot, if you want to be that way) who is all by himself in a cage that is chained with a padlock, as if it were resided by some kind of psycho Hannibal Lecter of birds.

Soon he finds out why the caged bird sings -- courtesy of the bird himself, whose name is Paulie and he not only sings but he can talk, and I don't mean the standard bird talk where they're just mimicking what they hear, this bird is capable of having conversations and can even be a real smartass at times, or maybe that's just a side effect of having Jay Mohr provide Paulie's voice.

As Paulie proceeds to tell Misha his story, the film flashes back to when he was born and given to a little girl named Marie, played by Hallie Eisenberg, best known for a series of Pepsi commercials that ran in the late 90s. Everything is great between Marie and Paulie; they enjoy each other's company and Paulie even helps her with her stutter as they both teach each other words and how to pronounce them.

The film never explains why Paulie has the gift of speech, or if they did, I missed it. He just can. The best I can come up with is that the power of pure unadulterated love can make the miraculous happen. Yeah, sure, whatever. Tell that to Nadia Sandoval. I loved her so much, that if you were to harness the positive energy I gave, you'd be able to power rockets with it -- and yet all the e-mails and the letters and the songs in the world couldn't convince her that I was the one. I even held up a boombox in front of her house like my man John Cusack in Say Anything but then a Chinese dude came out and he told me that not only did she move to Paris five years ago, but she also makes a six-figure salary and is married and has two kids and there's no way I can compete with that, not unless I get a big raise at El Pollo Loco or Taco Bell or whatever taco truck I'm working at, like, right now.

I told him I couldn't get a raise and that not only was that statement about me working in a Mexican fast food establishment racist, it was also the truth. Then I asked him if he wanted to go out for coffee and he told me that he was gay but not desperate. Or at least that's what I think he said, I mean, he had both the Chinese accent and a homosexual lisp, so excuse me for not having the best ear in the world to be able decipher Gaysian.

Speaking of speaking, I told you that Paulie not only talks, but he can carry a tune. He and Marie even share a song together, the Randy Newman classic "Marie". If you've never heard it, it's a beautifully depressing tune about some neglectful asshole who doesn't have the balls to express his deepest heartfelt emotions to the woman he loves unless he drinks enough liquid courage to do so.





What this has to do with the love between a girl and her bird, I don't know. I never saw Paulie sip on bird-booze from a bird-flask nor did he ever ignore her. If anything, he couldn't let her out of his sight, he loved her so much.

That leaves another disturbing possibility when you consider that the song was taught to Marie by her mother. So maybe the mom's a drunk, like one of those secret boozer housewives that used to run rampant back in the day, because there was only so much one can do to keep from going mad staying home all day because they hadn't yet invented the Internet or youth soccer organizations. There's only so many dishes you can wash, and there's only so many loads of laundry to launder, and there's only so many pot roasts to make. Soon you're gonna want more than just your common everyday Benzos to help you deal, you're gonna want to wash those down with some white wine. And then some more white wine.

Eventually nothing matters in your numbed state anymore except for your little girl Marie. But even then, you know she's not gonna stay little forever. Marie will eventually grow up. And then what? I'll tell you then what -- you keep drinking and you keep pilling, because the more you do, the easier it'll be to push the thought of the inevitable to a far off foggy place in the back of your mind.

Or maybe they just sing the song because the girl's name is Marie.

We soon find out that mom, Marie, and even Paulie have totally legitimate reasons to hit the bottle; one day, the father comes home and that's when we find out that we have a goddamn Great Santini on our hands with this military motherfucker. Marie goes up to him and this piece of shit actually tells her to shake hands with him first, then eventually they'll work up to kisses later. That left me immediately asking two questions: What the fuck? and Why the fuck?

Dad apparently was gone for a long time, because upon his return he's upset that Marie still stutters. He can't handle that, and after Mom puts Marie to bed, she then has to go downstairs and catch an ear-beating from him about Marie's uncured speech impediment, as if that was an issue he set his wife to fix while he was out killing commies for his country. Poor Marie might have a stutter, but she's not deaf, she has to hear all of this and the poor girl can only escape by dressing Paulie up as her fairy godmother and hoping he/she will grant her the ability to speak without stuttering, and it breaks my heart, man.

I don't care how many yellow or brown throats you slit in the name of Freedom, don't be like that with your daughter. Don't be a distant fuck. All right, look, ladies & gentlemen, if you're gonna have kids, please don't. But if you still are, at least be good to those little fucks once they're born. When I see shit like this in movies and especially in real life, it makes me thank God/Allah/Yahweh/Xenu/whoever-the-fuck for blessing me with the parents I ended up being life-saddled with.

I still remember this one time, way back in the day that I stopped at a friend's house and I listened to the way his mom was saying some fucked-up passive aggressive shit to him about what a fuckin' loser he was in her eyes. No wonder he had an underage drinking problem and seemed increasingly depressed with each passing day. I swear I wanted to run home to mommy and daddy and give them a big hug and apologize for whatever fuckin' bullshit I might've bitched about that morning. I can't handle seeing that shit, especially if its happening to the little girl from the Pepsi commercials. The fuck did she do? She never bothered me, she's not her brother Jesse.

By the way, this movie was made in 1998 but I bet you if this were made today, you'd have "patriots" losing their shit about how this military dad was represented. God forbid if this dude wasn't portrayed as a beautiful saint with red, white, and blue wings and an erect penis in the shape of the Holy Cross. I can see those diddle-faced twats on "Fox and Friends" bitching the live long day about how terrible it is that liberal Hollywood is making Our Boys looks like assholes.

Oh my god! Can you believe this? They're disrespecting our troops in this talking parrot movie! Of course what else would you expect from Hollyweird!
 -- wait, what? -- another school shooting? Yeah, whatever, anyway, for our last story of the day, America haters are now saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas! Can you believe that? We've made three God's Not Dead movies and they still don't get it! 

Anyway, this piece of work father buys a cat and is somehow surprised that Paulie and the cat mix about as well as oil and water, and he has the gall and the balls to be upset by that. Next thing you know, Lieutenant Fuckface over here puts Paulie in a cage and takes him away to God-knows-where despite Marie's crying and pleading for Paulie to come back to her.

What follows is a kind of bird version of Au Hasard Balthazar, in that we follow Paulie as he goes from owner to owner across the country -- that is, if Balthazar the donkey talked and actually participated in the lives of his owners instead of being an overall passive lunk who observed things and let things happen to him.

Nah, Paulie doesn't go out like that, he takes action -- he talks, he sings, he kinda dances, and the only time people get the better of him is when he's overpowered or as in one unsettling scene, he gets his wings clipped while he's screaming in pain and I'm like "this is for kids?!"

Yes, it is for kids -- there's an unnecessary fart joke that comes out of nowhere to prove that. It feels like something that was added in post-production at the last minute because the studio got all cowardly about sending out a family film that didn't satisfy every quotient including the scatological dollar.

Among the people he encounters on his travels: Jay Mohr in the flesh as a douchebag, Buddy Hackett as a pawn shop owner, Gena Rowlands as a widow, Cheech Marin as part of the problem in this great country, Jay Mohr again as a douchebag, and Bruce Davison as -- holy shit, Bruce Davison? I just talked about you in the last blog entry, the one about Crazy/Beautiful! Welcome back, bro!

So how are you doing, Bruce? You're playing the head of the research facility where Paulie ends up? That's cool. Are you as understanding and compassionate as the guy you played in Crazy/Beautiful? No. Ah man, fuck you then. Nah, you're cool with me Bruce, you were in Willard, bro. Remember that, when you were dealing with all those rats? And then they made a sequel without you and Michael Jackson sang a song about one of the rats? Now here you are dealing with birds, and unfortunately they didn't get Michael Jackson to sing a song about Paulie. That's kind of a missed opportunity, don't you think?

But that's OK because  -- talk to you later, Bruce -- that's OK because they do have Cheech Marin sing "Cancion del Mariachi" from the film Desperado, which I thought was a great choice because it meant the filmmakers didn't have to rack their brains too long while trying to look for a good Latin song for Cheech and Paulie to perform. That movie was probably playing on television in the background while they were having a script conference -- it would've been a dead heat between that song and "Babalu" by Desi Arnaz, if it weren't for that stupid intern accidentally changing the channel before "I Love Lucy" came on.

So let me talk about the Cheech stuff; he plays Ignacio (which they pronounce Anglo-style), the owner/operator of a taco truck that specializes in burritos. He and Paulie meet in East L.A. and become friendly business partners in performing song & dance routines for the patrons. I'm watching this and going, OK, this is cool -- Cheech is just a good dude running a business, nothing too unusual or stereotypical about him aside from the fact that he's played by Cheech. So I'm watching and I'm digging this, and then later it comes out that he's an illegal alien. Because of course he is.

At one point, somebody tries to fuck him over by falsely reporting to the cops that his business is unsanitary and that he's serving alcohol to minors -- hey, I wonder if he sold any to my friend with the shitty mom? You'd think that should be enough. But no, they had to add the most important detail that he's here without papers, and have that be the true part of the bogus police report.

Fine. Be that way, movie. At least Ignacio came off as a nice guy. I guess I should be grateful for that.

Speaking of nice immigrants, Misha the janitor is a really nice guy as well. Once he gets over the shock of meeting a talking parrot, he makes for a very patient and understanding person for Paulie to talk with. Everybody in this movie gives really good performances, including the 14 or so birds they used to portray Paulie before they threw them into an incinerator or wherever you put out of work birds. But Tony Shalhoub stands out in particular with his exceptional work here, especially during a monologue he gives Paulie about the regret he has for not talking to a girl from his past with whom he had fallen in love.

I want to give the writer of this film, Laurie Craig, extra points for the connection between Misha's inability to tell a woman he loved her and Randy Newman's song "Marie", which if you remember what I said a few years earlier during this blog entry, is about being unable to tell someone you love them. Except of course, in the Marie song, that problem was solved via the miracle of alcohol, while apparently Misha is the one Russian on planet Earth who doesn't drink. Let that be a lesson for you sober straight edge motherfuckers.

There are other examples throughout the film of characters who have hesitated in doing something they wanted to do, and how the passage of time ultimately fucked them in the ass for not going through with it:

Misha didn't speak up to the woman he loved, and so she went on to marry his best friend.

Paulie was afraid to fly, which led to an accident that resulted in his separation from Marie.

Gena Rowlands' character gave up on her dream of going to the Grand Canyon after the death of her husband, and ended up spending the rest of her golden years going nowhere.

Ignacio never fixed his pesky naturalization issues and is now back in the old country teaching OTMs how to say "Waas Sappening".

And Marie's mom hesitated in tying her piece of shit husband to a bed before setting that motherfucker on fire.

I was surprised by how Paulie was able to sneak in such serious internal struggles in a goofy family movie about a talking parrot. Yeah, I know, you're right -- it's a stretch. Speaking of stretching, you should really limber up before you go fuck yourself.

Amy Adams has said that this movie makes her cry, and my friend Cathie on Twitter warned me that I would get teary-eyed while watching it. While I enjoyed the film and was touched by certain moments, I did all right in the Man Up department and was ready to call out both The Triple A and Cathie because not a single tear was shed -- and then the ending happened. Upon watching the final revelation that hammered home the film's running theme, my balls faded away as I gradually turned into Matthew McConaughey during those couple of scenes in Interstellar when everything was not alright alright alright.

Paulie is a sweet-natured film with the occasional laugh and a couple of tearjerker moments. It is truly a movie that the entire family can enjoy; the kids will like it and the adults won't feel like hostages while watching it with them. And it's good enough for grown-up solitary shut-ins like myself. It's a nice movie. It put a smile on my face. And it makes such precious sense that who I perceive to be The Adorable Amy Adams would call Paulie one of her favorite films.

I'm happy that I finally saw the movie, but if there's one thing that disappointed me about Paulie is that it failed to wipe away the memory of my old neighbor who had gotten a parrot of his own and took to having it perched on his shoulder. Everyday, I would arrive home after work and run to my door before the newly retired gentleman across the street noticed me. Because if he did, he would call me over for a little chit chat, which would mean I would have to talk to him and try my best to ignore that the man's shoulder was always caked with bird shit. He had to know what he had going on there, he had just had to! And yet he did nothing about it, which meant that he didn't care and he was consciously or subconsciously getting off on being nice to me in behavior while being incredibly hostile towards me in appearance.

In conclusion, I'm glad I called the cops on his drug-dealing son. That's what the little fucker gets for not giving me a discount.