Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sinful in Pink

For a bizarre, visually arresting trailer, check out Sin City. I'm not sure it's even a good idea for a comic book movie to look so literally like the art of the comic book, but it sure looks neat. My concern is that it detracts from the story standing on its own as a movie, that the whole time you're watching this you're thinking, "oh, it's a comic book," when if you want a comic book experience maybe you should just read a damn comic book.

I had the same problem with the stupid split-screen gimmick in Hulk. Simultaneity of action was unimportant to the story, unlike something like 24 or Phone Booth where unity of time is integral to the concept. So it was just there to suggest a comic book. Yes, superficially, when you look at a comic book you see lots of boxes with pictures in them. But that doesn't mean that's what we should see when we're looking at a movie of a comic book. The boxes aren't a conscious part of the storytelling experience. When you make a movie out of a novel you don't make a point of putting a lot of written text on the screen. That's just part of the medium, and drawing attention to it is insulting and demeaning to the source material, like you're treating comic books as some second-class source. And it takes you out of the movie.

Not to mention, that's not even how comic book panels are used. Comic panels are (usually) used for sequential action, not simultaneous action, so split-screen action juxtaposing simultaneous scenes is decidedly un-comic like. And don't even get me started on the amateurish wipes. The thing looks like it was put together with a kid playing with iMovie for the first time.

Okay, that was a tangent. Sin City could be okay. I like Frank Miller (Batman: Year One and Dark Knight Returns, though not Dark Knight Strikes Again), and for some reason I like Robert Rodriguez. I've liked aspects of many of his movies, although there's none I can embrace fully. I do like his bare bones Do-It-Yourself filmmaking philosophy though. And Sin City, again, looks quite cool, though I have my doubts about whether it will hold up for a whole movie.

I meant to also call attention to the trailer for The Pink Panther, featuring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau. It's pretty dumb, but the slapstick and bad French accents are well done. People falling down or getting hit with things almost always works for me. Plus, Jean Reno is funny in it. That first pin joke makes me cringe, though.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

White Christmas

It snowed this week in Dallas. Normally the weather here is on par with Northern California; that is, you feel the seasons change but it's nothing drastic. But the temperature dropped to the 20s this week. Now it's finally warming up and it's time to leave.

Collateral Damage

I saw Collateral this week on hotel pay-per-view. Quite good. I normally dislike Tom Cruise, especially when he takes on incongruous period roles (The Last Samurai, which was good in spite of itself, and in spite of Cruise, who made an admirable effort in a role that didn't really fit him) or showoffy junk like M:I 2, which plays like it was made just so that Tom Cruise could brag about doing his own stunts. Also, any time Cruise has long hair, it adds an extra degree of irritation. He seems to like his hair long. I wonder if he realizes it makes him look shorter.

Anyway, Collateral. Tom Cruise is excellent in it. It's the perfect type of role for him. Slick, confident, oddly charming and persuasive. Plus, he gets to stretch, playing his first villain, and he nails it. Well done. Easily my favorite Tom Cruise performance, since Jerry Maguire is an annoying movie even though he fits the role.

A Pain in Me Gulliver...

I finished Gulliver's Travels this week. As a comedy writer it's embarrassing that I never read any Jonathan Swift before now. I've had my copy of Gulliver's Travels since my mom bought it for me when I was about six. Since then it's sat in my room, ignored, as I always thought of it as too daunting for a kid to bother reading. Now that I'm 24, I figured I could handle it. Plus I hadn't read anything of "quality" in a long time and I was starting to feel dumb.

Lots of people in high school enjoyed Swift's "A Modest Proposal," but that's because they were dumb people not in AP English, leaving them free to take awesome teacher Heinitz's English Lit class. I was a super-genius, so I was in AP where we didn't read that particular piece of classic satire. I still haven't, though I may try on the plane tomorrow. This post is still about Gulliver's Travels.

Anyway, the first two books are the part you'd recognize. Book 1 is Lilliput, where Gulliver's big and the people, or "Lilliputians," are small. Book 2, slightly less well-known, is when Gulliver is small and the people on the island are huge (every made up foreign place but Lilliput has a gibberish name that's impossible to remember). Books 3 and 4 take Gulliver to an island that flies and an island where horses are intelligent and men are primal beasts, sort of a Planet of the Apes, but with horses.

The first two books, though well known, are not actually funny at all. The only "humor" comes in various situations that are metaphors for the political situation of the period, clever references to disputes between Queen Anne and the Whigs and the Tories. You'll only know because of footnotes and it still won't be funny unless you're a history major with an emphasis on 18th century Britain, because who cares?

The second two books contain most of the satire that actually holds up. The flying island people are caricatures of scientists, which at least comes across somewhat. The best part is when he visits a place where some people are born immortal, which seems great until he learns that while they live forever, they don't stay young forever, so they're doomed to suffer the ever-increasing infirmities of old age:

"If a Struldbrugg [immortal] happen to marry one of his own kind, the Marriage is dissolved of course by the Courtesy of the Kingdom, as soon as the younger of the two come to be four-score. For the Law thinks it a reasonable Indulgence, that those who are condemned without any Fault of their own to a perpetual Continuance in the World, should not have their Misery doubled by the Load of a Wife.

...At Ninety they lose their Teeth and Hair, they have at that age no Distinction of Taste, but eat and drink whatever they can get, without Relish or Appetite. The Diseases they were subject to still continuing without encreasing or diminishing. In talking they forgot the common Appellation of Things, and the Names of Persons, even of those who are their nearest Friends and Relations. For the same Reason they never can amuse themselves with reading, because their Memory will not serve to carry them from the beginning of a Sentence to the end; and by this Defect they are deprived of the only entertainment whereof they might otherwise be capable.

The Language of this Country being always upon the Flux, the Struldbruggs of one Age do not understand those of another, neither are they able after two hundred Years to hold any Conversation (farther than by a few general Words) with their Neighbours the Mortals; and thus they lye under the Disadvantage of living like Foreigners in their own Country.

...They are despised and hated by all sort of People; when one of them is born, it is reckoned ominous...

They were the most mortifying Sight I ever beheld, and the Women more horrible than the Men. Besides the usual Deformities in extreme old age, they acquired an additional Ghastliness in Proportion to their Number of Years, which is not to be described, and among half a Dozen I soon distinguished which was the eldest, although there were not above a Century or two between them.

The Reader will easily believe, that from what I had heard and seen, my keen Appetite for Perpetuity of Life was much abated. I grew heartily ashamed of the pleasing Visions I had formed, and thought no Tyrant could invent a Death into which I would not run with Pleasure from such a Life."


The real comic gems, though, are in book 4, in which Gulliver tries to convince his horse master that in the land that he's from, men are rational creatures. Thus, Gulliver must explain things like lawyers, doctors, war, ministers of state, and noblemen to the horse, whose noble, honorable society cannot understand the illogical corruption of men.

On Lawyers:
"I assured his Honour, that Law was a Science wherein I had not much conversed, further than by employing Advocates, in vain, upon some Injustices that had been done me: however, I would give him all the Satisfaction I was able.

I said there was a Society of Men among us, bred up from their Youth in the Art of proving by Words multiplied for the Pleasure, that White is Black, and Black is White, according as they are paid. To this Society all the rest of the People are Slaves.

For Example, if my Neighbour hath a Mind to my Cow, he hires a Lawyer to prove that he ought to have my Cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my Right, it being against all Rules of Law that any Man should be allowed to speak for himself. Now in this Case, I who am the right Owner lie under two great Disadvantages. First, my Lawyer being practiced almost from his Cradle in defending Falshood; is quite out of his Element when he would be an Advocate for Justice, which as an Office unnatural, he always attempts with great Awkwardness if not with Ill-will. The second Disadvantage is, that my Lawyer must proceed with great Caution: Or else he will be reprimanded by the Judges, and abhorred by his Brethren, as one that would lessen the Practice of the Law. And therefore I have but two Methods to preserve my Cow. The first is, to gain over my Adversary's Lawyer with a double Fee; who will then betray his Client by insinuating that he hath Justice on his Side. The second way is for my Lawyer to make my Cause appear as unjust as he can; by the Cow to belong to my Adversary; and this, if it be skilfully done, will certainly bespeak the Favour of the Bench.

Now, your Honour is to know that these Judges are Persons appointed to decide all Controversies of Property, as well as for the Tryal of Criminals; and picked out from the most dextrous Lawyers who are grown old or lazy: And having been byassed all their Lives against Truth and Equity, are under such a fatal Necessity of favouring Fraud, Perjury, and Oppression; that I have known some of them refuse a large Bribe from the Side where Justice lay, rather than injure the Faculty, by doing any thing unbecoming their Nature or their Office.

It is a Maxim among these Lawyers, that whatever hath been done before, may legally be done again: And therefore they take special Care to record all the Decisions formerly made against common Justice and the general Reason of Mankind. These, under the Name of Precedents, they produce as Authorities to justify the most iniquitous Opinions; and the Judges never fail of decreeing accordingly.

In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the Merits of the Cause; but are loud, violent, and tedious in dwelling upon all Circumstances which are not to the Purpose. For Instance, in the Case already mentioned: They never desire to know what Claim or Title my Adversary hath to my Cow; but whether the said Cow were Red or Black; her Horns long or short; whether the Field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what Diseases she is subject to, and the like. After which they consult Precedents, adjourn the Cause from Time to Time, and in Ten, Twenty, or Thirty Years, come to an Issue.

It is likewise to be observed, that this Society has a peculiar Cant and Jargon of their own, that no other Mortal can understand, and wherein all their Laws are written, which they take special Care to multiply; whereby they have gone near to confound the very Essence of Truth and Falsehood, of Right and Wrong; so that it may take Thirty Years to decide whether the Field, left me by my Ancestors for Six Generations, belongs to me, or to a Stranger three hundred Miles off."


Sorry about this online edition, which has not been edited to modern conventions and retains the "capitalize every Noun" style that I hated so much when reading the Autobiography of Ben Franklin.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

NetZero: "Suck It, AOL"

I'm a bit behind the curve on this, but NetZero did a couple of ads directly spoofing AOL's recent ad campaign.

This is pretty funny, not because the parodies themselves are that funny... well, okay, they are. They do boast an impressive attention to detail, recreating sets, props, and even the ethnicities of minor actors (if not the quality of production value), but they mainly shine because it's such a terrifically mean thing to do. When NetZero attacks AOL like this, they're killing all the effort AOL put into the campaign. AOL's ads are a laughingstock and they have to pull them or further airings will only remind people of the parodies.

You have to imagine the AOL people in their real boardroom when someone rushes in with a tape:

"Did you see this NetZero commercial?"

[seething rage mixed with colossal embarrassment and humiliation]

"Oh, f[---]."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

There is Something Wrong With This Basketball

Apparently DC comics once put out a "dictionary" which didn't define words so much as use them repeatedly in context.

So you get entries like this one. Someone compiles them here.

Flamewar of the Worlds

My uninformed War of the Worlds rant has sparked an an irrationally angry comment, which amuses me to no end. Unfortunately, the poster is anonymous, and if his blog reading habits are anything like mine, he'll never return to this blog again. Even so, I love attention, so anyone who gives it to me deserves a response. Besides, he wants attention too, and who am I to deny it?

First of all you A.R. - CRY baby!!
I believe you mean "R.A." crybaby, though I don't believe that abbreviating "are a" has saved you much space or time. In fact it seems to have only confused you. Good luck keeping letters straight in the future. I hear Scientology helps with dyslexia; look into it. Also, no need to capitalize "cry" and not "baby" or to split the term into separate words.

When you have the kind of money that Spielberg has, and makes, then you can comment, until then - blow it out your ASS!!
First, did you ever see the Mr. Show sketch where they make fun of how stupid the notion is that someone is beyond criticism if they make more money than you do? Well, if not, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross probably make more money than you do, so you can blow things out of your own ass. By the way, are you sure you make more money than I do? We'd better check to make sure you can even comment on my blog.

Second, I never framed this as an attack on Spielberg, who I gave credit for making what looks like an effective movie for what it is. I'm sure it's a very serviceable, crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster. This was always a rant on whoever put together such a tone-deaf trailer--almost certainly not Spielberg, who has his hands full actually making the movie. Spielberg may have had the idea to use the Wells text in the trailer, but I have no way of knowing if he did or not, and in any case it's not his writing I was tearing up.

I mean really, what kind of fucking idiot even gives serious consideration to the way a film is marketed - especially a stinking, rip - off, remake.
I don't know, film marketers? There are people whose whole job it is to create these things. Huge projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars are riding on the effectiveness of film marketing, so it's kind of an important thing. It doesn't matter if you think the film is a stinking rip-off remake, and anyway, Spielberg makes more money than you, so blow it out your ass, if you haven't already.

Now, I don't have a stake in this movie, so why should I care or comment? Well, I happen to like movie trailers a lot. I like to watch them and then afterwards say "That looks good" or "That looks awful." But ultimately, who gives a shit why I care? This is a blog, you moron. A personal blog on blogspot.com. Maybe the point of it is to write about the dumbest, most insignificant shit I can imagine. Why are you reading it if you're so wrapped up in serious, important concerns?

Guess what professor, it is there to grab your attention, not take you to SCHOOL.
It grabbed my attention with the way the sentences made no goddamn sense. I don't think that was their goal. Maybe I wasn't actually supposed to listen to the sentences, but I did, and they pained me. Also, you are wrong. I am not a professor. It is good that trailers do not take me to school because if they did it would be a school of bad writing.

You need to get laid or better yet - learn to masterbate,
Thank you for your concern. After many years, I have managed to get laid and also finally learned to masturbate properly. You need to learn how to spell "masturbate." Telling people they need to get laid in order to solve their problems is common but simplistic advice. Many people continue to be troubled even after engaging in sexual intercourse. For instance, I continue to nitpick movie trailers.

it is everything they say it is - you can have sex with anyone - or in your case, anything, and no one ever need know. The side benefit for the rest of us in there is no danger of you having any children this way, thereby protecting our already poluted gene pool - I say already poluted because presumably you are a member of the human species.
Polluted has two Ls. The phrase should be "no one need ever know"--you have transposed the words. See one of my old Squelch issue reviews for a mention of how hackneyed and trite the "stupid people shouldn't breed" insult is. I get the feeling you are falling back on this cliche out of laziness. Nit-picking movie advertisements does not seem to be something that is actually destructive to the human race. At best, it may inspire better advertisements. At worst, it inspires ill-informed comments on blogs. Hardly threatening to the future of the species.

Why can't guys / Gals like yourself just join a cult where they casterate you. I have to ask myself why didn't your parents join instead of kicking the rest of us in the shorts by producing you.
Why is "Gals" capitalized when "guys" isn't? You misspelled "castrate" and that sentence should end in a question mark. Did you want my parents to join the cult or me? Your writing is muddled and unclear. To answer your first question: Such a cult holds little appeal for people "like myself," because we are smart. To answer your second question: My parents did not join because your hypothetical cult does not exist.

You are dumb.

Using This Would Just Make Me Sad

It's supposed to be for "lonely men," but wouldn't using one of these just rub it in?

Behold: The lap pillow. (Thanks to Andrea for emailing me the link.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Stevie Z

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was good. Entertainment Weekly's review accused Anderson of burying the movie under its own irony, but I don't see it that way. There is bad irony in movies, where smug knowingness is used to excuse intellectual laziness--see everything Kevin Williamson has ever done--and then there's the Wes Anderson style. It's irony, I guess, in that there's weird, quirky, silly things that we're meant to see as weird and quirky, but it's not insincere.

When we see all the retro 1970s-ish touches filling the frame of a movie like Life Aquatic, it's funny sometimes, just like the laugh of recognition I had at spotting the old-fashioned VCR in the Anderson-esque Napoleon Dynamite, but it's not meant to tell you not to take the movie seriously. I think Anderson's movies are extremely sincere emotionally. This is, ironically, sincere irony, not obnoxious "superior" irony. When he puts in silly, purposely bad special effects, it's not so we can laugh at them, knowing that we're better than that--we laugh with them, and recognize the crudity of the effects while feeling affection for their nostalgic charms.

Life Aquatic is sad, as Ryan notes. But I don't think the humor suffers. It's only a little less funny than previous Anderson efforts, but there's plenty here that works. It does take awhile to get going. Not until Zissou and company finally set out on the expedition does the movie start to settle into a comfortable pace. The tense, emotional moments are strong and understated. The shifts in tone can be jarring, though not in a bad way.

It's hard to compare with previous Anderson films. It's similar and yet very different. This one ups the heightened reality even further, and matches it with exotic locales and adventurous digressions. In some ways, it's goofier, in others, it's even moodier. Like the leap from Rushmore to Tenenbaums, it's everything you know about Wes Anderson, taken up another notch. Afterwards it struck me that it's perhaps the kind of movie that Max Fischer would make. Big, dramatic, over the top, full of weird, quirky things that maybe try a bit too hard, but sweet and lovable at the core.

I'll probably always like Rushmore best, partly because I tend to cling to my first exposure to a given artist, but also because I have a strong fondness for teen coming-of-age stories in the abstract, although 99% of them are terrible in practice. Thus the rare one that succeeds is all the more precious.

Ultimately, what I loved about Life Aquatic was the way the settings and tone and art direction all combined to create a complete world, a world that doesn't exist and never did, yet feels real and lived in--a world that I was happy to visit.

George Michael

Went to see The Life Aquatic last night at The Grove in Los Angeles (more on the movie later). The theater seemed to be very poorly run, with a huge line forming for Life Aquatic, and the staff not letting the line into the theater until a few minutes after the posted showtime. Which means that by the time the previews started, it was already nearly half an hour after the time the pre-show commercials were supposed to begin.

Irritating enough on a a weekend, but especially annoying at a 10:05 show on a weeknight with work the next day. A surprisingly large crowd for a Wednesday night, actually--the theater was packed, since this is currently the only place in LA to see The Life Aquatic until it opens wide later this month. It's a good thing we avoided the weekend, especially since The Grove charges $12.50 a ticket on the weekends (we got a weekday bargain of only $10.75!).

Celebrity sighting: At Westfield Shoppingtown in Century City, you slum it with the likes of Andy from The Apprentice. But at The Grove, we saw Michael Cera, or George Michael Bluth from Arrested Development, coming out of the theater from the previous show. Sure, Apprentice probably does bigger numbers, but George Michael is cooler in my book.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Trailers That Won't Call Into Question My Worth As An English Major

The teaser for Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory exists, and should be viewed. It contains a bizarre, tremendously annoying new Willy Wonka song and snippets of Burtonesque visuals that suit the Chocolate Factory well. This promises to frighten children and delight recreational drug users well into the next generation, at which point the film will be remade again. Johnny Depp is equally appropriate, looking as unsettling as Gene Wilder did while making the role his own. The one piece of dialogue is a deliciously whacked-out line reading that marks the high point of the preview.

Another thing that exists is the teaser for Bewitched, which perhaps you should also view if you're in the mood to be mildly annoyed. It's one of those teasers with no real footage, and it's pretty lame. Nicole Kidman's hair is a mess, watching her do the nose twitch is depressing and just makes you yearn for Elizabeth Montgomery, and the mangled theme song is dispiriting. In a humorless gag, Will Ferrell as Darryl hangs from Samantha's broom. As if to mock how unfunny it is, Ferrell cries out, "I'm hanging from your broom!" which almost makes it funny, in the so-stupid-it's-funny way, but not quite. Though it is stupid enough to chuckle slightly.

Update: Apparently the broom joke was written by H.G. Wells. My bad.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

I Am A Moron

This is why reading sucks. It takes the wind out of your sails when you're trying to sound superior. If I don't read, no one else should either.

I could pretend that I did it on purpose to be funny, but I didn't. I have to take the hit on this one, it's unavoidable. However, let's remember a few things:

1) Some of the lines have been changed for the trailer, and the alterations do the writing no favors. Some of the changes are parts I complained about.

2) H.G. Wells' writing sounds very labored and stilted to a modern ear, and very pretentious when dropped into a trailer for a summer blockbuster. Maybe his shitty writing is why I don't read old books! Eh? Eh? Eh.

3) I need to read more.

4) At least I take down with me the commenters who praised the post, reveling in their own high opinion of themselves.

5) It did occur to me (or maybe it was Stephanie who raised the possibility) that the voice-over was derived from the Wells text, but I didn't bother to check before writing the rant.

6) Writing angry curse-filled rants on the Internet makes you sound like a moron, sometimes in more glaring ways than others.

War of the Words

This is the teaser trailer for the Spielberg/Cruise extravaganza War of the Worlds. It looks okay. Creepy in that slick Spielberg kind of way.

And this is my transcript of the voice-over from the trailer:

No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of their empire over this world. Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

What the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? Who the hell is responsible for this mangled train wreck of prose, this random assortment of words the writer barely seems to understand? Did a foreigner write it and run it through a computerized translator?

Where to even begin? How about the first sentence?

“No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own.”
First of all, what does this mean? Does this mean that we’ve always been watched, but in the early years of the 21st century no one would have believed this, or does it mean that it was only in the early years of the 21st century that we were being watched? If it’s the latter, then moving the word “that” from after “century” to after “believed” would clarify it a lot. If it’s the former, rewrite the sentence. Furthermore, “intelligences”? Ugh.

“That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied.”
“They” observed and studied? Who, the men? I know what they’re referring to, but this is sloppy and confusing use of a pronoun, which forces you to spend more effort parsing than you should have to. “Busied themselves about … their concerns”? How about “thought about” or “busied themselves with”? “Busied about” sounds bizarre.

“With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of their empire over this world.”
“Infinite complacency”? Shut the fuck up. Just shut the fuck up and stop using big words to sound smart. With infinite complacency. La dee da. We must be awfully fucking complacent. Like, complacent to infinity! “To and fro”? Is that necessary? Oh, and we mustn’t say “around” the globe. “About” sounds like how a smart guy would say it. Look at me, going to and fro about the globe! This wouldn’t be so glaring if they hadn’t just misused the word “about.” “Their empire over this world”? Only by the most generous standard is this clumsy use of the word “empire” remotely acceptable. And that’s infinite generosity.

“Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
“Envious eyes”? Was “envy” not good enough on its own? “Slowly and surely” oddly deviates from the usual pairing of these words, “slowly but surely,” but here they’re just used to slow down the voice over guy so he can sound more ominous. As for the rest of the sentence, there’s nothing really wrong with it except that I hate it.

I know, I know, it’s just a movie trailer voice-over, and I’m being overly nit-picky. And if it were a trailer for Seriously, Dude, Where’s My Car? and they didn’t use complete sentences, I wouldn’t give a shit. But when they’re trying so hard to sound smart, laying on the pretension with meaningless phrases like “infinite complacency” and then they write sentences with backward syntax that make no sense at all, that’s when people get hurt.


A Star-Studded Night of Glamour

Stephanie and I spent Saturday night enjoying the company of Tinseltown’s finest celebrities, which is to say we watched Ocean’s Twelve. We avoided the reviews prior to the movie, but the impression I got from headlines was that this sequel was not well-liked by critics. It worked for me. No, the caper doesn’t top the one in Eleven, but they raise the stakes in other ways, and except for a couple of heist devices that strain credibility even in the Ocean universe, it mostly works. It has a thrown-together feel that makes it work as a casual good time, and it’s a fun little movie that doesn’t demand too much of you but doesn’t insult you too much either.

Not to bury the lead, but as if Clooney, Pitt, and Damon up on the screen weren’t enough, we shared the theater (and the lengthy ticket-holder line beforehand) with none other than Andy from The Apprentice, the Harvard grad with no real job experience who held his own as one of the more likable and capable candidates until he led a misguided design effort for an ugly Pepsi Edge bottle and was shouted out of the boardroom by Sandy once Jenn strategically spilled the beans that Andy had secretly conferred with her to put the blame on Sandy. I didn’t realize Andy lived in LA. He’s going to have to fly back to New York next week for the live finale.

Now, I’m not easily star-struck. Okay, I am. A pseudo-celebrity, right there in our own movie line! I really wanted to talk to him. “Hey, Andy, too bad about getting fired. I was rooting for you, but seriously, man, that was a really shitty Pepsi bottle. Jenn totally played you, man. She sold you out and made it look like a slip-up because she knew the Sandy thing wasn’t working and it would take the heat off her. And admit it, you were kind of conspiring against Sandy, and you said some stuff that wasn’t true, and that wasn’t cool. But Sandy didn’t out-debate you, she was just yelling, and that wasn’t a good reason to be fired. You deserved to get fired for the bottle, and not giving the designers their pizza, not for Sandy’s yelling. Still, way to hold your ground on the NYPD commercial task.”

To Stephanie’s relief, I only said these things to her. Though I think she was constantly worried I was saying them too loud and Andy might hear. She was glad when I stopped. Although, really, I think if you can talk to any celebrity without them getting annoyed, you’d think it would be a reality TV “star,” who loves attention and still enjoys getting it, since in a few months they’ll be forgotten.

We were way back in the movie line, but we were ahead of Andy. Too bad Trump didn’t give you any tips on how to get to a movie early, huh, Andy? To be fair, the line was outrageous. We chose seats that were a good distance from the screen, but on the side of the theater. Andy and his friends got seats in the middle, but a bit too close to the screen for my taste. Who got the better seats in the end? It’s a toss-up. Who’s more famous? Andy. Who gets to pass judgement on Andy’s decisions and behavior? Me.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Burn!

I've always thought Mercury was a pointless auto brand. Though it claims to be an upscale version of Ford, the models are always so similar and the refinements so infinitesimally unnoticeable that it never feels like anything but a Ford with a different logo.

Pulitzer-prize-winning auto critic Dan Neil of the LA Times reviews the new Mercury Montego with one of the most scathing, hilarious auto reviews I've ever seen:

At a time of general excellence in automotive design and construction, when even cheap cars so easily vault buyer expectations, it is a rare and perverse pleasure to find a car as certifiably doggy as the Mercury Montego.

A car whose lack of charisma is so dense no light can escape its surface, the Montego is the Mercury Division's upscale twin to the Ford Five Hundred sedan, though the Montego's version of upscale is of the Korean off-shore casino variety. The faux wood-grain interior trim looks like it came off a prison lunch tray. I've felt better leather upholstery on footballs.

But this is not a case of a car nibbled to death by details. Overall, the car has a profoundly geriatric feeling about it, like it was built with a swollen prostate. To drive this car is to feel the icy hand of death upon you, or at least the icy hand of Hertz, because it simply screams rental.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear

I don't know if Cynthia followed through, but I watched the TNT original movie The Librarian: Quest for the Spear on Sunday night. I've been meaning to write about it but just watching the movie wasted so much of my life I'm loath to volunteer more of my time to write about it.

Here's what you need to know:

Noah Wyle is a thirtyish grad student with dozens of degrees who loves to learn and never wants to stop going to school. His professor kicks him out, encouraging him to live his life. His mother, whom he still lives with, tries to set him up on dates but he quickly scares them off by being his stammering, awkward self. It makes you wonder what these girls expected when they agreed to go on a date with some old woman's grown live-in son--some kind of well-adjusted, super-suave ladies' man?

Immediately after being kicked out of school, Wyle receives a glowing letter with words that appear on the page as he reads it, while a woman's voice reads the text out loud for the benefit of the illiterates watching at home. Surprised as anyone would be by a glowing, self-writing letter with audio capabilities, Wyle shrugs and says to himself, "I wonder how they did that." Oh, and the letter invites him to interview for a job at the "Library."

Wyle goes to the library and interviews with a frumpy, curt Jane Curtin, who demands to know what sets him apart from all the other applicants. He tries to be polite, but finally, pushed to his breaking point, busts out his Sherlock Holmes deductive skills, which apparently you pick up if you're a graduate student for a long time. He tells her she has mono and cats.

Now Bob Newhart appears in a twinkle of light and tells Curtin to send away all the other interviewees; anyone who can tell she has mono and cats is clearly the man to guard the priceless treasures of the world. Wyle, ever perceptive, doesn't quite realize yet that sending the other applicants away means that he got the job, but eventually catches on.

Oh yes, the treasures of the world. So the "Library" is essentially the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, except better decorated. Newhart shows Wyle the Ark of the Covenant, warning him not to touch it or he'll be "electrocuted." Immediately after being told the Ark would electrocute him, Wyle can't help touching another mystical treasure, briefly opening a box that Newhart casually explains "once belonged to a girl named Pandora." Fortunately the pure evil contained within is not so quick to pounce on its opportunity and the box is closed without incident. We catch a glimpse of King Midas, now gold, on his throne.

The Library is also full of endless aisles of books, so as to justify its name. It's not clear whether the books themselves are important. As Stephanie pointed out while we were watching, the types of artifacts present indicate that perhaps this secret place might better be called "The Museum," and the movie might be more accurately titled "The Curator." Unfortunately, "curator" sounds less cool than "librarian." And for something to sound less cool than "librarian," well, let's just say that really tells you something about how lame curators are.

That night, bad guys and one Asianish, unconvincing bad girl knock out Newhart and steal a piece of the Spear of Destiny, better known to Evangelion fans as the Spear of Longinus. This spear pierced Christ's side when he was crucified, and it possesses pretty much any mystical power you want to assign to it. A bunch of great conquerors throughout history were unbeatable as long as they had it, and beatable as soon as they lost it. Even Hitler had the Spear of Destiny.

(So far, this is actually part of the real legend, and Hitler did have it. U.S. forces found it only 90 minutes before Hitler committed suicide. No doubt, if they hadn't, Hitler's morale would have remained strong despite being cornered in his bunker. Also in reality, the spear itself is gone and only the spearhead survives. Hitler's was one of two that is rumored to be the spearhead of Destiny/Longinus but nobody knows which, if either, is authentic.)

Turns out, though, that this piece in the Library is only one of three pieces of the Spear. Hitler only had one piece, and it worked out pretty well for him, so imagine how powerful someone would be if they had all three. The other two pieces are safely hidden around the world by a previous Librarian. For some reason, Newhart and Curtin think it's a good idea for Wyle to seek out the pieces from their unknown, foolproof hiding places and bring them back to the Library, where they can all be easily stolen.

Fair enough. It worked in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, another movie where the bad guys had one piece of something and no clue where to find the rest, spurring the good guys to find the rest for them and help put the world in danger so that they could save it.

First, Wyle has to decipher the previous librarian's clues to the pieces, written in the language of the birds, which no one knows. Wyle figures it out in seven hours or so, about halfway through his plane ride to the Amazon. On the plane he meets a Tough English Chick who coldly shuts down his attempt to make polite conversation, but then turns out to be an agent of the Library (complete with laminated ID card) who saves him from bad guys and the Unconvincing Asianish Bad Girl.

Tough English Chick (TEC) tosses Wyle out of the plane with no parachute, then dives out after him about a minute later. Presumably she catches up to him in midair, grabs hold of him and shares her parachute, but this happens in quickly edited cuts totaling about one second, so we don't see enough of the stunt to figure out they didn't have the budget to actually perform it. It doesn't really matter anyway, since we've seen the real stunt enough times in other movies to know exatly what always happens in that situation.

Now Wyle and TEC wander through the jungle (luckily Wyle can recognize birds and a mountain and figure out exactly where they are), gradually melting their icy relationship and seeking out the spear while bad guys trail them. Their journey includes:

The Rickety Bridge: Apparently staged using a lot of green screen, a small piece of a bridge they actually built, and a lot of CGI for the part where it collapses (spoiler!). This stunt is also saved by cutting around the action as much as possible so that we barely see what happens, we just see that they come out okay. Other movies cut to the chase, this one cuts from the chase.

The Spike Pit: Where else but in a Mayan temple? And a wall that starts pushing them to the edge of the pit! How will they escape death? Why, with an...

Invisible Floor Over the Pit: Did you see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? So did the makers of this movie! But unlike the stupid trick they do in Last Crusade, which anyone with depth perception could have spotted, rendering the whole stunt an unfair trick on a movie audience who by definition can only see the picture in 2-D, the invisible floor in The Librarian uses "mirrors" or something. It's more like the invisible floor in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

From there, they pass the Darts Triggered By Floor Panel by figuring out the timing, video-game style, and literally waltzing through, keeping time with their dance steps.

Then they get to the Artifact on the Booby-Trapped Pedestal, which Wyle knows to avoid since he's seen Indiana Jones too. He pushes it off with a stick and watches a huge stone head fall where a less clever person would stand.

Immediately after getting the spear piece, they're captured by the bad guys, led by yet another former Librarian they'd presumed dead, a former lover of TEC. Lucky for Bad Librarian, the good guys just did one-third of his job for him. He forces Wyle to lead him to the third piece, at Shangri-La. But TEC and Wyle swipe the third piece (the spearhead) and escape to have sex at a hotel in Thailand. Wyle probably has so much residual virginity at this point that it would probably take two or three more rolls in the hay to successfully lose all his virginity, but he wakes up pleased with himself anyway.

Wyle chats with Newhart on the TV set, then realizes TEC and the spear are gone. He fears he's been "cahooted"--i.e. she was in cahoots with the bad guy the whole time.

Wyle knows that the spear can only be activated in an Egyptian pyramid during a full moon (as is the case with any Christian/Roman artifact, right?), and the only Egyptian pyramid in the world with a near-genuine headstone is the replica we saw Wyle's class installing at his college at the beginning of the movie!

Back at the college, Wyle meets up with Newhart, who in addition to being a seemingly immortal magical figure is also an ex-Marine.

They go into the pyramid room, where they discover that:
1) TEC was captured, not in cahoots--whew!
2) Wyle's professor who kicked him out of school is in cahoots with the bad guys
3) This villain actually says things like "The power of the spear is mine!!" which just reminds me of the movie I made where my friend Dan holds my plastic sword in my dad's closet and says "The sword is mine! Ah ha ha!" while I flicker the lights and make a "BZZZ" sound with my mouth.

A big beam of light reassembles the spear pieces, and now the spear has the power to suck out people's souls when you stab them with it, which is desireable for some reason. The Bad Librarian is pretty stoked about it, anyway.

Now follows:
The Obligatory Chickfight: Cue the Kill Bill sound-alike music (no, really, they do). Been wondering why that Asiany Unconvincing Bad Girl was tagging along all the time? Well, it's so hot chicks can fight at the end of the movie, silly, just like the good chick fought the previously unused bad chick at the end of Bulletproof Monk and The Medallion. Now, Movies, I'm as big a fan of hot chicks fighting as anyone, but if you're not willing to commit to it and build your movie around it, as in So Close, Kill Bill, or Charlie's Angels, don't bother. I can tell when you've shoehorned in a chickfight where it doesn't belong and your heart isn't in it.

And:
Bob Newhart Kicking Ass: Yes, while Wyle battles Bad Librarian and TEC fights AUBC, Newhart, magical ex-Marine, proceeds to take out everybody else. Dozens of younger men fall before this old man with the dry comic delivery and his Judo expertise. And we go along with it, because he's Bob Newhart, and you know what, he does kick ass.

The Bad Librarian is killed when the head of the Pyramid collapses and falls on top of him, in the last of the movie's unconvincing CGI effects of Big Things Falling (see also the Mayan stone head in the Artifact on Pedestal scene).

Wyle finally placates his mom when his new girlfriend, TEC, terrorizes a sidewalk cafe on her motorbike, arriving to whisk Wyle away on another adventure--tracking down "H.G. Wells' time machine," which may be a nod to the Back to the Future tone of this "Your kids, Marty, something's got to be done about your kids!" type of joke-cliffhanger ending.

But to back up a bit--H.G. Wells' time machine?! You guys know that was a novel, right? Apparently the premise of The Librarian is that every mystical artifact from any culture ever actually exists, including fictional ones. Look for future adventures of the Librarian to feature "Huckleberry Finn's raft," "Aragorn's sword," and "Bill and Ted's Phone Booth."

Meanwhile, librarians everywhere cheer their positive new media image.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

A Masterpiece

In his review of National Treasure, Roger Ebert points out the similarity of the movie's plot to the book The Da Vinci Code. As a side note, he describes what he thought of the book:

It is inelegant, pedestrian writing in service of a plot that sets up cliff-hangers like clockwork, resolves them with improbable escapes and leads us breathlessly to a disappointing anticlimax. I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code.

I only read about a page and a half of The Da Vinci Code, but that was pretty much the impression I'd formed. It pleased me to see it summed up so succinctly. It's also a sharper, more biting review than you usually see Ebert dish out to most movies, made harsher by its dismissive brevity.

A Different Kind of Trailer

This story (found through Drudge Report) is kind of funny, but more interesting to me was the fact that this page is essentially a transcript of the story as it appeared on the TV news, which explains why it's so short. It really highlights the ridiculously low information-to-time-spent ratio that makes TV news so worthless.

And is today a slow day at work? Yes.

AmiYumiUpdate: "I'm too cool to be excited."

Lydia lent me a tape of the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show. The show had been taped over some old movie that had previously made its residence on the tape. When I popped it into my VCR, something strange happened: I saw the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show, but I heard the old movie. I fast-forwarded, but the sound never recovered. It was as if only the video track had been recorded over, and the old movie sound remained crystal-clear.

This is especially strange since Lydia apparently was able to watch this tape with no problems.

So I set my VCR for 7:30 Friday, just like the billboards all over town say, but on Saturday I checked the tape and it was a different show! It was beginning to look like I was cursed to never experience the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show. I checked the Cartoon Network website. I was in luck! An episode was about to air at 11:30 AM Saturday, a mere twenty minutes away. I took a quick shower to make sure I was fresh and clean to watch Puffy AmiYumi.

My verdict: The show is dopey, but also cute and fun to watch. Once you get into the groove you forgive its dopiness. The chick-rock-cool, especially the Yumi character's "bad-girl" put-on, is so silly and broad it's practically a parody. As Lydia told me, the live-action intro and outro segments are the best parts, but they are very, very short. The episode I saw had Ami and Yumi pointing out their hometowns (Osaka and Tokyo) on a map of Japan, then getting into an argument over which is better. At the end of the show, their fight has escalated to the point that they fall down and knock over the map. Ami sums up that now you know where they are from. Yumi pokes her head in and whispers "Osaka's better."

After Puffy was Teen Titans, which has been using a Puffy-sung theme song for awhile now, which makes me smile a lot.

(The quote in my headline is from a story in the episode in which the girls' manager replaces them with robots so he can make more money by having them all perform in different places at once. The robo-Ami introduces herself with "I'm Ami. I'm excited to meet you." and the robo-Yumi ('cause she's a bad girl) says "I'm Yumi. I'm too cool to be excited.")

Trailerblazing

Last week one of our production professors, Mark W. Gray, brought in Back to Back, one of the early films in his cinematography career, and performed a live commentary as it played. In turn, we could ask him questions about the production or laugh and make fun of it. Fortunately, he has no problem admitting it's just a cheesy John-Woo-rip-off action B-movie. It stars Michael Rooker, the bald dad from Mallrats, as a hothead ex-cop (is there any other kind?) who reluctantly teams up with a Yakuza hitman against a morbidly obese Italian mob boss.

The movie, while bad, is just bad enough to be amusing throughout, which keeps it eminently watchable throughout all its deliciously laughable cliches. And it's well shot.

Watch the trailer and have a taste.

More Kenny Byerly Links

Some other cool things you might find if you Google my name include the transcript of my NPR interview, all my Amazon.com reviews, and the local paper's story about my Seinfeld contest win.

Boy, am I great.

Googlized

Inspired by Zembla's exhaustive Sean Keane search, I set out to see if there were any Kenny Byerlys afoot, threatening to rival my own web presence. For some reason I'd never Googled my name with "quote marks" before, resulting in a lot of Kennys and a lot of Byerlys that were wholly unrelated to each other.

So today I did it right, and lo and behold, I dominate every search result for "Kenny Byerly" through every results page, abridged or not (except for the son of some dead woman in an obituary)!

However, I discovered that if you search "Ken Byerly" or "Kenneth Byerly" you get many people who aren't me. Good thing I never made the upgrade to a grown-up name, or I would be fighting for hits right now.

However, the Daily Cal story for my second External VP run lists me as a Kenneth, so this is the only way to look back on the "Ass Cat Cool Cat" candidacy.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Diesel

Vin Diesel continues his string of brilliant career moves with The Pacifier. You must watch this trailer. It's fantastic. I don't know if I mean that ironically or sincerely, but it's fantastic one way or another. High concept at its best and most ludicrous. I guess it's kind of Kindergarten Cop meets Suburban Commando, which is not saying much since those were kind of the same idea.

Addendum: When I say fantastic, I mean in a "so dumb it's great" kind of way, and when I say sincere, I mean "so great it's almost not dumb."

There's a moment about halfway through the trailer when I realized--and I should have realized this much sooner, immediately really--anyway, there's a moment when I realized he's going to turn out to be the perfect dad. And I went all teary-eyed.

Best line: "You're telling me protecting these kids is a matter of national security?"

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Start Your Engines

The first sign of Herbie: Fully Loaded publicity has shown up on MTV.

On a side note, I'm posting this here in the student production office at USC and people are waiting for an open computer. I'm feeling a bit guilty using one for this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Girly Page!!!

Checking in on The Girly Page!!! to stay in a high school mindset as I work on my new script (another high school comedy), I find this gem:

"so i came back to school and i had 8th period off so i went to my car. My dumb ass did not lock my door. So i go in and there is a codom that looked used on the shifter thing. It was so gross i had to odviously take it off to change gears so i did with a napkin and threw it in the parking lot. GROSS!!!! anywho went home, changed, shoved food in my mouth, sprayed 409 on the shifter, and went to basketball practice. oh yea it's Scotty's B-Day he's freaking 15, lol he's Jen's age!!"

All About the Anderson

New mini-trailers for The Life Aquatic are up, framed as "webisodes" although the "webisode" portion of each is pretty brief. But they're entertaining, at least as much as the full trailer, if not more so, and the music on them is great, too.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Paradiso

There are a pair of luxury apartment buildings in downtown LA, with more on the way, built to look like vaguely Italian-type buildings, except that they're massive castles. They're impenetrable from the outside except for the small openings for visitor parking (where visitors can't actually park, unless they're there to see a leasing agent). A couple of my friends live in such buildings. Let's call them The Medici and The Orsini, because those are the silly, pretentious names that they actually have.

I read a piece in CityBeat (a local free weekly where Stephanie interned for awhile) on the current boom in development in LA, the revitalization of downtown and how the Medici specifically is an example of how upscale, fortress-like new developments shut out the lower-class/immigrant neighborhoods surrounding them. It's true, and in fact one of my friends made a film about this exact subject, juxtaposing the homeless people blocking traffic outside with hot young fashion students sexing it up in the hot tub for the camera. Some classmates took him to task for pretentiousness. Yeah, poor people? Sometimes they exist close to rich people. Stop the presses. (Though the charges of his film somehow exploiting poor people by trying to draw attention to their plight is an overanalytical, meta-PC overreaction that is not worth discussing. This is a digression but merely meant to clarify my view in case he reads this.)

However, this treatment of these buildings, these bastions of the high life, suggests that these so-called rich people really are living it up within those imposing walls. What I find fascinating, though, is that the Medici/Orsini seem to me not so much luxury as the illusion of luxury--it may be a fortress to keep out poor people, but fortresses are not actually nice places to live. It's got fountains, tile, fancy countertops, all the trappings of luxury, but you're trapped in a neighborhood you wouldn't want to walk around in--sequestered from the world in a maze of carpeted hallways, with strategically placed palm trees in tiny open-air courtyards to give you the illusion of seeing outdoors.

The Orsini common areas actually feature oppressively piped-in muzak, as though you lived in a department store (resulting in one classmate choosing to delete the dialogue from her film rather than deal with shooting sound). The Medici has a park, accessed by a walkway symbolically suspended high above street level, blurring the line between exclusivity and volutary self-confinement. Outlandishly overpriced studio apartments--top dollar for a minimum of private living space, which may or may not be positioned mere feet from a roaring freeway. The strong stench of a gas leak hovers over half the Orsini pool. This is luxury? It's claustrophobic, lorded over by Orwellian leasing agents who remind you that even personal photographs taken on the premises may fall under their jurisdiction. But it's sort of Italian-looking, and it costs a fortune, so it must be nice.

What is this weird impulse to imagine we're living the lives of movie stars when in fact we're like small animals herded into ever smaller, ever denser quarters that would draw the ire of PETA were it not for our own self-awareness placing the blame in our own laps? What is this self-delusion that if we surround ourselves with pathetic, superficial markings of luxury it means that we are doing better than we are?

Maybe it isn't actually self-delusion. The people I know who live there seem to know better. None of them are over the moon about the place where they live; in fact they realize it's a sham, often readily admitting the irony of their pseudo-rich rip-off living quarters.

I live in a small, seven-unit apartment building in Westwood, south of Santa Monica, which means not in the student-dense area surrounding UCLA. It's a real neighborhood where I can go for a walk. My building doesn't have a pool or a gym with DVD players on every treadmill. It doesn't look like an Italian villa after a horrific Akira-style mutant growth spurt. It just looks like a small LA apartment building, and it's got character.

So is the point of all this just that my place (called "run-down" in a classmate's critique of a film I shot there) is better than supposedly fancy places? Yes. And okay, maybe my area has fewer poor people because everyone moved there to get away from them, and not everyone can afford to live there either. But I guess the point is, if you are going to pay a lot of rent to hide from poor people, it's better to live in a place that's actually kind of nice as opposed to dropping yourself in a place you hate and building a huge wall around you, even if it's a pretty wall.

Then again, there are too many people in this city and super-dense housing is the wave of the future. There's a pretty big apartment building right behind mine and in ten or twenty years I'm sure my building will be gone and a new horrible one will take its place. I know all that. I'm just not looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Heuristic Squelch Issue Review, Nov. 2004

New Squelch is out. Here's the verdict, as written to those responsible.

Cover:
Amazing. One of the best covers in years (along with Homeless Mario) and one that I actually bothered to print out with the rest of my PDF issue. It is a weird, complicated joke, maybe too complicated for a cover, yet it works. It takes so long to put the pieces together--"The guy's dead...There's a Talisman...He's got the Talisman...so he shot himself...but the gun is...Oh, and Sean's like 'what went wrong?'"--that for me it's actually more fun. It's not that the joke is hard to understand, just that it's almost a puzzle, and once you figure it out the joke is that much funnier and more satifying. And the mere fact that it is so complicated for a cover gag is funny to me an a whole 'nother level.

Aesthetically, it's a bit all over the place, and you can tell the Talisman is Photoshopped in. Where did you guys shoot the picture? It's an admirable approximation of a QVC set. And Sean's expression is, of course, priceless.

Page 2:
Staff box theme is well done and surprisingly fruitful. This Month's Cover is good. Small text is dumb. Kevin said it's from someone's livejournal? Hey, isn't it that people turn into stone when they look at Medusa, not that she turns things to stone by looking at them? I think you have this mixed up. Maybe you're thinking of Midas touching things and turning them into gold.

WFTT:
Interesting. It took two writers to hash out something half as long as usual. I hope this is just because you really wanted to hype the crap out of Laugh Your Axe Off. Speaking of the ad, comedy shows? Just saying. I'll echo Kevin's note on this: It's well done double-reversal Lampoonesque nonsense, but this style is a dead end after awhile. It's a good exercise because you're essentially creating comedy out of nothing, but once you learn it and master it (as it seems you have) the next challenge is to apply it to actual topics. Loker often does this in his Daily Cal columns, which apparently absorbed all the actual material he may have had for WFTT columns.

Page 3: Squelch Endorsements
Premise a bit unclear. The intro says some stuff about how California votes don't matter, which colors how I read the piece, but I'm not sure how. Do you mean they don't matter as to the Presidential contest? Sure, but this is about state propositions. California votes matter for those, right? And California approved stem cell research while hanging tight to existing three-strikes law, so it's hard to pin down a point of view that CA is too liberal or conservative. The intro suggests that these measures are going to be uber-conservative (because CA liberals don't matter) or uber-liberal (because they'll never pass anyway?). In fact, they're just silly and neither of these is true, which is fine, but I would suggest you ditch the intro elements that hint at an angle that isn't there. That said, the endorsements are pretty funny and this definitely beats another page of Newsflashes. "Jesus[squared]+3" is not that funny. I'm starting to get bored of Jesus as an "automatic comedy word."

Pages 4-5: Newsflashes
I'm so glad you guys spared us an extra page of this dead format. Kevin's right about Deaf-Mute mixing in a bit too much tard. These all bore me, every one, although I especially dislike the Architecture one because Wurster slams are so easy and pedestrian. I've said it before and I'll say it again. At least Wurster fails spectacularly. We should reserve our worst scorn for Evans and its complacent mediocrity, not to mention the extensive work they had to do on it because it really was literally falling apart.

Caviezel NF makes a good point, although I don't know how true those "internet rumors" about Caviezel playing Superman really are. I guess the other ones on this page are okay, too, although I still don't care.

On the Superb ad: $10-$20 to see Dane Cook, off campus? What the hell? Who's going to pay that? Are they out of their minds? So he's been on Comedy Central. I bet most people haven't heard of him any more than they've heard of most of our comics. This is insane.

Page 6
Top Tens are good, including another Tapeworm list. Two top fives, which suggest struggles in the meeting, but that's fine since what we get is pretty good.

Dr. Seuss feels a lot like that email forward about Dr. Seuss books, basically summarizing them and making them sound more serious/sinister/whatever than they really are.

Page 7: Ma-ti
Why isn't this "A Day in the Life," as opposed just "Day in the Life..."? These gags are okay but I love the piece as a whole, just because the premise is so darn good. That "Power of Heart" crap was always so weak. This piece says what we were all thinking, and I love it for it. It's funny because it's true. That bad guy's name was really "Looten Plunder"? I love it. Hope to see more from Spencer Gilbert in the future. Top tens strong again.

Page 8: Deadbeat Dad
I didn't like this much on the writers list but it's much better now that I see it all laid out. I like that it's broken into manageable chunks.

page 9: Lincoln/Kennedy Coincidences
I think this is an old Sean piece, possibly from the blog. Funny idea, but gets formulaic very fast.

Spread: 5 Other Bigs
Great layout. The whole issue has a very clean design sense that makes good use of white space, and this is a good example of that. If this layout weren't so good I don't think I'd like this spread. But the layout makes it pleasing to the eye and elevates the just-average writing.

Page 12: Hey, Rhino
The rhino-horn design element is a clever way to help us follow an unorthodox layout. Good use of Impact font, which is usually a mistake. Very funny piece, especially when it turns into a comic strip. "World's Crippledest Samurai" is a very Fornaca phrase. One minus: The piece is hard to get into at first, and the introduction of Phil is confusing. I was able to go with it once I pictured Phil Hentell having these dialogues with Zack, but if I didn't know Phil Hentell, I think I would be thrown. Zack with no explanation is fine because we know it's the writer, but I wonder if people will get confused by the Phil character.

This seems to be an extrapolation of the "If you ran the Zoo" top ten list a couple years back.

Page 13: Duff vs. Lohan
Ah, my first feature as an emeritus. Very elegant layout, tastefully done. I was trying to guess what you guys would do and I imagined a Street Fighter II "Vs." screen with Duff and Lohan on it.

The piece needed editing for length. I see that you've gone and added jokes that mainly make fun of me and what a perv I am, which I guess is deserved. Kevin may be right that it distracts from the main joke. It's interesting to see you guys do that, since it's very much in the spirit of what I used to do with people's pieces, like when I took Cynthia's piece about sleeping over with a boyfriend and filled it with dead-ex-girlfriend references that derailed the original intention. I've never had that done to me before, so that was interesting.

As I told Loker, I'm mainly sad the joke about the threesome with Lohan and the Parent Trap twin got cut. I liked that joke.

Page 14: James Bond
Good concept, written up in kind of a boring manner. Vignettes or a timeline or some more interesting device to break up the jokes would have helped this one, which really didn't lend itself to being written as a straight essay. Also, some other errors: "his late film" - what, did it die? "Quatropussy" - should that be "Quadropussy"? and the last paragraph goes from referring to "Bond" to a first name basis, "James." So good premise, good ideas, solid jokes, poor execution. This reminds me of Sean's Cola Wars piece, which he wrote for a spread. Funny gags, but it was dead in the water until we decided to take the middle chunk and turn it into a timeline so readers know where the jokes are. Detached, third-person perspective essays like this are tough to make funny.

I like the "Fact:"s and the generous white space used around the piece so that it doesn't look crammed in.

Page 16: Disabled Students Program
Aaron gets a gold star. One of my favorite pieces this issue. Great art choice, too. That said, the intro is a bit confusing due to the inappropriate use of the word "persecuted" which leads us to believe that Aaron will be the victim of injustices when in fact he is the inadvertent beneficiary of the DSP policies. You may say that was an intentional joke. Well, it doesn't work. It just makes it harder for us to understand the jokes in the piece. It would have been better to say "I benefit in unintentional ways" or something. Otherwise you're lying about the premise to me and that doesn't help you. Imagine if Letterman started a top ten list with one heading and all the entries were about the opposite. It's not funny, it just means you don't get what he's doing until he's halfway through the list and the first five jokes were wasted on you.

That said, the piece is still great. I don't even know why, but for some reason, the piece overall is pleasing to me. Maybe because it ends so strong, finally turning the premise on its head. Love the slow talking. Is this the true story of why Aaron goes to Vista?

YOU...GET...A...GOLD...STAR...

Page 17: Will
Ripped from the blog, yourself, Kev. Strong, funny piece. Not much to say about it. I seem to remember being hard on Deenihan pieces lately and I think this one places Kevin back on firm ground.

Page 18: Daughter's FuturePretty good, especially for a piece written by girls. Hey, why wasn't "Comedy Writer" an entry?

Page 19: C.A.S.H.
Simple, but funny and well-done.

Back Cover
Great stuff, esp. Cancer. I'm disappointed it's not SquelchCo, which displays a disregard for past ad agency spoofs and the default fake company name we always used to use (always=often). Coveting works fine by me. Verbs is where I get thrown. I don't get it. Do people hate Verbs? Is this a play off the "Verb. It's what you do!" get-off-the-couch anti-obesity campaign? I think the idea is that the slogan makes no sense because it lacks a verb, but I can't figure out what verb is missing or what the slogan is supposed to say, which makes it more confusing than funny.

The Squelch & Sons PR firm slogan looks weird--maybe it could use a period, or no quotes, or...I don't know. The font on "Public Relations" and the slogan seems lazy.

What if the last ad was for the Squelch & Sons Public Relations firm, and had the same slogan? I'm not saying that's a good idea, I'm just saying.

Overall, guys, a great issue that inspires very little vitriol, making it difficult to get through an issue critique. My favorite issue in ages, and not just because it has one of my pieces in it. Mainly because of that, but not completely.

Monday, November 15, 2004

lol jk

Is this what high school is like now? This is so sad.

See the WHS JUNIORS PAGE and the one for girls. Obviously teenagers making idiots of themselves on the internet is nothing new but most teen blogs are so incoherent you can't even get your bearings enough to laugh at them. Here you get just enough context for your ego-boosting sense of smug superiority.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Puffy!

No, not that one.

One of my favorite music-performing entities, J-pop sensations Puffy Amiyumi, suddenly and inexplicably has a cartoon show on the Cartoon Network.

In case you're not familiar, Puffy Amiyumi (just Puffy in Japan, where they don't have to worry about being confused with a certain since-renamed hip-hop mogul) rise above the usual level of cheesy guilty-pleasure J-pop with catchy old-school rock tunes with diverse influences from the Beatles to, well, other things, and a rocking back-up band that plays actual instruments with great vigor.

Plus, Ami and Yumi are charming, spunky, and cute, and highly appealing performers, even if their voices are admittedly nothing special on their own. I think Ami is the one I like better.

I'm not so sure about this cartoon, though, which seems to have little to do with the real girls. They show up in the opening, and their songs are used throughout, but they don't do the voices (apparently they had to get actors who could, you know, speak English) and the wacky lives of the characters seem to have very little relevance to the real Puffy Amiyumi. I want to like it, but there's not enough actual Puffy enjoyment to be had here, at least from the look of the clips on the website. Far better are the clips of the opening sequence and the Teen Titans theme, which at least feature the real girls performing.

I'm glad this may increase Puffy Amiyumi awareness in America, but it's so tenuously connected to the real girls I don't know who it will appeal to. People who don't know them wouldn't particularly care about this either, would they?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

As Long as We're Talking Computer Animation...

Have you ever seen anything more terrifying than The Polar Express?

Roger Ebert has referred several times to the phenomenon where we readily assign human traits to cartoons and allow ourselves to feel like they're real, but when things are too close to being real, they seem fake because we focus on what's wrong with them instead.

I love Robert Zemeckis, for he is, after all, the director who brought us Back to the Future, but Polar Express looks like a huge miscalculation. Digital actors are not here yet. It will take plenty of bold, failed experiments like this one to get there, not that anyone really wants fake actors in movies, but for some reason everyone's determined to make it happen even though it's a terrible idea.

The look of this movie is creepy through and through. It has the surreal, terrifying quality of a nightmare. Yes, take a perilous train ride, meet five different weirdoes who all look like wax figures of Tom Hanks (isn't the point of multiple roles usually to try to look different in each one?), arrive in a bizarrely metropolitan North Pole where fanatical elves congregate in worshipful, near-fascist celebration of the Pope-like Santa Claus. No, no, and again no.

This is not live action and it is not a cartoon. I don't know if people will know what to make of it. I certainly don't.

For more upcoming computer animation, see:

Madagascar, from Dreamworks, about animals trying to escape from the zoo. Stupid domesticated animals. Don't they know they'll never be able to function in the wild? But hey, Ben Stiller is in it.

Robots, from Fox. Hey, it's a big step up from Ice Age. And look, Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor. And...Halle Berry. Yes, she's an excellent voice actress. To detour for a second, isn't it nice how Pixar casts actors based on what they bring to the character instead of just to throw big names into the movie? What's the point of casting an actress who's pure eye candy and delivers convincing line readings about 1% of the time to do voice acting?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Pixar Prospects

Just saw The Incredibles today. Very good, possibly my favorite Pixar film yet, although like Finding Nemo, it lacks the constantly-topping-itself third act that distinguished all the films from Toy Story to Monsters, Inc.

For the first time, the Pixar short before the movie was just plain dumb. Some nonsense about a dancing sheep getting sheared and a stupid bouncing jackalope. Extremely unimpressive. Weird that they would pair their edgiest film yet with their most infantile, but there you go.

Also included was the trailer for Cars, the next movie from our Emeryville friends, which--man, I just don't know. I'm about as big a fan of sentient car movies as you're likely to find, but Cars, well--doesn't look good. Hard to believe, since it's Pixar, but it just looks uninspired.

Negatives:

-It looks like a feature-length Chevron ad.

-The hillbilly-sounding pickup truck. It's a redneck voice in a truck, complete with buck teeth. If there's a cheaper target for comedy, I haven't seen it.

-Fucking windshield eyes. If you wanted to make one change and make me like this movie about 75% more, you would make the headlights the eyes. It's the natural choice, and even the Chevron cars do it. Putting the eyes in the windshield is in the spirit of old-school Disney cartoon car depictions, most notably "Susie, the Little Blue Coupe," an animated short you can find on the Love Bug DVD (only due to the thematic similarity--there's no actual link between them). Anyway, I hated it in the old cartoon, and I hate it here too. Windshield eyes are stupid, and distance me too much from the idea that this is an actual functioning car, and if there's actual eyes that blink filling the windshield , how can a human possibly drive the car? Well, this leads to the next point...

-It's apparently a world without humans. A bizarre car-planet where NASCAR-like races have their checkered flag waved by a Mini Cooper holding a flag, and the spectators are other cars. Previous Pixar movies tended to involve sub-worlds related to the real one, like the secret world of bugs or toys or monsters or superheroes living among us. Oh yeah, or fish. But to postulate an alternate universe inhabited by living cars? A bit much, perhaps. Couldn't this have been to cars what Toy Story was to toys?

-Back to the NASCAR bit that takes up a big chunk of the teaser. Between this and Herbie: Fully Loaded, isn't Disney stepping on its own toes a bit? How many sentient car movies with stock-car racing tie-ins can an audience see in one year? It seems like it's asking a lot for the answer to be more than one.

-It seems unambitious. We've gone from toys to bugs in nature to hairy monsters to underwater environments to actual human characters, and each step seemed like a bigger, more exciting challenge for computer animation. But it seems like Cars could have been animated as easily as Toy Story. Just a lot of smooth surfaces.

-I still have no sense of the story or the point of view of the movie. Since all beings are cars, I have no sense of how they relate to the world, since the whole world created is now foreign. A year ago, when our only glimpse of The Incredibles was Mr. Incredible struggling to buckle his belt (it's not in the movie, by the way), we got it--middle-aged superhero past his prime. The whole concept was clear and we instantly wanted to see it. Cars shows us a redneck truck hitting a bee, a sportscar that hits a swarm of bugs, then a bunch of stock cars jockeying for position, then the redneck truck and the sports car expressing enthusiasm about the movie. Well, I'm glad they're excited. I wish I were. I really want to like any movie about cars.

Positives:

-You can't hear it too well in the online version, but that's Green Day they use over the racing bits. It was much more effective in the theater.

-Owen Wilson is the sports car. Once I realized this, I liked it much better, even though the sports car still doesn't say anything funny. Virtually anything Owen Wilson says is funny simply for hearing him say it.

-I do like cars. And it's Pixar, and however lame this teaser is, they have done no wrong for six movies, so how bad could it be? On the other hand, as the bouncing jackalope short reminds us, nobody's perfect.

-It's sad to think that all the wonderful characters Pixar has created from Toy Story up through The Incredibles will be Disney's to wreck with their inevitable crass, awful sequels and cut-rate direct-to-video tie ins. Maybe Cars is Pixar's fuck-you farewell film to Disney, closing out their contract without giving away any more of their good characters. Unfortunately, given the advance development time required, as well as the fact that it would not do Pixar any good to leave Disney on a flop, this is probably not the case.

A Look at the Relative Merits of Herbie Rides Again vs. Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo

HRA is less a movie about a car than a movie in which one of the characters happens to be a car. That said, it's the second best in my opinion. No racing, which is lame, but the writing and humor are still as smart as they were in The Love Bug, if not more so.

HGTMC has some of the best racing scenes and Herbie looks the coolest he does in any of the movies, which earns that movie points. Plus it has the return of Dean Jones and the inevitable car love interest for Herbie. And Don Knotts, who is one of those actors who can do no wrong no matter how dumb the material. But the jewel heist plot is contrived as can be, the car romance is handled in a painfully cheesy manner, as someone else says, many scenes drag on much too long, and a lot of the jokes feel a bit dopey. Plus Jim Douglas has mellowed, which makes sense given his character arc in TLB, but in this he's mellowed to the point of being a pushover. He turns the other cheek to the point that you just want to shake him--luckily he has Herbie to stick up for him. In TLB he didn't take crap from anyone, which made him too arrogant (and in need of a humbling lesson) but surely there's a happier medium than this. (Incidentally, the TV series further accentuated Jim's slide into being a hapless patsy for whoever wanted to push him around. Aside from the general uneventfulness of the show, this was the worst thing about it.)

In Bananas, director Vincent McEveety, who also did MC and would go on to helm the show, took the dopiness even further, incorporating a little "na-na-na-na-na-na" singsong jingle into the theme song (something else that would get worse on the TV show). Bananas is worth watching because it has some of the best, most convincing car stunts and the best wheelie of any of the films, and that's about it. And Paco is fun to watch when you're a kid and wish you could drive Herbie, even though when you get older you realize he's tremendously irritating. Lots of the jokes are just plain dumb, and comic talents Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman are left to flounder.

That part about Bananas is irrelevant, because I mainly wanted to respond to the HRA vs. MC comparison, but I built up the momentum and couldn't stop.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Oh, come on

Drudge Report readers have probably already seen this link, but it's too ridiculous to ignore.

46-Year-Old Reportedly Trying To Convert Lions To Christianity

POSTED: 3:27 pm EST November 3, 2004
UPDATED: 4:59 pm EST November 3, 2004

A man was attacked and injured after jumping into a lion's den at the Taipei Zoo and trying to convert the lions to Christianity.

The 46-year-old man leaped into the den of African lions and shouted "Jesus will save you," according to the report. He also said, "Come bite me" before one of the male lions attacked and bit the man.
Click here for more images.

Video showed the lion ripping a jacket off the man at the zoo in Taiwan's capital, clawing him and then biting the man in the leg.

Zoo workers were able to drive off the lion with water hoses and tranquilizer guns.

The lions were fed earlier in the day otherwise the man might have been more seriously injured or killed.



My favorite part is "Come bite me."

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Imagineer This

The website of the Save Disney movement has some interesting features ripping on the gradual deterioration of Disneyland under Eisner's watch. Some highlights are the comparison shots of Tomorrowland when it started versus the way it appears after the soul-sucking 1998 overhaul, and a detailed account of the corporate changes that blindly charged ahead without giving creative concerns their due. Especially amusing is the part where they thought California Adventure would be packed every day, and the former Imagineer who declared "I liked it better as a parking lot."

The author holds the old Tomorrowland in high regard. It does gleam beautifully in the shots from the '70s, but it was getting laughably dated by the '90s. Even so, he has a point about the mess they've made in the renovation. I have fond memories of the People Mover and the Skyway.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Get Arrested

...Development on DVD. It's out now, and it's great. Now's your chance, Zack, to incorporate this show into your DVD-based television-viewing lifestyle. If you buy it and don't like it, I promise to say I'm sorry.

Even if you watch broadcast TV, this is the perfect time to show your support for what's arguably the best show currently running, and to abandon your excuse of not knowing what time it's on. The toughest thing about getting into this show was always catching up with the characters without the benefit of introductory episodes, and now even that is a non-issue.

Seriously, go out and buy it. Trust me. This is my Katamari Damacy.

Fox should pay me money for this post.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Hilary Duff vs. Lindsay Lohan: An Objective Look

America is more polarized than ever before, and no issue is more divisive than the Hilary Duff/Lindsay Lohan feud. Therefore, it is imperative to take an impartial look at the issues so fans can decide for themselves who deserves superstardom and who deserves tabloid headlines about how drunk and knocked up she is. Both stars have their strengths. Sure, Hilary Duff can draw on her Lizzie McGuire fanbase, but Lindsay Lohan has a lot going for her too, like the fact that she doesn’t look like Hilary Duff, and tits.

Let’s compare track records. Hilary Duff catapulted from Disney-Channel niche star to inexplicable big-screen sensation with The Lizzie McGuire Movie, in which she switches places with her doppelganger and lives the pop star life. Compare this to Lindsay Lohan’s debut, The Parent Trap, in which she switches places with her doppelganger yet does not live the pop star life, and Freaky Friday, in which Lindsay Lohan switches places with Jamie Lee Curtis (not her doppelganger) and performs rock music, suggesting a possible pop-star life in her future. Note that Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen explores pop star fantasies in further depth without the burden of switching places or bodies (with or without a doppelganger). Here we see that Lohan spreads the required tropes of doppelgangers, switching places, and pop star fantasies over three movies, while Duff packs all three devices into one film.

We can attribute this to the fact that Lohan’s commanding screen presence holds our interest and allows nuanced examinations of these issues one or two at a time, while Duff’s blankness requires that the filmmakers throw in all their gimmicks at once in order to disguise her ineptitude. Also, keep in mind that Lindsay Lohan is a gorgeous princess and Hilary Duff is a disgusting cow. Advantage: Lohan.

How has each star fared in their first forays outside the Disney banner? Duff starred in A Cinderella Story, coasting on the Disney/Cinderella association and appearing in posters wearing a white wedding dress—inappropriate for a high school movie—and pink sneakers. Thumbs up for the pink Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, thumbs down for the thought of Hilary Duff’s awful feet inside them. Pity that guy giving her a piggy back ride. Piggy back, indeed. Oink!

Lohan, on the other hand, headlined the Tina Fey-penned Mean Girls, a complex, edgy comedy satirizing the idiotic behavior of teenage girls. Like anything up to and including a snuff film, Mean Girls is better than A Cinderella Story, ergo, you know the drill. Hilary Duff sucks, but not on any of my appendages, because I would prefer Lindsay Lohan for that, if I were single and Lindsay Lohan wanted to. Advantage: The opposite of Hilary Duff.

Upcoming projects: Lindsay Lohan is working on the Love Bug remake Herbie: Fully Loaded. Herbie the Love Bug kicks ass all over the place, but imagine if Hilary Duff were in the lead: Yuck. Poor Herbie. Good thing it’s Lindsay Lohan. Meanwhile, Hilary Duff is working on some dumb thing that will be crappy.

On the matter of music careers: I cannot name a Lindsay Lohan song, but I have heard the Hilary Duff song “So Yesterday.” Advantage: Lohan.

Hilary Duff’s emergence from the statutory rape zone is currently awaited with an eagerness not seen since the pre-legal Olsen twins, until Mary-Kate spoiled the fantasy by becoming a strung-out anorexic head case. (Anyone who finds either or both of the Olsen twins incredibly sexy should just go ahead and fantasize about Ben Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor, who looks exactly like them except less troll-like and less plural.)

Lindsay Lohan has courteously spared us months of disturbing countdown websites by turning eighteen promptly after becoming a sex symbol. Admittedly, Lindsay Lohan has grown chunkier of late. But would you rather have sex with a voluptuous hot chick or a skinny toxic mutant? Me too (I am assuming you did not choose the mutant). Besides, look at Lindsay Lohan’s tits. They are huge. There is a chance they are even not fake, and that the prominent scars in those paparazzi pictures were merely under-breast redness with a perfectly non-surgical explanation. You can believe what you like, as long as it is this.

To sum up, if you think Hilary Duff is an object of lust you are a pervert. It's fine if you're a young girl and you admire her ordinariness because it makes her a more realistic role model, like those ugly dolls that they tried to sell instead of Barbie to improve girls’ self-esteem. Hilary Duff has no shape, fat ankles and an ugly face and the only possible appeal is that she's jailbait, if you're into that sort of thing. What I am trying to say is that if I were single and having sex with seventeen-year-olds were okay and Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan each asked me to have sex, I would say "Yes" to Lindsay Lohan and "No" to that dog Hilary Duff. If they wanted to have a threesome I would tell Hilary Duff to go away and then tell Lindsay Lohan to get that girl who played her twin in The Parent Trap.

The Loathsome Life of...

What is the point of VH1's The Fabulous Life of... series? Is it just to make me hate celebrities? I just saw The Fabulous Life of Hollywood's It Girls, and the shameful excesses of talentless drones like Paris Hilton, Kelly Osbourne and Hilary Duff, not to mention talented but spoiled/obnoxious starlets like Scarlett Johannsen and Lindsay Lohan... Oh, and the Olsen twins were there too. Where was I?

Right, talking about how the show verged on making me feel physically nauseous. Is the show's fawning tone supposed to be ironic? Is the object to turn us against the obscenely privileged stars we apparently worship?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Comic Strip Review: Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!

I'm not too fond of newcomer Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! I like that the idea for the strip is unconventional and takes a different tone than most strips; unfortunately, the subject and tone chosen can be pretty much summed up as a second-rate imitation of Futurama. It even hits the same notes of meanness, idiocy, and absurdity. And far too much reliance on the word "spleen," even if it is all in the service of the same running gag of Winky getting abused.

However, I do like the joke in today's strip, which works surprisingly well. It also made me realize that there has been a running story arc about the Death-Ship for the past several weeks, which I didn't even notice while reading the strip intermittently. This might be the strip that pushes the strip from "trying and unfunny" to "tolerable and occasionally worthwhile." Sometimes it just takes one to do that.

Already I can go back through the archives and find bits that amuse me more than they used to, thanks to my slightly higher view of the strip. Some, of course, remain unfunny and confusing.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Katamari Update

It took me awhile to warm up to Katamari Damacy, since I had to get past all the hype and evaluate the experience for myself. Was I really having fun? After realizing I’d spent several hours rolling things into a ball and didn’t want to stop, I suppose I can say that I was. Right now I’m on Star 6, but I haven’t played since Tuesday and Wednesday.

I actually like that the people and animals look blocky and fake, since it makes the world more abstract and you don't have any virtual guilt about rolling them into a ball as they scream and flail. I also like the surreal cut-scenes with the creepy kids and their mom, and how even they are drawn in the blocky style to match the human appearances within the gameplay.

The film school at USC has a new Interactive Media division, created three years ago out of a huge grant from EA. I was talking to Doox, an Interactive Media student, at a party on Friday and he was really excited that I knew what Katamari was. Apparently it’s all the rage among the IM students. One guy even bought five copies because he wanted to give it as a gift but feared it would sell out. How is Katamari doing sales-wise, anyway? Is it really in short supply, being a more obscure title?

Doox hasn’t gotten his copy yet, but he has played it and was very enthusiastic. Doox is from Korea, and he’s actually very enthusiastic about pretty much everything, like learning to shotgun a beer.