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."