Friday, April 29, 2005

Batman & Herbie

Okay, enough messing around. Let’s get back to what this blog is really about: movie trailers.

First, Batman Begins. While I’m happy that someone is finally making a Batman movie that takes the character seriously, I haven’t actually been too impressed by the trailers so far. Maybe that’s because while seeing Bruce Wayne travel the globe for training is interesting in theory, in reality I don’t give a crap. There’s a reason that stuff was always told in vague flashbacks. I want to see Batman, and I want to see him in Gotham City.

The new trailer finally lets us get to Gotham, and it kicks ass. Tim Burton’s literally gothic Gotham was cool at the time, but it got played out in the comics throughout the nineties. I don’t know what Joel Schumacher’s Gotham was supposed to be, aside from gigantic statues of naked men garnished with tacky neon. But now Christopher Nolan brings us a Gotham that looks like a real city, but more so. It’s real, but extreme. Look at the surreal vastness of the city in the flyover shot, the speeding el train and the moody griminess inside.

The trailer puts maybe too much emphasis on the heavy-duty new car, especially the way it punctuates the ending with yet another shot of it. But perhaps they’re only too proud to show off a Batmobile with some tactical value as opposed to the plastic, neon-accented, open-canopy impracticality on wheels of Batman & Robin.

Michael Caine looks good as the new Alfred, and Morgan Freeman as, I assume, Lucius Fox.

I wasn’t letting myself get too worked up over Batman Begins before. So far it was just a lot of stylish advance posters and Christian Bale talking to Liam Neeson. Now it’s finally starting to reveal itself as a Batman movie, and for the first time, I’m excited about it.

And then there’s Herbie. Maybe some of you would enjoy the trailer more with a Japanese voice-over? It’s worth it just to hear the narrator say the actors’ names in Japanese. The Japanese trailer also puts more emphasis on Herbie’s matchmaking skills and the Lohan/Justin Long love interest subplot, completely ignored in the American trailer. It’s interesting also to compare the Japanese website art to the American art. If the American site had a picture that ridiculous, I’d be hopping mad, but the fact that it’s for Japan makes perfect sense.

*Update: Coincidentally, the day I refer people to the Herbie site for comparisons of the page's appearance, they update the page and change it completely. To see the art that corresponds to the Japanese version, see the Downloads:Wallpaper section of the new website.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hello, Everybody! Welcome to the Program

We've got a great show for you tonight.

Michael Moore has started a college scholarship. This will mark the first time the poor college student receiving a scholarship is better dressed than the rich guy who created it.

Michael Moore's scholarship will be awarded to students willing to disobey their school's administration. It's called the "A Lot of Good This is Going to Do Me Now That I'm Kicked Out of School" Scholarship.

Ashton Kutcher said that if his new movie, A Lot Like Love, was number one at the box office, he would model for underwear ads. Just in case you needed another reason not to see A Lot Like Love.

In a speech, President Bush said, quote, "it sure would be helpful" if Congress would pass a long-delayed bill. To which Congress replied, "Fine, you don't have to get passive-aggressive about it."

Mitch Albom, the author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, is in trouble for making up facts in his newspaper column. Right now he's working on his next book, The Five People I'll Meet in Hell.

The new movie Monster in Law comes out soon, starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda. Filmmakers had hoped to cast the trifecta of most-loathed women in America, but Martha Stewart was unavailable.

Congress is still fighting over whether or not to approve John Bolton's nomination as UN ambassador. I don't blame them. Have you heard this guy's music?

Some people worry that making longtime UN-hater John Bolton a UN ambassador would piss off other countries. Responding to these concerns, the Bush administration stated, "Duh."

The new Pope, Benedict XVI, has an email address now. In fact, he's already gotten a great deal on refinancing the Vatican, and he's added three inches to his Pope hat.

The Pope plans to use the email address to better communicate with the faithful. Catholics say the only problem is, he keeps forwarding jokes about "Jesus, St. Peter, and Me on a boat."

Porn star Mary Carey was arrested at a strip club, for violating LA laws against strippers getting too close to customers and touching themselves in a sexual manner. Which begs the question: Why even have strip clubs any more?

Increased airport security has made smuggling Ecstasy pills from Europe harder than ever. Thanks a lot, War on Terror. Like I'm not swallowing enough Ziplock bags on a string already.

New calculations show that moderately overweight people actually have a lower risk of death than people of normal weight. But it turns out this is just because they have more cushioning when they get hit by cars.

We've got a great show for you here tonight. The very lovely, the very talented Sarah Michelle Gellar is here.

Thank you. We've also got Eugene Levy, and after that, Queens of the Stone Age.

Stick around!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

This Guy is Good

Dan Neil, he of the brutal Mercury Montego smackdown, is amazing.

He manages to make freeways sound cool:

In a lifetime behind the wheel, some of my best moments have been driving in Los Angeles late at night, when the freeways are empty and virtually unpatrolled. The multitudes are gone, and the emotional memory is like the feeling you get when you go into the office late at night—it's silent and brightly lit—and you sense that mysterious energy of absence.

On late-night freeways—the city a bed of embers—you can sail along and enjoy the view. At places where high viaducts crisscross, such as the interchange at the I-15 and I-10 in Ontario, you can't see the bridges in the dark, and the few cars appear to be flying in stately progress across the sky.

My favorite stretches are the escalades of the HOV lanes, like the one at the interchange of the I-110 and the I-105 heading toward LAX—a single-lane viaduct that rises (how high? 100 feet, 1,000 feet?) into the night. The city lights look gorgeous, like the glowing spall on a welder's floor, and for that brief moment there is a sort of reckoning. This is why I live here.

Here he is also on the wasted potential of John Delorean:

DeLorean was one of the rare Detroit auto executives who — along with futurists such as Buckminster Fuller and Norman Bel Geddes — saw the automobile as part of a progressive vision of the world, where transportation was framed by social and environmental imperatives. Ironically, it is these very imperatives — and the threat of $3 per gallon gasoline — that are playing havoc with American automakers now.

What a shame. DeLorean enters history not as a visionary but as an arrogant, amoral hipster, a victim of his own toxic vanity.

On the sexiness of a Mercedes:

... the Mercedes-Benz CLS500 will forever be known as the "Cialis" 500 — which sounds like a NASCAR event and, come to think of it, probably is.

I wonder if this is art or accident. This is car design in a highly aroused state. Described as a four-door "coupe" and essentially a re-skin of the E500, the CLS500 is an unbelievably sexy sedan — sleek and wide, dangerous and exclusive — that, with an arched beltline paying out from the tops of the front wheel wells, looks as tensed as Artemus' bow. The sheet metal cavorts nose-to-tail in glowing rhythms that converge at the knife-edge deck lid like that of the CL coupes. This car threatens the gorgeous Maserati Quattroporte on my current "if-I-could-have-any-car" list.

Where the E-class and even S-class designs dutifully preserve optimum sightlines and trunk space, the CLS500 is profligate. The car's "greenhouse" — that glassy part above the fuselage — is narrow and swept rearward, elongating the hood and shortening the trunk to enhance the visual cues of a luxury coupe (the central window pillar is blacked out). The execution is flawless: prowling, predatory, concupiscent.

On the missed opportunity of the Buick LaCrosse:

As long as there have been high school proms and students with no dates to attend them, parents have reassured their awkward/chubby/ mouth-breathing adolescents that it's what is on the inside that counts. I myself was full of inner beauty, though that beauty was trapped in a sebaceous mutant with glasses as thick as lighthouse lenses.

I would counsel and console the Buick LaCrosse in similar fashion. It's all right, honey. Don't cry. If customers don't see what a wonderful car you are, well, it's their loss.

I would also go around the house discreetly covering all the mirrors.

And on the pathetic state of GM, in a supposed review of the Pontiac G6 that turned into a corporate critique so harsh that GM pulled all their advertising from the LA Times.

The company's multiplicity of divisions and models is turning into a circular firing squad. How can four nearly identical minivans — one each for Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet and Saturn — be anything but a waste of resources? Ditto the Four Horsemen of Suburbia, the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X. How does the Pontiac Montana minivan square with Pontiac as the "Excitement" division? Why, exactly, is GMC on this Earth?

Boback's Mojo

If this script gets made, I know who will be first in line.

Title: Rizzle Pizzle Sizzle
Log Line: A former Rock, Paper, Scissors champion reunites his ragtag team of misfits to defeat his arch nemesis at the annual RPS tournament.
Writer: Adam Farasati and Ethan Furman
Agent: Mngmnt. firm Magnet Management and atty. Stewart Brookman
Buyer: Gold Circle Films
Price: n/a
Genre: Comedy
Logged: 4/11/05
More: Spec script. This is also their first script. Apartment 3B Productions' Jennifer Klein and Gold Circle Films' Paul Brooks will produce.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Kenny’s DVD Buying Guide

Now that we've been treated to Zack's game-buying secrets, I'll offer my comparatively unimpressive DVD-buying strategies.

First of all, I don’t buy DVDs quite as often as I used to, so if readers are aware of some magical new shopping venue not mentioned here, please jump in. Also, my shopping decisions are based on a combination of price and convenience, not necessarily just the lowest price. Obviously, where you should buy your DVDs varies based on what kind of stuff you’re looking to buy.

1. Online retailers. When it comes to ordering online, I’ll generally go with I used to order from, which, as of the last time I used them, consistently undercut Amazon by a buck or two. Take that for what it’s worth, but also realize that has the worst customer service possible, short of a Help screen that gives you the finger. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to call or email any kind of human entity, only an endlessly looping series of FAQ and Help screens that tell you nothing useful at all. Amazon’s customer service number is a big secret, but you can find it if you search the Internet at large and not Amazon’s site. I’ve soured on buying DVDs online lately, since I’ve found myself in situations where discs were scratched on arrival, and I’m too lazy to bother with shipping things for returns. If you like going to the post office, this shouldn’t be an issue, but having to ship something to return it is a dealbreaker for me.

I've known a few people who swear by Deep Discount DVD, but I think they're just dazzled by the name and the animated shark. The prices are slightly better than Amazon, but the site is ugly and no fun to navigate, not nearly as enjoyable an online shopping experience. I think that Amazon's ease of use and attractiveness are worth the slight price difference. Also, I've often found weird gaps in their selection that seem to omit exactly what I'm looking for, but this may have improved since I last looked for anime there. And then there's the online ordering aspect, which I try to avoid ever since I had to re-buy my Freaks and Geeks set.

2. Best Buy. Usually my first choice now when I’m looking to buy a DVD new. Their prices on major titles tend to be best the first week it comes out, and it’s automatically on sale. After a couple of weeks, the prices bump back up closer to retail and Best Buy offers less of a price advantage. Good selection, though. And most importantly, easy returns of defective (scratched) merchandise. On the downside, you can’t escape a certain suspicion that when you return a disc that’s scratched, there’s a chance that they’re just shrink-wrapping it and putting it back on the shelves for some other sucker. But I’m willing to take the chance. The odds are no worse than worrying about a disc coming loose and getting scratched up in shipping, and if I ever get stuck with a bad disc, at least I can exchange it easily at a brick-and-mortar store.

3. Target. Has pretty good prices but a crappy selection. If you see something you like while you’re there, though, you can pick it up with confidence that you’re getting a reasonably good deal.

4. Costco. You may feel irrationally compelled to pick up your DVDs at Costco, since they have such great deals on everything else that you may look at their DVD prices and think, “I’m at Costco! Surely these prices are rock bottom, lower than I could possibly find anywhere!” Well, no. You’re not buying a hundred-pack of DVDs, and there’s no wholesale discount to be had. They’re about on par with Best Buy and Target. Sure, it beats retail, but who pays retail for DVDs anyway? Where are you shopping, Borders? Are you crazy?

5. Used stores. You can search around for DVDs at stores like Rasputin and Amoeba, and you’ll occasionally find a great deal on something good. (Don’t buy new stuff there, though!) More often, you’ll find shit you don’t want for maybe a buck or two less than getting it new, in which case why bother? But the hunt is fun, if you like that sort of thing, and every now and then you’ll find something worthwhile. If you’re looking to buy a specific title, though, you might as well spare yourself the headaches and just go get it.

For mainstream (non-TV) fare (i.e. Spider-Man 2, Napoleon Dynamite)

- If you want it new, go to Best Buy the first week or two after release.

- If you’re willing to wait, this stuff will show up on the Pre-Viewed table at Hollywood Video within a couple of months for $14.99 at most, and you’ll feel like a fool for buying it new. Even Costco or Best Buy will generally run about 19.99 for it. Wait a few months and check the Pre-Viewed pile periodically, and some of the hundreds of extra copies they used to stock the store will show up soon enough. If you wait for multiple titles, you can pick up a few with their 3 for $25 deals. One caveat: You should probably check the discs as soon as possible so you can exchange them if they’re scratched or unplayable.

For TV shows:

- Just go ahead and buy them at Best Buy. Hollywood's used table makes you buy each disc separately until you're paying as much as you would for a new set at a decent store anyway. Also, the multiple discs mean there are that many more discs that could get scratched and spoil your set.

For esoteric Asian films:

- I’ve ordered from Poker Industries a few times and recently ordered from Yes Asia. They both seem good, but I think Poker Industries is a bit more expensive. Each seems to have some titles the other doesn't, so you may have to check back and forth sometimes. If you have a good Chinatown video store nearby maybe you can get around this, but this is probably the easiest way to get Asian titles that I know of. Make sure to get All-Region or Region 0 discs only, in NTSC, not PAL.

- For Battle Royale specifically:

I’ve bought this movie four times, so I know what I’m talking about.

i. Don’t buy the Korean 2-disc “Director’s Cut”. This is probably the easiest one to find and the one people automatically go for. It’s not technically the director’s cut, which implies existing material the director was forced to cut out; what it is, is the extended “Special Version” with new scenes and added blood (which, oddly, resulted in a more teen-friendly rating in Japan, allowing youths to go see it). The new scenes are kind of interesting if you're a completist, but they don't add much, and are generally not worth it if you plan to own only one version of Battle Royale. Also, the subtitles are fuzzy and the translations of the added scenes are practically incoherent. The special features have some interesting behind-the-scenes footage but have no English subtitles.

ii. Go to and get the region-free NTSC version of the Tartan Asia Extreme release of Battle Royale. This has the clearest picture and crisp subtitles with no embarrassing typos (“That were my friends!”) or confusingly poor translations. It’s the original, shorter cut, which plays tighter and more briskly and doesn’t drag out the ending until the audience’s patience is spent. It’s a stronger film in its original form, and this, not the Korean version or any of the bootlegs, is the definitive version to own if you speak English and live in North America.

iii. Don’t buy Battle Royale II in any form unless you have a morbid curiosity about how bad it can be.

Friday, April 22, 2005


Check out the New Beetle Ragster concept car. Because if there's one thing the New Beetle needs, it's less headroom.

I'm kidding; actually the New Beetle's front seats have great headroom, and the back seats have terrible headroom. This version just seems to level the playing field.

But it still looks awfully cool.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Small World

I think I know the girl who's IMDB's "Please Meet..." actor of the day.

I met a Yi Ding in Berkeley, which she attended according to her bio. I have vague memories of her having some attachment to The Joy Luck Club, but that could just be me filling in information from the bio at this point. She was looking for writers for a TV show she was trying to get off the ground about American students in China, to be written and produced in English but aired with subtitles in Chinese markets. I sent her samples of my writing and never heard back from her, but I still have her email in my Hotmail address book.

And now she's one of the obscure actors on IMDB's front page. Weird.

Oh, and, no, my paper's still not done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If Zack Were a Hot Chick I'd Totally Do Her

This rant may be lost on readers who a) use TiVo to skip ads or b) don't watch TV, but I have TiVo now and this ad still got through.

It's a Mountain Dew ad where a guy buys a Mountain Dew from a vending machine while chatting with his friend about getting dumped. As he buys the soda, the machine displays an ominous "bonus" message, which he doesn't notice. He turns and beeps the alarm on his beat-up old car, only to find that it transforms into a cool car. Amazed, he presses the button a few more times, cycling through different cool vehicles (including a tiny car driven by a friendly shriner) until finally settling on a slick orange pickup.

His friend's like, "Let's go," but the guy decides to go for broke and points the remote at his friend. He presses the button and the friend grows tits and long hair. The friend says, "Dude, not cool." He presses the button again and the friend finishes transforming into a willing hot chick and her clothes shrink to fit. She asks for a Dew, and another tap of the button delivers her one. The guy says "thank you" and kisses his key fob. Presumably, he then drives off and bones his best friend in hot chick form.

How is it possible that the numerous people who had to sign off on this ad saw nothing creepy about a guy transforming his friend into a sexy girl for the implied purpose of sex? Do they expect us to watch this commercial and say, "Right on! I totally wish my guy friends had tits so I could do them." Isn't it implicit that the guy's friend is still in there somewhere and that is so not a turn-on? Does it not occur to them that many, even most guys are likely to see this as weird and somehow, inexplicably, sorta gay?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cinematic and Extra-Cinematic Determinations

It's been a week. About time I should post. No time right now. Like Zack, I'm stuck working on a big assignment, a term paper for my Crit Studies class that's due this Wednesday. I've chosen to write on Billy Wilder's The Apartment. Great movie, but that never made writing a paper more fun. No, strike that. I guess it would be worse writing about a crappy movie. But writing about a good one is still pretty bad. But I've spent a couple of days just compiling my notes. Now I'm writing the paper and the pages are filling up fast enough but I still have a lot of material to cover and I don't know if these ideas are organized very well.

Anyway, this is the first time I've written a paper since regular college (i.e. undergraduate). I really liked the idea that I'd left that behind. Oh well. It got to the point in my undergraduate paper writing where, the more proficient I got at writing papers, the more I would procrastinate when writing them. So, while freshman year I would deliriously freak out at one o'clock or three o'clock, by my last semester I would keep on crusing the internet until, say, five o'clock or seven o'clock before really freaking out. This way I could keep the pressure high. You need a bigger and bigger fix each time, I guess, to push you to get that paper done. The freakouts grew more severe, too. By the end almost every paper I turned in I was convinced was pure garbage, since I was barely conscious and utterly incoherent by the time I finished each one. The grades never got any worse, though. Maybe if they had I would have been healthier about it.

I think Zack should post his Syntax assignment so we see why he hates it so much.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Heuristic Squelch 14.6 - Apr 2005 - Issue Crit the Last

Cover: Good joke, very visual. I don’t like clowns, but you don’t ask me to. Quibbles: Why is the number the clown took down a completely different style of sign than the zeroes currently displayed? The edge of the sign he's holding looks Photoshopped, as does the handwritten number itself. Would have been better to use a font or actually write it on the prop. The Photoshop work on the wall-mounted sign and the banner look pretty clean, though. I would have enjoyed some blood on the steps, but maybe you couldn’t make a mess at the International House. I just realized, blood, violence and death are kind of a theme of this year’s covers—the car accident carnage, the blood Yahtzee, the HSN mishap. Were you guys conscious of this?

WFTT: First paragraph is hilarious. Fourth paragraph and last paragraph are weakest. Generally strong Loker nonsense style, more focused, which is nice, but it seems to run out of steam as it goes on.

DVD Commentary: Captures the voice and tone of commentaries. The dead-on voice is actually the funniest part here. The hints of how terrible the movie is are funny, but not standout. Did you know Top Gun was based on a magazine article called “Top Guns”? I’m taking a class right now with one of the screenwriters of Top Gun. We watched it in class. He blames director Tony Scott for the dripping homoeroticism of the volleyball scene.


Uphill has the ring of truth, though the assumption that a “typical humanities student’s” path begins at the BART station might be better described as a “typical seventh-year former dropout who’s already moved to San Francisco but has decided to return to school’s” path. I would guess that a more typical humanities student begins from an apartment already located in Berkeley, requiring a bus ride at most. It’s strange that a newsflash this self-evident took this long to be written. Maybe it’s an observation that takes seven years to crystallize, and thus, could only be written by Sean Keane.

Jackson / Babies – Alexander E. Drew’s newflashes are well-written and do a fine job of hewing to the newsflash format. They don’t break the tone with un-newslike language, which is a promising sign. Comedy-wise, they’re strong but not hilarious. Good instinct going for comedy of the mundane when doing a Michael Jackson premise. That alone makes it much funnier than a newsflash about Michael Jackson has any right to be these days.

Prison – A clever premise that could be more fleshed-out with education/prison recruiting parallels. It reads like someone thought it was a one-joke get-in, get-out newsflash and didn’t want to draw it out too long, but I think this idea could have gone further.

Iraqi Unification – Kind of scattershot. Is the Farsi part supposed to be strange letter characters or is that supposed to be a Farsi font that didn’t get PDF’ed correctly? On the upside, the tone of the writing is intentionally loose, which is better than when people try to sound very serious but miss the mark. Paragraphs 2 and 4 work best for me. Overall, though, the bracelets don’t suggest enough of a parallel to any actual policy (aside from, perhaps, the naïveté of actually believing it's possible to unify Iraq?) for the satire to really take off.

Top Tens: Duman is right in that there are an awful lot of retard jokes in this issue. That said, Euphemisms for Sex With the Retarded is pretty funny, and—hey, my name is in this list… “Kenny Byerly’s Junior Prom After-Party.” Hmm. Okay. Hm. I don’t completely understand it. Does this mean I’m a retard or that I have sex with retards? Maybe I just host parties where retards go at it? If this is about me having sex with retards, you can’t judge from that prom picture. Yeah, Cindy’s a little cross-eyed, but just a little, and some Asian girls just look cross-eyed in pictures sometimes.

Well, objectively speaking, this joke is very funny. Not too explicit, relying on the implications of a post-prom party. And singling out a real person, I always find, is pretty hilarious…

You know, just because it’s so mean…

And I like mean comedy…

Okay, you know what, guys? The joke is really on you, because I never even had sex in high school. That’s right, I signed a True Love Waits abstinence pledge, and I didn’t even try to get around it with sodomy like all the kids today do, so there. I couldn’t have had sex with retards at my Junior Prom after-party.

I didn’t even kiss anybody, and Cindy had to go home early, so I was actually alone at the after-party. Ha! Didn’t count on that, did you? Alone and bored at the after-party, sitting on the stairs while couples in the family room fell asleep watching The Ghost and the Darkness. I think I talked to Sarah for like a minute, and then she left. Ha, again. Ha ha!




Oh, god.

Oh, god, you guys hate me.

Everybody hates me. I knew it.

I have to go cry. I mean, go. I have to go.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Do The Hustle

If you like stuff that's awesome and you live in New York or LA, it's time to go see Kung Fu Hustle.

Since that applies to practically no one who reads this, it looks like the rest of the country gets it April 22.

Pull Up Your Damn Pants, Son

This idiot SAT student was walking around today with his extra-large basketball shorts carefully positioned so that the elastic waistband fell just below the bottom of his buttocks. Just low enough to expose the entire ass of his boxer shorts. He was constantly adjusting them, since without his ass to hold up the elastic, they gradually slipped down every time he moved. He would reach back and pull it up so it was nice and snug against the very edge of his ass.

What is he trying to prove? It’s insane. That’s not laid back, it’s way more difficult than just wearing the pants at near the right height. Can we agree that when it comes to low-hanging pants or pant-derived garments, that 50% down the ass is about as far as we should go? That the under-side of the curve, where your buttocks start tapering back toward your legs, is an area your pants should be covering?

This is so damn stupid, and the worst part is, at 25, I’m too old to say anything about it. I could make fun of this kid to his face and it would only encourage him to know that an old man like me thought he looked retarded. It would be like when our parents used to think it was hilarious to make fun of kids for wearing their baseball caps backwards, and we would laugh at how out of touch they were because it was such a non-issue.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Check out this interview with Charlie Kaufman, which includes this rare explanation of his intentions regarding Adaptation:

People are very critical of Adaptation’s ending, they think of the end as a failure. But one thing I’ve never seen in print is that that movie was intended to be a failure. Then, rather than make it about failure, which is a safe way to do it, I wanted the film to be a failure. That’s what happens; it’s about panicking and compromising, among other things. But when you’re watching the story play out, the writing of the screenplay, which is what you’re watching, it ends with an enormous compromise, and it’s a disaster, literally and figuratively. The character in that movie is the script, that’s the character you’re following, not the people. And I guess people can’t feel an emotional connection to a screenplay. But I thought it reflected a corruption of the man who was writing it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sahara Vs. dot the i

So Sahara came out last week (Correction: It comes out this week). I saw it a few weeks ago in my Leonard Maltin class. There’s nothing special about it; I wouldn’t pay to see it, but if you find yourself facing a screen on which it is playing, you ought to find the experience pleasurable. That is, if you’re not intent on proving how smart you are by pointing out how it’s stupid in all kinds of ways.

Is it stupid? Of course. How could it not be? One glance at the trailer confirms that (although the trailer makes it look worse than it is). Pointing out how it’s stupid is like pointing out that cars roll on wheels. If you can enjoy dumb, silly movies by laughing at the preposterous parts, realizing it’s not a bad thing to laugh at movies when they’re funny unintentionally, you’ll have a decent enough time. If you’re hung up on proving how clever you are, you’ll pick it apart by pointing out how Matthew McConaughey plays a cardboard cutout and the plot is strung together by lucky coincidences. But I’d rather watch a movie that knows it’s dumb than a movie that thinks it’s smart.

Case in point: dot the i, an independent film starring heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal in his first English-speaking role. The first half, maybe two-thirds of the movie is a love triangle story with a promising hook and maybe two moments that nearly work, or have the potential to work, surrounded by a bunch of boring crap. Occasionally, we get jarring cutaways to ugly digital video, hinting that something weird is amiss.

It’s one of those movies with a big twist, except it doesn’t matter because you didn’t give a shit about what was happening anyway. Even so, the movie reveals its twist with unearned satisfaction, explaining every last detail over the course of ten minutes or so, reveling in how clever it is. As if that isn’t enough, five or ten more twists follow, all to distance you even more from the increasingly pointless story. The more it twists, the less you care, because you know you’re being lied to yet again.

I’ll go ahead and spoil the twist, just because fuck you, dot the i:

First, the story: Bernal meets a girl at her pre-marriage “hen party” when she’s out with her girlfriends (whom we never see again) and kisses her as part of some tradition. But their kiss has passion and they fall in love. He pursues her but eventually she marries her rich fiancé anyway.

Bernal tries to stop the wedding but he’s too late, in a Graduate homage that would have been funny if dot the i didn’t spell it out for you in a previous scene, where a character tells him to do what Hoffman does in The Graduate, just to make sure you don't miss how clever the reference is about to be. It’s out of place anyway, since so far the film’s tone doesn’t suggest jokey parody. The rich fiancé turns into a dick, so the girl runs back to have sex with Bernal, and the weeping fiancé shoots himself, and not for a moment do we care.

But now, the twist: The fiancé is an even bigger dick than we thought--he hired Bernal to "act" in a “reality movie” in which they set up the entire situation and pranked this girl, taping the whole thing (hence the DV cutaways). And he’s not really dead, of course. But Bernal really was in love with her, and now he’s revealed as a deceiver, so he loses her.

Twist 2: Everyone has forgiven everyone else, and the finished film-within-the-film, obnoxiously also titled “dot the i,” wins a festival award. The rich prick gets shot by a vengeful Bernal on his way to accept it.

Twist 3: Bernal explains it was supposed to be a blank; the film’s other producers, a couple of film geek kids, suggested it as a publicity stunt.

Twist 4: The film geeks confirm that it was supposed to be a publicity stunt, but they can’t explain the second gun that was found on one of them. They’re sent to jail for the murder.

Twist 5: A flashback reveals that the girl was the one who shot the rich prick, then planted the gun on the film geek.

Twist 6:
Bernal joins the girl as she leaves the police station--it wasn’t just her vengeance, they had planned the framing together.

Bernal and the girl go off to a big Hollywood event, since they’re both big stars from the huge hit movie dot the i.

This pretentious movie acts like it’s self-reflexive and clever, but has nothing to say besides a bunch of showoffy twists, and doesn’t even really deal with questions of reality and cinema for most of its running time, when instead it’s just fucking with you, playing out a love story that it knows is boring, just biding its time until the twist.

dot the i also officially doesn’t capitalize its title, so it’s a pain to write out in Word, which capitalizes the i for you. The title, by the way, comes from a line where the girl says that a kiss is how you dot the i in "love." But there's no i in love, Bernal points out for the illiterates in the audience. I guess it doesn't work in English, she replies. She's Spanish, so if someone can tell me what language it does work in, that would be nice. I'm willing to believe it does work in some language, I just don't know which one.

Anyway, the movie is unforgivably shitty, but it flatters people into thinking they’re watching a smart movie with its pointless twists. Critics and genuinely seasoned moviegoers see through it. But people who put down Sahara like they were expecting Citizen Kane watch dot the i and say “Wow, I didn’t see that coming,” and they think they’ve seen something clever.

In conclusion, Sahara is a better dumb adventure movie than dot the i is a smart independent movie.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Open for Business

After enjoying a day out shopping, and the pleasure of viewing one aggressively ironic T-shirt after another, I decided it was high time I made this shirt a reality. This store will mainly exist so I can make T-shirts for myself whenever I think of them, but if other people want them too I'll take it as confirmation of how great I am. There's no markup on anything, so if you buy things you'll only fuel my ego, not my bank account.