Thursday, June 28, 2007

Calling in Sick

Now, I'm not saying this sketch is all that great, but I would characterize my performance as a tour de force. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, I believe that translates to "tour of force."



Warning: Contains some coarse language. May not be suitable for parents.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Shout Out & Constructive Criticism

The most recent round of Squelch alumni, including Simon, Aaron and John, are kicking off Daily Squelch, a noble foray into the wilds of daily updated web content. The concept as it stands is not unlike Dan Freedman's Modern Snail experiment of a couple years back. That site aspired to be a Drudge Report of comedy: crass and irreverent comedic headlines linking to the day's actual news stories.

Daily Squelch appears to follow a similar mold, but with a more manageable number of headlines, generally smarter jokes, and one actual full-length fake news article per day. So far the three man (?) team appears to be living up to their rigorous posting schedule.

I applaud any effort to build the Squelch brand and they have my best wishes, although (as I've told Simon) I do hope they branch out soon from the newsflash format into something more distinctive and original. I know that's easier said than done, but still: Maybe something in the popular "short dialogues in different situations" Squelch genre? At the very least, they need to abandon Courier as their body font as soon as possible, because it's kind of hard to read the words under all the ugly. Even Drudge doesn't expect you to read whole pieces written in it.

Well, sometimes he does, but usually they're just a paragraph followed by the word "developing." That doesn't count.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last Comic Standing

Last Comic Standing is a show I've always been curious about, but never actually watched. I think I saw an episode from late in the first season, then managed to catch the finale last season.

Now, finally, I'm catching the kickoff. The new season premiere apparently aired some time in the last few days, and for the first time since I got TiVo it didn't get beaten out by higher priority programs. I started it up and discovered to my horror that the season premiere is two hours! I hate two hour episodes of reality shows.

The first part of the show is the obligatory American Idol auditions segment, where we get to enjoy the freakshow, with a few worthwhile comics mixed in. I don't think it works as well here though. I'm no singer, but singing a capella to three people sitting at a table judging you seems to make more sense than performing comedy to three people sitting at a table judging you. I don't even know how you could feel like you were performing with a crowd that small. I don't know how anybody could feel funny in that environment, and it certainly seems like it would be hard to judge. With only three people, everything feels like bombing.

I guess you know when someone is bombing because that's when the editors splice in cricket noises. Don't worry, they do it repeatedly.

In any case, this segment of the show is basically like a heavily truncated open-mike night. In some ways, it's a relief to have judges there to shoo the disasters off the stage, but on the other hand, the protracted suffering is an essential part of the experience of watching bad stand-up. You can't really appreciate how bad a comic is unless you're stuck watching with no way out. But whatever, they've got a line of people around the block, so they've got to move it along.

At some point, a middle aged woman from Connecticut with an uncanny resemblance to Nancy Pelosi comes up, and tells the old joke about how same sex marriage is no big deal, because when you're married it's always the same sex. Ugh. It was hacky when Robin Williams used it in Man of the Year, and it's no funnier here. At least the Nancy Pelosi lookalike, unlike Williams' character, isn't trying to pass it off as trenchant straight-shooting campaign trail wisdom, but the fact that the judges are shown laughing uproariously at this and sending her on to the next round is even worse.

At the very end of the audition segment, Arj Barker shows up. He's not the only polished, experienced working comic to be dropped in among the freak parade, but he's the first one I recognize. It feels weird and unfair to watch a comic whose work I respect and enjoy be judged by three past contestants whom I've never heard of and whose taste I'm not sure I trust. The arbitrariness of it really strikes you.

They move on to the next segment, where the selected comics perform for an audience. We glimpse some people we haven't before, and we get a clips just long enough to see each person do about one joke. Arj Barker does his bit about how down vests are useless because you never wake up and find that your torso is freezing but your arms are really hot. Nancy Pelosi does a bit about how white kids in Connecticut listen to rap music. It's implied that this is incongruous, because only black people from the ghetto should ever listen to rap music! She complains about the kids taking her Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel tapes out of the kitchen stereo and replacing them with rap. She demonstrates by sort of performing what seems intended to be a snippet of rap, complete with jerky hip hop gestures. Then, in her own voice she cries: "I'm making a salad!" driving the point home about the inappropriateness of rap to salad-making settings in New England. For this she wins the audience favorite award and the Capitol One No Hassles pass to the next round, and I sit up and say aloud, "What the fuck?"

No one in the second hour (during which the auditions move to other cities) outrages me nearly as much, and there are some good comics in the mix. My main source of outrage is just that watching the show has now taken up a second hour.

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Hot Rod

I'm not particularly a fan of Andy Samberg, but I don't hate him either, and I'm willing to keep an open mind about his first movie with the Lonely Island gang.

I have a weird admiration for the Hot Rod trailer. This is not an ambitious movie, but it is a movie that is exactly what it sets out to be.

Unabashedly simple, it seems to have been built around the basic idea of staging as many failed stunts as possible. There's not a lot to these gags -- just a ramp, an overconfident idiot, and a slapstick disaster that transpires pretty much exactly as you expect it to. Indeed, in the big ramp gag that has carried over from the teaser into the latest trailer, the characters loudly acknowledge that the ramp has not been reinforced, and Samberg proceeds with the stunt anyway. But there's something about the straightforwardness of the staging -- the glee with which they toss a dummy around, and the dogged obviousness of every failed stunt -- that makes the moments funny precisely because they are so ridiculously predictable. Here is an deluded fool who is doomed to fail, and here he is failing. There's something pure about that.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

War

War stars Jet Li and Jason Statham, and as such, looks fucking awesome. How is this the first I've heard of a movie that looks this fucking awesome?

Also, the trailer for The Ten has some funny moments. It's hard to tell how the movie holds together, but with a movie like this, my guess is that it's not intended to.

Rise: Blood Hunter doesn't look good, but it does take balls to advertise the fact that a movie is from the writer of Gothika, which is not something you'd expect anyone to boast about. In any case, it makes you wonder what Michael Chiklis is doing in it and wish that somebody would make a tough-chick movie for Lucy Liu that is worth watching.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dirty Car

My car is dirty, and there's nothing I can do. I park on the street, and we live in a neighborhood where the streets are lined with what are apparently very pretty glue trees. Every night the trees tar and feather my car with sap and flower blossoms, and the next day the car is filthy again. Two days after a wash, it looks like I haven't cleaned it in months. I can barely walk down the sidewalk without the bottom of my shoes being coated with these petals that just won't scrape off.

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Paprika

Stephanie was out of town this past weekend, so I went to see Paprika at the new Landmark Theater on Pico, the biggest, newest art house theater in LA.

It's pointless to explain the plot. It's a lot of stuff about reality and dreams intersecting. If the trailer looks cool to you, go for it. If you feel the need to know a story, this is not the movie for you.

Sometimes it's nice to see a movie at a theater alone, especially a movie you don't know much about or you'd have trouble bringing somebody to see. When you're alone, you can fully absorb the movie and let it fully absorb you. It's just you and the film, alone in the darkness. And afterwards you can just let it percolate, without the awkward silence where I always feel obligated to say something about how the movie was, when really I'm still processing it, replaying scene in my head and sorting out my thoughts.

Paprika was enjoyable. It's by Satoshi Kon, whose Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers I liked a lot. The atmospherics are really effective, ranging from urban landscapes to sumptuous and disturbing dreamworlds. The movie excels at depicting dream logic as it really is, with locations that change without warning and characters that switch places or change form from one shot to another. All the toying with the dream world versus the real world is not quite as thought-provoking as I would have found it in high school or college, but it's still a great ride if you're willing to throw comprehension to the wind and embrace the dreamy illogic.

Like many anime features, it suffers from a bit of what-the-fuck overload near the end (though in a movie like this it at least fits), as well as some character twists that maybe could have been set up better. Does it all culminate in scenes of out-of-control Akira-style growths, giant-scale monsters and chaotic, near-apocalyptic destruction? Yeah, but it's still more consistently pleasurable and satisfying than many other anime features that share the same conventions.

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