I am a perpetual rooter for the underdog. In any given situation, if there is an underdog, you’d better believe I’m in his corner. While this is usually a benign trait, there are times that it causes trouble. For example, I’ve recently read the Hunger Games trilogy (which I’ll write about soon, I promise) and very early into the first book of the series, I found myself drawn to a character I was 95% sure would not live through to the end of the series. By the end of that book, I resisted the urge to quit reading in an effort to spare myself the disappointment I knew I’d feel when that character eventually met his end.
Films like “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Stranger Than Fiction,” wherein the underdog is the main character and likely to end triumphant, are destined to be favorites of mine (and they are). But even in others, several romantic comedies, for instance, I go for the character you know will not win the girl. I rooted for Duckie over Blane in “Pretty in Pink,” Mr. Crawford, the charming rake in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, over the sweet but clueless Edmond and, though I’m not really a fan of the Twilight series, I did read it and was team Jacob from start to finish, knowing full well he didn’t stand a chance. I swear, I probably would’ve even chosen the geek over Jake, the hunk, in “Sixteen Candles.”
Why do I always side with the one least likely to succeed? It’s irritating as hell because I predict my inevitable disappointment early on but still hold out hope that somehow, my guy will pull through (though he rarely, if ever, does). What about you – do you usually go for the safe bet? Or, like me, do you root for the unlikeliest of heroes?
Didn’t think I’d be writing a post praising a mid-season pilot that wants to be this generation’s Friends, but I am solidly enjoying the new ABC show Happy Endings. Honestly, when I woke up on the couch after randomly falling asleep at 9 o’clock, I didn’t even know what it was. So as I groggily stared up at my TV, and started laughing, loudly, I was a bit surprised. Then they aired another episode immediately after the first, and I was wide awake, laughing regularly.
It’s the Friends formula, remixed with Modern Family. A group of 30-ish friends try to deal with the breakup of two members of their group (Elisha Cuthbert and Zachary Knighton). She left him at the altar, and now they’re trying to be friends again and keep the group friendship intact. I realize that sounds heavy or maybe even incredibly stupid, but it’s actually become almost an afterthought by the 4th episode. The cast itself has pretty great chemistry. Besides Cuthbert (who I like because of Girl Next Door – that’s right) and Knighton (who I liked from the woeful, defunct Flash Forward) there’s a Wayans descendant (I must be totally clueless to not have realized that Damon Wayans was old enough to have a Jr. who is a grown-ass man), Casey Wilson as an always-single goofball, and someone named Adam Pally who just might be my favorite on the show. He’s the “gay one”, and the writers make a big deal about the fact that he’s not a “typical gay guy”, and go to great lengths to make him seem like a jock/frat boy/jokester who just happens to be gay. And he’s not typical, at least on TV. So that is refreshing. And speaking of the writing, it’s fast and whip-smart. Not Gilmore Girls-level of speediness, but close. Most importantly though, it’s FUNNY.
I hope it continues to be as witty and clever as this first handful of episodes was. I don’t know if it’s doing well; I have no clue if it is already on the chopping block or looking at renewal, but it’s earned a spot in my series manager simply by being good on its own merits.
James Franco, Danny McBride & Natalie Portman: honestly, what were you thinking?! I so wanted to like this movie (I’m a big fan of both Franco and McBride) but I simply could find no saving grace. It had a handful of funny lines but was otherwise completely ridiculous. And not in a good, “Dumb & Dumber” kind of way. More like if the guys who wrote “Hot Shots Part Deux” had written “Lord of the Rings.”
The story is faulty enough. McBride and Franco are brothers, sons of the reigning king, but could not be more different. Danny McBride plays Thadeus, a ne’er do well who parties all the time and seduces fair maidens while his brother and heir to the throne, Fabious (Franco, of course), kills evil adversaries and wins the heart of the lovely Belladonna (played by a vapid Zooey Deschanel), whom he rescues from the sorcerer Leezar. Before he can marry her, she is taken captive, again, by Leezar who plans to rape her during a lunar eclipse so they could conceive a dragon (like I said, ridiculous). Thadeus is forced to join his brother on the quest to rescue her, again, and along the way they encounter many trials and tribulations, which, eventually, lead to Thadeus’s growing up and acting like the valiant prince his brother always knew he truly was. I’ll bet you’re racing to the theater now, aren’t you?
Funniest moment: Zooey Deschanel asks her captor (shortly before the aforementioned rape) how he even knows if his penis works. His reply: “I’ve tried it. If your vagina is anything like my hand, there will be no problem.”
Look, I love profanity and crude humor, which are both rampant throughout this flick, but there’s just no compensating for the shit plot and the absurd 80s-style visual effects. (Not enough money for CGI, or a throwback, perhaps? Either way, it didn’t work.) McBride and Franco were their usual charming selves, yet the whole time, I couldn’t help but wonder why the hell they chose to add this film to their resumes. And Natalie Portman, seriously, this is your follow-up to “Black Swan?” (I guess “No Strings Attached” immediately followed “Black Swan,” but still.)
I hate to beat up on it because I certainly have seen worse. But I’ve seen what these guys are capable of – “Eastbound & Down,” “Pineapple Express,” just to name a couple – and I expected better. This time around, they sold themselves far short. I’m still a fan, just a disappointed one.
HBO aired a
circle-jerk special the other night, “Talking Funny,” featuring our love, our obsession, one of our favorite mammals walking the earth today, Ricky Gervais. Along with Chris Rock, Louis C.K., and Jerry Seinfeld, you’ve got four of the greatest funny-men to ever grace mankind with their existence (count me in for said ego-stroke party). The guys sit around and basically shoot the shit about what it means to be funny, to them and to us, and also how they deal with the pressure of now being in the upper-upper-upper echelon of the comedy ranks. This proved to be a mildly insightful and enjoyable way to spend an hour of my time.
Of the more interesting tidbits, the guys discuss recycling material, and I found out that Rock and C.K. totally scrap a show after they do it for a year; they never go back to any of those bits. I think this is kind of brave, and something I’d never even thought of during my casual viewing of stand-up specials. Seinfeld, on the other hand, says he tends to take things down in stages, so he can still be using material that’s up to ten years old. Jerry! What the hell! I certainly didn’t expect that out of these four geniuses, Seinfeld would be my least favorite in the room (although, after “The Marriage Ref”, what the hell did I expect). I just couldn’t get over his vanilla-ness. I forget that the man who brought us “The Master of Your Domain” is the same who refuses to swear in his shows. Hmmm. To each his own, and maybe it’s cause I’ve got a mouth like a construction worker, but this annoyed me. Not to say I hate the guy, cause he is quite funny and his contribution to the collective consciousness is immeasurable, but still. I find the others to be kind of light years ahead of him, even though he probably paved the way for these guys. And so it goes.
Louis C.K. emerged from this show as my second favorite, deepening my love for his self-deprecating, loathing, overall dismal shtick. As the other guys point out, you can always feel and practically taste his contempt for the subjects he’s discussing. I could spend hours watching videos of his repertoire, and hearing him speak first-hand about how he does what he does made me feel snuggly inside.
Ricky, as always, fills me with immense joy. When he jumped up out of his seat, just cackling, I was practically beaming. I realize the pathetic-ness of that statement, but what can ya do. The guy seems like a helluva good time.
One of the highlights was C.K. talking about a favorite comedic moment from a random, crummy comedian long ago who sang the line “Sitting on a cock cause I’m gay” to the tune of Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” The guys go on about this for a while, with Seinfeld and C.K. saying sometimes you just love stupid crap; people like what they like, and Gervais saying essentially, no, we’re laughing at this guy and it’s ironically that we are enjoying it (which surprised me cause Gervais seems to love the shit out of penis jokes). Regardless of who’s right, it was slightly awesome to hear people like this talk about random shit like that, even if I did feel more like I was on the outside looking in.
Ah well, I just really hope somebody tells that crap comedian that one of his chance, probably half-drunk lines became something that Louis C.K. holds dear to his black, dead heart.
The other day my partner in crime made a list of her favorite scary films, and I wanted to share one as well. These are the horror films that stuck with me, have been scorched into my mind, and are in no particular order.
The Descent: I don’t know how to truly convey just how deeply scared I am of this movie. It fills me with sheer, absolute terror. Listen, if you’re gonna have some sort of scary monster or demon in your movie, it’s gotta live up to the hype you build. The albino-cave-dweller-human-eater creatures this film flaunted had no problem in that department. I shudder at the thought. The spelunking/claustrophobic/getting-stuck-in-an-underground-cave premise is conveyed so well that even if you aren’t scared of tight spaces, you will now add that to any list of phobias you might have. The images here stayed with me for a long, long time. I’ve never been able to shake that ending, either.
Silent Hill: This is adapted from a video game, which admittedly, I know nothing about, but I do know that watching this, horrified me. The atmosphere – foggy, cloudy, all-encompassing grayness, ashes constantly falling, creepy old coal mine town – puts you on edge immediately. Throw in the fucked-up back-story and those HORRIBLE AIR RAID SIRENS that signify a forthcoming HELL-LIKE sequence, all had me grasping for the nearest pillow or blanket to cover my face with. The climax in the church (that sounds so blasphemous, doesn’t it?) was way over the top, but I was already so spooked that it didn’t cheapen anything. Also, Sean Bean is there, looking studly. You can never get enough of the Bean.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Despite my ambivalence about religion, demonic dealings make me want to huddle in a corner and cry. This movie, supposedly based on a true story (who knows what that even means anymore), centers around a young girl’s alleged possession, and it stars the chick from Dexter. I can never, ever, ever, imagine her as anything but twisted and broken, fricking upside-down, eyes dilated, on the floor of her dorm room at college. This shit is seared into my brain tissue. And for a month after watching this, anytime I woke up around 3 am, I felt SICK.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006 version): I don’t have quite the issues with hill people that my co-author does, but this movie made me so upset, I actually had to watch it in two sittings. In my defense, I started it in the middle of the night, and once that scene (you know which one) occurs where it all goes STRAIGHT TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, and right quick, I couldn’t take it anymore. These hicks from hell reminded me of the inbred brothers from that episode of The X-Files, who killed average folks to the smooth tunes of Johnny Mathis and impregnated their own mother, who they kept under a bed, to boot. Except if those brothers and that storyline were on crack.
Wolf Creek: This loosely based (and I mean loose, like stool) story of some kids on a road trip in the outback who hook up with the WRONG dude, was a visceral experience in my opinion. There was an element of realism to this film. When you’re screaming at a character on screen to “Get out of there! Don’t open that door! Don’t turn around!”, you know they are doing something that you WOULD NOT DO GIVEN THE SAME CIRCUMSTANCE (or at least you hope). But when a film cares enough to make you care about the characters by giving them stories and personalities, and then puts them in some situation where you truly believe you’d do the same as them, it makes it sooooo much worse. Which is exactly what this film did to me. If I was in the middle of some fucking crater in Australia at night and my watch stopped and my car was dead and there was nothing and nobody anywhere and miraculously, someone shows up and offered help, what the hell else are you gonna do?!!! Oh, woops, my bad, I guess get tortured and dismembered.
Jeepers Creepers: Yeah… I’ll never forget watching this one. My friends actually hit pause to go get me a pillow to scream into. That happened. This film though, it’s all about “The Creeper.” Every creature in each movie on this list lived up to the expectations of the audience and this guy is no exception. I still shudder to think of his demonic head and WINGS. Plus, these kids were like, driving home from college or something, which is what I did most weekends at this time in my life. If you feel like it could happen to you, it’s gonna touch you in a bad place.
Confession: I am an avid reader (mostly novels) and an unabashed lover of literature. From Jane Austen to J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood to Sherman Alexie, from Kurt Vonnegut all the way to Suzanne Collins, I love the art of the written word. I don’t have an extensive personal library, but the books I own are like precious gems I pull out once in a while to lovingly caress and flip through while basking in the subtle scent of old paper. I get excited when I learn a word and then find uses for it in my own vocabulary over the following weeks. I relish in carefully constructed sentences so loaded with imagery they make my skin twitch.
Language is a living, breathing thing, holding as much power and beauty as the sun and should be treated with respect, which is why it pains me to witness the way it’s becoming less a form of self-expression and more a thoughtless reflex with hardly any meaning. So, I beg of you: stop using stupid, mindless euphemisms like bff, and please, spell out the word ‘okay’ instead of ignorantly jotting ‘OK,’ as if two capitalized letters are all one needs to create a word. Have some fucking self-respect and write out t-o-d-a-y without the use of the number 2. Does 2 really save that much energy and/or space, anyway? Because you’re so busy and important, you can’t be bothered to use the correct letters in a word. Or you’re so damn cute, you’ve cleverly placed a 2 where there should be to. Just so you know, it isn’t cute and, by no stretch of the word, clever. It’s moronic and careless and makes you seem every bit as charming as Lindsay Lohan.
I’m not asking for a return to Shakespeare. Just that we speak with purpose – you know, like we’ve actually thought about the words coming out of our mouths before we started speaking. Anyone with me?