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Been in L.A. a while: Is that a parking spot?

Been in L.A. a while: Is that a parking spot?

I wonder if it’s possible that the reason there’s such a dearth of original movies produced by Hollywood studios is because the idea of everyday reality for the people creating these films is the one offered by Los Angeles.

The entire essence of Los Angeles is that it’s a cultural wasteland nearly void of human interaction. People wake up, they get in their cars, they drive to work, pretend to get along with work friends – maybe you work on a studio lot and can meet new people there. Then you get in your car, go to the gym or have a drink meeting with someone who has been vetted, have a bite and go to bed.

I’m really curious if there’s ever been a study on it, but I would bet that the number of new people you meet, talk to, or simply walk past on any given day has to be monumentally less in Los Angeles than most cities in America. Even towns with strikingly smaller populations – like Seattle or a pure shithole like Hartford, Connecticut – probably have more interaction with other human beings than Los Angeles provides.

Yet this city – completely isolated from any other country (officially La Cienega Blvd. separates Los Angeles from Mexico) and with no forced interaction between social classes, ethnicities or forums for original debate – is the center of producing American culture.

How can a place with no culture be the breeding grounds for the culture of the entire country? Could the be entirely responsible for America being all around kind of flaccid the last decade or so?

Let’s just look at the top five movies from last weekend: G-Force, a 3D kids movie about hamsters with guns (I always forget if this is French New Wave or Italian Neorealism); Harry Potter, source material; Ugly Truth, formulaic romantic comedy; Orphan, the Good Son with a girl and a twist at the end; and Ice Age 3, a kids movie sequel.

I wonder if the reason that these movies are so bad is because the executives who push them spend the day stuck in traffic and their only human interaction is listening to pitches, berating their assistants and getting drinks with friends that they went to high school with in the Valley. Yes, they have the business and commercial side of things down, but in terms of making a movie that comes anywhere close to culturally interesting for people who are educated and cities that are worth anything (NY, Bos, Chi, SF, Den, Sea), it’s all worthless.

Maybe we can make crappy cities – I’m looking at you Kansas City and St. Louis – more interesting if the crappy movies we shoveled down their throats didn’t have female characters that set women back twenty years. I don’t know how this would work, but worth a try, yeah?

Granted, this all goes back to being the pretentious douche that I am, and I will willingly sell out at the sight of my first paycheck. And, yes, occasionally some good stuff gets through: The Hangover (despite the post below), Up and Star Trek were pretty solid. But what’s that, three studio films out of how many?

Indie side you have In the Loop, Hurt Locker, Humpday, and (500) Days of Summer. But see if those make any serious money.

Looks like this post ended nowhere near where it started, and now I’m wondering does America have bad taste in movies because that’s what they’re offered and advertising tells them that’s what’s good, or do they just not have a choice? Like, what if Fox Searchlight switched (500) Days’s marketing budget with that of Transformers? Would it make America smarter? Maybe, but the people who make that decision. Well they live in L.A.

A blueprint for divorce

A blueprint for divorce

I think that the sole cause for the high divorce rate lies squarely on Jim Henson. Most kids watched the Muppets as children, and I think that something about seeing this throughout our childhoods has permanently implanted that the Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog relationship is considered standard.

Just describing the relationship that these two have with each other sounds like the grounds for divorce, from both sides of the issue.

Miss Piggy put on a lot of weight but thinks she’s hot shit. She’s smothering and controlling and gets whatever she wants with any dissent met with a grabbing of the collar and yanking along her sing-along boat trips. And every time that Kermit (or, Little Kermie, notice the patronized belittling) puts his foot down and says, “No,” she bursts into a crying fit and says that he doesn’t really love her.

Not only would this make any man insane, but this is in fact what drives men to killing their wives and throwing their bodies in the river. I’m not saying that it’s justified, nor do I think it’s the best way to solve a dispute, but I’m just saying that Miss Piggy is the root cause.

And Kermit’s not off the hook either. Thanks to his passive-aggressive nature, he makes it OK to haplessly nod along to his wife’s demands. There’s no passion or romance here, just, “Fine Piggy, Yes Piggy, Whatever you say Piggy,” because he doesn’t want a fight. But there’s no thrill in that for Miss Piggy. This is why women cheat on their husbands. They need to get some excitement in there.

We need to modify the felt role model relationships that we present children.

Civil Rights means men will still do purple chicks

Civil Rights means men will still do purple chicks

Hot girls, or even mildly attractive ones for that matter, have zero right to call themselves nerds under any circumstance. Even if they actually are nerds in the traditional sense, a hot girl can never in any way be a real nerd.

If a girl is hot – no matter what her interest are – guys will have sex with her. A girl could be a white supremacist neo-Nazi with an ex-boyfriend intent on cutting any potential suitor’s balls off, but if given the opportunity any guy would still have sex with her because she is hot. It’s called spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida.

If a girl is hot and she actually enjoys going to comic book movies and can be a legitimate contender in your fantasy football league, it doesn’t make her nerdy. In fact, it makes you want to have sex with her more because you don’t have to pretend that you don’t like those things. Nor do you have to compromise and do some of her boring stuff in return.

Girls can be nerds but hot girls cannot because being a nerd comes with an unavailability of sex that would rival that of a monk. And hot girls can always – under any circumstance – get laid. The problem is that this isn’t in the official definition of a nerd. For some reason it’s become acceptable to say that a nerd is someone who simply enjoys or does nerdy things. But in reality, it’s a lifestyle.

A guy I know would compare the social circles in his video game-related job to the groups of superheroes in the Justice League and wear comic book shirts – unironically – on a daily basis. He never got laid. He was a nerd. A girl can have all of these same traits, but if she’s hot then she is not a nerd.

Being a nerd means that you’re a social outcast and you can’t be socially ostracized if people want to have sex with you. Women can be nerds, but they have to be ugly and overweight. In fact, it’s even tougher for women because you have to be especially ugly to be a female nerd. As long as you can be clearly discerned as a woman, other nerds will still hit on you. You have to be something out of Ice Road Truckers or the book Middlesex to be a female nerd.

This all goes back to every 1980s movie where the jocks were the bad guys and the nerdy nice guy won out at the end. Revenge of the Nerds, Back to the Future, Weird Science, Karate Kid. Suddenly if you were cool and popular and good looking then you were the bad guy in pop culture.

So all these people who were indeed cool and popular and attractive in high school now pretend that they’re total nerds after they almost bought Watchmen because being a nerd is the cool thing to do. But if sex is a possibility then you cannot be a nerd. Guys know this, it would be nice if girls stopped pretending as well.

Yeah, everyone's happy at the beginning

Yeah, everyone's happy at the beginning

It is great to see that there is now an Oregon Trail iPhone app because I think that there’s no better way to prepare people for the death of family member than playing this game as a child.

This game was horrifying for most of my childhood because every time I signed on and was prompted to name my family members, my initial move was to name my Oregon Trail family after my real life family. So my mom was my mom and my dad was my dad and my brother was my sister (I was a genius comedian back then), and we trekked off across America for the Pacific Northwest.

And then the most horrific turn of events would strike my family down one by one. The sorts of vicious deaths that are haunting to a child: dysentery, bitten by rattle snakes, malaria. Just awful diseases that you look up in the encyclopedia and read about the weeks of shitting yourself until you die a painful merciless death.

So the eight-year-old player sets off with his family and encounters a series of family members being killed by spider bites, the plague, diptheria, the most horrendous deaths that one could encounter and it’s all your fault that your poor mother got struck by it. If only you were better at hunting rabbits, or if only you had decided to shell out the extra cash for one more oxen. If only you didn’t get distracted when you had to shoot the bison. But no, they died because of you.

And thanks to having gone through this as a child I’m now well-prepared for a family member passing. If I could handle my parents slowly fading due to a series of infections brought on by my choice to take the river path instead of the mountain path, then that makes me more prepared for a family member dying from natural causes.

And if children today didn’t play the Oregon Trail then they wouldn’t know how to react (by playing Number Munchers instead, of course). But thanks to the iPhone, we’ll all enter our stages of grief in a timely fashion.

You said the word "virus?" That's it! I'll use my Mac laptop to beat the aliens.

You said the word "virus?" That's it! I'll use my Mac laptop to beat the aliens.

There’s a little plot trick that the writer abuses used glaringly in Independence Day and The Hangover. It’s one of these things where the writer has gotten into a corner where there’s no way to solve the epic problem that he or she has created and needs a miracle plot device to get out of it.

It’s when out of nowhere, from casual conversation, the character who can’t solve the problem either says or hears something which triggers the thought that solves the entire problem.

Remember in Independence Day where Jeff Goldblum is sitting with his father, a.k.a. every Jewish stereotype rolled into one guy. The aliens have destroyed the world, they’re down and out, there’s no chance to succeed and the dad sneezes and says, “I think I’m getting a cold.”

Now any normal human being would respond by saying, “Bless you,” or “Stay away because I don’t want your cold,” but magically this sneeze has solved the entire alien crisis.

Jeff Goldblum says, “Wait, what did you say?” on the brink of revelation. And the dad goes, “I’m getting sick. I have a virus.” And because of this Goldblum goes, “That’s it!” By the dad saying he has a cold, suddenly Goldblum has realized that the way to defeat the aliens is to link it up to a Macintosh computer, create a network connection, upload a virus into the alien mothership, which will then pull down the forcefields around all their smaller ships and give the humans a chance to win the war.

Have you ever in your life had one of these moments of revelation, for real? Like someone says, “The Yankees got robbed today.” And you’re like, “That’s it! I’ll solve my financial problems by pulling off an elaborate scheme to rob Fort Knox and the blueprints just appeared in my head because you used the word “Rob.”

The Hangover did the same thing and it’s infuriating. When they find out the guy is on the roof by someone using the word, “Up,” or something. It’s a cheap move and never happens in real life.

I love, by the way, that I can totally buy the logic that aliens have come to Earth to destroy our planet, but I have a problem with the plot device used to defeat them.

The Bayonne Bridge connects New Jersey douche bags and Staten Island douche bags

The Bayonne Bridge connects New Jersey douche bags and Staten Island douche bags

The pinnacle for an architect is no longer recognition and awards, but rather it’s getting your structure destroyed in a Michael Bay disaster movie. I wonder if the architects of crappy structures and landmarks – be it in major cities or crappy towns across the Midwest (I’m looking at you, Cincinnati) – dream of this during construction.

Slate did an article last week on movies always blowing up the same landmarks: It seems to be the same buildings in every disaster movie: Empire State Building, the White House, Golden Gate Bridge (somehow still standing when Star Trek takes place. Just to have it be destroyed), the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument. I’m sure something would get destroyed in L.A. if anything iconic existed in L.A. I don’t feel like aliens are going to travel thousands of light years to destroy In and Out Burger.

But what about the lowly World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or the World’s Largest Ball of Twine or that ridiculous Ferris Wheel in London that always gets neglected for destruction for Big Ben?

I think it would be more meaningful if the aliens came to Earth and destroyed some stuff while making a point about the state of modern architecture. Yeah the symbolism in destroying the Statue of Liberty is more significant, but does that really pass for a metaphor right now? Ending your freedom by destroying the symbol of freedom? Can’t you come up with something just slightly more clever?

I think it says something more significant if you have a master race destroy the Pompidou Center and the Disney Concert Hall in an ardent stance against Postmodern Architecture. Aliens can be snobs too.

The closest we ever came to achieve this goal was in the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds. The aliens travel all the way to Earth and what New York-area bridge do they destroy? George Washington? Brooklyn? Verrezano-Narrows? Nope, they destroy the Bayonne Bridge, connecting Staten Island and New Jersey. Nice. Aliens waged a war with Earth, but took out the vital pipeline of Jersey douche bags and Staten Island douche bags. That’s an alien race that I can get behind.

In-flight trivia: Addiction for nerds

In-flight trivia: Addiction for nerds

Finally booked a flight to head back to New York in August. As much as I’m missing New York and can’t wait to see my friends, family and the City, part of me is most excited about getting another round of Delta’s in-flight trivia.

Have you given this thing a try? Basically you play trivia against anyone else on the plane, but the great thing about it is that it tells you the seat number of the person you’re playing with.

And for the entire flight, I have a nemesis.

I can’t get enough of it. Especially if I’m winning on a regular basis that means there is someone else on the flight who I don’t have to wave a pretentious book or piece of knowledge in front of to let them know I’m smarter. And for somebody who works a crappy day job while STILL pursuing a BACHELOR degree IN THE ARTS, this is all I’ve got. For all my abilities with trivia and assumed “knowledge” I’ve managed to shun all opportunities of using that knowledge towards making money and have utterly fucked myself. So trivia is it. It’s all I got, and without question it’s the best part of air travel.

I’ve also noticed that the better the person’s seat is that I’m beating, the better I feel about myself. If someone got to the point in life where they can afford the extra-legroom seat and I’m winning, I feel pretty good. I feel great if I’m beating someone in business class, and if I can knock off a first classer, there’s an extra kick in my step for a solid week. Now I want to take on the pilot. I managed to fail at everything else, but not this. Here – on my Priceline discount airfare that requires me to transfer twice and get in at 4 A.M. because it’s the only thing my $10/hour job can garner, this is where I get my victory.

The problem is that getting really invested in the trivia can backfire spectacularly when you get up and spy on your nemesis. One time I got really worked up because I had barely eked out a win, spectacularly coming back from far behind and winning by just a couple points after half-assing it for the first half. I got up to go take a look at the person who I had defeated – fully prepared to rub it in his or her face – just to find out that it was a 10-year-old kid who had been clicking randomly.

And back to work we go.

Please write a comment if you know of another outdoor movie in Los Angeles that isn’t on the list. Be sure to include a link. I think I got most of them, but I assume there’s more.

Click the blue pushpin to see the schedule for each location, or click larger map below the map for a, uh, larger map.

Spanish for one eye

Spanish for one eye

I hate when you’re flipping through the TV channels and come across a movie you really want to watch, just to find out a split second later that the whole thing has been dubbed in Spanish.

Can’t they add English subtitles to the original English movie for these frustrating situations? We gave them the channels in the first place, seems like the least they can do.

Was he a good enough Governor to earn some free whores?

Was he a good enough Governor to earn some free whores?

If politicians spent their own money to have affairs and sex scandals – not tax dollars – there should be no reason for them to resign if they get busted, provided that they’re a good politician.

I don’t know if this Sanford guy was doing a good job or not because I don’t stay up on South Carolina’s political scene as much as stuff that matters. I’m not sure what determines a good job as governor in South Carolina, a state that seems perennially fucked.

But if the guy is doing a great job, who cares if he takes a weekend to bang a chick in Argentina? It might be what helps him continue to do a good job.

This is what annoyed me so much about Spitzer resigning. Yeah, I get that it was hypocritical to campaign against prostitution and then go ahead and sleep with a prostitute, but the girl wasn’t an Eddie Murphy prostitute that he picked up on Crenshaw Avenue, she was a high-classed Girlfriend Experience kind of girl. There should be levels of prostitutes. Full-on whores, and ones that you actually have to shell out for.

Spitzer was a good Governor because he thrived on the risk of tackling big corporations and monopolies. He was willing to stake his political career to do what was right. It’s probably that same rush of going against the grain and possibly getting caught that made him chase whores. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a vice that is totally worth him being a good governor.

Cheating on your wife is wrong, but it doesn’t make someone a bad politician, and certainly shouldn’t give reason to resign. It’s just sex. Yeah, the marriage is screwed, but why should that get in the way of a career of the rare politician who is actually effective.

If a politician does a good job, we should be rewarding him with hookers, not persecuting him for giving himself a little treat.

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July 2009