Sunday, February 26, 2006

Start Tallying Those Dead Pools

I know a lot of people who are in dead pools, where they predict the deaths of famous people. And I'm sure many of them were pleased this weekend, when three fairly famous people, Don Knotts, Darren McGavin, and Dennis Weaver, all died. People in dead pools love weekends like this, because it means they're getting that much closer to everyone whom they could put on their list being dead. I personally think dead pools are a good thing, because they make you aware of people you thought were dead, but actually weren't, until they died just then. (And, yes, at this moment in time, perpetual dead pool favorite Abe Vigoda is still alive.)

So, for those of you keeping track, dead so far this year are the above three, Curt Gowdy, Peter Benchley, Franklin Cover (the white dude on The Jeffersons), Al Lewis, Betty Friedan, Moira Shearer, Coretta Scott King, Wendy Wasserstein, Chris Penn, Tony Franciosa, Wilson Pickett, Shelly Winters, and Lou Rawls. There have been other minor celebrities as well, but you're lying if you said you picked them. (I bet you didn't even know who the Emir of Kuwait was. Well, he's dead.)

Mark up your scorecards, and hopefully, the rest of the year will be as eventful as this weekend was. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good Night, And Good Luck Winning A Screenwriting Oscar

A lot of times, I watch movies just to watch movies. No real interest in seeing a particular movie; just want to watch one. And that's how I ended up seeing Good Night, and Good Luck when it returned to town after its Oscar nom. I saw it, because it's supposed to be a good film, and I needed to see a good film. (As opposed to Date Movie, which is terrible and which I watched out of boredom.)

Turns out, it is a good film. It's well-acted and directed. (I'm sure the Anti-Smoking Council would have something to say about every character in the film smoking at all times. David Strathairn always has a lit cig in his hand.) What isn't so good is the screenplay, which one would think is odd, since it's up for Best Screenplay. "What's wrong with it," you ask? Well, it's some of the laziest screenwriting in history.

In the film, there's about 10 minutes of recreations of old Morrow newscasts, which, I assume, came from transcribing dialogue from old news footage. And then there's another 10 minutes of news footage of Senator McCarthy and the HUAC trials, which require no writing at all, since they're just playing old news footage. Plus, there's the five minute Morrow speech that bookends the film, that I'm guessing was just transcribed from a speech Morrow actually gave.

So, out of a 90 minute movie, you've got about 65 minutes worth of original writing. While I've haven't seen the actual printed screenplay for this movie, I'm guessing it can't be any more than 50 pages, which is pretty thin. Hell, there's more than 50 pages of original writing on this blog, and I'm not up for Best Original anything.

Nice. Really nice.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Last Five Movies

Date Movie (2006)
"Spoof" movies have gotten really terrible in recent years. If you look at the earlier work from the Abrams/Zucker team (like Airplane! and The Naked Gun), sure, those movies made references to other movies (Airplane! takes most of its plot and dialogue directly out of Zero Hour!), but they were just for easy laughs. The rest of the gags were original ideas, and funny. Now, you have a movie like Date Movie, which is basically a clip show of other movies, but with different characters, and that don't make for a good or funny movie. The fact that they're spoofing romantic comedies doesn't help either, since what they're spoofing was supposed to be funny to start with. How 'bout some original jokes? No? Well, so be it. We'll see if Scary Movie 4 finally kills off this genre. Best thing to happen to it, really.

London (2006)
The honest-to-God only reason I watched this was because some website claimed that Jessica Biel had some nude scenes in it. But she doesn't. So, there goes that hour and a half of my life.

Into the Blue (2005)
If watching Jessica Alba trot around in a bikini for two hours offends you, then this isn't for you. All others need apply. Oh, and if Peter Benchley hadn't been dying of lung disease when this movie was made, I'm sure he would have sued the shit out of the producers for ripping off his screenplay for The Deep. Or am I the only one who noticed that? Whoops.

Shaft (2000)
I thought this was a good movie when I saw it in the theatre five years ago, and it still holds up today. But I still have the same problem with it that I had back then: the Peoples Hernandez character. Jeffrey Wright is a great actor, and he should be in more movies, but what the fuck his character is doing in this one is beyond me. Let's clutter up that screenplay with more unnecessary characters, please!

An incredibly obscure choice, yes, but it's the best I've seen lately:

The Dancer Upstairs (2002)
John Malkovich must be a big fan of Costa-Gavras, because he's made a movie that would fit right into Gavras' filmography. It chronicles a South American revolution being led by an unseen terrorist, and the search of a troubled detective to find him. A good movie, and the fact that it stars the always-great Javier Bardem only makes it better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You And All Your Imaginary Friends On MySpace

As I've mentioned before, randomly clicking through MySpace will lead you to some pretty goofy shit. And one of the goofiest things I've seen is the phenomena of the Phony Friends List: friends lists that are populated by made-up people.

The best lists are the ones populated by movie characters. Take, for example, the profile of John Kreese. Kreese was the evil sensai from the Karate Kid movies. Kreese, in real life, is actually actor Martin Kove. But his friend's list isn't filled with people from Martin Kove's life; it's filled with people from John Kreese's life, all of whom are fictional. And, oddly enough, every character from Karate Kid happens to have a MySpace profile.

But that's just an easy example. More searching will lead you to the really oddball ones. Like this profile for Monique, the foreign exchange student from Better Off Dead. And her friends list will lead you to this incredibly obscure profile for Rick Morehouse, the guy who uttered the classic line, "Where do you get off having tits?" in Just One of the Guys. (That one was for the fans, and you know who you are.)

What's all this mean? That everything on MySpace is bullshit. If you're on MySpace to actually make friends, you may want to consider getting medicated, because you've deluded yourself into thinking that everything on MySpace isn't fake. Even my own profile is 99% made-up. (I actually am a white caucasian.) It's basically a nice place for people like me to make fun of idiots who take this shit seriously. And there's a lot of idiots to make fun of.

But keep that under your hat. I wouldn't want John Kreese and his Cobra Kai badasses coming to kick my ass. I know he's for real.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Chuck Norris Destroys San Francisco

Let's go back: The year was 1981, and the news reports were all over the fact that Chuck Norris had destroyed San Francisco. Honestly, I had forgotten all about it (as I was seven at the time), but the memory came back when I saw this poster, and I knew that I had to buy it.

So, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Chuck Norris roundhouse kicking the shit out of the Golden Gate Bridge, here is the piece of history that will soon be adorning my walls:

Seriously: don't fuck with Chuck Norris. He destroyed a whole city just for the hell of it. Imagine what he would do if he was mad.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Three Degrees Of Tom

For a number of years, a friend and I have discussed the concept of "poor man's" actors: actors you get when your first choice is unavailable. Poor man's actors tend to be lesser actors, and often play many of the same types of roles in smaller budget films that the big star would play in a big budget movie. A real easy example is Donny Wahlberg being the poor man's Mark Wahlberg. There are dozens of other examples out there.

A couple of years ago, a really striking example came to my attention while I was watching The Scorpion King.

Peter Facinelli (pictured at left), better known as Mr. Jennie Garth, is almost an exact duplicate of Tom Cruise. Not only does he resemble Tom, he even sounds and acts like Tom. His performance in Scorpion King was pretty much identical to Tom's in Interview With A Vampire. (I know, you didn't think the vampire Lestat was in The Scorpion King, but I'll be damned if he isn't.)

Ever since, every time I've seen Peter in anything (the show Fastlane was a great showcase for him), he is totally channeling Tom Cruise. The guy must actually think he is Tom Cruise. It's incredible, really.

And then, when I didn't think anything could get anymore fucked up than a perfect doppleganger of Tom Cruise, I happened to catch tonight's episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and my mind exploded.

This guy,
whose name is Daniel Kucan, is one of the design team members on Extreme Makeover, and he is the poor man's Peter Facinelli. Yes, the Tom Cruise clone has his own clone. (This picture, in which he looks like Noah Wyle with AIDS, does no justice to his actual Facinelliness.)

He acts and talks just like Peter; he's a third-degree likeness of Tom Cruise. (The scariest thing about this is that this idea was uttered by The Girl almost simultaneously as me thinking it. It's scary when you're totally on the same page like that.) He is the poor man's Tom Cruise, twice removed. He's the reality TV version of Tom Cruise (which is really pathetic). His list of titles goes on and on.

So, if you ever happen to see Daniel or Peter on TV, and keep thinking to yourself, "Who does this guy remind me of?", now you know.

What, No Draft Picks?

Last Thursday, in what might be the shittiest trade in history, Al Michaels, longtime play-by-play man for ABC Sports, was traded to NBC for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. "What's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit," you ask? Why, it's an old Disney cartoon character. Yes, one of the greatest sportcasters ever got traded for a fucking cartoon. (And no, this is not a joke.)

For Disney, the parent company of ABC, this is a huge coup. Oswald the Rabbit was probably the first character ever drawn by Walt Disney. (Yes, it predates even Mickey Mouse.) But, while Disney did produce the cartoons, they didn't own the rights. Those were held by Universal (which is also owns NBC), who distributed the cartoons. In fact, Disney only produced the cartoons for about two years before Universal took over production altogether. Oswald hasn't been a Disney cartoon for nearly 80 years, and hasn't made an appearance in any cartoon in over 50 years.

For sacrificing this valuable character, NBC Universal gets Al Michaels, a 20-year staple of Monday Night Football, and the most recognizable play-by-play man in all of sports. He rejoins John Madden, who also defected to NBC.

So, to recap: NBC Universal gets the man who uttered the "Do you believe in miracles?" call, and Disney regains a cartoon character that no one under, say, 80 even remembers. This deal is about as lopsided as the Yankees trading A-Rod to the A's for the rights to Ty Cobb.

There may be one positive to come out of this, though. Maybe while Disney is in a trading mood, they'll trade Miss Piggy and Kermit to Fox for Arrested Development, a show they've expressed interest in if Fox doesn't renew it. It's win/win for everyone: Arrested stays on TV, and Fox gets yet another couple of "dummies" to put on TV.

Sounds like a fair trade to me.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Goodbye, Arrested Development

Friday marked the last airing of Arrested Development . At least Fox was nice enough to devote their entire Friday night lineup to Arrested (against the fucking Olympic opening ceremonies, no less).

So, now I'll just have to find another Funniest Show on Television. I suspect it will be a long time before I ever laugh again. I guess we can only hope that maybe Fox will resurrect the show in like two years, like it did with Family Guy and (if the rumors are true) Futurama, due to massive DVD sales. Or we can just hope for the movie version that was cleverly mentioned in the "epilogue" of the last episode.

It was a good run. I only wish it had lasted longer. If you didn't watch it (and, therefore, contributed to its cancellation), thanks for ruining my good times. Thanks a lot.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another Goofy Reality Show

I just happened to be watching TV during the day last week, and happened to catch a mini-marathon of #1 Single, the new E! reality show. The show follows Lisa Loeb in her search for a boyfriend.

Remember Lisa Loeb? If you don't, you may want to check your medical records, because you were probably in a coma in 1995, when her song, "Stay," was on the radio literally every two seconds.

That being said, I find it hard to believe that Lisa would have any trouble finding a boyfriend, as she's famous, as well as attractive. (She's one of the few women whose looks are actually improved by wearing glasses.) I'd think there would be suitors falling out of the woodwork to get with that. Apparently not, according to this show.

Then again, this show is on E!, Your Home of Goofy Reality Shows, so I guess anything goes.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Disney Has Its Cake And Eats Nemo, Too

What do you do if you're one of the largest media companies in the world, and your former CEO alienated your cashcow partner so much so that they wanted nothing to do with you any more? You get out the checkbook and buy them.

I know this is old news, but I felt the need to comment on it. What I'm referring to is Disney's purchase of former animation partner Pixar.

This whole thing goes back 10 years, when Disney essentially bailed Pixar out of financial ruin by agreeing to a distribution deal for Pixar-produced movies. Even back then, when no one knew who Pixar was, this was a shitty deal. Production costs and profits would be split evenly between Pixar and Disney, with Disney additionally receiving a distribution fee, as well as the rights to the finished films. (That last part is a clever little bit, because it means that Disney gets all profits from any merchandising, since they own the characters. Don't let anyone tell you Michael Eisner wasn't one smart motherfucker.) So, in simpler terms, Pixar busts their ass to make a movie, Disney hands them a check and takes the movie. "Here's your cut, minus costs. Good work, guys. When's the next one gonna be done?"

Fast forward 10 years, and Pixar has become the premiere animation studio in the world. Its movies have made so much money for Disney, that Disney essentially shuts down their own fabled animation studio. What Disney didn't count on was that maybe Pixar wasn't happy. And they weren't.

When their deal with Disney came open for negotiation, they wanted more control. They wanted to self-finance, wanted all profits, and to retain all copyrights. Disney would get only their distribution fee. Disney was obviously not happy with this deal. Here's this little upstart that they put on the map demanding everything. Of course, Disney was not the company it once was and their CEO, Michael Eisner, was a shell of his former powerful self. So, the whole thing ended with Pixar pretty much going out on their own, and Eisner leaving Disney after a number of other foulups.

So, that's where it stood, until new CEO Robert Iger did something that Eisner should have done 10 years ago: He wrote a $7 billion check, and bought Pixar outright. It's a genius deal for both companies: Steve Jobs, Pixar's CEO, gets a seat on Disney's board, as well as becoming their largest single shareholder; Pixar gets approval of all Disney and Pixar films; and Disney gets all the money. Sure, Pixar has essentially been forced into slavery, and just lost control of their company, but now they have access to all that big Disney money. Good times for everybody.

Congrats to both Disney and Pixar for ironing out their differences, and deciding to continue one of the most successful relationships in history. Now: get back to work on Toy Story 3.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

And The Nominees Are...

Some random Oscar nom thoughts:

-How did Cinderella Man merit a Best Makeup nom? Don't really see that one as being valid.

-The Academy has decided that only three songs would be nominated this year, instead of the usual five, which is good, because that's two fewer painful performances of said songs that I'll have to endure during the Awards ceremony. I wonder if Terrence Howard will actually perform "It's Hard Out Here To Be A Pimp," or they'll do like last year and have someone like Kanye West perform it, even though the original performer is at the ceremony.

-Memoirs of a Geisha gets nominated in both Sound categories. Interesting choice: a movie that is 99% dialogue.

-I can't help notice that Sin City and Star Wars 3 were passed over in the Visual Effects category. Considering both movies are almost entirely visual effects, you'd think the Academy would throw them a bone. I think it's a fairly impressive technical achievement to create worlds that exist solely on a computer, but apparently I'm an idiot.

-The most hotly contested categories this year will be the two Writing categories. There are at least two in each category that deserve to win. The only category that comes close to this race is Animated Feature, which has three equally deserving nominees.

-George Clooney will probably win some sort of Oscar this year, and will ascend into the upper echelons of assholery with his new sense of importance. I suspect he'll attempt to buy the United States if he wins.

-Munich got more noms than it did at the Golden Globes, even though it will win nothing, which is a shame, because it's great.

-I suspect Brokeback Mountain will be the big winner this year. On a tangential subject, has anyone actually seen Brokeback Mountain? I've asked everyone I know, and can't find anyone, through any degree of separation, who has seen it. That should be a category of its own: Best Picture No One Has Seen. Winner, hands down.

We'll see how it all pans out in a month or so.