for when you don't know what else to say

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A big surprise

We attended a surprise birthday party this weekend that turned into a proposal. I'm so happy for my friends, and the best part was how much of a surprise the whole thing turned out to be for everyone in the room. The whole thing reminded me of this skit from SNL, starring the incomparable Kristen Wiig. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

An open letter to Entertainment Weekly

Subject: Really? Twilight again?

Sadly it did not shock me to open up my mailbox and see _another_ Twilight cover. Why don't you just re-title this magazine Twilight Weekly and be done with it? I don't know who you think is reading your magazine, but not all of us think Robert Pattinson is dreamy. And we're not all waiting for the latest scoop from the set of New Moon either.

Your recent list of Top 20 Vampires was utterly ridiculous. I find it hard to believe most of your rankings. Vampire lore has a great history that neither begins nor ends with Twilight, and I suggest you try harder next time to balance out current pop culture obsessions with classic characters and performances. The results were the most ludicrous of any pop culture list you've ever put out. I know times are tough in the publishing industry, but you shouldn't have replaced your editorial staff with a bunch of marketers looking to over-sell a movie and eighth grade girls who swoon over messy hair and iridescent powder.

There are also plenty of interesting stories out there that aren't vampire-related, and I wish you could find the space to report them. I've been a loyal reader for more than 15 years, but the past year has made me wonder why.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And here I've only taught my cats to be annoying at dinner time

Check out the Moscow Cat Theater.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Celine Dion: Honoring MJ in the most terrifying/awesome way possible

My favorite overblown, absurdist Canadian chanteuse is BAD. You know it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Human Nature

As CNN's morbidathon has raged on over the past two weeks, it took a little girl to make me cry for the first time about losing one of my childhood heroes. The memorial service for Michael was as outsized as his career, with some nice moments (Stevie Wonder) and some horribly fake, cheesy overblown drama class pieces (Usher, I'm looking at you). Little Paris Jackson's touching statement at the memorial service was the tipping point. She made Michael real, and human again. Cutting through all the stories of chimps and allegations, and bizarre behaviors, Paris gave Michael back his humanity. Yes, he was odd, yes he was the most supremely talented human being we've ever experienced. But when you take that away, MJ was at his core a father, a brother, a son, and friend to so many.

It's surprising how easy it is for icons to lose that human side. We see them in the tabloids and they become like characters in a bad TV show to us. Being the most famous person on the planet has a ton of drawbacks, and one of those is surrendering who you are to the world. They use you up and spit you out, just as happy to condemn as to cheer. And MJ's last years were so strange, that I suppose a part of me imagined that he was already dead. Paris and her powerful statement cut through all of that noise.

I found myself crying. Not just because of Anderson Cooper's touching remembrance of losing his dad that introduced the clip. Or the fact that any dead father story makes me remember and miss my own Dad. It was just her words. Simple, heartfelt, and maddeningly necessary. The press has had their way with her father his entire life. And his family had controlled him in many ways too, creating the eccentricities that would make him a target later on. The fact that this brave little girl felt the need to make statement that was basically a plea for people to recognize that she loved her father and felt that he was a good man is heartbreaking.

I hope that the Jackson children are well-cared for by Michael's family. I sincerely pray that they are left alone to grow up beyond the glare of flashbulbs, helicopters and the 24-hour news cycle.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I'm still in shock that Michael Jackson is no longer with us. He left us with so much great music. In his personal life, he was a mystery. I'm not going to spend time prosecuting or defending him for his controversies over the years. I think this abused boy was so screwed up by his father, that he never had a chance of being normal. No one knows what really happened, and he was acquitted the one time he was charged, so I won't even touch on that. I'll remember Michael as I loved him: an amazing talent, whose music was electrifying and touched pretty much everyone I knew. Here are my favorite Michael-related memories:

  • In the third grade Thriller came out, and my friend Amy G. had a VCR, so her parents rented the movie and hosted a weekend-long slumber party. We must have watched that video three hundred times, never getting bored of it once. Trying out the dances and learning all the dialogue so we could perform along with it. We had such a blast doing that. Of course one unintended side effect: I dreamt constantly of zombies showing up at our sliding glass door so the night became a little sinister.

  • I was a very involved sticker collector, and I'll never forget my most prized possession: a sticker of MJ in a yellow sweater vest and bow tie. He was so dreamy then. And then in the fourth grade, Prince came along and ruined me forever, but I still look back fondly on my innocent crush on Michael.

  • I'll never forget the buzz surrounding that Motown 25 event. Every kid in the neighborhood knew it was coming on and wanted to watch, so when it was time, we all took off running for our respective homes to watch. It seemed so important and big, and Michael's now iconic performance that night was certainly worth us cutting our playtime short.

  • When the Bad music video came out, I was so confused by it. Even in my youth, before having seen The Warriors and other tough-guy type movies, I knew that poor little Michael was not actually Bad like he was saying. That being said, I completely loved the video anyway.

  • In college, my friend Becca and I discovered our shared love for Michael. We would play his music from time to time. When we sublet an apartment for summer school, we rented the Moonwalker video, something I don't think we would ever do in the dorms. We had so much fun, laughing at the dumb movie parts with Joe Pesci and being amazed by Smooth Criminal's great look and choreography. Was our devotion a little ironic? Sure, everything was in college, but it came from a place of pure joy for Michael's best years.

  • When I first saw the video for 'Scream' I was pretty happy. First off, I really loved Janet too. But their interaction was hoot, plus the space setting made his concerning appearance look like it was a plan from the start. Well worth the $7 million.

  • After college, I got a copy of Off the Wall. I had never heard the album, and considered that it was probably like other pre-hit albums like Bobby Brown's King of Stage (verdict: not). What an amazing treat it turned out to be. Not a bad song on the entire disk, and you can't help but dance joyously when "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" comes on.

  • Watching The Jacksons: An American Dream was one of the most supremely satisying TV movie events of all time. And coming from me, that means something. If the world wanted to know why MJ was so inscrutable and confusing at times, this movie provides the answers. Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington made for a menacing Joe Jackson, and with that kind of malevolent presence in a house, those kids are lucky they survived.

Rest in peace Michael, and thank you for many years of entertainment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Belated Movie Reviews: The Happening

From time to time, I'll be reviewing the movies I get around to seeing on TV. This kick-off entry is a doozy.

Ask anyone who knows me well: I enjoy cheese and bad acting like no one's business. If it looks like it was written by the drama club, I want to see it. That's why I have so much fun watching made for TV movies, especially those SciFi originals. Little did I know that one of those scripts made it onto the big screen in a big budget production. Today I am reviewing The Happening, written, directed, produced and voice cameo'd by one Mr. M. Night Shyamalan. See trailer below:

The expectations were very low for this film, as I had been mocking it based on the trailer alone since before its release. No one would say "She is going to the town of Princeton." Jesus. Anyway, little did I know how astoundingly horrible yet boring the movie would ultimately be. The story, or what passes for plot, is not only shallow, but not very scary. Plants get pissed off and decide to make cranky Northeasterners off themselves. Not scary. Not even sensibly preachy. You've got to give Shyamalan major credit for managing to reverse the progress of years of global warming education in the span of 90 minutes.

The effects are atrocious. The man in the tiger cage? The dummies falling from the sky in a cheap 9/11 reference? The quesoriffic slow-mo sepia when John Leguizamo goes off to find his destiny "in the town of Princeton?" I saw better CGI used on Buffy, ten years ago.

The script is insane, but enjoyably so. The awkward phrasing, colorful sayings that no person has ever said ("Cheese and Crackers!"), overwrought green preaching, surprisingly tone deaf local references (no one from Philly would say "Rittenhouse Square Park" - they would say "Rittenhouse Square"), unfunny jokes in the middle of tragedy, and unrealistic conversations and reasoning sessions are breathtaking to behold. It's like the original script was translated into Swedish, then translated back into English before shooting began. This movie is very much like the music of ABBA in that way.

Finally, the acting really hammers home the point that this movie was just an all around bad idea. The extras read lines like they're at a 7th Heaven casting call. And the "name" actors have nothing to work with. Zooey Deschanel, an enjoyable actress normally, looks bored and confused as to why she is in the picture. John Leguizamo pretty much sweats a lot and says weird stuff. Betty Buckley works really hard to scare, but falls short.

Then we come to Mark Wahlberg, a guy I usually like. I don't know how he can actually say his lines with a straight face. Maybe his coping mechanism was raising his voice in a sing-song cadence to deliver every line like it was a question. Complete with awkward "I AM ACTING RIGHT NOW" hand gestures. His performance is an absolute wonder. A thing of terrifying beauty. Now I know where Andy Samberg gets his "Say hello to your mother" impersonation from:

Watching this, it just makes me wonder what happened to M. Night Shyamalan. Hard to believe that this is the same person who made The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village. I never saw Lady in the Water in full, mainly because I can't even watch more than a few minutes of it without shaking my head at the dialogue. I know he has another movie coming out, and it's someone else's script. That's probably for the best. At this point, he needs to get back to filmmaking fundamentals. Or else transform into our generation's Ed Wood, and dedicate himself solely to making the worst movies possible. Commit himself anew to a genre where failure is the only option.

Is the film enjoyable? Well, watching it for quality is not recommended. If you're looking for something to mock or watch ironically, there's material here for that, but the film never gets unhinged or over the top enough to be that balls out, gonzo bad movie I like to watch. They should have gone for the gold, amped up the cheese even more, and made a movie that not only had a sense of humor, but was fun to watch. Go big or go home, I say.

Regular movie grade: D; SciFi movie grade: C+