July 2006 Archives

While holding his nose, Daniel Neman dares not call that which offends by its proper name. Instead, he dubs it a “flatulence joke.”

And he is not amused. After counting 100 movies with — say it together — fart jokes since 1989, Neman writes disapprovingly in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“Do you know how a joke is never funny the second time you hear it? Imagine that sensation extended into triple digits.”

Double Stuf(f)ed

System of a DownRolling Stone’s “Rock and Roll Daily” has started a series on double albums that can be (and should have been) pared down to single discs. And not just one 80-minute CD; the idea is to hack the bloated monster down to an LP — two sides of no more than 23 minutes apiece. The first three entries: The Beatles’ White Album, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, and Bruce Springsteen’s The River.

(I’m disappointed that the fourth entry, on Guns N’ [sic] Roses’ Use Your Illusion, chucks the LP premise. Cheaters.)

I wonder if the genesis wasn’t the magazine’s own review of System of a Down’s Hypnotize:

“System of a Down nearly made the no-contest hard-rock album of 2005. Instead, they have released a double album ... .”

In an interview, the jazz pianist Tardo Hammer lamented to me the demise of vinyl in favor of CDs and, now, digital-music players. The long-playing record, he noted, fostered close listening, both because of its time constraints and the fact that you had to make an effort to turn it over. The result was that the music consumer would end up listening to 23 minutes of music repeatedly, thus picking up on its detail and nuance.

For me, the problem with all double albums I can think of is that there’s simply too much to absorb. Unless a track grabs you immediately, the sheer volume of music overwhelms all the songs.

Cinematical is was running a caption contest for this photo:

Canadian? Or the young Marcia Cross?

Alas, at the request of some evil movie studio, the photo has been replaced and the offered captions deleted.

Before it was pulled, though, the contest generated two fantastic responses (offered here with some more-conventional spelling and punctuation):

“Can you spot the Canadian?”


“Then came Desperate Houswives: The Early Years, and for a time it was good.”

My offering for the replacement contest:

“After hours of aimless driving, the cast of Little Miss Sunshine was losing hope that it would ever find the far-superior previous incarnation of ‘Caption This.’”

The deadline for the new, decidedly less-fun contest is 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, July 26.

Michael Karnow (left), Zak Penn (center), and Werner Herzog in 'Incident at Loch Ness'Werner Herzog once ate his shoe, so why wouldn’t he chase the Loch Ness monster?

What’s a little harder to swallow is that the famously idiosyncratic German director — who pulled a boat over a mountain for 1982’s Fitzcarraldo — would team up with Zak Penn, a Hollywood hack who has written such gems as PCU, Inspector Gadget, and Elektra. Yet that’s what happens in Incident at Loch Ness, a 2004 movie that documents their collaboration.

In a review full of great lines, here is perhaps the best from Jim Emerson’s pan of the Great and Powerful and Self-Absorbed M. Night’s The Lady in the Water:

“They live in water and are desperate to communicate warnings to Man, but Man has forgotten how to listen. They are sort of like amphibious Al Gores.”

Remembering to Forget

The opening shot of 'Memento'(This brief essay was inspired by Jim Emerson’s “Opening Shots” project.)

A man’s hand holds a Polaroid photograph, but who would want to commemorate such a gruesome scene? The picture shows a body lying face-down on a floor, blood everywhere.

This might be a crime-scene photo, but that conclusion doesn’t feel right. If the man were a police photographer or officer, why would he linger over this particular image? It’s mundane for that line of work, yet the man holds it for half a minute, as if studying it.

Then he shakes it, and we notice something on his hand, dark but unclear. And the photograph begins to fade. We might observe that the darkness on his hand is a tattoo, with letters: “i” and “s.”

It was with great horror (okay, mild annoyance at myself) that I returned to comments by Dan Jardine at Cinemarati and saw a striking resemblance to some ideas I expressed on Superman Returns.

While I doubt I’d be accused of plagiarism, it’s clear that Dan planted a seed in my brain, and I should have cited him in my essay.

He wrote:

“I wonder about his purpose on this planet. Is his raison d’etre really to save people whose breaks [sic] have failed? Are there no larger problems he could tackle? Also, ... the film gives some lip service to the notion that Superman’s heroics will act as inspiration to humans, who might then improve their own lot by upgrading their behavior to match Superman’s. Yet, can you point to a single character who makes any significant step forward toward heroic levels of greatness other than Superman?”

So if you disagree with my assessment of the movie, blame him.

Good Stupid


Delbert McClintonModesty is a rare commodity in the world of rock and roll, but Delbert McClinton thinks it’s an essential element of writing a good song.

“Being a songwriter, you have to know humility, and embrace it,” he said in a recent interview. “In songwriting, there’s what we around here call good stupid and bad stupid.”

McClinton has been doing a rootsy brand of good stupid for almost five decades, and it’s earned him adoration and respect as a songwriter, a harmonica player, a singer, and a bandleader.

Losers of the format warsAs I predicted more than a year and a half ago, high-definition DVDs have flopped. That’s the premature but likely accurate conclusion of this editorial, which echoes some of my (18-month-old) comments and adds a few more nails.

As a relatively new co-owner of an HD television, I can relate particularly well to these points: that DVDs that aren’t high-definition still look spectacular on the new set, and that standard-definition television looks terrible. That gives customers a hint of the potential but also throws cold water on their enthusiasm for new technology:

“[M]any Americans are underwhelmed or feel like they got burned by HDTV. The last thing they’re going to do is rush out and buy the next greatest thing.”

And don't come back!Superman will soon be leaving us, and not a moment too soon. After racking up an impressive opening week with his latest adventure, Superman Returns, he got his ass kicked by some dead men’s chests or somesuch.

So let the man go away for a while. Five years at least, maybe forever. We don’t want him around. Lois Lane got it right in her Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial the last time that loser left Earth: The world doesn’t need Superman, or at least this one.

Preemptive strike: Mayor Ebert in 'Godzilla'Movie studios have been struck with the brilliant realization that predictably bad reviews for self-evident shit such as The Benchwarmers can be silenced by not showing the movie to critics!

Here’s another blinding insight: Movies that aren’t released at all never get bad reviews! (Sorry. Wishful thinking on my part.)

The 2006 trend of studios withholding movies from the media has led to some debate about the role of movie reviewers in the world. Some have pronounced that film critics are becoming irrelevant.

More Meat

Michael Rooker keeps his meat to himself in 'Slither'It’s admittedly unfair to want more from Slither than it’s willing to give, but I found the horror comedy from March too slight for the praise it got. Put simply: Slither lacked an agenda. Plus: Ginger Snaps, a horror-comedy hybrid that finds the right balance.

What movie have you seen the most? What does it mean to you?

That’s the premise of Slate’s puzzlingly titled “The Movie I’ve Seen the Most” from last week. Spike Lee offers West Side Story without explanation. Peter Farrelly says Something Wild.

The unfortunate truth is that I’ve seen Star Wars more than any other movie, probably followed by The Wizard of Oz.

But that’s strictly from a volume perspective, which is inevitably skewed by the child’s insatiable desire to see the same damned thing over and over and over, and CBS’s insatiable desire to show the same damned thing over and over and over. The spirit of the question is more current, as in: “What movie do you watch most frequently?”