Saturday, October 23, 2004

Regrettable DVD Purchases, Part Two: Don't Look Now (1973)

Okay, quick show of hands. Who remembers what Donald Sutherland looked like in the 70's? No, not his 70's. The 70's. Remember? The huge, topiary-garden hair that partnered with his smeared-on mustache and creepy lizard eyes to create a look that answered the question, "What if Doctor Who was a coke dealer?" Remember that? Okay, now we're getting somewhere. So, everybody who remembers this, who among you has any desire to watch a bare-ass naked Donald Sutherland grind his man-parts against Julie Christie for oh, say, about four-and-a-half minutes? Nobody? Nobody at all? Thank you. The prosecution rests its case.

"Don't Look Now" is hailed by legions of film critics as one of the best horror movies ever made. With this in mind, I bought the DVD. Sure, I hadn't seen it before, but certainly a film with so many critical accolades must be a masterpiece. Right? Imagine my surprise when I discovered that "Don't Look Now" in fact sucks, and hard. Let's forget, for the moment, that protracted, almost documentary-style sex scene. (And oh, how I wish I could forget it.) "Don't Look Now's" main fault is that it is ostensibly a "horror" or "suspense" film and yet it is neither horrifying nor suspenseful. It's boring. Lead actor Donald Sutherland overacts his heart out in a vain effort to animate a severely underwritten character. Julie Christie is saddled with an even flatter character, to compliment her flatter acting style. Sutherland and Christie play a married couple who lose their young daughter in a rather mannered drowning accident. The film gives us no reason to care about these characters, beyond the fact that their child is dead. When the film was over, I had as much sense of their personalities as if I'd watched a twenty-second news clip about mudslide victims. (Yes, it's tragic, but who the fuck ARE you?) Nicolas Roeg's direction is "arty" without really being expressive. It's utterly ineffective in building any kind of suspense. The script is similarly flaccid, devoid of wit or verve, and borders at times on the nonsensical. Either Roeg, screenwriter Allan Scott, or a drunken editor decided that it would be a fabulous idea to "induce chills" by smash-cutting to a scene of two secondary characters laughing uproariously about God knows what. Because this makes them seem like they might possibly, maybe, after a fashion, sorta, kinda be vaguely sinister! Or not! Jeebus. I'm shaking my head just writing this.

I watched "Don't Look Now" twice -- just to confirm my suspicion that I was right and it was the rest of the world that was crazy, and then I sold it to a new-and-used DVD store. I clutch to my wounded soul this meager consolation: at least I got to see Donald Sutherland get stabbed to death by a dwarf.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Dogpile on Stacy!

On this week's "Apprentice," the contestants worked with dogs, and she-troll Stacy received her long-delayed boardroom pasting. It was a glorious thing to behold. Trump, Carolyn, and a substitute George all pitched in to tear her several new orifices. Stacy's strategy -- which has become a lifestyle for her at this point -- was to make sure that she took no important responsibilities during the tasks, and then to heap blame for losing on somebody else. "Somebody else" being someone who actually did something. Trump and friends finally bothered to call Stacy on her nonsense and gave her the old heave-ho. When she dragged her refrigerator-sized luggage out of Trump Tower, the traditional taxi waited for her at the curb. I was rather hoping for a clown car. And yes, I know the short jokes are in bad taste, but I'm happy to make an exception for Stacy. Seriously. She's a dreadful human being.

The project managers this week were Jennifer (Apex) and Wes (Mosaic), who in the past weeks have had about fifty-two seconds of total screen time. Combined. After this week? They're still ciphers. In a brilliant, shit-stirring maneuver, Trump made Wes and Jennifer choose the three people they liked least. These losers had to go to the other team. And here's a bonus: with the teams sporting an equal mix of women and men, the Apex "witchfinder general" monopoly is at long last broken. Of course, this didn't stop Ivana from preemptively blaming Elizabeth, just in case her team lost. Maria was exempt from firing this week, due to last week's miracle win (courtesy of Satan). Maria celebrated her good fortune by contributing pretty much nothing at all to the task, strolling about a New York park dressed as a combination firefighter/Hooter's waitress, and, in a fashion masterstroke, pinning a triffid to her lapel. Chris informed the television audience that he has the biggest paycheck of anyone on his team. Is that what the young people are calling it now? A "paycheck?" He uses that big paycheck to buy many "underwears." Chris also has a ROLEX PRESIDENTIAL watch. I bet that would go nicely with Maria's DESIGNER SUIT. And Chris? Suck my "paycheck."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Snout Awareness

This week, on "America's Next Top Model," the unflappable (i.e. stone-faced) Jennipher posed dully in lingerie, staggered dully about on rollerskates while modeling a purse (dully) and spent a lot of time complaining in a flat, emotionless tone about how everyone seems to find her dull. Can you guess which contestant got booted from the competition at the end of this episode?

The show's centerpiece was Toccara's one-on-one talk with supermodel/producer/microphone-licker Tyra "Moon Maiden" Banks, which degenerated quickly into a long crying jag about her parents. I felt awful for her. The really sad part is that according to Toccara, her parents were pretty much useless to her when she was growing up, and yet she still feels like they have power over her. She's still trying to prove herself to them, even though their own personal problems forced Toccara into taking the parenting role in her family. Tyra gave her a hug. ("Take comfort in my tangerine-colored weave, child.")

For comic effect, the editors then cut to a scene with Toccara walking into a room and finding Kelle in the middle of her own crying jag. But Kelle's problem is that she suddenly hates the way she looks -- so much so that she can't bear to see herself in a mirror. Welcome to the world of modeling! The producers' and judges' ongoing campaign to destroy Kelle's self-esteem is chugging along just fine, thank you very much. Each week they choose some bizarre out-take with Kelle's face or body in a weird position, and present it to her as her "best photo," along with generous dollops of belittling remarks. Dang, suddenly everybody wants to be Michael Moore. Kelle's main concern is with her mouth -- or, as she's calling it this week, her "snout." She sobs to Toccara, "I was in denial about my snout, but now I know." (That sounds like the title of the best Judy Bloom book EVER.) Kelle points to a magazine photo with a model who has her very own "snout." Kelle is oblivious to the fact that this grotesquely deformed model is earning a living by appearing in fashion magazines. The editors blurred out the model's eyes, no doubt to save her from nationwide scandal. Snoutgate! Toccara tries to boost Kelle's confidence but you can tell that her heart really isn't in it, and I don't blame her. Kelle is nineteen, which is just a little too old for that kind of self-pitying bullshit, especially when the person in question thought she was the Queen of the Carnival only a few weeks back, and particularly especially when the "snout" in question is a perfectly normal-looking mouth.

The contestants had to pose in a store window while wearing skimpy lingerie. In true reality show form, the judge announced that the prize would be "Five thousand dollars...!" (Pause, wait for contestants to shriek with venal joy.) "...worth of lingerie!" Their excitement was remarkably undimmed. Maybe some of them thought that they could take the lingerie to a bank and exchange it for currency. The James Cagney-esque Eva posed her short, pugnacious heart out, while Toccara's stiffer poses seemed to take their inspiration from Hermione Gingold in "The Music Man." ("ONE Grecian urn...!") And throughout the show, just like all the past shows, the judges hammered Ya Ya with their inane "Stop moving like a dancer" critique. At least one of them actually demonstrated this for her this week. One judge posed, which meant "dancer," and then let the pose droop somewhat, which meant "model." So, models are like enervated dancers. Got it.

Next week on ANTM, someone sticks her finger into a tray of brownies and all hell breaks loose. Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Regrettable DVD Purchases, Part One: Ringu (1998)

I used to have the bad, lazy habit of buying DVD's of movies I've never seen. (I could have tried renting them first, but no...!) These were all movies that I'd seen praised to the skies in various reviews, of course. The problem was, I usually ended up hating them. Case in point: the Japanese horror film, "Ringu." "Ringu" was released in Japan in 1998, and spawned several sequels as well as a TV series. Hollywood took note and in 2002 released a slick remake: "The Ring." Since I'd liked "The Ring" enough to buy it, and since various internet horror sites claimed "Ringu" was better, I bought "Ringu." Huge mistake. "Ringu" is inferior to "The Ring" in practically every way. The film lacks the chilling atmosphere of "The Ring." The plot is threadbare, owing in part to the sheer brevity of the cursed videotape. The tape in "The Ring" is rich with surreal imagery that recurred in new forms throughout the film and provided only vague clues to the mystery of the little girl. The tape in "Ringu" has only a few images, none of them terribly interesting or scary. Instead of using the tape itself as a resource, the characters in "Ringu" often have vital clues literally pointed out to them by the specter of a man with a cloth over his head. The dude actually points to spots where the characters are meant to look. In "The Ring," the little girl's origins remain somewhat mysterious and there is an inferred supernatural element, but in "Ringu" she is specifically said to have psychic powers. Just like every other character in the film, including the girl's mom and the lead character's ex-boyfriend! (Psychic = boring to me. Sorry.) In "The Ring," the reporter's son is a serious little boy who ends up haunted by the little girl, and yes, the performance is reminiscent of the kid in "The Sixth Sense," but at least both these boys can actually act. (And for that matter, the kid in the "Ring" doesn't have psychic powers -- he only draws pictures of his cousin's death because she told him she was going to die beforehand, and the only "dead person" he sees is the malevolent little girl.) By contrast, the little boy in "Ringu" is a sour-faced, dead-eyed little mannequin who spends the entire film looking like he's crapped his pants and is feeling kind of angry about it. And then there's "Ringu's" set piece. Three words: climactic bailing sequence. The well in "Ringu" is pretty full, which means that the reporter and her ex-boyfriend spend quite a bit of time emptying it with a little bucket. This goes on for what feels like hours. In what passes for a plot complication, the reporter's arms get tired. She starts crying. The ex-boyfriend yells at her. It's just like one of the lamer challenges in "The Amazing Race." ("Bail faster, Mirna!") Needless to say, I felt utterly ripped off by this purchase. Sadly, I'm a bit of a slow learner when it comes to financial matters, so it would take a few more bad purchases like this before I finally learned my lesson. Up next: "Don't Look Now" (1973).

Who is Blockade Boy?

I'm glad you asked. Blockade Boy is an alien superhero who showed up as a minor character in Adventure Comics #344 (May, 1966) in the Legion of Superheroes story, "The Super-Stalag of Space!" He was promptly killed off in the very next issue. His super-power was the ability to transform himself into a steel barrier -- except that his head stuck out of the front of it, which made him look like a hunting trophy, or perhaps an oversized refrigerator magnet. Other than that, he was kind of boring. His costume, such as it was, consisted mainly of a yellow t-shirt and brown trousers. Oh, sure, there were a few concessions to superhero fashion, such as his insanely wide belt (six inches, at least), the stubby brown boots, into which the cuffs of his trousers were haphazardly stuffed, and of course the bad-ass wrist guards, a la Ultra Boy or the Golden Age Atom. He had a crewcut, and he wasn't terribly handsome, either. He was lantern-jawed, his eyes were kind of beady and a bit too close together, and his nose was a knobby lump. He died saving Matter-Eater Lad, who was equally lame but much more popular with comics readers because he had an actual personality.

Blockade Boy is also a thirty-five-year-old Kansas man with more comic books than sense. He's not physically imposing, although he does own a Bowflex and is working hard to lose weight. He cannot turn into a steel barrier with a human head protruding from it. He is, he flatters himself, somewhat wittier than his comic book namesake. Not that this would take much.

So, why choose "Blockade Boy" for an alias? Simple. I have a soft spot in my heart (and head) for hapless proletarian characters like Blockade Boy. And I just like the name. It has a certain clunky charm. It's also one of the few comic book superhero names that hasn't been appropriated by very many internet comic book geeks, if any at all. Because it's dumb!

Blockade Boy, the blog, will focus mainly on pop culture claptrap, like comics and movies. There may be some swearing.