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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Highs and Lows of 2015: So Far

As you may have noticed, I really enjoyed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  I tried to make that clear in my previous post, but I'm not entirely sure I was successful, after all, I did only use three exclamation points when I called it the best program of all-time, by which I meant all the times since TV has existed.  If I failed at selling the show to you, dear reader, then I sincerely apologize.  I will do my best in the future to more succinctly express my love for things when recommending them to you.  I'm thinking of adding a fourth exclamation point to the roster.  I'm currently in talks with my legal team about it, so I'll keep you posted.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt hasn't been the only high point of 2015 so far though, in fact,  I've bumped up against plenty of other top-notch entertainments-n-such this year.  And it's only March!  Who knows how many more dizzying highs I will have personally experienced by May!  July!  Um, ever heard of a little month called October?!?  I'll be flying so high you might mistake me for popular stand-up comedian and podcast host Doug Benson.  We're talking high!  Am I right?

Of course, with peaks there are always valleys, and, man, have I found myself in some bummer valleys this year.  So, I thought it might be amusing to take a look at some of the highs and lows of the current year so far.  In the spirit of honesty, I feel I should admit that this post was originally planned to be a comparison of two recently released stand-up specials, but I started to feel crummy about pitting comedians against each other, especially when one of them is a well-documented favorite of mine and the other is someone I don't think I've ever laughed at once.  That didn't seem fair or cool, but I wasn't going to have watched one of the specials for nothing (the horror, the horror), so, you know, this thing.  All right, let's have some fun or something.

Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden (High):  I'm a guy who makes lists; not to-do lists or grocery lists or any other helpful kind of list you can name, but pointless lists that do nothing more than help me keep track of the ultimately useless information floating around in my pop-culture-addled brain.  Lists like Top 10 All-Time Favorite Movies (a list that is reviewed every couple years or so to see if any readjustments need to be made), Top 5 Favorite Chili's Entrees (I'm super into the Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla right now) and Top 10 Animated Female Characters I'd Have Sex With (N/A).  I also have a list of Top 10 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians, a list on which Aziz Ansari appears (along with Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Brian Regan, Dave Attel, the aforementioned Doug Benson, and at least 4 others), so naturally, I am inclined to like Live at Madison Square Garden.  But I don't like it simply because it is my sworn duty as a fan of Ansari to enjoy everything he does, but I like it because it's fucking funny, and it is so fucking funny.  It's also kind of moving--and I'm not just talking about the fact that he brings his parents up at the end or dedicates the special to the memory of Harris Wittels.  He does a bit near the end in which he imagines married life as a graph that is so emotionally moving and funny it makes the first ten minutes of the Pixar film UP look like a hunk of flaming garbage (that's not accurate or true).  And I'm not the first, second or third person to write this about Live at Madison Square Garden, but this show feels really intimate.  It doesn't feel like a comedy show in a sports arena, and that's what makes it so special, I think.  Sure, there's a confetti cannon, but what club show couldn't benefit from one of those?  Exactly.

Ralphie May: Unruly (Low): I'm going to say something nice about Ralphie May: I think he was robbed on the first season of Last Comic Standing.  I didn't find him particularly funny then either, but I thought he had a lot more going for him then that season's winner, um, you know, uh, that guy with the, er, jokes or something (I know it was Dat Phan!  Geez, I'm just making a point.).  Ralphie May has turned his television debut into a successful career--he mentions in Unruly that he has been doing comedy for 25 years!--and for that he should be very proud.  The thing is, I don't find Ralphie May funny, and I think that's OK.  Hacky jokes about Asian stereotypes, excessive marijuana use (Apparently, May once go to high he sat in a Chick-fil-A drive-thru line for 3 hours...on a Sunday!  Can you believe it?!?!?) and pubic hair aren't my idea of a fun night out, but again, that's OK.  Other people eat that stuff up, and that doesn't make them bad people, it just means they find different things funnier than I do, and luckily for Ralphie May's bank account, that's Ralphie May.  My main issue with May--and it could very well just be this special, I haven't seen any of his other ones--is that his act kind of makes me physically ill.  I like vaginas as much as the next guy--maybe more!--but listening to a man refer to them as "pussy meat" or, worse, "'giner meat" for an hour-and-twenty-three minutes, is nauseating.  Why does he have to keep adding meat to the end of it?  And why is this special over an hour?!?  Live at Madison Square Garden is 58 minutes long, 58 tight minutes of insightful, expertly-crafted humor.  Ralphie May spends the last 30-minutes-but-it-feels-like-4-hours berating a 21-year-old in the front row about how he's less-than-a-man because he's never "fingerblasted" a girl.  Kudos to May for presenting a routine devoid of fat jokes, but, dude, we get it, you've touched a lot of different vaginas.  You win, OK.  Shut up already!

The return of the Best Show (High): Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster brought back the Best Show this year, and while Tom's life was completely upended only two episodes in (his father died suddenly), he has soldiered onward, proving that even in the difficult times he is still capable of steamrolling any chump that gets in his way.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 10 (High): Still the most consistently funny show on TV right now.  I recently re-watched every single episode on Neflix--a worthy endeavor that I encourage you to undertake if you have not already--and there simply isn't a low-point, a lull, a broken toilet (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Scharpling) of a season.  It's as close to perfect as you can get.  And this season has been no exception.

Chappie (Low): The trailer for Chappie made me cry...all three times I watched it.  I'm not embarrassed to admit that.  I'm a sensitive male in touch with his emotions, comfortable with the feel and taste of tears on my cheeks (I have an absurdly long tongue, ant-eater-esque even). I was up for Chappie, ready to get in there and cheer and cry and let whatever else wanted to spray out of my body, um, spray out of my body.  But then the lukewarm reviews started rolling in (It's currently sporting a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes!) and my tear valves dried right up.  "This is Elysium all over again," I tearlessly wept.  I don't usually let reviews dictate what movies I see or music I download (I am quick to trust television critics however), but there is just too much negativity surrounding poor lil Chappie, so I think I'm going to wait until this one comes to DVD or Netflix and then I forget about it and never see it, i.e. Elysium all over again.
Marvel Contest of Champions (High): I don't let my 3-year-old daughter watch violent TV shows or watch scary movies or read Highlights for children (I feel like she might confuse Goofus for Gallant--maybe in another year she'll be ready), but I do let her watch me play Contest of Champions, much to the chagrin of my wife.  It's not the colorful characters or the emphasis on teamwork the game promotes that she is opposed to, but more the violence, some of which involves giant space-swords and guns, both laser and bullet-filled.  I mean, the game consists of two Marvel superheroes engaging in hand-to-hand combat, until one is knocked unconscious, so I kind of see her point.  Also, my daughter likes to play Contest of Champions with me even when my iPhone is not around.  "I'll be Gamora and you be Spider-Man," she says, gleefully, before making sounds with her mouth that sound a bit like punching.  Then, at some point, she'll raise her arm and bring it down in a mighty karate chop saying, "Whoopsie, sword!" a phrase my wife and I repeat constantly because it is so cute to hear a 3-year-old say.  Also, it refers to Gamora's special movie, in which she removes a previously unnoticed sword from out of thin air and slices her opponent with it mercilessly.  Fun!  Anyway, this game is the reason you should get an iPhone.  'Nuff said.

Whoopsie, hook!
Disney cruise (HIGH): I went on a Disney cruise with my wife, my daughter and my parents the last week in February, and I haven't been the same since my return.  I'm my best self on a Disney cruise, my happiest self.  Also, my fattest self, but we don't need to talk about that right now.  Anyway, it was more fun than I can describe in a short blurb.  Above, please see myself and my daughter dressed up for Friday night's pirate party.  Yeah, that's a parrot on my shoulder, and at least one little kid at the pirate party thought it was real and asked to touch it.  I told him it was dead.  He gave me a horrified look, and disappeared back into the crowd of pirates.
The death of Harris Wittels (LOW): I didn't know Harris Wittels personally, but I am a huge fan.  I fell in love with his comedy through his many appearances on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, as well as other podcasts to which I listen regularly.  If Harris was in an episode of something, I was excited.  I am still devastated by his loss, so I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.  I can't remember who said it, but someone funny postulated, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the loss of Harris will be felt more and more as time goes by, as he was a singular voice in the world of modern comedy, and his death is not only tragic because of how young he was, but because of how amazingly talented he was.  There will never be another Harris Wittels.  I'd just be happy to have the old Harris Wittels back at this point.





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Monday, March 9, 2015

Watch This Immediately, You Idiot!: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I've been racking my brain for the past 48 hours trying to come up with a way to describe my feelings about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the new Tina Fey-created comedy that debuted on Netflix last Friday, in a single, direct statement that doesn't sound like an incredible exaggeration, and therefore, open to the scoffing and eye-rolling of the general public.  But then I remembered that Giant Electric Penguin is nothing if not one man's hyperbolic ramblings regarding the pop culture he adores, so here's what I came up with.  You can tell me in the comments if you think I've gone too far.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the funniest half-hour, single-camera situation comedy to ever exist in the history of TV and/or subscription-based entertainment-streaming services.  In fact, it may the greatest comedy program of ALL TIME!!!
In Time's Square--where New Yorkers shop!

I'm willing to agree that perhaps that third exclamation point is a bit "much," but I stand by the rest of my statement.  Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a consistently hilarious endeavor from top (by which I mean the Gregory Brothers-created theme song that has been stuck in my head all weekend) to bottom (the credits, in which the names of all the people responsible for this genius comedy are contained), and I for one am glad I devoted six-and-a-half hours to watching the first season on Friday.  Feels like time well spent, and I mean that.

If the fact that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was created by Tina Fey and that I was compelled to use three exclamation points earlier--something that I've now decided was not a bit "much" but maybe not "enough"--then maybe I should tell you that it stars Ellie Kemper (of "being hilarious" fame), Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski doing some of the best work of their careers, as well as some amazing guest turns from Richard Kind, Tim Blake Nelson, Martin Short and Jon Hamm as charismatic cult leader/wannabe Apprentice cast member, Richard Wayne Gary Wayne.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a joke machine in the 30 Rock tradition, but I think it tells a more readily identifiable story, even though it revolves around a young woman (the titular Schmidt, played to perfection by Ellie Kemper) who has just been freed from 15 years captivity in an underground bunker located in a local weirdo's backyard.  After being interviewed on the Today show with her fellow cult captives, Kimmy decides she doesn't want to be defined by her past, isn't content to simply live out the rest of her days known as one of the "Indiana Mole Women," and chooses to remain in New York City and make a go at a normal life, even though she sports an eighth grade education, can fit her all of her earthly possessions in a purple backpack, has no place to live and says things like "what the ham sandwich?!?" on a regular basis.  Through the magic of positivity and pure dumb luck, Kimmy finds an affordable basement apartment, which she shares with Titus, an out-of-work actor, and a job keeping house (kinda-sorta) for an eccentric family run by Jane Krakowski, who is never not funny, and while in some ways as strange as 30 Rock's Jenna, is less off-putting and seemingly capable of change--also the handful of flashbacks to her life before moving to the Big Apple and marrying a neglectful millionaire, are some of my favorite moments of the first season.

I don't want to write much more, not for any dumb spoilery reason, but because you need to watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for yourself.  It's funny, strange, sweet and emotionally satisfying.  And it's got the most sophisticated robot character since Screech Powers' Kevin.


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Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Top 7 Movies of 2014

It's Academy Awards Day, and that means it's time to reveal my Top 10 favorite films from last year.  Only, um, I only saw 15 films released in 2014, none of which are nominated for any of the major categories (as far as I know), so I only have a Top 7.  I watched plenty of straight-to-streaming action movies and painfully unfunny Marlon Wayans comedies on Netflix, but, sadly, none of these qualify for the following list.  Anyway, here are the movies that were released in 2014 that I saw and enjoyed.  You'll notice that Godzilla is not on this list.  This is because I hated Godzilla so much.

7. Edge of Tomorrow
6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
4. Frank
3. Snowpiercer
2. Blue Ruin
1. Guardians of the Galaxy


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

50 Shades of "Hey, Let's Go See Something Else"

While millions of horned-up housewives make the filmed adaptation of E. L. James’ pervy non-classic, 50 Shades of Grey, the number one movie at the box office this weekend, I’ll be joining my fellow cinephiles in giving my hard-earned monies to entertainment more deserving.  Did you know that Valentine’s Day weekend is the single biggest release date for movies in any calendar year (i.e. any year that has a Benedict Cumberbatch-themed calendar mass produced for it)?  It’s true.  In fact, I’ve found 11 films alone that are more worth your time and money then 50 Shades of Yuck (My awesome joke.  Don’t steal it.), all of which, oddly enough, seemingly titled to trick less observant viewers into the wrong theater.  Hey, whatever works! 

1. 50 Shades of May (Rated PG): A contemplative meditation on what has historically been the most ignored month.  From Japan, 50 Shades of May follows the day-to-day life of a young monk residing alone on an island in the middle of a lake over the course of a single May.  The story unfolds exclusively through voice-over and is mostly made up of static shots of tree limbs, but the scene where the monk eats rice out of bowl while describing the many varieties of May breezes, is extremely moving.

2. 50 Shades of Day (Rated R): A rare look into the mind of one of the world’s greatest living actors. Daniel Day-Lewis performs 50 original characters in 50 minutes.  Filmed live in front of a small audience at Mr. Day-Lewis’s neighborhood pub.

3. 150 Shades of Gray (Rated PG-13): A revealing documentary that recounts the infamous Crayola Dispute of 1907, in which Edwin Binney was faced with the herculean task of deciding which of the hundreds of shades of the color gray should be included in the popular Crayola 10-Pack of crayons, and then, upon making the choice, having to convince C. Harold Smith, a notorious hater of non-bright colors, that he was right.

4. 50 Shades of Dre (Rated R): The Andre “Doctor Dre” Brown (of Yo! Mtv Raps and Who’s the Man) biopic that made such a splash at the Munich Film Festival last year.

5. Nifty Shapes of Grapes (Rated G): Ever wondered why grapes are round?  This new film from Christ Almighty Pictures, tells the story, but in a comical way that will delight Christian families and the heathen friends they bring along to the theater.  Dean Cain stars as Sammy, an angel sent to Earth and tasked with helping the Big Man Upstairs intelligently design the perfect grape and Kevin Sorbo plays the angry atheistic college professor he meets on his journey.  The whole movie takes place at a Newsboys concert!

6. 50 Shades of Neigh (Rated R)50 Shades of Grey, but with horses.

7. 50 Shades of Shades (Rated R): A documentary about the cutthroat world of lampshade sales. Inspired the return of the UK’s Video Nasties list.

8.  50 Shots with Clay (Rated PG-13): My Dinner with Andre for our time!  Clay Aiken and Clay Matthews III meet for drinks at a local watering hole and discuss their careers with one another.

9. 50 Shades of Tea (Leoni) (Rated NC-17): Tea Leoni plays a fictionalized version of herself in this dark mockumentary about the Hollywood machine.  Surprisingly racist, and not ironically so.  A huge hit at last year’s Munich Film Festival.

10. 50 Shades of Sade (Unrated): Singer-songwriter Sade performs 50 songs in 50 minutes to crowd who gets increasingly more upset as the realize what is going on.

11. Quickly!  Shade the Hay! (Rated R): A thrilling indie drama about a farmer (Gary Sinise) and his wife (Penelope Ann Miller) who must protect their farm from a ruthless land baron (Nicolas Cage) and his mentally challenged brother (Rob Schneider) working for a corrupt politician (Wayne Coyne) who wants to build a superhighway (voiced by Nick Swardson) through America’s (played by Ontario, Canada) Heartland.  Fearing he’ll lose everything, the farmer seeks assistance from a local crime boss (Blythe Danner) and her notorious gang, known locally as the Murderous Duo (Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans), and a bloody conflict ensues, a conflict in which no one is safe, including the town librarian (Christina Hendricks), the milkman (Toby Huss), a retired train conductor who spends his days making dolls out of barbed wire and pocket lint (Werner Herzog), the town florist (Paul Dano) and his wife (Octavia Spencer), and Joseph Hesselbaum (the WWE’s Hornswoggle, in a career-making performance), an attorney who grew up next door to the farmer and loves him like a brother, but is hiding a terrible secret.

So, there you go, eleven reasons not to see 50 Shades of Grey this Valentine’s weekend.  Or maybe just watch a movie at home.  Whatever you decide to do, remember, the popcorn trick is only cool if you make sure the other person is into it first.  OK? 

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Last 3 Movies: Last 6 Movies Edition

Wow.  What a long, strange hiatus it’s been, provided you understand that by “long” I mean “unproductive” and by “strange” I mean “largely uneventful.”  I have been hard at work on the new blog, The Shallow Grave, scheduled to premiere on a very meaningful day in February.  I’ve also spent time in the mountains of Tennessee, slamming moonshine and losing games of Battleship to seven-year-olds; discovered a new restaurant which promises to meet the Italian needs of me and my family; aged one whole year; and logged a lot of dollhouse time with my daughter, who insists that we pretend the inhabitants of said dollhouse are either sick or asleep at the outset of each and every play session.  And then, of course, movies.  Lots and lots of movies.  You might say a “butt-load” of movies, if you were the kind of person who felt comfortable using the term “butt-load” in polite company, which I do not.  Anyway, I thought a nice, easy way to return to blogging would be through one of my favorite features to write because it is so incredibly easy, Last 3 Movies.  So, without further blah-blah-blah, here are the last 3 movies I’ve watched, plus 3 other ones!

1. Frank (2014)

Synopsis: A wannabe singer-songwriter is recruited as a replacement keyboardist for an avant-garde rock band whose frontman, the titular Frank, wears a giant, cartoonish paper mache head over his own, presumably human, head at all times.  After spending a year in a secluded cabin in the Irish countryside attempting to record an album, the band is invited to perform at South-By-Southwest, where things don’t exactly go as planned.

Frank as inspiration:  Films, be they fictional or documentary, about bands and musicians always inspire me to pick up my guitar and try writing songs, an off-and-on pursuit of mine throughout high school, college and well into my late 20’s, in which I've met with varying levels of success.  Frank certainly sparked something in my guts, and I found myself pining for the old days when I’d sit down in front of my computer or, in high school, my boombox, and bang out a two-minute, three-chord pop song about how awesome/terrible girls could be or something equally teenaged.  Unfortunately, since moving into our second house two years ago, my guitar has been quarantined in the garage, un-strummed and three-stringed.  My dad, who passed the Washburn in question down to me, has looked at it on several occasions and gently reminded me, “You probably shouldn’t keep that out here, buddy,” but I just ignore him (because no authority figure is going to tell me what to do, maaaan!), and there it sits, to this day, lonely, probably thinking, “What did I do to deserve this?  I used to be a creative outlet for this guy.  Hell, I was instrumental (no pun intended) in getting this guy laid! Two times!” 

Well, guitar, you shall languish no longer (probably), because I’ve seen Frank, and I want to play you again.  I may not write any new songs, but I will certainly play every Ween song I can remember for my daughter, and I’m certain she’ll be at least a little delighted.  Of course, I’ve got to purchase some replacement strings and finish this elaborate paper mache mask I’m making, but don’t worry.  You shall be liberated from your cold, lonesome crypt soon.  We will be reunited any day now (maybe) and the world will rejoice (doubtful) when they hear us together again.

Frank’s inspiration:  Frank’s mask/head is, obviously, inspired by the mask/head of Frank Sidebottom, a weird British goofball that I admittedly don’t know much about.  I have watched a couple of videos of Mr. Sidebottom on YouTube, and, well.  Look, I’m a big fan of British comedy.  Monty Python’s Flying Circus changed my brain chemistry in 6th grade; The Office is, in my opinion, and I’m not sure a lot of people agree with me, a masterpiece; and David Mitchell and Robert Webb, stars of Peep Show and their own various sketch programs, are two of the funniest men on the planet who should be in everything ever.  That being said, I’m not British, and maybe you have to be British to “get” Frank Sidebottom? 

Frank’s Frank however, seems more based on outsider artists like Daniel Johnston, in fact, I think I read that Johnston, along with Sidebottom, was the main inspiration for the character.  That makes the movie far more interesting, as far as I’m concerned.  I’m much more invested in watching a person the world-at-large has labeled “damaged” follow his/her passion no matter how strange or socially unacceptable it is perceived to be, then a goofy novelty act strumming a ukulele and singing parodies of Smiths’ songs. 

But should I watch it, Matt?: Of course you should.  Frank is charming and funny.  And Michael Fassbender is fantastic as Frank, a character who for 99.99% of the movie wears a head on his head. The performance is arresting, something you can only understand, probably, by watching the film. And the songs are great too.  I’ve been listening to “I Love You All,” on a loop since watching the movie.

2. Fish Tank (2009)

Synopsis: A crass, under-achieving 15-year-old girl living in East London (picture Lady Sovereign’s lyrics/attitude personified) who enjoys dancing, fighting for the rights of horses and being anti-social, takes a growing interest in her mother’s new boyfriend, played by Michael Fassbender not wearing a paper-mache head.

Why did I watch this?: After Frank, I sort of wanted to go on a Michael Fassbender bender.  Damn, I’ve been waiting so long to write that!  Feels good to finally get it out of my brain!

Why did I watch this (post-viewing):  Director Andrea Arnold also made Red Road, a film I quite liked.

The viewing experience: Fish Tank starts as a collection of glimpses into the life of Mia, a troubled British teen with a disinterested passion for dance (that combination of words will make sense to those who have seen Fish Tank), but eventually coalesces into a semi-story about a young girl’s first forays into love and sex and romantic relationships, and how, sometimes, that stuff isn’t all that adults want you believe it’s cracked up to be.  It is slow-moving, but engaging, kind of like…wait a minute!...WATCHING FISH IN A FISH TANK!...you know, provided a drunk older fish has sex with an equally drunk, but underage, fish, and later that underage fish urinates on the older fish’s carpet for revenge.

IMDb Plot Keywords: “dog eats a fish”; “throwing a child into water”;  “shooting a horse”;  “pulling a child from water”; “looking at self in mirror”; “breaking a chain with a brick”; “lumber store”

Fish Tank or fish tank?: You’re probably fine observing the waiting room fish tank next time you take your kid to the doctor.


3. The Punk Singer

Synopsis:  A documentary about Bikini Kill/Le Tigre front-woman and riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna.

Viewing Experience: I enjoy learning more about and digging deeper into movements that I only have a rudimentary understanding of, and The Punk Singer provides viewers with what I assume is a high-quality look into the riot grrrl movement of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Also, Kathleen Hanna is a fascinating subject.  I only knew her as one-third of Le Tigre and Adam Horowitz’s wife before watching The Punk Singer; I had heard of Bikini Kill, but I couldn’t hum any of their songs or explain why they were important.  I’m not sure I could now without sounding kinda dumb, but that’s no fault of the movie, just my limited ability to talk good about things and stuff.  Whatever.  I want some Binkini Kill records!

4. The Brass Teapot

Synopsis: A modern-day fairy-tale about cash-strapped newlyweds who commandeer a teapot, the titular brass one, that magically fills up with $100-bills whenever they hurt themselves or others physically and/or emotionally.  Wackiness, bloody violence and hurt feelings ensue.

Is this the dream?: I often tell people my dream job is to win the lottery.  You see, I’m lazy.  And I hate to work.  The lottery, however, is very hard to win, especially when you’ve never purchase a lottery ticket in your life.  Finding a money-granting teapot is probably pretty hard too, though, in fairness, I’ve never looked.  But would becoming the owner of a magical brass teapot that fills to overflowing with cash money any time I stub my toe, fall down the stairs or drive my car into a deep raven full of sharks and razors be a “just as good” way to fulfill my dream of being rich and never having to do anything ever?  I submit that it would, in fact, be not.  You see, I have a very low threshold for pain, and I couldn’t imagine doing any of the things this married couple does to make their million.  Even a quick slap across the old face cheeks is a chilling proposition.  I think I’ll just continue working a thankless job for which I have no passion and daydreaming about a winning lottery ticket somehow falling into my lap.  Then I’ll die.  Such is life.

5. The Interview

Synopsis: That James Franco and Seth Rogen kill Kim Jong-Un movie North Korea didn't want you to see that time a month ago or whenever.  Yeah, it's currently streaming on Netflix.

The Viewing Experience:  As far as I’m concerned, it is every true American’s duty to watch The Interview.  Now some of your Republican or religious types are gonna try to tell you that American Sniper is the one to see, hell, America is in the title.  But they’re wrong.  The American sniper might snipe a whole bunch of baddies, but Franco and Rogen kill— I mean straight up murder, son!—Kim Jong-Un, the guy who tried to tell America we weren’t allowed to watch The Interview.  That’s right, Kim Jong-Un told you and your parents and your grandfather who fought in the war and every hard-working hot dog maker in the USA that we weren’t allowed to go to the movies, purchase a bucket of popcorn and gorge ourselves to poop and dick jokes.  Can you believe that guy?!?  Well, some weird dictator halfway across the globe can’t tell me I can’t watch a movie.  USA!  USA!  USA!
In all seriousness, The Interview is funny.  I liked it.  You can watch it if you want.  Or not.  Entirely up to you.

On Seth Rogen: I’ll start by admitting here that I love Seth Rogen.  I love everything he does, I love everything he says, I love his husky laugh.  I love him.  So, perhaps what I’m about to say is colored by this fact.  I’m honest enough to admit that.  So here we go: Fuck any and everyone who gave Seth Rogen shit for what he tweeted about American Sniper.  Fuck Kid Rock.  Fuck that sports bar nobody outside of Bumfuck, Wherever has even heard of.  Two months ago you were all about Seth Rogen and his Kim Jong Un-killing movie, but now when he makes a comment—and an apropos one at that, frankly—about American Sniper, apparently the best movie that has ever been made ever, he’s an enemy of the state?  Shut up!  Get your priorities straight.  Granted, I haven’t seen American Sniper yet, but from what I’ve heard it can be a tad jingoistic at times, maybe a little ‘hooray for war’ in parts, and the soldier it’s based on was maybe not the most honest or upstanding example of our military personnel, so why don’t you back off of Seth Rogen.  You were singing his praises two months ago, you animals. 

Favorite line: “Dave, do you think margaritas are gay because they’re so sweet?” 

6. Wise Blood (1979)

Synopsis: Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif) returns home from the war, buys a suit, moves to the big city and becomes a street preacher for the Church of Christ Without Christ, a brand-new, Jesus-less religion of his own invention.   The film is funny, dark, fascinating, complicated and weird.

Simpler synopsis: A weirdo encounters various weirdos in a collection of weird scenes.

Admission: Both of the preceding synopses are terrible.  Wise Blood deserves better.

The viewing experience: My oft-mentioned-on-this-site friend, Jonathan, won tickets to see Wise Blood, followed by a discussion of Wise Blood with musician Lucinda Williams at the Carolina Theater, and invited me along.  Seeing as though this is the kind of thing I’m very much into but was unaware occurred in my part of the country (I should probably know better, honestly, I just don’t pay attention to stuff), I jumped at the chance.  Plus, I enjoy spending time with Jonathan, and we hadn’t hung out sans wives and kids for a long time.  It was kind of the perfect event for us: a good movie, some great music, courtesy of Ms. Williams and her acoustic guitar, and a pretentious cinephile/name-dropping interviewer to make fun of mercilessly.  It was kind of the perfect storm of happy goodtimes.

Look, my issues with our host began when he repeatedly mentioned a recent conversation he had with Patton Oswalt during his introduction to Wise Blood.  Not sure how the two things are related, but “that guy”—which is what Jonathan and I repeatedly called him, either because we missed his name or simply didn’t feel it was warranted to use—seemed to think they were, so, there you go. Then, after the film, as he waited for Lucinda Williams to join him on stage, “that guy” decided to engage the audience in a game of trivia in which we could win a copy of Wise Blood on DVD (“It isn’t on Blu Ray yet, so, I don’t know what you would do with it.  Frame it, maybe?”  Or you could, I don’t know, put it in your Blu Ray player and watch it!  Ugh.  What an ass.).  So, his first question was about Brad Dourif, specifically the role for which Brad Dourif is most well-known, the answer to which is, of course, Chucky.  Jonathan encouraged me to raise my hand, as he knows and accepts my deep love for the Child’s Play series, but I refused as I do not like speaking up in large crowds.  Someone else answered correctly though, and “that guy” said this:  “That’s right.  I know he does the voice in Chucky 2 and 3, but I’m not sure he was the original voice.”  I nearly leapt from the balcony and throttled “that guy” in front of the entire audience, which was mostly made up of old ladies in Lucinda Williams concert t-shirts and their husbands, an audience,  Jonathan surmised, probably didn’t like the movie we'd all just watched at all.   First of all, they’re titled Child’s Play 2 and Child’s Play 3, ok?  Second, of course Brad Dourif is the voice of Chucky in the first Child’s Play movie!  Brad Dourif himself is in the first Child’s Play movie!  Crack IMDb much?  It don’t sound like ya do!

“That guy” and Lucinda Williams didn’t discuss Wise Blood all that much (Jonathan thought it might be because Lucinda Williams didn’t exactly understand or care to understand the deeper meaning of film, but admire the film more because of what she felt was the most “accurate portrayal” of the South she’d ever seen on film and it’s weirdness, and “that guy” didn’t want to perplex or embarrass her in any way.), but he did mention his recent talk with Patton Oswalt a couple more times.  Ms. Williams did play a handful of great songs—four by my count—one of which, “Compassion,” appears on her latest album and is absolutely beautiful.

Next month at the Carolina Theater: Repo Man with special guests Neko Case and Michael Nesmith. We’re totes going! (Oh, "that guy" will be there too.)


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