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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I Feel Like This Ren and Stimpy Fan Art Is Offensive Somehow

Take a look at this Ren and Stimpy fan art I came across on the internet this week:
I feel like it's offensive somehow.  Not because it portrays Ren and Stimpy in a homosexual relationship, because, a) Giant Electric Penguin is a gay-friendly site, in fact, we're friendly to all people, with the exception of racists, bullies, and the far-rightest of the Far Right; and b) fans of the show are already acutely aware that Ren and Stimpy are in a homosexual relationship and have been for many years.

What I don't like about this picture, besides the bulges, because who wants to envision their favorite cartoon characters with ample ballsacks and throbbing members, is Stimpy's new bod.  Is the artist trying to say that Ren would never be attracted to Stimpy unless he was a cut hunk?  Is he/she saying that the only way Ren and Stimpy could ever be believable as a loving gay couple is if Stimpy lost a significant amount of weight and Ren underwent extensive facial plastic surgery?  If that's the case, not cool, PsyhicNik!  Who are you to say that these two couldn't find true love with one another they way they are?  It's time to stop bullying 90's cartoon characters!

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Monday, April 27, 2015

The Force Awakens, I guess?

I want to start by assuring all of you that I like Star Wars.  My level of Star Wars appreciation is nowhere close to those diehards known affectionately within the greater Geek community as "Star Wars Nerds," but I am a fan.  Look, we all have those friends who moan and whine about how "the Prequels" (AKA Episodes 1-3) destroyed their childhood, pooped all over their precious memories and took a lengthy, steaming, pungent piss all over their hopes and dreams.  I'm not one of those.  I saw each one of the Prequels in theaters and thought, "Well, those weren't very good," and I went about my life.  But I'm also not one of those jerks who go, "The reason you didn't like the new Star Wars movies is because they aren't for you.  And the reason you think the Trilogy is so good is because you saw it when you were a dumb little kid.  Watch them again, man!  They suck too!"  Again, I'm not that guy.  I hate that guy, the kind of know-it-all a-hole who purports to know why you don't like something, as if he/she has cracked some code about you to which you are completely ignorant for some reason. I once had a know-it-all dick-bag tell me I didn't like Citizen Kane--which I mentioned over dinner I had seen, and while I understood why it was important to cinematic history, didn't particularly feel passionate about--because it was "old" and "in black and white."  Ugh.

The original Star Wars movies are quite enjoyable.  I watched them a lot when I still had my VCR (I own the original trilogy with none of George Lucas's later embellishments on VHS).  My favorite Star Wars movie is actually the one that before the Prequels arrived, Star Wars super fans appeared to agree was the worst entry in the series.  I'm not even going to include its title here because you Star Wars nerds know which one I'm talking about.  Screw you!  I love it!

Why the preamble?  I simply want you to understand where I'm coming from before you read the proceeding post.  It's been awhile since the latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer was released, but I've watched it, and, well, it's fine.  Before viewing it, I browsed through my Facebook Newsfeed for people's reactions, and I thought I was in for some mind-blowing stuff.  One guy proclaimed that director J.J. Abrams had restored his faith in the franchise and restored meaning to his childhood.  Two people admitted that they had "pooped their pants" while watching the 2-minute teaser trailer.  Oh, man, was I excited.  I even considered purchasing some adult diapers before pressing play.  Then I watched it.  It was fine.  At the end, when Han Solo is standing there all grizzled and cool, obviously, that was amazing, maybe even pants-poopingly so, but the rest of it was, I dunno, fine.  Is that blasphemy?  I think it probably is to those embedded in Star Wars fandom, but in the Star Wards adjacent world in which I exist daily, I think it's fine.  I'm using the word "fine" a lot.  Sorry, but I think it's the best word for the situation I've found myself in.

I think we're probably going to another, longer trailer for The Force Awakens as we approach the release date, and I bet that one will pump me up a little more.  It wouldn't take very much. Honest.  In fact, I've put together a list of things that, if included in this most recent trailer or in any future trailers, would have me joining the Star Wars fans in their pants-pooping excitement:
1. Boba Fett crawls out of the Sarlaac pit, dusts himself off and blasts off into adventure!

2. Following his "Chewie, we're home," line, Han Solo waits a beat and then slips a fedora on his head.  Next he attaches a name tag to his vest that reads "Jack Ryan."

3. Salacious Crumb is revealed to be a Jedi master on par with the late Yoda.

4. We revisit the Ewoks and find that they have developed a more advanced culture with lasers and giant robotic death machines.  During a friendly chat with some of his old Ework chums, Luke Skywalker accidentally comes across plans for an Ewok-designed Death Star.

5. The new super scary Sith lord: Smaug!  And he's got a light saber for ever color of the rainbow!  And they are attached to a metallic bo staff by laser chains!  And when he spins it around, it creates a vortex of death!

6. Ball Droid is an alcoholic, and we see him at a droid AA meeting.

7. A Wookie strip club, because, like, what would that be???

8. Krang!

As you can see, it wouldn't take much to get my Star Wars juices flowing.  Regardless, I'm going to see this movie.  It'll probably be with my dad and we will definitely go out for pizza afterwards.  So, no matter how things turn out, I'm having pizza, and that's always good.

TL;DR: In a world where the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer exists, who could give a shit about anything else?!?

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Scenes That Make You Go 'Ugh': Cinderella (1950)

I had a helluva time coming up with a title for this new feature that looks at scenes from movies and TV shows that stir up feelings, uncomfortable in nature, when I watch them; or that unleash a torrent of emotions, a nauseating rush of feels that could easily lead to either spontaneous vomiting or violent sobbing, maybe both; or that deliver a surprise emotional gut punch, a kind of cosmic sucker punch, that knocks the happy out of my brain and reminds me that life is hard and gross and ultimately unrewarding.  Fun, right?

My first inclination was to call it Scenes That Make You Go 'Ew,' but I felt that would trap me in the basement of slasher fare and torture porn, forced to focus primarily on disgusting stuff, like quivering viscera and geysers of blood spray.  Sure, those types of scenes do the trick, as it were, but they are limited in scope.  I dismissed Scenes That Make You Go 'Yuck' for similar reasons.

Scenes That Make You Go 'Eh' seemed worth considering, until I realized that 'eh' is a little too close to that old millennial chestnut 'meh,' and since this feature isn't about moments in popular entertainment that bore me, it was right out.  Plus, 'eh' feels like a question word, and none of these scenes have ever made me question anything, really.  For the most part, the scenes that will be discussed in this ongoing series will be from movies and television programs I actually like, and the scenes themselves are ones, that because of their emotional weight, add something important to the proceedings, scenes, that if excised, would leave an unwelcome and obvious emotional gap--a gaping hole of emo, if you will.

I briefly considered Scenes That Make You Go 'Ewugh,' but 'ewugh' isn't a proper word, so that was dropped pretty damn fast.  Look, all I really knew was that I wanted the title to be a play on the hit C + C Music Factory song we all know and love, and, in the end, Scenes That Make You Go 'Ugh' appeared to be the best choice.  I don't know if it is.  I really don't care.  I just want to get to the first scene, the scene that inspired this whole endeavor, the most troubling scene in cinema history.

Here's a quick recap to get you up to speed before the bowel-shattering gut punch is delivered: Cinderella's life is pretty bleak.  Her beloved father has died and she is forced to be a servant girl for her stepmother, Lady Tremaine, her two loathsome stepsisters, Drizella and Anastasia, and Lady Tremaine's asshole cat, the appropriately named Lucifer.  Yes, Cinderella's life sucks pretty hard, but redemption arrives in an invitation to a ball at the palace.  By royal decree, every eligible maiden in the land is invited to attend, and Cinderella, who has somehow retained a sunny disposition in spite of her dreary existence, is delighted.  Lady Tremaine gives Cinderella permission to attend the ball, but only if she finishes her chores first, the list of which is nearly Stephen Kingian in length.  While Cinderella throws herself into a marathon chore sesh, her friends, the mice and birds that live in and around her late father's estate, sew her a beautiful ball gown, using discarded scraps of Drizella and Anastasia's own dresses for added flair.  Contrary to Lady Tremaine's belief that the chore list will crush her, Cinderella appears in the foyer mere seconds before her stepfamily is about to leave, dressed in a beautiful vermin-sewn gown.  What follows is, well, a scene that kills me every single time I see it.  Cinderella's stepsisters rip her dress to pieces and leave her devastated and alone.

I get what I can only describe as a sick, hot rage bubble in my guts whenever I watch this scene.  It is often accompanied by a light headedness and prickling sensation in my eyeballs, typically followed by a torrent of tears (Ask my wife.  She knows how deeply this scene affects me.  She will look at me during this scene and others of its ilk and ask me, which a devious grin on her face I might add, "You OK?"  She is delighted by the distress I often experience when watching animated films.  It's one of the many reasons I love her so much.).  The cruelty on display is nauseating.  It makes me want to punch things and lock myself in a dark closet wrapped in the fetal position at the same time.  I guess this reaction means I'm not a sociopath.  I should probably be concerned if I ever watch this and don't immediately feel terrible.

As angry-sad-sick this moment in Cinderella makes me, I also recognize how essential it is to the story.  This is Cinderella at her lowest point; finally broken, she, for a moment, recognizes that life can be cruel and empty, and that the good and kind-hearted are often shit upon for no other reason than that their goodness angers and disgusts the vile and the powerful.  And then Cinderella's fairy godmother shows up.  And then she meets the prince and they totally hit it off.  And then, eventually, she marries the prince and becomes an official member of the royal family and probably presides in some capacity over the trial of her stepmother and stepsisters, who are charged with crimes against humanity.  She might even be present at their executions.  Gasp!  Is Cinderella the one behind the executioner's mask, lowering the axe?!?  Probably not.  Princesses don't usually do that kind of stuff.

The point is, good triumphs over evil almost always.  Well, more often than not.  A lot of the time, OK?  It pays to be a good and honest person is the takeaway here.  Cinderella, while not the most dynamic of films, does promote a good message, and that's the reason I don't mind my 3-year-old daughter being as into it as much as she is, which is a lot.  It also promotes friendship with vermin, which I'm a not a huge proponent of, but mostly the honesty and goodness thing.
I took my daughter to see the new, live-action Cinderella last month.  It was her first movie in a theater, and we had a great time.  We ate popcorn, complained about the pre-movie entertainment and thoroughly enjoyed the new Frozen cartoon that played before the feature (As much as Q loves Cinderella, she loves Frozen even more.  There are so many Annas, Elsas and Olafs in my house, it's ridiculous.  Every room has its own collection of Frozen paraphernalia.  My parents bought her a three-foot tall Elsa for Christmas!).  We also enjoyed Cinderella.  Q especially liked the royal ball scene.  She could barely sit still when Cinderella and Prince Charming had their first dance together.  She had this big goofy smile on her face the whole time.  She'd squirm a little, then get out of her seat, then plop back down in her chair and grab my arm.  Halfway through the first waltz, Q hugged my arm tight and said, "I love you, Dad," which, obviously, made my day.  Of course, my daughter is also, well, my daughter, which makes her kind of a weirdo, so before the dance was over, I did catch her licking my t-shirt, which she promptly stopped doing after I shot her the confused dad face she knows so well.

Sorry, got distracted in that happy memory.  The dress-spoiling scene is in this movie, except it's kind of worse, because instead of a dress stitched together by anthropomorphic mice and bluebirds using pilfered scraps, it's Cinderella's mother's dress, a mother we meet, fall in love with and watch die in the opening moments of the film.  Cinderella descends the stairway per usual, and then Lady Tremaine herself, played by Cate Blanchett, walks over nonchalantly and rips a giant whole in Cindy's dress.  "Hello, old familiar friend," I thought as my body filled up with sick, hot rage.  Dammit, it's so devastating!  Ugh!  I hate it!  But I love it!  It's enraging, but it's important!  Aghhhh!

I hope the preceding has give you a better understanding of the kinds of scenes I will be exploring in this new feature.  Here's to future posts full of sadness and pain.  Yay?

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Watch This Immediately, You Idiot!: It Follows

I always feel a little weird saying this about movies that open with a dead girl twisted into a flesh-pretzel with one of her legs torn off and tossed thoughtlessly next to her on the beach, but It Follows is a beautiful film to look at.  It's so artfully crafted, impeccably composed and amazingly shot, that I found myself in awe of the beauty of the filmmaking, even while I was cringing and watching the screen through squinted eyes.  The direction, script, actors, score--oh, good God, the score!--are as near perfect as I've seen in a long time, and as a longtime, committed horrorphile, it felt like director David Robert Mitchell had created a film to specifically ping all of my horror pleasure centers.  It Follows deliberately harkens back to the horror of the 80's and early 90's, a time period for which I have quite an affinity.
It Follows is the story of Jay, a young woman who has sex with her new boyfriend, only to discover afterward that she has inherited a sexually transmitted curse in which she is doomed to be forever followed by a monster who can take on the appearance of anybody it wants--from friends to family members to complete strangers--yet can only be seen the carrier of the curse.  If it catches up with you, well, it kills you (see: dead girl on beach minus a leg).  If it kills you, it takes up following the person that passed the curse onto you again, and so on. The only way to keep the monster away from you, is by passing the curse along to someone else (Think The Ring, only you get to have sex!) and then, I guess, encouraging them to bone someone as soon as humanly possibly.  The bulk of the movie involves Jay dealing with this monster with the help of her friends.
It. Following.

On the evening I saw It Follows, I made sure, beforehand, to announce my plans for the evening on several different social media platforms--as one does--accompanied by a picture of the double chili cheeseburger and parmesan fries I was having for dinner.  "Dinner, then It Follows with Jonathan," my message of movie night goodtimes read, a simple missive I hoped would elicit twinges of excitement and jealousy in my online followers.  What I got was this comment: "NO NO!!  Don't go see it!  It's awful!!!"  I asked this person later why she didn't like it and she said, among other things, "it didn't scare me."  While I am willing to admit that, no, there were not an abundance of "jump scares" in It Follows (There is the one scene, mentioned by the online commenter, where a ball loudly smacks a window from out of nowhere, that made me and my fellow moviegoers jump; in fact, said scene lead me to describe It Follows to Jonathan as "key-janglingly frightening," as I found myself more startled by the jangling keys of the woman sitting behind me in the theater then the rubber ball itself.), but "jump scares" are nothing but cheap tricks to fool the horror amateur into thinking a film is scary when it actually isn't.  "This horror film we're making is kind of not scary.  Oh, I know, throw a cat at the protagonist and make sure the volume in the theater is cranked to 11."  Instant (pseudo) scary.
I submit that It Follows is one of the scariest, creepiest movies I've seen in a good long time, and that is based solely on the film's premise:  It--whatever 'it' is--follows you.  Everywhere.  Always.  Ceaselessly.  Until it catches up to you.  And it kills you.  That is immensely unsettling and scary.  No matter how far you run, drive, fly, teleport, etc, etc, it will catch up with you.  Sure, the rules of the movie demand that it walks, but it doesn't mind walking.  It doesn't mind walking at all.
Want to see a perfect horror film?  Well, watch It Follows.  Immediately.  You idiot.
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