Sunday, July 29, 2007

the headline of the week

From Performink, "Chicago's entertainment trade paper for theater and film":

Geena Davis Wants Kids to See More Women

I guess your sons have really been in your hair lately, huh, Geena? I would've suggested summer camp or Vacation Bible School as a way to get them out of the house for a while, but you're the boss—shop around, kids!

didn't see it coming

On Friday afternoon I walked over to the post office to return The Fabulous Baker Boys to Netflix. As I walked in I saw a tall, heavy-set man pushing a frail, elderly woman in a wheelchair. I started to think about life, death, my parents, my grandparents and other older relatives who've passed away, how my nieces are the future made tangible, how parents and children eventually switch roles, how it all makes sense but how none of it is fair for either party ... when suddenly, as I began to make my exit, I heard the woman in the wheelchair bark, "Hurry up!" The tall, heavy-set man replied—in a voice very similar to Mr. Peabody from those old Jay Ward cartoons—"Mother, be quiet!"

Three hours later I was still laughing. I love when life surprises me like that.

He's an adult now.

I wonder if Adam Sandler's getting restless. His new comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, is doing well at the box office, as predicted, but his three "serious" filmsPunch-Drunk Love (2002), Spanglish (2004), and Reign Over Me (2007)all did poorly. His comedy fans didn't follow him to those films, even though all of them received good reviews, or at least reviews that praised Sandler for going outside his comfort zone, and it’s not like he went that far outside that zone for Punch-Drunk Love (although the movie was a lot quirkier than his standard fare, thanks to writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson).

Lots of movie stars, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, maintain a "one for me, one for them" filmography, and if Sandler's satisfied with his non-wacky films not making much money, more power to him. But I wonder ... and I sort of worry ... but mostly I wonder.

I do think Sandler has to be one of the nicest megastars working today. I don't find his comedies to be all that funny, but I admire him for remaining loyal to his friends. His comedies are shot by the same stable of directors (Dennis Dugan helmed Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and Chuck and Larry; Peter Segal shot Anger Management, 50 First Dates, and The Longest Yard; Frank Coraci directed The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and Click; and Steven Brill was forgiven for 2000’s Little Nicky, Sandler’s only comedy bomb, and allowed to direct 2002’s Mr. Deeds, which was a success), and they're populated with the same stable of early-'90s Saturday Night Live costars (Rob Schneider, David Spade, Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock if he's got nothing better to do).

Sandler even produces movies like The Master of Disguise, The Benchwarmers, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star for his SNL friends to star in. They all look like they were written over the course of a weekend and the first draft was then rushed into production, but it's still nice that Sandler helps those who are less fortunate when it comes to fame.

Let me rephrase that—it's nice that he helps out friends who have comedic talent, even if that talent is temporarily MIA. (David Spade is a prime example of "funny on the small screen, completely and utterly lost on the big screen.") But Sandler also has a habit of putting non-SNL friends like Peter Dante, Jonathan Loughran, and Allen Covert in his movies. Dante and Loughran stick out like sore thumbs when they appear onscreen, and even though Covert can act, he didn't need his own Sandler-produced vehicle, 2006's Grandma's Boy, which naturally costarred Dante and Loughran. I can’t imagine Sandler playing hardball with a studio in the sense of "I'm not doing your big summer comedy for 2009 unless you let my junior-year roommate at NYU star in a movie he wrote about a magical bong," but anything's possible.

Sandler's next movie, according to IMDB, is You Don't Mess With the Zohan, cowritten by Sandler and Judd Apatow, the writer-director of Knocked Up and current king of comedy in Hollywood. As a producer, Apatow has seven movies coming out in the next year. Comedy geeks (including the Onion AV Club’s writers) can't wait to see these movies, but I wonder: is the inevitable backlash against Apatow on its way? Backlash is a bitch, and it’s often caused by oversaturation in the marketplace. Just ask Ben Affleck (or Evan Dando).

I really liked Knocked Up. It wasn't overhyped, thank God. Apatow and his cast even made the relationship between the geek and the hot chick work (then again, Apatow has first-hand knowledge of being a geek who’s married to a hot chick—Knocked Up’s Leslie Mann), but I'm glad the seed was planted that these two people aren't right for each other and it may not work out when all is said and done. Do you think it was an inside joke that Ben and his friends run a celebrity-nudity Web site but Katherine Heigl, who the majority of the world's male population would like to see naked, wore a bra in both her sex scenes? Otherwise I'm inclined to think that Heigl's agent changed the no-nudity clause in her contract at the last second, i.e. even though she was never going to be shown topless, her handlers wanted to make sure that you never even thought she was topless while filming. But seriously, who wears a bra during non-quickie sex? I certainly don't.

Still, I wonder ... with seven comedies coming out in the next year, all of them featuring overlapping cast members and several of them centering on stoner protagonists or lead characters who are teens or twentysomethings, are these movies going to look and sound the same after a while? Not to mention Knocked Up's references to Matisyahu, Eric Bana, and "the shoe bomber," which are going to feel stale ten years from now. Comedian Patton Oswalt said recently in an Onion AV Club interview that as a script consultant for DreamWorks Animation, one of his main goals is to get rid of the pop-culture references that are already in a script because they become dated so quickly.

I mentioned the possible Apatow backlash to my friend Jeremy back in June, and last week he wrote me with this news:

Back to our discussion of a backlash against Judd Apatow et al., the below is from an article in the LA Times about Aaron Sorkin and the failure of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip:

"Bernie Brillstein, the fabled Hollywood manager whose clients included John Belushi and Jim Henson, is convinced that failure is an inevitable byproduct of industry envy and backstabbing. 'Rightly or wrongly, Aaron got a reputation as holier than thou,' Brillstein explains. 'When you put yourself out front in the media, like Aaron did or Judd Apatow is right now, everyone is lying in wait for you. That's the psychology of the town. Once you're anointed, everyone wants the king to fail.'"

Well, I don’t work in Hollywood, and I don’t want Apatow to fail (even though he isn't the director of any of the seven upcoming movies he's producing, he'll almost certainly be blamed if any of them fail), but I don’t want movie theaters to be crammed full of stoner/slacker comedies next year either. I am a fan of Freaks and Geeks, the show Apatow produced for 18 glorious episodes seven years ago, but I don’t think of him or his talented ensemble of actors as a secret I want to keep from other people. Have at 'em, world. Just don’t reach for your pitchforks if Superbad or Forgetting Sarah Marshall or The Pineapple Express or Walk Hard or Drillbit Taylor or Step Brothers or Zohan doesn’t turn out to be another Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

And now for a completely unnecessary postscript ...

Look, I know I’m the only one who was bothered by this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: in 2005, before The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released, its "coming soon" (pun absolutely intended) poster spelled the title the way I just did, with two hyphens in "40-Year-Old." But once newspaper ads and theater posters started to appear, the first hyphen went away: "40 Year-Old." In the movie itself, when the title appears on the screen, it’s spelled as The 40 Year Old Virgin. Both hyphens vanished into thin air. Apparently the Anti-Hyphen Lobby—I mean, the Anti Hyphen Lobby—has powerful friends in Hollywood.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blinded by the celebrity light!

Mr. Beckham, try to make sure the celebrity welcome wagon doesn't crush your multimillion-dollar legs under its wheels. Because then we would have to shoot you. And then you would have to go back to Europe. Where you would probably be shot again just to prove that your American handlers didn't do it right. Besides, Tom Cruise is obviously only 14 years old and therefore wouldn't be strong enough to lift those heavy wheels off your legs.

By the way, your wife is an android. Have you seen I, Robot? I have a feeling she's not going to get along with the Fresh Prince.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Do you like aaaaaaaart?!?!"

Last Sunday at Woodfield Mall's Wentworth Gallery, in Schaumburg, Illinois, Kiss frontman Paul Stanley made a personal appearance to sell and autograph some of his paintings. I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure this is how it went down:

"Ya know somethin', people
, art ain't just about makin' things look pretty or weird. Sometimes it's about gettin' a little crazy and havin' a rock 'n' roll party!!!!"

The middle-aged Kiss fans in the gallery pumped their fists and screamed back at Stanley, while the middle-aged art lovers in their wake politely applauded, hoping to be spared a trampling. Stanley then resumed his speech, converting a famous painter's name into a high-pitched melody.

"I'm talkin' 'bout Vincent Van Gogh-ohh-ohh-ohhhhh!!!!
I'm talkin' 'bout after he cut off his ear, people. When he could hear only half the classical lute music he was listenin' to. But that didn't stop him. Not ol' Vincent! He went on to paint flowers and stars and all kinds of crazy things. He had a passion! Just like you over there!"

Stanley began pointing to various people in the crowd.

"Over there! Right over here! That girl near the emergency exit! The guy with the sauvignon blanc in his hand! The pretty lady with the brie and the crackers and the napkin! The Kiss Army soldier eatin' the giant pretzel he bought at the food court!

"You have a passion just like ol' Vincent! A passion for great art created with the spirit of rock 'n' roll!
I thank ya from the bottom of my heaaaart for comin' out tonight! You're awesome! Goodnight!"

For his encore Stanley expounded upon Wassily Kandinsky's paintings Black Lines (1913) and Several Circles (1926) and how the elements of chaos and control are important to balance whether you're illuminating a canvas or singing and maneuvering around live pyrotechnics in seven-inch leather heels.

The Arlington Heights Post reported that "the price range for the art by Stanley at the Schaumburg gallery is $1,550 to $60,000." Pretty steep, especially if you're a blue-collar Kiss fan, but he is signing the paintings, so quit your bitchin'. This is Starchild we're talking about, after all, the celestial being with the Noo Yawk accent.

I love the irony-free caption the Post used underneath one of his paintings on its Web site: "Paul Stanley's art is often abstract, but some works feature recognizable images such as heart shapes."

Now you know what to get grandma for Christmas.

In case you're in doubt, I really do respect Kiss as a band and a brand, and I appreciate that Stanley, who's a genuine rock showman, doesn't shoot his mouth off in interviews the way musical partner Gene Simmons does (see: Simmons talking to NPR's Terry Gross in 2002). And as Michael O'Mahony, the Wentworth Gallery's owner, said in the Post, "First and foremost, it's very good art ... It doesn't hurt that it's a famous guy and a rock star, but if it wasn't good, I wouldn't carry it."

Below is a terrific spoken-word piece by Adam Woodrow, the transcript of which I found somewhere on the Internet last year. It's called "The Love Theme From Kiss (Larger Than Life)," and it can be found on Vermiform Records' The Fear of Smell LP (c. 1993):

I'm sitting here listening to Dynasty ... some people call that their disco album. But their real fans know different. Not the kids who collect baseball cards and Kiss shit. I'm talking about those of us who hoped their parents would die in a car crash or something so they could be adopted. Maybe by Gene or Paul or Ace or Peter. I wanted to kill that little piece of shit Adam Rich: it said in Tiger Beat he was Gene's number one fan. That was so fucking unfair. Just because he's a celebrity? Fuck him.

I'm talking about losers from Queens and New Jersey and Long Island who defended Kiss when Van Halen was supposedly king. Kids who later dropped out of high school to work at their father's plumbing supply store. Cheesy chocolate-milk mustaches and faded transfer T-shirts and work bootsunlaced, of course. Girls with big asses and poofy hair and roach-clip feather earrings who still wear leg warmers: these are true Kiss fans. Fans who would take the time to write into Creem or Rip to defend Paul. How dare they say Paul's a fagKiss is the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world. How could he be a fag then? Tell us. Kiss isn't a joke to look back on, they weren't a phase. They were the whole fucking world. They weren't an escape because they were my entire reality.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

computerless, but not rudderless

On July 4 my laptop computer (a 2004 iBook, if you really must know) started acting funny after I arrived in North Carolina. It wouldn't start up at first, and then I heard a fan noise, as if the computer was cooling down, even though it'd been turned off for the past seven hours. By the next day I could only see the desktop screen for about three minutes before it went to black, and after that all I heard was the fan noise whenever I tried to turn the computer on.

Since last Monday the computer's been in the Apple Store and Apple depot's hands. I was told it would take five to seven days for the "logic board" to be replaced, and when I called AppleCare on Saturday to see if the repairs had been made, an employee whose first language was probably not English told me that my computer was ready to be picked up at the Apple Store. He said, "I see that it was ready to be picked up on June 1." I told him that I hadn't turned it in for repair until July 9. Then his head exploded.

I'm still waiting to get the computer back. Oh, li'l blog, will you and I ever get the momentum back that we had in April? I hope so. In the meantime, my 3.8 readers, why don't you peruse Part One of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Evan Dando and the Lemonheads over at Jefitoblog? I cowrote it with Ken Sumka of Gaper's Blog and WXRT in Chicago. Part Two will be posted next Tuesday.

Finally, to make up for the time the 3.8 of you have wasted the last few weeks coming to this space and discovering nothing new, here's a nice picture:

On the left is my new niece, Sophie, who was born July 3. On the right is her big sister, Olivia, who's two and a half now. Olivia is all sweetness and light, a little girl who likes to "chase the clouds" in her backyard with her parents, her grandparents, her uncle, and whoever else is around. Whenever I'm down from now on, I think I'll go outside and chase the clouds myself. It certainly puts a smile on Olivia's face.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

putting the "shit" in "Free shit!"

Pardon me while I look a gift horse directly in the mouth. The following was in an e-mail I received at work today:

I put a bunch of Lollapalooza shirts by the timeclock on 2. They were sent over as freebies to give away at One Night Stands, but they all say 2006. Oops. Beware, some have stains on them too.

Monday, July 2, 2007

unsung, but he can definitely sing

Bunny Sigler is an unsung hero of Philly soul.

In the '70s he wrote songs for the O'Jays ("Sunshine," "Now That We Found Love") and other artists at Philadelphia International Records while contributing backing vocals and guitar in the studio. He also recorded his own songs for the label, including a gospel-ish version of the O'Jays' "Love Train" that cracked the top 30 of Billboard's R&B chart in 1974. He also knows karate, which in my opinion is preferable to knowing "ka-razy."

You can read more about Sigler and the 1996 compilation The Best of Bunny Sigler: Sweeter Than the Berry over at Jefitoblog.