'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Friday, August 30, 2002 ]

People say I spend too much time on the internet and at the movies.

This is false.

I spend too much time in front of the TV, too.

I was a TV Kid. I dreamed of television when I wasn't watching it, and when I was a film student, often I was the sole defender of TV.

(If one more pretentious film student tells me "Television is furniture," I'm going to skin them and turn them into a lampshade. And then I'll kill them. In fact, I'm not even going wait for them to say it. Fucking film students. All must die. All Must Die.)

Anyway, this list is not about "The Greatest Moments In Television History," or "Essential Viewing For Those New To The Planet."

No, it's about things that meant something to me, that I never forgot, and that I still think about from time to time.

So, in no particular order, here are...

Nine Personal TV Moments.

1. Homicide: "Three Men And Adina."
Okay, let's get this party started right.

This first-season Emmy-winning episode of Homicide is not only considered by many to be their best episode, but it's also well thought of as one of the best hours of TV in general.

I was a sophmore in college when it premered, and what I remember was being devastated by it.

Detectives Bayliss and Pembleton (Kyle Secor and Andre Braugher) interrogate a man (Moses Gunn, in his final performance) regarding the murder of a young girl named Adena Watson. Almost the entire episode is set in "The Box," which is the nickname for the interrogation room.

That's it. That's all.

But that's only because that's all it needs.

Here's why the episode works so well:

First, the show establishes Pembleton as not only someone who normally works alone, but who hates to work with other people. The most interesting thing about Pembleton is that he seems to only be interested in other people out of morbid curiousity.

Bayliss is the new guy--but he does like Pembleton. This episode was the first teaming of these two characters (who eventually became known for their spectacular interrigation teamwork on the series), and what makes it interesting is that it's an awkward pairing.

Plus, unlike other cop shows, we, the audience, don't know whether or not Moses Gunn is guilty. He could be--there is some evidence to support it--but we never know for sure. Even Pembleton isn't convinced of his guilt.

Oh, but Bayliss is, though.

So we've got level one, which is Get This Guy To Confess.

And we've got level two, which is Is This Team Going To Work?

And then there's the dialogue.

What's amazing is that it finds so many rhythms, and switches tactics so many times, that when Gunn rubs his eyes and tells them that he doesn't know if he's guilty, we know exactly how he feels.

One more word about Pembleton and Bayliss: They are, and continue to be, the most interesting police team to ever hit the airwaves. In interviews, both Secor and Braugher have refered to their team as really being a love story. That's about right.

Scott Feiner and I recently watched this episode (he had never seen it) and then afterward, we watched "Homicide: Life Everlasting," which was the reunion movie after the series had been cancelled.

When it begins, Bayliss and Pembleton return after years of no longer being cops (both of them quit the force during the course of the series).

They don't really bond at first, but both are curious about how the new breed of cops are doing in The Box. They watch a younger cop (Jason Priestly) interrogating a homeless man so badly that the man won't even give him his name, much less confess to anything or give him information. In fact, all he can get out of him is "Can I get a dollar?"

Priestly, frustrated, threatens to beat the man, and when he tries to, learns that the homeless man is a much better fighter than he is.

Bayliss and Pembleton look at each other.

Wander into the box.

With two fingers, Pembleton slides a dollar bill to the man, (I've caught myself emulating this at my job at the bank, by the way) saying, "You asked for a dollar?"

The commanding officer orders Priestly to leave...leaving the homeless man alone with Pembleton and Bayliss. They close the door.

The camera switches to a lower angle to show Pembleton and Bayliss, sauntering towards the homeless man, taking all the time in the world; Two old gunfighters coming back to town for once last piece of justice.

And Scott and I cheer: "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!"

2. Pink Panther: "A Pink Christmas."
This requires some explanation, I think.

See, I really don't remember anything about this special, save one thing:

It has a very sentimental, very sappy ending.

And at age 7, when I see this, I lack the sense of irony and context that I have today, and so I react in a very unjaded manner.

I bawl like Nancy fucking Kerrigan.

I cry like a little sissy girl.

Bobby wept.

So my dad hears this and walks in to find me in tears.

Now, as much as my dad prides himself on the concept of "tough love," and wants to instill in me the idea of discipline (which he did, and I actually think it's a very under-rated trait to teach children), it's not like he's The Great Santini. His kid's crying and he wants to know why--he's really concerned.

So he asks me, the bawling seven year old, why I'm crying.

I explain to him through sobs that I just watched The Pink Panther Christmas Special.

So, he asks me: "What...what happened to The Pink Panther?"

Okay, me, the 30 year old, has to take a little break here and stop laughing before I can type anymore.

This is a memory that never fails to kill me.

What happened to The Pink Panther?!?!?

Like I'm crying my eyes out because Insector Clouseau finally reached his threashold for shenanigans.

Later on, I'll be in tears because Jerry just made Tom eat a shitload of pool balls.

And later, when Jabberjaws gets speared to death by Robert Shaw, there won't be a dry eye in the 70's.

3. "You Can't Do That On Television."

What is it about this show?

Oh, yeah.

That's right.

The girls.

(And don't give me that look, I'm talking about the age I was when I watched this show.)

(I was 29.)

(Just kidding.)

(Let's move on.)

So when I first saw this show, the girl that had me saying "whoa," for some strange reason was Lisa Ruddy. Not sure why, but I think this shot has something to do with it. (Looking back, Lisa looks a lot like Amanda Bearse from Married With Children, who I only thought was attractive when she was in "Fright Night," and just in one shot. You know the shot.)

So, anyway, at the time, I think she's cute.

And then...

In walks Christine "Moose" McGlade.

And, pre-teen that I am, little hearts start floating up around my smiling little kid face.

I was in love.

Now, reasonably, you may well ask...WHY?!?

Well, who can say?

I mean, there was nothing dirty about it, it was just my first notable crush on a TV girl.

I'd like to think it was because she was funny. More and more people have admitted to me that they used to have a crush on her, too.

It's sort of like that crush that most guys have on Janeane Garofalo that they won't cop to unless you do first.

Moose was the first girl I liked on total--personality as well as, uh, everything else.

Plus you always had to wonder what was going on with her and Lisa. Bwah Chicka Bwah Bwah.

I used to fantasize that I was a hip private eye, visiting the set of "You Can't Do That On Television," trying to catch a psychotic cast member putting sulfuric acid in the buckets of water used to pour on the kids, horribly killing the cast.

Moose and I would team up, fall in love, and fight crime.

What would be the result of a Matsushita/McGlade team up?

A safer America, and to some larger extent, Canada.

4. Night Gallery: "The Class Of '99."
Okay, back to being serious.

I first saw this in reruns during the seventies, when it haunted me.

Then I saw it again in the nineties, where it still haunted me.

This story, by Rod Serling, is chilling, well-written, and years ahead of its time.

I'll just let you read the script and see for yourself.

Serling predicted the 80's. Wow. I tell ya what: WOW.

5. The Outer Limits: "The Zanti Misfits."
This is another of those cases where I was seven years old, watching TV with my best friend Charles Denny.

This episode came on.

I was about killer bugs.

And I hate bugs.

These bugs looked like Rankin-Bass induced fever dreams. They're goofy looking now, but to us, they were really disturbing.

So Charles and I started making ourselves as scared as possible.

Everytime one of those bugs jumped out at somebody, Charles and I would run out of the room as fast as we could: "AAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!"

No idea where our parents were for this.

I remember at one point, where someone gets out of their car--and we know it's coming--looks around, and then turns around and sees...


We made it all the way into the backyard with that one.

6. OZ: "A Game of Checkers."
This one, along with "Three Men And Adena," is right up there as far as being one of the best hours in television.

This is the season finale of season one of OZ, and it's the riot episode.

See, OZ had already established that they were willing to kill just about anyone.

Hell, in the first episode, they killed the star.

What's great in this episode is how everything in the show really leads up to it.

Plus, it has what we all want to see--the convicts really let loose.

Plus, as previously stated, the show's willing--and eager--to kill off a main character every week (the turnover rate on the show is staggering)...but you figure they can't kill some of the non-prisoner characters, right?


This season-ender was the culmination of every frustration, every spiteful deed, every wrong, and every need that all of the characters have. All the walls come down (literally and figuratively) and all the cards go on the table.

I watch this episode from time to time just to remind myself what good writing (and good TV) really is.

7. Tales From The Crypt: "The Man Who Was Death."
This, the first episode of Tales From The Crypt (or, at least, the first story in the pilot) really floored me.

This, the story of Niles Talbot (love that name), played by an amazing William Sadler. Niles is the guy who pulls the switch on the electric chair. He also narrates the episode.

Early on, he tells us, "The current's s'posed to hit the brain the second the switch is thrown; the victim never feels a thing.

"Gee, I'd hate to think that was true."


Niles is so much fun that some of my friends, like Media Yenta, wanted him to have his own series.

There are so many lines in this episode that I still quote, or at least remember. Like his response to a bartender who tells him that most of the people who get executed are minorites:

"Well, they're all pretty dark when I get through with 'em."

Or his riff on a biker he's about to fry:

"I got nothin' special against bikers. I, myself, used to own a hog once upon a time. Bikers believe in freedom, and what the country used to stand for, 'fore ev'rythin' went to hell. There's a lot to be said for said. Those ain't bad ideas.

"But this biker, Jimmy Flood? He went way out of line.

"And he ought to pay."

Or his musings on death:

"We eat shit and shit eats us. Death is all around us. We all pregnant with it.

"Like them junkies over there. Look at 'em.

"You know, in a way, I respect them. They throw it all away, just to shoot a little death into their arm.

"See, they know it's coming.

"So they tease it.

"I like that.

"'Course, at the same time, junkies are shit. Two-bit criminals..."

See, we might not like Niles, but he's so much fun it's hard to hate him, and the real horror is that when he gets his standard Tales From The Crypt comeuppance, we actually understand him.

Walter Hill directed this episode, and it's a great job. It looks like a comic. The editing is pretty great great, too.

And then there's the really cool score by Ry Cooder. (The opening calliope bit still gives me the chills.) The tone set by the music is dark, dark, dark. The music seems to be laughing with Niles...and then we realize it's laughing at him.

8. The Sopranos: (TIE) "I Dream Of Jeannie Cusamano," "The Knight In White Satin Armor," and "Employee Of The Month."
There are times when TV forces you to do The Yell.

You know what The Yell is.

The Yell is when you're so sucked into what's going on that you yell at the screen.

This is best when a big group does this at once. This is probably why sports is so popular.

I did The Yell when Howard Hunter shot himself on "Hill Street Blues."

My mom and I both did The Yell during the second half of "V," when Donovan tore off the visitor's mask and the visitor shot his tongue out at him.

The Yell doesn't happen that often.

But "The Sopranos" has gotten one from me every season.

I'm aware that there are friends of mine who haven't seen the whole series so far, and don't want things spoiled for them, so I'll be artistically vague. No spoilers here.

"I Dream Of Jeannie Cusamano." The first season finale. The Yell comes when a son fluffs a pillow and his mother smiles.

"The Knight In White Satin Armor." The penultimate episode of the second season. The Yell comes when a character asks for his dinner and gets dessert instead...a full episode earlier than we thought. (Watch Tony's face when he finds out--I can't be sure, but I think he's actually suppressing a laugh.)

"Employee Of The Month." This third season episode won an emmy for writing, and deservedly so. It's not only the best episode of the season, but of the series, and it's one of the best hours on television in general. The Yell comes with the last line--the last word--spoken in the episode.

9. "The Kids from C.A.P.E.R."

Why was I so obsessed with this show when I was a kid?

It was on for less than a year. It's sort of a cross between "The Monkees" and "The Man From Uncle," a show I wasn't even familiar with at the time.

C.A.P.E.R., by the way, stood for Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless, and someday I'm going to start telling people I work for them.

I really don't remember much about the show, save one bit where two guys get in a bar fight. One of them wields a kosher pickle threateningly, and the other breaks a milk carton over the bar and brandishes it fiendishly.

"Look out," someone yells, "He's got a broken milk carton!"

I think I liked it intially because I thought it was funny (I'm now understanding why "Scooby Doo" got decent box office), and then became obsessed because it was cancelled and couldn't see it any more.

The strangest thing of all, is the link I put up there. I wasn't the only one who remembered it.

I think everyone in the world has, or should have, a weird obsession that they never let go of. I have several.

What's yours?

posted by Rob on 10:37 AM | link
(0) comments


[ Tuesday, August 20, 2002 ]

Believe it or not, the internet is not just about porn and bitching about movies.

It can actually be about good reading material.

To continue my "counting down" phase, here are...

Ten Cool Essays.

1. Why We're Sarcastic.
This was the essay that made me want to do this list.

From SeanBaby.com comes this very funny, very true essay on the need for sarcasm in today's culture--is it because we're stupid, or because we're so insecure we need to prove we aren't?

2. The View From Smalltown, USA.
Okay, so there's no small amount of writing on 9/11.

But this, Chuck Palahniuk's chilling essay on how 9/11 affected everyone in his immediate area, is brilliant.

All of his observations, each one by themself is curious...but all of them together are madness.

It's not political, just human.

And thank you, Dennis and Amy at chuckpalahniuk.net.

3. A Hot Script.
Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, the screenwriters who wrote, among other things, Shrek and Aladdin, have a terrific site dedicated to screenwriting called Wordplay.

All of the columns they have are great--any one of them would do for this list, really. I highly suggest reading all of them--it's like a screenwriting school all by itself. (Also recommended is " Mental Real Estate," and "Hacking Through the Underbrush.")

This essay, by Rossio, is all about how to write a sex scene--and it brings up such good points about how to do one it's just amazing how often you don't see great sex in the movies any more. (Read the column to see what I'm talking about.)

There are forums to check out, too, by the way, and Ted and Terry visit there a lot.

I have to admit, one of the main reasons I stopped going there was for stupid, pointless reasons; during the Oscar competion between Monsters, Inc. and Shrek, a lot of people kept posting (in a supremely ass-kissing way) that Monsters, Inc. was a total style-over-substance movie, with no real story, and how they "preferred Shrek, because it had a story."

That pissed me off. I love both movies.

But saying Monsters, Inc. had no story is just a bunch of crap--and I'd bet anything Ted and Terry think so, too.

Who says that both movies can't be good? When GoodFellas came out, I didn't stop liking The Godfather.

4. Wesley Crusher, MIB, Part One, Two, and Three.
The thing that always amazes me about Wil Wheaton is how open and honest he is about how he feels about Star Trek and his role on it.

To give this some perspective, my mom once told me of a Tonight Show interview with William Shatner during the 70's, in which not one singular Trek-related question was asked. She said it was almost funny that the main reason why Shatner's famous is Star Trek and he won't talk about it.

Wil will often be the first one to bring it up--mainly because he's a fan, too.

I can't know for sure, but I think Wil is just trying to be the type of celebrity that he'd want to meet as a fan, if that makes sense.

As the writer of his weblog, Wil has a tendency to make two types of posts: Heartfelt or humorous.

In the cases of "Mirror, Mirror," "Turnaround," and "The Big Goodbye," it's both.

5. Elia Kazan and The Case for Silence
From Victor Navasky's Naming Names, this covers the controversy about Elia Kazan's testimony to the House on Un-American Activities Committee.

I remember when Kazan got his Lifetime Achievement Oscar, and this subject was still pretty hot.

The protest during the Oscars was a sit-down protest--everyone's supposed to stand to pay tribute.

Those who were protesting stayed seated.

The presenters were Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro (which may have been a message on someone's part, considering that night Chris Rock made a joked: "And we know how DeNiro feels about rats"), both of whom looked like they'd rather be just about anywhere else. Scorsese, I also noticed, got directly behind Kazan, not unlike the way Tommy gets behind Morry in the car before stabbing him in the brain with an icepick in GoodFellas.

I remember Amy Madigan looking like she was going to jump up and charge the stage. (Strangely, I don't think she's ever looked more beautiful. Boy, do I have issues.)

Side note: While looking up additionial info on this subject, I ran across the following Tomato Nation piece by Sarah Bunting about that year's Oscars, where she commented on this, saying:

... Now, I don’t agree with Kazan’s actions, but he did what he had to do, and as others have pointed out, the Lifetime Achievement Oscar rewards great film-making, not humanitarian efforts. But when denizens of Hollywood, the world capital of compromised integrity, not only sit and glower at an old man but also pretend that not clapping constitutes some form of radical protest, I start launching things at the TV set. Ooooh, Amy Madigan DIDN’T CLAP! Boy, she really PUT HERSELF OUT THERE with that one - seldom have I seen such a courageous STATEMENT, such a DEVASTATING COMMENT in defense of HONOR! Way to equate RUDENESS with A BRAVE POLITICAL STANCE, Amy! I can see you felt REALLY STRONGLY about this, which would explain why you didn’t just STAY HOME. You know, it really surprises me that, with a firm moral compass like yours, you haven’t managed to GET A FREAKIN’ JOB. I mean, Jesus - like Elia Kazan cried himself to sleep because Nick Nolte sulked in his general direction. Grow up, you big babies.

Well, in theory, I agree with the first part, that the award is supposed to be representative of the art, not the man.

At the same time, the key word is "supposed." I mean, we're not talking about the Pulitizer or the Nobel prize, for God's sake--it's an Oscar. Are we going to start pretending now that it's not a popularity contest? Hitchcock never got an Oscar, and he didn't even rat anyone out.

As far as the "he was in a tough place and did what he had to do" arguement, well, I see it and I don't see it. Let's face it, there were plenty of people--some of whom were in the audience that night--who didn't name names and suffered for it.

As for why Madigan didn't stay home--well, why should she? It's the OSCARS, for Christ's sake. What should they do instead? Boo? Throw whale sperm? Let Whoopi host again?

It's weird to think that people can say, "oh, just get over it." This reminds of that Robert Klein joke about teenager's reactions to the 1987 trial of the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie: "Oh, he's so old--they should just let him go. What's the big deal?"

Okay, okay, maybe that's a bit harsh.

This is not to pick on Sarah Bunting, who is awesome as all get-out. More on her later.

6. 20 Things We've Learned Nearly a Year After 9/11
My friend and fellow Unrealistic Expectations writer Buck Hakes, aka Pope Buck I sends me (and many others) politically-charged forwards every day--at least ten a day, by my count.

This is my current favorite--an essay by Bernard Weiner, of CommonDreams.

And please don't email me telling me I'm un-American by posting this; I'll tell you when I'm being un-American.

7. Popular.
Before I became a writer over there at Unrealistic Expectations, I was a fan of it, and Roughy's essay about Popularity is one of the reasons why.

I was also a huge fan of this essay that he did on the movie Say Anything.

And please don't email me telling me I'm a kiss-ass by posting this; I'll tell you when I'm being a kiss-ass.

8. The Trix Conspiracy.
This short essay, by Robert Berry of Retrocrush, covers one of those subjects that it's funny to think more than one person thinks about.

But we do.

We all do.

This essay is about The Trix Rabbit and his persecution for his love of Trix. I remember this series of commercials (which I believe still continues to this day) and I remember the election, too.

There's other great stuff on Retrocrush, too--check out the archives.

9. We Won't Deny Our Consciences.
This was another one sent to me by Buck, but Wil Wheaton also put this on his site, getting all sorts of responses:

"Why should the american press cover a letter posted by a small group of people? The Guardian post its because they are Anti-USA. In there minds we are the cause of all evil in the world. I mean I realize Casey Casem is pissed because they didn't let him do the voice of Shaggy for the movie, and Leo Estrada wishes he had been on CHiPs with his Brother, but that doesn't mean we have to listen to their opinions. If I got 100 people to sign a letter that all Arabs should be expelled from the country should the US media publish that trash too?"

"Wil, I love you, man. But, who the hell cares what a bunch of left-wing, bleeding heart liberal, Hollywood 'elite' and clueless celeberties think? We are Americans and no one has the right to attack (physically) us. If you mess with us, we will and should destroy you. Plain and simple. You can not negotiate with terrorist and Islamists. Its in their blood and religion to kill every American in the world and die for Allah. I'm more than happy to allcoate resources to allow the meeting."

"THANK YOU. Let us pray that those motivated by revenge, to whom that feels like justice, are led by some gentle miracle to see the futility of that path. Let us pray that the truths about freedom upon which this country was founded will prevail."

"I'm puzzled why so many people want to bend over backwards to be fair to these members of Al-Qaeda. It's mind-boggling to me. I think it's that these people feel good about themselves when they say, 'Well, I was open-minded and fair, Myrtle. I'm very concerned about the rights of this man.' Anybody can say that, but they're not charged with any responsibility whatsoever. They're not dealing directly with the threat posed by these guys and to every innocent American. These Guardian idiots aren't the ones the people will hold accountable if the next 9-11 happens because we worried about foolish things like this. We're at war, folks. Face that cold, hard fact."

"It is worth pointing out that the United States is the only country convicted in world court of State Terrorism. Not a popular thing to express, but true none the less. Remember than the next time someone mentions the 'Axis of Evil.'"

"Ignorance is the bliss of small minds. The first question to ask is: 'Why did they do this?' I have no love for terrorists, but we live blinded by the local media and political allegiance. The next time you're oppressed by someone or something, imagine a lifetime of this and see how much you love it. The next time someone steals, or hurts someone from your family and you threaten to sue; imagine if you were told you cannot sue, you cannot do anything, and in fact you'll be punished for even thinking about sueing. Imagine this and you'll come closer to an understanding of why they are acting as terrorists - it's the only voice they have available. And all this doesn't make it acceptable, but we have to accept our role and fight to correct ourselves before we deign to correct someone else."

"good job posting that. it makes me ache when i see someone characterize such sentiments as anti-american. guess what, critics: the signatories are americans!"

"Wil, Shut the fuck up."

"Hmmm ... from reading a lot of the comments posted here, I've come to the conclusion that a lot of Americans are quite clearly insane and suffering from a massive superiority complex. I can't wait for the next round of attacks on some of your cities, because with your current attitude, it's surely going to happen."

"One word says it all,crap."

Check it out.

10. What Women Want.
Granted, this doesn't totally fit the "essay" format, but, hey, my list, my rules.

This is another one that Buck sent to me--this is from the aforementioned site Tomato Nation.

The hard part was just picking one, so I went with the first one I ever read. This is one of a series of dialogues between Regina and Sarah, usually, but not always about men. The serpentine nature of their conservations, their well-chosen phrasing (you gotta love a woman who says things like "Sittin' around, readin' Marx and eatin' brown bread with the uncircumcised."), and their obvious kinship make them a terrific read about any subject.

If I knew them in real life, I wouldn't need cable.

posted by Rob on 1:59 AM | link
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[ Wednesday, August 14, 2002 ]

I love movie trailers. I stopped loving them for a while, because they all started to look the same, but hey, I still like to get to the theater nice and early to check them out. Sometimes, as the saying goes, they're better than the movie.

Here's a bunch.

(A lot of these, by the way, I found through Pete's Movie Page, which I check out every day.)

Eleven Movie Trailers.

1. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is apparently this Fall's remake of The Killer.

Or, as Buck put it: "Only this time, they do it."

There's a cool fall stunt in the trailer, and there's just something so right about Lucy Liu firing an M-60.

And, you know, I like Antonio Banderas as an action hero. I'm not ashamed to say it.

So the trailer's fun.

As far as the movie goes...ahem...well...

Okay, next trailer.

2. The Ring.
Recently, on ifilm I found a short film called "An Open Letter." All that ifilm said was that it was a "challenge" to the viewer.

So I watched it, and only after did they tell me that after watching this movie, I WILL DIE IN SEVEN DAYS.

Last week I mentioned this to Anne and Wil Wheaton, and Wil asked me, "What day are you on, now?"

I said I wasn't sure. Gee, that seems like the sort of thing that I should really keep track of.

Anyway, then I see this movie (which is a remake of a Japanese film, by the way), and see--you guessed it--clips from the movie I watched.

Oh, well.

3. Sweet Home Alabama.
So my wife and I saw this before a movie, and had a similar reaction to it.

Reese Witherspoon is a jet-setting go-getter who lives in The City, and is engaged to Patrick Dempsey, a Rich Man.

However, to marry him, she has to divorce her husband, played by Not Matthew McConaughey , who she separated with some time ago, and lives in The Country.

Gosh. I wonder how this movie is going to end.

But, no, the trailer goes on--and just when you think it can't get any more cliché, the trailer uses the song "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher," by Jackie Wilson, which really has to go on that short list along with "I Feel Good," "Mony Mony," "Bad To The Bone," "I Will Survive," and "Resect," as songs that should never be used in trailers, ever again.

4. $LA$HER$.
This is the trash film I'm looking forward to the most this year.

No fooling.

I just read about this in Fangoria. Here's the basic concept:

"$LA$HER$" is the name for a fictitious Japanese game show (think "Endurance") in which the contestants must survive against a group of demented serial killers with names like "Chainsaw Charlie," who, by the way, narrates the trailer.

The other thing about this movie is that is shot on hi-def video, and it's, like Rope and Running Time, shot as if it's in one continuous take.

Oh, I am so there.

5. I Spy.
Okay, guilty pleasure.

In my last show, FACEvalue, I made a joke about this movie coming out--without knowing that it really was.

I like the choice of casting--Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson seem like a good team, and I don't even mind that they've switched the races around and now made the character of Kelly Robinson an actual athelete and not a life-long spy.

The trailer's okay (I like Wilson's response to an explosion behind them, and Murphy's response to a spy mask he's just put on), as well as a song that I know I've heard before but don't know the name of.

(Potch, help me out--what song is this?)

Again, how will the movie be?

God, who even knows? But the trailer's fun.

6. Jackie Chan: My Stunts.

I tell ya what:


For some asinine reason, Hollywood seems to think that Jackie Chan needs something else--anything else to make his movies more entertaining. Sometimes it's Chris Tucker. Sometimes it's Owen Wilson.

Apparently now, it's Jennifer Love Hewett.

Did I miss a fucking meeting?

Anyway, in light of this, the average moviegoer might forget what makes Jackie so kick-ass.

This is a sort-of "Best Of" album for Jackie Chan, with some recreations of different stunts in there too, to detail how he does what he does.

That may not sound like much, but MAN.

I defy you to not say "OW!!!" once during this trailer.

7. Red Dragon.
I'm torn on this one.

I like the original film (Manhunter) a whole lot, and I find the need for another version of it to be non-existant.

Also, Hannibal blew Chunks.

And Chunks is my dog.

Plus, Brett Ratner, director of Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 is directing.

Again, did I miss a fucking meeting?

It pisses me off that directors like John Woo can work for over thirty years in Hong Kong and still be considered a "first-time director" in Hollywood, or that Sam Raimi got turned down for both Batman and The Shadow, and Brett Ratner, on the basis of his films gets to do a remake of one of Michael Mann's best films.

That said, the book is still a good book, and it's still a good story, Ted Tally, who adapted Silence Of The Lambs, is adapting this one as well, and finally Edward Norton, while a bit young for the role, is a really good choice to play Will Graham.

It does seem a bit like they packed the movie with really good people to save Ratner's ass, should he need it.

Time will tell if he does, I think.

Another word about the character of Will Graham. I was one of the people who was annoyed with Hannibal because (among other reasons) Will Graham's character was not even mentioned.

For those who didn't read Red Dragon or see Manhunter, FBI Agent Will Graham is the man who caught Hannibal Lecter. He's a terrific character, who has a tendency to get inside the killer's head--mainly because he's pretty much only one jump from being a psychopath himself.

Now, the relationship between Graham and Lecter is very different from the relationship between Lecter and Clarice Starling. Lecter actually kind of respects and likes Starling.

But he really hates Graham.

Now, if you were Clarice Starling, and Hannibal Lecter escaped, and you wanted to find him...wouldn't you go to the man who caught him for advice?

Especially since he's the only other person with a good enough read on how Lecter thinks?

Never mind that if that if Lecter escaped, the first thing that Will Graham would do is come out of retirement, buy huge guns, and find Lecter himself.

Now, how cool a story would that have been?

Why didn't Thomas Harris take any of that into account?

I fear it's because he figured not enough people knew who Will Graham was. Which is stupid, because all you have to do is say "he's the one who caught Lecter," and that's all the audience needs to know.

Never mind the 200-plus pages he wasted on the Italy sub-plot.


My prediction: After this one, people will demand a Starling/Graham team up to catch Lecter...and then they'll do one.

8. Double Tap.
Not to be confused with the bizarre direct-to-video actioner with Heather Locklear as a drug addict cop and Stephen Rea as an American hit man, this Hong Kong outing is more of a response to the gun fetishism of other HK actioners.

Sort of a remake of "Blue Steel," it's about competion shooters, one a cop, one a civilian. During an incident with a crazed gunman, the civilian kills the gunman, becoming a hero--but also becoming dangerously unhinged.

Two things set this concept apart from other HK actioners:

One, this movie suggests that those who own firearms are really only one jump away from being murderers, as opposed to the glorious gunfire action of (lets face it) John Woo, Ringo Lam, and Tsui Hark.

Two, Leslie Cheung is in this film--as the bad guy.

9. The Hulk.
This is one of those non-footage trailers, but it's actually a pretty good one.

Ang Lee, in case you haven't heard is directing this movie version of the Marvel comic, and Eric Bana (who was amazing in a little seen film called Chopper) plays Bruce Banner.

What I like about this one is that it really sets a nice tone--and the monologue nicely establishes Lee's persective on the main character.

10. The Transporter.
As an actoin movie fan, it's interesting to see which new actors are being groomed as action heroes.

I think Hollywood has finally figured out that you can have a successful action movie with someone in good shape who can actually act, as opposed to some Belgian kick-boxing fuck (I don't want to name any names, but I think we all know I'm not talking about Olivier Gruner).

The choice this time is British actor, Jason Statham, and I think it could be a good one. He's a good looking guy, he's a fun actor, and he does seem to be in good shape. He can play lovable, and he can play tough. He apparently can kick, too, if this trailer is any indication.

This movie seems--ahem--"inspired" by BMW Films' wonderful "Driver" series, with Clive Owen. (On a side note, I hear that John Woo is doing one of these next year! Yay!)

Don't know if it's good but the trailer (particularly the bit with the tablecloth) is really fun.

11. The Master Of Disguise.
Okay, so this one...

Okay, this film's already out, I know, but I had to include it because I think it does a great job of letting you know what you're in for.

See, Dana Carvey plays the Master Of Disguise.

He speaks with an Italian accent that's accurate and not at all insulting!

And there's this one scene where he tries--chuckle--to sneak into the place called The Turtle Club...and he--

--Get this--


Hee hee hee!

And just when it can't get any funnier...he says to the guy: "Am I not turtley enough for The Turtle Club?"









(I hope he farts next!)


A turtle!







posted by Rob on 12:23 PM | link
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[ Tuesday, August 06, 2002 ]

Aw yeah.  We bad.

Yes, it's true.

This weekend I hung out with Russ and Wil.

See, Wil's birthday was just recently, and someone gave him tickets to a game at Wrigley Field. He's never been there before, so it's a big deal.

Russ lives near Chicago--and he's always trying to get me to come down there and visit, so they invite Betsy and I down there.

This has all been pulled together at the last possible second--and Russ, since he lives on the home court, as it were, is the guy pulling it together.

We take the long drive, meet up with Russ and his wife at Russ' townhouse, and then leave for Chicago to meet Wil and his wife, Anne, at the hotel they're staying.

After that, we take a cab to Fadó, an Irish pub where we we're seated almost immediately, the food's great, and we stay almost until one in the morning talking about nothing of import.

Twelve Random Observations From The Weekend.

1. Russ is bad with directions.
I make the deadly mistake of Not Going Before We Left, so as we're near the hotel, Betsy suggests that if we're close, I can get out, go there, and use the bathroom. Russ tells me, "One block down, half a block in."

So I jump out of the car, jaywalk across traffic (humming the Axel F theme), use the bathroom at the nearest hotel I can find, then discover that the hotel is actually five blocks down.

I arrive late, with everyone waiting for me, sweating Meat Loaf levels of sweat. Wil runs up to me, shaking my hand: "I have so been looking forward to this happening."

Me, too, I say, thinking how much he looks like the little box in the corner of his website.

He introduces me to his wife as "Bobby The Mat," a nickname my wife has never heard.

Then to Russ, I say: That was considerably more than one block, Russ.

He buys me a Coke, sheepishly.

2. Wil's the kind of person who gets really excited when a favorite song plays on the jukebox.
Wil and I talk about movies (he and I admit that we both actually liked "The Last Action Hero"), as all of a sudden, "Where Is My Mind," by The Pixies comes on.

This is actually kind of serendipitous--as Wil's blog used to be titled "Where Is My Mind?"

"The Pixies!" he yells.

"What?" Russ says, turning around--he's been talking to Anne.

"They're playing The Pixies!"

Russ laughs really hard: "You are such a dork."

Later on, when we're talking about writing, Wil and I both note that the song is "Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin.

Wil tells me that whenever he hears that song he thinks of a specific time in his life, when he knew everything was going to change.

I tell him that whenever I hear this song, it makes me think of the opening sequence I came up with for a movie based on the t.v. show "Crime Story."

Because all filmmakers have to remake a t.v. show at some point.

My choice is "Crime Story."

Turns out Wil's a fan, too.

3. Anne is pretty fucking funny, too.
We also learn that it's her who made Wil's hair pink in Python. Russ asks her, "did you notice that the pink actually continued to the skin on his neck, too?"

The rest of the "Python" conversation is not a matter of public record.

Russ and I were going to ask Wil to sign both our copies of Python, but Wil tells us: "There will be no copies of Python signed tonight."

4. Betsy, sadly, had to leave early.
Russ offers to have us over, again--but he also has three cats, and my wife, again, is very allergic.

After less than an hour in Russ' place, Betsy was already sniffling, so she knew she wouldn't be able to stay the night, but insisted that I should, since I've been looking forward to this for a long time.

She and I go out to wait for the cab that will take her to her car, and I thank her for bringing me down.

"Have fun," she tells me, as the cab pulls up.

God, I love her.

5. Russ has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do.
This is what Russ tells me when I say that before the night is over, we all may have to pull someone off of him.

Russ loves to instigate, push buttons, and generally be a ball buster.

Even with his wife.

Especially with his wife.

At one point, I turn to Wil and Anne and say, Have you noticed that I don't talk to my wife like this?

Don't nobody got no Mr. Roboto, indeed.

But it's a weird thing--no one gets mad at him for it, or anything. There's a moment of suprise, and then laughter.

Well, his wife does give him a look that says "Oh, Russ, but there's a good chance she's secretly amused, too.

6. Russ is a lot like Dr. Cox on the show "Scrubs."

The thing to get about Russ is that he's very much a motivator.

I don't mean that pejoratively. He says what's on his mind, and he doesn't hold back.

And at the end of the day, you know how you stand with Russ.

I like that.

At the same time, this is that guy who said to the waitress who served us, "by the way, ma'am, are you familiar with a little t.v. show called...'Star Trek?'"

"Stop," Wil warns.

Anne's laughing.

You are a tool, I say. Two and a half hour drive to see a tool.

He laughs and leaves it alone. We laugh, too.

Instead, we ask for some kind of desert.

"What do you want?" the waitress asks.

"Something chocolate," Wil says.

"Do you care what it is?"

"No," Russ says.

"You want me to surprise you?"

"Yeah," Anne says.

"Chocolate Surprise!" Wil yells.

She comes back with two candy bars.

One is called the "Yorkie Raisin."

7. The phrase "and then I jerked off" is a great ending to any story.
Russ tells us that he's terrible at ending stories, but a friend once told him that that's a good way to end if you don't have a conclusion and don't realize it until after you've started.

After I end a story with "and that's why they don't let me in the Safeway anymore," Wil and Anne laugh.

I tell them that my tactic is similar to Russ', in that I just save up random punchlines and spread them out in my conversations as I see fit.

Wil tells me that this reminds him of Ethan Phillips, who he's met at Star Trek conventions.

8. Ethan Phillips is actually really cool.
It's rare that I ever talk to someone who's been to a Star Trek convention as a guest and not as a paying customer or dealer. I don't want to geek out (and we're way past that anyway), but I'm curious, so we talk a little about what conventions are like from his end.

He tells me that none of the die hard Trek fans really seemed to "get Ethan," who has kind of a "borscht belt," or vaudvillian sense of humor.

I tell him that he seemed pretty cool when I saw him at his first New York convention.

This makes me realize something funny, that I don't say out loud.

Wil and I are about the same age. When we were both sixteen, I was paying fourteen bucks to see him talk about Star Trek.

My mini-geek-out subsides when Wil points out that Cake is playing.

9. None of us have ever met in real life before.
I had thought that Russ and Wil had met, but no.

This is our first time where we all met.

There's a good feeling as we walk up the stairs to check out the band. It feels like we've been hanging out together for years.

Of course that may be because I haven't had a cigaratte for a few hours, and finally get a chance to light up.

10. Wil and I both own Maine Coon Cats.

Actually, the cat is my mom's, I tell Wil.

Since we had to take him from a friend we gave him a whole new name and a whole new identity.

We named him Vito "The Cat" Manelli.

"This is a what, now?"

"Maine coon cats," Wil says, "they're awesome. They have ridiculously long hair, they're big. They're just as cool as cats, but nowhere near the arrogant bullshit that other cats will give you."

Basically, they're as close as cats ever get to being dogs.

"Sounds like Roughy," Russ says.

11. Chicago cabbies will totally sass back if you start with them.
On the cab ride back from Fadó, Russ is his typical brash self.

The cab driver cheerfully suggests that the rest of us "set him on fucking fire."

Russ laughs harder at this than anyone. He is nothing if not a good sport.

He does threaten to de-tip the guy, though.

He doesn't.

12. The Yorkie Raisin Candy Bar is "The Sweet Taste Of Football.
No word yet on which candy bar is "The Pungent Taste Of Field Hockey."

To be continued on UnrealisticExpectations.com...

One's a wise-ass.  One's a cynic.  Together...they fight crime.

posted by Rob on 4:38 PM | link
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[ Thursday, August 01, 2002 ]

I'll be back upon my feet
I'll be back upon my feet
Chase the moon and sun
to find my one and only you
I'll be back upon my feet
I'll be back upon my feet
Lookin' high and lookin' low
When I find my boots
I know I gotta go...

Which is my weird way of saying I'm getting better.

I'm back at work, but not feeling great at all.

Even though I shouldn't have been out in the world on Tuesday, I went to auditions anyway...only to have Scott Feiner show up and no one else.

Which is just as well, since I was sick as a dog Tuesday, anyway.

By Wednesday, my fever had gone away, but I didn't trust my stomach, so I stayed in and got nothing done.

Now I'm out in the world and getting nothing done.

Oh, well.

Hey, check out this cartoon about Mr. Stabby. It's okay, but that song is stuck in my head.

Yours now, too.

posted by Rob on 10:01 AM | link
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