Monday, February 28, 2011

Guess

Guess who I just had dinner with. That's right! The guy who wrote the movie ARIZONA DREAM. How did you guess? You're a good guesser! He told me some good Jerry Lewis stories but I shan't repeat them because he was a nice guy and not the type to assume that his dinner buddy would go "blog" everything on the "internet."

Oscar Recap

Wow! I don't know. I hate to tell you how completely I crushed my sister in our annual Oscar-guessing contest. I'm not going to tell you! It's too horrible. If you missed the Oscars, don't worry, because just three things happened and I will tell you what they were. 1) There was this bushy-haired kid who came out and got an award. I was like, "This kid's gonna be a star, I tell ya!" I say that a lot. But keep your eye on that kid. Lots of natural charm and personality. I think he was the most comfortable person onstage last night! Dare I invoke the zany poise of Jerry Lewis? Yes, I just typed the phrase "zany poise" which made me a little sick inside, but don't blame that kid for my bumbling phraseology! I haven't seen his short film, but look, he has an accordion. His name is Luke Matheny, apparently. You heard it here first! 2) At one point were a couple of people singing a song about something and then it cut to an old man with a cryptic half-smile on his face standing awkwardly near the back of the stage for no reason and then suddenly there was a commercial, or did I imagine that? 3) Mr. Saturday Night himself, Billy Crystal, did a "bit" with the ghost of Bob Hope. I am not kidding! The ghost of Bob Hope came out and said, "Thanks, Billy." I don't know. It was creepy. All I could think of was the Bob Hope mind-control rumors that are all over the "internet." Go back and listen to how many times Billy Crystal said "Bob Hope." It was like something out of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. And that is everything that happened on the Oscars.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Your Jerry Lewis Report

Jerry references in the New York Times: just wanted to tell you there are three today, in three different articles. Maybe this is some kind of record.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Snub Pollard Connection

Had a little sad clown double feature didn't I? THE COMIC followed by LIMELIGHT. THE COMIC had some good parts. Mickey Rooney underplayed (!) his later scenes as an old man. He and Dick Van Dyke had some good moments as two creaky survivors. If you want to see what McNeil and I will be like in a few years, watch the last half of THE COMIC. And recent object of "blog"templation Calvin Coolidge had a lengthy cameo via newsreel footage. I guess I should also mention the scene in which Dick Van Dyke's character explains how much people love him in France. Plus THE COMIC had one of those late-sixties endings where you go, "Huh?" Like, "Was that the ending?" Like, "What just happened?" Like, "That's it?" I love those. And a couple of the gags actually made me laugh. And then somehow I was in the perfect mood for LIMELIGHT and I watched it again and it was good. I was primed to sit back and say, "Self-indulgent? Who cares? Who deserves to be self-indulgent more than Chaplin?" Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon if you're me, but you're not me, so what can I tell you? There was a Snub Pollard reference in THE COMIC and then Snub Pollard was IN the movie LIMELIGHT. I am going to show you a picture of Snub Pollard so you can rest easy tonight. Don't know where he fell on the sad clown/happy clown spectrum. I'll check wikipedia for you. It's reliable sometimes!

Clowns Don't Come Any Sadder

Boy, I'm really in the mood for sad clowns today! I'm less than ten minutes into THE COMIC and there has already been a pie in the face (as predicted, though it doesn't happen to Dick Van Dyke), a car rolling off a cliff and exploding in flames, atonal music, Mickey Rooney playing a character based on Ben Turpin, and crazy clown shoes with snapping teeth! Plus Dick Van Dyke narrates from his coffin! Clowns don't come any sadder than that, I tell you! When that car exploded in a fiery ball of flame I just had to pause the movie and come in here and share with you. Sorry I can't stay longer, but these sad clowns aren't going to watch themselves! (PS Dick Van Dyke's clown costume from THE COMIC is being auctioned off on the "internet"! There is really nothing that the "internet" won't give you if you ask.)

Movie News

Look! Here is Manohla Dargis talking up Jerry Lewis (as usual! Thank goodness!) in the New York Times again, incidentally throwing in a mention of LIMELIGHT, one of the sad clown movies we've been contemplating here at the "blog" lately. I hate to keep bragging about how the "blog" is constantly two steps ahead of the New York Times on the increasingly important sad clown front, but I can't help it, those are the facts! In other movie news, I was frightened when McNeil forwarded me an email with the title "TCM Reminder: Nobody Lives Forever." It turns out that TCM was reminding him that the John Garfield movie NOBODY LIVES FOREVER is coming on soon, and not just reminding him that nobody lives forever, which would have been a little presumptuous maybe, and I can't help thinking about the fact that poor John Garfield died young, which is sad.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bar Gossip

I was sitting at City Grocery Bar waiting for Ace Atkins (and Dr. Theresa, who had nobly decided to "grade papers" BEFORE "having a drink"), listening to three people at the table next to mine debating the relative qualities of gold vs. platinum. Then they talked about their friend who is so rich she displayed dinosaur bones at her wedding reception!

McNeil, Briefly

Welcome once again to "McNeil, Briefly." McNeil says all the clouds in Charlotte look like guys on horseback for some reason. McNeil starts coughing every time he laughs these days. "I think it means I've been implanted with an alien life form," he theorizes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Busted!"

So I was telling my class of "grad students" about the time I talked to Jerry Lewis on the phone. Wait! There was a good reason to mention that in class: we are studying Dean Martin. Wait! There is a good reason for that too, so shut up. I told them that this was back in the days when PULP FICTION had just come out, and I was working at TBS, and I was all, "This Tarantino kid's gonna make a name for himself, I tell ya!" and I decided it would be great to have a day of Jerry Lewis movies on TBS with Quentin Tarantino and Jerry Lewis hosting them together, because my wouldn't the sparks fly and so on. And one of my students was like, "They got together recently." And I was like, "WHAT? No they didn't!" I was like, "I bet they were all, 'Hey, remember the time Jack tried to get us together? He was right all along! Why didn't we listen? Why don't we ever listen to Jack?'" So then my student - his name is Bill and his wife is my friend who works for the Audubon Society! - sent me a "link" on facebook all about Quentin Tarantino presenting Jerry Lewis with this special bust of Jerry at the Friars' Club (above), and now I want to break into the Friars' Club and steal this bust of Jerry Lewis with the help of a team of unlikely misfits, each possessing a unique and unexpected talent necessary to pull off one last heist before retiring. I typed as much into the facebook, and my student replied that the heist should count as our final exam. GREAT IDEA! Of course I would never steal anything, especially from the Friars' Club, where so many scenes in MR. SATURDAY NIGHT were shot. But that heist would make a great movie, for which I just wrote the screenplay in between typing this "post," and I call it BUSTED! (You know, I was once invited to the Friars' Club by a guy who was Carrot Top's publicist - I think that was his position in the Carrot Top organization - and he also represented that guy who made noises with his mouth for a living [not Charlie Callas, the other one]. But the main thing was that this guy was writing the AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY of Harry Ritz, which I fully realize means NOTHING to you, so shut up. Well, I never got to go, so there was no "casing the joint.") Scott Phillips was monitoring this discussion via facebook and decided that once "we" steal the bust (yes, he has invited himself along, and I happily accept the notion!) we turn it into one of those busts with a secret button inside, like Batman used to enjoy, and Scott even provided instructions on how to build one. Finally, it looks like Jerry's good friend Richard Belzer was at the big unveiling, too, so my "two degrees of Belzer" might really pay off when it comes time to pull the job, which of course I'm never going to do, it's all in my wonderful imagination, ha ha ha, in no way am I a crazy person. Thank you for your time and attention and a very pleasant evening to you all.

Turtleneck Correction

False alarm on the turtleneck, folks! It was, Kent reports, merely "a sweater with a high collar." But you probably already knew that because your eyes aren't old and weak and filled with misty tears like mine.

The Back of Kent's Head II: The Return of the Back of Kent's Head

Kent says I was right! That WAS the back of Kent's head! In this picture, you can get an even better look at the back of Kent's head. And is that a turtleneck? In my opinion it looks like Kent is doing his job and "staying in character" even with the back of his head!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oatmeal Tips

Welcome once again to "Oatmeal Tips," the famous "blog" feature that takes an in-depth look at oatmeal, and more particularly the various tips you can get about it. As you recall, I was worried about what was going to become of Mark Bittman. My concerns were unfounded, because here he is engaged in man's noblest pursuit: producing "online content" about oatmeal!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

News Items

1) Yesterday, Elizabeth saw a pig running down her street. 2) Dr. Theresa hurried in from the other room because she thought I was choking. I was singing.

Sorry, Shirtless Frasier!

Kelly Hogan says yesterday was Kelsey Grammer's birthday and she doesn't see why everybody has to bother him and take pictures of him with his shirt off trying to have a little fun on the beach with his special lady friend (I'm paraphrasing) and you know what? She has a point.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stats!

How's this for a stat? OVER 700 people are looking at this "blog" RIGHT NOW because they searched for the term "Calvin Coolidge loved having his head rubbed with Vaseline while he ate breakfast in bed" or one almost exactly like it. That, of course, is a quotation from one of Mr. Ward's prized collection of presidential trivia books, which he is never without, though his book of prime time network TV shows was stolen from his car. The question remains: why did 700 people suddenly search for the term "Calvin Coolidge loved having his head rubbed with Vaseline while he ate breakfast in bed" at the same time? I'm going to guess that someone mentioned the fact - if it is a fact! and honestly, who cares? - on NPR. Don't you think? This has NPR written all over it. Ho ho! Look, here he is lifting his hat as if to say, "Quick! Somebody rub Vaseline on my head!"

French Jerry Basketball Joke

Remember my great student who is so great because he is the one who told me about Jerry Lewis buying a hearing aid for his dog? He also knows how much I hate that stupid cliché about the French loving Jerry. And just look what he has uncovered: "Feel obligated to tell you that the announcer just made a joke about the French loving Jerry Lewis during the NBA all-star game. 'We just got word that the French newspaper covering the game has already submitted their ballot and their pick for MVP is...Jerry Lewis.' The NBA all-star game."

Looping!

This is the time when I tell you about my late-night drifting through the movie channels and what I see there. This time I saw "Blog" Buddy Kent Osborne! Yes, I happened to flip to SCHOOL TIES mere SECONDS before Kent says a line ("Stabbed him in the back!") indicating that he thinks Brendan Fraser has stabbed Matt Damon in the back, figuratively speaking. Soon thereafter there is a big tribunal of which Kent is part. Something dramatic and devastating happens! And then... wait, do you know what "looping" is? It's when you go in and add some audio to a movie scene that has already been shot. So in this case, after the tribunal files out, having handed down a harsh and possibly tragic judgment, the director wanted all the fellas back in the booth so they could add the sounds of talking amongst themselves as they ominously leave the room, having done their cruel duty. And Kent decided to say, "Let's get a cheeseburger!" Hilarious! But the director didn't appreciate the irony and didn't use Kent's line in the film. All you hear in the finished product is some very serious and understated muttering. Well, anyway, I think that story is accurate but Kent told it to me a long time ago and I am probably getting it wrong as usual. (I'm not sure, but that might be the back of Kent's head.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Streaming Jerry Clown Head

Hey, speaking of clowns, did I ever tell you that John Currence gave me a clown head for Christmas? And they say I'm hard to buy for! Here it sits in my office at home. And here is what I do in my office: No, not work! But that was a good guess. I watch Jerry Lewis in WHO'S MINDING THE STORE? on what I believe is called "streaming video" (below). Yes, to answer your question, I'm very proud that I've learned how to deposit photographs I take onto the "internet."

Frasier, Briefly

Welcome once again to "Frasier, Briefly," the "blog's" regular feature anent all things Frasier. As longtime followers of "Frasier, Briefly" will no doubt recall, "Frasier, Briefly" often concerns the fact that Frasier is always finding reasons to remove his shirt. Well, it turns out that even though his show is off the air, Frasier star Kelsey Grammer continues to disrobe. I chanced upon several recent "internet" photos of a shirtless Kelsey Grammer cavorting with his new bride-to-be. I shan't burden you with them, as they are perhaps best left to examination by an expert, which is why I dispatched them posthaste in an urgent email to Kelly Hogan, who has not been heard from since.

Skipper Hat

Mr. Ward has come through with my request that he provide more details about his meeting with Alan Hale, Jr.! Writes Mr. Ward: "He not only put up with my request that he call me 'little buddy' and hit me with his Skipper Hat, but he laughed and acted like it wasn't the 5 billionth time some bonehead had asked him to do that. He also laughed at my smart alecky questions about what it was like working with the killer hand in the movie 'The Crawling Hand.' When the shoot was done a crowd had gathered and he happily signed every autograph and took every picture and hit everyone with his Skipper Hat who requested he do so. His wife told me he just really enjoyed being The Skipper and everything that went along with it and had no bitter feelings whatsoever. Bob Denver, though... sad clown." (That's right! Mr. Ward met Bob Denver, too.)

King of the Sad Clowns

I should mention that the sad clown illustrating the prior "post" is Barry B. "fave" Lon Chaney, in a publicity still for HE WHO GETS SLAPPED. I watched that movie with Barry B. and I want to say - spoiler alert! - the clown feeds somebody to a lion. I can't be making that up, can I? I am almost positive that's what happens! So he is pushed over the edge and goes from being a "sad clown" to a "scary clown," as so often happens. But let me make one thing clear: I am not interested in "scary clowns," so don't talk to me about them. The phrase "I'm scared of clowns" is, perhaps, as tired of a cliché as "the French love Jerry Lewis." Speaking of Jerry Lewis, if we throw FUNNY BONES and THE STOOGE in there, both of which have been discussed on the "blog" before, Jerry appears in over 25% of all known sad clown movies, assuming the statistics continue to hold. But certainly I am forgetting some! Have I left out your favorite sad clown? Send a postcard with the details to "Sad Clown" c/o "Writer" Oxford, MS 38655. Until things change, though, I am declaring Jerry "King of the Sad Clowns."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sad Clowns Are the New Hip Thing

Looks like I really lucked into something, getting in on the ground floor of the sad clown bonanza. Sad clowns are everywhere, man! If I were to give you investment advice, I'd say, "Put all your money in sad clowns!" As you know, I was way ahead on this trend. I'm almost getting tired of scooping our nation's paper of record so much. I feel bad for them! They're playing catch-up in today's New York Times, where the noted actor Geoffrey Rush says, "The thrilling thing was that we found the more intense the clowning, the more intense the comedy, the more intense the experience of pain and alienation." Yeah, that's what sad clowns always say. Mostly I want the sad clowns to shut up and do their little dance while I throw coins at their feet. Sad clowns!

Mr. Ward's Sad Clown/Happy Clown: A Study In Contrasts

A missive from Mr. Ward! He writes: "Your blog on sad clowns got me thinking about one of the weirdest sad clown movies I ever saw - 'WC Fields and Me.' It starred Rod Steiger, of course, because when you think comedy you think Rod Steiger. Anyhow, I only remembered two things about the movie. One – WC Fields became nauseated whenever he got anywhere near Charlie Chaplin. Two – Rod Steiger as WC Fields looks exactly like Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper from Gilligan’s Island) - whom I actually met once and who was in fact a very happy clown with no inner angst whatsoever." Thanks, Mr. Ward! If this still I found is any indication, the people who made the movie had just as much fun as you did watching it! PS Please send more details of your meeting with the Skipper. ASAP!

The Bieber Clarification

Are you a writer who enjoys pleasant experiences? Then you should try to get a gig at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. I gave a little talk there last night and they treated me like a king! They put me up in a luxurious apartment for starters. The previous guest? Lydia Davis! A person named Maria told me she had never seen a jacket as nice as mine except on B.B. King, which is probably the greatest compliment ever. After I did my little show in a beautiful auditorium, some of the students took me to a pizza place that had run out of pizza. So that was funny. We had salads and it was a good time. At one point, the booth behind ours was occupied by a large number of young rowdies who had become boisterous due to the imbibing of intoxicating liqueurs, unless I miss my guess. One of them was trying to clarify an opinion with which some of his friends had taken issue, and he bellowed forcefully: "I like Justin Bieber AS A PERSON!"

Egypt!

I know what you have been asking yourself: "When is the guy who 'blogs' about evil piñata movies going to weigh in on the situation in Egypt?" Okay! My mother-in-law just got back from Cairo, which is her hometown. She was there for the whole ruckus! She called us up and told us all the jokes people were telling in the square. My mother-in-law says that her fellow Egyptians will always find a way to laugh, even in the toughest times. It's one of their defining characteristics, she says. We're glad she's back!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crying On the Inside With Billy Crystal

Thinking about MR. SATURDAY NIGHT and Jerry Lewis led to contemplation of how many movies there are about how sad and lonely it is to be a comedian. There are some I just love (THE CIRCUS, THE KING OF COMEDY, STARDUST MEMORIES, THE PATSY) but the subject tends to make me irritable somehow. Like, "Who cares?" Like, "Shut up and do something funny!" Like, "Yeah, your job is really hard. To quote Larry Brown, 'How'd you like to paint a few houses while it's a hundred degrees?'" It's those darn sad clowns again! Movie comedians didn't invent them, of course. You are familiar no doubt with the sad clowns of opera, often referenced in pop songs (Smokey Robinson, for example, has a whole repertoire of "laughing on the outside, crying on the inside" numbers, one of which mentions Pagliacci directly). And Shakespeare did some shtick along those lines, didn't he? But the movies! I don't know. If I start naming them off the top of my head, I am likely never to stop. FOR THE BOYS, THE ENTERTAINER, THREE RING CIRCUS, THE JOKER IS WILD, LIMELIGHT (pictured), LENNY, SAWDUST AND TINSEL, FUNNY PEOPLE, MAN IN THE MOON, LA STRADA, THIS IS MY LIFE, PUNCHLINE... I'm not even scratching the surface yet, but oh, PUNCHLINE. I have a soft spot for a few of the movies I just named, but PUNCHLINE is not among them. That one really showcases the problem of movies ABOUT comedy. There are lots of shots of the audience IN STITCHES - I mean, doubled over and roaring in unbridled merriment! - at some supposedly hilarious routine that leaves us (the actual audience) cold, resulting in an uncomfortable feeling of spiritual displacement, yes, that's probably what it is, spiritual displacement, I am almost positive I have developed a case of spiritual displacement. Thanks for nothing, sad clowns! I have THE COMIC starring Dick Van Dyke loaded up on the dvr and ready to go, so expect more on this subject soon. I'll bet you're excited! My prediction is that there will be a scene in which Dick Van Dyke gets a pie in the face just after receiving some tragic news, because the show must go on! Or maybe there will be a lingering close-up of his sorrowful countenance as he methodically wipes the pie off his face.

I'll Go There on a Trolley

Made it part way into MR. SATURDAY NIGHT again. The things I go through for you. I achieved my goal of making it all the way to the Jerry Lewis cameo! Jerry arrives with a water glass stuffed into his mouth for humor [as seen in this still from HARDLY WORKING - ed.]. Then Billy Crystal's "character" makes a "the French love Jerry Lewis" joke. You know how I hate that! So lazy. So lazy, Billy Crystal! I think Jerry gets some revenge. He yells "FRANCE!" really loudly in his Jerry Lewis voice, so hard to replicate with mere typography. How can I express all the disdain for Billy Crystal that he packs into that one word? He is saying, "Oh! I never heard that one before! Wow, you're the greatest comedian ever!" But, you know, sarcastically. It's just dripping with cruel irony mixed with patented Jerry zaniness! A potent combination! It disrupts cinematic grammar the way Jerry likes to do in his own movies, and for a brief moment the story and the process of its making seem to blur and converge as in THE PATSY and many other Jerry films. Jerry - as he must! - takes control. He says "FRANCE! I'll go there on a TROLLEY!" and, babbling, dashes away. I would call it a subversive cameo, yes, that's what I would call it, and it all seemed to sail right over Billy Crystal's head.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Well

First it was Conrad Veidt, now it's CITY STREETS. James Wolcott is "blogging" about all the same things I am - well, two things. Anyway, I get to "post" this picture again. Oh, why don't I just hop in a time machine and go back to the early 1930s and shut my fat yapper and quit bothering you nice people all the time? I keep conveniently forgetting about the Great Depression. For starters.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Not All Fun and Games

But "The Chiseler" isn't all fun and games, kids. I'm just telling you! Like, it just informed me that the guy who wrote NAKED ON ROLLER SKATES died a "gruesome" death. I don't know the details and I don't want to know because I like to be happy all the time and you should too.

Chiseling

This time I read twitter and it wasn't about people dying for a change. Thanks to Phil (who coincidentally was "retweeting" my editor at THE BELIEVER, Ed Park), I found out about a "web" site called "The Chiseler." Why, it's right up my alley! For example, now they are displaying the same promotional still for DETOUR I showed you a while back. But wait, there's more! A nice little article on Aline MacMahon, who was so wonderful in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, recently under discussion here. That's not all (and remember, we haven't even "clicked" on "Older Posts" yet)! There's a tidbit about a woman who went to see a Cagney movie in 1931 and it shook her up so much she never saw another movie. AND SHE'S STILL ALIVE! Who knows, maybe that new Ashton Kutcher one will tempt her into breaking her streak. Or maybe I'm just feeling optimistic because "The Chiseler" is chiseling away... right into my stony heart, that is! Note to Megan Abbott and Sara Gran: y'all will love it too!

McNeil Is Still Worried About Everything

McNeil has been reading articles at cnn.com again, and as you know, it never turns out well for him. Now he is concerned about a giant secret planet that orbits the sun every 27,000,000 years, and every time it comes around to say hello, there's a "mass extinction" down here on good old Earth. McNeil is pretty sure our 27,000,000 years are just about up and we're all doomed. Doomed! Speaking of disasters, have you heard about this Broadway musical called SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK? It is about Spider-Man turning off the dark and ha ha ha, I just compared it to the end of human life and I've never even seen it. Turns out I'm just one of those jerks you hear about all the time. Speaking of the end of human life, Spider-Man keeps plummeting headlong into the audience from a deadly height, which is one of the problems this musical is having. Well, today in the New York Times, Vanessa Redgrave refers to that show as "Let the Light Come in From the Dark, Superman." She really seems to think that's the title! I was so happy to read that. First, it is fitting and dignified that she does not know the name of the show. Finally, it sounds like something my friend Lucy's mother would say, or something that everybody's mother would say. Adorable!

He Is You

Twitter is mainly to tell you when people die. I just found out from Maud Newton and She Blogged By Night that Kenneth Mars died! I liked Kenneth Mars a lot! Here is a picture of him from WHAT'S UP DOC (costarring Mr. Austin Pendleton!) in which Kenneth Mars is Hugh, and he says "I am Hugh," but it sounds like he is saying "I am you," with hilarious results. So long, Kenneth Mars!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentimes


(That's really how we used to pronounce it in Alabama!)

It's a Phase

Looking at that photo of myself, I find it hard to deny I've entered my "late Tennessee Williams" phase.

Giant Living Piñata of Happiness

I have it on good authority... wait, is this good authority? Mike Bulington told Kelly Hogan and Kelly Hogan told me. So that's third-hand information, right? But my informants are trustworthy. So I have it on good authority that Cee-Lo looked like "a giant living piñata" on the Grammy awards last night. Hogan facetiously inquires as to whether Cee-Lo starred in the evil piñata movie I have been watching. Had he, I am certain it would have been about a benevolent piñata who wants to entertain the people! On the same subject, an email from H. (another H., not Hogan!) came in, revealing her childhood fear of piñatas. "I got no candy and my hand was sliced open when a toy watch was snatched from my grip," she writes, so the fear is understandable! Hence H.'s theory that "all piñatas are evil."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Okay

Okay, now I am tired.

Big Plans For Fat Boy

Should I spend the entire day doing nothing but adding "labels" to my "posts"? Before you answer, allow me to give you an example! If the "post" is about an evil piñata, I will put a label at the bottom that says "evil piñata." This will make my "blog" easier to navigate for people who enjoy evil piñatas! All right! I agree! It is time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Photo by Blair Hobbs.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Your Final Piñata Report of the Evening

I promised myself I would make it to the part of the movie where the evil piñata comes to life, and I did. Let me say first that the score includes a synthesizer playing "Mexican Hat Dance" over a hip-hop beat. I would also like to observe that a couple of brothers (they have the same last name, anyway) apparently directed this movie, which is called PINATA: SURVIVAL ISLAND. They are like the Coen Brothers of evil piñata movies! So I should have seen this coming: after the evil piñata comes to life, it grabs a stick and starts whacking some poor dude. Because that's what we usually do to piñatas! But it's not candy that comes out this time. Here's the dialogue when they find the evil piñata: - "Let's crack it open!" - "We shouldn't!" - "It's a piñata!" - "You're right!" PS Based on the little I've seen, "Survival Island" is a terrible name for this island.

Evil Piñata Island

Okay! I am not kidding! The "present day" action of the evil piñata movie starts with a contest to find thousands of pairs of underpants that have been "scattered around the island."

The Sin-Filled Piñata

Wow! There is a lot of narration in this evil piñata movie! Here's a sample from the first few minutes: "As the sin-filled piñata floated away, the forces of nature continued to build." Don't worry, I paused it so I won't miss anything! I should tell you there is also a good piñata at the beginning of the movie, and a "village piñata maker."

Evil Piñata Alert

The evil piñata movie is coming on in like five minutes! It's on one of the "Showtime" channels.

$

McNeil sent me a youtube video of the kind I will NEVER "click" on. This time it turns out U.S. money has secret conspiracies printed on it in clever ways. Dr. Theresa says he also left me a phone message asking me to join the illuminati, but McNeil claims that she always puts a "spin" on his phone messages, so I don't know. See also. Also, see also. Ha! That dollar sign makes me think of an interview Eric Spitznagel did with the performer Ke$ha for VANITY FAIR. She explains how she has singlehandedly changed the meaning of the dollar sign! She says, "Whenever I’m walking by a bank and I see a big dollar sign, I just have to laugh to myself." Then Spitznagel makes me laugh by asking, "What banks have big dollar signs outside? Do you have an account with Scrooge McDuck?" And Ke$ha replies: "You know what I’m saying. A dollar sign isn’t just about money anymore. It’s also about glitter guns and whiskey." Hold on, people. We've seen how often flamboyant performers like Britney Spears are involved with the big conspiracies - every time, that's how often! - so maybe that chuckle should catch in your throat. Ke$ha is flaunting it! Right there in the middle of her name! What does she REALLY mean by "a dollar sign isn't just about money anymore"? I need to check that message from McNeil... UNLESS IT HAS BEEN ERASED.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

!

Mr. Ward writes in to say that our friend Kent's movie UNCLE KENT has been reviewed in THE NEW YORKER! Mr. Ward says the last line of the review is "only stillness and death await you." To which I respond "!" Anyway, that'll look good on the movie poster. It seems like a really nice review as far as I can tell from the abbreviated version available online. They compare Kent to a Henry James character, which is something I have never thought to do myself.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mom

Mom just called to tell me that an asteroid will be hitting the earth in 2036.

Lovable Old Cuss

Sometimes I think twitter is okay, usually when it is Maud Newton doing the twittering. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! See, I pretended not to know it's called "tweeting" because that makes me seem like a lovable old cuss! Speaking of lovable old cusses, it is thanks to Maud Newton's tweeting that I found out about a somewhat ornery and charming little discussion Larry McMurtry had about TRUE GRIT in its various manifestations. He doesn't seem to like the novel too much, which strikes me as pretty crazy, but he's a grown man and that's really none of my business! My favorite part is when Mr. McMurtry objects to a character who communicates by gobbling like a turkey: "It’s a cliché. There are too many films where a character gobbles." And his friend asks, "What films?" And Larry McMurtry abruptly changes the subject! I just love it for some reason.

Evil Piñata Movie

In case you're interested, there's a movie on RIGHT NOW about an evil piñata. It stars Jaime Pressley and the guy from the TV show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Here is some dialogue: "I saw those footprints. They had hooves. Legend says that the piñata has hooves and the actual heart of a pig." Then somebody else says, "Does the legend say anything about it coming to life?" Then the guy from BUFFY looks reflective and says, "Not that I recall." And Jaime Pressley says, "Then how do you explain that?" So I infer that at this point in the movie the piñata has already come to life, but Jaime Pressley sounds pretty calm about it! In fact, everybody seems strangely nonchalant. They're chatting! That's what they're doing: sitting around a campfire casually chatting. And then somebody else says, "When we broke it open we could hear the cries and suffering of a whole village. That's exactly what it sounded like." In case you're interested!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Doppelganger Country

I am rereading COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER by Loretta Lynn before teaching it to some graduate students, or as they are sometimes called by the more whimsical and capricious among us, "grad students." Last time I mentioned the book, I told you about a UFO in it. Well, get this! I guess I forgot it also has a doppelganger in it, or as I like to call it, a doppelgänger. Thank goodness for the "blog" someone on the "internet" had the foresight to produce an illustration of the very alive Ms. Lynn looking like a ghost for no reason! Our scene begins as young Loretta is playing a Halloween prank: "We were rubbing soap on the windows of Tillie Dollarhide, who lived just up the holler. I could see her working in the kitchen. Suddenly I looked down in the yard and saw that same woman walking by some rocks in her garden."

Bob Hope's Personal Valet

Well, this story in the New York Times isn't funny, because there's a guy out of work. But there are lots of interesting parts. Did you know, for example, that there is something called "Pretty Woman Syndrome"? The movie PRETTY WOMAN made "some shoppers hesitant to enter upscale stores, afraid of being humiliated by snooty sales clerks." So they hired this guy to stand on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills and shout encouragement to people! Now they've let him go. But here's the main thing: he used to be Bob Hope's personal valet! I think someone will give him a new job. He seems to have a lot of spirit.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bieber!

This Justin Bieber article is filled with amazing quotations! "Yesterday he punched me in the stomach and he said, 'You’re a beast.' In Justin’s world, that means, 'You are amazing and thank you very much.' So I take that." Wow!

Scooter!

I just found out from the New York Times that Justin Bieber's manager is named Scooter! Why didn't I know this already? Scooter!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Jack's Daily Movie Guide For Insomniacs

Here is the part where I tell you about how I couldn't sleep and what movies happened to be on TV when I couldn't sleep. I know you don't care! But did you ever think about the fact that I don't care that you don't care? Because I don't care. I have never seen GOOD WILL HUNTING. Nothing against it! It just slipped through the cracks for me somehow. So I saw the end of it last night when I couldn't sleep, and I must say it is shot something like a horror movie. When I came in, there was Robin Williams sitting at his desk, writing something on a piece of paper. He turned his back on Matt Damon to do so. Then Matt Damon rose and LOOMED BEHIND HIM. I knew better, but if I hadn't known better, I might have thought that Matt Damon was going to sneak up on Robin Williams and do something horrible to him. They hugged instead. Some friend of Robin Williams came to visit him at his office, and there was a similarly weird vibe. I don't know, the way it was shot as they walked off together, you had the feeling that only one of them was going to come back alive. Maybe it was the way his friend kind of laughed like a maniac barely holding it together earlier in the scene. Or the way they are framed as they depart: I think we end up seeing just their shoes, which feels ominous for some reason. Or maybe I was in a bad mood! Maybe this says more about me than it does about them! There was also a scene of Ben Affleck knocking on the door of a mysteriously quiet house and peering through the windows in a way that usually suggests in a movie that there is a dead body to be discovered inside. But there wasn't. And then Matt Damon spies on Robin Williams through his window in a manner suggestive of both VERTIGO and PSYCHO (the latter of which GOOD WILL HUNTING director Gus van Sant later remade, of course)! I reemphasize: GOOD WILL HUNTING is not a horror movie. It seems to be a "feel-good movie." When it was over, I flipped to MR. SATURDAY NIGHT, which is structured like so: David Paymer (for example) stares into the window of a diner (for example). Then there is a 20-minute flashback. Then we cut back to David Paymer still staring through the diner window, which erroneously gives the viewer the distinct feeling that David Paymer has been standing there like a statue for 20 minutes, just staring and staring with a certain blank intensity which would certainly be unsettling for the patrons of the diner. MR. SATURDAY NIGHT did what hardly any other movie has ever done: made me feel like getting back into bed! So I did. I didn't even make it to the Jerry Lewis cameo! Luckily for me, Kent Osborne drew a version of MR. SATURDAY NIGHT over on that place where he draws movies. Above is one of Kent's drawings of MR. SATURDAY NIGHT.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Famous Sausage & Peppers

Thanks to our friend Joey who supplied certain exotic ingredients from a faraway land (Memphis) I was able to make my famous sausage and peppers tonight, as famously seen on Maud Newton's "blog." Looking back, I notice some mistakes in the recipe as originally recorded for posterity. 1) Don't let the garlic get brown and bitter! Are you crazy? Add it AFTER the peppers and onions, and let it get a deep golden color, but not brown. 2) Yes, ALWAYS add dried basil after you add the tomatoes. 3) Put some sugar in there, too! People like sugar. 4) Kelly Hogan is the one who told me to scrape the brown bits off the inside of the pot into the sauce. Why didn't I give her credit?

It All Makes Sense!

Wait! I recently watched a movie called DOPPELGANGER. Meanwhile, Kent Osborne reports on the existence of TWO Mike Henrys in town during the filming of GHOST STORY, which, like DOPPELGANGER, features a gooey skeleton! That makes TWO Mike Henrys and TWO gooey skeletons! Stay with me. Mike Henry played Jackie Gleason's son in the Smokey and the Bandit films, as Kent points out. Barry B. has made the observation that in Smokey and the Bandit II - note the TWO! - Jackie Gleason plays his original character's TWO brothers... to quote Barry B., "One looked and acted like Rip Taylor and the other was a singing mountie." NOW! What about the conspiracy theorist who has been quoted on the "blog" as asking why Lindsay Lohan is "in so many movies where she is either a twin, plays 2 people or switches personalities"? Lindsay Lohan, like Drew Barrymore (star of DOPPELGANGER) started out as a child star. Charlie Sheen, who has been suffering problems similar to Ms. Lohan's (and formerly, Ms. Barrymore's!), is on a show entitled TWO and a Half Men. COINCIDENCE? Then HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS? Just recently, the "blog" noted the deaths of TWO MEN NAMED CHARLIE, one of whom was on a TV show called SWITCH, which shared its name with a MOVIE ABOUT PEOPLE SWITCHING PERSONALITIES (as first noted in a "post" about a movie with the DOUBLE name AUTHOR! AUTHOR!)! That's right, TWO entertainment products called SWITCH, alluded to in a "post" about a movie with a DOUBLED title. The first time Kent and his brother Mark went to the Cannes film festival, they sent me a video of someone they called "Le Jack": a French accordion player (LIKE ME!) with MY ANNOYING FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND MANNERISMS. I can't show you that video because IT HAS DISAPPEARED! And HOLY COW I just had to come back and edit this "post" because I just remembered that Craig Wasson plays TWINS in GHOST STORY, plus he was the star of the movie BODY DOUBLE, which comes DIRECTLY BEFORE the DOUBLY titled BOEING BOEING in the alphabetical list of movies that have been mentioned on this "blog"! It all makes sense, people! It's right in front of your faces and YOU REFUSE TO SEE IT! There are some kind of global shenanigans going on, and the "blog" is being set up to take the fall!

The Two Mike Henrys

Kent Osborne confirms that GHOST STORY was shot in his hometown when he was a kid, yet his story only adds to the swirl of mystery surrounding our strange human brains with their ephemeral memories or whatever all these "posts" have been about, but probably that. Kent writes: "I did meet Fred Astaire, Patricia Neal, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, AND John Houseman, but at the time, I didn't know who they were so my mom was more excited than I was. I also remember meeting Mike Henry, who played Jackie Gleason's son, Junior, in the Smokey and the Bandit movies and I was REALLY excited to meet him. I remember asking if he ever got his fly zipped up (a reference to the first Smokey and the Bandit). Anyway, I always thought he was a producer on Ghost Story, but I just checked IMDB and the Mike Henry who played Junior wasn't involved with Ghost Story. There is however, ANOTHER Mike Henry, who worked as a production assistant, so now I'm really confused. There are two Mike Henrys? And both of them were in Woodstock, Vermont, during the shooting of Ghost Story? That's really weird, right? Anyway, that's my Ghost Story story!"

Disillusionment

Wow, this book is falling apart, just like me. It's a paperback from 1981 (coincidentally, the same year GHOST STORY - mentioned in the previous "post" - came out. Also in that previous "post," the Paul Schrader incident that this book corroborates). It's called THE CRAFT OF THE SCREENWRITER by John Brady. In it, Brady interviews several successful screenwriters, including Schrader. Man, this book is falling apart. It's in pieces. I guess that proves it! Computers are great and books are terrible, just like everybody says. On the other hand, I have lots of other books from 1981 that are in perfectly fine condition. Did I read this one a lot? Maybe, on the evidence that I recall the Schrader incident so vividly. But it looks like the real problem is some extremely cheap glue that failed to act as binding. Get your act together, Simon and Schuster! The important thing is that I was right: Schrader recalls sneaking in to see THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR "with a couple of friends. We were all quite disappointed. There was nothing nearly as sinful as we had been led to believe." Such disillusionment! Maybe that's why in the next paragraph he says, "I don't see movies as anything special... How can you believe in movies any more than you believe in the telephone? It's a tool that you can use. Also, when other kids were sitting in darkened theaters being fed pablum, I was reading and engaged in more stimulating pursuits." Well, la-di-da for you, Paul Schrader!

Ghost Story

Up before dawn again! Watching GHOST STORY on one of the movie channels! GHOST STORY, I am almost certain, was the first R-rated movie I ever saw in a theater. And how happy I must have been to discover that it fulfilled all my boyish expectations of R-ratedness: the ghost (pictured) really likes to take off her clothes A LOT! If I am recalling something I read a million years ago correctly, Paul Schrader (whom Dr. Theresa and Megan Abbott discuss in their recent interview) had a strict religious upbringing that disallowed movie watching. And one day he slipped away to go to the movies and see what all the fuss was about. (Please note, I am telling this story from what I laughingly call "memory" and may have several details wrong. Maybe I will double check the facts for you later. Or maybe I won't! This is the "internet"!) I want to say that Schrader ended up going to see the Disney film THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR and founded himself sad - maybe even angry? - about its pervasive inoffensiveness. So I am sorry he did not have my GHOST STORY experience. But also: he is crazy! Fred MacMurray has a FLYING CAR in that movie! And he puts this stuff (flubber) on the soles of people's shoes and they can JUMP REALLY HIGH! And Keenan Wynn plays the classic Disney villain Alonzo P. Hawk. Learn to relax and enjoy yourself, Paul Schrader! Treat yourself to some popcorn and Milk Duds! And now let us return our attention to GHOST STORY. Like all movies I have been watching lately, it has a gooey skeleton in it. I also want to say that GHOST STORY was filmed in Kent Osborne's hometown in Vermont. I seem to recall that he told me a funny story from his childhood about that. I'll let you know if he reminds me! Finally, GHOST STORY stars Fred Astaire, which makes me so old that I went to see a Fred Astaire movie when it opened at the theater.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Ice Cube, Part Three

I haven't finished watching that Jimmy Fallon interview with Ice Cube, sorry! BUT when I got home from teaching yesterday, Ice Cube's movie TRESPASS was on one of the movie channels as if to remind me of my neglect. I am ashamed to say I fell asleep on the couch while it was on! I don't blame TRESPASS. I blame all the giving I do with the teaching and learning.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ice Cube, Part Two

When I phoned McNeil to tell him about my Ice Cube "post," can you guess what he was doing? That's right: listening to Ice Cube! I like to keep you informed.

Ice Cube, Part One

You know about McNeil and how he loves Ice Cube so much. Well, late last night it came to my attention that Ice Cube was going to be a guest on the television program of young Jimmy Fallon, a show I have never seen before. The news sent me scampering for the dvr, for I knew that McNeil would not be up to watch the Jimmy Fallon program either, no, at that time of night McNeil wanders up and down the stairway in a nightcap, with a sputtering candelabra held aloft, in a deep slumber, unaware of his surroundings, moaning to himself. So now I am fast-forwarding through the Jimmy Fallon show to see what Ice Cube has to say for himself these days, because I know McNeil will want to know. Is "fast-forwarding" still a word the kids use? Maybe I am "shuttling." When Ice Cube came out, he immediately started talking about snow, and he talked about snow A LOT, and I found that significant because the last time I "blogged" about him I also "blogged" about snow. Significant! Then Ice Cube gave Jimmy Fallon his pastrami sandwich recipe, and I decided to stop the dvr and come in here and give you part one of my report.

Patty and Doris

I don't know what it looks like on your computer, because I don't understand computers, but on my computer I have lined up that last "post" so that it appears Doris Day and Patricia Hearst are staring at each other across a gulf of words, and both of them are saying, "Hmmmmmmmm?" I'm very proud of myself. Kind of reminds me of this.

Interview with the Dr.


Hey, look at this! It's an interview that Megan Abbott did with Dr. Theresa. They talk about Patricia Hearst and Doris Day, natch!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Big Doings at the Shoe Factory

Watching the shoe factory show. Here are some lines of dialogue from tonight's episode: "He's got it all figured out." - "Got what figured out?" - "Shoes."

Doppelganger!

Should I tell you about a Drew Barrymore movie called DOPPELGANGER? I probably should not. I know I am always giving you "spoiler alerts" and ha ha ha, isn't that cute? But to properly tell you about DOPPELGANGER I would be obliged to use nothing but spoilers all the time, real ones that will ruin the movie for you. Okay, I am going to do it! So don't read this! So Drew Barrymore is being followed around by a doppelganger, or as I like to call it, a doppelgänger. There is a cat in the movie, so right away you know something bad is going to happen to the cat. That's the one thing I can't stand about movies like this! Any time there is a cat, you are like, "Oh well. Too bad for that cat." And then you have to close your eyes during the dramatic scene when they come around a corner and discover that something bad has happened to the cat. DOPPELGANGER makes it over an hour before something bad happens to the cat, long enough for you to think, "Hey! Maybe that cat is going to be okay." But your thought on the matter would be incorrect. There is a kind of Scooby Doo ending in which we find out there is a logical explanation for all the mumbo jumbo that has been going on. It's what I might also call a Brian De Palma ending, in that the "logical explanation" is like a crazy parody of logical explanations in movies, and there are lots of rubber masks involved, bringing it back to Scooby Doo. BUT THAT'S NOT REALLY THE ENDING! After the "logical explanation" ending - I am serious, DON'T READ THIS! - Drew Barrymore suddenly turns into what seems at first like a worm! Or maybe it's the monster from the movie THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE. May I emphasize that this comes out of nowhere? The "worm" is really a kind of cocoon, out of which pop two extremely tall skeleton-like creatures. Stay with me! One of the tall, gooey skeletons (with whiskers or tentacles or something dangling from its chin) slaps the other one down onto the couch, and the latter skeleton creature just lies on the couch for the remainder of the scene. Skeleton creature #1 proceeds to take care of business! She swats the bad guy through a stained glass window. He flies through the air and is impaled on an iron fence, of course. I had to tell somebody. There had been a lot of green light and red light and blue light in the movie which made me think somebody was going for a Mario Bava sort of feeling, and when the bad guy landed on the fence I took that as confirmation. There is also a creepy music box. And to conclude, I present you with the almost touching detail that when people in this movie are afraid the doppelganger is going to get them, they most often choose to defend themselves with a baseball bat! Like a baseball bat is any match for a dopplelganger. (Pictured: Drew Barrymore's boyfriend's wisecracking sassy best friend finds a knife in a bunch of green light in DOPPELGANGER.)