Monkey friend and movie critic Christian Toto was a guest on the Dennis Miller show this week to preview the summer movie season.
Wolverine: Will do blockbuster business. Good action, wish the story wasn't as complicated as it was.
Star Trek: Trekkies need to have a bit of an open mind.
Angels and Demons: Not a fan of the books, so the movies have left Christian a bit cold.
Terminator: Anything with Christian Bale is worth watching, and the trailer looks awesome.
Night at the Museum: Kids will drag parents to see it, but great cast is on hand to entertain adults. "If there's one can't-miss film, this is probably it."
Transformers: Megan Fox will be in it. So no worries. Predicts $100-plus in the first weekend.
Harry Potter: The movies have been getting darker and more complex as they go along. Eager to see Jim Broadbent do another classic character actor turn.
Risky Summer films: The new Borat film, "Brüno." We also may see this summer that Judd Apatow has running out of creative gas.
Be sure to listen to the whole thing. The funny and smart banter is not to be missed.
Ramesh Ponurru at the Corner wonders how it's possible that lawyers who wrote memos offering legal advice about interrogation could be prosecuted, and what they could be prosecuted for.
"It seems hard to believe that you would ever be able to prove that they knowingly misdescribed the law," writes Ponurru. "And if they sincerely believed the law to say what they said it said, then of what offense could they be guilty?"
I'm no lawyer, but I do know my David Mamet plays...
(Click "read more" below the icons for the rest of this post)
Ed Harris plays John Yoo in the film adaptation David Mamet's "Glen bin Laden, Glen Bush," a gritty drama about Justice Department lawyers struggling to please their bosses after 9/11.
I was too busy today to post this awesome video earlier (Mrs. Zaius stumbled upon it early this morning), but since Earth Day is still here, it's not to late!
The great Lewis Black crystallizes in a hilarious four-minute, 30-second comedy routine the absurd propaganda surrounding this faux holiday and the environ-indoctrination of our children. (Via the free-market, anti-globalwarmism heroes at OpenMarket.org)
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|Back in Black - Kids' Earth Day|
... and they are positive. At least from the British Press (despite the gratuitous hit on Bush and the equally gratuitous Obama love in the review).
A lot of the fun for those of us that remember the original TV show is spotting just what’s been changed. For everyone else the fun will consist if watching one of the most unashamedly entertaining science fiction movies in quite some time. Take plenty of popcorn. It’s that kind of film.
See, Joel? I'm a kind monkey who puts down the poo at times to appreciate pop culture.
There's been quite a bit of chatter about the great George F. Will's screed about the "Demon Denim," published in The Washington Post. It's sad, really, watching a great writer like Will turning into Grandpa Simpson right before our eyes.
I was thinking of ripping Mr. Will (gently, of course), but it would be impossible to top the great James Lileks — who has great respect for Will, but does not have gentle kindness in his heart as he lets the ripping fly.
A taste of Lileks' genius:
In this installment he decides to go after “denim,” a newfangled fabric that has been scaring the horses and causing scandal on the Boardwalk. Adults shouldn’t wear “demon denim,” as the title calls it. Gentle advice: when you have a pointy head, donning a dunce cap just doubles the problem.
I love Fred Astaire, but I’m not going to wear a tuxedo to the grocery store. Fred was a paragon of style, yes; Fred never had a job that required a camera, a cell, a video camera, extra batteries, and other items that need many pockets. I hate to say it, but Fred’s job consisted of dancing, a profession for which “roominess in the seat and leg” is important. Does this mean I can blame him for the moral decline that lead directly to the Zoot Suit Riots?
Read the whole thing. You can't help but laugh.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a decent video of Belle and Sebastian's song "For the Price of a Cup of Tea" for this post after looking for about 38 seconds. So sue me ... for all the money I make posting at this site. You'll be the proud owner of zero cents.
The song, though, is apt for Wednesday's activities ... at least in the title. For the price of a cup of tea, an important statement is being made. It's my theme song for tomorrow ... though the lyrics are about bedding a young lass. (Like there will be no hook-ups to come from the rallies.)
Anyway, here you go ... my excuse to expose Infinite Monkeys readers to a fun, smart Scottish band.
Lisa Schmeiser of Filthy Commerce joins Ben and Joel in this edition of the podcast to discuss:
• Why tax hikes are inevitable -- and not just for the "rich";
• How America's days of enjoying cheap, Chinese-made imports are likely numbered;
• Americans' unhealthy obsession with "stuff"... lots and lots of stuff;
• What Joel really thinks about Glenn Beck;
• What Ben really thinks about Disney's shareholders;
• How Pixar has broken the tension between art and commerce.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Innit for the Money," by James Mathus and His Knockdown Society (from National Antiseptic)
• "The World Is Gone," by the Peter Thomas Sound Orchester (from The In-Kraut, Vol. 3)
• "Don't Let Money Be Your God," by the James Taylor Quartet (from Creation)
• "I'm Payin' Taxes, What am I Buyin'," by Fred Wesley and the J.B.s (from Funky Good Time: The Anthology)
A friend of mine who was recently kicked to the curb by The Rocky Mountain News (not Rick) hipped me to this great musical video number about what might save American newspapers. It's worked Britain's The Sun, so why not?
What the heck is The Incomparable? It's a new Web site brought to you by the jackasses who published TeeVee.net for about 12 years until everyone got tired of it and could barely summon the energy to click on the bookmark link in their browsers.
Instead of being limited to just television, The Incomparable will discuss all kinds of pop culture crap -- movies, music, TV, books, comics, whatever.
• Meghan McCain and the pros and cons of "sickening bipartisanship";
• How Dungeons & Dragons may be an apt metaphor for political polarization in these crazy times;
• Whether President Obama's new Afghanistan policy really advances America's strategic interests;
• Why the Battlestar Galactica series finale still disappoints Joel a week later and why Jason thinks Joel is all wet;
• And what's in everybody's Netflix queues.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Taxi Driver: A Night Piece for Orchestra-Prelude," by the Los Angeles Philharmonic (from Bernard Herrmann: The Film Scores)
• "H.T.," by Tsuneo Imahori (from the Trigun: The First Donuts OST)
• "Starman," by John C. Reilly (from the Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story OST)
• "Meet The Flintstones," by the Monty Alexander Trio (from Triple Treat, Vol. 1)
Here's another reason to come down on the side of goodness in the Billy Mays vs. Vince battle of the ubiquitous cable-TV pitchmen. A good and proud native of Pittsburgh would never be caught in the situation Vince found himself in — allegedly soliciting prostitution and then allegedly assaulting said alleged prostitute.
Vince Shlomi is colloquially known as "that creepy guy from the ShamWow commercials" -- you know those dumb super-absorbent cloths that go for $19.99 plus shipping and handling (if you act now!). He's currently on top of the infomercial world, and enjoying all the perks that come with it, like stays on South Beach and prostitutes.
The Smoking Gun today reveals that in February Shlomi was arrested after a violent confrontation with a prostitute at the Setai. He met the working girl, Sasha Harris, at a club and took her back to his fancy $750-a-night room around 4 am. He offered her $1000 for sex, and proceeded to kiss her, but Harris bit down on his tongue and wouldn't let go. So he punched her until she released. Harris was left with lacerations and bruises on her face. Shlomi sustained minor injuries as well.
As the story notes, the alleged prostitute allegedly roughed up Vince, too — as you can see in the photo below. You followin' me camera guy?
One of the more shocking aspects of this story is that Vince is 44 years old. 44! Nice 20-something punk haircut you've got for TV, Vince. You phony.
Monkey Robb tipped me to a post featuring the awesome trailer below. It's for a new Japanese CGI-animation series called (forgive me) "Cat Shit One," which evidently has something to do with an elite military unit of cute, furry animals. Believe me, Hollywood could not possibly do this better. I don't know what most of it means, but after seeing this, I guarantee that the next animal we adopt in the Boychuk household will be named "Botasky."
Here are the first few paragraphs of Paul LaRocco's story in the Press-Enterprise:
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Kyle Brodie matter-of-factly read the name Wednesday in a roll call of small-time suspects: the unlicensed driver; the work-release probationer.
"No answer," yelled the bailiff.
With that, the mobster-turned-FBI informant -- whose life inspired the movie epic "Goodfellas" -- was facing two $25,000 arrest warrants.
Once linked to an NCAA point-shaving scandal and a $5 million airport heist, Hill at age 65 is wanted for failing to appear on tickets alleging that he was drunk in public in San Bernardino.
"I would have been asking for his autograph," said Desiree Gallegos, 27, who was in the courtroom for a suspension of house arrest terms.
Reached by phone later in the day, Hill said he was unaware he needed to be present. He said he had visited the downtown court on Monday to advise the clerks that he would be having hernia surgery later this week and wanted a new date.
"I was hoping the court would understand," Hill said from his San Fernando Valley home. "I did a few days in jail already."
Looks like he's going to do a few more. Hill has lived quite a life since he testified against his old Luchese crime family pals and went into witness protection. He was booted from the Witness Protection Program not long after GoodFellas came out because he was caught up in the drug trade... again. In fact, Hill has been arrested several times over the years on narcotics charges, including as recently as 2005. (Jimmy Conway was right!) Hill is a consultant and frequent caller to the Howard Stern show -- or so I've read.
Liotta's last lines in the picture sound awfully prescient: "Today everything is different; there's no action... have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody... get to live the rest of my life like a schnook." A schnook and a drunk.
By the way, Hill looks nothing like Liotta. Or, rather, Liotta looks nothing like Hill. If I had to cast the role of Henry Hill in the GoodFellas sequel, I'd want Harvey Keitel or Zombie Jonathan Harris.
Just Ben and Joel this week, discussing whether funnyman Jon Stewart's confrontation with frenetic finance guy Jim Cramer heralds a new populism or simply proves that Cramer is a boob. Maybe the Daily Show hasn't lost its mojo after all?
Also, is Ross Douthat the perfect conservative for the New York Times?
Finally, will e-books replace traditional books? Is the Kindle worthwhile? Ben and Joel talk about reading on the iPhone -- and what they might do in the event of a cataclysm of some sort.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Apes of Wrath," The Space Cossacks
• "Homey, You're Wasting Ammo," Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet
• "Thé à la menthe," Nikkfurie La Caution
• "Time is Tight," The Clash
I was familiar with Silver's work often-intense work here and there — but he really hit my radar upon Bill Clinton's election. He infamously said to his fellow military-hating Hollywood peaceniks who were appalled about a celebratory fly-over at Clinton's election in 1992: "Those are our planes now." He got less shallow, and a lot braver in his politics among the Hollywood crowd.
I think there are September 10 people and there are September 11 people. I’m one of the latter. Everything changed for me. Since then I see everything through the prism of what happened that day.
That's something he so believed in, he switched from hard lefty to center-right. And did it without apologies. Silver even spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention:
Responding to attacks on our soil, America has led a coalition of countries against extremists who want to destroy our way of life and our values.
This is a war we did not seek.
This is a war waged against us.
This is a war to which we had to respond.
History shows that we are not imperialists . . .but we are fighters for freedom and democracy.
Even though I am a well-recognized liberal on many issues confronting our society today, I find it ironic that many human rights advocates and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to protest repression, for which I applaud them but they are usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they
Under the unwavering leadership of President Bush, the cause of freedom and democracy is being advanced by the courageous men and women serving in our Armed Services.
The President is doing exactly the right thing.
That is why we need this President at this time!
I am grateful for the chance to speak tonight to express my support for our Commander-in-Chief, for our brave troops, and for the vital cause which they have undertaken.
General Dwight Eisenhower’s statement of 60 years ago is true today . . .
“United in this determination and with unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with God’s help, go forward to our greatest victory.”
Well said, and bravely, Mr. Silver. You were a patriot. Rest in Peace.
... but it's not that stupid.
As gay as the Bee Gees have become in popular culture (in both senses of the term), the brothers were genius at writing pop songs. And, if music critics are honest, their songs hold up — not just for the sake of kitsch, but for their enduring quality.
The Bee Gees actually recorded a video for "Stayin' Alive" before MTV was invented. I present it here. Don't hit "play" unless you have an open mind (or, at least, a sense of humor).
Full disclosure: Mrs. Zaius, as a 9-year-old, sent a fan letter to Barry Gibb — which her mother was wise enough to save for posterity and present to me a couple of years ago. Obviously, that did not become grounds for divorce (lucky for me, Barry did not write Jackie back. He's dreamy!).
Dan Moren at Macworld has a righteously indignant piece about a silly decision by the faceless mandarins and arbiters of taste at Cupertino. Writes Moren:
Apple has struck a new level of bizarreness when it comes to approving submissions to the App Store. On Tuesday, Loren Brichter of atebits, developer of popular iPhone Twitter client Tweetie said via Twitter that Apple had rejected the latest update to the app because it contained an obscenity; he later confirmed that in an e-mail to Macworld.
Here’s the catch: the obscenity was in Tweetie’s Trends feature... which scans the social networking to find the most popular keywords that people are talking about (and no, the obscenity in question was not "Kindle," smartypants). If there’s a naughty word in that section, it’s not because Tweetie’s developers put it there, but because people on Twitter were talking about it. It’s akin to rejecting the app because somebody was posting swears to their Twitter feed.
The story is comical -- I'm sure the developer is laughing to keep from crying. But Moren raises (and re-raises) some valid questions about just how Apple approves the apps it allows for sale in the iTunes Store.
Conservatives are very good cultural critics. There are whole journals devoted to criticism from a conservative perspective. The New Criterion, the Claremont Review of Books, Arts and Letters Daily, and The American Spectator are all essential reading. And bloggers are a rich source of material as well, with the likes of Terry Teachout, James Bowman, and S.T. Karnick, dispensing their wisdom daily.
And then you have "critics" like the embarrassing Debbie Schlussel stinking up the blogosphere.
Here is how Schlussel begins her "review" of Watchmen:
If you take your kids to see "Watchmen," you're a moron.
If you see it yourself, you're also probably a moron and a vapid, indecent human being.
It goes downhill from there. Debbie is... well, she's a yeller. She makes Ann Coulter look like Clare Booth Luce. I'm not a fan of either lady. I only read Schlussel's "Watchmen" piece because Big Hollywood linked to it and because, obviously, I'm a glutton for punishment. Here's Schlussel's follow-up piece. It's even worse than the review. It's just a string of ad hominem attacks.
And talk about patronizing. Schlussel asserts, without much in the way of evidence, that the filmmakers are marketing "Watchmen" to kids. Well, no, not really.
(Update: The great John Nolte argues that the producers of "Watchmen" are, in fact, marketing to kids and he points to the fact that Toys R Us is selling $17 action figures. I don't want to pick a fight with Nolte, whose work I greatly admire, but I do quibble with him in the comments section of his Big Hollywood post.)
That said, Schlussel is half right. You would have to be a fool to take your children to see it. I'm well acquainted with the source material, but even if I'd never heard of Alan Moore's mid-'80s mini-series-cum-graphic novel, I'd know that "Watchmen" is no ordinary superhero flick. It's rated R, after all. Not that I let the Motion Picture Association of America tell me how to think, but it's a start. The film's director is Zack Snyder, master of the slo-mo decapitation. And the movie's advertising makes clear that the subject matter is not for children, costumes notwithstanding. Schlussel sort of performs a service, detailing many of the graphic scenes in the film as a way to shame people away. She undermines her... well, I hesitate to call it an "argument." Her overwrought screed? Anyway, she does herself no favors with the way she engages her readers.
I don't doubt that some stupid people will take their children to see the movie, not because they think it's remotely appropriate for their kids or because it's "just a movie" but because they don't give a damn. I saw young kids at "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (don't ask). Those families are hopeless. Doomed. And Debbie Schlussel is still a shrieking harridan passing herself as a legitimate commentator. And she's successful!
Not that there isn't ample intelligent criticism of Watchmen's graphic violence and stilted dialogue to be found. Contrast Schlussel's ham-fisted, hysterical and insulting way of doing criticism with that of Anthony Lane:
The problem is that Snyder, following Moore, is so insanely aroused by the look of vengeance, and by the stylized application of physical power, that the film ends up twice as fascistic as the forces it wishes to lampoon. The result is perfectly calibrated for its target group: nobody over twenty-five could take any joy from the savagery that is fleshed out onscreen, just as nobody under eighteen should be allowed to witness it.
Not bad. Lane, of course, is a hopelessly decadent left-wing liberal writer for the New Yorker, so I wouldn't blame you for dismissing him out of hand. (Hmm. Perhaps I've been reading too much Schlussel.) Lane certainly doesn't understand the "comic book" as a medium any more than Schlussel does. "Incoherent, overblown, and grimy with misogyny, 'Watchmen' marks the final demolition of the comic strip," Lane writes, "and it leaves you wondering: where did the comedy go?" Where did the comedy go? Oh, brother.
The Washington Post's Philip Kennicott didn't like the movie, either. But he actually knows the graphic novel, and argues that Moore's magnum opus doesn't hold up:
"Watchmen" was fun, but also incredibly pretentious -- a word that hardly applies anymore to high culture, but sure comes in handy when dealing with pop culture's more desperate efforts to be taken seriously. By treating the original text as a sacred document, the movie is laughably pretentious, too. Just as the film version of "Lord of the Rings" reminded everyone of something they had forgotten since reading the book in high school -- Tolkein was a turgid writer -- the "Watchmen" movie can't help but expose the glaring problem with the "Watchmen" graphic novel: The dialogue stinks.
Despite the intellectual name-dropping, the quotes from Nietzsche, Blake and Juvenal ("Who watches the watchmen?"), the level of Moore's writing rarely rises above B-movie fare. It is silly and dated, the faded gibberish of an old-fashioned noire stylist (the kind who now works for newspapers). And it is filled with clichés.
Joe Morgenstern, whose politics are foreign to me but who writes for the culturally conservative Wall Street Journal's Arts and Letters page, is equally dismissive:
Unless you're heavily invested -- as countless fans and fervent fanboys are -- in the novel's flawed superheroes, its jaundiced take on heroism and its alternate vision of American history, watching "Watchmen" is the spiritual equivalent of being whacked on the skull for 163 minutes. The reverence is inert, the violence noxious, the mythology murky, the tone grandiose, the texture glutinous. It's an alternate version of "The Incredibles" minus the delight.
I'd argue that "The Incredibles" was an alternate version of "Watchmen," with much delight and without the nudity. But no matter. Roger Ebert loved "Watchmen." And Hunter Baker heaps praise on the comic book at S.T. Karnick's American Culture blog. Make of that what you will.
Finally, contrast Schlussel's shrill prose with that of two Big Hollywood contributors and comic book insiders, Bill Willingham and James Hudnell. Schlussel is a joke. Willingham and Hudnell are the real deal.
Zaius and I will see "Watchmen" at 10:45 on Friday morning. Reviews will follow here and at the American Culture.
Van Helsing at Moonbattery alerts us to a gobsmackingly Moonbatty story from the other side of the pond. Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is being performed in an "alternative" way in one east London school. To coincide with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) History Month, kids between the ages of 14 and 16 performed the play as, naturally, "Romeo & Julian."
No. I'm not kidding.
Why was this Shakespeare work — often the first exposure children have to his genius — re-imagined? Leytonstone School drama teacher Jo Letson explains that reworking the most famous play by the most famous son of Straford-upon-Avon was necessary to combat "homophobia and homophobic bullying."
Yes. A cast featuring men in tights and speaking all flowery just ... well, what, exactly? Does it make a typical child snicker? Certainly. Does it then follow then that this is a teaching moment against the horrors of "homophobia"? Apparently, to Liberals Gone Wild with political correctness. It's not as if modern society hasn't produced slews of gay-friendly plays for teaching moments — "Rent," for one. Why must Shakespeare be destroyed on the altar of political correctness?
Because the left is in the business of destroying traditional Western culture — upon which it will build its own, more "enlightened" age. It is not enough to merely teach tolerance. There must be intolerance for all that does not serve the agenda. Incorrect thought must be quashed at every front — to the point of rewriting history, and even Shakespeare.
To Jolly Old England's credit, not everyone in a position of power is as batty as Ms. Letson. Some members of Parliament are not pleased.
Calling for a debate on political correctness during questions on upcoming Commons business, Tory MP Philip Davies said: "This is mind-blowing."
"Anyone with an ounce of sense would want their children to be learning Romeo & Juliet rather than Romeo and Julian," Davies said.
The MP for Shipley in Yorkshire added: "Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest works ever written. It is a play that every child should study.
"It is very worrying that this literary masterpiece is being used for such a politically-correct purpose," he said.
Quite right ... indeed. Cheerio, chaps. Stand firm against twits in your presence, such as Commons leader Harriet Harman — who offered a rebuke to the objectors:
"I seem to remember that in Shakespearean times, boys would play girls and girls would play boys and the whole point was trying [to] work out which was which," Harman said. [Zaius: If that's what you think the "whole point" of Romeo & Juliet is, my dear, get thee to a nunnery!]
"There is going to be a debate next Thursday about new equality legislation so we can ensure everybody in this country is treated with fairness, respect and not subject to prejudice and discrimination - and indeed cheap shots - from you."
Oh, dear. Legislation — to be debated next week(!) in Britain — outlawing anything that doesn't adhere to Harman's idea of "fairness" and "respect." Objecting on the basis of tradition and (gasp!) freedom of thought? That's the stuff of "cheap shots," and no one should have the freedom to commit such crimes.
The season isn't quite right, but this is a "very midsummer madness." As The Bard himself might say, "something's rotten in
Denmark England" these days.
Everyone knew Harvey would never retire, but he had obviously cut back on active work years ago. Every time I'd happen to be on a station that was playing one of his "Rest of the Story" segments, or "Paul Harvey News and Comment," I was disappointed to hear a substitute host — his son, Paul Harvey Jr., or even Fred Thompson.
But I heard him give what is now one of his last broadcasts a week or so ago. I must say, as someone who enjoyed listening to Harvey, it was sad to hear his voice — once so confident and bright; now so sickly and weak. I thought to myself, he doesn't have long. Sadly, I was right.
When I was in junior high, I learned I could make people laugh with my Paul Harvey impersonation. Of course, that's an easy laugh. Just put on the Paul Harvey voice — exaggerated enunciation, HOLD OUT THOSE VOWELS!, and long pauses where they don't logically belong. And of course saying: "Paul Harvey ................................(make a face).............(make another face)........(look at your watch)...................(pick up something to read)............(take a sip of water)..............(then, finally say).........................Good Day!
It's funny, especially to a kid. But when Paul Harvey spoke on the radio, he had a knack for keeping your attention — which is what the radio game is all about. I'll miss Harvey's unique broadcast styling, his Midwestern accent, and his "Rest of the Story" stories — a genius piece of information and entertainment. He earned that Presidential Medal of Freedom Bush put around his neck above. Paul Harvey is an irreplaceable piece of Americana. A patriot. An icon.
Good Day, Mr. Harvey. Rest in well-earned peace.
(Erick Erickson has a nice tribute over at RedState)
Got this tribute in
just under the wire
Cash ain't burning
in no ring of fire
Here's to an American Original and a giant of popular music. There will never be another like him.
As a way off-to-the-side note, when I played semi-pro baseball in Virginia in the mid-90s, the coach would often play "Ring of Fire" as we warmed up just before the game. Strange selection, I always thought. Now I always think of playing baseball when I hear this song.
From a long, fascinating interview in Wired: "Looking at the superhero today, it seems to me an awful lot like Watchmen without the irony." There's lots more thoughtful stuff from the creator of Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
(Hat tip: John "HEM" Hodgman via Twitter.)
Monkey friend Christian Toto was a guest on The Dennis Miller Show on Monday morning. He reviews Hugh Jackman's performance as host, breaks down the winners and informs the world that Jerry Lewis received an honorary Oscar (I guess all those gay-bashing slips of the tongue are officially forgiven).
It's worth a listen.
First, Dirk "Faceman" Benedict emerged at Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood. Now, lo and behold, Dwight "Howlin' Mad Murdoch" Schultz is making the scene. Here's hoping Mr. T and Zombie George Peppard aren't far behind!