Tuesday, November 30, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kershner

Last Sunday I heard that comedy actor Leslie Nielsen died at the age of 84. Shortly after finding out about Nielsen I also read about Irvin Kershner dying the day before, Kershner was 87 years old. Both men have made significant contributions to pop culture, and to hear that they have both died is horrible.

Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010:
Did you know he was Canadian?

Leslie Nielsen was not a comedian. If he was forced to get in front of an audience on a stage he probably wouldn't have a single joke to tell. What he was, was a comedy actor. Nobody could work a gag like Nielsen. While his films may have been over-the-top and silly, he always kept a straight face. He understood that you didn't have to ham it up to get a laugh. He was like an old, silly uncle. Earnest in his convictions, but dumped into whatever situation the director threw him in (no wonder they cast him as Mr. Magoo).

He originally began his career as a serious actor, starring in such films as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure. Then Airplane! came, and forced Neilsen to reinvent his whole career. With the success of Airplane!, and his standout role as a doctor stuck on the doomed airliner. The Zucker brothers made Nielsen their go-to star. The Naked Gun film series further solidified Nielsen as a spoof movie king and guaranteed Nielsen work for the rest of his life. The movies may not have always been good, to be honest a fair amount of them were terrible, however Nielsen never phoned in any of his performances. He always managed to have fun on screen and it showed through. That and he got to play Santa Clause twice, which is one more time than award winning actor/director Richard Attenborough.

Irvin Kershner 1923-2010:

Lets get this out of the way, the reason why you should respect Kershner is because he directed The Empire Strikes Back, which is considered to be the best Star Wars film ever. Kershner managed to bring a humanity to Star Wars that all the other films missed. There's a reason why you are more emotionally invested in Empire than all the other Star Wars films, it's because it's the one that focuses on the characters more. Yes there's the badass battle of Hoth (recreated nicely in the Shadows of the Empire N64 video game), and there's the duel between Vader and Luke (as a kid I referred to Empire as "That movie where the guy gets his hand chopped off"), but those are only small parts of the film. Kershner made sure to focus on the characters we care about, not set pieces or people that would make kickass action figures. He populated the screen with characters we cared about.

The best of the Star Wars films.

Before Star Wars, Kershner was a respected film director. Though his work was not as well known as Empire, he made a nice name for himself on the small films he made. When the director asked Lucas why he was chosen to direct a Star Wars film, Lucas answered (according to Wikipedia), ""Well, because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood."

The next big movie after Empire was a James Bond film, titled Never Say Never Again. Never Say Never Again is interesting on two counts: it brought Sean Connery back in the role as Bond and it wasn't made by EON, Bond's usual production company. Not only did Kershner have the balls to make a Bond movie without EON, but he released it around the same time as Octopussy, Moore's second-to-last Bond film. While Octopussy made more money, Never Say Never Again still made $160 million and got a better score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Connery also got to make-out with Kim Basinger, Suck it Moore.

Kershner's next movie was Robocop 2, which managed to out-crazy the original film, directed by the insane Paul Vehoeven. Robocop 2 was darker, more violent, and a lot more over-the-top than the original film. Sadly, the film was not met with kind reviews or box office. The movie has grown in respect however, after the abortion Robocop 3 was released.

It's sad to see these two men pass, however, their cinematic legacy is still there for future generations to enjoy. I doubt Empire Strikes Back will be forgotten anytime soon, and Leslie Nielsen has made so many movies, he's bound to be on television at some point.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How to make Thanksgiving better

Thanksgiving: everyone's favorite or least favorite holiday, depending on how much you like your family. It's decent enough, with rich history and tradition. It gets lost though, with Christmas so close by. Here are some ways that I think will bring the awesome-sauce to Thanksgiving.

Tradition = lame.

1. Add presents for kids and/or alcohol for adults (note: don't give alcohol to children):

What makes a holiday worthwhile for kids? It's the presents, stupid. Whether it's candy or a new Transformer, kids will only care about a holiday if they get something out of it. I'm not calling kids materialistic, they're just spoiled brats. I'm not against kids, I love kids. Just imagine yourself when you were a kid, you were probably the biggest brat you knew. No kid gets excited about having dinner with extended family, it's just an aunt and uncle expansion pack to their normal, everyday dinner.

Adults on the other hand don't appreciate gifts as much. All they want is to get drunk as hell. From now on, after dinner there should be family-wide beer bong contest. Or, after cleaning off that table that somehow fit twenty members of your family, set up for beer pong. Make it festive and make the cups into turkey shapes (I can't for the life of me think of any other symbol for Thanksgiving). Maybe once your Aunt Margret gets drunk and tells you about the old days when black people stayed in their own part of town, the party will finally be fun. Halloween has spiked punch, Christmas has eggnog and Jagermeister, so it's about time Thanksgiving had it's own tradition.

It tastes festive, it looks festive, it has a reindeer on it. Good enough for me.

2. Liven up the parades:

Unless you are bored waiting for food or football, there is no reason to be watching the Thanksgivings Day parade. No kid likes Shrek enough to want to see a balloon of him go down a New York City street, almost taking out street lamps along the way. It's the same crap every year.

They need to find a way to make the parade radder. Get rid of the marching bands and musical numbers, make cooler floats, or add more fire. Really, there are so many ways to make people walking down a street more exciting. The floats are nothing more than Disney commercials on wheels anymore. Make floats battle like they're out of the movie Road Warrior, that would be cool. If not that, than at least speed it up. If the Mummers can't keep up than they should be run off the road. Anyone that dresses up like that deserves a beat down.

If a kid is watching he is waiting for one thing: Santa Clause. Santa is always at the end of the parade, so seeing him both signals the start of the Christmas season and the end of the parade (which is reason to celebrate enough). That's all the kid wants to see, his jolly, chubby, red-suited hero. So i demand that every five minutes of parade there should be someone dressed like Santa. In fact, every person holding the balloon in order to stop it from flying away or being taken by Batman should be dressed like Santa.

It's Santa, we can go home now.

3. Change up the food:

I'm sorry to break it to you but, according to Wikipedia, turkey was not a big part of the original Thanksgiving. There was also no mashed potatoes (my favorite part of the feast) and sure as hell no jellied cranberry sauce. So any ideas of food traditions are off. With that being said, let's spice it up. Thanksgiving tacos would be a good start. Or how about pizza, everyone loves pizza. And just like turkey, pizza is still good as leftovers. It's the perfect food. Or, if you want, make it a real first Thanksgiving. Clams, lobster, eels (pass the eel, please), or beetroot should all be on the menu if you want to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving. The point is, there is no set foods to eat on Thanksgiving, it's whatever you want to eat, even if it's sushi. Don't feel tied up by false traditions. Especially if that tradition demands jellied fruit out of a can.

What are you?!

4. Make it less about family:

Nobody likes their family. Nobody wants to be stuck with their family for a whole afternoon. The thing about being with our extended family is, it's a lot of work. We don't get to act like ourselves under the eye of our aunts and uncles, only putting on our best in case we're under scrutiny. It's not fun pretending to like your cousins for a few hours, the pretense is exhausting. And if you're the kind of person that has "My friends are the only family I need, they are my blood," written on some long forgotten instant messaging profile somewhere I have three words for you: get over yourself. Your family are your family, your friends are your friends. It's nice having Thanksgiving dinner with our friends, it might be more pleasant than being with your parents, but don't group your friends as family. No friend, no matter how horrible they are, deserves that insult.

No teenager wants to wear matching colors with their family.

5. Name it Black Friday Eve:

This one's easy and sounds like something Jay Leno would say when trying to warm his audience up. But it's true. You may be helping yourself to your second helping of corn, but in your mind all you're thinking about is when you should set up camp outside Best Buy. Let's face it, a large group of people are more concerned about saving money at Sears than enjoying quality time with people you're only forced to see once a year. Americans are ugly, materialistic people. So we should have a holiday, aside from Valentines day, to celebrate that. So lets make body-checking the mom next to you for the last Cabbage Patch Doll into a true tradition.

That Asian-dude in the middle has no idea where he is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Experiencing technical difficulties, please stand-by

I only just realized it was blog day, and to be honest I'm not in a real blogging mood. Sorry for the technical difficulties, please tune in next Friday for regularly scheduled programing. I think I'll write about "Ways to make Thanksgiving better." But for now, in the meanwhile, please enjoy these pictures of pandas.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Four Loko/Beatles on iTunes extravaganza

Ok, the two big stories this week were Four Loko having to remove the caffeine and the Beatles' now becoming available on iTunes. Frankly, I don't care about either topic and don't have enough of an opinion on either topic to fill up a blog post. So, I decide to lump them together into one mega-sized-super-combo-deal. Now you get double the opinion for the price of one click. On to the issues:

Four Loko:

It's crystal meth in a can!

In one can of Four Loko you can have the caffeine inducing power of being a tool with the alcohol inducing power of being a jerk. That is until the FDA had to ruin everyone's fun by declaring them unsafe. What a bunch of lames at the FDA (am I right?). How could having 12 percent of alcohol and a crap-load of taurine and guarana be a bad thing? It seems like the perfect drink for any 100 pound girl, waving the colorful can around the party like it's an "I'm about to blackout" flag. It's all the fun of jagerbombs without all the trouble of having to drop things into glasses. Not since Billy Dee Williams (that's Lando Calrissian to his friends) started slinging Colt 45 in the 80s has malt liquor ever been so cool.

It works every time.

Look, when it comes to partying you have to trust the resident experts. For me, that expert is Andrew W.K. Not only do all of his songs sound the same (but not in an annoying AC/DC way), but they all have to do with partying. Mr. W.K. tweeted last Wednesday "PARTY TIP: Stock up on cans of FOUR Loko before they take out all the caffeine." And if you ask me, whatever Andrew W.K. says goes. He is, by any definition, the man. He knows his partying.

Pictured: Partying. Hard.

Beatles on iTunes:

Nobody cares about you Ringo.

The recent Beatles news led many to declare, "Man, I didn't know the Beatles weren't on iTunes." The thing of it is, this isn't going to create any new Beatlesmania. Anybody who already cared about the Beatles probably already had them by some other means (R.I.P. Limewire). Others only know them from their crappy Rock Band expansion (those people are Philistines) and don't care how they can get their music. There's no reason why the Beatles couldn't be on iTunes to begin with, other than stubbornness. Now we're suppose to care and buy the White Album again because they tell us to. Hell, the Across the Universe soundtrack was already available on iTunes and that's all the brats nowadays care about anyway.

funny graphs - Verdict: Let It Be
see more Funny Graphs

The above flowchart, supplied by graphjam.com, perfectly illustrates my argument against caring about the Beatles. Don't get me wrong, I love the Beatles, I just don't care about this news. You may ask why I spent the time to type out an argument when this flowchart is the perfect expression of my opinion. The answer is simple, because I needed space to fill on this blog. And I wouldn't rob you, dear reader, of the opportunity to read my opinion.

Deer reader?

(photo from ladydlk's flickr)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Manhunt: More than just tag in the dark

I've always found it amusing, the games that kids make up to keep from being bored. I was one of those kids that always broke the rules so I wouldn't lose. If you shot me with your imaginary gun I'd say I had an imaginary bulletproof vest on. It's sufficient to say that playing Cowboys and Indians with me was never fun. As I got older I learned to play better with others. Which is good because the games just got better as we got older.

Back in the day, wall-ball was the best. A whole school yard could play, all you needed was enough wall space and a tennis ball (how cool did you feel being the tennis ball kid?). As we got older we realized that instead of throwing the ball at the wall we can try and hurt each other with it, and the suicide variant of wall-ball was created. Our school eventually banned the game because our grade got so out of hand. To this day there are probably still some confiscated tennis balls in our math teacher's desk.

My personal favorite was tag. Tag was great because it was an excuse to run around. There is no such thing as a lazy child at recess. Different kinds of tag sprung out of the basic "touch-somebody and-run" template that is so easy to remember. Freeze tag was great and TV Tag was a personal favorite, if only because I knew a lot of television shows. The person about to be caught would yell out a television show name to make themselves safe. The cool kids would yell out The Simpsons or Beavis and Butt-head. I would relegate myself to Diagnosis: Murder, Price is Right and Nash Bridges. You know, old people shows.

Don't hate.

There was one form of tag that went past the school yards and into the streets. It was a hybrid mixture of two amazing games: tag and hide and seek. It was tag's badass older brother that let you hang out in his room. Manhunt was the game, and it was the best. Fall was the best time to play. This is because it's not too cold where you need a big, poofy jacket and it wasn't too warm where you overheated yourself. Once you get into middle school, tag seems juvenile but manhunt is still acceptable. There were two rules for manhunt: it had to be at night and it had to be in a certain defined area. Once you get past those two rules you were free to run through whatever backyard you wanted to or hide in any tree you could. The neighborhood was now the playground and whoever knew it the best was probably going to win. Oh and try not to run out of bounds or you'll get yelled at by the opposing team and they'll never trust you to play the game again (bunch of babies).

Fritz Lang even made a film about it.

My town played team manhunt, which consisted of two groups of people. One hid and the other seek. Flashlights were a point of contention. The way my town mostly played, once you got caught you had to hold on to them and count "one, two, three you're my man." Sometimes skill in the game depended solely on the ability to count to three very fast. Caught members would be taken to whatever was designated as jail. The brilliant part was, people can be freed from jail by being tagged by an uncaught hider. The kid who jailbreaked his whole team was the hero for the night or the most hated, depending on which team you were on.

Picture unrelated.

There was one rule that everybody broke, babysitting. If you, dear reader, say that you never babysat the jail in your life then you are a liar. Babysitting, for the uninitiated, was staying next to the jail in order to guard the slow bastards that got caught, and to catch the athletic kids that cared enough to free them. Sometimes just looking at the base is enough to get called a babysitter, and therefore a cheater. Games lasted either until everybody was found or until the seekers got tired of looking. Lets face it, nobody wanted to be a seeker. The game was about hiding, there's no fun in tripping through thorn bushes, unable to find the one jerk that climbed a tree. Either way, manhunt was a fun game to play. I still want to play it and I'm in college now. It's hard to escape the thrill of hiding in a bush with two seekers right next to you. You feel like an action hero.

Hmm, just a box...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Eric Balfour paradigm

There is one pattern I have noticed throughout the years of watching television and movies. If Eric Balfour is allowed within 100 feet of the studio, the project will suck. Curious parties need to look no further than the recently released movie Skyline, which has an 11 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Did anyone think it would actually turn out decent?

While it might be easier to blame directors Greg and Colin Strause (the only other movie they directed was Alien vs Predator: Requiem) for not knowing how to handle a film, there is enough evidence to put the blame on Balfour. He is the opposite of King Midas, turning whatever he touches into crap. I have, of course, complied enough evidence from Wikipedia to support my thesis.

He's like a hipper, less talented Adrien Brody.

Although he's guest starred in a lot of television shows since 1991, including a credit as Frat Boy #3 in an episode of West Wing, I don't count his career as truly beginning until 2003's remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, starring Jessica Biel and R. Lee Ermy. The film made $100 million dollars worldwide. Balfour, however, was the first person to die in the film.

Balfour would next star in a string of failed series. His show, Veritas: The Truth, premiered on ABC in 2003. Four episodes later the show was taken off the air. Next came Hawaii, a cop show set in the 50th state. It premiered on NBC in 2004 and seven episodes were aired before it was taken off NBC. In 2005, UPN premiered Sex, Love & Secrets, a drama starring Denise Richards' boobs and Balfour. A show called Sex, Love & Secrets should be a big hit, nevertheless it was taken off after four episodes. After trying an adventure series, a cop show and a soap opera, Balfour was cast on Conviction, a legal drama created by Law & Order god Dick Wolf. The show premiered in 2006 and Balfour played, "a laid-back and irresponsible ADA that seems to be heavily into partying but is very invested in his clients." The good news was that it actually got to finish its whole season. The bad news is that it was canceled shortly after, being beaten in ratings by Numb3rs, starring Bernard the Elf from Santa Clause.


Movies have not shown the kindness to Balfour that television has. Lie with Me, a wannabe art house film, was met with weak reviews. Hell Ride, which featured the late David Carradine, the late Dennis Hopper, and Michael Madsen (whose career itself is dead) involved a motorcycle gang and a 5.1 rating on IMDB. He was in Dinoshark though, a Jaws like tale involving a prehistoric shark that aired on SyFy. I'm sure that was at least entertaining.

Enter: Dinoshark!

Between his failed attempt at television, the bad reviews for Skyline, and the fact that he starred in a Syfy original, I feel like my thesis is beautifully illustrated. So next time you watch a trailer and see an odd looking fellow with a goatee and wife-beater, know to stay away.

Sorry dude.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Band of Brothers: a new patriotic tradition

The title of greatness is not something given, but earned. One cannot simply ask to be considered great. There is a reason why those who fought in World War II were christened with the moniker of being "The Greatest Generation." They had no aspirations to greatness, but were instead thrust into action and did their duty. World War II has since become a staple of pop culture. Different mediums have used the setting and circumstance to prop up their own story. It takes a great project to display and properly convey the memories of each soldier. No project before, however, has been as reverent or touching as HBO's miniseries Band of Brothers.

Based on the book by Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers is based off of the real life exploits of Easy Company, a group of men who fought in some of the most recognizable battle of the European Theatre. The ten episode miniseries aired from Sept. 9 to Nov. 4 on HBO. It has since been rerun on cable television.

Be honest, how many times have you watched it?

My brother doesn't own very many DVDs, my collection dwarfs his own. Nevertheless, no DVD of mine could ever equal his copy of Band of Brothers. Really, it's more than a DVD set, it's a time capsule for the memories of those that served in Easy Company. No matter how many times my brother and I have watched the episodes on television or on DVD, we still have to sit down and watch it whenever it's on. We know everything that happens, we know how each character ends up but in the end it doesn't matter. We still become engrossed in each character. They aren't just characters on a screen, they become people we get emotionally attached to. Although it is a war series, the battles are only set pieces for the characters. Each victory is our victory and each lost member is our loss. When Bull, the cigar chomping beast, gets lost behind enemy lines it's still engaging, even though we've seen the episode a million times.

What Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have produced is the most engrossing war film ever. The end result becomes something that cannot be replicated. The Pacific, an HBO miniseries that premiered last year took the same approach to the Pacific Theatre but in the end it just wasn't as good. Maybe it was because it co-starred the annoying kid from Jurassic Park, but either way Band of Brothers is it's own masterpiece. It was just one of those rare moments where everything synergized perfectly. The Pacific didn't have that, but then again it is unfair to compare the two.

Pacific, not as good as BoB.

I plan on celebrating this Veterans Day by sitting down and watching the DVDs. It's a tradition really. It may seem a half-assed way of honoring the vets, but those ten episodes remind me how horrible war is and how little help I would be in such a situation. It makes me proud of veterans more. So even though I've seen the Bastogne episode to the point of memorization, I don't care. That's not the point. The point is to see war through a soldiers eyes, because being on a couch is much easier than being in a foxhole in the snow.

What makes the miniseries great is the characters. Ask any guy hovering around the age of twenty, and they probably have their own favorite characters from Band of Brothers. Watch the show with your friends and a debate is inevitable over who is better. Here is my personal top five Band of Brothers characters, in reverse order.

Sorry Winters but you don't count, everybody likes you.

5. Ronald Speirs- Speirs is the person everybody would like to be in war. He's the badass one. The one that can run across a whole field of Germans and have them just look at him run by. Marveling at the sheer balls the man possesses. He's the baddest dude in Europe. Played by Matthew Settle.

4. Donald Malarkey- Seeing the character arc of Malarkey showed the true effect of war. Malarkey started out a good-natured soldier who only wanted to find a Luger to send home to his brother. As time went on and friends were lost, Malarkey became a shell of his former self. Played by Scott Grimes.

3. Eugene Roe- Doc, as he was affectionately called by the member of Easy Company, was the man you trusted when you were injured. Though he was a man of few words, Doc Roe helped keep the soldiers patched up throughout the war, even when low on supplies during Bastogne. He even got to narrate his own episode. In the end Doc Roe was the dependable Cajun, filled with quiet strength. Played by Shane Taylor.

2. Lewis Nixon- I decided not to count Dick Winters because it wouldn't be fair to everyone else. Where would Winters be, however, without his best friend Nixon? The lovable drunk, Nixon helps Winters keep his sanity and brought some much needed levity to the episodes. Nixon is the friend you want by your side during the whole war because you know he'll be there for you. Plus he knows his Beethoven. Played by Ron Livingston.

1. David Webster- This decision, I know, will be slightly controversial with Band of Brothers fans. Webster was branded a coward for milking a wound he received. Because of this wound he missed the Battle of the Bulge. Webster is not the soldier anyone wants to be but, it's the soldier I would most likely be. Played by Eion Bailey.

On a side note, a good game to play is to point out actors on television or in movies that have been in Band of Brothers. With the size of the cast and extras, it's more often than not that someone you were watching once made an appearance on Band of Brothers. This game can also be played with actors from another HBO project, The Wire.

Interestingly enough, nobody on The Wire was ever in Band of Brothers

Saturday, November 6, 2010

First Signs Special Report: The McRib

I'm a sucker for gimmick sandwiches at fast food joints. How many of you remember the Quad-Stacker? With four burger patties, eight pieces of bacon and four slices of cheese; it was every fast food lover's wet dream. It was the kind of sandwich you eat when you're considering suicide, hoping that the grease and calories take you out in delicious glory. The KFC Double Downs was a recent favorite. Advertised as a sandwich without a bun, the Double Down is the most insane yet amazing creation ever devised. You can imagine that Colonel Sanders himself dictated the sandwich recipe to its creator by a Ouija board from his home in Hell, where he spends all eternity getting tortured by badly treated chickens. This is the only possible explanation for the sweet chicken-on-bacon-on-chicken goodness that has been gifted to man by the devil himself on a mission to clog arteries.

Forget buns.

The McRib has been around off-and-on McDonald's menu for awhile. The McRib is like that ex-girlfriend of yours that still bothers you on Facebook. To be fair, McRib is really just one big marketing scheme. McDonald's takes it off the menu until you care about it again. All the same it became a punchline and even had its own episode on the Simpsons. There were even commercials about it when the Flinstones movie came out, using the live action stone age family as marketing fodder for the porky goodness.

I've always heard about the McRib as the pinnacle of fast food sinfulness in pop culture. A sandwich perfected by the unhealthy experts at McDonald's to be mindblowingly awesome. A molded patty of pork, smothered in BBQ sauce (which goes good on everything), and topped with onions and pickles. Now, it's back for a brief amount of time and McDonald's is probably making bank off of me and my friends finally being able to try it. While before you may have needed special tracking software to find it, it's everywhere now.

My friends and I were finally able to get our hands on the pop-culture/fast food white whale today. We ordered it all at the same time and refused to open our sandwich boxes until we were all ready, in some form of unspoken reverence. My one friend ate two and immediately regretted it. Friend #2 tried one of them and felt sick to his stomach. It was finally my turn and after a bite I was shocked. There was no fanfare, no unanswered questions resolved or enlightenment. It tasted just how I expected it to. It was good and all, I finished it, but it just made me think that the whole McRib cult was one big sham. An astroturfed minority that would buy anything they were told to. I can't attest to the health aspect of the McRib but I can tell you it wasn't anything special. For those worrying if they are adequate happy meal substitutes, remember that the Flinstones endorsed it and the Flinstones could never endorse anything harmful. They make their own vitamins for god's sake.

Aww crap...

My inner hipster or, how I liked Zach Galifianakis before everyone else

Even a benevolent soul such as I has the capability of hating a whole, generalized group of people for no particular reason. My hatred, however, is reserved for pretentious people. I use to call them pseudo-intellectuals, the kind of people that get off on their own self satisfaction. I do still have a personal vendetta against people I label pseudos. I flippantly dismiss anyone that gets on my nerves as a pseudo, the same way some people would call others phonies. Culture has given me a label for these folks though. Now, as the Joker says, I have found a name for my pain... and it is hipsters.

If you wear neon colored sunglasses I probably hate you. If you wear a knit cap during the summer I probably hate you. If you drink Pabst Blue Ribbon I probably hate you. If you shop at a thrift store, not because you're poor or cheap but because it's cool then I probably hate you. If you pretend to be all about a niche pieces of pop culture like Tom Waits (who I love by the way) or Eraserhead for a month then forget about it I probably hate you. If you list Kerouac as a personal hero I probably hate you. If you make up words in a conversation in order to sound smarter than you really are then I probably hate you. If you think that a cool hat or ironic eyeglasses are an excuse for a personality then I probably hate you.

And you thought you were just in for a Zach Galifianakis article.

I hate pretense and those that wear it so casually with ironic jean shorts and out of date clothing. I see myself as being earnest and, in that respect, the enemy of pretense. I am, however, an elitist. Not the coffee shop kind but an elitist all the same. I'm too self conscious to ever fully embrace it but I would be delusional if I said something on the contrary. Hell, I write a blog twice a week, how much worse can you get?

Anywho, today's topic of discussion is Zach Galifianakis, the fat guy from Hangover. I was in 8th grade when I first watched his stand up special on Comedy Central. He had just my kind of humor, weird and awkward but with the right sense of earnestness. He had bit parts in smaller films and always made the most out of whatever part he had. His five minutes of screen time in Corky Romano made for the only enjoyable part of that movie. Also, imagine my suprise when I was watching Bubble Boy and saw a relatively young Galifianakis playing a bus ticket seller.

Yes, this movie actually existed.

Another gem from Galifianakis' early career was Out Cold, a Casablanca homage set in a ski resort. It also had lots of poop jokes. All the same, it was his biggest role for awhile. While getting bit parts in movies he perfected his personal brand of humor on stage. One tour, which included Patton Oswald, Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford, had cameras following them. This footage was made into a movie and a television series called The Comedians of Comedy. Galifianakis found his way onto movies and music videos until his big break, Hangover. Hangover was a hilarious movie and probably one of the most enjoyable theater experiences I've had.

Hangover was awesome and Galifianakis was awesome in it. I'm glad to see him in a big movie and I'm sure he had a hand in that movie becoming the highest-grossing-R-rated comedy ever. I hate that he's popular now though. Now everyone knows him as that fat guy with a beard from Hangover. That means he's no longer MY fat guy with a beard.

Damn you adorable sunglasses baby. I'm sure it's your fault too.

The thing is, I've always appreciated him ever since I first stumbled upon him. Now everyone else knows him and I don't believe they can appreciate him as much as I (god damn, I sound like I'm talking about a girlfriend). He isn't one of my favorite comedians anymore. Now he is just a character for everyone to laugh at. Due Date, his new comedy that came out yesterday, is just cementing that. While a road comedy starring Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. sounds hilarious, it is doing nothing but pigeonholing him as "that fat dude with a beard." I'm glad he is making money now but I don't want to see him turn into the next McLovin'. So please, respect him and remember that I liked him first. And also remember I hate hipsters.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election day special: Why I voted for Obama

"What really matters is what you like, not what you are like... Books, records, films - these things matter. Call me shallow but it's the fuckin' truth." -High Fidelity

Back in 2008, it was the first presidential election I was able to vote in. I was excited, I couldn't send my absentee ballot fast enough. But while it is my god given right to keep my vote a secret, I have no problems admitting who I voted for: Barack Obama.

His name still doesn't show up in my spell check.

The fact is, Obama has some good taste. Any dude that can get down to Stevie Wonder is my kind of president. Some people vote for the guy they can drink a beer with, I vote for the guy whose dvd collection I wouldn't mind borrowing from. And he's the president, he has his own damn movie theater. That's cool as hell. I have no party ties when it comes to my votes, there is nothing more petty than that. I would of voted for Ronald Reagan if I could of, he was a fan of Back to Future. I split the three parts of Obama's taste that I most admire into the holy trinity: film, music and television (I don't know what books he likes).

Film: Do the Right Thing

He may be considered racist but Spike Lee has made some good movies.

While he hasn't outright endorsed Do the Right Thing as one of his favorite movies, Michelle and him watched this film on their first date. Frankly, I can't think of anything more awesome than that. It's a perfect film and one of my favorites. While it isn't in my all time top five, it certainly breaks my top 15. It's one of those movies that you have to watch every time it's on television just to remind yourself how good it is.

While controversial, the film is a perfect look at racism in contemporary America. It doesn't beat you over the head with it's themes or wrap itself up in melodrama. It's not like Crash, which was one of the most overrated movies I have ever seen. Crash was too pretentious and heavy handed with it's view of racism. Everything was too theatrical and it's message lost. For some reason Crash won an Oscar in 2005, giving credence to the movie's overblown message. Do the Right Thing doesn't plead for us to get along, it just shows us the length we can all go when the breaking point is reached. Anybody that likes Do the Right Thing is good in my book, cause they get it. It's an important film, yet it lost out to Driving Miss Daisy at the Oscars. What a waste.

Music: Stevie Wonder

Songs in the Key of Life!

Nothing makes me sadder than when I put I Wish by Stevie Wonder on the speakers and people think they're listening to Wild Wild West. Wonder has so much soul in him he doesn't even need his eyesight. According to Rolling Stones (I copy and pasted this quote off Wikipedia), Obama said, "If I had one, it would have to be Stevie Wonder. When I was just at that point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie Wonder had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness' First Finale and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we've ever seen."

When we are first getting into music, there is usually that first band that kicks off our love. For me it's always been The Strokes, for you it could be Interpol or Waka Flocka Flame. Obama grew to love Wonder. During his prime, Stevie really was the Motown king. His period in the early-to-mid 70s was a renaissance that few artists could ever achieve. Forget the stuff you listened to during your middle school dances, if you want R&B or soul look to Wonder and no one else.

Television: The Wire

I'm not sure if I've mentioned my love for this show yet.

If having a brother has been beneficial in any way, it's because he introduced me to The Wire. The Wire is, without a doubt, the best television show ever. Forget crap like Dexter, The Wire makes Dexter look like the cartoon that it is (maybe I'll talk more about that in a later post). The Wire is the most brutally honest, realistic show ever made. It's not just a police procedural show, it's a five season long crime scene investigation for the whole city of Baltimore and the American Dream in general. Cops, drug dealers, stick-up men, dock workers, teachers, students, politicians, homeless, addicts, journalist, and every person has a role to play in the American experiment. The Wire shows the cracks in the institutions that keep this country moving and reminds us that the game we play is rigged.

Obama has gone on record saying that The Wire is his favorite show, and that just makes me respect him all the more. Not only does it show that he watches HBO, it shows he chooses to watch only the best in television and not just another Law & Order rerun (SVU is awesome though). The Wire is the modern day, great American novel. It paints a picture with its characters that are haunting and real. Obama admitting that he loves this show just proves that he gets it.

Scene one of season one of The Wire.

Obama's taste just shows how much of a real person he is. Do you even care what kind of movies politician's like? Hell I don't even keep some friends because of their crappy DVD collection. Their taste alone can speak volumes more about their personality than any planned teleprompter speech. Because, like the opening quote says about taste, these things matter.

Plus I just really wanted to talk about The Wire again.