Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
"Largest Log Jam in the World---It took 150 lumberjacks, five teams of horses, and one steam engine SIX MONTHS to break up this log jam on the Mississippi River in 1894. Located near Little Falls, Minnesota, the log jam was almost SEVEN MILES LONG, a half-mile wide, and 60 feet thick in most places. It was estimated to contain over 4 billion feet of lumber."
Further fascinating reading:
"Log jams occurred at places where the water was shallow, or where there were bends in the rivers. The river drivers did their best to keep the logs moving, but with thousands of logs, it was hard to stop a jam once it started.
"Log jams were broken by either using dynamite, or by digging through the pile until they got to the key log. The key log was the one log that was holding the entire jam back. It could be many feet inside a log jam, making it very dangerous to remove.
"Many lumberjacks, sometimes five or six at a time, were killed while removing these jams. Due to the high danger associated with river driving, the river drivers were the most highly skilled, and the most highly respected men in the logging camps.
"They were able to ride the logs through rapids, fast water, even dams built in the rivers (dams were sometimes necessary for the water to be deep enough to transport the logs). Because the river driver's work was the most dangerous in the camp, they were the most highly paid.
"For a days work, they were paid anywhere from seventy-five cents to a dollar."
photo/info courtesy of logrolling.org
Thursday, June 26, 2008
1. The Love Guru was conceived.
2. The Love Guru was successfully pitched to a studio.
3. The Love Guru was written.
4. The Love Guru was green-lit for production.
5. The Love Guru was cast--with Ben Kingsley & Stephen Colbert, no less.
6. The Love Guru was filmed.
7. The Love Guru was edited.
8. The Love Guru was juiced up with music by George S. Clinton
9. The Love Guru was advertised everywhere--even inside my own ass, I hear.
10. The Love Guru was allowed to premiere on over 3000 screens.
At no point along this two-year-plus journey did anybody find it in their hearts to tell Mike Myers this project is one of the worst they'd ever heard of, much less seen or been a part of.
Instead, everybody kept their head down and their comments to themselves--who are they to second-guess Mr. Austin Powers?
And so, the idiots at Paramount spent $62 million to shoot it, and $9 googolplex billion to promote it. Who knows how many good movies got pushed to the dirt to ensure this turd could fill 10% of all the movie screens in America, land of promise.
To put that into perspective, a friend of mine recently made a feature film and was lucky enough to have it purchased by a distributor--a big deal for a first-time filmmaker.
His movie will premiere on 10 screens. Ten.
So, why is there hope?
Because The Love Guru only made $13,907,130 -- the 50th worst opening ever, for movies playing on more than 3000 screens. Ha! Let's hope he arranged to get all his money on the back end...
Although, assuming an average ticket price of $8.00, it still is troubling to know that 1,738,392 people actually paid to go see it. His family can't be that big...
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
For example, ever wonder how a little girl becomes a woman?
Well, chuckle-chuckle, it doesn't happen overnight, I assure you.
In fact, according to scientists, the process takes years. Those lovable little females go through such subtle changes it can sometimes be hard for the layman to notice through that delightful parental beer/white-zinfandel haze.
Yet, at the same time, the journey itself, refined over millennia by a mythical overlord, is deceptively simple and can be broken down into easily-identifiable stages.
Leave it to the Canadians to figure it out!
Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself!
When Elton's in town for a show--in this case an elaborate corporate 'birthday event' (he whores himself out at more private events than you would care to know, more than Jeremy Piven even!)--an 'attractive, young male P.A.' is chosen as liason between Elton's traveling crew and the local production team.
One of this sexyman's responsibilities is to arrange Elton's 100+ bobblehead dolls around the television set in his room backstage. This TV must be hooked up to a satellite system that broadcasts Atlanta Braves games, because Elton has for some reason lived in Atlanta for quite some time now, and has become probably the only British baseball fan in the world.
The bobblehead dolls are all to be arranged facing the couch.
Do you think you've been too famous for too long when you begin to need an audience to watch TV?
[Hint: Good game show hosts host one game show for most of their lives (Bob Barker, Alex Trebeck, Pat Sajak)]
But you try telling his eager, 50+ year-old, walking-Wink-historian manservant that. He'll just smile and give you a Wink bobblehead doll. Which, oddly, I still have sitting in my office right now, unwrapped, so that its value will appreciate handsomely in the coming years, skyrocket upon his imminent death, and eventually afford me a fun-size bag of Peanut M&Ms I can totally forget eating only five seconds after doing so.
Incidentally, according to his own, carefully-controlled-I'm-sure wikipedia entry, the following indescribably-juicy tidbit has leaked, for the moment:
"The May 25, 2008 'Sag Harbor Study' (a poll taken on New York State's Long Island) compared the social relevance of game show hosts in the 21st century to what many consider the 'golden years' of game shows – 1973 through the early 1980s. Precisely 25% of all respondents given zero category-specific context were unable to identify 'Wink Martindale' as a person of any significance."Wow. I guess you can post anything you want on Wink Martindale's page--after hours (6pm-5am, when everyone who knows Wink is visiting Sleepytown, if you know what I mean).
But this is not about Wink Martindale.
Rather, this is just an awkward prelude to the following question:
Why do old men* wink so much?
I know that 97% of the time it's not sexual, so it's not like I'm creeped out by it on that front; it's just weird that they are so out of touch with the world that they think it's cool to wink after every other sentence.
Can't humor stand on its own? Can't the piss just be taken, without the thief needing to so brazenly laying claim? Does every utterance always have to be emphasized? Are they so afraid anybody more than five years younger than them will be unable to work their way through the uncomplicated, indelicate, brick-shithouse innuendos they sling like so much hash?
How do you even respond to a wink? Do you have to wink back? Can you punch the winker in the face? Or is it enough to just solemnly nod, avoiding all eye contact? I'm gonna try that.
Or maybe I'll just avoid old men. That'll be easier.
*When speaking about old men, I, of course, am actually only referring to some old men. But in defense, there sure are a hell of a lot of them.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
1. Who are these people? Who is this desperate for love? Why don't don't they just start swinging or something, and spending their relatively-inordinate free time a bit more wisely?
2. I wonder what would happen if one of these monkids went to high school in suburban Chicago? I wonder if he would 'fit in,' if he'd be good at sports, if the popular girl will want to bang him, if he would even have a challenger for Senior Class President...
Has been for days now, maybe even a week.
Do you remember when it was this hot before?
Man, that was wicked.
It got so crazy, I started dating a girl
because she had air conditioning.
She lived over on Hillhurst,
Where were you?
Friday, June 20, 2008
Although these photos are 'allegedly' digitally manipulated for Japanese porno magazines (soft-core, I assume), according to Snopes.com, you know it is only a matter of time before some Joe Francis / Forever 21 wannabe decides to actually create them.
Or will Bebe beat them to the punch?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Where does $200 million go?
All of these are obscene amounts of money. What's even more obscene is the unpublished, additional obscene amounts of money that are spent after all that money is spent to make the movie--they call it marketing.
A $200 million movie might incur marketing costs of an additional $100 million. The worse the movie is, the more money spent on marketing it. Although even your grandmother knows not to throw good money after bad, studios do not heed this time-tested advice. Do you think anybody thought Speed Racer was good? Trust me--nobody did. But that didn't stop them from blanketing every city in the country with billboards and bus stop advertisements, not to mention trailers on TV. Think that stuff comes cheap?
The latest and greatest example I can offer, from sources that shall remain nameless, involves the Disney movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
For those of you that are not 'hip,' I offer the following summary:
Jamie Lee Curtis plays a wealthy woman who lives in Beverly Hills. She owns a pampered chihuahua, voiced by Drew Barrymore. On a vacation to Mexico, this chihuahua gets lost and meets a Mexican chihuahua, voiced by George Lopez.In addition to the predictable onslaught of web/TV trailers, merchandising tie-ins, billboards, etc, the Disney team has been doing some thinking outside the box. How far outside the box? Well, that's for you to judge.
I assume they fall in love.
The plan was to stage a 'Running of the Chihuahuas' on Rodeo Drive.
Get it? Chihuahuas instead of bulls; Beverly Hills instead of Pamplona.
Since chihuahuas are not too bright, don't tend to run around that much, and love to fight each other, the animal trainers--the same ones who worked on the film--advised the production team to train the chihuahuas on a course identical to the one they would eventually run on come event day.
The cost for 50 trained chihuahuas to run a 100ft. course?
Add to that amount the money spent to build two identical tracks, crew salaries for production personnel, permits for street closure, lighting/video/sound equipment rental, security, trucking, parking, crew meals, carpeting, fences, banners, bathrooms, etc...and the cost of this promotional event would have easily run up to and beyond $350,000.
All to watch a bunch of chihuahuas run for 45 seconds.
Why not? It's cute! People will look at the photos online or in some stupid magazine and laugh and think to themselves, "Oh, I gotta take the kids to see that movie..."
So who's to blame?
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Why is this? Well, I don’t have the answer, but I imagine it has something to do with the fact that his movies are not very cool--they lack the flashy style of a Truffaut or Godard movie, they’re too intellectual, too dialogue-heavy, too plot-light.
In spite of these normally off-putting qualities, if you are a patient viewer who enjoys soaking in the intricacies of the characters and their environment, his movies are very enjoyable to watch. Rohmer’s style is unique and consistent, his topics right out in the open, his characters raw and vulnerable, and his lustful camera lends credence to his characters paralyzed by indecision. Also to his credit, Rohmer’s early works have improved with age, if only because the passage of time has highlighted their timelessness--whereas I cannot say the same for many of those by his New Wave peers.
Rohmer’s films have weathered the years so well because their subject is a simple one--love. Love between a man and a woman, with another woman/man or two thrown in for good measure. His characters almost always must choose between two or three options, the choice never being easy, always involving the defining and redefining of their idea of love. Typically, his characters take slightly too long with this choice, paralyzed by indecision, and fail as a result.
Much great art, especially when it comes to storytelling, is produced by men and women operating outside the normal realm of sociability. Instead of blending in, these artists hungrily observe the lives of others from afar and study the immortalized opinions of the greats who lived before them. Judging from his movies, Eric Rohmer seems to be an intelligent man who thinks about and discusses life more than he lives it (much like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese); the kind of man who neither shits nor gets off the pot, but instead externally hashes out the implications of every option in depth, with whomever might venture near his proverbial toilet. Rohmer’s intelligence has clearly handicapped him socially, and he seems frustratingly aware of it.
The protagonists of his most celebrated movies--whether young, old, male, female--all appear to be slightly different slices of Eric Rohmer himself. Each is unique, but shares many of the same problems--namely, they are presented with a chance to end their loneliness by pairing up with a woman/man, but are paralyzed when required to choose between two distinct options, and ultimately wind up with neither. To further rub in the humiliation, they often also discover they never had a chance to begin with, and therefore wasted a fat chunk of time discussing and debating an impossibility. Whether the character is vain or completely lacking in self-confidence, we see that their fate is the same when they fail to choose decisively.
Rohmer’s movies are simply shot--there are no complicated camera moves, no daring stylistic choices, no cheesy camera placements, no unconventional editing, etc--and yet powerful, because they allow his characters to move within a space, allow their humanity to breathe. The locations are sumptuous, the actors intriguingly attractive, and we are shown as many dull moments in their lives as exciting ones; essentially, we are allowed to view them as real people--they are relatable. And so we hope for their happiness, and so we forgive them their faults.
One of Rohmer’s trademarks is what I would say is easily the lustiest camera ever--scenes will open on a sexy pair of legs, and a minute later the woman will sit into frame; or, the camera follows a tiny pair of shorts around a room as we hear a conversation; women casually dress and undress in front of the camera and random men onscreen, feeling no need to hide their bodies. Rohmer has obviously created a world he wishes he could live in, but knows only exists in his mind and in his movies. That being said, he is wise to share this fantasy world, with its roots planted firmly in reality--ever the realist, even his fantasies typically have disappointing endings for the characters involved.
For those of you out there who are exhausted by the rampant availability of awful romantic comedies, and the dearth of smart romantic cinema since Woody Allen’s heyday, feel free to dig into the treasure trove that is Eric Rohmer’s oeuvre. Here is a handy guide for the neophyte:
Pauline at the Beach (1983)--Probably my favorite of his films, although I also love La Collectionneuse and Claire’s Knee. Pauline at the Beach seems to be where Rohmer reached his peak and made the most ‘Rohmer’ movie he could make, while at the same time it is his most palatable to the masses--a stunning achievement, considering the nature of his work. The film is packed with fascinating, raw, male and female characters, both young and old, volatile yet naturalistic relationships, a beautiful setting, and an ending that is at once realistic and satisfying.
La Collectionneuse (1967)---His first masterpiece. About a man-eating young woman who has no desire to eat the one man who doesn’t want her to eat him, and how it eventually drives this man insane with desire. As soon as he works his way in, to finally have a shot at her, he suddenly has yet another change of heart and abandons her on the side of the road. She moves on without skipping a beat.
Claire’s Knee (1971)---The most hilarious of all Rohmer’s protagonists--the hair, the beard, the wardrobe, the fact that he only travels by motorboat...he at once fascinates and repels. This wannabe-Romeo fancies himself a ladies man and fails to realize that by the time he decides a woman is worthy of his romantic/lustful attentions, it is too late--she has already seen him for who he really is and brushes him off without second thought, in favor of a much-less intelligent, but much-more confident and attractive man. Funny, because the man gets exactly what he deserves, especially in light of his earlier crowing, but there is also an air of tragedy about it; he garners our sympathy as he tries to maintain his pride in the face of defeat. This is the story of a patently unhappy man who would have no problem with women if he would simply stop thinking so much and avoid immediately placing himself high above the beautiful, intelligent women he meets.
The Aviator’s Wife (1981)----Worst title ever, great movie. Rohmer’s Parisian version of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, or so it seems. Although still sumptuous and full of beautifully lingering shots, this film moves at a much more rapid clip than Rohmer’s earlier work. It seems like he was trying to modernize, to adapt to the marketplace--and it works. It is the story of one man, who loves a woman who takes his love for granted, and meets another, much younger woman who seems a much better match. Once again, choice enters into the mix; should he chase this young woman? Or should he resume his quest to conquer his somewhat-cold existing lover? And what is the deal with her other man? Will she choose the pilot over our hero? A charming dissection of love that turns into somewhat of a detective story. One of the sexiest woman-in-her-underwear-during-a-long-emotional-scene scenes ever committed to celluloid. And for all you ladies out there...there’s a pilot, too!
The Green Ray (aka Summer) (1986)----A pitch-perfect exploration of the trials and tribulations of a beautiful woman who wishes she were ugly, so that men wouldn’t just want her for sex and she could live her life like a normal, sociable human being. A tour-de-force performance by Marie Riviere (who also co-wrote, along with Rohmer), who expands on her complicated character introduced in The Aviators Wife. Although her character has a different name in this one, the two roles have so much in common that it is not hard to view Delphine as Anne two years down the road. Rohmer displays Delphine’s quirks in much the same loving way that Allen displays Annie Hall’s; even though everyone around her thinks she is weird and unnecessarily reclusive, the audience is on her side at every turn. Her biggest problem is that nobody wants to actually listen to what she has to say; they only want to hear themselves speak and deliver long tirades full of useless advice. Delphine is a vegetarian and nature-lover--so much so that ‘nature’ is fully a character in this movie, and the sound design during this character’s biggest scene is particularly stunning. The movie has a wonderful pace to it--a step back from that of The Aviator’s Wife, but perfect for its subject
A Summer’s Tale (1996)---A movie made in 1996 that looks like it is from 1976, a tape recorder the only noticeable inconsistency. The story centers on a young man who juggles three women at a beach resort in northern France. One is unattainable, but toys with him; another wants all of him or none of him; the third truly loves him, but remains his friend in order to see whether or not he will pursue her--luckily for him, all are beautiful. As is the case in a Rohmer movie, Gaspard ends up alone, leaving town to purchase an 8-track recording system to avoid a choice he will regret no matter his decision. It is an interesting, lush 100-minute treatise on romantic indecision, and ranks right up there with Rohmer’s best; a true return to form.
The Marquis of O (1976)----After a shockingly-bad opening, this film recovers well and, in the end, impresses. The hokeyness of this clearly-low-budget period piece is forgotten after the first five or ten minutes and the emotionally-rich story quickly moves to the forefront. Bruno Ganz, whom I loved for his subtle, brilliant performance in The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977), was equally as impressive here, in his portrayal of ‘The Count.’ The staid world of the 18th-century aristocracy seems laughable, though certainly faithful to history, and the drama that unfolds within that world is well-painted by Rohmer. My favorite moment? When the Marquis sulks, alone, in her vast, beautiful, many-servant-staffed country estate, and we are supposed to feel sorry for her; yes, her parents threw her out, but, come on--she isn’t exactly out on her ass!
Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987)----Eric Rohmer as a woman, but adapting the character well to the other gender. She is very smart, lonely, horny, but awkward and reserved. She must choose between two men who are both good-looking, but one of them is a handsome ladies-man she can’t talk to, and the other is an intelligent, athletic gentleman who would make the much better choice--but dates her beautiful, vapid new best friend...
My Night at Maud’s (1970)---A dense intellectual feast, centering mostly on one man’s love for the wisdom of Pascal. Like most Rohmer movies, this one is thin on plot, but this is even more guilty of that than the others. If you don’t like watching people sit in chairs and talk endlessly about their philosophies on life and love, this one is not for you. If you enjoy philosophy and don’t mind a slow, talky film, this one will have you on your knees by the end, shouting, “Just FUCK HER ALREADY!” at your TV--I don’t care how timid you are. Trust me.
Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963)---A short. Somewhat interesting, but not exceptional.
Suzanne’s Career (1963)---Also a short. Slightly more interesting than Bakery Girl, a bit more raw; exposes the ruthlessness men are capable of when chasing women.
Full Moon in Paris (1984)---- Again a whiny female lead who wants things her way, no matter what. Fresh out of design school, she relishes her freedom and is not ready to be embalmed in the suburbs with her older, doting boyfriend. She maintains a pied-a-terre in the city so she can dance all night with her friends and not have to worry about the train schedule back out to bumble. But what to do when men pursue her and she must make a choice? As is the case so frequently in a Rohmer movie, though usually only with the male leads, she winds up alone in the end, due to her inability to make the wise choice at the right time.
Probably my least favorite of Rohmer’s films. The lead, although very appealing physically, was a bit too whiny for my taste. Not only that, but it was too easy to agree with her decision to not spend much time with her boyfriend--he was a brutish bore who smothered her with his love. He didn’t seem to have any good qualities, since even his love for her got chalked up in the negative category.
It was satisfying to see her get what she deserved in the end, and the movie certainly seemed a faithful representation of the slow dissolution of a doomed relationship, but that doesn’t mean it makes for good cinema. A misstep for sure.
Chloe in the Afternoon (aka Love in the Afternoon) (1972)---Aside from a beautiful opening montage of life on the streets in Paris, and a few similar interludes throughout, this is only a good film. After his previous three efforts, as well as the promise of the premise, I found it disappointing. Whereas the failure of his other movies to involve much in the way of a plot, or a satisfying ending, has never bothered me before, this time it did--this time I had trouble believing it. The supporting female characters are fascinating, but I found the lead terribly dull. I would skip this one, unless you’ve already watched his best and are curious about this one.
Nadja in Paris (1964) / A Modern Coed (1966) (shorts) --- Nothing remarkable.
A Good Marriage (1982)-------Disappointing. The female protagonist is wholly unlikable. There is no shred of emotion in the entire movie. Everyone seems to be reading from a script, rather than reacting naturally. It wasn’t very long, but it seemed to drag on forever, and get nowhere. The last minute is the only part of the movie I enjoyed; it seemed to belong to a different movie (although the music was the same as during the opening credits, where it was also out of place, considering the movie). AVOID.
You Should Do the Same
Triple Agent (2004)
The Lady and the Duke (2001)
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007)
Perceval (1978) -- I had this one on my Netflix queue, only to be later informed it is unavailable. Damn! Another period piece, and I’ve read it’s a good one.
Rendezvous in Paris (1995)
A Tale of Winter (1992)
Autumn Tale (1998)
Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987) -- Supposedly not so great, but I’m sure there is something redemptive in at least one of these four tales. Then again, maybe not. Sometimes the chemistry works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The Tree, the Mayor, and the Mediatheque (1993)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This wasn't already the case? Really?
Well, who am I to judge; I should take solace in the fact that at least these socially responsible corporations are finally taking action on their own to combat this problem, instead of waiting for it be forced upon them. Oh, wait--
"The agreements resulted from an eight-month investigation and sting operation in which undercover agents from Mr. Cuomo’s office, posing as subscribers, complained to Internet providers that they were allowing child pornography to proliferate online, despite customer service agreements that discouraged such activity. Verizon, for example, warns its users that they risk losing their service if they transmit or disseminate sexually exploitative images of children.
"After the companies ignored the investigators’ complaints, the attorney general’s office surfaced, threatening charges of fraud and deceptive business practices. The companies agreed to cooperate and began weeks of negotiations."
How heroic...we had to go undercover and then threaten them. I mean, who wears the pants in this country? How does that old ditty go?
"I pledge allegiance, to the corporation..."
"Excuse me--can I ask you a question?"
"Yes, can I help you with something?"
[Grabs her wrist]
"Do you dance the way you move?"
If you guessed Leisure Suit Larry--the octogenarian swinger (above center & below)--you are correct! Can you believe it? I can! What's he got to lose? His bad plugs? Hey-Oh!
By the way, if you thought Leisure Suit Larry was dead--think again, and watch this awful trailer announcing another title in the forgettable series, set for a 2008 release.
In other news, in trendy offices all across Hollywood and West Hollywood, Chicken-Less Nuggets are all the rage for breakfast this week. You heard it here first, folks! Eggs and toast have officially gone the way of the Dodo.
Stay tuned for more news as it breaks...
Monday, June 9, 2008
Meanwhile, in the hotly-contested Lakers-Celtics series, the basketball world's abuzz with news of Phil Jackson's recent weight gain.
Granted, I haven't seen him on television since...when did Michael Jordan retire?
But, regardless, the question on everybody's lips is this:
How does a vegetarian Buddhist living in Los Angeles grow that many chins?
(btw, Lakers suck)
Monday, June 2, 2008
Big Brown, the tender-hooved 2-7 favorite at this Saturday's Belmont Stakes? Big Brown is the cornerstone of the first-ever Equine Hedge Fund, the horse everybody loves to hate, but an undefeated Triple-Crown contender who will probably get you a $600 tax rebate down the line.
Behindatthebar, the sickly racing artist who, like Edvard Munch and Kafka before him, still has a fighting chance to achieve greatness, provided he doesn't choke on his own tongue?
Casino Drive? Probably the only horse racing in America these days that is NOT on steroids, since he hails from Japan, where they don't do that shit. Does his Far-Eastern cultural heritage intrigue or repel you?
Denis of Cork? He's no Big Brown but he's certainly a Super Cutie...
Or maybe Eight Belles is more your speed? The conversation will be a little one-sided, since Eight Belles was killed on the track after finishing second to Big Brown at the Kentucky Derby this year--but maybe you're more into long, boring monologues anyway, like most people are. Perhaps you can tell him all about why a horse with two broken ankles is better off dead.