February 26th, 2007


For Your Consideration

No, I didn't watch the Oscars last night, but I whiffed the essence this morning on CNN.com. Instead, I watched the movie "For Your Consideration" and went to bed at a reasonable hour only to be woken up by roommates walking through my room at an UNreasonable hour. And so, I thought it fitting to lead off Oscar-Bitch Monday with a review of a movie about Oscar hoopla and the grave circumstances surrounding it.

You can't go anywhere with this thing until you bring up Christopher Guest, the director and one of the actors in the ensemble. He's responsible for (either directing or writing or both) the following: A Mighty Wind, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, and This Is Spinal Tap. If you've seen more than one of these movies, you'll know that there's a general similarity between the films (especially the first three). First, they're all pseudo-documentary styled pictures. Secondly, the cast (of which there are many) tends to be the same, or at least include many of the same actors. Third, they're not comedies like Tommy Boy, Dumb and Dumber, The Big Lebowski, Office Space, Big Mama's House, or Miss Congeniality 2 are comedies; they're not laugh-a-minute romps, nor do they try to be. And finally, each lampoons a different area of the arts in a way that exposes how crazy people can be within their chosen medium. Spinal Tap = Heavy Metal Music; Guffman = Theater; Best In Show = Dog Shows (not really an "art" in the conventional sense, but slag off); Mighty Wind = old time folk music. And For Your Consideration = Motion Pictures.

What you'll notice with this one right away is the fact that FYC isn't in that pseudo-documentary style. It almost seems kinda pointless to bring this up, because Guest just uses the interview stylings of these fake entertainment news reporters to get the same comedic point across, but it's a noticeable change. I don't know why, maybe he felt the pressure to try something different, but it seems to me, you know, who fucking cares? It's not like he completely goes the other way.

Here's the deal, this movie is, for lack of a better word, considerably funnier than A Mighty Wind. But, it's also about 50 times more depressing than anything I've ever seen Christopher Guest a part of, which you would think negates the last sentence. But, it's true. The characters pop more in this movie than they have in a while. Eugene Levy as the louse of an agent, John Michael Higgins as ... whoever he is in the movie, and especially Jennifer 'Stifler's Mom' Coolidge completely steal the show with their dialogue. Not to mention the tasteful addition of Ricky Gervais who's funny in just about anything that's not Night At The Museum.

Where this movie deviates from the others is subtle but no less tragic. See, with all of the aforementioned Guest movies, it ends with defeat for the main characters, but also a little hope. In Spinal Tap, you had the dwindling of their last-gasp tour across America, only to see the resurrection of the Tap in Japan. In Guffman, the talent agent never showed, but the cast picked up the pieces of their lives and moved on to other things. I don't recall what happened in Best In Show, but in A Mighty Wind, after the climax of the reunion concert, again everyone found themselves in different places than when they'd started.

As for FYC, the entire movie centers on this growing buzz about the movie they're working on (Home For Purim, only later to be changed to the less-Jewish Home For Thanksgiving) getting nominated for various Oscar-related acting awards. The three characters in question - Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, and especially the indomitable Catherine O'Hara - get their hopes up all the while outwardly trying to project this Just Happy To Be Here mentality. In the end, all three are rejected for the nominations, and we as the audience are forced to stare into the devistated, plastic-surgery-malformed face of Catherine O'Hara as she begs and pleads for the TV screen to say her name, realizing the futility in such fantasy. It's heartbreaking to witness the transformation in O'Hara's character, who goes from an aging D-List actress in an independent film to the living embodiment of what's wrong with Hollywood today. In getting her hopes up for this Oscar nomination, she gets all of this cosmetic work done to her body, starts attending these phony Hollywood parties, and completely believes in the hype.

Even the closing scene of the film (before the requisite denouement where we all learn what happens to the characters three months later), when Fred Willard - hilarious as always - goes the tactless route of interviewing the three characters who weren't nominated to get their reaction, even he can't save this scene from being utterly cold and desolate. I mean, I've always believed that Fred Willard could make a sack of three-legged puppies being run over by a steamroller funny, but he can't repell the pain and anguish of the devastated characters from affecting the audience. Even the denouement itself - normally reserved for Guest to inject some last-minute gags - feels like a dirge for the people involved.

And that's the point. Hollywood is a cold, heartless, money-grubbing bitch for everyone not named Pitt or Jolie. People everywhere look to southern California as the Land of Eternal Hopes & Dreams, where a farmer's daughter in Oklahoma can buy a plane ticket, get a job as a waitress, and find herself the leading actress in an Oscar-winning film in a matter of weeks. FYC is a reality check, forcing everyone to face the cruel fact that, for most people in Hollywood, it's not all blowjobs and gravy. It's years of toil to even think about achieving the D-List status; a 1-in-a-billion shot to make that superstar level; and if you're resting all of your hopes on Hollywood coming through for you in a meaningful way, you might as well realize right now that more dreams are killed on a daily basis than those fulfilled in a lifetime.

Steven A. Taylor's Academy Awards Brouhaha (The Departed Little Miss Babel of Men Remix) Round Up

As usual, my predictions have turned out to be utter chaotic bullshit. Although, I did give my anti-locks for the major catagories (for those who, had they won, I'd be feasting upon various parts of my own body) and they all came up huge for me.

Look, I may have only seen three of the five movies up there, but The Departed WAS the best movie of 2006. I don't care WHAT you smart-aleck Borat fans have to say, it wasn't Jack Nicholson holding a dildo and throwing cocaine around the room, all right? The Departed had the best cast, the best story, the best acting, and it was fucking Scorsese. 'Nuff said. And you have no idea how glad I am my prediction of Babel didn't come to fruition. Decent movie, though the themes were beating me over the head with a billy club.

You know, it's cool that Scorsese finally got his Susan Lucci moment on the big stage, but just like when Denzel won, how could you not think that this is a few years (or decades) too late? Denzel should've won for Malcom X (losing to Forest Fucking Gump?) and Scorsese should've won for Goodfellas. I know I said that The Departed was the best movie of the year, but it's a far cry from Goodfellas or Taxi Driver or even The Last Temptation of Christ. A FAR cry. Maybe, over time, it'll grow on me, but for right now it's like seeing Marlon Brando in "The Score" alongside Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton. Great actors, shitty fucking flick. The Departed isn't nearly as bad as The Score, but it's in that same realm when compared to Goodfellas.

Moving on, kudos to The Second Blackest Man In Hollywood winning the best actor nod (Number 1 being, obviously, Wesley Snipes). I'm just happy I don't have to give a shit that Forest Whitaker won for that movie I'm probably never going to see; I'll just pretend he won a belated best-actor Oscar for his role in Bloodsport. With him and Denzel and Halle Berry (and Will Smith being a multiple-nominated actor) winning in the last ten years, among others probably, we can finally put Civil Rights to bed and declare equality for all. Kumbaya m'lord, Kumbaya.

I'll forever contend that Djimon Hounsou was jobbed out of the Supporting Actor Award, though I'll take the exchange if it means that Eddie Norbit Murphy takes the fall in that simpering Dreamgirls movie. Besides, the award went to a worthy man. Alan Arkin fucking KILLED in Little Miss Sunshine! He was far-and-away the best part of that movie. Plus, I'm glad it won a little sumpin' sumpin' (this award and also one of the Screenplay awards).

I couldn't care less that Jennifer Hudson went from nobody to American Idol reject to Academy Award winner in the span of a year. I'd just like to point out that another child actor lost yet again, as should always and forever be the case. Child stars are fucked up as it is, why add the burden of being an Award Winning Fucked Up Child Star?

The Departed stole my other screenplay award from Children of Men, which I thought should've been considered a little more strongly for Best Picture. An Inconvenient Truth surprised nobody with its win over "Never Heard Of It", "Never Heard Of It", "Jesus Camp", and "Never Heard Of It". Nor did Al 'Glory-hole ... I mean Hog' Gore and his stealing of the director's spotlight to talk about his environmental cause that - for one night at least - no one in Hollywood gives two fucks about. Every year, the documentary award winner uses their victory as a mandate to talk about whatever cause their film touted, and every year everyone in America rolls their eyes and no good comes of it.

So, that's the Oscars. To those of you who sat around for 4 hours, what the fuck? Didn't you know I'd be here to recap it all for you in the morning?

One More Now and One More Later and That's It, I Promise

What does a gay horse eat? HEEEEEEY! (OK, so that joke is nothing without the visual and the vocal inflection I'm planning, so the next time you see me in person, ask me what a gay horse eats and I promise I'll tell you).

Every year around this time it would seem that many people's hearts turn to fancy as they promote the love they feel to their significant other for the whole world to see. And every year, around this time, my heart turns to punching people in the face for making out on the subway while preventing clear passage through the rapidly opening and closing doors in the morning when 50,000 other people are trying to cram their ways to work.

With that out of the way, I'm free to talk about my weekend. At first glance, it doesn't sound as eventful as it was, but I'll try to justify setting it aside as its own post anyway.

I'm convinced that White Castle puts heroin in their food and I'll tell you why. First of all, they use the word "Crave" in their slogans, signs, and even their 1-800 number. Purchasing 30 hamburgers from White Castle is what's known as The Crave Case. Purchasing 100 hamburgers is known as The Crave Crate (and, at only $53 dollars, quite the bargain if you ask me). And, to put it all in perspective with the human touch, I me myself have eaten 22 of these dandies from last Thursday through Sunday. That's three trips in four days. And yes, one of those days I bought six burgers even though I'd already eaten dinner. My hands can't stop shaking right now; it's been about 17 hours and I haven't had my Slyder fix. Someday soon I'm just gonna buy a crave case and either eat until I die or collapse in a puddle of tears, for if I were to ever finish a crave case on my own, it'll mean the addiction has so consumed me, there's no quenching the rabid beast.

On the plus side, I had the opportunity on Saturday to pop Liz's White Castle cherry. I went there for lunch and she had me pick up a meal for her since she was so hungover from the night before. I feel like a junkie shooting up his little sister for her piggy bank money; let's hope she has the fortitude to fight what I've so blatantly caved into.

This came on the heels of my non-hangover from the long night of Budweiser and Merlot goodness. I finished Beerfest with my 6-pack of tallboys; then I switched to wine mid-stream and watched the end of an era. Liz and I were near tears by the end ...

After the White Castle Menagerie, I left for the city, to meet Emily on the western side of Manhattan for an art exhibit known as The Armory. When I got to 12th Avenue (right on the water facing the Hudson River - I think), she called me and said the line was out the building, down the block. See, originally we'd fancied ourselves sneaking in and seeing it for free. Fat chance of that, this thing was sealed up tighter than Fort Knox's butthole. Besides that, the line was oppressively long and I wasn't about to spend $20 after the spending spree I'd been on (what with comedy show tickets, White Castle, beer, etc.). So, in the end, Emily and I just walked around the city for a while and went home, determined to take it upon ourselves to explore the city (or just go exploring in general) at least once a month.

When we got home, I dove into the wine; there was no way I was going to a comedy show by myself AND sober. I finished watching Die Hard (which I started the night before but only got 41 minutes into before passing out) and probably plowed through one full bottle. I made it to Irving Plaza in plenty of time to bypass the long line of suckers (Will Call had no line).

Arj Barker was great, though brief. A.D. Miles started off weak, but won the crowd over for the most part (he sounded like an effeminate mid-westerner, though he claimed he'd been married before to a woman). But, obviously we were all here to see Zach Galifianakis.

I'm telling you, the greatest thing about Zach is the fact that I've seen him live once, seen him on video two other times, and now I've seen him live again; Saturday night, he repeated maybe 5 total jokes out of all those other times I'd seen him. And he put on a 90 minute set, or thereabouts.

So, he did his stand-up part, then he went over to the piano (where he just randomly plays as he tells the same type of jokes), and then it was the part of the show where he walks around in the audience and mingles with a few lucky members of the crowd. He made fun of some people, cued in on the one black guy in the audience, then started back for the stage. Now, this was great. Out of nowhere, this tall, put-together, younger individual (in his 20s) walked from the left side of the room to right behind Zach at the front of the room. He tapped Zach on the shoulder - startling him as it would anyone not named Chuck Norris, who would've delivered a fatal roundhouse kick to the throat - and said something to the effect of, "If you make me laugh right now, I won't ask for my money back." To which, Zach replied, "Okay, security!"

Then he shook them off and decided to have a dialogue with this disgruntled individual. Some fans from the crowd started to get pissed off at this guy, but Zach calmed them down, saying, "Hold on, let the hipster have his say." The hipster started babbling about how the tickets cost $36 and was just rambling on and on, so Zach said, "Come here, let's lean against the stage, this sounds like it's gonna take a while." Then, the crowd started yelling again, so Zach said to them, "Quiet, I'm trying to listen to Freddy Mercury!" Which was fairy accurate, as he did look like the flamboyant singer of Queen. Then, ohmygod, the greatest exchange took place. So, awkwardly, right after Zach made the Freddy Mercury reference, the guy said, "Well, actually, I DO have AIDS." And Zach said, "Well, I don't usually say this about that, but THANK GOD." Finally, the guy went back to the place where he was standing, wouldn't shut up, was thrown out by security, and Zach yelled out to him, "Hey, have you ever been kicked out for $36? Because it looks like you are now." It was an awesome show.

That leads me right into Sunday, which was a total blast. So, Emily invited me over to her friend Katya's (I don't know if that's how you spell it) loft in Williamsberg, where they were working on an art project. Seems that Katya is filming a giant chess game using real people with paper maché hats of the various chess pieces. The filming is next weekend, and she's kinda running on a tight schedule, so I offered my services for a few hours. That meant, I got to play with paper maché for a solid six hours! My jeans were covered in that glue shit by the time 5pm rolled around. I had to get the fuck outta there and buy groceries and get ready for work today, so I left the group, but I still managed to fix up four of the hats to the point where they're ready for painting. Like I said, the filming is next weekend, so I'm gonna go check it out. Probably not all day, but at least a few hours.

OK, one more post to go, and if you don't know what it's gonna be about, I won't spoil it for you. If it's up today, it'll be this afternoon ... if I can manage to even see the screen through all the tears ...

What Did I Watch The O.C. For?

T & A!

But, The O.C. was so much more than ... titties and ... anus. Much, much more.

First, let me just say that The O.C. was like a sandwich, and I'm not just talking about the Steve Sub with my naked lubed-up self sliding between Marissa and Summer on a bed made up of White Castle Hamburgers and Taco Del Mar Jumbo Burritos. Like any good sandwich, you've got two quality slices of bread: in this case, the epic first season and the above-average fourth-and-final season. Except, with the O.C., what you've got is a Turkey, Bacon, Lettuce, and Shit sandwich, with said turd dumpling hidden right smack dab in the center. You almost kinda want to forget it's there, because the tops and bottoms are so amazingly awesome, but then you can't help turning green with nausea when you think about it.

We can all just set this down as a given and begin to move on: The First Season Will Never Be Matched By Anyone Else's First Season EVER. The first season of The O.C. had it ALL. Ryan jacks a car with his brother and gets arrested. Sandy takes him in, he meets the fam. There are multiple fights, Ryan wooing Luke's girl, Seth getting Summer to notice him. You've got an overdose in Mexico (TJ!), two girls vying for Seth's affection, Luke's dad coming out of the closet, Ryan possibly being a father, Jimmy losing millions of dollars, Julie Cooper marrying Kirsten's father, Ryan going off to Chino, and Seth sailing away on his boat, possibly never to return again. I know there's like five million things I forgot in there, but if I go on now I'll be at it until next winter.

Anyway, so today I was looking at it, and holy crow did the second season suck! I mean, just looking back on it, season two was probably the worst second season in the history of television! I mean, just putting us through that whole Ryan-Lindsay drama should've been enough to cause me to renounce this show forever. They like each other, they don't, they're going out, they're taking a break, they're officially together, they're officially on a break, and ON, and ON, and ON! I mean, if they didn't throw in Marissa's lesbian fling, I would've hung myself with a sock.

And, as for season three, sure a lot of shit happened, but it was hard to give a rat's ass because by this point we the viewers were already aware of two things: new characters were completely disposable (see: Anna, Oliver, Theresa, D.J., Alex, Zach, Lindsay, Sadie, Charlotte, Johnny, Chili, all of Ryan's family, and apparently anyone of the extended Cooper/Cohen/Nicholl clan). The other thing we knew for a given: all new characters had pre-defined roles for the show and could never deviate from those roles. They were separated into three piles: Love Interest, Villain, or Chili. As soon as their purpose was fulfilled, they were either killed or shipped off to some other part of the world. Therefore, you could see the same pattern in Season 3 as there was in Season 2. In the end, things would have to return to some semblance of normalcy.

So, why did I continue to be an avid viewer of the show in those two sore-thumb years? Because, that's the thing about The O.C. They know how to hook you in early and they know how to draw you back in late. If you were to watch the first two episodes and the last two episodes of any season of the O.C., you'd think it was the greatest show of all time and you'd wonder why they'd ever cancel anything so amazing. Well, if you gaze into the 20 or so episodes in the middle, you'll SEE why they lost 20% of their viewership every year for the last three years.

Granted, the hand of Fox intervened a little too often by forcing script changes, additions, and changing the timeslot repeatedly. If they'd just left well-enough alone as they left it in the timeslot after American Idol, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But, there's two things you need to know about the creators of the O.C. They run through storylines like they're dissolving in boiling water, and they can't shit until they tinker with what ain't broke.

Never was it more apparent than in the series finale when they covered about 3 or 4 years worth of shit in a 60 minute episode. But, take for example the Seth-Anna-Summer triangle. That thing played out in less time than it does for me to rip off a hairy dump. 90210 or Dawson's Creek would've milked 5 seasons out of that mess, and don't get me started about Friends. But, that's what made The O.C. great and what made the first season simply epic. It was the Short-Attention-Span Teenage Drama, and it never disappointed. Because you knew, if you didn't like what was happening this week, keep watching because three weeks later they'll have moved on completely like the last howevermany episodes never happened. Oliver's pointing a gun to your head? You shoot Ryan's brother and put him in a coma? Marissa was rolled in a car down a cliff and died in your arms? Hogwash, that's nothing a few episodes and a tight little tush can't make you forget.

You know what I'd really like to do? I'd like to download the entire first season, the first and final episodes of season two, the first and final episodes of season three, and all of season four and I'd like to package that as The O.C. - The Complete Series Without All Of The Utter Shit In The Middle. Maybe with some extras of Kaitlin and Hailey and anyone else who's really really hot in their bikinis moving in slow motion to the music of The Walkmen or The Killers or Death Cab or something. And, like, an interactive video game: Guess Sandy's Mood By The Super Closeup Position Of His Eyebrows. Maybe a montage of everyone ever punched in the face or every drink Kirsten ever took or every sugardaddy Julie ever slept with for financial security or every time Marissa ever ate something on camera to make it look like she didn't have an eating disorder or every time Seth flopped into a piece of furniture as if the weight of the world hinged on that particular problem of that particular day of that particular moment. How about this for comedy's sake: a documentary of everyone associated with the show and their level of success away from the show (how's that blossoming movie career Mischa Barton? hey Summer, how would you like to come back to my place and do some ... modelling?).

C-man, I don't want to see any responses to this post, because we're still gonna get hammered and record our inebriated feelings on the show's demise. So, save any thoughts until the time comes.

But, I'll close with this: what did I watch The O.C. for? To be honest, for a couple reasons. First of all, I never had much of an exciting high school life. I mostly stayed in the house, had but a few fellows I'd call friends, never dated, never did much of anything. So, you could say I was living vicariously through The O.C. Which is sad because I was 22 years old when it first aired. But, more importantly than that, I never had a Teenage Highschool Drama to call my own. I was never interested in 90210 or Party of Five or any of those shows; I didn't watch My So-Called Life until it was already in re-runs, and besides that it was only on for a half a season. Sure, there was Dawson's Creek and to a lesser extent Gilmore Girls, but those shows were widely considered to be highly lame at the time.

And then The O.C. came around. In the very first scene, you're dropped in medias res of a car-jacking. You've got the heroic tough guy (who I aspire to be) and the nerdy introvert (who I most associate with). There's the land of affluence juxtaposed with common sense beliefs, the clashing of the luxury and hippie cultures. There's drama for your mama to the nines and some happening music to boot.

And, of course, the T & A. I'll never forget those T's and that A on The O.C.