11.30.2017

Xmas90

By the time I was 7 years old, I'd only been to the movie theater a handful of times (if you can buy that) - it comes from growing up in an age of VCR and HBO. In fact, I think I'd been to the drive-in just as often. In any case, it was a 'treat,' like McDonald's or an amusement park, and I took it seriously as such. No one had to explain to me that it was sacred -- I merely felt it to be so...

To the best of my memory, December 1990 inaugurated a tradition that carried on throughout the decade: Dad & I went to the movies so Mom could wrap the presents for all the children of the world.
Boil that down into the crack-cocaine that it is: "We get to go to the movies, specifically for the purpose of staying occupied so your Christmas presents can be wrapped! Also, it's almost Christmas! And we're going to the movies!"

In hindsight, there were a couple of interesting options that particular weekend: Misery, Jacob's Ladder, Predator 2. Of course at the time I don't think those would have stood out to me just yet -- though they were valued video rentals.
Naw, the frontrunner was, in fact, something that wasn't entirely running up front with me, or my father, at all. If you were alive then, you'd remember the full-on glue-and-feather assault that Home Alone was exacting on our culture. And what they were selling looked kinda, well... stupid; potentially too juvenile even for a 7 year old. And I think that may actually be why adults - then & now - love it. We'll get waaaay into that later.

I think Dad & I were optioning swallowing this bitter pill: it's popular, it's a comedy, it's a Christmas movie, probably a good theater experience (big crowd, lotsa laughs)... why the fuck not?

The thing that is perhaps most fascinating (to me, anyway) is that I can't fully remember what is was that inevitably drove us into the razor-sharp embrace of Edward Scissorhands instead. I do remember my mother gently trying to dissuade us - me especially - warning me that they appeared to be selling it as a 'dull romance' & that maybe I'd be bored. I was still quite a rookie then, & I wasn't fully aware of Tim Burton or Danny Elfman or that I was already an avid fan & that I simply couldn't go wrong. And it really is strange - I'd only seen a couple commercials for it & really couldn't make heads or tails of what the hell I was looking at. That strict curiosity + some exciting apprehension + some magic je ne sais quoi was the formula that somehow got us into those seats.

So, there we were at Loews Cinemas, Saturday matinee, December 15th 1990. We always got there way early. As we sat waiting, my father pointed out how the majority of the half-full theater were young girls, most likely due to the film's heartthrob star; something I wasn't aware of, but apparently Dad was. My apprehension grew a little in those last few moments before the trailers.

And, for anyone who cares, the trailers were: Green Card, Come See the Paradise, and Sleeping With the Enemy. You're welcome.
I don't think I've ever completely told this story, because it's not easy to tell. I don't mean emotionally, I mean intellectually - it's fucking hard to describe. Watching the movie now, nearly 3 decades later, I still try to pinpoint exactly what it was that connected all my dots -- or the dots of any 7 year old. I realize this kinda cheapens whatever voodoo the film had or has, but there are plenty of superficial signposts: A candy-colored melodrama with shades of jet-black goth; a literal 'Rainbow in the Dark' with big music & crazy landscape. Beetlejuice on ice. Blue Velvet for kids. Disney's Hellraiser. Call it what I may, none of it really reveals what I felt when I felt it, or how it felt to feel it.
But I'm still gonna try.

Since birth, I'd been intoxicated by movies. I don't think - or, I didn't then - that there was anything unique there; everyone loves movies. I also don't think I had the wherewithal to look inside myself & recognize that I was getting more enjoyment from film than the next person. I may've been self aware, but not on deeply cerebral level. I was a baby. Christ.

Edward Scissorhands flipped a switch that was somehow missed by Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, The
Right Stuff, Ghostbusters, Young Frankenstein, Lethal Weapon 2Running Scared, and hundreds of other big colorful booties, up to & including all of Tim's previous stuff. What it does (I think) is truly something that I'm not always consciously looking for in art, but I recognize it hard when it happens, and it's rare (and/or rarely done right).

And yet it sounds simple enough: elaborate fantasy within a 'real-world' framework -- sharp contrast.

Pulp Fiction does this. The Exorcist does this. Magnolia does this. And though all of its subtext re. sex, religion, pop culture, and individuality may not exactly be subtext, it had a mystique that I think resonates best & brightest with a child - especially this child. It is viscerally compelling: a non-threatening cenobite travels down the rabbit hole into a ridiculous Bo Welch Wonderland, and it's played completely straight. So straight that's it's funny, scary, sad, romantic, and so on. And that's only a vague description of part of why it's important.

However, if I had to point to one thing in the movie that perhaps reached into my soul & turned me on dead man, it's what I consider to be the greatest film score ever created. 
That list does exist -- it's in my noodle. And #1 has never not been Danny Elfman/Edward Scissorhands.
I received the cassette tape for my birthday 2 months later. My first soundtrack album. It was exhilarating, because it was like owning the movie itself: I could listen to it & play back the scenes in my head as though I were watching it.
I drained so many black magic markers of their juice drawing Edward surrounded by his topiary creations. My father drew me a fantastic rendition of the castle, & my brother-in-law drew a true-to-life portrait.
I was becoming a real movie fan.
I was becoming a fan, period. Up until then I had liked things & was invested in whatever was around, but now I had a deep interest in something beyond the workaday dimension of being 7: fun & games, schoolwork, television. I had my first healthy obsession, life had meaning & depth. It was a stepping stone.
We went back the following weekend to see it again, bringing my mother along. This was unprecedented: going to the theater to see the same movie? That's allowed? It certainly helped that my father was equally taken with the film, which also propelled its legitimacy in my mind: an adult likes this too & isn't just catering to whatever 'child thing' I happen to be into. My mother was so moved that she never really liked watching it again due its heartbreaking premise and ending. So, I believe it was just me & Dad again for the inevitable third viewing.

In school, all I wanted to talk about was the movie, but the opportunity never presented itself. I kept waiting for someone to ask me about it, or perhaps there could be some assignment where we'd have to talk about the stuff we liked, a 'show & tell of the soul'. Or there would be some class discussion about contemporary cinema or fictional heroes.
It was not to be - this sorta free-floating expressionism didn't exist in my second grade classroom. And when the subject of movies did come up around that time, there was but only one...

The week before our confirmed fourth consecutive trip to the cinema, my father & I debated. "Is it time we go see the most popular movie in the world? Do we care?" We both knew it was less of a want and more of a should. It was the hip thing to do, I suppose. Every visit prior, we'd treated Home Alone the way Pee-Wee regarded the snakes in the pet store scene in Big Adventure. But perhaps it was time. As precious as weekends were, we were willing to sacrifice this one to the masses.
And masses they were...
Roughly seven weeks after wide release, the line, still, was 'around the block' as it were - extending outside the cozy cathedral of the multiplex into the gray January. "Fuck that," we said, to some degree. "No line for Edward! Shall we?"

So, the following weekend was it - we were committed - so committed that we would stand in any line to see this kid fuck shit up in a mansion.
And there was a line. And he fucked that shit up good. And even still, the most exciting part was that an Edward trailer preceded the movie - which I had never seen: The Theatrical Trailer! I called them the "Movie Previews", which were longer & had more emotional impact & told a better story, as opposed to the "TV Previews" which were shorter & felt rushed & shortchanged. But to see the theatrical trailer was like watching an encapsulated love letter to the movie I'd wished I was actually watching. Needless to say, I was distracted.

I know we went back the following week (not to Home Alone obviously), and, I'm pretty sure the week after that as well. (This was clearly a time when movies stayed in the theater a little longer than a week).

And wouldn't you know it: eventually that weekend came when a friend or cousin or someone my age invited me to go the movies with a crowd of 'my ages' to see the movie I'd already blown my no-hitter with.
Yeah, fine.
No 7 year old is so jaded as to purposefully root for the underdog. I wasn't even aware Edward was an underdog until I started to realize no one my age (or any other adults actually) were even aware of it.
They loved that "filthy animal" bit, though.
Well, I get to see that trailer again-- oh, it's no longer in theaters so they pulled the trailer. Fine. So what am I left with: Leo 'Getz' his head on fire, Gatsby's dad shovels driveway, kid from Uncle Buck says 'horse's ass' to thunderous applause.
Alright, alright. I was not some jaded emo kid - I was a happy little boy. It was fun to see in a theater, & it's easier to laugh along with others laughing. And while Edward may have been a very personal turning point for something, Home Alone was a major cultural phenomenon & I was part of it. I had no choice. Once it was on video for the following Christmas, that was it - it was never going away. And it ages loverly - largely due to nostalgia (sorry if that cheapens it, but that's what it is). Like Spaceballs, "Ice Ice Baby," and other accessible mediocrity, it can be fun when the world brands it as such.
And speaking of Spaceballs, can we talk for a moment about the watermark in the declination of certain artists? In this case, Chris Columbus, and, to a great extent, John Hughes.
Two men that, separately, shaped youth pop culture for roughly a decade. And then to collaborate? This film should have been the most popular, most quotable, most Christmassy Christmas movie of all time.

And, well, I suppose it is. There.

But why so predictable? Why so aggressively wholesome, yet simultaneously so clumsily mean-spirited? But really, overall, why so dull?


This Christmas: Stale Snickers & A Flat 2-liter of Pepsi
From the screenwriter of Goonies and Gremlins combined with the screenwriter of Ferris Bueller and Breakfast Club

We still try to watch it every Christmas (Lost in New York is better, but let's not get into a big thing right now). Perhaps I ask for too much. I set my standards based on these previous credits + the fact that I was dealing with my first obsession movie. The commercials sold it as a nonstop slapstick farce (and, for the most part, it was) showing all the traps & stunts so there were literally no fresh ones to be seen. That was the biggest surprise - there weren't any surprises. It was that nonthreatening.
And that's ok - that's why it lives on. People cling to a lotta the nits I've picked, but that still leaves plenty of other gems in Buzz's treasure chest: John Williams's score, the fetishization of pizza, the strong adult performances, actual (for the most part) location shooting set during the correct season, and a (supposedly) improvised sequence with John Candy that feels like it's part of a different, better movie.
I can't call Home Alone "fucking awesome" or "one of the greatest movies, or even comedies, ever made." Hughes made a few of those - this wasn't one of them. I'm happy it's there - I like that's it's part of the lineup -- somewhere between Jingle All the Way and The Santa Clause; not special, but definitely elemental. And that lineup grows a tiny bit each year, and while not nearly as tough as Halloween, it's getting tricky to get in all the movies we watch only between December 1st and December 24th. If they don't make it, they go to the top of the order next year. Hopefully.

- Paul

T  R  A  D  I  T  I  O  N  A  L

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Santa Claus The Movie (1985)
Scrooge (1970)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970)
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
The Snowman (1982)
Scrooged (1988)
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Bad Santa (2003)
A Christmas Story (1983)
The Santa Clause (1994)
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Prancer (1989)
Northpole (2014)
Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

S  E  A  S  O  N  A  L

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The Conversation (1974)
Hard Eight (1996)
Carol (2015)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Gremlins (1984)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Trading Places (1983)
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

H  O  R  R  O  R

Christmas Evil (1980)
Jack Frost (1997)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
I Come In Peace (1990)
Trancers (1984)
American Psycho (2000)

W  R  A  P  P  I  N  G     P  R  E  S  E  N  T  S

Paul - The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Jess - Inglourious Basterds (2009)

J  E  S  S  '  S     A  L  O  N  E     T  I  M  E

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (2011)

11.26.2017

Xmas89

Christmas in the Northeastern United States is a sharp reflection of all the music and prose and illustration that's been born of the season. One can romanticize the tone of the Victorian era, or embrace the break-neck Star Wars consumerism of right now - this unique temperate zone affords both. As the continent tilts away from the sun and we 'save' an hour, the idea of 'outdoors' becomes an event; it's like living on the moon.  And the idea of a mythic character braving this heartless weather - in an uncovered, unheated conveyance no less - simply to sneak into your house and leave an exclusive set of items just for you made it that much more peculiar and exciting.

"We Didn't Start the Fire" was the #1 song. Driving Miss Daisy was killing it at the box office. The 80s were almost done. The 90s were a week away. Let that sink in.

There was nothing particularly special about Christmas in 1989 - at least, not globally. But to a 6 year old, what else is there? Even addicts can't identify with that kinda tunnel vision.
Though only older now do I understand that it wasn't like that for everyone. But I can't write about that - all I know about is being ensconced in colored lights, power ballads, excessive dessert foods, and movies that don't seem to even exist outside of that three-week period.

My upbringing was White Trash Norman Rockwell.
Store-Bought Apple Pie.
The Harsh, Real-World Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
I was surrounded by working-class intellectuals. We lived within our means & enjoyed life on all its subtextual levels.
There were large generation gaps between the members of my household. Through my mother, I learned Neil Sedaka & Lesley Gore, daytime TV & murder mysteries. My father liked documentaries, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac & Thoreau. My sister & brother-in-law exposed me to Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, MTV, & horror movies.
This was the 'indoors' climate at that particular time: saccharine with some rock 'n roll. I'm forever pleased with the way it was when it was - not every adult can say that.

For this one year, we borrowed my Uncle Don's video camera (and apparently my Auntie Pat's General Hospital tape) to capture the event. My father acts as God: never appearing on camera, but merely observing & capturing with little intervention. And, as he still points out, I am the star.

Obviously, there are plenty of notable things about that moment in time to you nostalgia buffs out there -- we know your names...
Every Christmas for me seemed to have an incidental theme - at least until the teen years. '89 was, not surprisingly, a shrine to the Box Office champ of that year (as well as its star and director). Most broadly, Xmas89 was the holiday of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. (Little did I know that I was but one year away from Tim's ultimate Xmas atom bomb & one of the most important cinematic experiences of my life. But that's for a later post...)
Apart from the Batman & Beetlejuice blitz, there's a whole lunch wagon of cultural pop rocks all over this VHS.

  • Listen closely to the open & you can hear a Nick at Nite ad for the classic SNL episodes they used to air.
  • My Thundercats pajamas were hand-me-downs from an older cousin - I don't recall ever seeing an episode in its entirety. (And yes, I slept in mom's bed. Until I was 23, I believe).
  • Most of the other gifts were 'joke toys': tricks & gags, whoopee this & fake that, because, let's face it, as cool as the Dark Knight was, I'd chosen sides & I knew who I wanted to be. Hand Blaster Balls(?), an Inspector Gadget hand buzzer, and a literal box of buffoonery featuring a snake-in-a-can, arrow-through-the-head, and dribble glass, given to me by the clown prince of crime himself!

I won't list all the Easter eggs (this isn't Dinosaur Dracula) but I will say, if you squint hard enough, it's almost timeless; take the 80s out of it & it's just an adorable representation of Christmas morning (all due respect to Jean Shepherd. And Dinosaur Dracula).
Of course it's a lotta fun to watch for those involved, on a subjective level. It also packs a punch for me considering how many of the people (& pets) are no longer with us.
Even the house has faded into oblivion.
But I'm most fascinated by the fact that I'm now 3 years older than my father was at the time this video was made. And as Jess & I prepare to welcome a child of our own, it can now act as a splendid reminder of the importance of a happy household, & how it's really not that difficult to achieve. No excuses.

Here, in its entirety, is all 32 minutes of the footage captured at 24 Bennett Place on the morning of December 25th, 1989.

11.19.2017

11.09.2017

MCD - Mutual Culture Destruction

If McDonald's food isn't recognized as appetizing by some (or nourishing by most),
if their marketing has shifted towards complacent millennials who've boycotted all major chains,
if their decor has evaporated into a beige, nondescript camouflage blended into the landscape of a society that wants a leader dumber than itself as to not feel insecure, then does McDonald's, by definition, continue to exist? Did it ever - I mean, tangibly - exist?
The 'never fill you up/always let you down' dark magic leaves a very shallow footprint. The only proof we have, ironically, are some Happy Meal toys floating around.
Like NY City or American History, McDonald's has been sanitized into a state of apprehensive commonplace: "We know something's rotten, or used to be rotten, so just stay in line & don't call any attention to yourself & we'll call you #1."
Throughout the 2000s, I became acutely aware of several McDonalds suddenly looking like Starbucks.
Around this time, twice within a couple year period, 2 of the nearer locations to me were torn down - bulldozed to the ground - only to be immediately replaced by newer, boxier McDonalds.
Cold, postmodern, uninviting.
This is a corporate phenomenon I can't fully grasp; I can understand expansion, logo & brand modification, remodeling, restaffing, but a complete and unified architectural overhaul appears to be unique (now, to all the major fast food chains). And if this costly slash-and-burn approach to some trivial facelift weren't dumb enough, it's the end result that's upsettingly curious (or curiously upsetting). If newer McDonalds make your dentist's office look like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, then the latest model - the 2017 architecture and decor - resemble Keir Dullea's living quarters at the end of 2001, minus the Chippendale furniture.
So, still, I wonder, what is McDonald's?
Or, what was it?

We've touched on the concept of nostalgia a time or two at Bennett Media. And while we're loud 'n proud gluttons for yesteryear, that's not entirely what this is about.
Instead of looking back fondly, I'm looking around with disgust. Instead of reminiscing, I'm yelling and throwing furniture. My diet consists primarily of lorazepam and decaf, so it takes a pretty stiff dick to penetrate my mellow. But phooey, there are dicks all around me. And it's why I keep fighting.

The most surprising place to find some peculiar information regarding nostalgia is actually Wikipedia. In summation, they write of various 'studies' that champion the nostalgic individual, stating that such a person has "greater perceived meaning, search for meaning less, and can better buffer existential threat."
That rings true.
Of course, like any perspective/train of thought/state of mind/belief system, it all depends on the individual, no?

I don't know why people use snowflakes and fingerprints as the precedent of 'unique' - most things in nature don't match (except, I guess, for McDonalds).
There's an excerpt from Don DeLillo, via White Noise, via Luke Pajowski that goes:

“Murray said, 'I don't trust anybody's nostalgia but my own. Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It's a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country.'”

A fascinating observation - mostly for how bizarre and outlandish it is.
If one were nostalgic for the days of the Obama administration, for old-timey values like equality and tolerance, would they be considered a 'conservative'?
Nostalgia, by definition, is subjective. Anything else would be something else. Superficially, there is some kinda universal fondness for this or that (that's what we do here!) but the actual feeling you or I get is way too personal to simply "define," whether it's from Wikipedia or anything with the term "throwback" stamped on it.
Also, fuck the term "throwback."
Bennett Media rests on the shoulders of the butterflies we feel when we all remember seeing Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice, but it was under different circumstances for all of us. What triggers my memories and how I process them is beyond compare. Christ, even the bad times stir up nostalgic feelings for me, so figure that shit out!

But, believe it or not, this is something that's actually not unique to today's cultural holocaust: the demise of individualism. They've been trying to keep us in labeled groups probably ever since God invented religion.
Sure, there's a divisive political climate (again, nothing new), but we don't deal with that here. What I'm talking about is the ongoing pop struggle: Plato vs. Aristotle, Mozart vs. Beethoven, Dickens vs. Twain, Beatles vs. Stones, DC vs. Marvel.
Whatever cult you're part of, there's an opposing side. Someone to tell you you're wrong. And, of course, the best synonymical phrase for 'pop struggle' (and it drove Billy Joel crazy) is Cola War.
And that's what this is, and therein lies the problem; they can't poll the grey areas, and as someone who loves RC Cola as much Coke and/or Pepsi, my voice is unheard.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Attributed by Mark Twain to Benjamin Disraeli



The death of the individual voice has hit every corner of every thing, and every person feels it - consciously or not. And so, social media is born and thrives as everyone waves their freak flag in the hopes of emerging as different or special. It's pathetic and almost laughable, but it's fine. I don't care. But one of the big things we lost to this baloney is The Art of Film Criticism. And that, we take seriously.

The Vegetative (or is it a fruit) State of Movies (and The Critics Who Love Them)

I enjoy sports to some degree - baseball in particular. Though I've always found the Olympics to be pretentious, repetitive bullshit. Finishing first in a race is one thing, but it's the performance competitions, judged by judges, that are on some phenomenal level of nonsense. (This is also just a sliver of proof as to why those reality TV competition shows are forged by Lucifer himself). 
For the past 20+ years, mainstream cinema has been subjected to this GPA bullshit, and people - even you - are buying it.
Only the concept of Rotten Tomatoes is interesting. But when the novelty is simply more convenient than the substance, convenience will always, always win. Who wants the cherry on top when you can just buy a fucking jar of cherries?
You hear about the kid in 2016 who wanted to sue the site because Suicide Squad received such a low percentage? Now, while I admire that kinda passion, it does illustrate where we're at & where the moviegoing public is at.
And no, while they've trivialized criticism into 'good or bad' they have not done away with the art form itself -- for those who are interested, the full reviews can be sought out - the links are right there on the site. And if you do bother to read them, it presents a whole new and exciting ball of migraines.

I bitched about this in one of my older bitchfests way back in 2011 (and Stephen Stills before me): if
you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. And it's the job of critics to do this professionally, and publicly. They have learned to train themselves to advocate mediocrity in the absence of greatness, and in the process they're leading us into the void. This is due, in part, to this newfangled constitution that 'okay' movies provide a high enough 'percentage' to qualify as 'fresh.'
The End. Kinda.

I can't write something like this and not lay into Lord of the Rings yet again, but I'll make it quick: while that movie set the acceptable standard of CGI way too low (and they still haven't progressed), the movie that changed-changed movies for the millennium so far was actually a movie I enjoyed, as it employed its device in a tasteful, seamless way (much like CGI-heavy movies pre LOTR) and that's O Brother, Where At Thou? In that movie, they changed green to brown. And it works - it's a huge move that manages to translate subtly. It was believable - you couldn't see the brush strokes.
Never again would this be so.
The art of cinematography (which - maybe I'm picky - I always found to be crucial to cinema) has died much in the fashion of roadkill: there it lies, dead in the street, and we just keep moving. The idea that lighting & color timing can be manipulated with mouse clicks appears to be just that: an idea. Because they look like mouse clicks. They've chosen to animate all the stuff in nature we can't control: weather, fire, blood, monsters, Carrie Fisher. But that's just the thing - when it is controlled, it looks fake. It looks bad. PT and Quentin don't seem to bother with it, but Scorsese and Spielberg sure do.

I site it as the biggest problem with mainstream cinema today.

To be fair, Rogue One did, for me, excel in nearly all of its digital wizardry. But no one really talks about that.
Nor does anyone really talk about The CGI Problem (and I don't think they're even aware of the cinematography disaster). 
Unless, of course, it's popular.
Sure, I was disappointed with the animation in the recent version of It. That's the point: I'm disappointed with sloppy, unrealistic animation. The kind you can find in Avengers 3, Transformers 5, Jurassic World, Wonder Woman, Fast & Furious 8, Thor 3, Alien 5, X-Men 25, Spiderman Whatever, and so on. Of course, unlike this stale parade of zombie food, It, with all its flaws, had a ton of hip & surprising elements. But this is when they wanna complain.
In the 90s, I thought the worst thing about movies was the screenwriting. And then along comes Titanic, and the big news is audiences find the dialogue to be corny & not believable. The same audience that drank in The Rock and Independence Day. My optimism tells me: when something is good, people just want it to be perfect. Add that to a lack of tact & I guess it's understandable.

The weird and frustrating (but mostly weird) thing is that I've always been the person who advocated film diversity, and that all movies don't have to follow some intangible criteria: a good plot, believability, a strong female lead, characters you care about, & so on.
The Gymnopédies and Kill 'em All can exist in the same universe.
But ain't that just my problem: the current lack of diversity; the beige, nondescript camouflage that is 98% of cinema.
Even all the infamously bad 'bad movies' like Manos, Troll 2, and Battlefield Earth are more fun and engrossing than, say, Hugo, Gravity, and The Big Short. I say this not to pay accolades to goofy cult fare, but to point out that this is a major fucking problem, with a seemingly easy (but apparently chancy) fix.

I thought mother! was pretty good. You know where that puts me? Nowhere. Much like the ripeness of a piece of fruit, one can't always determine the precise freshness. (That aside, it was just another example of how some detestable CGI can subtract from something.)
Point is, when a lot of this white bread doesn't evoke any passion, one is left shivering in the abyss. In a culture that encourages passion - to "Stand up. Fight. Make change. Resist. Break the rules. Let your voice be heard." - everyone's opinionated, and those opinions are facts. Everyone - not just the fake prez - everyone hides behind their FB and Twitter feeds -- people of fame especially; people with handlers who advise them when to release 'statements' to let the world know just how they feel about Trump, gun control, nazis, hurricanes, Harvey Weinstein, #oscarssowhite, non-binary gender rights, nuclear holocaust, and other tv shows. For the rest of us poor slobs who feel a million miles away from these global threats, we fight to the death over whether or not the minimalist approach to the Dunkirk screenplay was the right way to go.
Nothing matters - everything is trivial. When we're this close to being leveled, so is the playing field.

But even though everything is beige now, only the Sith deal in absolutes. I'm not all grey. I do feel strongly about some stuff.

How Much I Feel

  • Are you aware they removed the string from the Barnum's Animal Crackers box? I'm not striving for frivolous footnotes here - I bring it up as a proverbial straw (or string) in the center of a cultural winter. After Crackerjack prizes turned from metal to plastic to paper, after cereal prizes turned to nothing, after the prizes revealed under soda caps turned into bizarre serial codes, after they removed the color from Trix, all we had left was that string. Perhaps the simplest and most harmless piece of tangibility on the planet: a goddamn string. I've only ever heard from two schools of emotion on the animal cracker string: unrestrained enjoyment or indifference. But never any kinda disdain for it. Never a desire to do away with it.


  • You ever see this on a 16x9 tv? Presumptuous, isn't it? Cinemascope seemed to nearly coincide with the invention & popularization of television (disregarding some earlier experimental films). Nevermind the fiasco of home video cropping, pan & scan, full screen, everything else. As of today, it's not all fixed; it's merely been tallied. All tvs are 'widescreen', but all the cumulated media is not. There are only round holes, but all the pegs are different shapes: 1.33, 1.66, 1.85, 2.35, 2.4, 2.7, 3.14159265 1080 HD digital smoothing 16x9 anamorphic enhanced for widescreen tvs. Meanwhile everyone's capturing vertical footage on their phones. Ever been to someone's house & nothing is set correctly on their tv & you just wanna murder their whole family so they'll learn? Me too. 



  • Remember when Birdman ostracized the film industry for its recent slew of fakey-dark
    comic book movies & everyone applauded it & it won best picture & then nothing changed & Michael Keaton ended up in a Spider-Man movie? Me too.



  • If The Simpsons stay around long enough, maybe there may end up being some kinda resurgence; a renaissance. Maybe, all of a sudden, they'll get a little better. What if it became better than it ever was? What if, like, season 32 was the one where they dropped the Kardashian & iPhone jokes? There is room for optimism here. 


Hey, It Could Happen
There were a handful of things from my generation that I didn't get into the way the other kids did: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Nirvana, The Princess Bride, The Cosby Show. There were also a handful of things that I absolutely fucking hated: Full House, Power Rangers, wrestling, Chef Boyardee. This doesn't conflict at all with my current outlook. Not everything old is solid gold - even if it represents an era I'm supposed to cherish. This is an honest and vivid example of how quality and nostalgia can be separated, and also illustrates how not everything improves with age/benefits from sticky sentimentality. It is also an admission that there was, and is, a gulf between what's hip & what I think should be hip, and it widens as I get older.


If they tore down McDonald's & planted trees, that'd be fine. If they kept the same architecture from the 1960s & gave their revamp money to poorer countries or animal rescue, that'd be just as good. If we wanna get big & silly about this, then the problem goes beyond just my aesthetic taste. But we'll keep it intimate.

My hometown McD's, the one I grew up with & frequented most, was recently destroyed (soon to be replaced by a McD's). I got all my happy meal toys & collector cups there, played Monopoly & Dick Tracy's Crimestopper games there, & even saw A Christmas Story for the first time (when they inexplicably set up a TV and VCR for one Christmas in the late 80s) in that very Mickey D's. I find this even more distressing than if they were to change Coke to coffee or french fries to yogurt (both of which they've done), because as I stated before, while the food is magic poison, it was the ambience (and the marketing which passed away long ago) that was the magnificent soul of the corporation, the country, and the world (capitalist nations in particular). In all the big, dumb, flashy, evil ways we can make America great again, this is one I would welcome. And it's not gonna happen.

- Paul

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