Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Celebrity Fantasies Special Birthday Edition: Ewan McGregor

In honor of Ewan's birthday, I dedicate this post to him.

. . .  so I have this fantasy that Ewan McGregor and his beautiful wife and his perfect children ask Ian and I out to dinner, and we go to this really nice place for sushi.  And we're all laughing, and his kids are perfectly behaved, and his accent is adorable and for once someone's wife doesn't think I'm totally after her husband (I get that a lot).  And when dinner is finished, he picks up the check.

He drops his wife and kids back at the hotel and Ian back at our hotel, and we get his motorcycle and he even got me a helmet with a bunch of cool voodoo/rockabilly designs on it.  He and I are going to see The Police play at Madison Square Garden, and we have front row seats, and Ewan is wearing a really awesome striped sweater that he has to keep rolling the sleeves up off his hands.  Oh, and he's wearing skinny jeans, not like emo skinny jeans, just a nice, slim, well-fitting pair.  And the Police are playing all my favorite songs, and it turns out that Sting and Ewan are pals so he gets to go up on stage and sing "Can't Stand Losing You" and "Walking on the Moon," the latter which he dedicates to me.  And afterwards I get to meet Sting and Stewart Copland, and that's cool, and then Ewan and I go to the Sunflower diner and drink coffee and laugh until, like, 2 in the morning, and then we get back on his motorcycle and he drops me off at my hotel and gives me a kiss on the cheek.  "We should do this again sometime," he says, in that awesome accent.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper, Friend to Dinosaurs

Dennis Hopper received his Star on the Walk of Fame on Friday, and pictures from the event show him gaunt, in a wheelchair, and close to death from cancer. Such a sad end to a man who terrified the ever loving bejeezus out of me as a kid.

Dennis Hopper is, in a way, responsible for my idiotic affection for dinosaurs. Now granted, most 8 year olds know more about dinosaurs that I do; my knowledge is limited to that dinosaurs are cool. I’ve read Jurassic Park something like twenty million times. I probably don’t have to tell you why I watch the movie.

And whenever my BFF/writing partner Matthew and I go to a conference, we try to find someplace with dinosaurs we can look at. Wells Dinosaur Haven has been our favorite so far.

But back to Dennis Hopper. To me, Hopper will always be Koopa from Super Mario Bros. You’re laughing. Go ahead, laugh. But my reasoning is this—awful as it was, Super Mario Bros. was the first movie I was allowed to see by myself at the single-screen movie theater up the street from house. I was 8, and it has been imprinted on my mind ever since.

Hopper gnaws his way through scenery like a homeless Seth Rogan in a dipsty dumpster, spitting hunks of cardboard and plywood with every over-wrought line of dialogue. But right at the end, when Mario and Luigi think they’ve de-evolved him, he jumps OUT of this giant bucket to bite their faces off. I was sitting forward in my seat and I jumped back so hard that Trista, whose mother also let her go to the movies un-chaperoned, laughed out loud. It was the first real cinematic reaction I remember having, and the adrenaline rush was intoxicating. It was then that movies went from being something to watch to something to experience.

I’ve seen Easy Rider. I’ve seen Blue Velvet. They were great, but Super Mario Bros. directly impacted how I relate to the cinema experience; the thrill I get when the trailers begin, the way I chain-chomp a package of candy cigarettes, the exact way I sit forward in my seat at the tensest moment. My prayers go out to Dennis Hopper, as well as an all-too-belated thanks.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guys and Dolls

The first record I ever fell in love with was Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy

But the second album I fell in love with was the soundtrack to the 1992 revival cast of Guys and Dolls. I was at my friend Erin’s house and her dad, who was conducting the show at the local college, played the tape for us. This began a love affair with musical theater that lasted up until college, when I lost my virginity and didn’t have to be a theater nerd anymore.

I kid, I kid. But all jokes aside, most of the theater I loved as a high schooler has fallen into the category of adolescent mistakes—Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Les Miserables, all those other wanker musicals. Only two musicals have stood the test of time, and Guys and Dolls is number one. (The other is Little Shop of Horrors). Hearing JK Simmons cheerfully snarl out the title number still sends gleeful shivers down my spine. This has almost nothing to do with the fact that over six seasons of Oz, I’ve seen the JK 1) Carving a swastika into Lee Turgeson’s ass, 2) Getting a blow job. 3) In the nude. The full nude.  Talk about having your childhood raped . . . literally.

There’s an exuberance in the music itself that transcends the actor’s own voices, from “Runyonland” (the overture) to the reprise of “Guys and Dolls.” It’s the kind of music that reminds you how wonderful musical theater really can be when in the hands of professionals, not a bunch of idiots and D-list actors (I’m looking at you, Ashlee Simpson). They just don’t write them like this anymore. “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” has done more to save my soul than a whole hymnal. I still harbor a fantasy from childhood about performing “Marry the Man Today” in a talent show—to uproarious applause, of course.

I met Nathan Lane, very briefly, in 2001. My friend Ann and I snuck into a Christie’s Auction for a chance to make cocktail party chatter with the two leads of The Producers. Matthew Broderick is a charmer even if his wife is an utter cunt. And short, too. I could totally take her.

We only got to talk to Nathan Lane for a minute, but he was kind and polite, with a little sadness behind his eyes. In another circumstance, I might have asked him to sign my CD.

Ian and I flew to London to see Ewan McGregor perform in the show as Skye Masterson, which marked two things: 1) The most insane thing I’ve ever done to attract a man’s attention (it failed—next time, Ewan!) and 2) The first time I’d actually seen the show. In all those years of hearing Nathan Lane belt out “Sue Me,” I’d never actually seen a production of Guys and Dolls. I actually started to weep when Ewan sang “My Time of Day” in front of the glowing white painted moon. They never put out a cast recording, and I can no longer listen to Peter Galligher sing Skye’s part—I don’t want to ever erase Ewan’s voice from my mind.

Most albums from childhood don’t stand the test of time, but Guys and Dolls continues to enchant me. It can cheer up even the worst day, and revive my energy better than a cup of coffee. Even if I have seen Benny Southstreet in the buff.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Celebrity Fantasies: David Arquette

I have this fantasy that I’m walking down St. Mark’s place towards Jas Mart to buy some of those little pink rice flour cakes that taste like clouds and I see David Arquette (pictured, left) walking on the opposite side, heading towards the Astor Place subway station. He’s got a large bag from Trash and Vaudville and I can only assume it’s filled with striped pants. I have a large, mostly-full Orange Julius, which I heft it at him.

I also, apparently, am a professional shot-putter because it hits him square between the shoulder blades, splattering all over his blue orange Hawaiian shirt and dripping down his green checkered pants. He turns to see who threw an Orange Julius at him. I wait until he spots me to yell, “You suck, David Arquette!” He starts to cry, drops his bag and runs away. Turns out the bag is just filled with some empty Keystone Light cans that he was probably returning for the deposit.

The next day his picture is on Perez Hilton with big white teardrops drawn on his cheek and a dong sketched in his mouth. I imagine it’s the most fame David Arquette will ever know.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Saddest Songs in the World: Part 1

Sad songs are kind of my thing. I’m an ex-goth and a Morrissey junkie. But I’m not talking teenage melodrama, I mean the kind of songs that rip your heart out of your chest and heft it into traffic. . . . this will be an ongoing, randomly updated segment in the column, so feel free to post your own in the comments section.

This week's entry: “Time to Pretend” MGMT

Songs don’t get any sadder than this. They just don’t. MGMT has managed to create a lush electronic wasteland where the narrators are so tragically aware of the choices they’ve deliberatly made, that the only thing left to do with their spent lives is OD. Bummer.

It’s the bridge that kills me every time:

I miss my sister, miss my father
Miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I miss the boredom
And the freedom
And the time spent alone

These are the things we forget about as we grow up. This is the end of innocence, right here.  But it's delicatly handled, simply shrugged off as, "well, live and learn."  There's no self-grandizing nostalgia, just the very simple admission that maybe hanging out in Paris, shooting drugs and banging models isn't what life is all about.

And it’s the most depressing, most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Morrissey has never written a single line that conveys as much melancholy as “Time to Pretend,” let alone a whole song.

It's also got a really bizarre music video

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Boys on Film Oscar Special!

. . . So the Oscars are tonight, and I could not give less of a fig about them. The Oscars usually disappoint me, because no one I ever like is nominated and if by chance they are nominated, they never win. This has happened to Mickey Rourke, Danny Elfman and Sting more times than I can count.

That, and I don’t have a TV. Or internet. I live in a more-or-less blissfully Oscar-free universe. Sunday night my beloved Ian and I will probably be munching on popcorn drenched in butter and coconut oil (a trade secret I owe to my darling friend/sister-wife to Stephen Colbert, Jenny) and continuing our six-part Star Wars Rifftrax series with our friend Chris, who remains our friend despite the fact that we made him sit through The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones in one weekend. Thank Heaven for Mike Nelson and Plinkett Films:

But, of course, this has made me think about the movies I’ve seen this year, and although it was better than the abysmal showings of 2008, that’s still no excuse. I really liked Duplicity, because Clive Owen is a fox and he looks good in a suit. 9 would have been better as a silent film, but there’s no denying that the puppetry was beyond gorgeous, and bonus points for a Danny Elfman theme. Public Enemies might be the worst, most boring film ever starring a formerly good actor now hamming it up so he can be on action figures and keep pretending to be independent.  Ian is still tortured by memories of Transformers 2 but has fond recollections of The Men Who Stare at Goats. Sherlock Holmes was terrible on plot but excellent on use of the RDj. The only good thing about 2012 was that I got to loudly mock the lineup of Twilight fans waiting for the midnight showing of New Moon.

There were really only two films that stood out to me this year. Films that broke beyond the typical stock fare and acted as more than just a Raisenettes delivery service.

District 9:
For starters, District 9 had an awesome ad campaign. I am not a fan of propaganda, Shia LaPouf screaming in my face that I HAVE TO GO SEE THIS MOVIE AAAAAAA!!!!!!! But when movie posters make me feel like I am part of the experience, as District 9’s “Human’s Only” bus/bathroom/bench campaign did, I’m much more compelled to find out what else might be sitting on my bench beside me if not for the warning label.

I really can’t describe what I liked in District 9 except that it was compelling, I wasn’t on the lookout for actors I knew, and that little baby prawn was sort of cute. It was a great, albeit simple, allegory for racism and apartheid, sort of Cry Freedom meets The Fly, without being heavy handed. Just a good, solid film that left me satisfied at the end. That doesn’t happen very often.

The Princess and the Frog

I cannot say enough good things about this film. I liked it so much that I went back and saw it the next day. I grew up in the second golden age of Disney, that lush watercolor Ashman/Menkin era of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Before Belle and Jasmine and Ariel were reduced to teaching about sharing, back when our Princesses could be pig-headed and well-read and, yes, beautiful. Then Disney upgraded to CGI, stripped out all the chorus numbers and began cranking out lukewarm, soulless turds (this excludes, of course, Lilo and Stitch, which was a work of art). They have finally come to their senses, went back to watercolor musicals, and created something lovely. A strong woman who works hard to meet her goals (a far cry from wishing a Fairy Godmother would do all the work for you) a daffy prince who finally mans up and some great, scary scenes of villainous voodoo.

Kids aren’t stupid. They’re not as scared as we try to make them be, eschewing all villains and upsetting images from our reboots of Strawberry Shortcake (gluten-free, of course) and making everything about learning to be friends. We’re creating a generation of apron-clinging wusses who can’t function in the real world out there, and The Princess and the Frog is going to toughen those little brats up. Trust me, they’ll thank you later.

My only beef was with the music. Randy Newman is no Howard Ashman. He’s just too Randy Newman like, he’s too cutsey. Ashman’s lyrics were little narratives in themselves, they progressed the scene rather than taking time out to sing a song and then going back to their business. They were filled with witty wordplay and words like “expectorate,” all set against these enormous dizzying Menkin scores. The only real memorable song in Princess is Keith David singing “Friends on the Other Side” but even that gets weak at the end.

Okay, so it’s no Beauty and the Beast, but it’s a good turn in that direction. And combined with District 9, there a chance that filmmaking might turn back to where the movies are about stories, not just retreads of warmed-over Oscar-bait, animated toys and painful “quirk” disguised as plot.

Oh hell, who the am I kidding? At least there’s always Netflix. And Rifftrax. Enjoy the Oscars!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Boys on Film . . .naked ones

Male nudity, once heavily frowned upon in film, is becoming more and more acceptable.  This needs to stop.  Not because it's indecent, but because it's usually perpetrated by people who are gross, like Kevin Bacon or Jason Seigel, and can permenantly damage the fragile, budding sexuality of young people.  My first actual experience with male nudity (I grew up in a house with all sisters) was seeing Geoffrey Rush in Quills.  Mr. Rush is a handsome man, but I do not want to see his area.  The same goes for you, JK Simmons.  We'll make an exception for Chris Meloni.

That being said, I must take this time to praise the two most beautiful naked men Hollywood has ever offered us.  If you have ever doubted the existance of God, these two will prove that not only does He exist, but man is truly made in His great image.  And the fact that these two actors star in films bearing the name Adam cannot be a coincidence.

I'm talking, of course, about Ewan McGregor and Jeff Goldblum.

In Young Adam, Ewan is just lying there on the bed, smoking a cigarette, lovely cock dangling against his alabaster thigh, pillowed on a tuft of red-gold public hair.  It might be the most beautiful thing in existance.  It is the Holy Grail of wangs.  And there's an odd unsexiness too it, not the repulsion one might get if seeing, say, Jack Black in the buff but just simply a "huh, wow, there's Ewan McGregor's lightsaber.  Hmm."  The casualness of it makes it almost more real and, to my mind, more titilating.  He is proud of his cock, as well he should be, and he is content to just lay in bed and smoke all day.  Fine by me, except for the smoking part, I'm allergic.  Maybe we could eat cadbury eggs instead.

In Adam, Resurrected, Jeff Goldblum opens the film, literally, with a shot of his buttocks as peered through the keyhole.  Pushing sixty, Goldblum has a nicer bum than I've seen on some guys my age.  It's firm, it's round, it's well lifted.  No cellulite, no wrinkles, no evidence of sagging.  Really, quite lovely, artistic even.  He stays clothed for the rest of the film, but please, don't let that stop you.  And let's not forget that Jeff bares it all, from a side shot, in both The Fly and my favorite, Earth Girls Are Easy.

So enough with the joke nudity, and enough with ugly guys baring it all to prove that they can.  We get it, Seth Rogan, you don't care what you look like.  Well, frankly, we don't either.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Boys On Film

I suppose it's time to 'fess up . . . I'm not just writing this blog so I can prattle on and on about just how much I hate John Mayer, I started this in conjunction with a graduate school memoir project . . . you know the type. 

But I'm sort of wishy-washy on exactly what I want to do . . .do I write the story of my life in music that I've loved, a la Cassettes from My Ex, or do I attempt to alter the model just a touch and write the story of my life via movies I've loved?  Am I Rob Scheffield or Kevin Murphy

And specifically, how do either of them relate to my number one favorite thing ever, falling in love?  Because I fall in love a lot, and there's always some pop culture componant because I am a Manic Pixie Dream Geek.  For instance, right now I am trying not to be in love with Vic Mackey. . . but how do I resist that big, dumb face?

So the point is that I'm going to do both.  This blog will now host two sections, one the Record of the Month Club that all five of you have come to know and love, and the other titled Boys on Film, which I'm sure all five of you will grow to know and love.  So keep an eye out for ramblings about Jeff Goldblum, because I promise you, there will be many of them.

He's Just So Dreamy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Want to Make a Supersonic Woman of You--An Open Letter to Lady GaGa

Dear Lady GaGa,

Let me start by saying that I adore you. I love the costumes, I love your voice, I love that you are all talk and no scandal. There are sex tapes, no lovers with embarrassing stories and hungry wallets crawling out of the woodwork, no shooting your mouth off as a means of being edgy. There was that hermaphrodite rumor, but even you have to admit, that was kind of cool. You are living, breathing art.

That being said, I hate your music.

It’s not you, Lady GaGa. You are the new Cyndi Lauper, the lady David Bowie, you are something real in a world populated almost entirely by phonies. It’s the culture your glittery spaceship landed in, a culture that is content to crawl up the plexiglass box of sound without bothering to peer inside. If they could penetrate and peel back the layers of generic dance music, inside they would find a voice that is so pure and so rich that it might be more than their vapid, Ambien-numbed hearts could stand. You might open within them a chasm of raw emotion and what then? A mass exodus from the safety of sterilized plastic homes and into the streets, where days later the scavengers would find the burned-out husks of iPODS, cell phones, tiny laptops and big-screen TVs. We might be forced to destroy our own plastic cages, the boxes we hide ourselves in day after day. That is what beautiful voices do.

So they hide you, my dear. They bury you in a glass casket and dump dead layers of sound upon you while you pound on the lid, screaming to get out. I can hear that yearning, like a dog whistle, morse code, a signal buried deep within our own airwaves.

I urge you to break free. I know you can do it.  Forget the dance clubs for a moment and just sing. You can even leave your hat on.

PS: Love the bit about being celebate.  You're like Morrissey . . . with flaming tits.