Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jim Carrey's "Emma Stone" video is the best thing he's done in years

Emma Stone is one of the latest Hollywood "It" girls. She is currently appearing in two films that are in the top ten in box office receipts: "The Help" at number one, and "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (yes, there are apparently two commas in the title of that film) at number nine. According to her IMDb page, she has at least four movies coming out in the next two years. She is physically attractive and apparently a very appealing actress. The only one of her movies I was able to sit all the way through was "Superbad," and I honestly don't remember her being in it.

Anyway, here is a photo of her:

She's sometimes a red-head, although on occasion she has been blond (she can play a range of characters):

She is symmetrical, young (she's in her early 20's, I believe), and has a sort of wholesome hotness that some men find appealing. Men run Hollywood. Male attitudes run Hollywood. I should say, arrested male attitudes run Hollywood. There seems to be a real appetite for these young, symmetrical, white girl-women -- it seems like every few months we get a new "It" girl who is super cute like this, and takes Hollywood by storm, appearing on magazine covers, being the subject of rampant gossip, and whose every move is relentlessly promoted by the Hollywood machine. Even today, via WeSmirch, we can read a story about her "date night" with her "Amazing Spider-Man" co-star Andrew Garfield. They went to Nobu together!

Ms. Stone is just the latest "It" girl. They come along every so often (sometimes two or three at a time!) -- some are able to outlast their "It" status, but some don't. Off the top of my head, I can remember:

Remember Alicia Silverstone?

How about Lindsay Lohan?

Scarlett Johansson?

Amy Adams.

Olivia Wilde gets the "brunette" roles that don't go to Ms. Stone right now.

There are a lot of roles for young, attractive, symmetrical white girls. Hollywood has an obsession with them. The men who run Hollywood have an obsession with them. The comic actor Jim Carrey has created a wonderfully insightful little video that perfectly satirizes the arrested fantasies of the middle-aged men who run Hollywood, in the form of a message to the actress Emma Stone:

Mr. Carrey affects a pensive, thoughtful expression of sincerity as he compliments Ms. Stone on being "not just pretty, but... smart, and kind-hearted" even as the camera is right in close on his face, creased and sagging with age.

This is Hollywood in a nutshell. Wealthy, privileged middle-aged men telling young, firm, doe-eyed starlets how "smart" and "kind-hearted" they are. Telling them how they're inspiring in them new feelings and emotions. Feelings about settling down and raising a family. Feelings about finally committing to that one special young woman who will save them from the life of wealth and power that suddenly seems so... inconsequential, in the face of these new feelings. In less than two minutes, Jim Carrey has exposed and demolished the attitude that runs much of Hollywood.

It's not about money. It's about impressing young women with your sensitivity.

The reaction to Mr. Carrey's brilliant video has been almost as amusing as the video itself. Someone at Yahoo! Movies called it "creepy" and "a joke taken too far":
We'll give Jim Carrey the benefit of the doubt and assume this video love letter to Emma Stone he posted on his official website is the result of an idea for a joke taken too far, but, no matter what his intentions were in filming it, it's pretty creepy. 
This person has either never been to Hollywood, or he is afraid of offending every single man he's ever met who worked in Hollywood. The video isn't creepy. The attitude is creepy. It's the attitude that explains the morbid interest in 18th birthday countdowns. (There's a website, which seems to be dormant now, called Countdown to 18, devoted to it.) It explains the "It" girl phenomenon, and the motivations for it. It explains why so many actresses who make it look so fresh-faced and attractive in the same ways.

The Huffington Post hedged a bit, calling the video "possibly creepy" in its headline.
Jim Carrey may have taken the name "Crazy, Stupid, Love." a little bit too literally.

The 49-year old actor just released a video in which he declares his love to 22-year old It Girl actress Emma Stone, in which he day dreams about their would-be marriage and sex.
He, of course, could be joking, which would make it hilarious given how inexplicable it is and how straight he plays it.
You might remember the Huffington Post as the website that gave a platform to Mr. Carrey back when he was dating the odious Jenny McCarthy, in which he claimed that there was a link between autism and vaccinations (yes, Mr. Carrey was/is[?] one of those people). His evidence was rotten.

For years, Mr. Carrey was on this kick. Now that he's no longer with Ms. McCarthy, maybe he's getting his mind straight again. This video is a heartening sign. Or, maybe it's just a fluke. Anyway, it was funny.

Not so funny was the video made in response by the alleged comedian Kathy Griffin. Her act seems to consist solely of self-righteousness, gossip about famous people, and jokes about the Palins. And, piggybacking on genuinely funny satire for her own aggrandizement.

A parody of a satire is completely pointless, and it perfectly illustrates her tone-deafness. Where Mr. Carrey was making a statement about the way Hollywood works, Ms. Griffin was making fun of Mr. Carrey himself, and in so doing actually targeted the audience. This video is nothing more than an apology for and a defense of the very thing that Mr. Carrey was satirizing. She seems to be attempting to mold herself into the Robert Benchley of the Reality Show Generation. Like Mr. Benchley, Ms. Griffin seems to have many jobs (reality show character, comedian, actress) none of which she performs with any real skill or insight.

The phenomenon of Justin Bieber arose from YouTube. He was created in the real world, and then appropriated by Hollywood. The "It" girls are created in Hollywood, by middle aged adolescent men, and then foisted upon the real world. That was the point of Mr. Carrey's "creepy" video. It's something Ms. Griffin seems to have missed, but then, it's in her best interests to do so. She should go back to dating Levi Johnston.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hilarious rest-stop photo of the day

I saw two signs posted on the door of a women's bathroom at a rest stop recently and I just laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I took a photo of the signs with my old grainy picture taking phone:

The same "slippery when wet" sign was posted on the men's room door, but that didn't make any sense.

Side note: Time to get a new phone?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is Edward de Vere the true author of the works of "William Shakespeare"? Of course he is, don't be a moron, just read my amazing proof

On October 28th, a new film from the director of such masterpieces (in the Renaissance sense of that word) as "Independence Day," "The Day After Tomorrow," and "2012" (disasters all!) will open. "Anonymous" is the story of the real author of William Shakespeare's plays, Edward de Vere. Apparently, William Shakespeare was a member of the lower classes, and we all know that people who come from the lower classes are unable to create great art. An aristocrat must have done it, to thwart his political enemies. Through plays.

Here is the trailer:

I will admit, I was skeptical. I thought, "Wow, that is the stupidest thing I've heard all day, and I've been awake for almost six hours already." But after seeing this trailer, and thinking about it logically, it now makes perfect sense that William Shakespeare didn't write the plays of William Shakespeare, because he was obviously too stupid and low-born to write plays that would live on for hundreds of years after his death. After all, in addition to being a lower-class person, Mr. Shakespeare was an actor. And even though Mr. de Vere died before all of "William Shakespeare's" plays were written, and even though Mr. de Vere published poems and plays under his own name during his own lifetime, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that aristocrats didn't dare publish poems and plays under their own name, and that a person can in fact continue to write poems and plays after they die, provided that the poems and plays are compelling enough to be remembered for hundreds of years and therefore be "immortal", it seems obvious that the proof is irrefutable that "William Shakespeare" was actually Edward de Vere.

Genius capable of writing great plays and poems? Don't make me larf. This is obviously the image of a low born fool. Why is he looking off to the left, the "sinister" side in Latin? What is he trying to hide -- what is he so ashamed of? Let's follow the evidence, wherever it might lead, without fear!

But a person who has rigorous intellect such as myself is not generally satisfied with proof, no matter how compelling it might be. A person who has a rigorous intellect such as myself requires that he find evidence for himself, in order to be fully convinced. Luckily, I have found my proof, right there in one of "Mr. Shakespeare's" own "sonnets," number 145.

Why number 145? Well, because I happen to know that Mr. de Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford. He became the 17th Earl of Oxford on August 3, 1562. 8+3+1+5+6+2=25. And (1+4)x5= 25. "25" is the smallest "aspiring number," i.e., Mr. de Vere was "aspiring" to greatness. Mr. de Vere was signaling us that sonnet number "145" was very important to him, which is why he filled it with clues as to his real identity. This is evident if you only look at the Sonnet's lines. And here they are now:
"Shakespeare's" 145th Sonnet

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
To me that languish'd for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
'I hate' from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying 'not you.'
If you've read the entire Sonnet, you probably don't need me to spell it out for you, but I will. Let's start with the final line of the Sonnet, which is the most compelling evidence of Mr. de Vere's authorship:

"And saved my life, saying 'not you.'"

This is a direct reference to Mr. Shakespeare. Mr. de Vere is saying quite plainly that Mr. Shakespeare is not the "you" who authored the works of William Shakespeare. The "life" referred to in the line is not a literal life, but a literary life. Someone saved his literary life by ascribing proper credit to Mr. de Vere, not to Mr. Shakespeare. This is not in any literal sense, but it is metaphorical -- it is to those of us who can without fear "read between the lines," and buck the established literary common knowledge and see the plain evidence that Mr. de Vere is the proper "you," and not Mr. Shakespeare.

"Not you."

But that is not the only compelling evidence within this Sonnet. Let's start now back at the beginning and prove our thesis:

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'

Here Mr. de Vere is referring to his literary works. During Mr. de Vere's time, it was common for artists to refer to their literary creations as body parts. A story might be called a "liver," for instance. Because plays were "spoken" by "actors," plays were sometimes called "lips," i.e., "Let's go down to the Globe theater and watch that new ripping lip by that Shakespeare chap!" This is where the modern phrase "Don't give me any lip!" comes from: Stop playing around like an actor and do as I say, and don't give me any lip.

Mr. de Vere loves himself, which is why he says it was "Love's own hand did make." He's saying that he, the capitalized "Love" (which was four letters, just like "Vere"), "did make" the "lips" that everyone loves to go to the theater to watch. (By the way, this line does not refer to masturbation.) The actors "breathe forth the sound" of the words in Mr. de Vere's lips -- some of those words are "I hate," such as in that famous scene in Macbeth. The Sonnet continues:

To me that languish'd for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,

He's languishing because he can't take credit for his lips! ("Her sake" refers to his art, the plays, which we've already established were called "lips." "Lips" are a feminine body part, as they could refer both to the lips of the mouth, and the lips of labia, which artists of that era constantly wrote paeans to.)

His "woeful state" refers, you guessed it, to his sadness over not being able to tell everyone about his great lips. This Sonnet is a Lament.

Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet

Here, "her heart" refers to poetry -- just as "lips" were plays, "hearts" were poems, which is why we even still today refer to poetry as "the literature of the heart." It's only in his poems, this particular poem, in fact, that Mr. de Vere can openly reveal that he is the author of William Shakespeare's plays and poems. The poem, in its turn, seems to be "chiding" the author, despite his sweetness.

Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:

"Gentle doom" is an oxymoron, like "mail box," and "Swiss cheese." Edward de Vere excelled in the use of oxymorons, because he was trying to disguise the fact of his authorship, i.e., "William Shakespeare/Edward de Vere." But what is Mr. de Vere greeting?

'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day

Again, we see that "I hate," because Mr. de Vere is so upset over his being the real author of Mr. Shakespeare's plays. He is upset because aristocratic people can't take credit for writing great poems such as what Mr. Shakespeare wrote; only mediocre poems, such as what Mr. de Vere wrote. That "alter'd" refers to the "altered" (modern, non-poetical spelling) history of literature, in which Mr. de Vere is actually given the full credit he deserves as a genius aristocrat with the great education necessary to compose "William Shakespeare's" plays.

Also, only an aristocrat could have written plays about kings, because only aristocrats could know about kings and royalty. That seems obvious. As obvious as the sunlight on a "gentle day."

Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;

"Heaven" in this case represents the full credit given to a misunderstood genius for the great work he created. "Hell" is the life of a privileged aristocrat who has to settle for merely being wealthy and powerful in his own lifetime, and have to live the death of a person who isn't acknowledged as the true author of the greatest works in English literature.

But if you don't believe, even after reading this compelling exegesis of de Vere's 145th Sonnet, that Mr. de Vere is the true author of those works heretofore ascribed to "William Shakespeare," then let me here post one of Mr. de Vere's own Sonnets, so that we might compare it to the Sonnet just exegesised:
Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?

Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?

Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?

Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ?

Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?
Above the rest in court who gave thee grace ?

Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?

With patient mind each passion to endure,

In one desire to settle to the end ?

Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,
As nought but death may ever change thy mind.
First of all, the close reader of both of these works notes the similarity of the structure of the Sonnets. Both of them have thirteen lines. Both of them follow the same rhyme scheme. But let's look further.

Both of the poems contain similar words, or even the same words, such as "heart," "Love" (tellingly, capitalized in both poems!) and "woeful." Both of the poems contain metaphors. But perhaps most compelling of all is the fact that Mr. de Vere drops subtle hints of his "William Shakespeare" identity within the lines of this "Edward de Vere" poem. In the beginning of the poem, he wonders why it is that he must not take credit for the great poems of "William Shakespeare," and he can only take credit for the mediocre poems of "Edward de Vere." "Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?" he asks, in words of plaint? In other words, "Who told me I had to not take credit for all my great plays and poems?" He cries about it, and drops in lots of superfluous words to get his syllable count up, and then he hits us with the most blunt line of all:

Above the rest in court who gave thee grace ?

Here Mr. de Vere is saying that he would gladly give up his position as an aristocrat ("in court"), for the chance to accept full credit for his brilliant literary work. Except he can't, because he's an aristocrat, and it would just cause far too much scandal -- perhaps threatening the stability of England itself -- if he did so:

Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?

He strives to be the best poet and playwright in the world, and he achieved that goal, but his "honour" won't allow him to take credit for it. In the next lines, Mr. de Vere reveals that he cannot betray his friends by revealing his secret "William Shakespeare" identity, because it would "scorn the world regarding but" them. In the end, Mr. de Vere practically announces to the world in big, bold letters that he is really "William Shakespeare":

Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,

As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

Only in death can Mr. de Vere receive the credit he so richly deserves. And, even though he hates to do it, he has made his "choice," and his choice has "bound" him to a hateful untruth with which he must live, his only comfort coming from the fact that he is a wealthy aristocrat with a privileged life. He must pin his hopes on a few visionary scholars willing to remove the blinders of "facts" and look at the compelling "evidence" to read between the lines to carry forward the secret knowledge that it was Edward de Vere, and not William Shakespeare, who wrote the plays and poems of "William Shakespeare." And if I still haven't convinced you, after this fantastically fascinating post that dares to reveal the true truth, then you can look elsewhere for more on this amazing reality.

In this painting, Edward de Vere is depicted looking to his right, also known as "The Shakespeare side" in theater circles. You can tell just by looking at him that he's a genius. Note also that he has a frilly thing around his neck, just like "William Shakespeare."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Robert Crumb's canceled trip to Australia, and the artist living in fear

Robert Crumb was one of the most important of the Underground Cartoonists of the late 1960s-mid 1970s. He became an icon thanks to creations like "Fritz the Cat" and "Mr. Natural," the original Zap Comix, and the cover of the Big Brother and the Holding Company album "Cheap Thrills." His artistic skills are among the best in the history of comics.

His work was fantastically personal. The subject matter was usually bleak, and featured caricatures of sexual violence and depravity that were so exaggerated as to be almost quaint. Very often, it read like the fever dreams of a teenage virgin fantasizing about what he would do with an enormous woman with mythical proportions of chest and buttocks. Crumb's fantasies were, for the most part, specific to himself, and so reading his works is too often like listening to someone tell you about the really weird dream he had last night. Any satirical elements or broader social commentary tended to be superficial at best, and usually accidental. The greatest tension in his work is the dichotomy of artist vs. diarist. And when he ventures outside his "let-me-tell-you-about-the-really-weird-dream-I-had-last-night" comfort zone, he loses all focus. By way of example, I offer what is one of Mr. Crumb's more famous illustrations, which I actually recently saw hanging as a poster in a coffee/burrito shop in Portland:

My answer to this bit of gimcrackery is "So what?" Is Mr. Crumb making a statement about the destruction of our beautiful natural resources, or his celebrating the progress of man? Yes, there is less forest land in America than there was when America was born, but we're doing much more to protect what we have.
About 30 percent of the 2.3 billion acres of land area (745 million acres) in the U.S. is forest today as compared to about one-half in 1630 (1.0 billion acres). Some 300 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses since 1630, predominantly because of agricultural uses in the East.

The forest resources of the U.S. have continued improving in general condition and quality, as measured by increased average size and volume of trees. This trend has been evident since the 1960s and before. The total forestland acreage has remained stable since 1900.
Not to be glib about this -- unlike Mr. Crumb's illustration, which almost the very definition of glib -- in a country whose human population has increased to more than 300 million, we have actually found ways to protect our unspoiled nature, not to senselessly destroy it. And most of us like living in cities, including Portland. It beats living in the woods.

So again, I ask, is Mr. Crumb criticizing or celebrating? When it comes to some of Mr. Crumb's work, even he himself is at a loss as to explain it.
I have no defence. I can't explain why I drew all those crazy pictures. I had to do it. Maybe I should have my pencils and pens taken away from me. I don't know.
Of course, the artist should never "explain" why he created something. An artist should not make excuses for himself. That is authorial trespass, and as I have already written authorial trespass is bulls hit. But Mr. Crumb felt motivated to compose the sentences quoted above by a recent incident in Australia, where he was scheduled to appear at The Graphic festival at the Sydney Opera House on August 21 and 22. That appearance has been canceled, by Mr. Crumb himself.
Sorry, folks. I do feel bad, as I hate letting people down. But I decided I'd rather bear the pain of letting people down than subjecting my long-suffering wife to a 10-day period of dread and anxiety for my well-being. She's been awfully nice to me since I told her I wasn't going! She baked a chocolate cake even!
In anticipation of that appearance in Australia, Mr. Crumb had given an interview in which he frankly discussed how he worked his own particular fetishes into his art.
He was notorious for his fetish for jumping on the backs of women and going for piggyback rides, a fetish that found its way into his art.

''It was easier to jump on them once I got into the sack with them. Getting into the sack with people, that's tough,'' he says. ''It's a touchy business, fraught with pregnancy and babies and deep intimacy and courting.''
The avoidance of real intimacy and emotion is a recurring theme in Mr. Crumb's work. It's another reason why his work can be so off-putting. And, for all of its self-revelation, his works never really did any self-examination. Mr. Crumb was afraid of intimacy, even with himself!

Following the announcement that Mr. Crumb was to be feted at the Graphic festival, an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph. The article, headlined, Smutty show a comic outrage, was not subtle.
Cartoonist Robert Crumb's visit, funded by the Opera House and endorsed by the City of Sydney, has sparked outrage with sexual assault crisis groups describing the France-based American artist as "sick and deranged".

Crumb, a "seminal" cult comic cartoonist from the 1960s regarded by fans - including the City of Sydney - as legendary, and a genius, is renowned for extreme drug-fuelled drawings, depicting incest, rape, paedophilia and bestiality.
True, his work does depict all of those things. There is some context for those depictions, but there isn't room in a brief article to offer much of that. No subject is ever off-limits in art. But it would appear that Australia has bigger problems than just ginned up outrage over the visit of a cartoonist:
A spokesman for the federal Attorney General's department told The Sunday Telegraph that Crumb's work cannot be shown in Australia unless he submits his illustrations for classification. The spokesman said his work would almost certainly be refused classification.
The government of Australia thinks its citizens are too delicate to even look at Mr. Crumb's work to decide for themselves whether or not it truly offends them. That in itself is far more offensive than anything Mr. Crumb has ever drawn, or could even think of drawing.

Anyway, Mr. Crumb pulled out of the event. In the open letter I quoted above, Mr. Crumb reveals that he was targeted by, um, the right-wing media, and that he feared for his safety.
The very next day, Sunday July 31, the right-wing media sharks at the Sunday Telegraph verily jumped on this juicy morsel. Me, I know nothing of Australian politics. I had no clue that there were such nasty right-wing media manipulators there. Crumb was somebody they could use against the liberals in the City of Sydney .
I was quite alarmed when I read the article in the Sunday Telegraph. I showed it to my wife, Aline, who said, ''That's it, you're not going.'' She got a very bad feeling from the article. She feared I might be attacked physically by some angry, outraged person who simply saw red at the mention of child molesters. She remarked she'd never seen any article about me as nasty as this one.
First, I find it hard to believe that the Daily Telegraph article, as hysterical and alarmist as it was, could truly be the nastiest article about Mr. Crumb that they'd ever seen. Mr. Crumb has been writing and drawing comics for more than 40 years. His comics have been about subjects that many people find unsavory. Has Mr. Crumb been living in a bubble, or is it possible that this is the first time he's actually been subject to such criticisms? (I guess it is possible -- this is a man who was infamously called "the Bruegel of the second half of the 20th century" by an infamous art critic, and has had at least three books published which feature doodles made on restaurant placemats.) For crying out loud, I've had far worse things written about me and my work, and I'm a nobody. But, just as I said earlier that no subject is off limits in art, the artist must be willing to accept the fact that not everyone is going to appreciate his genius, and just might offer criticism. And that some of that criticism might appear to the artist to be "nasty."

Second, the world is a dangerous place, it's true. And there are unstable people in the world. "Anybody on the street has murder in his eyes." "Someone could smile at me then Shake my hand then gun me down." You could get run over by a bus. Your plane could crash. But should anyone live their life in fear of some abstraction -- especially an artist who needs contact with the world outside his own head in order to create works that are relevant to others? Does Mr. Crumb offer any example of an artist being attacked for creating something that offended a dangerously unstable person?
What if I'd gone there, and what if some Mark Chapman-type person who'd read that article decided the world needed to be cleansed of scum like R. Crumb? (Mark Chapman shot John Lennon.) This possibility worried Aline deeply.
Really, Mr. Crumb had to go all the way back to Mark David Chapman, the guy who shot John Lennon back in 1980.

This is a world in which the late night television host David Letterman was recently targeted for a death threat by a jihadist website. This is a world in which a cartoonist is told by the FBI to disappear because they cannot or will not protect her from the threats made against her life for a cartoon that she drew. This is a world in which the creators of the popular television cartoon program "South Park" are receiving death threats over the content of their cartoons. This is a world in which hundreds of people were killed in rioting over the publication of 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper. This is a world in which one of those Danish cartoonists was attacked with an axe over his cartoon. This is a world in which a man can be murdered for making a film.

And Mr. Crumb went all the way back to Mark David Chapman? He's really afraid (excuse me, his wife is really afraid) of "some Mark Chapman-type person" attacking him? What world does Mr. Crumb inhabit now? Does he keep up with any current events?

As a matter of fact, he does. In the original "I-have-no-defence" interview that I quoted above, there is this:
Would he still describe himself as a butt man?

''Oh yeah, absolutely,'' he says. ''Serena Williams … she's my dream girl. I always look for pictures of her in magazines and newspapers … [she is] an unbelievable phenomenon of nature.''

But he's never thought of sending her signed copy of his work.

''No,'' he says. ''She's a Jehovah's Witness … [a] simple, down-home girl. She's not going to go for me: [puts on thick American accent] 'Jesus, what a weirdo!' No way.
So, Mr. Crumb has his priorities. But not so much perspective. Back to his "open letter":
Did it occur to the people at the Sunday Telegraph that they might be stirring up such dangerous passions? Do they care? Their article showed a profound lack of integrity and social responsibility. And unfortunately, I was made the object of their hateful Machiavellian tactics.
This comment is so off the wall that it surely must be intended as satire. Apparently, Mr. Crumb of all people is suggesting that the author of an article should be held responsible for the reactions of some unstable "Mark Chapman-type" to that article. Does the author of A Bitchin' Bod and Joe Blow want to open that can of worms? How does Mr. Crumb feel about the fact that some of his satirical works were approvingly reprinted in a white-power magazine in the 1990s? More than a few white supremacists took those stories at face value, and celebrated them. Does he feel that those comics were in any way promoting racism? Does he feel responsible for the actions of the white supremacists who read those comics and felt "inspiration?" Does he feel that those stories "showed a profound lack of integrity and social responsibility"?

Robert Crumb is an amazingly talented artist. Some of his work is brilliant. Much of it is very funny. Much of it is tawdry and off-putting. But that doesn't exempt him from criticism, nor does it exempt him from having to live in a world in which a few insane people might at any time snap. Life is dangerous and unpredictable. There are artists who really are living with threats against their personal safety. Of course they should take whatever measures are necessary to protect themselves. But if after one article that features some I admit alarmist criticism you start worrying about a "Mark Chapman-type," then you've completely lost your perspective, and maybe it's time to get outside of your own head.

"Keep on truckin'," unless someone writes a "nasty" article about you that might, theoretically, set off some unstable person who might possibly attack you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Those "fans" that Tom Hanks reimbursed at a Pacific Palisades gas station were a couple of jerks

Tom Hanks is a well-liked actor whose most recent effort, Larry Crowne (which he also co-wrote and directed) hasn't fared particularly well at the box office. Nor has it exactly been a hit with critics. It's Cinemascore grade was "B," which was the same as Green Lantern's. Over all, it would seem that there are some people out there who weren't exactly bowled over by the film.

But, should Mr. Hanks reimburse unsatisfied customers of his artistic efforts? Allegedly, that's just what he did with one couple he happened to meet at a Pacific Palisades gas station.
They explained they'd just seen ["Larry Crowne"], promoting [sic?] Tom to quiz them on their thoughts.

The man immediately said is "wasn't that good", while the woman tried to ease the situation by explaining they'd come to expect more from their favourite star.

"Gee, I'm sorry you were disappointed, how about letting me refund your ticket money?" Tom is quoted as saying by National Enquirer.

He then reached into his pocket and plucked out $25.
First of all, Mr. Hanks made a mistake in asking the couple what they thought of the film. When they said they'd just seen it, he should have thanked them for their support. "Thank you, I really appreciate that," he could have said, in his unmistakably charming way. After all, these are strangers who have approached you at a gas station as you're filling your car. I don't know about you, but it's rarely ended well when I've been approached by anyone while I'm filling my car.

Second of all, art is subjective. Some people are going to like what you've done, some people aren't. How many people were "disappointed" by Angels Ampersand Demons? Or The DaVinci Code? Charlie Wilson's War?

Do you really want to open that Pandora's box of worms?

The next time I see Mr. Hanks at a gas station I will walk right up to him and put out my hand and say "I want you to reimburse me for all the time I spent huddling under the covers because of the psychological damage done to me by that creepy Polar Express movie. Seriously, that should have had some kind of warning about that Uncanny Valley stuff. I still have nightmares!"

He's setting a bad precedent.

The Polar Express is one of the most disturbing films of all time, and I want some money to pay for the pills my former connection Dickie Chi-Town sold me to try to kill the memories.

But his fans stated that "they'd come to expect more from their favourite star." This implies that Mr. Hanks's work has provided them with hours of trouble-forgetting entertainment. Shouldn't that more than make up for the fact that one of his movies "wasn't that good"? For crying out loud, Mr. Hanks has appeared in some of the best films of the last twenty-five years, for instance:

The Ladykillers
Cast Away
Toy Story 2
Toy Story
Forrest Gump

Haven't those films earned him the right to a few misfires? I hated Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Road to Perdition and of course The Polar Express -- among others of his films -- but that doesn't diminish the achievement of the six movies I listed above.

Mr. Hanks was pumping gas at a gas station, like an average every day shlub. He was accosted by a couple of "fans" who insulted his work. That almost sounds like a threatening situation to me. Perhaps Mr. Hanks felt he had no choice but to give them the money in his wallet so they'd leave him alone. Like a robbery.

I don't know the circumstances, obviously, but the situation was handled badly by everyone involved. Artists can't go around reimbursing people who were "disappointed" by something that can only be judged subjectively (if he were a plumber fixing a toilet, and the toilet leaked after he left, that would be another story).  The fans shouldn't have taken Mr. Hanks's money. A picture, maybe, or an autograph. But his money? Nope. They should have thanked him for Forrest Gump instead.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The problem with the new biracial Spider-Man

This month, Marvel is introducing a new, half black, half-Hispanic version of Spider-Man as part of its "Ultimate" universe. Which is to say, as part of its "not really part of the actual (616) Marvel universe continuity." To borrow a term from the olden days of DC, this new biracial Spider-Man is "The Earth-2" Spider-Man. Or, to borrow a term from the even older olden days of DC, this is the Spider-Man from an extended (160 issues and counting!) "Imaginary Story."
[T]he new Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe is a half-black, half-Hispanic teen named Miles Morales. He takes over the gig held by Peter Parker, who was killed in Ultimate Spider-Man Issue 160 in June.
In the regular Marvel Universe, Peter Parker will still be the same web-swinging Spidey as he has been since his first appearance in 1962. But in the Ultimate line, launched in 2000 to tell contemporary stories, he received a new origin and a reimagined supporting cast that paralleled the Spidey in regular Marvel continuity.

Morales' journey will be a similar vehicle for today's fans, says Marvel's editor in chief, Axel Alonso.

"What you have is a Spider-Man for the 21st century who's reflective of our culture and diversity. We think that readers will fall in love with Miles Morales the same way they fell in love with Peter Parker."
And if they don't, well, Peter Parker is still appearing as Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The New Avengers, and the Future Foundation. He's also appearing on Broadway in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. And in next summer's re-boot of the movie franchise (and in the just-announced sequel to that yet-to-be-released reboot of the movie franchise).

And, yes, Peter Parker is still white.

In other words, this is all just a bunch of bulls hit orchestrated by Marvel to get some headlines.

Marvel is generally credited with publishing the first mainstream representation of a black superhero in a character called Black Panther. He was the absurdly noble ruler of a fictional African nation called Wakanda. He was intellectually and physically strong. He had unimpeachable moral character.

If you can get your hands on Black Panther's Jungle Action issues, do so, and read them. They are some of the best graphic fiction of the Bronze age. Seriously.

Marvel also published a comic book featuring another black character, Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. His origin was corporate and cynical -- essentially Marvel's attempt to cash in on the "blaxploitation" films of the early 1970s (Luke Cage was an ex-con who fought crooked cops and slumlords, and for awhile sold his services) -- but he rose above that, thanks largely to the work of the fantastically talented artist and writer Billy Graham.

About half of Marvel's Essential Luke Cage Volume 1 is well worth your time, thanks mainly to Billy Graham's work on the title.

The most powerful and physically attractive member of the rebooted X-Men, Storm, was a young African woman with the power to control the weather.

These characters were created as an acknowledgment of the fact that it wasn't just young white boys who were reading comics, and that new characters from different backgrounds could, at least theoretically, provide new inspiration to writers and artists. With some exceptions, however (the aforementioned Jungle Action issues, about fifteen or so issues of Hero for Hire, and a few dozen or so X-Men issues) most of these comics were just the same old stories, with characters who just happened to have a different skin color.

But Marvel also did something vaguely unsavory with some of its black characters. For instance, they featured a character called Bill Foster, who was a laboratory assistant to a white character called Henry Pym. Depending on his size, Henry Pym has variously been active as a superhero known as Ant-Man, or Giant-Man, or Yellowjacket. He was also occasionally known as Goliath. Bill Foster, his assistant, used something called "Pym particles," discovered by Henry Pym, to become a superhero himself.

And he called himself... Black Goliath. Really -- he took Henry Pym's "Goliath" codename, and appended the word "black" to it. Because, well, he was black himself.

A big mistake?

This is pure condescension. The brilliant scientist Bill Foster became a reflection of, a tribute to, his white employer. It's a serious comedown from Black Panther, Luke Cage, and Storm. About eight years later, Marvel did something else that was vaguely unsavory: they took the name of a white character, and bestowed it upon a black character. In 1983, Marvel introduced a new "Captain Marvel," Monica Rambeau.

The motivation for Marvel's creation of its own original "Captain Marvel" is among the most cynical in all of comics history. (A history that is full of cynical motivations, by the way.) Specifically:
[A]t one point in the 60s, Marvel decided that they should trademark well, anything with Marvel in the title.

That was all fine and good, you can trademark something, but for the trademark to be ENFORCABLE, you have to actually PUBLISH something.

Marvel did not do that until they heard rumblings that DC was considering bringing back Fawcett’s Captain Marvel character.

So, in the late 60s, Marvel released their Captain Marvel character, therefore protecting their Captain Marvel trademark.

This is why, when DC got around to publishing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel characters in the 1970s, they had to call the book “Shazam!,” as the name Captain Marvel was a trademark owned by Marvel (note the difference between trademark and copyright. Fawcett still owned the copyright on Captain Marvel, so when they licensed the character to DC, DC was able to use the name Captain Marvel IN the comic book, just not when promoting or advertising the comic book. That is where trademarks come into play).
So, Marvel created a "Captain Marvel" for the sole purpose of preventing DC from publishing its own "Captain Marvel" comic book, and then gave this Trademark-protecting character's moniker to a black character for awhile.

It could have been worse. They could have called her... "Black Captain Marvel!" ("Blacktain Marvel"?)

That is a cheap and tawdry way for a company to show its "diversity." It didn't help that in the case of Captain Marvel, the new black version was a dull cypher, thanks to some uninspired writing. Not even making her the alleged leader of the Avengers could help them make her interesting.

This cheap stunt has happened a lot, and not just at Marvel. Fairly recently, DC did it with Blue Beetle, the Atom, and the Question, and Firestorm. None of those characters have exactly taken off. DC had a lot more success in recruiting a black character to wear the leotards of its lamest character, Green Lantern.

Conceptually, hiring a black character to play Green Lantern at least makes some sense -- theoretically, new Green Lanterns can get hired all the time (although it was Hal Jordan who was featured in the recent movie version, and the licensed merchandise). But for those other characters, there's no real way to rationalize what amounts to a lack of creativity and initiative in comics. As I have already written, time and again, the audience for comics keeps dwindling. The publishers are doing almost nothing to try to widen the audience -- and those things they are trying are the sad attempts of perspectiveless people who have been living inside a bubble for too long. They keep publishing the same concepts, rebooting the same characters, re-writing the same stories over and over again.

Hey, we need to get more diversity in our books! 
I know -- let's take Firestorm and make him black!

And then when those nonwhite characters fail, the corporate artisans in charge of publishing the monthly pamphlets can point and say, "See, we tried to give them nonwhite characters... but the little racists apparently didn't want them."

And now, here comes biracial Spider-Man.

I realize I'm a bit out of touch on this. As far as I'm concerned, Spider-Man died when Steve Ditko stopped plotting and drawing it. Yes, I have read hundreds of Spider-Man issues since Ditko's classic stories, but with a few exceptions they don't really mean anything to me (although I am somewhat morbidly fascinated by the whole "Clone Saga" debacle). But far from seeming like an interesting idea, making an alternative universe Spider-Man half-black, half-Hispanic feels like the half-assed scheme of a few white liberal men trying to congratulate themselves for their enlightenment, and to impress smug, half-witted writers at publications like The Washington Post.

The writer of the new Spider-Man character, Brian Michael Bendis, seems to betray this when he tells USA Today:
"The theme is the same: With great power comes great responsibility... He's going to learn that. Then he has to figure out what that means."
So... you're just rebooting the same character again, the way characters get rebooted all the time? (Spider-Man has to "figure out what that means" every few years. That's comics for you!)

Also from USA Today's article:
Supporting characters such as Peter's Aunt May and Gwen Stacy also will give Miles nuggets of wisdom to help his transition from young kid to New York City superhero.
So in addition to getting the white version's worn-out name and derivative superpowers, he also has to contend with the white version's supporting characters? In the world of mainstream comics, this is what passes for a bold development.

Mr. Bendis also says:
"Even though there's some amazing African American and minority characters bouncing around in all the superhero universes, it's still crazy lopsided."
And yet, giving the "Spider-Man" title to a kid who happens to be not white isn't going to do anything to change the "crazy lopsidedness" of the disparity in representation of minority characters in comics. All it does is magnify the fact that the creators of mainstream comics are built to re-write, and nothing more.

(Aside: Mr. Bendis is the author of the infamous scene from New Avengers #27, in which Luke Cage, the man with skin that's as hard as steel, kicked Elektra, the sometime superhero and sometime supervillain who is the former girlfriend of Daredevil, in the crotch. That's not a joke:

That is some inspired dialogue, and sound effects.
...[T]he sound Bendis decided best represents the sound of a super-strong man kicking a woman in the vagina is “FOOM?”

And are we to believe Matt Murdock really told Cage, “Oh, hey, you guys are going to Japan to fight The Hand ninjas? Cool. Hey, if you see Elektra there, can you kick her in the vagina for me?”
So, the guy who wrote that particularly nasty, random, hate-filled little scene is the man who has now charged himself with doing something to address the "crazy lopsidedness" of nonwhite characters in comics. Just so we're clear.)

Why not create some new* minority superhero concepts? It's been done before, and done quite well. DC's and Milestone Media's project, for instance featured a completely new universe of characters created primarily by artists and writers of color (1993 seems like ages ago, doesn't it?). Those characters have since become part of the larger DC universe, and actually spawned at least one successful animated series.

Here is a challenge: Can someone out there create a Wire for superhero comics?

Marvel: Instead of making an alternate universe version of Spider-Man a member of a racial minority, why not just create a new superhero based on the greatest television character of all time, Omar Little from "The Wire"? How about something like a young black kid who lives in a crime-ridden area of Los Angeles, who teaches himself a superhero version of parkour so he can fight both the police and the gangs that plague his neighborhood? That's just off the top of my head.

Making the alternative-universe version of Spider-Man a minority character might feel good to some people, but it's only a superficial change that throws a spotlight on the industry's larger problems.  These problems are terminal, unless the creators, editors, and marketing people start getting their acts together.

*By which I of course mean "new" in the mainstream comic book sense.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The new "pizza bomber" movie: Disingenuous dissembling and, Why were the screenwriters only "vaguely familiar" with the real-life incident that inspired their story?

There is a new movie opening Friday called "30 Minutes or Less," which is apparently about a pizza delivery man who is conscripted into committing a bank robbery. Here's the synopsis from IMDb:
Two fledgling criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has mere hours to rob a bank or else...
I'm not sure where the "30 minutes" comes in, unless that's a reference to the old and discontinued Domino's Pizza guarantee of delivering a pizza within 30 minutes or it's free, if the pizza delivery guy has "mere hours" to rob the bank. But then, I'm not some bigshot Hollywood bigwig.

Anyway, I am in no way motivated to see this film. This piece of promotional artwork doesn't help matters:

So it's apparently about two retarded people, one very dazed person, and one person who is possibly a robot. It all looks very feebogzh to me.

But to some people, it's more than just feebogzh. It's also in questionable taste.
Remember the harrowing, horrifying real-life tale of Brian Wells, the pizza delivery guy forced to wear a live time bomb locked to his chest by a metal collar while robbing a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania? Well Columbia Pictures went and (sort of) made a comedy about it.
Waitasecondwhat? There actually was a pizza delivery guy who had a bomb strapped to his chest while he robbed a bank? Yes, there was.
Handcuffed and tethered to a bomb, pizza delivery man Brian Douglas Wells sat on one of the city's busiest streets and wailed for help.

"Why isn't nobody trying to come get this thing off me?" he screamed to police. "It's going to go off. I'm not lying. Did you call my boss? I'm not doing this. This isn't me."

Police had just arrested him on suspicion of robbing a bank. Officers backed off after they noticed the bomb, and they called the bomb squad. Wells sat on the street that afternoon, Aug. 28, handcuffed for nearly 30 minutes.

At 3:18 p.m., the bomb exploded, killing the meek, gentle man who did not appear to have a criminal record.
This was in 2003. Apparently, some local kids used the incident as inspiration for their trick-or-treating outfits:
Barely two months after Wells was killed, his family had to deal with the image when numerous Erie children were seen trick-or-treating in homemade "pizza bomber" costumes complete with oversized shirts and fake bomb collars.
That kind of stuff happens, I suppose. Human beings are morbid, and fascinated by the macabre. At least, I am. Maybe I'm projecting. Anyway, it seems pretty clear that the artists behind this new film took their inspiration from this bizarre 2003 crime.

Or... did they?
A spokesman for Sony's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture group says the filmmakers and stars knew nothing about the Wells case, though he acknowledges the screenwriters were vaguely familiar with it.

The screenwriters haven't responded to requests for comment through their agent.
That Sony Columbia TriStar Motion Picture group spokesman really earned his money that day. The stars knew nothing about this case that made national headlines, but the screenwriters were "vaguely familiar with it." That is some world-class dissembling right there.

They were either familiar with it, or they weren't. How is one "vaguely familiar" with something? Most especially a screenwriter, writing a screenplay, about an incident that is almost exactly like the one about which you're writing? If these people were only "vaguely familiar" with a real-life incident that closely parallels the premise of their screenplay, then Sony Columbia TriStar Motion Picture group should sue the hell out of them for dereliction of screenwriting duty. How do you write a screenplay about a pizza delivery guy who robs a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest, and only be "vaguely familiar" with a real-life incident in which a pizza delivery guy robbed a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest?

At the very least, the screenwriters should have been passingly familiar with the incident. That is screenwriting 101. Or, maybe screenwriting 104. It is a basic foundation of screenwriting. Write what you know. Research.

The actors are also weighing in, for what that's worth:
[T]he movie's stars Aziz Ansari, Jesse Eisenberg and Nick Swardson say there's no connection to the real-life tragedy.

"I think if you watch the movie, you know it's not based on [Wells]," Ansari, 28, told Us Weekly at 30 Minutes of Less' premiere Monday in Hollywood. "It's about normal guys who were forced to rob a bank, and I don't think we are poking fun at any kind of tragedy."
Mr. Ansari is making a semantic argument. Maybe it's not "based on" Wells, but it certainly seems to have been inspired by the story of his death. If Mr. Ansari wants to get into a semantic argument, I can do that, too. I haven't seen the film yet, but I can tell you from the trailer that it certainly does "poke fun at any kind of tragedy." Take a look at the trailer:

You'll note about a minute into the trailer, the Jesse Eisenberg character, the one with the bomb strapped to his chest, has gone to visit his friend, portrayed by Mr. Ansari, at a school "filled with young children." It is Mr. Ansari's character himself who points this out.

Is there nothing more tragic than the deaths of young children? A bomb going off at a school would be a terrible tragedy, and clearly this film is "poking fun" at that idea.

So, Mr. Ansari is being disingenuous in his dissembling. As for the other actors:
Swardson, 34, said he "would never make something disrespectful to [that] guy or his family" but finds the controversy surrounding the film "bizarre" and "blown out of proportion."

Eisenberg, 27, reiterated his costars' sentiments. "When [we got] this script, we saw it as these fictional characters put into this insane situation," he said.
More semantics. "Disrespectful" is in the eye of the beholder. And, yes, the screenplay is about fictional characters in an "insane situation." The question is, was it inspired by a real-life "insane situation"? As Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray,
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
The family of the pizza delivery man killed during the commission of this bank robbery saw in the premise of "30 Minutes or Less" a reflection of Brian Wells' story. Wells' sister, Jean Heid, sent an email of complaint to the Associated Press. The Associated Press wrote a story about it that has been picked up by several different websites. The "controversy" about the film might be "blown out of proportion," but it is human nature to blow things out of proportion. That's hardly "bizarre" -- if you don't believe me, try getting on an airplane sometime without being groped.

Ultimately, anything is fodder for art, whether it is tragic or beautiful. If we try to make the world safe for the most sensitive of our fellow citizens, then we'll be left with no art at all.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Poodle Bitch is happy to introduce her new little Bitch Sisters -- Frolic and Shock

Poodle Bitch has been very busy these last few weeks, helping to civilize the new little Bitch Sisters, Frolic and Shock. It has been a messy, frustrating, rewarding time, but Poodle Bitch is happy to report that she has much with which to work in this process. She begs your indulgence as she takes this opportunity to introduce them to you now.

Frolic's original domain was the very welkin itself, where she gamboled and played amongst the clouds. Her soft, fluffy white coat provided her with excellent camouflage, even as she occasionally wandered too close to the sun, burnishing her ears and back a darker tan. Alas, it was her too-playful nature that angered the gods of the sky: One day, as the messenger god raced through the clouds, Frolic gave lighthearted chase, nipping at his winged heels. The messenger god tripped over Frolic, and tumbled to earth. Angered, the gods of the sky condemned Frolic to a life on earth, where Poodle Bitch agreed to take her under her own protective if completely metaphorical wing.

Frolic is very nearly potty trained.

For one million years, Shock was the guard of the gates of the underworld. There she stood as a silent sentinel, preventing the souls of those tormented by eternal hellfire from escaping, while at the same time watching impassively as the Devil himself escorted new souls into the punishing depths. One day it came to pass that the Devil brought with him the soul of a newborn baby, and tossed him into the fiery pits. Shock, recognizing the brutal unfairness of this action, bravely leaped into action, shoving her own face into the hellfire pit. She took the baby's ear in her teeth. Sadly, the ear ripped off, and the baby continued to fall into hellfire, where it is still being punished to this day. For her part, Shock's face was burned, around her eyes and nose, a fitting tribute to her own innate nobility. She was cast out of the underworld, and now she is being taught the importance of the inhibited bite during playtime.

Poodle Bitch is looking forward to many exciting and heartfelt years with the Bitch Sisters -- perhaps, when they are up for it, Poodle Bitch will get the Bitch Sisters blogging. But first: Sit, stay, come.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is Anne Hathaway the hottest Catwoman of all time?

The short answer to this post's provocative title is "No." The slightly longer answer is, "Um. No." The slightly longer answer than that is, "It's too early to make a judgment like that. We've only seen a couple of photos of Ms. Hathaway (who is I admit an elegantly constructed young actress) in the role, in the currently-filming third Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film."

The hottest Catwoman of all time is actually a woman I dated back in 2001, named Kathleen Garza. One day after work I came home to find her in my bed, dressed in a tight black latex catwoman costume, purring softly. This was very hot. Unfortunately, Ms. Garza had a rather shall we say idiosyncratic sense of humor, and to complete the Catwoman effect she had poured a four pound bag of cat litter on the bed. Oh, how funny she thought that was. Anyway, it was still hot. Sadly, I have no photos or film of her in her catwoman suit, so you'll just have to take my word for it. She was the hottest Catwoman of all time.

But I have decided to take this opportunity to make a list of my own choices for the hottest Catwomans (yes that is the correct pluralization of that word) ever, of all time.

#2 Tori Black.

Ms. Black portrayed Catwoman in the hilarious "Batman XXX: A Porn Parody," which I rather cheekily included in my list of the 25 greatest comic book-based films of all time. It's funny, and it has lots of coitus in it. It's better than any of Tim Burton's Batman films, and better than almost any episode of the original Batman television show, which it parodies. Where Julie Newmar's portrayal of Catwoman was all tease (it really couldn't be anything more, given the restrictions on television content and the Batman's stuffy attitude toward copulating with criminals), Ms. Black completely fulfills the promise of the character: sexy, dominant, in control.

#3 Julie Newmar.

Ms. Newmar was the first to portray Catwoman on the original Batman television show, and she created the template that has only been surpassed twice: by Tori Black and Kathleen Garza. She managed to create a character that was dripping sexuality, humor, charm, and total corruption. The way her outfit hugged every curve of her body made for some very exciting television experiences when I was about seven years old. My friends wanted to be Batman, or Robin; I wanted to be one of Catwoman's henchmen. My much older self still finds much to appreciate in Ms. Newmar's portrayal.

#4 Halle Berry.

The 2004 Catwoman movie was one of the strangest things ever put on a movie screen. I think they were trying to create a "cult film," the type of thing that might screen at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in big cities and college towns, specifically to a gay audience. That's what I think they were trying to do. One of the charms of this film is that it really don't make no sense -- it is heavy on style and artifice, but there is no substance. The other charm of the film, the main charm of the film, was seeing the ultrafox Halle Berry in a super hot torn leather and open toe shoe ensemble that makes about as much sense as a superhero/villain outfit as a leotard with underwear on the outside.

#5 Eartha Kitt.

Ms. Kitt's Catwoman could have, and probably should have, outdone Ms. Newmar, the woman she replaced in the Batman television show. Sadly, by the time she inhabited the role, the creators of the show had essentially given up (their popularity had dropped precipitously by the third season), and Ms. Kitt had little to do other than slink around and make puns and concoct criminal plots that would have made King Tut blush. But oh how she slinked! Her body was made for that outfit. And the puns had a much greater impact when delivered by that hypnotically smoky voice.

#6 Madelyn Marie.

Ms. Marie portrayed Catwoman in "BatF*cks," the other Batman porn parody that appeared around the same time as Ms. Black's effort. Full disclosure: I have not seen this film, but take a look at Ms. Marie in her Catwoman outfit. She's no Kathleen Garza, but she clearly brings some skill and gravitas to the role.

#7 Lee Meriwether.

The 1966 Batman film was supposed to serve as the pilot episode for the TV show, but they didn't get around to actually filming it until after the first season. By that time, Ms. Newmar had better things to do with her summer, so the role of Catwoman went to former Miss America Lee Meriwether. Ms. Meriwether is fine to look at, but she had none of Ms. Newmar's natural charm and sex appeal. She does her best Julie Newmar impression, but she's too "girl next door" to pull it off. Ms. Newmar's Catwoman looked like she would copulate with you, then smack you around, then throw you off the roof of a building to see if you "land on your feet." Ms. Meriwether's Catwoman looked like she might put a saucer of milk in front of you and ask you, politely, to please take a drink.

#8 Michelle Pfeiffer.

Michelle Pfeiffer is about as sexy as my mother. It didn't help that she was cast in a humorless, dour, pretentious and pointless film that goes nowhere, and takes forever to do it. Ms. Pfeiffer's Catwoman is totally charmless and inscrutable, going from drippy nothing to bitter pseudo feminist after -- being pushed out of a window? And you really can't blame the costume, because it was this particular Catwoman costume that served as the inspiration for the one that Kathleen Garza would wear to great effect just 11 years later.

So, again I ask, "Is Anne Hathaway the hottest Catwoman of all time?" I think the answer to that question is clear: "Until I come home from work one day to find her on my bed, waiting for me in a Catwoman suit the way Kathleen Garza did back in 2001, she is not."

Monday, August 1, 2011

I have read the script for the season premiere of "Two and a Half Men" -- here's how they're going to kill off Charlie Sheen and introduce Ashton Kutcher

Readers of Project Child Murdering Robot don't have to wait until mid September to learn the truth about Ashton Kutcher and Two and a Half Men.

Through extremely tortured means, I happened to come upon a copy of the script for the season premiere of "Two and a Half Men." This is the same script that the actors are going through at a "table read" later today, per Deadline Hollywood. How this script came into my possession isn't important. What is important is that I am offering a brief synopsis and review of said script, in which Charlie Sheen's character is killed off, and Ashton Kutcher's character is introduced.

First: You're welcome. Second: Get ready to be amazed.
The episode opened in Kabul, Afganistan, with Ashton Kutcher disguised as an Islamic terrorist. He is talking to an extremist Imam (Clancy Brown) who has hired him to guard his harem. "Don't touch them, just watch them," the Imam tells him. "Don't worry," Ashton says. "I'm not interested in your harem." "What do you mean?" the Imam asks him. "Are you gay? Guards!" The guards grab Ashton's arms and hold him fast. "No, no, your holiness," Ashton says. "I am not gay, just sexually ambivalent." The Imam asks him how he can be sexually ambivalent in the presence of such lovely femininity, and has his wives parade before him. They're all wearing hijabs, so we can't see anything other than their eyes.

"Your wives are lovely," Ashton says. This enrages the Imam. "What do you mean? Are you coming on to my wives? Guards!" Ashton is again grabbed. "No, no, your holiness. I merely meant that your wives are lovely for one such as yourself. Naturally, I am unworthy." "Oh, okay, then," the Imam says. This kind of goes on for awhile, but anyway, Ashton's cover is blown and he's revealed to be a CIA operative who's spent years infiltrating the Imam's terror cell. His handler (in an odd "coincidence," Ashton's CIA handler is played by Charlie Sheen's "Platoon" co-star Tom Berenger) tells him that it's unsafe for him to continue on as a CIA agent and he's got to go into forced retirement. "The only way we can ensure your safety is for you to completely take over the life of another person," he tells Ashton. "You'll have to step into their life the way an actor might step into a role that's been abandoned by an actor who's been fired for his crazy behavior and take over his identity." Then, per a stage direction, he looks at the camera and says, "Somewhere in America, a man is dying right now. Whoever he is, that's whose life you'll take over."

Cut to: Jon Cryer and the "half man" at a campsite. They're both starving because they didn't bring any food, and they don't have any money to buy food. All they have is a sandwich size Zip-loc bag. Half Man whines about how hungry he is, and then Jon Cryer says, "Stop whining. Uncle Charlie will be here soon, with lots of food for us." Half Man says, "I can't believe we're relying on the most unreliable man in the world to feed us." "That's no way to talk about your Uncle Charlie," Jon Cryer says. "Especially because it's true."

Then a couple of little girls walk onto the campsite, one of whom is holding a tin of popcorn. "Excuse me," she says, "we're playing a game called 'Bigger or Better,' where we go around to campsites to trade what we have for something that is either 'bigger' or 'better.' Have you got anything that's 'bigger' or 'better' than popcorn?"

Both Jon Cryer and Half Man are really hungry, and they eye the popcorn like it's sirloin. The Half Man then takes the Zip-loc bag and puts it up to his butt, then zips it up. He hands the bag to the girl, and takes the popcorn. "Here you go," he says. "A bag with a fart in it." The girls protest that a bag with a fart in it isn't better than popcorn, it's gross. Jon Cryer says, "What are you talking about? This popcorn isn't even popped! You just got a bag with a fart in it. How many of those have you seen? I can get unpopped popcorn in any 99-cent store!"
Then, the girls walk away and Jon Cryer and the Half Man notice Uncle Charlie's car off camera. "Look, there's Uncle Charlie's car!" Half Man says. "Up on top of that ravine!" "Why is he driving so fast?" Jon Cryer says. Then, there's the sound of a huge crash, and an explosion. "He's crashed! His car has exploded!" they say, staring in horror. Then, "Oh, he's crawling from the wreckage! He's okay! Uncle Charlie!" they yell at him. "What's that bear doing?" Half Man asks. "Charlie! Look out for that bear!" Jon Cryer yells. "Too late," Half Man says. "Looks like that bear REALLY likes Uncle Charlie." "Look away," Jon Cryer says.

The two stand there for awhile as Uncle Charlie is raped by a bear off camera. Then, a car that was being driven by Charlie's stalker, Rose, drives over the same ravine and lands on top of the bear and Charlie. Rose, dissheveled and dirty, staggers into the frame and the three of them commisserate. Uncle Charlie is dead, and his stalker Rose has killed him. While he was being raped by a bear.

Back at Charlie's house, Jon Cryer, Half Man, and Rose are all arguing over who will tell Charlie's and Jon Cryer's mother about what's happened. Then, Tom Berenger walks into the house and tells them not to do anything just yet, that their cooperation is needed for national security reasons. He explains that Ashton Kutcher has to step seamlessly into Uncle Charlie's life as if Uncle Charlie is still alive. They will call Ashton Uncle Charlie. They will show him how Uncle Charlie behaves, and train him to be Uncle Charlie completely. Jon Cryer says, "All you need to do is get a super ego-ectomy and you'll be fine." Rose tells him that it shouldn't be a problem showing Ashton how Charlie acts, because she has tons of video footage of him, and in fact, "why don't you come over to my place right now, so that I can show you how Charlie made love when he was drunk!"

Half Man complains that he's in mourning, and he doesn't know how he's supposed to get over the death of his uncle, when he has to pretend that his uncle is still alive. Tom Berenger says don't worry, the government is going to pay for the best therapy money can buy. The scene shifts to Jon Cryer, Half Man, Charlie's mother, Charlie's housekeeper, and Rose sitting in a circle around Dr. Drew Pinsky. "Ordinarily in these situations, I encourage people to own their feelings of sadness and mourning," Dr. Drew says in that phoney baloney "I care" tone he uses. "But in this case, you have to suppress that and pretend like nothing has changed." The surviving cast members then each spend a minute or so relating a litany of Charlie's boorish behavior, while Dr. Drew listens, slack-jawed. "No wonder that bear went after him the way it did," Dr. Drew says. "He probably recognized a fellow animal."
The rest of the episode is spent setting up the premise for the rest of the season: Jon Cryer and the Half Man will be "training" Ashton Kutcher, the straight-arrow CIA agent, to be a whoring, boozing jerk. Also, there was some stuff about Charlie's mother wanting to take Ashton to bed ("He's not really my son, so it's only incest in the eyes of the federal government, not nature!"), and a subplot about Jon Cryer (he's a chiropractor on the show) treating the twin brother of the Imam (also Clancy Brown) for a sore neck.

The above is as complete a synopsis as I can remember. As you can see, some of it was really funny, some of it only slightly funny. Over all, I think they did a pretty decent job with the episode, and I'm glad I get to post this exclusive synopsis of what is sure to be a hotly anticipated program.

I have to say that I think the writers of "Two and a Half Men" have come up with a brilliant way to dismiss Charlie Sheen's character and introduce Ashton Kutcher's. Goodbye, Charlie.

Two and a Half Men naked pic source.