Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Why So Serious?

*spoilers ahead*

The concept of “Joker” is pretty straight-forward.  Todd Phillips wanted to show how evil is often shaped by a person’s circumstances.  Arthur Fleck is a child of abuse, grows up in a broken home with a delusional mother, suffers from delusions and a few other mental illnesses himself but can’t get them treated due to a lack of a civic support system for the mentally ill, and is doing all this while trying to get by in the notorious cesspool that is Gotham City.  Between being beaten up, losing his job, being confronted with an apparent lie about his parentage and then the actual truth about his parentage, lashing out with a vigilante attack, and then being mocked by a TV talk show host, Arthur finally snaps, and the Joker as we (sort of) know him is created.  If Arthur just snaps, he becomes one of, sadly, thousands of semi-anonymous people who commit awful deeds on a near-daily basis.  But because his path leads him to becoming the Joker, it underlines how everyday evils can give birth to a terrifying, world-threatening kind of evil.

It’s an interesting premise, and somewhat of a different one for a “comic book movie” (though Joker has none of the trappings associated with your normal Marvel or DC movie) beyond just the fact that a movie focused entirely around the villain is unusual enough.  So, the question is, why did I dislike this film?

In short, it’s a classic case of an interesting premise on paper not translating into a particularly interesting movie.  Joker is a tough watch — the one “comic book movie” trope it does adopt is carrying the “grim-dark” nature of a Zach Snyder DC movie to an extreme.  Obviously any film with such a heavy message is under no obligation to be light, and frankly, having many light moments or even dark comic moments would’ve been even more off-putting.  But the issue is, the movie’s tone and overall direction is so apparent even five minutes in that it left me just dreading a slog for the next two hours, and it was a slog I received.  If you’re wondering if there are at least a half-dozen music cues of songs about laughter or clowns scored to melancholy or violent moments, you are correct!

I don’t mind a tough watch if a film has something unique to say, but while that interesting premise I mentioned earlier is “somewhat different” for a full movie, it’s not exactly new to the world of comics in general.  Probably a good three-quarters of all comic villains already have an established tragic backstory — even among Batman villains alone, Mr. Freeze and Two-Face are on the Mount Rushmore of comic villain origin stories.  Ascribing such a background to the Joker seems almost unnecessary, since the Joker quite famously doesn’t have a set origin* and more or less seems like Phillips had Arthur become this specific villain because the Joker is the most famous one around.

* = of course, we already got a canon-busting Joker origin in the original Tim Burton Batman movie, and the comics have never really done anything to entirely bust up the old continuity of the Joker being a criminal known as the “Red Hood,” who has a header into a vat of acid during an encounter with Batman.  And, Phillips kind of hedges anyway about the “validity” of the entire movie by establishing that Arthur is delusional, so it’s possible the whole thing could basically just be the version that he sees in his head, or the one that that he’s telling to the Arkham psychiatrist at the end.

The other problem I had with the film is that in trying to humanize the Joker, I feel it goes too far in trying to sympathize or even excuse him.  To use the inevitable comparison to The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker was an agent of pure chaos within what he felt was a chaotic system that deserved to be overthrown.  Yet that film, and Ledger’s performance, never let us forget that Joker was malevolent.  He’s fine with destroying everything and everyone for his own amusement, whereas in Arthur’s case, both his actions and the whole Joker movement for lack of a better term are presented as being borderline justifiable.  The Joker isn’t supposed to be a violent Robin Hood — while the Joker may be selective in his specific targets, his overall target is just “everyone.” 

Contrast this to Arthur, who only lashes out at those who have wronged him.  The goons on the subway, his co-worker, his mother, and Murray Franklin* all “have it coming” to some extent.  We aren’t shown what Arthur did to Zazie Beetz’s character and her kid, and leaving it ambiguous is a bit of a copout move on Phillips’ part since a definitive answer helps the narrative either way.  If Arthur leaves them unharmed, it shows he hasn’t entirely yet gone around the bend; if he does harm them, it shows he is ultimately evil, which better enforces the whole point of the movie. 

* = by the way, I shouldn’t say that this movie is entirely humourless, since the unintentional comedy of legendarily grumpy late-night talk show guest Robert De Niro playing a late night talk show host is off the charts.  Especially since his big comic catchphrase is, simply, “that’s life!”  Even Jay Leno would find this guy too much of a hack.  By the way, De Niro was cast as an homage to his role in ‘The King Of Comedy,’ but actually having De Niro there probably pushes the homage into straight ripoff territory.  The line between homage and ripoff, by the way, is called the De Palma Threshold.

Not giving us an answer either way strikes me less of Phillips wanting to create some mystery, and more not wanting to have the audience turn on Arthur — except, by this point we should be turning on Arthur because HE’S THE JOKER.  I mentioned earlier about how so many comic villains have tragic origins, and probably at least half of that number manifest that past into some type of a code of ethics.  Again, looking at Batman villains alone, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Catwoman wouldn’t have killed Zazie and her youngster; Riddler or Penguin probably not; hell, even Two-Face would spare them if his coin flipped the right way.  Adding the Joker to the list of “villains with ethics” is the only real breach of comics continuity that I have an issue with, since it goes against one of the fundamental aspects of what the Joker is all about.  To him, there’s no such thing as “they had it coming” since in his view, everyone is inherently corrupt and thus has it coming sooner or later.

My other hot take about the film is, and I have to be quiet if any angry Academy voters see this….

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┻┳| •.•) …this isn’t a very good Joaquin Phoenix performance.
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Phoenix, usually a reliably great actor, isn’t bringing anything new to the table in his portrayal of damaged Arthur Fleck, or even how he shifts into fully-formed Joker mode by the end of the film.  Arthur seems like a poor man’s version of Freddie Quell, a much better Phoenix character from “The Master.”  As for Jokerized Arthur, even accounting for the fact that he’s still in the embryonic stages of his criminal form, there isn’t the sense of controlled menace that should be surrounding the Joker at all times.  It doesn’t help Phoenix that Ledger’s performance is still so fresh in everyone’s mind, and I don’t at all think Phoenix deserves a Best Actor Oscar for this (though it would be classic Academy to award a seemingly overdue performer for a lesser role rather than one of their headline performances).

“Joker” is an interesting movie, hence all my words about it, but I hesitate to call it an actual good movie.  I don’t know if this specific kind of story needed to be told about this specific character, and even if so, I’m not sure Todd Phillips is the director to make it.  But hey, this movie is set to make over a billion dollars, so what do I know?  To quote legendary TV funnyman Murray Franklin, that’s life.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Bob Mortimer

I think my favourite part of Bob Mortimer's "Would I Lie To You?" appearances is that, of all the funny people and funny stories ever featured on the show, nobody makes the other comedians crack up as much as Bob Mortimer.  If Miles Jupp, who laughs at everything, was ever booked on the same episode as Bob, I think Jupp would literally die laughing.



Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hopscotch

Hopscotch is, at once, both a moderately-entertaining Walter Matthau vehicle and the easiest game ever played.  I can't truly attest to the former, since I sort of half-watched it on TV years ago and don't really remember anything besides Matthau's genial charm, and can definitely attest to the latter, since I may have been the Pele of hopscotch.

A brief rundown of the rules, since it's possible most people don't actually know the rules of hopscotch, even though their childhood playground or schoolyard almost surely had multiple courts stenciled onto the pavement.  Most "games" consisted of kids just skipping through the numbers like they'd vaguely seen on TV, without the key aspect of picking up the stone.  It would be a little like practicing putting on a green without any holes.

Once you add the stone, however.....to quote Carl Weathers, baby, you've got a stew going!  To say it added excitement would be an understatement, and yet here I go, understating the whole thing since for an extreme talent like myself, the game was simply too easy to catch my interest.

Picture it: a young Mark is in third grade, and randomly strolling around his schoolyard during recess looking for something to do.  It was a rare day when Mark didn't go off by himself and make-believe he was a Ghostbuster, as Mark decided to be social for a change.  He stumbles upon some classmates playing hopscotch and, after a brief recitation of the rules, he decides to join in.

The stone is tossed onto the court, and the game is afoot.  And the foot is the game, in many cases, as Mark easily jumps through every square with room to spare between his feet and the lines, while then easily bending over to snatch the stone in one fell swoop and returning to the end.  Task complete.

It was so easy that honestly, I thought I'd gotten something wrong.  Maybe a rule wasn't explained properly, or I was supposed to yell HOPSCOTCH in a goofy voice while grabbing the stone or something of that ilk.  Could a game possibly be this simple?  Maybe so, since my classmates reacted like I'd just a four-minute mile.  "Oh wow, have you played before?"  Nope.  Beginner's luck....or the birth of a natural.  I sailed through that course as easily as Walter Matthau delivered a wry one-liner.

Now, just to add a dash of humility, I should note that the court was gigantic.  The squares had to have been at least 40cm x 40 cm, so it really was no problem for the foot of an eight-year-old.  And yet, my classmates apparently had the balance of a drunken Stephen Leacock character and somehow couldn't navigate this seemingly simple course.  I guess I was a bit tall for my age, and perhaps had a bit of extra leverage?  It's at this point where I bemoan the fact that I was already 5'10" by the time I was 12 or 13, and then just stopped growing forever, dashing my early hopes of being an NBA player. 

Whatever the reasoning, I was somehow a hopscotch master and everyone else struggled.  Since there was no challenge, I didn't seek out many more opponents, and I think my interest in the game began and ended that same afternoon.  Maybe if there was a professional hopscotch league on TV, I could've had more of an interest, in an attempt to emulate heroes like hopscotch legends Angus "The Hopped-Up Scottish Man" McFayden, or Sammy "Stone-Grabber" Williams.  Without the incentive of a lucrative professional career, however, it was back to busting ghosts for me.

For years afterward, every time I saw a hopscotch court, I began to sing Madonna's "This Used To Be My Playground."  Oh, what might have been.  What might have been. 

I would try scotchin' it up again one of these days, but my god, just imagine the inevitable hamstring tear.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Cities/Big Business/I Zimbra

"Stop Making Sense" is the best concert film of all time, and in my opinion, one of the actual greatest films of all time.  Yet while I've spent years and years adoring this film and the soundtrack album, it somehow never occurred to me that there was extra footage.

Turns out, during a random read of Stop Making Sense's Wikipedia page, two songs were actually left out of the theatrical release (but included on the VHS release and as DVD extras).  Needless to say, both performances are incredible, and again, HOW did it take me until 2019 to see these?  How did I get here?  This is not my beautiful house!



Monday, November 04, 2019

The 3D

3D = Double Dipsy Doodle, in this case

I wrote that whole post the other day without actually explaining why "the ol' Dipsy Doodle" had come to mind (not that my nonsensical ramblings usually require inspiration).  It's because after years of never hearing that phrase ever mentioned by anyone other than my grandfather, I inexplicably heard it twice in a two-day span.

1. my car was being serviced at Canadian Tire, and they were wheeling it out of the garage.  I could look into the garage and see my car moving, only to be confused when it was being driven towards the back of the facility rather than out the actual front door.  The guy at the desk explained that there was some kind of machinery taking up the entire central area of the garage, so the mechanic in my car would have to do "the ol' dipsy doodle" around the thing in order to leave.

The clerk was in his early 50's, which still makes him ostensibly too young to know that reference, but I was tickled nonetheless.  Maybe he heard it from his grandfather too, or maybe a parent, or maybe it just fits in with Canadian Tire's vague old-timey vibe that eighty-year-old slang can still be heard on the reg.  Just imagine, you could go into a Canadian Tire in 2099 and some clerk will use the old-timey phrase "on the reg."

2. while listening to the Maple Leafs on the radio, Joe Bowen mentioned that a player did "the ol' dipsy doodle" while making a clever move with the puck.  This mention was less surprising, since Joe Bowen is 68 years old and is as old-school as it gets.  The man may talk exclusively in old-timey references, and/or references to anyone who has ever played for the Maple Leafs since World War II.

Do I currently have a fantasy hockey team that I have just renamed "the ol' Dipsy Doodles"?  You are 100 percent correct.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Name Game

Longtime readers may remember my list of baby names, or the 42 names I had in mind if I ever had a child.  I should note, that post was written over eight years ago and I'm still childless today, so yeah, the dating life is going great. 

BUT, since I knew that this was inevitable, or that I'd have slightly fewer than 42 children if I ever did become a father since it's not like I'm Robert Baratheon or something, I've had my list of names on offer for years.  It's become a running joke that, whenever a friend is expecting, I'll forward them that list as a suggestion.  I say "running joke" since it's technically tongue-in-cheek, but let's be real, I want this to happen.  Imagine the follow-up blog post it would inspire!

This you're reading that very follow-up post now, then....well, you're underwhelmed after all the build-up, but the bigger story is that it's happened!  Two friends recently welcomed a little girl into the world, and named her Lily, thus firmly and delightfully removing one of the names off my list for good. 

Now, technically, Lily may have been a family name on both of their sides, so I don't want to claim that my list was the sole inspiration.  Tied for first, sure, but not the SOLE inspiration.  Still, I'll claim it, after all this time.  This was an exhausting as actually being a parent, in many ways.

One down, 41 to go. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Waits So Serious?

Move over Joaquin Phoenix.  And, I guess, move over Heath Ledger, as even though he was literally born the same year as this interview, surely he must've seen it at some point while growing up in Australia.

I guess this video has been floating around the web for some time now but I'm only seeing it (and being floored by it) now.  Fast-forward to 1:44 when Tom Waits sits down.  I always felt that watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and seeing Larry David in full bloom somewhat detracted from Jason Alexander's legendary George Costanza performance since it became clear that Alexander was to some extent just impersonating David, and I can't help but similarly feel that this Waits interview takes just a bit of the steam out of Ledger's take on the Joker.  Then again, I guess at most Ledger lifted the voice.....I somewhat doubt that in part two of the interview, Waits offers to show the host a pencil trick.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Ol' Dipsy Doodle

Every grandparent uses old-timey expressions, and everyone who spends time with their grandparents inevitably picks up some of those expressions and carries them forward through the ages as sort of a rhetorical time capsule.  One of my grandpa's favourite turns of phrase was "the ol' dipsy doodle," which was basically his go-to term for any kind of tricky reversal. 

If, for instance, someone made a big comeback in a family game of rummoli, they didn't just turn the tables on the opponents --- they pulled the ol' dipsy-doodle on them!  And then a fistfight usually broke out, since my family took games night pretty serious.  My grandma throws a mean right hook.

Perhaps with my brain was jarred from my grandma's punch, but for some reason, it took me until 2019 to actually look up "dipsy doodle" and, lo and behold, it was a hit song from the 40's?!



Tommy Dorsey was the first to perform it, and it was a hit for both the Andrews Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald within the next few years.  So the next time you complain about too many covers or too much sampling in today's pop music, don't forget that back in that day, it wasn't uncommon for the exact same song (maybe with a different arrangement) to be re-released several times within a few years' time.

If I had to guess where my grandpa really adopted the term, it was probably from an old Andy Griffith Show episode, as Otis the town drunk apparently used to sing it over and over.  So this must be where I inherited my habit of having 50% of everything I say come from TV and movie dialogue.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lookwell

Back in 1990, Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel co-created a TV series called "Lookwell," starring Adam West as a washed-up actor who takes his old role as a TV detective too seriously and begins to investigate (a.k.a. meddle in) actual crimes.

Now, if I told you this exact same premise was being used by a new show coming on the air today, you'd clearly watch, right?  This is the kind of thing that would be a Comedy Central staple for five seasons minimum, or easily be picked up by Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/insert your favourite streaming service here.  Unfortunately, "Lookwell" was too ahead of its time for the early 90's and the series wasn't picked up, but the original pilot did indeed come to light so we can enjoy at least one episode of this could've-been-classic series.
 
One wonders what would've happened if "Lookwell" had actually been picked up and run for even a season or two.  Perhaps Conan would've focused on this show and not continued to write for SNL, or never written for the Simpsons, or never become the host of Late Night.  Comedy history would've been irrevocably changed had perhaps just one more network executive been on board with watching Adam West wear the hell out of those mock turtlenecks.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Departure Suite

It's technically Thanksgiving and all, but October 14 is also the day of the Sudden Departure, so....bit of a downer.

btw, most beautiful musical score in TV history?  It's got my vote.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

NBA Predictions

Hey, the Raptors are the reigning NBA champions!  Isn't it wild that that actually happened?  Turns out that the Raptors' win didn't cause the universe to collapse into itself, so they're going to go ahead and have another NBA season this year, and thus I have to make a new set of picks.

*obligatory "the conferences are absurdly lopsided, the West is ten times better than the East" comment*

I will say, this is the first time in ages (ever?) when I've actually had to put some thought into NBA predictions.  The league is so often ruled by a superteam that it's been very easy to just phone in a provisional pick of the Warriors, Spurs, Heat, or Lakers for the better part of the last two decades.  This season?  At least a half-dozen teams look like potential title contenders.  So into this brave new world, I'll go out on a limb and choose....the team who had the best record last season.

(stars indicate wild card teams)

Pacific: Clippers, Warriors*, Lakers*, Kings, Suns
Northwest: Nuggets, Trail Blazers*, Jazz*, Thunder, Timberwolves
Southwest: Rockets, Spurs*, Pelicans, Mavericks, Grizzlies

Central: Bucks, Pacers*, Pistons, Bulls, Cavaliers
Atlantic: 76ers, Celtics*, Raptors*, Nets*, Knicks 
Southeast: Heat, Hawks*, Magic, Wizards, Hornets

West finals: Trail Blazers over Clippers
East finals: Bucks over 76ers

NBA finals: Bucks over Trail Blazers in six games

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

I Know What I'm Doing

Folks, I'm sure you read this blog week after week and think to yourself, "wow, Mark is just the coolest, most with-it guys there is."  And while you're correct, even a perfectly wound clock is wrong twice a day....wait, that's not how that goes....ok, maybe I'm wrong three times a day.

The first two errors, a.k.a. examples of the ongoing cloud of stupidity that hangs over my head at all times, took place last week.  I was making dinner one night and cooked up some rice using my legendary recipe.  First, I pour a cup into a bowl.  Then, I pour a cup of water into the bowl.  Then, I put the covered bowl into the microwave for five minutes to cook, and then leave it in there for five minutes longer to let the water entirely soak in.  (Why the good people at Michelin haven't seen fit to award me at least one star is anyone's guess.)  So for this latest meal, I prepared my usual routine, and after ten minutes I headed downstairs to the kitchen....only to discover that I had forgotten the water.  So it was just a bowl of very hot, uncooked rice on my hands.

No matter, this was just ten wasted minutes of my life.  The second error was a bit more bothersome.

It involved doing the laundry, and as per routine, I simply dumped my clothes into the washer and headed upstairs to wait out the wash cycle.  (There isn't a Michelin Guide for laundering clothes, as far as I know, though I will modestly admit that my technique isn't anything special.)  After an hour, I went downstairs to move my clothes into the dryer.....only to realize that my clothes were *already* in the dryer.  Yes, that's right.  I'd dumped a load of dirty clothes into the dryer, tossed in a batch of Tide powder, and then walked away like a dope.

On the bright side, at least it wasn't liquid detergent.  That would've caused a much bigger problem than my actual, still-annoying problem, of having powder all over the place.  Well, it was nothing a quick once-over with the vacuum cleaner couldn't fix, and the only lasting damage was to my pride.

And now you know the truth, folks.  Your humble narrator isn't perfect.  It must be a hard thing to realize after all these many years, but look on the bright side.  At least you didn't spend ten minutes of your life vacuuming out a laundry dryer.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Diner Lobster

SNL just made a new batch of their old sketches (well, "old" as in a couple of years old) on YouTube available to international viewers, and the list of material includes....DINER LOBSTER.  One of the true laugh-out-loud, instant classic, "what the hell is going on?" sketches of in recent SNL history.


Tuesday, October 01, 2019

NHL Predictions

Hark!  A new hockey season is upon us!  Now that the Blues and Capitals have each ended their long Stanley Cup droughts, could another team be next?  Say, a team from Toronto? 

"Oh, did the Marlies get promoted to the NHL?"

Quiet, you.

CENTRAL DIVISION: Avalanche, Predators, Jets, Blues*, Stars*, Wild, Blackhawks

PACIFIC DIVISION: Golden Knights, Flames, Sharks, Coyotes, Oilers, Kings, Ducks, Canucks

ATLANTIC DIVISION: Maple Leafs, Lightning, Bruins, Panthers*, Canadiens, Sabres, Red Wings, Senators

METROPOLITAN DIVISION: Capitals, Hurricanes, Devils, Penguins*, Islanders, Flyers, Blue Jackets, Rangers

(the stars indicate the wild card teams)

Western Conference finals: Golden Knights over Jets
Eastern Conference finals: Capitals over Bruins (I'm sorry, I just can't pick the Leafs until it actually happens)

Stanley Cup finals: Golden Knights over Capitals

See, just like I said, another long-suffering franchise will finally get its first Stanley Cup.  Enjoy the title after three long years of waiting, Vegas fans!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Good Neighbor's "Toast"

The Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett Era on SNL has been pretty entertaining, and a lot of their video material has been close to the tone of their older work as members of the "Good Neighbor" comedy troupe.  That said, none of their SNL stuff has come close to this epic, which is about three sketch ideas in one and gets increasingly mind-blowing as it goes on.  It's possible they could re-use this for the show some day but a) this is already legendary enough in its current form and b) they'd just have to shoot another video since this would be a beast (not The Beast) to shoot live.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Without A Clue

Clue makes no sense.  Most board games don't have narratives --- you're just trying to drop checkers in a row like in Connect Four, or going on a quest for self-actualization by stealing the identity of another in Guess Who, or whatever the hell Sorry was about.  Clue, however, takes things to a higher level by actually building a story around its premise and while some might admire their fortitude in board game innovation, I'm just going to write a snarky blog post about it since I'm a Guy On The Internet.

If you're going to build a narrative it should be a logical one, and here's where Clue falters.  Put yourself within the game's world: pretend you're Madam Peacock, a posh upper-class woman staying at a country manor. Suppose that your host, Mr. Boddy, ends up dead. If we go by the old-time mystery novel trope of the manor somehow being inaccessible to and from the outside world and the guests have to solve the crime themselves, then that accounts for the need to identify Boddy's killer. Obviously, if some maniac is killing people within the mansion you're all stuck within, you need to find that murderer post-haste, but other aspects of the game get a bit sticky.

For one, needing to discover the location of the murder. Now, this does make some sense within the context of the suspect search, since if Boddy was killed in the hall and someone saw Professor Plum skulking around the hall earlier, that would be an important piece of information. But though there's a storyline reason for KNOWING which room Boddy was killed in, there's less of a reason for the characters to SEARCH for this information in the first place. Again, put yourself in the position of an actual guest in this mansion who's found Boddy dead. Where did you find him? Was it in a specific room? Was he found on the stairs, a.k.a. the middle of the board? Unless there's a clear reason to guess otherwise (like, 10 trails of blood leading from the body to every room), you'd just presume that Boddy was killed whenever he was found. To think otherwise is to presume that an old lady like Madam Peacock or a svelte bombshell like Miss Scarlet was lugging a corpse around a mansion in the dead of night.

Now, the weapon. Put yourself back to the moment of discovering Boddy's, er, body. If the guests are able to discern that he's been murdered, then there should be a clear indication of that fact on his person --- after all, if Boddy was just found dead without a mark on him, the natural guess would be that he'd suffered a stroke or heart attack or something. Murder most foul wouldn't be the first conclusion. If you're able to identify that Boddy has been killed, then the weapon itself should be guessed at fairly easily. Like I said, poison isn't an option so we don't need too complex here. No ligature marks on his neck? Couldn't have been the rope. No gunshot wound? Couldn't have been the revolver. No stab wound? Couldn't have been the knife. No big ol' bump on the head? Couldn't have been the wrench, lead pipe or candlestick. This seems to be a bit of a plot hole....unless Boddy was found with ALL of these marks on him. Like, he was found hanging from a noose with a stab wound, a bullet hole and three separate gaping dints in his head. This would explain the question over how he died, though one might also assume that the actual method of murder wouldn't be weighing so heavily on the minds of the guests. If this poor Boddy was found butchered like Rasputin or Vigo the Carpathian, then it doesn't really matter WHAT method killed him, just that he's dead at all. If he was found shot, then one could think, "Hmm, Colonel Mustard is an expert marksman, he is the natural suspect" but if Boddy has all of these wounds on him and you don't have a CSI kit handy to determine the cause of death, then it's kind of a moot point.

And, finally, while it's an inevitable problem of the character process, it's always struck me as odd that one player can identify themselves as the murderer. Like, the person playing Ms. White is free to accuse Ms. White in the library with the rope or whatnot.  Within the game story, are we to assume that Ms. White's guilty conscience overcame her and she just interrupted the entire investigation to admit her crime? Maybe it was meant as a lesson for the kids who might play the game --- sometimes it's best to just come out and admit it when you've done wrong, children. No matter whether it's taking the last cookie from the kitchen jar or savagely murdering a millionaire in his country manor, it's best to just admit guilt and take your punishment. Clearly, Clue has no respect for the criminal defense system.

Most useless game pieces ever, by the way, were the actual murder weapon game pieces in Clue.  You know, when you accused someone in one of the rooms, you also had the cute little metal candlestick there, just to really bring the scene to life.  (Some poor sweatshop worker has been cranking out little metal revolvers for years, which is bound to create some psychological issues.)  There's another narrative gimmick that made no sense; why do you need the weapon present to accuse someone?  "You stabbed Mr. Boddy with THIS knife, Mr. Green!"  Why are you moving the evidence around?  Don't you know not to touch anything before the police arrive?  Mr. Green just got off on murder charges since the evidence was tampered with, you idiot.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Wedding Etiquette

For years now, one of my go-to Facebook moves has been to post the "Somebody's Getting Married" number from The Muppets Take Manhattan on the walls of soon-to-be-wed friends on their wedding day.  It seemed like a fun and fitting thing to do, plus anything that helps people remember the vastly-underrated TMTM* just seems proper.

* = I watched this movie at least 100 times as a kid, to the point that it probably influenced everything I know about New York City and/or staging plays.  Also, my cousin and her husband bear a strong resemblance to the young couple that fall in love in this movie, so maybe it influenced them as well.

Anyway, it has been mentioned to me that posting this video is a mistake, as it implies a connection between the bride-to-be and Miss Piggy.  I should note that this criticism came from a third party -- the video has never been welcomed with anything but 'likes' by the actual couples themselves, as far as I know.  Frankly, I think the criticism isn't warranted.  Firstly, my sheer laziness in posting the same video for EVERY couple should be evidence enough that I'm not making some snide sub-tweet comparison of one particular bride and some vain swine.  Secondly, I can deal out sarcastic jabs with the best of them, but I'm not the kind of monster that would bust out, "hey, you're basically a pig or a neurotic frog!" on one's wedding day.  Thirdly, who's to say that being compared to Miss Piggy is even an insult?  Pop culture icon!

I feel I'm totally in the right here. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Poor Ross

UPDATE: There are apparently easter eggs in place for every Friends character, not just Ross.  Search at your own amusement!

Our overlords good friends at Google have come up with another clever searchable easter egg.  Google "Ross Friends" or "Ross Geller" and click the couch icon at the right side of the screen.  You can do it a few times for added mirth.

Ol' Ross has taken a beating in modern times for being....well, kind of a creepy weirdo in hindsight.  Or, a very creepy weirdo.  But, it's a testament to David Schwimmer's acting ability that it took 15-25 years for everyone to really realize that Ross was a creepy weirdo!  And, his legacy is secure, as I'm sure every person who has tried to move furniture upstairs in the last two decades has made a "PI-VOT!" joke at some point.

Top five Ross moments!

5. Fake crying, followed by "FINE BY ME!"
4. "It tastes like feet."  (The italics to signify the wonderful voice he uses)
3. Joey and Ross have great naps together
2. "PI-VOT!"
1. "Poor Ross," which isn't actually from the show, but from the blooper reels.  It's just such a perfect summation of resignation that it made me laugh like Lisa Kudrow when I first saw it.  (Also, Lisa Kudrow has maybe the best laugh ever.)

Anyway, that sums up this completely out-of-nowhere recollection of a long-ago sitcom character.  It isn't at all based on the fact that I recently completed in a Friends pub trivia night, wherein my team finished a cool 19th out of 25 teams.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

One Rudd, Two Ferns

Have I already watched the Between Two Ferns movie? Yes. Did I start watching, like, ten minutes after it was uploaded to Netflix? Yup. Would I have started it even earlier, except I had to use the washroom? Absolutely.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Blinded By The Light

I mean, was there any doubt I’d go see Blinded By The Light?  Would any true Bruce Springsteen fan possibly skip this movie?  Some observations…

* first things first, the title is very helpful in establishing to people that “Blinded By The Light” is actually a Bruce song, not a Manfred Mann song.  I guess I can understand the confusion, though the fact that Springsteen is a bigger star than Manfred Mann by multiples of 1000, you’d think it would be a more widely-known fact.

* Javed’s new-wavey friend Matt?  Played by none other than King Tommen Baratheon himself!  He survived that fall off the balcony just in time for the fall of late-80’s synth pop.  It’s probably for the best that we never actually got any scenes of Matt’s band in action, since that would’ve tipped the scales into outright comedy.

* okay, so my main source of confusion with the film, and perhaps those more well-versed in British music culture can let me know about this.  Javed’s Springsteen fandom is seen by many as something of an anachronism, with the Boss representing “old” or outdated music that only someone like Matt’s manchild father (oh man did I laugh when I realized it was Rob Brydon) would still be into.  But…..the movie is set in 1987.  “Born In The USA” had been released just three years earlier, to monster worldwide acclaim.  Even the Born in the USA tour ended not even two years prior to when the film is set, a tour that included no less than six big shows in the U.K. itself.  And “Tunnel Of Love” was released in 1987 itself.  Hell, that album even had a bunch of synths, Matt would’ve been enthralled!

I guess my point is that it seems odd that Javed and Roops are seemingly the only two young Springsteen fans at their school, nay, in the whole movie.  It’s even played for laughs that Javed rushes to the HMV to get concert tickets***, only to learn that he’s the first one to even ask.  Wasn’t Springsteen still a big deal in the U.K. in 1987?  I’m not even sure what the modern equivalent would be, given today’s fractured musical climate, but in terms of a huge-selling modern act who is perceived as appealing more to older audiences….maybe Adele?  But if you made a movie set in 2019 about a teen who finds inspiration in Adele’s music, would their classmates be all “Adele?  Who?”  or “Adele?  She’s nobody!”

*** = man, did this ever bring back some memories.  “Standing in line at a record store the day tour tickets go on sale” is one of those definite generation gap moments that young people today simply have no concept about.

* anyway, quibble with the premise aside, I guess it did relate to the general idea of how music can make you feel like a band is singing to you, and you alone.  The film is entertaining and a good watch, if a tad cheesy and predictable in spots.  Probably could’ve done without the goofiness of Javed actually dressing himself up like Springsteen, as if a teenager would ever do something absurd like dressing as one of their pop idols in real life!  On a totally unrelated note, we just recently passed the 20-year anniversary of my wearing large fly sunglasses throughout much of the 12th grade in order to emulate Bono.

* needless to say, this movie is full of great music.  Acoustic “Promised Land”?  Hell yes.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Delusional Merch

Standing in line at the grocery store today, I noticed the guy in front of me wearing a commemorative t-shirt about the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2017 NBA championship.

Wait, what?  The Warriors won the title in 2017.  The T-Wolves went, as records indicate, 31-51 and missed the playoffs entirely.

I took a closer look just to make sure I wasn't reading things incorrectly, and as one tends to notice when someone is staring at you, he caught my glance and chuckled.

"Cool shirt, huh?"
"I'll say.  I must've missed that NBA Finals."
"I'm a T-Wolves fan.  I figured since they'll never win, hey, might as well get a shirt!"

As a fan of truth, logic, and universal order, his attitude is shocking.  But as a fan of random nonsense....it's kind of amazing.  He gets to walk around proudly repping his team as if they were the ones who, say, drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green*, and then ridden that core into becoming a modern sports dynasty.  The majority of people will just walk by and not take a second glance at his t-shirt, yet those that do will laugh at the absurdity.  It's the perfect conversation-starter of a garment.

* = fun fact!  The T-Wolves had both the fifth and sixth overall picks in the 2009 NBA Draft, and addressed their dire need for a point guard by doubling up at the position, taking Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn.  The Warriors, picking seventh, took Curry.  Oof.  Minnesota had the #2 pick in 2011, Thompson's draft year, but took Derrick Williams, long before Klay came off the board with the 11th pick.  Double oof.  It looks like the Timberwolves dealt their pick in the 2012 draft so they couldn't even get any chance of Green before he went in Golden State in the second round.  Oof x3

This takes the old idea of a crossover sports jersey (i.e. a Tom Brady Red Sox jersey, or a Sidney Crosby Steelers jersey) to the nth degree.  This is creating a complete alternate reality of events.  It's so crazy it just might work.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Hot! Live! Music!

Postmodern Jukebox w/Rogelio Douglas Jr., "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
Man, it took PMJ long enough to finally get around to a U2 song.  You know, after years of including Postmodern Jukebox videos in Hot! Live! Music! posts,  it occurs to me that they aren't exactly live -- I mean, they're all taking place in a studio.  Have I been undermining my own post gimmick without knowing it?  Looks like I still haven't found the post gimmick I'm looking for.


Bruce Springsteen, "Ramrod"
Aha, now here's a live song.  It's at a concert, there are people there, it says "live" right there in the YouTube video title.  Also, if "Hot Live Music" had a dictionary entry, I'm pretty sure there would just a picture of the Boss.

David Byrne and St. Vincent, "Road To Nowhere"
I might need to see some DNA evidence before I believe that St. Vincent isn't actually Byrne's daughter.  Though it's actually cooler in real life that they were both like, "hey, we're so clearly cut from the same weird musical cloth, we should tour and make albums together."  It is a drastic oversight that I don't have their album.


The Killers, "When You Were Young"
I'm probably a little late to the party on this considering the building is almost 150 years old, but man, the Royal Albert Hall seems like a great venue.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

NFL Predictions

Well why not, let’s double down on this nonsense.

NFC East: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, New York
NFC West: Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona
NFC North: Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota, Detroit
NFC South: Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay
NFC wild cards: Seahawks, Saints

I’m only very hesitantly omitting Carolina because if Cam Newton’s shoulders are ok, I think they’ll win the division.  There’s just too much injury uncertainty for me to make that prediction, however, and we all know that my picks are always based on airtight factual analysis.  For instance, I’m picking against teams like the Rams, Bears, Saints, and Eagles for the not-at-all-nebulous reasoning of “it just seems like they missed their chance.”  L.A. and the Saints still make the playoffs on pure talent alone, but I don’t think either have what it takes to get over the hump.  Minnesota will never win as long as Cousins is their QB, and the Cowboys can win their sorry division but can’t go further as long as their coaching staff is such a trainwreck.  Which opens the door for the Packers!

AFC East: New England, New York, Buffalo, Miami
AFC West: Kansas City, Los Angeles, Denver, Oakland
AFC North: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati
AFC South: Houston, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Tennessee
AFC wild cards: Steelers, Browns

Part of me feels the Browns are absolutely this year’s overhyped preseason favourite who lays an egg, except since I already have punditry darlings like the Eagles, Chargers, Bears, Vikings, and Panthers missing out, Cleveland might as well get in.  Besides, the Browns were my dad’s favourite team growing up, and since his old football jersey number was 54 and this year will mark Super Bowl 54….I’m not saying there’s karma, but there’s karma.  Anyway, the AFC is even trickier to figure than the NFC, since I could certainly see a case for almost any of these teams (minus the Dolphins, Raiders, and probably Bengals) to make the postseason.  But amidst this uncertainty, the boring old Patriots will win again.

NFC championship game: Packers over Rams
AFC championship game: Patriots over Chiefs

Super Bowl 54: Packers over Patriots

Yeah, why not.  The Aaron Rodgers roaring rampage of spite takes everyone by storm, as the Packers actually resemble a team with a playbook from this decade.  It ends with Rodgers hoisting a Super Bowl trophy while Mike McCarthy watches from the breakroom of the gas station he is now managing. 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Are The Packers Going To Win The Super Bowl?

Just throwing it out there.

As you know, I’m not one to make bold pronouncements about my favourite NFL team.  If anything, I’ve tended to be a little pessimistic about the Packers’ chances since they have long had to weigh the genius of Aaron Rodgers against the mediocrity of Mike McCarthy.  It was an eternal Spy vs. Spy that, aside from the glorious Super Bowl 45, saw the evil side win out far too often.

But my optimism about this year’s Packers team stems from the simple fact that now, Rodgers is finally free.  Here’s the thing about Matt LaFleur — he doesn’t need to be a great head coach.  He might not even need to be a good head coach.  Just average would represent such a seismic jump over the McCarthy years that it might be enough to get the Packers not just into the playoffs, but possibly even into title contention once again.

It seems like much of the national media is still overlooking just how bad McCarthy was, in favour of taking potshots at Rodgers for being “difficult” (i.e. an NFL player with an actual personality, and who doesn’t have much time for the media) or a “coach-killer” (McCarthy was there for 13 years, oh yeah, it was a real revolving door).  Naturally, there will be some adjustment time as Rodgers and LaFleur get used to each other, as you’d expect for any player with his first new coach in 13 seasons.  The “disputes” that come up between them thus far have, in my mind, been wholly overblown.

As always, if Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the sky is the limit for the Packers.  Staying healthy is no small feat for a 35-year-old QB with a significant injury history, yet I think everyone is underestimating just how much Rodgers will go into this season running on pure spite.  You don’t think he eagerly wants to have a huge year and make it clear that McCarthy was the problem?  You don’t think Rodgers will be fired up by not running a 2009 offense anymore? 

There are a lot of good teams in the NFC, so a trip to the Super Bowl won’t be easy.  But be warned — you know how every NFL season features at least one team who comes out of nowhere to be a major contender?  Look no further than Green Bay.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Survivor vs. The Office

As both a Survivor fan and an Office fan, this couldn't be any more up my alley.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Brad Vs. Leo, Redux

After my recent post comparing the careers of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, the subject of "who's actually the better actor?" got me thinking more.  Here's my list of the best 12 performances from each man, and note that I'm only focusing on their specific performance, not how good or bad the movie was as a whole.

PITT'S TWELVE
12. Fight Club
11. Babel
10. Inglourious Basterds
9. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
8. Seven
7. The Tree Of Life
6. True Romance
5. Ocean’s 11 (and somewhat by extension, Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13)
4. Snatch
3. Moneyball
2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
1. Burn After Reading


DICAPRIO'S DOZEN
12. Romeo + Juliet
11. The Revenant
10. The Great Gatsby
9. Inception
8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
7. The Departed
6. The Aviator

5. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
4. J. Edgar
3. Titanic
2. Catch Me If You Can
1. The Wolf Of Wall Street 


It's an interesting list for both guys, one that might make you think twice a bit about the general feeling that DiCaprio is a better actor.  I think part of that feeling is due to the fact that Leo simply makes fewer movies, so whenever he appears in a film, it feels like more of an event.  Pitt is more apt to sign on for a pure box office hit like World War Z, Troy, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, etc., and those types of films drag down his overall batting average.

The flip side of that, as I alluded to in my last post, is that DiCaprio's interest in taking challenging acting roles every time out also leads to some misses from a pure miscasting standpoint.  I don't think he was really a fit for Gangs Of New York, Blood Diamond, or (this is kind of a hot take) Django Unchained, to name a few.  Pitt has more than few roles where he's sort of just "there" as opposed to being a real key factor in a movie being better, but I also can't think of any instance off the top of my head where I left a theatre thinking "wow, they really should've cast someone besides Brad Pitt."

So when it comes to acting range, Pitt usually stays in "variations on the same laconic persona," as I wrote last time.  But does he have less range than DiCaprio?  It's hard to say.  Maybe it's just because he still has something of a baby face, but I still have issues buying DiCaprio in any type of real
"grownup" parts, even though he's now 44 years old.  It probably isn't accidental that most of his best work is when he's playing a young guy, or at least an adult in something of a state of arrested development.  Even though he has played older versions of J. Edgar Hoover and Howard Hughes, OUATIH's Rick Dalton might be the first DiCaprio character to really deal with the idea of middle age, or moving from a prime into older age, even though Rick Dalton is very much still a man-child.

Pitt has the advantage of being 11 years older than DiCaprio (side note: can you believe Brad Pitt is 55 years old?  Where does the time go), though the age gap notwithstanding, it's always been easier to buy Pitt in more adult parts, like when he's playing a dad, or an authority figure.  Cliff Booth in OUATIH is also a man-child in many ways, but there's more of an accent on the "man," whereas Rick Dalton leads more towards "child."   In that same vein, Pitt is much more easily able to play a believably tough guy (if not necessarily a "can go toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee" tough guy), whereas DiCaprio is not.

Here's an interesting experiment --- how many of those 12 Pitt roles could Leo have played, and how many of those 12 Brad roles could Leo have played?  We're accounting for age here, so magically pretend you could send 31-year-old DiCaprio back in time to be in Seven, rather than have have the 20-year-old DiCaprio of 1995 as Morgan Freeman's partner.

Leo As Brad
* Hard no: Tree Of Life, Snatch, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
* Wouldn't have seemed quite right: Moneyball, Inglourious Basterds, Babel, Ocean's 11, The Assassination Of...
* Maybe?: Burn After Reading, True Romance (These are two wild cards since we've seen so little of DiCaprio in flat-out comedic roles.  It would be really interesting to see DiCaprio throw everyone a total curveball and just decide to be a dopey bro in a film.)
* Would've worked: Seven, Fight Club

Brad As Leo
* Hard no: Romeo + Juliet
* Wouldn't have seemed quite right: Titanic, Aviator, J. Edgar
* Maybe?: What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Departed, Catch Me If You Can, Wolf Of Wall Street
* Would've worked: Inception, Great Gatsby, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
* Would've been better: Revenant

The age gap is also a factor here, given that Brad Pitt didn't start to really become a star until he was 30, so we have no real conception about what a teenage Brad Pitt was like as an actor, let alone if he could've handled a difficult role as DiCaprio did in WEGG.  We even have to stretch to imagine a 23-year-old Pitt as Jack Dawson, wooing Rose on the deck of the Titanic.  On paper, however, I can see Pitt in DiCaprio's filmography much more cleanly than I see Leo in Brad's roles, since I think DiCaprio would've only really excelled in the "young Pitt" era of Seven and Fight Club.

It's also interesting to think about them in the direct contrast of their Once Upon A Time In Hollywood roles.  There's no way DiCaprio could've been Cliff Booth, but I can very easily see Pitt as Rick Dalton.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Oh No

So I had an idea for a post about a list of songs that aren't really "songs" in the way we think of them, as they've been so co-opted for use in various shows, movies, commercials, etc. that they've become a jokey reference point.  For instance, every time I hear "Bad To The Bone," I don't think of anyone who's actually bad to the bone --- it's just grandmothers in leather jackets, or a baby in sunglasses or something.

One of the songs under consideration for the list was "Day Day Bow" "Oh Yeah" by Yello.  I'm sure almost everyone alive has heard this song, either from Ferris Bueller, or any other scene involving something being considered cool but in an ironic uncool way.  And it occurred to me, I didn't actually know the song's title, the band's name, and I hadn't even ever actually listened to the entire song start to finish.  So I surfed onto YouTube, looked up the original music video, and...

....dear god



Was I prepared for a video ostensibly about sun and moon worship starring, by all appearances, golf star Miguel Angel Jimenez, some guy who's a combination of four notable comedians*, and (*Stefon voice*) A CHILD?  No.  No, I was not.

* = depending on the angle, this guy looked like some mixture of Rob Delaney, John Mulaney, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jay Johnstone.

Is it amazing that this song (which has been used a thousand times over as an ironic musical shorthand for excess) has an official video that was apparently made on a budget of about $30 bucks?  Absolutely.  Is it amazing that these two weirdos made an intentionally goofy song, then an intentionally goofy video, and yet have made an unreal amount of money from this track over the years?  Positively.  Is it amazing that this video may have spawned everything in the history of Adult Swim?  Surely.

Two questions.  Is the sun, in fact, more beautiful than the moon?  And where is Duffman in all of this?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Leo Vs. Brad

After watching "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood," I got the idea of pitting (no pun intended) DiCaprio's 10 best movies against Pitt's 10 best movies to see whose best work stacks up better.  The results....were unexpected.

LEO’S TEN
10. The Revenant
9. The Aviator
8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
7. Django Unchained
6. The Wolf Of Wall Street (this gets my vote as his best performance)
5. Titanic
4. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
3. The Departed
2. Catch Me If You Can
1. Inception

BRAD’S TEN (I didn’t include Being John Malkovich since he only had a cameo)
10. True Romance
9. Seven
8. The Big Short
7. Moneyball
6. Burn After Reading (this is Pitt’s best performance, and if wasn’t for Dark Knight also being released in 2008, I’d say Pitt was robbed of a supporting actor Oscar)
5. Snatch
4. 12 Years A Slave
3. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
2. Ocean’s 11
1. Inglourious Basterds

So right off the bat, I found myself reaching to fill out a list for DiCaprio, since Aviator and Revenant have both not aged particularly well for me.  Now, I haven’t seen a few of the quintessential early Leo works (Basketball Diaries, This Boy’s Life, even Marvin’s Room) but a lot of his later work is pretty dodgy.  Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Great Gatsby, Gangs Of New York….all varying degrees of messes.  I’ll throw in a mention of J. Edgar as well, since while that movie was also nothing special, it’s actually one of DiCaprio’s most underrated performances.  Hell, it even won him a Markademy Award back in 2011!

In Pitt’s case, I had a few honourable mentions at least (Megamind, Fury, even Ocean’s 13) and Thelma & Louise is the most notable of my “never seen it” Pitt movies.  But you’ll also notice a lot of Brad’s most notable films aren’t here, since I’m in the camp that thinks stuff like Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Fight Club, Benjamin Button, Babel, and Tree Of Life all fall into that range of dull to pretentious garbage.  Unfortunately for Pitt, I can’t count his producer-only credits, since his list perks up considerably if Moonlight and The Departed join the fray.

It creates for an interesting parallel between the two guys, who both have a reputation of generally striking to more prestige-type stuff, though Pitt works a lot more and is more open to commercial stuff.  DiCaprio also has the reputation as the better actor, but….hmm, let’s think about it?  I think he has more range than Pitt, but I can also off the top of my head think of several roles that DiCaprio simply kind of whiffed on.  The buzz on Django for months was that DiCaprio was going to knock it out of the park and win a supporting actor Oscar, but then his cartoonishly evil racist was more or less blown away by Samuel L. Jackson’s much more fascinating role and performance (now there was a case of someone being robbed of an Oscar).  Likewise, in Gangs Of New York, I realize that acting against Day-Lewis is a tall order, but DiCaprio just looks out of his league.

Pitt is more content to stay in his lane when it comes to acting, mostly sticking to variations on the same laconic persona.  One big point that Pitt has over DiCaprio, however, is that Pitt is an underrated comic actor.  DiCaprio doesn’t do comedy in general, give or take that incredible quaaludes scene in WoWS and some sections of Once Upon A Time…, whereas I think being funny is Pitt’s best strength.

Anyway, stay tuned for when I watch Murder Mystery, for the comparisons of Jennifer Aniston’s movie career against Adam Sandler’s movie career.  The results will shock and amaze you!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Great Caesar's Ghost

If you're Julius Caesar, which would you prefer to be named after you --- a caesar salad, a caesar cocktail or a caesarean section?

I'd guess it's probably the salad. A Caesar cocktail is perhaps better known as a 'bloody Caesar,' which would no doubt bring back unpleasant memories for the ol' Roman dictator. And surely there's blood involved in a C-section....or wait, maybe there's not, if the doctor is doing it right. I really have no idea. I spent most of grade school health class passed out.

Now, fun fact, the caesar salad isn't actually named after Julius Caesar. It was allegedly invented by a San Diego restauranteur named Caesar Cardini, so I guess you could argue that it isn't a tribute to old orange Julius himself. Oh schisse, wait, is Orange Julius named after Julius Caesar?!?! Nope, never mind. All things being equal, he'd probably appreciate Shakespeare's play as the biggest existing tribute, once it was explained to him who Shakespeare was, and once Caesar got over his snobby "well, Terence was better" attitude.

Given the twin legacies of Caesar Cardini and Julius Freed, someone really needs to create an orange-heavy salad called the Cardini Freed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Brushes With Greatness?

I'm standing in line at a pizza place the other day, and I'm behind a guy who I thought was one of the guys from Sloan. It might not have been him, though, since he didn't react at all when I started humming 'Money City Maniacs' (minus the opening siren part, of course -- that would've been just weird to hear some dude start making a siren noise out of nowhere when all you want is a delicious slice of pizza pie). 

While in line at that same pizza place, I was also behind a guy who was continually flipping a coin.  I only saw him from the side, so it's quite possible he was indeed Two-Face.  Then again, Two-Face is a fictional character, so I have my doubts.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Sentience

My parents recently bought a new fridge, one that (unbeknownest to me) beeps when the door is left open for too long. 

Tonight, I was getting some milk and putting a new bag into the plastic container,  only to have this easy task extended by the fact that the kitchen scissors --- for the cutting the bag open, you see --- weren't in the proper drawer.  So while I was looking for the scissors, the door was left ajar just a bit too long, and suddenly I heard a beep.

My response?  "FRIDGE, YOU CAN TALK!"

Anyway, we're starting a podcast.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Spidey Day

Why did nobody tell me that yesterday was National Spider-Man Day?  I blame you for this!  "No, you're to blame!"


Anyway, happy....uh, day to my childhood comics hero!  And maybe still kind of my hero?  Far From Home was a terrific movie.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Two Ronnies, "Mastermind"

This is such an ingenious, airtight premise for a sketch that knowledge of the actual people mentioned is irrelevant.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Why So Serious?

Some years ago, I was driving through Lambeth and was stuck behind an impossibly slow driver.  Like, five km under the speed limit slow.  I couldn't just change lanes due to traffic, so I had no recourse but to grin* and bear it until I could finally find an opportunity to pass.  Needless to say, I had some choice words for this terrible driver, including, most notably, "what the hell is this clown doing?" out loud.

* = no pun intended, given the rest of this story 

Finally, some room opened up in the other lane and I could pass the slow car.  As I was driving by, I couldn't help but take a peek at the driver to put a face to my pain, and....it was an actual clown.  Full makeup, green suit, everything.  Maybe the slow speed was due to makeup running into his eyes or something?  Who knows.

It's a good thing I don't suffer from road rage, since if I had confronted him, 15 other people would've come out of his car and kicked the hell out of me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Late Night, Years Later

It was exactly a decade ago that Conan O’Brien was in the midst of his abbreviated run hosting the Tonight Show.  Released over a year after the fact, Bill Carter’s “The War For Late Night” chronicles the entire story behind how Conan inherited the show from (a more-than-slightly-unwilling) Jay Leno, only to have NBC give Leno his own nightly bomb of a primetime show, to the whole fiasco of Leno re-inheriting the Tonight Show over the irate objections of Team Coco.

Carter’s book is a fine page-turner, and I can even recall all three times I’ve read it.  The first time was just days after the initial release, as I eagerly pounced on the first copy available at my local library.  (In hindsight, it’s pretty unusual that they had a brand-new available for rent so quickly, but whatever, libraries are the best!)  The second reading took place about four years ago, when I saw the book available on a $5.99 rack at Chapters and decided what the hell, let’s put a few coins in Carter’s pocket.  It was the least I could do.

My third read took place just a few days ago, and while I found the book as entertaining as ever, it was interesting how my view of the situation has changed over time.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still solidly in Conan’s corner, though the third through, my analysis has shifted.

The first time, it was almost a horror story, from a Conan fan’s perspective.  The palace intrigue, the short-sightedness of the NBC executives, and the “man, why didn’t Conan have an 11:35 start time in his contract?!” all-timer of a negotiating gaffe looming over everything.  The dominant passage was really the opening chapter, detailing an NBC event for sponsors and affiliates that featured a stinker of a Jay Leno performance, painting Leno as an out-of-touch performer NBC was unwisely attaching itself to in just about the strongest possible way.

The second time, it was one of the passages in the last chapter that really stuck out to me.  It was a quote from Jerry Seinfeld, questioning one of Conan’s primary arguments throughout the whole dispute.  Conan was so honoured to be taking the mantle of The Tonight Show and felt the whole matter was an insult to the legacy of Johnny Carson, Steve Allen, and Jack Paar.  Seinfeld’s rebuttal was simply that the Tonight Show model Conan grew up loving was gone, since it was specifically Carson’s show.  The exact line was something like, “who even calls it the Tonight Show?  It’s always ‘did you see Leno last night?’ Or ‘hey, did you see what Letterman said in his monologue last night?’ Nobody ever calls it The Tonight Show, or Late Night, or The Late Late Show.  (If you read this in a Seinfeld vocal cadence, don’t worry, I did it too.) The point was that the actual name or timeslot of the show didn’t matter, as long as you had a show.

And it’s an argument that makes a lot of sense.  Paar’s show differed from Allen’s, which differed from Carson’s, which differed from Leno’s, which differed from O’Brien’s (and now, differed from Jimmy Fallon’s).  The only thing these “Tonight Shows” had in common was the general name, and billing as NBC’s headliner for late-night television.  Now, where I don’t agree with Seinfeld is that he felt Conan should’ve just stayed at NBC at 12:05 behind a new Jay Leno program, which I don’t agree with — who can blame Conan for feeling jerked around by the network at that point.  To put it in perspective, imagine how Seinfeld would’ve felt if NBC randomly moved his own show off Thursdays after a season and put it back on Wednesdays to lose to Home Improvement in the ratings.  One suspects Seinfeld wouldn’t have just cavalierly shrugged and figured, hey, we’re still on TV.

And my impression on the third read?  While my broad view of the situation didn’t much change, it did strike me how this all felt like it happened a million years ago, rather than just last decade.  Television, let alone late-night TV, has changed so overwhelmingly that all these arguments and disputes over who hosted the Tonight Show ended up being more or less irrelevant by 2019, since network TV itself seems more or less irrelevant by 2019.

YouTube was already a thing by 2010, as Carter addresses in his book how younger audiences were simply consuming late-night shows in highlight form online the next day — catching a sketch here or an interview there in videos, rather than staying up the night prior to actually watch the show start to finish.  Personally speaking, I don’t think I’ve watched any late-night show in its entirety since Craig Ferguson’s last episode.  I know what if there’s a funny bit from Conan, or Colbert, or Fallon, or Kimmel, or James Corden, or Seth Meyers, or Insert Random Show Host here, I can just watch it on YouTube.  Why bother watching an entire show with the same tired talk show format?

Fast-forward to 2019 and Letterman is gone, Leno is gone, Ferguson is gone, Jon Stewart is gone, and Conan remains in somewhat altered form.  He still officially has a talk show, though now it’s only a half-hour long, and I feel like Conan’s best outlets these days are his Conan Without Borders travel specials — which I feel have been watched by literally everyone I know who has a Netflix account — and his podcast, which has immediately become a big hit.  I don’t ever see Conan ever stopping his TV show (Conan O’Brien can’t stop, after all), but I can certainly see him making the podcast his most primary vehicle.  I can foresee a future where his podcast becomes essentially a zany cross between his own show and something like Comedy Bang Bang.

I’ll keep this post in mind when I re-read Carter’s book again in five years and recall with nostalgia about when people used to watch shows on televisions.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Western Stars

My first listen was uninterrupted, and the whole thing kind of faded together into one wall of country-tinged adult-contemporary sound. 

The second listen was broken up over multiple days, so I could focus on some individual songs a bit more closely — after all, a ninth track or something might stand out more if you’re listening to it right off the bat, rather than 40 minutes into one full-on listen that has already made your attention wander. 

The third listen was broken up over two long drives in one day, with the front half and back half of the album falling roughly an hour apart once I’d finished up my chores.  (These chores included a brief trip to Walmart, so admittedly I might not have been in the best mental state for that second half of the album, given that my soul was crushed and all.)

But I think I’ve given “Western Stars” enough of a fair shot to say that, unfortunately, it’s not very good.  It’s definitely in that lower tier of Springsteen albums that generally consist of most of his more low-key, experimental-ish type of material, with the gigantic exception of the classic that is “Nebraska.”  I say “experimental” just in the sense that they’re not the traditional E Street Band vein, not that Bruce is suddenly recording an operatic record or a hip-hop album or something.

Like all of these albums, Western Stars just lacks that bit of extra spark.  If I had to pick its closest comparable, it’s probably the mediocre “Working On A Dream” album from 2007, though at least Western Stars generally avoids the story-song pitfalls of Queen Of The Supermarket or Outlaw Pete.  I’m not sure if Joe Posnanski’s old rant about Outlaw Pete is available somewhere or if it’s behind his blog’s paywall, but man, when a Springsteen superfan like Joe is inspired to write a long post about how one of Bruce’s new songs is singularly terrible, you know something went awry.

While the end result wasn’t my cup of tea, I still give Bruce points for stretching his legs and continually trying something new with his music.  He is Bruce freakin’ Springsteen, after all.  He is 69 years old.  He has zero to prove to anyone.  It would be very easy for him to coast on his past successes, but as much as Bruce is defined by the arena-rockin’ E Street sound, he has always been throwing curveballs along with his fastb…er, excuse me, any Springsteen post has to use the weird phrasing from Glory Days…speedballs for his entire career.  Sometimes the curveballs fall flat, like Western Stars, Devils & Dust to some extent, and (let’s be honest) basically everything Bruce recorded from 1988-2001.  But sometimes those curveballs lead to incredible albums like Nebraska, Tunnel Of Love, or Wrecking Ball.

I can’t say I love every direction Springsteen’s music takes, but I love that it’s still moving.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Superpowers

I guess this technically falls under the category of beatboxing, but I've always been able to make a percussion-esque rhythm with my closed mouth.  I'm also able to hum at the same time, thus making me a one-man sound machine.  This didn't seem like a big deal until I was absent-mindedly humming/mouth-drumming "Sabotage" one day, and my friend M reacted with complete "how are you doing that?" surprise.

So the question is...is M simply crazy, or have am I a freak of nature?  A superhuman, if you will?  Am I the long-lost son of that guy from the Police Academy movies?

As far as powers go, it isn't too high on the list, admittedly.  It's not going to get me into the Avengers or anything.  In terms of superpowers one can naturally fit into one's life, however, it's not bad.  By this, I mean one of those X-Men types of abilities that gives you power but also more or less ruins your day-to-day existence.  Like, Beast becoming a hairy blue monster, or Cyclops not being able to control the intense laser beams coming out of his open eyes at all times.

Telekinesis is still my easy #1 choice if I could pick a superpower for myself, since it's both incredibly powerful and also a "hidden" type of ability.  I'd much rather have a hidden power than an ability that's technically more powerful but harder to control or keep secret --- Beast may be a lot more powerful than Cypher, but in the real world, I'd rather be Cypher 100 percent of the time.

While on the subject of heroes, here's Conan O'Brien's Spider-Verse themed intro for his week of shows at ComicCon.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

David Mitchell

Since I posted a Lee Mack WILTY clip a few weeks ago, it's only fair that I give his counterpart David Mitchell some due, and what better time than on Mitchell's very birthday.

Between Peep Show, the Mitchell & Webb series, WILTY, and his various other appearances on other British panel shows, David Mitchell is a legend.  (Inexplicably, I haven't yet seen "Upstart Crow," so I really need to get on that.)  In fact, when you type "David Mitchell" into Wikipedia, his entry is at the top of the list!  He's become Prime Mitchell!


Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Runaway Elephant

A recent clean-out of my parents’ basement uncovered a great lost manuscript, a so-called Great Canadian Novel that scholars thought had vanished forever.

The book in question, of course, was "The Runaway Elephant," by yours truly.  Many literary critics considered it to be the finest novella written by any first-grader in the month of April 1988, though as the author himself, perhaps I’m simply a bit harder on my work.

I will reprint the material here, in flagrant disregard of the copyright laws set by my publishing company, the Edwards Press (Mrs. Edwards was my first-grade teacher).  It’s been over 30 years, surely any copyright claims have long since evaporated, and my writings can now be let free into the public domain.  While this may cut into book sales, I suspect that many audiences will still feel compelled to buy the print version due to its unique shape. 

Yes, the book itself is shaped like an elephant.  The tracing was, in a word, immaculate.  The covers were even laminated, which I’m guessing was handled by my teac….uh, ahem, by the Edwards Press rather than me, since a six-year-old with a laminating device just seems like a recipe for disaster.

We begin with the obligatory "about the author" quote on the makeshift dust jacket.  It reads as follows: "Mark is six years old.  He is in Grade 1.  Mark likes Ghostbusters."  I mean, minus the grade and with an updated age, this basically still sums me up right now.

The dedication page!  "This book is dedicated to my friend Matthew McConnell."  I barely have any memory of this guy, who I’m pretty sure only got the dedication since he was my "big buddy."  In my grade school, we had a system where older students were paired off with younger students as "big and little buddies" for various activities and play-day type things.  In my later years as a sixth-grade big buddy myself, I tried to game the system by selecting one third-grader as my little buddy solely because he was best friends with another kid whose big buddy was the girl in my grade who I had a big crush on — my logic was that since the little buddies would naturally team up in play-day activities, my crush and I would then be obligated to spend that time together.  Did my strategy work?  No, of course not, it was very lame.

The library card!  That’s right, there was actually a card envelope inside the front cover, so I guess The Runaway Elephant was actually stored in our public school’s library at one point.  If you’re wondering how many people signed this novella out, the card was blank.  Genius is never appreciated in its own time.

Enough of this preamble, on with the story itself.


Once there was an elephant.  Everybody laughed at him.  They thought he was silly because he didn’t blow water out of his trunk.

The elephant was mad.  He ran away, into the forest.

The clowns tried to stop him.  They ran after him, but they could not stop him.

But the elephant came back.  There was a show, and he wanted to be in it.


And that’s it.  That’s the story. 

I won’t lie to you….the premise is thin.  While blowing water out of one’s trunk is natural elephant behaviour, I somewhat doubt that failure to do so (or refusal to do so?) would make an elephant into a figure of public derision.  But then again, perhaps that’s why the elephant was so upset.  He couldn’t understand why a simple sidestep of a public norm would be such a big deal.  My central elephant character may have essentially been Larry David.

Clowns, naturally, know a thing or two about being laughed at, so it makes sense that they were the ones who were the first to try and bring the elephant back.  Their methods of doing this, however, were flawed at best.  Catching a runaway and distraught elephant is no easy feat, but simply running after it isn’t going to do the trick.  What was the plan when you caught up to him, clowns?  And what am I saying, "when"?  An African elephant has a max speed of around 25 mph, so unless one of these clowns is an Olympian in their spare time,* running is a fool’s errand.  Why not at least drive after it?  Cram 40 or 50 clowns in a car and put the pedal to the metal.

* = from a three-ring circus to a five-ring circus!  Rim shot!

The story’s denouement teaches us nothing about the elephant’s plight, unless the tale is meant to be read as tragedy.  The elephant cannot resist the lure of show business, despite the public mockery he must endure just be part of the circus.  It really is a grim parable about the dangers of fame.  Man, I was a smart six-year-old.

I mentioned earlier that my story received critical acclaim.  Just read these raves!

"I’m so glad the elephant came back for the show!  It wouldn’t be much of a circus without an elephant!" — Mrs. Edwards, who ENTIRELY misinterpreted my story’s tragic underpinnings.

"The book is okay" — my brother, as passive-aggressive as ever

"Elephants are so smart, they always do the right thing!" — my father, whose comment isn’t actually praise of my story.  My dad knows what’s up, he’s not going to B.S. his six-year-old by pretending that this mediocrity is actually good.  His statement, however, is far from accurate itself, since the Simpsons taught us that some elephants are just jerks

"I enjoyed your book, Mark.  I wish it could have been even longer.  Keep up the story-writing" — my mother, who goes in for the Oreo cookie style of criticism in mixing in some initial praise with questioning the brevity.  I mean, brevity is the soul of wit, Mom.  ‘Keep up the story-writing’ could also be interpreted as her being interested in reading more of my future work, or her implying that I can certainly do better than this. 

It occurs to me that I should have taken some screenshots from the book, so you could all bask in both the excellent elephant-shaped tome and my incredible artwork.  If you want to know what my drawings of elephants look like, imagine a grey shape that is somehow both a rhombus and a starfish at the same time.  So on top of being a great writer in my youth, I was also a burgeoning impressionist artist.

There will be no sequel.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Clipped

As you all know, my playoff beard was probably 80-83% the reason the Raptors won the NBA title.  After almost three months of growth, however, it was taking on ungainly proportions.  One friend compared me to Brian Posehn, and I like the guy's comedy and all, but....oof.

My mom was the only person who was fervently anti-beard, so I finally agreed to get it trimmed down to manageable status.  It was my first trip to the barber in 16 years, so perhaps I was a bit rusty with the instructions, but they ended up removing quite a bit.  Ironically, around 80-83% of my beard was cut, leaving me looking like just a normal dude who hadn't shaved in a week or so rather than a popular "hey, it's that guy" of a standup comedian and actor.

I had some karmic misgivings about the whole thing, but hey, the Raptors had already won the championship, right?  What's the worst that could happen?

And then Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers.  Who also had to trade for Paul George to convince Leonard to join, just in the case the NBA didn't have enough giant blockbuster moves within the last week.

I think all Toronto fans probably knew, deep down, that he was eventually going to wind up in Los Angeles, given that the rumors had been swirling for well over a year.  But it was still a blow in the wake of that dream championship run, and the increasingly logical case that the Raptors could offer Leonard to stay.  After all, they could just run it back for another season and contend for another title right away, whereas the Lakers (presence of LeBron and Anthony Davis aside) are kind of a clown-show front office right now, and the Clippers didn't have a second star to pair with Leonard.  Well, with Paul George in the fold, the Raptors' argument went up in smoke.  The NBA is going to be so crazily wide-open next year it's ridiculous.

And just so everyone is clear....once my beard lost to the clippers, Kawhi Leonard went to the Clippers.

Thanks for nothing, Mom!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Happy Canada Day!

It's July 1st, and I was actually briefly at a mall today.  So you know what that means!


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Alas, Poor Yorick

Hamlet is already known as a literary masterpiece, to be sure.....

.....BUT, could it have been even better if Yorick's skull had talked back to Hamlet?  Possibly in a funny voice?  I'm guessing high-level anima-tronics weren't available in the early 1600s, but surely if any old high school can pull off a half-decent Audrey II in amateur productions of "Little Shop Of Horrors," surely Shakespeare's team back in the day could have rigged up some type of talking skull.

Maybe the actor playing Hamlet could've just operated it like a puppet, in the manner of Chief Wiggum.  Maybe the fifth act of the play could have revolved around a subplot where Hamlet insists that Yorick's skull can not only talk, but sing "Hello Ma Baby!" and other showtunes, though Yorick never does do when Horatio or anyone else is around.

I don't want to say I would've given Shakespeare notes or anything, but really, this kind of stands out as a missed opportunity.  So only a 9/10....so close, yet so far.

By the way, I will some day restart the Shakespearean play reviews.  Though maybe this should just be my whole entry for Hamlet?!


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lee Mack's Keys

Part of the appeal of "Would I Lie To You?" is trying to guess whether someone's wacky story is true or not.

The other part of the appeal is when Lee Mack is given an absolutely ridiculous story to sell, and he does his best to entertainingly explain it while everyone knows it's total rubbish.

This is the latter.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: I'm at my parents' house, and it seems like it's around midday.  I go into the main floor bathroom to wash my hands, but a quick glance at the mirror suddenly makes me realize I'm clean-shaven! My playoff beard is gone!

I leave the washroom and instantly accuse my mother of entering my room in the night and (somehow) shaving my face while I slept through the whole thing.  She basically just gives me a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and says "I guess it's a mystery!"

And then I woke up.

ANALYSIS: While I am an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious, one needn't be an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious to figure this one out.  My mom doesn't like my beard.  She has said as much to my face.  That is, when she has actually looked at my face, since she now basically can't do so without sighing or audibly saying "yikes!"  My new name around the house is also now either Wolfman or Wildman.

It should be noted that she is thus far the only one who has pooh-poohed the beard thus far, since the overwhelming majority opinion among friends, peers, and colleagues is that I should keep it.  Maybe with some styling, of course, since my sideburns were sticking out like I was some kind of Civil War general.  I figure at the very least I need to keep the beard until Halloween, since it has been pointed out to me that, when I wear sunglasses, I now resemble Randy "Macho Man" Savage.  All I need is a sequined robe and/or jacket with tassels, and I'll be rocking a great costume this year.  DIG IT.

But let's be fair, is my subconscious telling me that mother knows best?  Maybe she just needs to get a bit more accustomed to the look.  For her next birthday, I'll simply get several giant portraits of my bearded face placed around the house, so it will be inescapable.  No possible downside to this plan!

Since my bedroom door has a lock, the chances of an actual nocturnal razor attack are pretty slim.  Plus, let's be real, I'm not sure how I wouldn't wake up at some point during that whole experience.  Unless she were to drug me beforehand, but she would require access to everything I eat while.....hey wait....

I enjoy how this beard is still such a relatively new thing for me that I would feasibly go until the middle of the day without noticing it was missing.  While I may be an accredited dream interpreter and explorer of the subconscious, it isn't out of the question that I'd be able to miss something so obvious to the conscious mind.  I once mentioned to my buddy Trev that I'd noticed he'd gotten new license plates on his car, and he pointed out that he'd actually gotten....an entirely new car.  What a keen eye!