Monday, May 24, 2010

Cocktails and Chaos!

Come out to the Ice House Annex Wednesday night for what I assure you will be a rare opportunity to see me perform improv!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I May Have to Start Watching Yo Gabba Gabba!

Last Friday night, I went to the Silent Movie Theater to see part of the series currated by the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba! I've never seen the show, although I've seen plenty of clips on the web that make it look pretty great (I don't even know what channel it's on). But after this night of movies, I might try to seek it out.

Before the show, DJ Lance Rock, the star of Gabba, was spinning records (pretty cool stuff, mostly of the peppy, sampledelic dance variety. The only thing I really remember was a slick cover of The Cramps' "Human Fly" with a female singer.) while a loop of credit sequences from Japanese TV shows played on the screen. This was my favorite:

I would love to watch this show! There were lots of others, too, like one where the hero is a guy who turns into a white lion with a sword riding a horse, and another where the hero is some kind of tiger riding a motorcycle. The only one I recognized was Spectreman. The stage was lined with an impressive collection of Japanese monster toys (including one battery-powered Mechagodzilla wandering around in back), and there were large Gabba cardboard standups on either side.

But let's talk about the movie itself: Inframan. Inframan is the Shaw Bros. rip-off of Ultraman. I had never seen it, but I had seen the trailer at the Egyptian Theater a few years ago during their Sci Fi Festival, and it's just about the best trailer I've ever seen.

Can the movie possibly be as crazy as this trailer promises? YES. Like I said, this is from Shaw Bros. Studios, so when Inframan is fighting a bunch of rubber creatures, they fight with some actual kung fu moves, but that's not really what makes it. Inframan is the most insane monster mash you have ever seen. There is, and I mean this quite literally, something utterly nuts going on every single second of the movie. There are rubber suit monsters that look more like Sid & Marty Kroft's creations than Eiji Tsuburaya's. There are sexy science witches. There are scientists who throw out all kinds of bizarre pseudoscientific dialogue. For a monster movie fan, Inframan is a dream come true.

The second feature was one of my favorite Godzilla movies, Godzilla vs. Megalon. It's not one of the best Godzilla films, for sure, but it's a childhood favorite (I saw it broadcast in primetime on NBC, introduced by John Belushi in a Godzilla suit), and definitely one of the craziest of the series. I'm not sure it was a good idea to put it after Inframan, which makes almost any movie seem slow-paced, but I enjoyed watching it for the first time in over a decade. I know a lot of people who really dig Flash Gordon (1980), as do I, but I get the feeling some people think that film's campy, candy-colored scifi is unique. It wasn't. If you watch Megalon (or The Wiz, which was shown yesterday as part of the same series), you see that there was a lot of this nutty stuff in the late 70's. Megalon begins with a kid riding some weird floatation toy in a lake. It looks like a big, cartoon fish, with two smaller fish on either side acting as paddles. It was years between my first viewing and my second, and I remember thinking that I must have imagined or dreamed this device. It just didn't seem like a real memory. But sure enough, there it is. And there's a weird little dance number among the Atlantis villains that I didn't even remember. And some weird mod-hippy murals painted on the side of the good guys' house. What strange shit to watch as a kid. I'm glad that Yo Gabba! is continuing the tradition of warping kids' brains with fucked up imagery.

A Hero Ain't Nothin' But A Sandwich

Matt Zoller Seitz on why superhero movies suck. This is actually a damn good critique. There's no reason why, 10 years into the superhero boom, the art form should be this artistically bankrupt, even if I do enjoy them thoroughly. And it pretty much explains why I haven't been trying to fit Iron Man 2 into my schedule.

via Fluxtumblr. Related commentary here and here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Night Babbling!

Oh, hi there. How have you been? I've been pretty busy, and it's just not as easy to update this blog while teaching an English class as it is when you're sitting at a desk next to a computer with a pile of work that you have no interest in doing. I've started teaching a second class in the daytime, Advanced Grammar on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Much more stressful than the regular ESL classes I teach, because I keep going in there and getting whacked upside the head with left-field questions like "Why is 'everybody' singular?" (Me: "It's not. Wait...what? Oh, I guess it is. Huh.") I never really had trouble in English classes navigating the verb tenses, but trying to explain them to someone else is an entirely different matter. There's also the fact that the textbooks I use for Level 2 and Level 3 intentionally pick clear, unconfusing examples, but this one really throws you into the messiness of English.

So I had a learning curve over the first few weeks. The revelation was to just say "English is not Latin." English doesn't have these strict, logical rules that can guide you through any situation. English is a goddamn mess, designed by agents of chaos, more in common with the American character than the English one. And I love wrestling with this slippery serpant of a language that you can never get a hold of. It's a challenge, and it's something I seem to be pretty good at.

This reminds me of this old MetaFilter post where there was a huge debate about the line in the Simpsons where Ralph Wiggum says "Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a Viking!" Most people assume that means that Ralph has dreams about being a Viking when he falls asleep. But there are some folks who think it means "Oh boy, sleep! That's an area I really excel at. I'm a fucking Viking when it comes to sleeping!" I had actually wondered the same thing myself. Well, I guess I never really thought it meant he excelled at sleep, but I always thought the phrasing made it SOUND like that might be the meaning of it. But the point of this is something one of the commenters said:

English is a flexible, nimble, shifting-pathogen language and is more than able to absorb that slight stretch of a figure of speech -- even if the writers just made it up. Or, more likely, even if the writers just made Ralph or Clancy make it up.

A few comments later, another poster elaborates on this point:

Yes, exactly - which is why people are arguing about this in the first place - we're used to this goddamn inexterminable cockroach of a language having umpteen layers of literal and figurative meaning.

God, I love the Frankenstein's monster that is English. Sewn together out of dead languages and living ones that it kills and uses for spare parts. If the human race were exterminated, English would find a new host or wait for one to evolve. English does not sleep. It waits.

I'm learning just how much I love this fucking language by teaching it. See, all this time I thought we were teaching Radio...but he was teaching us!


OK, here's another thing. Some good writing about the new Beyonce video: Feminist Critique 1, Feminist Critique 2. Some people probably think this is wanky overthinking, but I love this stuff. This is what criticism is supposed to be. I don't think I got my point across a couple years ago when I posted about the Anton Ego character in Pixar's Ratatouille as coming from a place that doesn't really understand criticism. I still find the idea that these poor, sensitive artists pour their SOUL into a work of art and these critics just want to tear it down to be a pretty shallow reading. Because real criticism (the kind most critics would prefer to write, if they could make as much money doing it as they can giving "thumbs up/thumbs down" reviews) isn't about whether a work of art is good or bad. It's about what a work of art MEANS. Good criticism makes art MORE interesting. At least these two essays make that Beyonce video more interesting. (Also worth noting: criticism is a conversation, so even a negative review of a work of art is a setup for another critic to come in and point out how wrong it is. Man, how did I end up getting this far off the point?)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Who Killed Bambi?

I've been feeling guilty about the non-existent posting lately. I have things I want to write, but not the time to write them. But in case you missed it, one of the great white whales of my life has recently surfaced. Following the death of Malcolm McLaren, Roger Ebert dug up the screenplay he was commissioned by McLaren to write for a Sex Pistols movie, which was to be directed by Russ Meyer, and posted it on his website. The film never got made, and eventually the project morphed into Julian Temple's bizarre pseudo-documentary The Great Rock n Roll Swindle, which tells the story of the Sex Pistols as if McLaren were the principle protagonist. (30 years later, Temple revisited the story with the musicians giving their side in The Filth and the Fury.) Anyway, Ebert's recounting of the whole episode is probably more entertaining than the screenplay.