Friday, March 18, 2011

March Oddments

••• It's strange to be witness to another entry in the "biggest flop of all time" contest. Of course, we're talking about Mars Needs Moms. Sometimes Hollywood just sneaks 'em out: yet another bouncy, kid-friendly computer-animated 3D flick, with some mild laughs in and cool-looking stuff in the trailer. Then it premieres, and the opening weekend comes and goes, and it racks up a few million in ticket sales. At this point, it shares a surface commonality with the majority of films on Dan's Weekly Box Office Report: It opened wide, a few people saw it, big deal. But then the news breaks wide in the trades (and the New York Times: read it before the whole news site vanishes behind the paywall!) that the damned thing cost the studio $150 million and two years to make.

What? $150 Million? Didn't somebody once say that CG movies would eventually be cheaper than live-action films? Do you mean to tell us that Mars Needs Moms, which is based on a children's picture book by Berkeley "Bloom County" Breathed, cost as much to make as Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King? Really? I once wrote an article praising Dax Shepard that pointed out that his cute little film Employee of the Month (2005) cost $10 million to produce and it eventually collected $30 million in first-release BO: a modest profit, but a profit nonetheless. Did anyone at Disney (who rarely step in the horse exhaust as badly as this, might I add) realize they could have used that motion-capture and compositing money,  made fifteen Employee of the Month movies (covering five seasons worth of employees) and raked in nearly half a billion dollars?

••• I think I have a little crush on a cartoon character (again): Cheryl (or Carol) from "Archer," a TV-MA animated Cold War spy-spoof on FX. Strong recommendation for this show: It's slick-looking, flash-style animation, with handsome, realistic character renderings (it looks a bit like a Saturday Morning version of "Mad Men") and some of the sharpest , funniest writing of any current series, period. It shares a heritage between creator Adam Reed's heady earlier series, particularly "Sealab 2021", and, of all things, "Arrested Development" (Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor and Judy Greer do voices on it).

Anyway, Cheryl (or Carol, voiced by Greer) is the secretary for Malory Archer, the head of ISIS, the spy agency at the center of the story. She is amazingly, mind-bendingly stupid. That's her, drinking rubber cement. She has displayed her near-total lack of intelligence at various times-- to quote her Wikipedia bio-- by "trying to turn on her computer by typing O-N on the keyboard, wondering aloud who brings Jewish people their Christmas presents and thinking that a website can tell her whether she's pregnant." She defies a trio of armed police officers trying to arrest her by yelling "You're not my supervisor!" At the end of an episode that deals with cancer non-stop (it's very funny, I assure you) she leans over to another character and asks "what's cancer?"

It's always a kick to see a character who is set up to be an ignoramus, because if it's written and performed well, you're both amused and a little bit stunned. Cheryl (or Carol) as a character reminds me a bit of Larry, Darryl and Darryl from "Newhart" (1982-1990), who had the ability to throw down absolutely amazing non-sequiteurs. But Cheryl (or Carol) is better because she's smoking hot as well. No Uncanny Valley in "Archer," no sir. Full episodes are available on IMDb.

••• The awful events unfolding in Japan make a mockery of any comparison to fictional disaster or fictional anything, really. Having said that, I should point out that I'm not the first person to draw the most obvious comparison, or at least one that is culturally appropriate: Godzilla. A raging force of nature that destroys indiscriminately and lays waste with a plume of radioactive fire. It's so terribly apt that one could almost see it as science-fiction time loop, a 50s monster inspired by events that occur in devastating cadence half a century later.

But there is another icon from Japanese culture that truly gives me hope for the beleaguered people of Japan: Domo. He's NHK's mascot (and mine too, kinda): a squared-off, stubby-legged monster with beady eyes and a huge, toothy square mouth. Check him out: he's cute enough with the napped fur and outreaching arms, but he's got teeth. Big sharp pointy ones. There's an unlikely mix of winsomeness and determination to him. He always shows his mouthful of shark-like teeth to the world, almost like a challenge. Any culture that can produce a little character that embodies such a dichotomy of cute and tough can internalize these qualities, and they can do anything-- And that is something we at Hang A Lantern On It definitely believe.

1 comment:

  1. Me, I have a crush on Judy Greer herself. I'm a sucker for girls with that nose shape.

    Somewhere on this site is my analysis of Gojira in which I opine that it's an attempt by the Japanese to understand why the Americans had to use the atomic bomb on them. That's a culture that bears close watching. And for god's sake, send as much money there as you can afford.