Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hatfields & McCoys in Libertarian Paradise

Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton) and Devil Anse Hatfield
(Kevin Costner), the magnificently scruffy-looking
patriarchs of their respective clans.
This 6-hour, 3-part miniseries just finished on the History Channel. It was gol-durned good, and it done good too. According to The Hollywood Reporter,
Even during its premiere on ratings-unfriendly Memorial Day, the first outing of the three-night miniseries Hatfields & McCoys pulled in a record-breaking 13.9 million viewers during its inaugural telecast at 9 p.m. That number marks a new nonsports high for ad-supported cable networks.
For those who need a brush-up on American History, the series chronicles-- with a bit of fictionalized gloss-- a decades-long feud between two extended families in the Kentucky-West Virginia border in the late 1800s. And feuding was done the old-fashioned way back then, with Henry and Winchester rifles, summary executions and a pitched open battle or two.

The whole series was directed by Kevin Reynolds and essentially produced by Kevin Costner, so it seems that Waterworld was not a source of lingering bitterness between the two. A few notes:

• Care was taken not to choose sides in scripting the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, but at the same time the families were shown to be very different. Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton), the patriarch of his family, is a deeply religious man of difficult means who nonetheless carries seething resentment towards Devil Anse Hatfield (Costner), an Atheist and logging entrepreneur. So, even though the fight began through a series of trivial slights, differences in religion and wealth fueled it. I think everyone who had a casual acquaintance with the history of the feud thought it was a scrap between two undifferentiated clans of inbred hillbillies: the miniseries effectively dispelled that ignorant notion.

Two McCoy girls. Just showing they weren't
all a bunch of scruffy hillbillies.
• The production was quite handsome, shot in sylvan woods seemingly untrammeled by humanity. Still, the overall art direction was seriously uneven. The costumes and weapons were quite authentic-looking-- However, the town set was frankly silly-looking, a collection of Wild West storefronts complete with saloon with swinging doors and flocked red wallpaper. The production suffered from poor typography (“Oh God, another typography discussion!”): newspapers and signage showed the too-clean look of having been printed from Adobe Illustrator, and the “engravings” on the wanted posters were so egregious I could easily figure out what filter effects were used to make 'em.

The credits provided the answer to this uneven look: the whole show was shot in Romania. Unspoiled forests, cheap labor for building log cabins, and equally cheap but inexperienced art department staff.

• There is an important, timely message in Hatfields & McCoys, an abject lesson in the proper role government should take in our lives. The hilly, rural borderlands of Appalachia in the 1870s-1890s were under no real jurisdiction, and the rule of law was unenforced. This is a situation many libertarian and far-right politicians are positively avowed to return us to: one where citizen's rights are untrammeled by any form of government, our property rights and livelihoods entirely the responsibility of the individual. It's Libertarian, Tea Party paradise.

But the lesson of Hatfields & McCoys is showing the bloody anarchy of libertarian realpolitik, a real historical example of how disputes tend to resolve in areas of weak central government where the rule of law is either unavailable or ignored. Accusations concerning a stolen pig or an offhand comment about having sex with a dog (both are shown as catalysts of the feud) quickly escalate to bloodshed. Courts are shown as biased to one side or another, and both families have no respect for them in any case. Most of the young men in both clans are seen as being constantly drunk, armed to the teeth, reflexively belligerent and, abetted by their elders, unafraid of any legal repercussions for their violence.

The tragedy of the Hatfield-McCoy feud is no doubt playing out today between unknown families in countless lawless places in the world: Somalia, rural Pakistan, Congo, probably even Romania. You don't have to be a cynic to have an idea of what awaits us in Libertarian Paradise.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend Box Office

Thanks to for the chart on the monitor behind me.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eurovision: The Grail Within Reach

Almost 12 noon: I woke up this morning, put together a little low-cholesterol breakfast and fired up my new Roku 2 TV box. I had plans today to drive out to Malibu if the weather was nice - order lunch, take a few pictures, walk the beach. But it slowly dawned on me that all signs pointed to the airing, at 8:00pm GMT, of the Eurovision song contest. Screw the outdoors.

Eurovision 101, for Americans who aren't familiar: once a year most of the European countries select a song and act to represent them, and they compete live in a televised competition. This year it's coming from Azerbaijan. It's just started there, and it's already after midnight.

12:10pm I'm getting a live feed via Roku2, but it's spotty, pausing to rebuffer every minute. This is frustrating and at the same time, it may keep me from going insane.

12:15pm A little explanation about that last remark. Pop music is a delicate thing and it seems that it works best when there are as few hands on the ladle as possible. Imagine then, a process where the entire country is weighing in on the song. Now imagine a song so bland, so homogenized, that an entire continent can approve of it. That song will be the winner of tonight's competition.

The most famous Eurovision winner is Abba's Waterloo. Just sayin'.

Jedward - twins in both blood and hairstyle
12:20pm Last years British entry was Jedward, who they just teased will be performing tonight. Probably out of competition because they opened with the British* song, a lugubrious slow entry performed by Englebert Humperdinck. The anti-Jedward, if you will.

12:23 The woman performing right now, an Albanian, has a hairstyle and dress straight out of The Fifth Element.

12:26: 4 songs in a row, all sad. 3 ballads and one emo-rock piece. Austerity has its fingers in everything!

12:29 Now a song from Bosnia & Herzegovina. Another slow ballad performed at the piano by a woman who looks uncomfortably like Tom Petty in drag.

12:32 I was right, the buffering is exactly what I needed. I'm getting just enough of these songs to see them without having to sit through the whole things. It's like a live, automatic, highlight reel.

12:34 It's the Russian Grannies! This is the weirdo gimmick that everyone is expecting to take the prize: six old Russian ladies who look like potatoes in dresses, singing a little neo-folk ditty. Part of the staging is they're clustered around an oven where they bake biscuits.

Yes, the crowd loved them.

12:38 Iceland is on. I can't accept anything from that country that isn't Bjork.

Out for a minute while I mix up a batch of pesto

12:52 Now that's a coincidence! I come back and the Italians are performing. I hear they sat out of the contest for 14 years... apparently they were honing that song during the time.

12:58 A little electronica from Norway. Meh.

1:02 Per Jedward expert Graham Linehan: "Hearing reports from stadium that every time a song ends, the applause dies down, someone can be heard begging for their life"

1:08 Song from Romania features a bagpipe hook. GYPSY THIEVES!

1:12 From Denmark - The Captain AND Tenille, rolled into one.

1:17 Greece: I think it's an ode to Levitra. Maybe?

1:19 Shout out to the staging of this thing. They have these huge, screen filling numbers every 3 minutes, with about a minute in between during which they show picture-postcard footage of Azerbaijan. It can't be easy to make this show work. And most people agree, it doesn't. But that's not the producer's fault. Like most international incidents, no one is to blame and everyone is.

1:26 Hat off to you Turkey! it takes genius to try to evoke nostalgia for things that no one ever liked in the first place.

1:35 Okay, I'm calling time of death at 21:35 GMT.

The contest is half over but this liveblog is done.... I can't go on. Thanks everybody! I'm makin' lunch.

3:27 Okay, one more thing. Re the * above: Jedward represents Ireland! Ireland is a whole different animal than England and they competed with Humperdinck. Go figure.

I'm throwing in a few links from the parts of the show that I did see. I decided that I couldn't bear the burden all by myself.

Star Wars 35: A Cautionary Tale

GL among his pre-digital models. I got a chance to run
my hands over a lot of these things at a Lucasfilm
exhibit at the Marin County Fair. After I left, I saw
the sign saying "Do Not Touch." Oh well.
So it's the 35th anniversary of the opening of Star Wars. That's a lot of Wookies under the bridge.

It's hard to express how exciting and unique a film it was when it came out, how much a part of my life it became-- and, as the years passed, how the franchise (and my admiration for it) stumbled and fell, becoming something emblematic of a primal fear, one that all of us share.

Sure I remember when Star Wars opened up. I was totally primed for it, for three reasons: 1) a totally inaccurate but exciting article about the upcoming "The Star Wars" in Cinefantastique magazine; 2) that amazing, amazing trailer-- They showed it on "Creature Features" in spring '77 and it got such a strong response Bob Wilkins had to show it several more times; 3) I was fourteen.

The Saturday after Star Wars opened (roadshow movies opened on Wednesdays) me and my Soquel High Sci-Fi Club buddies rocketed over the hill to San Jose and took in an afternoon screening at the Century 21 Theatre. Back then, big tentpole movies were platform-released: They would open up in a few dozen major markets in 70mm, then break wide a few weeks later. We waited in the long, long line, took our seats under the apex of the dome, watched the giant gold curtain roll out unveiling the deeply curved screen and the 20th Century Fox fanfare (no trailers whatsoever!)

It totally blew us away. It's difficult to think of a film since that so exceeded my expectations for transcendence. I was the right kind of kid at the right age in the right place in history, and the cultural phenomenon that was Star Wars entered me like an X-Ray. I lived Star Wars. I memorized Star Wars (It's all still in there). I wanted to meet George Lucas*: he was my personal God, and promised to be a font of endless creativity and magic.

I managed to see the it at least two dozen more times that long summer. When Empire came out three years later, we made it to opening day at the Century 21. Same with Jedi-- though, due to a ticketing mixup we saw that one in Pleasant Hill, but it was still in 70mm.

Fast-forward to 1999: Jeffrey Sargent and I are seeing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace at the AMC in San Francisco at the very first midnight screening. It had been sold out for weeks: Jeff did some major wheeling and dealing to secure us tickets. But the world had changed, cinema had changed and we had changed in the 16 years since Jedi's stirring ending (to the Ewok's "Yub-Yub Song," which George Lucas has since expunged from his improved version). I'm not sure Jeff coined it, but the next day he emailed our basic summary: "George Lucas Pissed In My Eyes."

From that moment on, the Star Wars universe appeared to a rapidly shrinking one, a galaxy under accelerating compromise. It may have started with the regrettable "Star Wars Holiday Special" from 1978, but that was sheer contractual obligation. No, it was the little changes and the little peeks into the Lucasfilm decision process that showed the Ozymandian artifice of the whole thing: the Special Editions, which both blunted the canon and disrespected the core audience. The little, sometimes condescending choices he made in the last three films, Jar Jar Binks and Annie Skywalker, the stilted dialog and the joyless, confusing plots. The final Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, was so devoid of surprise it was like watching a movie run backwards, characters and elements being assembled for their bow in a film then 28 years old. By that point, everything that had made me a rabid Star Wars fan back in 1977 had been systematically wrung out of me by George Lucas himself.

But it wasn't all him: I also managed to grow up (a bit) since 1977. I went to college, saw The Hidden Fortress, read Joseph Campbell and E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lensman novels. Seeing where Star Wars came from-- and how closely it was derived-- was inevitable, but instructive. One of the biggest jolts to my Star Wars fandom was reading sci-fi author David Brin's famous and devastating takedown of the ethics of Star Wars. One tiny bit:
George Lucas's version of romanticism is obsessed with nostalgia, feudalism, pyramid-shaped social orders, elitism, a hatred of science and the concept that only genetically advanced demigods matter. He openly avows to never having researched what real heroes do. He also expressed open contempt for this democratic civilization, telling the New York Times that he prefers a 'benign dictatorship.'
And now it's 2012: George Lucas recently re-released Episode I in painstakingly rendered 3D-- and the box-office response was startlingly indifferent. When I read the reviews for it I came to a realization: Star Wars was not the best thing George Lucas ever dreamed up: it was the ONLY thing he ever dreamed up.

God, I wanted to be just like George Lucas when I was a kid. Now he means something else to me. He's a cautionary tale: the embodiment of the frightening notion that we're only entitled to one really good, creative idea per lifetime.

Mmmmm... Ribs.
*In 1992, I got my wish: I met George Lucas. My wife and I were sitting down to dinner at Tony Roma's in Corte Madera (long gone) and he sat down next to us. Alone. It was just a week after the Academy Awards, and he had received the Irving G. Thalberg Award. Yet there he was, all by himself, George Lucas and a good-sized pile of beef ribs. I mentally collected myself enough to squeak out something to say to him (and I DO mean squeak: in my head, I sounded like my 14-year-old self in full conniption mode):

“Mr. Lucas?” (squeak, squeak.)

“Mm-hm?” (I think he was actually had a mouthful of ribs at the time.)

“Uh, Congratulations on getting the Thalberg Award!” Of all the f***king things I could have said to the guy, of all the thousands and thousands of things I fantasized saying to George when I was a kid, it all fled from my consciousness, and that was what I said. Yikes.

“Mmm.. thanks.”

“Alright, I'll leave you be.” Argh.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All TV Is Better If You Don't Understand It

Today I am watching France's Direct8 network via Roku box. This is a channel that I took the trouble to load because my girlfriend is learning French. I myself took a little French in high school, then sensibly abandoned it because, you know, there are no French-speakers in SoCal except for French students.

Still, I've retained just enough to have some idea of what I'm watching, which is why the show that's on now Présumé Innocent, makes some sense to me. It's a realité/news show telling the story of a controversial crime, apparently. They have reenactments, they have interviews. Does it matter what they're actually saying? No. What matters is whether I'm being made to decide if the guy is innocent or not. To their credit, I'm not sure where they're trying to steer me on this one. So far.

This may be a better way to learn French than our previous strategy, which was watching classic French Movies on Hulu. The very predictability of commercial TV makes translation easy. It's one thing to watch Hiroshima Mon Amor and pick out what the hell is going on. Even if you do speak the language, that one is impossible. On the other hand Les Beouf -Carrottes, a detective series about a grizzled veteran cop and his young impulsive partner, is so predictable that you already know the ending five minutes in. You can work on understanding the words instead.

On the other hand, I don't envy my girlfreind trying to pick out sensible phrases in the commercials. French commericals look exactly like ours, though they lean heavily towards yogurt products. But I know from OUR commercials that you'll get a phrase like "it's health-licious!" once in a while. How can you tell something like that from a real word? It's a minefield.

Over the weekend there was a good, solid TV movie about a horrible truck crash in a Madrid resort town. Based on a true story, it was fascinating to watch. Not because the incident was so telegenic, but because you got perspective on how to tell a story like that. After all the actual crash (the truck blew a tire and roared onto a crowded beach, where it exploded) only took about a minute of time in real life. So what do you do with the rest of the movie? You make up characters of course, and pretend they were there, and show how the crash changes their lives. It was like a cute little French low-budget Earthquake. I'd see it again if I could remember the name.

(Cross Posted from Keepin' It Real Yo)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Community:" You're Only Dreaming You're Reading This

"Community," a comedy on NBC that notionally chronicles the adventures of seven diverse members of a study group attending a mediocre 2-year college, is a rare beast: a half-hour comedy that serves up laughs while actively de-constructing itself and the entire idea of commercial televised entertainment. There's far, far too much great stuff about this series to encapsulate in one article ("Law and Order" episode; "Elementary Chaos Theory"). I'm more interested in examining the May 10th episode "Curriculum Unavailable," and it's unusual pedigree.

Community's third season is wrapping up on a rather apocalyptic arc: Señor Chang (Ken Jeong), former Spanish teacher and now head of security, has engineered a coup, installing himself as the despotic head of Greendale Community College, with an army of junior-high-age minions to do his bidding. He has replaced the spectacularly quirky dean (Jim Rash) with a doppleganger and, to eliminate any challenge to his hegemony, has expelled the study group. "Curriculum Unavailable" begins two months after their expulsion: Abed (Danny Pudi) has been picked up by the police for dumpster-diving (for evidence) at Greendale, and has been compelled to visit a shrink. Being a sitcom, all seven study group members attend the therapy session, with John Hodgman guest-starring as the psychiatrist.

The Study Group, in Greendale Asylum,
imagining themselves as community college students.
By the end of the third act Hodgman makes his stunning-- and strangely convincing-- diagnosis: The entire study group was, at one time and for various reasons, all institutionalized, and Greendale College is entirely imaginary: he contends the group collectively invented a ”fantastical community college where everything that happens is unbelievably ridiculous-- and it all revolves around you.” The study group all freeze in the realization that he just may be right...

This idea-- that the premise of an entire fictitious universe may be the construct of a character in the same universe-- has been trotted out over and over again, especially in movies: Shutter Island, Inception, Total Recall, etc.

Easy to do in a movie-- but not so much in TV: that's because commercial TV series, due to the needs of breaking up story flow for advertising breaks, are dominated by structure and precedent and genre. A sitcom, for example, has a very specific structure: one-camera, three-camera, serial or episodic, every comedy consists of unique elements built upon a solid framework of familiarity. If the "acts" (the spaces between commercials) don't end on satisfying climaxes, the viewer will change the channel: this requires even more structure. It all results in a strange interpretation of reality, where for the sake of storytelling everything revolves around the leads, there are four important revelations per episode, and everything returns to status quo by the tag.

So when an "all this is a dream" idea is put into a TV series, the novelty of it and the structural requirements of serial TV grind against each other, and things get really memorable (and from this point on it's non-stop ••• spoilers••• if you ain't watched too much TV):

Jack, in his final moments.
• ABC's "Lost" (2004-2010) was always tinkering with it's own premise. Characters would die, resurrect, assume different personas, and in the final season the entire cast was duplicated in two separate timelines. In the end, the very very end, the island the show was centered on turned out to be the mental projection of a dying character, a fugue in his final moment of life that lasted and lasted and lasted. BBC's  "Life On Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes" worked the exact same idea.

They even got the bedspread right.
• This dream idea, when first applied to a sitcom, resulted in what was probably the finest show finale ever: "The Last Newhart," the last episode of "Newhart" (1982-1990). Bob Newhart's character, a beleaguered owner of a Vermont inn, is struck in the head by a golf ball: he awakens in bed as his character in "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-1978) next to Suzanne Pleshette, his wife from that earlier show. The entirety of "Newhart" was apparently a dream brought on by bad sushi.

• Let's not forget the season 8 cliffhanger of "Dallas" in 1986, where Bobby Ewing turns up in a shower and the entire preceding season was revealed to be the dream of another character. But this was not an organic part of the show: rather, a way to paper over some cast changes. The general reaction was either annoyance or amazement at the show's audacity.

Buffy Summers, awake and "lucid" and wanting
nothing more than being able to leave Sunnydale.
• "Curriculum Unavailable" has a direct and unlikely precedent: It refers to "Normal Again," an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" which aired almost exactly ten years ago.  Protagonist/super-powered Slayer Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is enmeshed in the typical events in this show's enchanted Sunnydale universe (fighting demons, vampire lovers, using witchcraft, etc.) when she begins to experience hallucinations induced by a demonic toxin. In these hallucinations, she's a mental patient in an asylum in Los Angeles, and has been for six years. Her mother and father, dead and gone in Sunnydale, are there: Buffy's sister Dawn, who magically appeared in season five, never existed. In "reality," Buffy has retreated into an elaborate invented world of magic and monsters and can no longer distinguish her fantasy from reality. But the kicker is: when she describes her situation to her friends in Sunnydale, they exchange nervous looks-- and are unable to refute her assertion that they and the world around them are nothing more than a farfetched illusion. At the end she breaks from "reality," and fully enters her Sunnydale existence: The last shot is Buffy's parents being told by a psychiatrist that she is now hopelessly "gone." It was-- and remains-- one of the most amazing hours of television I have ever seen. It was Joss Whedon acknowledging the intrinsically fantastic premise of his own show: in "Normal Again" he completely shredded it, to let us know how fragile and artificial it-- and any television universe in general-- is. (This idea was so good it was lifted almost note-for note in a 2007 episode of "Smallville.")

The perfectly cast John Hodgman.
But of course "Community" is far too clever for that: Seconds after walking out stunned from the psychologist's office after being told their college is imaginary, study group leader Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) stops and says, "hey, wait! That makes no sense!" Abed, indeed, has hundreds of pictures of campus on his phone and Annie (Alison Brie) has a backpack with the school's logo on it. Hodgman was an impostor, hired by Chang to keep the Study Group from discovering his machinations. In other words, the implausible sitcom premise is correct and the explanation that makes sense in our universe is entirely wrong.

Which is how we like it.

Weekend Box Office

Thanks to for the numbers!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just Seen: Marvel's The Avengers

Okay, if they're gonna spend $220 million on a film that rakes in $207 million domestic and $390 million worldwide box office the first week, well, such a franchise summary deserves my Costco discount movie pass be added to the pile.

And The Avengers is a definitely a franchise summary, the strange Frankensequel to five other movies (Hulk 1 and 2, Thor, Iron Man 1 and 2 and Captain America: First Avenger.) It 's a hydra movie with five heads and what looks to be a long, long, long tail.

The demi-god Loki (Tom Hiddleston), with his
sword and magic helmet, as he opens a
trans-dimensional portal to our planet (bottom).
(Would you believe I swiped this joke from
the New York Times?)
I'd go so far as to say that the necessity of The Avengers almost ruined Captain America, a delightful superhero film set resolutely in WWII. That movie ended in (spoiler alert, kinda) a no-win situation for the Cap, and he wound up frozen in a block of ice. At the very end of the film he was revived in present day by Nick Fury-- essentially for The Avengers. The bridging between these two films was executed with about as much finesse and subtlety as a street-corner sign twirler.

I can't help but wonder why Marvel was so damn keen on jamming as many superheroes as they could into one film can. Wouldn't it be more profitable in the long run to have a LOT of franchises going? Or is this the result of a sort of a Walmart-ization, a way to streamline profits into one manageable unit?

But this is a quibble: The Avengers is fine escapist entertainment. You get to see stuff blow up. You get to see the inner workings of a giant flying aircraft carrier. You get to hear Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) deliver witty zingers-- he's no Roger Sterling, but it's better than the stilted bantering between Thor (Chris Hemsworth and Loki (Tom Hiddleston)-- what Tony Stark called “Shakespeare in the park.” You get to see Hideous Space Bikers and Giant Trilobite-Snakes from Beyond the Stars battle costumed heroes over Manhattan. Modesto's own Jeremy Renner holds his own as Hawkeye, showing he has the presence to stand out even in a busy comic-book movie.

A few notes:

• Joss Whedon's writing/directing adds two very good elements to the film. He knows the geography of cinema-- how to stage fights and move action among multiple characters so that you never get confused. There is not one shot in The Avengers where you don't know what is happening and how it connects to parallel scenes. Not every action director gets this: Michael Bay lets his transforming robot fights get so out of hand the action becomes a CG blur.

Whedon also infuses the film with a cleverly overwritten and funny tone. It lacks the baffling solemnity most directors add to big-budget flicks like this: almost every non-CG-Fight scene (and some of those as well) ends on a nice upward twist, a cute button that reminded me of some of the better episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Some reviews have praised Whedon for making an intelligent comic-book movie: I wouldn't go that far. (that honor still goes to Jon Favreau and the Iron Man films.) Still, due credit to Joss for pulling The Avengers up to a high-school level of wit, as opposed to the usual middle-school fart-joke level of a Bay film.

• This is the second Joss Whedon film where he has made me try to care about the death of a character I didn't know or care about. I ain't saying who, but it was character that was in several of the parent films and ultimately was about as disposable as a piston rod. Still, all business stops for about ten minutes while a few (I guess hardcore Marvel fan) audience members gasped. He did the exact same thing in Serenity, when he killed off Wash (Alan Tudyk, Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball). All the "Firefly" fans in the theatre freaked out: I never saw a single moment of that series, so I was in the dark as to what the wailing was about. It points up Whedon's fanboyish tendencies, him essentially telling casual moviegoers “If you don't care, you haven't geeked out enough to care.”

• Are superheroes the One Percent? I'll illustrate a scene: In the thick of urban warfare and devastation, Captain America (Chris Evans) lands among a handful of cops and starts barking out orders (“Fall back, set up a perimeter on 39th street,” etc.). One cop, New Yorker to the core, looks at his silly blue tights and says “Why should we be taking orders from you?” Then, by coincidence, Captain America is beset by a half-dozen Hideous Space Bikers. He demolishes them with his shield in the blink of an eye. Beat. The cop then starts urgently repeating Cap's orders to his underlings, ha ha ha. “Why should you be taking orders from me, Mister Ordinary Civil Servant? You should because I am superior to you in every way!”

But this is a subject that's far too big for this article. Bottom line: Go see The Avengers. It's spectacular, engaging and you won't feel all icky afterwards-- like you will when you go see Battleship next week.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Weekend Box Office

Kudos and thanks as always to for the chart on the screen

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Uncanny Valley - Live!

I didn't see this guy, but he sure illustrates the point
Spent an hour or two on this weekend at the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, the guest of a magician's dad. We saw 4 magicians and I noticed an interesting phenomenon: normally, by default, magicians are kinda creepy.

I'm saying by default because the guy's son and the closeup magic guy were personable types with senses of humor that you could imagine having a pleasant conversation with. But the other two, who were also brilliant and skilled magicians, were just aliens man. They were impeccably dressed, intense, and inhabited a spot on the creep scale somewhere between John Malkovich and Charles Manson.

So what is it, do you suppose? Are normal guys trained to be that way because they can make their acts more "mysterious" or does magic just attract that kind of person?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weekend Box Office

The usual thanks to for the nice chart