02 April 2010

Random Thoughts On Pop Culture

Movies on cable are so much better in HD. No pan-and-scan and the detail is crystal sharp. Too bad it took watching The Incredible Hulk to notice it. When is someone going to make an Incredible Hulk movie that's like the real Hulk? The comic book Hulk could clap his hands together to create a sonic boom, jump miles in a single leap, and rip up the turf of the Earth like a carpet (he always did this when the Army was attacking him). I wish they would do away with the Hulk as a character study.

I watched the beginning of W. although I swore I would never watch an Oliver Stone movie again (after Heaven And Earth/Natural Born Killers). Josh Brolin is an awesome actor and in this movie he is George Bush. I never liked Bush as a president but Brolin sells Bush's charm enough that you root for him. Couldn't say the same for the real-life G W.

After seeing Hot Tub Time Machine I had the Eighties on the brain. I watched The Breakfast Club, One Crazy Summer, and Back to the Future, all out of pure dumb luck. As I said before One Crazy Summer was not a terrible movie. Another Eighties icon, Bob Geldof, was in the news this week. In honor of the Eighties On The Brain Week, here are the Boomtown Rats with the anthem of my freshman year at Edinboro, I Don't Like Mondays.

LOST has lost me this season. I don't know what's going on. Is the flash sideways real or not? It feels like another build-up until the big fight, kind of like Rocky. The episode featuring Richard's backstory was good and it dispelled the notion of the island being Hell but that's been about it for hard answers in the last few episodes. Comments in the blogs are talking about who Jacob touched and I just stopped caring enough to take notes. I know it's not too late for the show's salvation, I just don't want to be left saying WTF!

Speaking of the Eighties, I watched HBO's Larry Bird/Magic Johnson special last night. I spent the Eighties rooting for Larry Bird and my college roommate D.J. rooted for Magic and the Lakers. D.J. is a first-class trash talker and although the Celtics were the champs when we were roommates, when I saw him next fall they weren't. The Lakers beat them that summer and the Celtics would not win another championship for more than twenty years. It was nice to see Bird and Magic talk about their legacy together. Magic retired in November 1991 and Bird only played half a season of games afterwards but I got to see them together on the Dream Team in 1992. It bored everyone else I knew but I liked watching the USA crush the competition.

I watched The House Bunny and the best part of the movie was looking at Anna Faris with almost nothing on. No, the best part was Emma Stone, the cute girl from Zombieland and Superbad. She has a natural guffawness aw shucks quality about her. And speaking of house bunnies....

When is someone going to make a good Hugh Hefner biopic. The guy practically copyrighted sex. Where would my childhood have been without the naked women of Playboy? Hugh is a Great American Success Story along the lines of Horation Alger.

Can't wait until Iron Man 2 is released. Five weeks away. What is the deal with Pepper Potts in partial armor in this pic? I'm so glad Mickey Rourke is back making movies....I've been wanting to get the Neil Young Archives but its getting really lousy customer reviews on Amazon....Good for Chelsea Handler for dissing Jesse James' tatooed Nazi stripper....Right now I'm watching Step Brothers. Pretty funny. I watched Semi-Pro this morning. Will Ferrell + the 70's = Funny!

I like the pic of Marilyn Monroe in shorts. Check her out in The Seven Year Itch if you get a chance, and I suggest you wait for a hot summer night to watch it. It will enhance the mood.

OK that's it.

Splendid Isolation

I wanna live all alone in the desert
I wanna be like Georgia O'Keefe
I wanna live on the Upper East side
And never go down in the street

Warren Zevon - Splendid Isolation

In the fall of 1989 I was going through one of those introspective what-am-I-gonna-do-with-my-life stages. I had spent the summer before on a mindless adventure, sleeping out every night by my neighbor's pond (some might call it a lake), drinking beer, listening to Springsteen, and generally acting a fool. This didn't quite curb or cure me from the dead calm in my life. In other words, I wasn't moving forward. I had started waiting tables at ChiChi's (a venture that was my boss's idea) after moving out from the kitchen, and I came and went however I could because I couldn't drive. I felt rudderless, just adrift on the sea of my life, and it was beginning to affect me.

One night, when I was over at my friend Robin's apartment, she insisted we watch Pink Floyd's The Wall. I had never seen The Wall before, despite its midnight showing at muliple theaters every Friday and Saturday night for years (I always thought it was a movie for stoners and I didn't want any part of that). I was struck by how isolated Pink was. To recap, Pink was a young boy in England when the war was going on. He suffered the air raid sirens and the shelling and, worse of all, the loss of his father. At school, the teacher mocks the young, self-conscious boy when he finds Pink's notebook of poems. "The boy fancies himself a poet!" At home, his mother becomes overprotective, leading Pink to break out when he becomes a rock star, indulging in drugs and sex. Pink marries but is pushed over the edge when his wife cheats on him. All of these episodes become bricks in the wall and soon no one can get through to him. He has become isolated from human contact.

A month after watching and thinking about Pink and his wall, I watched Taxi Driver. If you ever think you are screwed up, if you ever think you got things bad, watch Taxi Driver. Everyone is normal compared to Travis. Travis Bickle, the taxi driver (of course - Robert De Niro), becomes so far removed from reality that it becomes frightening. He could be anyone you pass on the street. If it's true that the only normal people are the ones you don't know well, then this is that movie. Travis doesn't know how to relate to people, despite living and working in New York City, despite his interaction every day with hundreds of people, and despite his desperate attempts. He tries to flirt with the girl at the candy counter at the X-rated movie theater. He goes on a date with a pretty secretary, only to be shut down when he takes her to the same theater to watch a movie. "This is what couples do," he tells her. When she refuses to see him again, we see the potential violence within him. Little by little, after repeated rejections, Travis becomes a guy who paces around his apartment swearing at no one, and blankly staring at his own reflection in the television. Like Pink, Travis breaks out from his repression, and finally takes action. Pink trashes a hotel room and (SPOILER ALERT!) Travis kills about four people.

I think these two films make good companion pieces to one another. They are both good character studies of human isolation and of feeling loneliness despite being surrounded by people. Or maybe I just like to be alone too much. My friend Dana teases me because I want to live in a fortified compound in the mountains. The last time she teased me we were in a crowded bar and I had to ask her, "Are you talking to me?"