It’s my favorite time of year, Movie Award Show Season! And although I think the Academy very rarely gets it right (Titanic wins over L.A Confidential? Forrest Gump beats Pulp Fiction? The ultimate in bullshit.) I still enjoy the spectacle and giltz watching Hollywood pat itself on the back for playing make-believe. Let’s get to it shall we?
My favorite quote regarding San Francisco comes courtesy of Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin. In a piece for a tourist magazine, The Guest Informant, he describes his first visit to the City by the Bay. In 1969, he was a junior naval officer with one day to explore before being shipped off to Vietnam, so he bought a ticket on a sightseeing bus and decided to take in the landmarks.
Minutes later I was climbing into those amazing hills, up where the world is all wind-worn greenery and ivory towers against the blue. There were, I soon learned, no “sights” to be seen so much as a single sight: the City itself – a gilt-edged landscape out of Maxfield Parrish, engulfing as a dream. – “My First Glimpse of the City”
He goes on to advise that the best way to see San Francisco is “to put on your sneakers and start walking.” Maupin’s favorite pedestrian route guides you through a plethora of cinematic landmarks, from All About Eve to Vertigo. This most recent President’s Day Weekend jaunt, however, was inspired by a different kind of landmark: alleys and sidestreets bearing the names of writers who, like Maupin, have literary connections to my hometown.
In typical Top 5 fashion, I present my favorite streets, ranked correspondent to my affinity for the writer (but perhaps influenced slightly by the location of the urban byway in question).
Plot: A tiny Italian village is being terrorized! The locals believe an unspeakable evil of massive proportions has taken over the estate of a recently deceased pianist. Something so huge and horrible has been occurring at the estate and there have even been some murders! What could this diabolical monster be? The pianist’s severed hand!!!!!!!!……!
Fun Fact: The film was remade in 1981 by director Oliver Stone as The Hand.
Fake Classic Quote: “I got your Chopsticks right here bitch!” – The Severed Hand
Real Classic Quote: Police Inspector Naish: (turning to the camera and addressing the viewer) “Can you imagine anyone believing in a hand that would walk around?“
On December 22, 2011, I came home from my company’s holiday celebration dinner ready for a winter break devoid of traveling. I was excited to fill a week-and-change with movies and video games, both of which are presented to me through a Microsoft Xbox 360; the movies stream through my Netflix service, and video games are what the unit was designed for. I turned on the TV, fired up the stereo receiver, and pressed the ever-comforting power button on the Xbox console. Nothing happened.
I was not afforded the warning shot known as the Red Ring of Death (my Xbox is that old), and what remained was a useless brick of white plastic and electrical components holding my copy of Arkham City prisoner. I took it into my local used-games merchant to see if they could help. Since I’m cool with the guys who work there (and by “cool” I mean they don’t talk down to me), they gave me the max trade-in value for the console.
Pre-orders for the Star Wars edition Xbox (to be released in February) had just gone on sale. I was obviously in the market for a new Xbox, and I’m… pretty into Star Wars. It was as if the gods were speaking to me in clear-as-fuck English: “Pre-order this thing, and use your Wii for a few months.” What the gods didn’t tell me was that this Star Wars Xbox would be delayed until April.
It was time to go back to the Wii section of the store, where I hadn’t wandered in almost a year, and see what I could find. The sad fact is that Nintendo hasn’t released shit worth playing in far too long. There’s even documented evidence that the Wii’s street value is less than the labor cost of stealing it. But Nintendo had one more beacon of hope for the end of 2011. Continue reading The Skyward Sword Is Long→
Of all my incredulous “they’re making that into a movie” moments, one of the most confusing occurred in the lobby of 1000 Van Ness a few months ago when I stared, dumbstruck, at a poster for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Was Marvel trying to give the character a second chance on the big screen, a reboot or reinvention? Was this a Punisher-style replacement of a Dolph Lundgren with a (slightly less awful) Thomas Jane? No, Nic Cage is in this movie. It’s a goddam sequel to one of the worst comic book movies ever made.
This isn’t a terrible problem to have, really. There always have been and there always will be lousy movies. Sturgeon’s Law undergoes constant verification at every cineplex: ninety per cent of everything is crap. So it’s actually somewhat satisfying to know that comic book movies have become so popular over the last decade-plus, that the requisite 90% of bad cinema rolling out of Hollywood on an annual basis contains an ever-increasing amount of capes-n-tights crud. The law of averages simply guarantees more Scott Pilgrims and Dark Knights.
This list focuses exclusively on superhero films. Comic books get unfairly equated with the one genre most prevalent on spinner racks and in specialty stores, but let’s not forget all the other crap flicks that have been inspired by other types of funnybooks. The Spirit was more crime than costume, Dylan Dog more spooky than spandex. Jonah Hex is filed under weird western, Judge Dredd with the silly sci-fi. Cowboys and Aliens is… well, whatever the hell it is, it started out shitty, so any film based on it was bound to be shitty. [Reminds me of a Nick Swardson veterinarian joke: “My cat has diarrhea. What have you been feeding him? Diarrhea.”]
#85. “Everybody Hurts” – R.E.M. Our six-minute dinner theater performance of Pyramus and Thisbe (see previous entry) did not require intense rehearsal, and once that show was performed, there was no reason to go to drama class at all. My duties as a teacher’s aide were rapidly becoming non-existent, and we still had an open-campus lunch. It was the onset of “senior-itis,” so if you went looking for the Holy Bee in the halls of his high school between the hours of about 10:30 to 1:00 that spring, you would not find him. I was usually in the company of Jeff McKinney (who played “Lion” in P&T), loitering in some of Yuba City’s finer fast food establishments, or simply cruising around town aimlessly, looking for targets for our Super Soakers. Squirt guns were quite a fad the last few weeks of senior year. Everyone had a Super Soaker under his car seat, and a smaller “piece” in his backpack. Sadly, this silliness would never be tolerated at a post-Coumbine high school.
The self-indulgent celebration of our tenth anniversary continues by prying open the archives: the dusty, zippered compact disc binders full of Idle Time compilations. Prior to 2003, these are garish exercises in artist-specific primers. Adrift on the wide-open internet waters was a bounty of images, mp3s, and treasure-map signposts towards albums, singles, and recordings that we never knew existed. It was a grand time to be a pirate. Matt had his Your Music Sucks series, which seemed to specifically target my indifference towards bands like Son Volt and Supergrass. I adopted The Promise Ring’s “Make Me a Mixtape” as a battlecry for any number of mix-CDs. We mail-ordered labels and booklets in bulk.
It was Will’s What I Heard compilation that gave real direction to this operation. Following his lead, we shared our favorite albums with one another just prior to winter break in 2002. Initially, these discs included songs from 2000 and 2001. That was before the project took on radioactive parameters and, screeching with mathematical fury, threatened to destroy Tokyo to the hundredth decimal point.
We went from friends, happy to find common ground in something like 02’s Yoshimi, to bitter rivals, arguing vehemently over whether or not 03’s Hail to the Thief belonged on a year-end celebration of the best music. We were doing one list, one compilation, and affixing one name to the glossy inkjet-printed booklet: the institute of idle time’s top 20 records of the year. I even had the audacity (or foresight) to stick a little ® on there, even though I shamelessly stole the Jack White artwork from someone on the internet.
Plot: Who wants to go on their Honeymoon in Hungary? Well Joan and Peter Allison do and as luck has it they end up sharing their train compartment with Dr. Vitus Verdegast, a bit of a weirdo who is returning to the town he defended before becoming a prisoner of war for fifteen years (life has sorta sucked for old Vitus). Anyway, when the bus they were taking to their hotel crashes in a mountain storm and Joan is hurt, they find a fortress-like home to hole up in. The home, turns out, was built on the site of a bloody battlefield! There at the fucked up house, cat-phobic Verdegast learns his wife’s fate, grieves for his lost daughter, and must play a game of chess for Allison’s life. What a fucking Honeymoon! Continue reading Ghostmann’s Horror Movie Guide: The 1930’s→