Archive for September, 2013

The Ballad of Bob Clampett

September 30, 2013

Come and listen to my story, story ‘bout a man named Bob
You know, that animator, he barely did a decent job
Then one day he was sketching, Bob was sketching for Chuck Jones
And inside his closet came some well-formed bones
Fraud that is or maybe you’d call it confidence or thievery
He’s stolen plots from Mr. Freleng and Bugs from Tex Avery

Well the first thing you know young Bob’s a genius
Chuck, Tex, and Friz say Bob betrayed us
Said he belongs in the penitentiary
Don’t want him influencing John Kricfalusi.

Salinger review

September 28, 2013

Salinger, directed by Shane Salerno, is a two-hour in-depth look at the life and literary career of author J.D. Salinger, which seeks to better understand the decades of reclusion after the publication of his first and only novel The Catcher in the Rye. In order to fulfill the film’s purpose, Salerno interviews several literary figures such as Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, and Gore Vidal, as well as key people in Salinger’s life, including his estranged daughter Margaret Salinger and former lover Joyce Maynard (though his son Matthew is curiously absent from the film). These interviews reveal countless new tidbits into the author’s life, which will interest even the most devoted Salinger fans, even debunking the idea that Salinger ever was a recluse, as he kept in contact with three close friends of his from World War II until the end of his life despite his reclusiveness, and would even socialize with his fans and stalkers on occasion.

Prior to Salinger’s release, the movie was surrounded by a controversy fueled by the suspicion that such a documentary was disrespectful to a man who valued his privacy to such an extent that he refused to allow the public to read 35 years’ worth of his writing. Such a phenomenon is not new, and similar concerns were posed on a more minute level earlier this year when a documentary was released on another famous recluse, Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson. While I cannot argue with that assertion (I’m sure Salinger would be especially irate if he heard the idea that he devoted more time to his precocious “Glass Family” than his actual family), I am more inclined to argue with another common criticism, that Holden Caulfield himself would call Salerno a “phony” for directing such a film.

Though the film was produced by the Weinstein Company, it is no more “Hollywood” than any other documentary, and nowhere near as disrespectful as the schlocky My Foolish Heart, the only official film adaptation of a Salinger story (though in the past many have argued that the characters in The Royal Tenenbaums are loosely based on the Glass Family). Salinger’s few dramatic reconstructions of the author’s life are so brief and modest they can easily be missed, and are ultimately overshadowed by a deeply fascinating segment on Salinger’s traumatic experiences in World War II, witnessing thousands of casualties of Dachau concentration camp and marrying a European woman who revealed herself to be a Nazi Party member, much to the chagrin of Salinger’s Jewish family. It also contains never-before-seen photographic and audiovisual footage of Salinger interacting with Ernest Hemingway in Paris and beginning his manuscript of The Catcher in the Rye on the battlefield.

Unfortunately, Salinger does not spend enough time examining the author’s works themselves. Viewers who have not at least read The Catcher in the Rye are unlikely to learn why the book matters within both popular culture and literary circles, though they will at least begin to disassociate its messages with the crimes of Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley, Jr. The aforementioned “Glass Family” segment is significantly stronger as it demonstrates how even though Salinger’s later stories such as “Hapworth 16, 1924” were too self-indulgent and drenched in pretentious Eastern mysticism to be received as serious literature, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the central piece of the Glass Family saga, is Salinger’s strongest work besides Catcher and the epitome of his World War II experiences.

The film’s revelation that at least five new Salinger novels will be released between 2015 and 2020 with the author’s permission is also highly refreshing, completely shattering my concerns that Salinger had not only refused to publish post-“Hapworth” but had given up on writing as well. Intellectually engaging from start to finish, Salinger is much more than an advertisement for these upcoming tomes. As the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust also bans any film adaptations of Catcher from being produced in the future, it is highly likely Salinger will remain the definitive Salinger film, one that is much less “phony” than a Catcher film would turn out to be in this day and age

The To-Do List review

September 28, 2013

For those who had been waiting the past few months for it to come to SLO, it’s finally here, and it isn’t worth seeing, much less waiting for. The To-Do List stars Aubrey Plaza as Brandy Klark, a naïve high school valedictorian who is encouraged by her friends, rebellious older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson), and even her mother (Connie Britton) to compile a checklist of sexual conquests to fulfill during the summer before her freshman year of college. On the side, she works for a water park uncannily similar to the one in The Way, Way Back for Willy (Bill Hader), an alcoholic homeless lifeguard who can’t swim and her ultimate desire, Hasselhoff wannabe Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), all while avoiding the advances of her former AP chemistry lab partner Cameron (Johnny Simmons) and the suspicions of her father George Klark (Clark Gregg), a no-nonsense Rush Limbaugh-reading judge who seems politically alienated from the rest of the family (even Brandy, who constantly uses minced oaths like “H-E-double hockey sticks,” quotes Hillary Clinton during her valedictorian speech and elsewhere wears a Democratic Party T-shirt). Each character is either undeveloped or unappealing, and both qualities could easily describe this movie. The fact that this film’s script was written (and rejected) back in 2010 is astounding, as it seems it hadn’t been revised at all in the past three years. Last summer’s Plaza vehicle, Safety Not Guaranteed, was far more developed than this, despite being based on a minimalistic Internet meme. But the inevitable comparisons to her other recent roles don’t end there.

Earlier this year, the Internet was treated to one of its countless tie-ins to nineties nostalgia, a faux trailer of a film adaptation of the cult animated sitcom Daria which starred Plaza in the titular role. That viral video was released during the production of The To-Do List, similarly set in 1993, which unlike the original Daria, fails to capture or even comprehend the 1990s on a more than superficial level. When you take out the out-of-style fashions, the bland parodies of iconic films like Jerry Maguire (which to paraphrase a quote from Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil, won’t be released for another four years), a soundtrack drenched in 2 Live Crew, Cranberries, and Spin Doctors, and an appearance by a vaguely grunge band, the decade is irrelevant. It’s just another vulgar third-rate comedy in the end, one whose spoofs of Caddyshack and The Graduate are just as cringe-worthy.

It is similarly fascinating that so many film critics peg The To-Do List as a “female American Pie” or a “female Superbad,” and a minor role by the latter film’s Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse as Cameron’s best friend Duffy helps solidify this. For a film that on a surface level (which to be fair, is about the only dimension this film has) attempts to seem feminist, the writers seem to flip-flop between developing Brandy Klark into a mature, independent woman whose admiration for Hillary Clinton is more than a sign of the times, and aping gross-out comedies with significantly less intellectually inclined male protagonists. It is more than appropriate that Brandy’s summary of her lessons learned throughout the film, “sometimes sex is a big deal but sometimes it isn’t” is so ambiguous, jumbled, and meaningless, because that’s exactly what The To-Do List is: an undecided mess.

The 20-Stone Destroyer

September 1, 2013

Chapter One

They call me Sol Goldmer. At least I think they do. I haven’t been called much of anything since I started working at Mick’s Cigarettes and Concessions two months ago. Of course, this does not count those stupid frat kids who think it’s so funny to holler “Thank you, come again!” every time they leave with their six-pack and nothing to do. Because I’m white, get it? Yawn.
That said, whiteness is all I have going for me. They also told me I’m Jewish, but I’m not even sure if that’s a good or bad thing anymore, what with Israel and all. I don’t know shit about Israel to be honest, there’s no way I’d even be able to go there with my lack of funds (“A poor Jew? Does not compute,” they said). I heard Germany’s actually paying Jews to live there. Great. Now if they’d only pay me to board a plane across the pond too.
Now that I’m off that tangent, I suppose you wanted to know why I’m so deprived and have nothing going for me. So now I’ll tell you why. Remember that movie Marty with Ernest Borgnine? That’s me, except I could make another figure of salary as a butcher and Ernie was always a couple stones slimmer than me. Oh yeah, and I somehow doubt Ernie’s character was supposed to be on parole. And if he was, he probably had a good reason for being in jail in the first place. He wasn’t framed or anything, not like me. You see, I never even knew anyone named Tabitha, but then I got this court summons on my doormat one Wednesday evening after returning from the pawn shop, and wouldn’t you believe it? Sued by one Tabitha Harrigan on the other side of town for “Gross Sexual Imposition.” Sexual? I was a 33-year old virgin then for crying out loud, not that I was willing to tell the court that. Maybe if I had, I would have won, but I don’t like to spend my time thinking about parallel universes. Even if there were parallel universes, there’s no chance in hell the government would allow some minimum wage slave at Mick’s to access them. They’d save them for the one percent.
My manager isn’t exactly the one percent either, which gives me comfort, I guess. Truth be told, it’s hard to get comfort out of a guy who claims to own over two hundred guns and threatens to let off any or all of them if I slip up. I don’t own any guns myself, what with being paroled and all. I don’t know if I’m a pacifist or not, but even if I am, I’d probably keep one or two, if only for protection’s sake. I may weigh 20 stone, but even my slimmest customers can intimidate me on a bad day, which is every day, come to think of it.
Today, this woman walks into the store. Women rarely visit the store due to its musky atmosphere. Anyway, she says her name is Kristina Jaskinovic. I say, what are you telling me for? She tells me her photograph is on the wall in the backroom, and she wants me to take it down. I’ve worked here for two months now, but I never noticed any photographs in the backroom. I tell her I’ll be back to speak with my manager, so I head over to the backroom where, conveniently, he also spends most of his time.
“Goldman,” he says. “Get back to the counter this instant.”
“Call me Goldmer,” I remind him. “This woman came into the store, you see. She said her photograph is on the wall in the backroom, and she wanted me to take it down.”
“Tell Kristina Jaskinovic to piss off,” replies the manager. “She comes in every few months and does the same thing. She needs to realize that once she is banned from the store, she is banned for life. But she will never realize this, so from now on, it will be your responsibility to keep Kristina’s photograph up and keep Kristina herself out of the store. Got it?”
“Why was she banned?” I ask, but the manager is too irate to answer. He slams his fists on the backroom’s table, threatening to shoot me for the umpteenth time, and I waddle back to the counter. Kristina Jaskinovic is nowhere in sight. How inconvenient!