Smart People…

Might be the worst movie title ever. Sure, it’s not as offensive as Phat Girlz or as absurd as To Wong Foo.. or as incredibly awful and inane as I Know Who Killed Me, yet it manages to provoke me much more than any Norbit or Getting Served could.  It’s what the deceptively simple title implies.

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looking bored while pontificating on something asinine…that’s what Smart People do best.

Yes, it alludes to the fact that people of higher intelligence might populate this film, but lazily titling your movie this, as if making a movie about non-stupid folks is good enough reason for one to see it, is plain dumb. Also, it just reeks of wannabe indie funded by clueless, massive studio. See, it’s a movie about smart people that think they are really erudite and in control of their lives, but guess what? They’re just like us. They’re dysfunctional, incompetent, obnoxious, and lost little imbeciles. Isn’t that precious (and ironic)?

Once seeing the trailer, it becomes even more apparent that the film wishes it were Noah Baumbach’s next vision but without the humor or insight. 

 

Dennis Quaid is a pompous English professor (yawn) with two self-possessed snooty bags for children including daughter Vanessa (Ellen Page aka go-to marketable indie wunderkind). He suffers a concussion and wakes up to fall in love with Sarah Jessica Parker. What he doesn’t realize is that Parker was once his student and still bears a grudge for a failing mark that he gave her. You would think this is already a rich and engrossing plot, but what is a movie without Thomas Haden Church? The loveable Sideways schmuck shows up as Quaid’s adopted brother and really gets those latent feelings of resentment and self-doubt circulating through the family’s veins. 

What other title would I expect for a movie with this sort of trite synopsis tailored for those who enjoy watching generic, self-centered academics navel gaze and smirk with words for ninety minutes?

The only redeeming thing I can see about the film is that the musical score was composed by Extreme heartthrob Nuno Bettencourt! At one point last summer, I recalled Mr. Bettencourt with fondness and tried to find out what sort of creative endeavors he was pursuing now. Now, I know and I can’t say it puts my mind at ease. Part of me wishes he still performed “Hole-Hearted” on the dive bar circuit but without that dude who thought he was Sammy Hagar.

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Smart People might actually turn out to be a decent film, but I can’t endorse its flagrant marketing tactics to acquire an audience of those who loved Juno. That’s almost worse than actually penning Juno. Almost.

Five Karaoke Songs I Would Sing (If I Wasn’t Such a Cowardly Introvert)

This is just my personal list of songs that I like to imagine myself belting out and subsequently blowing people’s minds with my awe-inspiring performances. It’s all part of my rock-n-roll fantasy…

1. Give Me Back My Man - B-52s. Even though I prefer Kate to Cindy, I would choose this song as my karaoke signature. “Give Me Back My Man” is a feverish, torrid, achingly raw plea to the woman who stole your object of affection, or maybe has the man you never even had but just obsessed about from afar. Cindy’s quavering voice sweetly begs for her love and is willing to give anything and everything in return. This is the real deal that puts Bonnie Tyler’s wispy, lite fm desperation to shame. If I could actually sing, I would love to do this song justice. Who hasn’t been so consumed by love’s agonies that they’ve relinquished their dignity for just one more chance to be next to an unworthy someone?

2. When U Were Mine - Cyndi Lauper. This is the alternative to all those maudlin, ho-hum takes on love unrequited. Although not exactly known for her subtlety, Lauper reigns in the melodrama on this Prince-penned ballad. Unlike that seemingly eternal caterwaul “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, this song finds its tenderness in its restraint.

3. Talk of the Town - The Pretenders. The way Chrissie Hynde sings “You’ll never know how I want you” gives me chills every time. It’s so deeply and painfully honest that you almost feel ashamed to be privy to such a vulnerable and private moment. Therefore, if I performed this song at karaoke and recaptured Hynde’s vocal nakedness (as if), there would be a good chance that the audience would leave or at the very least, turn around. Plus, it’s an amazing song.

4. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love - Van Halen. I just want to unleash my inner David Lee Roth. Who doesn’t?

5. Words - Missing Persons. If only I had a modicum of the courage frontwoman Dale Bozzio possesses, then perhaps I could actually sing this underrated new wave classic in front of a room of breathing, attentive human beings. Although not while wearing a plexiglass bra.

Netflix Chronicles - Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

I’ve never read anything by Tom Robbins and after viewing the film adaptation disaster that is Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, I sure ain’t gonna start now. I get the gist of his material: counterculture, nonsense, counterculture nonsense and it doesn’t appeal to me. What appeals to me even less is a disjointed visual representation of counterculture nonsense and that’s exactly what you get here with Gus Van Sant’s ambitious failure.

I’m a genuine sucker for ensemble casts, especially those that include cult character actors like Crispin Glover or Lyle Lovett. Crispin cameos in this film as well as Roseanne Barr, Sean Young, Keanu Reeves, and Pat Morita. How can a film with such colorful characters fail? Rather easily it seems when the script is a clunker and the cameos seem forced and immaterial—as if the actors only occupy screen space because they are the ultra-cool Keanu or the cheeky John Hurt. I suppose I should have already learned this lesson when renting such past mortifications as Mystery Men or Ready to Wear.

Uma Thurman looks lovely as the film’s heroine Sissy, an otherwise beautiful girl who’s been cursed with two gigantic thumbs and makes the best of them by hitchhiking cross-country and impacting the lives of others. Unfortunately she speaks in dated, convoluted counterculture rhetoric that’s more awkward than lyrical. Mostly everyone does in the film and I suppose this is how Robbin’s characters talk in his books. Sadly, his enlightened prose style doesn’t make for a lucid viewing experience.

The movie is ostensibly about feminism, freedom, and Sissy’s path to self-discovery but Van Sant never quite manages to get these themes to coalesce or moreover, manifest themselves entirely. I exclaimed ” What am I watching?” at least a dozen times while watching the movie, deliriously laughing because I was completely baffled by the non-existence of ideas, plot points, or the semblance of a narrative even though I was being inundated with scores of disparate images on-screen. I don’t think this is completely Van Sant’s fault. Nor can I really place blame on Robbins. Rather, I just don’t think his novel works as a film. But it also doesn’t work as a compelling story for me. Even in the 90s, his hippie manifesto seems dull and dated.

For all its nostalgic whimsy, the movie is charmlessly anachronistic.

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I give this film two thumbs down.

5 Karaoke Songs that Ladies Should Never Sing as an Attempt at Getting Attention

I try to keep my bitter, sardonic rants on this blog to a minimum, but as a frequent patron of the karaoke scene there are certain songs in constant rotation that make me squirm and frankly, disenchanted with the state of womanhood today. Have we really succumbed to using tired karaoke staples as a hackneyed and pathetic way of drawing attention to ourselves?  Singing one of the following songs on karaoke night in your local bar is like reading The Rules book before a big date or regarding Carrie Bradshaw’s aphorisms as gospel. 

  1. Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler. “Turn Around… and GO HOME!” If I have to hear this desperate plea for “bright eyes” one more time while out at karaoke, I don’t know what I will do. I will just probably go get another cocktail and continue to complain under my breath. I don’t know what it is about this song that bothers me so; it’s just an innocuous power ballad teeming with melodrama and stereotypically feminine histrionics. Nothing wrong with a song that seems marketed for lonely housewives everywhere, right? And the girl that sings it revels in her over-the-top performance, milking every throaty note for what it’s worth: recognition from some aloof, douchey male in the audience. The worst is when a gaggle of girls hit the stage with this number. It’s akin to watching banshees tear their hair and gnash their teeth. I guess some people like that sort of thing. 
  2. Love Is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar. We get it: the 80s were definitely awesome and it was pretty cool when Pat ran away from home in her chevron-striped body suit and totally cute headband because Mommy and Daddy didn’t understand the romantic underpinnings of her rebellion and angst. So, she went off to the big, bad city to be a private dancer with no promises, no demands because wasn’t the whole world screwed anyway? Yeah, Pat is a strong feminist icon with great taste in leggings (even if in a pseudo-ironic way, you know?) Yeah, we all get it. And it sucks. Sorry.
  3. I Hate Myself for Loving You - Joan Jett. I happen to love this song. Or I did at one point in time until I heard every badass chick with a faux-mullet snarl their way through it. It just seems like it’s the hipster’s answer to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, another song that I also despise. I think I tend to eschew lady anthems like this: they seem so impersonal and devoid of real passion. Joan Jett’s raucous, fuck-off warcry to the man who manipulates her both body and soul has now been diluted into a slogan for rocker babes who want to share their heartbreak like it’s a sexy scar. 
  4. Take Another Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin. None of us can perform like Janis. Not even close. The type of girl that attempts to do justice to this number is either a girl who’s best friend has convinced her after a few too many vodka tonics that it’s the most cathartic way of getting over you-know-who or that one girl in the room who wishes she owned everyone in it. You know the one: she’s dressed to the downtown nines and kisses the karaoke host on both cheeks. She’s out to impress everyone in the joint with her impression of Janis and yet she lacks everything that Janis had: heart, soul, intelligence, sensitivity, talent.  
  5. Brass in Pocket - The Pretenders. Essentially, Scarlett Johannson ruined this song with her pink-wigged performance in Lost in Translation. Her coquettish rendition for Bill Murray immediately cemented it as a cliché. Moreover, the lyrics don’t translate well when an obviously attention-starved and sloshed young female starts slurring “I’m special, so special/ I gotta have some of your attention/Give it to me!” Instead of being alluring, the song just becomes sad. Very, very sad. 

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No Longer on Top: ANTM’s Claire (?!)

It’s amazing how fickle one can be when watching America’s Next Top Model. One week you are in awe of Claire’s otherworldly beauty and the next you are irked by her posturing and eagerness to impress. You then project your former ardor for all things Claire onto the next model that seems photogenic and not like an ego-trippin’ beast!

Now, my love lies with Lauren. The girl drinks 40s, walks like a George Romero reject, is drop-dead gorgeous, and totally goes off on Fatima. What’s not to love?  

This week the girls went on go-sees at Pamela Rolland, Alice & Olivia, and that girl that used to date Seinfeld. Surprisingly, Stacy Ann booked the most jobs. I seriously don’t understand the appeal of her square jaw and sunshine-n-rainbows disposition.  She’s as edgy as Saleisha and look what happened to her…er…, right.

The Fuerza Bruta photoshoot was definitely more inspired than meat undies and paint facials. I thought Whitney perfectly personified a water nymph but the judges were more impressed with haughty ice-princess Fatima. I wish that they could see past her uncanny resemblance to Iman and boot that self-righteous harridan!

Two shockers that occurred during panel: Paulina referred to Katarzyna’s tresses pre-haircut as “Eastern European tackiness” (while funny, it was a little bit harsh) and Claire was eliminated! I was near positive that Claire would make it to the finale, but then she had to get all cocky and odd and complacent by thinking that America loved this urban mommy who guzzled her own breast drippings and there was no way they would stop loving her even if she totally dissed Aimee at the last elimination by jumping for joy when as one of the bottom two, her photo was shown and Aimee’s wasn’t. For someone allegedly so maternal, Claire certainly didn’t show her considerate side and also failed to show any other side to the judges besides her slightly- better-than-“Blue-Steel”-stare.

Farewell, Claire! I saw so much potential in you and thought you were going to halt the destruction of this earth with the arch of your perfect eyebrow. I don’t hold this against you. Rather, I put myself at fault for being blinded by your exotic visage.  

…here’s the question that no one seems to be asking regarding both Sex and the City and the Scary Sadshaws it has spawned: What important issues did the series identify and illuminate? What barriers did it break? What did the characters (“Carrie & Company”) ever do for anyone outside of themselves? What, praytell, was so damn groundbreaking about a group of narcissistic rich white women with a love of shopping and gossiping about their sex lives? (Despite what Candace Bushnell thinks, the themes of no-strings-attached sex, female friendship, conspicuous consumption and social-climbing had been amply investigated long before she came on the scene.)
Jezebel’s Anna concerning Star Editor-at-Large-That-Must-Not-Be-Named and her ilk. I’ve always been entertained by SATC, but would never treat it as gospel or even informative in any way. It’s difficult for me to fathom that woman actually emulate CB: a woman who’s clearly self-involved, irresponsible, materialistic, selfish, and thinks puns and stale aphorisms are an acceptable subsitute for actual writing. If SATC is at the core of what’s wrong with women’s media today, then it’s really no wonder. OK, enough with the negativity!

It’s 9 in the Afternoon…and the World is Ending

Note to Panic at the Disco!: Pastiche is not equivalent to artistry. A poor pantomime of psychedelic pop, a tasteless homage to the Beatles, and bad, bad haircuts do not amount to something credible or even listenable. In fact, your new video “Nine in the Afternoon”  just shows that it’s not even your emo pap that I find so intolerable about you, but rather your shameless, fraudulent, talentless attempts at winning over audiences by regurgitating the remnants of musical past and expecting them to lick it up. What’s sadder, boys of Panic at the Disco! is that they do. They’re complicit in slowly eroding artistic standards and good taste. I don’t usually like to argue about “taste” but your music tastes foul upon my lips—the absence of any imagination or creativity sickens me. Let me put it like this: you know when someone vomits and then you are nauseated by their act of vomiting and start puking yourself? That’s basically what happens when I see your video. And that it’s the #1 video on the Fuse Countdown.

"Don’t Go Mistaking Paradise for a Pair of Long Legs"

AfterJezebel’s commenter discussion about the best of John Hughe’s oeuvre and the serious lack of love for Some Kind of Wonderful, I waxed nostalgic for the underrated teen flick. Suddenly I found myself at the official website of the film, one of the most all-encompassing sites I’ve ever seen for a movie. Whoever made this site did so with uncompromising love and devotion.

While it includes the requisite trivia and thumbnail stills from the film, it also includes sound byte downloads from some of the most memorable moments in the movie and a copy of the original screenplay. The idea of the site is to answer this question: “…if Pretty In Pink was such a success, why has Some Kind of Wonderful remained an unknown and somewhat under-rated movie?  Some Kind of Wonderful has a better story, certainly a better ending, stronger lead performances, more natural dialogue, and improved directing.”

Of course, the answer to this question is a no-brainer: James Spader and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.

Still, the Rolling Stones motif that ran throughout Some Kind of Wonderful was ingenious and gave the film that stamp of underground cool; Eric Stoltz definitely beats that bug-eyed milquetoast, Andrew (“My character’s name sounds like a major appliance”) McCarthy; the tomboy drummer character of Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) was not only refreshing but she was also believable as the quirky girl we either knew or were in high school (much more so than that Juno!); the love theme “Turn to the Sky” by goth-romantic The March Violets is simply amazing in its angsty urgency and surpasses that rather overplayed OMD ballad; and last but not least, Elias Koteas as loveable skinhead Duncan nearly replaces James Spader in my adolescent heart of hearts.

Yes, this entry is frivolous and inconsequential, but I just wanted to share my excitement at finding such a thorough site dedicated to this film that had such a tremendous impact on who I am today. These seemingly trivial discoveries let me know that the world is not totally fucked and that’s a good thing.
 

 

Yeah. In rehearsals yesterday, Thom, Ed and I were running through a Siouxie and the Banshees cover called “Happy House” and Jonny [Greenwood]— the young one— was like, “What the fuck is this?” And we’re like, “You know, Siouxie and the Banshees! Check out Juju.”
- Colin Greenwood in Pitchfork interview. I am not sure why “Siouxsie” is misspelled here, but I do know that I’ve lost some of my respect for Jonny Greenwood. In my fantasy realm, Jonny and I like all the same music and probably the same ice cream, as well.