Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mel: Profile in Douchebaggery

Imagine you are rich.
Imagine you are rich enough to hire people to do just about anything you want.
Imagine you are rich and also stupid and perhaps loathsome.
Imagine your stupidity and loathsomeness keeps getting you into trouble.
Imagine you are rich and quasi-powerful and your loathsome stupidity gets you into the kind of trouble that may endanger your capacity to continue being rich and quasi-powerful.

Wouldn't you hire someone to protect you from yourself?

Enter Mel Gibson.

Imagine if charming Mel had had the sort of bodyguard who had the big guy's best interests at heart. Assigned not to keep fans and paparazzi away but to stop charming Mel from (a) driving drunk, leading to verbally abusing cops with anti-Semitic tirades, or (b) conducting repeated go-nuts-and-dial phone conversations with his ex, or (c) punching aforementioned ex, the mother of his child, in the mouth, or (d) making a film version of "Hamlet." Mel's life (and in the case of (d), my life) would be so much better today.

Granted, our petty little non-celebrity lives would be so dreary without the Fatty Arbuckles, the Errol Flynns, the Elizabeth Taylors, the Anna Nicole Smiths, the Paris Hiltons, the Whitney Houstons, the David Hasselhoffs (wow, this list is going on and on so easily) the Britney Spearses, and the Lindsay Lohans. I would hardly be able to get out of bed in the morning if I wasn't sure there would be some other semi-talented, overly-celebrated "star" self destructing on breakfast TV. "You may be rich!" I shout, "but at least I didn't expose my naughty bits to crowds of people last night!" At least I don't think so. Where was I last night? Hmmm...

Anyway (and stop trying to distract me like some substitute teacher) Mel's setting the bar high for future Hollywood fuck ups. He's proven he is some kind of a wacko Opus Dei Jew-hater, an alcoholic, a wife beater who treats women like possessions, and, on film, the kind of actor they used to describe as "chewing the scenery." Trifecta plus one, Mel! The pissant Quadfecta! What can you possibly do for an encore? Run for office?

Schaudenfraude (a word I find so handy I didn't even have to look up how to spell it) is a magical thing. We take pleasure in the foolhardiness of others, particularly the rich and famous, allowing us to say to ourselves "Well, I may not have money, but at least I'm not a wacko Opus Dei Jew-hating, alcoholic, misogynistic, wife-beating ham like that Mel Gibson!" A too-common human instinct - to kick 'em while they're down. And maybe all walking egos who make themselves TMZ-fodder have some kind of disease, a Hollywood-Washington DC-centered virus that wipes out reasonable judgment and common decency. Maybe another round of rehab will set them all straight. Or maybe it takes a psychopath with massive character flaws to succeed in show biz or politics these days.

Either way, it makes you glad to be just one of the little people. And it's damn entertaining.

Got to go, I think "True Hollywood Story" is coming on E!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Tragedy That Is Nicolas Cage's Acting Career

If you hang around in any profession long enough, you're bound to fuck up somehow. You get a little full of yourself and you bend the rules. (Enron, Madoff, etc) You start to feel bullet-proof and all-powerful and you think you can get away with anything. (Clinton, Tiger, etc) You make a few enemies who feel threatened and they are happy to climb into your closet and trot out all the skeletons. (Gary Hart, every televangelist, every stick-up-the-butt right-wing moralist who turns out to like gay sex in bathrooms and massage parlors, etc) But it seems popular actors have unique possession of the spectacular self-inflicted sell-out fuck up that overshadows any earlier achievement. (Nicolas Cage, etc etc etc)

I feel particularly sad over Nicolas Cage's flaccidity as an actor these days because, damn, the guy coulda been a contender! Unforgettable the impression he made way back when in "Raising Arizona" - then fun stuff like "Moonstruck" and "Red Rock West" and others when he didn't take himself seriously - and then an Oscar-oriented, creditable, sincere effort at seriousness in "Leaving Las Vegas." And then the train derailed. "Con Air." "Face Off." "Snake Eyes." During this period weight training took the place of acting classes. He became a junkie shooting up blockbusters. Trying to maintain credibility, he barfed up movies like "Captain Corelli's Mandolin." (I would tear out my own ear canals if I was ever forced to listen to his ridiculous accent in that one again.) And then, for a moment, he got his shit together and did "Adaptation"and "Matchstick Men" and you thought, damn, Cage has remembered the whole "being-an-actor" thing. But, alas, the sanity was short-lived and along came "Ghost Rider" and "National Treasure" and a dozen other tormentingly horrid wastes of film stock. Today, whenever I see an ad for one his new movies, I snicker. Run around with a gun some more, Nic, that's the ticket.

Oh, sure, selling out for the big summer movie is a tradition. Get big enough to call the shots, pick the sure-fire popular script, and phone it in all the way to the bank. (Can you say Angelina Jolie? She seemed like an actor once, too.) It's understandable if you're skating on a thin layer of talent to begin with. But it is saddening to see an actor with something unique sucked into the vortex that leads to the dark place, where your cut of the gross means more than doing something good. And oh, sure, I know lots of these stars do the money-maker to finance their own projects, the ones about which they will say "I really believe in this script." That doesn't make it less sad when you drown your light in a sea of dung.

Oh, and by the way - there's a "Ghost Rider" sequel in the works, as well as "National Treasure 3." I feel my lunch coming up.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Idle hands are the bee's knees

Yesterday I heard myself use the phrase "at the end of the day." It's a pretentious phrase that tells the person you're talking to "I have now summed this up for you and there's nothing else to be said+" and one of those verbal crutches that props up the vocabulary in a moment of weakness.

"At the end of the day" went rapidly from clever new expression to cliche - an overused, a ready-made set of words that takes the place of meaningful expression.

You have to be careful when you start paying attention to cliches. You will hear yourself oozing them out, and hear them spurting from the mouths of your friends, and if you care about words you won't like yourself and you won't like your friends.

That said, (there's one) I've got my diminished mind focused on them right now, so maybe I can get it out of my system (there's another one) if I make a list of the cliches that are annoying me the most right now.

  • Zero sum game: every time someone says this I have to stop listening to what they're saying and try to remember what the fuck "zero sum game" means, but usually the pedantic ass who said it goes on to explain it.
  • Been there, done that: And you got the T shirt, too, right? Stop saying this.
  • When push comes to shove: Reminds me of the playground bully. Who needs that? I prefer "when the rubber hits the road" because it sounds cooler.
  • Comparing apples and oranges: Usually used when things are not really comparable, so wouldn't it make more sense to say something like "comparing apples to orangutans" or "comparing apples to Wavy Gravy"?
  • There's no "I" in "team":Rarely heard in professional sports, where the word is now spelled "teaim" I think. Best rejoinder ever to this cliche from a person in sports: "Yes, but there is an "I" in "win."
  • Every dog has his day: Yes, and every day for a dog is just about the same. Eat, bark, shit, chew up something valuable, slobber, eat, bark, pee. I don't see them writing in little diaries about how they really had their day.
  • Avoid like the plague: Let's face it, references to the plague are a few centuries out of date. Maybe when need something more current like "Avoid like the Lifetime Channel" or "Avoid like a Jehovah's Witness."
  • “Yeah. A little TOO quiet.” Always said in a movie right before somebody gets their head cut off or something. Must be in the screenwriter's "Compendium of Hackneyed Dialogue." Just once I'd like to see someone say this in a movie and then have absolutely nothing happen.
  • What's up with that?: As soon as a comedian comes out with this it's time to start heckling.
  • Drinking the Kool Aide: Classic "funny the first time you hear it" cliche but people who like it like it too much. And besides, it's a reference to coerced mass suicide so probably better to just let sleeping dogs - never mind.
  • Unsung heroes: Nobody ever mentions "sung heroes."
  • Outpouring of support: Just flat out boring.
  • Best-kept secret: Almost never true by the time somebody pastes this tag on something because somebody in PR has been telling everyone they can reach about the "best-kept secret."
  • Last-ditch effort: As useless as a "Herculean effort" because nobody really relates to trench warfare all that much these days, and nobody knows who Hercules was.
I'm going to start using some completely new phrases and try to make them into cliches, such as:

  • Button down pants
  • As hot as a tuna on wheat with a nice aioli
  • You can't count your chickens because you don't have any
  • Happy as a big turd
  • Whistling past the Home Depot
  • The pot of soup at the end of the orangutans

Please assist me in introducing these fresh new future cliches into the lexicon. That would make me happy as a man wearing both a striped shirt and striped pants.