Friday, November 28, 2003

My grandpappy didn't say much, but he did tell me once, he said, "Boy," he said, "Don't you never eat nothin' that starts with T-U-R-D." Up until now this has been a fairly easy promise to keep, but yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I'll be damned if I didn't eat some turducken. For the uninitiated, turducken is a duck wrapped in a chicken inside an enigma. No, not an enigma - a turkey. That's it. With different types of stuffing between each layer. Mmmmmmmm....turducken. Apparently it takes like 27 hours to cook, but it was worth it, since I didn't cook it. No I merely supplied beer and a pecan pie that went untouched.

But it was a festive occasion all around, with the good people and the good times and the tasty food and the strong drink and the hearty laughter and all that. An unwieldy game of Trivial Pursuit took on a Survivor-like element when two ragtag teams banded together to take out the seemingly unstoppable pink team. Twas a blustery chill night when victory finally arrived.

Maybe I'll have me a slice of that pie and set up the Christmas tree.

(Oops. My Jewish dog Maury has informed me that we'll be calling it a "holiday bush.")

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

If your Thanksgiving plans include stuffing yourselves silly and then seeing a real shitty movie, I have a couple of suggestions:


Haunted Mansion

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Spam round-up Found in my in-box this morning: three Viagra emails, one each for Prozac and Xanax, and one proclaiming "You're the next John Holmes!" Now there's a marketing campaign that can't fail.

Random pre-coffee thought If I set up my Christmas tree this weekend, will my dog pee on it?

Sunday, November 23, 2003

The screener ban is a controversy that's gotten a lot of ink, considering that 99.9% of the population has no reason to care about it at all. Simon Barsinister lookalike Jack Valenti made a bad decision worse when he amended the original ban to allow only Academy members to receive the screeners (DVDs or videotapes of movies that in previous years have been sent to various awards groups, professional unions like SAG and the DGA, and film critics, all of whom are excluded under the terms of the ban). Now everyone's pissed and year-end awards are being cancelled left and right.

I'm not so sure that's the right answer, since the ostensible reason for the hubbub is that "little" movies, the ones that benefit most from winning awards and making Top 10 lists, would be the ones to suffer most from the screener ban. Now it seems as though 2003's crop of such movies will be punished for the sins of the MPAA, which kind of sucks for them.

Another loophole - movies released by distributors that aren't signatory to the MPAA are not subject to the ban. So while, say, Miramax or Fox Searchlight won't be able to supply screeners this year, their competitors at Lion's Gate have already sent out a handsome box of three DVDs -
Shattered Glass, The Cooler and Girl With a Pearl Earring. Thanks, Lion's Gate! (Let's be honest - one of the reasons critics are so pissed about the ban is that it's been a pretty sweet perk getting all these DVD boxed sets just before Christmas for the past few years.)

I'm guessing Shattered Glass will find a spot on my Top 10 list. I wouldn't have thought that the story of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass, who was finally caught in the act after fabricating all or part of more than two dozen stories for the New Republic, would make for a compelling movie, but it has. Rather than dumbing down a story that relies heavily on the minutiae of how an article is research, written, edited and fact-checked, writer-director Billy Ray delves deep into the one incident that ultimately brought Glass down, his fictional account of a hacker convention. It's utterly absorbing and I wanted it to keep going, spend more time in that world (it would make a great setting for one of those densely-layered HBO drama series). There are a couple of missteps - an awkward framing device and a climactic 'moment of triumph' that lands with a thud. Highly recommended nonetheless.

I can't really say the same for The Cooler, which I really wanted to like. It has a setting I can't resist - the ever-shrinking remains of the 'old' Vegas at the Fremont end of the strip - and some actors who fit the setting to a tee, William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin. But I just didn't buy a second of it. Macy is Bernie, the titular cooler - a guy who's such a sad sack, all he has to do is stand near someone to give them bad luck. You can imagine how such a talent would make him invaluable to a casino, and you can probably also guess that a job like this would tend to wear on the ol' self-esteem after awhile. Indeed, Bernie plans to leave the Shangri-La at the end of the week, after he's finally paid off his long-time debt to mobster/casino boss Shelly (Baldwin). Shelly doesn't want to lose his best cooler, so he pays cocktail waitress Natalie (Maria Bello) to get jiggy with Bernie and make him want to stay. But, surprise surprise, they really do fall in love, and Bernie's newfound happiness makes him useless as a cooler - all he does now is give people good luck. Meanwhile, Shelly the old school Vegas boss is in a power struggle with a Harvard-educated young suit (Ron Livingston) who wants to turn the Shangri-La into just another Epcot Center attraction on the strip.

It's a problem - the filmmakers obviously want us to take Bernie and Natalie seriously, as real people, but the whole set-up is pure comic fantasy. It's like a couple of gritty modern-day indie characters have been dropped into a neon '60s romp. Also, there are sex scenes that showcase a little too much of the talented Mr. Macy. Baldwin is pretty good, whenever he doesn't slip into his SNL De Niro impression.

Haven't seen Pearl Earring yet.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Here is a computer simulation of what Michael Jackson would look like today had he never undergone plastic surgery.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Something to live for.

Where is the Entertainment Weekly cover story on “The Year of the Wee Folk”? Three instances of anything = a trend, right? And it’s a veritable golden age for the vertically challenged. Peter Dinklage has been racking up accolades for The Station Agent, anyone who’s still watching HBO’s Carnivale credits Michael J. Anderson (David Lynch’s favorite little person) for their continued interest, and now there’s Bad Santa, featuring Tony Cox as his bad elf.

I don’t really understand how Bad Santa came to be produced by the Coen brothers and directed by Terry Zwigoff. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation – a file stuffed with compromising photographs in Harvey Weinstein’s desk, perhaps – but I just haven’t heard it yet. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did, for the first hour or so. It’s gleefully profane and cynical, and highly recommended as the capper to a bloodcurdling day of Christmas shopping at the mall. Unfortunately, just when you start to worry it will go all gooey at the center and sell out at the end, it does.

Billy Bob Thornton is Willie, the Bad Santa, a safecracker and drunk who works once a year, when his partner Marcus (the little guy) calls him with their latest department store gig. The Santa routine is just a cover to allow them time to case the joint, find out where the safe is, clean it out and hightail it to Florida until next year.

Things are different this year, as Willie befriends a young boy and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Actually, the befriending doesn’t happen at first. It’s preceded by a great deal of using, berating, and all-around loathing. The kid, played by Brett Kelly, is a true marvel. As a character, he makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. He’s a sweet-natured, completely unflappable fat kid, and most of the time it seems as though he must be at least mildly brain-damaged. But he can read pretty well and only manages to cut his hand once while carving a wooden pickle to give Willie for Christmas. He takes so much abuse throughout the movie we should be cringing under our seats, but the kid is utterly unfazed – call him a fucking idiot and he’ll offer to make you a sammich.

If you don’t find something inherently funny about a badly-behaved department store Santa, you should probably give this one a pass. Disney executives apparently wish they had – a recent screening on the studio lot left the suits shaking their heads in despair. How could the Mouse House do this to Santa? But as some other wise blogger pointed out: a) he’s not the real Santa; and b) there is no real Santa.

The movie also features John Ritter’s final performance, as the befuddled department store manager. At one point, Ritter’s character ponders whether “midget” or “dwarf” is the preferred nomenclature. As in all things, we at Moonshine Mountain defer to The Office:

David: "Look whether or not Anton is indeed a midget, or a dwarf-"
Alex: "No he’s a midget."
David: "What’s the difference?"
Alex: "A dwarf is someone who has disproportionately short arms and legs."
David: "Oh I know the ones."
Alex: "It’s caused by a hormone deficiency."
David: "Yeah… bloody hormones."
Alex: "A midget is still a dwarf but their arms and legs are in proportion."
Gareth: "So... what’s an elf?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

As far as I'm concerned, Thanksgiving kicks New Year's Eve's ass. If you know me in real life, you've probably heard me natter on about how I've never had a good time on New Year's Eve. (Which is probably overstating the case, but I've had too many bad ones to count.) But I don't think I've ever not had a good time on Thanksgiving. I mean, as long as you're not the one cooking the turkey, what's the downside? You start drinking in the middle of the day, you stuff yourself with tasty eats, you sit around and digest with good friends, perhaps playing a board game or watching some stupid holiday special, you drink some more, you bring some pie home - it's the perfect holiday. And when it's over, you still have three more days off. Thank you, Squanto!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Okay, how about some links? Links and lists: the key to keeping a blog active when you really don't feel like writing anything.

When I'm not hard at work on Moonshine Mountain or one of my other very important writing projects, you can find me down at the local watering hole spilling beer on my pants and soaking in the whupass country punk of Trouble Down South. And now you can simulate that experience in your own living room or breakfast nook or dank, smelly basement or wherever you do your computing. Simply spill some beer on your pants and crank up one of these boss MP3s:

Tulsa Night Life

Little Johnny Jewel

Brand New Cadillac

Can I link to images, I wonder?

It would appear so.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Well, enough fooling around with these cyber-widgets and gee-gaws. How about some actual content?

Today Arnold Schwarzenneger is to be sworn in as governor of California. Over the weekend I rented Pumping Iron, the "docudrama" that first introduced the Austrian Oak to a mass audience. It's a creepy little film, especially if you find bodybuilding a creepy little sport, like I do. Is it even really a sport? Admittedly, it takes an awful lot of exertion and physical stamina and all that, but as far as I can tell, the whole point is to make yourself look like the most bulbous freak imaginable and master the goofiest possible poses to accentuate said bulbosity. Hey, it's a goal, I guess.

Anyway, I'm glad I don't live in California anymore, because I would prefer not to have a governor I've seen in tight shorty-shorts. (True, I did live in Massachusetts under the reign of Michael "The Thong" Dukakis, but he had a certain Greek nobility that made it okay.) The Arnold of yesteryear shares his drive for success with the viewer by relating the story of how he skipped his father's funeral so as not to be distracted from training for an upcoming competition, and taunts his chief rival, soft-spoken hulk Lou Ferrigno, trying to psyche him out before their big showdown.

The DVD includes an interview with the Arnold of today, his face three sizes tighter, explaining that all that was made up for the cameras to "increase der chrama." He does, however, admit that the "choint" he is seen smoking on camera contains real marijuana and that he did in fact inhale.

It's kind of an interesting time capsule, but that bodybuilding shit sure is goofy.

And now I think I've added a comments feature. Which I'm sure I'll regret.

Okay, I've successfully added the links. Now I'm attempting to add a site counter.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Much as I've enjoyed having "stay tuned for an exciting announcement" as my final blog entry for six months, I'm feeling a bit guilty for neglecting Moonshine Mountain all this time. After all, a whole 'nother Matrix movie has come out since that last post. And so much has changed in my life - for instance, I spend a lot more time picking up dog poop than I used to. (That's because I got a dog, not because I've developed a dog poop fetish.)

One reason I feel guilty is because of my fellow bloggers who have linked to Moonshine Mountain, presumably under the impression that I would actually provide new content occasionally. I figure the least I can do is add a column of links to some of the far more worthwhile blogs out there, and as soon as I figure out how to do that, I will.

Meanwhile, here's a couple things you should check out: the second issue of The High Hat, for my money the best arts/culture zine on the 'net - and I'm not just saying that because my essay on Convoy is included in the mind-bogglingly great special section on the films of Sam Peckinpah. And if you happen to see the new issue of Alternative Cinema magazine on your local newsstand, be sure to check out my piece on the multimedia art-thingy 1 Giant Leap.

I still haven't made that exciting announcement, have I?