Saturday, November 28, 2009

10 Things I Learned From Watching Me And Orson Welles

1. Orson Welles deserved every horrible thing that ever happened to him. God, what a lousy human being.

I'm looking at you, Wellesy.

2. Lousy human beings make the best actors. God, what a great actor.

And the guy playing him is no slouch either.

3. Clare Danes has the best agent ever. I mean really; I don't get it. She mugs. She mugs ALL THE TIME. And she always gets work. Plus she always gets work as the woman into whose pants everybody tries to get. Like everybody in this movie. And Steve Martin in Shopgirl, which was just creepy. What is it about this woman that people think is irresistible? Hmmm. Maybe I should call Billy Crudup.

You think you're so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o attractive.

4. There were no gay actors in the Mercury Theatre. None. Nada. Zip. Every one of them was a skirt-hound. How do I know this? Because in the entire course of the movie, not one guy makes a pass at Zac Efron. I mean, really -- the guy is gorgeous -- if he walked through a cemetery, he'd get come-hither looks from dead people. The only way a male who looks like this can spend a week with a bunch of New York actors and get nothing? Every single guy in the company would have to be straighter than a yardstick.

Uh-oh. We all know what a handshake means in a movie about actors. It means:

5. All actors are manipulators, cowards and liars.

Guess what the BS stands for.

6. The unattainable woman always screws the coming-of-age guy.

I'm going to screw you; you know that, right?

7. The unattainable woman always screws the coming-of-age guy.

You're going to get screwed; you know that, right?

8. Broken hearted and disillusioned is better than rich and famous. Sour grapes, anyone? Just once I'd like to see a Hollywood movie about acting that has somebody say what everyone in Hollywood believes: rich and famous is everything -- and if you can't make the grade, you're worthless. But no. All we'll ever get is the comforting lie that normal people live lives that are so rich and fulfilled that everyone in Hollywood envies them. Two words: My. Ass.

Let's share a fameless disillusioned life together.

9. The Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar did not have a curtain call.

This scene does not occur in the movie.

10. Coming-of-age stories only work when you care about the kid who's coming of age. So on that level, this movie didn't work for me. It's a lot like Jude Law's Hamlet -- as long as Christian McKay's Orson Welles is around, it's riveting. But when he's not there, you wind up doing what the actors in Julius Caesar do. You wind up waiting for Orson.

11. The New Yorker only publishes stories in which nothing happens. Oh wait -- I knew that already.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"The best bones of all . . . "

. . . and if you're of a certain age, you know exactly how that phrase ends. All together now: " . . . go to Symphony Hall." Followed by insane laughter. It's probably the only thing thing you remember from the source cartoon, except maybe the image of a dinosaur skeleton. Which are the only two things I remembered, until I watched a recently-released 3-DVD set of random Sherlock Holmes movies and discovered that the source cartoon was part of the package. Turns out it's a 1944 Columbia Sherlock Holmes parody entitled "The Case of the Screaming Bishop." What occurs in this seven minutes is about two miles beyond Tex Avery Crazy when it comes to making any sense whatsoever, so it's no wonder I don't remember the whole thing -- my 6-year-old brain probably short-circuited while trying to make sense of it.

THE REAL WORLD: Well THAT answers a lot of questions.
ME: You're just jealous.

For those of you with long memories, and for the rest of you who might want to get a taste of the surreal crap that warped the minds of my generation on Saturday mornings, here it is in all its WTF weirdness:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guide to Guys: Suckers Suckers Everywhere (and none of them want to drink)

As Twilight fever once again infects the Vaginal Hive Mind with the unreal idea that the perfect boyfriend is an undead bloodsucker who believes in bibisanguinary abstinence, I have to ask: what is it with women and vampires?

ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: Isn’t it obvious? It’s about comfort. It’s about danger.
ME: Danger?!? They’re not even real vampires!
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: That’s the comfort part.
ME: AAAUUGH!! Vampires are not comforting! Vampires are soulless devourers of innocence who exist to feed on the living or turn the living into one of them. These perfect-boyfriend life-challenged brooding emo unsuckers you love so much are like walking chastity testimonials -- they never try to bite you, they feed on blood substitutes, and even though they've been around for over a hundred years, they still only manage to have the IQ of a middle-school slacker.
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: Hey -- we like 'em dead and stupid.
ME: Well obviously. These guys are vampires the way tofu cooked to taste like chicken is real chicken. Or computer game football players are real football players. They’re Playstation vampires!
WISEASS MATTHEW: So does that mean the women who love them are all X-Boxes?
ME: Get back in your hole.

If they were real vampires? She'd be dinner -- not a dinner date.

ME: So let me get this straight. Brooding emo unsuckers are terminally pretty, terminally 19, and terminally tortured about sex sucking blood.
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: And that’s why we love them.
ME: Really?
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: Look. Are you agelessly pretty?
ME: I used to be.
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: But you got old. Who wants old? Strike one. Are you always going to be 19?
ME: In my own head? Sure.
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: But not in real life. Strike two. And what are you tortured about?
ME: Working a day job when I should be writing more.
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: How romantic. Let us put it this way. Do you ever think twice when you’re sexually attracted to someone?
ME: Are you kidding? I’m a guy -- I don’t even think once.
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: Strike three, pal.
ME: So, what –- looks, youth and unsex? Is that what women really want from a guy?
ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: Quiet; we’re watching the movie.

ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: Oooo! New unblood!

Go ahead; you watch. Meanwhile I'll start making a list of what's really going on with y'all by employing false logic, invalid comparisons, and gross generalities. First up:

Not just bloodless, but lifeless. It's not just women and vampires; it's lively women and lifeless men, and it's been going on since Charlotte Bronte hit puberty. And you have to ask: do these spiritual zombies display recognizable signs of life while they’re single and on the prowl the way peacocks display their plumage during mating season? Or is it the old opposites-attract you-complete-me light-shines-best-when-it’s-next-to-total-darkness dynamic that, back when it was Manichean theology, got you a one-way trip to the stake courtesy of the Spanish Inquisition? Nowadays you’re lucky to get a free steak dinner from these brooding black holes. Because that’s what they are, and that’s what they always have been, ever since the perfect example of this species of male made his first appearance in a famous Gothic romance, a sullen, moody male who embodied the two primal female responses to his character in the words of his name –- anyone who loves him will either get lost on the Heath or jump over a Cliff.

Separated at unbirth.

In this view of the Perfect Man, Dracula's not evil; he's the guy who wrote suicidal poetry in high school -- the guy who composed suicidal love songs in college -- the guy who can wilt lettuce, bruise peaches, and suck the air conditioning out of a supermarket produce section just by walking past it on his way to the coffee aisle. And meanwhile every female within twenty feet of him suddenly gets the urge to take home a can of Maxwell House. Why? Because to the female mind, you can only be depressed because you’re grappling with deep emotional and spiritual issues -- you can only brood when you’re contemplating the meaning of existence -- you can only be dark and uncommunicative because what you feel is too big to put into words. To the female mind, if a guy is moody and depressing, then he's grappling with something deep and eternal, like whether or not to slake his thirst for blood by biting your neck. To the male mind? Moody and depressing is just how you are until you slake your thirst for caffeine by drinking that second cup of coffee. Which brings us to:

The shallowness of unsuspected depth. There is something about guys with unsuspected depth which causes even the smartest, least susceptible female heart to flutter like Scarlett O’Hara’s hand fan. Just like men fall head over heels for women they meet in laundromats, women fall like a ton of bricks through greased air for guys who read deep. Mind you, guys with actual depth? Forget it. Imaginary depth beats actual depth every time, because imaginary depth is all about potential, and potential is sexy. Actuality is not sexy. Actuality is like a spreadsheet. Which is why men with actual depth usually wind up with women who can’t fill out the job line on their income tax return without asking if lap dancer is one word or two.

GUY WITH ACTUAL DEPTH: How about sticking a hyphen between them?
GIRLFRIEND: Hey --nobody does anything to my hyphen until I see an extra hundred bucks.

It never fails. Put a man with a company credit card in a line-up with three tattooed ex-cons who can’t hold a job for more than five minutes, and the average female will sit there asking herself, “Tough choice. Do I want Sing Sing or Alcatraz?” Because it’s not just about deep or shallow or imaginary or real. It’s about heart. Heart with an extra T.

It’s about threat. All women are secret lion tamers. There is no stopping the female urge to stick her head into the jaws of a man-eating beast, and when bystanders cry out “No! Don’t do it! He’ll kill you!” smile and say, “Oh no. He does that to everyone else, but not to me. Because he cares.” This is why cheerleaders hang on the words of bikers, prison psychologists run off with mass murderers, and Wendy Hillers wind up on the arms of Bugsy Siegels. (True story.) Personally, I don’t see the thrill of falling in love with someone who, if he treated you like everyone else in his life, would probably beat the crap out of you with the butt of a Smith and Wesson, or drain the blood out of your body like someone who’s just been given a slurpy after spending three weeks in the desert.

And he'll also try to rape you. But you'll forgive him.
Because he has a SO-O-O-O-O-O-OUL!!!

Mind you, I totally get the underlying truth of the words “He’s different with me.” What I don’t get is that “different” means “real and true,” as opposed to “not normal.” Just the use of the word different implies that it’s the exception, not the rule. And to try to make it the rule? Well, we all know what that’s about, don’t we?

"I can be the one to change him." Three words: No. You. Can’t. You can’t change “different” into “normal.” You can’t domesticate wild animals without neutering them or draining away the wildness that attracted you to them in the first place. Or making them so crazy they’ll bite your head off. And you can’t turn a wading pool into an ocean, no matter how much water you pour into it. None of which advice will ever stop a woman from looking at a sullen loner smoking a Camel and thinking to herself, “I wonder what he’ll look like pushing a baby stroller.”

Bottom line: all changes in male behavior are possible, which is why they are all doomed to failure. Only the impossible never fails. Only the impossible gives a woman the satisfaction of knowing that success is just one right word away, one right move away, one perfect night away. Only the impossible -- like bringing the dead back to life -- like making a lifeless heart beat for you and you alone. Which is why all women are suckers for vampires. Because it’s impossible to change them, even if they want to change, without either killing them or making them mortal. They’re always out of reach. They’re always not quite there. They’ll always give you almost what you want. And there is nothing more seductive than that.

Except maybe chocolate.

Monday, November 16, 2009

That's Je$u$, okay?

GUINNESS: So where the hell have you been for the last three weeks?
MATTHEW: Doing God’s work at my day job.
BRANDI: Your day job is religious?
GUINNESS: Your day job is Goldman Sachs?
MATTHEW: Not Goldman, the other one.
BRANDI: Silverman?
GUINNESS: Jesus, honey, don’t you know anything about the real world?
MATTHEW: The financial industry is the real world?
GUINNESS: Good point.
BRANDI: I despise the financial industry. It’s all about money.
GUINNESS: Well yeah, isn’t that the definition of a financial industry?
BRANDI: And it promotes inequality.
GUINNESS: The real world doesn’t promote inequality?
MATTHEW: “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”
BRANDI: Who said that?
MATTHEW: Some old rich British git who says that Jesus Christ was a capitalist.
BRANDI: Does he work for Goldman Sachs?
GUINNESS: Rhetorical question alert.
BRANDI: You have to tolerate inequality? Jesus would spit on him.
GUINNESS: Jesus would vomit on him.
MATTHEW: Sadly? No. Jesus would forgive him.
BRANDI: Not the Christ who comes with a sword.
GUINNESS: How about the Christ who comes with a stock market quote?
MATTHEW: The Goldman Sachs Christ: “Suffer, ye little children.”
GUINNESS: The Bank of America Christ: “If God didn’t want you to have a credit card, he’d have given you a higher-paying job.”
BRANDI: The Citicorp Christ: “I’m sorry, I’ve run out of money; can I have another 50 billion? I’m too divine to fail.”
GUINNESS: I think it’s immoral to make a profit when there are starving people in the world.
BRANDI: How is it immoral to make a profit?
GUINNESS: How is it moral to ignore suffering and poverty?
BRANDI: And there are always starving people in the world. The poor are always with us. Jesus said that.
GUINNESS: And it was an observation, not an edict.
BRANDI: I just can’t see Jesus in a three-piece suit working the phone to get investors to buy into the latest Vatican Industries IPO.
GUINNESS: Oh I can. He’d have to shave the beard, though.
BRANDI: But it’s against everything Jesus stands for!
GUINNESS: Not the way the financial Christians think.
MATTHEW: I’m reminded of a poem.
BRANDI: Is it an obscure poem?
GUINNESS: Rhetorical question alert.
MATTHEW: It’s by Ambrose Bierce; it's called Arma Virumque.
BRANDI: Arma what now?
MATTHEW: Arma Virumque. The first two words of the Aeneid. It means “arms and the man.”
BRANDI: Oh! The Shaw play!
MATTHEW: Yuh. The Shaw play. The poem goes like this:

"Ours is a Christian army;” so he said
A regiment of bangomen who led.
"And ours a Christian navy," added he
Who sailed a thunder-junk upon the sea.
Better they know than men unwarlike do
What is an army, and a navy too.
Pray God there may be sent them by-and-by
The knowledge what a Christian is, and why.
For somewhat lamely the conception runs
Of a brass-buttoned Jesus firing guns.

MATTHEW: And even more lamely runs the conception of Jesus Christ, Head of Global Equity.
GUINNESS: Actually he’d probably be in Compliance.
BRANDI: So what did this old rich British git say exactly?
MATTHEW: You mean besides the inequality quote? “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest.”
BRANDI: That’s not technically saying Jesus was a capitalist.
MATTHEW: No, it’s technically saying that Jesus was out for himself.
BRANDI: I’d say that’s true of some of his current earthly representatives, but not the man himself.
GUINNESS: Organized religion. It’s the worst thing that ever happened to faith.
BRANDI: So in other words, what the British git was saying is, God favors those who love themselves before others.
GUINNESS: The real golden rule.
BRANDI: I thought the real golden rule was, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”
MATTHEW: That’s the old version. The new one saysm “Whoever has a connection to Goldman Sachs makes the rules.”
BRANDI: So how does this guy explain Jesus throwing the money-lenders out of the Temple?
MATTHEW: It’s a perfect example of the robust nature of competitive advantage.
GUINNESS: Buzz word alert.
MATTHEW: He was exemplifying the virtues of market capitalism.
GUINNESS: Jesus, it’s like a Monty Python skit.
BRANDI: It is, isn’t it?


INTERVIEWER: And now, Lord Specious Petty, who says that Jesus was a capitalist.
LORD PETTY: Jesus was the quintessential capitalist.
INTERVIEWER: So what about the moneylenders?
LORD PETTY: People say, what about the moneylenders? If he was such a capitalist, why did he throw the moneylenders out of the Temple? As if it’s a crime to lend money at exorbitant rates of interest. At no point in the Bible does Jesus say that it’s a crime to lend money at exorbitant rates of interest.
INTERVIEWER: But he still threw the moneylenders out.
LORD PETTY: Well of course. But he didn’t say, “All right, you lot. Don’t lend money at exorbitant rates of interest.” He just said, “Don’t do it here.”
INTERVIEWER: Is that actually in the Bible?
LORD PETTY: It’s a valid interpretation of the received text.
INTERVIEWER: But is it in the actual Bible.
LORD PETTY: [Brief pause; a deliberate lie:] Yes.
LORD PETTY: [An even bigger lie:] It’s in the Wall Street edition.
INTERVIEWER: The Wall Street edition.
INTERVIEWER: Is that the one where Jesus blasts the fig tree because it doesn’t give good shareholder value?
LORD PETTY: And what’s wrong with shareholder value?
INTERVIEWER: The one that says, “Thou shalt not commit insider trading unless thou canst do it without getting caught?”
LORD PETTY: Perfectly sound advice from a compliance point of view.
INTERVIEWER: The one that says, “Thou shalt not have any investment banks before me?”
LORD PETTY: Brand loyalty. The heart of competition.
INTERVIEWER: How can you actually sit here and say that Jesus was spouting financial advice instead of delivering moral instruction by word and example?
LORD PETTY: Of course he was talking about money! Look at who his audience was! They were all Jews!



INTERVIEWER: Bless me father for I have sinned. I killed a man today.
PRIEST: [A paroxysm of outrage] The mortal sin of murder! The mark of Cain is on you! Your hands are steeped in blood and gore for killing a fellow human being! Your soul is doomed to persition's flames for taking God's gift of life and stamping on it with your filthy workboots! Homicide is unforgivable! Unforgivable, I say!
INTERVIEWER: He was a heathen.
PRIEST: [Mildly:] Two Our Fathers and three Hail Marys.

MATTHEW: Ah, Money Python. I miss Monty Python.
BRANDI: You really are more a mimic than a maker, aren’t you.
MATTHEW: Are you saying I don’t have a voice of my own?
BRANDI: Have any two of your plays been written in the same voice?
GUINNESS: Rhetorical question alert.
MATTHEW: Just because I echo, that doesn’t mean I don’t have something new to say. Look at Jesus.
GUINNESS: Oh great –- another writer with a Christ complex.
MATTHEW: Jesus echoed the Old Testament. All the time. But with a spin that was all his own.
BRANDI: Jesus spun the Old Testament?
MATTHEW: Sure. He said it was about love when it was really all about revenge.
BRANDI: Is that your definition of Christianity? Love?
MATTHEW: My definition of Christianity is the same as Christ’s.
GUINNESS: Yeah; right.
BRANDI: And who doesn’t say that, huh?
GUINNESS: Everybody has a direct pipeline to God.
BRANDI: Jesus talks to them personally.
GUINNESS: “This is what Jesus meant.”
BRANDI: “This is what Jesus wants.”
GUINNESS: Cripes, I don’t even have family members who talk to me personally.
BRANDI: So what do you think Jesus’ definition of Christianity is?
MATTHEW: All are welcome at the same table. The poor, the pure, the rich, the corrupt, the believer, the non-believer. All are welcome. Because it’s all of us or none. That is the essence of Christianity. Inclusion and forgiveness.
GUINNESS: Which is not what a lot of Christians say.
MATTHEW: But it’s what Jesus said.
BRANDI: Really? Where?
MATTHEW: [Rhetorical question alert:] In the Book of Matthew.

It's His cross to bear.