Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Days of Pant Past

Hollywood Boulevard at Whitley, 1986

Occasionally I like to look back at my neighborhood, to the days when Fashion was available...at a price. Not at a "discount", oh no, but for a price, and that price was a human life. It's just as well the the joint next door was called "Reflections", because it behooved the prospective shopper to pause and consider: Would you kill for a fashionable pant? Granted, it was the Reagan Administration, and human life was cheap, nevertheless, what profit a man to gain the latest Pant, and lose his immortal soul? But that was the Boulevard in the mid-80s, when many a wide-eyed innocent breezed into the Pant Station, only to emerge a different person. A person who has not only bought a spectacularly fashionable Stretch-Stirrup or Parachute Pant, but has also faced the fact that -- like John Huston in Chinatown -- at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Do You MIND?" Edition

SHADOW: Please go away, we're having Spoon Time. And if you don't mind, I've been waiting allllll week for this.

MOONDOGGIE: Is this a bad time? Should we maybe spoon later...?


Monday, April 16, 2018

Beast Blogging: The "Moondoggie's Drag Race" Edition

Moondoggie found a plastic shopping bag, and as a lifelong West Hollywood (adjacent) resident, decided to get Glam with it:
MOONDOGGIE: Shadow! Shadow! Who am I?

SHADOW: The light of my life, the fire of my loins--

MOONDOGGIE: Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman! Get it?

SHADOW: Hey, cool! Let me in there, I'll do Jeremy Irons...

MOONDOGGIE: No! This is my drag show!

Then -- predictably -- it all went to hell:

MOONDOGGIE: Damn the Glam! Why can't I resist it?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Join the Prune Party!

I've been scrambling to meet a deadline, so I missed Keith's birthday last week, but that's no reason we can't make it up to him now with a bacchanal of prunes! Yes, prunes...The desiccated, rectum-relaxing, mummified corpse of a plum, recognized the world over as the Birthday Fruit! Biting into one will magically transport you to those first screaming, slimy, bloody moments of life, when you were yanked from a maternal orifice or incision and slapped by a rubber-clad hand as fair warning of what to expect from the next three score and ten years of life, just as Proust, lying in his bed in a cork-lined room was suddenly transported through lost time by the taste and fragrance of a madeleine, with the minor difference that Proust didn't immediately have to call for a bedpan.

This plump, meaty fruit "cooks up" fast.
Del Monte: it's the meth of dried fruits!
Stuff cooked Del Monte prunes with cottage cheese, nuts, sliced celery.
No need to shit your pants like Ted Nugent. Behavior like this is more than enough to excuse you from the draft (but if not, the prunes are an essential ingredient of the Nugent Method).
Easy eating--
Which is why they spoon it into Grandpa's slack jaw at the nursing home every day!
--Because Del Monte's "Natural Flavor" process protects both flavor and delicate fruit tissues while it "plumps" the prunes with moist, sterile heat.
People laud George R.R. Martin's gift for writing vivid, sensual descriptions of food, but if you ask me he's met his match in the copywriter who penned this ode to soggy, sterilized prune tissue.

But we come here not to praise prunes, or even to eat the nasty bastards, but to wish a Happy Birthday to Keith, who's both a contributor to the blog and a longtime member of the Crapper community. So when I say I searched high and low, far and wide, to find just the perfect Sexy Birthday Lizard, well...check out this reptilian diva:
"It's time to lip-sync for your life!"

Okay, not actually a lizard -- it's an endangered Mary River Turtle -- but it's just so fabulous I had to bend the rules this once.

We leave you know with this Classic Slice of Hollywood Cheesecake, silent film heartthrob Ramon Navarro, working out nude on the rowing machine, like you do, in preparation for his star-making role in the 1925 Ben-Hur.
Happy birthday, Keith!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Earworm Game" Edition

Since Facebook users are now shying away from those once ubiquitous games and quizzes ("What Bugaloo Are You?" or "Answer 10 Questions and We'll Guess Your Favorite War Atrocity!"), I thought we could fill the gap with a fun little recreational activity that won't scrape the contents of your wallet, address book, and whatever compromising bits of personal history you divulged to the Scientologists during that Free Personality Test you took on Hollywood Boulevard because you were hot and tired from walking and that folding chair next to the E-Meter looked so very enticing...


Based on what you know about these two, what song was each cat involuntarily singing in their head when they were surprised by the photographer?



Leave your informed or fanciful guesses in the comments.  We'll get things started...

Scott: You can tell by Moondoggie's stricken expression that at the moment the paparazzi caught up with him, he had "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" stuck in his head.

Mary: Judging by Shadow's expression -- moody, distant, melancholy, yet with a touch of Gallic fatalism -- I'm going to guess "Seasons in the Sun". The super lame Terry Jacks version.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter Fools Day!

Mary was planning to make an elaborate meal to celebrate the day, but a short while ago she suffered a mild flare-up of her trigeminal neuralgia. I urged her to put on one of her herbal "Muscle Melt" patches, but she was reluctant, since the supply is dwindling. It went a little something like this...

ME: You don't want to be suffering from jaw pain on a feast day.

Mary considers this, then nods and peels a patch from its foil envelope. Suddenly, as is my wont, I suffer a moment of crippling self-doubt:

ME: Is Easter a feast day?  The Feast of Easter?

Mary absently nods as she fiddles with the packaging.


Mary ignores me and focuses on applying the herbal patch to her face.

ME: That sounds more like one of the monsters in Dennis Muren's 1970 stop-motion horror movie Equinox.

Mary ignores me.

ME: Also known as Equinox...A Journey into the Supernatural.

Mary really ignores me.

ME: Which, what with the dead rising from the grave and all, is actually a pretty good description of Easter.

Mary visibly gives up on me and any hope that this conversation with improve, which is actually a pretty subtle and complex piece of pantomime, yet her meaning comes through with amazing clarity.

Happy Feaster everyone!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Happy Birthday, MaryC!

By Wo'C's Special Birthday Correspondent, Bill S.

It's time once again to wish a Happy Birthday to our own MaryC, and of course, try to select that perfect gift. As always, let's look through our favorite catalogues. let's see what we can find among the THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED!

Perfect for announcing visitors or scaring critters out of your yard...any time of day! Place this wicked canine in a spot where it can receive direct sunlight, and it will howl for 11 seconds any time it detects movement with its built-in sensor.

They determined that 11 seconds is the exact length of time you can endure that noise before you wind up kicking it across the yard when it goes off as you're getting the mail. Personally, I'd prefer a replica of the blues singer.

BOOBIES FISHING LURE SET--Guaranteed To Land The Big One! (2 sets for $14)
Even fish like a big rack!
These Double D's are certain to coerce even the most shy fish to take a nibble!

Except for rainbow trout, which, for some reason, seem somehow less susceptible.

JELLY BELLY BEER-FLAVORED BEANS IN A TIN ( $10.98; 2 sets for $17)
Pop the top, and enjoy the authentic taste of a freshly-poured brew! SET OF TWO contains 5 sample bags (total 3.5 oz) of alcohol-free beer-flavored jelly beans.

$17 for jelly beans, and you won't even get a buzz? Moving on...

Let's check out what CAROL WRIGHT GIFTS has to offer
Great Gift Ideas and As Seen on TV Products. Carol Wright Gifts is the world’s 1 source for great Gift Ideas and As Seen on TV Products since 1972.

F-I-T-T-E-D TABLECLOTHS (as low as $6.99)
These wipe-clean tablecloths are elasticized for a smooth, snug, no-slide fit.

And they're perfect for people who aren't getting enough exasperation from trying to fold fitted sheets.

BRING SONGBIRDS TO YOUR BACK YARD (only $5--why pay $7.98)
Brighten your yard with this sunflower! Use as a bird bath or feeder...

...or, if you have cats, as a serving dish.

WARMING FOR HER/COOLING FOR HIM (Why pay $14.95? Ours only $7.99)
Enhance your arousal and intensify your sensitivity with these powerful lubricants. A cooling sensation for him helps improve his erection for maximum satisfaction while a warming sensation for her increases sensual stimulation for greater fulfillment. Simply apply a small to your intimate areas and massage gently for an erotic experience that will have you quivering with desire in no time.

As long as you don't get the bottles mixed up.

POCKET HOSE-The Hose That Grows!(As low as $12.99)
Super-Light, Super-Small, Expands When Water Is Turned On...

Well, I guess if that warming lubricant fails, this thing will do.

POP CHEF-Turn Snacks into Works of Art (only $10.99)
Simply attach one of the six included shape cutters, push into your favorite food and squeeze the bulb to pop out perfect shapes every time.

But...what if your favorite food is pudding? Well, it may not work on every food, but it seems useful if you get invited to a party where you're expected to bring something but don't feel like doing any actual cooking. So it looks like just the right gift!

Happy Birthday, MaryC!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging

Shadow's Journal, Day 5: I attempted to reach the summit of Mt. Mission Chair by negotiating the treacherous Couchback Traverse, but fell into a crevasse, and for all my struggles, I continue to slip deeper and ever deeper toward oblivion. I have but one request: Please cover my final resting place with Temptations brand Shrimpy Shrimp and Tantalizing Turkey Flavor Cat Treats, in the hopes that Moondoggie will eat his way down to me.

MOONDOGGIE: Huh? What day is it? Wha--SUNDAY? But I left a wake-up call for Tuesday!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

It's Tentacular!

I spent most of 1977 waiting for things to die.  Disco. Wide collar Qiana shirts (but I repeat myself). Matching (or worse, contrasting) plaid sofa 'n' curtain sets. Jaws rip-offs. But as history shows, all those trends still had a few years of life left in them, and instead, Elvis died.

It wasn't a great year for me, is what I'm saying.

But if you weren't me, if you were, to take a random example, a washed-up, aging American actor or a tow-headed, talent-free moppet, then times were good. Because no matter what else may have cratered in your life, chances were good that somewhere there was an Italian in tinted aviator glasses and hip-hugger double-knit slacks willing to point a movie camera at you.

Tentacles (1977)
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (as Oliver Hellman)
Written by Jerome Max & Tito Carpi & Steven W. Carabatsos

The movie opens on a palisade overlooking the beach in La Jolla, one of the most scenic spots in Southern California. After giving us a brief glimpse of its natural splendor, the director cuts inside a grungy taxi cab, where the main credits roll over a long close-up of a radio speaker as the dispatcher squawks out street names and addresses. This seems like an odd way to start a monster movie, but maybe it’s clever foreshadowing, and we’ll later find out that one of these apartments is where the giant octopus lives.

A badly dubbed Italian actress gets a vacation to the Greater San Diego area, but pays for it when her baby is abducted from its stroller by a Point of View shot.  Then the director decides his movie has a foot fetish. A salty old sea captain wearing clamdiggers wanders around on deck while we enjoy his naked ankles. It’s implied that he’s grabbed by the monster and skeletonized, but we don’t have time to show that because there’s more feet coming, as John Huston’s shoes take a long walk to Claude Akin’s face. Claude’s the local Sheriff, John’s the local newspaperman, who offers his opinion that “We’re in for a nightmare!” (So while you and I may feel we have good grounds for a class action suit against this movie, the filmmakers were unfortunately smart enough to add a disclaimer.)

John stays up all night, searching through books for the answer to these mysterious disappearances. He doesn’t find it, because they’re cookbooks, but if they ever do catch the giant octopus, the authorities can look forward to a zesty Polpi in Umido that’ll make you want to kiss your fingers.

John’s sister is Shelly Winters, a loving, caring, slatternly drunk who regales him with tales of her latest one-night stand while chugging her first Bloody Mary of the day. There’s also a mop-headed tween boy in the house who’s too young to be either John’s son or Shelly’s; I assume he’s a member of the Partridge Family who fell off the bus and nobody’s noticed yet.

Cut to Henry Fonda’s house, where he’s reaming out the Mayor from Animal House about John’s newspaper article, which implies Henry’s underwater construction company might have kidnapped a baby and stolen all the meat off a man in capris pants. Henry appears both angry and confused by John’s insinuations, and though he doesn’t come right out and say it, you also get the feeling he’s deeply uneasy about the caliber of roles he’s being offered these days.

A doctor shows Claude x-rays of the sailor’s body, and says “even the marrow has been sucked dry”, except he pronounces it “morrow”. But the soundtrack is kind of muddy, so maybe he’s actually saying “even Vic Morrow has been sucked dry”, which I hope is true because it's a better way to go than being decapitated on the set of a crappy John Landis movie. We're told the missing baby was also reduced to bones, but we don't discover if the monster spat it out, or if its tiny skeleton was collected from a stool sample.

John decides to recruit the world’s foremost marine authority, Bo Hopkins, who we find at Sea World, telling the trainers to get tough with their killer whales.  Bo would like to search for the sea monster, but four months ago he had a tragic diving accident (he got water in his ear, or something) and now he’s only qualified to yell at people for mollycoddling Shamu. Instead, he sends two of his best and most expendable divers. A harpsichord riff predicts they’re going to die.

The divers find that Henry Fonda’s high tech underwater tunneling equipment (so advanced, we’re told, that “Buck Rogers couldn’t have dreamed of it!”) has been vandalized and stripped for parts. The police suspect a sub-aquatic street gang (possibly the Jets, but probably the Sharks), but before anybody can break into a Jerome Robbins water ballet, a giant octopus squirts ink into the camera lens and murders the divers off screen so we can’t prove it in court. Nevertheless, the harpsichord wins five bucks.

Meanwhile, Shelly has gone into town wearing a comically oversized sombrero like Speedy Gonzales. We discover the Partridge Family tween is Shelly’s son, Tommy, and despite the constant string of gruesome deaths at sea, she wants to enter him and his friend, Cousin Oliver, in a sailboat race. (Pardon me for getting sentimental, but it's amazing how much Shelly’s character reminds me of my mother. Although to be fair, Mom’s sombreros were more reasonably proportioned, and very few of her plots to kill me required an entrance fee.)

Bo decides to get revenge for his two deboned employees and checks into the La Jolla Holiday Inn with his superhot Italian trophy wife, who played Athena in the Lou Ferrigno Hercules.  Meanwhile, Shelly is shoveling ice cream into her face in a desperate attempt to appease the monstrous sombrero, which appears to be some kind of alien symbiote, like Spider-Man’s black costume.  Even better, Partridge Family Boy and Cousin Oliver are obsessing about the sailboat race, raising the tantalizing hope they’ll get skeletonized before they can break into a chorus of “It’s a Sunshine Day” or “Together (Havin’ a Ball)”. Instead, Shelly (or the alien sombrero controlling her) frets about how frequently Cousin Oliver has to urinate, while Partridge Family Boy affectionately calls his mother a fat whore.

Hey, want to see Bo and a sidekick take snapshots while they cruise around in a two-man submersible craft they bought at a Thunderball garage sale? No? Well, I don’t think that’s really your decision, it’s the filmmakers, and they haven’t steered us wrong yet, have they? I mean, they did give us a monster that makes all the meat fall off a baby, and where else can you find that? Okay, maybe a Chile’s franchise on All You Can Eat Babyback Rib Night, but it’s still pretty rare.

Anyway, hang with this sequence, I’m begging you, because it becomes hilarious when the divers find a dozen large fish doing headstands on the ocean floor. That’s not a metaphor, by the way, these are literal fish with their tails up, balancing on their noses, like we’ve wandered into an all-mackerel hot yoga class.

Meanwhile, some Italians are cruising around the Channel Islands in a yacht while pretending to be Americans, but their boat has broken down, and so have their accents. The big fat guy jumps in the water, and we cut to the giant octopus's eyes popping open as we hear that “Dramatic Prairie Dog” music. This is like ringing the dinner bell for sea monsters, and the fat fake American tries to save himself by pretending to be Mexican.

Fake American #1 shouts, “Shark’s gonna kill ya!” and if this were a better movie, perhaps it would. Alas, Fat Fake Mexican is killed by poorly matched footage of an octopus filched from a National Geographic TV special.

Back on the broken-down boat, Sherry Buchanan, who was born in Biloxi but worked exclusively in Italian films and is dubbed by the same woman playing all the other female parts, making her an American pretending to be an Italian pretending to be an American, sees the fat guy’s feet sticking straight up out of the water (apparently he’s joined the sub-aquatic yoga class) and screams. This attracts the octopus footage, which tears apart her boat.

Cut to Bo, who suddenly figures out that the unseen monster is a giant octopus. How? Does he use forensic evidence, or deductive reasoning? No, he employs the Think System, just like Robert Preston in The Music Man.

“Are you thinking about sharks?” The Sidekick asks, for no good reason.

“No,” Bo replies. “I’m thinking…Giant octopus.”

So there you go. If your movie features a mysterious killer creature, but you don’t want to go to all the trouble of figuring out the clues, just have one of your characters think of the solution! It works equally well for cryptids and cornet-playing.

Now let’s watch Bo’s wife Athena pose in the prow of a yacht as it heads out to sea. Nothing happens, but the shot goes on so long you keep expecting her to break into “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl.

Later that night, Athena and two new Italians find the wreck of the earlier Italians’ cabin cruiser, but before they can do anything about it, Athena’s boat turns into a toy and sinks.

Athena survives and clings to the first wreck, but almost immediately gets sexually harassed to death by some Hentai tentacle porn.

Time for the Death Beach Annual Child Endangerment Regatta!

Shelly sees the two brats off to their doom, then we cut to Bo and John and Claude sitting around a classroom somewhere. John tries to sell the premise of the movie by saying, “I’ve read that the suckers on a tentacle are like the claws of a tiger.” Bo one-ups him by taking a Harold Pinter-sized pause before answering, more in sorrow than in anger, “Compared to suckers on a tentacle, claws are nothing…Nothing.”

John learns that Shelly has entered the local sitcom kids into a boat race, and declares the “giant squid” must be destroyed. He asks Bo, “Can you do it?”

Bo winds up for another big pause, then says, “I only got one thought on my mind…Just one.”


Meanwhile, the monster massacres the boating children. This is symbolized by shots of young actors in life jackets staring open-mouthed at the camera while a prop octopus head gets towed behind a speedboat, making it seem like the creature wants to water ski, but can’t quite keep his tips up.

Some kids live and are picked up by the Coast Guard, including Partridge Family Boy, but apparently he was out there long enough that he had to eat Cousin Oliver to survive.

Bo tows a huge yellow tank into the ocean. It contains his two pet killer whales, which he’s going to use to hunt down the octopus like a couple of coon hounds. He delivers a long speech celebrating all the “love” and “affection” in their hearts, but the tank sinks and the orcas leave him, proving just how intelligent this species is. If we were half as smart, we'd all have stripped to our skivvies and be clinging to a fin right now.

Having accidentally freed the Willys, Bo and Sidekick are forced to dive into the ocean with spearguns, where they spend the next two minutes getting startled by marine life making weird sound effects, in what feels like a Candid Camera episode directed by Ivan Tors. (Sidekick is frightened by a grouper operating what sounds like a staple gun, while Bo pees himself when he’s pranked by a manta ray with a snare kit).

The octopus buries Bo under an avalanche of coral and proceeds to taunt him, but the Orcas arrive in the nick of time like the 7th Calvary, then everybody turns into a puppet and things get confusing. The killer whales play tug of war with the monster while the Red Army Choir starts singing the Soviet national anthem out of nowhere. It's an odd needle drop for the end of a monster movie, and I can only assume the octopus ate he composer.

Sidekick rescues the hapless, buried Bo and gets him to the surface, making me wish I’d learned his name, because apparently he’s the hero of the film. Meanwhile the orca puppets dismember the octopus puppet, severely reducing its collectible value. So while this film wasn't terribly original, I give it points for trying: in most monster movies, the monster dies, only to reappear a couple years later in a sequel. In this Tentacles, the monster died, then reappeared in the same film as an appetizer platter from Red Lobster.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Damian Maffei (The Strangers: Prey at Night)

The new Slumgullion has dropped. In this episode, Scott and Jeff sit down for a conversation with Damian Maffei, the "Man in the Mask" from the new horror film The Strangers: Prey at Night (check local listings for a theater near you).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happy Birthday Bill S! & The Minx!

I've been really remiss in the birthday department lately, but that's only because I've been remiss in every department of life; and while some friends caution me against spreading my laziness and incompetence too thin, I'm having a good day and feel like I still have more to give! Or withhold! Whatever.

Anyway, today's a Twi-Night Doubleheader, with Corsican Twins Bill S. (Wo'C contributor and He Who Must Be Referred To For The Next 24 Hours as Bill S! under penalty of law) and The Minx!

And okay, yeah, when we phrase it that way it does sound less like a birthday party and more like an action-packed comic book issue about a superpowered heroine dropping in on an unusually exciting Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and getting in a fistfight with a super villain near the coffee urn. But what if I said there was cake? Hmmm...? And what if I lied, and really just meant there's dessert? And what if I stretched the definition of "dessert" to the point where we all just collapse on the ground and start eating grass like a dog trying desperately to cope with intestinal worms? Because that's the World O' Crap Birthday Way?

Let's begin, shall we?

There were a lot of disgusting crypto-desserts on Pinterest, but I went with this one because Elsie the Borden Cow is something of an unofficial Wo'C mascot, having made her debut in s.z.'s very first post, way back in Ought Three. And since I can't cook, I figured it was safest to go with a "no cook", "no bake" recipe. Plus, it's "thrifty," and who doesn't enjoy that on their special day? Why, I've lost track of the times I've come home after a hard day at my imaginary office, smacked my lips meditatively and announced, "Mmm! I'm in the mood for something thrifty!"

So as the ad says "Why not try this salad today?" Well, there's literally a million reasons, but I'll just go with #45091: "If your aim is to poison a Russian refugee you're better off just putting a nerve agent in his tea, because he's gonna see this shit from a mile away."

Still, I'm pretty sure I can pull this off, because my Grandma actually used to make a version of it for Thanksgiving, except she suspended the cottage cheese in the lime Jello, rather than having it erupt out of the interior like so many maggots, and there was no tuna, because I guess she never really got over the Depression.

Okay, let's see...Package of lime gelatin...Yeah, that'll taste like crap, but at least it'll toughen up our toenails. Hot water...vinegar...salt...Mm, tastes like dessert already. Tub o' cottage cheese...Mayonnaise... Chopped celery...Y'know, this is more complicated than I thought. I need some volunteers from the audience -- someone chop the onions, someone thinly slice the radishes, and someone drain and flake the tuna, okay? Just think of it as an Amish barn raising, except afterwards we'll eat the barn and it'll taste disgusting.

Wait, there's a problem...My store doesn't carry Borden's. Damn! And despite that tone of blasé assurance at the bottom of the add, I don't have my own Borden's Man. Do any of you have your own Borden's Man? And if you do, will you unchain the poor bastard and let him out of the basement to help me?

No? Fine. Okay, change of plans, let's just tune into Borden's TV shows, "The People's Choice" and "Fury."  I can't seem to find them on my cable guide, but I'm sure Ivan can explain what the hell they're about. (By the way, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has moved, so please adjust your bookmarks accordingly.)

Okay, instead of the Cottage Cheese Tuna Salad, how about we all just wish The Minx and Bill S! a very happy birthday, and we'll call it even.

But first, the traditional Sexy Birthday Lizard!

And because The Minx is also the human companion of Famous Internet Cat ZoeLuna, there's a bonus damp cat in the pic. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The 6th Annual Skelly Awards

By Wo'C's Red Carpet Reporter, Bill S!

The Oscars are airing tomorrow night, which means it's time for us to look at the nominees in this year's four acting categories, and determine who among them has the single most embarrassing prior role, thus winning the not-so-coveted SKELLY Award. As always, if someone was nominated (won) in a previous year, they are ineligible for a nomination again. This rule, however, does not apply to the films they appeared in, as you'll soon see. Let's have a look at this year's contenders.

5th Place: Laurie Metcalf

Laurie made her feature film debut as a hotel maid (an unbilled bit role) in Robert Altman's 1978 comedy A Wedding. Over the years she's won multiple Emmys, a Tony, and is now in the running for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Lady Bird. She faces stiff competition from odds-on favorite Allison Janney in I, Tonya. (Is it too much to hope for a tie in this category?) On the road to all those awards, she made an unfortunate stop in the lame-brained 1988 comedy Stars and Bars.

In the first year of the SKELLY competition -- before it even had a name -- I nominated the movie's star, Daniel Day-Lewis, who came in second place (the winner that year was Denzel Washington, for the even more lame-brained comedy Carbon Copy). I have to confess that it's been nearly 30 years since I saw Stars and Bars, and until I was researching film credits to write this column, I'd completely forgotten that Laurie Metcalf was also in it. I'm guessing she's forgotten it too.

4th Place: Sam Rockwell

The favorite to win this year's Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of those actors (like recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons) whose name in the credits provoke an anticipatory grin. We know whatever the film's quality, we can be assured one bright spot.

Of course, everybody's got to start somewhere, and for Rockwell, his earliest roles were not quite so memorable. One such role was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, playing (as he was billed in the credits) "Head Thug". I'm guessing when this kiddie flick bowed in theaters back in 1990, nobody was imagining that one of the bit players would one day be walking the Red Carpet. Especially since, at the time, the biggest name in the cast was Corey Feldman. And he was playing a turtle.

3rd Place: Frances McDormand
The favorite to win this year's Best Actress Oscar for her role in Three Billboards is the Coen brothers' favorite leading lady, and Joel Coen's favorite lady all around. She's also one of my favorite actresses -- I'll watch her in almost anything.

Which, unfortunately, is how I came to see one of the flimsiest films of her career: Passed Away:

Dead On Arrival

This is probably the most disappointing picture of this year's bunch. It boasts a batch of gifted actors (too many to list, but let's start by asking what possessed Bob Hoskins to sign on) so I had high hopes. Also, I tend to be drawn to movies about dysfunctional families, whether intense dramas like Long Day's Journey Into Night, or black comedies like August: Osage County. This movie is neither of those. It isn't anything, really. One problem is that it seems too short. That's not a usual complaint with bad movies, but the 92 minute running time seems to be the result of laziness more than anything else. Each character is trotted out, their identifying quirk identified (McDormand is saddled with playing the least convincing movie nun since Helen Reddy in Airport '75) and then...nothing much more happens with them. The whole thing feels less like a feature film, and more like a hastily slapped together pilot for a sitcom that would get cancelled in three weeks.

2nd Place: Willem Dafoe
Nominated this year in the Best Supporting Actor category for his subtle, empathetic performance in The Florida Project, Dafore's first film role was in Heaven's Gate, the movie that starred last year's SKELLY winner, Isabelle Huppert. His part in the film wound up on the cutting room floor, so he was spared any true onscreen embarrassment for a dozen more years...when he starred in the kinky melodrama Body of Evidence (see the Better Living Through Bad Movies chapter "Sex, Lies, and Direct-to-Videotape" for a full exegesis of this film).

No evidence of brains

In the third year of the SKELLYs, I nominated Julianne Moore for her role in this film. She only had a small role (her name's not even on the posters), and she looked gorgeous, so our embarrassment level may have been slightly lower that it is for Willem Dafoe, who's one of the leads. He plays a lawyer who's banging his client, which makes him an idiot. And he's cheating on Julianne Moore, which makes him certifiable. And so he manages to embarrass himself more than anyone else in the movie. Including Madonna.

You might be wondering then, why only second place? What could be worse than appearing in a film that was reviewed right here on World O'Crap? I won't hold you in suspense. The winner of the 6th Annual SKELLY Award is...

Gary Oldman

The favorite to win this year's Best Actor Oscar for his role in Darkest Hour, he's never won before, which is surprising. Shouldn't a guy who can play both Sid Vicious and Winston Churchill already have a bunch of them? He generally elevates the quality of the films he's in, but there was one film he couldn't save. That nobody could save. I'm speaking, of course, of The Scarlet Letter:

The most critically mocked picture of 1995 -- even Showgirls received better bad reviews. Publicity described it as "freely adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel", which is an understatement. In the book, Hester Prynne bears a child as the result of an adulterous affair, and is branded a social outcast. The man leading the crusade against her, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, is also the father of her child, which makes him a moral hypocrite, and an asshole. In the movie, though, he's a troubled, romantic, even sympathetic hero.

Putting the "dim" in Dimmesdale.

That's not all they changed. For example: Hester first sees the good reverend when she catches him skinny-dipping, and then returns home to enjoy a hot steamy bath, surrounded by candles, and um, pleasuring herself. The movie adds more action to the story, and a ridiculous happy ending (well, two ridiculous happy endings if you count that bathtub scene). They should have just dropped any pretense they were adapting the book at all and made a porno version. That would have been more honest. (You can probably guess what the "A" would have stood for in that.)

Or better yet, when crafting the screenplay, they should have enlisted the talents of esteemed author Clifford Noadtz.

[This year's column is dedicated to the late Roger Ebert, whose book "I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie" -- a collection of his most scathing reviews -- was a very helpful reference tool, saving me both time and money. It will likely prove to be as helpful in years to come.]

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Slumgullion Episode 45: Black Panther

It's a new Slumgullion! Episode 45: "I Don't Mind That She's a Mutineer...I Do Mind That She's a Drama Queen."

In Part 1, Jeff and Scott grief counsel each other through their co-dependent relationships with Star Wars and Star Trek, and somehow wind up awarding a pair of breasts to Dr. McCoy. In Part II, the New Movie Crew takes on Black Panther, and the fur really flies.

And check out the bonus video below.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, and star Chadwick Boseman make a surprise appearance at the opening night screening at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. At least, it was a surprise to us.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Whatever The Traffic Will Allow

By Keith

Hello, World O’Crappers and let us count the ways Republicans heart Juvenile Road Kill, huh?

  • Sweet, fresh kidneys (there are two per kid)
  • Ripe, accurate retinas (two-per)
  • Sharp precision corneas (two-per)
  • Lovely liver, relatively free of chemicals. Plug & Play. Ready to Roll.
  • Cartilage for orthopedic surgeries: (advanced ACL, other procedures)

The list is by no means complete, but even these few spare parts are enough to keep the average billionaire from having to pay the Death Tax for a few more years; at least long enough to contribute to his 2020 campaign.

Okay, it's a bit like the plot of The Island (2005), but unlike that movie's pen-raised, captive clones, our current NRA-approved system allows for the breeding of free range donors, with harvesting taking place at semi-regular intervals by volunteers, so capital costs remain low.

Thanks for your attention, and please pick up a free copy of our prospectus on your way out.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Moby Dreck: Age of the Dragons (2011)

By Hank Parmer

It should come as no surprise if I note dragons are hot right now. Okay, when it comes to the fire-breathing variety, except for the White Walkers' new pet they're hot all the time. But you know what I mean. Over the last couple of decades, what with advances in computer-generated effects, on TV and the silver screen these mythical beasts have proliferated like Everglades pythons.

But as today's example illustrates, this has not been an unmixed blessing.

Let's say there's a RenFaire-themed alternate reality in which dragons are real. Not only that, but they're prized for their precious vitriol (though not so much for their withering sarcasm) so the creatures are harvested by intrepid bands of landsmen who roam the wilderness in ironclad tour buses. But wait: Wouldn't this be the ideal setting for a new interpretation of a revered American novel, whose dense symbolist prose has bored generations of high school students out of their skulls?

And what if you could hire a distinguished African-American actor to spout chunks of Captain Ahab's dialog, as well as tap a familiar British thespian -- often cast as a menacing but quirky thug who's prone to episodes of astonishing violence -- to play an abbreviated version of the Pequod's unflappable second mate, Stubb?

What could possibly go wrong? Well ... everything.

Even though his name appears nowhere in the credits, at first I strongly suspected my favorite punching bag and bête noire, Mark Atkins had a hand in this mess. It certainly has some of the tell-tale signs, beginning with the blatant lie of its poster: There is a dragon, true, but the protagonist never gets within a hundred miles of a shining broadsword, nor is he ever this up close and personal with one of the beasts. As his filmography shows, Atkins has made a career out of crappy films featuring dragons -- Jack the Giant Killer and P-51 Dragon Fighter, to name only two -- and with A Princess of Mars he proved he was ready to apply that reverse Midas touch to classic literature.

And by this point I could well understand why the guy might have ample reason to use a pseudonym. Yet I have a hard time believing he'd content himself with only one credit under his assumed name, or that he could cast the likes of Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones, or that Atkins would have the self-control to refrain from inserting one of his signature "circling P.O.V." shots somewhere in the film. Even though it scarcely bears contemplation, it seems certain now what we have here is something much more dire: an imitator or -- even worse -- an acolyte.

But on to the movie: The fun begins with a flashback to Ahab's difficult adolescent years. Even at this early age, according to the voice over he's a precociously talented hunter. On this fateful day his beloved kid sister tags along while he checks his snares. He's disappointed to find he's only snagged a couple of rabbits. Someday he's sure he'll bag one of those elusive Whooping Hippogriffs.

Sis skips down to a nearby stream with her pail. A vast, dragon-shaped shadow passes over her unnoticed. While she waits for him to join her, Ahab's sister amuses herself by idly tossing pebbles into the babbling brook. She hears something behind her, freezes and slowly looks back over her shoulder.

Ahab hears the girl's terrified shriek; he races down to the stream, only to find a huge white dragon crouched over her bloody corpse. Ahab, mad with rage, yells his defiance and attacks the beast with his knife. He's knocked down into the water, and the dragon belches a jet of fire. Fade-out on a very artistic shot of the abandoned bucket in a sea of slow-motion flames, while first-person narrator "Ishmael" informs us that no one knows why the dragon didn't finish the job on Ahab, who was terribly burned but somehow survived.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Compulsory Beast Blogging Event

I've been told (over and over again, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and by the ghost of MySpace, which I accidentally summoned during a seance last night while I was using a Ouija board to contact my grandfather in a last ditch attempt to discover the identity of his murderer, and also  where Gramps put the spare furnace filters, because they don't make them for that model anymore and some jerk on Ebay is charging like 200 bucks for a 6-pack!) that it's #LoveYourPetDay, and if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that while popular cultural, contemporary mores, and modern technology have all passed me by, I have one hope to survive the future without being ritually executed by Millennials in a Logan's Run-style shopping mall, and that's to #ObeyTheHashtag!

So here's some cats.


Shadow avec Moondoggie

Monday, February 5, 2018

Better Living Through Bad Movies: The Alligator People (1959)

The stars of Better Living Through Bad Movies: The Audiobook, John Szura and Blanche Ramirez, are back and giving the business to The Alligator People, that lovable 1959 sci-fi classic that perfectly captured America's Cold War fears about atomic mutations, psychoanalysis, and piano-playing reptiles.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
Directed by Courtney Solomon

According to the inevitable narrator who opens the film, we’re in the Empire of Klezmer, or something, where the Mages control all the world’s magic through tax cuts, allowing nothing to trickle down to the Commoners except cabbagey-smelling urine and night soil tossed from a tower window. But Empress Thora Birch is a populist who wants Single Payer Magic for all. [Note: Jeremy Irons, who took the Pro Dragon position in Eragon, will be taking the Con position in this film, because that’s how we roll in Debate Club. ]

Okay, I’m just going to warn you: there’s a whole lot of phallic symbols in this thing. The Empress has a Scepter that controls the Golden Dragons, which are mythical reptiles that presumably run a Chinese takeout place, but she really wants the Rod of Savrille, which controls the Red Dragons, which are mythical reptiles that I'm guessing run a Tae Kwan Do studio.

We open in a Dungeon, and yes, there’s a dragon. This might not be a good movie, but it’s scrupulous about compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. Jeremy and his slave race of Uncle Festers are using a big gyroscope to create a magical pizza cutter that will let him control dragons, overthrow the Empress, and neatly quarter deep dish pies. He is assisted by his chief henchman, a kind of Super-Fester, who wears white lipstick, suggesting that before he turned to Festering and Henching, he was a Ronette, or possibly a Shirelle.

Jeremy is a human Cuisinart in this film, and has set his Scenery Chewing on “Pureé”. But despite all the overacting, the pizza cutter shorts out, and Jeremy has to kill the dragon by slamming the garage door on it.

Outside, we meet our two lovably rogues, Ridley Freeborn, played by Jimmy Olsen from Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Marlon Wayans, of the Way Too Many Wayons Family. I know this film is based on a table top RPG game and all archetypes need to be represented, but after 30 seconds of witless dialogue I really wish these guys would beg a do-over from the Dungeon Master and reroll their characters.

Anyway, they’re upset that dragon blood has set the river on fire, something you don’t usually see outside of Cleveland, so they decide to go burgle Hogwarts.

Meanwhile, Jeremy is demanding the Imperial Council take away Thora’s Scepter. No one else seems all that concerned about the Scepter custody issue, and with Jeremy’s acting still stuck on frappé, his unctuous evil and spittle-flecked energy seems less menacing than just weird and inappropriate -- sort of like Emperor Palpatine addressing a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Thora’s Bearded Advisor (every fantasy queen is issued one) suggests she just swap out the Golden Sceptor for the Rod of Savrille, which is cooler anyways because, I guess, it’s cordless? But Jeremy is eavesdropping with surveillance fairies, and he orders Super-Fester to beat them to the Rod.

While Thora’s Beard struggles to read a map by throwing tiny atomic bombs at it, his Apprentice Beard, Marina – sadly, not the mermaid from Gerry Anderson’s Stingray – catches Jimmy Olsen and Marlon Wayans pilfering magical crap. Suddenly, Super-Fester shows up with some Medieval Times employees and kills the Beard, but Marina summons the map, then opens a portal into a pile of garbage, which seems redundant. They meet Elwood the Dwarf (who’s just as tall as the others – and there are, in fact, genuine Little People in the the film – but I guess he identifies as Dwarf), and then they jump from the garbage dump into a sewer, beating me to the punchline yet again.

They go to a tavern, where they feast family style and infect the bottomless breadsticks with fecal coliform bacteria. Jimmy and Marina are sucked into the map by advanced TRON technology, and learn that they need to find a ruby called “The Eye of the Dragon” which lies at the center of the “Antius Guild Maze” because we’re playing Dungeons & Dragons, so I hope you brought your 8-sided dice.

They travel to a Frank Frazetta painting, where Marlon tickles our funnybones by wearing shoes on his head. The ruby’s owner is Richard O’Brien from Rocky Horror, and for the two minutes and 42 seconds he’s on screen, this is actually a fun movie. 

Richard agrees to give Jimmy the Eye of the Dragon if he makes it through the Maze, but caveat emptor, every other wannabe Theseus has died in the attempt. Now roll Initiative!

Jimmy survives the maze – it’s kind of a short maze, about the length of those you find on the back of a Denny’s children’s menu – and gets the Eye of the Dragon, but Super-Fester captures Marina and tortures her with a pair of prehensile earbuds while the others are arrested by the beautiful Norda, who is both a tough, by-the-book Elf Cop and, I’m pretty sure, a Quinn Martin Production.

She lets Jimmy and Marlon break into Fester’s castle. Jimmy goes to find Marina, Marlon goes to find the map, but the area rug turns into cake batter and he gets caught. Marlon slices Super-Fester’s throat from ear to ear, but Fester is a clumsy shaver and used to exsanguinating neck wounds, so he just chases him around the castle like a harassed Dad trying to put a diaper on an uncooperative toddler.

Fester kills Marlon, then stabs and is about to kill Jimmy, but Marina shoots some Sith-style lightning at him, then opens a portal so they can both escape. It might have been nice if she’d done that before the black guy died, but hey, a trope’s a trope.

Since Klezmer still doesn’t have a Canadian-style single payer plan, Norda takes Marina and Jimmy to Tom Baker from Doctor Who, an elderly Elf who lives atop a huge hollow Christmas tree, and presumably leases out the ground floor to the Keeblers.

Elf Tom heals Jimmy, then lectures everybody on how humans suck, because while Elves use their powers to maintain the delicate magical balance of all life, we use ours to make crappy movies.

Jimmy is in the grip of despair, believing that his friend died for nothing, but is somehow able to find the courage to make out with Marina while Marlon’s corpse achieves room temperature.

Some guy we’ve never met wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask gives Jimmy a magic sword because why the hell not? It’s an hour and twenty minutes into the film already, and “magic sword” really ought to have been on the pre-flight checklist.

They get to the entrance of the Dungeon (apparently the previous one was a warm-up dungeon) but only Jimmy can pass through the force field to get inside. He will have to brave the deadly dangers within, and confront his fate alone, but his companions seem cool with that, and give him a Yeah, Whatever wave as they saunter off to Craft Service.

(To be fair, Marina does bother to tell Jimmy to “be careful,” which films me a glimmer of hope, because that’s the last thing Jimmy said to Marlon.)

Jimmy falls screaming into a hole, puts the ruby into a sconce, reveals a secret treasure room…Stop me if you’ve played this D&D campaign before. And if you have, what was it like being a virgin all through college?

The Rod is in the bony hands of a skeleton. It’s Savrille himself, who’s been cursed to spend eternity delivering exposition to Flavor of the Month pretty boys who will blow their one shot at franchise movie stardom. Skeletor tells Jimmy that anyone who uses the Rod will suffer a terrible fate, which is corroborated by a bunch of murals.

Meanwhile, back at the Chamber of Commerce, a flock of Golden Dragons are approaching, so Jeremy convinces all the Mages to cast Magic Missile. But they miss.

Jimmy emerges from the Dungeon and finds Super-Fester has captured Marina (again), along with the others. He promises to release them if Jimmy hands over the Rod, but then afterward shockingly admits, “I lied.” The Elf and the Dwarf both break free and start kicking ass, which I assume they could have done earlier, but then we would have missed that great, “I lied” line. Fester goes through a portal to the Chamber of Commerce, with Jimmy in hot pursuit.

Jeremy goes up on the roof where there’s more acting room and summons a bunch of Red Dragons, while Fester and Jimmy have a sword fight. Their blades glow purple and gold and shoot lightning and are so close without actually being light sabers that you sense the power –  not of magic, but of injunctions.

Jimmy stabs Fester in the back, then throws him off the tower, while Jeremy throws his arms up and screams “Let their BLOOD…RAIN from the SKIIIIIIIIIES” while his entire body violently shakes, like James Brown getting up on the good foot. 

(You know, I used to think Jeremy’s bespoke, low-key performance as Alfred in Batman v. Superman was an acting choice, but having seen this film, I now think it was doctor’s orders; he let it rip in Dungeons & Dragons, and goes into such a hammy spasm I'm convinced he gave himself a rupture.)

Anyway, Jimmy attacks Jeremy and gets his ass kicked, but he’s saved by Marina, who gets her ass kicked, then by Ellwood and Norda, who each check the Ass Kicked box.

Jimmy grabs the Rod and gets a crazy look in his eye, but then remembers Skeletor’s warning, and shatters it, sacrificing ultimate power and his deposit.

Jeremy gets eaten by a CGI dragon, then Jimmy and his companions go to Marlon’s grave, where they gang-fondle the ruby, and everybody turns into Tinkerbell for some reason.

The end.

I know you're flushed with victory, conquest, and blood-lust, but your Dungeon Master asks that you take a moment to collect all die, stat sheets, and golf pencils, while his mom asks that you not leave any pizza boxes in the basement, because it attracts silverfish.