SQOG - the Sasquatch Blog
This blog is about my daily favorite moments in entertainment. Constantly surrounded by the barrage of films, television, music, through an increasing variety of tools used to view them, each day I want to take a look at what seperates itself from the noise and the clutter. Basically, whatever entertainment amuses, inspires, or infuriates me on a daily basis. This is going to be really random, sloppy thoughts without much of a filter, just run with it. So, despite SQOG sounding like some kind of ancient Roman platoon, yes, this is a blog, and let's see how this goes!
****All the posts below are bigtime SPOILERS if you haven't seen, read, or heard the entertainment I am talking about. Look at the post heading for the day and decide if you want to be spoiled on that topic or not.****
December 2011 ---- November 2011 ---- October 2011 ---- September 2011 ---- August 2011 posts ---- July 2011 posts ---- June 2011 posts ---- May 2011 posts ---- April 2011 posts ---- March 2011 posts ---- February 2011 posts
-Wednesday, January 4th, 2012: TELEVISION CELEBRITY CAMEOS - Star Trek & Others
Celebrity cameos in television shows are nothing new, though they unfortunately seem to happening less and less. With the rise of television drama as a legit artistic competitor to movies, there aren’t a lot of television shows that are willing to break the 4th wall just to get some stunt ratings. Because that is exactly what happens to the show; unless the celebrity is buried under tons of makeup, it pulls a viewer right out of the show because they are suddenly watching a real-life person, who they have never seen in this television world, interact with the show’s made-up characters. It’s jarring and it’s why you won’t see Snookie or a Real Housewife on MAD MEN or FRINGE. Some celebrities like to use a television cameo as a quick fame check, basking in the applause of the studio audience and reminding America that they are still out there, popular, and making movies. This kind of opportunistic stunt feels crass to me. But if a celebrity is really a fan of a show, they will do next to anything to get on that set for a second or two, even if they are just in the background. I like that kind of cameo, because it speaks to true passion on behalf of the celebrity. One of my favorite quick cameos is on FRIENDS, with the famous Australian Olympic swimmer, Ian Thorpe. I won’t judge his choice of programming, but he begged the FRIENDS producers to put him in an episode and so they put him in the background of one shot. You can barely see him in this clip, but that is him under the ‘Central Perk’ sign talking to another background actor. I doubt anyone but the studio audience and Thorpe’s family and friends knew he was there, but how cool is it that he didn’t force a larger cameo on the producers, opting to just be a part of the team. Well done Thorpedo!
Bar none, the strangest cameos have come from the world of STAR TREK, specifically THE NEXT GENERATION and DEEP SPACE NINE. Being a fan of STAR TREK carries a large stigma, so it is always surprising to have celebrities actually willing to come on the show. There are the normal humorous guest stars, such as Kelsey Grammar and Bebe Neuwirth in separate TNG episodes, Dr. Stephen Hawking playing poker with Data in TNG, Christian Slater in ST6, Bryan Singer in ST:NEMESIS, and Jason Alexander in VOYAGER. But there are some truly weird cameos and I want to list my top three favorites:
#3 – King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein on STAR TREK: VOYAGER. This guy was such a fan of ST that he came over to America just so he could play a regular starship crewman with no dialogue. He was a prince at the time, but due to the stringent rules of the Screen Actors Guild, even a prince isn’t allowed to have dialogue on television. Of course, now the dude is the freakin’ King of Jordan, so I’m thinking that maybe we should get a STAR TREK program back on the air to appease the Middle Eastern fans. What say you Paramount??
#2 – James Worthy on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. 3-time NBA Champion for the LA Lakers, Worthy is a basketball Hall of Fame legend. He came onto the ST set to play an abnormally tall scowly Klingon who gives Worf the silent treatment under interrogation. The makeup process that people have to bear on these shows is astonishing, so I am always impressed when celebrities want to hide their well-known mugs so they can play a character. If I remember the scene correctly, Worthy does a pretty damn good job at being hilariously laconic. Granted, probably not that hard for someone to do under pounds of makeup, but I do remember laughing at the reactions of the TNG crew at Worthy’s steadfast silence.
#1 – Mick Fleetwood on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. OK, this is just strange. Mick Fleetwood, the drummer for legendary rock band, Fleetwood Mac, came on the show to play some sort of fish alien. The crazy thing is that it is a complete body costume that hides any clue to the identity of the wearer. I mean, no one watching the show would be able to tell that Mick Fleetwood was the guy under this fish costume. Not only did he play this dialogue-less fish man, but he shaved his well-known beard so that the makeup team could apply the fish face. Now that is dedication. To appear on a show unbeknownst to any audience member and to sacrifice a defining characteristic is a sign of a true fan and an amazingly clear sense of humility for a celeb. Well done Mick, for people who actually know that it is you under those weird fish lips, this is hilarious!
-Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012: MOVIE POSTERS OF 2011 - The Best
I do love a good movie poster that creatively works on multiple levels. A poster should get you excited to see the movie, but a truly great movie poster will also somehow incorporate themes or tone into its images. And it should be made up of intriguing and beautiful pictures instead of the dreaded line-the-cast-up generically photoshopped posters. Coming up with a creative movie poster idea goes against what most studios are prepared to do. They would rather get a boring poster out there than take the time and money to figure out an enticing and creative poster that might really pique the interest of the viewers. I closely follow Mondo, the poster art boutique arm of the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. Every week, Mondo commissions artists to create new posters outside of the studio system for popular movies. Take a look at some of the best Mondo prints of 2010. I own a bunch of these, but particularly love the saloon-feel of the TRUE GRIT posters and the simplicity of the first set of STAR WARS posters(currently selling for over $500 each online!). Also check out the wonderful Hitchcock-esque poster that Mondo did for the television show LOST. In terms of modern studio posters, there are a few I remember that really stick in my mind as being particularly excellent. I love the poster for THE TRUMAN SHOW. That technique of using small pictures to form a whole larger picture was quite popular for a while in the early ‘00s, but using the idea for this movie in particular perfectly fits the theme. Jim Carrey’s character in the film is created by the public, so by having his face digitally rendered by hundreds of tiny frames from the film encapsulates one of the main themes. Still not sure if I like the balloon-y, Pixar-esque typeface of the title though. But still, subtle and powerful, this is the kind of creativity that film posters need to strive for. On a completely different level, I love the poster for THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. That innocent and eager look on Steve Carrell’s face perfectly communicates the personality of the main character. And the orange background makes it feel like a Disney movie, though the hilarious R-rated film is certainly not. My entertainment bible, Entertainment Weekly, recently came out with a photo gallery of the best and worst film posters of 2011. I differ on a lot of their suggestions, but I thought I could go through them with you, tell you what I though, and give you a Trevor Top 3. So follow along with the EW images and let’s go . . .
Ugh, boring HUNGER GAMES poster, it tells us nothing new and is almost the laziest thing you could do in a poster, shoot the hero in dark profile. Clever use of Ghostface mask in SCREAM 4, with a decent tagline, too bad the movie was such a bomb. Lovely hint of the plot for MIGNIGHT IN PARIS, and this is truly a beautifully drawn poster with how the real world bleeds into the famous painting. I guess I’m just not a MUPPET guy. Oooo, love this HAYWIRE poster, like the credits for PSYCHO, disturbing mismatch lines that upset your visual cortex, though the EW summary pays it the highest compliment, that it feels like the poster for a cult ‘70s thriller. Tagline kinda sucks though, but I am a sucker for this retro-visual style. Meh, I like the idea of the RUM DIARY poster, but all the copy crowds it, maybe if the bottles were spelled out on a beach, that would be pretty cool. No way, that CONTAGION poster is disgusting and creepy; why would you go see a film whose poster you are horrified by?! HARRY POTTER, boring, and what are those random red blotches? I’d say blood, but that seems too hardcore for HP. MY WEEK WITH MARILYN does show how completely Michelle Williams captures the Monroe spirit in a stark lovely image, but I don’t like to strain to read the reviews, wish they weren’t there. How do you top THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE poster? Without a doubt in my mind, this is the poster of 2011. Evocative, eye-catching, It is both ballsy and over-the-top, which is exactly how Uday Hussein lived his awful life. It screams decadence and privilege. I could see how people would like the PLANET OF THE APES poster, it just frustrates me to work around the titles to see the main character. 50/50 is just a still from the movie, which for the record is the laziest poster you can do, but the look on Seth Rogen’s face and the fantastic tagline almost make up for it. OUR IDIOT BROTHER just looks like it’s about Jesus in a field. And sometimes, like with THE IRON LADY, I just don’t like it. Maybe it’s the fuzzy black or that coy look on her face, but this poster is guilty of hammering metaphor in our faces and that doesn’t work. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY is a similar idea to TRUMAN SHOW, and I think it works here for Gary Oldman, but suffers in comparison to TRUMAN’s superior blend of theme and image. Big dark iconic shot for DARK KNIGHT RISES, this is everything a teaser poster should be, and the Nolan BATMAN series has always done an excellent job with its posters. Nope, sorry, can’t get past the appalling film itself enough to judge HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, no way, no how. I like the idea of THE DREAM HOUSE poster, but unless the girls are part of the house and haunting it, I don’t quite see how this image works. Evocative color pattern though. I think this is just personal taste, I like that WE BOUGHT A ZOO is trying for a children’s book kind of image, I just wouldn’t want to see the film based on this poster. Love that first GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO poster with the exposed Rooney Mara, it tells us how dark yet exposed our main character is. The book is transgressive and this poster promises that the film will be the same. BRIDESMAIDS poster is fun, everyone looks fantastic, but it’s only a slightly more interesting take on the traditional film cast line-up. Wow, BRAVE has a beautiful poster that is unlike anything in Pixar’s vaults. Lush and big, with the promise of mystery and adventure, with a female protagonist for once, but saddled with a tagline that may be the most generic poster lines ever. IDES OF MARCH is a fantastic and simple concept that is best described by the EW writer, seriously, they get everything in this poster just right. I really think I need to see DRIVE before I can comment on this poster, I agree with the EW commentator, it just seems silly to me right now, but I really really want to see this film! That image of the baby foot is stunningly tender in THE TREE OF LIFE, but, sorry, it feels a bit full of itself, as if Malick’s film was nothing less than the definitive discourse on humanity. And I don’t like the second TofL poster, it feels like a Kodak gallery book. So for those keeping track:
T Top 3 Posters of 2011:
#1: DEVIL’S DOUBLE
#2: DARK KNIGHT RISES
I won’t really go into detail on the EW gallery of the Worst Film Posters of 2011, but will say that I could look at Natalie Portman’s legs all day, and come on, the juxtaposition between Western and future in that moody, manly, iconic COWBOYS & ALIENS poster is awesome. Too bad the movie sucked. And while the LARRY CROWNE poster is pretty terrible, I have to agree that HUGO’s poster is the most disappointing poster of 2011. This glorious movie needed help out there in the public’s eye, because the subject matter was not something that would have people lining up around the block for. So instead of showing off the cuteness of the cast or the visual confection that Scorcese paints, the studio decided that the way to get people to see this movie is to show them a picture of a giant key with a smarmy tagline?!? What an atrocious idea. I hope this movie finds some legs on video, but I certainly know that this poster actively hindered people from seeing HUGO.
-Monday, January 2nd, 2012: CALVIN & HOBBES - A Lonely Little Boy And His Tiger
Man, I still miss CALVIN & HOBBES. Even though the seminal comic about a troublesome little boy and his stuffed tiger was written all through my formative years (5-15), I preferred to get the anthology books so I could cruise through all the storylines in one long go as opposed to looking forward to short Calvin shenanigans every Sunday morning. I saw this cute little video online today, a short compilation of some of Calvin’s more impressive snowmen creations, and it made me really miss the little bugger with dinner roll shoes and his sarcastic tiger. There is always a lot going on in a C&H comic, but honestly, most of that went right over my head when I was younger. What I loved was the extraordinary creativity that Bill Watterson brought to this series. I loved Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff fantasies, all colored in drawn in such vivid style. I loved the idea of Calvinball, basically a game without rules, and thought it was one of my great failures as a kid that I was never able to launch a successful game with my friends. I loved the long and deadly wagon rides Clavin would take, desperately jealous that his backyard was apparently the size of a national park. I loved the depiction of how brutal Hobbes after-school tackle of Calvin would be, with clothes and lunchboxes exploding out to the far corners of the front lawn. I loved the war between Calvin and his evil bike. I loved his exasperated parents, especially his mischievous father, who would often lecture about character and nature, but also sometimes spin hilarious tales to tease Calvin, such as how they bought him at a Kmart Blue Light Special one lazy afternoon. I loved Calvin’s creative uses of a cardboard box to create a Transmogrifier and a Duplicator. I’m sure babysitters worldwide cursed Bill Watterson for coming up with such wonderful ways in which kids could torture their own versions of Rosalyn the babysitter. The various snowman arts that Calvin would create often inspired me to go out and create similar tableaus, with very disappointing results. Though I am proud to say that 3 winters ago, my brother, sister, and I created an evil snowman with red eyes and upraised arms and placed it directly outside my parents’ bedroom window. Classic. And I love that website I just linked with the various snowmen Calvin has created through the years. My favorite has to be the twisted glee Calvin’s chicken takes in chopping off a snowman’s head, but I also really love the stink-eye Calvin gives the reader when he tries to make an anatomically correct snowman in the front yard. Though I wish there was a webpage that detailed the attacks of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons.
I beg you, please, please, go read this page, a loving breakdown of classic 25 C&H comics by some guy on the internet. It’s sweet, insightful, and far more literate than I could hope to be. The writer/artist behind C&H is quite a complicated guy named Bill Watterson. As I started to comprehend a bit more about some of the ideas and philosophy behind the strip, it became clear that Watterson has a ton to say to the world about art, industrialization, the educational system, and religion. Weighty topics, but I love how they get explored from the viewpoint of a (super intelligent) six year old in the Sunday funnies. It’s telling that the main characters are named after two famous philosophers, John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes. I’m not sure how much Calvin and Hobbes’s beliefs and identities line up with their namesakes, I’m not in college anymore, but it shows how deep Watterson wants to go. Watterson would have huge fights with the newspapers that printed his comics, never satisfied with the artistic and philosophical restrictions that were placed on him. Watterson famously ended C&H in 1995, claiming he had said all he wanted to say and was ready to move on with his life. He has stuck to that belief and in this age of crass commercialism and artistic sell-outs, it is damn refreshing to hear of an artist so immune to the lures of fame. Whatever the deeper underpinnings, C&H always makes me smile, losing me in Calvin’s endless adventures. I remember being so jealous of this kid, all the crazy worlds he could come up with and how dedicated Hobbes is to him. But then I’d think about it a bit more and realize that Calvin is a pretty lonely kid. He doesn’t have any friends at school, he has an antagonistic relationship with Susie, and he always gets beaten up. He sees the world differently, and while that is so cool to see, its so lonely for Calvin that he needs to create a best friend in his mind. If the strip weren’t so uproariously funny, it would be kind of sad. There was one long strip I remember, with no word bubbles, where Calvin is just having a crappy day. He gets beaten up, he fails a test, he slips in the rain, his parents yell at him, he hates his dinner, but it’s all okay when he gets to snuggle besides the fire against a warm tiger belly. So very perfect.
It’s mentioned in the above article, but to me, the emotional peak of CALVIN & HOBBES’s 10-year run came with the raccoon story. It’s a simple and devastating story about how Calvin finds an injured raccoon in the woods, takes him home, cares for him with his mom and dad, only to have the raccoon die the next day. Every kid has to come to terms with death eventually; I remember when the priest at my Catholic School, Father Pritchard, died when I was younger. I liked him a lot, and it was a shocking experience, knowing that there is an entity out there that can come sweep your loved ones away at any random point in your life. And that is part of the beauty of Watterson’s comic. It tells stories that are so universal that even if you are just glancing through a C&H strip on the subway one morning, it will still remind you of another time in your life and give you a little smile. And isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Access your emotions, make you think about your role in the world and remind you of the person you are? Anyways, the strip ends in the most powerful panel in the series. Calvin is walking through the woods, talking to Hobbes, trying to grapple with the idea of death. He admits that is makes sense as part of the life cycle. Then the last panel has Calvin, terrified, carried up tightly in Hobbes arms, whispering, “…but don’t you go anywhere,” and Hobbes, with eyes closed, says “Don’t worry.” Watterson’s talent as a drawing artist cannot be underestimated. Faces and actions are often exaggerated, but they feel right, such as the noxious reaction Calvin has to cigarette smoking. But look at that last panel and look at how Watterson stages that hug between Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin is completely off the ground in Hobbes’s arms, so vulnerable and small, so completely tied to his friend. His eyebrows are up in worry, he is naked in front of his friend, baring his need and love for Hobbes and in the best way possible, Hobbes squeezes back hard and lets him know that all of Calvin’s love is safe in Hobbes’s heart. Whew, I'm starting to tear up at my desk, I’ll stop. But it’s just an example of how moving CALVIN & HOBBES can be. I remember it for being wildly creative, funny as hell, and a form of childhood escapism, but I’ll mostly remember it for being about the sweet heart that Calvin has buried beneath his bluster and philosophizing.
Ladies and gentleman, that is how we start 2012!