Friday, October 31, 2008

David Alan Grier Begs Black People: Don't Do Stupid Sh#t

Longtime readers of this blog (LOL, what?) know that there's nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than talking about race. I prefer to just apologize whenever the subject comes up. I'm sorry I'm even writing this post. Can we talk about the weather instead? That's why I'm so glad there are black people like David Alan Grier who can talk about race without any discomfort. Can you imagine what it would be like to talk about race if there were no black people?

Posted by matt tobey

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Brand quits BBC over prank calls


Russell Brand: 'It was a really stupid thing to do"

Russell Brand has resigned from his Radio 2 programme following prank calls he made with Jonathan Ross to actor Andrew Sachs.

It follows a public apology from Ross over his "juvenile and thoughtless remarks" in the calls.

Earlier, it was announced the pair would be suspended and all their shows taken off air until the BBC has investigated the calls made on Radio 2.

Fawlty Towers actor Sachs, 78, said he had "respect" for Brand's decision.

Sachs was upset after Brand and Ross left a series of lewd messages on his voicemail as part of a pre-recorded show, taped on 16 October.

The pair made obscene comments about the actor's 23-year-old granddaughter Georgina Baillie during four separate phone calls.

'Brilliant actor'

Andrew Sachs says he accepts Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross's apologies

Brand said in a statement that he took "complete responsibility" for the incident.

"As I only do the radio show to make people laugh I've decided that, given the subsequent coverage, I will stop doing the show," he said.

He added: "I got a bit caught up in the moment and forgot that, at the core of the rude comments and silly songs, were the real feelings of a beloved and brilliant comic actor and a very sweet and big-hearted young woman."

Earlier, he told reporters waiting outside his home: "I'm sorry that I have upset Mr Sachs."

He had presented his Saturday night show since November 2006 and is believed to have been paid more than £200,000 a year.

I am not going to take it anywhere. I'm not out for revenge
Andrew Sachs

Meanwhile, Ross said in his statement: "I am deeply sorry and greatly regret the upset and distress that my juvenile and thoughtless remarks on the Russell Brand show have caused."

He said he had not issued a statement before because he had intended to apologise "to all those offended" on his Friday night chat show.

"However, it was a stupid error of judgement on my part and I offer a full apology," it added.

During the calls, Ross swore and said Brand had slept with Sachs' granddaughter.

Brand and Ross are my two favourite BBC entertainers. They provide me with laugh out loud moments!
Mark, Leicester

More than 27,000 people have complained to the BBC while watchdog Ofcom has launched its own investigation.

The corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust, has called a special meeting of its editorial standards committee for Thursday.

Director general Mark Thompson will report management findings to the meeting and tell bosses what action he plans to take.

'Breach of privacy'

Announcing the suspensions in an earlier statement, Mr Thompson said he would be returning from a holiday and would "in the coming days, announce what action we will take".

Mark Thompson
This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers
Mark Thompson

"Since Sunday, I have been in regular contact with the senior executives I tasked with handling this issue," he said.

"In the meantime, I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned.

"This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers."

He added his "own personal and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, his family and to licence fee payers for the completely unacceptable broadcast".

BBC One show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross was due to have been filmed at BBC Television Centre, west London, later on Wednesday.

Guests on the show were to have been Sir David Attenborough, comedian Frank Skinner, US teen singer Miley Cyrus and band The Killers.

A decision has yet to be taken on what should be shown in its place on Friday night.

Ross's Saturday morning radio show, has also been pulled from Radio 2's schedules.

'Lovely old man'

Georgina Baillie
Georgina Baillie said "justice" had been done over the suspensions
Meanwhile, Ms Baillie told the Sun newspaper's website she was "thrilled" over the suspensions "because justice has been done".

"Me and my granddad are both really happy," she added.

"I'm glad it's all over with, as far as I'm concerned."

Earlier, she told the paper: "What's funny about humiliating a lovely old man who has never harmed anyone in his life?"

Brand and Ross were "beyond contempt"," she added.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown criticised the pair for "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour", while Conservative shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a speech on Wednesday that it was "wrong for broadcasters to produce programmes that legitimise negative social behaviour".

He told BBC News the corporation's reaction to the affair was "concerning".

Original here

The Beatles finally go digital for MTV's Rock Band

By Frank Caron


Full coverage of the announcement that the Beatles will be the subject of an all-new, standalone title.

Original story

The battle between Activision, makers of Guitar Hero, and MTV-Harmonix, makers of Rock Band, has been a battle for the bands, quite literally. The two have for years now been engaged in a war for exclusivity with some of the world's all-time greatest musicians in an effort to build the ultimate set lists for their respective music-based video games. But the most sought-after and coveted trophy in music, The Beatles, lay unclaimed. That is, until now. MTV, wielding the power of its parent Viacom, has claimed the Liverpool legends for itself, meaning that Rock Band will be the exclusive platform for the advent of the first ever digitally-distributed Beatles tracks.

Ars was one of many outlets that received an invite to an announcement scheduled for Thursday morning at 10am EDT. In advance of the press conference, however, the Wall Street Journal confirmed the industry-rattling news.

The importance of this event vastly transcends gaming. This is the first time that the Beatles music has been licensed for release in a digitally-distributed format; the songs have never before been officially licensed for release online, even through popular services such as iTunes. The implications of what this could mean for Apple Corps' business decisions moving forward could be staggering, but at this time only the deal for Rock Band has been announced.

Needless to say, Beatles exclusivity is a astronomic win for MTV. Activision and Harmonix, the two premiere corporations behind the plastic instrument revolution, have been butting heads over musicians for quite some time now. Beyond the inclusion of contemporary favorites like the Foo Fighters, both Activision and Harmonix have been vying to sign some of the biggest labels in rock music, including the likes of The Who, Guns n' Roses, Metallica, and AC/DC. This war peaked at this year's E3 event, when the two battled head to head with exclusive deals for Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour.

Part of the appeal for Apple Corps here has to be the fact that the music in Rock Band has been selling in record numbers. As the music industry has come upon tough years, Rock Band and its full digital distribution model shines as a beacon of hope for an industry that has struggled to catch up to the times. With the video game platform only growing by the day, Apple Corps can rest easy knowing it can sit idly by and collect the income from both old fans dying to play the classic tracks in their video games as well as new, young fans who will come to know the Beatles music through the game rather than the radio.

How exactly MTV and Harmonix will utilize this newfound property is not yet certain. Previously, stand-alone games have been released for big bands: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith focuses on the award-winning band almost exclusively. Whether this is the strategy that Harmonix wants to use, or whether it will continue with its strategy of offering downloadable tracks for its suite of Rock Band games is unclear. Meanwhile, Activision is on the outside looking in as the most popular musical act in history signs on with its competitor. Might we see Guitar Hero: The Monkees edition in response?

This news comes following word from former Beatle Paul McCartney, who prophesied that the Beatles would be going digital by the end of 2008 and was rumored to have signed a deal with Apple at one point. It also puts to rest previous rumors which suggested that a Beatles-branded Guitar Hero game was in the cards.

More details about the deal are expected to arrive at the joint MTV and Apple Corps press conference. Ars Technica will be listening in and readers can expect follow-up coverage on the specific game-related details on Opposable Thumbs following the call.

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Fuck Janet Leigh And Her Shower: 13 Horror Scenes That Will Really Terrify You

By G. Martin

Halloween rules. Not because of the candy or the parties or the fact that it allows full-grown men to act like preschoolers or women to dress like brazen sluts. No, Halloween rules because of the movies. This is the only time of year when Hollywood calls attention to all the bloodiest, grisliest, nastiest things in life and makes them... fun. This is also the time of year when all of the so-called experts trot out their tired, predictable lists of the films that allegedly make them wet the bed. You know them before you read them: Night Of The Living Dead, Psycho (original flavor), Jaws, Rosemary’s Baby, The Birds, blah, blah, fucking blah. Each entry is about as spine-chilling as a rerun of Full House. This year, the problem has been addressed. Strap on your Depends and get your read on.

13. The Exorcist III: No Time For Anesthetic
Director/screenwriter William Peter Blatty took complete control of what he viewed as his masterwork and came up with something only slightly more redeemable than the execrable Exorcist II: The Heretic, but there is a diamond in this pile of coal during a seemingly innocuous sequence that takes place in a hospital hallway. Nurses and various staffers move in an out of an uncomfortably long shot until out of nowhere, an avenging knight in white satin comes in to perform some unnecessary surgery. This kind of cinematic “surprise” or “Gotcha!” is often dismissed as a cheap way of getting an easy visceral reaction from people, but fear is a physical response, so what’s the fucking problem?

12. Eyes Without A Face: Plastic Surgery Gone Very, Very Wrong
The word “haunting” is abused a lot this time of year, sort of how assholes like to throw around words like “genius” or “brilliant” at pretentious parties. The imagery of this French flick stays with you like bad shrimp, but the excruciatingly hard to watch facial surgery is the section that will leave the deepest psychic scars. Weird, trippy and featuring a visage mask that makes Michael Myers’ Shatner gear seem cute in comparison, this graphic classic will haunt you, for real.

11. Saw: Here Piggy, Piggy
Although the constant flow of sequels has generated a product stream of ever-diminishing quality, the first film is a tidy morality tale with just the right blend of successful influences (Se7en, The Twilight Zone) to make it work. The best part of the original is the fact that its sick events could actually take place in “real” life. The strongest example of this idea is embodied when Jigsaw (dressed in a cloak and pig mask… WTF?) jumps out of the closet to kidnap Cary Elwes’ future cellmate, answering the perennial question of whether we're alone when we come home to an empty apartment with a resounding no.

10. Twilight Zone: The Movie: "Wanna See Something Really Scary?"
In a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind, we open on Albert Brooks and Dan Akroyd driving along a quiet highway playing TV theme song trivia as they make their way into a wondrous land of imagination. Could there be anything safer or more non-threatening? So when everyone’s second-favorite Ghostbuster asks the guy with the best white-man’s afro ever if he wants to see something scary, no one actually expects the subsequently horrifying results. The false sense of security that’s established is precisely what makes the payoff so ridiculously effective. Unfortunately, it would be another 13 years before Akroyd returned to the horror genre with his 1996 masterpiece, Celtic Pride.

9. Don’t Look Now: Little Red Riding Midget
From Freaks to Twin Peaks to the Austin Powers oeuvre, evil midgets (dwarves, if you’re nasty) have been terrorizing audiences for eons. But the most terrifying member of the Lollipop Guild has to be the deformed “Little Red Riding Hood” from this unforgiving tale of a missing child, starring a young(er) Donald Sutherland. This is a twist ending so intense, the only real-life comparison (spoiler alert!) would be if Natalee Holloway’s mom thought she spotted her daughter in a crowd, tracked her down and just when they were about to hug, “Natalee” pulled a knife on her. The ending also happens to be the midget’s shining moment, so once you’re done the with first viewing, wash the Mini-Me out of your underwear and give it another whirl to see how they put it all together.

8. It: John Wayne Gacy’s A Pussy
One of the strongest adaptations of Stephen King's work features the most frightening character to ever spring from his cesspool of evil, the ultimate killer clown, Pennywise. Forgetting for a second that most people now associate his name with that crappy pop-punk band, Pennywise the character was not one to laugh at. Combining every violent, child-killing, “tears of a clown” stereotype known to man, this is the harlequin of hate that John Wayne Gacy could have been if he tried a little harder (and had superpowers). Picking a particular stand-out scene is difficult in this case because every second that Tim Curry is onscreen is disturbing to the bowels, but his first emergence in the mouth of a sewer is probably the most chilling. Good thing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were there to reclaim the drainage underground and save the day.

7. The Shining: Bath Time With Grandma
It’s happened to the best of us. You start making out with a total piece of ass and just as you’re rounding second, she up and morphs into a monstrous sea hag. Like going home with Julianne Hough but waking up with Cloris Leachman, poor Jack Nicholson gets the undead switcheroo pulled on him in the greatest of the Stephen King adaptations (naturally, King supposedly hates it).

6. 28 Days Later: When Monkeys Attack
Right up there with upside-down crucifixion and being mortally incinerated, death by chimp attack has got to be one of the worst ways to kick the bucket. Now, death by rabid, infected chimp? That's like a trillion times worse, so one can imagine how deeply these "ape bites man" images affected maimouphobics around the world. Then again, some would consider this scene to err on the side of comedy, since watching lefty hippies getting slaughtered by the very animals they're trying to save is hilarious on several levels.

5. 1408: "We've Only Just Begun..."
Horror legend Lon Chaney once said, “There is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.” The same can be said about shitty pop songs blaring inappropriately in the dead of night. After seeing this film, binging and purging won't be the only things that cross your mind the next time you hear The Carpenters' warbling "We've Only Just Begun" (this fan-made trailer will have to suffice for now in lieu of the specific scene in question).

4. Friday The 13th Part 2: Make Your Fucking Bed
Just because the title has a number in it doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie will suck (Superman II, anyone?). Providing one of the best scares in the series outside of Kevin Bacon getting an arrow in the neck, a witless teenage girl (as if there were any other kind) walks into her friends’ bedroom and finds nothing but a messy bed. Wearing a sack over his head (that's way way creepier than any goalie mask) with only one eyehole cut out, Jason pops out from under the sheets and eviscerates her (natch). Lesson? Follow your mother’s advice and make your bed everyday, or a knife-wielding maniac will graphically punish you… and then she'll tell your father.

3. The Strangers: Come And Knock On My Door
In The Strangers, like in the Rocky Dennis biopic of yore, it’s all about the masks. The head villain’s eerily random intro (or rather, the introduction of his mask) as he silently sidles up behind Liv Tyler and then just stands there is easily one of the most unsettling sequences in recent memory. Guess pillow cases aren’t just for Klan rallies or to cry on anymore.

2. Se7en: Turn Your Head And Cough
Although most would consider this one to be a thriller rather than a straight-up horror movie, David Fincher’s pre-Fight Club opus contains one the best shock moments of all time. When Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman get to the “Sloth” entry on Kevin Spacey’s list, they discover what looks like a rotting corpse strapped to a mattress in a correspondingly smelly room. Then the “corpse” coughs and proves that the rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated. Turns out this is what happens when you spend an entire year in bed. Now that’s fucking lazy.

1. Audition: Coming Home In A Body Bag
The Japanese horror industry has taken a beating lately due to the slew of reputation-tarnishing American remakes that pollute the cinema like so much bad sushi. Thankfully, this savage little torture flick’s legacy remains perfectly pristine… like a surgical tool. A twisted bait-and-switch story involving an innocent-looking manga pixie and her would-be seducer delivers its finest moment as the camera lingers on a random bag of laundry lying on the floor of our “heroine’s” modest apartment. Then the bag suddenly starts to move… and scream. The ensuing shenanigans will make you think twice the next time the cute chick at the massage parlor decides to go off the menu. Make the wrong move and you might get a decidedly unhappy ending.

Make sure to check in Friday for a special Halloween-and-beyond-themed version of Films From The Cable Afterlife.

Original here

Charlie Kaufman Will Break Your Brain in Synecdoche, New York

By Kaila Hale-Stern

Synecdoche, New York, the latest film from Charlie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" Kaufman, creates its own brand of magical realism crossed with science fiction. The tale of a theater director with a grotesque disease directing a play that never ends, Synecdoche, New York is a meditation on relationships — and time travel. Kaufman has played with our sense of reality in his movies before, letting us climb into a celebrity's brain with Being John Malkovich for example. But Synecdoche is a place where a house can be casually on fire for thirty years without that seeming out of the ordinary. Petals can fall from tattooed flowers. Fast-forwarding through time soon comes to feel like the norm instead of something strange. This is truly scifi as art — or maybe art as scifi. But is that good? Spoilers ahead.

No one working in film today has perfected the art of the trippy, mind-bending script quite like screenwriter Kaufman. As a screenwriter, he proved that it was possible for a writer to truly make a movie his own, and to achieve a level of notoriety for writing rare in Hollywood. But it is almost impossible to review Synecdoche, New York, the latest effort from Kaufman's fevered brain, since the movie doesn't abide by any movie rules I know.

This time Kaufman the writer also stepped into the role of director, and the result, while defying every convention you've ever heard of, ultimately runs on in sore need of an editor. But even this could be an intentional effect — because everything is speculative in the strange, half-scifi world of Synecdoche.

The story starts out mundanely enough, introducing us to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Caden Cotard (Kaufman loves his quirky names) and his strained family life. Caden is a theater director in a small, upstate New York town, about to launch a new production of Death of a Salesman. He's married to a free-spirited, frustrated artist, Adele Lack (Catherine Keener), and they have a precocious young daughter, Olive. It soon becomes clear that Caden is suffering from a life-threatening, mysterious illness, with doctors urging that he see a neurologist. The affliction is manifested as a sort of light-hearted grotesque — emphasis on toilet humor, bulging pustules and uncontrollable body gyrations abound. With his marriage to Adele barely functional and his future uncertain, Caden flirts forlornly with buxom box-office girl Hazel (Samantha Morton, with a lot more hair than she had in Minority Report).

This seems to set the stage for a story about relationships and life crises, all done up in what Kaufman is really best at: the art of making awkward dialogue poignant, scripts saturated in quibbling exchanges made brilliant in their accuracy. But everything goes haywire after Adele elects to take Olive to Berlin — that's when Caden's reality, and the audience's, begins to come undone. Before long, the movie, which had already shown hints of its surrealism under the surface, jumps any recognizable genre. We all start experiencing time dilation and strange skips; the world seems to progress around Caden without his knowledge, and he's our anchor in it.

Caden, still sick, but still not dead, is finally spurred to action when he receives a MacArthur genius grant, and decides to mount an epic production that will be "big, and true, and tough." This comes to be in a massive warehouse in the heart of New York City, featuring a cast of thousands, though they have no script yet. That's when things get really weird.

There are many elements to Synecdoche that are flawlessly executed: its character portrayals and their dialogue; the imaginative and evocative sets and painstakingly chosen backdrops. There are dingy hospital corridors like something from a horror film, and scaled-down replicas of New York City within more replicas. The clothes always fit the characters just so, and the faces are intimately framed. No one can fault Kaufman's fine attention to detail or how fully he's realized an imagined, alternate world. You can see that it must have all gorgeously made sense in his head.

While the film breaks new ground in terms of narrative free-fall and unabashed oddity, it must be argued that everything is taken a bit too far. Kaufman's ideas and themes are unerringly interesting, and the movie wants to be making important, existential statements, but there are too many of them. Running at just over 2 hours, Synecdoche suffers from its length and too many curveballs. We're along for the twisting ride, and mostly game. But after so much relentless weirdness, it's hard not to want your feet back on solid ground.

I wanted to love this movie the way I've loved Kaufman's other creations, especially Eternal Sunshine. But Synecdoche could have been trimmed to a far more palatable shape that would have better showcased its bizarre sensibility and made its biggest themes bolder. It's to Kaufman's credit as a storyteller that we are invested in these strange, often unlovable people at all.

"Speculative" may be the best way to describe what's going on, sometimes tipping into even more apparent realms of science fiction. There's certainly many ideas that flirt with it, like Caden trying to train his ailing body with bio-feedback and the threatening zeppelins that patrol the night sky in his future. The normal rules that govern time and space are askew, and people constantly encounter the extraordinary alongside on the regular. While Caden's staged drama progresses, spanning years and acquiring a life of its own, the "real" New York world seems to be experiencing an increasingly violent, encroaching, unexplained war. Kaufman has his characters stroll through shooting and screaming and dying unremarked upon, still caught up in their domestic affairs.

Synecdoche sports a cast of exceptional actors, many of whom must age decades in the movie's elastic timeline. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in almost every scene, and inhabits Caden with a sullen emptiness so exact it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. British actresses Samantha Morton and Emily Watson play doppelgangers of the same part to great effect. Their Hazel has all the trappings of a Kaufmanesque heroine, down to the red hair, colorful clothes and ever-present quirkiness. Hope Davis has a small part as an eccentric therapist, and Dianne Wiest another as an actress turned director. Michelle Williams is so good as an ingenue who catches Caden's eye that I am forced to retract Dawson's Creek jokes forever.

But having all the trappings of a brilliant film does not mean that they come together to form one. The various threads and subplots threaten to collapse under their own weight as fiction becomes meta fiction becomes meta fiction becomes meta fiction. By the time Caden is directing a full-scale replica of his own life, shadowed by actors who grow to know their roles better than the originals, the search for a cohesive narrative or the emotional payback we usually expect from a film is off. We are kept in our seats by the desire to see what could possibly happen next, growing cautious as Kaufman shows no qualms about killing off important characters.

Death is, in fact, the main theme underlying Synecdoche, always looming larger than the challenges of life. Love is desired and endlessly pursued, but portrayed as ultimately fleeting and tragic. "Everyone," the characters say more than once to each other, "is disappointing." While the newspaper ads crow about this all being hilarious, I have to say that this was one of the most relentlessly depressing movies I've ever seen. You will laugh many times, but it will mostly be awkward.

By the time Kaufman calls in a modern deus ex machina, I was ready for this long strange trip through psychological and English and drama theory to end. But Synecdoche will have as many ardent fans as it will befuddled viewers calling bullshit. It's easy to see that Kaufman is trying to make deep investigations into the human psyche: the themes of life, death, war, family and romantic love are writ large and sometimes literally preached at us or given a special monologue. But the movie is impaired by how much of a free reign its writer-director has been given — his hands are in too many pots. Its run time could be nearly halved and still maintain the parts that are the most affective and revelatory.

See Synecdoche, New York if you love Charlie Kaufman's uncommon worlds, if you have a fond taste for the bizarre, and the willingness to give up all narrative bearings. See it especially if you enjoy endlessly ruminating on the nature of existence. Just don't see it with your friends who have short attention spans, or anyone not keen on all that's meta and much too self-aware.

Original here