Performance Review: Into the Mouth of the Wolf

I came in unfamiliar with Circus Automatic.

Jamie DeWolf and Joyce Lee are the alternating storytellers. Although I’m a longtime fan of DeWolf, this happened to be Lee’s day and I’m glad that it was.

The first two performances definitely had the macabre sensibility that I had assumed from the title. Eka Boo Button seemed to rise from the grave to the gallows in what one might call an elegant dance of death. She set what I thought would be the mood very nicely. Next was Inka Siefker and Katie Scarlett in a contortion duet titled “From Behind Our Teeth.” Advertised on the flyers, this was a work of art from top to bottom. It was also the first sign that these performers are all functioning on some peak human levels.

The rest of the show was much more eclectic with the tone and style of the proceeding performances varying drastically. One was an upbeat, Chaplinesque balancing act by Richard Maguire that was both funny and incredible. Another was Katie Scarlett again with a hypnotic feat of aerialism that went from somber to stunning. Near the end of the intermission, Orion Griffiths charmed the pants off the audience and, hilariously, himself.

But every display of contortion, acrobatics and cabaret was done with such panache, I didn’t even care that I occasionally lost sight of the narrative thread. Fortunately Joyce Lee offered a sort of grounding punctuation in between. Her spoken word/anecdotes juxtaposed the action with doses of reality that were whimsical, inspiring and searing.

Into the Mouth of the Wolf engages you with both truth and fantasy. The result is a jaw-dropping show that will make you clap till your hands hurt. Bring friends. Bring a date. See it while you can.

(Review) Marvel’s Luke Cage: A multipurpose, all-American hero’s journey

(MINOR SPOILERS)

You have to give it credit for its ambition. Like the titular hero, the show is busy working multiple jobs. Luke Cage is a thoughtful, modern take on a superhero originally created in response to the Blaxploitation film craze. So on one hand it has a LOT to say about the African American experience. It ruminates on the topic but never gets too heavy-handed or bogged down by it. The show also features some of the most fair depictions of black people in this genre to date. Much of that is owed to showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker. There’s an earnestness to the black identity you just won’t find on the CW.

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Sorry, Iris.

On the other hand, it tries very hard to invoke the Blaxploitation style (or at least a Tarantinoesque, Kill Bill vol 1 interpretation.) The 70s musical cues can be a little obtuse. Sometimes the cuts work, sometimes they don’t. I’m not always sure what’s an homage and what’s just a cliche.

Mike Coulter portrays the character as both reluctant demigod and frustrated intellectual. Cage is acutely self-aware of every role he’s forced into: convict, gladiator/slave, fugitive, hero, freak. You can see how they all chafe against him. That said, he occasionally comes off a little flat. And I do have a hard time with his hazy but convoluted pre-prison origin.

Unlike its Netflix predecessors, Luke Cage’s biggest weakness is its lack of a compelling villain. In fairness, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and David Tennant’s Kilgrave are tough acts to follow that outshine most of the MCU movie villains. And even in the comics, Luke Cage has a D-list rogue’s gallery. But Mahershala Ali and Alfre Woodard bring heart and chemistry to cousin duo Cottonmouth and Mariah Dillard. While not exactly larger than life, they make up for their lack of action figure bankability with character complexity. And this is definitely one of Alfre Woodard’s most memorable performances.

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Be glad they didn’t keep it too much like the comics.
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“Black Mariah.” Seriously.

And then there’s Diamondback played by the distractingly Tony Todd-like Erik LaRay Harvey. They spend half the season hyping up this guy and when he debuts, he’s like an over-the-top villain from a 90’s action show. I’m talking Robocop: The Series, Time Trax or The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Diamondback is the most cartoon-like element of the series. I’m ambivalent about his mcguffin of a super weapon. His connection to the story is a bit implausible for me. Every line of dialogue was a sing-song threat.

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All he needed was a snake-like lisp.

Simone Cook charms and shines as Misty Knight. It wasn’t obvious at first but her character brings an important balance to this world: She an honest, black, human cop. I half expect her to make appearances in all of these shows just like Rosario Dawson.

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I hope she does, bionic arm or not.

And of course Rosario is back as Claire Temple, the healer and confidant to New York’s miscellaneous heroes. And I could tell from the moment we meet Claire’s mother that Dawson wanted in on the show’s ethnic grounding. The night nurse seems to be headed in a more proactive direction. I’m curious what her dynamic will be with the ensemble Defenders next year.

Theo Rossi as Shades gets an honorable mention. An enforcer/consigliere/liaison, Shades is a surprisingly great supporting character. He’s enigmatic, sinister and clear-headed. I assumed he had powers the minute he was onscreen. Shades genuinely seems evolved: more suited for a post-powered/post-superhero criminal world than everyone else around him.

This is another installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe depicting a New York carrying on in the aftermath of alien invasion, the spectacle of the Avengers and an influx of vigilante and/or superpowered characters. As such, watching the previous Marvel movies is not exactly prerequisite but having seen Daredevil and Jessica Jones is a good idea. Of course it’s full of Easter eggs and clever references to both the Luke Cage comics and the MCU.

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It’s like they want to reward you for having sat through Iron Man 2.

Like the shared continuity into which it fits, the show works as long as you don’t focus too hard on the details. Wouldn’t Mariah’s family have been previously scrutinized? Are we going to acknowledge when the Hulk tore through Harlem (or is that shunned like Edward Norton?) What impact did the events of Daredevil season 2 have on organized crime in New York? Exactly how stupid is Tone?

The climax was similar to that of the movie Friday. (I’m still not sure how I feel about that.) There’s far less resolved by the finale than the first seasons of DD and JJ. With The Defenders hot on its heels, Marvel has no time for the modesty of self-containment. The show’s final shot and Cage’s last line of dialogue are almost on-the-nose in expressing their intentions. That said, it was a lot of fun and they definitely have my attention for the next phase.

I give it a solid B.

(Review) Suicide Squad: The solid C- for your honor roll expectations

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As ludicrous as the idea of shutting down Rotten Tomatoes is, the butthurt fandom of the internet has a point: RT can be pretty hard on movies. (The stylish, thoroughly entertaining Smokin’ Aces is sitting at a criminal 29%.)

With a rotten 26% rating based on 265 reviews, here is the website’s Critics Consensus:

Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren’t enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.

I would rewrite that as follows:

Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and more humor than previous DCEU efforts, which are barely enough to save it from a muddled plot, gaudy post-production choices and not nearly enough Joker to justify the hype.

Just to fill you in, Warner Bros. (the studio that brought us The Dark Knight as easily as it did Green Lantern or Halle Berry’s Catwoman) panicked at the negative response to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Say the whole name and imagine an exec going “Yeah!”)

And while Captain America: Civil War was earning our praise with its balance of comedy-drama-action, character motivations and most importantly COHESIVE FUCKING STORYTELLING, the total lesson that Warner Bros. walked away with was be funnier. And so, abandoning all faith in director David Ayer’s vision, the businessmen blindly ordered their respective lackeys to stuff MORE HUMOR into Suicide Squad.

You can read more about that shitstorm here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/suicide-squads-secret-drama-rushed-916693

I don’t always side with the director, but this sort of retroactive micromanagement has killed many a franchise. Needless to say, I lowered my expectations to the floor; I waited the whole movie for it to suck. And did it? There were some weak links:

  • Too much pop music. Clearly a conceit of the newer edit.
  • Kitana couldn’t be more generic.
  • A flashback that revealed nothing new.
  • The Ghostbusterish threat was some basic, Saturday morning cartoon shit. Very little gravity to said threat or the aftermath.
  • Stop telling us they’re the bad guys and let them be bad.
  • Cara Delevingne. At no point could I forget that she’s a model 1st, an actress 2nd.
  • The slow mo in the climax made it duuuuuumbbbeeeeerrrrrr.
  • We get it! Killer Croc is a black guy! Enough with the minstrel show dialogue.
  • The Joker was barely in the movie. I see why Jared Leto was pissed. He wasn’t even around long enough for us to rank his performance let alone this iteration of the character. What a letdown!

Yet despite its shortcomings, Suicide Squad has plenty of merits that keep it from being a total waste:

  • Will Smith’s bigger slice of the pie was well-served. You know exactly what you’re going to get with him. His Deadshot may be the most interesting depiction of what’s normally a 3rd-tier villain.
  • Margot Robbie was excellent as Harley Quinn. All wackiness and sexiness aside, there was surprising nuance in her performance. Quinn’s many reactions and non-reactions to other characters paint an unexpected picture of her mind in subtle strokes.
  • El Diablo may just be the best pyrokinetic character in any comic book movie so far.
  • This was definitely the best that could be done with Captain Boomerang and the only time I’ve ever liked Jai Courtney.
  • Amanda Waller – Viola Davis is harder than Darth Vader and never overcompensates (unlike Jesse Eisenberg in BvS.)
  • Killer Croc looks great. So there’s that.
  • No one cares about Slipknot. Thanks for not overplaying him.
  • What little we saw of the Joker was a promising take on the character. All those tattoos everyone hated didn’t take away from it.

In Suicide Squad, we wanted another dark horse crowdpleaser falling somewhere between the motley underdog heart of Guardians of the Galaxy and the nihilistic mania of Deadpool. What we got was a cheeky (in more ways than one) installment in a so-far underwhelming cinematic universe that immediately has me waiting for the director’s cut.

 

Flame Retardant: a questionable account of Burning Man 2012 (5 of 8)

DUST MITES by Bolivar

In keeping with my defeated ambitions, I’ve missed most of the shows, art and burnings I wanted to see. I’m no longer upset about that and have accepted my slackerdom.

But I did manage to come watch Burn Wall Street ignite. Too bad it’s not on fire. The mock-up of the New York Stock Exchange is full of people who won’t be evacuated anytime soon. Maybe it’s too dusty to burn right now. Unfortunately it’s too dusty to wait around for it.

It’s not that I’m full of anti-capitalistic sentiment. I just wanted to see something reminiscent of Burning Man ’96, when other corporate totems were burned in the event’s last true celebration of anarchy. At least that’s what I’ve gleaned from documentaries.

I head back to camp, nearly running over several darkwads to whom I bark curt suggestions of illumination. Attempting to sleep, I have a bad dream involving a floating zombie cat over a great gushing reservoir. I wake in a sweat around 2am to the painfully redundant song “Get Low” by Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz. It sounds like the final bars are being dragged out way too long, which was feeding my nightmare. I get dressed and venture back out.

It’s been a good week, but not phenomenal. One more thrill would make it complete. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Exploring the backroads, I find a nice mom-and-pop dive: a full-size, outdoor bar decorated from top to bottom with trinkets. It’s also literally run by a mom and pop. Their adult daughter is drunk and hilarious. In my opinion, the heart of Burning Man is in these out-of-the-way places. I hang out for a couple of hours and banter with a woman from San Diego who is friends with the family. It goes nowhere but I tell myself I’m okay with that.

I move on to another small bar surrounded by an arrangement of couches under a large festival tent. There are a handful of people still awake and socializing. I meet a stunning Swedish girl called Narnia and her American boyfriend, Randall. The three of us begin a riveting conversation about the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, but their drunken friend keeps interrupting us in an aggro-playful manner.

Let’s just call him “Brett.” Maybe 6’1″. 180 lbs. Class 3 fratboy. The first I’ve spotted the entire trip. He keeps interjecting things like “Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey… These were some fine-ass bitches running around today, right bro?”

And I keep deflecting with replies like “Absolutely! Nothing that puts pep in a gentleman’s step like top-shelf bitch! You look like a man who prefers the vintage. Am I right?”

Then I give him a bro-ish fist bump and he stumbles away for a few minutes.

Brett is precisely the sort of specimen that challenges “Radical Inclusion.” On a cynical note, I know a few women who would fuck him.

On one of his return visits, he suddenly barks at me, “What are you, a fag?!”

Well shit. A full-on Class 4. This is exactly the sort of person I say warrants a throat-punch regardless of the setting. I stare directly into his face as I make a mental inventory of my resources. The walking stick/flashlight in my right hand. My steel toe boots. Regardless, I’m already aiming directly for the groin. Nothing fancy.

(Fashion note: I removed the leather tip of my left boot to expose the actual steel toe underneath. Then I coated it with a clear, industrial-strength epoxy. It gives your footwear a nice, post-apocalyptic touch.)

Brett’s eyes are wild and unfocused. I realize how unsatisfying this would be; the fight equivalent of date rape. I’m irritated that this may be the highlight of my Burning Man: a braggart tale of kicking a drunk fratboy in the balls and watching him vomit on himself. No. I ignore the sterile little HAL 9000 voice telling me to punish him and opt for something stranger.

I answer, “One way to find out.” I grab him by the waist and begin a fast, furious dryhump. The thick, padded codpiece over my jeans bangs against his legs.

Amazingly, he flips back into party mode and begins wooting and humping back. He once again retreats to a couch. Time for a graceful exit.

Randall asks to see my walking stick. I oblige him but say I’m leaving soon. He inspects it for a moment and compliments me on the mounted lamp. Then Bretts asks for it and Randall hands it to him. What the fuck?

Brett starts swinging it around. He’s probably going to break it. I politely ask him to give it back. He doesn’t. Then I politely put my elbow over his wrist and twist the stick out of his hand. I spin around and throw a feigned elbow at his nose (which deliberately does not connect) and then gently use the stick to knock his trucker hat off his head.

Brett yells, “What you got, huh? What you got?!”

A scene from the movie Tombstone with Val Kilmer and a tin cup comes to mind. I swing the stick around like a sword in a playful series of martial art flourishes. I don’t like to show off, but this is my nonviolent solution. Silly enough to avoid engagement. Deft enough to show I can knock his molars out. I finish with a bow.

The fucker actually applauds and cheers.

Randall, however, looks pissed at me. Something is more wrong with this situation than I realized. I leave before it gets any worse.

I’m biking back to camp now, finally admitting that there’s nothing more for me tonight. Then, only a couple of blocks from the Duckpond, I spot a sign that I’ve somehow missed all week:

Swing City – Santa Monica Muscle Beach  

A sex camp? No. There’s a scaffolding rig maybe 30’ high suspending a consecutive row of 6 flying rings. Rings from which gymnasts perform aerial feats. I’ve never done anything like that before.

The lights are all on, but no one’s around. I climb the launching platform, which looks like a section of gym bleachers. I take off my hat, gloves and codpiece.

After a quick stretch, I hold the first ring with both hands and step off the platform. I swing out to the second and grab with my left hand. I pull back on the first ring to charge my momentum before releasing it to grab the third.

My feet are dangling 4 feet from the ground. I could let go if necessary, but it wouldn’t be pleasant. My boots feel like they’re made of lead. For some reason though, being improperly dressed makes this more fun.

Pull back and swing to the next.

Kicking my legs out helps, but only slightly. I’m relying almost entirely on arm strength but I understand the pendulum motion required. The proper technique is revealing itself. It’s like an isometric puzzle.

In the air, I feel heavy like a wrecking ball. The sensation is liberating. I swing out in a wide arc on the sixth and final ring. My legs flail out from under me as I spin around almost parallel to the ground.

Holy shit!

I focus on my grip lest I go flying into Swing City’s shade structure. The endorphin rush is electric. I catch the previous ring for the returning trip, which now seems twice as far.

I’m suddenly aware of how little sleep I’ve been functioning on all week. I can feel exactly which tendons will be the first to tear. They are taut like guitar strings. I just have to push myself. I’ve always been able to push myself.

The launching platform is only a few feet away now. There’s a purity in the exercise; a meditation.

My boots slam down on the dismount.

Post-playa re-entry: an update

The massive preparation for this year’s Burning Man is my excuse for the radio silence as of late. I arrived back home exactly one week ago, almost to the minute. There is a notorious decompression period after the event. I know this sounds strange to the uninitiated, but it is a real phenomenon and its intensity can vary. Since this was a relatively mellow burn for me, I expected a softer transition back to the “Default world” (aka Defaultia).

Perhaps I underestimated the unyielding clockwork of fragmented glaciers that is the city life of San Francisco. The day after my return, everything in the “real world” seemed a massive, cold monolith that was looming overhead. Every bit of unfinished business seemed to be pounding angrily at my door. The pedestrian masses resembled the daily marches inside a military prison (not that I would know).

I’ve been evading these mundane horrors through the ancient art of procrastination. Aside from two social outings, I’ve only left my apartment for food. Way too much of my personal gear is still covered in alkaline dust. My priorities have been sorting and uploading Burning Man photos and napping, which I almost never do. I’m finally making a dent in the bottle of Bulleit that I surprisingly only half-consumed the previous week. All of my dreams are a unintelligible mosiac of desert imagery – the mark of a playafied subconscious.

As far as the decompressing process, this is actually pretty tame.

But my subterfuge was soon threatened by… a job opportunity. It seems I can return to a career I spent a year trying to distance myself from with a company I once quit without a confirmed alternative. This required applying online, which required the Frankenstein, corpse-cobbling task of writing a cover letter. I hate writing cover letters. I would rather write my own father’s obituary. Especially a cover letter to the effect of “Hi guys! I know I left 3 years ago because I couldn’t take the bullshit intrinsic to this line of work, but I sure would like to re-enter the vicious cycle!”

As you can imagine, this is an uncomfortable dilemma to face so soon after stomping around the desert dressed like a post-apocalyptic ranch hand. (A more comprehensive report of that experience will soon be posted, then I promise to put the topic to bed for a while.)

So long story short, things are in flux. Today I managed to stave off my own malaise, as well as the gastrointestinal effects of bad Vietnamese food, to perform well at the interview. Decisions will have to be made. Compromises are inevitable.

What would be the opposite of a honeymoon? Whatever you’d call that, it’s over.

But for you, dear readers, that means I’ll be manning the soapbox very soon!

Mazel tov,

Damian

A 31-year-old vs the MTV Movie Awards

I haven’t watched MTV in years. It’s common knowledge that the network has phased the music out of its programming the way organ harvesters have dispensed with the pleasantry of leaving you in a bathtub full of ice. Train wreck TV is not my cup of tea. I don’t watch the Douchebag/Date Rape Challenge.

So why would I sit through this crap? Like many teenagers in the 90s, I enjoyed MTV. At the time, it really did seem like it my generation’s voice. I mean, c’mon: Daisy Fuentes. Yo! MTV Raps. The Maxx. Aeon Flux (before the shitty movie). Bill Clinton kinda admitted smoking pot. The churches and the parent groups HATED Beavis & Butthead, which made it even better.

And of course, there were the MTV Movie Awards. It actually took itself seriously back then, but also had a sort of renegade flare. Some early winners were Denzel Washington for Malcolm X, Tom Hanks for Philadelphia, Pulp Fiction, Seven, Menace II Society. Plus you never knew what antics some famous person was going to pull, As a budding, teenaged film buff, this was the only award show I really enjoyed.

Fast forward to 2012: MTV is has unapologetically embraced its destiny as a bloodsucking, corporate leviathan. I do not have cable or satellite. The few shows I follow are seen online or at my cousin’s house, because DirecTV and Comcast are also bloodsucking, corporate leviathans.

As a half-assed experiment, I wanted to see if I, a cynical remnant from the tail-end of Generation X, could at all relate to whatever dog and pony show the network overlords had coordinated with the movie studios via smart phone.

But since I had better things to do that Sunday night (A Game of motherfucking Thrones!) there was no way I was watching the Movie Awards live. I instead went to MTV.com and saw “the entire show on demand.”

  • The abridged version consists of 40 clips. Between each one, I was forced to watch 60 seconds of advertisement. Most of these are the same 30-second commercial played twice: a crude Axe Hair tie-in with Seth MacFarlane’s questionable decision/teddy bear movie, Ted.
  • So the opening act is a band called “fun.” (with a lower case f and a period). I have no idea who the hell they are. The song is somewhat less painful to take in than the frontman’s face. He is joined by singer Janelle Monae. Her face is pleasant, her voice is tolerable but her name does not ring any bells with me. This idea is already shaping up to be fantastic.
  • Host Russell Brand hypes up the audience, which seems to be nothing but celebrities and young girls, by periodically shouting “Twilight!” and “Hunger Games!” I wince every time.
  • Obviously, Brand is no Ricky Gervais. He launches a few Beiber/Kanye/Kardashian sex jokes as well a reference to his own failed marriage. He jokes about Michael Fassbender’s cock and stashing cocaine under Charlie Sheen’s seat. I’m really confused as to who the target demographic of this show is.
  • A dead-eyed Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg really don’t give a shit as they present Best Onscreen Dirtbag (which apparently has replaced the Best Villain category.) Jennifer Aniston wins, who just so happens to be the biggest actor and only female nominee.
  • One of the only times the between-clip ad is not for Axe Hair/Ted, they show a surprisingly hip, musical commercial for State Farm. At the end, it briefly directs me to State Farm’s facebook page if I want to see the full video. I marvel at the estranged and convoluted relationship music videos now have with MTV.
  • Next clip is Sway awarding a couple of hot blondes an upgrade to the front row – sponsored by State Farm.
  • Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield emerge from a huge sullen image of Spider-man to present the nominees for Breakthrough Performance. Emma Stone reads a little foulmouthed tough talk off the teleprompter to make herself seem edgy.
  • Annoying animated bunny graphics are now edited into the nominee reels. I recall when they once showcased what was cool about the actors’ performances. Now they’ve spliced in little puppet shows for… what, exactly? The girl from The Descendants wins. I haven’t seen it and I can tell from the mild applause that neither has most of the audience.
  • Cute-as-a-button Emma Watson and a couple of guys from a movie called The Perks of Being a Wallflower present Best Male Performance. Hunger Games guy wins. The Hilton Sisters are in the audience. I forgot they used to be a duo.
  • Backstage, some dapper little dude talks about a running fan vote for the Best Hero Category as if this were election night.
  • Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth come out. Stewart is not as insufferable as I had braced for. The Best Female Performance reel features cartoon kitties as Thelma & Louise. I wonder how many kids will even get that reference. Hunger Games wins. Cue Jennifer Lawerence’s 16-second pre-recorded acceptance speech shot on a couch.
  • Charlie Sheen seems like he’s doing a bad Tony Stark impression.  He actually tells the audience to applaud for cult classics. In a high point of the night, the camera cuts to one the Hunger Games actors candidly giving a droll, patronizing clap. Sheen claims his own life has been a party movie and compares Project X to the clusterfuck of his own psyche.
  • There’s a montage of action-packed clips from Old School, House Party, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and others with a list of Party Movie Basics detailed as BEER, BABES, MORE BEER, PARTY FOULS, DESTRUCTION. It’s interesting that the reel also shows drug use but they avoid showing the word DRUGS. Either way, it’s an enthusiastic training video for all the future Amateur Night connoisseurs. Project X is then dubbed an Instant Cult Classic.
  • Wiz Khalifa gives a decent performance. I’ve heard him but never actually seen him. I’m impressed by the tattoos on his ribs, which had to have hurt on a guy that skinny. But is that mustache drawn on his face?
  • Keeping in line with MTV’s priorities, the Best Music category has been reduced to a 30-second nod. Sway breezes through a brief acknowledgment of the other nominees, but LMFAO is already present with their award. The song is “Party Rock Anthem” from the 21 Jump Street remake soundtrack. (Jesus Christ…) They look like an SNL parody of douchebag DJs.
  • Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester from the latest Sandler flop “That’s My Boy” present Best Kiss. They give a couple of lame jokes setting up a larger joke that’s only saved by Sandler calling Meester a “whore.” Twilight wins.
  • Brand cracks a joke with a censored punchline that didn’t get so much as a chuckle before introducing Steve Tyler and Joe Perry. They both look exactly like Joan Rivers. They earnestly introduce the “MTV Generation Award” for Johnny Depp. It’s a decent montage that amazingly doesn’t consist entirely of Tim Burton movies.
  • Depp plays guitar with The Black Keys, incidentally making the whole MTV movie-music tango come full circle. When he accepts his golden popcorn, he has a curious humility about him (possibly stoned) that resembles old interviews of Hunter S. Thompson.
  • There’s a chuckleworthy skit about an archery coach that reminds me that there used to be WAY more skits.
  • Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender come out to the score of Prometheus (which doesn’t work at all for this) and perform a silly staged beating to introduce Best Fight. Warrior was nominated. Hunger Games wins.
  • 21 Jump Street seems to have a LOT of nominations. Did it really perform that well?
  • The backstage guy announces that Harry Potter has won the Best Hero Award. I guess it wasn’t important enough for any on-stage fanfare.
  • Then there’s a whole awkward stripper bit with Channing Tatum (whose movies are getting a lot of attention tonight), Matthew McConaughey and that True Blood werewolf biker. The show is losing me.
  • There’s a semi-funny collection of interviews about Emma Stone and some achievement award she’s getting. I completely zone out of her heartfelt speech.
  • I’m close to aborting this abortion when Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman come out to talk about the new Batman film. A montage that apparently includes Heath Ledger is omitted from the chopped version I’m watching. Bale is choking up. They introduce Christopher Nolan, who says a few things about The Dark Knight Rises that we already know before introducing new footage from the film.
  • Aaaaand OF COURSE they don’t show the fucking clip on the MTV website. What a bunch of bullshit! Despite the fact that I’ve already seen it on pirate sites a couple of time, I still feel cheated. The producers very deliberately waited till the show was basically over to reveal this little Easter egg (or lack thereof).
  • The final, unexpected highlight is Jodie Foster introducing Movie of the Year. I like the play-along way she calls the award the “most prestigious”. She also “jokingly” condescends the category as “the most outrageously awesome sex scene between a vampire and a zombie from the future that also includes an explosion and some heavy petting.”
  • The nominees are raced through to get to the Twilight winner speech. The audience has reached the limit of their attention span. Stewart jumps on stage to take the award like she’s retrieving bills from the mailbox. I probably don’t have a right to do this, but I cringe when werewolf boy thanks the writer of the series.

Final thoughts: Well, Music Television, you’ve reinforced that I’m too old for you, you have no soul, your audience has no taste, and movies kinda suck lately. The MTV Movie Awards seems to have devolved into a vulgar Kid’s Choice Awards. I feel there’s a lesson to be learned here if one were to trace the network’s path from a supposed symbol of defiant youth to a marketing-obsessed purveyor of mediocrity, but I fear I’ve grown too stupid in the last couple of hours to make the connection. Perhaps that was their plan all along.

How my negative Facebook rant helped me overcome writer’s block

So my official blog was supposed to be up weeks ago. Having crowned myself something of a street festival connoisseur, I was going to cover the How Weird Street Faire and Bay to Breakers. By contrasting them and offering my “unique” perspective, I had planned to entertain and amuse my readers with a quirky little introductory adventure into the life of Damian Drummer. But as fun and unorthodox as these events were, I just can’t find the motivation. To me, the experiences were no more blogworthy than the previous 5 or 6 times I’ve attended those events.

I’ve been unemployed for 2 months now. My aspirations had begun to falter under the advanced stages of chronic procrastination and a touch of writer’s block (which I think is really just an internalized form of procrastination). It’s Memorial Day weekend and it’s Saturday night. I’m at home with some leftover three-meat DiGiorno, about to watch Sherlock Holmes online with a browser open to Facebook (but pretending to not be on Facebook).

This guy named Matt from my hometown is online. We weren’t exactly friends growing up, but I knew who he was. I remember him being a skinny, quiet and harmless kid. But since I realized that people from “back in the day” tend to be the most obnoxious part of social networking, I actually let his friend request sit in the queue for a year before I decided to accept it.

It turns out he never left that town and, like many of the folks I grew up with, doesn’t seem to be doing much with his life these days. As an adult, he takes pride in being flippant and unrefined. He insists on this unsettling profile picture of himself that resembles the final shot of Anthony Perkins in Psycho. He has that punk rock way of not giving a fuck that you just don’t advertise on your wall if you’ve ever wanted a job that requires a suit. East Texas will do that to you if you’re not one of the cool kids, or if you’re not focused on starting a career or a family. Matt reminds me a little of myself before I moved here. I once described the feeling of living there as being “trapped in a rundown insane asylum I have to fistfight my way out of.”

I can safely say that I’ve mellowed out a lot in 7 years. SF has been good to me and I’ve had more fun than I thought was possible. You learn to be grateful while never forgetting the time in your life when you should have demanded more. I adopted smugly-written, but wisely-lived credos like “Listen more than you speak” and “It’s better to be kind than to be right.” As it stands now, Matt and I don’t really have much in common except for a couple of acquaintances, some comic book movie geekery and perhaps an antisocial streak.

So it’s 11pm and he posts:

Guess I will stay up all night and get drunk by myself.

Yup, one of those kind of nights.

It’s a sad but not surprising declaration. I’ve been in a playful-snarky mood that night, having already pissed off one oversensitive friend enough to unfriend me. I write on Matt’s wall:

Your community failed you, Matthew!

He Likes this and writes:

I had a community Damian? Damn, I must’ve been drifting through the crowd.

His people start commenting about beer and chicken and the desire that they could taste the same and I’m still chuckling at my silliness. I write:

You’re 30ish, single, not a sex offender that I know of, and you have nothing to do on a Saturday night of a 3-day weekend but drink (probably domestic) beer by yourself and stare at your FB page with that Columbine look on your face?? No, sir! That doesn’t fly in my America.

I’m fully aware of the hypocritical nature of this indictment when he responds:

lmao! Oh Damian, you know me so well. That gave me a good laugh.

I guess that was kind of funny. But really, look at this poor bastard. I think about most of my old friends and where they are now. Sure, my town had a high school homecoming court, a couple of small colleges and a “world famous” downtown Christmas light tourist attraction. There are places I can and won’t direct you to that will sing the praises of that “sweet little town.” But for me, all the plucky civic pride and small town “values” are cheaper than the knockoff greeting cards they were printed on. Greeting cards in a moldy cardboard box left to rot inside the boarded up gift shop inside the empty mall that dried up the minute Wal-Mart open up on the other end of the highway.

And sitting here at my computer, I suddenly feel the ignition. The Molotov cocktail I kicked around for weeks finally bursts in my brain and I am at long last motivated to step up to the soapbox … to beat up on my old hometown. No one was going to argue with me on Matt’s thread. I’m preaching to the choir. I don’t even entirely believe everything I’m about to say. But I made the conscious decision that if anyone disliked what I was about to write – fuck ‘em.  To me, this was like a drunken frat boy who had attempted to pick a fight but had tripped on his own shoelaces. And I was going to kick that son of a bitch in the ribs on general principle. In other words, it was better to be mean than to be right.

Marshall is like Silent Hill populated with extras from True Blood and Easy Rider if it were run by the smarmy principal from Donnie Darko. Why don’t you just hang out and drink with your friends in the parking lot of Sonic? Or is that meager territory still ruled by assholes who shop at Baskins? So maybe the few local property owners have choked all economic growth and opportunity out of the town like a Down syndrome giant in a ratty barn choking the life out of a pack of bunnies. So maybe your drunk ass fucked up and got banned from the one decent bar that town has ever seen. The mayor, the church leaders, the PTA, Miss [jr high principal], whoever goes to town hall meetings… it is likely/mostly their fault you’re sitting at home alone, drinking lukewarm Coors and wondering if you can make the label on the can change colors if you blow hard enough.

Matt was entertained. He told me it was the most spot on interpretation of the town he had ever read and that I touched on everything except the police.

I went on to add:

I was actually going to throw in a bit about the police department being a bunch of Marine Corp boot camp rejects with too much time on their hands to reflect on their cheating wives and broken dreams, but I didn’t want to be too long-winded.

So now I revisit this mean-spirited rant and figure this will do as a half-assed Blog # 1. It’s not great. But it is a couple of pages and that’s a start.

Is the ice broken yet?

Hi. My name’s Damian.