|THE BLACK LIST: THE SHOWGIRLS EPIPHANY.|
|By The Black Table|
Last night, as we settled in to watch Showgirls for the seventh time -- it's been playing on a loop over at Showtime all month -- a sudden realization hit us. This movie is either the biggest piece of shit ever filmed, or an absolute miracle of breasts and spectacle that should be lauded on high.
There's so much tension after every viewing. How much of this is irony? How much of the joke is on us? Is this intentionally bad on purpose? Or are people making this crap really this stupid, shallow and pointless that they think it would work?
Doesn't matter if it's Janet Jackson's boob at the Super Bowl or the swill that passes as a blockbuster these days. We can't make heads or tails of what's good or bad at all. Luckily, we have some brave and intrepid reviewers who are willing to take a stand. Lord knows we can't.
There are 15 fine reviews this week. And please, please, please keep sending those reviews to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, you determine what's a so-bad-it's-good cult classic and what's 15 hours of your life that you'll never get back.
PAYING FOR AIR: In 1991's comedic romp "City Slickers," radio ad salesman Mitch Robbins, played by Billy Crystal, feels cheated by life when he realizes that he "sells air for a living." Well, Mitch, it doesn't feel too hot on the other side of the equation, either. I recently bought air. I don't know when gas stations started charging for air. You either have to pay 50 cents for two minutes of air, or you can buy gas and they'll turn on the air. I bought gas. After 20 minutes of waiting on line behind a surly mob buying Quick Pick tickets and two -- no, make it three! -- packs of Kool menthols, I finally reached the counter and asked for air. The counter man said he would turn it on, though it took three trips back until he made good on that. When I was a kid in South Dakota, there was an old man in a denim jumper who worked at our local gas station. His name was Fritz. He pumped our gas, adjusted the tire pressure, checked the oil, washed our windshield and gave me and my brother and sister Chick-O-Stix -- all for FREE. Now, you have to pay for air, which seems like something every breathing, driving human should have a right to. I hate to sound like Mitch Robbins on the edge of a midlife crisis but criminy, what is this world coming to? D -- Erin Schulte
SCHICK QUATTRO: Woah... four blades. And two of them have independent functions outside of shaving stubble. There's one blade that moisturizes. One that tenderizes. One that pulls. One that shears. My face hasn't been this smooth since kindergarten. The downside is, well, this thing's really goddamned sharp. After gently grazing over a small portion of my neck that wasn't adequately covered in shaving lotion, this crazy Quattro flayed me. Surprisingly, there was not an enormous amount of
blood, but enough to let me know that the Quattro was running the show here, not me. This razor should come with a training manual or perhaps suggest a required 2-hour certification seminar to ensure proper usage. This is not the razor to use when you're in a rush in the morning. Go slow or it will kill you. B -- A.J. Daulerio
THE NEW SEASON OF CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: In the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the most polished yet, Larry David has retained the insensitivity, shallowness, and militant immaturity that have made his the funniest comedy on television. Too bad Larry's having a good time playing "Larry". Compare the twinkle in his eyes as he defends himself in court on the show's most recent episode to the ashen-faced humiliation he suffers at the hands of a scorned golfer in "Porno Gil" from Season One. Not only that, the gifted ensemble cast has never seemed less improvisational than it does now, the plots never more like the last two seasons of "Seinfeld" in their disappointing, cooked-up absurdity. The cameos (Stiller, Brooks, Schwimmer) offer a few laughs but mostly come off as hipster band-wagoning. Worse, the moral yardstick of the show, Cheryl Hines, has been relegated to the margin, killing the comedic tension. The genius of the show is that it took the "anti-sitcom" idea behind "Seinfeld" and went one step further, shooting the episodes as if David were proudly showing off his hostility to any kind of organizing principles of entertainment. The show is still a kick, but by veering towards premeditated professionalism, David commits the one sin unforgivable in a show like this. The show might ultimately implode because of the one thing -- enthusiasm -- its name so proudly proclaimed to avoid. C+ -- Nicholas Shuit
J. CREW'S SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT: Okay. Only dorks shop at J. Crew, but I have an "in" there that gives me a discount and I buy stuff from the catalog once in a while. Months ago, like right after Halloween, I got a catalog with some cute loafers in it. I called my "in" to order them. Yippee. I get a call back: "Sorry, they're on back order 'til January. But not really back-ordered, they haven't come in yet." Okay. I try again in December. Back-ordered 'til February. But again, its not like they ever came in, so maybe they just changed the arrival date. In January, I checked again, hoping the boat from Asia showed up early or something. Back-ordered 'til March 6. Just for kicks, I checked again the other day. Back-ordered 'til April 9th! Shoes that have been pictured in their catalog since November might be available seven months later. At this rate, I could give birth to those loafers. D+ -- cathy hannan
STAR WARS: CLONE WARS MICRO-SERIES: When Scott Bakula was on Quantum Leap, he should have popped into one of George Lucas' many multi-culti adopted children and snapped that pompadoured freak's neck so he couldn't ruin the collective childhood of America with these so-called "prequels". Or, at the very least, Lucas should have allowed someone with talent to write and direct his vision, someone like Genndy Tartakovsy, the creator of the Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack, and the director of the 10-part micro-series, Star Wars: Clone Wars. Combining Samurai Jack's design-cool 2D aesthetic with the genius thrum and squeal of lightsabers and blaster bolts, Tartakovsky resurrects the shattered bones of Lucas's pop-myth saga for one last dance. The animated action is miles ahead of the prequels' green screen trainwreck, and the writing, like the art direction, is brilliantly minimalist. Once all 35 minutes are through, your heart is bursting in your throat, and it's so cool you're crying, masturbating into a childhood place long, long ago, far away from Darth Lookas and his empire of dippy Happy Meal toys and shitty, squandered opportunity. A -- Erik Sofge
THE TRAILER FOR THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: Remember when disaster movies ruled the world? Remember bitching about terrible Hollywood screenwriting while in your new-fangled S-U-V on the way to Dante's Peak, because, yo, it's a Pierce Brosnan vehicle, starring a goddamned volcano! Okay, now watch the trailer for The Day After Tomorrow. Zapped-out, blue-toned staticy news footage of hurricanes and floods and other "God Smash!" action bobs on a cresting squall of castrato choral vocals, with looming text mentioning the Ice Age. But it's the footage that dances, brave enough to admit that violence against infrastructure, the televised ghost of 9/11, with the inference of unseen casualties giving street cred to the act of bearing remote witness, is gorgeous. In comes the CGI, with a massive twister pulverizing the Hollywood sign, and flood waters slamming towards Grand Central, and the NYC skyline buried brownstone-deep in arctic snows. And before you realize how ho-hum the bit-mapped carnage looks, we're back to zappity static and evil block text about Memorial Day, Where Will You Be? The Director of Independence Day. Yeah! And guess what, all you Hollywood Screenplaya haters? The premise of a sudden, oncoming Ice Age is so plausible the Pentagon is already freaking out. Further evidence that dumbass movies are still smarter than our military. B+ -- Erik Sofge
THE MYDOOM WORM: "An attachment from someone I've never met? Garsh, I'd better open that up and see what it's about!" There's a sucker born every minute, and every damn one of them will fall for any worm and virus that hits their in-box. According to experts, the Mydoom worm has at times accounted for one out every five emails sent, each originating at the desk of its most recent victim. For the companies it targets, it's a major pain in the ass (Oh, how I lie awake worrying about those companies). For those of us with up-to-date antivirus software, it's a minor annoyance, somewhere between Nigerian cash scams (Don't waste my time!) and penis pills (Why? Have you heard something about me?). But for all its lack of social graces, Mydoom does carry one small side benefit: the opportunity, once, five times, a hundred times a day, to feel superior to the dumbass on the other end who didn't know any better. C- -- J. Daniel Janzen
THE SCORNED DEAN SUPPORTER: Oh, you were so cool, backing the only candidate with any integrity while the rest of us sold out for electability, then rubbing our noses in it when he got ahead early. But it's not easy being Dean now, is it? Boy, I'd at least have expected your boy to win one state, I mean even a close second -- what did he spend all that money for? Did any of those endorsements do him any good at all? He had that whole peer-to-peer thing set up, and all those fanatical volunteers, and the whole news media producing his campaign literature, and he turns out to be the biggest bust since New Coke. That's gotta hurt. Oh well -- at least Phish is touring again. E (for the effort) -- J. Daniel Janzen
JOHN BASEDOW'S SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: Check out John Basedow. He's lean. He's muscular. And he wants us to see something extraordinary when he pushes down his shorts about a quarter inch. I have no idea what, but in frequently inspecting this region on my own body I have affectionately begun referring to it as "my Basedow." Ever since John Basedow hit the airwaves proclaiming himself a "fitness celebrity" I've suffered from low self esteem. Not because I lack finely tuned abs -- though I do, but I also lack a head like a hot-air balloon -- but because he figured something out before the rest of us. All it takes to be a success in the "Reality Age" is a little air time. Why is he a celebrity? Because he says so. It's that easy in the Gilded Age of Reality Television, which was born on the backs of ordinary folks cum media darlings. Your average Joe, or John, is ready to be the star of his own show. America is embracing its historic value system in a whole new form, the self-made celebrity. C- -- Bret Schulte
THE 2WENTY PUMPING ON THE STEREO: If there's one thing I hate about going to the movies, it's being able to spend the twenty minutes before the previews talking to someone. Instead I'd rather watch Skittles ads in full THX surround sound stereo. TASTE THE FUCKING RAINBOW! Certainly, the twenty minutes before a movie starts is when I'm most receptive to finding out about a hot new music artist that a beverage company wants me to like. Putting ads between the reels of the movie would be bogus and static screen advertising isn't very sexy -- the likelihood of choosing a real estate agent based on the ads on screen before a movie are pretty slim, but in the end, just because I'm trapped in a room for twenty minutes doesn't mean I necessarily want to be yelled at by advertising. I already paid to get in and I could see most of the commercials you're playing on TV. It's bad enough that stores like Old Navy want me to dress like a sixty-year old retired Magnum P.I., but now I'm complaining because the commercials are too loud. Let me talk to my friend. Please, 2wenty. Please let me talk to my friend. Also, if you break it down: "2" means "Two" and "wenty" means "wenty", which means that you've got "Two-wenty" and not "Twenty" which is what you want. "Two-wenty" doesn't make any sense now does it? F -- Frank Smith
OWNING A CAR IN NEW YORK: For most Americans, having a car means freedom. During New York winters, car ownership is more akin to a marriage gone sour: a crushing commitment to something you hate. At least twice a week, you've got to wake before dawn, walk miles in snot-freezing cold to wherever you were last able to find street parking, and troll around for a new spot to avoid tickets that outpace the annual GDP of Cameroon. You have to drive on top of snow piles as high as your hip to get into spaces; God have mercy on you if you lack four-wheel drive. When it snows again, snowplows bury your car, which may or may not have escaped one more week of having the rearview mirrors sheared off by passing delivery trucks. If your car is only used for "pleasure," during the winter, all this toil (not to mention insurance fees that each year amount to more than the actual value of your car) is for naught. The car is never USED during the week, since you're always on the subway. But oh! Once summer arrives, laugh at all those suckers sweating on the Hamptons jitney or the Metro North railroad. Roll down your windows, leave the Brooklyn grime behind and head for the beach. Then it's aaaaalll worth it. In winter: F, in summer: A+ -- Erin Schulte
THE NEXTEL WALKIE-TALKIE BEEP: I have to admit, I think the blrrp-burp sound is kind of cool. And the people who use these phones are pretty cool too. They're usually tough-girl project managers on construction sites, or an IT guy at some megaconglorporation that has to run between 47 floors of a highrise in midtown. And, the fact that you can use a walkie-talkie coast-to-coast is just neat. But, as cool as that all is, kiddos, the beep has got to go. Right now, not many people even know what the benefits of using this technology are. That's why it's a cool sound. It's novel and hi-tech, and stealthy. I picture myself running around a corner and, blrrp-beep, "I have reached sector 49, over." It sends a chill of impending new technology down your spine, right? Now fast forward 15 years to the day when everyone in New York City has one of these because they finally figured out how much cheaper it is that using minutes. Holy S-H-I-OT, can you imagine the noise and mass psychosis this will cause? Brreep-blurp, Bleep-urp, Burlp-plrrrp all over the place. No thank you. Get rid of it now, you've been forewarned, Nextel, Bllllp-preep. C+ -- Kathie Fries
FREE SODA CAP iTUNES: Under-cap-contest-wise, Pepsi has had some real clunkers before. The one where you can win a billion dollars only nobody can actually win. The one where one in 10,000 people wins an official Pepsi-logo mesh hunting vest. The one where they let you kill an endangered giant panda. But I thought this new contest was something I could finally get behind. Pepsi, for once it seemed like you had done everything just right: bitchin' prize (free iTune!), really good odds (1 in 3 players wins!), and excellent marketing synergy (A rollout ad that featured adorable juvenile delinquents! That aired during the Superbowl!). Only one tiny question, Pepsi, and that is WHERE ARE THE FUCKING SODAS?? It's been more than a week, and I am yet to find a single Pepsi product anywhere in the entire city with a contest cap on it. Now I'm no Madison Avenue insider, but doesn't it defeat the purpose of "kicking off the contest" with a "ludicrously overpriced Superbowl ad" if the product won't be available until the delis move their entire stock of old sodas that no one wants to buy because they don't contain a free iTune? Pepsi, you're lucky you've still got Brit Brit shaking her tatas in support of your brand, or I might just have had to rethink my cola loyalties. For real. D -- Audrey Ference
HULK CHRISTMAS TREE FOR 99 CENTS: Shockingly, Toys 'R' Us had trouble moving the Hulk/Christmas cross-merch this year. I can't imagine why children don't naturally associate an angry comic book hero whose recent film blew worse than Daredevil with the birth of the baby Jesus. Maybe they just over-ordered. Be that as it may, you can now sock away for next year your very own tree, marked down from $19.99 (!) to $.99. It stands about one foot high, is made of green tinsel, and features four pathetic ornaments: the letters H, U, L, and K. Seriously, it is now February and they still haven't had the heart to just throw the things out. I mean maybe if we lived in a place where people had cars and ample storage they would have a prayer, but the box is big enough that schlepping it on the subway won't be pleasant. So people, do a good deed and take one of these off of Toys 'R' Us's hands. You could just take it outside and throw it at a car or something. They need the space for the Butterfly Effect St. Patrick's Day display. B -- Audrey Ference
DOING YOUR OWN TAXES: Oh my god. What is this form? Do I need this? What is that error message on the screen? Oh shit. They're totally going to audit me. Ok, Box A, Social Security Number, and wow. I'm done? Wow. I did it myself! No boyfriends, parents or accounts. All by myself! I'm going to get drunk! And hope the feds don't come after me for that $15 I earned dogsitting. B+ -- Claire Zulkey