Toy Story 3: More Like Horror Story

A combination of unceasing advertising, nostalgia from watching Toy Story and Toy Story 2 with my son when he was a tot, and needing something to do with said son and his pal for her birthday led me to the megaplex to see Toy Story 3. Skipping the 3D option was probably the only good thing about the afternoon's screening.


My biggest complaint about the film was the horror. The baby doll was utterly creepy. The monkey was terrifying. The bear was ghastly. And the adventure was one frightening peril after another. There were way too many unhappy under-10 year-olds in the theater, either bored or clinging, and I was amazed that there was so little good feeling throughout.

Repeating the horrors of Sid the bad kid from the first flick and the adventure and hiding under stuff to escape being crushed or captured from the second flick didn't help much either.

Did Ken help? The tiniest bit perhaps.
Did Latin-lover Buzz help? Not me.

And the worst of all for me, I think, was the message that toys don't have adventures so much as hope not to be thrown away, abused by tots at daycares who receive no adult supervision, bullied by other toys, or tossed into attics. Where I actually cried when I watched the scene with Jessie and the song "When She Loved Me," I just felt like there was no hope at all in Toy Story 3. People suffer, but toys suffer more. How much guilt do I need to lose all pleasure in toys' adventures? This movie tested my limits and gave far too little back.


Despoiling Shrek 4


You wanna tangle with me, whitebread?  Do ya, ogre?  Want me to feel sorry because boo-hoo your life is boring while your mindless wife loves the monotonous routine and never complains?  So you wish it all away and then you're sorry? It's a Wonderful Life without the excuse of financial woes?  The Incredibles with better fart jokes?  Well, bring it, Dreamworks, bring it.  Oh wait, you did.

I enjoy twisted and fractured fairy tales with the best of them. I like that Fiona's happiest when fat and gassy and living in a swamp (too bad you give her voice to blonder-and-skinnier-than-thou Cameron Diaz, though).  There have been some wonderful moments along the way with the Shrek franchise, and I will always have a soft spot for Mike Myers.  I even enjoyed this new one…but it should not have had to use a stupid rehashed lame-ass sexist plot about the poor middle-class man with midlife crisis who wishes he was single and a slob while his wife is entirely oblivious.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand he has to figure out that he had it good before and wah wah wah boo hoo hoo it's all about ME ME ME.

What put this over the top,  though, compounding the offense, is what happened at the end, after we've gotten to meet the tougher, hotter Fiona who is the leader of the ogre rebellion and rescued her own damn self from the tower (go white girl go white girl go!).  She has no memory of that angry but/and amazing alternate self and goes right back to contented clueless housewife.  The writing makes that a necessity.  Damn, people, I don't object to contentedness, I object to mindlessness, and Fiona has it.

It kills me that this mess would have been so easy to fix!  First, use simple misunderstanding instead of malcontentedness:  Fiona seems unhappy, Shrek decides he can fix it but oops fixes it by getting suckered and then the same middle of the film.  Or let their be trickery when neither Fiona nor Shrek is looking.  Then: at the end of the film, the magical "exit clause" can have an exit glitch and Fiona somehow remembers her old self! She decides heck yeah, she'd like to do a little more axe-wielding now and then and less drippy Ye Olde Chuck E. Cheese birthday party nonsense.  Is that so hard?!?!?!

I'm not saying I didn't enjoy some of the twists and turns and laughs.  But this tired old plot about the tired old Dad who dreams of tired old adventures while the oblivious wife just wants normalcy?  I'm over it, like fairy dust. 

And don't go telling me Fiona wants normalcy because her childhood was hell.  For one, whose wasn't?  And for two, this is Shrek, where we turn fairy tales upside down.  Let Fiona need wildness now more than ever given her upbringing.  She couldn't save herself so she starts a women's self-defense class.  Or she has occasional need for friends who aren't her husband's dumbass donkey sidekick and Puss-in-Boots.  Ya know, a little sisterhood.  I know!  Maybe the mom from The Incredibles who prefers laundry to adventures and the wife from UP who never got adventures can team up with Fiona to star in a twisted 3D remake of Xena: Warrior Princess.  After all, these CGI women need something, even if it's make-believe.


Two Ads I Would Pay Not to Have Seen

Am housebound for a few days, and am watching a marathon of Cake Boss on TLC, but this post isn't about that.  (Ok, I'll say Buddy and crew are more talented than the Ace of Cakes clan but the production values of the show suck ~ way too much fake scripting.  Now on to the ads...)

TLC has a very small number of ads, repeating endlessly.  In addition to the summer show promotions for the channel, there are two that are really on my damn nerves, hence, you're reading about it (unless you've had enough with this warning).

1. Shark Nicorette Ad: Dude on a dock is so obsessed with his cig habit that he doesn't notice when a shark leaps from the water to eat his arm.  Now there's no blood pouring from his gnawed limb, and I get the joke, but he's flipping out when he finally realizes the shark is eating him and starts screaming and punching it and I hate it.  Apparently others don't, hence my ability to provide you the link to the ad on youtube.

2. Pertussis Vaccine Ad:  Young, thin, maybe Hispanic mom and her baby in an ad telling moms to get the pertussis vaccine so their babies don't get sick and maybe die.  Now if your baby is already vaccinated, I don't get the point in the first place, but also the sound of a hacking, pitiful coughing baby in the background is more than I want to watch.  It's just excessive and I loathe that kind of emotional manipulation and scare tactic.

Now back to Cake Boss and the Sesame Street cake!  (Mmmmmm, I want cake and not bad ads.)



I'm totally hooked on CATMAN.  Join me!  Check him out here at CrunchyRoll.  CATMAN comes in little five-minute episode nuggets with hints of Ralph Bakshi or Heavy Metal, some of the BS machismo and sexism of HM, too.  But it's less grotesque and oversexualized and goes more for the fxxked-up desire for a kind of aimlessness the CATMAN wants to call "freedom" when it's mostly about being hopelessly lost with no sense of self, meaning, purpose, or concept of love or happiness.  CATMAN's a lanky hip-looking 3-fingered cat dude who leaps from building to building, smokes, drinks, bowls, and has primary dialogue consisting of "Whaaaaa?" and "Fxxx" (those letters used in the subtitles from original Japanese, but there's no voiceover for dialogue, so I imagine it's subbed in the original, too.  I saw the word "kudaranee" in hiragana translated as "Fxxxd" in the preview for the third "season," and kudaranai is like "fuck up."  So the Japanese spell it out it seems, but it's all xxx'd up in the subtitles.]  It's compelling viewing, especially in episodes like #1 where he shoots down the sun, or those where he doesn't kill a canary or wakes up on the top of a fast-moving train.


Gordon Ramsay: Orly?

I'm picky about my reality tv pleasures.  In a truly nonsensical, random way.  In past, some I have loved for a season (Project Runway) and some I have never watched and, I daresay, never will (Survivor) or perhaps just one episode every few years (American Idol).   About three years or so ago, I injured my back, and was flat on it for a few weeks.  I watched every single episode of the Danny Bonaduce trainwreck and the one about the guy who played Peter Brady.  They passed the time, as did reading two whole Harry Potter novels in a few days each.  And I've always been a big fan of reality-like tv in The Dog Whisperer and Mythbusters.

But now, with time on my hands again while off work, I'm sampling tv reality pleasures at all times of day (and in my usual haphazard fashion).  In addition to RuPaul's Drag Race, the new favorite around my house is Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.  It's definitely got the trainwreck element, but I also feel like everyone in the show knows what's going down, who Ramsay is and how he talks to people--even those he respects get peppered with abusive language--so there's a consensual feature I like my reality tv to have.  Some of the waitstaff definitely get deer in the headlights from the abuse, but I guess it's one of those job hazards, and there are more than a few chefs, sous chefs, hosts, and managers who deserve every F bomb aimed at them by the never-charming Gordon.

When I get most riled up is when I close the gap between reality tv and reality as such programming seeks to do as a main directive.  I get angry with Gordon at liars.  I get flabbergasted by the disgusting sight of rotten food or thieving managers.  And I get excited when kind people have good things happen.  But I can also generally keep a distance, not falling entirely into the pit of reality tv provocations.  So even as I want to babble about "Did you see the one where the Italian restaurant in NY has that big son who thinks he's in the mafia?" and cringe that the episode fulfilled every stereotype of NY Italians I can think of, I simultaneously am quite aware of how the structure of the program and Ramsay's tv persona are entirely aimed at provocation and manipulation to get the biggest reaction (good or bad) and make the "best" reality tv.  Explosive with happiness or, mostly, conflict, the show is just another blatant example of how to make pseudo-events (see theorists Daniel Boorstin and or Jean Baudrillard's hyper-reality) happen.

So, on I watch, along with my son and sometimes my husband, to learn far more than we wanted to know about how filthy most restaurant kitchens truly are, even when they get good marks on inspections.  I wait for idiots to admit their concept for a restaurant sucks or their dining room manager is dringing them into debt.  I watch to see the makeovers and the refitted menus and the on-the-street pitches.  I see through to how people fill the restaurant only because Ramsay is there, that giving someone advice rarely helps beyond the first week (too easy to go back to old habits), and that Ramsay is a font of foul language in the most childish of ways.  All manner of fun stuff.

The only thing so far that truly irked me?  His gratuitous bashing of vegetarians as not having a clue in the world.  Yeah, go eat some more lamb, asshole, and see if you get into that Heaven I don't believe in. 

LOL @ self.


So... About RuPaul's Drag Race...

The single most interesting fact about the second season of RuPaul's Drag Race was that my son absolutely adored it.  My kiddo is mildly gender-bendy because his hair is below his shoulders, but in most other ways, he's very boy.  He has been primped, primed, and preened to understand that gender and sexuality are choices and his parents respect more diversity than he can probably imagine.  However, though he's vegetarian, athiest, and long-haired, he is also a soccer and videoplaying BOY.  Straight up gym shoes and t-shirts with nothing flowery or even androgynous except the occasional elegant dragon on it.  He watches Naruto and ignores all female characters unless important for plot and getting to all the evil villains, several of whom -- including his favorite Deidara -- look entirely like girls to me.  Anyway, I digress.  Maybe.

We watched most of season two, or maybe from about midpoint on, and he was entirely into the cut-throat competition and picking which ones he thought were best and questioning judges and not boggling or baffled after the first episode we watched where it was clear these were men dressing not even as women but in High Drag.   He loved every minute of the tension and trials and contests and dishing.

The rest was just another reality show, I suppose, though we all did kinda love Raven (which, I hasten to digress, is my son's nickname for himself).  The man is gorgeous and the drag she does is WOW.  Wouldn't wanna meet him, but did love looking at her.  And in a less reality-TV way, I adored Pandora Boxx.  My favorite, hands down.  Witty, wild, wonderful. Great costuming and characterization.  Talented in ways so many weren't.  OMG Tatiana. Buy a brain. Purchase one, please.  Then the ending came though, and Tyra won and ok, he gets to have an apartment so his son can stay with him.  What more happy ending is there?

Last, let me say that RuPaul is so into his/her own media self I can't watch/listen without cringing.  The surgery, make-up, and fuzzy lighting are nothing compared to what seems like delusions of grandeur that I found painful to witness or perhaps just not performed with enough panache.  "Don't fuck it up" became just...embarrassing.  She is gorgeous.  He is talented.  He and she have paid more than their dues.  But the Big Gay Sketch Show did a spoof where the contestants were fawning insanely and wondering why RuPaul looks blurry all the time when no one else does. And I laughed.

And ok. I'll watch the Drag U show I bet anyway.


Shatner's Raw Nerve: Who Knew?

I'm baaaaack! Some time off work and in bed means MEDIA OVERLOAD! So it's time to dish. I hope in the coming weeks to vent my spleen and bounce happily over such televisual delights I've been enjoying over the past few months as Doctor Who, Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Dragonball Z, and Ru Paul's Drag Race. I might even share my recent affection for Japanese rap group Midicronica, the Coffee Party, and the pleasure of making origami cranes. But first on the slate has to be my morning with William Shatner.

I hadn't heard of or seen Shatner's Raw Nerve until a random channel surf this morning. Forsaking such televisual pleasures as Margaret Rutherford's Miss Marple and Paula Deen grilling oysters with fresh dill (bleah), I tuned in to see Shatner in an S-shaped loveseat type arrangment interviewing Fran Drescher. I admit I entered the fray because I didn't know she had been raped or gone through cancer, but what I discovered as I watched was two people really talking. Their body language of leaning int toward one another was powerful, as was Shatner's amazing ability to draw out information without seeming like a tabloid reporter or pompous ass. He shared a story of his own apparent near-rape, he pressed her for details but did not laugh or poke. He seemed genuinely interested and genuinely insightful and intelligent. I can't say strongly enough that I've never seen this side of William Shatner.

My husband's theory is that he's simply dealt with all his macho nonsense and is enjoying his buffoonery but has more than that inside. He actually seems interested. I was fascinated.

Partly, it's Drescher, who I love (though I hated The Nanny). I loved her in Spinal Tap and for being a loud-mouthed beautiful Jewish woman. Shatner seems to appreciate that too.

Less satisfying was his interview with Tim Allen, but I blame Allen. His body posture in the loveseat was less comfortable, and he kept this distance that Shatner tagged spot on: stand-up comedians keep a wall between them and others, even from acting. Allen talked about his jail time as a teen, his alcoholism, etc., but Shatner was more available than Allen was for any of the interview, I thought.

Jason Alexander was somewhere between the two: genuine and open, but I guess just less interesting to me than Drescher, or perhaps it was because my husband was watching too and we talked more than we watched. Shatner just amazed me with asking great questions and giving powerful prompts without being prurient. Or not seeming to be anyhow.

If anyone is out there reading, I'd be interested in knowing what you think of this Shatner. Not the Priceline guy, not Kirk, but this interviewer with intelligence and poise--at least as I see it.