Friday, November 20, 2009

One of the Worst. Movie Posters. Ever.

If you look back to one of my first posts you'll find I detest digitally inserted images in movie posters, mostly because the items usually inserted would be no problem to film. But one thing I really don't like is digitally inserted "hands holding things." Such as:


These of course are DVD covers, but you get the idea. And I have literally had arguments about whether the hands in these images were photoshopped in or not. Let's put it this way. If not, wouldn't you also have to believe that the characters of The Office were staged in front of a blue background, lit from separate angles, and arranged on some sort of odd stair steps? And if you believed that, wouldn't you also have to agree that you are a moron?

Anyway, even if this poster isn't the worst looking photoshop job I've ever seen, it still pisses me off.

Since the devil is in the details, let's go ahead ignore that according to the poster, Robert DeNiro's arm must look something like this guy's (relax it's a statue):

First off, when did this become the standard format for Christmas movie posters: sparse white background, red or green lettering, obligatory Christmas item (bow, present, ribbon), and a 50% chance someone's going to be wrapped up in Christmas lights?

Secondly, why would you want to continue in that format, identifying your Christmas movie with these pieces of trash: Surviving Christmas, Christmas with the Kranks, Deck the Halls, Four Christmases, Fred Claus, Nothing Like the Holidays, and of course the ABC Family hit, The Dog Who Saved Christmas starring Dean Cain and Mario Lopez.

Finally, the main offender, the camera. Which marketing executive pulled this idea out of a hat 15 minutes before the meeting with Miramax? I could literally think of tens of better concepts. And here's where the photoshopping really gets me. The image on the camera's screen is the exact same image as the poster itself. Let's look at how little sense this makes.

1) When was the last time you were able to self-take a picture and fit two people so comfortably in the frame, let alone four?
2) The camera is pointed at their chests, not their faces.
3) The camera is tilted from the orientation of the poster, and the image is likewise tilted. Tell me, how did that work? Who will teach the kids about perspective, who?

I mean what are we, to believe this is some sort of a magic camera or something? Boy, I really hope someone got fired for that blunder. (And yes, I am wearing my "Genius at Work" T-shirt.)

All that being said, the movie doesn't look terrible, and I encourage you to view the trailer and decide for yourself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why is Matt Damon Smiling?

Checking out at a grocery store today I saw an Esquire magazine with Matt Damon on the cover:

It says: "Matt Damon: Why is this man smiling?"

Hmm, good question. Why is Matt Damon, the man who won an Oscar for his first screenwriting credit, was nominated for his performance in the same film, became a Hollywood sensation with Ben Affleck, went on to select choice acting roles, becoming not only one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood, but also one of the most respected, all while his counterpart Ben Affleck illustrated what could have been if he hadn't been so smart, was named People's sexiest man alive in 2007, starred in the Bourne trilogy, the Ocean's trilogy, married a non-tabloid attracting Argentinian bartender, had two children, and recently starred in one of best movies of 2009, The Informant!?

Well, I can't imagine. I'll guess I'll have to pick this up and give it a read.

Monday, September 28, 2009

(White) Boy in the Hood

A little over a week ago, I packed up everything I own, threw it in my car, and moved half-way across the city. From Westwood Village to what I've seen alternately called Mid-City and Mid-Wilshire, but is definitely within the boundaries of Arlington Heights.

My first thought: Where did all the Audis go? And BMWs, Mercedes, Priuses, and even late model Accords? Gone away, exchanged for tricked out 90's Acuras and old Caddies. Luckily, my 2000 Honda Civic fits in nicely with both cultures.

My plan was to trade the late night yells of drunken college students, shared room, and high rent for peace and quiet, some space, and extra funds. I found the space and the lower rent, but the peace and quiet have eluded me. The neighbors are nice enough, but families make noise, and I always have my windows open. The sounds of the 'hood flood in with gusto: Conversations in Spanish, the sound of a soccer ball slamming into the chain link fence right outside my window, the screeching bark of a dog (all the damn day long), people gunning the engines of their tricked out 90's Acuras, the seven gunshots outside my window at 2am........

Yes, that's right, seven gunshots. I had planned on noting the little foibles that come from moving from a college town to the ghetto, for instance how the middle school down the street is named after Johnnie Cochran, but once you hear seven gunshots outside your window, the quirks of living in a lower class area somehow lose their comedic value.

My sister once told me about the shots fired outside her Brooklyn apartment. I shrugged it off. My new roommates told me about the shots fired here two weeks ago. I shrugged it off. I was quietly watching the first episode of The Wire late last night and off they went. It sounded like pop-guns, but I knew exactly what it was. I immediately reached for my phone and reported it to the police... then cried like a little girl (on the inside).

Luckily, I am currently sleeping on a mattress on the floor, so I was nearly as low as I could get. I closed all the blinds, made sure the doors were locked, shut my computer (I couldn't stomach any more of The Wire) and went to sleep. Let's hope the trend doesn't continue.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Difference A Week Makes

What does it take to have the most experiential week since I've been in LA? Why another Oklahoman, of course. My best friend of many years (14, to be exact) came to LA this week, and in showing him around our fair city (and state), I was able to do and see more things myself than I have in any other week since I've been here.

For the record, we: walked around UCLA, went to the Hammer Museum, hiked Griffith Park, ate at Swingers, went to Facebook at UCB, drank beers at La Poubelle, drove up the coast, spent the night in a weird hostel, toured San Francisco, drove back, drank beers at Father's Office, watched OU beat Tulsa, saw 9 at The Academy, moved from Westwood to Mid-City, went to church, hiked and beached in Malibu, saw four shows at Hotel Cafe, strolled down the Santa Monica pier and beach, ate at Wahoo's, caught a Hitchcock double feature at the New Beverly Cinema, hung out with a friend at the 101 Cafe, and saw the Getty Center.

It feels like I picked him up a month ago. I do have some stories to tell.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oklahoman to know: Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain, not only a fellow Okie, but a fellow Shawneean. Way to spread the Okie goodness, Sam. Not that this song has anything particular to do with Oklahoma, but Ms. Crain continually gives props to her roots, wearing them as a badge of honor; she is a true blue Oklahoman. Enjoy this incredible new song, and look for her on iTunes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

For Shame, Los Angeles Public Library

Who will teach the children about perspective, if not for our public libraries?

The logo for the Los Angeles Public Library.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kill Slumdog Millionaire

Tarantino is one odd duck, and I often find that watching him, or listening to him, or looking at him somewhat diminishes the value of his movies (though on the teensiest level, and only momentarily). For example, take his recent interview with Conan O'Brien [Part 1, Part 2]. Even Conan, a skilled interviewer (and especially skilled at making himself out to be the buffoon) can't rescue Tarantino from his awkwardness. We're not talking Jaoquin Pheonix awkward, but awkward.

But then there are times when Tarantino isn't promoting himself, like in the video below, when he once again reveals himself as a total badass. He's well spoken, and incredibly insightful. Unlike the Conan interview, this introduction for Danny Boyle's Sunshine is scripted, but there's no reason to doubt Tarantino's authorship, and you can see how incredibly intelligent he really is, that his movies really are a reflection of his substance, and not that he's just getting lucky every time.

And now a word on the clip itself. This is from a series of Tarantino's favorite movies since he directed Reservoir Dogs. Here, he introduces and discusses Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle, the same Danny Boyle that directed Slumdog Millionaire.

Now is Slumdog Millionaire a terrible movie? Not really. In fact, I believe Boyle deserved his Best Director Oscar very much. The other 10 or so that movie won, it probably didn't deserve. [Full Disclosure: I am employed by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences {Fuller Disclosure: There was no reason for me to disclose that, I just think it's cool.}]

This is the problem with Slumdog Millionaire (and the same goes for Juno/Little Miss Sunshine): not that it is a feel-good movie, but that people think that because it made them feel good, it's a good movie, which is not the case. Furthermore (and this is going to sound like the most dickish statement in the history of film criticism), and this goes moreso for Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, it's a movie that makes people with poor/fair taste in movies feel like they have good taste in movies. It's kind of like being able to afford a dress shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch and thinking that means you have good fashion sense. (It doesn't.)

Tarantino instead highlights some classic Boyle (everything before Slumdog) and gives my thoughts exactly on Sunshine. In truth, it's probably not as good a movie as Slumdog Millionaire, but anyone who liked that should definitely check this one out. You'll probably hate it, but your opinions on Slumdog will be worth a lot more.

Found via

Friday, August 28, 2009

Suck it, LA!

I hope Summer from (500) Days of Summer fell down the hole.

There, that's better.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let No One Say Oklahomans Are Disrespectful

I was lucky enough to visit the land of my birth recently, and naturally, many more differences between LA and OK were revealed to me, and shall be revealed to you in due time.

But for now, please enjoy this video of Borat, also visiting OKC. There's really only one joke in the clip, but it's a damn good one. Watch the first three minutes and then you're dismissed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

LA is not Oklahoma

Now I wouldn't consider Oklahoma to be the South per se, and one of the things--no, the thing I get asked most about Oklahoma is, "Where is Oklahoma? Like is it the Midwest?"

No, I don't believe it is. But it's also not the South, and it's also not the West. In my grade school social studies books it was usually grouped with Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona as the Southwest, but there's no way. We don't even have any desert. Texans like to think they're Southerners, but they're not. Pride and racism alone does not a Southerner make. Go to the grits section in your grocery store. If it's bigger than your oatmeal section, you're probably in the South.

Still, I spent my share of time growing up in the Dirty, and after a year here, it seems all the flyover states elicit nostalgia.

Here's a duet from Johnny Cash and Phil "Baloo" Harris singing "That's What I Like About the South." They just don't make television like they used to.

Monday, August 10, 2009

LA is Okay

Because you can meet celebrities.

Rob Huebel is kind of my boy ever since I was called up to have my facebook page scrutinized at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater here in LA. Though he would probably say something about wanting to punch a guy that said "he's my boy" on his twitter page, @RobHuebel.

Later that night we pre-stalked him by waiting at the bar next door, where the Facebook Show performers hangout. I was able to meet him, and even though he claimed not to be famous, he is, and he was still totally approachable. So here's to Rob Huebel, and this really funny video he posted.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

LA is not Okay

Because people honk too much.

There are an amalgam of sounds that come in through my window, drunk people yelling in the PM, leaf blowers and lawn aerators in the AM. But throughout the day and the night, the incessant honking.

Agreed, sometimes you have to honk. I once cleared a traffic jam with a single honk. (Trust me.) But never do you have to honk for ten seconds. Oh, the long honkers. The only thing worse than the long honk is the honk back. YOU DON'T GET TO HONK BACK. I'm honking at you! You're in the wrong or I wouldn't have honked in the first place.

This is why the system of communication from one car to another desperately needs an upgrade. For too long have we been limited to facial expressions, hand gestures, and klaxons. The closest I've come to a feasible solution is a voice-to-text scrolling LCD display mounted on the front and back windshields, so that whatever you have to say can be read (or easily ignored) by offending drivers. I'm sure, however, that the CA DOT would take exception to the idea, and it is rather early 2000's.

Perhaps the simplest solution is a really loud megaphone, or failing that, a variety of coded honks. In example, one honk to say, "Don't change lanes, you'll hit me!" another to express, "I would appreciate it if you would go, instead of texting at this stop sign," which sounds just a little more vindictive than, "You have failed to notice that the light has turned green."

But for the able-bodied woman that starts to walk across the street when there are only two seconds left, then, when she's walking in front of the cars waiting to go, and the light turns green, yet she continues along at her casual pace, you really need a special horn, one that says, "WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF BITCH?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

LA is Okay

Because The Gossip shoots music videos where you skated.

So if you're one of those people watching MTV at 1:30 AM, you might have caught an animated show called "DJ and the Fro." I happened to have the opportunity to work on this show as a Post Production PA, and it was a great experience. Apart from the job itself, which was quite enjoyable, we got to do cool stuff like have premiere parties at roller rinks. The Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale, to be exact.

So, watching the new Gossip video this morning I thought, wow, that roller rink looks really familiar. Look out for the parking lot across the street where I parked (it's a Home Depot.) And the song's not bad either. Not bad at all.

The Man removed this video and disabled embedding, but you can watch the video here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Got to have it. Soul Power!

I watched the documentary Soul Power recently (like three hours ago) and while the documentary wasn't all that special, the music it documented was AMAZING. If you don't know, the doc is about a music festival that took place in Zaire in 1974, featuring the top black musicians of the 70's and headlined by the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.

The highlight of the performances, which were all fantastic, had to be Bill Withers' subtle but powerful "Hope She'll Be Happier," which you can watch below. I was familiar with Bill Withers' work only for "Lovely Day," which I downloaded to set as the ringtone for a girl I was dating, and it was credited in my iTunes as "Billy" Withers. After a little searching, I found that he is also the source of the classics "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Use Me." I love it when I discover awesome music that anyone over 40 would take for granted, but is totally new to me. A few years ago it was Fleetwood Mac, last year it was Cat Stevens. This year, it's Soul. Do yourself a favor and watch this performance by Mr. Withers.

Bill Withers from Jesse Thorn on Vimeo.

A few more treats:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Old Star Wars Photo

Strange how everyone in this picture looks dated, from Mark Hamill's wide lapels to Carrie Fisher's Annie Hall pants, but Harrison Ford still looks debonair as hell. See more rare Star Wars photos at

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Sujfan." Awesome.

Take that, Garden State soundtrack likers.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fiat Jokes

Heard on Car Talk:

Where do you go to get parts for a Fiat?

-Follow around another Fiat.

How do you get a Fiat to go 60 mph?

-Push it off a cliff.

Did you hear about the the anti-theft measures on the new Fiat?

-Yeah, they made the logo bigger.

What's the difference between a Fiat and a Jehova's Witness?

-You can close the door on Jehova's Witness.

I went to the dealer and said, "I'd like a new gas cap for my Fiat."

-He said, "Okay, sounds like a fair trade."

What do you call a Fiat on top of a hill?

-A miracle.

What do you call two Fiats on top of a hill?

-Science Fiction

What do you call three Fiats on top of a hill?

-A strange place to build a Fiat factory.

Take that you fascists!

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Convocation Speech 2009

First, I'd like to start by reading a selection from a classic children's story.

Oh, The Places You Won't Go

by Garrett F Baker

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

Oh by the way, you're competing for jobs against people with masters, doctorates, and 20 years experience. Save yourself four months and go ahead and apply to The Cheesecake Factory.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

This Week in Movies

The new trailer for Post Grad features a two-second clip of Alexis Bledel running into this building for an interview at a publishing company. As seen here:

It's not a publishing company, however, it's the CAA building. For the midwest inclined, that's the Creative Artists Agency, the top agency in LA (perhaps until a recent merger) where yours truly had an interview that ended in the interviewer telling the interviewee that he had done it only as a favor to a colleague. At least I got a taste of some primo valet parking.

In the background, however, you'll see a building where I did find work. The 9th and 11th floors of the tower on the right contains the headquarters for Lifetime Television, where I did a week of temp work. So, that nearly settles it. I'm famous.

But now I work in Hollywood, I don't have to wear a suit, and I make a ton more money doing the same shit work (but for way cooler people than your average agent).

P.S. I'd just like to take this chance to give out a kind and gentle "f you" to the executive who eight months ago said, "What are we going to do with this recession?...Hey, get me that script about that girl who can't find a job!" and then went home to his mansion.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

This Week in Movies

One of the first huge differences I noticed between LA and OK is the amount of movie advertisements. Of course, advertising in general is much bigger in LA than cities like OKC, Dallas, or New Orleans, but the percentage of advertisements used to promote movies is incredible. I'm going to go ahead and make up some figures here. I'd say that in any of those cities, the amount of all advertising alloted for movies is between 7-20%. In LA, I'd say it's closer to 60-80%.

"So what?" you might ask. Well, considering that I drive from Westwood to Hollywood and back six times a week, plus 1-3 runs a day within Hollywood and West Hollywood, I'd say I see this poster at least 15 times every day.

And that's not okay with me. You can get sick of some good posters (Gran Torino), and some you don't mind seeing over and over (The Dark Knight), but a poster like this, or 17 Again, or You Don't Mess with the Zohan (featuring Adam Sandler's photoshop-enhanced bulge) can be sickening.

This poster's design isn't completely bad. It's simplistic, and I find the blue background to be quite soothing. But it does have its problems. 

First of all, Matthew McConaughey is on it. Secondly, this particular shot of the prince of Austin makes him look like a demon. One point for honest portrayal, negative one point for scaring me. I don't know whose decision it was to go with the head-on angle, but it's quite terrifying, if not Jokeresque. Third, what at first seems to be a necktie is actually a giant red scarf. Why? I would bet it has something to do with the length of a necktie and that the poster is likely a photoshop of each star's individual shot, with the scarf inserted digitally. Anyway, it pisses me off. (If you're skeptical, take a look at the many versions of the Get Smart poster or the obvious Four Christmases. If they can do it with hair, a tie, hair the other way, or a ribbon, they can do it with a scarf.) 

The last thing I hate about this poster is that it's for a movie that is probably a huge piece of garbage. Can we be done with the ghost genre already? You would have thought it died with Ghost Dad, but not that long ago we had Ghost Town, with some respectable and semirespectable actors. And now this. While we're at it, let's toss out the body-switching genre. But of course, it won't happen. (17 Again at #1? I know there's not much on right now, but wouldn't you rather just not see a movie?)

If you don't believe me about the demon thing, here's a close-up. It also appears that they've used a different poster for the LA area, which apparently happens a lot. In this case, I actually like the LA version better. The "past girlfriends coming out of oddly posed photos" version is distracts from the focal point (the demon). 

I would also like to suggest changing the tagline,  "You can't always run from your past," to the more accurate, "Does it really matter?"

Monday, April 6, 2009

All Kids Out of the Pool: A Short Retrospective on Adult Swim in its Golden Years, Pt. 1

I know this is going to be hard to believe, but Adult Swim was actually showing quality programming before Family Guy went into syndication. I know, crazy, huh?

It started out (for me anyway) with Space Ghost Coast to Coast. I caught this weird show one late night in middle school and, though I had no idea what I was watching, could not turn away. Confusion led hilarity, and I was hooked. Check out my favorite episode, featuring Bjork, Thom Yorke, and this great exchange between Space Ghost and his new wife:

"You know what? It doesn't matter, because I love you so much...that, it's time for you to go to sleep."

I remember as a freshman in high school trying to convince my older sister that Space Ghost's song in this episode, "Knifin' Around," was hilarious, but to no avail.

It wasn't long until a primitive Adult Swim premiered. One night a week, 13-minute episodes. Space Ghost was joined by a bevy of great new shows: Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law (with a character voiced by Stephen Colbert), The Brak Show, and the less funny but immensely more popular Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Sealab was particularly amazing. The first video I ever downloaded (when YouTube didn't exist and Napster was still king), was an episode of Sealab where a French diver helps the crew find Captain Murphy's Happy Cake Oven: "It's not a toy. It makes real cupcakes, with a 40 watt bulb, and there's icing packets....but the secret ingredient, is love....damn it."

Check out this amazing clip.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Week In Movies

I saw Adventureland last weekend at an early screening. It didn't thrill me. The trailer was fantastic, and the movie failed to live up to it, probably because they squeezed into it every scene with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig there was. It also set the story up to be something that it wasn't. "It was the worst job they ever imagined... and the best time of their lives," goes the tagline. Actually, their summer was quite depressing.

In the movie, there's a character named Frigo who punches people in the nuts. I spent the whole movie and the subsequent days trying to figure out where I had seen him. I'll go ahead and solve the mystery for you. It's the kid from the AT&T rollover commercials.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Westwood Medical - A Year in Posters

The Westwood Medical building sits on the corner of Wilshire and Gayley at the end or the beginning of a long stretch of high-rise office and apartment buildings that run along Wilshire until they give way to the two-storey hedges that guard the Los Angeles Country Club. The face of this building is prime real estate and apparently owned by Disney.

When I first came to L.A. 10 months ago I found on its fa├žade a giant poster for the movie Underdog. Underdog was released on August 3, 2007. For that caliber of movie, I’d say the advertisement was posted between four and six weeks before it was released, meaning that the poster hung on the side of Westwood Medical for nearly a year (circa mid-June until the end of May).

As if to quell my indignation at such a waste of good space, a Wall-E poster swooped in to replace Underdog before my first weekend here had passed. They couldn’t have done better. Wall-E is not even my favorite Pixar movie, but it’s up there, and it had been a great source of motivation and cure for writer’s block throughout my last semester at Oklahoma. Though the dream has faded and transformed over the last year, a large block of my life was spent dreaming of one day working for Pixar. That first Wall-E trailer began with Andrew Stanton narrating the events of a meeting between founding fathers, wherein they discussed the future of the studio and brainstormed the ideas that would become a string of the best movies of the last decade and a half. This, as much as the beautiful and intriguing Wall-E footage itself, inspired me again and again and again to beat my head against the wall when it felt completely devoid of any good idea.

That screenplay (conceived for animation) was 75-pages long when I moved to L.A. The plan was to work on it everyday, have it done in three months, and turned in to my producer with a month left on my internship. (This producer, incidentally, happens to be very well connected at Disney. A framed memo from Jeffrey Katzenberg, written as a fond farewell, hangs in his bathroom. In it, Katzenberg jokes about the monumental failure Newsies, advises him to seek out George Lucas and ILM for help with “being in two places at once,” and ends by telling him to “always keep [his] pager on.”) Those early months were hard fought, and each page I wrote seemed to push completion further away.

Having exhausted the Wall-E trailer, I turned to that giant poster for inspiration. I thought to myself that one day it would be my film’s poster on the side of that building. The internship was in Malibu, and it was a long drive home, but there is a hill on Wilshire Blvd. between San Vicente and the 405. It was at the crest of that hill that I was first able to catch a glimpse of the poster, and each night I felt that it was calling me home, the gate to Westwood village and the inspiration for that night’s writing.

I hoped that Wall-E would enjoy as long a berth as Underdog, but weeks after the release of the movie, it was replace by Swing Vote. As seen here from the Getty.

After that, it became High School Musical 3, then Bedtime Stories, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Race to Witch Mountain. Basically, turd after turd after turd. Then, a great thing happened this weekend:

I’m not half as excited for Up as I was for Wall-E, but I’m definitely glad to see it up there. I will have officially been out here a year and six days by the time Up releases. Way to be on the cyclical structure, life.

Monday, March 23, 2009

This Week in Movies

A little trivia for you. Which recently Oscar-nominated director was responsible for this gem?

On a side note, anyone who thinks fedoras are cool should pay close attention to Isaac and Zac.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Advertising is Evil - Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Some commercials make you want to stab yourself in the head with a power drill. This is one of those commercials. And as the stand-up comedian/game show contestants in the SNL sketch I'm thinking of (but can't find on YouTube because NBC is also evil) would say: Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?

I can just imagine the actor reading his line in the audition, and all the casting directors looking to each other as if to say, "Get this guy the hell out of here," while the one Enterprise Rent-A-Car executive laughs hysterically in the corner. "Oh man, say that again, that's great! Hey, do you think we can add a few more 'moms' into the script? This guy's gold."

At first viewing you may be thinking, "Eh, it's not that bad," but watch this about five times, as I've been forced to during the run of March madness, and I guarantee you'll be reaching for that drill.

As a bonus to this post, go to the video's page on YouTube (posted by the company itself), and check out some of the great comments left by what I can only imagine are Enterprise employees.