What the world needs now is a stimulus package of love, sweet love, yet something about this Valentine’s Day seems even more perfunctory than usual. Perhaps it’s because we’ve spent the week being deluged by scientific reports telling us that what we think of as “love” is merely the increased production of an easily isolated hormone. Or maybe it’s the fact that this week’s most popular couples-related story involved domestic abuse and the possible influence of Paris Hilton. And then there’s the oft-cited fact that, while love gives you such a thrill, common wisdom dictates it won’t pay your bills. No, you need money. That’s what you want—but unfortunately, it’s in frighteningly short supply as well. So this year, save what you can, forget the computer-generated poetry, the pink-hued trinkets, and the obligatory expressions of affection, and give your love the only gift worth anything in troubled times like these: The reassurance that things could be much, much worse. Here’s a bouquet of fragrant schadenfreude, in the form of a half-dozen long-stemmed Friday Buzzkills. All you have to do is put your name on the card and seal with it a kiss—which as it turns out, is just an evolutionary outgrowth of regurgitation. No need to thank us.
- Who needs love anyway? If we remember the formula correctly, first comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes you with a baby carriage—but thanks to “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, we now know that it’s possible to skip directly to the last step with the help of fertility drugs, a reckless disregard for the welfare of your children, and an insatiable hunger for publicity. Now add “a blatant desire to become Angelina Jolie” to the list: Many news outlets this week picked up on the fact that the unemployed single mom of 14 isn’t just aping the actress/breeding initiative’s “Child Catcher From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” approach to family-building. She also appears to have undergone extensive (and needless! Fuck you, taxpayers of California!) plastic surgery to make herself into Jolie, recently going so far as to (according to some) adopt her idiosyncratic speech patterns in interviews.
Somehow, Jolie isn’t flattered, and was recently quoted as saying she’s “totally creeped out” by Suleman. And for good reason: Apparently Suleman has been sending her “admiring letters” for the better part of last year, congratulating Jolie on her humanitarian efforts on behalf of children—a totally selfless act, which is just like Suleman’s decision to poop out a litter so she could pick up $2 million from media and sponsorship deals (not to mention donations to her website from people who apparently misheard “be fruitful and multiply” as “multiply like fruit flies”) and spread the word that children are a blessing… A blessing that can’t be returned and which must thus be subsidized by already-strained taxpayers, because life is precious. And expensive. (Then again, maybe Jolie is just angry that, like the rest of America, she’s seen this photo and will now never be able to have sex again.)
- Suleman’s war on the human libido couldn’t have come at a worse time for television producers, who are so desperate to keep their flagging industry afloat that they’ve ceased looking for ways to mask the contempt for their mouth-breathing, ball-fondling audience and started creating blatantly sex obsessed shows like Hot Girls In Scary Places. No, it’s not an adaptation of the famous Thomas Mann novel; rather it’s a high-like-giraffe-ass-concept skein that involves—according to the ridiculously long press release—putting hot girls in scary places. (So it's not just a clever name!) The forthcoming E! show challenges three University Of Southern California cheerleaders to spend the night in a supposedly haunted locale to compete for a $10,000 prize, “surviving with only with [sic] their wits, energy bars, and the latest in paranormal equipment.” In other words, it’s perfect for anyone who finds Ghost Hunters just a tad too clinical.
- And if you haven’t had enough gratuitous sex—or “fuck the middle class” fetishization of wealth—you’ll also want to set your DVRs for Bravo’s planned “docudrama” version of Gossip Girl, which plans to take several Manhattan prep school kids and make them even more insufferable by putting their gold-powdered asses on the pedestal of pseudo-celebrity. Much as the network helped to focus an economically battered nation’s scorn like a high-powered hate laser on the idle rich with shows like Real Housewives Of Orange County, this new show will pretend to care about the “drama” of being a misunderstood spoiled teen while stringing together whiny narratives in the editing room in order to make them the most despised—and if you’re between the ages of 12 and 18, emulated—children in the nation, all in the name of your collective, cathartic purging. Naturally, sensitive types might feel strangely guilty openly hating/lusting after a group of living, breathing adolescents—especially outside the outlandish constructs of a soap opera that somehow makes it all okay—and maybe even concerned about the effects of spoon-feeding this most ungrateful generation’s already bloated sense of entitlement. But hey, look at how well the cast of The Hills turned out!
- Then again, don’t take our word for it: We’re just critics, and therefore naturally prone to “critical snobbery”—or so says Steve Martin, anyway, who this week laughed off the almost universal disdain for The Pink Panther 2 Legit To Quit Raping Peter Sellers’ Legacy by saying, “Comedy is not a critics’ medium.” Once the assembled journalists’ shattered monocles had all been swept away, Martin added, “"I received bad reviews when I started with my stand-up act. The Jerk, one of my most enduring comedy films, was universally panned in America,” apparently implying that The Pink Panther 2 is just ahead of its time. We don’t know about you, but we’re planning on putting this article in a time capsule and reopening it in 20 years to see if Martin is right. Who knows? Perhaps the future will be kinder to films like these, and Martin’s check-cashing cheap pratfalls and hee-larious Fronch accent will one day be considered the height of humor. And that’s when we’ll bite down on the cyanide.
- Although, maybe Martin’s onto something with his open disdain for all the laptop-humping, wannabe H.L. Menckens out there trying to make a name for themselves by cranking out nasty pull-quotes like “This Panther is clawless.” After all, the quality of film criticism as a whole has been on the wane (present, paycheck-providing company excepted, of course) ever since the likes of Ben “Whee! I’m On A Poster” Lyons became a standard-bearer. The At The Movies co-host/number-one I Am Legend fan has repeatedly come under fire from his fellow critics ever since inheriting the Siskel And Ebert throne, occasionally for a perceived lack of integrity stemming from his shameless desire to hobnob with Hollywood stars, but primarily for giving off the impression that his film literacy is equivalent to that of your average teenager working at Blockbuster. But those people are just the “old guard,” laboring under the false assumption that being a critic requires some sort of fancy-schmancy edumacation in their chosen field; haven’t these fogies ever heard of Scene It? Ben Lyons says he uses the Xbox video game all the time to “improve my movie knowledge”—which is apparently a way better method than watching actual movies—while playing with “some of the homies.” (Perhaps while chillaxing to some Coolio?) Even better, he’s challenged all of his naysayers to step into “The Lyons Den” and play him online. You heard the man: You might think you have the ins and outs of Truffaut’s oeuvre down pat, but let’s just see you identify Juno based on a child’s drawing, smart guy. That’s the kind of erudition that lands you your very own TV show.
- Oh, whatevs. We may talk a huffy game, but it’s not just the Ben Lyonseses of the world who are ruining the so-called integrity of the film industry. The truth is, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences is just as guilty of having its head up its ass, and nowhere is that more evident than in the annual pas-de-delusion known as the Oscar nominations. While reasons to bemoan the awards’ complete lack of connection to reality are renewed annually, it seems as though every year the Academy finds some new, previously thought impossible angle to its obtuseness, and in 2009 that honor goes to the bafflingly limited selections for Best Song. Roundly ignoring such favorite contenders as Bruce Springsteen’s track for The Wrestler or dark horses like Jon Brion’s contribution to Synecdoche, New York, the nomination committee instead settled on a paltry sampling of just three tracks, two of which are from Slumdog Millionaire.
This week Variety parsed the twisted logic and needlessly intense restrictions behind the sampling and voting process and somehow made the whole thing even more confusing—but the truth is, it doesn’t really matter anyway considering the short shrift the category will receive at the ceremony. Apparently making plenty of room for avowed “song and dance man” Hugh Jackman to hoof-and-grin his way through a show-stopping montage that your mom will love, this year producers have limited performances from all the nominees to a single clusterfuck medley, allowing a mere 65 seconds apiece for each song. Only Peter Gabriel isn’t having it: He’s pulled out of singing his WALL-E theme “Down To Earth” on the show as a form of mild protest, insisting that shoving a minute of his wistful ballad into the middle of A.R. Rahman and M.I.A.’s Bollywood rave wasn’t “sufficient enough to do the song justice.” As if “justice” and “the Oscars” had anything whatsoever to do with each other.
- Of course, once again all of this petty “entertainment news” pales in comparison to all the real-world Buzzkills we’re glad we don’t have to cover, because we would then have to work much harder and possibly even have real feelings about things—stuff like today’s plane crash in Buffalo, which claimed the lives of a human rights worker and a 9/11 widow along with dozens of others. Unfortunately, sometimes the real world and our world intersect, and it becomes our sad duty to report that among the victims were two members of jazz musician Chuck Mangione’s band—guitarist Coleman Mellett and saxophonist/flautist Gerry Niewood—who were scheduled to perform with Mangione and the Buffalo Philharmonic today.
- Darrell Sandeen was a Broadway-bred actor who often appeared in musicals like Guys And Dolls, Carousel, and Can-Can, but in films and on television he was often called upon to play brutish, menacing characters, owing to his large build and chiseled jaw. His most famous role was likely that of corrupt cop “Buzz Meeks” in L.A. Confidential, but in recent years he could also be seen starring opposite porn star Mary Carey in the goofy B-movie homage Pervert! and on episodes of Big Love. Sandeen died this week at the age of 78.
- Although it was Ronnie Spector who was the de facto leader of The Ronettes, the Phil Spector-backed girl group could not have scaled the producer’s legendary “wall of sound” without the power of all three voices behind it, one of which belonged to Ronnie’s sister Estelle Bennett. Together with their cousin Nedra Talley, Ronnie and Estelle became one of the most admired acts of the 1960s after releasing hits like “Walkin’ In The Rain,” “Baby I Love You,” and their most famous, “Be My Baby,” which has become an indelible piece of pop culture over the years, thanks in no small part to memorable appearances in films like Dirty Dancing and Mean Streets. Bennett mostly avoided the public eye after the group’s breakup, emerging in the late ’90s only to wage a long and ultimately futile lawsuit against Spector over royalties for use of their songs. She was found dead in her home this week at the age of 67.
Have a super weekend!
[Friday Buzzkills will return February 27.]