Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Friday Buzzkills: The price and the promise

We started the week with such high hopes, didn’t we? Ready to embrace a new era of optimism, of reinvigorated pride, of restored unity, of faith in that idea that our nation’s frequently toxic self-righteousness is justified. Ready to believe again, in other words. Instead, what did we really get? Garth Brooks massacring the Isley Brothers. Aretha Franklin dressed as the shiny Lexus at a spoiled girl’s Super Sweet Sixteen party. A working demonstration of why most Americans can’t stand poetry. Then, just when we needed somebody to lie to us the most, all we got were some strong words about this being a new era of picking up after yourselves because your mom doesn’t work here—not to mention a litany of problems that have already led some bloviators to proclaim Obama a major “buzzkill.” (He truly is one of us!) So who can blame us for wallowing in post-partum depression following this ballyhooed rebirth of a nation? “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” right? (Get ready to hear that phrase ad nauseam for the next four years.) After Beyonce has been packed up and Anderson Cooper has finally been allowed to go home, the fact remains that undeserving people are still getting rich, worthwhile institutions are still crumbling, art is still governed by committee, and celebrities still act like smug, selfish pricks. Our fellow citizens, the honeymoon is over. Time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of making America feel bad about itself. This is the price and the promise of Friday Buzzkills.

- Of course, grading Obama on a speech that had only slightly less expectations placed on it than the Sermon On The Mount is all too easy from up here in the peanut gallery. Oh, if only there were someone out there who could relate to the sort of unique pressures placed on the underdog, and could put the whole thing into some sort of perspective, preferably using belabored pop culture references. Hey, how about that dude from Fall Out Boy? As a hilarious prank, the Huffington Post asked Pete Wentz to talk about how he can really empathize with what Obama’s going through—because he too overcame a pervasive national prejudice against Twittering twatwaffles to be famous for the next couple of years. Here’s Wentz’s take on what lies ahead for Obama:

A funny thing happens when the underdog wins (trust me on this one, I have scratched and won one of the biggest lottery tickets that a goofy little Midwestern guy like me can get away with). The elation is high, but so are the expectations. Now there is a rapt audience. There is a microphone hissing, and feedback. When that happened before it was quaint and authentic. Now it's annoying and unprofessional. Now the challenges that our nation faced in November have been compounded. There is a recession, there is war, there is a mounting unemployment rate. And there is history to be made. Now he's no longer the underdog. He's the leader of the free world with big ideas and big responsibilities. Now everyone expects results.

At the risk of extending the metaphor, President Obama faces a challenge like Lauryn Hill after her album Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill won five Grammys or the Coen Brothers after Blood Simple won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Will it take a while for his own Fargo or No Country For Old Men? Or will success come early and often?

Well, Wentz took the risk, but it was all worth it, damn it: Barack Obama is so totally Lauryn Hill, and we should all be holding our breath that he doesn’t turn up an hour late for his first State Of The Union with frizzy orange hair and then just start randomly scatting and bursting into tears. (And in all fairness to Wentz, he made it through six paragraphs without mentioning his sex life.)

- But as easy as it is to rip on Obama for not exactly turning the world on with his smile, the good news is that the bad men are all gone, packed off to their undisclosed bunkers and desolate ranches to sit in timeout and think about what they did. Oh, except for Secretary Of Siding With President Bush In Defiance Of All Humanity Condoleeza Rice, who recently signed on with the prestigious William Morris Agency to help develop her post-political career. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the agency will aid her in landing deals for books where she can continue to propagate a party line defense of her and her colleagues’ many failures and deceptions, lecture tours where she can attract scores of still-angry protestors who refuse to listen to what she has to say, and—since Rice is both an “accomplished concert pianist and a big-time NFL fan”—public appearances that will taint the realms of classical music and professional sports with the lingering stench of one of the most duplicitous administrations in American history, because we simply haven’t seen enough of the woman who helped sell us the Iraq War, and it would be so great if we could somehow get her on Monday Night Football.


- And lest you think Rice’s bid for civilian celebrity is the most egregious example of the world rewarding the least worthy, consider that Alaskan governor Sarah “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” Palin is bartering for an $11 million advance so that she can share her story with the world. Because, you know, nobody’s heard enough of that. The book will give Palin the opportunity to set the record straight on a number of misconceptions—like the myth that you can’t write a book without a basic command of sentence structure—and is being positioned as her chance to articulate the polemic that will eventually springboard her to the nomination in 2012, much like Obama’s books did for him, as well as to cultivate her still-fervent fanbase by giving them a personal glimpse of what makes her tick, much like, say, Vanna Speaks. Working title: The Audacity… Seriously, The Fucking Audacity.

- Meanwhile, The New York Times is so broke it had to borrow $250 milllion (at a 14 percent interest rate) from ethically questionable Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Unfortunately, even giving a shady investor from another country the third-largest share of its holdings barely begins to cover the paper’s billion dollars in debt, so it’s also selling its building and trying to find somebody to take the Boston Red Sox off its hands. But just because projected ad revenues are perhaps the worst they’ve ever been and the nation’s most prestigious newspaper is reduced to having fire sales and getting in bed with robber barons to stay afloat doesn’t mean all print media is doomed, right? Perhaps they could go back to boosting readership by serializing books like in the days of Dickens. Like we said, we hear Sarah Palin might have some money to throw around.

- What with all these newspaper types living under constant threat of layoffs, or having their slaved-over articles cut in favor of a far cheaper wire service listicle on "Movies Featuring Black Presidents," they can be forgiven for being a bit on edge. At the very least you probably shouldn’t confront them while they’re trying to eat off of their meager per diem and demand they talk to you about your film—a lesson that was learned too late by Jeff Dowd, also known as the inspiration for “The Dude” character in The Big Lebowski. After a recent Sundance screening of Dirt! The Movie (sadly, not the long-awaited adaptation of the Motley Crüe biography, but rather yet another “eco-awareness” documentary that shames you for not taking soil more seriously), producer’s rep Dowd approached Variety film critic Jon Anderson while he was having breakfast and began badgering him for his opinion. When “The Dude” failed to respond to Anderson’s request to “fuck off and get out,” this happened:

[Dowd] returned ten minutes later with Jackie "The Joke Man" Martling (The Howard Stern Show) to speak on behalf of the film. Anderson had moved to a table for four and didn't recognize Martling, and wasn't having it anyway. Dowd "starts berating me," Anderson says. "He's a big intimidating guy hovering over the table. I got really pissed off."

Anderson said, "I told you to get away."

Martling said, "I just wanted to tell you…"

Anderson said, "Are you a friend of Jeff's? Can't you see I'm eating breakfast?" Anderson got up and said to Dowd, "I told you I would punch you."

Dowd kept talking and Anderson got up and walked four steps, says Dowd, clenched up and hit him in the shoulder, chest and chin, and then his lip. Anderson remembers pushing Dowd away and says he "popped his nose." What did his friends do, he asks, "to deserve him?"


Luckily, Dowd has refused to press charges, opting instead to call for a “panel with Anderson, journalists, and the filmmakers to talk about these issues” that we’re sure will resolve plenty—like any incipient interest anyone may have had in the film in the first place. (Now away to the comments to make all the Lebowski references you can think of!)

- Naturally we’re not so self-unaware that we don’t recognize that, 90 percent of the time, it’s us critics who deserve to get knocked the fuck out. You know, us know-it-alls with our oh-so-clever withering takedowns, which we create to put the spotlight on our carefully crafted public persona so as to subvert scrutiny of our shallow opinions. But then again, not all of us are as bad as Top Chef's rookie blowhard Toby Young, whose Catskillian bon mots have drawn much ire for sounding like they’re not so much born from a deep understanding of gastronomy as belched from the gastrointestinal quarry of Bruce Vilanch. Of course, maybe it’s just you stupid Americans who aren’t clever enough to recognize genius when you see it: In a rejoinder to his critics posted in the Evening Standard, Young laments that, “One of the penalties of being a well-educated Brit in America is that people are constantly accusing you of having memorized lines for the simple reason that you talk in complete sentences and—completely unheard of, this—you don’t make any grammatical mistakes.” Got that? So it’s not so much that we find Toby Young to be a pompous windbag whose idea of wit is to regurgitate stale pop culture references that Jay Leno might deem hacky. No, it’s that he’s British and smart and you’re just intimidated. Perhaps if he made more fart noises?


- As irritating as Young’s self-aggrandizing straw man defense is, it’s nothing compared to this week’s most instantly irritating interview, again courtesy of Sundance: While making the rounds, MTV News cornered Michael Cera about his reluctance to get involved with the long-promised Arrested Development movie (a project which every other single member of the show’s creative team has enthusiastically assented to) and Cera's response defense leaves a little something to be desired—namely the desire to refrain from throttling the shit out of him. Cera claims that there’s no script, so he won’t agree to do the film. Of course, creator Mitch Hurwitz has also stated that he can’t write the script until he knows which actors are available. Oh, and even if it does somehow get written, Cera might “possibly put the script in my shredder.” Hilarious. Everybody hates you now.


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- David “Fathead” Newman was a Texas-born saxophonist who got his start touring in jazz bands with Ornette Coleman and later went on to release over 38 solo records, the most recent being last year’s Diamondhead. However, his most famous work was as a sideman and session player: Discovered by Ray Charles in the 1950s, he worked for 12 years as his tenor sax soloist, while also doing studio work on songs like Aretha Franklin’s “Soul ’69” and Jimmy Scott’s “All The Way,” as well as recordings by B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Queen Latifah to name a few. Robert Altman showcased his talents in Kansas City, and he even turned up (played by Bokeem Woodbine) in 2004’s Ray. Newman died this week at the age of 75 from pancreatic cancer.

- Bob May was a former vaudeville comic who appeared in several films with Jerry Lewis and had bit parts on shows like McHale’s Navy, but it was his career as a stuntman that led him to his most recognizable role: May just happened to be on the studio lot when Lost In Space creator Irwin Allen was looking for someone to fill the suit of the Robinson family’s loyal sidekick The Robot. Because it fit May perfectly, he got the job, a role that he came to cherish over the years, often referring to the suit as his “home away from home.” According to costar June Lockhart, May would wear it for hours—even keeping it on during smoke breaks—while memorizing the lines of every actor so he would know when to respond to cues. Although he didn’t supply the Robot’s famous voice or catchphrase (“Danger, Will Robinson!), May had a cult following among sci-fi collectors, whom he gladly visited with at conventions. Sadly, he and his wife lost their house this past November to wildfires; even sadder, May passed away this week at the age of 69.

Have a super weekend!


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