“I’m gonna be honest with ya. I’d go buy another bag of pretzels.”

One of my favorite sketches ever is from a super obscure place: something called The New Show, which ran for a grand total of 9 episodes in 1984.

Produced by SNL founder and emperor Lorne Michaels, the show really only existed because of what we might call The Michaels Hiatus Period in SNL history. Sure, he founded the show in 1975, and ran it through 1980, but after 5 years he felt the need to seek out other opportunities. He left the show to Jean Doumanian, who was replaced after a single season by Dick Ebersol (who’s more of note for his role with NBC Sports, but whatever).

Anyway, so, Michaels is off doing other things after 1980. Late in his hiatus — he took SNL back in 1985 — Michaels was back with another sketch show. This one was entirely pre-taped, and had no shortage of serious talent, but for whatever reason it failed utterly.

I remember watching it, but hand to God the only bit I can say I truly remember is this: Roy’s Food Repair, featuring John Candy, Paul Simon, and Dave Thomas (among others). It’s the absurdity and the delivery that still kill, 32 years later.

Are you guys watching The Americans?

You love it? Yeah? Well, have I got a story for you. Turns out, the whole thing is based on truth — including the idea that the kids wouldn’t even know their parents’ real identities. Tim and Alex Foley were caught completely by surprised when, in 2010, the FBI raided their home and took their parents away in handcuffs. (It was the same operation that netted Anna Chapman, as it happens.)

Born in Canada to “illegal” agents just like Paige and Henry on the FX show, they eventually naturalized as American citizens living in Cambridge. Both citizenships have been rescinded thanks to their parents’ clandestine careers, so the only passports they hold are Russian — i.e., a country to which neither have a real connection.

[Via MeFi.)

Forget EGOT. The new hotness is MacPEGOT.

What’s EGOT? It’s when you’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s a rarefied group — think Richard Rodgers, or Rita Moreno, or Audrey Hepburn, or Mel Brooks.

What’s a MacPEGOT? It’s an EGOT winner who’s also bagged the MacArthur and the Pulitzer, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is well on his way.

  • Miranda won two Tonys in 2008, for his first musical In the Heights.

  • He picked up his first Grammy the next year, for the show’s soundtrack album, and then got another this year, for the soundtrack to Hamilton.

  • He wrote a song (with Tom Kitt) for the Tony Awards in 2014, and won an Emmy for it.

  • And, of course, this year he’s picked up the MacArthur and the Pulitzer.

Turns out, the only one he doesn’t have is an Oscar. But he’s doing the music for an upcoming Disney animated feature (“Moana”), and a filmed adaptation of Hamilton seems inevitable, so…

Oh, we should probably mention that “MacPEGOT” isn’t actually a thing yet, because no one’s done it. (Only Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch have added the Pulitzer to their EGOT.)

(There’s obviously a Wikipedia page about the EGOT, which helpfully includes lists of folks with 3 of the 4 EGOT awards.)

Dept. of Turnabout-Is-Fair-Play

You may or may not be aware of the fact that Antoine Fuqua is remaking the 1960 classic The Magnificient Seven; he’s pulled together a hell of a cast for this retread — Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, D’Onofrio — but at the end of the day it still makes me ask “um, why?”

However, in discussion of this on Facebook, something actually interesting cropped up. I’m assuming anyone reading this is aware that the original Magnificent Seven was itself a US retelling of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1954 film Seven Samurai. Remakes are one thing, but cross-cultural adaptations can actually be interesting.

Such adaptations are mostly east to west, at least heretofore, but turns out, Japanese cinema can do it, too. In 2013, they made an adaptation of Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar-winner. Ken Watanabe stars; it’s also called Unforgiven, at least in English (in Japan, it’s apparently “Yurusarezaru Mono”).

Here’s the trailer:

I think I need to see this.

Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon and bacon.

This excellent commercial for a British film download service stars Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Bacon. Enjoy:

(I think the best part is that the jerk — who turns 58 this summer — has aged so well he can plausibly reprise characters from 1980 (when he was 22), 1984, 1992, 1995, and 2000 in one commercial and have them all be immediately recognizable.)

Whatever else he is, J. J. Abrams is an enthusiastic nerd

He’s been instrumental in getting Don Coscarelli’s late-70s cult horror film Phantasm restored and released on Blu-Ray and DVD, on account of BIG FAN. Coscarelli:

It started a loooong long time ago in a graveyard far, far away. J.J. Abrams called up, oh, about 12 years ago, back when he still doing TV stuff. I didn’t know who he was. He said “I’m a TV producer, and I love Phantasm.” And we started talking about it. In fact, at the time, I think we were finishing up Bubba Ho-Tep. And I got a little trouble with the editing process, and I was having trouble making that movie come together. And I brought it over and showed it to him and we hung out and he was a real cool guy. And, over the years, from time to time we stayed in touch. I introduced him to Angus Scrimm [ed. note: the "Tall Man" villain in Phantasm], and he ended up putting Angus into a recurring role on his Alias TV series. Angus really appreciated that and really enjoyed it.

Flash-forward to about a year and a half ago, I got another call from J.J. and he wanted to screen Phantasm for his workers over at his company Bad Robot. And I told him that the only choice he really had was my scratched-up old 35mm print, or the standard-def DVD. Those weren’t really great choices, so he said “Oh, we gotta fix that!” So he put [me] in touch with their head of post-production, a guy named Ben Rosenblatt, and he came up with this plan as to how to restore the movie efficiently. So that’s how it started.

I’m not really a horror fan, and I’m no fan of Abrams, but this is a cool story.

Ever wonder what it’s like to work with Terrence Malick?

Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno 911) got hired as a partygoer in the new film Knight of Cups, and shared his recollections here.

“We’re all standing there and Malick hands out these pieces of paper to all of us,” Lennon said. “And the one he gave me said, ‘There’s no such thing as a fireproof wall.’ And I ask, ‘Is this something I’m supposed to say in the scene?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Lennon learned, after talking to the director, that there was no script, just a phrase that might inspire him when cameras started rolling.

“And then Malick goes, ‘Would you like some more? Because I have a whole stack of these.’ And I was like, ‘I think I’m good,’” Lennon said.

Lennon later asked Bale while Malick was away:

Lennon: “Is this how it goes?

Bale: “Yeah.”

Lennon: “Every day?”

Bale: “Yeah.”

Lennon: “How long have you been doing this?”

Bale: “This is, like, day 25.”

The best list of Bobbys you’ll see online today

Kiernan Shipka shares her memories of her varied middle-sibling co-stars in list form.

I hadn’t noticed, but apparently Bobby Draper was played by eight different actors over the course of the show. (Also surprising: two actresses played Sally, though the other girl was only in the pilot). Some were apparently one-offs, and the last two carried the bulk of the episodes, which is probably why we as viewers didn’t really notice.

Because I was curious, I looked it up. According to IMDB, the character appeared in 74 of the 92 episodes (Sally is in 89). * The last Bobby, Mason Vale Cotton (b. 2002), had the role for 33 of those appearances. * His immediate predecessor, Jared Gilmore (b. 2000), was in 19 episodes.

That leaves 22 episodes where someone other than these two played Bobby.


Look, lots of things are shitty, but Spike Lee’s new film Chi-Raq is coming, and it looks kind of amazing. Lee has elected to work with a play this time. Given that the play in question is over two thousand years old, it needed some updates for modern sensibilities, but I think you’ll find the basic argument of Lysistrata pretty easy to grasp whether it’s set in ancient Greece or modern-day Chicago.

As is often the case, Lee has managed to wrangle a hell of a cast: Nick Canon, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, and Isiah Whitlock (“Sheeeeeeit“) are just some highlights.

Out December 4.

Hollywood is Exhausted

Remember when Hollywood fucked up that time, and did two big-budget volcano movies in the same year? Obviously Dante’s Peak was the superior of the two, but everyone who saw it experienced at least some thrill in seeing LA destroyed in the creatively-named Volcano, released only 2 months later.

Then, they did the same thing with earth-ending celestial impacts only a year later, as 1998 gave us both the slightly more plausible Deep Impact in May and the far more obnoxious Armageddon in July.

You see things like this, and you wonder “are they even trying?” I’m pleased to report that the answer is, at least much of the time, “No, not really.” Here’s this year’s PAIR of “fuck it, we’re out of ideas” films:

Exhibit 1:

On the heels of I have no idea what, we have two upcoming films about the two most famous and disturbing psychological experiments. Obviously, The Stanford Prison Experiement is about, well, the Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971. This one’s famous enough it’s even been riffed on in Veronica Mars, and in truth this isn’t even the first feature film to tackle it. (Trailer.)

The other famed experiment is, of course, the eponymous work of Stanley Milgram. The nature of the work (about obedience) was provocative enough that, as with Stanford, the upcoming Experimenter isn’t the first film based on it, but it’s the newest and biggest. Here’s the trailer.

Exhibit 2:

On a lighter (?) note, slasher inversion/dark comedies called Final Girl (trailer) and Final Girls (trailer) will be released soon despite their near-total name collision –something about which we’re sure the studios are SUPER happy.

What’s even MORE hilarious here is that they both star the same actor, a relative newcomer named Alexander Ludwig, whose agent surely knew better.

The films themselves are only superficially similar beyond the obvious trope-inversion aspects. The former is about the eponymous Final Girl (Abigail Breslin) who has been recruited as highly-trained bait to eliminate a cabal of murderous fratboys led by Ludwig. The latter is a (possibly) witty romp through slasher films and involves some teenagers being transported to a 1980s summer camp where, obviously, a slasher awaits (as does the lead’s mother, apparently a scream queen back in the day). This one looks like Wet Hot American Summer meets Cabin in the Woods, whereas the former is more Carrie meets Rambo.

Even so, you’d think someone would’ve adjusted one or both titles, no?

Your Monday Morning Random Fact

Owing to the appearance of the Cradle of Love video (which is fun for lots of reasons, not the least of which being the prominent placement of both a cassette deck and an ancient Macintosh) in this morning’s drink-from-the-Internet-fire-hose, I’m now in a position to remind you that David Fincher directed a shit-ton of pretty iconic music videos in addition to the “Cradle” clip before he started making movies, from artists like Paula Abdul’s (“Straight Up”, “Cold Hearted”), Madonna (“Express Yourself”, “Vogue”, “Bad Girl” (which featured Christopher Walken)), Don Henley (“End of the Innocence”), Aerosmith (“Jamie’s Got A Gun”), George Michael (“Freedom ’90″), and others.

The Ho Ho Horror

Patton Oswalt’s mashup of Rudolph and Apocalypse Now really must be seen to be believed. It’s only about 4.5 minutes long.


There I was … at MADtv, struggling to explain to a network suit what Apocalypse Now was, and how it could be funny if done through the prism of a Rankin Bass special.*

They eventually shot my idea—a year after I left the show. Well, I really didn’t leave. They didn’t have me back. And with good fucking reason. I was a judgmental, sour asshole of a writer. Quick with a criticism and never with a fix. A comedy and film snob who rolled his eyes half the time and turned in typo-filled scripts. But they shot it. And put my name in the credits. Misspelled. Revenge? They were entitled. The sketch was called “A Pack of Gifts Now,” and it was lovingly animated by a stop-motion genius named Corky Quakenbush. An elf [actually a reindeer—Editor] is sent by toy makers to the North Pole to terminate “the Kringle” and his cultlike operation of toy makers “with extreme prejudice.” And, ironically enough, one of the producers I clashed with, Fax Bahr—who codirected the documentary Hearts of Darkness, about the making of … Apocalypse Now—shepherded the sketch through, with all of my visual jokes and references intact, and plenty of his own, which made the sketch even better. Even got a mention in TV Guide. Thanks, Fax. Sorry I was such a dick. Part of being in your twenties is not knowing an ally when you see one.

Seriously, do not miss this. Hard to believe it was on MadTV.

via MeFi.

I’ll go ahead and say it

Given how thoroughly Lucas destroyed Star Wars with the absurdly bad prequels PLUS the fact that Abrams is objectively terrible when it comes to continuity, I’m shocked at how many people are excited about the new teaser trailer. There’s basically zero chance this film isn’t garbage.

The Edge of A Whole Bunch Of Other Movies

So, Mrs Heathen and I just decided to take in the Edge of Tomorrow which, surprisingly, isn’t a soap opera but is instead a big Hollywood Tom Cruise movie.

I’ll state at the getgo that it filled our need for “big dumb movie,” but holy FUCK the entire thing is completely devoid of any original content. It’s amazing.

  1. The plot is a straight rip of Source Code replacing “terror attack” with “alien invasion,” which is itself a national-security/action-movie retread of Groundhog Day. At least Groundhog Day was an actually decent film.

  2. Oh, we fight in armor? Imagine that.

  3. Wait, the unit includes a foul-mouthed vaguely-hispanic woman? Well, at least her name wasn’t Vasquez.

  4. It’s a goddamn shame they didn’t have the sergeant say “game over” at any point.

  5. There’s multi-tentacled bad guys attacking aircraft? You mean, like the ones in The Matrix?

  6. We have a lovely blonde character who fights with an anime-scale sword? Seriously?

  7. You put the bad guy, for much of the movie, in a giant concrete well with tentacles going everywhere? Gosh, where have I seen that before?

  8. And because the filmmakers have NO SHAME AT ALL, the end credits are a straight rip-off of the first Iron Man film.

So yeah, now I know what it’s like to watch a movie made entirely of shameless ripoffs. It is, of course, no surprise that it made tons of money. Sigh.

“The President has nothing but free time, Toby.”

Empire Online has an exhaustive and delightful retrospective up on The West Wing which is worth your time.

The closing quote is from Sorkin:

During one of our monthly cast lunches in the first season, Brad Whitford said, “No matter what we do from here on out, this show is the first line of our obits.” Martin, who was in Apocalypse Now, said, “I’m good with that”. Me too.

If you don’t have time for the whole thing (it’s long), DO make time for the 15 Things You Didn’t Know, which is fun despite the clickbaity headline.


If you have not seen last Sunday’s Simpsons Couch Gag, well, here’s your chance. It’s very, very weird and wonderful:

The onscreen text is brilliant:







More Dana Gould on Robin Williams

From this Rolling Stone piece, which you should read all of:

This is another lesson you need to learn if you desire to go beyond just coping, if actual happiness is one of your goals. In fact, not long ago, I was sitting in the kitchen of a fellow comedian where I saw a sign that brought that point home. It sat atop his cabinets, and read, “Forget What You Want, Look At What You Have.” I remember thinking that this man, who had a career like no one could ever hope to dream of, stand-up success, sitcom success, movie stardom, he’d even won an Oscar, and yet, he was humble, gracious, sincere, caring. He knew where happiness lay. He, who had so much, still knew what was important and what was not. “This guy,” I thought, “he’s really got it together.”

I miss him.

Dept. of Extraordinary Films

Last night, Mrs Heathen and I went to see Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s awesome, high-wire act of a film, with some friends of ours. You probably know by now that he started shooting the story of Mason in 2002, when Mason (and the obviously unknown Ellar Coltrane who plays him) was six years old. The shooting continued, a few weeks every year, until 2013, which allowed Mason, his sister (played by Linklater’s own daughter), and his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) to age onscreen honestly and genuinely. Watching Mason grow and mature from scene is amazing and thrilling, but is balanced by the changes we see in Arquette (34 in 2002; 46 today) and Hawk (32 to 42) as they shift into middle age.

Stunts like this on film (or stage) can be interesting from a technical perspective, but fail when measured by more conventional means. That doesn’t happen here. What Linklater has done is absolutely amazing: it’s an astounding feat of logistics and focus over time, obviously, but also a film of stunning beauty, honesty, and grace. Of course, “real” aging on screen has been done in other ways, including within Linklater’s own filmography. The comparisons to Apted’s “Up” series are inevitable, and the film itself nods to another pop culture phenomenon with similar themes — but in all those examples, we’ve been obliged to wait out the clock in real time. Here, Mason literally grows up right in front of us in less than three hours, with no special effects or other trickery. It’s an incredible and unprecedented thing elevated even further by being, at its core, a great coming of age story (except it’s not just Mason’s; it’s the coming of age of his family, too).

The Guardian’s review is worth your time. Watch the videos. Then see this film. We may see it again, even.

(Oh, amusing note: Ellar Coltrane was born right about the time I moved to Houston in 1994.)

Because of course they are, and of course Will Ferrell is involved

A week or so ago, BoingBoing reminded us all of Manimal, a short-lived 1983 TV show — starring Simon MacCorkindale, which is a name I’d otherwise swear was made up — about a man with the power to turn into any animal (as long as it was a hawk or a panther, because budgets).

Inevitably, he used the power to solve crimes. Also inevitably, as they scheduled it against ratings juggernaut Dallas, it lasted only eight episodes. (Manimal and a few other similiarly short-lived 80s adventure shows were the subject of a large Metafilter post back in May, if’n you want to dig deeper.)

Now it turns out that, no word of it a lie, a revival film starting Will Ferrell is in development. Sadly, it appears my friend Chris’ proposed spinoff, “Maneril”, about a man who can change into any mineral, still languishes in development hell. Also, because I am a terrible person, I will point out that the otherwise brilliant idea for a fan-service MacCorkindale cameo in the film is unworkable due to his untimely death in 2010.

That settles it: True Blood is finishing strong

I said, earlier in the week on Twitter, that

Say what you will about TrueBlood sharkjumping, but Ted Cruz, “Republicunt,” and the T2 reference make me forgive a whole lot.

I can expand here, for funzies and setup:

Two characters — Eric and Pam — have to go undercover to a Republican fundraiser in Dallas for Ted Cruz (whom they NAME) while seeking an enemy (Sarah Newlin) for last-minute revenge.

Pam’s been given some of the best lines for years, but knocks it out of the park with her reaction to her sparkly and tacky gown: “Look at me; I’m a Republicunt!”

So I was happy, for sure, but it just got better when the director staged the surprise confrontation between Eric and Sarah in a “back of the house” corridor of whatever facility they were supposed to be in such that it was, almost shot for shot, a brilliant homage to Terminator 2‘s twin hallway sequences (in the mall, in the first confrontation between Arnie and the T-1000; and more specifically in the loonie bin when Sarah goes from running full tilit to an almost cartoon backpedal when Arnie comes around the corner). Robert Patrick, who played the T-1000, is a cast member on True Blood, which makes it even more fun.

But wait; there’s more!

Imagine my ecstasy this morning, then, to discover that Ted Cruz has been whining about being name-checked on the show!

Look, if you’re gonna bag on Republicans, Dallas, and Ted Cruz; coin the term “Republicunt;” insert homages to iconic SF films; AND get called out by real-life Republican assholes for doing it, as far as I’m concerned you can do no wrong. Nice going, TB!