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William and Kate, A Royal Headache

27 Apr

 This weekend the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton will command enormous attention here in the United States.  The Hangover asks, “Why?”

 It’s easy to understand why the entirety of the United Kingdom will be enthralled by the proceedings.  After all, this is their heritage, from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to Queen Victoria to Roger the Shrubber.  But even the most dim-witted of Americans must realize that the revolution that formed our country was an attempt to rid us of fops like King George and the Royal Family.  Despite saying goodbye to all that back in 1783 and then again in 1812, modern Americans seem smitten with English Royalty—this despite two hundred-plus years of “All men are created equal.”

When Prince Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981, United States media coverage would have suggested it was the third biggest event of the last century, following only the moon landing and OJ and Al Cowlings in the white Bronco.  Americans continued to adore Diana, even after she became, in the words of Mojo Nixon, a “drunk-divorced floozie.”  (Before you take offense, consider what you would call your neighbor’s ex-wife if she ran off with your town’s handsome local hero and sped around night-clubbing, drinking, and snorting blow.  “Your Highness” isn’t it; well, not unless you’re fond of ironic puns.)

 In the coming days, America will be again drowned in Katrina-like coverage of the upcoming Royal wedding.  The Hangover wishes the happy couple well. 

But what does our fascination with the event tell us about ourselves?    

Is it that: 

 a)  We no longer need to value “all men being equal” now that just about every American can afford high definition television.

 b)  We’ve become so ingrained with fairy tales and Disney Princesses that we just want the chance to imagine ourselves in the role.  After all, it’s only a matter of time before one of these Royal Highnesses will sweep into our Burger King, pull us from the flame broiler, and whisk us away to a McMansion in the clouds.

 c)  Americans are sheep.  We (at least those with cable) would watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie read the Los Angeles phone book if Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, The New York Times, and the Today Show deemed that it was an “event.”

d)  The less relevant something is to the reality of our everyday lives, the more it interests Americans.  This would explain the nation palpatating over Bret Favre’s emailed junk, the Octo-mom, John and Kate, Michelle Bachmann, and those teenage girls having babies on MTV.

 e)  All of the above.

 Enjoy the festivities.  Maybe the Newlyweds will even be so kind as to hop into a white Bronco as they head to the reception.  Wouldn’t that be ecstasy?

Abercrombie & Fitch Ad a Tour de Force

30 Jan

Abercrombie & Fitch’s new advertisement (available here), filmed in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, is a tour de force of sociological documentary filmmaking.  While some critics may see the spot as just another attempt to sell shirts by exploiting sexy models and the retro rhythm and blues of Duffy’s “Mercy,” in reality the piece underscores the dire economic conditions and resulting anomie facing the region.

The opening shot of stately coastal homes and sailboats establishes a seemingly exclusive and monied setting.  However, this feint is followed by a reel of hard-hitting economic reality.   The black and white format adds  the existential gravity of film noir.

The lack of a shirt on the male character immediately symbolizes a grave issue facing young people in Maine today.  There is an undeniable lack of well-paying jobs for those in the “recently graduated” demographic. Many of our educated youth are forced to leave the state in search of employment in Boston, New York, or even the West Coast. Those who stay often can’t afford clothes. It may come to down to a choice of wearing a shirt or pants.

There are shots of the young man hauling a row boat to the shore, an indictment of the dying fishing industry. Subsequent scenes of him running with his dog show how Maine men have been reduced to their most primitive state: That of the pre-historic hunter-gatherer who domesticated wolves to aid his survival.

The young woman in the piece also reinforces the theme.  Her first extended scene shows her driving.  She is coming from somewhere else, both in place and in opportunity. Her face is serious and determined. She knows the hardship her man is facing. The film ends with the couple embracing in a field, though it is clearly established that he will be leaving with her.  Oppurtunity and hope exist where she lives.  There he will be able to afford pants and a shirt.

The Hangover’s 2008 Person of the Year: Tina Fey

28 Dec
2008 Woman of the Year

Tina Fey: 2008 Woman of the Year

Nobody had a better year than Tina Fey (including President-Elect Barack Obama, whose reward will be the opportunity to clean up the ever-deepening mess left by his predecessor).   Fey surpassed all known standards in just how successful an entertainer could be with brilliant comedic performances that crackled with social and poitical commentary.

Fey is the creative force behind NBC’s 30 Rock, a show both popular  and critically acclaimed.  Her character, Liz Lemon, is an achieving woman attempting to manage a nearly unmanageable “Saturday Night Live” conceit.  As played by Fey, Lemon is sharp and compassionate, as well as confused and insightful.  Lemon carries a realistic acceptance of her position on constantly shifting ground.  She is an icon for women juggling professional success and personal chaos.   Liz Lemon makes no apologies for who she is.  In a high school reunion episode, “The Revenge of the Wrath of the Nerd,” Lemon bids farewell to her former White Haven classmates with,  “You know what? Suck it, you whittling IHOP monkeys.”

That would seem to be enough for one woman.  But then came Sarah Palin.   Fey’s impersonation of Palin on various episodes of Saturday Night Live marked some of the greatest comedy in the show’s storied history.  At times, Fey was indistinguishable from Palin.   Through a fusion of comic genius and comic existentialism, Fey effectively parodied a woman who was a parody in and of herself.  No easy task, and one worthy of recognition in the form of The Hangover’s Person of the Year.

If you don’t believe it, see for yourself:

Hollywood Endings: The Shield and The Sopranos

26 Nov

(Editor’s note:  The Hangover swung and missed on much of our interpretation of the Soprano’s ending.  Please see:  http://masterofsopranos.wordpress.com/the-sopranos-definitive-explanation-of-the-end/)

The Shield’s seven year run of grit ended last night with an episode true to its stomach-wrenching nature.  One could not help but draw contrast to the ending of the Sopranos, HBO’s signature crime drama.  The relative merit of each can be seen through the music used to define the episodes.  For The Shield, it was Vic Mackey’s opening drive through his city to X’s Los Angeles, a seminal punk cut that characterizes the chaotic undercurrent that runs like a riptide through LA.  In contrast, the Sopranos ended with the Soprano family having dinner in a restaurant known for onion rings while the trite, Top 40 strains of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ dominated the scene.  These musical choices alone indicate the merits of the respective finales.

The Sopranos finished in a sea of symbolism.  As Tony, Carmella, and AJ order lousy food, Meadow tries to park her car (signifying how the family will never fit in to mainstream America?).  A man walks in the restaurant, scopes out Tony and heads for the bathroom (Mob hit man?  Innocent passerby?  Or a symbol of the potential threat that will always hang over Tony’s head?).  The camera pans to a young couple obviously in love enjoying their dinner (Symbolizing a young Tony and Carmella, when they believed–cue Journey–their futures were bright?)  The screen turns black as Meadow runs in the restaurant, leaving millions of Americans thinking that HBO has just crashed.  No, the disaster wasn’t in their set.  It was in the guts of the Sopranos producers and writers, who took the “arty” way out–failing to make the definitive statement that writers most often consider critical to story-telling.   Then again, maybe not.  Perhaps The Sopranos team wanted to leave us believing that the Sopranos would never know what lay ahead for them, and that was the curse given Tony’s chosen occupation.  But these are just The Hangover’s interpretations.  Others have seen the episode quite differently.  On the excellent Television Without Pity site, there are 226 pages of interpretation.  That indicates a problem; after six seasons, the producers should have been able to provide a meaningful resolution.  To fail to do so is to walk away from one’s responsibility as an artist.

The Shield, however, concluded with an earned, tough clarity.   Desperation built.  Frustrations grew.  Betrayal became a way of life.  Death was a choice.   No major character escaped unscathed.  Shane, Ronnie, Dutch, Acevada, Claudette, Julien, Corinne, Steve, and Tina all leave wounded.   The filmmaking was brilliant, as letting the final minutes play out on Vic Mackey’s face showed the commitment, faith, and cajones that was clearly lacking in the Sopranos finale.  The price that Mackey pays for trying to walk the wire between justice and morality is clear:  There’s nothing left inside.   Powerful storytelling trumps pretentious symbolism:  Writers and viewers can agree on that.

Songs Every Garage Band Should Know

11 Nov

The garage band is an American institution.   It is impossible to know just how many bands started out as a group of friends practicing in their garages, playing songs they liked–and could figure out. The music was usually basic rock and roll:  three or four chords, a strong back beat, guitar, bass, drums, and sometimes an organ or keys.  The garage sound spans from Chuck Berry and Elvis to the Stones, Kinks, and Beatles, through Warren Zevon and the Ramones to the Strokes and White Stripes. Perhaps the Granddaddy of all garage bands was Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Not only did they practice in the Holly’s garage, they recorded some of their first demos there. The rest is history.

Whether a bunch of stoned teenagers or middle-aged middle managers trying to blow off steam, a garage band should be able to rock out the neighborhood 4th of July cook out, your Aunt Sophie’s fifth (and surely last) divorce party, and any bar in town that has even the slightest whiff of stale beer. The songs don’t require exquisite musicianship but they do have to sound like fun.  The following set list would make any band practicing next to a Ford Taurus garage rock Kings:

Louie, Louie (by  the Kingsmen)

Three chords, sometimes indecipherable lyrics, and a never-fail connection with drunkeness thanks to Animal House make this a garage icon.  This song–that you can dance and drink to–will be a hit anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

Wild Thing (by The Troggs)

Another example of roots rock simplicity at its finest.  Guitar crunch, dramatic pauses, and potential crowd response put this on the list. 

Johnny B. Goode (by Chuck Berry)

Altough unable to be quantified, this song must have been played in more garages and barrooms than any other song in the history of rock.  It defines Chuck Berry’s rhythm and blues style.  Guitar players cut their teeth as beginners and then show their chops by playing lead to this one.

Heartbreak Hotel (by Elvis Presley)

No garage band set list would be complete without a nod to the King.   This will get everyone fired up, especially if the singer can do that hip thing and sneer at the same time.

Satisfaction (by the Rolling Stones)

It’s got the quintessential garage feel, a classic guitar lick, and a frustrated. pissed off narrator.  It doesn’t get more “garage” than that.

Pretty Woman (by Roy Orbison)

This song can work in a variety ways.  If the singer has some pipes, it can be done as a homage to the great Roy Orbison.  More likely, it can be dirtied up and done as a straight rock and roller, ala Van Halen (but please without those DLR squeals).  Either way, it will pack some punch.  Just make sure the singer isn’t checking out your date while he’s singing it.   

Wipeout (by the Surfaris)

Every band should be able to play an instrumental.  Surf music will get the crowd doing “the swim” and partying like its 1969–the time of free love. 

Allison (by Elvis Costello)

Even a garage band should know a slow song.  This one is from ’78.  When it’s dark and late, nothing sets the mood better than lost love and fading dreams. 

I Walk the Line (by Johnny Cash)

This will hit the mark with nose-ringed punks, as well as country fans who have a lawn mower replica of Dale Jr.’s #88 Impala in their own garage.  It will prove to some that you don’t need a Stetson to play or enjoy country music.

I Wanna Be Sedated (by the Ramones)

This will hit the mark with cowboy-hatted hillbillies, as well as alternative fans who have a Toyota Prius in their garage and a motorcycle leather in their closet.  It will prove to some that you don’t need to a habit to play or enjoy punk rock.

Get Back (by the Beatles)

The early Beatles were a prototypical garage and bar band, pumping out the Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins covers that tore the roof off the Cavern Club in Berlin.  They progressed from there, but on their last album returned to those pure, rock and roll roots.  This is also great to play if your ex-wife is in the room or the rhythm guitar player’s chick is trying to break up the band. 

And The Hangover’s Ultimate Garage Rock Song:  Werewolves of London (by Warren Zevon)

The Maverick, John McCain, Not Even America’s Best

7 Oct

“John McCain is a maverick.”  Americans have heard that thousands–if not millions–of times over the last few months. We’ll hear it some more, too, as election day approaches.   While McCain contends this “maverick” status will make him a good president, The Hangover remains dubious.  The truth is, McCain isn’t even the best Maverick the United States has to offer.  Therefore, as a public service, The Hangover offers its list of:

Best American Mavericks:

America's best maverick: Bret Maverick

1)  Bret Maverick as played by James Garner

The television show “Maverick” aired from 1957-1962, with Garner playing Bret Maverick from ’57 to ’60.  The show was a comedy-action-western featuring three Maverick brothers and one nephew, all card-playing sharps who dressed well, cracked jokes, and then did good–often reluctantly.  The Museum of Broadcast Communications termed the show “a subversive Western with a dark sense of humor.”  The show can still occasionally be seen on the Encore Western channel. 

Only one or two of the Maverick clan were  featured in an episode, with Garner’s Bret being the lead during the shows creative and ratings peaks.  Garner’s charisma, timing, and acting were impeccable.  Bret Maverick’s ability to carry the day against even more underhanded and over-sized foes made him an icon.  While the typical western character wore jeans and flannel, Bret Maverick operated in his fine gambler’s suit.  He would outsmart his adversaries more often than he’d outslug them, but he was adept at both.  He won chips and broke hearts, including his own.  He always intended to act in his own self interest, but rarely did.  Bret Maverick is the mark against which all Mavericks should be measured. 

2) Mark Cuban

Cuban made his fortume as a technology entrepreneur during the Internet boom of the ’80’s and ’90’s by being a maverick in his field.  He’s currently rated the 161st richest American, not bad for a kid from a working class family.  But Cuban is not only a business maverick, he owns Mavericks–the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA.  He also writes a maverick blog:  http://blogmaverick.com/.  While the Dallas Mavericks have yet to win the NBA title under Cuban’s stewardship, the team is always in the playoffs and made the finals in 2006.  As a real maverick, Cuban is often fined by the league for speaking out, speaking truth, and sharing his opinion, whether it is in his best interest or not.  If only our politicians talked as honestly and straight as Cuban.

3)  Raul Malo

Malo is the former lead singer of the Mavericks, a smooth Latin-tinged roots-country band that broke out in 2000.   While the music itself was excellent, the band’s focal point was Malo’s lush, deep vocals.  Rolling Stone described Malo’s voice “on par with the best of ’em:  Sinatra, George Jones, and Orbison.”  That explains why he continues to grow as an artist in a fine solo career.  This singer-Maverick is among the greatest of all time.

4)  The Ford Maverick     

A better maverick than John McCain

The Ford Maverick: A better maverick than John McCain

The Ford Maverick was a compact car built by Ford from 1969-1977.   With a price tag of $1995, it’s first year sales eclipsed records set by the Mustang in 1965.   Despite being labeled a compact, it’s sporty flourishes gave the car personality and a certain level of muscular elan.  It also proved to be dependable and fuel-efficient transportation during the fuel crisis of the 1970’s.  The Maverick rarely let down its owners and, in fact, The Hangover learned to drive behind the wheel of a ’76 four-door model.  This car was one great maverick. 

 

5)  Bart Maverick as played by Jack Kelly

Kelly’s role as Bart Maverick spanned the length of the entire Maverick series.  And while Kelly was not quite the force that Garner was, he was a model of comic, wry consistency.  The characters of Bret and Bart were not so different, both winners at cards, love, and the high life.  They were distinguished mainly by Bart’s gray hat (Bret wore black).   Episodes where both brothers co-starred are classics. 

6) Dirk Nowitzki

Nowitzki is the face and star of the NBA’s and Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks,  His lifetime stats reveal greatness.  As the leader of the Mavericks, over the last ten years he’s averaged 36.5 minutes per game, 22.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.  In this years playoffs, he raised his game when it mattered the most with 26.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game.  A real maverick comes through when it counts. Unfortunately, Nowitzki is a citizen of Germany and must be disqualified.

Other Notable Mavericks:

17)  Roger Moore as Beau Maverick.  Beau Maverick was a cousin of Bart and Bret.  Moore, despite being his usual suave self in the role, is also English and disqualified. 

38) Sarah Palin.  The Hangover is unsure how being a hockey Mom, potential book banner, religious zealot, and mainstream Republican make one a maverick.  But seeing as she hit Alaskan energy companies with a windfall profits tax–which actually put money in the pockets of regular Alaskans–she deserves recognition. 

53)  Robert Colbert as Brent Maverick.   Colbert starred in some episodes of the 1961 season, a poor man’s Bret or Bart.  Hence his position down the list.

72) John McCain.  Proclaiming (or having your running mate do so) oneself a maverick does not make it so.  What has McCain done to earn this status?  Co-write legislation that makes sense with Ted Kennedy?  Kennedy’s written legalisation with countless other Senators.  McCain did institute campaign finance reform; unfortunately it was a package that was more “gums” than “teeth.”  Special interest money keeps rolling into candidates’ pockets including McCain’s and Obama’s.  If McCain wanted to be a real Maverick:  he wouldn’t take that special interest money; seven of his tops aides wouldn’t be former lobbyists; and he wouldn’t have voted with George W. Bush 95% of the time.   

99)  Bret Maverick as played by Mel Gibson. Gibson lacked the charisma, self-deprecation, and nuance that made James Garner such as great Maverick. Not even a cameo by Garner could save this debacle. Australian mavericks must have been disheartened by Gibson’s performance.

278) Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as played by Tom Cruise.  This highly clichéd character in the highly clichéd Hollywood blockbuster Top Gun produced a highly clichéd and therefore low-rated maverick.

Reasons to Watch the Republican National Convention

1 Sep

The Republican National Convention should provide compelling television viewing this week.  Nothing’s more engaging than a bunch of aged, rich white guys (and one hot Governor Babe) telling the rest of the country what’s good for them. 

Eschew your usual shows and HBO movies and tune in because:

  • There is a battle of “larger forces” playing out right before our eyes.  It’s Karma and Nature versus The Bible Thumpers and Big Business.  This will be a battle more epic than Midway, more psychotic than Apocalypse Now, and more futile than The Alamo.  That’s right:  The Republican Administration totally disregarded and ignored post-Katrina New Orleans and now Hurricane Gustav has risen from a Globally-Warmed Atlantic to remind everyone how inept Republicans as a group can be.   Gustav will undercut and shadow what should have been the Republican spotlight.  Republican spin will be off the charts on Bill Simmon’s Unintentional Comedy Scale
  • Due to US Open tennis coverage, WWE broadcasts will be limited this week.  That means fewer spandex-clad lady wrestlers gracing the airwaves.  In a move to counter this crisis, John McCain has provided the country with Sarah Palin.  Thank you, Candidate McCain.
Vice President Palin is no wrestler in spandex, but she's not bad.

Candidate Palin: No master of the flying dropkick, but not bad.

  • If Weird Science is more your thing, you can hope that Sarah Palin gets to address the Convention on education.  She believes that creationism should be taught alongside evolution:   

                       “Teach both.  You know, don’t be afraid of information…Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools.  I am a proponent of teaching both.  And you know, I say this too as a daughter of a science teacher.” 

Perhaps she’ll get the chance to clarify if she’d like the Easter Bunny taught along with photosynthesis every spring.  And maybe she can mandate that Santa and his reindeer be discussed with NASA and rockets when the kids are learning about space flight. 

(It also makes me wonder how good a science teacher her father was.  And it’s hard to miss that Palin’s pose on Vogue echoes that of Kelly LeBrock’s on the Weird Science poster.)

  • If you enjoy the Psychic Hotline infomercials, you might spend your evenings this week flipping between the Weather Channel and the Convention.   Who can tell us which would screw up the country worse?  Another four years of Republican leadership or Hurricane Gustav.  See the reality play out against the possibilities.   
  • If you’re missing ’70’s reruns, you can find a couple much odder than Oscar and Felix:  It’s John and Sarah.  He’s a cranky, ninety-something former POW.  She’s a librarian-hot, forty-ish former Alaskan sportscaster.  Can two crazy Republicans share an Oval Office without driving the rest of the country crazy?