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Sarah Palin’s Next Move (Movie)

6 Jul

After Sarah Palin’s stunning resignation, many commentators on the political scene were unsure of her real motives.  Even mastermind Karl Rove was “a little perplexed.”   On her Facebook Page, Palin offers a myriad of reasons for the move, eventually stating that it will be in Alaska’s and her family’s best interests if she calls it quits as Governor.  However, one can rarely take what a politician says at face value.  While the debate rages, The Hangover has determined it has been done for one simple and logical reason:  Sarah Palin wants to go Hollywood.   

There are any number of studios who would throw millions at Palin to make the following movies:

Fargo II:  Bismarck

During the campaign (especially in the debates) Palin’s appropriating of Frances McDormand’s “You betcha’s” and homey up-north speech patterns made her an even better Marge Gunderson than Oscar-winner McDormand.  In this sequel, Marge (as played by Sarah), guns blazing, would would take down the tall, thin, eloquent, but immoral and corrupt African-American Governor of North Dakota.

Twins (The remake)

In this remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger–Danny Devito vehicle, Palin would team with Tina Fey.  Although the comedy of the original was centered around the implausibility of physical opposites Arnold and Devito actually being twins, the fact that Fey and Palin look incredibly alike would make it easier for Republicans and other religious zealots to follow the movie.

Dumb and Dumber:  The Girls

This would be another Palin-Fey vehicle, with Fey acting and Palin practically being able to be herself.    Here, the trip starts in Wasilla, careens through Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, and then just as it appears that the film will wind up on the Bridge to Nowhere, the pair make it to Siberia. Production costs would be low because the former Soviet Union is so close to Alaska that you can see it from there.  

Semi-Pro:  The Real Thing

In a cross between a reality show and a bad Will Ferrell comedy, Palin would be given ownership of a WNBA franchise.  Known in her younger days as Sarah “Barracuda,” Palin would also play point guard for the team.  The camera would follow her on and off the court. Let’s face it, this is about the only way the WNBA could be made even the least bit interesting.


McCain’s Speech – Almost Famous

5 Sep

John McCain’s acceptance speech was to be a highlight of the Republican National Convention.  Let’s face it, the man has experience to draw from: Five years in a Vietmanese prison camp to the Keating Five to his 2000 campaign being sunk by a Bush-Rove dirty torpedo to not knowing how many houses he owns.  But he finally got what he wanted, a chance to be President.  One would figure he’d have a lot to say, but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy.

He had to follow Sarah Palin.  The pundits were thrilled by her preformance Wednesday night when she gave a riveting and engaging speech.  Hopefully, the folks at Fox were able to save their wool suits by borrowing the druel buckets the talking heads at MSNBC used during Obama’s acceptance at the DNC.  That people were surprised by Palin strikes the Hangover as being foolish, if not sexist.  Just because the woman is attractive, Americans shouldn’t assume she is incapable of stringing together a few sentences.  After all, she is a former sportscaster and current governor.  Did they expect her to sound like a go-go dancer after one too many midnight happy hours?  But I digress.

While waiting for McCain’s speech, I happened to catch the beginning of Almost Famous on one of the numerous HBO stations populating Time Warner cable.  After five minutes, there wasn’t even a decision to be made.  I could watch a four-star depiction of a budding journalist in a rock and roll setting with numerous three-dimensional characters, or I could listen to a politician spouting the same lines he’s been treading out since this campaign really started back in, what, 1988?  If one doesn’t know who John McCain is and what he stands for by now, those are the people who shouldn’t be allowed a vote. 

The Hangover didn’t need to hear that speech, not when presented with such an alternative.  The characters in the film, William Miller, the members of the fictional Stillwater, Penny Lane, Elaine Miller, etc.., were more real than anyone speaking at or covering the convention–which when you boil it down, is nothing more than a week long political advertisement. 

There’s a scene in the movie when guitar hero Russell Hammond (Billy Cruddup) is tripping on acid, standing on the roof of a garage, proclaiming, “I am a Golden God.”  The moment offers a profound lack of false modesty, which surely fouled the air in Minneapolis.   As Hammond then contemplates jumping and his possible last words, he settles on “I’m on Drugs.”  Fitting, again.  One, because in the world of the film, it is true, and two, because you’d have to be on drugs to believe that anyone you’ve seen at either of these conventions was as truthfuly portrayed as the characters in Almost Famous.   Judge for yourself:

Reasons not to watch the Democratic National Convention

25 Aug

Even if you’ve got time to kill, don’t waste it watching the Democratic National Convention.  That is, unless you want to see five nights of self-congratulatory flagellation.   Yes, the Democrats did manage to nominate an electable candidate, as they have since 2000.  But as we all know, they’ve done it before with nothing to show for it. 

On tap is five nights of unearned back-slapping and speechifying.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the platform most Democrats ran on in the last mid-term election was to stand up to W. Bush and end the war in Iraq.  Yet, they kept voting for funding, and our troops are still there getting bombed and shot.  And in case you haven’t noticed at your local gas station, the Enron loophole is alive and well.  This is the party that is supposedly looking out for working and middle class Americans.  In the words of Charlie Brown, “Good Grief.”

It is almost beside the point, but any entertainment the Convention can supply can be trumped elsewhere on cable, with less boredom and more enjoyment.

Better bad acting than at the DNC

Melrose Place: Better bad acting than at the DNC

  • If you’re looking for melodramatic bad acting, go find some reruns of Melrose Place on the Soap Network.  Skip Hillary and Barack arm-in-arm, smiling and acting like they’re great friends, mutually thrilled to have finally unified their party.  Without Aaron Spelling to direct them, that bit could be one of the most painful events in recent television history.
  •  Democratic party officials and politicians will be full of vitriol, fire, and outrage this week.  Of course, it’s easy to stand up and bellow when you’re surrounded by ardent, nerdy supporters.  Remember, these are the same folks who let Rove, Cheney, and Bush push them around for the last eight years while barely making a peep.  Watch the Wizard of Oz and see if the mighty Wizard doesn’t remind you of the Democrats–especially after Dorothy pulls back the curtain.
  • When you were in high school, didn’t you find the student government people to be just a  bit pompous and full of themselves?  As if they were actually doing something other than putting on dances and making sure students paid their class dues?  Granted, some kids were normal teens trying to pad their college apps, but the ones who took it seriously–you might recognize them at the convention foaming at the mouth and thrusting Obama-Biden signs high into the air.  Do you really want to spend five nights with these folks?  Get a grip with some kids who have real issues–check out Season One of Friday Night Lights.  Not a Student Council geek to be found. 
  • Democrats will spar over the party’s platform, as if it matters.  As soon as everyone is elected, the politicians will go back to their primary job function–getting reelected.  Outside of a few issues such as health care and hopefully ending the war, no one will give a rat’s ass about “minor” aspects of what is supposedly the party’s agenda.  If you want to see staged, fixed, and meaningless fighting, The Hangover recommends the WWE‘s Monday Night Raw or Friday’s Smackdown.  In addition, the wrestling Divas are much hotter than the political wonkettes.  The Hangover will take Eve and Victoria over Nancy Pelosi and Rielle Hunter any day. 
  • If you actually want to gain respect for your Senators and Representatives, skip the Convention and watch C-Span.  Anyone that can stay awake while serving through a session of Congress deserves some degree of adulation.
  • Finally, if you want to see what’s at the heart of American politics, get your hands on Robert Altman’s Nashville.  The film is set at a political convention, and it will entertain, educate, and challenge more than this week’s pitiful Demo-fest.   

Budweiser: The Great Belgian-American Beer

18 Jul

The business world has been saturated like a rug at a keg party with the news of Belgian brewing giant InBev acquiring all-American Anheuser-Busch.  While this brings us that much closer to a “Rollerball world  where society is dominated and run by a few behemoth corporations, the real question lies in what this means to American Bud drinkers, of which The Hangover is one.

Will Bud taste the same as it does now?  Yes.  Will we still get to watch commercials of Clydesdales playing football in the fall?  Yes.  Will Bud and Bud Light still be brewed regionally? Likely.  Will Bud still be marketed as “The Great American Lager?”  Yes, even though it will be owned by Belgians.

But Americans have no reason to fear Belgian ownership.  Here’s why:  Belgians are great people.  Twenty years ago, The Hangover and one of his associates spent a few nights in a Biarritz casino that could have been a James Bond set.  Our first evening there we cleaned up playing blackjack, winning hand after hand, hooping and hollering and guzzling beer.  While most of the clientele was in suits, we were dressed in jeans and leather jackets; we felt like the Cartwrights cutting loose in Virginia city. 

However, on the following night, our luck wasn’t so great.  Despite the bartenders having our first round arrive at our table just as we did, we started losing.  It got to the point that we were playing hand-to-hand.  A few more bad cards and we were done. 

An older gentleman was seated next to us.  He’d also been at our table the previous evening.   

     “You guys aren’t doing so great tonight,” he said.

     “No, it’s a rough one,” I replied.  We lost a hand just as one of the bartenders came over to see if we needed another round.  We didn’t have the money.

     “Let me buy you guys a beer,” the gentleman said.  “You know, you really got everyone all upset last night.”

     “We were just having a good time,” my associate said.

     “I enjoyed it,” the gentleman said.  “Whenever you can piss off these French assholes, go ahead and do it.”

      “I take it you’re not French,” I said.

     “The hell with that,” he said, smiling.  “I’m from Belgium.”

As soon as the beer the Belgian bought us arrived at the table, our luck changed.  We went on a winning streak that recouped our losses and then surpassed our winnings of the night before.  We owed it all to the kindness of the Belgian spirit. 

The Hangover will continue to support and enjoy Budweiser.  And when the InBev-Anheuser Busch deal is finalized, The Hangover fully expects his first “Belgian” Budweiser will bring him more than just a buzz.

[Editors note:  Rollerball, as a movie, is a good one with compelling characters, action, and suspense.  It was filmed in 1975 based on a storyby William Harrison.  However, if viewed today, the movie reveals itself to be eerily prescient social commentary.  You’d have to be stone drunk on American-Belgian Budweiser to miss the connections between the sci-fi world of the film and the one you actually live in.]

Big Hype, Bad Movie–The Love Guru Standard

22 Jun

The Hangover suspects that the amount of marketing preceding a movie’s release exists in an inverse proportion to the movie’s quality.  In other words:  Big Hype, Bad Movie.   This thesis results from 1) suffering throught a month-long, full scale media assault by Mike Myers and 2) various reviews of his film The Love Guru.  (Full Disclosure:  This is a movie that The Hangover won’t be seeing until it hits HBO in the hopefully distant future.)

In the past few weeks, Myers has:

  • Appeared on the cover of the July Esquire.  The accompanying article 45 Years in 45 Sentences wasn’t nearly as funny as it could have been, although it did manage to pimp The Love Guru and re-pimp Shrek, Wayne’s World, and Austin Powers
  • Hosted the 6th Annual TV Land Awards (6/15/08 )
  • Appeared with Justin Timberlake (also from the movie) on ESPN’s Sportscenter.  (And this is after hockey season.) (6/13/08 )
  • Appeared on The Tonight Show (6/12/08 )
  • Hosted MTV Movie Awards (6/1/08 ), resurrected a tired Wayne and Garth
  • Appeared on Ellen (5/21/08 )
  • Appeared on American Idol Finale as Guru Pitka, his character from (surprise) The Love Guru. (5/21/08 )
  • Well, you get the point by now.  The Hangover also wishes to remind the reader that this is only a partial list.

Now let’s compare the amount of Myer’s promotional work with some reviews of The Love Guru.

From Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe ( earning 1 out of 4 stars):

“Some movies are polite enough to save their outtakes for the closing credits. Others wait for the DVD release. “The Love Guru” doesn’t have that kind of patience. It’s a pitiful assortment of bad ideas and gags that never work; I don’t know what else to call a movie that asks us to find Jessica Alba credible not only as the owner of the beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs and a comedian, but as a woman attracted to a vulgar, hirsute Mike Myers. Oh, yes I do: Embarrassing.”

From A. O. Scott of the New York Times: 

“Which (the movie’s catchphrase being much less amusing than it should be) might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.”

The Hangover realizes that we may be committing a stasticial fallacy by taking this one example and extrapolating the “Big Hype, Bad Movie” theory of film marketing.  We’ll have to put the research department on this for further study.  Or perhaps we’ll wait and see what happens when Shrek Goes Fourth comes out.  The guess here is that Myers will have a much less demanding promotional schedule–those Shrek movies are actually funny.     

The Hangover Film Festival

26 Mar

Not as jet set as Cannes or hip as Sundance, The Hangover Film Festival offers the following films for a weekend of cinematic bliss:  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, To Have And Have Not, Animal House, American Beauty, and Four Weddings And A Funeral.  A film should contain substance, tension, and developing characters.  Humor is a definite plus.  It goes without saying that good acting is critical, as well.  And while the average film go-er might not look for brilliant aspects of direction or cinematography, those skills, if present, will make a film “an experience” as opposed to “two hours killed.”   In The Hangover’s selections, one will find movies that are fun to watch, but more than that, as well.

Of course, being a low budget operation, The Hangover cannot take over a western mountain town for  a weekend or even rent out the local cinema pub.  To that end, we have linked the recommended DVDs to Amazon, and you will have to trust your own couch and microwave to deliver comfort and popcorn.  (You could also visit your local video rental or Netflix to address your needs).   However you choose to do it, a screening of the following should leave your cinematic needs fully satisfied.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)  Directed by John Ford;  starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin.  

Viewed simply as a western, this would be among the genre’s best.  But what makes this film so much more is that it addresses nearly every aspect of the formation of the American character.   Foremost is the struggle between civilization and the frontier, played out between Jimmy Stewart’s greenhorn lawyer and Lee Marvin’s outlaw, Liberty Valance.  John Wayne is the conduit through which the struggle emerges.  A battle between monied powerful interests and the common man adds to the tension as the territory considers statehood.  There is, of course, a girl–caught between the Wayne and Stewart characters.  The importance, power, and responsibilities of a free press are explored, too.  This atypical film develops these themes while using the elements found in the typical western:  shoot outs, the hired gun, saloons, the stage coach robbery, the dude, the cowboy, the drunk newspaperman, the pretty immigrant girl, and a dusty town called Shinbone.

The acting is phenomenal.  John Wayne is, of course, John Wayne.   But he is a three-dimensional one who takes his lumps.  (His best performance, by far.)  Lee Marvin is outstanding as the outlaw Liberty Valance, a menacing presence that holds the screen with Wayne and Stewart.  And Stewart is his usual brilliant, perfectly cast as the Easterner who arrives in a wilderness that might as well be another planet.  The supporting actors also shine, including Andy Devine, Vera Miles, and Edmund O’Brien.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is more than just a brilliantly conceived western.  It is one of the great American films.

Animal House (1978) Directed by John Landis, Starring John Belushi.

The Hangover believes in certain values:  That we must not take ourselves too seriously; that those in power are not necessarily the best and the brightest; that beer and music go well together; and that college isn’t just about studying, but also having fun at a time in life when one is most capable of having said fun.  This film extols those virtues fast and furiously.  That John Belushi carries this movie while having no more than twenty lines of dialog is an added bonus.

From the opening scenes, Animal House shows us that those who are proper, respected, and envied are often the least deserving to be so.  While the “animals” of Delta House are initiated by singing Louie, Louie and drinking beer, in the “best house on campus,” Kevin Bacon’s character is getting spanked with a paddle by a robed and hooded sadist named Neidermeyer.  Enough said.

Even though this movie can be taken as an invitation to resist conformity and the status quo, the real reason to watch is it’s as funny as hell.  (It also holds up to repeated viewings.)  Some may consider toga parties, food fights, and road trips to be boorish and adolescent, but this movie shows us that those would be the people who would benefit most from them.  Watch the movie and laugh your ass off, but if you are over the age of 21, do not attempt an imitation of John Belushi imitating a zit with a mouthful of mashed potatoes.  Unless you are truly moved to do so.     

To Have And Have Not (1944) Directed by Howard Hawk, Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Walter Brennan

Although this movie could be called a combination of Casablanca-lite and Hemingway-lite, that still leaves it plenty of room for greatness.  Bogart stars as Hemingway’s Captain Harry Morgan, an American individualist who becomes caught up in the WWII intrigue he had tried to ignore.  Opposition is provided by the Gestapo-like Renard.  As Morgan is pressured by financial needs, his conscience, Lauren Bacall’s character, and the struggle of the French resistance movement, he is pulled into action.

The dialog is quick, edgy, and cutting (James Furthman and William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay, wisely keeping some dialog from the book and making their own contributions fit seamlessly–yes, that William Faulkner).  To Have And Have Notwas Bacall’s first movie and her chemistry with Bogart is sizzling and real.  The movie is suspenseful, sardonic, action-packed, and a love story.  It has its comic moments, too.  What more could one need?      

Four Weddings And A Funeral ( 1994) Directed by Mike Newell, starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. (Nominated for Best Film and Best Screenplay)

This film is blessed with a fanastic ensemble cast with Hugh Grant as its central character.  The movie is propelled by situational comedy, but there is plenty of it and the three-dimensional characters take it well beyond standard romance-for-laughs fare.  In scene after scene, the movie sends up modern love and its entanglement with the quest to become wed.  The characters are individuals and at times wonderfully self-aware.  The one funeral adds gravity and sets the stage for character growth.   Reversals abound. 

The ending does seem a bit overdone, but otherwise there isn’t a missed opportunity in its 117 minutes.  There are few more enjoyable ways to be reminded, in the words of Polonius:  “This above all:  To thine own self be true.”

American Beauty (1999)  Directed by Sam Mendes, starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.  (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director)

This film gracefully exposes the cracked foundations that so many suburban lives are built upon.   Narrated by a deceased Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), the film details how easy it is for a “normal” existence to go askew.  Discontent simmers and comes to a boil as Lester is turned on by his daughter’s best friend (Mena Suvari), disillusioned with his wife (Annette Benning portraying a real estate agent that could have been spawned by Martha Stewart), and fed up with the corporate world.  Lester decides to step out of the rat race.  The results are often humorous and troubling, but ultimately enlightening.

The disillusionment is not limited to Lester.  His wife Carolyn is disgusted with her husband’s new attitude.  The younger generation portrayed by Suvari, Thora Birch (Jane, the daughter) and Wes Bentley (neighbor boy, Ricky), are even more disconnected from their parents than the adults are from each other.  

There are some disturbing moments in this film.  Characters make hard decisions.  It’s a film that provokes thought and an examination of ones own existence.   That makes it worth much more than the price of a rental. 

Making Antonement

16 Feb

When I first read Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr’s review of the movie “Atonement” I decided I needed to read the book.  Although The Hangover likes to be entertained by his reading material, I also read as a writer and hope to learn at the same time. Burr’s description indicated the book held great promise:  

“Regret is everywhere in Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel ‘Atonement,’ like the air the characters breathe or the water they keep tumbling into. It seeps into cracks, weighs people down, turns them brittle and exhausted. It’s the stuff of life and the clay of fiction.”

That sounds like compelling reading, and I believed my fiction could only be improved by delving into Ian McEwan’s mastery of authorial control and tone.  I ordered the book, scanned the cover, and was horrified by a blurb on the back:

“McEwan could be the most psychologically astute writer working today, our era’s Jane Austen.”  –Esquire

The problem being,  I just can’t read Jane Austen.  I’ve tried.  I couldn’t do it in high school when “Pride and Prejudice” was required in a world lit class.  I couldn’t do it in college when confronted by the same book.  Maybe the archaic sensibilities of Austen’s time were partly responsible.  More likely it was the narration which seemed to have six pages of detailed thought for every one line of dialog.  I remember myself screaming at several characters:  “Oh for chrissakes, just do something, you jackass.”

The closest I’ve come to reading Austen was seeing the film, “Sense and Sensibility.”  I must confess that I only went to the movie because it was Mrs. Hangover’s turn to pick, and more to the point, at that time we were only dating.  Somehow, Emma Thompson turned what had to be characters buried in an intolerable amount of thinking into characters actually doing and saying things.  I did enjoy the movie, although I did not feel in the least compelled to go buy the book.

I term over-the-top, stuck-in-the-head style writers, Henry Jamesians.  As you might guess, he is another writer I just can’t stomach.  I’ve failed in two attempts on “Portrait of a Lady,” including one in graduate school where I promised myself I would read everything.   I think my official “Lady” total was thirty-two pages.  I hated it so much that when I rented the movie (I would not lower myself to Cliff’s Notes), I couldn’t watch more than fifteen minutes (even with Nicole Kidman, Barbara Hershey, and Mary Louise Parker filling the screen). 

The Hangover is not alone in its disdain for these two writers.   Mark Twain couldn’t stand them either:

On James: “Once you put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.”

On Austen:  “Jane Austen?  Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen.  Even if it contains no other book.”

Ian McEwan, on the other hand, is a pleasure to read.  His characters may think, but they also talk and act–quite frequently.  The pages of Atonement resonate.   Description is tactile and comes from every angle.  And as Burr notes, mood and atmosphere are masterfully alive and real.  That The Hangover highly recommends a book that was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and named Best Book of the Year by the hordes of newspapers (Washington Post, Boston Globe, etc…,.) should not come as a surprise.  That we do so when its author was compared to Jane Austen is shocking.  

I cracked the cover fearing overwritten, Jamesian introspection.  I was not disappointed to find it missing.