Friday, September 28, 2007
BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
I’ve never been much for horror films of the slash-and-gore variety. Such movies are a large part of why I don’t go camping. Everyone knows a tent full of humans is basically a burrito in the eyes of a hockey-masked killer. However, if the movie has a hint of dark comedy, I’ll give it a shot, which is how I got hooked into the “Scream” trilogy.
While watching a rerun of the first installment on cable a few nights ago, I was reminded of two things: 1) Jamie Kennedy’s performance as Randy the resident film geek almost makes up for “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” and 2) Randy’s rules for surviving a horror movie are invariably true – especially, “Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, ‘I'll be right back.’ Because you won't be back.” (Unless, of course, you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
Movies come with a set of regulations all their own. For instance, all you need is a pair of glasses to keep your friends from recognizing the resemblance between you and your superhero alter ego. And if you find yourself outnumbered by bad guys, don’t worry – they always have the courtesy to attack you one at a time. The others will dance around menacingly while waiting their turns.
Other filmdom rules of thumb:
* You can fire a six-shooter at least eight times without reloading.
* In the unlikely event that you run out of bullets, a comrade will sneak up and shoot the bad guy in the back.
* A bad guy can unload a machine gun and miss the broad side of a barn, but a good guy can take out an entire hit squad with one bullet.
* One twin is always evil.
* Amnesia as the result of a bump on the head is cured by another bump on the head.
* You will always have exact change for cab fare. Sometimes you don’t have to pay at all.
* If you need to see an important news bulletin, it will air the second you turn on the TV.
* Ventilation ducts are always large enough to crawl through. And they’re never turned on. And they’ll always lead you to an escape route.
* No matter how fast you run and how slowly the killer walks, he will catch you.
* When driving, it’s perfectly safe to look everywhere except at the road.
* If you break into song and dance on a busy street, traffic will stop and everyone will know the words and steps.
* When staying in a seedy hotel, you'll always get the room with the flashing neon sign right outside the window.
* If you’re in a hurry, you don’t need keys to start your car.
* Ugly girls are just pretty girls with glasses and/or braces.
* If you’re the underdog team, the winning shot will swish into the basket at the same time the buzzer hits zero.
* Aliens from other planets always sound American.
* Morning breath is non-existent.
* A bulletproof vest will protect you from being shot in the head or extremities.
* In a car chase, you’ll always miss oncoming vehicles by mere inches.
I could go on forever, but there’s an important news bulletin I need to see. I’ll be right back.
Friday, September 14, 2007
BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
The king of Elvis sightings is dead.
After 28 years, the tabloid that titillated us with its outlandish scoops about aliens, Bigfoot and the celebrity undead, cranked out its last issue on Aug. 27.
The Weekly World News, which billed itself as "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," sported a front page that looked like a cut-and-paste project by a demented 10-year-old. It was printed in black and white, but it never lacked color.
Certainly, the glossier National Enquirer, Star, Globe and Sun are considered more “prestigious” (a relative term here) among the tabloid-erati, but the WWN had something those publications lack: A sense of humor. Behind the bunny-battling matadors, demon-possessed toilets and exposès that Dick Cheney is a robot (I’m still not convinced that story’s fake) was a major element of “nudge-nudge, wink-wink.”
The WWN, which inspired faux-news outlets like The Onion, holds the distinction of being the only tabloid to inspire two musicals—David Byrne's 1986 movie “True Stories” and the off-Broadway “Bat Boy: The Musical.” And unlike other tabs, big stars heartily endorse it. In the book Bat Boy Lives!: The Weekly World News Guide to Politics, Culture, Celebrities, Alien Abductions, and the Mutant Freaks that Shape Our World, Johnny Depp states, “The only gossip I'm interested in is in the Weekly World News." And in the movie “Men in Black,” Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) calls the WWN “the best damn investigative reporting on the planet."
When it came to not-so-real stars, the tabloid had some of its own. The legendary Bat Boy’s adventures included leading cops on a three-state chase, wooing Hillary Rodham Clinton, foiling a terrorist bomb plot and being knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Bigfoot kept a lumberjack as his love slave, while his female counterpart, a Sasquatch hooker, posed nude for a girlie-mag centerfold. Then there was the undead Elvis, who, in the paper’s best-selling issue, was found holed up in a Kalamazoo hideout.
In its heyday, the WWN boasted a million-plus readers and represented the best—and worst—of sensationalism. Its absurd headlines (“Concrete Enemas A Bad Idea, Docs Warn”) entertained millions more as they waited in grocery checkout lines.
Here are 10 more of the many great headlines in WWN history:
* “Space Aliens Are Sending Their Kids To Earth’s Universities & They’re Making Our Top Students Look Like Idiots!”
* “200 Elves Laid Off As Santa Moves Operation To Honduras Sweatshop”
* “Kitten Accused Of Murder—Sign The Petition Or Fluffy Dies!”
* “Why Moses Wandered In The Desert For 40 Years: He Lost The Map!"
* “Osama And Saddam Adopt Shaved Baby Ape” (A follow-up to “Saddam & Osama In Love!”)
* “Meek Sue to Inherit the Earth!”
* “Aliens Passing Gas Caused Hole In Ozone Layer!”
* “Loch Ness Monster Surfaces In Jersey Bathtub”
* “Ka-BOOB! Woman’s Breast Implant Explodes!”
* “Carpal Tuna Syndrome . . . Computer User's Fingers Turning Into Fish!”
Alas, poor Bat Boy … we hardly knew ye. But there’s good news for WWN fans: The tabloid lives on in cyberspace at www.weeklyworldnews.com. If your computer freezes while you’re reading, blame it on the aliens.
Friday, September 07, 2007
BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
What began as a series of 30-second sketches on a variety show has left a giant, four-toed footprint in television history.
One of the greatest influences on adult-oriented, animated sitcoms, The Simpsons premiered in 1987 as filler material on The Tracey Ullman Show. Three years later, the dysfunctional Springfielders were the stars of the Fox Network's first series to rank among a season's top 30 highest-rated shows.
Naturally, a merchandising avalanche ensued – clothing, video games, comic books – anything that could be emblazoned with the Simpsons’ bug-eyed, yellow faces. Teachers were appalled by students sporting Bart’s “Underachiever (‘And proud of it, man!’)” T-shirt; many schools banned all things Simpsonian. George Bush the Elder urged families to be more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons. Wife Barbara called the show “the dumbest thing” she’d ever seen – which she’d apologize for after receiving a strongly worded letter from blue-beehived mama Marge.
Detractors didn’t stop the show from flourishing into a multibillion-dollar empire. Two decades later, the Simpsons’ star shows no signs of dimming, as proven by the box office take from their silver screen debut. Since its late July release, The Simpsons Movie has grossed more than $168 million and is in the Top 20 movies with the biggest opening weekends.
But Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa have contributed more to American pop culture than controversy, entertainment and empty wallets. Besides catchphrases like “Cowabunga, dude!” and “Eat my shorts,” much of the show’s lingo has been adopted into the English lexicon.
Most famous is Homer’s trademark grunt, “D’oh!,” an exclamation of annoyance now found in several dictionaries. I’ve often used the term unthinkingly while in the throes of vexation. Same goes for “meh,” a declaration of boredom/apathy not invented by the Simpsons (some sources cite it as a Yiddish expression), but certainly popularized by them. Sample usage: In the 2002 episode Hungry Hungry Homer, Homer asks Bart and Lisa if they want to go to the Blockoland theme park:
Bart and Lisa, in unison: Meh.
Homer: But the TV gave me the impression that ...
Bart: We said, “Meh!”
Lisa: M-E-H, meh.
Here are more of my favorite Simpsonisms:
* Okely-Dokely – The signature phrase of squeaky-clean Ned Flanders, whose habit of adding nonsensical syllables to words – “Hi-diddly-ho, neighbor-ino!” – makes me want to up-doodly-chuck.
* Poindextrose: A pheromone secreted by nerds that makes them sitting ducks for wedgies.
* Cromulent – Valid; acceptable. Coined in a 1996 episode to describe the next word.
* Embiggen – To enlarge; to empower. This word was found its way into a paper by a Stanford physicist, which indeed makes it cromulent ‘cos those science guys are really poindextrose.
And my all-time favorite “Simpsons” neologism:
* Kwyjibo – A big, dumb, balding North American ape with no chin (suspiciously resembling Homer). To my dismay, my Scrabble buddies won’t allow this word coined by Bart during a round of America’s good-time game, thus denying me 116 dang-doodly points.
Some linguists say such words and phrases contribute to the dumbing-down of our society. To them, I say, “Don’t have a cow, man.”