Monday, March 28, 2011

Lessons I Learned from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Part II

Here's Part II of what I learned from Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Tale of the Dream Machine

Synopsis: An Asian boy finds a typewriter that transforms whatever stories he writes on it into dreams. When read aloud, the stories actually happen. The boy, his African American best friend, and his Hispanic love interest have to stop the dream machine before it's too late.

Lessons Learned: Goosebumps may have been first in vaguely Twilight Zone-esque twist endings, but Are You Afraid of the Dark was doing diversity years before Glee was ever conceived or Lady Gaga came up with the tagline Born That Way.

The Tale of the Dangerous Soup

Synopsis: The famous Dr. Vink is running his own restaurant! He uses a strange statue to collect people's fear to make wonderful tasting soup. Two of his employees are on to him and plan to stop him before it's too late.

Lessons Learned: If Andy Warhol had been alive when this episode first aired, I think he would have ended up balled in a fetal position, because this episode did more to eviscerate the warm cuddly Grandma related image of soup than his soup can poster ever did.

Tale of the Midnight Madness

Synopsis: Dr. Vink brings a frightening Nosferatu film to an old movie theatre about to go under. Suddenly, the theatre is a success but when the theatre's owner reneges on his end of the bargain, Dr. Vink unleashes the vampire from the movie on the theatre and its employees.

Lessons Learned: Not only can Dr. Vink make wonderful soup, he's also in the movie business. Why did Oprah decide to make Dr. Phil happen instead of this guy?

Tale of Apartment 214

Synopsis: A girl and her mother move in to an apartment building. She meets a lonely old woman who lives in Apartment 214. She agrees to spend time on one particular day with the old woman but when she forgets, it turns out that the woman who was a ghost who died on that day. In the end, they both apologize and decide to go on being friends.

Lessons Learned: When looking for a ghost to share your life with, make sure you specify in your roommate ad that they need to be familiar with the works of Harry Belafonte.

The Tale of the Silent Servant

Synopsis: Anne and her cousin Jared find themselves doing nothing but chores at Anne's father's farm one summer. When they discover an old scarecrow who will obey their every command, they're ecstatic at first...but will they get more than they bargained for?

Lessons Learned: Anyone else remember the Goosebumps book The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight? Since this episode aired a year before it came out, I'm going to call shenanigans on R.L. Stine. Since I know that he used to write for Nick Jr. (specifically, for Eureka's Castle), it's taught me a lesson: be careful what writers you idolize as a child. Also, it put the idea in my head of going back and rewatching old Eureka's Castle episodes to see if old man Stine was lifting ideas from obscure Japanese children's shows.

The Tale of the Dead Man's Float

Synopsis: A nerdy boy named Zeke and the girl he likes, Clorice, find an old swimming pool in the school. However, in doing so, they uncover an angry spirit that lives in the pool and that killed a little boy years ago. The school janitor--who was the lifeguard on duty the night that the little boy drowned--helps them in doing so.

Lessons Learned: Between this episode and the Boy Meets World where Chet Hunter becomes a custodian at Shawn's school, I've come to realize the tragic nobility of the janitor and his calling.

The Tale of the Chameleons

Synopsis: A girl and her friend find themselves plagued by magical chameleons who can turn themselves into the form of whichever human they bite. Tia and Tamara Mowry of Sister, Sister star in this episode, playing both the girl and the chameleon.

Lessons Learned: The fact that Nickelodeon actually needed twins for this episode says a lot about their special effects capabilities. Not even Full House needed actual twins for the famous cousin Stavros episode.

Speaking of Full House, how many of you wondered if the producers had to settle for the Mowry twins when they probably really wanted Mary Kate and Ashley? Me too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lessons I Learned from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Part I

It's another installment of Lessons Learned! This time, I tackle Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Tale of the Nightly Neighbors

Synopsis: Emma and Dayday suspect their new neighbors (a married couple with a little boy) who are pale and never come out at night are vampires. When they see the couple out in the day time, they're reassured but in a mildly surprising twist it turns out that the little boy is their vampire master. As they tell the audience, who would suspect that a little boy is a vampire?

Lessons Learned: Who indeed would suspect a child of vampirism? The Are You Afraid of the Dark? writers were really banking on there being no Anne Rice fans in their audience.

The Tale of the Long Ago Locket

Synopsis: A boy (played by Will Friedle) with an unrequited crush on a classmate wanders into the forest back in time to the era of the Revolutionary War. There, he must help a soldier escape Redcoats and find the woman he loves.

Lessons Learned: Will Friedle did more to make the Revolutionary War cool than all of my American Girl doll paraphernalia. Yes, including Felicity's four poster bed that made my twin bed with dinosaur sheets look every bit as cool as Kirk Van Houten's racecar bed. I'm not too surprised about Will Friedle's skills, considering how cool he would make dorky daytime detective shows seem. (Sorry, Kojak!)

The Tale of the Hatching

Synopsis: A brother and sister go to an odd boarding school where hypnotized students get up each night to take care of mutant reptile eggs which will later hatch and take over the world.

Lessons Learned: The writers for Are You Afraid of the Dark? were a creative bunch. So what if most of them would never get their short stories published in the New Yorker, or even Playdude--at least one of them has the makings of an L. Ron Hubbard-esque religion.

Also, you can tell this episode took place in the early 90s because menial labor was farmed out to underage boarding school students, not Goobacks.

Tale of Old Man Corcoran

Synopsis: Two African American boys move out of the hood with their mom to a new life in the suburbs. There, the boys find a group of kids who love playing hide and go seek in the graveyard. They tell the boys about the ghost of a gravedigger called Old Man Corcoran but in a twist, it turns out that Old Man Corcoran is alive and the kids are all ghosts.

Lessons Learned: Remember all the respect we suddenly earned for Carlton after the time he spent in Compton on a bet from Will? That's nothing compared to the mad props I gotta give these kids.

Tale of the Full Moon

Synopsis: A boy who desperately wants a dog notices a spate of missing cats in the neighborhood and suspects his neighbor of being a werewolf. When his lonely single mother starts dating her, he's even more worried. As it turns out, the neighbor's identical twin brother is the werewolf. (Or to put this in modern terms, it's The Patty Duke Show With Werewolves.) When the boy's mother marries into the family, his desire for a pet dog is finally solved.

Lessons Learned: There are a lot of Nickelodeon fans out there in the larger TV and movie world. For example, I'm guessing whoever came up with the final scene of Shaun of the Dead was a closet SNICK fan. (So was the writer who thought that the kids on The Wire should congregate around an orange couch in the middle of the projects.)

Tale of the Thirteenth Floor

Synopsis: A brother and sister go to the thirteenth floor of their building to play hockey but discover what appears to be a toy by aliens. Though they escape the aliens, they later realize that the girl is in fact an alien too and that these were her rightful parents coming to rescue her.

Lessons Learned: Between this and that horror movie Orphan, I'm going to play it safe and satiate my maternal instincts by adopting a highway instead.

The Tale of the Final Wish

Synopsis: A socially awkward girl who still loves fairy tales and dolls gets taken to a bizarre fairy tale world by a strange man called The Sandman, played by Bobcat Goldthwait.

Lessons Learned: You've forgotten all about comedian Bobcat Goldthwait and his awful but memorable voice, haven't you? But just think: if he hadn't slept in on the day of his audition for Aladdin's Iago, he could be this decade's Gilbert Gottfried.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hipsters vs. Guidos, Round 1

Hipsters. Guidos. We know them and fear them both. Who's worse? I did extensive field research (watched Jersey Shore and read Stuff Hipsters Hate). This is the first in a series of blog posts devoted to the struggle between hipster and guido. Who will win round one?


Point to the guidos. I know what you're thinking. Guidos and ethics--aren't they strange bedfellows? But guidos know more about ethics than you'd think. Every time someone commits a faux pas on The Jersey Shore, the guidos start up a chorus of, "Busted big-time!" like well-trained toddlers admonishing Steve on Blues Clues for the nth time. The sense of morals is strong in these ones. Plus, poor hipsters: Alexander Payne's Election failed to finish defining morals and ethics terms for them.

Toilet Habits

Per Stuff Hipsters Hate, girls who go into the bathroom are baaaaad. Using the logic I picked up from Animal Farm Sparknotes, I'm going to assume that quick, efficient bathroom use is good. Hipsters win this round because the guidos on Jersey Shore clogged three bathrooms but still lack the ability to get their pipes fixed. (This, despite the fact that five out of six of them are either relatives, acquaintances, or Facebook friends with Mario Mario.)

Telephone Habits

It all comes down to iPhone vs. duck. Since the only thing I hate more than the duck phone is the Juno hamburger phone, point goes to the hipsters.

And so hipsters win this round. Stay tuned for the next time I pit hipsters against guidos!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Movies in a Minute: The Black Swan

Check out my Black Swan post. And also check out my guest post on the Secret Society of List Addicts--it's on anthropomorphic snacks!

Mrs. Sayers: "Time now for your grapefruit, Nina."

Nina: "No! Time now for dancing!"

Middle America: "Wow, Natalie Portman's got such devotion to her art. Look how thin she is." "Way. Too. Thin. Patriarchy at its worst."

Maris Crane: *shudder* "The flab..."

Thomas Leroy: "So! Which of you will dance the lead in Swan Lake now that my beautiful little princess, Beth, is over the hill?"

Nina: "God I hope I get it..."

Thomas: "You, Nina. I grow weary of Winona Ryder. Beetlejuice was great and all but Autumn in New York? And Mr. Deeds--what was that about? No, you shall be my new little princess!"

Beth: "Great. First cast off by Tim Burton and now a George Balanchine knock off."

Mrs. Sayers: "Congratulations, honey! I got you something!"

Nina: "Gee, Mom, I just purged myself down to eighty pounds. I don't know that a Cake Wrecks knock off is my idea of a celebration."

Mrs. Sayers: "OK, fine! In the trashcan it goes, ungrateful child! You know Christian Bale's mom visited him on the set of The Fighter to bring him cake and after verbally abusing her for ten solid minutes, he ate his cake."

Nina: "Sorry, Mom. Mmm, finger licking good."

Thomas: "Your white swan is good, Nina. But your black swan lacks that je ne sais quoi. Come. Let me seduce you into giving a good performance."


Thomas: "That was me seducing you when it should have been the other way round!"

Jane Spofford: "You know, when I was in your position, it took me one cello solo to get my groove back."

Lily: *giggle* "Oops, I messed up, but that's OK! I'm going to laugh it off like the free spirit I am."

Thomas: "Look at Lily, Nina. She has Black Swan written all over her. Literally. Did you see the tattoo? Doesn't she evoke freedom, passion, sexuality? Can't you just hear a refrain from Bizet's Carmen playing whenever she walks by?"

Nina: "Note to self: visit a tattoo parlor and invest in Forever 21's underwear as outwear collection."

Lily: "Hey, I'm sorry I told Thomas you complained. I didn't mean to go all Single White Female on you. Want to go out for dinner?"

Nina: "Okay..."

Lily: "Waiter, I'll have a burger, rare, extra beef. And extra cheese. WOOF!"

Nina: "I'll have seven and a half capers artfully arranged with a teaspoon of low fat dressing. Well, it's been nice but I should go home. My stuffed toys aren't going to tuck themselves in."

Lily: "But I want to pick up boys and channel Lord Flashheart and make the club scenes in Party Monster look tame."

Nina: "So, my place or yours?"

Mrs. Sayers: "You naughty girl! Where have you been?! I can see your dirty pillows! Well, I could if hadn't dieted your chest into oblivion but you know what I mean."

Lily: "Sweet girl."

Nina: "Lily, why'd you leave this morning without even offering to take me out to brunch at Monk's?"

Lily: "Wait, you think we did it? You had some lezzie wet dream about me? Was I good?"

Jack's Sense of Mounting Indignation: "Lucky. I had a vaguely homoerotic relationship with a suave, liberated alter ego and all I got was a t-shirt and a third degree lye burn."

Thomas: "So, yeah. I'm going to make Lily, the perfect seductive black swan, your alternate. You're not...threatened, are you?"

Nina: "Beth! She's trying to take my part! I need your help. Oh, by the way, these are yours."

Beth: "You STOLE from me?"

Nina: "Oh, don't look so shocked."

Beth: "I'm not perfect. I'm NOTHING."

Nina: "GAH! Hallucinations! TOO MUCH PRESSURE!"

Mrs. Sayers: "Nina! What happened to my sweet girl?"

Sadako: "Haven't you read enough Reviving Ophelia spin offs to figure it out?"

Nina: "She's GONE! And now I'm off to dance! Okay, here goes."

Thomas: "Nina, how could you fall over?!"

Darren Aronofsky: "It's okay. It'll be that much more awesome when she succeeds. That's how the ballet world works. Trust me, I know what I'm doing. I saw Flashdance like eight times."

Lily: "Nina, you totally can't do this. Let me dance the role."

Nina: "NO!" *stab* "Now to hide the body, dance the role I was mean to dance, and outsex a French lech."

Audience: "Ahh."

Nina: "I'm doing it! I'm doing it! I've unleashed my inner beast and now I can dance the black swan!"

Sadako: "All with a little help from tinted contact lenses and crazed eye make up."

Lily: "Hi Nina, you were great. Well, bye!"

Nina: "...crap."

Randy "The Ram": "Eh. It's been done."

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Making of the Black Swan

Sometimes I wonder how my favorite movies get made. I decided to let my imagination go wild after I saw The Black Swan this month as I pictured director Darren Aronofsky pitching his movie before the big suits.

Also, congratulate me. This marks post #200 for me. Have a slice of scary ass ballet cake in my honor on your way out. (I hear Natalie Portman is celebrating some Black Swan related news herself, so have some grapefruit on her behalf if you like.)

Finally, if you enjoyed this, stay tuned next week for Movies in a Minute: The Black Swan.

Studio Execs: "Have a seat, Darren. So, tell us about The Black Swan.

Darren Aronofsky: "It's about a ballet dancer, Nina. She lives in a sad, pathetic uptown apartment with only her crazed mom and her food issues."

Execs: "That went over well in Precious. Let's replace the pig knuckles with ballerina cake. What else you got?"

Darren: "Well, dance and the ballet world are apparently even more competitive than the intense world of pro-wrestling. Nothing like my brief exposure to Angelina Ballerina led me to believe."

Execs: "Interesting."

Darren: "I was thinking that Nina could use her passion for dance to unleash her sexuality. Through dancing this intense role, she'll go from being meek and sweet to an erotic being. I don't think that anyone's approached it from that angle."

Frances "Baby" Houseman: "I'll go sit back in my corner now."

Fran, Strictly Ballroom: "I'll join you."

Gypsy Rose Lee: "Save me a pole."

Execs: "How are you going to signify that Nina has transformed from child to a sexualized woman?"

Darren: "I was thinking we could have her throw her stuffed toys down the garbage chute."

Execs: "Worked for Tim Burton's version of Selena Kyle!"

Corduroy: "You guys know this is the kind of thing that kept me obsessively sleepwalking to the attic for spare buttons for like months after I got adopted, right? This is my nightmare fuel."

Execs: "But it still needs a little something extra."

Darren: "Some really disgusting bloody scenes straight out of the Grossology that show the artist pushing her body to the limit? In case you'd like to get an idea of what I'm capable of, I brought the unedited versions of Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler, some preliminary sketches, and my scab collection."

Execs: "Well, we were thinking along the lines of Oscar-bait."

Darren: "How about a movie that messes with the audience by including scenes that might be imaginary?"

Execs: "OK. But can you make"

Darren: "How about the hallucinatory scenes culminate in a lesbian scene, featuring a brunette actress low on ability but heavy on sensuality. Preferably one who's dating a former child star--it shows willingness to hit the casting couch. Megan Fox, or failing that, Mila Kunis."

Execs: "Sounds like Jennifer's Body meets Repulsion. It's a hit! Any ideas about the music? Something classy, no doubt."

Darren: "The score to Swan Lake?"

Execs: "Since it's either that or the only other classical score anyone on board knows about--the 1812 Overture--we'll go with it. What about the ending?"

Darren: "She stabs herself and then carries on with her art. The camera will go to black at the end, implying her death."

Execs: "I don't know. Didn't you just do that in The Wrestler?"

Darren: "Okay, how about the camera fades to white instead, implying her death?"

Execs: "Love it!"

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pop Culture Musings: Reality Stars II

Last summer, I blogged about reality TV stars. Since the blight of reality TV stars hasn't gone away, I decided to do a follow up post.

In other news: just one more post till my 200th blog post!

The Situation

Rumor has it Mike of The Jersey Shore has spent most of this season glued to the duck phone talking to his agent, trying to parlay his success into movie roles. For this reason, I must compare the Sitch to Shelley Long on Cheers. Remember when Shelley mistakenly thought that she was going on to bigger and better things by leaving her old drinking buddies behind? (Incidentally, who would have thought we'd find a group of people to make Norm, Cliffy, and Paul look positively cosmopolitan?)

A little part of me hopes the Situation leaves, just like Diane left Cheers. Not so much because I want to see the show fall apart, but because I think a remake of Troop Beverly Hills could use a six pack. Also, because I want to see which Scientologist has to step up to replace Sitch.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

What more is there to say about the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that hasn't been said, blogged, and tweeted by Andy Cohen and his production team? My own impression is that these girls are a bit like a minstrel show version of the First Wives' Club.

Taylor has clearly learned from Goldie Hawn and blown up her lips well before her husband starts eyeing an Elizabeth Berkley doppelganger. Camille Grammer, on the other hand, takes "revenge" by doing the talk show circuit and making single entendres on her husband's choice of underwear. Meanwhile, Kelsey smiles and nods, pretending that she's really shown him while mentally congratulating himself on the fact that his current lover has reached the age of majority and then some.

Tim Gunn

As you can see from all the reality stars I've been blogging about, sense and decorum are severely lacking. And that's why we need the Gunn. Tim brings order to the chaos that is reality TV. That's why I think of him as the Sidney Poitier of reality television, telling off everyone from to the Salahis to Kenley Collins.

Sometimes we need a well spoken Bo Brummel type to come in, sit us down, and tell us that yes, burning sanitary napkins is filthy. And no, you can't go to the White House sans invite.

Liz Lee

Liz Lee is the star of the MTV show My Life as Liz, a semi scripted reality program. Liz is Quirky and has the dyed red hair and comic book collection to prove it. Whether she's diving into a dumpster for a found object project or burning photographs of her former teen queen best friend, Liz is nothing if not studiously left of center.

But you can tell that she's not really quite as bizarre as she tries to be. I get the feeling that Liz is more at home at the Gap than Urban Outfitter and that she carries around the Hipster Handbook hoping that her fellow Pratt Institute students don't find her out. Liz's diligence at trying as hard as possible to be awkward puts me in mind of Natalie Portman in Garden State. Cute, perky overachiever trying her best to be as alternative as possible by spouting off random monosyllabic nonsensical words. (Doesn't it say something that the only way that Sam's shtick made sense was when the creators of Garden State decided to make her brain damaged?)

The Jersey Shore

Yep, I've got more to say about them. Remember that episode of Boy Meets World when Cory, Shawn, and Topanga star in a dumbed down academic bowl, answering frivolous pop cultural questions, only to have Mr. Feeny heap scorn and derision on them? Of course you do. The Jersey Shore gang is like a less cute, less pop culturally savvy version of Lips, Hair, and Brainiac-14.

I'm still waiting for Mr. Feeny to swoop in and scream at Mike, Pauly D, and Vinny for having over twenty different classifications of grenades and land mines but -- despite access to Google and Wikipedia -- no idea who invented the printing press.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Millionaire Matchmaker: Season 4 in a Minute

In honor of Valentine's Day, I present a recap of season 4 of the Millionaire Matchmaker. Yes, that's the New York City edition.

Patti: "I'm a third generation matchmaker with a 90% success rate!"

Destin: "New York is scary, Rachel. Do you think that our alternative act will impress the Manhattan hipster crowd?"

Patti: "Let's meet the new intern. OHN-drea? Get your skinny but incompetent ass out here!"

Andrea: "Brandon, is that you?"

Andrea: "Miranda! You called me thin?!"

Andrea: "I think it's me."

Patti: "This is Bryce Gruber. She's an uptight Charlotte York type who makes a living covering her vulva with sparkles on the, and her hobbies include pursing her lips and eye rolling. Her turn ons are uncomfortably long silences and the Jewish version of George Clooney."

Bryce: "Um..."

Niles Crane: "She's perfect! Do you have her in WASP-white?"

Patti: "Our other millionaire is guido Derek Tabacco. Hmm. What girls should I pick out for him? You. Can you like the Mets and name drop the terms moozadell and cacciatore?"

Derek Tabacco: "So, Patti, I loved the girl you picked out for me, but she's too young to settle down. Do you got anyone who's got the face and body of a teenager, the nesting instinct of a thirty year old, the well-established career of a forty year old, and the inability to ever wrinkle?"

Rod Serling: "No, but I might. Number Twelve looks like she'd be a great match for you!"

Patti: "Stop picking with the penis!"

Caroline Manzo: "Patti, my boys are having trouble finding love because every girl around them just wants them for their fame. Can you find them love?"

Patti: "Destin, are you sure the Situation won't do our show? What about the other Jersey Shore kids? I'll settle for the ugly one."

Destin: "Which one's the ugly one? And no."

Patti: "OK, Caroline, your boys are on. Guys, who do you like?"

Christopher: "I like that one."

Patti: "Stop it! Stop thinking with the cannoli! Now Albie, Chris, go plan your dates."

Chris Manzo: "So, I'm planning the first date, and we're going to Medieval Times."

Adriana LaCerva: "Aw. Drinks at the Bada Bing and dinner at Medieval Times was where Chrissy took me on our first date!"

Chris Manzo: "So, yeah. I work so many hours, you'll never actually see me, but my job isn't so prestigious you can brag about that to your friends."

Patti Stanger: "I'm a third generation matchmaker with a 60% success rate."

David: "Hi..."

Patti: "So, can we set him up with the moon and be done with it?"

Date: "So, um, what are we doing on our date?"

Sadako: "Pissing off the pro life crowd and PETA with food more controversial than foie gras."

David: "Have some balut. That's duck embryo, you know."

Date: "No..."

David: "Yes. And then put the lotion on your goddamned skin."

Matt: "I'm a millionaire because my dad invented a cookie."

Patti: "You're Otis Spunkmeyer, Jr.?"

Matt: "No."

Patti: "One of the Keebler kids?"

Matt: "No..."

Patti: "Lil Debbie? You've...changed."

Matt: "My dad was Dr. Siegal and his cookie helps you lose weight. I want a young hottie who's also got his own money, too."

Patti: "You think a ten with money is going to consider you?"

Matt: "I'll browbeat him into submission. Watch. So, yeah. You're kind of juvenile. I was really attracted to the twenty five year old at the mixer. You seem like a nice friend. Want to hear about the fantasy I constructed where he played Ganymede to my Zeus."

Matt: "That went better than usual."

Patti: " Robin. Robin has a pretty face after about three martinis, loves the color pink, and Hello Kitty. Her turn ons are TSA lawsuits and keeping Sanrio in business. Her hobbies are getting her dogs botoxed and inciting feminist parents to start class action lawsuits against the Disney Princess line."

Robin: "Oh, I want that one, please! Sexy plumber!"

Luke: "So do you people prefer the term Grenade or Fat Bottomed Girl?"

Robin: "I love you!"

Patti: "I'm a third generation matchmaker. Call on me when opening the phone book to a random name and number is too much work."

Stacey: "Patti, I've changed. Now, I'm going to plan the date. Eben, honey, we're going to a screening of how I made my very first lingerie shoot."

Patti: "What is WRONG with you?! You don't self promote on a first date! That's fourth, maybe. Showing a video of yourself? NOT COOL. GET THE HELL OUT OF MY CLUB."

Max Goof: "Oops. Sorry, Roxanne."

Patti: "Good bye, New York."