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."