Modern Life: standing in aisle 6 of Walgreens, considering the prices of camcorder tape, noting that the entire tobacco section has been replaced with scented candles, listening to my headphones: the man on the news insisting that America has declared war on Islam, and America will be defeated. LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING! he said, and he proceeded to tell me nothing I didnt know already: American troops are kicking down the doors of mosques in Iraq and using flame-throwers on the exposed soles of the faithful, etc etc. I turned it off and took off the headphones. The modern world: Muzak is preferable to the news. Times like these I do the unfair but instructive WW2 comparison; imagine a fellow standing in the aisle of a drugstore in 1942, with huge cans on his head, a thick cable going to a heavy box strapped around his waist.
Hey, Mac, whats that?
Its a portable radio! It lets me listen to news and opinion wherever I go.
I wish to stay informed.
I get it; sure. Good for you. A lotta these jakes and jills here, they wander round like nothin changed, like the worlds still nothin but toothpaste and movie magazines. So whats the news? Whaddya hear from the front?
Oh, nothing from the front. Im listening to a German-American in Brooklyn insist that the Nazis will defeat us.
Brother, take them things off. Go listen to a jukebox or somethin. Leave it alone for a while.
He'd have a good point
Ah, heavens. One Night in Bangkok just came on the internet radio. Perhaps the only song ever devoted entirely to itinerant globe-trotting chess players. (Has one of my favorite lines: Siam, gonna be the witness / to the ultimate test of cerebral fitness. Try working that into a conversation.) I know exactly where I was when I heard this song nightly: standing behind the counter at Ralph and Jerrys Corner Store and Culture Center, waiting for the next customer or the first bullet. Every night, One Night. And every night, sometimes twice, another song that presumed were all wanted to know the state of, and location of, the Heat. So Glenn Frey would come on to inform us that the Heat was on, and that the heat was on the street. We slept better, knowing that. Slept like logs.
The weekend movie: Mighty Wind, which was - shoulder ARMS! - not quite as - AIM! - funny as Spinal Tap. FIRE! Its an unfair comparison, I suppose, but that is the gold-standard for this sort of movie, with these characters. I loved it, of course; I will see anything Christopher Guest does, I will buy it, I will watch it once a year. And I liked it better than the last two, because it had more Tap-like elements - this ensemble is at its best when theyre satirizing musical genres, because they can play the music, and you simply cant hate something you can play well. You can despise it, you can roll your eyes at it, you can find it boring, but if you can actually get a groove going in a style you find inane and puerile, you cant hate it. The movie ends with a ghastly folk song played with such enthusiasm you almost want to take a nail gun to your foot, because the damn things tapping.
So, in the Guest Oeuvre, second to Tap. And thats including the outtakes. Theres a generous supply of deleted scenes, and as you can imagine they left six hours of genius on the floor. But the finished film is but 90 minutes, and it flies past; the deleted scenes would have put it around 1:50, and would have filled it out much better. Theres a sweetness to Guests work I love - its one of the reasons Spinal Tap is such a great movie, for example. We like these guys, and we like them because the people involved dont think their ridicule gives them a license to be contemptuous. Even the people in Mighty Wind who truly deserve a wide, broad berth are allowed to stand there and knot the noose themselves.
Late at night, looking at HBO and asking the question why do I pay for this? I found a reason. I stumbled across a movie based on one of the most infantile, unfunny, shoddy and predictable creations of Western culture, a thing whose very name fills me with hot heavy stones of shame and anger. Its name summons up all the contempt some feel for Precious Youth, how theyre content to serve up hogsheads of steaming tripe to goggle-eyed children who dont know enough to know better. And now theyd made a movie about this . . . this thing. I was actually curious: how bad could it be? Could it be as bad as I wanted it to be?
Five minutes into it, Im impatient: cmon, start sucking more!
Ten minutes into it, Im dismayed: stop being intermittently aware of my expectations, and confounding them!
Fifteen minutes into it, I hit the TiVo record button and went to bed; well see if were still so charitable tomorrow.
The next night I watched the rest. And I enjoyed it, for what it was. Oh, the CGI was horrible in spots. Some miscasting, some eye-rolling grrl power moments. But damn: that dude was Shaggy.
(shocked gasps from the audience)
True. True. If youve been with this site over the years, you know that theres little I despise more than Scooby-Doo, for all the reasons you might expect. Not funny. Sonny Bono cameos. Not funny. Two sound effects, three music cues, one plot. Hanna-Barbera dreck distilled to a lethal purity. I have long begged for someone to make a Scooby-Doo mod for Soldier of Fortune:
< 6 key >
< Option >
< + + + >
<primary fire key>
If you dont know, dont ask. Grown men are not comfortable explaining why they want to use the sniper rifle on fictional dogs with speech impediments.
But. If someone called me up and said wed like to give you many, many thousands of dollars to write a Scooby-Doo movie script, of course I would have said Roo Retcha! I would have flown somewhere warm, had lots of tequila, written reams of backstory for all the characters until they felt real. Then I would have sucked the lime and banged out something exactly like I saw on the screen. The author found (and I cannot BELIEVE I AM WRITING THIS) the emotional core of the story (AUUGGGHHHH), which was the Shag / Scoob relationship. Secondary story goes to Velma, no question. As for the pretty kids, play them as archetypes, and save all the audience winks for those two. When the villain is revealed, make the identity a statement that you know how much most of Scooby-Doo and all its incarnations suck like that tornado in the last reel of Twister.
I look forward to the sequel, if the same guy writes it.
And this gives me hope. If I can put aside my long-standing, intense and entirely justified hatred of Scooby Doo to watch the movie version and not regret the experience, Im not the closed-minded arse I fear I am.
Column night; must go. Back tomorrow with linkage aplenty. In the meantime - new column; hit the Backfence button below, and I apologize deeply for the registration thing. Modern Times: you need a frickin PASSWORD to read the bloody newspaper.