Monday, August 29, 2005

Best Celebrity Shoes Ever

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

Everyone in New York City who is even peripherally connected to the entertainment industry--and a lot of people who aren’t--knows someone who has worked on one of these abominations on VH1. You know the ones--the titles are always riddled with superlative adjectives: best, hottest, sexiest. Add a couple of nouns, some photos scanned from People magazine, a music bed of marginally appropriate popular music, and some “experts” (local comedians and assistant editors from Conde Nast publications), and you’ve managed to produce a VH1 show. I could probably have someone make a liitle program for me that would write a title, collect the images, download some clips of music from Amazon, and even email the local talent I’ve picked up at open mikes. Voila! instant VH1 producer. Then I could move to Co-op Village on the Lower East Side. I don’t think they pay their producers enough to live in Williamsburg, but they still make more than I do in publishing.

I know all about these shows because I see them when I’m at the gym. The sound isn’t on, and if they don’t have the subtitles on, I can make up my own dialog. It’s real easy, because none of these people are ever funny, so I don’t have to put any effort in to it. Here’s the weird part though: many of the comedians on these shows are funny in other formats, like on stage, or when they’re in front of you on the line for the bathroom. Somehow VH1, with some sort of demonic quality vacuum, manages to make the funniest people unfunny, the prettiest people unpretty, and the best copyeditors... uh, ok. I’ll stop there.

I’ve been making up my own shows when I complain about these programs to people (mostly strangers on the A, because my “real” friends don’t want to hear about this any more. Whatever!), like Sexiest Celebrity Shoes, Hottest Rockstar Ovens. But finally VH1 beat me at my own game last week with the inane and confusing Hottest Celebrity Pets. Who’s hot, the celebrity or the pet? I watched a few minutes of the show (the 3 minutes they had between 5 minute commercial breaks), and I was still confused. All I know is that celebrities taste in pets is identical to that of 60 year old Dominican women--they all have chihuahuas. Very very hot chihuahuas.

Perhaps I’m bitter because I haven’t been asked to be an “expert”. And yet look at my creds! I’ve read really bad stories at open mikes while spectacularly drunk, been involved with ill-conceived attempts at jokes in front of live audiences, and accused of stalking major contemporary authors. I even have the ethnically ambiguous look so popular in Gap ads these days. I know I’ve never written for Spin, but I did interview for production jobs at both Twist and Teen People. Also, I was on a press OK for another magazine when In Touch was also printing. Isn’t that enough?

VH1 peeps, I know these shows are very inexpensive to produce, but you know what’s even cheaper? Showing music videos! I know, crazy idea, but I think it could really take off.

Monday, August 22, 2005

What’s wrong with The 40 Year Old Virgin

Catherine Keener is better than Wonder Bread

Now, of course I haven’t seen this movie. I never go to the movies. The last movie I saw was the Ingmar Bergman doom-fest, Saraband. And yes, that was two weeks ago, but that was breaking a spell of about a year, and only because it was incredibly hot in New York City that weekend. And actually, Saraband was made for tv. Imagine, I paid to see a made-for-TV Bergman film. But don’t think that this small fact will deter me from critiquing one of the basic premises of The 40-Year Old Virgin—that somehow a geeky, mal-adjusted man who looks like Ed Helms (played by Steve Carrell) can get a woman as beautiful as Catherine Keener.

Let’s get all the reasons out of the way as to why I should like this film. It was written and directed by Judd Apatow, and let’s face it—what woman who loves Keener didn’t also love Freaks and Geeks? And yes, I almost liked The Ben Stiller Show, despite the fact that Ben Stiller was in it (it was his show, after all). And what about The Cable Guy, one of only a handful of tolerable performances from Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick? Writing this, I realize that Apatow has worked with a lot of actors I actively dislike. Beside the above list, there’s also Will Ferrell. Judd—what’s the problem here? If you threw a party and invited me, I’d have a smack-down with each and every one of these guys. OK—don’t invite me. Really, it’ll be a much better party without me.

Oh, I forgot about the other reasons—Steve Carrell and Keener. I’ll get to more about her later.

Anyway, from what I glean from the teevee commercialsThe 40 Year-Old Virgin is a middle-age guy’s version of any number of teen movies featuring some hot teenage girl with glasses and overalls and a pony-tail, and at the end of the movie she combs her hair and gets contacts and goes shopping at Forever-21, and gets a date with Freddie Prinz Jr. I’m dumbing it down a little, but that’s the idea. I’m sure it’s not so smarmy, and doesn’t have any Icelandic bands on the soundtrack. Only there’s this: Carrell is not beautiful. In or out of argyle. My boyfriend, whom I’ll call Jack (it’s an old joke my cat made—ok??) says Carrell is attractive, but Jack is dating me, so we must assume that his idea of attractiveness is skewed.

My beef with the ugly (Carrell’s not ugly, but I like hyperbole) guy getting the beautiful woman goes way back. I’ve written essays about this in every zine I’ve ever been associated with. But the Kenner thing is particularly stinging for some reason. Because I think that somewhere, someone is thinking that this really could happen. If only… Catherine Keener was a single mother. See, that single mother thing makes her damaged in a subtle, subliminal way, making the whole thing almost plausible. But not! It’s Catherine Keener!!

Let’s look over Keener’s resume: hot bitch who toys with John Cusack in Being John Malkovich. Hot bi bitch in Your Friends and Neighbors. Hot TV exec bitch in Death to Smoochy. And I swear I saw in eating a hot dog in a documentary about unusual architecture. We’ll call that “castrating hot-dog bitch.” And yet, we like her and her bitchiness. She has a smile that says “I’m smiling now, but in the next second I could stab you with a nail file. The wound wouldn’t be deep, but it would be embarrassing.” Also, she’s 45. FORTY-FIVE. How can you not love a woman who plays these roles at 45, and with no hint of “I’m a psycho” in her eyes?

And, although I’m happy to see Keener playing outside of type, I don’t want her to join the long line of ladies who are just good enough for ugly dudes. The list: anyone who dated George Costanza on Seinfeld. Janeane Garofolo. Anyone who dated Drew Carey’s character. Leah Remini. & c.

Catherine, let’s you and I have a talk. I’ll be Blanche and you be Stella. There are such things in the world as music and art. Don’t hang back with the beasts! Go back to being a bitch, and make another movie with John Cusack, cus we used to like him too.