Alexandre Aja has big shoes (fins, whatever) to fill this weekend when Piranha 3D arrives in theaters. I am excited because I like watching people struggle in water (on film, at least), but I am also scared (and not in the horror way!) because it couldn't possibly live up to the glorious shittiness of the 1978 2D original (even with the incompetent CGI evident in the Piranha 3D trailer that seems like it's rendered for kitsch factor). Joe Dante's Piranha is an utter gem that embraces its own derivation (it's essentially Jaws with a bunch of tiny monsters instead of one big one) and silliness with a straight face. It's kind of like the cinematic equivalent of a blonde girl who learned how to be a dumb blonde from the dumb blondes that came before her. Instead of a knowing wink, we get razor teeth.
I started fourfour on May 31, 2005, and I figure that the fifth anniversary of this blog is an occasion that calls for a look back. Surveying 1,116 posts that have appeared on a single blog over the course of five years is setting yourself up for looking at a whole lot of nothing, but regardless of how foolhardy my time investment has been, clearly this space has mattered to me. I'm grateful that in the rare cases that I feel like I have something that should really get out there, it almost always does. I'm grateful that I can make some money (a modest freelance wage, really) saying exactly what I think needs to be said on my terms. I'm grateful for the work/interview/interpersonal opportunities my work here has presented to me. I'm grateful that people seem to care about what I have to say, for however temporarily (I've heard, "I used to read your blog..." enough times to make me feel like I'm being oversensitive by finding those words offensive). I've always said that I like to have something to show for my time (I'm very material in that respect) and so the most I'll concede after looking at five year's worth of work is that it's been a whole lot of something.
Let it never be said that I don't know how to throw myself a party. The verdict on this blog's best offerings is probably none of my business -- I wouldn't even know how to call that if I had to. However, for the sake of retrospect, I can share with you what the most satisfying posts of the past five years were from the perspective of the person who created them and received feedback on them. My Top 20 is below.
Hayao Miyazaki's rewrite of The Little Mermaid, featuring a ham-loving goldfish that water doesn't make wet and whose humanity is dependent on whether her already icky love with a 5-year-old boy is "pure," Ponyo is on DVD today. I've already written about this movie, and watching it again confirmed my love for it (turns out it's a pure love so I'm not a goldfish anymore, guys!). Ponyo isn't as deep or majestic as other Miyazaki fare, but it really might be my favorite of all of his films. I love the very simple coloring-book aesthetic (it makes the flashes of intricate detail pop that much more) and obviously the whole thing is just a big bunch of nonsense. Gorgeous, gorgeous nonsense. As a tribute, some looped nonsense is below via a Ponyo gif wall (let it load for a while -- it's worth it, I think).
For the amount of Jacksons that there are, The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty should have at least been a shit show, but its two-hour A&E premiere was really just a bunch of crap. If failing publicly has become the standard for reality TV, this was a failure to fail. It wasn't a trainwreck because they never left the station. As weird as the perpetually muttering Jacksons are, they're just as guarded, which means that the show is just a packaging of the ham-handed way the family has attempted to smooth out their lives and attempt to look normal for anyone who cares to watch. This results in something very boring. Of the four brothers profiled, only Jermaine sticks out because he seems particularly out of touch (he explains that because everyone knew Michael Jackson as superstar, no one can wrap their heads around him being a brother to Jermaine and the rest, as though the concept of siblings is unique to the Jackson family). Also, he seems to be wearing Michael Myers' mask, which makes him stick out, too. Jackie says Marlon's kidding all the time, but the greatest example of this we see is Marlon telling a waitress that Jackie wants his burger cooked in butter. Hilarious, right?
The elephant in the room is the renewed relevance of these four, thanks to Michael's death, though when confronted, Jermaine pretends that he gave birth to said elephant. "How are we cashing in on something we created?" he says, answering Entertainment Tonight's question with a question. His words come from the same place as his elephant: his ass. Here's how, Jermaine: for decades, no one cared about the shit you created until the person who actually built a long-term career from it died abruptly. Simple! Welcome back to TV.
If you care about the whereabouts of 3T, this may be the show for you. Me, I'd rather watch Joe's Blu-Ray. The biggest missed opportunity is the lack of the other Jacksons besides the Jackson 4. Katherine shows up in the first episode to scowl for a bit, and it's no surprise that Janet isn't involved, as she's the only one with a potentially salvageable career. Joseph is a fucking bastard, so you could imagine him not getting involved just on principle. But where, oh where is La Toya? You know that she would have done it if asked. La Toya will go to the opening of a disposable camera's freshness pouch.
And so, to illustrate exactly what we're missing, I've prepared a La Toya Jackson gif wall below, all grabbed from her 1994 Playboy centerfold video. That means there are boobs below (NSFW!), but I swear, this shit is worth getting fired for. As someone so awkward, prone to flailing and in possession of a voice that's like nails on a chalkboard, I think gifs might actually be La Toya's natural medium. Let this be a lesson to all of the Jacksons that they need to get their heads out of their asses/MJ's grave, and recognize their familial greatness that still walks this earth.
I feel like this post should start, "It was all a dream...!" but no: it's all very real. On the Twitter I'm keeping to document the songs that get stuck in my head (and, incidentally, on which I'm shooting the 140-character-capped shit a lot more than I expected), I'm also trying to include a link to the song I'm mentioning whenever possible. SWV's oral-sex ode "Downtown" became lodged last week and so I went to YouTube to find its video, and bam! First shot:
Oh. Shit. You know? Coko's nails are the stuff of legend. And also, they are maybe the stuff of Toucan Sam's beak. The video goes on:
She looks like she's a creature who consumes sexy dudes. A literal maneater and nice counterpoint to the figurative eating of the song:
It got me thinking: I always loved those nails. I think their trashy absurdity is what pushed SWV over the line and made them my favorite girl group of their time (as much as it might feel wrong, I know it's right: I really would place them above TLC and En Vogue for sheer breadth of amazing material).
I'm not sure that those nails were ever given their due as a pop-cultural source of amazement. And so, to pay tribute to them the best way I know how: I combed YouTube for shots of her manipulating them and then made a gif wall of them. It's below the jump. Reflecting on Coko's willingness to be so flashy about one of the most impractical tacky fashion decisions a woman can make is kind of mind-blowing on a Magnolia level. I look at the shit below and I say to myself, "This happens. This is something that happens." And when it does, pop is better of for it.
These days, I am going through a major Kate Bush kick, inspired by the amazing new Bat for Lashes album, Two Suns. I downloaded that shit on a whim and before I completed my first listen, Natasha Khan had me hypnotized. She really is a siren, and but she is not the first of her kind. Kate Bush's influence on Two Suns is unmistakable, though not to a disrespectful degree (frankly, Two Suns is the album I wish 2005's grown-and-unsexy Aerial turned out to be). Kahn embodies the same arms-length intimacy as Kate by using a singer-songwriter aesthetic to create characters rather than confess. Instead of just a girl with a piano, we're hearing a girl with a piano along with all the voices her head can conjure. And that's not even mentioning the production similarities (a few Two Suns tracks use the same sort of post-new wave primitive drum programming that inhabits the first half of Hounds of Love).
Khan's more tempered than the fearlessly shrill Kate, though, and, to my untrained ear, her songwriting isn't as sophisticated. But that's for the best as I'm not sure if we could handle two Kate Bushes -- the world's head might explode. While Khan comes off cool even when wailing about her wickedness inside, it's never taken more than a literary reference or the image of a stringed instrument to have Kate wailing, balls-out. And if she didn't have balls that day, she'd probably hire men to dress as them so that she could incorporate them in an interpretive dance of the testes.
I've spent the past few weeks of listening to Kate's music and howling at her videos via YouTube (you haven't lived till you've watched her talk about her vegetarianism or explain her positively batty "Sat in Your Lap" video to a roomful of bored pre-pubescent children). During this time, I finally realized something about Kate, whom I've loved since high school: she was made for me. No other entertainer I've invested myself in has ever struck the balance between awe-inspiring technical proficiency and utter nonsense so well. She has the paradoxical effect of a retarded genius. I've repeatedly written about my obsession with ambiguous intent in pop culture. There's nothing more satisfying to me than something that doesn't announce itself as intentionally or accidentally hilarious, something that slips through that crack of decidedness and tickles my brain as it dissipates into multiple receptors. Take Kate's dancing, alone, which while clearly thought-out and rooted in technique, nonetheless feels absurdly unhinged...
(Warning! Warning! So many more gifs follow. We're talking hours worth of madness. Be prepared to be seduced or, at least, derisively amused!)