Archive | February, 2014

Celebrity and the Scarlet Letter

26 Feb

We’re hardly the first to remark that American culture (no, that’s not an oxymoron, though it may sound like one) places a high value on celebrity, and on the whole, we’re pretty forgiving of celebrities.  An actor may have a bout with drugs or alcohol, but after getting clean, he or she is welcomed back into the fold (as was Robert Downey, Jr, for example.) 

There is one thing, however, that even (or perhaps especially) celebrities must not do. Any celebrity who breaks this taboo will be cast out and made to wear a scarlet ‘A’.  We simply will not allow celebrities to age.  If a celebrity stubbornly insists on aging, she (the feminine pronoun seems most apt here; unless you’re Mickey Rourke, women are judged more harshly than men) had better do so ‘gracefully.’  Don’t believe us? Do a web search (we’re old school; we won’t let ourselves use ‘google’ as a verb) on “celebrities age gracefully.”  You’ll get hits for celebrities who have supposedly aged gracefully, but you’ll also get just as many for those who supposedly haven’t. There’s an unspoken assumption that those who have aged gracefully are somehow morally virtuous, while those who haven’t have somehow brought it on themselves. (Sure, Keith Richard may fall into the latter category, but we think that someone who’s lived the life he has looks pretty darn good today.)

Those who attempt to prolong their youthful appearance through plastic surgery had better choose their surgeons carefully.  The price of failure is ridicule. Those who choose well pass unnoticed (or perhaps get into the ‘aging gracefully’ camp) while those whose surgeries fail are given the scarlet letter.  Poor Meg Ryan is lumped in the latter category, but we wonder why.  We’ve seen her ‘post-surgery’ photos, and to us she looks fine, surgery or no surgery.  It’s become so ridiculous that Brigitte Bardot has ended up on someone’s ‘not aging gracefully’ list.  She’s 79 years old, for crying out loud, cut the woman some slack. We saw that the late Farrah Fawcett wound up on someone’s list.  We’re not making excuses for her appalling lack of good taste in not looking like she was still twenty years old, but she did have a few other things on her mind at the time (like coping with cancer.)  Again, we’re not excusing the behavior, just explaining it.

There is more we could say on this topic, but if we don’t leave for our liposuction appointment now, it’s going to take months before we can reschedule.

Yoda

Get an eye lift if you want to keep working, Yoda,

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How to Make Cinema History

19 Feb

Here’s an idea we have, but we’re too lazy (and too cheap) to do it ourselves.

J.D. Salinger never sold the film rights to “The Catcher in the Rye”, so the book has never been adapted (this is probably all to the good.) God knows if anyone is trying to buy the rights now that he’s passed away, but we figure that it’ll take time to hash all that out. In the interim, you and your friends can make your own adaptation. Ideally, it’d be good, but even that is not an absolute requirement. The idea is not so much to be good, the idea is to be first. You don’t have money for sets? Stage it like ‘Our Town’ and don’t use scenery. Once you’ve shot your adaptation, put it on the net for free. You’re not going to make any money off this, and you’re going to make a lot of people mad (anyone who’s read the book has already made the film in his/her own head and your images won’t fit theirs.) The Salinger estate is sure to come after you, so practice guerilla film making and use a nom du cinéma in the credits.

Cather in the Rye Paperback

You’ll make cinema history!

Once your adaptation is out there, you’ll get the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol talked about and a place (even if it’s only a footnote) in cinema history.

Grammar Police

17 Feb

If a Grammar Police is ever formed, we want to be on the squad.  We like to correct other people’s grammar, especially those we know well and love.  Most of the time, we really don’t care about the mistake, we just like being pedantic pains in the ass.

There is one grammatical error, however, that grates on our nerves like fingernails on a blackboard.  We don’t know exactly what tense it is, but we’ll call it the past perfect conditional.  Years ago at a stop sign, a friend was irked that we had allowed another car to proceed before we entered the intersection. “You could have went!”, he declared.  We were horrified, and not just at our friend’s back-seat driving.  We don’t know what it is about the construction that we find so abhorrent, but we just want to put our hands over our ears whenever we hear ‘have went’ used in place of ‘have gone’.

word balloon

No, I could not have.

We first became aware of our other pet peeve when we were on jury duty in a slip and fall case (the two parties ended up settling out of court.)  A lawyer had asked a witness whether a substance on the pavement was inherently slippery.   “Not in and of itself”, responded the witness.  While not grammatically incorrect, the term ‘in and of itself’ strikes us as excessively wordy.  What’s wrong with ‘not  in itself’, or ‘not by itself?’

The third word that grates on our nerves isn’t grammatically incorrect at all, we just don’t like the word.  The word is  … bra.  We don’t like it because to us it sounds vaguely disgusting, like the sound someone makes when choking.  “She purchased a bra.”  To us, that conjures up an image of someone going to a seedy marketplace in a bad part of town.  “She purchased a brassiere.” Ah, that’s better. Sounds much classier, doesn’t it?  We were recently in an auto parts store when we saw a box containing a ‘nose bra’, a thing apparently designed to protect the front ends of sports cars.  We wouldn’t buy one even if we had a sports car.  If they change the name to ‘nose brassiere’ however, we just might reconsider.

Romance Novels and Scottish Guys

7 Feb

Disclaimer:  We’re not trying to dis the genre we discuss below.  Just as there are good spy novels and bad spy novels,  good sci-fi and hackneyed sci-fi, we’re sure that there is good romance and (sorry Lady Gaga) bad romance.

Years ago while in a book store, we pitched an idea to a friend of ours;  we’d go into into business writing romance novels.  We’d never read one, but we’d heard they were popular, and most likely formulaic.  We’d read one or two to get the feel of the genre, and then proceed to crank out our own.  It was a great idea.  How could it miss?  We’d be rich.

Needless to say, nothing ever came of this money-making scheme.  We proceeded to get real jobs and forgot the whole thing.  Years later, several women we know started reading romances.  We read one too.  If the one we read is typical of the genre, we were right about the formulaic thing.  (We’re deliberately not going to reveal the title of the book we read.  In the unlikely event that the author of the book in question reads this entry and recognizes her work, she just might sue us or something.)

The book begins as Lord Luvaduck (we can’t remember the character’s name) hires a woman to manage things on his estate.  There is a class difference between the two of them, and he treats her lousily.  Suffice it to say that by the end of the book, the rake leaves his wicked, wicked ways behind as the love of this good woman reforms him.  (We’ve since learned that the rake-gets-reformed-by-love theme is a popular one.)  We don’t remember much else about the story, but we do remember that at one point,  Lord Luvaduck tells the lady that she has a ‘sexy’ smile.  We didn’t think that adjective was in the English language during the Regency period.  Subsequent research proved this to be true – the term came into use circa the 1930s.

The covers of these novels (as least the paperbacks) are something else again.  We thought that the covers would depict some charming Italian guy, maybe a Spanish or Portuguese noble,  or even a debonair French guy.   They’re the countries with the Romance languages, right?   Nope.  Lots of times, the Fabio-like guy on the cover is a Scottish guy in a kilt.  Who knew?

scottish guy

Who knew?

Oil Redux

6 Feb

Some guy has been comin’ ’round the neighborhood talkin’ to folks  ’bout the benefits of signing a paper giving the oil company he represents the right to extract the oil that is supposedly underneath our households.  We’ve had the good fortune not to be home both times.

Don’t get us wrong – we’re as greedy as the next guy.  It’s just that we’re not crazy about the possibility of the noise and disruption that such an operation may bring.  However, that pales in comparison to the possibility that these oil folks’ll do something that contaminates the ground water.  We get our water from a well, y’ see, an’ if it gets contaminated, we’re stuck with no water an’ a house that nobody in his right mind would buy.  Where will our friendly neighborhood oil company be if that happens? Probably in court swearing up and down that they had nothing to do with it.

The state we live in has forced pooling laws.  This means that if these oil people can get enough of us to cave, we can be forced into this deal.  The good news is that the majority of us seem to have grave reservations about this thing.  If the center holds an’ nobody gets all pie-eyed about the promise of easy money (for about six months to a year anyway), we have a fighting chance of beating back this attempt on our way of life, which consists of complaining about the weather and hoping that the next season will come soon.

Oil rigs

Oil!

Sloppy Screenwriting

2 Feb

Warning: the following contains spoilers (no, not those things on the backs of souped-up cars, but things that might ruin the surprise if you haven’t seen the films we discuss here, which are Skyfall, and The Dark Knight Rises.)

Here at De Jungle, we’ve always expected a modicum of plausibility from the movies we see. It does not matter to us if a scene is far-fetched, even preposterous, as long as there is a grain of believability. It irks us when filmmakers break this unwritten rule and dispense with that all-important morsel of credibility. Two films from the last several years,  Skyfall, and The Dark Knight Rises are guilty of the kind of plausibility-flouting that really yanks our chain.

James Bond / Batman

Plausibility? Who cares?

In the first film we see James Bond shot by a rifle, fall from a moving train, and plunge into a waterfall. The next time we see him, he’s on a bender after apparently surviving this ordeal. And how is it that he has survived the bullet, the fall from the train, and the rocks at the bottom of the falls? The movie doesn’t tell us, so we must fall back on what we have always known (but pretended not to know): he’s James Bond, and therefore cannot be killed. Not even “Well, the bullet merely grazed my forehead, and the limb of a tree broke my fall before I hit the rocks.”  (Don’t laugh, Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Sherlock Holmes after he plunged into Reichenbach Falls.)

The Dark Knight Rises has not one, but two such examples. The bad guy places Batman/Bruce in a prison in what appears to be a Middle Eastern country. The hoosegow looks like a huge cylindrical brick smokestack, only deep in the ground. Our hero, determined to escape this hell, makes a Herculean effort to climb out, only to fail several times. He finally succeeds, amid the chanting of his fellow inmates.  We had no trouble believing all this; for us, that’s not the far-fetched part. What bothered us is that the next thing you know, he’s back in Gotham City. Here’s Batman/Bruce with no ID, no passport, no cash, no credit cards, and in a country where he likely does not speak the language. How is it that he’s suddenly back in Gotham? Again, we have to fall back of what we have always pretended not to know: he’s Batman / Bruce Wayne. He can do anything.

Much later in the film comes the second, even more egregious example. Batman get’s stabbed in the lower back. We’re not talking some paper cut; his assailant really twists the ol’ knife, and Batman recoils in pain, so his much-vaunted body armor has failed to stay the blade. Moments later, he’s back in action saving Gotham. We don’t see him so much as wince. No “Sorry Commissioner Gordon, but I have to go get this life-threatening wound taken care of.” It’s never mentioned again. Batman, like James Bond, cannot be killed.

Sure, we’re all for suspension of disbelief, but to us, this attitude of “let’s not bother telling a story that stands up to even casual scrutiny” shows how lazy screenwriters have become.