Monday, March 30, 2015

On Retro-Futuristic Clamshell Phones

Read any think piece on It Folows and you will hear about the importance of Yara’s clamshell e-reader phone. It’s the mystery device on which she’s reading The Idiot throughout the film, and director David Robert Mitchell specifically created it so that a real smartphone didn’t immediately date the film.

As he explains in an interview with The A.V. Club:
That e-reader cell phone — or “shell phone” — you’re talking about is not a real device. It’s a ’60s shell compact that we turned into a cell phone e-reader. So I wanted modern things, but if you show a specific smartphone now, it dates it. It’s too real for the movie. It would bother me anyway. So we made one up. And all of that is really just to create the effect of a dream — to place it outside of time, and to make people wonder about where they are.
It seemed vaguely familiar to me, and I think that’s the point, but I couldn’t place exactly why such a device would seem familiar until this weekend, when I realized there’s a precedent for a retro-futuristic clamshell phone.

April O’Neli uses one in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Not that it’s intentional, necessarily, but if we’re having a conversation about retro-futuristic clamshell phones…

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Greatest Movie Synopsis You Will Read Today

Courtesy of IMDb and a dedicated plot summary writer. Yes, the movie seems batshit in its own right, but you really have to appreciate that the writer decided that the best possible way to summarize this film was to include his own critiques and asides. Also, I have no clue what last-act plot twist is being described in the final two sentences — nor why the he felt it necessary to give away the last act in what should ideally be a three-sentence tease.
Got problems? Need a shrink? Call an alcoholic reporter instead. Janet Ames is a war widow who deeply resents the five buddies of her husband, whom he died to save, although she only knows their names. She is approaching a cafe where the first of the five men, whose names are on a list in her hand, is employed. Her plan, whatever it was, becomes somewhat secondary when she is ran over by a truck and is taken to the hospital unconsciousness. There, in one fell swoop of an amazing coincidence, she is identified by Smithfield Cobb, a reporter addicted to drink — probably because of his name — who also happens to be the fifth man on her list. She regains consciousness but is unable to walk, although the best medical minds in the building say she has no personal injury that prevents her from walking. Smithfield sees right off that her problem is mental, and he decides he will cure her by using psycho-analysis and suggestion — the man came equipped — to wipe away her perception that the five men whose lives her husband saved at the cost of his own were not worthy of the sacrifice. He describes to her each of the other four men and makes them all seem to be worthy and successful men and prime candidates for induction into the Jaycees. He lies of course, but all in a good cause. He gets around to himself and tells her he is quite a distinguished journalist — with a capital J — and the next thing anyone knows, Janet is dancing around the room and fully cured of her boiled-up resentment, or whatever. But, wait... It isn't over. Smithfield is ashamed of telling her all these lies, and he flees for the nearest bar and is working on becoming a complete basket-case. Janet follows and she then proceeds to overcome by psychoanalysis and suggestion — can't overlook that one — a cure for him.
Rosalind Russell’s expression on the poster, by the way, makes it look like a taut thriller. I really don’t know what to think.

The Guilt of Janet Ames. I can’t think of a less enticing title for a movie.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Halloween in March! (Or — Attack of the Sinister Spiders)

I hope everyone else finds the animal life in my backyard as interesting as I do.

A few days ago, I found that one of my pumpkins had gone soft. No biggie, really — I placed the thing out for Thanksgiving, and it's been sitting out ever since, holidays be damned. I decided to give it an honorable send off by chucking it into the wall in the back wall. And there it sat, a cracked Humpty Dumpty waiting for the birds to pick out its unborn children from its body cavity.

Today, I noticed that it had attracted visitors: orange-bodied, black-legged spiders that looked like a cross between your typical house arachnid and fire ants. They were swarming. It’s like they were having a party.

Can anyone tell me what these are? I’ve lived in California all my life and never noticed one of these, to say nothing of a sinister cluster of them. They’re not fire ants. I got a very close interaction with those when I moved in the backyard. And they don’t seem to be coming from a hole in the ground. In fact, it kind of looks like they came from inside the pumpkin.

Oh look, I have video too. They’re stars now, these little nightmares.

The backyard beat, previously:

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Remove a Wasp’s Nest — the Drew Mackie Way!

(Inspired by actual events.)
  1. Head out to the garage. See that a wasp is building a nest in the door frame.
  2. Use the Lord’s name in vain.
  3. Stand there watching it, in hopes that it will reveal its secret weakness.
  4. Return inside. Google “how to remove a wasp nest.” Quickly tire of this.
  5. Emboldened by boredom, decide that you can swat it down. After all, you killed that fly on your own.
  6. Go to the utility closet and find the long-handled tool you least care about being infected with wasp evil. Decide on the Swiffer that came with the house, as you no longer have any Swiffer strips anyway.
  7. Return outside, Swiffer in hand, to find that the wasp is lying in wait for you. 
  8. Decide to simply take out the wasp.
  9. Swing. 
  10. Miss.
  11. Drop the Swiffer and run inside.
  12. Lock the door for some reason.
  13. Watch some TV, occasionally peering out the back door to see if the wasp is still mad.
  14. Have some wine, then turn in for the night.
  15. Head out to the garage in the morning, find the Swiffer lying in the dirt.
  16. “Goddammit, Glen, why is the Swiffer out here on the — oh, wait, never mind.”
  17. Not seeing the wasp, you decide to take another swipe at the nest. It falls to the ground without incident. Nothing appears to be inside. You think about that Calvin & Hobbes with the dead bird for a second.
  18. Note that there are other wasp nests along the garage overhang, just none others specifically near where you need to enter.
  19. Decide that the wasps can just have the garage in the same manner in which you ceded the toolshed to the spiders.
  20. Stay inside forever.

This, by the way, is the thematic sequel to my other instructional post, “How to Actually Fold a Fitted Sheet.”

The backyard beat, previously:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Horror in Broad Daylight

Here is the third in what I’d like to make a series on this blog: Drew recommends horror movie scenes that happen in the daylight.

See, It Follows has stuck with me. (And yeah, insert your joke here.) One of the many things it does that other horror movies don’t do often enough is stage scary scenes during the daytime. It feels like a violation of a horror rule, but it isn’t. We’re just so used to seeing our fodder protagonists running though the dark that it’s all the more jarring when they get attacked during the day.

In 1983’s Curtains, a group of actresses vying for a role spend a weekend with the director in a secluded cabin. One by one, they get picked off my a mystery killer wearing a hag mask. And one of the first to encounter this hag is Christie (Lesleh Donaldson), who makes the mistake of stepping out one morning to go ice skating. That seems like a safe decision in a horror movie. It isn’t. And the scene works, in spite of the fact that it’s happening in full daylight, in spite of the fact that ice skates have never otherwise seemed scary.

The rest of Curtains also gets my recommendation, by the way. It has to be noted: Isn’t Curtains the perfect name for a slasher movie about actors?

The full movie is available on YouTube, in case you don’t mind subtitles.

Previous horror movie scenes that happen during the day:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

With “It” Being Hilariously Outdated Streetwalker Garb

This week, I had to watch Pretty Woman. I realize that I grew up in a generation of kids who watched this movie willingly and repeatedly, but I wasn’t allowed to, I’m guessing because my parents wanted to leave explanations about prostitution to the Bible. As a result of not having grown up with it, I kind of hate Pretty Woman. I think if you see it when you’re a kid, you just accept it as good. If you see it as a grown-up who has the slightest inkling about what a prostitute’s life might be like, you can’t get past its phoniness. In fact, the only part about Pretty Woman I really enjoy is Laura San Giacomo, and that probably puts me in a super-minority.

In watching it in order to write even the dinkiest listicle about it, I realized that my fashion vocabulary completely failed me regarding Julia Roberts’ first costume in the film. You know the one: the most streetwalkery, the least hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. It’s hooker with an aluminum spleen at best. But while I didn’t know how to describe it beyond “What the fuck is she supposed to be wearing?” and thereabouts, I could liken it to another pop cultural woman of the night.

In the original Final Fight, you encounter a female enemy, Poison, who’d later go on to become playable in the Street Fighter games. She’s never stated to be a prostitute, but she is a streetwalker in the literal sense: She trots up to you as you scroll down the street and attempts to kick your ass, just like every male enemy does. Poison lacks Vivian’s thigh-highs and the smoking jacket, but the two characters are baring similar amounts of skin beneath their tank tops. And then there’s that hat. The Pretty Woman hat is either a pageboy cap or a Greek fishing hat, according to my panel of experts. And while most probably assume Poison is wearing a cop hat, reappropriated punk-style, I think it’s actually a Greek fishing hat.

Were Greek fishing hats in style for a certain class of woman in the early 90s? I have no idea. Was the Pretty Woman outfit representative of something a prostitute would have actually worn? Or would she have looked odd and out-of-place even in the skantastic fashion netherworld that was Hollywood Boulevard in 1990? Again, not having been in the market for prostitutes when I was seven, I can’t say.

And in case you’re thinking that Poison’s outfit might have been a tip of the hat — that is, the 90s prostitute hat — to the most famous hooker of the era, it’s not. Pretty Woman hit theaters on March 23, 1990, and FInal Fight first hit arcades in December 1989. Poison technically debuted first, so the two designs probably originated separately, though I’d be interested to know if they were both inspired by a real-life look, hookery or not.

Who Wore It Better? — previously:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Names to Give Dogs So the Dogs Can Say Their Names

Note: Some of these names may be difficult to say for certain dogs. If your dog cannot pronounce any of these names, please get a new dog at once.








Boof 1








Earp 2



Ruffles 3

Wolf 4

  1. Is a family name. It is too, dammit.
  2. This will work better if your name is Wyatt. If your name is not Wyatt, this may be confusing for you and the dog.
  3. The second syllable is silent.
  4. Is maybe a little too obvious, though, don’t you think?
(image modified from 1960 james flora illustration found here.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

“Come, Tilda. Come.”

I am dogsitting. The following photograph accurately summarizes this experience. 

Matilda wanted to go on a walk. She bounced excitedly as I clipped on her leash. But within a block of my house — a location Matilda shouldn’t have any particular attachment to, really — she refused to walk farther. The boundless potential of another walk had once again  ended in her stubbornly pulling back, the leash taut and me saying in gradually increasing volume, “Tilda? Tilda? TILDA?

But this is not a post about dog behavior. Matilda likes the idea of walks but not the experience of them. I have made peace with her cognitive dissonance. This is a post about that damned hot pink leash.

I would like to think that I am secure enough with my masculinity and sexuality and penility that I can be comfortable walking a dog on a hot pink leash. However, the combination of that leash, me loudly addressing her as Tilda — yes, as in Swinton but not because of Swinton but why wouldn’t people assume Swinton? — and the fact that I’m having a public spat with her because she is refusing to do the thing I want her to do? This may be too much. I can see how it might look to someone passing by — the leash at a tight angle, Matilda throwing the little dingo baby version of a hissy fit and me attempting to regain control with “Tilda, this is not what we do. This is now how we take walks. This is no. No, Tilda. No.”

Did I mention that my fingernails are also stained purple? They are. There was an incident yesterday that involved some black dye that turned out to be somewhere more between eggplant and plum. Here is how my hands looked yesterday.

And here is how they look today, post-scrubbing. I think they look like I just emerged from a goth phase. It is probably not especially noticeable, but I sure keep noticing it.

So purplefingers and “This is no, Tilda” were pretty much setting the scene when my next-door neighbor walked by. He said, “Drew, you got a dog!” and he seemed genuinely happy for me. Me: “Oh, she’s not my dog. I’m just watching her. She belongs to my friend. My friend Katherine.” Yes, I specified the gender of the dog-owner, which is basically a half-step away from “THIS ISN’T MY LEASH MY LEASH WOULD BE BLUE AND MADE OF NAILS.”

So while I would like to think that I am secure enough with my masculinity and sexuality and penility that I can comfortably walk a dog on a hot pink leash, I apparently have a ways to go.

Matilda’s leash, it must be said, perfectly matches the blooming bougainvillea. She seems comfortable with that.

This I can get behind no problem. BTW, should it interest you, there is a previous Matilda adventure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Potential Names for the Monster From It Follows

We’re well past the weekend, but my mind is still on that movie, still wondering about answers to questions that probably don’t have answers. In talking about It Follows, I realize we don’t know what to call the thing that relentlessly, anonymously follows its victims. While I would like to call it an It Follows in the same way that I like to call the thing from Cloverfield a Cloverfield, I feel we can do better.

Here are options to referring to it.

The Plodder

The Clomper

The Lumberer

The One Who Moseys


Dr. Trots

Alice Walker

The Shambling Terror

Walky McSexmonster

“Mom, What Are You Doing Here?”

Death Pedestrian

Death Pedestrian is also a good band name, of course.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dude, I Have Questions About It Follows

I never would have guessed that I’d see a movie I could compare just as easily to The Virgin Suicides as I could to Halloween. But It Follows is that movie, and I was lucky enough to catch it in one of the four theaters screening it during its first weekend of limited release.

If you haven’t watched it yet, move to a better city and then go see it. Sate yourself with the trailer and then move on.

If you have seen It Follows, however, hit the jump and then see what pops out at you, so to speak.

Dude, It Follows made me feel weird.

Not that it kept me from sleeping and not that it made me suspicious of every passing stranger, but it made me keenly aware of where I was standing and what was around me. That’s a very specific effect that I’m not sure a horror film has ever had on me before — creeping unease in a location that should seem familiar and safe. Oh, it also made me notice that the colors in my life could use a +5 or +10 saturation bump. And no, that’s not a metaphor.

Dude, it was like a Fear Street novel, right?

That was one of my take-aways. But I mean that in the best possible sense: This was teen angst literalized in a very effective way. And this scene in particular reminded me of a Fear Street cover, though I couldn’t say which.

Dude, what was with all the water?

Right? I haven’t seen a horror movie with this much stylized depiction of water since The Ring. Water appeared in so many scenes  that I feel like the director had to be doing it intentionally. The first victim dies by the water, and then there’s the beach house, the swimming pools, the rain, water faucets, the fact that the when Jay first encounters the thing in her home, it’s urinating. Even Jay’s bedroom is the same cyan color we see in the gymnasium pool. My only guess is as to what it could mean is that water is usually innocuous but can also be this unstoppable element. When it wants to go somewhere, it does — just like the thing.

Dude, did the thing first appear as Hugh’s mom?

Jay seems taken aback when she knock’s on Hugh’s door and his mother answers. I don’t know if this was just because she realized that the asshole who sex-cursed her also happens to be a normal person with a nice mom or if she recognized her specifically because the thing looked like Hugh’s mom — totally nude — when it approached Jay and Hugh in the ruined industrial area. As Hugh explained, sometimes it looks like people you know just to fuck with you.

Dude, does it appear as anyone else we see in non-thing form?

Well, there’s Greg’s mom and there’s Jay and Kelly’s dad, but those are spelled out a little more explicitly. Also, it was pointed out to me that the little boy version of the thing might have been one of the neighborhood boys who were peeping at Jay in the pool.

Dude, would two cursed people see the thing the same way?

That’s a good question.

Dude, why does the thing usually wear white?

I suppose it makes it easier for the viewer to spot, even if the victims themselves don’t seem to pick up on the fact that the their stalker has a chosen color scheme. But it’s not always wearing white, right? It’s completely nude sometimes, and the urinating woman Jay meets in her living room isn’t wearing white. I have no idea why, because it seems like a break in a rule that’s otherwise followed. The color scheme could be a set up for the final scene, I suppose.

Dude, what was up in the final scene?

I think t’s completely up to the viewer to surmise whether the kids beat the thing or whether they’re still being followed. Yeah, there’s someone wearing white and walking behind them, but both Jay and Paul are wearing white too, as if to remind you that no, the thing isn’t the only person who gets to wear white in this universe.

Dude, isn’t it a boneheaded strategy to show up at the beach as Yara, the girl with the glasses? I mean, she is right there with her friends. Wouldn’t Jay instantly recognize this second, non-speaking Yara as the thing?

Well, yeah.

Dude, the girl with the glasses is named Yara?

As in Greyjoy, yeah. I guess there can be two pop culture Yaras. Why shouldn’t there be?

Dude, did Jay have sex with those guys on the boat? Did Paul pick up a prostitute?

I’ve got no idea what happened nor how it would have impacted their sex curse. If Jay passed it on to any of the guys on the boat, wouldn’t it have just been the first guy? Also, what kind of sex would constitute enough to transfer the curse? Did she even give the curse to Paul then? Did he hire a prostitute for no reason?

Dude, does the thing sex people to death or what?

When the thing attacks Greg, it’s not actually naked. But there’s definitely something sexual happening there. It’s odd how he didn’t apparently get death pretzeled like the girl in the opening scene did.

Dude, does Jay not have any friends her own age?

It is odd, isn’t it, that her core group seems to be Kelly, her high school-aged sister, and Kelly’s two friends. One reasonable theory: Prettiest Girl in School syndrome, in which a perfectly nice girl who happens to be beautiful ends up a loner just because her appearance makes people treat her as either a threat or a potential conquest.

Dude, what poem is Jay’s class reading?

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Dude, why is the thing so angry?

I hope I never find out. With The Ring, it’s interesting to know that Samara is vengeful, not just outright evil. But It Follows is a good example of why it’s scarier when you don’t know the rules, when there maybe are no rules.

In interviews, Robert David Mitchell has shied away from saying this film is a metaphor for AIDS or sexually transmitted disease in general. What the hell is this movie about, then?

If that’s not the exact subtext he had in mind, my wildest guess is that It Follows could be about the way we look at sex — particularly how women have sex. Maybe the “it” that follows you wherever you go is a reputation? Or rumor? Or scandal? Maybe Jay is being punished for being a sexually active young woman. Her family lacks a father, and we’re not told why, and she, her sister and her mother at least seem to be flaunting societal mores enough that they’ve earned the scorn of Greg’s mom. When the ambulance shows up, she declares “They’re a mess” or something to that effect. And Jay’s “marked” status eventually imperils everyone else around her, as if her reputation is contagious.

Dude, Jay looks like a young Gwen Stefani, right?

A lot of the time, yeah. Maika Monroe just has one of those faces. I saw Stefani, young Christine Taylor, Cerie from 30 Rock, and Hilary Duff — or at least Hilary Duff’s bangs. It’s like a Rorschach test of pop cultural literacy.

Dude, how special do you feel for getting to see this awesomely good movie that’s next to impossible to see in most of the U.S.?

Very. #keepsake

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Dark Truth About the Cadbury Bunny Auditions

Cadbury has been airing the “bunny auditions” commercial starting in Easter 1994, and they’ve been doing it at least off and on since then, if not every single year.

And why not? Funny-sounding animals! Graininess aside, it’s timeless so long as you don’t take the following bits of information into account.

The average lifespan of a domestic pig is six to ten years.

The average lifespan of a Himalayan cat is about fifteen years.

The average lifespan of a lion is ten to fourteen years.

The average lifespan of llama is twenty to thirty years.

The average lifespan of a giant tortoise is one hundred years.

And finally the average lifespan of a domestic bunny is nine to twelve years.

This commercial being twenty-one years old, all them animals are probably long dead, save for the giant tortoise, who will outlive all of us just out of spite, and maybe the llama, depending on how old that bockbegocking llama was to begin with.

It’s appropriate in a way, that just like Jesus himself, these dead animals get resurrected just in time for Easter. However, the next time you celebrate the return of our lord by biting into a Cadbury egg, remember that that smooth, creamy fondant is actually the taste of dead animals.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Very Short Story of How My Hat Made Me Appear Crazy

I wear a lot of hats — and I mean this in the literal sense. Today, I wore my Dipper hat to Home Depot. This proved to be a mistake.

What follows is a more or less verbatim transcript of my interaction with the cashier working the returns counter at the Home Depot on Sunset.

Cashier: I like your hat.

Me: Oh, thank you.

Cashier: What sports team has a blue pine tree as the logo?

Me: It’s not a sports team. It’s from a TV show.

Cashier, clearly impressed by this fact: Did someone wear that hat on a TV show?

Me: No. It’s from Gravity Falls.

Cashier: Oh, I don’t know that show.

Me: It’s a cartoon.

Cashier: [squints]

Me: It’s on the Disney Channel.

Cashier, laughing: A real hat from a cartoon show. Yeah, okay.

Me: Well, they made one like the one on the show. It’s not from the cartoon.

Cashier: Cartoons aren’t real, honey.

Me: They kind of are.

Cashier: Oh, okay.

Me: My friend worked on the show and he gave me the hat.

Then she asked me if I needed a bag. I did not. I am unclear whether her dismissive laughter was about the fact that I was an adult human wearing a cartoon-inspired hat or whether this adult, hat-wearing human thought cartoon wardrobe items could somehow pass into the real world via my apparently magical, plane-of-reality traveling friend. Her reaction may have also resulted from my assertion that cartoons are “kind of” real. But they are. It is also possible that she just did not believe that I had a friend who worked on cartoons — or, for that matter, a friend.

“Honey.” Ugh.

I still like the hat.

Previous instance of my inability to successfully interact with other humans:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Ever Happened to that 1991 TV Remake of Baby Jane?

In 1991, ABC aired a TV movie remake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the 1962 Bette Davis classic whose success launched the entire “old ladies doing fucked-up shit to each other” genre.

This new Baby Jane is to the original as the Carrie Underwood Sound of Music is to the Julie Andrews version — by no means better, but perhaps an object of curiosity to the morbidly pop culture-minded. Aside from updating the original’s plot to that wonderful late-80s, early-90s inter-decade bleed, the remake happens to star two real-life actress sisters in the lead roles: Vanessa Redgrave as the wheelchair-bound Blanche and Lynn Redgrave as the able-bodied but demented Jane. For me, that was gimmick enough to seek out the film online but not gimmick to make the movie especially good. Perhaps the real-life sisters angle would have worked better if the film were remade on a regular basis, pitting a different pair of famous sisters against each other — Kim and Kyle Richards one year, the Mara sisters the next, the Olsen twins after that.

A boy can dream.

I’m posting about the remake today, however, to draw attention to one scene that stands apart from the rest. Here, watch.

I think it plays like something David Lynch would direct were he to dabble in hagsploitation. The griminess of Hollywood, the further inter-decade bleed, the jazzy soundtrack to Jane’s search for her manager backstage, the fact that Lynn Redgrave is dressed like the Joker’s mother by way of Diane Ladd in Wild at Heart — it all echoes Lynch’s work, even if I’m fairly certain it’s all coincidental.

As it plays on, this scene gets more surreal in a Lynch-like way. Jane breaks down mid-performance, time slows and the camera lingers on the weirdos who have attended this performance for some reason — in particular the dark-haired woman who is also dressed in a babydoll dress and may be explicitly dressed as Baby Jane Hudson. (Is Jane then duetting with herself? That seems like a particularly Lynch-y question.) The scene would tie in very neatly to the “theater of the mind” motif that Lynch uses in Twin Peaks with the Red Room and in Mulholland Drive with Club Silencio. It’s just so happens that David Lynch didn’t direct this. I hope other Lynch lunatics see the parallels nonetheless. And I hope the Lynch-illiterate who had tuned in back in 1991 just to see those two classy British acting sisters caught this scene and wondered out lout what the fuck they were watching.

Jane may be the film’s villain, but it’s hard not to feel her heartbreak in this scene. I’m not sure if credit does to Lynn Redgrave for finding the humanity beneath the melodrama or to author Henry Farrell, who created such a compelling tragedy when he wrote the book upon which the original movie was based.

By the way, Blanche’s drag queen double is played by John Glover, the campmaster who I will always see as the very fey Dr. Jason Woodrue in Batman & Robin and the mildly less-fey-but-still-in-the-ballpark Lionel Luthor from Smallville.