Monday, July 31, 2006

Can you spell 'Schadenfreude'?

M-E-L G-I-B-S-O-N.

The rest of the news of the past week has been so grim, the revelation that when Gibson was arrested for speeding under the influence, he cursed out his captors, called one officer "sugar tits," attempted to piss himself, attempted to run away, and, most notably, finally abandoned all pretense of not being an anti-semitic asshat. "Fucking Jews," he ranted to the cops, and that's just the beginning -- please help yourself to the police report, linked above.

In short, he took the mask off and put the white hood on.

Abe Foxman condemned him, of course; more interestingly, so did Ari Emanuel, the power-agent represented by Jeremy Piven on Entourage. This leads the cognoscenti to ask, when they're done chuckling: will Hollywood abandon him to his shame, despite Mel's recent mega-success? Or will studio heads, regardless of their personal religious affiliation, choose the allure of the bottom line over the demands of their conscience?

My money's on the money winning out, of course. But it will be fun to watch Mel spend some time eating (kosher) crow. What do you think he'll do to try to convince people he's changed his fuckhead ways? Perhaps he'll be prescribed the Hollywood version of penance: make three miniseries about the Holocaust and one documentary about sexual harrassment.

It's been a hard week in Lake Woebegone for the chosen people. With Israeli airstrikes killing Lebanese civilians at a frightening rate and no end to the violence in sight, Al Qaeda demanding worldwide retaliation against Jews wherever you find them, and one man in Seattle having proven himself eager to do his part, how can you not want to hide under the bed? At least the prospect of mocking Mel in company gives me a reason to leave the apartment.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

your face = your life

This MyHeritage site is better than the best web site ever because in addition to being frivolous, entertaining, and a first-class time sucker (all of which any contender for "better than best web site ever" would have to be) it also answers the vital question we face throughout our lives: what celebrity do you most resemble?

Depending on the picture, I resemble: both Olsen twins, Scarlett Johannsen, Heidi Klum, Bobby Fisher, Alexis Bledel, Cristina Ricci, Oscar Wilde, Rachel Corrie, Michelle Rodriguez, The Rock, Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Billy Bob Thorton, Kris Kristofferson, Claudia Schiffer, David Carradine, AND Colin Firth. ReMARKable! Did you even know those people looked alike? Me neither! Imagine what it would be like to get them all in a room together. (Just squint hard at my face and I'll assume that's what you're doing.)

I burst out laughing when it delivered "Rachel Corrie" as a result. I feel kinda bad about that. A friend of mine at work tried it and got that she resembled YASSIR ARAFAT. He was in among the movie starlets and Hollywood nymphs. Hilarious! My friend found it disturbing. More soothingly, but incredibly, in the very same picture she also looked like Meryl Streep.

Sad that in no picture do I resemble Kate Winslet. Deep in my heart of hearts, that's what I kinda wanted. Still, Heidi Klum and Billy Bob Thornton. I should consider myself lucky.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

but my heart, maria! but my heart!

I may have physically left the Entertainment industry, yet sometimes my fingers still clutch at the air where a copy of Variety should be and I thirst for utterly irrelevant information about movies. For example: we seem to have been inundated with "blockbusters" this summer, even worse than usual. As I haven't ventured out to spend $11 for Death By Superhero IV every weekend, from my perspective it's all been kind of a blur. Today I wondered, How have they been doing? Clearly none has tanked, or we'd know about it; which succeeded, though, and which were the kind of disappointments that get you fired while you're in the maternity ward?

In case you're as weirdly interested in these things as I am, I gathered the data. No, no, don't thank me. I'm increasing your dork quotient by .45 every minute you spend reading this.

#1) Surprisingly, despite its mediocre reviews and what I had thought was a lukewarm reception here in America, the record holder for 2006 is The Da Vinci Code. Closer examination of the numbers explains it: the stupid Catholic conspiracy movie that ended up pulling its punches only made $214 million at home. Its standing in the charts comes from the whopping $740 million it made from the Akiva Goldsman-loving hordes of people worldwide who were desperate to have their beloved religion challenged -- except not too much.

#2) Pirates of the Caribbean II, starring Keira Knightley's ribcage, Mr. Squidface, a translucent Orlando Bloom, and some promising young unknown fellow who's wearing a lot of makeup for some reason, has drawn a whopping $326 million so far domestically and HALF A BILLION DOLLARS worldwide. Some studio should really sign that newbie playing the pirate -- I think he's going places.

#3) X-Men: The Last Stand $232 mil here, $439 out there.

#4) Mission Impossible III: $133 domestically, $373 worldwide.

#5) Superman Returns: $179 domestically, $289 worldwide.

While these movies aren't done running yet, it's fair to say though that their momentums are set. Superman Returns is probably not going to stage a sudden, violent comeback to challenge Ron Howard's work of surpreme nonsense for first place, for example. To know more deeply who's a winner, who's a loser, though, you need more info. Making $200-some million dollars is a huge achievement, UNLESS you cost that much to make. Let's check budgets.

#1) Production budget: $125 million. That doesn't even include advertising which, as we all know, essentially rented out Times Square as its bitch/billboard for two weeks prior. Let's assume, oh, $40 million for that. That takes the budget up to $165, which means that domestically the film only eked out $49 million in profit. If not for those Frenchmen and Ghanains who needed their faith not so much shaken as lightly stirred, Tom Hanks would never work in this town again.

#2) Production budget: $225 million. Wow. Can we stop and think about that for a second? Wow. I've never heard of a movie costing that much to make. That's how much Catherine the Great would spend, maybe -- except, instead of the Winter Palace, you end up with 2.5 hours of celluloid pirate shenanigans. They've spent on advertising, too, but not as much as the Da Vince folks. Let's assume $25 million. That puts the domestic profit at $76 million.

#3) Budget: $210 million. Jesus! Those are still Marie Antoinette levels, and we saw what happened to her. Assuming $25 million for advertising, it actually LOST $3 million and was saved only by the grace of those spend-happy audiences abroad.

#4) Budget: $150. It only made $133 here! That means, even before you factor in advertising, MI:3 was in the red by a significant amount. Shameful.

#5) Budget: $260. Excuse me, I have to wipe off the monitor -- my head just exploded. Who decided to bet the farm on this dutiful, mediocre remake of what's considered a classic in the genre? Even factoring in worldwide grosses, this one has only barely broken even. Oops, wait -- factoring in advertising, it probably hasn't broken even at all. Astounding.

The last movie I saw in theaters, by the way, hasn't done too shabbily by itself even with competition from these monsters. Inside Man made $88.5 domestically and $185 worldwide, but only cost $45. Let's assume $10 for advertising. That comes out to a respectable $33.5 in domestic profit. AND it was good.

There's a moral to this story somewhere, kiddies. Let me know if you find it (and if you discover the name of that delightful up-and-coming swashbuckler! Let's just hope he doesn't get typecast as fey. Then he'll never get work, poor kid.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

a holman in my heart

Seemingly another run-of-the-mill summer flick, Aniston and Vaugn's The Break-up actually holds a box-office record. Spokespeople claim that it has the highest three-day opening ever in the United States for a romantic comedy that was released in June.

In other news, I hold the record for being the only person who has sat in my room with the lights off watching Simpsons dvds and eating Choco Tacos during the month of June.
The reclusive Eva is back, just in time for summer! Enjoy this limited time offer while supplies last.

So, I turned 24. One of my coworkers draped a shiny metallic birthday sign on the wall by my desk to give everyone who walked by a clue what to say to me instead of just pretending they don't see me checking gmail. Another dropped by to tell me that my birthday was nothing compared to hers, which this year fell on 6/6/06 -- she was so preoccupied with potential apocalypse she ended up celebrating by watching An Inconvenient Truth. By herself.

As I had a more run-of-the-mill sort of day, we decided to take a totally normal two hour lunch and go to Tabla. We brought one of the fellows from this site to help bolster our hoity-toity NYC restaurant cred.

When the chips were down though he failed us: he didn't know what "cru" was either. For a while we played the menu version of Balderdash, all offering our wackiest guesses. Short for "crudite"? Short for "cru d'etat"? A miniature chocolate rowing team (served on a boat, of course!)? Jay-Z's posse? To relieve the confusion, I ordered it in my haughtiest tone of voice and was relieved to discover: cru is hip for delicious. Saying any more would spoil the surprise.

The food was amazing, very Iron Chef (which I'm kinda hooked on), and since it's restaurant week, 3 courses only cost $24.07. Then I hung out with friends, but would the almighty Ruth Reichl describe my friends as "impressively offbeat" and "so powerful, original and unexpected that they evoke intense emotions"? Case closed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

sap sticks to your hands

I opened my mail today to see the face of a tall, skinny, white woman draped with something translucent and bedecked with flowers. She looked very pleased, perhaps because she had just learned from the accompanying text that "DREAMS ARE POSSIBLE!"

Not if you've just been killed by a rocket fired by someone in an adjoining country who doesn't know you yet cheerfully hates you on principle; but if you're a typical tall skinny white woman? Sure, why not. On that note, I have to wonder why Israel is bothering bombing the middleman, as it were. Yes, Lebanon serves as Hezbollah's happy host. If Syria and Iran are funding the crazies, though, you have to assume the craziness won't stop until you attack them. Of course that might be suicide, but there's a certain nobility (not to mention efficiency) in trying to destroy the nerve center, as opposed to just hacking at tentacles and not caring what innocents you hit along the way.

I'm not sure how many metaphors I mixed there; let's just move on. I was going to talk about weddings! They're way easier to make light of than war, especially when cities you get really nostalgic for are being targeted. ("Dear Sir or Madam Hezbollah: Perhaps you know that your rockets are hitting Haifa. Haifa is a very pretty, apolitical city, and Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis have a record of getting along well inside it. Also there are Bahi gardens. Have you been? They're splendid, almost as splendid as the beaches. Please aim elsewhere. Sincerely yours, An Infidel.")

One of the charming women in my book club -- which basically consists of six post-menopausal women named Jane, and me -- gave me a copy of I Do, But I Don't: Walking Down the Aisle Without Losing Your Mind. Author Kamy Wicoff struggles in retrospect with all of the societal nonsense that surrounded her wedding like The Fog, rendering obscure her feminist objections to the process. Essentially Wicoff, having been a relatively typical bride despite herself, is trying to atone for that sin by writing about it. Since I'm sure she received a hefty advance and got, you know, published in the first place, I'm a little skeptical: isn't she basically trying to have her wedding cake and eat it too?

Still, Wicoff comes off as an honest narrator. She exposes her flaws as well as her decision-making processes as she attempts to retrace her steps from Thinking Feminist Person to Drone Bride #1,140,562,311. It's interesting reading for me. Some of it doesn't apply since luckily my mother, a party-planning goddess, has taken charge of everything stressful; and I'm young, and not a lot is expected of me as a Woman, let alone a Wife in Training, yet. But a lot of it rings true. The nahrishkeit about the diamond ring, for example. Oy! Who needs it. The idea of carrying your wealth around with you on your hand makes me tired, and that's before I even start to think in terms of carats and cartels.

It is odd, being so young a person and having a wedding in the works. It means that in many respects the thing seems like a second bat-mitzvah. I get to make some decisions; my mother retains most of the control and the veto power. On the other hand, the resulting event, I'm sure, will be more memorable and classy than anything I could arrange, and we have compromised on most things that matter. And I do get to occupy myself with wondering Who Will Come to the Wedding?, an inversion of the question I used to ask my morbid teen self, Who Will Come to my Funeral? That morbid part of me still wonders to what extent the guest lists will overlap.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

crazy vampire doctor and his blown-up house

I'm not sure if this awesome story made it out of New York and I'd hate for you folks not lucky enough to be here to miss it. Precis: an Eastern-European immigrant, Dr. Bartha, marries, moves to America, buys a house, succeeds. Has two little girls. House appreciates in value. It's the American dream!

However. (Cue the ominous music.) Things begin to go sour between the doctor and his wife. Husband is dark, angry, abusive. His harrassment includes decorating the house with swastikas. Wife, whose Dutch Jewish family was persecuted in Nazi-occupied Holland, cannot stand it anymore and moves with her daughters to a tiny apartment in Washington Heights. Begins divorce proceedings. House is valued at $12 million. Wife feels entitled to part of that money. Judge agrees.

Dr. Bartha says, Over my dead body. And, with a consistency I frankly find refreshing, next thing you know, Dr. Bartha's charred body is being dragged from the 62nd street rubble. Not dead, though -- those who want to die never do. They end up wasting away, increasingly bitter and frail, until their expiration comes not as relief but as the ironic nail in the coffin. (Viz., Dorothy Parker.) Besides, in my professional opinion, Dr. Bartha is a vampire, and it takes more than some gas and brick to kill one of those.

The other great spat currently accesible over the internet is between Katha Pollit and Ana Marie Cox. As you may or may not be aware, Cox panned Pollit's new book last weekend in the NYT book review. Pollit responded today with an Op-Ed: "Thank You for Hating My Book." Now you might think these intelligent, talented, professional women were arguing about the state of feminism in this country. The second wave vs. the third wave! The old vs. the young! The rational vs. the sexy! The past vs. the future! In actuality, I think the disagreement is more subtle (and the review less damning) than it seems.

Let's add it up. Ana Marie Cox once helmed the almighty site, Wonkette. Was funny, nasty, raunchy, smart, but was not confined to Sex and the City and so was also taken seriously. +5
Cox left Wonkette at the height of her popularity. +2
Wrote a disappointing book that didn't end up doing very well, causing people to wonder, Was she overrated in the first place? And why aren't those new Wonkettes very funny? -2
Hasn't done much since the book to resume vaunted place in spotlight. -1
In review, bashes "feminism" while calling herself a feminist. References high heels and Hilary Clinton, bra burning, and other cliches. Tries to be snarky, yet profound; kinda fails at both. Does, however, make the valid point that people just aren't on the Pollit wavelength anymore; acknowledges war on contraception/abortion; nods at complexity of situation. 0
(Bonus points for being sexy AND funny: +3)

Total score = 7

Katha Pollit writes for The Nation and has been around, making herself heard as unapologetic and intelligent, for decades, without getting written off as a Crazy. +5
She spoke at Swarthmore though and actually wasn't that great. -1
Has written books, articles, poetry, op-eds up the wazoo. +2
Her most recent book was panned (or didn't you hear?) -1
Although she then wrote a funny piece about the experience, which takes some serious can't-buy-'em-online balls of steels. Also, her title "Virginity or Death!" is a reference, whether inadvertent or not, to the fantastic Eddie Izzard "Cake or Death!" routine. +2

Total score = 7

Holy smokes, it's a tie! What are we going to do? Examine the funny in their respective recent works to see who really holds sway? No! This is America! The bottom line is THE BOTTOM LINE: the Amazon sales rank. Virginity or Death is currently #423. Dog Days? #137,949. Today, at least, Katha Pollit wins the title. Better luck next time, Cox.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I realized this evening, as I sat at one of those tiny black CBGB tables that will soon be a dimly-lit memory, that the only music shows I see in the city are those of my friends who need bodies in their audience. There are worse things than seeing your friends do what they love, brazenly; I'm not complaining. Tonight it was my friend Erin and her sci-fi harp band, the Telepathic Space Rats. Despite the line around the block of mini-punks to see 30 Degrees to Mars next door -- I think that the name the skinny white boy with the mohawk and the "no fur" button told me -- she had a good crowd. Unfortunately, it included all these people I used to work with at the Very Important Talent Agency: actors I last saw a year ago when I left that wretched place, actors I never expected to see again.

One of these actors once, when displeased with me in the voiceover booth because I wouldn't let her audition for something she wasn't scheduled for, grabbed my hair. That's not something I forgive, unless maybe the perpetrator is a six year old. MAYBE. Still, I was polite and friendly. When she asked me what I was doing now, and I told her publishing, her face blanked over, like the page had turned.

Well, she might not be impressed that I'm no longer in entertainment, but I'm in employee heaven. I don't have to ask anyone's permission to go to the bathroom! People occasionally say "thank you" when I do something for them! Nobody even THINKS of touching my hair. I have no regrets.

Still, when the next actor who asked what I was doing now, I replied, "I wrote a novel, got engaged, and now I'm working in publishing." Cuz it couldn't hurt to be precise, could it?