Sunday, January 31, 2010


So, as I sit here at my kitchen counter on this bitter cold Sunday evening, there is a feeling gnawing away at me that this --- this --- is an important day. A monumental day. A historic day. Shit, it's an historic day, because we all know when something really important happens, in the historic sense, you use an instead of a, even though it's not grammatically pertinent. But whatever, gramaturgical (I made that word up) exceptions must be made for important, monumental, historic days like this one.

Yes, you guessed right, on this day 49 years ago, Ham the Chimp became the first almost-human to go into outer space. Here's the cute little guy preparing for his intergalactic adventure:

Also, one year ago today, your humble host was bored on a Saturday night at work and said to himself "Oh, what the hell, I'll throw my hat into the film criticism blogsophere". Three book deals, millions of fans, and 165,203 posts later (approximately), here we are.

I would just like to take this opportunity to extend a hearty thanks to all my readers and fellow film bloggers who have been nothing but kind and welcoming to me over the course of the last year. Even during my long hiatuses (which I most sincerely apologize for, and hope to put a stop to) I've come back to writing and felt like no time has passed at all. That people have responded to my writing and felt compelled to share their thoughts here means more to me than I can express, at least without getting all lame and mushy, and maybe even crying a little, so I'm not even going to try. Just understand that it means a great deal of me, and I hope to be a little more prolific moving in to my second year of blogging.

So, from the bottom of my cold, black heart™: thanks, everybody. You've made blogging fun and rewarding all at once.

Posts of substance forthcoming. I promise.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CooCoo for CoCo

The internet firestorm that Lenogate has created is noteworthy to me insofar as it's the first thing that has fired up youth culture since that Obama guy decided he was gonna run for President. O'Brien doesn't merely have supporters, he has partisans, and Leno doesn't have detractors, he has mortal enemies who hate his fucking guts. It's the McCain/Obama dichotomy all over again; the hip, youth centric voice of tomorrow versus the older, decidedly un-hip codger who seems to be out of a different era. And they're both going head-to-head in a battle to claim the highest office in the Television land; the house that Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson built. Only there's no election, as TV Land is a totalitarian state.

But just look at this "I'm with CoCo" picture, which I find frankly disturbing, and which (not incidentally, I'm sure) resembles the iconic Obama image:

Now, I happen to like O'Brien much more than I like Leno (or Obama, for that matter), but I simply can't get too fired up about this little Late Night fiasco. Frankly, I don't think the time slot suited O'Brien too well. I watched his very first Tonight Show way back in the summer and couldn't help but feel like it wasn't the same O'Brien that I'd been watching all the years prior. Maybe I'd just grown fond of having him in New York, but there was also a kind of anarchy to The Late Show show where, even though obviously everything was scripted, the proceeds felt loose and relaxed. You felt like anything could happen because O'Brien himself was such a burst of spontaneous energy. His Tonight Show, by comparison, felt neutered and safe. The wild, unpredictable energy that I'd always loved about O'Brien was simply absent. And if I had to take a wild stab as to why his show failed, it would be because Conan wasn't Conan enough for the Late Show fans, and the people who'd grown attached to Jay Leno for the 20 or so years that he'd been doing The Tonight Show were put off by the nerdy, quirky, Harvard educated host that had replaced him. For example, O'Brien's mantra when he began preparing his version of The Tonight Show was "What Would Tati Do?" --- Jacques muthafuckin' Tati. Do you think the people who tuned in to watch Leno's middlebrow (to be diplomatic) humor over the years have even the faintest idea who in the hell Jacques Tati is? I suggest that his show is being canned not because NBC is ignoring the will of the people (and they are a private company who has no obligation to the will of the people, anyway), I suggest that it's being canceled because it wasn't very good and failed to find an audience. No great conspiracy.

But I can't help but be amused by this internet campaign and the passionate defense of O'Brien this has brought about. I just want to suggest to all the people signing internet petitions, threatening to picket outside NBC studios, and boycotting NBC networks that this whole ugly situation could have been easily avoided if you'd only watched the show in the first place. If Conan was pulling in the kind of ratings he is now this wouldn't be an issue. Most all of these Conan partisans are people who never bothered to watch his Tonight Show before this week. Yes, kicking O'Brien off the show before it even had a chance to find an audience is Busch League, and putting Leno on in front of him didn't exactly help, but wasn't it also Busch League to kick Leno off his show when it was in first place, strictly to hold on to Conan? NBC took a gamble that simply did not work. O'Brien will be just fine; he will find another show with another network, and perhaps he will be allowed to be himself instead of having to live up to the standard of a (largely imagined) television legacy. And everything will be fine and dandy.

Now, may I suggest we get fired up about something worth getting fired up about, like FILM PRESERVATION?!?!?! Coming soon.