Woodman, Spare That Tree!...And The Hundreds Like It Necessary to Publish This Catalog of Inanities!, Dept.
I'm special. How do I know I'm special? Well, besides the fact that Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, I just got a bonus magazine with my latest home-delivery copy of Wired. Actually, we received two, count 'em, two copies chez sobsister because we subscribe to several Nasty Cunt...ahem, excuse me, Condé Nast publications. Parenthetically, I will not be offering our surplus copy on eBay--please keep the sighs of dismay to a roiling underscore--but, instead, will be double-bagging it and storing it in a climate-controlled room until it has achieved its true collector's-item valuation.
Now, what is the name of my special bonus magazine? Movies Rock. What does that mean, sobsister?, I would hope to hear you ask. Well, apparently the nice people at Condé Nast were worried that we wouldn't rush like lemmings off a cliff to watch the upcoming TV special of the same name, so they went to the trouble and expense of producing a whole magazine, referred to in one piece as Vanity Fair's 13th issue of 2007, just to flog the concept of movies, you know, rocking.
A little background on the TV special since I know you, as discerning culture consumers, won't watch it. The Big Concept: "today's top stars"--such as they are--in "a world-premiere celebration of marquee moments in music and film". Ratcheted down several notches on the Münchhausen Hyperbole Scale, it translates to "popular singers sing famous songs from the movies." But when I say it like that, it sounds so...so...Week Six of American Idol? Perhaps. Here's a li'l taste of the magnitude of talent gracing the stage of the Kodak Theatre on December 7. In alphabetical order, no less:
Marc Anthony and his wife, Jennifer "My Talent is Inversely Proportional to My Demands" Lopez. Now that Ms. Lopez is infanticipating, she and her husband are inseparable. Also since her latest album, politely put, has sold as well as sandpaper condoms.
Beyoncé. I was raking some leaves this morning and I pulled a little pile off near the hydrangea and there was Beyoncé. And I poured boiling water into a cup along with a tisane-bag of chamomile and it steeped for three minutes and I pulled out the bag and there was Beyoncé. And I was making the bed and fluffing the pillows and under a fluff of goose-down there was Beyoncé. What's that? Am I sick to fucking death of Beyoncé? No, not at all. She's hardly overexposed. Why, I DVR'd her wonderful new ad for DirecTV--you know, the one where she chants that song about upgrading to HDTV--just so I can watch it over and over and sing along and copy her stylin' dance moves. I extra-particularly like the part where, after rolling on a floor apparently molded from the contents of Aladdin's Cave, she turns her head to reveal a massive gold bit in the form of the word "UPGRADE" stuck between her teeth. Verrry classy. She's scheduled to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at Movies Rock because...ummm...because she's the Judy Garland of this generation? If not Judy Garland, at least Hank Garland. Or Judy Carne. However, Beyoncé as Dorothy is troublesome for me. Mainly because I just saw an Annie Leibovitz photo spread for Disney which had Beyoncé as Lewis Carroll's Alice. Who else can she be? J.M. Barrie's Wendy? Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking? Beverly Cleary's Ramona? My goodness, she truly is America's Chocolate Mirror™.
Mary J. Blige.
Jennifer Hudson. I wonder if she's going to hip-check Bee-yonce off the stage for shits'n'giggles. She's going to sing "Goldfinger." But she won't sound like Shirley Bassey and I fear will, as a consequence, be a disappointment.
Queen Latifah. I've said it before and I'll say it again: America loves itself some Queen Latifah! She's out flogging her new album of jazz standards. Sort of the Black female Rod Stewart. Except Rod the Mod actually had an appealing and distinctive voice once. And his appeal was once actually discernible. Queen Latifah is like the Oprah of the musical world. Inexplicable, unavoidable.
Nelly. Really? Nelly? There were no actual, you know, singers willing to take the gig? Is Nelly going to rap his way through "Moon River" or "The Way We Were"? Oh, wait. His first disc in three years, now several times delayed, may be dropping in December. Well, there you go. Yo! Yo! Moon river! Get up up on the dance floor! Give that man what he askin for! Yeah.
Gosh, is this BET Goes to the Movies? No, wait. I know there're some Caucasians in here somewhere...Carrie Underwood! She's White. Not particularly appealing on any level. But she's popular. And, as I mentioned, White. And Country. And so is LeAnn Rimes, who's also participating. Now, why you'd have both LeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood on a show like this...it's a little like having a peanut butter and almond butter sandwich. Redundant systems in case one fails, I suppose. Carrie Underwood's going to sing "The Sound of Music." I don't know of a singer/song combination in the world that could strike a louder chord of apathy in me than that one.
Elton John. He's going to sing a medley of songs from animated films. Call me Cassandra but I predict we'll be hearing "Circle of Life".
Fergie. What's her talent again? Baton twirling? Fire eating? At any rate, she's going to sing "Live And Let Die." Yeah. If the Auto-Tune doesn't burst into virtual flames, it'll only be because God is great and merciful.
So, have I whetted your appetites with this bill of fare? Could it be any more au courant and, as a consequence, unspeakably wretched? Well, maybe if it featured Miley Cyrus, backed by the Duff sisters dressed as Everygirl's First Feminine Hygiene Products, singing "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." No, wait. I'd watch that. At any rate, you get my none-too-subtle drift and I...what's that? You'd like to be as blow-the-doors-off cool as your sobsister and know what's inside this amazing bonus magazine itself?
Well...I don't know...remember that time I lent you my backhoe and you took, like, forever to bring it back and there was, like, Coke™ all spilt'n'sticky on the seat and you were all, dude, I don't know how that got there...? Now, now, no embarrassing attempts at self-exculpation are necessary. Here's enough of a peek into the first few pages of the mag that you'll be able to drop references to it in casual cocktail conversation and cause your friends, colleagues, and creditors to turn twenty-seven shades of emerald.
The cover features Bill Murray in late-Vegas-era Elvis jumpsuit drag, complete with big hair and muttonchops. Bill Murray is equated in some minds with "jaded-but-warm hipster irony", so this tells the clued-in reader that reverence and, well, irreverence will be doled out in equal portions by the nice hairnetted ladies on the cafeteria line. Either that or the magazine's late-boomer editors wish they were as cool as they perceive Bill Murray to be. Whichever.
Thumb a few pages in...and there's Jennifer Aniston! Once famous for her role on an intermittently-funny, intermittently-insufferable sitcom, now best known as Debbie Reynolds to Angelina Jolie's Liz Taylor. Jen-Jen's looking fine, tit-tays all hangin' out, as she flogs "glacéau smartwater" in a two-page b'n'w spread. First, I ask myself, why the accent ague over the "e" in "glacéau"? I mean, this shit comes from Whitestone, Queens, where the leading brand is "gimme some'a dat fuckin' water." Then I ask myself, does she need the money? the exposure (her leotard stare-out version of the ad is featured on the back cover)? the validation that comes from knowing that a division of Coca-Cola views her as marketable? Then, examining her pose, I realized that the camera has caught her, fingernails about to flip under her chin in the classic me ne frego or "I don't give a damn" hand gesture. You tell him, Jen-Jen! Him and that homewrecking hussy with her lush, overripe mouth that hints of unspeakable midnight madness!
A few more pages...and there's an ad for Tom Ford For Men. Considerably more restrained in its presentation than the Flash graphic on his site wherein a gape-mouthed, sweat-flecked, nude woman first holds the cologne bottle between her breasts and then against her vagina. Is that all meant to give us hints as to the scent notes in his first fragrance for men?
Wow, an eight-page, full-color spread for Dillard's! Featuring a girl-woman who looks like Mena Suvari! I've never visited a Dillard's! The nearest one is in North Carolina! All the shots are set at night or in darkened spaces! This is not helpful! And, no, I'm not shouting!
Then, finally, some substance. The Editor's Letter, penned by a "Mitch Glazer", who appears to be a screenwriter and film producer of some sort. His thesis for this opening salvo in the war for my limited attention span: with all the music-related films (apparently defined to include musical films, films about music, and documentaries about musicians) out and due out, 2007-2008 is a Year of Music. Possibly in historical reaction to "times of national unease", possibly due to natural Hollywood theme cycles, who knows. Okay. I'll grant that assertion and its equivocal underpinnings. That's about it for Deep Thought, however, as the rest of the Letter describes in woozy prose the magazine's contents. My favorite sentence...well, not quite my favorite sentence, as that would imply some enjoyment on my part...the sentence that most made me wish that Vanity Fair employed editors was: "If (Elmer) Bernstein was film's inspired professional, director Ken Russell is its nutty diva." Hmmm... Aside from the fact that I don't know what a "nutty diva" might be--Maria Callas meets Carrot Top? Joan Sutherland eating brittle?--I'm confused by the construction. Usually the "if x is the y of (topic), then a is the b (of (topic))" format requires that (topic) be the same in each case, as in "if Mick Jagger is the Hamlet of the Rolling Stones, then Keith Richards is its Laertes." Here, if Elmer Bernstein is the inspired professional of film--and, just a question, is "inspired professional" a Type specific to film or any other field? or is it just a generic description applicable to anyone in any profession?--then Ken Russell is the nutty diva of film. And, again, is "nutty diva" a recognized Type in films or the film industry? You see the source of my confusion. By the end of this waste of a page that could've otherwise been profitably employed to display, I don't know, particularly-good lolcats graphics, we the readers have learned not only that Bill Murray sang all five verses of "Brandy" at this fellow's wedding, but also that putting together this special edition "has been like driving an Aston Martin DB5 convertible along the Big Sur Highway, naked." And just not to leave you on the edge of your seat, that would be "exhilarating and terrifying and possibly humiliating." We are not given much time to ponder why anyone would do such a thing or why it would be "terrifying" (are Aston Martins prone to sudden mechanical failure that would cause the vehicle to careen off the road?) before the Letter closes with the assertion, "In fact, I think we rock." Good on you, then, "Mitch Glazer". Too many people are beset by anxious doubt, possibly regarding their writing skills and public exhibition thereof. But not you. Good on you, mate. Now, never make me read anything you've written ever again.
That done, ooh! a four-page, b'n'w Budweiser spread! Wherein "three hot new talents revisit scenes from their favorite movies"! Jeepers, there's a newly-minted concept! And it's realized in as half-assed and half-hearted a fashion as the concept deserves! Actor Josh Duhamel in what purports to be a scene from Pulp Fiction but instead looks like some guy in a suit opening a briefcase in an abandoned diner. Producer Stacey Sher having her hair blown-dry in supposed hommage to Shampoo. "Post-grunge rockers" (excuse me?) Hinder walking next to a mist-enshrouded jet in apparent reference to Top Gun. No, but really, it's at least twice as good as my description. At least twice as good. A worthy use of Budweiser's advertising budget. It tells me nothing about their product and everything about the lamebrainedness of the ad agency and Bud execs who greenlighted this waste of pulp that could've been used to print those two-color flyers for Chinese take-out joints one invariably finds strewn about the mailbox.
And then we get some info on the producers of the Movies Rock program. Spielberg associate Kathleen Kennedy and some dude named Bruce Cohen. From what we're told, "These longtime friends put their heads, hearts, and Rolodexes together to plan the event." You can't buy writing like that at Kresge's, folks. You can't buy writing like that at Woolworth's. "Put their heads, hearts, and Rolodexes together" Take THAT, John Donne! The aforementioned Cohen gives us an insider's peek at the Big Thinking that created the show, "Taking today's performers, giving them a classic song that everyone's always loved, and then having you hear it in a whole new way--that to me is what's going to excite people about the show." Hell, yeah! I'm excited already! When Hollywood producers get all Big Concept-y like that on me, woof!, I get all a-twitter. See, that's why these Hollywood folk drive late-model Porsches stocked with hot'n'cold running supermodels, and you, you schmuck, are taking the bus to work carrying a grease-stained brownbag lunch, okay? It's called Sheer Fucking Genius. And if this "today's stars sing yesterday's songs" concept doesn't reek of genius, then I gotta take my schnozz in for a tune-up.
I'll stop here. There're some articles to lend this thing a fig leaf of legitimacy, the inevitable 50-Best List, a painfully-unfunny film music bit with two "comedians", etc. But by now I hope you can see why I'm pants-wettingly excited about having received this schweet bonus mag. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go figure out why the not-by-any-means-overexposed Halle Berry is appearing in a four-page ad for Harry Winston diamonds under the aegis of the Diamond Trading Company, on whose website not a single squeak is squeaked about supporting trade in conflict-free diamonds. Whoopsie.