Monday, January 31, 2011

The First Annual Hootenanny Awards, Part 1

Greetings you lovely lovers of celluloid magic!!!

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny is proud to present to you the FIRST EVER
HOOTENANNY AWARDS....dedicated to honor the Best (and Worst) in Film of 2010!

Here's the deal...I love movies. Always have, always will. As a matter of fact, I love movies and acting so much I've subjected to myself to the ShitFest that is being an actor in LA for over 7 years now. haha...just kidding. Slightly.

As a lover of film, I like to see artists/films get rewarded for their work. I also think it's just as important to point out the RAMPANT amount of CRAP that is being produced these days.

Sooooo...without further adue:

The Stinkies

The "Meh" Category- films that just didn't do it for me, despite having potential/setting expectations high/what everyone else thought.

1) DATE NIGHT: with 2 of the funniest people in the country and a premise that would have worked in the 80s, there's no reason why this movie should not have been funnier.

2) GET HIM TO THE GREEK: just a ridiculous mess of a turd of a movie. Jonah...whatever his name is...belongs in that Michael Cera group of actors who have a shtick and not much else. Oh, and Russell Brand is...well, stupid. I don't mind vulgarity, but seriously...grow up.

3) DINNER FOR SHMUCKS: again, Steve Carrell=funny. It's a simple formula. Not to mention you add in a gem of a premise and WHY DID THIS MOVIE SUCK SO BAD???

4) HARRY POTTER AND THE blah blah blah: First Harry Potter movie I didn't like. I mean you can't hate a Harry Potter movie, so I didn't. I get that it's supposed to be dark and broody...but the Brits even managed to make magic boring this time around.

The Goodies:

Cheap Fun Awards- movies that will never be called great (or maybe even good) for the most part, but were worth the price of the ticket and were fun anyway. This is an honor which cannot be said for many movies today, unfortunately.

1) THE CRAZIES*- A fun, simple thriller that they managed not to mess up. Well played, sir.

2) PIRANHA 3-D*- if you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out on one of the most fun experiences of 2010. Never taking itself seriously, this movie is a hoot. A HOOT, I tell ya!!! None of you will be able to top my experience of seeing this with 15 friends in a theater in Edinburgh, Scotland after about 20 mimosas and "some other kinds of influence" while being glared at by lots of Scots that were angry with our extremely vocal reactions to this film's absuridity...but you'll enjoy it nonetheless. :-)

3) DEVIL- ok, I think this movie turned people off because M Knight Shyamalan was attached. And for that I cannot blame you. However...this movie- with a plot that is almost impossible to pull off perfectly- did a really good job of being a moody, creepy, Twilight Zone-esque tale.

4) ROBIN HOOD- a well-made action flick. Plain and simple.

5) GREASE SING-ALONG- Don't want to do it. And you know it.

6) THE LAST EXORCISM- despite an abomination of an ending, this film was effectively creepy and suspenseful. A nicely developed character played by the actor who played Prof Lasky on "Saved By The Bell: The College Years". The scariest thing about this film might be that he has not aged since that show was on, what...15 years ago?

7) JACKASS 3-D- shut you f*ing mouth. It was genuinely funny...though I almost vomited on a number of occasions. Here's the thing, though...someone somewhere is going to do a study on these guys and find out that they hold the key somewhere in the recesses of their brains that explain WHY guys do stupid shit.

Special Categories:

The Ouch Award
BLUE VALENTINE- A lot of people put this movie on their Best lists. And if you're talking about performances, absolutely. Michelle Williams has scored a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Ryan Gosling was unforgivably snubbed. More on that later... My problem with Blue Valentine is that I just couldn't take it. When watching a movie that is painful, it'd be nice to think that the characters at least have a CHANCE at being happy. That infuses the pain of what you're watching with hope...which makes the pain bearable. However, the main characters in BV NEVER, EVER seem to have a chance of making it. The few times they seem to be pulling it back together, they fuck it up. The result is a movie that, despite being made by a group of very talented individuals, feels like a 2 Hour Punch In The Stomach. I might never watch that movie again- solely because it hurts too much. Consequently, I cannot call this one of the Best of The Year.

The "I Mean...?" Award
BURLESQUE- I don't know what else to say about this movie other than "What the fuck?" It was enjoyable...but maybe that had to do with the alcohol I was consuming at the time. It was funny...but maybe that was the lesbians in the row behind me who kept hissing at Kristen Bell on-screen. It was scary...but maybe that was Cher's face. And then there was Christina Aquilera's voice- amazing as always. Which prompted my grandmother to call me and ask "Who is this girl in Burlesque?! She should be a HUGE star! She sings like Ethel Merman!!!" Gotta love my Nanna...

That's it for now, kiddos. Enjoy it...
more Hootenanny Awards to come in Part 2!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Inevitable Loss Of Zen (A Short Story)

Our Hero ends his day at the office.

On a typical day, his exodus from His fancy Beverly Hills highrise consists of slipping in his headphones, bounding out of the office and entering the elevator without making eye contact with a single person- be they boss, assistant or janitor. Yes, it is usually a frenzied escape worthy of an Olympic sport...especially on a Friday.

But not today. No is Hump Day.

And not a thing in the world will shake Our Hero's calm today. The smile has been present to some extent or another all day- even during His boss's sudden and nonsensical shit-fit right after lunch. You see, like the myth of the rainbow, Hump Day has a Pot o' Gold waiting at the end of it: the weekly pick-up basketball game. A chance to release, to blow off mid-week steam, to create, to compete and to exercise a set of skills He possessed that are genuinely appreciated by those that play with Him.

With this in mind, Our Hero glides calmly to his car. He climbs behind the wheel of his beloved Jeep Wrangler and connects his iPod to his radio and finds a radio station with the least static to broadcast his own personal radio broadcast. Immediately, He dials his iPod to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain"...a marriage of classic rock music taste with modern technology that almost doesn't make sense and yet makes perfect sense all in the same instant. As He winds down 12 dizzying circular levels of his parking structure and turns left onto the Beverly Hills Street that we'll just call Annoyance Avenue and towards His pickup game, Our Hero continues to grin- life is beautiful.

The Evil Spirit that is The Los Angeles Commute will never allow that belief to stand.

He turns left and, for the first time in months, catches the insanely long red light on the corner.

Funny, He thinks.

Sometime before New Year's Eve, the light turns green. And as He takes his foot off the brake, He sees that a homeless man has shuffled into the crosswalk in front of Him. Unable to go without risking collision with this frail human body, He reapplies his foot to the brake.

As if his brake and the horn of the car behind Him were linked: "Woooonnnnnnnnkkkk"- a bright black BMW (yes, it's possible) shouts at Him at the behest of its operator. Obviously not seeing the homeless man, the horn operator continues until Our Hero is finally cleared and can move forward.

Our Hero breathes. It's Hump Day...don't pay him any attention.

As if some spell has been cast, He manages to catch every single light for the next 2 miles on Typical St.

Our Hero continues to breathe and even begins rolling his neck and cracking his knuckles to maintain his stronghold on the happy place He's in. He turns The Who a bit louder.

After a while, the curse wears off and He catches 4 green lights in a row- a minor miracle in LA. But...the Spirit still has plans. No sooner has Our Hero left the zone of Persistent Red Lights than the 2 lane road narrows to one due to construction.

His knuckles clench. He knows this is not good.

And, indeed, it is not. He spends the next 33.75 minutes in the same spot. Unbelievably, He manages to be stuck in front of the only 2 people in the 13 block traffic jam that are under the false impression that car horns and the occasional call from their car windows "Come on, move it asshole!" somehow actually makes traffic move.

Suddenly, not even Pink Floyd can keep the tension at bay. His back muscles tighten again and his face gets hot.

Finally, the traffic inches bit-by-bit past the construction zone. In Los Angeles, inching is good. Forward progress is a saving grace in both traffic and football.

The road opens at long last...

But only long enough for Our Hero to pick the right lane. Of course he had to pick that lane. Why? Because He always seemed to pick the spot on the extremely rare open road behind the Ol' Bitty on the road who- despite never having Open Road in Los Angeles- drives as though she's drinking in the scenery in the countryside on a nice Sunday morning in Spring. And today was no exception. He was stuck.

He flipped his blinker to move to the opposite lane. This move seemed to offend most people- for everyone in the opposite lane (grateful for their newfound construction zone-free road) began to speed up and past him. Finally sensing his chance in between 2 well-spaced cars, Our Hero begins a dash into the lane...just as the rear car applies his gas pedal and horn with impressive synchronization. As if that were not clear enough that Our Hero wasn't welcome in this lane, Douchebag Driver #7 shouts from his window while passing:

"Don't cut me off DICKHEAD!!!"

Our Hero's place of calm is almost a memory his middle finger shoots up and out of his window. And, yet, that does nothing to get him to his game faster.

Focus, he commands himself. I'm almost late! If I'm late, they'll fill my spot with someone else at the park.


He decides Typical St is not going to be any nicer to him. So, it's time to brave the maze of side streets and residential neighborhoods that will eventually wind him up to his park.

As soon as he turns off Typical, the satisfying sounds of classic 70s-era rock suddenly give way to staticy, annoying Mariachi noise. No, he thinks. No! Come back! This is the clearest station I've ever found in Los Angeles!!!

He tries to pause his iPod while also finding a suitable station with no static or background noise which usually consisted of some foreign DJ screaming into the microphone/Baptist minister who was catching the Holy Spirit and drowning out Our Hero's beloved iPod music.

Mission: failed. In a full-on rage now, Our Hero snaps off the radio and slams on the gas pedal. Neighborhood be damned...I'm getting out of this piece of shit car and to my game in time.

Funny how things change, no?

With perhaps 10 blocks and 3 minutes to go, Our Hero dashes down Needlessly Curving Lane. He's making good time. Things are going to work. And then...

He hits a pothole. A pothole that must have been the beginnings of a major disaster-area-sized- sinkhole placed by God himself. Never in Our Hero's memory could he recall levitating in his seat while driving...but it happened after hitting this pothole. Change flew out of his change tray, the remnants of this morning's coffee spilled all over him and his messenger bag fell off the passenger seat- spilling papers and pens all over the floor of his Jeep.

Suddenly, there was a rattling coming from underneath his car. A rattling that anyone who knows cars knows can't be a good thing. Not at all. And most likely, it's a very-expensive-ruin-your-week-and-weekend-getaway-plans-not-good-thing. His face reddens, his blood boils, his hair stands up on end, his stomach tightens and he wants to snap his steering wheel in half. Until he summons all remaining strength to say:

Never mind that shit.
Almost there.
Just get there.

There it is! He can see it! The lights of the park. He applies even more pressure to the gas!

And look! From the street, He can even see The Holy Grail of Parking Spots. He NEVER gets that spot! Maybe it's not such a bad day after all!

Without slowing down, he plows into the parking lot. Victory, he exclaims.

It would have been hard to see The Dark Grey Lexus even if he'd been looking. Especially in the fading light... Indeed, Our Hero didn't truly see it until his front bumper was halfway through the car.

After the shock of the airbag deploying in his face wore off and he realized he was alive, Our Hero had only one choice:

He screamed a scream louder than any scream He'd screamed before. A deep, gutteral, soul-cleansing, and vocal chord-ripping scream that ultimately accomplished nothing except the most minute bit of stress relief.

Before getting out of His car to approach the oncoming onslaught of anger, passive aggression and insurance info exchange with the owner of The Dark Grey Lexus, the last thing He noticed was his clock:


3 minutes late to His game.

They probably had His spot filled 5 minutes ago...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Noogie's Time To Shine

So, I walked into (insert friendly neighborhood book conglomerate here) about a month ago. I had decided to treat myself to a night of walking around and finding three books to read over the next month or so for pleasure reading and know, stimulate the ol' imagination.

Apparently, that sorta thing is good for us actors or whatever...

Long story short, one book that really just jumped right off the shelves at me was a little novel called "Noogie's Time To Shine" by Jim Knipfel. Interesting title, no? Moreover, the cover art consists of a black and white of Edward G. Robinson looking as if he just got his hand caught in Al Capone's Cookie Jar.

Based on the fun title and image, I read the synopsis. The book billed itself as a lovable loser/everyday Joe Shmoe (Noogie) with an obsession for movies (specifically ol' gangster films) who pulls a Bonnie and Clyde, knocks off his company and lives his dream by going "on the lam." Immediately I get images of some ol' hefty shmuck barrelling down the highway, belly laughing hysterically, $100 bills flying out the window, his cat Dillinger clinging to the van's seats for dear life while the coppers attempt to stop him with a hailstorm of bullets. I buy it.

As it turns out, the first half of the book (aptly entitled Part One) is a very charming character study that evolves into Noogie's heist plot- which is in itself a charming storyline as Noogie never fully understands the gravity of what he is doing and is just searching for a change.

However, Part Two (DON'T READ AHEAD IF YOU PLAN ON READING THIS BOOK) - which follows a 16 page "Intermission" that is to a degree very confusing and doesn't really seem to lead anywhere- finds Noogie dead!

Dead. Yes, that's right.

And by quite possibly the MOST anticlimactic death I can imagine. The latter half of the novel completely changes perspective- the antagonist becoming a very unlikeable detective solving both Noogie's death and crime. No, wait...solving is not the right word- BECAUSE WE NEVER FIND OUT WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED TO HIM! The title character who we've all kind of fallen in love with and are rooting for has shown up dead and we don't even get the chance to "witness" it. It's certainly not a heroic death- which would be acceptable if there was tension leading up to. If the death was EARNED, which it was not.

So, not only was this novel NOT about the Regular-Joe-Turning-Butch-And-Sundance or even a heroic tragedy like "Dog Day Afternoon", it didn't even finish the story that it promised- of Noogie living out his dream of being in his own movie.

I was, in a word, heartbroken. Noogie was a GREAT character. It's one thing for him to die. Heck, in my own writings I often give my characters the axe...or I at least place them in a situation where the prospects are dim. Sometimes there are just WAY too many happy endings in the world of fiction. But ol' Jim Knipfel kinda gave us all the shaft by making him alive one chapter and then, with a turn of the page to the next, he's dead. Out of the story. 86ed. Done. Nixed. The victim in a sudden and unexciting murder investigation.

I guess my disappointment comes mainly from the potential this story had; the expectations set by the title, the cover art and the synopsis were SO high- and yet no unreasonably so. I really just want to find Jim Knipfel and ask him if I can write an alternate ending to his story, one in which maybe Noogie still doesn't live, but he at least gets The Ending his character would have wanted. A comically heroic end worthy of Cagney or Robinson. After all, who says the hero has to live? But, at least send him off with some fuckin' class!

Anyway, I needed to share this. Maybe to get me motivated enough so that I can imagine my own ending to this story. Maybe in the hopes that someone else has read this rather obscure book and can grieve with me. Or maybe so I can own my disappointment and move on to my next literary adventure.

RIP Noogie.
"Here's lookin' at you, kid."

The Gym I Go To Makes Me Want To Do Naughty Things To People

It's kinda sad when you think about it.

One goes to the gym to work on himself. To train, to sculpt one's physique, to improve one's overall health and peace of mind. While it is not necessary, the work one does at a gym is most effective if concentration on the task at hand is acheived.

That's the idea anyway...

I was at the gym today. Upon entering I was very excited to be there, to get in a good, focused work out. And no sooner had I entered this gym than I found myself walking behind and below the most gorgeous ass my eyes have seen in a while. Now, this ass was completely at eye level to me. And it was marvelous.

Suddenly, my gym experience, while ultimately still accomplishing my goal, became periodically about all the freakin eye candy! They were out in droves! Of both sexes- so a little treat for everyone I guess you could say. I don't consider myself one of those embarassingly out of place older folks who walk around the locker room naked (you know the type...the kind of people whose motives you immediately question because they're standing there in their birthday suits and yet the towel draped over their shoulder could be just as easily wrapped around their pale-as-the-driven-snow, wrinkly white asses), but looking back on today, I wonder if I am how they got their start: innocently coming to the gym to work out and being increasingly more and more distracted by all the dirty thoughts racing through their heads about the bodies and faces around them.

I had to take a cold shower when I got home. Seriously.

I mean, it is summer after all...summer usually finds me- shall we say friskier- than the rest of the year. Heat, I believe they call it. And my imagination kinda parties like it's 1999.

To all my friends: don't let me become a pervert.
I maybe have 4 years left that this story is humorous before it becomes creepy.
Thank you, that will be all.
(From an earlier blog entry on Myspace 8/5/08)