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Archive for February, 2009

Commercial Break: EAT THE HEAD

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 27, 2009

I thought maybe, maybe I could escape without writing a blog entry about this commercial–alas, it’s now so far under my skin that I have no way to exorcise it besides using this forum. I’ve long been obsessed with the Wade-Barkley MyFive series, which at their peak reached a scintillating, Mulder and Scully-like will-they-or-won’t they tension, but with those seeming to have run their course, it’s unsurprising that they looked for further support. What Yao Ming did to earn his place in this triad is unclear, but his good-guy charms, cultural displacement and awkward chemistry make him something of a natural fit for the gang. Now I am left with an even greater series of puzzles to unravel:

  • OK, so we all know that this commercial is racist. But against who? Black people for being culturally ignorant? Chinese people for being barbaric, xenophobic assholes?  White people for watching it at home? All of the above? It’s just about impossible to say for certain.
  • Are there Chinese restaurants that really serve live shrimp? OK, so maybe not, and probably we’re just supposed to believe that this is a prank meant to humiliate Chuck and D-Wade. But still–it looks like this is a pretty fancy restaurant. Wouldn’t its customers be a little upset to see a bowl full of live shrimp freaking out a table of celebrities? How much business are they costing themselves with this little piece of fun?
  • Why is Yao in an airport for his parts? It may seem like an insignificant detail–a world-traveler and professional athlete like Yao might very well be in an airport for much of his life. But think about how annoying it is just to check into an airport–now picture getting an entire camera crew, makeup people, personal assistants, everyone in there (plus equipment) for an important commercial shoot. They probably had to shut down an entire wing of DFW for one day just for these, like, three seconds of footage. Couldn’t he just have been chilling at home or something?
  • Yao asks for Chuck to put the waitress on the phone, then tells her to tell them to eat the head. Fair enough–further their subterfuge and get the two All-Stars even more wigged out. Then why does the waitress say “Yao says eat the head”? Shouldn’t the waitress act like the directive is coming from her? Otherwise, Yao could’ve just as easily told them himself, and saved T-Mobile valuable seconds of ad space. Also, does she have to sound so nervously excited about the whole thing?
  • Yao’s “EAT! THE! HEAD!” commands over Chuck’s T-Mobile phone should be the commercial punchline–and in a way I guess they are–but why is his enunciation so flat? Likely, it’s supposed to be a “USE! HIS! LEG!”-type chant of social pressure, but Yao makes it sound like “EAT…the-head!” It sounds more like he’s trying to use his powers of Chinese mysticism to hypnotize them into doing his bidding, rather than exhorting them into spontaneous action.

I can’t help wondering who’s going to be the next NBA star to be thrown into the pot here. Can we get Dirk Nowitzki to get the guys to attempt the boot at a beerfest or something? Take mushrooms with Steve Nash at a Rush concert? Get in a bullfighting ring with Pau Gasol? Hopefully T-Mobile just keeps adding and adding, making an ever richer broth to warm my heart while I’m watching TNT on cold Thursday nights.

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Posted in Commercial Break | 5 Comments »

OMGWTFLOL: The Firm – “Star Trekkin'” (1987)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 25, 2009

I finally saw my (work-mandated) first ever episode of anything Star Trek related when I watched an episode of The Next Generation last Friday. It was OK, but it bore remarkably little semblance to my primary exposure to the Trek universe beforehand:

Arguably just as preposterous and funny-looking, but not as jarringly enthusiastic, spine-tinglingly shrill or horrifyingly hallucinogenic as I had been led to believe.

Posted in OMGWTFLOL | 6 Comments »

Look at Me, Grade Me, Evaluate & Rank Me: The Oscar Acceptance Speeches

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 23, 2009

halle-speech

This year’s Oscars was not among the most attention-grabbing of recent years, and in fact, it was the first ceremonies in years that completely snuck up on me–up until about a week before, I didn’t know who some of the favorites, or even some of the nominees were. The reasons for lack of excitement here are several–a host I couldn’t have weaker feelings about one way or the other, a group of nominated films in which I had little vested interest (with a couple exceptions), and odds-on winners that seemed unupsettable among the bigger ones. Hence, I began to key in on the acceptance speeches, which I began to find far more interesting than the winners who actually delivered them. So from worst to best, most embarrassing to most inspiring, the 24 speeches of the 81st Academy Awards.

24. Kate Winslet (Best Actress, The Reader). Oh boy, what a mess. I’d read in New York magazine that Winslet had given a shameful speech or two in the pre-Oscar award circuit, but that she had been using the opportunities to get her reps in time for the big show. Well, if this is the fruition of that gained experience, then holy shit, because she belly-flopped up there tonight worse than The Life of David Gale. Heavy breathing, long pauses, intermittent sobbing, rambling phrasing…just a wreck. Her dad almost saves the day with his whistle from the back, but then she just keeps going. I mean, I guess going 0 for 5 over the course of 13 years will make anyone a little antsy, but…c’mon, Kate. You’re supposed to be one of the premiere leading ladies in the world now. Pull it together just a little.

23. A.R. Rahman (Best Score, Slumdog Millionaire). “Before coming, I was excited and terrified. Last time I felt like that…was during my marriage!” OUCH! PLEASE A.R. RAHMAN, DON’T HURT ‘EM! I guess American standup comedy after the 60s hasn’t reached India quite yet.

22. Andrew Stanton (Best Animated Feature Film, Wall-E). My problem with this speech is fairly similar to the one I had with Wall-E in general. “It’s been such an inspiration to spend time with a character who so tenaciously struggles to find the beauty in everything that he sees. It’s a noble aspiration to have in times like these.” IT’S A MOVIE ABOUT A ROBOT AND A FUCKING TRASH RECEPTACLE. Get over yourselves, kindly.

21. Chris Dickens (Best Editing, Slumdog Millionaire). Nothing of note here except that dude stutters a lot at the end and kind of looks like a British Moby.

20. Jochen Alexander Freydank (Best Live Action Short Film, Speilzeugland). Pretty much your basic “Wow, look how far I’ve come!” speech that Best Live Action Short Film winners always seem to resort to. Mostly noteworthy for Seth Rogen cracking up when James Franco read his name.

19. Richard King (Best Sound Editing, The Dark Knight). Ugh, another “As a kid growing up in Suburban Florida…” speech. How hard would it have been to call out Danny Boyle and his crew and yell out “THERE GOES YOUR CLEAN SWEEP, MOTHERFUCKAZZZZZ!!!!!” Luckily, Will Smith peppers up the interims with “Boom Goes the Dynamite” referencess–let it never be said that you weren’t up on your YouTubes, Mr. Prince.

18. Eric Barba and Company (Best Visual Effects, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Thanking “Brad Pitt for an amazing performance”? Come now, your special effects weren’t that good.

17. Megan Mylan (Best Documentary Short Subject, Smile Pinki) My theater tech roommate took umbrage with Mylan referring to filmmaking as a “Team Sport,” not appreciating the association with professional athletics. Gotta concur, it’s a pretty lousy statement. Nice red dress though.

16. Michael O’Connor (Best Costume Design, The Duchess) Yawn, yawn, yawn. Might be the only Oscar acceptance speech ever to thank the musical director, though. I’m sure the guild/union/brotherhood appreciated that.

15. Anthony Dod Mantle (Best Cinematography, Slumdog Millionaire). Why do people take the time to thank the Academy, exactly? Are there really voters or other constituents out there that go “uh oh oh, he did not thank the Academy! BANNED FOR LIFE, ASSHOLE!” Considering how these dudes are always bitching about not having the time to thank everyone they want to thank, you’d think they’d consider freeing up about five – eight seconds by forgoing the requisite Academy nod. Or is it just one of those unspoken rule things?

14. Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo (Best Art Direction, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Pretty meh stuff, though it’s nice to see the props for Fincher, who made arguably the worst movie of his career here, but is still one of the best directors of the last 20 years. Better to see him getting his respects from others tonight, though, rather than by being behind the mic himself.

13. Resul Pookuty and Company (Best Sound, Slumdog Millionaire). It’s possible Pookuty is just really emotionally moved by the situation, but really, he sounds like he’s totally winded from the trek up the steps to the microphone. Speech is unremarkable, but he gets some points form me because his name sounds funny. Seriously, say it out loud. Pookuty. Tee-hee.

12. Kim Bell, Sally Ledger and Kate Ledger (Heath Ledger as Best Supporting Actor, The Dark Knight). I really don’t know what to think here. For a moment I imagine many anticipated to be the most emotional moment of the night, this was an oddly muted speech. I was sure at least one of them would break into tears, and maybe that someone would levy accusations against friends or co-workers for not helping to save him from a role that pretty much destroyed him. But no–nothing but smiles and quiet dignity. It’s a classy move, I guess, but it feels a little hollow, and very underwhelming. Maybe that’s the point.

11. A.R. Rahman (Best Song, Slumdog Millionaire). Yes, that’s right–America simply couldn’t get enough A.R. Rahman tonight, so after winning for Best Score, and performing a Best Song nominee, Rahman took the stage once more to accept Best Song for “Jai Ho.” This time he seemed to sense that people were getting a little worn on his charms, though, and kept the zingers to a minimum. “All my life, I’ve had a choice of hate and love. I chose love, and I’m here.” Fair enough, I suppose.

10. Christian Colson (Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire). Not quite bringing the fraction of India on stage that the Return of the King crew brought from New Zealand, but pretty great to see the dudes who played Salim and the Millionaire host chilling in the background–wish they could’ve said a few words. I only just learned about all the controversy surrounding the movie, especially all the bits about the kids, though. Yikes.

9. Simon Beaufoy (Best Adapted Screenplay, Slumdog Millionaire). Minus for the flat “Miss World” joke, but definite props for thanking his wife, “for whom repressed English writers have to write love stories because they can’t really say what they mean.” Touche, Beaufoy.

8. Yojiro Takita (Best Foreign Language Film, Departures). A nice broken English acceptance speech, with every word a punctuation mark–“I…AM…HERE!! BECAUSE…OF….FILMS!! THIS…IS…A NEW…DEPARTURE…FOR ME!!” I like the rhtyhm of it, actually. Much punchier and much less draggy than the whole Slumdog lot, at the very least.

7. Greg Cannom (Best Makeup, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Gets some credit from me for being the ultimate Not Giving a Fuck speech of the evening. From the moment Cannom gets up there and snipes at the Academy for not co-nominating one of his creative partners, he seems completely unimpressed with what he has just accomplished, speeding through his thanks, and leaving ’em while he’s looking good. He was obviously going to win–which, by the by, he’d already done in previous years for Dracula and Mrs. Doubtfire–and he acted like it. Well played, Mr. Cannom.

6. Danny Boyle (Best Director, Slumdog Millionaire). For being one of my all-time favorite directors, I really knew nothing about Danny Boyle as a person before tonight, and judging by his speech, at least, he seems like a pretty cool guy. Enthusiastic, energetic, quick on his feet and entirely charming. He takes the time to remark on how great the cermonies have been–“I don’t know what it looks like on television, but in the room, it’s bloody wonderful”–as if he really had been waiting for this moment for some time. He even thinks to shoutout a guy he’d accidentally snubbed in the film’s closing credits. The only thing that would’ve improved the speech? If it had been given while receiving the award for Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary or 28 Days Later instead. Minor quibble, though–brava, Danny.

5. Penelope Cruz (Best Supporting Actress, Vicky Cristina Barcelona). Heartfelt and emotional, but classy and composed. Nice props given to Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar, though Christina Ricci’s role in Anything Else still burns a little too bright in my mind for me not to cackle at the suggestion that Allen has written “some of the greatest characters for women.” Loses points for going well over time, but gains most of them back for forewarning of this inevitability at the beginning.

4. Dustin Lance Black (Best Original Screenplay, Milk). Black relates what an inspirational figure Milk was to him, and how much he meant to him as a closeted thirteen-year-old, and encourages all the LBGT kids out there that they are, in fact, beautiful, despite what their churches may say. Probably the most urgent and directly moving of the acceptance speeches, and certainly one of the bolder ones in recent years. Most interesting to me, though, is what Dustin leaves out, giving his father the snub on multiple occasions–he talks about his “beautiful mother and…father…,” and then thanks “my mom, who has always loved me,” saying nothing about dear ol’ dad. Sorry pops, but I guess lying to your business partners about your son’s “roommate” gets you a raw deal come Oscar time.

3. Kunio Kato (Best Animated Short Film, La Maison en Petits Cubes). A few stiff sounding thank-yous, climaxing in “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.” Hilarious, setting back racial stereotypes 25 years, or both? Any way, you can’t deny that he went there.

2. Sean Penn (Best Actor, Milk). Funny, personable, impassioned and righteous. An undoubtedly great speech for an undoubtedly great performance. But Penn’s speech will nonetheless forever go down for what it pre-empted–the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness Mickey Rourke accepting an Academy Award. It was obvious that was going to be the high point of the ceremony–if not all of Oscar history–even before Rourke gave his speech at the Independent Spirit Awards. Any other year, Sean. Any other year.

1. James Marsh, Simon Chinn and Philippe Petit (Best Documentary, Man on Wire). Appropriate that my favorite Oscar winner of 2008 should make my favorite acceptance speech–Marsh and Chinn were whatever, but doc subject Petit was every bit as winning and irresistible as the flick itself. “The shortest speech in Oscar history–Yessss!!!” he says, before continuing on, because he “always [breaks his] own rules,” finishing out by making a coin that fellow nominee Werner Herzog gave him disappear, demonstrating that he wanted to “thank the academy for believing in magic.” Then, just for good measure, Petit balances the statue on his chin for about three seconds. The best part? Petit shouldn’t even have been up there, not actually being one of the award’s recepients or anything.

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Songs We Take For Granted / Listeria: The Top Ten Things About Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 21, 2009

Son of a gun…

Usually, if an artist has made three separate songs, years apart, that you would consider classics, close to being among your all-time favorites, it would only tend to follow that you would consider them one of your favorite artists as well. Remarkably, even though I wouldn’t even know to say that I like her as an artist–“Mockingbird” and “Jesse,” at the very least, are among the worst songs I’ve ever heard–Carly Simon has accomplished this feat with me. There’s 1982’s hugely underrated “Why?,” which I’ve already expounded upon at great lengths elsewhere on this blog, 1977’s “Nobody Does It Better,” up there with “A View to a Kill” and “Goldfinger” in the Bond canon, and though it took me forever to realize its greatness, 1973’s “You’re So Vain.” (There’s also a fourth if you count Will Powers’ must-be-heard-to-be-believed lost 1983 classic “Kissing With Confidence,” which featured Simon uncredited on vocals and really deserves to get its own entry on this blog some day).

Lately, I’ve been moderately infatuated with “You’re So Vain.” It’s sort of hard to articulate why, so rather, I’m going to break it down to the ten things that most make it the gloriously bitter, time-stamped, self-loathing, heartbreaking classic I now believe it to be.

10. “You walked into the party / Like you were walking onto a yacht.” As far as opening lines on #1 hits go, I’d say this is a fairly enigmatic one. Besides, never having been on a yacht (or a witness to others on one) myself, I’m not even quite sure I know what one looks like when they walk onto one. Nonetheless, the line perfectly sets up the rest of the song, establishing the setting (the jet set crew of the 70s), the subject matter (an entitled ex of some sort) and the tone (very, very bitter). It also sets up the rhyme use of the word “gavotte” later in the verse (n. 1. A French peasant dance of Baroque origin in moderately quick duple meter, 2. Music for this dance.), quite possibly the only time you’ll hear the word on classic rock radio (outside of KISS’s “Detroit Rock City,” anyway).

9. The acknowledgement of deed in the 2nd verse. It’s not until verse two of “You’re SO Vain” that Simon admits her one-time relation to the subject in question, and even then, only with great reservation (“You had me several years ago/ When I was still quite naive”). It’s a sign of a genuinely spiteful love song when the singer clearly has to admit that hey, yeah, there was a time when I really dug this person, but only does so at the last second and under extreme duress, not wanting to give the ex the satisfaction of admitting to the world that they loved/screwed them at least at one point. With that in mind, the explanation of the split–“You gave awaythe things you loved / and one of them was me”–is even more of a killer.

8. The voice tremble on “pretty pair.” Possibly not even intentional, but on that second verse, when Simon sings “Well you said that we made such a pretty pair,” her voice quakes somewhat at the “pretty pair” part, a perfect example of the caustic edge brought on by all the brilliant little details in this song, a deeply-imbued seething that seems completely unforced. That, or it’s just the natural hoarseness of Simon’s voice coming out, but cool either way.

7. The widespread musical influence. “You’re So Vain” is almost unparalleled in the range of artists whose music it has gone on to touch–in terms of covers and direct references, if not in subtler artistic ways. Covered by both showbiz diva Liza Minelli and scuzzy hair metallers Faster Pussycat, interpolated into hits by both Janet Jackson (“Son of a Gun (Betcha Think This Song is About You“), a moderately-successful attempt to recapture the Joni Mitchell magic of “Got Til It’s Gone”) and Nine Inch Nails” (“Starfuckers, Inc.,” you were just a little too a head of your time), even working its way into the ouvres of indie darlings Mountain Goats and Andrew Bird…considering that the song is neither a mainstay of Greatest Song Ever lists or a kitschy piece of retro nostalgia, its endurance has been extremely impressive.

6. “Well I hear you went up to Saratoga / and your horse naturally won / Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia / To see the total eclipse of the sun” Dear lord, could you cram any more rich scumbag signifiers into one couplet of pop vocals? It’s all almost too vivid–good thing she saves it for the song’s last verse, or we might be too nauseated to listen to the whole thing.

5. Mick Jagger on backing vocals. I don’t even know how long it took me to notice these, or if I read about them first, or what, but yeah, that’s Mick singing with Carly on the “don’t you, don’t you, dooooon’t yoouuuuuuu???“s that provide the back end of the song’s titanic chorus hook. Would they be as meaningful if it was someone besides the Rolling Stones lead singer–himself rumored at one point to the subject matter of the song–singing the parts? I dunno, but I definitely fixate on them now whenever I listen to it. Oh, and speaking of which…

4. The conspiracy theories. In the annals of rock history, “You’re So Vain” is rivaled only by Alanis Morissette’s far inferior “You Oughta Know” for notoriously mysterious subject matter. Which member of the “Me” decade is it about? Mick? James Taylor? Warren Beaty? You can read about all the clues and theories on the song’s impressively detailed Wikipedia page, but all I know–when you can auction off your musical secrets for up to $50,0o0, you’re probably something of a success in this world.

3. The Intro. I simply can’t get over how amazing the introduction to this song is. Partly, it’s because for the longest time I couldn’t remember its existence. Maybe they used to cut it on the radio when I was a kid, but as recently as a year or two ago, I would hear those creepy opening bass rumbles, disembodied guitar chords and stray piano notes and Simon’s barely audible “Son of a gun!” whisper and think “what the fuck is this song?” (right up until Simon’s wail finally entered and the wave of familiarity hit). Musically, it has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the song, and after Simon comes in, you never hear that rumbling again. But wow, what a cool thirty seconds of weirdy weirdness to just tack on to the beginning of your big pop song–predating Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by almost three decades. You probably don’t even remember what I’m talking about, do you? Listen to it, really.

2. The windup. You can’t just jump into a great chorus–or, you can, but you’re doing your listeners a disservice by just thwacking them over the head with it without giving them any kind of fair warning. That’s why it’s so important that “You’re So Vain” take the time to gear listeners up for the big one, with each verse coming to a close by Simon repeating the same end phrase with increasing intensity as the music crescendoes in the background (“I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee, CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE, AANNNND…”) The “and” might ultimately be the most important part of the pre-chorus, as the way her voice slides down on it basically drops her right at the beginning of the hook, making the transition utterly seamless. You have to be careful with these things, folks–leave it up to pros like Carly.

1. “You’re so vain / You probably think this song is about you.” You’ve heard it so many times, in so many different settings, now, that you probably never take the time to actually think about what a fucking ingenious line this really is. I mean, yeah, on the surface, it might be a bad joke–of course, the song is about “you,” so how can Carly call “you” for thinking that–but the implications of that are fairly vast. Truth of the matter is, when you hate a person–especially when you used to like, or even love them–you spend way too much time thinking about them, thus likely continuing to feed the very things about them (arrogance, namely) that so turned you off. And when you rant about how terrible they are, generally, it makes you look a lot worse–hung up, deluded, sad–than them.  It’s a bad joke, but it’s one that Simon as a songwriter is almost definitely in on, and one that encapsulates the entire song in its bitterness, obsession and patheticness. And hey, it earned her 50 grand, at least.

Posted in Listeria, Songs We Take for Granted | 3 Comments »

All Killer No Filler: Valley Girl OST

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 19, 2009

OK fine, for sure, for sure

valley-girl-soundtrack

I never really got why Valley Girl isn’t better remembered than it is. OK, there are some weird sub-plots (hippie parents, some MILF-y affair between two supporting characters that I can barely even remember but which predates the “Stacy’s Mom” video by 20 years), and some parts of it haven’t dated so well (unlike, say, every other teen movie ever made, especially those of the 1980s). But it’s got everything that a teen movie of its period should need to put it up there with the Fast Times and Breakfast Clubs of the era–zeitgeist-defining cultural cachet (the title, if nothing else), great before-they-were-stars performances (Nicolas Cage, but also That Guy Michael Bowen, whose asshole boyfriend here is somehow only like the 17th most despicable character he’s ever played), charmingly dated dialogue (Cage’s assertion of “That techno-rock you guys listen to is GUTLESS!!!” remaining a personal favorite) and an impressively sweet different-worlds love story between Cage and the unfortunately time-forgotten Deborah Foreman. To me, it’s pretty much the Clueless of the 80s–except not quite as good, of course, because nothing is quite as good as Clueless.

Perhaps the best credit to Valley Girl‘s resume, though, is its soundtrack–about as good a single-disc document of the new wave era as exists in non-retrospective form. A number of the genre’s classic radio standards are included–Men At Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?,” the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” and Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” the last of which the movie was largely responsible for popularizing. You know these songs, you love these songs, they’re great. But beyond those songs you already know, the Valley Girl OST’s appeal comes from being a soundtrack that’s totally inextricable from the movie it comes from–one that not only reminds you of specific scenes from the movie, but also has the same feeling of the movie in general–as irresistibly romantic, irrepressibly quirky, and as generally young and naive and all heart. (Strangely, the bizarro Frank Zappa hit of the same name is nowhere to be found, in movie or soundtrack).

The key songs to the soundtrack are the ones a tier below those standards-to-be in popularity. Several of them come courtesy of the two artists that actually appear in the movie–The Plimsouls, the power-pop group from punk Cage’s corner of the world, and Josie Cotton, the chirpy new-waver who plays at Foreman’s prom. Of course, in a slightly more realistic picture, The Plimsouls would likely have been replaced with the Circle Jerks or The Urinals or some such, but one imagines that “I’m a Bug” wouldn’t have been quite as wistful a love theme as the Souls’ “A Million Miles Away,” one of the great chimey heartsick love songs of the decade. It became a minor genre hit as a result of the movie and still gets played on New Wave weekends on alt-rock stations, as does Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” a song that would sound unbearably obnoxious if released today, but seems more like an innocent update of a Shangri-Las-type girl group song here, and sounds surprisingly sincere about it’s un-PC subject matter (Cotton does not judge, rather, she just wants to know if she should find a new date to prom).

For my money, though, two slightly lesser known songs by both artists are the soundtrack’s real gems. The Plimsouls’ positively aching “Oldest Story in the World” takes them out of Big Star or Raspberries-type territory and puts them more in league with the drunken-3AM sound of Replacements ballads like “Unsatisfied” and “If Only You Were Lonely,” whose bleary-eyed forthcomingness should’ve been the golden standard for just about any heartfelt rock/pop band of the early/mid-80s. Likewise, Josie Cotton’s “He Could Be The One” (actually the bigger pop hit of the two) is the more enduring of her contributions, not as too-cute as “Johnny” and with a fantastic, timeless-sounding organ hook and chorus.
Best of all, even, is a song not by any of these guys–The Payola$, an almost completely era-lost group of Canadian New Wavers, who at least approached US cult success with the stunning “Eyes of a Stranger.” The song’s vaguely dubby beat, vastly atmospheric production and mystery-courting lyrics make it sound like the great lost Police single–like “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” if Sting was capable of writing an exotic love song without using the words “Mephistopheles” and “alabaster”. I can’t get enough of it, personally.

But as this post title suggests, it’s just about all good. Oddities like Sparks’s “Angst in My Pants,” solid little rockers like Pat Travers’ “I La La La Love You,” whatever Felony’s “The Fanatic” is–the more forgotten numbers just help further craft the disc’s personality. You don’t see Valley Girl OST listed on essential New Wave discographies much, but that’s largely attributable to the fact that it was out of print for a decade before Rhino’s merciful 1994 re-issue–at which point, they also saw fit to release More Music from the Valley Girl Soundtrack, which looks nice enough, despite the fact that I really don’t remember any of it being in the movie. More notable is the compilation’s AMG write-up, penned by dear friend of IITS Richie Unterberger, not exactly known for his passion for the genre or time period. “It’s unlikely that there will ever be a groundswell of nostalgia for that peculiar hybrid of new wave and bubblegum pop that came into vogue in the early 1980s,” Richie writes. “The Jam’s ‘Town Without Malice’ [sic] provides a much-needed blast of credibility.” Oh well.

Posted in All Killer No Filler | Leave a Comment »

I Sez: Digging the New Pepsi Look

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 18, 2009

pepsi

“We decided, ‘Hey, now is the time to make that fundamental shift,’” [Frank Cooper, Pepsi-Cola North America vice president of portfolio brands] said. “If we’re going to capture the imagination of the consumer again, let’s rethink at a fundamental level the relationship between our brand and the consumer.”

Small  font. Lowercase p. Unassuming, subtle. The beginnings of a 1.2 billion dollar makeover project.

I dunno, I kind of like it. And I’m a Coke man by nature.

Posted in I Sez | 4 Comments »

Listeria / Clap Clap ClapClapClap: The Top Ten Stories of All-Star Weekend

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 16, 2009

Only shooting stars break the mold

asg

Last year, I was visiting a friend of mine at Vassar for almost the entirety of All-Star Weekend, consequently, I missed everything but the game itself, which was slightly underwhelming. Determined not to let that happen again, and with new DV-R in tow, I watched just about everything that could possibly have to do with the weekend this year, as well as a half-dozen old all-star games and about as many old slam dunk contests on NBA TV. Because after all, who needs Valentine’s Day when you can watch Jason Kapono going for a Three-Point Threepeat? With that in mind, my ten favorite subplots of a very entertaining weekend of basketball and basketball-affiliated product:

1o. Terrell Owens: The Michael Jordan of the All-Star/Celebrity Game. Man am I glad I remembered to tape this freak show–a fascinating mix of decades-past-their-prime stars, WNBA players, second-tier celebrities and Harlem Globetrotters. In between Michael Rappaport hacking everyone in sight, Chris Tucker hoisting up ten-feet-wide airball threes, and Dominique “The Human Highlight Film” Wilkins rimming dunks and blowing easy layups, the one legitimately impressive sight of the evening was TO, who somehow seems far more natural as a baller than as a receiver. On his way to a second consecutive All-Star/Celebrity Game MVP, he hit a three, showed a surprisingly fluid mid-range game, and even skied for an alley-oop throwdown from ‘Nique. It was surprisingly fun to watch–although I was getting legitimately peeved at those fucking showboating Globetrotters, wishing they’d just take the game a little more seriously.

9. The Non-Folly of Youth. What’s with all the dour-looking young’ns these days? I thought the kids were supposed to be all about egos and trash-talking and giddy excitement–most of these guys don’t even look like they have a pulse. Bulls rook Derrick Rose was absolutley stunning in his grace as he picked up apart the course at the Skills challenge, but he executed the whole thing as if it was some Phys Ed exam that he wished he had the foresight to skip out on while he had the chance. OJ Mayo hit some pretty impressive shots in the HORSE(/GEICO) game, but did so with absolutely no enthusiasm and only the very minimum of swagger. Throughout the Rookie / Sophomore game, Michael Beasley’s old-fashioned me-first, ball-hogging was almost a breath of fresh air, a rare example of bonafide immaturity in a land of premature middle-agedom. C’mon guys–I know there’s pressure not to act like idiots and all, but the fogies shouldn’t be allowed to have all of the fun.

8. The Return of LeBrick James. Nothing fills my heart with pure bilious joy as much as seeing The King get dethroned, however temporarily, and his performance in the All-Star Game was pretty unexemplary. Not that his stat line (8-19 for 20, a couple rebounds and assists) was all that horrific, but all of his Big Moments–namely, his Big Dunk Attempts–fell stupifyingly flat. For a man whose every move appears to be calculated down to sub-atomic levels, it was pretty something to see LeBron throw backboard alley-oops to himself that he could barely even catch, let alone finish–Bron-Bron doesn’t always do everything right, but it’s pretty fucking rare to see him do something so wrong. If this was his audition tape for the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest (which he undercut the final showdown this year like A-Rod interrupting Game Four of the ’07 World Series by announcing his intentions to play in) the NBA might just say “No thanks, we’re sticking with Brandon Bass and Jason Thompson.” Well, maybe not, but you know.

7. “Hey Terry, maybe you should make other plans this weekend…” I can’t help but think of the kids at the Gas n Sip in Say Anything, bemoaning the way Diane dispatched Lloyd–“She broke up with you in your car?? That’s, like, your sanctuary!” The termination of Terry Porter as leader of the increasingly depressing Phoenix Suns (I started re-reading Seven Seconds or Less to wash the taste of the last month out of my mouth) was likely inevitable and very possibly a good thing, as Alvin Gentry sounds determined to get back to the SSOL era–though who knows if that’s even possible this late in the game. But I feel like even his biggest detractors would have to admit that it’s pretty fucking cold to be dismissed in the weekend that your team’s city is hosting All-Star Weekend–like not getting invited to a party going two doors down wear you can hear the music and see the people going in and out, but know that everyone’s hoping that you stay away just the same. Props to Shaq for semi-calling out Sun brass for the classlessness of the move–though, to be fair, I suppose trading Amare while he was repping their team in the All-Star Game would’ve been even tackier.

6. Nate Robinson: God Among Midgets. A megafan of Nate’s since his forty-point game against the Blazers last year (which I keep mentioning in the hopes that someone else will remember this and confirm that it was in fact the weirdest thing ever), I had high hopes for his ability to bring the noise and/or the funk in the slam-dunk contest against heavy favorite D-12 this year. A couple of his early dunks were not terribly outstanding–few of the candidates’ were, truthfully, though Dwight’s 12-footer was at least pretty creative–but man, did Mightiest Mouse bring out the theatrical in that second round, rocking the all-green Knicks uni with matching sneakers, providing the kryptonite to Howard’s Superman (and yes, I did need Reggie Miller and his endless “LEX LUTHOR IS IN THE BUILDING!!!!” cries to explain that to me). And while he needed a lot of good sportsmanship and a little ducking from the seven-footer to perform his now-trademark dunk of skying over the big man, it was pretty fucking amazing that he got as close as he did. I’m pulling for you next year, Lex. (I personally prefer Krypto-Nate, though–guess we’ll leave this one up to Clyde Frazier and Mike Breen).

5. The Unceasing Anonymity of Joe Johnson. At this point, Joe Johnson seems positively destined to go down in history to be the best player of his generation to leave no legacy whatsoever. Now a three-time all-star, and a consensus pick for the most underrated player in the league (thus making him slightly overrated, naturally), Joe has nonetheless been cursed with an unassuming name, an unremarkable visage, a style with no immediately identifiable trademarks, and teams neither extraordinary or awful enough to make much of an impression (aside from his limited time with the D’Antoni Suns, for whom he was still sidelined with injury during their most definitive hour). It seemed like Joe’s career might finally have been making the next step, with the Hawks’ hot start and his consistent All-Star respect (including inclusion in the HORSE/GEICO game this year). But the Hawks have started to cool, and Joe failed to make an impression again this All-Star weekend, getting clowned in HORSE and going 0-4 to be the only All-Star left scorless in the main event. Sorry, Joe–ex-Hawks Glenn Robinson and Shareef Abdur-Rahim probably understand, at least.

4. JABBAWOCKEEZ. I sent a text message to friend of IITS Kyle “K-Mac” McFarren on Friday to the effect of “Who the fuck are those dancing mime dudes?” Forgive me, America, for I did not watch America’s Best Dance Crew, and was thus unfamiliar with the masked prancers who appeared in those weird Gatorade commercials, apparently placing them on the same level of excellence and dominance as Usain Bolt and Tiger Woods. But thanks to the All-Star Game, I now know to identify them as JabbaWockeeZ, apparently the hottest dance crew since Omarion and Marques Houston hung up their sneakers a half-decade ago. Not only did they accompany the all-star introductions with their choreographed bits, they also can now claim Shaquille O’Neal as an honorary member, as the Big Cactus came out wearing their mask and appeared in the middle of the cipher for a couple minutes of surprisingly fluid popping and locking, now referring to himself as “The Big JABBAWOCKEE.” Can’t say that I saw this coming, but then again, I wouldn’t have picked Kevin Rudolff’s “Let it Rock” to become the new “Eye of the Tiger” either.

3. A.I.: SAMPSON’D. I’m blown away after only watching the guy for about a year and a half, I can’t even imagine what it must feel like for fans that have been watching this guy since his Georgetown days. Responding to pressure from his kids and their mother, Allen Iverson took the ASW as an opportunity to lop off his trademark braids, echoing a similar step taken by then-teammate Carmelo Anthony at the beginning of the season. With AI doing it, though, it really feels like the end of an era–Iverson was sort of the last man standing from the Dreadlocked Age, with Latrell Spreewell out of the game and Jermaine O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace and then ‘Melo all Undoing the ‘Do. It’s sad to see AI give up his roots, but it certainly seems like the time had come. Will it help out his play in Detroit? Well, you gotta try something, I guess…

2. The Kevin Durant Debutant Ball. Possibly the biggest star of the whole weekend was already done playing by Saturday at sundown. There’s no question that the most indelible impression made by anyone these last three days was made by Kevin Durant, the second year player denied an All-Star berth despite a 26 ppg average (hey, when you have a slot to give David West for being injured and getting open shots from Chris Paul, you gotta give it to him), who took out his frustrations on the Rookie-Sophomore game, where he scored 46 points for the Sophs, crushing the previous record for the game of 36. And if that wasn’t enough, he engineered a brilliant come-from-behind victory–albeit one mostly centered around his ability to make simple corner threes–in the HORSE/GEICO competition, earning an early G-E-I-C, but catching fire and torching his two opponents before they could hang that final O on him. If you weren’t on the watch for any Thunder game you can find on your satellite dial–and really, there’s been no team more fun to watch since the new year–you really gotta be now. This might be the last ASG in a decade to be Durantless.

1. Feel the Love. Apparently, the weekend colliding with Valentine’s Day wasn’t a coincidence after all–there was such an outpouring of love and general positive vibrations this weekend that it’s remarkable that Kenny Smith and Doug Collins didn’t start making out during one of their broadcasts. It’s not just the Dreadlock Era that ended this weekend, it’s the Age of Bad Feelings–with a star nucleus of Kobe, LeBron, Dwight, D-Wade and CP3 (all friends from Beijing and all largely agreeable fellows) now effectively being the embassadors of the league, the NBA’s long-feared “image problem” has gone the way of Steve Francis. There’s no Jail Blazers to be found in these festivities, no Ron Artest, no JO or J-Ho or other such unsavories. The closest thing to an early-00s scowler to be found in these proceedings is Amare, who felt distinctly like an outsider for the game, like a bad kid forced to spend detention in a Youth Group meeting. Perfectly symbolizing the NBA’s new DAISY Age were the co-MVPs, Shaq and Kobe, whose reconciliation–seeming at least semi-genuine this time–appeared to close the books on one of the great Age of Bad Feelings stories, a bitter, venomous rivalry that simply has no place among the modern-day league’s central ideals of maturity, team play and civic responsibility. To put it simply, it’s not cool to be a badass in the NBA anymore. May you live in interesting times, IITS readers…

Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap, Listeria | Leave a Comment »

Take Five: Adventures With DV-R

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 13, 2009

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For many years, I had resisted the urge to pursue any sort of TiVo or DV-R type cable recording device. This would likely surprise many, considering that someone who watches as much TV as I would no doubt find the perks of such a service to be gargantuanly advantageous. But I felt my reasons for not acquiescing were good ones:

  1. It would make me less disciplined as a TV watcher.
  2. It would cut into too much money I could otherwise be spending on Chinese delivery and Rock Band downloads.
  3. It would result in me watching even more TV than I already do.

So for all of college and my first year out, I made do with a cheap VC-R borrowed from my cousins (which I used only in the gravest of TV emergencies) and a very active internet connection. But it got to the point where even my parents were ribbing me for not having one of these, and it made me reconsider if the negatives were really that negative:

  1. Being a “disciplined” TV watcher resulted in a lot of late nights of deciding in between watching Family Guy reruns for the 30th time or hoping that new anchors would make watching the same SportsCenter I watched two hours before somehow fresh.
  2. The cost of DV-R was really not that considerable, and would likely only result in one less order of dumplings and hot & sour soup and maybe a pass on downloading another Disturbed song on Rock Band a month.
  3. I was already watching as much TV as a human being could possibly watch without resulting in physical entropy.

Consequently, I made the plunge about a month ago by picking up a DV-R, and have of course yet to look back. It hasn’t changed the quantity of TV I’ve watched–the TV’s on whenever I’m home, pretty much no matter what–but the quality has drastically improved. No more midday malaise resorting to O.C. or Sopranos reruns the millionth time, no tricky 6:00 hour in between Pardon the Interruption and Jeopardy, and no more miserable late nights. The only problem now is recording things faster then I can watch them, which all things considered, is a pretty decent problem to haave.

The most obvious and immediate benefits are the ease with which I can record Sixers games when I’m at work and LOST episodes when I’m at home watching Sixers games. But far more exciting are the opportunities the service affords me to watch things that I would likely never watch before–either because I’m not at home when they’re on, watching something else when they’re on, or simply don’t think to flip past the channel when they would be on. It means I can see a preview for a show like Life on Mars or Burn Notice, think “hm, never seen that before,” and take a flier on it. I’m not interested enough in them to torrent their episodes or catch ’em on Hulu, but if I can have it on in the background while I’m falling asleep, waking up or writing to you lovely people, why not give it a shot? It’s given me a new sense of purpose in my TV watching–whereas most people would likely view spending two+ hours watching Kerry Wood’s 1998 20-K game against the Astros as a complete waste of time, it makes me feel oddly productive.

So with that in mind, here are five of the better dice rolls I’ve made since acquiring the Black Box:

  • American Idol (Early Episodes). I hadn’t watched American Idol with any regularity since my roommate got me into the Bo Bice / Carrie Underwood season my freshman year–liked parts, but too much filler, too many boring contestants, too much Seacrest. And I’m not sure if I’ll stick with it into the teeth of the competition. But man, those early episodes. They’re not pretty, and they take some cheap shots, but IITS friend Victor put it best in his on point analysis of the appeal of Paul Blart: Mall Cop–sometimes, you just wanna see a fat guy fall down. My favorite moment was undoubtedly a college kid from I think the Utah week, who performed an extremely timid version of “Walking on Sunshine” after telling Simon that where he saw himself in ten years was (roughly) “In a house…hopefully with some wooden floors…” (his exit, fairly pre-determined, was oddly self-aware for a spectacular Idol failure, leading me to wonder why no stunt journalist had ever taken on an AI audition). Plus, the advent of the Fast Forward button–less filler, less boring contestants, much less Seacrest.
  • NBA All-Star Games. It’s funny, because I don’t even remember being too interested in the 2008 All-Star Game while I was watching it last year–I had no real rooting interest, and the players didn’t seem to have one either, so I wasn’t sure why I should care. Now I see the point–as an NBA cultural snapshot, the All-Star Game has no peer. NBA TV has been replaying all of the All-Star Games of the last 30 years or so–though I only really started taping within the last decade–and the marvel-worthy moments n those I’ve watched so far are plentiful. Allen Iverson affectionately asking for coach Larry Brown after winning the game MVP, the emotional peak of a soon-to-be extremely tumultuous relationship. Kobe Bryant putting on a clinic in Philly but getting booed anyway, an early lesson for Kobe that you can’t go home again (especially after breaking their heart in the finals the year before). Steve Francis, Wally Sczcerbiak and Stephon Marbury performing the parts of successful, well-liked NBA players. And if that’s not all compelling enough, you also get Jason Kidd hitting half-court buzzer beaters and Tracy McGrady throwing alley-oops off the backboard to himself. Fantastic stuff–I’ll be catching ’em all next year for certain.
  • Demetri Martin. I never watch The Daily Show, and I had no idea who Demetri Martin was, minus the fact that he was in an episode of Flight of the Conchords, and I could’t even tell you which one. But I read a comeplling article about him, a couple of my friends are in love with him, and the previews for Important Things, his new Comedy Central show, looked OK. So I took a look at the series premiere, as well as an old CC special of his that aired the night before, and I think I can now count myself among the ranks of my smitten friends. Important Things was pretty hit-or-miss–so much so that I don’t think you can find a review of it that doesn’t use the phrase “hit-or-miss” in some capacity–but when he was on, he was absolutely Chappelle-worthy. The comedy special was even better–I actually remember seeing commercials for it two or three years ago and being struck with the hilarity of the “Cuteness of Girl vs. How Interested I Am in Hearing About How Intuitive Their Cat Is” graph, but I had no memory of Martin being behind it. In any event, his stuff should be on my DV-R radar for some time to come.
  • Gossip Girl. I’d always meant to be more up on Gossip Girl than I had been–I liked it pretty well, and felt that it was somehow important, but would never be emotionally invested enough in a show filled with such largely unsympathetic characters to download it or get the DVDs. I only watched it when I was home and nothing better was on, resulting in me seeing about four episodes total, with about a half-season in between each. Now, though, I certainly have 40 minutes a week to spare for some pretty, snobby 17-year-olds (played by pretty, slightly less snobby 24-year-olds) and their narcissistic ways, and I’m glad to have the show in my life. It appears I picked a good time to reinsert myself as well, as we appear to have moved into the “Sex With Teacher Scandal” subplot phase of the show’s career–a must for any epoch-making teen drama worth its salt, and one which GG has possibly already gotten to three or four times without my knowledge. Don’t tell me what happened last week, though–I could only tape two things at a time, and my conscience made me prioritize the Presidential Address over GG last time out. Mistake, no doubt.
  • GAC’s Top 50 Videos of the Year. My stance on Mainstream Country is, somewhat regrettably, a fairly common one of northern popwatchers–I recognize its right to exist, but I’m not going to voluntarily interact with it all that often. As should be no surprise to readers of this blog, though, I’ll watch anything in countdown form, and that certainly includes country videos. Besides the fact that it’s important to remember that in certain corners of the world, “How Great Thou Art” is an acceptable cover choice, Andy Griffith is an enviable music-video cameo and Trace Adkins may as well be a Jonas Brother, it was just kind of fun to see this musical canon with whom I had such limited interactions–a learning experience that confirmed that most of these songs weren’t for me, but that I was sort of glad that they were out there anyway. Bravo to GAC, too, for doing a full top 50 countdown, one rerun after New Years eve, and one that even had a reputable host in crossover megasuccess Taylor Swift. And a couple of the songs–Keith Urban’s “You Look Good in My Shirt,” Billy Currington’s “Don’t,” Plant & Krauss’s “Gone, Gone, Gone”–actually inspired me to fire up SoulSeek. Might have to check back on the weekly Top 20s every once in a while.

Posted in Take Five | 1 Comment »

I Sez: What the Hell, Chris Brown

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 11, 2009

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I missed the Grammys this year, unfortunately–I guess I don’t watch any channels that would be advertising for it, and no one cares enough about it for it to be a subject of anticipatory conversation. From the list of winners, it seems like it would’ve been typically underwhelming, since as I semi-predicted/feared, the cadre of impressively modern nominees for most of the top categories were completely upended by a near-sweep for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (though kudos to our #69 PC of the year, Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire,” for nabbing one of the token rock statues). From what I can tell, though, two notable occurrences did take place at the awards, though. Blink-182 reformed (hopefully less temporarily than the Van Halen reunion at the ’96 VMAs) to present an award, claiming to be making music together once more. This was a good thing. And Chris Brown failed to show up for his performance, as he was busy getting arrested for beating the shit out of girlfriend Rihanna. This was a bad thing.

Not that domestic abuse is ever particularly commendable, of course, but I felt about as bad about this news as I can about an altercation between two people I don’t know, will never meet and have basically nothing in common with. Allegedly, this was no minor incident either, as Rihanna, initially an unidentified victim in the skirmish, her wounds wer described by police as “horrific,” including swelling and bruising on her arms, bloody lips, and, uh, bite marks. At first reluctant to co-operate with the police in their investigation (Cam’Ron would be so proud), Rihanna appears to have now ceded her assistance after all, as Brown looks to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Yikes.

How did this happen? As far as pop stars go, I would have rated the likelihood of Chris Brown turning up in such a violent domestic abuse case as slightly higher than Bow Wow and slightly lower than Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Once again, not like I really know anything about the guy, but…I mean, Chris Brown? The triple-threat wunderkind of “Yo (Excuse Me Miss),” “With You” and “Forever”? What clues exactly would you say were apparent in his songs, videos or Doublemint commercials that might lead to his future career as a pummeller, deadly-weapon-assaulter, and biter of female companions? Fer chrissakes, the guy’s still only 19! I mean, I know the transition from child to adult star takes a variety of different tolls on people–even Haley Joel Osment has put at least one DUI on the board–but this seems a little much.

The hurt to pop music will undoubtedly be great. Brown’s extremely promising career will be tarnished, possibly irreperably, and people might never look at Rihanna quite the same way again either (although thanks to Tina Turner, coming back from spousal abuse in a position of power is at least highly precedented). But what really kills me is that it had been so long–since Britney and Justin at the beginning of the millennium, I think–since pop music had such a respectable up-and-coming power couple. There’s still Beyonce and Jay-Z, of course, but both having already reached the highest highs their careers are likely to have produced, they’ve more or less settled into elder statesmen status. With Chris and Rihanna appearing to still be on the ascent, it would’ve been nice to get to see them really come of age together, maybe even working in a trademark duet or co-starring in a vanity pic together along the way. Now, I guess we just have to hold out hope that Ne-Yo and Lady GaGa hit it off at the Teen Choice Awards or something.

Who would’ve guessed that “Take a Bow” would ever go on to take such weighty relevance?

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Commercial Break: Who’s Watching GEICO Commercials?

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 9, 2009

GEICO had so many concurrent successful ad campaigns–the “But there is some good news” series, the GEICO Gekko series, the “So Easy a Caveman Could Do It” series, the immortal Tiny House–that when they phoned it in in 2008, it was nearly devestating. Almost an entire year of nothing but progressively weaker Cavemen and Gekko retreads left a huge gap where you could normally regularly pencil ina half-dozen essential, must-watch ads a year–space where Swiffer, Skittles and Snickers ads had to step up to fill in and help keep us from going mad over terrible Bud Light and Wendy’s commercials. But hey, even the Yankees can miss the playoffs once ever decade or so, so I was willing to forgive and forget if they could start to turn things around a little in 2009.

Enter the “Money You Could Be Saving with GEICO” series. If you’ve been watching TV at all in this calendar year, no doubt you’re well-versed in the general concept–ordinary folk get vaguely creeped out by a stack of dollar bills with glued-on googly eyes that appears to be staring at them, until they are informed that the green represents (or rather, precisely is) the money that they could be saving, were they merely employing GEICO to provide their car insurance. At that point, a cheap house-y cover of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” starts to blare, with the “TELL ME WHOOOO’S WATCHIN’?!?!?” line. A couple are even more direct, merely showing the googly-eyed duckets and insisting that the bills are “staring deep into your soul…[knowing] you like to save money on car insurance.”

When I first saw these, I thought that GEICO had sunk to a new low–the ads were cheesy, illogical, and a little bit unsettling. Not the any of these qualities were new to GEICO commercials per se, but there was nary a clever catchphrase or bizarre celebrity to be found to make up for them in these. Gradually, though, I’ve begun to come around to them–partly due to the nature of TV commercials (especially weird ones) being as such that the more you see them, the more acclimated you become to their sick little universes. Especially the one I linked to above–there’s something so quintesentially odd about the rhythm of the whole thing. Who is this rich couple? Why do they seem so unimpressed by the bizarre explanation of the hundo stack staring at them? And what is the vested interest of that weirdo waiter in The Money They Could Be Saving With GEICO? Does he get a cut or a commission or some such? The answers are there somewhere, and by the 137th time I have watched this commercial, I will surely have figured it out.

Of course, a large part of the appeal is in the song choice. People get so caught up in the “Dancing on the Ceiling”s and “Push it to the Limit”s of the world that they forget that coke-fury also inspired a lot of fucked up, exceedingly paranoid songs as well, and “Somebody’s Watching Me” was arguably the best of the bunch–a strangely theatrical, haunted house (both in terms of spookiess and corniness) of a pop song. GEICO of course chose to use the song in its most literal, “My Own Worst Enemy”-esque sense, but the song carries all the surreal associations along with it that ends up fitting these strangety strange commercials pretty well. I don’t get why the trashy dance cover–perhaps Rockwell’s paranoia extends to marketing campaigns as well–but the song functions in these ads the same way “Baby Come Back” did in those Swiffer ads I loved so much from last year, providing a sort of punchline to the commercial that you spend the entire time waiting for and feel a perverse satisfaction out of finally getting to.

I might hate them again in a week or so, though, so don’t quote me on any of this.

Posted in Commercial Break, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »