Category Archives: TV

Shortest Possible Review™ Volume #2

Whether you think The Hunger Games (Ross, 2012) is:

A) a rousing critique on the way authoritarian regimes use gladiatorial mass media spectacles to foster public obedience, or….

B) a really depressing and effective example of just such a spectacle in action….

….here is your Shortest Possible Review™:

“The Hunger Tames”

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A Big Fan of the Genre

I woke up this morning and, first thing, fired up an old VHS tape:Death Blow: A Cry For Justice (Raphael Nussbaum, 1987).

The night before, Amazon Marketplace had informed me that some kind soul in Ootawara-Shi, Japan, had purchased my copy of Death Blow from me. It takes a while to get things shipped over there, so I wanted this videotape packed and in the mail that day. Work was in 45 minutes, so I had to use that handy FF>> button quite a good deal to get through (most) of it. It’s the kind of movie where you can just catch one line of dialogue per scene and pretty much know the deal.

Actually, it was technically not my VHS tape. It was my brother’s; I’ve been selling some tapes for him. When I told him that Death Blow had sold to a man in Japan, he texted me back to inform me that: “Thats the one the bootlegger records on seinfeld.” I thought about it a minute. He was right. In The Little Kicks, a 1996 episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld gains some fleeting street fame as a wunderkind theatrical bootlegger, for his work on the cam version of the fictional film Death Blow, then in fictional theaters in Seinfeld‘s fictional Manhattan.

But I knew, from looking over Death Blow‘s VHS slipcase that very morning, that the real Death Blow had been released in 1987. We we’re obviously dealing with more than one Death Blow here.

This all got me thinking. They made up a whole hell of a lot of movies over the course of the Seinfeld series run, their titles ranging from Too Dull To Give a Crap About all the way to So Bad I’d Love To See an Actual Movie Called That.

But how many of those other Fake Seinfeld Movies had real world counterparts the way Death Blow did? All it took to find out was an internet list of all Fake Seinfeld Movies and some hard IMDB digging. Enjoy:

1. Agent ZeroNot Real: Zero hits returned by IMDB.

2. Blame it on the RainNot Real: I’d probably blame this one on Milli Vanilli. Luckily, it’s not a mistake yet made by Hollywood.

3. Blimp: The Hindenberg StoryNot Real: Time to explode the myth on this one.

4. Brown-Eyed GirlReal: Too sick of this song to ever watch a movie called it.

5. CheckmateVery Real: Jeez, there’s like a million of these. ALL GREAT!

6. Chow FunNot Real: And I have to say I’m not too upset about this one.

7. ChunnelNot Real: Seems like they must’ve been going for a CHUD-meets-England/France-transit type thing with this one.

8. Cold FusionReal: Made twice since 2001.

9. Cry, Cry AgainNot Real: Though there is a Hungarian movie called Kiáltás és kiáltás, directed by Zsolt Kézdi-Kovács. I love Zsolt Kézdi-Kovács. His movies rule.

10. Cupid’s RifleNot Real: Cupid’s Rival, though, was made in 1917.

11. Death BlowReal: As described above and below. “The zoomings, the framings…I was enchanted!”

12. Extreme MeasuresReal, a few times: In Japan, they called the 1996 one Body Bunk. Total Seinfeld Fake Movie Name, right?

13. FirestormVery Real: Six Firestorms is too many Firestorms.

14. Means to an EndReal: Twice

15. Mountain HighReal: Or so IMDB barely claims.

16. The Muted HeartNot Real

17. The Other Side of DarknessNot Real

18. Ponce de LeonReal: And real old. The 1924 version (a short film) starred Monte Brice, writer of A Whole Bunch of Crap I Never Heard Of.

19. Prognosis: NegativeNot Real: I like it when a movie’s title is also a review of that movie. Diagnosis: Fabricated

20. Rochelle, RochelleNot Real: But America has already imagined this “young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk” in such great detail, and so many billions of times, does it really matter?

21. Sack LunchNot Real: Sorry. You can never go see a movie called Sack Lunch that you yourself did not conceive, write, direct, edit, and screen for yourself.

***

I’m sure I forgot a few. Give me hell about it in the Comments and I’ll add ’em, but please: “Not because of who I am, but because of different reasons….


Strictly Commercial

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My frustrating 2009 Chicago Cubs won their series against the Reds last weekend in Cincinnati, three games to two, and I watched a lot of it on TV, but all I kept seeing was that eerily familiar Toyota Tundra ad on the wall behind home plate.

Sunday afternoon, it finally hit me: THE TOYOTA TRUCKS LOGO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE FRANK ZAPPA’S MUSTACHE.

A few corners of the internet have already noticed how deeply Zappaesque the Toyota logo is, and it’s from those corners that I rip off this perfect comparison image:

Really perfect, because that mustache shot is a detail of the cover image from a 1974 Frank Zappa album, the one that’s really called but is best known (and pronounced) as Apostrophe.

And it was right at the very beginning of Apostrophe that Zappa “dreamed he was an Eskimo,” in the song “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow,” first in a four-part suite of connected story songs about stupid things going on way up in the frozen north. Second in that suite is the brilliant “Nanook Rubs It.” Listen to ’em both right here.

The story in these songs is rather dumb, and it goes like this: Nanook the Eskimo boy is hanging around the igloo, debating about whether to go to “the show,” when a fur trapper comes up and starts beating Nanook’s favorite baby seal. Nanook, real pissed, blinds the fur trapper with snow yellowed by huskie whizz and pounces on him too. The blinded fur trapper wonders what the hell to do, then recalls an “ancient Eskimo legend” about how, if you ever get blinded in a conflict with someone named Nanook, you must go on a very specific sort of quest.

If fact, according to Zappa’s ridiculous lyrics, you have to

“…go trudgin’ across the mile after mile…”

I guess Toyota's marketing geniuses felt like they could save some Arctic trudging time for that all-important "Blinded by Nanook" sector of the American truck-buyer demographic.

I guess Toyota's marketing geniuses felt like they could save some Arctic trudging time for that all-important "Blinded by Nanook" sector of the American truck-buyer demographic.

–Pancake Dominion would like to thank Songza.com and Scott Robbin for access to the linked Zappa songs and for pointing us toward “Nanook Rubs It” after our shared realization about the Toyota logo.


Alien McSplorers

Here’s an odd one. Watch this British TV spot for McDonalds real quick:

A few things:

A. I barely get the joke about “Four of your funky neons…” and then “Let’s try some of that liquid stuff in them…” Maybe there’s some alien backstory I missed. Do these aliens eat plastic cups? Is that what I’m supposed to assume?

B. What does the British voice-over say at the end? “Not of”? “Not Earth?” UK readers, help me out.

And C. Why do those aliens look so damn familiar?

Actually, I think I’ve got the answer to C locked down. I’m pretty sure McDonalds stole them from Joe Dante.

Remember Explorers (Joe Dante, 1985)? explorers1985dvd

It’s the one where Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, and that other kid put a junked Tilt-O-Whirl car inside this computer-generated force field thing dreamed by Hawke and put together by Wolfgang the scientist (Phoenix).

explorers

YouTube the whole thing if you feel like it. The computer-controlled force field allows the kids to navigate around town for a while before zooming off into space and being swallowed by a huge spaceship. Inside the spaceship, they meet this nutty alien named Wak:

wak

Now take another look at that commercial if you need to. I really think the McDonalds commercial aliens are just dudes inside slightly remodeled, re-purposed Wak costumes from Explorers. Can’t really prove it, of course, but the evidence is striking. Same green skin. Same long, bony, suction-cup fingers. Same up-curved, creepy, insectoid tail:

wak1wak2

The oddest thing about it is that the McDonalds TV commercial borrowed from a movie that’s so critical of TV. Wak and his sibling alien Neek turn out to have gotten really warped ideas about humanity from watching tons of TV via signals broadcast into space. They think we all just talk like talk show hosts and want to kill aliens. The McDonalds aliens, on the other hand, use their 30 seconds to try and convince us that we really need to go out, buy huge sodas, and collect all the neon plastic cups we possibly can. Pretty warped notion there, too.

It all sort of makes me wish McDonalds had ripped off a different character from Explorers: Heinlein, the mouse that Wolfgang has trained to touch sensor pads which allow him to speak.

mouse

I suppose the most McDonalds-appropriate thing Heinlein says is his meekly delivered “I WOULD LIKE…CHEESE.” But by far the best thing he says—and what we and Joe Dante should’ve probably said to McDonalds a long time ago—is “GO TO HELL.”


Twin Peaks Steals “The Rye”

The Setup:

By 1996, Twin Peaks had long since packed up and headed off toward staking its claim as perhaps the greatest TV drama/mystery ever aired. That same year, Seinfeld was airing its now-iconic 7th season. The Soup Nazi had de-souped basically everybody; “sponge-worthy” had already entered the American lexicon. And “The Rye” episode was about to A) be flat-out awesome and B) have nothing whatsoever to do with J. D. Salinger.

Oddly enough, it seems now to have had everything to do with Twin Peaks. Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David or maybe casting director Brian Myers had some serious Peaks on the Brain when they put this particular installment together. Prominent former Twin Peaks cast members pop up at basically every turn. Let’s join Elaine as she stares in horror at a big chunk of The Evidence:

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On top of that credit list is Grace Zabriskie, who portrayed Mrs. Ross, the mother of George Costanza “love interest” Susan Ross. Grace Zabriskie was also Laura Palmer’s mom (Sarah) on Twin Peaks.

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Next up is Warren Frost, who played Mr. Ross, Susan’s dad, on Seinfeld

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…and was Dr. Will Hayward, the father of Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) on Twin Peaks. Not at all incidentally, Warren’s also the real-life father of Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost.

You can skip Jeff Yagher, though he was pretty “hot and heavy” as Seinfeld saxophonist John Germaine.

Last but in no way least is Frances Bay, who nobody who’s ever turned on a TV in America doesn’t remember as Mabel Choate, the stubborn old lady who turned down outrageous bucks for a marble rye before Jerry mugged the damn thing right out of her hands and called her an “old bag.”

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Frances, bless her heart at age 101 this January, was also Mrs. Tremond—that creepy old lady with the creepy little kid who makes the creepy creamed corn disappear—in that one episode of Twin Peaks, as well as the same Mrs. Tremond in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. You remember her:

twinpeakstremond1peakskidpeaks-corn

And then plus there’s Don Amendolia, credited a bit later in the credits, who kind of is the linchpin of this whole thing, really, just because he’s so easy to miss in “The Rye.” Three actors would’ve been very interesting; four is just blatant. Kramer collides with Don (as Dennis) in the hallway, and then he’s gone forever.

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Amendolia was Emory Battis on Twin Peaks, the guy who hired Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) at the perfume counter and then…did…some other things:

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Which brings us to some Conclusions:

I mean sure, you could just chalk all this up to coincidence or to incestuous Hollywood casting practices or whatever. But I don’t. No way. It’s a bit more interesting than that.

After all, Twin Peaks was a series motivated almost entirely by the mysterious death of Laura Palmer in the pilot episode. Laura’s mom (Zabriskie) and her doctor (Frost as Dr. Hayward) were huge characters throughout the show. And Seinfeld didn’t cast Zabriskie and Frost as just anybody. This genius show put them in the roles of mother and father to Susan Ross:

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Now see it says “Ex-Fiancee” there. But Susan wasn’t any ordinary “ex-fiancee.” She was a TV executive, the one George Costanza kept yearning for long after his own “Show About Nothing” got killed by the fictional NBC of SeinfeldWorld. Also, she’s a dead ex-fiancee. Susan Ross never did get married to George Costanza. Susan Ross died mysteriously. Very mysteriously. Like Laura Palmer before her, Susan Ross was murdered.

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Whodunit?

You can—and should—watch a season and a half of Twin Peaks to find out who killed Laura Palmer. As for Seinfeld and Susan Ross, I’m not going to make you wait that long:

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