apropos of nothing

I drove past the Music Hall Theater in Beverly Hills the other day.  They’re showing Sugar and Moon and their marquee looked exactly like the above image, the two movies’ posters jammed together for a display.

Had I not already seen Moon, I would have guessed that they were showing one movie called Sugar Moon.  “One’s black, one’s white.  One’s big, one’s small.  One’s close up, the other is far away.  One’s in front of a bridge, the other is in front of an op-art design.  One carries a duffle bag, the other carries an astronaut helmet.  Each prefers his title in the lower left-hand corner.  Together they fight crime.  Sugar Moon.”

Happy faces, action movie division

In the past few days, I’ve been researching the "happy face" phenomenon, where the studios intentionally drain whatever dramatic tension exists in a poster image for the sake of selling more DVDs.  Mostly I’ve looked at comedies (here and here), but one of my readers suggested I also investigate the packaging of some of my favorite action movies.  I did, and the results were, to say the least, disturbing.
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Some more happy faces

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As one of my readers pointed out the other day, Up is not the first Pixar movie to receive the happy-face treatment.  Here we see the original Toy Story poster on the left, and the DVD cover on the right.  In the first, Woody looks frightened and mistrustful of the cocky, headstrong Buzz — rightfully so, as their relationship is the central drama of the narrative.  But in the second image, Woody looks like the secrets of the universe are being revealed to him.  He’s not just happy to be carried off by Buzz, he’s positively ecstatic.  Woody apparently has no problems at all in the DVD version of this movie.  (The army men have also been included in the fun.)

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Put on a happy face

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Old-timers like me can remember back to the dark ages of 1990, when Ivan Reitman’s Kindergarten Cop came out.  The posters for Kindergarten Cop featured star Arnold Schwarzenegger enduring the enthusiastic attention of a bunch of five-year-olds.  The joke was clear: the Terminator can travel through time and walk through explosions, but a bunch of five-year-olds is a little too much for him.

Then something strange happened: a few weeks into the run of Kindergarten Cop, the posters suddenly changed — the "overwhelmed" Arnold became the "beaming" Arnold.  I remember clearly, I was living in New York, and all through the subways the Kindergarten Cop posters suddenly went from funny to not-funny.  Arnold overwhelmed by children is funny, Arnold proudly hoisting kids is not.

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Ad Men

(An ad agency.  AD MAN and four lackeys.)

A.  Guys, good work.  We finally have our first million-dollar campaign.  Let’s hear it for us.


A.  Enough gaiety.  We have serious work ahead of us.  We hit a bullseye on this, we’ll be sitting pretty for the next one thousand years.  We have to write nothing less than the catchiest jingle ever written.  Can we do it?


A.  The product is Hot Dogs.

1.  What?

2.  Hot dogs.

3.  What?

A.  Hot Dogs.  Armour Hot Dogs.  Jim, whaddaya got?

1.  Hot dogs are a very popular product.  We should have no problem identifying our market and pitching to it.  But here’s the job: The Armour corporation wants to skew their demographics to a more youthful profile.  It is their desire that Armour Hot Dogs be the primary choice among young humans age three to eleven.

2.  Kids.

A.  Precisely.  But they also want to identify specific elements within that demographic and pitch directly to them.  So as you can see, we have our work cut out for us.

ALL.  Hmmm.

2.   Hot dogs.

3.  Armour Hot Dogs.

4.  What kind of kids like Armour Hot Dogs?

A.  That is precisely the question we need to ask.  “What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?”

2.  I have no idea.

3.  Geez, this is a tough one.

4.  It’s maddening.  What kind of kids do eat Armour Hot Dogs?

A.  That’s what we need to figure out.  We have to sharpen our brains, roll up our sleeves and TOUGH THIS THING OUT.




1.  Fat kids?


A.  Fat kids.  Fat kids?  Fat kids.  Yes.  Fat kids probably eat Armour Hot Dogs.  Obese children, in all likelihood, have a predilection for eating Armour Hot Dogs.  Good.  Good!  Who else?

2.  Skinny kids?

A.  It’s a little obvious, but good.  Skinny kids, sure.  Who else?

(Long pause.)

3.  Kids engaged insome sort of activity?

A.  Damn it Kyle, we have to deal in specifics here!  WHAT kind of activity?

3.  Kids who, kids who — build furniture for a living?

4.  Kids who collect rare specimens of insects!

2.  Kids who write provocative first novels!

1.  Kids who manufacture internal combustion engines!

A.  No, no — these are all good, but we have to keep it simple.

4.  Kids who defecate.

A.  Not that simple.

3.  Kids who grow old and die.

2.  Kids who do their own shopping.

A.  NO NO NO!  These are the lamest ideas I’ve ever heard in my life!  NOW COME ON!  WHAT KIND OF KIDS EAT ARMOUR HOT DOGS!


1.  Kids who…climb…on…rocks?


A.  Okay.  I’ll buy that.  Who else?

2.  Tough kids.

A.  Good!  Now we’re cooking with gas!  Who else?

3.  Latent homosexual kids!

A.  Hm.  I like the direction, but it’s got too many syllables.

4.  Potentially homosexual kids.


1. “Maybe gay” kids.

2.  “Kids who might be gay”.

3.  “Kids in doubt of their sexuality”.

4.  “Kids who go both ways.”

A.  Hm.  That’s close.  Let’s come back to it.  Who else?


1.  Kids with infectious diseases.

A.  Jim, don’t be a jerk.  What did I say before?  We can’t give them a phrase like “Kids With Infectious Diseases.”  What the hell does that mean?  We have to be SPECIFIC!  What KIND of infectious diseases?

2.  Cholera?

3.  Bubonic plague?

4.  Amebic dysentery?

1.  Not infectious.  Epstein-Barr Virus.

A.  Wait.  That’s good.  “Kids with Epstein-Barr Virus love Hot Dogs.”  Man.  That’s so close.  But it’s not good enough.  Don’t you see? This jingle has to be PERFECT.  And if we have to stay here all night, we will MAKE IT SO.  So roll up your sleeves and grab a cup of coffee, because we’re in for a bumpy ride.

(Blackout.  Pause.)

(Lights up.  Much later.  It’s been a long night.)

1.  Polio?

A.  No.

2.  Spanish influenza?

A.  No.

2.  It was real big in 1918.

3.  Yellow fever?

A.  No.

4.  Anthrax!

A.  Better but no.

1.  Malaria.

A.  No.

2.  Whooping cough.

A.  No!

2.  No, we could even say it funny: “WHOOPing cough!”

A.  No.

3.  Rubella.

A.  No, they have a cure.

4.  Swine flu.

A.  No no no.  These are all bullshit.  We have to get serious here.  This should be a disease that’s essentially harmless to children, but extremely dangerous to their parents.

1.  Measles.

2.  Mumps.

3.  Spastic colitis.

4.  Blastomycosis.

1.  Botulism!

2.  Diphtheria!

3.  Encephalitis!

4.  Gonorrhea!

1.  Hepatitis!

2.  Herpes simplex!

3.  Histoplasmosis!

4.  Hookworm!

1.  Mononucleosis!

2.  Pertussis!

3.  That’s whooping cough.  Scarlet fever!

4.  Spotted fever!

1.  Syphilis!

2.  Tapeworm!

3.  Toxoplasmosis!

4.  Trichomoniasis!

1.  Chicken pox!

2.  Typhus!

A.  Wait!  Go back.

2.  Typhus?

3.  Toxoplasmosis?

4.  Trichomoniasis?

A.  No!  No!

1.  Chicken pox?

A.  Chicken pox.  Chicken pox.  Wait.  “Even kids with Chicken Pox Love Hot Dogs.”



(General disappointment.)

What was the last one I liked?

1.  Lyme disease.

A.  Fuck it. We’ll go with that.  Let’s get the hell out of here.

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Here’s Looking at You

The first two are from my copy of Time Magazine.  The third is the cover of the new Office DVD set.

Why does Steve Carell hate America?


I know nothing about this show and I’m sure it’s wonderful, but I crack up every time I see this ad.  All I can think is, “There’s something behind Skeet Ulrich, and we don’t know what it is, but it’s apparently more interesting than an atomic blast.”
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I don’t know why this amuses me, but it does.
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