There are those of you who doubted he’d make it. Hah! Hah, we say!
Harlan Ellison, writer, raconteur, gadfly, screenwriter, actor, power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and a character in The Dark Knight Returns, Freakazoid, Concrete, The Simpsons, and Scooby Doo, celebrates his 80th birthday today. Yes, he’s been striking terror into the hearts of mere mortals for eight decades.
One hundred years ago today in Spokane, Washington, Charles Martin “Chuck” Jones was born. It is quite possible there has not been a more widely influential artist in the twentieth century.
We could easily list his over three hundred cartoons that he directed; we could talk about all of the influential cartoons that he didn’t do for Warner Brothers– Pogo, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Dot and the Line, and revitalizing Tom & Jerry; we could mention his creation and co-creations Private Snafu, Charlie Dog, Hubie and Bertie, The Three Bears, Claude Cat, Marc Antony and Pussyfoot, Charlie Dog, Michigan J. Frog, Marvin the Martian, Pepe LePew, the Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote; we could discuss his educational work with The Electric Company and Curiosity Shop and his works with Dr. Seuss, not to mention the multiple generations of animators he taught and trained– but we’ll simply note that three of his shorts (Duck Amuck, One Froggy Evening and What’s Opera, Doc?) have been inducted into the National Film Registry.
Growing up, I went to plenty of parties, but never one when the parents were out of town. I always felt I missed out on something until I heard the time my younger cousin held such an affair, resulting in $1500 in property damage (in 1980 dollars). Call me uptight or a loser, much as Thomas (Thomas Mann), is in Project X.
Designed to be the ultimate party film, it was based on the recollections of various people who attended outrageous parties while parents were out of town. Cobbling the stories together, Michael Bacall and Matt Drake wrote a script and director Nima Nourizadeh sought out relative unknowns and total unknowns to populate the cast, giving it a fresh feel. Eight different camera systems were used including the main images purportedly shot by an AV studio Dax (Dax Flame) and cell phones given to various extras, who shot moments without others realizing it.
The $12 million film has more than made its money back while inspiring several aborted attempts at recreating the ultimate blowout for real. Coming to home video Tuesday, the Combo Pack contains seven more minutes of raunch in an extended cut along with the featurettes “Tallying up the Damage” and “Project X: Declassified”.
The basic problem with the film is that everything is amped up to the point of ridiculousness, without being grounded in any reality. While some have compared this with the 1970’s Animal House and 1980’s Risky Business, they have missed the point. Those films featured brilliant casting, terrific directing and a rhythm that allowed the really outrageous stuff to occur. This terrible film avoids any pretense.
It also is missing any sense of originality. We’ve seen it all before. Thomas is a loser, his parents are going out of town and tell him they know he’ll have people over regardless of what they say so Dad asks that they be kept out of his office and not to touch his car (telling you immediately that is exactly what will happen). Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to turn the party into a birthday bash that will turn all three losers into heroes. The word spreads and people come by foot, car, and bus. Dozens becomes hundreds become thousands. Neighbors call the police, who somehow miss several hundred people in the backyard, and the party escalates out of control until the SWAT team is called in but by then so has the flame-throwing-toting drug dealer. Really.
The footage shows plenty of topless girls, drinking, dancing, and general partymaking. What’s missing is anyone to root for. Everyone attending the party is unlikeable save for the predictable love interest Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). The film also lacks a set piece, the one truly original and memorable moment that gets people talking and makes the film immortal. This is just a wasted opportunity without any merit whatsoever.
Spending a lonely night sitting in the terminal at Lod Airport (now David Ben Gurion Airport) waiting for my 5 A.M. flight to New York. Trying to ignore leering men. Struggling to stay awake. Not knowing where to go or what to do. Thinking I didn’t have a friend in the world. Nor a family. Believing they were so disgusted with me that my dad would rather foot the bill to keep me away from home than have me there. Wishing I was brave enough to go to Paris, London, Rome or Madrid. All I had to do was exchange the ticket.
That was the worst part, I think. Some part of me was mocking herself. Even as I checked in, as I was boarding, while I was finding my seat, some part of me was mocking, laughing hideously, scoffing and scorning.
Coward. Loser. Fuck-up.
Poor little lost girl.
I landed at JFK Airport. No one there to meet me. Three hours later my mom and my Aunt Ida showed up.
Aunt Ida. She had an uncanny ability to show up when I was in trouble or unhappy, no matter where or far away I happened to be.
The first time was when I was staying at my Aunt Augie’s house on Long Island while my parents went on a trip. My aunt had gotten me an absolutely beautiful party dress to wear to a birthday party. Only it had a crinoline undergarment. Crinoline, for those of you too young to remember, was a god-awful material that looked like lace soaked in lacquer. It was as stiff as a board and scratched – no, stabbed – the skin. Well, my aunt put me in this dress and I was in pain. I cried and carried on and basically threw your average terrible childhood tantrum, even throwing ice cream into the face of the birthday girl. (I was really little, which perhaps explains my inability to simply tell my aunt that the dress “wasn’t working for me.”) Even after the dress came off, I continued to sob. After hours of this, the doorbell rang. Aunt Augie went to the door, and there stood her sister (my mom’s sister, too, of course), my Aunt Ida. I ran into her arms, screaming Fairy Godmother! Help me!! In her arms I quieted. (Poor Aunt Augie. I so hurt her feelings.)
The second time that stands out in my memory is the time I was seven years old, and away at camp. I was climbing a tree. Climbing higher and higher, ignoring everyone far below me to come down. I climbed until I couldn’t climb any higher, and promptly fell off the tree. Whomp! A perfect executed, score ten, belly flop. My face kissed the pavement. Hell, my face tongued the pavement. I remember voices around me. And lifting my eyes to see… my fairy godmother. Aunt Ida.
And here she was again, my fairy godmother. Come to rescue me from JFK airport.
Come to rescue me from myself.
Next week: “All you can do is open up the throttle all the way and keep your nose up in the air.”
First Lieutenant Meyer C. Newell
P-51 Mustang Fighter Jock
Separated from his squadron, shot up and leaking hydraulic fluid somewhere in the skies over Burma
TUESDAY MORNING: Michael Davis Isn’t Happy Until…
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten Goes Splitsville!
Hard to believe it, but Alfred E. Neuman is celebrating his 56th birthday today. Ever since he first graced the cover of MAD #30 in 1956, he has become a national icon and symbol of that era. His enduring gap-toothed grin has become an internationally recognized image and has been imitated time and again.
We salute, Alfred and share with you some fun facts about the fellow:
Although Alfred has appeared on the front of most issues of MAD, he has not appeared on every cover.
Over the years, Alfred has been depicted in a wide variety of roles, including Uncle Sam, George Washington, Barack Obama, Rosemary’s baby, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and Batman.
Alfred’s signature slogan, “What – me worry?” exemplifies the satirical and care-free tone of the magazine.
Alfred has run for president every election since 1956 with the campaign motto, “You could do worse, and always have!”
Alfred’s eyes are not aligned straight, yet they always manage to make contact with the reader. He is never depicted in profile.
In 1983, a man wore an Alfred E. Neuman mask while attempting to hold up a gas station in Michigan. The attendant working at the station could not take the man seriously and the robber left the scene without any money.
In MAD #322 (October, 1993), the magazine asked readers which real life celebrity Alfred E. Neuman most closely resembled – David Letterman, Ted Koppel or Prince Charles of England. While TV personality Letterman was leading the vote for the majority of the polling period, a last-minute influx of votes from Canadian readers crowned Prince Charles the victor of the competition. This was ironic considering that in 1958, MAD received a letter from Buckingham Palace (reprinted in MAD #48) to shoot down comparisons between Charles and Alfred. To this day, nobody knows if the note in fact came from Prince Charles himself.
As MAD’s mascot, Alfred is often referred to by the Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD as the magazine’s “Playboy rabbit.”