The Clown Show is on Hiatus for Re-Tooling.

Popped Culture is taking a short hiatus to recharge and catch up with some pop culture instead of just writing about it. But not to worry (if that's the sort of thing you're prone to doing), I'm not packing it in, just a vacation of sorts. See ya soon.

Yippee-ki-yay, Bunnies!

The 30-second bunnies are back with their not-so soft and cuddly take on the iconic John McLane and it’s likely the only Die Hard I see this summer. The plot of the upcoming Live Free or Die Hard finds McClane (Bruce Willis) working for Homeland Security and chasing a gang of hackers, trying to take down the world’s electronic infrastructure.

Inevitably these clever, technologically-proficient criminals will be taken down by McClane’s roughneck, hands-on justice after they bring his family into it, thus making it personal. I’ll stick with the bunnies.

Perhaps this will help end Hollywood’s feverish love affair with all sequels, all the time. Ok, probably not. Happy trails, Hans.

Cartoons I'd Like to F***

Garth: Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played girl bunny?
Wayne: No.
Garth: Neither did I. I was just asking.

Let’s face it, cartoon women are kinda hot and more guys than you know think so (see the quote from Wayne’s World above). One brave man has put his CILF predilection where all the world can see and I shame-facedly salute him. Thanks to Amber and Webnation for the tip off.

Pop Culture Supreme Court

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, the court is now in session. No longer will you have to end pop culture arguments with friends and comment trolls with the statement, "'cause I said so." The Pop Culture Supreme Court, comprised of nine pop culture bloggers, has come together with a single goal in mind: to render decisions on the most contentious and debated issues amongst our peers. Is George Lucas a hack? Is graffiti art? Is The Simpsons better than Seinfeld?

Our first ruling took on contentious issue of Hollywood remakes: Should there be a moratorium? The issues surrounding remakes has been discussed throughout the blogosphere for years and in traditional media even before that, and as such, they seemed to be an ideal subject to adjudicate.

Each justice has presented their own set of arguments regarding the above question, and we as a court have come to a decision regarding the subject at hand.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the court has decided that there should be no moratorium on remakes in Hollywood, despite their flaws.

The full decision can be found at the Pop Culture Supreme Court, as well as the individual rulings of the eight other talented justices.
My ruling is as follows:

Remakes are the scourge of Hollywood, a crutch for lazy writers and directors, a simple way for producers to turn a quick buck by betting on a sure thing. There artistic risk is minimal as the previous box office results are there to see – the filmmaking equivalent of tracing.

And just as copies of copies tend to lose their definition, remakes often dilute the original artistic intent. Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita was a brilliantly dark film about an unlikely assassin, but the sin was that it was filmed in French and had to be subtitled for North American audiences (“eww, reading!) When the movie was remade a few years later we got the sunshiney Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return, turning it into a generic thriller.

The same occurred with the Dutch film The Vanishing, a chilling film about a mysterious disappearance and the obsession of one man’s search for a missing loved one. The ending was so pitch black that when director George Sluizer remade the film in English he was forced to alter the ending, destroying the impact of the film.

This travesty isn’t limited to foreign films. Witness the atrocity that was Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. Burton is a talented director, but his greatest folly was taking a sci-fi cult fave, dropping millions on it and making it dull and uninteresting. The list goes on – Gus Can Sant’s pointless, shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho; Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away.

Based on the previous examples – and the legion of others – it seems a slam dunk to say there should be a moratorium on remakes. But it’s not that easy. On the whole, I’ve seen more good remakes than bad. George Clooney & Brad Pitt’s Ocean’s 11 was great fun and full of style. Was it better than the Rat Pack’s version? I don’t know, I didn’t see it. Al Pacino’s Scarface is so well known that few people even realize that it is a remake. Again, I haven’t seen the 1932 Howard Hawks original. Same goes for The Magnificent Seven, a remake of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Should I see the source material? Sure. Have I? No.

And that is the crux of the problem. It is easy to say that everyone should see the original films, that they should forgo the new release sections at their local video store and get to know their film history, but it’s not going to happen. For better or worse, film is not a static art form, where once the images have been committed to celluloid they remain untouched and treasured for all time. Much like plays are reinterpreted year after year, films of the past will always be a source for its present.

A bad remake can destroy an original vision, but the best remakes can rescue good stories from obscurity. If remakes are must be made (and it appears that they are) perhaps the best we can hope for is that directors don’t plunder the classics, but help repair flawed work. It’s a long shot, but there is always hope.

Visit the Pop Culture Supreme Court for the full ruling and the decisions of the rest of the members of the bench, who are also listed on my blogroll to the right.

Free At Last!

Were there any lingering doubts that celebrities get treated differently by the justice system, one only need to look at Paris Hilton’s release into house arrest after serving a gruelling three days of her 23-day sentence.

Paris will now serve out the rest of her time, confined to the oppressive confirms of her Hollywood mansion, suffering through the indignity of getting a tan line from her electronic monitoring bracelet while she lounges by the pool.

Originally sentenced to 45 days for violating her probation for driving on a suspended license following a booze-related driving conviction, it was reduced to 23 days on the assumption she would play nice in jail. Her “reassignment” on Thursday morning was predicated on a heretofore undisclosed medical condition that had somehow gone unnoticed during the unrelenting coverage of the minutia of her life.

TMZ, which I secretly believe has Paris under contract, is reporting that the condition was psychological and that her mental state was fragile, putting the socialite at risk of a nervous breakdown. No kidding. Cowboy up there, Paris, haven’t you ever heard the phrase “do the time, don't let the time do you?” But it appears that the walls of the prison could not withstand the assault of her lawyers, psychiatrists and PR folk and our favourite jailbird was sprung. She really should have been placed in The Phantom Zone.

"She's using this time to reflect on her life, to see what she can do to make the world better and hopefully, in my opinion, to change the attitudes that exist about her among many people," said Paris’ lawyer, Richard A. Hutton, following a visit after her first night in the slammer. That reflection will now be so much deeper while surrounded by opulent luxury instead of the dreg of society.

Clearly drinking and driving and parole violations are no big deal anymore, at least in Hollywood. I suppose it should be no surprise that our modern-day royalty is treated differently and that her sentence was less about teaching Paris a lesson than satisfying the enormous amount of schadenfreude directed at the 26-year-old celebutard. I look forward to the next episode.

Sign O’ The Times

Would you feel a sense of loss at the removal of a billboard? How about a store sign? What if it were huge and neon and had been there for 40 years?

There is an outcry over the closing of the flagship store of Sam the Record Man in Toronto, once the largest music retailer in Canada. But it is not the store’s closure that has people upset, but the loss of the massive sign depicting two spinning records. As soon as the announcement was made, Facebook pages and online petitions immediately sprang up, asking for the sign to be saved, designated a heritage site or to be preserved in a new location. All of this for an advertisement for a failed business.

I won’t deny the sign is a presence at its Yonge St. location. It has appeared in the backdrop of many a Hollywood film trying to pass Toronto off as some other city. It also played a significant part of the 1970 Canadian film Goin’ Down the Road, where the movie’s two hosers become entranced with big city living.

But does that make it a landmark? Some of the comments said tearing it down is akin to taking down the CN Tower, claiming it is just as recognizable a landmark for the city. This I seriously doubt. Many others who commented spoke of buying their first record/cassette/CD at the store, but that’s just nostalgia for their youth. Like them I also remember the first album that I bought with my own money (Depeche Mode’s Some Great Reward, if you must know) but I don’t fetishize the store I purchased it at.

It is just a sign. Sure, it looks interesting, but it is an advertisement and more will come and go in that place. Just down the block from the store is a public square that is rapidly being filled with flashing billboards and electronic signage, turning it into a miniature Times Square, the ultimate example of signs as culture. This is not a compliment. Once you’ve been to Times Square and marveled at how insanely bright it is (even in the dead of night) and thought of all the movies and TV shows you’ve seen it in, there is really little other appeal. The same goes for the Sam’s sign. At worst people will lose the chance to say “Hey, there’s that sign that I’ve seen in the background of a film before. Cool.”

It is interesting to note that most people are looking to save the sign and not the store or the line of business it represents. If but a small percentage of the people pining for the sign’s iconic status had regularly purchased music from the store, the sign wouldn’t be in jeopardy today.

Something Quite Atrocious

Are we all corporate shills? Every time you drop a Simpsons reference, quote a line from Borat or post a blog about Lost are we forwarding a corporate cultural agenda?
I posted this whitewashing of my favourite piece of graffiti over at Torontoist this week and it stirred a debate over corporate media.

“The problem with the art/commerce axis is that, uh, this is commerce too. It may be lighthearted whimsy, but it's lighthearted whimsy that reminds everyone who sees it of one of the Walt Disney Company's most prized corporate holdings (now available on DVD!). It's art that helps convince you to open your wallet and chip in to keep Walt's walk-in freezer running,” commented one reader.

But isn’t all art up for sale? Don’t authors want to sell books and filmmakers want their work to be seen? And if we talk about them later isn’t it an appreciation of the work, not participation in a marketing campaign? At what point does a commercial work transcend its origins and become part of pop culture?