The Evolution of Satire

Barack and Michelle Obama: The fist bump heard 'round the world, June 3.

The New Yorker's July issue satirizes rumours about the Obama's, including suggestions that he's Muslim and anti-American. The Obama's don't find the humour in it.

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart's Mock the Vote cover satirizes the satire, creating a perfect piece of comedy. The recreation is perfect even though they chickened out on burning the flag. Entertainment Weekly wins!

No Country For Old Bunnies

As it turns out, portraying Anton Chigurh as a bunny doesn't make him any less of a sociopath. The 30-Second Bunnies have just released their cottontail version of No Country for Old Men and it's a natural for them: minimal dialogue and a plot that mostly involves people getting shot.

Anton Chigurh: Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Call it?
Anton Chigurh: Yes.
Gas Station Proprietor: For what?
Anton Chigurh: Just call it.

Find Waldo, Yet Again

Waldo's back and, well, he's not exactly hiding this time. The candy-cane coloured dork is making a comeback, with a new book and a campaign to return him to the world of pop culture. Expect to see him showing up at unusual places, like New York's Fashion Week (see above).

Of course he's not really been hidden all that well. While Waldo books may not be flying off the shelf, he's been making regular appearances in other pop culture icons.

Waldo has made three appearances in The Simpsons through the '90s, including Bart's Comet and Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder.

Homer Simpson: “Waldo, where are you?”

Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro's Zen Waldo

In Sibling Rivalry", Stewie and Brian find diversity in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog with an African-American man dressed like Waldo hidding in an one of the images.

In Imaginationland Episode III, the good imaginary beings fight the evil imaginary creature and Waldo is speared in the chest multiple times.

Of course, there is another explanation of where Waldo has been hiding. He may have lost his memory and now he's out for revenge...

I'll keep my eye out for where else he appears. Many thanks to the Waldo Wiki for all the help.

Previously on Popped Culture...
Suddenly Last Supper
Popaganda: The Pop Culture Revolution
Would You Like Fries With That?
Come as You Are: Nevermind The Parodies

Oh Lego, Has It Really Comes To This?

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Lego Minifigures the company has released a series of celebrity Lego minifigs, including such luminaries as Amy Winehouse, Brangelina, Madonna and the Beckhams (see below).

I was going to go into a rant about how sad it was to see Lego feeling the need to jump on the celebrity bandwagon and associate its bricks with some of the tabloids most popular denizens, but I'm beginning to doubt the veracity of these figures.

I don't doubt they exist, but I'm having trouble believing they are from Lego. I think someone has done a fabulous job and leaked them to the entertainment press that eats all things celebrity. In an effort to track down the original source I spent way too much time scouring the web and following links to find the original story or press release, but to no avail. All I came across was a checklist of all the news "sources" I used to use during my stint as a celebrity news writer. British tabloids and sites that all use the same, unattributed information.

Anyway, it was the 30th anniversary of the figures last month, so that much is true. And of anyone can find out who really created these, I'd love to find out. Even if it really was Lego. Until then, let's hope it really was just a celebrity-induced nightmare.

Staggeringly, Jaw-Droppingly Bad

Writing a new Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sequel is bad idea. Really bad. You just won't believe how vastly, staggeringly, jaw-droppingly bad it is. I mean, you might think that writing new James Bond novels is a bad idea, but that's just peanuts to the Hitchhiker's book. Listen...

A new author had been tapped to write a sixth book in the increasingly inaccurately-named Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Douglas Adams' widow (Adams died at 49 in 2001) Jane Belson, has given her approval to a plan by Penguin to resurrect Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin, the Paranoid Android (the antecedent to Futurama's Bender).

Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl novels, will write the posthumous installment, entitled And Another Thing... "My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series," Colfer told The Times. "But on reflection I realized that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood and give them something of my own voice while holding on to the spirit of Douglas Adams."

He really should have stuck with his first thought. But of course booksellers are already salivating at the thought: “There’s a ready-made audience of millions for more Hitchhiker’s books," said Michael Rowley, Waterstone’s science fiction buyer. "This is very exciting news for all those fans."

Well, not this one. The Guide was my first pop culture obsession, before The Cure and before The Simpsons. I read all the books, have the original radio show on cassette, the scripts, a towel (I sill know where it is) and I treasure my signed copy of the trilogy from one of Adam's readings. I love the universe Adams created, a place where you learn how to fly by throwing yourself at the ground and missing; where a ship is powered by improbability; where the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, which has an effect similar to "having one's brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick." The Guide itself is akin to reading a Wikipedia that has a sense of humour on a Blackberry — a very prescient invention.

So why would I want to read someone else's vision of this place, of these characters? "For years I have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world," said Colfer. Wonderful, so why not write your own book? To me, it will just be fan fiction. Well written fan fiction to be sure, but fan fiction nonetheless.

Of course it's all about moving books and trying to revive a franchise that once brought in so much money and perhaps is dwindling off nowadays. Sad, but true. When this comes out, you'll find me reading far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy.

I Can Has User-Submitted Content?

see more celeb pics

The folks at icanhascheezburger have introduced yet another site for those who have a burning need to write captions on photos. This time around it is ROFLrazzi, a celebrity site. It's much like LOLcats and GraphJam and...

But hey, they've built an ad empire out of user-generated content. Who knew?

TIFF: That's A (Belated) Wrap

In three days we went to Lebanon, Myanmar, Japan, South Africa and southern Ontario, saw two documentaries, two horrors, two films with animation at their heart and heard from the directors of each of them. It's why we will always have tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival.

First up was Waltz with Bashir, a documentary of one soldier trying to reconstruct his memories of Israel's 1982 incursion into Lebanon and the subsequent massacre at two refugee camps. It was unlike doc that I'd ever seen. Instead of putting his subjects in front of the camera, Ari Folman illustrated their uncertain recollections and nightmares. It played almost like a drama and laid bare the impact of war on those whose job is to just follow orders, a phrase Jewish people have heard before.

Unfortunately our other documentary, Sea Point Days, failed where Bashir succeeded. Director François Verster also tried to tell his story of a formerly segregated beach front in Cape Town, South Africa without the usual talking heads. In place of commentary he showed endless shots of the people playing in the pools, walking on the beach, random birds... and on and on. There was an interesting story about the changes that are still taking place in South Africa, but it was buried in over an hour plus of pointless footage.

It was a mixed reaction for Vinyan, a film that began looking at the desperation of a couple searching for any sign there son may be alive following the 2004 tsunami, but midway through became a horror film populated by entrail-eating, feral children. We were with them for awhile, but once they started stumbling through the jungle our interest in their plight had diminished so much that the madness that followed had little impact.

Into that oh-so-happy mix came Detroit Metal City, blazing with with enough cartoonish metal mayhem to lighten up those darkened theatres. Currently sitting in the Top 5 at the Japanese box office after four weeks, DMC follows the hopes and dreams of a timid, geeky J-pop wannabe who instead finds himself fronting for a notorious death metal band whose fans think he is a demon from Hell. It's goofy and sweet and yet still goes heavy with the axe work (Gene Simmons plays death-metal king Jack IL Dark). It has a touch of Amélie and the show Reaper. Light-hearted, fun and so very Japanese.

Last, but far from least, stumbled the word-infected zombies of Pontypool, a wonderfully claustrophobic, psychological horror that I wrote about earlier. It was great fun but it was the moments leading up that made it a perfect festival experience. After 15 minutes past the start time, director Bruce McDonald came up to the front and started telling tall tales about he cost of filming and than spun out a tale about lead actor Stephen McHattie's hat being digitally inserted when he noticed a friend in the audience. "Oh, that mean's the film has arrived," said McDonald, explaining that they had just finished that day.

Funny stuff and just the kind of stuff that only happens at a film festival and I can't wait until next year, even if it is getting a little elitist.

Springfield: Brick By Brick

I have no idea how it took so long for somebody to create the entire opening scene of The Simpsons in Lego, but it has arrived. Add it to the live opening and the guy who can play the theme on his guitar.

(link via Wil Wheaton)

A View to a Kill

Hot damn, I cannot wait until Quantum of Solace hits theatres! The new trailer out today (above) practically had me cheering in my seat. If a 2 1/2 minute clip show is any evidence, the James Bond producers have stayed true to their extreme makeover of 007, showcasing a hardened, brooding, dangerous Bond.

The reboot of the Bond franchise was a risk, but letting it become a stagnating parody of itself would have been worse. Casino Royale was a roaring success. Can Quantum follow through? So far, so good.

TIFF: If Words Could Kill

Shut up or die, for your words may lead directly to your demise. That is the premise that lies at the heart of director Bruce McDonald's latest film Pontypool, about a small town that has been infected by a virus that is spread through language.

Set entirely inside an AM radio station located in the bowels of an old church, the evidence of a growing madness comes through radio reports and eyewitness accounts of townspeople speaking gibberish and tearing people limb from limb, as a washed-up shock jock and his producers try and make sense of it all. For what is often described as a zombie movie, there is little in the way of the gore, or the undead for that matter. The horror comes from the growing tension as events outside the station spiral out of control and begin closing in.

What is causing everyone to act so strangely? Is it words? Only English words? Or is it the meaning of the words and why here and why now? The answer is not provided, but not by oversight. The answer isn't available in the novel that it is based on either, Pontypool Changes Everything, and that's the way author Tony Burgess likes it.

I had the opportunity to interview Burgess nine years ago about the last book in his Bwedley trilogy, which explored the dark underbelly of small towns, where violence, fear and dark secrets blossom and thrive. "It's not necessary for everything to be explained," he said at the time, "as long as the emotion or the context is understood."

So is Pontypool about the power words have over us? That wielded in a skillful way can lead people to evil and violence? "There is a thing the metaphors mean, but that thing might be very personal to me, and may not necessarily contribute to the reading," he said of his ideas. Seems he hasn't changed either. "Working with Bruce (McDonald) has been great," Burgess told CanCult this month, "I write him these insane things that I think he’ll fire me over, but he just keeps putting them in the damn movie."

Here is McDonald (standing beside Burgess) at our screening this weekend. Sorry about the image quality, the camera doesn't do so hot without proper lighting.

TIFF: A Tale of Two Festivals

If you're planning to attend the Toronto International Film Festival, you've got to want it. Since early July we've made one phone call, waited in three long lines and spent two nights pouring over detailed film schedules — all just to get tickets. Some may describe TIFF as the "people's festival, because of the relative ease for the public to get tickets," but don't let anyone tell you it's easy.

When I describe the process to people they often stop me part way through, already deciding to give it a pass, which is a shame as it really is worth the effort. Gill and I have seen more than 100 films at the festival over the years and only but a handful have left us disappointed, such is the depth of the talent that unspools in the darkened theatres across the city every September.

This year our festival will be short and sweet — five films in three days — due to the logistical wrinkle called baby-sitting. But despite having a limited window to choose from, I'm pleased with our results, even with a poor showing in the ticket-box raffle. Our five flicks are:

Waltz with Bashir: an animated documentary from Israel about an attack on a refugee camp in Lebanon
Vinyan: a couple searches, perhaps hopelessly, for their son following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004
Detroit Metal City: A Japanese music geek unwittingly becomes the front man for a death metal band
Sea Point Days: Another documentary about a beach area in post-apartheid Cape Town
Pontypool: Bruce McDonald's take on Tony Burgess' cottage-country gothic zombie tale. Wrap your head around that.

We will also miss a few, of course. We had really wanted to see O'Horten, from Norwegian director Brent Hamer, as we'd seen his earlier film Kitchen Stories in 2003, but it was already sold out by the time our picks were processed. Who knew Norwegian films had such a following? Sadly, it may mean we'll never get to see it as it's hardly the kind of film that makes it to screens any other time of the year. One of the joys and curses of the festival.

We also wanted to catch Quebec director Philippe Falardeau's movie C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!) but both screening were booked solid. We've become fans after seeing his last two festival entries, La Moitié gauche du frigo and Congorama, and it appears others have as well. At least that one may make it to theatres, so there is still hope.

And to me, that's what the festival is all about: discovering new talent and seeing films that rarely make it out of the festival circuit. Meanwhile the vast majority of coverage the festival gets is about who will walk the red carpets, will Angelina join Brad at the premiere and what party will they attend afterwards? It is wall-to-wall celebrity worship, right down to a list of freebies these already wealthy people will get while cocooned in luxury, briefly appearing before the start of their films, at a press conference, a few interviews and a party before jetting off.

There really are two festivals in Toronto, the Hollywood sideshow which has come to dominate the press and public's imagination, and the rest of the films. There are 312 features and short films this year and the vast majority have little star wattage. But that's where you'll find me, at my own private festival.

Word Up!

My most used words from the last 20 posts on Popped Culture (minus some more common vocabulary), courtesy of Typography toys are fun.

Update: There seems to be some server issues. You can find the graphic here.

Stay Out of Riverdale!

So, Archie is watching you. Or at least Archie Comics Publications is and they aren't too pleased about any depictions of the Riverdale gang participating in anything related to sex, violence or any other adult situation. But at least they aren't going to sue me, so that's cool. (Those of you reading through RSS will need to see the posted image to see what I'm talking about.) Here is the posting that started it all.