::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Movie Swiping, Scene-Chomping Comedic Performances
8 Instances Where the Supporting Guy Brought Down the House

Less can be more and in the cases of these eight performances – they make all the difference to the comedies where they appeared. Small roles – even cameos -- can pack an enormous wallop and sometimes come to define a movie, especially a comedy (where one line can have an audience blowing Coke out of their nostrils).

Take Ben Stiller as the Hispanic anchorman Arturo Mendes in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004). Stiller, in an uncredited performance, utters one line: “Hola, bitches!” and it nearly brings down the house. Do you know anyone who talks about the movie and doesn’t use that quote?

And Ben Stiller didn’t even make the list!

So with further ado, DaRK PaRTY gives you 8 kick-ass performances from a supporting actor in a comedy.

Neil Patrick Harris
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Self-parody has never been more hilarious. Neil Patrick Harris (i.e. TV’s Doogie Howser) plays himself as an arrogant, foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed Hollywood asshole – and it works like a charm. “Harold & Kumar” is a gem of a subversive, drug comedy, but it is Harris’ performance that pushes the movie into instant underground classic. The scene where Harold and Kumar pick Harris up hitchhiking is truly masterful. When Harold asks how to get back to the highway, Harris spouts off: “Dude, I don’t even know where the fuck I am right now. I was at this party earlier tonight and some guy hooked me up with this incredible X – next thing I know I’m being thrown out of a moving car. I’ve been tripping balls ever since.” Does it get any funnier than that? In fact, it does.

Will Ferrell
Starsky & Hutch (2004)

“Starsky & Hutch” was a disappointment. We’ve come to expect more from Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller (especially since the chemistry was so right between them in “Zoolander”). The shining, bright spot in this otherwise forgettable dud – is Will Ferrell’s uncredited performance as Big Earl – a homosexual convict. His telephone exchange with Vince Vaughn (as Reese Feldman) is laugh-out loud funny.

Big Earl: What are you wearing? Real quick, be honest.

Reese: What am I wearing? A silk flowered shirt and a vest. Why?

Big Earl: Oh, that’s gorgeous.

Reese: You sick son of a bitch!

Big Earl: Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!

Ferrell doesn’t get enough screen time to save the film, but for those few moments you can forget about how bad the rest of the film is.

Bill Murray
Caddyshack (1980)

In an ensemble comedy filled with sparkling performances – Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight are just a few – it was Bill Murray’s take on groundskeeper Carl Spackler that stole the movie. From his faux-masturbation scene while watching a group of blue-haired old women tee off to his biting into a chocolate bar everyone in the swimming pool thought was a floating turd, Murray chews up every scene he’s in. But his best line in the movie is when he tells Chase about being the caddy for the Dalai Lama in Tibet (“big hitter, the Lama”) that seals the deal.

Carl: “And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?’ And he says, "There won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that going for me, which is nice.”

Bruce Campbell
Spiderman III (2007)

There are few actors who can chew up a scene like a rabid wolf hound better than B-Movie King Bruce Campbell. But he ratchets it up a notch in the latest Spiderman thriller as the Maitre d’ at a ritzy French restaurant. Campbell completely gobbles up all the other actors when he’s on the screen – irritatingly directing and then stopping a band of musicians from moving in on Peter Parker’s table so he can propose to his girlfriend. The over-the-top performance can be appreciated from this brief snippet of dialog done in a terrible French accent:

Maitre d’: Ah, here we are. Table for two, Pecker.

Parker: Parker!

Maitre d’: That is what I said, Pecker!

Wallace Shawn
The Princess Bride (1987)

“The Princess Bride” has gone into the pantheon of classic movies, but would the movie have made that grade without Wallace Shawn’s outstanding, scene-ravaging performance as the arrogant Sicilian genius Vizzini? It’s inconceivable! With lines like “I’ve hired you to help me start a war. It’s a prestigious line of work with a long and glorious tradition” delivered with an irritated lisp, Shawn’s characterization dominates a movie filled with lovable characters. The best scene in the movie is when “The Man in Black” has a showdown of wits with Vizzini about picking a goblet of wine – one of which has been poisoned. It ends with this memorial line: “You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” And then, Vizzini drops dead.

John Turturro
The Big Lebowski (1998)

There are lots of problems with the Cohen brother’s comedy, but John Turturro as Jesus Quintana – the anally charged Hispanic bowler (and convicted sex offender) – isn’t one of them. Turturro brings a savage intensity nearly every role, but he takes vicious delight to this role – wearing a tight, baby-blue jumpsuit (with a bulge the size of kielbasa) as he commands the bowling lanes. With a sneer and a thick Mexican accent (and a constant tugging at his nuts), Turturro delivers nuggets like this: “You ready to be fucked, man? I see you rolled your way into the semis. Dios mio, man. Liam and me, we're going fuck you up.” It’s too bad there isn’t more of him in the movie.

Will Ferrell
The Wedding Crashers (2005)

This movie belongs to Vince Vaughn, but Will Ferrell throws a coupe and takes over the last part of the movie with a vengeance. In an uncredited performance as Chaz Reinhold, the legendary wedding crasher (who happens to live with his mom), Ferrell has viewers squirming in their seats with his ugly, but hilarious portrayal as a desperate, pathetic loser who cruises funerals to pick-up women in the throes of mourning. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry and that’s the beauty and power of this performance. At one point, Ferrell screams to his mother: “Hey, mom! Can we get some meatloaf! Mom! The meat loaf! Fuck!” with spittle flying from his lips. And then he’ll fall into a dead calm and mutter things like: “Grief is nature's most powerful aphrodisiac.” Wow.

Bob Barker
Happy Gilmore (1996)

“The Price is Right” host delivers one of the funniest scenes ever in an Adam Sandler movie. Sandler plays a hockey player turned golfer with a hair-trigger temper. Paired with Barker for a charity golf tournament, the two get on each other’s nerves until a melee breaks out and the elderly Barker beats the living crap out of Sandler. The scene is so over the top that it catches the audience in mid-gasp as Barker breaks through his own stereotype. It ends with Barker straddling Sandler’s chest as he punches him in the face and growls: “Now, you've had enough... bitch!” It’s a show stopper and nothing in the rest of the movie even comes close to topping it.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
5 Questions About: Dirty Harry

An Interview with Dirty Harry Fan James Reeves

(Clint Eastwood kicks some major league butt. At least that’s the story according to James Reeves – who has a rather unnatural affinity to Dirty Harry. James became an Eastwood fan at a young age and believes his first Clint flick was “Sudden Impact” (1983). “I was impressed by the sheer number of films Eastwood had starred in, and was drawn to the ones that had an iconic quality about them. Since Dirty Harry was a bit like a superhero, I naturally gravitated towards them,” he said. James started the Web site “The Dirtiest” – a Dirty Harry fan site back in 2000. His goal was to keep things as simple and direct as Dirty Harry himself. I figured too many bells and whistles would probably just piss Harry off. Fully armed with a Magnum .357, DaRK PaRTY recently talked to James about Dirty Harry.)

DaRK PaRTY: Why do you think the Dirty Harry movies are so popular?

James: The short answer is that they're just entertaining cop movies. But there's also a directness to Harry Callahan which resonates with the audience. We can all identify with the lone hero who struggles with bureaucracy, even if it's just through our atte
mpts to reach customer service. Harry exists in our everyday society, yet he has a freedom to do things we cannot. In this respect, there's an element of fantasy mixed in with the action.

The films are also a good example of an actor and a character blending perfectly. Clint Eastwood is always going to be identified as Dirty Harry. And for many, it's the role that shows him at his best. Once Eastwood realized what a crowd-pleasing formula it was, he was smart enough not to try and reinvent the wheel. When he wanted to explore flaws and vulnerabilities in a cop, he'd utilize a new character like Ben Shockley in “The Gauntlet” (1977) or Wes Block in “Tightrope” (1984). This lends the series a consistency which may also be a factor in its enduring popularity. Even at its worst, you don't have to worry about Harry developing brain damage or having a shark pursue him to the Bahamas.

DP: There are five Dirty Harry movies. In your opinion which one is the best and why?

James: The original may be the quintessential tough cop film, and certainly had a major influence on our modern action heroes. Harry was a classic good guy, but with enough shades of gray to make him interesting. The script and direction were tight, and the violence had a hard, gritty edge to it. It's a film that works on several levels, yet is first and foremost a slick action thriller.

Of the sequels, “Magnum Force” (1973) fleshes out the character and serves as a worthy companion piece. The choice of villain is particularly interesting, as Harry is confronted with a threat that could've sprung from his own darker self. If Dirty Harry is wish fulfillment for the audience, then the vigilant
e cops are capable of crossing lines that Harry himself will not. This is underscored by his recurring catchphrase, "Man's got to know his limitations."

DP: Which one is the worst and why?

James: “The Dead Pool” (1988) isn't always a given to be ranked last by fans, but it definitely feels like one too many trips to the well. It was one of three films that Eastwood made while serving as mayor of Carmel, and was filmed while his Charlie Parker biopic, “Bird” (1988), was in postproduction. One popular myth surrounding the film is that Eastwood was contractually obligated to do it, as a way of getting “Bird” off the ground. In reality, the story idea was presented by some friends who had authored a best-selling health book.

However, Eastwood probably did intend to strike a balance with the two projects.

It's a competent entry that manages to hit all the expected notes, but this cookie-cutter approach is also the film's biggest problem. There are some clever ideas on display, yet none of them are ever developed to their full potential. By the film's end, Harry has resorted to using a giant spear gun to dispatch the bad guy. Critics regarded this as the character veering into self-parody, although there were a few (such as Roger Ebert) who applauded t
he film's satirical undertone.

DP: Author Ric Meyers wrote a series of pulp novels about Dirty Harry in the 1980s. What are your thoughts on the series and which books are worth reading?

James: The books are noteworthy in that it's one of the few times Warner merchandised the films. They were issued as part of a "Men of Action" paperback line, and were mainly typical potboilers which happened to star Harry Callahan. They also featured
some really cool cover art.

It's been a while since I read through them, but there are a few that stand out. “The Long Death” and “City of Blood” both offer violent, seedy plots that evoke the tone of the films. “The Killing Connection” has Harry assisting San Francisco's gay community, which is an aspect of the city that the films never really got to explore. “Family Skeletons” turns Harry loose in Boston and is one of the few that centers around an actual mystery. “Duel for Cannons” sends Harry to Texas, which is a pretty fun idea.

DP: The Dirty Harry movies introduced a lot of characters -- villains, bosses and partners. Other than Harry, who are your three favorite characters from the movies and why?

The Scorpio Killer, Dirty Harry (1971)
Scorpio brought out the worst in Harry, which is another reason why the first film is so effective. We're given virtually no background on the character, and that ends up making his actions seem all the more chilling. Cold and calculating, he essentially defeats the system and forces Harry to deal with him on his own level. Don Siegel peppered the film with religious symbolism, and some like to interpret the char
acter as one of pure evil.

Freddie the Fainter, The Enforcer (1976)
Of all the shady characters Harry Callahan encountered, here's a guy who was just out to get a free lunch. Freddie finishes his meal then fakes a heart attack in an attempt to avoid the check. It's one of the few times where Harry is actually amused by a suspect, and he gives Freddie a break by letting him go.

Actor Albert Popwell
Popwell has the distinction of playing four characters over the course of the series: A curious bank robber, A sacrificial pimp, Big Ed Mustapha, and Horace King. The latter two provided the actor with the most screen time, but it is his brief appearance in “Dirty Harry” that everyone remembers best. He is the punk to which Harry first delivers the infamous, "Do I Feel Lucky?" speech.

Click here to read our 5 Question interview with Boston Globe movie critic Ty Burr

Read about the 12 Coolest Women in Rock History

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Monday, June 25, 2007
Cracked-Back Book Reviews: June 2007

(Welcome to Cracked-Back, a new monthly DaRK PaRTY feature about the books we’ve recently read. A “cracked-back” is what happens to the spine of a new book once you’ve thoroughly read it. Please feel free to add your own list of recommendations by leaving behind a comment.)

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
By Laurence Gonzales

Only 10 percent of people confronted by a life or death situation remain level-headed – cool, calm and collected. The remaining 90 percent panic – and those are usually the ones who die. Laurence Gonzales, an adventure writer for National Geographic, delves into the psyche of those 10 percent. What makes them survivors? He theorizes that the key to surviving mountain climbing accidents, boating accidents, being lost in the wilderness, and other calamities is the ability to surrounded to the circumstances and adapt (which is why many Type-A personalities fair poorly when confronted by disaster). Gonzales uses real-life examples of people faced with death to put together a compelling and fast-paced book. It starts slow, but once you get through the first chapter, you won’t be able to put it down.

Grade: B+

Strange Piece of Paradise
By Terri Jentz

More than 20 years after being attacked by an axe-welding assailant during a bike trip through Oregon, Terri Jentz returns to the scene of the crime to solve her own attempted murder. It sounds like something off of tabloid television, but Jentz – a Yale graduate – has written a very personal and explosive memoir that is part Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part confessional, and part whodunit. The result is a book that explores the underbelly of violence in America and how some criminals can hide in plain sight with few consequences.

Grade: A-

One Shot
By Lee Child

Jack Reacher novels are escapist fun and “One Shot” is one of Child’s better efforts. Reacher is a one-man wrecking ball and the series is the most fun when Reacher is up against hard, evil protagonists that show little mercy for their victims. Then Reacher shows up and puts these bastards in their place. “One Shot” features some nice twists and turns as Reacher shows up in a small mid-western city to investigate the sniper deaths of several people allegedly killed by a sniper Reacher once arrested when he was an Army MP. Things get a bit complicated and Reacher has to kill a lot of bad guys. What more can you ask for?

Grade: B+

Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine
By Harold Bloom

Literary critic and old-school snob, Harold Bloom weighs in on the character of Jesus and the Jewish God – basing his analysis on the Bible and the Torah. He dissects both Jesus and Yahweh like they were Hamlet and Macbeth. There’s been a lot written about Christianity lately and add this often disjointed essay to the list. Bloom is usually an interesting read, but “Jesus and Yahweh” suffers from Bloom’s habit of literary name dropping – the man simply can’t write a book without genuflecting to Shakespeare at some point. While you can give Bloom credit for his boldness and his fearless approach, there’s little no ground here.

Grade: C+

Stumbling on Happiness
By Daniel Gilbert

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert presents a fascinating premise: human beings are bad at predicting what will make them happy. We spend most of our time trying to make ourselves happy, yet because of the way our minds our structured you screw it up all the time. As a result we often make poor decision now about what will make us happy later. For example, Gilbert gives us brides left at the altar. As a coping mechanism, most women end up thinking this extremely humiliating experience was the best thing that ever happened to them. That’s how our minds help protect us from harmful emotional episodes. This sugarcoating makes us often forget how much we dislike bad things and on the flip side often exaggerate the things that make us happy. Thus, we’re lousy at predicting what will make us happy in the future. Gilbert makes complicated ideas easy to digest and the result is a funny and charming book.

Grade: B

Click here to see our observations and impressions of the classic "Moby-Dick"

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Poem: Shut Up

No one talks about it,
of course.

But you think about it:
All fathers -- all of them --
hate their children.

Midnight shops for diapers
in overly bright convenience stores.
Tea parties with stuffed
pigs and a marble-eyed tiger named Stripe,
during the playoff game.

You try to ignore the smug pity
from the single guys at the office
when you decline --
yet again --
beers and buffalo wings at
O'Malley's Pub.

You try to live with the stains
on your laundered shirts,
and driving to work not knowing
who won last night's baseball game.

Tired all the time.

You think about leaving.

But then,
on some random Tuesday,
you lift her out of the tub,
pink and warm
and smelling like a freshly sliced grapefruit.
She presses her face
into your chest and
her little hands wrap around your thick neck
and she says:

"I love you, daddy."

And you keep your damn mouth

Click here to read Jess Myer's poem "Quiet Contemplations in My Hometown Church on Christmas Eve"

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The Short, Short Story Winners

The first DaRK PaRTY 55-word Fiction Contest has come to a wondrous and marvelous conclusion. We received more than 40 entries from all over the world – the United Kingdom (Manchester and London), the United States (from Alabama to New York City), Israel (Tel Aviv), and India.

DaRK PaRTY would like to give a hearty “Thank you” to everyone who entered. It takes courage and the mark of a true writer to enter a fiction writing contest. We wish we could make you all winners. But it is the nature of contests to demand that we select only a few.

So without further ado – we give you our four champions.

Grand Prize Winner (First Place)

The judges were impressed with the emotional impact of Edmund Jonah’s “The Table.” Edmund conveyed loss and regret with incredible skill as he guided the reader through what appears to be an ordinary sale of a table.

The Table
By: Edmund Jonah

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went in and sidled through lots of secondhand furniture before I touched the oak table.

“You have an eye,” said the salesman. “We got it yesterday at a country house auction. The old lady just died.”

I wept. It was my mother’s. We had not spoken in five years.

About Edmund Jonah

A grandfather of three beautiful girls from Tel Aviv, Edmund was born in Calcutta, India of Iraqi/Jewish origin. He was educated by Belgian and Canadian Jesuits in the Himalayas. Edmund moved to London at age 22, married, and immigrated to Israel with his wife and daughter. “I live in a great country,” he says. He currently has a novel with an agent and has published many short stories.

First Runner-Up (Second Place)

The judges were impressed with Alexander Vermitsky’s simple, yet complicated story about the complexities of marriage, love, and relationships. “The Marriage” shines with emotional honesty and powerful detail.

The Marriage
By: Alexander Vermitsky

He sat on the tile, legs crossed, waiting for her to come home. His hope: she’d notice the simplicity, a newborn quality to the quiet, his calm. She came in carrying two spider plants bought at Mr. Seto’s nursery.

“What a tangled mess,” she said, motioning for him to get off the floor and help.

About Alexander Vermitsky
Alexander is a 29-year-old poet and writer who lives in Towson, Maryland (a suburb of Baltimore). For some unknown reason he likes Pat Benetar’s “I am a Warrior.” Try not to hold it against him.

Second Runner-Up (Third Place)

Albert Kwak’s mirthful “Untitled” made one of the judges laugh so loud that milk poured out of her nostrils. Oddly, she was drinking a Coke. His story about a troubled phobic was what his parents would probably call a “knee-slapper.”

By: Albert Kwak

Todd Draco feared germs. “What do you have in your mouth, Todd?” asked the psychologist. His cheeks bulged like a squirrel hoarding away chestnuts.

“Swallow it,” she said. “Swallow it. What are you so afraid of?”

And for the first time in nine years, Todd Draco did the unthinkable: he swallowed his own spit.

About Albert Kwak
Albert Kwak is a 22-year-old hermit who lives with his three pet turtles and his Writer’s Digest magazines. Rarely does he party; he goes out to make no friends. He is a virgin living under tyrannical rule of his parents, and is constantly mocked for reading and writing, the two most important facets which have shaped his life. He wonders every day (and in every nightmare) if his writing is, in fact, as atrocious as they say.

Third Runner-Up (Fourth Place)

The judges added a fourth place category to honorably mention Francis Rabbit’s “The Clearing Past Exit 57.” His impressive horror tale about the unexpected reunion of man and wife scared the hell out of one of our more timid judges.

The Clearing Past Exit 57
By: Francis Rabbit

Never thought I’d end up here. I raise my hand, but cars keep roaring by. Lana left me three years ago; now she’s about five feet away. I thought she’d left, didn’t love me. Wasn’t nearly right enough. She found another love past exit fifty-seven. My feet sink further downward and I scream.

About Francis Rabbit
Escaped from a mutant lab experiment gone wrong, bitten by a radioactive spider, sent on a rocket ship from an exploding planet while exposed to cosmic radiation, crash landing frozen in the Arctic wastes after the second World War and thawed in the eighties by a benevolent millionaire with a talking car, Rabbit Francis finds himself in a world he's never understood -- suburbia. His background decidedly in science fiction, he escaped to the land of UFOs in New Mexico, studied under golden age writer Jack Williamson, and returned, unpublished, to suburbia, and to a soul-molting work life that deadened his talent nearly completely. The tiny spark that remains here is hoped to be the Phoenix-like rebirth of his writing life.

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Monday, June 18, 2007
Under God's Right Arm: Gays Take Massachusetts
By: Rev. Colson Crosslick

It’s only a matter of time before the Massachusetts Legislature votes to make pink the official state color. While they’re at it they should change the state’s nickname from the “Bay State” to the “Gay State.” How about voting Nathan Lane the official entertainer and “Will & Grace” the official TV show?

Because Massachusetts has been hijacked by the homosexuals and it’s only a matter of time before our modern day Sodom (Boston) is destroyed by a storm of fire and brimstone. Massachusetts, per usual, has shown its utter contempt for Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible.

Last week, the state’s lawmakers ruled against putting gay marriage up to a vote by the people (an end around on democracy if I’ve ever seen one) and thus made it legal for gays and lesbians to continue to get married in Massachusetts until at least 2012. Why don't we just make Barney the purple dinosaur president and the Teletubbies vice president?

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before gays in Massachusetts throw on mesh thongs and colorful make-up and hold parades in Provincetown and Northampton (two of the pinkest towns you’ll ever see!).

Clearly, Massachusetts lawmakers enjoy thumbing their noses at God. Didn’t the Lord God carefully instruct Moses: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22)? Aren’t there clear passages in the Bible in Romans I, Timothy 1:10, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Jude 1:7 that condemn homosexuality as a grave and deadly sin against God?

All Christian faiths denounce homosexual marriage (except for those nut jobs who practice Unitarian Universalism and some of those fruitcakes don’t even believe in God!).

Now I don’t want anyone thinking that I hate homosexuals. I don’t. I just despise with all of my being the act of homosexuality. Gays are fine with me as long as they remain in the shadows or live in hip sections of large East and West Coast cities – where they belong. Let them eat at fusion restaurants, shop in the finest boutiques, and go to Barbara Streisand concerts.

Just keep them out of places like Arkansas and North Dakota!

There’s a reason why good, middle-American Christians condemn the act of homosexuality – temptation. What hot-blooded, meat-eating man hasn’t felt the slightest twinge of lust when seeing a well-sculpted teenage boy jogging by a beach in tight swim trunks? It’s perfectly natural for Satan to whisper in your ear on such occasions (especially when you’ve had a few cold ones).

That’s why it a fundamental necessity to outlaw homosexuality and force those who practice its black arts into dark, lonely corners. If we continue to let the gays “mainstream” this kind of deviant behavior and do things like legalize marriage – wholesome heterosexuals will be in danger.

Why? Because normal, heterosexual men and women will be tempted to cross sides if the taboos against gay behaviors are lifted. Look at what happened to Pastor Ted Haggard in Colorado! Haggard, former preacher of the New Life Church, was a perfectly happy married man with children until a homosexual prostitute entered his life. Then the temptations found in any red-blooded male took him over and he turned into a raving gay guy.

Thank the Lord God that Haggard entered an intense regiment of counseling and Bible training to emerge once again 100 percent heterosexual. But if men of God like Haggard can be seduced by the sultry promise of man-on-man sex – who among us is safe? That’s why we need to fight against homosexuality with every fiber of our existence!

Remember your Leviticus 20:13:

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own head.”

Of course, I’m not suggesting we kill gays – as the Holy Bible certainly seems to command us to do. What I’m suggesting is that we keep homosexuality out of the mainstream. This means boycotting gay TV shows, gay movies, gay actors, gay comic books, and certainly boycotting the state of Massachusetts.

It’s time for Christians to stand up on this issue! If we all become gay then how will the race ever propagate? So say good-bye to Nathan Lane musicals and Ellen Degeneres talk shows and say hello to the peace, love, and tolerance found in the Holy Bible.

(The Rev. Colson Crosslick is pastor of the Pretty Good Shepherd Church in Ripsaw, Arkansas. In the past, he has called for a boycott of homosapiens. He also writes the regularly appearing column Under God’s Right Arm for DaRK PaRTY.)

Read Rev. Crosslick's tribute to the Rev. Falwell here

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Friday, June 15, 2007
'Nuf Said: The Best and Worst of Superhero Movies
Yes, yes, we all know comic book movies like “Ghost World” (2001) and “A Brief History of Violence” (2005) are superior films based on comic books. So what? When DaRK PaRTY makes lists of comic book movies – we aren’t interested in “art.” We want superheroes.

Give us nasty special effects, villains dredged up from our deepest high school fears, and superheroes who are really just us (with some dumb luck and a cool latex costume). So with today’s release of “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” we decided it was time to announce our favorites and not-so favorites.

The Five Best

Making a good comic movie is tricky. It’s not just about special effects – it’s about character. And that’s where these movies succeed and others fail. They bring out the essence of troubled heroes like Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker – and make us feel the internal conflict. They are a perfect blend of storytelling and action. These five movies deserve Hall of Fame status:

Batman Begins (2005)

This may be the best superhero movie ever made. “Batman Begins” re-crafts the origin of the Dark Knight into a vision quest. Batman as the lone samurai. Christian Bale was an excellent choice to play Bruce Wayne, but the real inspired decision was to place the franchise in the hands of director Christopher Nolan. Nolan serves up strong characters and fast action. Using the little-known Scarecrow as the primary villain was also a wise choice. High marks and higher expectations for the next one.

Spiderman III (2008)

The Spiderman movies keep getting better. Any three of the trilogy could appear on this list, but the third installment shines. Director Sam Raimi’s love for the comic book is evident in all three films. “Spiderman 3” walked the line of over-production with the introduction of three villains, but Raimi pulls it off with a fast-paced, but tightly-wrought plot. The action sequences – especially the chase between Spiderman and Green Goblin – are amazing.

X2 (2003)

The X-Men franchise is another gem. Each of the films has something to offer, but the second one puts it all together. With a plethora of characters and superheroes, it would be easy for these films to feel like a mish-mash, but Brian Singer handles the cast expertly knowing just when and where to introduce a new character. The best sequence is when Nightcrawler (played by Alan Cumming) infiltrates the White House at the beginning of the flick. Stunning. Hugh Jackman continues as the heart of soul of the X-Men with his portrayal of Wolverine.

Blade II (2002)

This movie comes out of nowhere – because the first one disappointed. But Director Guillermo del Toro worked out all the bugs and problems with the first and made a fantastic horror, action thriller. While Wesley Snipes plays Blade a big clunky, the action here moves so fast and dizzyingly that it doesn’t matter. If you like vampires – then what are you waiting for. Kudos to the always fun to watch Ron Pearlman.

The Crow (1994)

The first comic book movie to really get it right. A mix of gothic horror, dark atmosphere, and brutal action. Brandon Lee would have been a star if he had survived the filmmaking process (he was accidentally killed by a prop firearm). “The Crow” is also one of the best revenge flicks going. If you like superhero action with a flair for martial arts – then you need to see this movie.

Runners-up: Spiderman II (2004), Superman (1978), X-Men (2000), Superman II (1980), Batman (1989)

The Five Worst

Making a bad comic book movie is easy. Just rely on special effects and cobble together a story seemingly from random events. These movies are bloated excesses. They failed to understand the concept of establishing and building character before deciding to blow something up. Our Hall of Shame:

The Fantastic Four (2005)

Made at a time when it finally seemed like Hollywood had figured out how to make a good superhero movie, “The Fantastic Four” was two steps back. In other words, “Fantastic Four” sucks. The characters – especially Chris Evans as Johnny Storm – are annoying enough that you want to take a frying pan to their faces. This movie failed at nearly everything – bland action (with the possible exception the Thing’s rampage on a New York bridge), thud-inducing dialogue, and an inability to connect with the audience. In fact, the movie sticks its thumb in the audience’s eye. Here’s hoping the Silver Surfer can save the franchise.

Superman Returns (2006)

Deeply disappointing. This alleged homage to the first Superman movie is the celluloid version of plagiarism – written by an alcoholic hack in a seedy motel. The special effects are actually quite good, but you get the feeling of an elementary school child trying way too hard to please. Did we really need another Superman movie featuring Lex Luthor? Can we please make a movie in which Superman is forced to use his super powers in battle – rather than just to lift really heavy things? (General Zod anyone?) Can we find an actor to play Superman who can do things like – well – act? This movie feels like a rerun – because it is one.

Daredevil (2003)

For a long time everything that Ben Affleck touched turned to crap. He was the anti-King Midas. “Daredevil” is no exception. There is nothing inherently wrong with Affleck’s performance as the blind superhero, but there’s nothing right about it either. It’s the problem with the entire film. It doesn’t seem to have a reason for being. It skates along mediocrity and seems fine with that – despite several changes to take this film to the next level. Colin Farrell is the villain Bullseye – an inspired choice for a bad guy – but he plays the role as an Irish soccer hooligan. That was a bad choice. If you enjoy insipid then “Daredevil” is for you.

Batman & Robin (1997)

The bat guano found on the floors of dark caves? This movie resembles that. Terrible isn’t adequate enough to describe it. This is George Clooney’s worst movie. Clooney later admitted that he played Batman as gay (was there any doubt? – the bat suit displayed erect nipples). The movie capsized the careers of Alicia Silverstone (horribly miscast as Batgirl) and Chris O’Donnell (overplaying Robin). But the real problem is Arnold Schwarzenegger who plays Mr. Freeze like a block of termite-infested wood. The saddest part of “Batman & Robin” is that it managed to con $107 million away from devoted Batman fans – so they could have the privilege of being kicked in the face.

Superman IV: Quest for Peace (1987)

Wow. This movie blows. Terrible direction and writing – and even scenes stolen directly from previous Superman movies. It all goes horribly wrong here. The movie killed the franchise for 20 years – and nearly came close to killing the comic book to movie genre.

Runners-up: The Hulk (2003), The Punisher (2004), Captain America (1990)

Click here to read our 5 Questions interview about comic books

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
5 Questions About: Friday the 13th

An Interview About Cinema's Biggest Serial Killer

(Don’t we all have a soft spot in our hearts for Jason – the deformed, mentally unstable serial killer from the “Friday the 13th” movies? What’s not to love? The tender ways in which he hacks up his victims with machetes or the skill he uses to cleave open skulls with axes? Clearly some love him more than others. Meet Blake Washer and Brenna O'Brien who have been running the official fan site, Fridaythe13thFilms.com, since 1998. The message board on the site has grown into one of the largest ho
rror movie forums on the Internet. Blake has a degree in screenwriting, and Brenna is about to finish her PhD in education (do we really want this women teaching children?). They are both natives of Kansas City (the Missouri side), and are probably one of the few couples to ever receive a signed Jason hockey mask as a wedding present.)

DaRK PaRTY: What is the main attraction of the Friday the 13th movies?

Blake and Brenna: The Friday the 13th films are pure entertainment. They're not meant to inform or persuade or make us ponder man's inhumanity to man, though there's plenty of that! No, the films do exactly what they set out to do - they're designed to thrill. No one faults a roller coaster for a lack of narrative complexity! You scream, you jump, you laugh, and if you enjoyed it enough you do it again. Over twenty-five years later, a lot of people are still enjoying the ride.

DP: Can you describe as best you can the personality and appear
is mother get murdered by a camp counselor in the first Friday the 13th, andance of Jason Voorhees (is he a human? Zombie? Something else?)

Blake and Brenna: What makes Jason Voorhees different is that he's a sympathetic character. He was a deformed child who almost drowned and then spent the rest of his childhood growing up alone in the woods. He saw h so now he exacts his revenge on anyone who returns to Camp Crystal Lake. Teenage fans can identify with that sense of rejection and isolation, which you can't really get from other killers like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.

When he returns as a zombie in Part 6, Jason Lives, he becomes a single-minded killing machine - kind of like the shark in Jaws. Any shred of humanity is gone, and on top of that, he's now unstoppable. At this point the audience isn't really trying to figure out what Jason's motivation is; they are ready to just cheer as the body count keeps going up.

DP: There have been 11 movies in the "Friday the 13th" series. What are the three best and why?

Blake and Brenna: Part 4, The Final Chapter is definitely a high-water mark for the series, despite being the "final" fourth film in a series now up to eleven. The cast (including Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover) is great, the script is clever, the direction is tight, and the atmosphere is spooky. Get a group of friends together and throw it on.

Friday the 13th: Part 2 was the first movie to actually have Jason Voorhees as the killer. Amy Steel was an amazingly strong and charismatic female lead, and the other teenagers were likable and you felt sorry for them when they got killed. A kid in a wheelchair taking a machete to the face? You can't get much better than that.

And the original, Friday the 13th. As much as horror fans like to debate about which movies really started the franchises of the 80s, there is no denying that the original made an impact on our culture. With the special effects of Tom Savini, the familiar setting of a summer camp, and the reveal at the end of a female killer - Friday the 13th had enough originality to keep people coming back for more.

DP: What are the three worst Jason movies and why?

Blake and Brenna: Part 8, Jason Takes Manhattan, was ill-conceived and just ended up looking cheap. We think a lot of people felt conned when Jason only gets to Manhattan in the last quarter of the movie, and even then only a few scant minutes were actually shot in New York!

Part 5, A New Beginning was disappointing because Jason Voorhees isn't even in the movie! The films live or die on the strength of the writer and director. The producers went with a former porn director and it shows. The film feels tacky, despite a (mostly) likable cast.

Jason Goes to Hell (Part 9) is not high on most fans' lists because it took the character in a new direction and introduced a lot of mythos into the series that seemed to come out of left field. There're still some memorable moments, but overall a lot of people left the theater shaking their heads after this one. A Jason 'hell baby'? Come on.

DP: The most successful film in the series was "Freddy vs. Jason" -- a cross over film that pitted Jason against another slasher movie character Freddy Krueger. What are your thoughts about bringing the two together and should there be a sequel?

Blake and Brenna: We think Freddy vs. Jason was a good movie for its time, but trying to blend the worlds of two franchises proved to be very challenging. We thought there were a few too many silly, dream-like effects geared towards Freddy fans. The most controversial aspect of this film was that Jason's appearance was radically changed. Some fans wanted the look of old-school Jason, as played by Kane Hodder, while others appreciated Ronny Yu's new take on the character.

With this type of movie, it's hard to make everyone happy. If there was a Freddy vs. Jason 2, it would be interesting to see them focus more on the teenagers and make them more believable characters that have to outsmart both Freddy and Jason, instead of just standing on the sidelines and being slaughtered like the previous movie.

Click here to see our picks for the best werewolf movies of all time

Click here to read our article on six great, but obscure horror flicks

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Unusual Literary Deaths

10 Weird Deaths of Some Great Writers

(Writers – poets in particular – have a flair for death. Unfortunately, their own. DaRK PaRTY has compiled a list of 10 bizarre literary deaths – some tragic, some bizarre, and some downright ridiculous.)

Ernest Hemingway

Age: 61

Occupation: Novelist and short story writer

Most Notable Works: A Farewell to Arms (1929), Winner Take Nothing (1933), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

Method of Death: Buying a double-barrel shotgun from Abercrombie & Fitch (before it was a clothing retailer for teenagers), Hemingway pressed the end of the shotgun against his forehead, leaned over, and pulled both triggers. His suicide was three weeks after a first attempt. He died in the hallway of his house in Ketchum, Idaho.

Bizarre Twist: Hemingway often wrote about suicide – most notably in the short story “Indian Camp.” His father, two siblings, and his granddaughter (Margaux Hemingway) also committed suicide.

Guy de Maupassant

Age: 42

Occupation: French short story writer (often credited as a father of the form and notable for his horror stories)

Most Notable Works: “Boule de Suif” (1880), Mademoiselle Fifi (1882), Clair de lune (1884), Yvette (1884), Le Horla (1887)

Method of Death: In 1890 Maupassant tried to kill himself by slicing his own throat. The attempt failed, but he was declared insane and spent the last 18 months of his life in an asylum. He died from the syphilis that he contracted in his twenties (which many also attribute to his growing madness).

Bizarre Twist: In later life, Maupassant wrote many horror stories that dealt with madness. He was fascinated with the mind and often attended lectures about psychiatry.

Ambrose Bierce

Age: 72 (?)

Occupation: Journalist, Short-story Writer, Satirist

Most Notable Works: Cobwebs from an Empty Skull (1874), “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1861), “Moxon’s Master” (1909), The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

Method of Death: Bierce (nicknamed Bitter Bierce) didn’t die. He disappeared. He left on a trip of old Civil War battlefields. He toured through the south and at Texas crossed into Mexico to join with Pancho Villa’s army as an observer. He participated in the Battle of Tierra Blanca and then disappeared without a trace. His last words were in a letter sent to a friend on December 26, 1913.

Bizarre Twist: Bierce’s disappearance is still a mystery today. In one of his final letters he seemed to predict his own death when he wrote that he could be stood up in front of stone wall and shot to death. “It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs,” he said.

Tennessee Williams

Age: 71

Occupation: Playwright

Most Notable Works: The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Night of the Iguana (1961)

Method of Death: Williams died in a hotel room in New York after choking on the cap of his nasal spray. There were half-empty bottles of booze and bottles of prescription drugs found in the room and it is likely that Williams was so drunk that he couldn’t save himself from choking. However, there are some people in Williams’ family who believe the playwright was murdered.

Bizarre Twist: Many of Williams plays deal with alcoholism, including his play Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

Hunter S. Thompson

Age: 67

Occupation: Gonzo Journalist, Non-fiction Author

Most Notable Works: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972), Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972 (1972), The Great Shark Hunt (1979)

Method of Death: Thompson was a self-described gun nut and lived in a compound in Woody Creek, Colorado. On February 20, 2005, he shot himself in the head. His family said Thompson committed suicide, not because he was depressed or mentally ill, but because he was sick with several conditions that gave him pain.

Bizarre Twist: Thompson mailed a suicide letter to his wife that read: “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won't hurt.”

Sherwood Anderson

Age: 64

Occupation: Novelist and Short-story Writer

Most Notable Works: Windy McPherson’s Son (1916), Marching Men (1919), Winesburg, Ohio (1919), Poor White (1920)

Method of Death: While at a party in Panama, Anderson (a major influence on Hemingway and John Steinbeck) choked on a toothpick which caused an inflammation of his abdominal passage and killed him – a cause of death known as peritonitis.

Bizarre Twist: How much more bizarre can you get than dying from a toothpick?

Robert E. Howard

Age: 30

Occupation: Pulp fiction Writer (notably the creator of Conan the Barbarian)

Most Notable Works: The Star Rover (1915), “The Phoenix on the Sword” (1932), “Rogues in the House” (1934), “Beyond the Black River” (1935), “The Man-Eaters of Zamboula (1935)

Method of Death: On the morning of June 11, 1936, Howard walked to his car after being told that his mother had lapsed into a coma and would be unlikely to ever wake up. Using a .38 revolver, he shot himself in the head. He lingered for half a day and died the day before his mother did. They were buried in a joint ceremony in Brownwood, Texas.

Bizarre Twist: The creator of one of the toughest, most merciless anti-heroes (Conan) in fiction killed himself because of his mother.

Sylvia Plath

Age: 31

Occupation: Novelist and poet

Most Notable Works: The Colossus and Other Poems (1960), The Bell Jar (1963), Ariel (1965), Letters Home (1975), The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (2000)

Method of Death: On the morning of February 11, 1963, Plath sealed herself in her kitchen and then used wet towels to seal the bottoms of the doors (allegedly to protect her children who were sleeping nearby). She turned on the gas to the oven and stuck her head inside.

Bizarre Twist: Plath left a note for herself on the kitchen table that said: “Call Dr. Horder.” Some people think this note was for her downstairs neighbor for when he discovered her inside the oven. This theory holds that Plath was only “attempting” suicide and didn’t mean to succeed.

Jack London

Age: 40

Occupation: Novelist and Short-story Writer

Most Notable Works: The Call of the Wild (1903), White Fang (1906), The Sea-Wolf (1904), The Iron Heel (1908)

Method of Death: The true cause of London’s death is still shrouded in mystery. Many people believe he committed suicide on November 22, 1916 on the porch of his ranch by taking an overdose of morphine. However, the official cause of his death was uremia (a renal failure caused when the kidneys fail). London was in extreme pain and taking large doses of morphine to fight the effects.

Bizarre Twist: London wrote often about suicide and in his short story “The Little Lady of the Big House” the hero is shot and has a doctor help him commit suicide.

Virginia Woolf

Age: 59

Occupation: Novelist and Non-fiction Author

Most Notable Works: Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), A Room of One’s Own (1929)

Method of Death: After the lukewarm reception of her biography of Roger Fry and depressed about the destruction of her home in London during World War II, Woolf stuffed rocks into the pockets of her dress and drowned herself in the River Ouse in England on March 28, 1941. Her body wasn’t recovered until nearly a month later.

Bizarre Twist: In a note she left to her husband, Woolf wrote in part: “I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came.”

Read our story about the music, movies and books that defined 20th century decades

Read our essay on the magic of children's literature author Margaret Wise Brown

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