Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tropic Awesomeness

I laughed from beginning to end. The whole way through. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie stayed consistently funny. It's been an even longer time since I've seen a movie that stayed consistently funny and was also fucking brilliant. Tropic Thunder was fucking awesome.

What's great about this film is that it can be read on three different levels. I feel my claim is valid since I've now seen the film three times.

Level One: The Obvious
It's good to see Ben Stiller back in wacky hilarity. He always seems to play the same guy in all his films: neurotic macho man pussy (does that even make sense?) This film was no different. Yet, he was hilarious because of the circumstances in which he engaged. Jack Black was always a treat as he played a heroin addict jonesing bad for the dragon. Everyone in the cast (Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte, Steven Coogan, Tom Cruise, Matt McConaughey) all contributed funny parts to the film. With that all-star cast, it was like the Dark Knight of comedies. But the award for Best Actor goes hands down to Robert Downey, Jr. He plays an Australian Method actor playing a Black military sergeant. As he says, "I don't break character until the DVD commentary." While he could have crossed a major racial line, Downey, Jr. played it cool and simply offered hilarious insight on the egotistical actor.

Level Two: The Satire
Continuing from The Obvious, Downey, Jr. offers hilarious insight on the egotistical actor by making fun of him. The ridiculousness of a Method actor turning blackface for a role satirizes the stupid lengths some actors will go to learn more about a role. Ben Stiller ridicules the pompous action stars while Tom Cruise gives a little speech about the inevitability of stars going down (was he talking about himself?) Brandon T. Jackson's character Alpa Chino makes fun of musicians with different streams of revenue like energy drinks (cough cough 50 Cent cough cough). You think that they "love tha pussy" but it could all be a marketing gimmick to sell their crap while they "cradle the balls, work the shaft, the whole nine yards)." So many things they say are true. Excuse my political incorrectness but Downey, Jr. had it right: you never go full retard. The satire aspect brings about so many quotable quotes, too. Where to even begin? "I don't read scripts; scripts read me." "I'm a lead farmer, motherfucker!" "I killed one--the thing I love most. Oh my god, you killed a hooker. Ok, calm down, here's what you do. Get some bleach and a shitload of lyme."

But my favorite part of the film:

Level Three: The Self-Reflexive
Did anyone else feel like they were watching a movie? Think about it. The movie we are watching is the movie made at the end of the film. You're watching a film within a film within a film. The sheer fact of the camera pointing towards the audience turns the mirror towards us. It's like we're watching ourselves almost. You see a camera, you see a director, anything that has to do with a movie and suddenly the audience realizes that they are watching a movie. Doing so allows the audience to accept certain things that normally they wouldn't (like McConaughey's random appearance at the end). Because we know it's just a movie, we can suspend our disbelief that much more and appreciate it on a whole new level. On top of that, you had actors playing other actors in the film. Could Ben Stiller be based on Tom Cruise? Is Downey, Jr. making fun of classics like Marlon Brando? Alpa Chino is 50 Cent? Tom Cruise is every Jewish Hollywood producer? Although it was all completely absurd, it was the most realistic film in ages.

Watch the movie. You'll definitely Get Some.

Double Header

Is it me or are there bars around every corner of Downtown L.A.? That's what I started figuring out last Thursday when I went out with my dear friend Liz Whiz. There were places that we walked by that I had heard of like Casey's Irish Pub and, of course, infamous rooftop bar The Standard (I can't believe I haven't been here yet!). We decided to go to quieter bars where we could actually talk and catch up as she was in Scotland for the past year.Since we're both writers, like to read, and love to drink, we checked out The Library Bar (6th and Hope). For a Thursday night, this place was packed like a can of sardines. It was literally a struggle to move. Liz Whiz and I got our first drinks (gin & tonic and dirty martini, respectively) and made our way to a distant corner. After having barhopped in Burbank for the past couple weeks, it was good to see the Downtown crowd full of hipsters, hippies, young and old, classy and trashy. Some people I won't lie looked totally out of place. This one dude was wearing knee high socks, running shoes, cargo shorts, and a white beater. Oh yeah, he also had a mullet (you know, business in the front, party in the back).

The website says, "The Perfect Escape From The Hollywood Bar Scene." This slogan holds true as it is the Downtown crowd and not as pretentious, but I feel like Library Bar would have been way sweeter had it not been so full. It's one room with a bar in front and a lounge area around books in shelves in the back. That's pretty much it. While a cool concept, the enormous crowd ruined it for me. Check it out on a much more dead night like Sunday.

Having bounced, we decided to get our whiskey on and checked out Seven Grand (7th & Grand). The joint is known for its dizzying array of whiskeys from all over the world, served only four different ways (straight; waterback; on the rocks; sour). Liz Whiz needed to explore the fine list of ales as she wanted to see if they had her favorite whiskey from Scotland (they didn't). However, she chose a very exquisite Glen Guyon (sp?) that felt like fire going down my throat. The place was much bigger than Library Bar as it has two pool tables, a cigar shop in the back, and an outdoor patio that is every smoker's wet dream. I went to this place for the first time back in January. It was a Sunday night, which much to my delight, was also Blues night. It gained a much higher level of respect in my head.

We made our way outside and discussed varying topics from the kick-ass Obama to our most drunk stories of the semester (running through the backyards of Scotland makes for a good story, Liz Whiz!).

And then something happened that I had always heard of but confirmed that night. Like a desperate fucker, I asked a random stranger for a cigarette. This guy looked like one of those guys that was trying to relive his youth but through an older gentleman's appearance. He was ripped as hell, too. His name was Mateo, and he kindly scolded me for not having brought my own cigarettes. When I explained to him that I only smoke when drunk and henceforth drink quite a bit, he laughed and figured I was trustworthy. With that, he asked me what I did. I said Film Student. This is where the magic happens. His eyes widened a bit and said, "Oh! You should meet my friend." I was quickly introduced to two of his friends. One was an entertainment lawyer and the other worked for the E! Channel. We engaged in industry talk while Liz Whiz acted as my wingman as she entertained Mateo. I felt like I was hitting on girls but really was just networking. Maybe the two are one in the same. We all exchanged numbers and Liz Whiz and I decided to call it a night. We drove home blasting Classic Vinyl and talked about the epicness of Row Parties (Pre-Rush will be discussed in a future post) and how awesome Seven Grand is. It comes highly recommended.)

I told Gladly what had happened with the two film guys, and he dropped some knowledge on me: "Dude, bars are the best places to make connections. You already have one. It's called alcohol."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Drinking Russian

A couple of weekends ago, the great Jelf passed a landmark in his life: he turned 21. Now what's a 21 year old guy in Los Angeles to do to celebrate this historic day? Get drunk, of course. Hit up bars, of course. Jelf planned to do all these things, but on one condition: do it BIG. He got a huge roll out to come, rented a limo, and got us on the list to the kitschy Bar Lubitsch.

The only things this place has going against it are the epic line that permanently adorns the outside entrance (Jelf took care of this problem) and the expensive drinks menu (my flask filled with Black Label Whiskey took care of this problem). With these two weaknesses extricated, Bar Lubitsch turned out to be the sleeper hit of the summer.

This Russian decadent bar drenches you in red light and vodka upon entering the first room. The first thing I thought: "I just walked into a film noir with Russian gangsters. Awesome." L.A. hipsters and Hollywood wannabes drank and lounged and spit game around the bar and velvet booths. The only time I was in this first room was to get to the smoking area near the entrance and to return to the room where I spent most of my time: the back.

The back room is almost like the secret room of a "front" for Russian gangsters. You think you're going to exit after the you pass the bathrooms but then are greeted by a smaller bar to the right, tables on either side, moody dark lighting, a DJ spinning electronica mixed with rap, and a poppin' dance floor. Of course, I had to buy a martini, and yes, it was absolutely delicious. But the kicker: they mix the drink for you but then give you a small, personal shaker to pour it yourself. Either the bartender was lazy or it's some kind of cool novelty, but I thought it was a nice little touch to cap off an excellent Ketel One Vodka Dirty Martini.

After the cocktail, I drank Coke mixed with my whiskey, and I learned something valuable--even if you just order soda, bars are still really fucking expensive. One martini, two cokes, thirty bucks. Fuckin' L.A.

The rest of the night was spent blissfully drunk, trying to pick up girls, and talking enthusiastically at the smoking patio. I learned another valuable lesson--if you start talking to a girl, REMEMBER HER NAME. I found this out the hard way. I had been talking to a really cute girl wearing a bandanna and to be honest, thought it wasn't going anywhere, so I decided to go have a smoke with Bootyhole. Midway through the cig, Teiam runs out saying that he had been talking to the Bandanna Girl's friend and Bandanna Girl was asking for me. I finished the smoke and went back for round two.

Mind you, by this time, I was Flirting Under the Influence.

Kage (trying to act cool): Well, hey there again. Miss me?
Bandanna Girl: I haven't decided yet.
Kage: You've just been sitting here the whole night. Let's go dance.
Bandanna Girl: On two conditions. First, how old are you?

I seriously did consider busting out the line "However old you want me to be," but thankfully whatever sobriety I had left saved me from this embarrassment.

Kage: 21. You?
Bandanna Girl: 27.
Kage: Chance! (she had no idea what that meant) So what was the other condition?
Bandanna Girl: What's my name?

I'm not gonna lie, I was fucking stumped. The bar was loud. Conversation is hard in bars and clubs. I don't know how people hook up at these places, but I'm working on it. I did the only thing I could do: I tried to change the subject by asking her about music. We discovered we both shared huge passions for My Morning Jacket. She saw right through my ploy, though.

Bandanna Girl: Remember my name yet?

I decided to chance it and take a guess.

Kage: Ok, you look like either a Lisa or a Lauren.
Bandanna Girl: It's Chelsea.
Kage: Wow, I was way off. But hey, you gotta give me points, though. You really do look like a Lisa or Lauren.

Somehow, I managed to save myself and finally got her out on the dance floor. I was disappointed, though because A) she was an awkward dancer, and B) her friend came out to dance with us and proceeded to initiate Operation: Cockblock. It was time to move on.

(I fucking love this photo. Found on Google.)

Minutes later, I turned into Rage Kage and took a cab back to the house with Buckner and Kiddo. There, I wreaked havoc upon Flounder in his room (sorry for kicking your bed while you were in it, dude). I woke up the next morning with my face full of leather couch from the downstairs TV room.

The thing I learned most from this experience: the Russians know how to party.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Classic Vinyl

Heads, up kids:

I've just created a gallery website where I will be putting all my photos up now. Whenever you're in the mood, come check it out. There's a link in the top right corner. The URL is


If you ever get the chance to listen to Sirius Satellite Radio, I highly suggest you turn to Channel 14: Classic Vinyl. After chilling at Mumbles' place one lazy Friday, I turned to this station and was blown away by the back-to-back-to-back-to-back, etc. hits they played. Not only is there no-commercial interruption, but it's from a distinct era of classic rock that truly endures: the vinyl legends of the 60s and 70s. I'm talking Zeppelin, The Doors, The Stones, Moody Blues, Allman Brothers, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, James Gang, The Who (a lot of fuckin' Who), Santana, Beatles, Jethro, Creedence--holy shit, man, every song just stuns.

So expand your mind a little. Open those doors of perception. Every band on this station did.

Classic Vinyl:
1. Strange Days by The Doors
2. The Kids Are Alright by The Who
3. Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf
4. Time of the Season by The Zombies
5. Aqualung by Jethro Tull
6. Funk #49 by James Gang
7. Free Ride by Edgar Winter Group
8. From The Beginning by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
9. Blue Sky by The Allman Brothers
10. Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan
11. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
12. Tuesday's Gone by Lynard Skynard
13. Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin
14. Tale of Brave Ulysses by Cream
15. Unconscious Power by Iron Butterfly
16. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival
17. Celluloid Hero by The Kinks
18. Europa by Santana

Added at 11:27 p.m.

Classic-er Vinyl
1. The Letter (live) by Joe Cocker
2. Obviously 5 Believers by Bob Dylan
3. Pusher Man by Steppenwolf
4. N.S.U. by Cream
5. Speak to Me / Breathe by Pink Floyd
6. Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin
7. Can't You Hear Me Knockin' by The Rolling Stones
8. I'm Just A Singer In A Rock 'N Roll Band by The Moody Blues
9. Livin' in the U.S.A. by Steve Miller Band
10. Show Me The Way by Peter Frampton
11. Fire by Jimi Hendrix
12. Hey Tonight by Creedence Clearwater Revival
13. Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
14. My Eyes Have Seen You by The Doors
15. C'est La Vie by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
16. Black Magic Woman by Santana
17. Why Can't We Be Friends by War
18. I'm A Man by Chicago
19. The Wind by Cat Stevens
20. Summertime by The Zombies

Rock hard.

The Express Leaves at 4:20

At least 45% of the theater was stoned. They had to be. This was a movie made for stoners by stoners. The movie is obviously meant to be watched stoned.

So why wasn't it funnier?

A couple of nights before The Cobra, Gladly, Natatat, and I went to go see the highly anticipated Pineapple Express, we were all chilling at Teiam's house for a good ol' fashioned kickback.

Sitting around the firepit, Ratfuck began spitting verbal abuse about the stoner opus. He listed several facts about why Pineapple could perhaps be one of the worst movies of the year. I figured he was just being too critical because of its misrepresentation of smoking and smoking-lifestyle. He stated that it was too absurd, too outlandish to even be believable and that the Apatow crew expected the audience to laugh simply because Dale and Saul are stoned the entire movie.

I didn't want to believe him, so I tried to forget everything he said.

Back to Saturday night. After getting psyched and pumped and ready for the pot picture, we eagerly waited in our seats. The film began, and an hour and fifty minutes later, I left the theater with mixed feelings.

Since then, The Cobra, Gladly, and Natatat have all stated that the more they think about it, the more they realize a sad notion: Pineapple Express was not that funny of a movie.

What happened? Usually the Apatow stamp is a clear indicator of comedic gold.

I think there are several things that went wrong with the film. First, let me make this clear, though: while I definitely see what Ratfuck and Flounder were saying about the movie, I don't think it was as bad as they made it out to be. Sure, the movie flops for the most part, but some parts of the film were pure genius.

The first thing that didn't work was that it lacked "the Apatow touch," meaning it didn't have the thing that made it an Apatow movie. Namely, it was not based in reality. Apatow characters are characters of people that you know, or people that you feel you know. When I watched Knocked Up for the first time, I cried laughing and was a little disturbed because I felt like I was watching my friends and me doing the same things they do, saying the same things they say. It's also a story that could happen to anyone: guy knocks up girl, does responsible thing, tries to make it work, hilarity ensues. I've heard people say they were surprised that Pineapple Express was not only a stoner comedy but also a serious action film. I kept wondering, "Why the hell don't you just go to the cops?" Sure, it can be attributed to stoner paranoia, but that's almost a cop-out. I guarantee you that in the face of danger, a person would sober up or at least think more clearly.

Unless it was really really good weed.

Secondly, and this was Ratfuck and Flounder's point: the movie assumes that just because they are stoned means that it'll be funny. Oh look at Seth Rogen fall because he's stoned. Look at him cough and say stupid things because he's stoned. Oh, the hilarity! Just wasn't buying it. It's true, some things were said because they were stoned so it was funny. It should be the other way: first it's funny, so when you're stoned, it's even funnier.

Third, the plot is extremely weak. The ending is very anti-climactic. There just wasn't enough story to keep the audience engaged for nearly two hours. The only other character worth noting was Red, played by the brilliant and up and coming Danny McBride. After the first thirty minutes, the rest of the film is a long overdrawn chase scene.

Lastly, and this is the part that really bothers me: it's a film where the best scenes were shown in the trailer. Don't you hate it when that happens? Trailers are free online and on television; I didn't need to pay 12 bucks to watch a two-hour trailer. The scene where Franco gets his foot car in the windshield--I know that if I had not seen that in the trailer, tears of laughter would have been streaming down my face. Every time I saw a scene from the trailer on screen, I didn't even flinch.

I don't know what it was, but I left the theater wondering where those two hours went. I feel a movie is comedic gold when it is easily quotable. I could and still only can think of two good quotes from the film:

Girl to Seth Rogen: I wanna marry you!
Seth Rogen: Oooh, umm, shit. Yeah, I think I made a huge mistake. You're way too immature to date.

Seth to cop after being busted with weed: It's medicinal! I'm anorexic! I need it to eat!

The movie had its moments. I mean, after all, it was like Freaks and Geeks: The Fucked-Up Reunion with the great comedy duo of Rogen and Franco. Rogen is his typical self: fat, lazy, and stoned. Franco is a godsend--he's like the Jeff Spiccoli of our generation.

But other than that, the movie really, sadly, was subpar. C'mon, Apatow, you know you can do better than this. It might just be that the Apatow train is losing steam. After all, they have just been overwhelming theaters with their movies. It could be time for a break. Don't release another movie until next year(Funny People due in 2009 starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, and Jason Schwartzman [what a cast!] looks promising). I'm sure Pineapple Express will be a hit on DVD, with high school and college kids watching it the "way it is supposed to be watched."

I'm sure by then I can remember some more quotes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Home is where the heart is, and I guess that means my heart resides in Burbank, CA. Burbank's an interesting place. When you're a kid, you love it. The flag-football rivalries between schools, the country fairs, carnivals, and farmer's markets. Downtown Burbank with its expansive illustrious mall, 3 movie theaters within a 3 block radius, and of course, In-N-Out. Burbank's got it all.

But there's a certain point where you start thinking about how lame Burbank really is. I don't know if I passed that threshold when I moved to college or when I turned 21, but I've reached my limit. When you turn 21, all you want to do is go to bars (says the alcoholic in me). And this is where Burbank lacks promise.

Living in downtown and going to downtown bars for the past three years, I've gotten used to the glitz and glam and culture and sophistication of it. Places like The Golden Gopher, Seven Grand, Veranda Bar, The Edison--these places require a certain stylized wear and attract roughly the same crowds--the hipster eclectic of Los Angeles . . . and really hot girls. Burbank, not so much.

I've hit up The Blue Room about three more times since that first magical encounter with Mel from Flight of the Conchords. Each time has honored the same tradition--drinking and scoping. Scoping is key when going out. You know you've done it: you give the room a quick wide scan to locate the most attractive guy or girl in the place and size up your confidence for a possible interaction later in the evening. What I've noticed about The Blue Room is that when I "scope" out the place, all the bar patrons are way older than me. Observe this quick interaction between Gladly and a female two weeks ago:

Female: Hey, how old are you boys?
Gladly: Around 22. Why do you ask?
Female: Just wondering (goes to girlfriends, tells them, they all start laughing and looking back at us)

Judging by her looks, this woman had to be at least a million years old (or 29 unsarcastically). That same night, two weeks ago, we hit up the Fantasia Billiards Hall and Bar. The place was packed with townies at least 4 years ahead of me. By this time, I was a little too influenced by Cuervo to really take notice of these townies. It wasn't until I went this past Friday for a quick drink before Step Brothers that I became well-aware of the Burbank social elite.

Sitting outside with beers and cigarettes, Gladly and I discussed the differences between downtown bar culture and Burbank bar culture:

1. People wear Crocs at Burbank bars. 'Nuff said.
2. Burbank is becoming dominated by the Armenian and Mexican cultures. There were a lot of guys with hairy chests, goatees, and cheap gold jewelry.
3. I did not see any single girls. If there was a girl, she was already with a guy. I feel that this says a lot about meeting people at bars in Burbank.
4. The martinis suck.

However, the most "Burbank" experience I have had does not involve the use of alcohol at all. In fact, it was a conversation that took place outside the 7-Eleven on Glenoaks and Cypress:

Gladly (smoking cigarette and looking inside): Hey, I think I went to school with those kids.
Kage: The ones buying donuts?
Gladly: Yeah. Dude, they look really stoned.
Kage: Yeah, man. Even the Asian kid looks super stoned because you can't see his eyes.

Then, a super tiny little blonde kid with black ball piercings and his taller, fatter black friend make their way into 7-Eleven next to the two stoner kids. The two small kids could not have been any older than eleven years old. They exit 7-Eleven and start suspiciously loitering near us. I quickly make sure my wallet's in my back pocket and get ready in case shit goes down. You gotta always be prepared, no matter the size of your foe.

Black kid: Yo, man. You smoke?
Gladly and Kage: Yeah, man. We're smoking now.
Black kid: Shit, man. How long you been smoking?
Gladly: I'd say since around 16 or 17.
Kage: 'Round senior year of high school.
Gladly: But seriously, man, you shouldn't start on it. It's not worth it, trust me. We're lost causes, but you still have a chance.

The white kid hides behind the trash can, jumps out, and hits a car with a spit wad from his spit straw.

White kid: Score!
Black kid: You drink?
Gladly and Kage: Yeah, man.
Black kid: How old are you?
Gladly and Kage: 21.
Black kid: What the hell are you doing here then?
Gladly: Oh you know shooting the shit. But we're about to paint the town red, hit the bar for a drink, go see Step Brothers, and then hit up a party in Eagle Rock by some Bell-Jeff kids. Wild night (sarcastically)
Black kid: Cool, man. You drive?

At this point, I'm thinking two things: a) I know exactly where this conversation is heading, and b) Get to it already so I can say no.

Finally we decide to bounce. We say bye to the kids and give them sound words of advice (Don't start drinking until at least college). Then, my forecast is proven true as the black kid yells, "Yo, man, can I get a cigarette?!"

Gladly and Kage: Were you not listening?! NO.

I don't know what happened to my Burbank. It used to be such a nice little suburb and now it's just shadesters left and right. It's like Hot Topic exploded all over the city. It's cool when you're young, hanging out at Fuddruckers and playing Time Crisis. It's okay when you're way older and are raising a family because of the good schools and lack of gangs (so I assume).

But that in-between period is a real bitch.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Drinking with friends is always awesome. Drinking with co-workers, though, is an experience. At work, people are all about the jobs, and you're not really sure what jokes you can make or things you can talk about or even if you're allowed to talk because you have work to do. After hours, everyone loosens up (give or take a couple drinks), and you suddenly realize these people have lives outside of work, just like you! I had the pleasure of doing so this past week and had a fantastic time at a bar in Santa Monica called Air-Conditioned (yes, it had air-conditioning). This is perhaps one of Santa Monica's best kept secrets--the entrance is not flashy at all. If I hadn't known where I was going, I would never have guessed the place to be so classy inside.

Air-Conditioned is a small wine, champagne, and cold beer bar. I know, right? I didn't know that a bar could be so limited to those three drinks. I hear great things about the wine selection, but I just wasn't feeling like having una copa de vino, so I stuck with my two old friends Newcastle and Corona for the night. As I drank and listened to inside scoop from the office, I noticed something that rattled me. I don't know if it was the alcohol, but I swear I saw a baby standing on top of the bar. It was like an Ally McBeal flashback. I blinked my eyes thrice, took a sip of my beer, and confirmed it--there was a baby standing on top of the bar, being held by I'm assuming the father. The father was talking to the bartender, and my co-worker Toast (sorry, hun, it was just too perfect a nickname) commented that the bartender must be the mother. I thought to myself, "That or he's using the kid as a pick-up." It was just so unusual to see this in a retro-modern bar like Air-Conditioned, with its brown walls, super high ceilings, and DJ in the corner spinning sweet electronica. If you're ever on Pico and Stewart in Santa Monica, check this place out for a nice drink and intimate conversation.