Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

Aww, you guys, this is so cute.

 Darth Vader and Sonis not particularly weighty – really more a series of punchlines and moments than a narrative – but got a gentle, almost wistful sensibility in with all the sight gags. Darth Vader, it turns out, has the same kind of distracted, lightly exasperated style of parenting that a lot of us Xers have fallen into. Because it also turns out that kids don’t get irony for a very long time – or ever, if some of the comments I see on reviews are an indication – and sometimes irony is the only defense against potty training.

Sometimes these little toilet reads or impulse books can feel mercenary or half-assed, like they were just slapped together for a buck. I don’t get that vibe here at all, though I could be bringing my love of Jeffrey Brown in from other books I’ve read of his. But no, I’ll go with it: this has the feel of care, and also the near earnestness of Brown’s humor. He’s not sarcastic or mean, but at the same time he stays out of treacle or overt sentiment. God, it’s just so adorable.

I’m totes getting this for my brother-in-law. Shhh, nobody tell him.

Some of my Favorite TwiThings

Because I’m too old and sick this weekend, I could not partake in the midnight madness that was was the premiere of the second part of Breaking Dawn. I’m not going to pretend to fandom, but I have grown to love the Twilight franchise for its unabashed Mary Sue’d girliness. Sure, it’s totally regressive, and possibly even dangerous if taken too seriously – an undead virgin pedobear grooms his teenage girlfriend for domestic bliss? Shudder – but it’s no more alarming than any of the thousands of masculine fantasies that have some teenage asshole played by Shia LaBeouf blowing up most of the eastern seaboard because he lost his girlfriend or something. So many of the criticisms of Twilight are genderfails, angry at girls for being girls and wanting girl things.

But that doesn’t mean I’m above making fun of Twilight, because making fun makes fun. Here are some of my favorite things that come out of the Forksverse:

Buffy vs. Edward

Deleted Twilight Sex Scene
And this round-up from i09 that lists some of the scariest and most awesome Twilight merch available out there. 
So, have fun this weekend, Twihards. 

Unsafe on Any Screen

I’m really trying here to come up with a Walter Benjamin quote about media studies and engagement with popular culture, and I’m totally failing, which is about right. Obviously, I spend waaaay too much time reading all of y’alls lovely, personal reviews of all kinds of books. Books I would never read; books I have been warned away from; books I’ve been ordered to read; books I have on the long and growing list that I will never complete because some day I’m going to die. 

Even though I have less engagement with movies, as an art form, I compulsively read movie reviews as well. I have the reviewers I trust, and the reviewers I know that I can take anything they say and turn it inside out, so that a bad review becomes a recommendation. I have a passing interest in trash movies, but not a full-blown love affair. Mostly my affection for bad movies leads back to Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the times I spent with my family watching MST3K. My immediate family, growing up, was all-female, and I still have the warmest of memories of watching bad movies on Thanksgiving, with my mother & sister, in lieu of the football that was de rigueur in most co-ed households.

Scott S. Phillips doesn’t just have nostalgia to warm him when he watches grindhouse trash, he has a full-blown and well articulated love. This is awesome, and makes for a fine collection of movie reviews. Leonard Maltin, you may fu*k yourself. Many of the movies reviewed in this slender volume cannot be found on Netflix or even in your local video store, should you have such antiquated things in your location. You have to seek these movies out. They are made by people on no budget, with a group of friends, and a maniacal laugh. Or they were made on a budget and then disappeared. Phillips has an encyclopedic knowledge of the pedigree and taxonomy of trash cinema, so that he can draw lines between this director and that, this actor, this imprint, etc. Awesome. 

I get the impression that this book started life as a blog, so some of the reviews are annoying short. Kind of like my – and many people’s – early Goodreads reviews. But once he starts cooking, man, what a joy to behold. He has really weird grading scales: one about how many greased gorillas he’d fight to watch the film in question, and one about how many scotches, or whiskeys? it takes to get through the film. I endorse this. The scotch metric in particular, not because I especially love scotch, but because it can be either a bad or a good thing that a particular film is awarded the high scotch metric. I feel this way about a thousand things: that they are awesome, but they make me drink, or that they are terrible, and they make me drink. Or they are nothing at all and I remain sober. It gets at the whole deep ambivalence I feel towards so much stuff, even the stuff I love, in an intensely satisfying way. My only real complaint is that there is no index. At least the reviews are alphabetical. 

What it comes down to is that I’m as fascinated by the critical process as I am with the art/trash in question, and this book is as much a love letter to the silly fun we have while watching bad movies as it is to the movies themselves. His exuberance is infectious, like an alien pathogen beamed down to a small Italian village that infects a scantily clad babe. It’s going to eat someone’s brains, but it might just take its top off before it does so. 

Keep circulating the tapes.

Unsafe on Any Screen: Cinematic Sleaze and Cheese

Sexy Vernor Herzog

I probably don’t need to reiterate the diatribe I feel bubbling out of me every year at about Halloween, the one that bemoans the lack of Halloween costumes for women that don’t show off my ass. It’s cold here in Minnesota, in addition to my being too old for that crap. And get off my lawn. 

But! The Awl has thoughtfully compiled a number of sexy Halloween costumes which I can fully endorse, including such gems as Sexy Vernor Herzog and a Bowl of KFC Chicken. Considering what Werner once said about chickens:

“Well they are very frightening for me because their stupidity is so flat. You look into the eyes of a chicken and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity. They are like a great metaphor for me… I kind of love chicken, but they frighten me more than any other animal.”

You could get a friend to go as KFC while you rocked Werner, and spend the Halloween party chasing your friend around and crying. That would be great.