Monday, February 28, 2011

The Step Up-a-thon

Traditions are like the ratings for Two & a Half Men – they help to justify a lot of things. Not everything (hopefully), but just enough to allow you to condone blatant acts of stupidity. And so, as one television company has persisted in embracing Charlie Sheen, I have decided to persist in embracing marathon viewings of classic movies and the B-grade sequel spawn they produce.

Step Up-a-thon 2011 was its own sequel of sorts, a follow-up to the brain-melting Bring It On-a-thon of 2010. While BIO-a-thon contained a grueling 5 films, the Step Up franchise has mercifully only managed to release 3 world-changing volumes to date.

Once again I put the call-out to friends, housemates and colleagues that they could join me in the latest of my history making, taste-killing, logic-defying filmic outings. I offered them a world of pop, lock and robot moves like they had never seen it before. Surprisingly, very few people answered the call. Even the indiscriminate Peta, with whom I once sat through an unofficial Cutting Edge-a-thon*, bowed out.

Fi and Kat agreed to take part… and that was all that could be mustered. We decided to embrace the svelte bodies and toned abs with our own tribute in the form of baked goods. We had 309 minutes of cinematic suicide to attend to, it was time to Step up.

12:45pm – Step Up

Channing Tatum remains just as delightful to watch as always (though the jury’s still out on the acting part), his past as a stripper has served him well. All the best clichés were on show – boy from wrong side of the tracks, upper class girl with an evil boyfriend (the best shortcut to showing how evil the existing boyfriend is seems to be through his constant use of the word ‘babe’ and overt application of hair product, the more hair product the more evil and undeserving he is), the sassy friends from a minority ethnicity who will find fulfillment simply by providing pithy observations on the relationship of the 2 leads. Mick inexplicably parked himself in the lounge room for this installment, only managing to lightly heckle the proceedings while pretending to be checking his laptop.
Verdict = adorably accessible, stupidly melodramatic, almost manages to be as gritty as it pretends to be… it gets me every time. Extra props because Channing married his co-star and is still with her (if I knew how to swoon, I’d almost find this a worthy occasion).

2:50pm – Step Up 2: The Streets

When in doubt, reverse the premise – girl from the wrong side of the tracks, upper class boy with an evil ex girlfriend. But still, some questions must be answered… Why is hip-hop dancing considered an inexplicably threatening, borderline illegal act in this film? Have we accidentally stepped onto the set of Footloose? Why is there a trampoline in the floor? Who is going to break it to Briana Evigan that she’s not black? Did they simply come up with a catchy title and then force a plot around it? Should a film have credited script writers when there’s so little dialogue and so much dancing? Was Channing contractually obligated to return for 3 scenes to justify the ‘sequel’ label? Most mortifyingly, is this movie where I got some of the dance moves I tried and failed to recreate last Friday night?
Verdict = Stupid, while making me wish I could be part of a dance crew.

4:30pm – Step Up 3D

Bless their cotton socks, they continue to make the sequel numeral an oh-so active part of the title. They also seem utterly set upon giving a sense of continuity to the franchise, so about 5 characters from the last film are transplanted to New York for this one, plus 1 character most people forgot was in the first film. AND they’ve inserted ‘in-jokes’ that only become apparent when you’re watching all the films back-to-back. Add a bizarre set of fictional universe quirks that have vagrant dancers living in a warehouse together (while running a club in the basement), a man with a boom-box implanted in his jacket (all the better to dance-duel with you see), and the ridiculous, constantly used word B-FAB (Born From A Boom-box) and you practically have half a film.
Verdict = logic is dead, long live dance – only for people who are invested in the fate of a character called Moose, or intent on watching the careers of every single soapie actress that claws her way out of Australia.

This marathon may have killed dance movies for me for a while – by the end very little actually impressed me. I’m glad I claimed this now though, before Step Up 4Ever was released next year and the official Step Up-a-thon expanded out to trample what is left of my brain.

I will take suggestions for 2012, but for some reason a Fast & Furious-a-thon is sounding like a potential change of pace.

Painefull Out

* = the Cutting Edge-a-thon was unofficial due to the amount of fast-forwarding we engaged in (though that didn’t stop us viewing the special features section of Cutting Edge 2: Going For Gold, which included the lead actress sincerely explaining “It’s the timeless tale of 2 Olympic ice-skaters who fall in love while competing”… the timeless tale so nice they did it thrice… well 4 times now, a new one just came out).

And now for a few words from the HIGHEST paid television actor in the world…

“I have a disease?” he said. “Bulls—. I cured it… with my mind… it’s all good guys. Quit panicking. No panic, no judgment… You can kill me but you do not have the right to judge me… I can’t use the word sober because that’s a term from those people, and I have cleansed myself. I have closed my eyes and in a nanosecond I cured myself from this ridiculous… It’s just the work of sissies. The only thing I’m addicted to right now is winning. You know? This bootleg cult arrogantly referred to as AA now supports a 5 percent success rate. My success rate is 100 percent. Do the math! One of their stupid mottos is ‘Don’t be special, be one of us.’ News flash: I am special and I will never be one of you. ‘Oh, we have to all sit in here and touch ourselves and frown.’ Well, you don’t look like you’re having a lot of fun. I’m going to hang out with these two smokin’ hotties and fly privately around the world. It might be lonely up here but I sure like the view.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meet Me Halfway

My week in quotes…

“Have you heard of the band the Black Eyed Peas? Well, meet me halfway…” – the embarrassing attempt at negotiation by a used car salesman. His desperation made it difficult to look him in the eye. Unfortunately for him he was dealing with the unrelenting bargaining strategy of Mother Painefull. He didn’t stand a chance, and quoting a song lyric from a band my mother didn’t know existed wasn’t going to help him.

“Obama has stepped down!” – 4am text from Livinia, who is currently living in Germany.

“Ignore! Major miss-hearing! Meant Mubarak!” – 4:05am text from Livinia. New languages do take time after all.

“I swerved to hit my first possum at the age of 16…” – my supervisor, who is so sweet and gentle that I had previously imagined her engaging in duets with animated birds in her spare time. Apparently this possum-killing thing is a perfectly acceptable past time in New Zealand. Then again, she intentionally creates road kill, so can I trust a word she says?

“Find out his weaknesses – likes food… or boobs. Then make that food… or get them out. So… food and boobs.” – sage advice from Helena at work on the art of seduction.

“So long big red…” – a text from Fi farewelling my beloved Red Wagon. I hummed it the Last Post as I drove it into the smash repair shop that was ready to usher it into the great big car yard in the sky. When I asked the guy at the shop whether any part of Big Red might be salvaged for some later use he simply looked at the car and laughed.

Painefull Out

Monday, February 14, 2011

R.I.P. Big Red

And now the time has come to part with that most loyal, ardent, reliable and trusted of friends – my first car. It has served me far better than I deserved, especially considering that I drove it at times in way that one usually reserves for dodgem cars.

It’s only fitting that I pay homage with a trip down memory lane…

The First Cut Is The Deepest…

Nothing signifies the start of a new year at university quite like reversing at full speed into the crisp, white, brand new parked car owned by the woman in charge of handing out food in the dining hall. While I assumed this act of gross incompetence (which occurred in the summer of ‘03) would get me fed less, she was so grateful that I left a note with my details that she actually fed me more. Not only did Big Red get me from A to B, but he also kept me in hot chips throughout my uni career.

No Denting My Resolve…

Big Red also taught me to bring balance into my life, specifically through the act of balancing a discman (yes, a discman, that olde chestnut) on my lap and changing CD’s while driving between Bathurst and the Dor on weekends. I was forced into this life lesson when the tape deck in the Wisest of Wagons ceased working… it felt like a punishment at the time, but really it was just saving me from listening to nothing but a Norah Jones tape for 3 hour stretches.

Bending Like A Reed In The Wind…

The above comes from a particularly flexible moment in Big Red’s parking abilities, whereby instead of avoid a giant cement post in the carpark of my first job out of uni, I chose simply to wrap the vehicle around said post. That’s how parking spaces are made people.

The Key To Everything…

Nothing gives a car character like its first moment getting keyed. The origins of this mark remain mysterious. Equally mysterious was why the front passenger door suddenly stopped opening from the inside – it was a source of constant amusement watching people try and get out of my car. It was also the source of some dismay when my sister Mrs Woog once suffered from a horrible bout of food poisoning as I drove her home, only for her to discover she couldn’t escape the automobile without my assistance. After over a year of being amused Mother Painefull finally guilted me into getting the door fixed. She also insisted I got the handle I had accidentally snapped off the outside of the drivers door re-attached.

On It Bonnet (Don’t Go Messing With My Hood)…

And so we come to the final straw. While journeying out to the Dor I managed an impressively complicated rear-ending of the car in front of me while trying to change lanes. I was eerily calm – whether it was my pulling out onto the road into a vehicle as it went by last year, or having a man accidentally snap off one of my side mirrors as I drove past the year before that, these incidents have lost a little bit of their drama somewhere along the way. I did however manage to briefly have the trauma-induced idea that the guy I rear-ended might have been cute ("You see honey, your father and I met when I took him from behind"), though said guy abandoned all potential attractive-ness via 2 nagging phone calls within an hour after that (why he didn't trust my extensive, hard won knowledge of the car insurance claims system is beyond me).

But it seems even Big Red can only take so much. Even though he still runs like a dream the smash repair people explained, in sympathetic tones, that as the Wagon is so ancient (it's how the West was won after all) the parts to fix it don't exist anymore, thus making it a technical write-off... sob. And so I engage in one final hurrah, my last few days of glory with the old guy before he goes to the great big car yard in the sky (though this hurrah can not occur at night time, as he is no longer able to light his own way).

I’m not the only one in mourning mind you. Here are some moving last words from my family…

“How exciting – I’m going to go and google Rav-4’s… ooh, you should get a green MG I spotted the other day!” – Mother Painefull (fighting back tears)

“Well done, that car smelt like crap.” – Mrs Ryan (calling with condolences)

“RIP Painefull’s crap piece of shit car.” – Mrs Woog (email headline to entire family)

I’ll miss you big guy. I’ll miss the fact that your windows don’t close properly anymore, leading to a perpetual breeze. I’ll miss friends constantly pointing out old battle scars on you, somehow thinking they’re fresher/bigger than before. I’ll miss the easy knowledge that if I open my boot I’ll discover 3 umbrellas, 1 pair of heels, a picnic rug, a pile of notebooks, a copy of one of the Adrian Mole novels, an battery the size over an over-fed guinea pig, 4 disgusting water bottles, a beach chair and a large orange monkey.

You gave me a close relationship with the 2 NRMA guys who worked shifts at Bathurst, the ability to change a tyre in less than 10 minutes, the experience of getting towed off the Anzac bridge while copping abuse during peak hour traffic, the miss-guided self-belief to drive down a rather unsafe set of logging roads outside Oberon and the confidence to know that no matter how badly I parked I couldn’t make you look any worse. And you listened to me sing. No one should have to listen to me sing.

I salute you old friend.

Painefull Out

Observe & Report (aka The Bag of Justice)

If ever I doubted my ability to fight crime, it was while watching footage of a 71-year-old grandmother run up, pick a fight with six armed men, and shock them into retreat using nothing but a handbag. Those boys are going to get hell in jail – and they thought losing to a girl in primary school was tough on the reputation, try losing to a granny in crime.

Retiree 1. Thuggish armed robbers 0.

I was also once a witness to a smash and grab, with far less heroic, or even remotely noble results. Not only did Nanny Mayhem shame me with her athleticism, I couldn’t even compete with her as a reliable witness.

I was ambling up Martin Place on my way to work a touch before 3am when a car drove past me, down the promenade. As Martin Place is not actually vehicular friendly (or indeed legally vehicular) I found this fact passing odd, but as I had only rolled out of bed bleary-eyed 15 minutes and one bridge-crossing earlier I shrugged it off as bizarre choice of shortcut and continued walking. When the car then proceeded to reverse back up Martin Place I momentarily assumed the driver had realized he was breaking the road rules and was simply trying to undo the act. I paused to give the group the smugly judgmental look they deserved.

That was when the car stopped beside me, three men jumped out and one of them took to the glass doors of a Prada store with a sledgehammer. Needless to say my presence felt both awkward and invasive during what was clearly a very private retail moment.

My first real mental struggle regarded whether this would be considered an emergency. I didn’t want to be one of those thoughtless types clogging up phone lines to report petty criminals with high end tastes.

My second struggle involved what was probably one of the single worst acts of witnessing in recorded police history. The 000 call went something like this…

Operator: How many men are there?

Painefull: 3… I think.

O: What colour is the car?

P: Um… blue-ish…

O: What are the men wearing?

P: Pants and shirts… with long sleeves.

O: Can you see the number plate?

P: Not really… wait… maybe I should put on my glasses. Should I put on my glasses?

O: (admirably calm) Yes.

P: Just… getting my glasses… out… bare with me, they’re somewhere… here they are, my glasses are on. Oh shit, the boot’s up, they’re putting stuff in – I can’t see the number plate anymore. Sorry.

O: What are they putting in the boot?

P: I’m not really familiar with Prada merchandise… looks like bags.

My attempts at witnessing only got worse when I gave an official statement. Cars and colours are just not my thing.

Interviewer: What kind of car was it?

P: I don’t know…

I: (encouraging, almost hopeful) Was the car a hatchback? Or a sedan?

P: I don’t really know what those things mean… I own a Toyota Corolla, and it looked nothing like that.

I: You say the car was blue… what kind of blue.

(pause while I squint thoughtfully)

I: Was it… cobalt?

P: I… don’t actually know what that colour is. ‘Cobalt’ is one of those words I often hear, and know I’m meant to know, but don’t, but pretend I do. Kind of like ‘sedan’. And ‘hatchback’.

My witnessing was actually so bad, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cops tailed me for a while just to check if I was a criminal mastermind who was playing dumb. Kaiser Soze I am not.

Now imagine you’ve just witnessed a crime. Badly. Then imagine you work in a media organisation where you will be expected to narrate your bad witnessing of a crime on camera. Then imagine it’s such a slow news day your horrible, incompetent witnessing manages to make it in to the 6pm news. You would think somewhere between 3am and 6pm a more substantial crime would have occurred.

Clearly I have much to learn from Bag Woman. She’s better than the A-Team and Charlie’s Angels combined – she doesn’t require a remake, because she’s still kicking. And swinging the Bag Of Justice.

Wonder if she needs a side-kick.

Painefull Out

Monday, February 7, 2011

It Started With Eyebrows & Ended With A Cat

Friday was one of those days without a purpose – it started with eyebrows and ended with a cat. Those two things aren’t connected (cruel, and occasionally accurate feline analogies about the copious amounts of hair on my face aside) by anything but a series of seemingly random events (several of which were driven by my unending desire to eat).

After a tweezer-filled, flinch-inducing encounter with my industrious Brow Girl I found myself wondering what I could have for Second Breakfast. Somehow that led me to conclude I should drop in unannounced on my older sister Mrs Woog and her rather well-supplied pantry of treats and cheese slices. From there Mrs Woog and I took the natural hop, step and a valet park to a nearby eatery that served dumplings. Somewhere in there I also ended up sampling a mega block of toblerone (it made sense at the time).

So far, so full, but it was then that my casual eating tour of the north shore was interrupted by a rather tragic turn of events. Enter the cat. His name was Wilson. It was as Mrs Woog and I were miss-quoting Clueless to each other (“Why learn to park? Everywhere you go has valet”) that we learnt Wilson, the devoted Cat Lord of my young nephew Barry was more than a little unwell. According to test results Wilson was riddled with cancer.

Ultimately this all led to a sad farewell that afternoon to Wilson, and an even sadder Barry who wept silently in the back of the car after his mum explained the terrible news.

I was okay myself, hardened by my own track-record of pet love, loss and occasional terror. The terror mostly came in the form of the first family pet I can remember. It was a grizzled cat called Kimba, who could easily have been mistaken for a stray. Inexplicably my family tagged the intimidating beast (we had a German Shepherd and a Doberman who lived below it in the backyard pecking order) with an adaptation of an old school chant that only retrospectively seems troublesome…

That girl Painefull is no good
Chop her up for firewood
If she is no good for that
I’ll feed her to Kimba the cat

My family has a long history of adapting for its own purposes, I only recently realized my favourite childhood nursery rhyme may have actually been an advertising jingle.

Myself, I tend to choose pets that seem to annoy other pets. Back when I was in single digits, I was cleaning my bird cage one day as the brown-feathered Bert stuck his head between the bars to breath in one furtive gasp of freedom. Unfortunately for Bert his timing was off (it always had been, he was constantly head-butting things he intended to peck). Basil the Doberman was wondering by, and with one easy swallow bit Bert’s head off, without even slowing down to take in the repercussions. Bert’s soul & cage-mate Ernie was never the same.

Then there was the miniature Schnauzer Pepper who caused homicidal urges in just about everyone but me. One day she so enraged a Rottweiler called Lucy that the larger dog actually attempted to eat her. It was probably only the nagging certainty that Pepper was the kind of dog that would have caused indigestion that stopped Lucy midway and led to Pepper taking on the appearance of some sort of Franken-puppy.

In fact as Mrs Woog and I gave Wilson one final pat my family’s Pepper-rage once again reared its head.

ME: I’ll stay with him for the end if you like – if you don’t want him to be alone.

MW: I couldn’t ask you to do that…

ME: It’s okay, it wouldn’t be nice, but he’s your pet so I totally understand if you can’t be here. I mean if it was Pepper I couldn’t watch the end…

MW: If it was Pepper I’d be holding the needle.

You’ll be pleased to know that Pepper had died many years earlier of natural causes, valiantly resisting toilet training, and soiling my sibling’s belongings right till the end.

As affecting as Barry’s grief was, I considered myself unsentimental enough to recover. In order to avoid the (RIDICULOUS) heat, I took myself off to a screening of ‘How Do You Know’, which despite its name did not contain an underlying message about the importance of avoiding punctuation. All good and well, but around halfway through the film a character tells a story that ends with the death of a cat. And there it was. It had me at dead cat, it had me at dead cat. I actually found myself tearing up like some hormone-crazed pregnant woman, as if somehow Owen Wilson was really speaking to me on a deeper level.

Fortunately, as a solo act in a cinema full of couples, no one paid any attention as I (very, very briefly) dabbed at my eyes. Let us never speak of this again.

Eventually Barry and I were bound to recover. The second half of my mega toblerone helped me, and hopefully realising how lucky he was to know Wilson will help Barry.

Painefull Out