Thursday, October 27, 2005

Atlanta after dark

Was in Atlanta for work last week, which means it took me a hell of a long time to get a new review up. But far be it from me to keep you from another dose of my sparkling prose, so I hope you didn't miss me too much.

But first a word about Atlanta. Mrs. Fabulous went with me on the trip, and because she has family and friends there, I've gotten to know the place better over the past few years. As much as it pains this Yankee Blue-stater to admit it, I've grown kinda fond of it. I've learned the difference between downtown, Midtown and Buckhead; I've had Tapas at Fuego and dinner at the City Grill; and although I haven't been to the Fox Theater yet, I've seen it and will get their soon-- I just missed a show by the String Cheese Incident earlier this month. Every time we head down, Mrs. Fabulous tries to show me another piece of the city.

This time we saw the world-famous Cyclorama that depicts the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War in the form of a 360-degree, 30-foot tall painting with accompanying diorama. I'm a Civil War buff, and let me tell you that it was pretty spectacular. The after-party for the world premiere of Gone With the Wind was held at the Cyclorama in 1939, and Clark Gable himself is immortalized in the form of a dead Confederate soldier in the diorama. There are movie connections everywhere.

But the best part of the trip was the Clairmont Lounge. If you're an Atlantan, then you know whereof I speak. Mrs. Fabulous had partied here on many an evening, and was determined to get me there on this trip. Billed as the strip club for people who hate strip clubs, the Clairmont is located in the basement of the Clairmont Hotel on Ponce de Leon. It's no bigger than a breadbox. The featured beer is Pabst Blue Ribbon. Its main attraction is Blondie, the obese stripper who crushes beer cans between her size 36-FF tits. The rumor is that she once sent a man to the hospital with a neck injury after whacking him upside the head with one these giant beefsteak tomatoes. The place is supposed to be fun and kitzchy rather than depressing and skanky, like most strip clubs. College kids go to drink and hook up and couples go to take a walk on the wild side.

Unfortunately, we went on a Monday night, which is apparently regulars night. When we got there, we saw about five middle-aged men hunched around the bar and about the same number of scantily-dressed redneck chicks. On the stage behind the bar was a Cher lookalike (scary-old-Botox Cher, mind you, not hot-young-"Cherokee Woman"-Gene-Simmons-plaything Cher) grinding to some shitty song on the jukebox. We got our PBRs from the bartender, a friendly enough 50-something woman who had sniffed enough glue to build a scale model of an aircraft carrier. Before we could pop the tops on our beers, Cher had popped both her top and bottom, and stood revealed in all her glory. The collected barflies were less than thrilled, though one guy gave her a dollar to stuff into her garter.

"Come on, I made two dollars all night!" Cher said. "I gotta buy groceries. I can't even buy a gallon of milk."

I looked at Mrs. Fabulous. What the hell? I pulled out two bucks and handed them to Cher.

"Great, now I can buy a stick of butter!" said Cher.

Mrs. Fabulous was ready to bolt then and there. But dammit, we had made a special trip. We were duty bound to see this moment of Zen through to enlightenment. So we stayed for a few hours. We saw hairy lesbians, pudgy Goth chicks and tatooed biker girls all bump and grind. It was the first time my wife and I had been in the same room together with other naked women, and it was odd, to say the least. They must have thought we were there to pick up one of the strippers to take home with us. Not that there's anything wrong with it-- it just ain't our bag, man.

At one point we befriended a buxom young woman, pretty but with man-shoulders. Her dillema: she had two men on the hook, and couldn't choose between the tatoo artist or the "executive at a major international corporation" who met her at the Clairmont.

"Which one wants you to quit working here?" asked Mrs. Fabulous.

"The tatoo guy," Man-Shoulders answered. "He's sweet. He likes to cook for me."

My wife and I both agreed that she should dump the executive and go for the sweet tatoo artist who wanted her to quit stripping. A few moments later, Man-Shoulders was up on the stage twirling her panties in the air. She actually had the best moves up there. Let's just say she seemed to enjoy her work.

We tipped two bucks per stripper and got kisses on the cheek from each of the girls after their set. It was touching, in a way. Given that we were the big spenders that night, I took their gratitude as sincere.

So Mrs. Fabulous and I bonded in a new way that night; while we aren't planning a trip to Scores any time soon, it's nice to know we can have a good time together looking at naked chicks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Quickie: Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

In Schindler's List, Ben Kingsley's Itzhak Stern introduces the concept of "absolute good. "This list... is an absolute good," Stern says. "The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf."

Now I'm not about to insult or demean Schindler's Jews by comparing their plight to an animated film about giant were-bunnies. But I do mean to suggest that Wallance & Gromit, in their inimitable plasticine ways, are an absolute good. In three short films and now their first feature, the cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his owner, the Chaplinesque mouthless dog Gromit, posit a universe in which no idea is too outlandish to be tried, vegetables and cheese are prized above gold and rubies and no problem is too great to be surmounted with a combination of ingenuity, tenacity and elbow grease. I'd like to live in Wallace & Gromit's world. It's a far gentler, nobler and loving world than this one-- that's for sure.

Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit is everything you could possibly hope for in a Wallace & Gromit adventure. What makes Nick Park's creations so enjoyable to watch on the big screen is how cinematic they are. They're lit, blocked and shot with all the care of the best live-action directors. Loving attention is paid to the characters. The plot is worked over with all the pizzaz of the best Pixar releases. I loved every ever-lovin' minute of this picture. Its theme and utter brilliance can be summed up in the closing credits sequence, in which a series of perplexed bunnies twirls, rotates and pirouettes in glorious free-fall. The charm and giddy adventurousness of this sequence, not to mention the utter delight it demonstrates in God's creation, sums up everything that Aardman Animation wants to say about life on Earth. If you don't get it, then I feel sorry for you.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Movie Review: A History of Violence

If you look closely enough at David Cronenberg’s films, you’ll find that they’re all— every dad-blamed one of them, from the head-exploding yucks of his 1981 breakthrough film Scanners to his 2002 Ralph Fiennes mumble-fest Spider— exquisitely dry comedies. Filtered through the prism of his work, Cronenberg has morphed from pigeonholed horror director to cult bio-horror madman to respected indie auteur. Critics bow and scrape before him and examine his films the way a pagan priest examines the entrails of a goat, searching for signs and portents as they try to divine the Truth behind his art. But what they’re not doing is laughing— and they should be, because Cronenberg’s is the most consistently brilliant body of comic work out there.

Read the full review.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Movie Review: Corpse Bride

How do I begin to describe the unnatural love I feel for The Nightmare Before Christmas? From the moment I saw the Tim Burton-inspired, Henry Selick-directed, Danny Elfman-scored stop-motion Gothic extravaganza, I fell hard and fast. My wife and I bonded over it instantly; I got her a set of Nightmare collectible figures on our first Christmas together. We watch it together every November— singing “This is Halloween” to each other and trading lines like Did anybody remember to dredge the lake? and Interesting reaction! into the wee hours and cracking ourselves up every time.

Read the full review.