Here he comes...hand him some tissues

There’s been a lot of collective eye rolling going on lately in the entertainment business over news that a possible Speed Racer movie is still in the works. People have been shaking their heads and clucking their tongues over the silliness of it all. Apparently Los Bros Wachowski are working on a script and want to produce the film. Funnyman Vince Vaughn has added his clout to the project, wanting to play the role of Speed’s older brother Rex a.k.a. the mysterious Racer X.

At first glance the very notion of this movie getting made is too silly for words, but when you consider that Michael Bay is currently filming a big screen version of The Transformers, and that NASCAR fans in this country number in the billions, the idea gets less and less silly.

In the mid-1980s when I was on staff at NOW Comics in Chicago, we had the rights to pump out Speed Racer comics. There was a steady stream of buzz in the letter columns and at comic conventions about a possible live action Speed Racer movie. Names were bandied about who could play whom. I distinctly recall someone coming up to me at a convention and telling me that they thought the only person who could play the part of ace mechanic Sparky was Jon Cryer.

When it came to possible actors to portray Speed; flat out, across the board, the only name ever mentioned was Capt. Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp. There was no discussion allowed or necessary (even though I always thot Charlie Sheen or my buddy Tom Morgan could do a great job in the role). Johnny Depp was the only actor for the job. I secretly thought Depp was a bad choice, only because at that moment Depp had been off 21 Jump Street for a few years and his career was starting to tank. I thought he would soon be gone and forgotten. (Which serves to demonstrate why I’ve never made a fortune betting on the horses or playing the stock market)

So here it is twenty years later. If the movie were to get the greenlight, who would be cast today? That’s a toughie. I know there’s a massive new breed of quasi heartthrobs from shows like The OC and Pacific Cove and One Tree Hill and the dozens of other WB shows that I’ve never seen. The studio would want a bankable star to play Trixie, so maybe they could cough up ten or fifteen million for Jessica Alba. Yes, I know she doesn’t look anything like Trixie and is completely wrong for the part, but her being miscast helped Fantastic Four, right?

A fun bit of stunt casting would be getting father and son motorcycle design team of Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. Teutul from A&E’s American Chopper series to play Pops Racer and Sparky, respectively. In that same vein they could use CGI technology to shrink Mikey Teutul small enough to play Spridle.

That’s a movie I would pay nine dollars to see in the theater.

Rule the School!

Years ago during a television interview I heard Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner explain that one of the reasons he began publishing Playboy was because he missed high school so much. He said that he had such a fantastic time in high school he wished he could have stayed there the rest of his life.

What in the hell kind of high school did Hefner go to? I realize that the 50s were a different time and all, but WTF?

Apparently Hef (as I call him) was the editor of the high school newspaper. I guess I can picture him there in the newspaper office. He’d be wearing a starched white dress shirt with a skinny black tie and cufflinks the shape of martini shakers. Over his shirt and tie he’d be wearing a smart navy blue blazer or maybe one of his dad’s old leopard print smoking jackets. There would be a stack of jazz records playing on the phonograph and in the corner of the room, under a sign that read EDITOR-IN-CHIEF would be hanging over a moth-eaten stuffed gorilla with an oversized pair of bongos clenched between his toes. The gorilla would have a Shiners fez on his head at a jaunty angle and one of Hef’s spare pipes stuck between his teeth.

The room would also be populated with reporters, most of which were a regular part of Hef’s crew. They would be writing stories about all the madcap adventures happening all around the school. (Like what happened at last week’s Homecoming football game, when a certain unidentified party kidnapped the opposing team’s mascot, Gus the Mule, and led him onto the field dressed in a brassiere and girdle, supposedly belonging to the frumpy school nurse, Comrade Fletcher.)

Of course there would be plenty of girls sprinkled around the room. Some would still be in their cheerleader outfits from afternoon practice, while others would be wearing tight Capri slacks and form fitting, sleeveless blouses. Some of the girls would be sipping on bottles of Coke through blue and white striped straws. Off to the side would be the official school photographer named Shades, named that because he always wore sunglasses, even at night. He would be snapping photos of a cute blonde cheerleader for a pithy editorial Hef was working on titled “Who Took the Rah-Rah Out of the Sis Boom Bah?”

I’ve had high school on my mind recently because my daughter Dakota is beginning her freshman year in a few months and has been peppering me with a barrage of questions. I’m sure that her high school days are going to be as different from mine as mine were from Hugh Hefner’s. I don’t have the exact answers for a lot of her questions, but the thing I keep pushing whenever we talk is that she’ll get the most out of the next four years if she goes in with an open mind. She’s got a lot of preconceived notions already in place that I’ve been trying to tear down. Most of it is crap that she’s seen on television or stuff that kids just make up out of thin air. Overall, I’d have to say that she’s doing a lot less stressing about the situation than I did when I was in her place. And that’s good.

In the end I’m sure she’ll do fine this fall. Not as fine as Hef did when he was her age, but not all of us can be blessed.

A Little Sun on the Beach?

If you cats and kittens are looking for a a paperback to stuff in your beach bags this summer, here are a few suthor suggestions for y'all. I've only recently stumbled across the literary goodness that Harlan Corben and Greg Rucka have to offer for sale in the used bookstore. (I like Rucka's comicbook writing, but his Atticus Kodiak novels are even better mindless reading.) And don't forget the sunscreen, my llittle toaster treats.


But it's Mamet, dammit!

Once upon a time I was told by a teacher that a primary (albeit rudimentary) gauge of the effectiveness of a piece of ‘art’ was the amount of impact or affect it has on the viewer (or participant).

True or not, this notion must have landed on a sticky part of my brain because it’s remained with me after all these years. Subsequently, if I see a movie, read a book, listen to an album, or examine a piece of artwork and pass over it without a second thought, then the artist has failed. Art needs to stir some up something in the soul or pluck at least a single emotional chord or else what’s the point? Hate it or love it, it doesn’t matter, but it has to do something, otherwise it’s just wasting space.

My cracked ribs had me up really early this morning so I went downstairs and downed a handful of painkillers. I surfed around the movie channels on cable while waiting for the drugs to kick in and caught the tail end of a really interesting movie called Fourteen Hours. It was made in 1951 and tells the story of a disturbed man who climbs out on the ledge of his Manhattan hotel room, intent on jumping. The cops spend fourteen hours trying to talk him off the ledge and during this span of time the story of his life unfolds and we see what drove him to suicide. It was a fun premise that was pulled off pretty successfully.

When the film was over I was about to turn the television off and head back to bed, when I saw that David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner was playing. I have a love/hate relationship with Mamet’s films, with a disproportional amount of checks in the hate column than the love.

His script for 1982’s The Verdict was full of snap and remains one of my favorite Paul Newman films, and I have fond memories of House of Games, The Edge, and of course the bombastic Glengarry Glen Ross. On the other end of the spectrum, We’re No Angels, State and Main, Hannibal, Heist, and the film version of American Buffalo all left me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. The most puzzling stinker of them all, in my humble opinion, is The Spanish Prisoner.

This movie confounds me. I have a long list of friends (people who m I respect and hold in the highest regard) that will check to see if I’m running a fever or accuse me of being a pod person when I express how strongly I dislike The Spanish Prisoner. I’m a big believer in second chances, both in giving them and accepting them, so I’ve tried to enjoy this movie time and time again, but I always walk away shaking my head with disbelief. I always get the impression that I’ve walked in during the middle of a joke. I grin and smile and nod my head in agreement, but I’ve missed the setup so nothing really makes sense.

It would be a waste of time and energy to tick off all the reasons The Spanish Prisoner rubs me the wrong way, but one of the biggest chunks of grit revolves around Mamet’s casting his girlfriend/muse Rebecca Pidgeon. She plays the secretary to Campbell Scott’s character and is so abrasive that the movie grinds to a halt whenever she appears on screen.


But that’s just my opinion—apparently.

(How could so many people be so very, very wrong?)