Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
I thought I was going to get this to you early last week, but I didn’t, and then I was at a wedding all weekend (rehearsal Friday, wedding Saturday, brunch Sunday and then a bunch of out of town relatives of my husband’s for dinner Sunday). Which means I never got around to it and I am really dragging today. But it was a really fun wedding and #TeamFlowerGirl killed it.
Today, we are going to talk terrible movies, and maybe hatch a plan to determine The Single Worst Movie Ever. We are also going to discuss modern architecture, The Sims and people paying Michael Cohen for nothing. To close with, I will answer the trivia question I asked early last week. Special preview of the next column...you are getting a discussion of terrible bands named after places
Submitted by: TJWFW
Dark direction this week: This was going around last week and we've also been talking enhanced interrogation. So, in the spirit of Clockwork Orange, if you had to interrogate 3 followers, what movies would you pry their eyes open to torture them with?
Confession...I don’t really watch many movies. I used to watch more, especially during my super fun stoner phase at about age 19, but I rarely ever have two hours to sit and concentrate on anything that I am not being paid for these days. And when I do watch movies, they tend to be things like Sing, The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, Peter Rabbit and the like.
Because children ruin pretty much everything.
The question, then, is really “What are the worst movies you have ever seen?” Having never seen any Fifty Shades movies, or Twilight, or a single superhero movie outside of some of the Batman ones (and all of the Christian Bale ones are overrated, btw, even though Christian Bale is the celebrity that most resembles my husband), I don’t have any really obvious ones that jump to mind. But, if I work my way through my memory a little bit, I will give you a working list of the five worst movies that I remember seeing.
Gods and Generals - This movie is funnier and more farcical than anything the Wayans brothers have ever made. If you start with “Civil War epic, starring Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee and Jeff Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain” you are really in a pretty good spot. Or, you should be at least...no idea what happened after that, but the rest of this is a 7 hour (estimated) Junior High drama club parody of an actual movie. I think the best part of this movie is the devotion to getting little details right - apparently ever single button and patch in the movie was historically accurate - while changing the major facts of the war - per this movie, for example, there were something like eight black people in Virginia in 1862 and they absolutely LOVED being slaves! Throw in a bunch of cameos from Senators and Congressmen and Ted Turner, and this may in fact be the worst movie ever made.
Showgirls - I mean, I guess the whole point was to show a bunch of boobs, and it succeeded in that sense. It also gave us a lot of naked Gina Gershon, kind of an underrated 1990’s smokeshow, but even that is mitigated by being out at the same time as Bound, which is, on several levels, MUCH better… On the downside, it also gave us a lot of naked Jessie Spano, and entirely too much Jessie Spano acting that was NOT this kind of brilliance. Honestly, she overdosed on caffeine pills, and she really thought she could handle Las Vegas? Please.
Battlefield Earth - I recall watching this specifically because it was supposed to be awful, and it totally delivered! Terrible acting, massive plot holes an inexplicable tilting of the camera! What’s not to love? It’s even better if you think about John Travolta signing on to play the movie and thinking “Guys, this is totally gonna be the thing that wins us a whole bunch of new Scientology followers! We are basically making our own video bible!” A lot of these movies sank the careers of the people involved...this one sank the entire production company that backed it!
From Justin to Kelly - Yea, I watched this, what’s it to you?! Never minding that Kelly Clarkson is and will always be my one and only American Idol, and that Justin Guarini is kinda killing it as the miniature Dr. Pepper guy these days, neither of them is much of an actor. And this movie has a feel of being written, filmed, produced and released in a span of about 9 days. The best review I can find of this movie, from Josh Tyrangiel of Time, calls it “a monstrous Idol movie musical that in the most generous light is the worst film so far this century.”
Glitter - I can’t even imagine what possessed me to watch this, other than probably a lot of pot. I don’t even like Mariah Carey or find her remotely interesting to look at or listen to. This movie was released on September 11, 2001, and I have a hard time believing that was a coincidence…(too soon?)
I’m sure I have seen a lot of other terrible movies, but those are the ones I remember. I almost feel like this should be a poll of some sort...maybe I will collect nominations for like the 32 worst movies we can think of and have an elimination-style vote to get to the winner (loser). Go ahead and give me your nominations and I will “maybe” get that started...
Submitted by: Lady Catherine
What happened to Architecture?
Art Vandelay. Once he did the new wing on the Guggenheim, the whole industry collapsed.
The problem with architecture (in my grossly uninformed opinion) is that architects often view themselves as artists instead of builders and every building must first look like a showpiece and second be functional. Truly great architecture works in the other direction...the beauty grows out of the function. Even with things like the lavish churches of the middle ages, in all of their splendor, the intricate decoration is all layered on top of relatively simple structural ideas that were intended mostly to fit tons of people into a given space.
And you know what else? I think architecture is in a better place now than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Obviously it will take a while to see how we view things in hindsight, but buildings today are much more smartly designed than the dark, concrete-heavy Soviet-inspired buildings of, say 1960-1985. Today’s office towers, for example, are faced almost exclusively with glass and focus on ideas like light, efficiency and comfort in a way that the last couple of generations never did.
Residential design has always suffered from wide swaths of sameness, at least since America invented suburbs and started building subdivisions using model homes. The sameness, however, is improving, and I feel like the McMansions built from 2000-2005 look a lot less dated than homes built in the mid-1970’s looked by 1990. Are we settling on some basic principles of design and material that are somewhat timeless? I dunno...but we might be.
It is worth noting that my view on this might be a little skewed by living in a region where homes aren’t considered disposable after 25 years and are both designed and constructed with that in mind. The building I live in was built in 1875 (parts of the foundation are older than that) and will likely be standing in another 150 years, too. When we renovated last fall, many of the walls that were torn out were likely original to the 1875 construction (horsehair plaster...which is a literal description of the material), and several rooms on the front of the second floor still have their original wide-plank oak flooring. The oak floors in the rest of the unit are of a more modern size and look, but they will still last for 150 years of normal use.
So, I am maybe less bearish on architecture than your question implies. It is hard to say whether anyone is building any more Texas State Capitals, Chrysler Buildings or Trinity Churches because the brilliance of those buildings only comes from looking at them for more than 50 years. Will we think of the Freedom Tower or Philadelphia's new Comcast Tower this way in 2060, or will we think of them like we do the ugly boxes of the 1970’s? Only time will tell, really, but I think there is some evidence that they will hold up better aesthetically than the most recent generations of buildings have, even if they don’t replace St. Patrick's Cathedral in the popular imagination.
Submitted by: Sicariothrax
Have you ever played the Sims series? If so, who’s your favorite townie?
I tried to pawn this question off on other people to answer. First I asked @jholmsted, who says she used to play.
“Townie? I have no idea what that is. I just built my house and tried to make my sims make money for ridiculous luxurious items and giggled as they got naked and made babies.” I think you know why we are friends…
Usually I answer these questions by Googling the subject and then pretending that I knew it all along, but I am having a hard time with this one because I can’t quite figure out what a Townie is. I think this is because I have never played the game, so I don’t really understand the framework of playable vs. non-playable characters and characters that are saved vs. those that auto-delete. Also, there was apparently one version of the game that got stuck in an never-ending loop if you married a townie…
Which is pretty good advice, people: never marry a Townie.
I do have some favorite actual Townies, though! My husband’s friend not only still lives in the town they grew up in, but he is married to a woman that they have all been friends with since fourth grade, she teaches at the town’s high school and he is on the Board of Selectmen and works as a real estate developer almost exclusively in the town. That’s pretty much next-level townieism. (Also, if you are cross-referencing Alex stories, she is a really key part of all of the Suburban Mom Girls Night Out stories...she’s the non-annoying one.)
Ben Affleck was kind of a laughable two-dimensional townie in Good Will Hunting, but he redeemed the whole movie with “If you’re still here in 20 years, I’ll fucking kill you.” On the subject of Ben Affleck and townies, if every townie looked like Blake Lively, I’d rescind my “never marry a townie” advice.
Norm and Cliff were pretty great townies, too, I assume. Since they never left the bar, it is hard to say where they lived or what they did with their spare time, but I’m just going to guess that they were. Also worth noting that Hilary Normal Peterson was born and raised in Chicago and moved to Boston as an adult...like all the cool kids.
Back to the Sims...it sounds like Townies are pretty interchangeable? In that case, my favorite townie would almost certainly just be the hottest one...especially since Jen tells me that you can make them get naked!
Submitted by: Uncle Jimmy
Jimmy business tip: Always try to assess whether the person you pay $1.2mm can help you or at minimum knows anything about your business prior to paying them. Do you agree?
So, here is what I think happened with Novartis and AT&T and their dealings with Michael Cohen. They thought that they were retaining a guy with the ear of the President and his senior advisers, through whom they could exert some influence on things like FDA or HHS appointments or the focus of those executive departments. Or that they would have inside information on the feelings of the White House towards major changes to the healthcare industry so as to not be caught totally flat-footed by any major upheavals.
Michael Cohen is not a registered lobbyist, so he neither has the open access to Congress and the executive branch of a lobbyist, or the rules about behavior and transparency that a lobbyist would. I imagine that Cohen billed himself as a kind of shadow lobbyist with the ear of his client and the ability to connect the interests of Novartis and AT&T directly to him. I have no doubt that Cohen sold them a vision of a seriously connected, major power player.
Only thing is, Cohen is full of shit and it turns out that he was no more than Trump’s bagman when it came time to pay off women who slept with him in hopes of getting a payoff to stay quiet. Cohen sold the companies a bill of goods and they realized after they had committed to paying him that he was nothing but a shallow con man.
At that point, though, the companies are kinda trapped. Sure, they could try and sue him for misrepresentations, breach of contract, or whatever he was almost certainly guilty of. But doing so would require them to outline exactly what they thought they were buying...and what they thought they were buying is, in the kindest light, at least kind of shady. If you have entered into a dirty deal, you have limited means of enforcing the deal when it turns out that your partner in that dirty deal was, well, dirty.
It reminded me of a story from the ESPN 30 for 30 episode about Southern Methodist University and their crooked football program in the 1980’s (btw...college athletes should be paid, come at me). Eric Dickerson, nationally-renowned star high school tailback, originally committed to Texas A&M University, only to decommit at the last minute and choose SMU. After that, a local reporter noticed that not-yet-high-school-graduate Mr. Dickerson was driving a brand new gold Trans-Am and reasonably surmised that he had been given the car by a booster at SMU in exchange for attending the school.
But SMU didn’t give him the Trans Am...Texas A&M gave him the Trans Am! But, SMU apparently offered him something better (he’s mum on what it might have been) so he took his brand new gold Trans Am and drove it off to SMU, leaving whatever booster gave him the car high and dry. Which left the booster in the same spot that Novartis and AT&T were in last year...to try and enforce the terms of your deal or to obtain recompense for the false representations of a counterparty, you’d have to admit what you were trying to do in the first place.
You can’t reasonably try and enforce an illegal deal to get a kid to go to your school and you can’t complain when the subterfuge you were planning to get around lobbying laws doesn’t materialize in the way you thought that you paid for!
I gave you a trivia question on Tuesday...There are nine franchises in the four major US-based sports leagues that are NOT explicitly named after a city, state or province. What are they?
First, the most obvious ones are the New England Patriots and the Golden State Warriors, named after a region and a state nickname. The Brooklyn Nets are named after the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs, but not the city itself. While Brooklyn was an independent incorporated city until 1898, it has been a borough of the City of New York ever since.
After that, there are a couple that are sort of technicalities. Carolina is not an actual state name, and Vegas is not a complete city name, so the colloquially-named Panthers, Hurricanes and newly formed Golden Knights all fit the criteria as well.
And finally, we get three teams in the same metro area that are named not after a city (although you probably think they are) but in fact after a body of water. The body of water is Tampa Bay, and the teams - the Buccaneers, Rays and Lightning - all play in either Tampa (which is named after the same body of water) or St. Petersburg (which is in Florida, not Russia).
@SoothingDave was the first to get them all...about two hours after I asked. And for that he wins...well, absolutely nothing!!! @sarahstevenson and @kengardner11 both got there really quickly, too, so they will get a slightly lesser version of the nothing that Dave got!
Alex’s random old song of the week
Let’s take a little spin back to 1988 and a perfectly nice little Viennese waltz that you probably never knew was really a Viennese waltz...it’s INXS and Never Tear Us Apart.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.