What If They Were White?

Imagine being spied on every second of the day
And denigrated by the media in every possible way
Rarely given a chance to refute what they say
If they were White, there’d be hell to pay

Mercilessly mocked and threatened all the time
Resembling “the enemy” is their only “crime”
Infuriated by rude comparisons to filth and grime
If they were White, there’d be a backlash against the slime

Always on high alert no matter where they are
Shadowed by the law both near and far
Can never really relax while driving in a car
If they were White, there’d be many willing to spar

But their humiliation continues with no end in sight
These abhorrent policies supported by the left and the right
An entire culture being crushed by excessive military might
Does anyone believe this would happen if they were White?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
9:40 p.m.

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 9:41 pm  Comments (1)  

The Death Of Liberalism

You’ve stopped worrying about having a conscience
You’ve stopped caring about making a difference
You’ve stopped wondering what others will think
It’s all about plotting the next vicious attack

Their innocent deaths are insignificant to you
You’re annihilating an entire culture out of fear
You never recognize their legitimate anger
There is just no turning back

Cloaking the worst of your transgressions
While punishing those determined to expose you
Defiantly acting like you can’t be stopped
You’ve got some fucking nerve

You’re determined to have the last laugh
Your opponents frighten more than inspire
You’re rarely someone who can be trusted
An old-school master of the swerve

Your deplorable tactics have killed an idea
The foundation of a free and just society
And many fully support this downward slide
How incredibly sad

No matter how many civilians you continue to murder
No matter how many laws you continue to break
No matter how many horrors you continue to inflict
Few of your supporters ever get mad

Despite backing the most ruthless despots
Despite bailing out the rich and the greedy
Despite opposing policies of equality and decency
There is no outrage

In spite of constant disrespect
In spite of indifference to legitimate dissent
In spite of arrogance and chronic dishonesty
They still think you’re a sage

What once was vigourously opposed
Has now become warmly embraced
When the other side was doing it
There was nothing but palpable rage

The line has been crossed
The die has been cast
Don’t call yourselves liberals anymore
You’ve already turned the page

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
1:24 a.m.

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 1:24 am  Comments (1)  

2012 Oscar Wrap-Up

Hugo and The Artist were the big winners at the 84th annual Academy Awards.  Both highly regarded features snagged five gongs a piece.  While the former cleaned up in the technical categories (Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing & Mixing), three of the latter’s prizes were in major categories.

As expected, The Artist made history by being the second silent film ever to win Best Picture.  (Wings was the first back at the inaugural Oscar ceremony in 1929.)  Also unsurprising was the announcement of Michel Hazanavicius’ name as the winner for Best Director.  Jean Dujardin edged out George Clooney to take Best Actor.  During his acceptance speech, Dujardin made reference to the first Academy Awards.  The film also won for Best Original Score and Best Costume Design.

The Iron Lady was the only other film to receive multiple gongs, batting 2 for 2 for the evening.  Best Actress winner Meryl Streep made her third trip to the podium for playing the title character, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  After hilariously acknowledging the possibility of many viewers being disappointed by her win (somewhat of a surprise over Viola Davis), her first thank you was reserved for her husband.  (She felt that saving him for the end would’ve been muffled by the orchestra possibly playing her off the stage.)  She also thanked her longtime make-up man J. Roy Helland for making her look good in every picture she’s made since Sophie’s Choice, the film that earned her her previous Best Actress Oscar 28 years ago.  (She also won Best Supporting Actress for Kramer Vs. Kramer in 1980.)

Christopher Plummer finally swiped his first Academy Award for his highly acclaimed performance in Beginners.  The 82-year-old Best Supporting Actor recepient delivered a classy, gracious speech as he acknowledged his fellow nominees and his wife of more than 40 years for putting up with him.  He quipped that she deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.

Octavia Spencer was the only nominee for The Help to hear her name called.  The Best Supporting Actress winner weeped as she thanked the Academy for putting her right next to “the hottest guy in the room”, her Oscar.  The popular critic’s fave Rango won Best Animated Feature, the predictably absent Woody Allen won his first Oscar in 25 years for penning the original script for Midnight In Paris (his third gong for writing following Hannah & Her Sisters and Annie Hall), his biggest commercial success, and the writing team for The Descendants won for Best Adapted Screenplay.  Alexander Payne sweetly and humourously paid tribute to his mom who apparently demanded a dedication if he ever won again.  Her son honoured her request.

As for surprises, besides Streep for Best Actress, Undefeated upset Paradise Lost 3 for Best Documentary Feature and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was singled out for its editing.  (Scroll down for the complete list of winners.)

As for substitute host Billy Crystal (who replaced original choice Eddie Murphy who quit after the ridiculous firing of original producer Brett Ratner out of loyalty), despite a hit-and-miss Best Picture medley and opening monologue (which followed his typically good trespassing-through-the-BP-nominees pre-tape segment), he got funnier and funnier as the show progressed.

He brilliantly dusted off his trademark “what are they thinking?” bit where he hilariously pretended to read the minds of major talents on camera.  But nothing quite topped his introduction for presenter Christian Bale, last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner.  After humourously referencing three of his famous roles (at the expense of the current Republican nominees for President), he slyly noted the best Batman’s infamous Terminator Salvation tirade (“Don’t get in his eyeline!”).  Genius.  Despite a fairly safe menu of jokes, Crystal was dependably on his game for much of the night.  He was a definite improvement over last year.  It might be time to retire the medley, though.

Other highlights of the show included the amazing Cirque De Soleil and perhaps the classiest In Memoriam segment in the history of the telecast.  (Just one round of applause at the end.  Finally.)  Far less successful was an unnecessary and witless bit involving a fake 1939 focus group (featuring Christopher Guest and a number of his frequent comedic film castmates) complaining about The Wizard Of Oz and the dreaded return of “And the Oscar goes to…”.  Well, on the plus side, no one got cut off by the music.

As for the annual Earl Oscar pool, Grandma was the big winner going 12 for 24.  It’s her third victory overall.  Because she tied myself and my Dad in last year’s contest, she’s on a two-year hot streak.  I’m not pleased.  (I went an embarrassing 9 for 24 this year.  Pitiful.)  After winning seven straight contests, my astounding championship run has come to an end.  I’ve won 12 of the last 21 pools, though, so I have that record to comfort me, but it’s not enough.  Until next year.

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – THE ARTIST

BEST DIRECTOR – Michel Hazanavicius (THE ARTIST)

BEST ACTRESS – Meryl Streep (THE IRON LADY)

BEST ACTOR – Jean Dujardin (THE ARTIST)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Octavia Spencer (THE HELP)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christopher Plummer (BEGINNERS)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – RANGO

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – UNDEFEATED

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A SEPARATION

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Woody Allen (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (THE DESCENDANTS)

BEST MAKE-UP – THE IRON LADY

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – HUGO

BEST SOUND MIXING – HUGO

BEST SOUND EDITING – HUGO

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE ARTIST

BEST ART DIRECTION – HUGO

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – THE ARTIST

BEST FILM EDITING – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Man Or Muppet (THE MUPPETS)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – HUGO

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – The Shore

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – Saving Face

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 27, 2012
2:06 a.m.

CORRECTION:  I goofed regarding Meryl Streep’s husband.  He’s the only guy she’s ever been married to, not her second as I dumbly noted.  That word – “second” –  has been excised from the piece.  My apologies for the mistake.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 27, 2012
2:17 a.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 2:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Why It’s Getting Harder To Defend Rihanna

One of the most difficult things to do in life is to try to reason with a victim of abuse.  They are often scared, confused and indifferent to common sense, especially if they’re young.  No matter how much you try to help them by offering good, solid advice and support, their stubbornness knows no bounds.  Only they can rescue themselves.  Trust me.  I speak from personal experience.

I can only imagine the mass frustration friends, family and supporters of Rihanna are feeling lately over her apparent reconciliation with Chris Brown, the man who brutalized her in a needless assault three years ago.  (It happened just before they were scheduled to perform at the Grammys in February 2009.  Unsurprisingly, they never made it to the broadcast.)

The sense of helplessness they must feel in not being able to convince her that her ex-boyfriend is still bad news and not at all reformed, that despite the recent resurgence of his recording career his attitude hasn’t changed, and that even just being friends with him is a terrible idea.

In this space three years ago, I urged readers to support Rihanna, not condemn her.  (My deepest apologies for misspelling her name in the original link, an awful error I had unwittingly continued to make in other pieces but thankfully, albeit belatedly, have since corrected.)  After reading a New York Times article about teenage girls sticking by the abuser and not the victim in this case, I couldn’t stay silent.

This awful story has come back to the forefront because both Brown and Rihanna performed at the Grammys two weeks ago (but thankfully not together).  He even won an award for Best R&B Album.

Let me state flatly that before the assault on his ex, Chris Brown was not on my radar.  I had never heard any of his CDs nor had any opinion of the man himself.  I only knew of him by name.  That’s it.  But after he viciously attacked Rihanna, I’ve felt nothing but sheer loathing for him.  And like before, I have no desire to hear his albums.  (I prefer Cee-Lo Green.)

That being said, unlike many of his critics (although I share their annoyance about this), I didn’t have a philosophical problem with him performing and receiving an award at the Grammys (even though, truthfully, he should be in jail).  If they only invited and recognized law-abiding musicians who don’t have criminal records or violent tempers, the show would last ten minutes.  (Essentially, there wouldn’t be much of an industry to honour.)  No, the real issue I have involved the audience that night.  For instance, after his first performance, more than a few imbeciles got off their asses and applauded Brown like all was forgiven.  It was sickening.

If that weren’t appalling enough, after celebrities like country star Miranda Lambert (who attended the ceremony) criticized Brown on Twitter, he wrote back on his own account that his Grammy victory was somehow vindication for three years of living in the public doghouse.  Since then, other public figures have come down hard on him like the WWE Champion CM Punk who joked on Twitter about taking on the embattled singer at WrestleMania 28.

Brown didn’t take too kindly to that.  He falsely accused The Straight Edge Superstar of being a steroids user which resulted in this fantastic video rebuttal.  After briefly engaging Punk some more (before quickly deleting all those specific tweets), he publicly vowed not to address him again.  (Why did he respond to him in the first place?  Is he stupid?)

Brown’s recent troubles haven’t ended there.  He reportedly has a new pick-up line even though he has a new girlfriend.  (He denied the allegation to TMZ.)  And he allegedly stole an iPhone from a fan whose only crime was taking a pic of him.  (She claims he called her a “bitch”, too.)  If the latter incident turns out to be true, because he’s still on probation, he might have to do some jail time.  I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

Meanwhile, according to numerous reports, he’s secretly hanging out with Rihanna (the restraining order she once had filed against him has long since been lifted), going so far as to attend her recent 24th birthday party and even collaborating with her on a couple of new remixes.  (They’ve also reportedly sent each other lovey dovey messages through Twitter.  Ugh.)

Lost in all this flurry of bad publicity for Brown is the person everyone should be rallying around, the talented Barbados native who suffered so unnecessarily that fateful February evening in 2009.  Unfortunately, she’s been making that very difficult lately.  It’s bad enough she’s willingly and happily making music with her violent, immature, arrogant ex.  Now, she’s picked up his obnoxious attitude.

When a young woman wrote about her on Twitter noting how she lost some respect for her regarding her recent Chris Brown collaborations, Rihanna disparaged her looks and soon thereafter absurdly accused her of being a cyber bully.  Her fans started hammering away on the poor girl who gave it right back to them and Rihanna.  The brave lady gained a couple thousand followers out of the ordeal but sadly, no apology.

Before that unfortunate exchange of messages, the Umbrella singer retweeted this message from another user:  “Never explain. Your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe it anyway.”  And later tweeted this:  “Life’s a bitch, but that’s the only love I know.”.

Is it any wonder that Jay Z, the rapper who discovered her, is “deeply disappointed”?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 26, 2012
12:12 a.m.

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 12:13 am  Comments (2)  

Sophia Bush, I’m Here For You

Gene Siskel had a famous test for actors he observed in movies.  If they looked good in close-up, they were stars.  George C. Scott had his own set of criteria, three simple questions he asked himself every time he watched someone perform.  1. Is the actor well cast in the role they’re playing?  2. Do they make good emotional choices?  And 3. Are they actually enjoying themselves?

Having seen you in Stay Alive and John Tucker Must Die, you easily pass Siskel’s test.  And on the basis of watching you portray Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill and Ridley Lange on Nip/Tuck, you more than meet Scott’s criteria.  The answer to all three of his questions is the same:  an unreserved yes.

Unfortunately, despite thriving professionally, things are not so good for you personally.  US Weekly broke the news this week that you’ve just split with Austin Nichols, a fellow actor few knew you were dating off-and-on until E! Online reported it two years ago.  In fact, he took the job as Julian, the aspiring filmmaker who becomes romantically involved with Brooke on One Tree Hill, just to be closer to you.

Sophia Bush, I’m here for you.  Forget about finding “the one”.  That’s a bunch of old-fashioned bullshit that’s gotten you into trouble before.  Forget about dating guys you work with.  You know firsthand how awkward it can be to work with an ex.  And forget about getting involved with guys in the business.  They’re nothing but a waste of time.

What you need is someone who is your intellectual equal, not some empty-headed pretty boy who can’t keep up.  You need someone you can spar with about politics and entertainment, not someone who doesn’t share your interests.  And you need someone naturally monogamous, not a ho-bag.

Why not give this wire-thin Canadian mama’s boy a shot?  What exactly have you got to lose?  We’re close in age, we both love music and neither of us smoke or have siblings.  True, I’m terrified of your pitbulls (I’ve never really been comfortable around dogs) and I’m no fashionista (one look through my dresser drawers and my closet would leave you deeply appalled) but I would be good company for you.

God knows we’d have plenty to talk about.  I’d love to learn about your parents who I understand are both photographers.  (By the way, which one is from Canada?)  How long did it take them to fully accept that you were going to be an actor rather than a heart surgeon or a journalist?  (You’ve said they were initially disappointed with your change of heart.)  When you got the gig on OTH ten years ago, you were attending the University Of South Carolina and had to drop out.  How many credits do you need to graduate and will you go back to finish them?  (There’s no guarantee you’ll be a successful actor forever.)

What it was like attending Westridge School in Pasadena, a girls-only private educational institution?  (Did you know that Julia Child studied there?)  Why aren’t dudes allowed to go?  Are we too distracting?  Any regrets about not attending public school? How did you become the Rose Queen for the Tournament Of Roses parade in 2000?  What was that experience like for you?

With regards to politics I have to warn you that we have very serious disagreements about President Obama.  (I’ll never understand why you publicly supported the illegal assassination of Osama Bin Laden.)  Although we both supported him in 2008 (you went so far as to become a volunteer helping him secure votes by touring college campuses on his behalf), I’m appalled by his piss-poor record on civil liberties, his paranoid bullying of conscientious whistleblowers (including the still wrongly incarcerated Bradley Manning), his inconsistency on gay issues, his lack of respect for the Muslim world, his disturbing support for Endless War and the Surveillance State, and his disappointing allegiance with the 1%.  Last month, you mentioned in an interview how you’ve been disappointed, too, but you really let him off the hook.  Based on what I’ve seen and read, Obama was never serious about being a liberal game changer.  I could argue with you about this all day long.

I’d love to know more about all your humanitarian pursuits, particularly the environmental causes you’ve been championing in recent years.  I don’t know how you find the time to do it considering your work schedule but I greatly admire your passion to accomplish actual positive change rather than just repeat catchy, empty slogans like a certain President I could mention who lacks your commitment and convictions.

As much as I’ve enjoyed your work on OTH and the first season of Nip/Tuck, you need to pick better movies.  I mentioned Stay Alive and John Tucker Must Die earlier.  The former was terribly unscary and the latter was terribly unfunny.  You’ve proven on Television that you can be humourous, sexy, snotty, vulnerable, heroic and lovable in the same role.  I’m concerned you’ll never find another part as compelling and challenging as Brooke Davis.  I’m hoping you prove me wrong.  (Maybe I’ll find a hidden gem in your filmography.  I haven’t seen everything.)  I hate to see someone as talented as you flounder in films that are beneath you.  You deserve better.

On the plus side, I’m glad you got cast in Partners, a new comedy pilot created by the people that brought us Will & Grace.  I hope it’s funny enough to get picked up as a series.  Best of luck to you.  As you know full well, simultaneous artistic and commercial successes are often elusive in this business.  Maybe lightning will strike twice for you on TV.

Whatever you decide to do about your career and love life, I wish you well.  And with that, I offer you this:

I’m a sucker for a pinkish hue
Sophia Bush, I’m here for you

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 18, 2012
1:41 a.m.

Published in: on February 18, 2012 at 1:41 am  Comments (3)  

The On Button

Feel it throbbing under my fingertips
Feel it tingle under my moistened lips
A quivering prisoner of my gentle touch

The delightful agony of losing control
The absence of innocence in your passive soul
This dependence on pleasure has become a crutch

See you express long buried desires
See you reconnect all the electrical wires
All because of a single action

The colour of life returns to your face
As the invasion continues in your most vulnerable place
There’s no better reaction

You plea for more as the process continues
Yet you hope for exploration in other venues
One thing at a time, my dear

The sweat is so plentiful it glistens
Your mind no longer wanders, it listens
You’re no longer married to fear

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
3:54 p.m.

Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Smooth Transition

I look like hell and sound like shit
Yet there’s still a fire burning in this pit
Like a crumbling statue in the midst of decay
My appalling decline is lost in the fray

A dour figure, a forgotten dream
Kept at bay by the guardians of the mainstream
Too bold, too honest, too dangerously connected
Frequently ostracized and never protected

Fearlessness flowed through these once vital veins
Cultivating an essence for those with working brains
If I have a regret, it was being too aloof
With those who sold me as an outrageous poof

But at least I had an identity worthy of scorn
I was always so proud of leaving audiences torn
Half embraced the soul and the forbidden desire
The rest prayed and pleaded that I give up and retire

Maybe they’re right, just yank me off the stage
I’ve made peace with the events that inspired all my rage
Reliving a glorious past is embracing a pathetic future
Too many festering wounds to conceal with a suture

I look like hell and sound like shit
But bathing in denial, I just can’t quit
I want another chance, as crazy as it sounds
One last offensive towards sacred grounds

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 13, 2012
4:39 p.m.

Published in: on February 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm  Comments (3)  

Shower Of Hatred

In my mind you’re already dead
In my mind you’ve already been killed
My quota for imaginative revenge
Has long been filled

I don’t need to see you drown
I don’t need to watch you choke
Picturing your broken spirit
Is a much funnier joke

Degradation and humiliation
Tactics you once perfected
Have been adopted by your victim
Something you least expected

Be thankful I let you live
And let you go on with your day
Be relieved I never believed
All the horrible things you used to say

Your cruelty was boundless
Your loathing unrelenting
Not a single jab you uttered
Was ever worth defending

For some unknown reason
I was the chosen one
The target that needed punishing
You were having way too much fun

But bitterness follows you around
Like a cancer of the soul
You’re the very defintion
Of an unrepentant asshole

How interesting it would be
To recast all the parts
And unleash my full fury
Oh, to be a master of the dark arts

To see the look on your face
As I annihilate your very being
You would question your senses
You wouldn’t believe what you were seeing

But to live in the gutter with you
Even just for a second
Would disgust me to my core
Decency would beckon

I would much rather imagine
How awkward it would be
For you to come to grips
With your own depravity

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 13, 2012
4:27 p.m.

Published in: on February 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm  Comments (1)  

President Obama’s Rejected 2012 Campaign Playlist

Pop tunes, and music in general, have had their role in political campaigns for decades.  The needlessly long 2012 American Presidential race continues that tradition.  Whenever a candidate or incumbent walks to the podium to deliver a speech during one of the many stops on the trail, there’s usually a familiar song playing them up on stage.  And after they finish yammering on about things they don’t mean and promises they don’t intend to keep, either that same track or a different one plays them off.

Recently, President Obama released the songs he’ll be using for his re-election campaign.  Interestingly, he originally had a very different list that he ultimately abandoned.  Here they are in random order:

1. Masters Of War (Bob Dylan)

2. So Cruel (U2)

3. Killing An Arab (The Cure)

4. I’m Not The Man I Used To Be (Fine Young Cannibals)

5. I’m A Conservative (Iggy Pop)

6. Promised You A Miracle (Simple Minds)

7. Throwing It All Away (Genesis)

8. Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)

9. Under My Thumb (Rolling Stones)

10. Murder Inc. (Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band)

11. In Hiding (Pearl Jam)

12. Hole In My Soul (Aerosmith)

13. Secret (Madonna)

14. Search & Destroy (The Stooges)

15. Killing In The Name (Rage Against The Machine)

16. Master Of Puppets (Metallica)

17. Piggies (The Beatles)

18. Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)

19. Run Like A Villain (Iggy Pop)

20. Is There Any Love In Your Heart? (Lenny Kravitz)

21. Heart Of Stone (The Rolling Stones)

22. Pain & Suffering (Iggy Pop)

23. Oops…I Did It Again (Britney Spears)

24. March Of The Pigs (Nine Inch Nails)

25. Torture (The Jacksons)

26. Not For You (Pearl Jam)

27. Can I Play With Madness? (Iron Maiden)

28. Cocaine (Eric Clapton)

29. Paranoid (Black Sabbath)

30. War Pigs (Black Sabbath)

31. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)

32. Insane In The Brain (Cypress Hill)

33. Say It Ain’t So (Weezer)

34. Shameless (Billy Joel)

35. I Ran (So Far Away) (A Flock Of Seagulls)

36. Castles Made Of Sand (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

37. Un-Break My Heart (Toni Braxton)

38. One Thing Leads To Another (The Fixx)

39. Live And Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings)

40. You Know What You Are (Nine Inch Nails)

41. The Great Destroyer (Nine Inch Nails)

42. My Violent Heart (Nine Inch Nails)

43. Corruption (Iggy Pop)

44. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (Green Day)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 11, 2012
12:36 a.m.

Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 12:36 am  Comments (2)  

Yes Man

68 minutes.  That’s how long I waited to laugh while watching Yes Man, the worst movie Jim Carrey has ever appeared in.  He plays Carl, a solitary sad sack divorcee stuck in a depressing job and deeply devoted to saying no to any possibility of having fun.  (Absolutely nothing must interfere with his home DVD screenings.  For him, every night is a Blockbuster night.)

His life gradually changes, though, when Nick (John Michael Higgins), an old friend, runs into him outside one day during his lunch break.  Concerned that Carl hasn’t made anything of his professional life (he’s still at the same desk job routinely declining loans from desperate small business entrepreneurs), Nick raves about this self-help seminar he’s been attending.  He urges his pal to check it out.

But like everybody else in his life who foolishly try to convince him to socialize, Carl is cool to the offer.  (He’s always got a ready excuse, sometimes even before someone suggests a get-together.)  However, after purposefully missing his lawyer friend’s engagement party and having a bizarre nightmare that freaks him out, he ultimately changes his mind and runs into Nick again.

The seminar is led by Terence Stamp, a forceful Brit obsessed with the word “yes”.  Sounding more like a cult leader than a motivational speaker, his solution for getting ahead in life is jumping at any and all opportunites that come one’s way, careful discrimination be damned.  Throughout his ridiculous presentation, the enraptured audience hangs on his every word, constantly shouting out “yes”, among other things, like transfixed sheep.

When Stamp asks about new members to the flock, Nick helpfully points out Carl who understandably refuses to join him on stage.  So, the feisty scam artist takes off his shoes, hauls his ass to Carl in bare feet in record time and confronts him directly.  Refusing to give the man a choice in the matter, Stamp basically orders him to stop saying no to anything and everything or there’ll be consequences.  (He even wacks him in the head with his microphone at one point when he doesn’t play ball.  Maybe he should’ve done that to the screenwriters.)

Whenever Carl is hesistant with Stamp, the crowd incessantly chants “No man!  No man!  No man!”, a perfect nickname.  He literally has to resign himself to take on this absurd philosophy or risk breaking “the covenant” he’s unwittingly made.  Good lord.

Like a bad imitation of George Costanza, Carl basically does the opposite of what he would normally do in social situations after leaving the seminar.  But he needs to be truly convinced at first.  So when a homeless guy asks for a ride, Nick reminds him of what he agreed to.  Begrudgingly, he gives in.  Once in the car, though, the favours don’t stop.  Homeless guy needs to make a call.  Carl obliges.  Homeless guy needs some money before he leaves.  After some prodding, Carl gives him every bill he has left in his wallet.

Unfortunately, the cell phone’s battery dies and the car runs out of gas so he’s stranded while his former passenger is doing…something in those bushes.  (Maybe it’s best we never know.)  As you can imagine, Carl’s already regretting this sudden lifestyle change, loudly expressing his displeasure.  But after walking to a nearby gas station, he meets Zooey Deschanel, an aspiring pop singer/keytarist who also teaches photography to joggers at 6 a.m..  (Don’t ask.)

After she gives him a lift back to his car on her scooter, it’s pretty obvious they’ll be seeing each other again.  And sure enough, a few scenes later, Carl is at a local dive checking out her jokey all-female retro outfit, Munchausen By Proxy.  (Thankfully, Deschanel can sing even though her band’s keyboard-heavy material is completely devoid of wit.)  Trying very hard to channel Hendrix at one point, she performs The Star Spangled Banner on keytar.  It’s not as funny as it sounds.

Which brings me back to the film’s opening laugh.  Longtime character actor Luis Guzman is on a ledge ready to jump off.  (I envied him.)  Carl takes it upon himself to lure him back inside by picking up an acoustic guitar and playing Third Eye Blind’s Jumper.  (Fortunately, he had been taking lessons.)  Long story short, Carl saves the day and then unexpectedly references a famous Ringo Starr line which ends the film’s astonishing humourless streak.  It literally comes out of nowhere.

The film’s other funny moment happens about 20 minutes later.  You could say that it “cracked” me up.

In between those brief moments of levity are a lot of painfully forced scenes.  Carrey and Deschanel have zilcho chemistry which immediately kills their burgeoning romance.  Their banter never feels natural (Deschanel’s constant fake laughing is clearly a put-on to appease the sometimes desperately manic Carrey) which isn’t entirely their fault.  They’re literally given nothing funny or charming to say.  When an unexpected plot twist temporarily splits them up, we could care less whether they get back together or not.  It also doesn’t help that there’s a huge age gap, almost 20 years between the two performers, which is never addressed.  Put simply, their relationship is just not believable.

Also painful to watch is the growing but awkward friendship between Carl and Norm (Rhys Darby who played the hapless manager on Flight Of The Conchords), his boss at work.  Like the film itself, Norm is an overwrought people pleaser whose desperation and neediness for Carl’s affection and respect is more embarrassing than anything else.  He’s also way too obsessed with Harry Potter and 300.

But Yes Man’s biggest flaw is its laziness.  The idea of a smooth-talking huckster selling fools on the idea of saying “yes” to everything has great comic potential.  (Didn’t The Simpsons more successfully pursue a similiar theme years ago with an episode about a guru who told the residents of Springfield to do whatever they wanted?)  The problem is the film buys into it wholeheartedly without a lick of cynicism or doubt.  There is no satirical agenda to speak of here.  No real downside to being a “yes” addict (except the times when your dicky friends take advantage of your passivity or you get into a bar fight or you run afoul of the law).

Even the questionable decisions Carl makes leads to something better later on, like approving practically every loan he’s asked for and getting a big, long coveted promotion out of it.  In the end, you get the impression that he’s not only an addicitive slave (first by saying no to everything then saying yes) but possibly manic depressive.  Initially, his dreary, empty life moves very slowly then it accelerates to the point where, with one exception, he’s rarely fatigued.  The movie never really addresses this which might’ve reaped some comic rewards.

It isn’t until the film’s third act when Stamp belatedly and infuriatingly informs Carl that he didn’t actually have to say “yes” all the time after all.  Gee, thanks, for the head’s up, General Zod.  When exactly was he supposed to be choosy?

Prior to 2012 I had seen exactly 17 Jim Carrey movies, some close to being good, some average, some overrated, some just plain awful, but all of them too lousy to recommend.  None of them are as appallingly asinine and phony as Yes Man, the 18th consecutive stinker I’ve suffered through.  May this talented comedian one day make a movie I actually enjoy.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, February 10, 2012
4:17 p.m.

Published in: on February 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm  Comments (2)