Sunday, April 18, 2004

TV Commercial: Saturn

A couple stands in their driveway, admiring their sporty new bright red roadster. A bird appears overhead. I expect the hubby to make a diving leap for the hood to prevent undue spattering; this is how ingrained the new gross-out style of commercial humor has become. But no! The bird is a stork, and it lands on the driveway, sets down a bundle of joy, and wanders over to admire the car. The couple glance down at the squirming bundle on the concrete, then look at each other. Next thing you know, they’ve traded in their sporty new bright red roadster for an SUV. Because, as the voiceover informs us, life changes quickly, and Saturn is the only major car dealer that will allow you trade in your new vehicle within 30 days of purchase.

I find this ad creepy. Does anybody get the stork reference anymore? And doesn’t the stork work exclusively for Vlasic Pickle now anyway?

Book: Thieves’ Dozen, by Donald E. Westlake (2004)

A collection of short fiction about hapless thief John Dortmunder. (As the title implies, there are eleven stories.) I’m an unabashed fan of Westlake and of Dortmunder in particular, so it won’t come as a surprise to say that I loved the book. There’s not a dud in the bunch. “Too Many Crooks” is a personal favorite, and the final story “Fugue for Felons,” which is and isn’t a Dortmunder story (at one point Westlake thought he was going to lose the rights to the name to Hollywood, so he cooked up an alias for the character and wrote a story about him), makes for a fascinating exercise. Many of the stories contain perverse tributes to the New York City subway system, and a few are hymns to the glories of the borough of Queens, land of my birth. Plus, Westlake brings back my favorite greeting: “Harya.”

TV: Deadwood, 4/11

We have our first contender for line of the year. And there’s no profanity in it. Considering the show that it comes from, that’s a remarkable achievement.

Calamity Jane: “Wait in your room. It’ll take him a while to get the phlegm situated.”

Video: Matchstick Men (2003)

It’s great to have Nicolas Cage back acting again. Alison Lohman is going to have a long career. Ridley Scott directs with a light touch, and L.A. has never looked lovelier. Still, there’s an air of contrivance about the movie that sank it for me.

I dipped into the special features and learned that the screenwriters, Ted and Nicholas Griffin, originally stripped out the final plot twist because they didn’t want the audience to get angry with them. But without that twist, there’s no movie. The suits made the right call for once.