Ask The A.V. Club - April 10, 2008
What's Brown And Sounds Like A Bell?
When I was a kid, I watched a lot of USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear and Gilbert Gottfried. Usually, I ate up whatever Troma films they had playing through the wee hours of the morning, but I can remember once seeing something entirely different. Now, I could be wrong—this film had some filthy language and may have been on HBO or Cinemax—but my buddy and I were cracking up laughing at it. It was an old Japanese movie that was poorly dubbed with lots of filthy, juvenile jokes. One running gag was this guy who would ask everyone, "What's brown and has holes? Swiss shit!" Another gag revolved around this kid who had "cum-osis" because he was so horny. In one scene, the kid gets a new toy, and his horribly dubbed voice says, "Can I take it to my room and fuck it?" Later, the kid is on his deathbed dying from cum-osis, and someone next to him says, "I can feel the semen rushing to his brain!"
It's probably for the best, but I haven't been able to find out what this damn movie is for at least 15 years, probably a few more. Google searches for the quotes I gave bring up nothing, and I can't find anyone else who remembers this. Is it possible that anyone at the A.V. Club who spent their formative years in the early '90s watching late-night filth and Rhonda Shear's boobs knows what I'm talking about?
Sean O'Neal is filthy late at night:
Ah, I knew my youth wasn't wasted! Like you, Lucas, I spent many a Friday and Saturday night in my early teens curled up in front of garbage like H.OT.S., Laserblast, Hamburger The Motion Picture, and Hunk, so I know exactly what you're talking about. As you mention, in between all the cheapie horror flicks, teen sex romps, and Andy Sidaris softcore porns with the naughty bits taken out, Up All Night was the nation's chief supplier of Troma Entertainment, and the movie you're thinking of is the esteemed schlock-house's Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters (1982). According to company president Lloyd Kaufman in this intro to the VHS, Troma took a serious action film from Indonesia and overdubbed the dialogue, What's Up, Tiger Lily?-style, from a script written by his brother, Charles Kaufman. (Not to be confused with Being John Malkovich scribe Charlie Kaufman.) In Troma's hands, the martial-arts master became an "Elvis impersonator," the heroine became a "Jewish mama," and the soundtrack was gussied up by "some excellent Troma farting," while the plot (what remains of it) changed from a "Rambo remake" to the story of a female wrestler forced out of retirement to pay for her brother's operation; his seminal vessels, you see, run to his brain instead of his groin, so his head will explode if he gets overly stimulated. The "deathbed" scene you're thinking of is below (and here's a bonus clip starring the "crackhead cobra"). Don't let your mom catch you.
Give Peace A Chance
It seems to have subsided in recent years, however, I often wonder why Japanese people flash the "peace" sign during photographs so much. I have noticed these in photos online (not that I'm into cosplay or anything ummm, yeah) and personally when I was in Ireland, touring various IRA/Catholic monuments where a Japanese tourist group was on the same route as me. I first thought it could be considered a commentary on the subject matter of the monuments; however, the tourists flashed the peace sign in every picture they took, regardless of the background—standing in front of a tourist shop, sitting on a bus, etc. Could this be traced to something in Japanese pop culture, much like suburban white kids throwing gang signs because of all those Tupac videos?
Genevieve Koski says "konnichiwa," and offers this:
There are a bunch of theories as to the origin of the V sign—either a peace sign or a Winston Churchill-style victory symbol, depending on which story you go with—in Japanese culture, many of which can be found on the Wikipedia page on the subject. The most widely disseminated seems to be that when U.S. figure skater Janet Lynn fell during the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, she kept smiling and flashed the peace sign even while ass-down on the ice, making her an overnight sensation in Japan. Copycats followed her lead.
There's a lot of pedantic reasoning floating around rationalizing the sign's popularity in photographs—it allows expressiveness in a notoriously reserved culture; it serves as a non-verbal "cheese," indicating readiness to be photographed; and, most oddly, that it draws attention away from the subjects' small eyes—but there seems to be a general consensus on one thing: It's deeply ingrained in the culture. Japan Today asked young Japanese people why they make the V sign, and one respondent said, "I make the peace sign but I don't know why I do it, who invented it and when we started doing this. I think I've been doing it since I was born. The peace sign gesture must have been programmed in my DNA, or foreigners mind-controlled Japanese to make the peace sign subconsciously when we pose for a photo to keep the peace after the war."
Mind control may be a bit of a stretch, but it's worth noting that the sign is extremely present in anime/manga and commercial television, no doubt aiding in its popularity among school kids. The symbol's association with these have no doubt helped link it to the concept of "kawaii," or cuteness, a prominent aspect of modern Japanese pop culture and fashion (think Hello Kitty, sailor uniforms, and pigtails) that, when taken to the extreme, leads to situations like this:
When awards are given out to honor Best Screenplay (Original/Adapted, etc.), are the judges reviewing actual scripts or finished movies? As anyone who's read scripts after or before they go to filming knows, they are usually quite different beasts, and take many different forms. (The Coens' scripts read like stories, while P.T. Anderson's read like instruction manuals both are compelling.) But I'm sure there are lots of great scripts that result in crap movies, and vice versa.
Noel Murray peruses the rulebook:
It's basically left up to the conscience of the individual, Rob. Some Academy Awards categories require a nominating process that places select committees in screening rooms, making (theoretically) informed decisions, but the screenplay Oscars—like acting, directing, and the other major categories—are nominated via a ballot that the entire voting membership of the Academy receives. Those who are members of the Academy's writing branch are asked to fill in their nominations for screenplay, the directors are asked to nominate directors, and so on. (And everybody gets to nominate Best Picture candidates.) But the thought process behind those choices isn't monitored in any way. Writers can read their colleagues' screenplays if they want to, or just vote based on the finished product.
But I do know that at the end of the year, when studios and publicists are sending screener DVDs to critics and Academy members for awards-season consideration, they frequently send out screenplays as well. I know, because I've received a few myself—and I only get about a third of what a real Academy member would get.
I was wondering, what are the demographics of your readership? Specifically, how many men vs. women are there? I'm a chick and I like it, but I sometimes get the feeling that I might be in a distinct minority; namely, every time you interview some indie chick and there's a 150-count comment thread centering on whether she's bangable. (To the point where the interviews with Summer Glau and Parker Posey have 150-count threads filled with meta-comments about how the whole discussion of the article is bound to focus on whether they're bangable. Which it then, by and large, does.) The Earth is round, guys like to bang hot chicks; I'm not trying to suggest that I think there's something that one could or ought to do about that. And such conversations are clearly the minority of what gets discussed at the site overall. But personally, I tend to avoid those threads, even if I am interested in the artist, and I'm wondering if there's a lot of chicks like me who read but don't comment as much, or if the readership is indeed largely male.
I don't actually know if you can answer this; the info might be proprietary.
Tasha Robinson is sometimes proprietary:
The info you're looking for isn't that private, C. In fact, our demographics are readily available online, as part of the media kit we make available to potential advertisers. As you can see, our latest numbers (they're updated twice a year) show a 64/36 male-to-female split, so while you're in the minority, you aren't one lone voice among thousands of slobbering dudes, however much it might sometimes seem like it. (I'm right there with you.)
However, it's worth noting that the demographics are for The Onion as a website as a whole, and aren't split out by news section vs. A.V. Club. So it's possible that The A.V. Club skews more male or more female than we realize. It's pretty hard to tell. (Aren't half the people who claim to be female online just trolling guys anyway?) Really, the question isn't who's reading, it's who's commenting. And just judging from the way the comments often go, I tend to think that commentators as a whole are probably younger, and more likely male, than the statistical-median Onion reader. Either that, or they're hot lesbians who also want to get it on with Parker Posey and Summer Glau. Enjoy that image, predominately young male commentators.
STUMPED NO MORE!
We seem to be four for five this week, alas. Anil was looking for "some strange children's movie or TV show where a kid winds up in some strange land and at one point has to cross over a river of eyeballs." There were a couple of vague theories, but no one was able to identify it positively. Last chance, armchair experts
Of the other four, Jalal was looking for an animated short "about a man who goes to sleep and dreams up a civilization. The dream civilization becomes so advanced that it realizes they are just a figment of this man's imagination." Several people identified this as a 23-minute short called "Rarg!" Special thanks go out to "riblits" for this link to a page with a detailed description and screenshots, and to saburai for finding a copy online.
Park remembered a science-fiction book about a young man living in a world where "anyone who tested as being too lucky was spirited away and executed." "Real genius" was the first to identify this as Starluck, by Donald Wismer. It's out of print, but according to this page, at least, Wismer might still be selling signed copies himself. Good luck.
Ronnie was looking for an animated film in which "a group of kids have a friend who's dying of an illness. Toward the end, an evil man propositions them with a choice: sacrifice their own lives by drastically increasing their ages to save their friend." The general consensus, led by "Daecrist," seems to be that this is the animated adaptation of The Halloween Tree by perennial Ask The A.V. Club favorite Ray Bradbury, and also that Ronnie got a lot of the details wrong. Fortunately, the movie's out there on VHS for those who want to clarify.
And in a similar vein, Doug's TV show about a man who loses his skeleton is apparently an episode of Ray Bradbury Theater (thanks for the link, "Dr. Crippen"), based on Bradbury's story "Skeleton," from his collection The October Country. The A.V. Club is seriously considering requiring everyone who sends in a "please identify this memory" question from now on to first read the collected works of Bradbury, and then go watch Unico. Maybe if they do, they'll find that river of eyeballs. Meanwhile, thanks tremendously to everyone who wrote in with answers.
Next week: Career advice, that storyteller thing we promised last week, and more. Send your questions to email@example.com.