I have a good time looking at magazines.  Is that a guilty pleasure?  Beats me.  I’m a reader.  I read voraciously, and I need to constantly replenish my reading material.  Magazines are just more naturally suited to heavy-duty activities such as chowing down on Philly cheese-steaks and/or sitting on the crapper (which are not mutually exclusive).  I mean, I read my share of real books and novels, but usually not under those circumstances.


My current favorite magazines are Empire (the premiere film magazine in the UK and at this point likely the world), Wax Poetics (rarely-released funk, R&B, and soul music magazine with awesome photography), The New Yorker (when they have a good article it’s great), Fade In (hit or miss film magazine that often has lengthy, informative interviews), and the aforementioned King (the black Maxim).  And, if I’m being honest, Playboy and Blender.  I’m probably more embarrassed to admit the latter than the former.  Blender is just a watered-down format-thief of better UK music magazines like Mojo or Q, only Blender features mostly artists I care nothing about. 


And yeah, I do read Playboy for the articles – there’s not much better than their interviews, and they print short stories from a lot of cool authors – but okay fine, I do also like the occasional pretty girl.  Ain’t no crime.  I also like Lee Marvin movies, smoke a cigar about once a year, and have been in at least three fistfights that I can remember.  I’m all man, son!



Anyway, back to how much I like to read.  à



Maybe the best thing about magazines is their periodical nature.  Particularly because I really don’t watch that much TV besides DVD collections (I just hate commercials THAT much), my weekly trip to the magazine stand is one way to see what most people in America are interested in.  With no irony or sarcasm, I am always interested in what most people are thinking, watching, reading, or listening to.  Of course, there’s always the internet for that, and I do keep up with news and sports that way, but there’s also nothing quite like the tactile nature of magazines.  When you’ve grown up on newsprint, it’s kind of comforting in a way.



Anyway, the following is a survey of my thoughts and observations as I browsed the magazine racks today.  Doing that always gives me a general sense of where my interests and opinions dovetail with, or run away screaming from, Joe Public’s.  [Cliffs Notes version:  It would seem I have more in common with the general public than with most magazine editors, but you will be the judge.] 



I will try to keep most of the references and ranting to movies, since this is by design a movie blog.  Be sure to click on the highlighted links for the full interactive experience:



1::  Pop-Culture Attention Hogs


On the cover of the new Entertainment Weekly is a profile shot of Harry Potter.  I wonder, out of 52 issues a year, how many of those have been Harry Potter covers. 32?  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  19?  I know that there is one of those movies a year, and that Harry Potter is incredibly popular with everybody but me, but the media exposure of this series still feels like overkill.  Listen, I know another guy who puts out a movie per year and is still somehow popular with most everyone but me, and he also favors thick-rimmed glasses.  Why doesn’t he earn an Entertainment Weekly cover?  [Click here.]  But seriously, I know that Harry Potter sells magazines but I’m so much more interested in movies featured inside like Miracle At St. Anna, Righteous Kill, Changeling, Body of Lies, W., Synecdoche NY, City of Ember, Australia, The Road, Doubt, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  And Gran Torino.  Two Eastwood movies in a season?  Sounds like Jonny Christmas.



2::  Doppleganger…!


  James Franco takes the cover of the new GQ.  I like James Franco.  Anybody who’s still surprised at how funny he is in Pineapple Express hasn’t done their civic duty by watching Freaks & Geeks or Spider-Man.  [Okay, so he’s a little more unintentionally funny in Spider-Man, such as the longing, lip-gnawing look he gives when Willem Dafoe is nicer to Tobey Maguire than to him.  But I’m one of those who thought he gave a great performance in Spider-Man 3 so I’m not bag on the guy.]  But do you think even James Franco is ready to stop being called “the next James Dean”?  Sure, he looks like him, but get over it.  It’s not even an exact resemblance, and I guarantee no one’s ever confused the two.  [Not like the Ray Winstone/ Brendan Gleeson Paradox I uncovered last year.] It’s certainly not a unique angle for a magazine article.  Plus, James Dean made Rebel Without A Cause, Giant, and East of Eden.  James Franco made Spider-Man 2 and Pineapple Express.  Franco has at least one more legendary classic to make before the two careers are reasonably comparable.  Not to mention that Franco has already outlived Dean, and the superstitious mind might reasonably worry that all these comparisons are gonna start jinxing the guy.  Me, I’m not particularly superstitious, but I don’t go looking for black cats either – feel me?  I would much prefer Franco stay alive and well and available for the inevitable Spider-Man 4 and Pineapple Express 2.



3::  Journalistic Integrity


In the recent Rolling Stone with Robert Downey Jr. on the cover, there is a short interview with Anna Faris about her upcoming movie The House Bunny where she plays a retired Playboy Playmate who mentors a bunch of already pretty college girls so that they can become stripper-hot.  I have no opinion about the movie (at least not one that is fit to print), but reading this interview made me chuckle.  Outside of Inside The Actor’s Studio, it’s rare that an interview carries so much journalistic bias.  In this case, the questions are all focused around whether Anna Faris visited the Playboy Mansion as research.  The interviewer’s questions keep expressing a potent disgust in all things Playboy, asking if she ever visited the Grotto while implying that the Grotto is a disease-ridden cesspool.  For such a brief interview, the anti-Playboy slant is very obvious.  I asked myself, “Who is this guy?” and scanned down to the author byline.  OK, this makes it all worth it:  Dude’s name is Jason Gay.  Now this goes either one of two ways – either “Jason Gay” is an alter ego and the guy is trying to push an agenda where it doesn’t fit, or he actually is heterosexual and has some kind of weird hang-up, maybe induced by what was no doubt an awful ten years on the school bus.  In the second case, I might recommend to Jason Gay that he not go around conducting interviews that way, or else you risk being ridiculed by infantile jerks, such as myself.



4::  A Rap Nickname That Is Still Available…


  On the cover of the new Blender is Lil Wayne.  I’m a big hip-hop fan and my tastes do tend to be just outside of the mainstream, but I actually like Lil Wayne.  I like Lil Wayne because I don’t think he’s serious.  I mean, Jay-Z is good and all but being that he’s nearing forty he should probably stop rapping about how he used to run drugs when he was a kid.  It comes off kind of lame.  We’ve all seen the yacht, Jay.  Lil Wayne, like every other mainstream rapper, talks about “bottles in the club,” but unlike every other mainstream rapper, he also talks about how much he loved Gremlins as a kid.  When he defeats adversaries, he “pops ‘em like Orville Redenbacher.”  Just the fact that one of his nicknames is Weezy, when everybody in the hip-hop game knows that Weezy was George’s wife, makes me a fan.  I also like that in interviews he refers to himself as a pretty boy, since everyone who remembers The Road Warrior will have to agree that Wayne looks exactly like The Feral Kid.


One song I like by Lil Wayne is called “I’m Me” from Tha Carter III.  It’s full of typically hilarious and awesome boasts and similes and a very weird shout to douchebag Kevin Federline, but this time around the sample is the music from the end of Heat.  That’s so unbelievably pretentious I can’t help but love it.  Of course, one could easily say the same about the original music which is from Moby naturally, and is called “God Moving Across The Face Of The Water.”  Wayne also talks about how when he is old he will poop all over himself, and what other top-40 MC would do that?  Real talk!



5::  Unflattering Close-Ups  


I have never read In Style magazine and probably never will, no matter how long my next doctor’s waiting room experience turns out to be.  One reason is that it’s apparently not so flattering to its cover subjects.  Take the one I saw today:  Rihanna is the cover model.  Cute girl, and I loved that “Umbrella” single.  In whose best interest is it to make Rihanna look like Prince?



6::  The Great Tropic Thunder / Retard Brou-Ha-Ha: 


Disability advocacy groups are up in arms [no pun intended, lest I be lumped in with that horrible Ben Stiller] over the fact that a character in the new comedy Tropic Thunder makes a movie where he portrays a mentally challenged person in order to get critical acclaim and acting awards.  Apparently the word “retard” is bandied about liberally [anti-liberally?].  If you have to explain the joke, it stops being funny.  But I guess there’s a significant amount of people who want us all to know that their senses of humor are severely lacking.  The studio’s official defense is, [paraphrased] “We were making fun of Hollywood actors, never actual mentally challenged people.”  Usually this defense is a copout and a dodge, but in this case, it’s so obviously what is going on.


Hollywood has a long history of non-mentally challenged actors making blatant Oscar grabs by portraying mentally challenged people.  Over the last two decades, the amount of such simpering, superficial movies and performances has skyrocketed.  Heaven forbid these movies actually give the opportunity to one of the many working mentally challenged actors.  No, it has to be a star or up-and-coming name, who is looking to demonstrate their wonderful range.  Of course none of these people ever come close to resembling how an actual mentally challenged person behaves.  Instead, they teach other characters life lessons about priorities and love.  As much as Sean Penn is a personal influence and inspiration to me, I cannot condone his performance in I Am Sam.  The fact that the non-retarded guy who played the retarded guy from Gigli ever worked again, considering how off the mark he was, is kind of offensive.  And the trailer for The Other Sister, where the characters’ innocence is played for hacky jokes, offended me on a level of 10, whereas the trailer for Tropic Thunder made me laugh and want to see the movie BECAUSE I get the joke.  The joke truly is on the pretentious actors, not the mentally challenged.  If there were a mentally challenged character in Tropic Thunder who was berated and called “retard” by the other characters, THEN it would be offensive.


I also have some trepidation at making decisions based on people who choose to advocate for a group of people, rather than letting us hear directly from that group themselves.  In a way, these advocates infantilize and marginalize the people they represent much more emphatically than a movie could ever do.  Is it possible that, at the very least, these advocates are over-sensitive?  I do think that if “the R-word” hurts the feelings of mentally-challenged people, it should be phased out.  Or a realistic dialogue should ensue, at the very least.  But I think calling it “hate speech” and specifically comparing it to “the N-word” is incorrect and dangerous.  It’s just not accurate to parallel the treatment and experience of the mentally challenged with the experience of Jewish and black people throughout history, no matter how much speech-writers with a cause important to them may want it to be so.



7::  Another Rant From Me


This week’s US Weekly sums up what what I DON’T get about popular culture.  The cover headline declares, with typical back-handed enthusiasm, that “Jennifer Love Hewitt lost 18 pounds in ten weeks!!!” 


First of all, any society that insists that Jennifer Love Hewitt needed to lose 18 pounds is, in my opinion, a criminally insane society.  By that I mean it’s beyond sick; it’s actually wrong.  It’d be one thing if magazines like this junky rag were only read by catty gay guys, but unfortunately a lot more girls pick this up [US is one of the nation’s top sellers] and more than a few of them think they need to cut the food intake strictly down to lettuce and yogurt.  Next thing you know, Rihanna is walking around looking like Prince. 


And no, the answer isn’t boob (or butt) implants (yikes); it’s healthy eating and healthy self-image.  But nooo, we’d rather hound Jennifer Aniston to the ends of the earth just to get yet another pointless picture of her in a bikini that we can then [absurdly] make fun of over Mac & cheese before we turn off Entertainment Tonight and switch on Jeopardy.  Remember how much you loved her on Friends, America?  What’s with all the savagery?  Madness.  I keep threatening to write a longer edition of this diatribe, but you get the point I hope.  It’s not right to make women feel like they have to conform to some fashion designer’s idea of female beauty, especially when the truth is that most fashion designers don’t exactly go home to women.  Yet still, in the year 2008, despite the past best efforts of Jennifer Lopez, we still are presented with unhealthily-skeletal Paris Hilton as some kind of beauty icon.  Well, I’m one guy that don’t much feel like standing for that anymore.  Forget Sex and the City, I’m the real, stubbly face of feminism.  Still don’t agree with me?  Watch as I convert half of the country’s population to my point of view in an instant:  Fellas, look at what these bastard magazines made Jennifer Love Hewitt do!  They made her lose the wrong 18 pounds!!!