Daniel Day-Lewis IS Barack Obama … in Steven Spielberg’s latest masterpiece.

Video

From the White House Correspondent’s dinner … THE Oscar contender for 2013!

Advertisements

Vic Ferrari … Man of Action!

Video

One of my favorite TV characters was Andy Kaufman’s sweet, but clumsy Eastern European garage mechanic Latka Gavras on the the terrific late 1970s/early 1980s situation comedy “Taxi.” One of my favorite arcs on the show was when Latka, frustrated with his lack of success with women, started reading Playboy magazine. Latka not only buys the Playboy philosophy hook, line, and sinker, but transforms completely into the smug, hip 1970s ladies man Vic Ferrari.

This clip is not the best quality but it’s still watchable.

A certain kind of horrible boss … as seen in the BBC version of “The Office”

Image

The original BBC version of “The Office,” with Ricky Gervais, is one of the best TV series ever created.  While the American version with Steve Carrell is very good, it gingerly avoids the darkness that makes the British version arguably funnier … and much more painful to watch.  Carrell’s Michael Scott may be a pathetic, delusional human being, but his character is nowhere near as pathetic or delusional as Gervais’s David Brent.  And unlike Scott, Brent pays dearly for his delusions and the BBC version doesn’t let you off with a laugh at Brent’s expense.

I could talk in detail about how great the BBC version is, but I won’t.  Mainly because I have nothing to add to the many brilliant things already written about it.   However, the reason I’m talking about it now is how “The Office” brings to light a certain kind of horrible boss that we all know about, but until “The Office” (BBC version) so clearly articulated it, was hard to define.  When people think of horrible bosses, most people would identify the obvious tropes: the yellers/screamers, the micromanagers, the sexual harrassers, the bigots, the homophobes, the religious fanatics, the anti-religious bigots, the smarmy passive-aggressive types (best exemplified by Gary Cole’s Lumbergh character from “Office Space”), etc.  Yes, all of these types sadly still exist and admittedly, are probably worse than the type of boss that Brent represents.

Yet, Brent epitomizes what I call the “disengaged boss.”  A “disengaged boss” is not necessarily a bad person (though sometimes they are).  They are bosses who tend to be either severely distracted (either by drama outside of work or other activities) and/or have no interest at all in actually leading.  They may have an interest in being “the boss” because the job pays more, the job holds more prestige, and it may lead to something that pays even better and has more prestige.   But they care little about the people below them.  By not being aware of what their employees are doing, they’re unaware of situations that could explode into crises, they don’t performance manage employees that stray – leading to resentment from those that don’t, and they have no idea of what the people below them actually contribute and what their strengths are.   When the disengaged boss is called out on it (usually by their superiors), they overcompensate by either micromanaging some situation that’s within their control (usually something insignificant), or they completely misread the situation (because they barely know what’s going on) and make things significantly worse.

Sometimes, these people bill themselves as a “fun boss,” which I’ve learned is a red flag.  People are either fun or they’re not.  The sense of fun that emanates from a naturally fun person comes from how they look at life and how they engage people, not from elaborately-planned “theme” activities, which seem more like work than the actual job you’re hired for.  If someone is trying that hard to have “fun,” they’re overcompensating for something they so clearly lack and trust me, they hate themselves.

This is a very bad type of boss and because these people are technically “in charge,” they’re given the benefit of the doubt far more often the employees who work for them.  Sadly, many of these employees either move on or are so demoralized by the time this type of boss is figured out, it takes lots of money and time to repair the damage that has been done by such people.

How do I know so much about this type of boss?  Because I was this kind of boss… to a certain degree.  Not as bad as Brent, but as much as I love the BBC version of “The Office,” I’ve only been able to watch it once … because it brings back too many bad memories.  Back in college, I became a DJ and “Director of Special Programming” for one of the campus radio stations.  Because I had a lot of enthusiasm and “can-do” attitude, the outgoing leaders felt I would make a good President and General Manager and encouraged me to run for the slot.  Being a sucker for flattery, I ran unopposed and got the position.  I was head of a campus organization that had between 40-50 members and yes, my 21-year old self felt like a real big shot.  Until … that is … I realized I not only had no idea what I was doing, but that I had no interest at all in doing the work of actually managing a group of 40-50 people.  Worse, I had no vision for what I planned to do to move the station forward in the year I was going to be in charge.  The fact that I ran unopposed should have clued me in to the fact that this was a very tough job no one else wanted.  At this point, if I had been smart, I should have seized this opportunity, given it a really strong try, and while I may not have always been successful, my heart would have been in the right place and I would have known I had done my best.

But I didn’t.  I retreated.  Even worse, I wanted everyone to like me and as everyone knows, when you try to please everybody, you please no one.  This was the worst type of approach with the leaders I led.  They were all good people, but many of them had VERY strong personalities, oftentimes in opposition to each other.  Getting all of these types of people swimming in the same direction would be a difficult task for any leader, but my approach, a combination of disengaging or trying to make everyone happy, was the worst possible combination.  Even worse, when I felt like had to be a “leader,” I overcompensated by micromanaging or browbeating.  I’m sure it’s no surprise that this approach did no good.

I could relate individual instances of incompetent leadership displayed by yours truly, but I won’t.  Not because I’m too prideful.  But because 99% of them are too banal and boring and not catastrophic enough to be awful/funny.  The best they would elicit is an eye roll, but most likely they would evoke “zzzzz”s.  They’re not even good enough for the reject bin for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”  Except one incident does stand out.  Someone from the yearbook wanted to interview me and during the interview, I don’t think I provided a single intelligent answer to any question she asked.  They were softball questions and my answer to most questions were “Um, I’ll need to get back to you on that.”  It’s not that I didn’t know the answer.  It’s just that I only knew about 60% of what I was supposed to know … because I was THAT disengaged.

The one bright spot is that this horrible year happened when I was 21-22 years old.  This was while I was in school with no responsibilities other than my classes and yes, this leadership “job” I volunteered for and the people under me were not earning income and depending on me for survival.  Having this experience at the age of 35, married with kids, a mortgage, car payments, and with people who earn their living off of how I deal with them would have been considerably worse.  And yes, karma bit my ass good later in life by having a couple of bosses that were just like me and yes, it sucked … big time.

There have been managers and leaders I’ve had over the years that have been magnificent in their jobs, mainly because I felt they cared about me, knew what I was doing (without micromanaging), and supported me in what I wanted to do.  These actions of support made me want to make them look better.  I had their back because I knew they had my back.

I want to close by asking any one out there who’s thinking of going into management or leadership to really think about why you want to do it.  You don’t have to like or love what you do every day or even like or love all of the people that work for you.   And it’s OK to feel unsure or scared about whether you’ll make a good leader.  People should challenge themselves and stretch beyond their comfort zones.  But if you’re only taking a leadership position because of the prestige or extra pay, trust me when I say that you’re going to earn every penny … and you will probably find yourself shortchanged, especially given the personal hell you, your family, and your employees will go through.

“Wild Things” (1998) dir. John McNaughton

Video

Oh … my … God! Ostensibly, a modern film noir erotic suspense thriller, “Wild Things” is one of the most deliriously nasty and hysterically funny films ever made. If you aren’t laughing your ass off throughout this movie, you either have no sense of humor or are dead.

Before “Wild Things,” director John McNaughton was best known for the intense classic “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and the critically acclaimed, but under-appreciated thriller “Normal Life” (discussed earlier on Dave’s Strange World). However, “Wild Things” wound up becoming McNaughton’s most popular and best-known film. While “Basic Instinct” is the magna carta of erotic thrillers, “Wild Things” is its disreputable punk rock cousin, pissing all over whatever “class” “Instinct” had.

Recounting the plot is pointless. Mainly because there are double, triple, quadruple, quintuple … ad nauseum crosses with added red herrings that extend even into the credits. The fact that a new (and frequent) plot twist completely changes the meaning of everything you saw before it is part of the fun.

To call “Wild Things” sleazy is damning it with faint praise. Of course it’s sleazy … but trust me, it takes a lot of talent to make something this disreputable so much fun. The performances by Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, Neve Campbell, and Bill Murray are pitch perfect for the insanity you’ll experience while watching it. As much as I love “Color of Night” for its bats–t craziness, “Wild Things” delivers everything “Color of Night” has in a much cooler, confident manner. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a major, major treat. Like a bad (but still enjoyable) one-night-stand, you’ll hate yourself the next day … but only to a certain extent.

“Irreversible” (2002) dir. Gaspar Noe

Video

One of the most disturbing films ever made, Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” contains a classic movie trope (rape and then revenge for the rape), but completely undermines it by telling the story in reverse. Instead of seeing a horrible crime and its aftermath, you see the aftermath first … then the trauma … the events leading up the trauma … and then life when the trauma would not even be conceivable for its characters. The decision to show this sequence of events in reverse is positively devastating. While this film contains scenes of near-unwatchable graphic violence and sexual brutality, the film’s final scene … which is a peaceful scene set in a park with the lead female protagonist … is arguably, the most painful to watch … mainly because we know what’s ahead and it’s unbearable to watch someone who has no idea what physical and psychic devastation lays ahead for them.

“Irreversible” was the most notorious film of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, prompting walk-outs and severe denunciations. I can completely understand this, because the film is one of the most brutalizing cinematic experiences you’ll ever see. But it’s not only thematically ballsy, but artistically so. This is a great, great film, but not a film that you’d want to watch more than once. I would not find fault with anyone who would refuse to watch this on principle. Even if you think you have a strong stomach, “Irreversible” will go beyond what you think you can handle. But don’t let the severe subject matter dissuade you from thinking this is a great film. It is a devastating masterpiece, but please proceed with extreme caution. This is an NC-17 film that makes “Showgirls” look like “E.T.” I’m not kidding at all in saying this.  The film stars internationally renowned actors Monica Belluci and Victor Cassel.

“Pocket Pool” – Killer Pussy from “New Wave Theater”

Video

More highlights from New Wave Theater, this is the band Killer Pussy with their song “Pocket Pool.” You may not believe this, but their most famous song is called “Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage” … which was actually a hit on LA’s KROQ-FM back in the early 1980s.

“New Wave Theater” from USA Network’s “Night Flight” circa 1984

Video

I discussed watching this seminal punk cable TV show in a previous Dave’s Strange World entry … along with the impact of seeing the Dead Kennedys doing “Holiday in Cambodia” on the show had on me personally. If you haven’t read it, you can catch it at the link below.  You will not only see the performance, but the post goes into more detail about the show and host Peter Ivers:

https://davesstrangeworld.com/2012/09/11/1514/

However, since then, someone generously uploaded an entire episode of “New Wave Theater” broadcast sometime in the first half of 1984 from the legendary late-night USA cable network show “Night Flight.” This was broadcast right after host Peter Ivers’ untimely murder. For better or worse, commercials from the day were not edited out, so you can reminisce … or drag your mouse along the bottom of the visual to fast forward. To get the proper perspective of this, imagine watching this at 1:30 am, a little sleep deprived.  To say it was mind-blowing back in the day is coming up short.

“Bully” (2001) dir. Larry Clark

Video

First a disclaimer. The film “Bully” being discussed here is not the critically acclaimed documentary released in 2012, but a docudrama released in 2001. With that out of the way …

Like most of Larry Clark’s films, “Bully” is a hard film to recommend to people, let alone admit that you liked or admired it. If you know what I’m talking about, then you know Clark tends to let his camera linger a little too long on things that would prompt most rational people to call the police.

“Bully” is no exception. Like Clark’s earlier, better-known, and arguably more notorious debut film “Kids,” “Bully” is a disturbing look at young people with no values, no moral compass, and, if truth be told, no brains. The kids of Clark’s films aren’t misunderstood lost souls battling adults who don’t understand them or who live in an environment that will never let them get ahead. In “Bully,” the kids are comfortably middle-class, but aside from working minimum wage jobs in strip malls, don’t appear to have any ambition other than getting high or getting laid.

“Bully” is a tale about the murder of a real-life teenage bully and rapist named Bobby. There’s no doubt that Bobby is a loathsome individual. However, what makes the film “Bully” so interesting is how the plot to murder him by the people he abused is planned, executed, and then concluded. It doesn’t take a criminologist to conclude that most violent crime is committed by people who are not that smart. Clark’s film is one of the most vivid portrayals of extremely stupid people carrying out a heinous act and then practically giving themselves away. It’s not a matter of someone snitching, but with all the insanely dumb things that are done before, during, and after the act, you’re actually shocked that their plot isn’t found out earlier.

Please believe me when I say that “Bully” is one of the most disturbing films you’ll ever see.  It’s the only film I’ve ever seen that made me want to shower afterwards … with the help of a wire brush and Comet cleanser.  The movie hit home for me in a lot of ways, mainly because the Florida setting and aimlessness of the characters reminded me a lot of the people I knew in the beach community where I grew up.   However, as graphic and as sickening as the unrated film often is (its NC-17 rating was surrendered), you may think on first glance that this is just another Clark perv-fest. (The notorious “crotch cam” shot doesn’t help dispel this notion). However, not only is “Bully” based on a true story and fairly accurate (at least as far as the events as portrayed in the Jim Schutze true crime book of the same name are concerned) but that, if anything, Clark showed “restraint” in making his film, because the real version of events are even more disturbing and harrowing that what’s depicted here.

The film contains some brilliant performances, especially by Brad Renfro as Marty, Bobby’s best friend, biggest victim, and someone Bobby has a homoerotic fixation on; Leo Fitzpatrick as the moronic suburban “hitman” hired by the crew; Rachel Miner as Marty’s girlfriend Lisa, who is raped (and may be pregnant) by Bobby; Bijou Phillips as Ali, Bobby’s sometime girlfriend and rape victim; and last, but certainly not least, Nick Stahl as Bobby, the loathsome bully of the film and victim of doltish mob justice.

“Bully” in my opinion, is not only Clark’s masterpiece, but one of the best true crime films ever made.

Please note that the trailer attached here is not safe for work.