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April 11, 2004

Subservient Chicken
Thanks to Brian for the link.
Want to see what is almost certainly the result of an overpaid ad agency and an underpaid man in a chicken suit? The youngest weirdos in Burger King’s marketing department seem to have somehow gotten the run of the IT department. The result: SubservientChicken.com, where you, too, can command a man in a chicken suit to do your time-wasting, slacker-ass bidding. Perhaps in the tradition of the Quizno’s appetite-killing rodents and McDonald’s hipster-hitting I’m Lovin’ It campaign, Burger King’s daring Subservient Chicken move at least pays the public a bit of respect by presuming we know what subservient means.

Also, it’s fun to boss around a guy with a chicken-head. Read that book, chickenman!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A terrific, really brilliant concept becomes a solid, richly human story in the newest script from Charlie Kaufman. This is another movie that had me asking on the way out, “Is Charlie Kaufman a genius?” Unclear, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a better film than Being John Malkovich or Adaptation. Whereas Malkovich was a manic rollercoaster of depressed characters, Mind is a character-driven emotional ride through an intuitive labrynth. That’s just a lot of words, though; the gist is that I want to see Spotless Mind again but I’ve never gotten around to seeing any part of Malkovich twice except for the all-Malkovich restaurant bit. (My brain periodically dishes me a dose of Malkovich slapping his hat and screaming “It’s my head!,” but I figure that’s a credit to the ad campaign more than the movie.)

Characters, actors: all good. Blanket praise on the whole cast, with a dollop of thanks for the underused Mark Ruffalo and terrific roles for Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. Not having seen Human Nature, I’m not yet comfortable speculating how many of the film’s visual tricks belong to director Michel Gondry and how many come direct from Kaufman’s screenplay. Some of those visual tricks are terrifically vivid, but–in the first third of the movie especially–they’re unclear to the point of feeling exclusionary. If you’d asked me about a half hour into Spotless Mind, I wouldn’t have expected to like it so much. This is a necessary feature of the film’s narrative, I suppose, since we move from uglier times backward to happier times, but there I sat dreading of my own boredom all the same.

Once inside the folds of the movie’s lobes, the experience is a confusing delight. What fascinates me the most is how well Kaufman implements his Philip-K.-Dick-esque (yow) memory-erasure idea into a mundane doctor’s office environment, a graveyard shift gig, and a knot of human threads. That the movie’s got meaty and meaningful roles for everyone listed on the poster is remarkable, given its parallel stories, its circular stories, and its inward-looking sci-fi concept. The characters in this sci-fi play are each distinctive, familiar, and ordinary in the best way. They’re the street-level opposites of the theoretically defined figurehead scientists in a Michael Crichton novel. Everything the characters do in this movie is believable and, often, sensible. Every character is fed to us in such a fashion that we may not like them immediately but will inevitably empathize with them. All this is vital for a movie build on an experience that we can’t really relate to.

Beyond all this, the movie’s even a parable on how to make human relationships work, to some extent. Things may be rough right now, but remember the good times. You’ll get angry if you forget you’re happy. Begin again. Don’t, I guess, dwell too much in the present.

So, is Charlie Kaufman a genius? I don’t know, but I walked out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind feeling jealous and wanting desperately to write something like it.

Garden State Trailer
Zach Braff is rapidly becoming a personal favorite of mine. He’s stellar on Scrubs and now he’s directing his own seemingly gorgeous feature (there’s that jealousy again). It’s unusual when a trailer enchants me like this new one for Braff’s Garden State. It had the same effect on me as the Lost in Translation trailer, which it’s clearly modeled on. Before, I knew next to nothing about Garden State. Now, I’m eager to see it. See it yourself on Apple.com’s great trailer page.

In the “Smarterish” Category
Didn’t know it was a noun? Neither did I, zany.

zany (ZAY-nee)
n., pl. za-nies
1. A ludicrous, buffoonish character in old comedies who attempts feebly to mimic the tricks of the clown.
2. A comical person given to extravagant or outlandish behavior.

Noise: Franz Ferdinand, “Take Me Out”

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