Each week, as I sift through online videos for this column, I kick one of my ballet slippers up onto my studio barre, bust out a few pliés, and and try to find an overarching theme to unite the week’s digest. Usually these themes come to me immediately, even before the first scissor-kick. But that’s probably because I’m really, really smart.
This week, however, I could not find a theme. I thought, and I step-ball-changed, and I thought some more. But I was too busy learning hot dance moves, as my sweet new VHS copy of Swayze Dancing, Patrick Swayze’s instructional dance video, arrived in the mail recently. (Yes, I really did buy it. Yes, I will upload it to YouTube. Yes, your mind is going to be freaking blown.) And so, I decided to link some videos that have been kicking around my desktop for months. You might say it’s a potpourri. You might say it’s a steaming bag of shit. Hell, call it whatever you want. What do I care? I’m Swayze Dancing.
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The YouTube title for this video is Worst CGI Ever. I think we can all safely say that this is, actually, the BEST CGI ever. I’ll take this over a bunch of hobbits running around New Zealand any day.
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What I want to know is: Did Ricky Gervais script this? Because if not, my admiration for Chris Martin just shot up to Swayze Dancing levels. Gervais’s show, Extras, is all about this kind of celebrity lampooning, but somehow this clip charms me more. I think because Chris Martin looks so genuinely horrified by the end.
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It was only about six months ago that I even found out what beer pong was, so of course it comes as a surprise that it’s been elevated to this kind of art. Very impressive, future leaders of America. I just hope this is happening on state-school dollars.
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TMN contributor Philip Graham is spending a year in Lisbon. I know: Screw him! How come nobody ever sends me to Lisbon? Whaa, whaa, whaa. Anyway, he’s been recording his adventures for Ninth Letter. They’re part exploration, part meditation, and they certainly blow those boring old postcards out of the water.
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This is so freaking creepy. It’s so creepy I don’t even know if I should include it. The really sick part is that it made me weirdly nostalgic for all those end-of-the-century cults. Ruby Ridge, David Koresh. Looking back, it was kind of exciting, wasn’t it?
I used to think I would die from some relatively ordinary cause: heart attack, cancer, falling down the stairs in platform heels. It has now become clear that the icy fingers of death will be more like furry paws. Death by adorable animal video? It could happen.
But which is the most lethally cute animal video? Who boasts the perfect storm of antics, narrative, kitschy music selection, and whiskerage? And how do these bad babies stack up against each other? This is the first in a new series of monthly Video Digest awards: Can the piano-playing cat compete against the otters holding hands? Will the sleepy kitten pwn the talking dog? Here are the web’s best animal hijinks videos in order of their adorable ability to slay you cold.
10. Nora, the Piano-Playing Cat
I’m sorry, Nora, but you’re going to have to bring more to the table than a crappy Philip Glass song to win this contest. On the bright side, the Stanley Kubrick foundaton would like to speak to you about scoring the Criterion Collection DVD of Eyes Wide Shut.
9. Kissing Puppies
Like most orgies, this one went on far too long, and one puppy probably left in tears. But it’s hot and heavy for a while, and John Cameron Mitchell just got a brilliant idea about a canine adaptation of Shortbus.
8. Otters Holding Hands
Let’s be honest here. The otters aren’t really holding hands. They’re smearing excrement on each other, or they’re smooshing a raw fish between their paws, or they’re snared together with one of those plastic Coke rings. They’re dying in some inscrutable way, and we just think they’re so in love. But it does look cute! Still, otters need to step it up if they want to stay in this competition.
7. Hamster With Cookie
This spinning hamster trying to get a cookie is like the Mike Myers joke of animal videos; it gets better and better as it keeps beating the same dead horse. Isn’t this joke going to end? No, it isn’t. Shouldn’t this joke get worse? Yes, it should. Somehow, the spinning hamster defies expectations, hitting his stride after 28 seconds.
6. Monkey Skating
On a technical side, this video is crap. It has no production value, no narrative, and it’s shot like the Blair Witch Project on a cell phone. But this monkey brings it. Monkeys can do anything. Apparently, they can even become members of Fall Out Boy and headline the Vans Warped Tour.
5. Talking Pug
Hell, I’ve dated grown men who couldn’t say I love you. This pug is blowing those dickweeds out of the water.
4. The Sleepy Kittens
Why are there so many cats on this list? I blame Cute Overload. Also, I blame the cats. If it weren’t for their saucer eyes, their tiny little muzzlepuffs, their curiosity about the world and its excess of cardboard and flashing red lights, then there wouldn’t be so many innocent people keeling over from cuteness each year. Also, they are so sleepy. So sleepy! Hard to keep eyes open can’t finish this sentezzzz
3. Skidboot, the Amazing Dog
When I first saw the story of Skidboot, I cried. There is no shame in crying about Skidbootwho recently passed, by the waybecause he is a noble beast who deserves our tears. (Crying about the sleepy kittens? You need Lexapro.) This clip comes from a show called Texas Country Reporter, which aired in the 80s on Sunday afternoons, prior to Solid Gold. It was the regional equivalent of Prairie Home Companion in its folksy earnestness. But every once in a while, TCR nailed a story. Skidboot, come home.
2. Talking Cats
It is impressive when a pug says I love you. When a cat sings an entire nonsense song in key, it is downright magical. I never knew how worthless and without talent my own cat was until I saw these talking kitties. That’s why I’m going to trade my cat to the gypsies later this week for a tabby who calls me Mommy.
1. Knut the Baby Polar Bear
Here it is: the cutest, deadliest animal video on the web. Surely you’ve seen it, or some version of it. (As Video Digest was going to press, the widely seen Best Week Ever version was pulled off iFilm. Foiled again!) It’s Knut, the controversial polar bear who’s being raised in a zoo after his mother abandoned him. So let’s move down our checklist: Compelling narrative? Check, complete with backstory. An increasing hilarity of antics? Yes: Marvel as he goes from cavorting on the bed to getting stuck in something that could be a blender to lifting a dumbbell with his teeth and waving. Check out the paws. Check out the fur. Check out the way he plays underneath the covers. Check out your pulse. Nothing? It was a good life.
The top Google result for the term instructional videos is this site. It contains such classics as Good Dog Massage and Sharpening Simplified. Somebody needs more Bob Ross in their lives.
I was Googling instructional videos because, let’s face it: They’re funny, and I’m bored. These may be old chestnuts on ye olde interweb, but they’re new to me. Instructional videos are like melted cheese and casual sex: Good any time.
One of the funniest thing about this SinuCleanse commercial is how damn long it is! It’s longer than the Tolkein trilogy. It’s, like, written by a blogger. Other best thing about this commercial? Everything.
This is the most confusing instructional video ever. It’s more confusing than SinuCleanse. This guy is not even speaking English. He’s speaking Old Man Crazy.
Damn, that is a hot bass lick. That makes me want to bust out my Steely Dan and Rush albums and smoke some weed, yo. Someone told me once that you could tell how douchey a bassist was by how high he holds his instrument. This guy is rating a solid 8. And how about that aging Ken doll on the drum? Pitchfork reviewed this song and crowned it the jam of the summer.
What can we say about the Finns? They’re the new Japanese. They are so nutty with all their tangoing and their cell phones and their Conan O’Brien fetish. Did I mention I was half-Finnish? Only the wacky half.
There are a lot of instructional videos on how to dance. Why is this? In college, I had a copy of Swayze Dancing, Patrick Swayze’s instructional dance video. I check YouTube for clips of it periodically, but nothing. I’ve finally ordered it from Amazon for myself. Now I just need an instructional video on how to upload an instructional video.
In the meantime, let’s bliss out with some Bob Ross. He’s the master. This serene winter landscape is really blowing my miiiind.
If you haven’t seen the video clips of Lily Tomlin and David O. Russell having respective meltdowns on the set of I Heart Huckabees, you owe it to yourself to watch. Consider it your spa day, your mental health vacation, except instead of soothing it’s traumatic and shriekish, filled with more fighting, cussing, and prop-throwing than a Jerry Springer episode. This was not the ideal set to cut your teeth on as a PA.
Hollywood is filled with such tales of outrageous behind-the-scenes behavior, though it’s rare when the hissy fits are leaked to the public. Usually, it’s after the film has become either an artistic triumph or utter failureas opposed to Huckabees, which was just weird and maybe-kinda okay. But Russell and Tomlin’s shit-fits got me thinking about other infamous on-set breakdowns.
We’ll start with perhaps the biggest nutjob to ever sit behind the viewfinder, Klaus Kinski. Originally known as a German actor who appeared in more than 180 films, Kinski became better known for his violent outbursts (and for fathering Nastassja Kinski). The following flip-out comes from his doomed collaboration with Werner Herzog, Fitzcarraldo, which Herzog documents in his film My Best Fiend.
Perhaps the most famous film set gone haywire is Apocalypse Now, as shown in the amazing documentary Hearts of Darkness. My film is not about Vietnam; it is Vietnam, Francis Ford Coppola said in one of his eloquent, egomaniacal, cocaine-fueled rants. Everyone lost their minds, Harvey Keitel lost his job, Martin Sheen almost lost his life, and Marlon Brando is just losing everything, all at once. Man, this is good cinema. Sorry there’s no better clips than this one, but it’s a taste.
A film just as cursedbut somehow not nearly as luckyis Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Everything goes wrong: floods, sickness, airplanes overhead. And though the movie never got made, Gilliam did have documentarians onhand to turn the debacle into a cautionary tale, Lost in La Mancha, whose trailer is below. The first six minutes of Gilliam’s movie is also available on YouTube.
I emailed a colleague, Nerve film blogger Bilge Ebiri, to see if he could drum up any more Hollywood meltdowns. He reminded me of the making-of The Shining documentary, available on the Shining DVD, which shows Stanley Kubrick berating an addled Shelley Duvall. This clip also contains one of my favorite quotes about Kubrick. Says Jack Nicholson, You can go for years saying, ‘I’m gonna get it real.’ You go mad with realism. And then you come up against someone like Stanley, who says, ‘Yeah, it’s real. But it’s not interesting.’
The following clip isn’t a behind-the-scenes movie moment, but I can’t do a roundup of on-camera catastrophes without including the classic, cringe-inducing Bob Dylan Time magazine interview from Don’t Look Back, recently released on DVD. Dude, Bob never would’ve pulled this with the kids from Pitchfork.
What I’m about to show you may scare you. What I’m about to show you may hurt you in a place that strangers shouldn’t touch. Are you sitting down? Do you have supportive friends nearby? Are you at least drinking a diet soda? Don’t say you weren’t warned. It’s the Christian clown training video.
Oh, clowns. What went wrong? How did something meant for pure enjoyment become such a collective terror? I blame Stephen King. Who do you blame? Maybe you just blame the clowns. Don’t blame themthey were trying to help. They suffered through all that pancake makeup and the rainbow wigs and bulb noses. All for you! Just to make you laugh. Dane Cook never did that shit. (Though if he did, let me tell you: nightmares for life.) When you search for clown videos on YouTube, one of the first ones you get is something called Scary Dancing Clown. As far as exposition, that about sums it up.
Here is another person you could blame: Crispin Hellion Glover. Personally, I blame Glover for a lot of things. For instance, the fact that my sink is full of dishes, or that I had to spend four seconds looking up the spelling of Hellion. Glover has been an enigma in Brylcreem since he burst on the scene in 1985’s Back to the Future (Video Digest has also previously brought you Glover’s work in the bizarre cult favorite of that year, the Beaver Trilogy). Here, in a music video (why?????), he tackles a subject that matches him in creepitude: Clowny Clown Clown.
A round-up of clown videos couldn’t be complete without the infamous Anna Nicole Smith home video. It’s like, come on. Clowns already had such a bad rap. Did somebody need to go and do this? You’ve probably already seen this, but why not watch again?
As for me, I’m not afraid of clowns. I like their colorful balloon animals, and their polka-dot outfits, and their flair with red lipstick. But there is one clown in this world who frightens me. I mean, he terrifies me. Who is this clown? He is the man who runs the Russian cat circus, and he scares the holy hell out of me.
Back in 2000, I actually went to the Russian cat circus, which, as you can tell by the following video, is just as ridiculous as it sounds. This man signed my program, and he smelled of whiskey and sweat, and he smiled at me with such gleeful dementia that it has haunted me ever since. Before I go to sleep at night, I check the closets for this clown. If I ever die mysteriously, I want this clown investigated. Now, he loves cats, and I love cats, and I’m sure he’s a nice man. But that doesn’t mean I won’t one day be dead by his hand.
When I lived in Austin, one of the best storefronts was a place on South Congress Avenue called Just Guns. How Texan is that? It not only explains what’s for sale, but does so with an ounce of humility. Or is that authority? Aww, it’s just guns. vs. Son, it’s just GUNS! I could think about this for days. And did.
About seven years ago, Just Guns was replaced by some new-age store, or an industrial boutique that looks like it’s staffed by Germans with meth habits. Can’t remember, exactly. But I miss Just Guns. If that store ever had a commercial, I like to imagine it looked like this ad for Don’s Guns.
Inspired by Don and my Austin nostalgia, I decided to do a YouTube search for videos on guns. This struck me as an interesting experiment, as it would cut a swath across the American video experience. And then I was rewarded with 500 clips of November Rain. But an hour and five search pages laterjust as November Rain was nearing the last bridgeI made a few other discoveries.
Chicks Who Love Guns is apparently a clip from Jackie Brown. I saw Jackie Brown, but must admit, I don’t remember any of it. I sometimes get it confused with Murphy Brown. This is a terrific clip, though: classic Tarantino gindhouse homage. Do we really have to make this man come up with narratives and characters? Can’t he just spend a whole career riffing on Russ Myers and Shaft?
Next I found a 1983 video from Whamthat’s pre-Wake Me Up period, by the waycalled Young Guns (Go For It). Love the parenthetical title. I’m not sure if that is a full sentence, indicating that young guns really do go for it, or if it’s two separate thoughts. Maybe it would help if I listened to the song, but who can listen when a video like this one is playing? Hallelujah, 1983. So much leather. So much hair gel. And didn’t anyone find it strange that Wham is taking those androgynous lady cops from behind?
Before Borat, there was Ali G. Remember him? Well, I always liked Ali G better. Don’t want to fight you, just putting it out there. Sadly, the Ali G movie was pretty terrible. But I still enjoy watching old clips from the HBO show. Here, our man on the street interviews the NRA. Has anyone ever been killed by a gun? Respeck.
Other than that, I couldn’t find many videos on guns. I know, sad. But after 13 pages, I was still coming up with Axl Rose montages and cell phone videos. Sheesh, I know every word of Appetite for Destruction by heart, but would somebody please make this man release Chinese Democracy so the legend can die down for a while? Maybe you’re glad I couldn’t find any videos on guns. Maybe guns make you uncomfortable. They certainly make me uncomfortable, too, but that’s part of why they fascinate me. Still, there’s no mystery to a gun battle. As a spectator sport, it falls flat. That’s why sword fights are so cool. And you know the only thing better than a sword fight? A lightsaber duel.
Last week, Video Digest brought you classic regional commercials of the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was a smorgasbord of egg-laying eagles, rapping spokespeople, and beautiful Mount Airy Lodge. A few of you sent in gems from your own traumatized childhood, and I’d love to see more. Please send any regional commercial jewels to . Now that we’ve tackled the ads, let’s take a look at the meat to our sandwich bread. The hot dog to the bun. The cocaine to our crack pipe. In other words, the shows of our youth. In other words: Sid and Marty Krofft.
These days, there’s a lot of chatter about wacky children’s shows. I can’t actually confirm this chatter, but I assume that’s what those urban parents are arguing about on their baby message boards: the goofball Wiggles, the psychedelic Teletubbies, the hypnotic Lazytown. Well, things were a whole lot weirder in the ‘70s. And I dug it.
Sid and Marty Krofft were puppeteering siblings who produced a spate of trippy children’s shows during the ‘70s. My favorite was a slice of something called Land of the Lost, in which an American family was transported to an alternate prehistoric era in the middle of a camping trip. They made friends with this chimpanzee man named Cha-ka. At the Austin paper where I used to work, there was a music writer who had decoded Chaka’s language. He spoke Cha-ka. There was a name for it. According to Wikipedia, it’s Paku. Anyway, this paper-doll cutout intro was so scary and exciting to me that I practically pissed my Osh Kosh overalls. The last frame, where the dinosaur consumes the camera? The Jurassic Park of its time.
The first Krofft show was HR Pufnstuf, debuting in 1969, a series that has certainly given slacker comedians a few punchlines over the years. There was a magic island. There was a puppet dressed like a drag queen. There was a talking flute named Freddie. Basically, it had everything.
What I always confuse HR Pufnstuf with, however, is Sigmund and Sea Monsters, which was the show I loved almost as much as Land of the Lost. I totally wanted a sea monster, which is one more reason why I need to apologize to my mom next time she calls. Waah! Screw hamsters, mommy. I want a sea monster.
And then there was The Bugaloos. Ah, the Bugaloos. Like the Patridge family with insect wings.
Though it only lasted one season in its initial run, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl had a huge impact on my childhood psyche. I was always running around the neighborhood, tasering people and stringing them up with Christmas lights. I hadn’t watched EWADG since my youth, so in this clip, I was struck by the following: a) I totally forgot that Electra Woman was Deirdre Hall, aka Days of Our Lives’ Marlena; b) I totally love that the costumes were apparently bought at Ricky’s, the New York City wig store, and that the scary spider lady is wearing an air conditioning filter on her head; and c) Don’t miss TV veteran Norman Alden as Prof. Frank Heflin. Now, go save the world, girls. But do it fashionably.
No matter where you grew up, if you watched television, there was always that one commercial: the commercial that annoyed you so profoundly that at some crucial juncture, annoyance swerved into fascinationperhaps for some tic, some incongruity, or for the very fact of the commercial’s existence. Somebodysomewherethought this was a good idea.
In Dallas during the 1980s, the commercial was for Trophy Nissan. This was a perilous time, remember, when the Chicago Bears actually made a rap video and attempted a dance trend. And so the go-getters at Trophy Nissan followed suit, enlisting a gaggle of nerdy white car salesman from Mesquite, Texas, to pump their fists in their air, chanting, Trophy! Trophy! Trophy Niss-ahnn! Sadly, I couldn’t find this spectacle online. If you do, I’ll pay you in American Idol swag.
All this came up because of Eagleman. I can only assume that if you watched TV in Chicago in the 1990s, Eagleman was your Trophy Nissan. In the battle of bizarre regional commercials, Eagleman is the best thing I’ve seen. Ever.
Every city has their Trophy Nissan, or their Eagleman. In Houston, my friend tells me, it was Gallery Furniture. In Jersey, it was Carvel ice cream, each ad voiced by the nasally Tom Carvel, singing the praises of ice cream cakes that basically came in two shapes, rejiggered for every season.
A classic 1982 New York-area commercial is for the Poconos’ Mount Airy Lodge. This must have terrified the uptown intellectuals. But you gotta love that every kind of winter entertainment involves both Rodney Dangerfield and soaking in an Olympic-sized bubble bath.
Even these days, I get fascinated by commercials. Obviously, someone needs TiVo. A few years ago, I would go ballistic every time I saw an Overstock.com ad. Remember those? The sterile white surroundings, the sexy Diane Lane lookalike with the trace of an accent? It wasn’t a regional ad, but it sure looked like one. And that woman, Sabine Ehrenfeld, proved such a collective obsession that Slate’s Seth Stevenson wrote an article about her. What always bothered me about the following spot, in particular, was that it made no sense. I promise99 percent of the time? What’s she talking about? And the way she pronounces 99 percentargh! Why did I bring this up?
As you might have guessed, there is a regional commercial which currently fires my imagination. It’s for New York’s Select Dental, which seems to have been filmed in 1983 for some acting class. And weirdly, the commercial plays an awful lot on MTV and VH1, leading me to believe that the niche audience for those channels has now become uninsured slackers drinking away the pain of their cavities. The following snippet is the actual ad, with a spoofed customer endorsement tacked on toward the end. And not to trounce on the guy’s punchline, but the funniest, most fascinating part is the couple featured second. This is the reason the ad works, despite its aesthetic failings. It’s so annoying you can’t help but fall in love.
Last year, I predicted that American Idol had peaked. I did this over a plate of cheese enchiladas, laying out the reasons why the phenomenon had undoubtedly run out of steam, including but not limited to: Abdul’s obvious drug abuse, the inclusion of rockers, and the cultural triumph of a white-haired man-child who said soul patrol! every time you pulled his string.
You should pitch that story, my friend told me.
I never did. And it’s a good thing, too, because I was completely wrong. Pulling in the highest ratings in its history, American Idol not only hasn’t shown any signs of decline, but it also tightens its vise-like grip on pop culture consciousness. This is too much, even for me, a woman who has a promotional American Idol flag in her kitchen, a woman who is drinking water from a promotional American Idol cup as she writes this. I haven’t watched the show this season, and I won’t until they whittle down that unwieldy group of 24which is not a finalists’ pool, by the way, it’s a class size.
Anyway, our first video today is an American Idol spoof starring singing rabbits. It’s as good as it sounds. It’s made by video satirists Buns and Chou Chou, as part of their talking-bunny series (swoon!) Rabbit Bites.
Whether talking rabbits are funnythat may be subjective. Comedy, as we know, is a subjective game. Thus, the career of Carlos Mencia. Another subjective call is whether or not this Christian stand-up is funny. Spoiler alert: There are buckteeth.
Last year, I was robbed at gunpoint in New Orleans. Not funny! (Well, maybe a little funny. On the other end of that gun.) What I should have had was a lesson in self-defense from Brent Kaywood. What I should have had was wrist control.
The Osama Teen Hunger Force imagines the scenario that led to last week’s Boston imbroglio. We will disrupt their workday with a mildly offensive blinking neon light!
Oh, and lest I forget: L.A. cover band Metal Skool sings Journey with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and Mr. Belding. They also drop a fusillade of f-bombs and kind of drag things out for a bit. But don’t stop believing.
Video Digest: February 9, 2007; Video Digest: February 2, 2007; Video Digest: January 19, 2007; Video Digest: January 12, 2007; Video Digest: January 5, 2007; Video Digest: December 22, 2006; Video Digest: December 15, 2006; Video Digest: December 8, 2006; Video Digest: December 1, 2006
Video Digest: August 24, 2007; Video Digest: July 13, 2007; Video Digest: July 6, 2007; Video Digest: June 15, 2007; Video Digest: June 8, 2007; Video Digest: June 1, 2007; Video Digest: May 11, 2007; Video Digest: April 27, 2007; Video Digest: April 20, 2007
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