The ‘Burbs Turns 30

This quintessential Suburban Gothic tale lampooned middle class fears in the 1980s, but remains refreshingly relevant.

Yesterday, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, The ‘Burbs, turned 30. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, ultimately raking in over $36 million. Though panned by clueless critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise, The ‘Burbs has since become something of a cult classic.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche. It stars Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Rick Ducommun as three friends who suspect an eccentric and reclusive family is up to no good in their neighborhood. Carrie Fisher and Corey Feldman also play prominent roles.

The ‘Burbs was written by Dana Olsen and directed by Joe Dante. Olsen, who is usually known for sillier comedies like George of the Jungle (1997) and Inspector Gadget (1999), was inspired to write the script after hearing about gruesome crimes in his own hometown. Joe Dante directed Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2 (1990), and the TV series Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992), Witches of East End (2013-2014), and Salem (2015-2016). Eerie, Indiana was also about the strange and unusual underbelly of a quaint, unassuming town.

Welcome to Mayfield Place

Ray and Carol Peterson (Hanks and Fisher) live in a picturesque home on Mayfield Place, a cul-de-sac in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson), his son, Hans (Courtney Gains), and his brother, Reuben (Brother Theodore), quietly moved into the old Victorian home, which used to be owned by Mr. and Mrs. Knapp.

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Desperate News Outlets Turn “Street” to Attract Younger Viewers

Members of the mainstream news media embrace celebrity tabloid culture in their race to the bottom.

A few days ago, I spotted two articles about U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi “throwing shade” (or “serious shade” in once instance) at New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal. I guessed this meant Pelosi was dismissive of the proposal, but because I’m too lame and too white, I had to look it up.

According to UrbanDictionary, to “throw shade” means “to talk trash about a friend or aquaintance [sic], to publicly denounce or disrespect. When throwing shade it’s immediately obvious to on-lookers that the thrower, and not the throwee, is the bitcy [sic], uncool one.”

Both CNN’s Chris Cillizza and Fox News’ Adam Shaw used the slang expression, in an effort to identify with younger audiences and appear “hip”, I guess? Because, yes, I’m sure the 78-year-old Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was “throwing shade.” It would only be more perfect if she came out wearing dark sunglasses at the press conference.

Are these two articles supposed to be actual news and analysis? Or are they just click-bait designed to appeal to the celebrity gossip crowd? As if Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are involved in some kind of celebrity rivalry. At one point, Chris Cillizza even refers to Ocasio-Cortez as “one of the biggest stars in her party”. What?

That she’s only been in Congress for a month is besides the point. Referring to someone as a “star” suggests they are an entertainer with legions of adoring fans, a wealthy celebrity, or the object of a cult of personality. Is that really how we want to think of our politicians and public servants?

How are we supposed to take these news outlets seriously when they report on national politicians like they’re Taylor Swift and Katy Perry?

How Violent was the American Frontier?

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs portrays a world of shocking violence, brutality, and indifference to human life, but does that mirror reality?

I’m a big fan of both Westerns and the Cohen Brothers, so I was eager to see their latest offering on Netflix, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), an anthology of six short films set in the Wild West. The stories were filled with interesting characters and scenarios, beautiful cinematography, and of course all the Cohen Brothers’ hallmarks, but something didn’t sit right with me.

Movies about the “Wild West” are almost always violent, focusing on battles with Plains Indians and Comanches, gunfights, bank robberies, and outlaws. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs focuses on a wide variety of Western life. We see traveling showmen, a prospector, a wagon train, and a coach ride. Sudden, brutal violence and indifference to human life ties them all together. At the end, I came away feeling sad, particularly after the wagon train short.

There’s no denying life could be brutally harsh on the nineteenth century American frontier. Disease, high infant mortality, the Indian Wars, lack of advanced medical care, and an austere environment all combined to make survival challenging at best. But hundreds of thousands of people did survive, thrive, and lived out their lives on the frontier, just like any other time.

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Cast of Ghostbusters Reboot Unironically Upset at New Ghostbusters Film

No, this isn’t an Onion headline.

As news broke that Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters (1984), is moving forward with a continuation of that film franchise, grumbling erupted from supporters of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. Jason Reitman, you see, plans to continue the story from where Ghostbusters 2 (1989) left off, you know, as fans of the original films have always wanted.

As a kid, I loved the original Ghostbusters, and in my mind, it came as close to a perfect comedy as you can get. When the 2016 gimmicky reboot, which was a gender-swap of the franchise starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and directed by Paul Feig, came under fire for ignoring the original films and being generally terrible and unfunny, its apologists blamed “misogyny” and “toxic fandom.”

It annoys me that I have to say this, but I don’t have a problem with female-led films or with sequels and reboots highlighting diverse stories and characters. I’m also a fan of the Rocky franchise, and I thought Creed (2015) was a solid film in its own right and a good addition to the franchise. It went a different direction while still holding true to all the things that made Rocky great.

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Should Time Travelers Kill Baby Hitler?

This is a serious topic of discussion in today’s Bizzaro World.

At a live broadcast at the March for Life in Washington, DC on Friday, political commentator Ben Shapiro made the claim that no one who is pro life (or anti-abortion) would go back in time and kill notorious 20th Century German dictator Adolph Hitler when he was a baby. Shapiro’s critics seized on this opportunity to mercilessly attack him, and so far, have even gotten two sponsors to leave his show in protest.

Shapiro’s statement is perhaps more shocking because he is an outspoken Orthodox Jew, and Hitler was responsible for the targeted mass murder of millions of European Jews during WW2. While it’s rarely a good idea to mix history and politics, the ethical question of killing Hitler as a baby is an interesting one.

Hitler, who rose to power in Germany in 1934 and reigned as absolute dictator until his suicide in 1945, is almost solely responsible for the Second World War (in Europe, anyway) and subsequently the deaths of millions of people. Could this apocalyptic war be prevented if someone went back in time and killed Hitler when he was a baby?

Ben Shapiro’s reply to this hypothetical scenario was that, as a baby, Hitler had the potential to be anything. He could have, given different circumstances, gone on to live a normal and unremarkable life. The entire premise of the time travel murder theory is that Hitler’s life trajectory was inevitable, or it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Media Bias on Full Display in Buzzfeed Debacle

Mainstream news outlets rush to promote an unverified tabloid story, seriously undermining their credibility at a time when a majority of Americans are skeptical about news.

One of the most incredible displays of foot-in-mouth I’ve ever seen unfolded yesterday as jubilant media figures pounced on a BuzzFeed story purporting to reveal that President Donald Trump ordered his former lawyer to lie to Congress. If true, this would constitute the grounds for impeachment, and possible prosecution, Trump’s opponents have been looking for since the day he entered office.

There was only one problem: it wasn’t true. Special Council Robert Mueller’s office took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement denying the report.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office

Taking a break from publishing lists of “cringeworthy moments” and celebrity gossip, BuzzFeed based the bombshell off anonymous sources. The usual suspects in the mainstream news media gleefully and uncritically spread the story as if it were fact. You could almost hear the collective cry: “We’ve finally got him!”

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How Diverse was Queen Elizabeth’s Court?

The new film Mary Queen of Scots employs black and Asian actors and actresses to play white roles, while missing an opportunity to show England’s historic 16th Century diversity.

Written by Beau Willimon, directed by Josie Rourke, and based on the book Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy, Mary Queen of Scots recounts the struggle between Mary I of Scotland and Queen Elizabeth I over the throne of England, which they both claimed. The film takes place between Mary’s return to Scotland in 1561 and her execution (sorry, spoiler) in 1587.

From what I can tell, the film is largely historically accurate, depending on the source. However, several black actors and one actress of Chinese decent appear in prominent roles, particularly Mary Seton (Izuka Hoyle), Lord Randolph (Adrian Lester), Bess of Hardwick (Gemma Chan), Andrew Ker of Fawdonside (Nathan East), and the English Ambassador to Scotland, George Dalgleish (Adrian Derrick-Palmer). Being either English or Scottish in the 1500s, of course, all of these people were pasty white.

Director Josie Rourke declared she wasn’t going to make another “all-white period film,” but did she have to throw historic accuracy out the window to do so? Not at all. Elizabethan England was quite diverse (relatively speaking).

There are records of African musicians in the courts of England and Scotland as far back as the late 15th Century. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a small community of African traders, musicians, entertainers, and domestic servants grew up in London. Elizabeth herself was said to have employed a black servant, musician, and dancer.

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