Be ye not misled by the title of this rant. We are not gathered here to discuss Criterion and its unaccountable love-slavery to director Michael Bay. However, if that sentence makes any sense to you, chances are you should read on. The paranoid prophecy which follows may affect you.
Earlier this spring, long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons aired an episode entitled “The Scorpion’s Tale,” which was moderately well received and passably funny. Well past its twentieth season, the once brilliant show has wrung itself painfully dry of laughs, and has only to be retired in physical fact as well as in attitude and spirit. To keep the engine running for a few more miles, its makers are resorting to some rather bizarre stunts to keep people tuning in. The most recent of these is the inclusion of German director Werner Herzog in a prominent guest role. Herzog, an inspired filmmaker in his own right but a perpetual outsider to the current of popular entertainment, confessed to having been previously unaware of what exactly The Simpsons was. I believe he thought it was some sort of newspaper comic strip. To be fair, he summoned a lot of comic energy for the part, but his earnest and eerily soothing voice sounded mighty odd mixed in with Homer and Bart. It was certainly a big jump from narrating Grizzly Man, and most of the director’s work – such as Stroszek or Aguirre The Wrath Of God – is much weirder still.
Meanwhile, in another cavernous hall of the Fox studio… rumor has it that since last year, David Lynch – director of such harrowing mind trips as Blue Velvet and Lost Highway – is doing guest shots on The Cleveland Show, a crummy spin-off of Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, itself the most over-bloated and tragically squandered enterprise on American television. The fact that he is doing this and not working on a third season of Twin Peaks is as mind-boggling and horrific as all the new films he is also not working on.
Are these isolated fissures in the fabric of reality, or do they point to the imminent arrival of major changes to the universe as we know it? Perhaps I have seen Ghostbusters a few too many times, but I choose to believe the latter. Before the year is out, we may see all the weirdest and most controversial filmmakers of the age rise from cult obscurity and perpetrate further prime-time shenanigans. If this is so, then the time has come to dig out and review your most private and precious DVD collection – all the offbeat and obscure movies to which you would not subject your friends, family, or significant other to for fear of ridicule and ostracism – searching every beautiful and artfully stylized frame for hidden signs and clues. We, the scholars of the screen, must prepare the world.
My own theories run in this wise. By the time you have pre-ordered your seven-feature extended boxed Christmas edition of Harry Potter, I predict the following unlikely events…
Lars von Trier will lend his influence to Charlie Sheen’s campaign for a new sitcom, in which the two play roommates with a most unusual relationship. Sheen plays a privileged slacker whose life never progressed beyond the quest for more chicks and beer, while von Trier plays the Danish exchange student who has been living with him, by choice, since high school. “He just… won’t go home!” *cue laugh track* Sheen’s obnoxious parents drop by once an episode to lavish affection on the foreign interloper, whom they naturally love like a son, and berate their actual offspring for never doing anything with his life. A cute and spunky character actress, perhaps Pamela Adlon, will be roped in to playing Sheen’s on and off girlfriend. Roman Polanski is a shoo-in for a “wacky uncle” or “suspicious landlord” role. Get ready to laugh.
Gaspar Noé will win the next season of Dancing With The Stars or possibly America’s Next Iron Chef. People will find out that behind the bleak, transgressive hand that brought us Irreversible and Enter The Void there pulses the deep, sensual soul of a lover. He will charm and delight the public with his sensitive side. His pasodoble and his cassoulet are sublime, yet secretly he yearns to explore peasant folk dances of Eastern Europe and embrace the elegant minimalism of Japanese cuisine. He will also turn out to have a marvelous singing voice, but his career will fail to take off after the death of a beloved national celebrity steals attention from the release of his debut album.
Peter Greenaway will team with Eddie Murphy for a big-budget family romp about a haunted circus under the sea, where hapless dad Murphy falls under the control of crude, wisecracking aliens. Use your imagination. Greenaway will attempt to introduce a subplot about the lost works of Caravaggio, but will ultimately be denied final cut. He will later disown the project, much as Stanley Kubrick did to Spartacus.
Harmony Korine will replace Jay Leno in the latest – and least anticipated – bout of late-night comedy talk show hosts. Gone is the age of Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel, whose sly antics bowl us over with glee. Bring on the pallid, thin-limbed young men of halting speech and troubling preoccupations. Can you imagine this guy’s opening monologue? I think the world is now ready for observational humor from the mind that brought us Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy. What’s funny about trailer trash, animal torture, and schizophrenia? I don’t know, but it’s made Larry the Cable Guy a fortune. To really carry off the Korine show concept, the producers must only book guests with massive, nonstop personalities who threaten to thunder and bluster the host out of his chair with the slightest grunt or chuckle. Eventually the rotating guest list would be made up strictly of John Goodman, Gary Busey, Robin Williams, Denis Leary, and Nicolas Cage “in character” of his own choosing.
Michael Haneke will produce an Austrian remake of Curb Your Enthusiasm with himself in the Larry David role. At last we will see where this austere patriarch of European cinema gets all his hilarious ideas about psychological terror, malicious youths, and physical mutilation as a device to mirror deep emotional wounds. I have a theory that the idea for The White Ribbon came about when a silent, angel-faced little child unscrewed the lids on every salt shaker in Haneke’s favorite cafe, then put a worm in his coffee. Funny Games? I’m guessing that came from a fight with his wife over leaving the toilet seat up. Every night for a week. That’s why he made the film twice. The rest of the series would consist of his trying to convince people at parties that he is “really not all that dark.”
Vincent Gallo will host a long running children’s show reminiscent of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It is high time that the poignant warmth of Fred Rogers, ambassador of decency to society at large, found new life in a charming and youthful father figure. Why not sleepy-eyed Mr. Gallo, whose ruthlessly independent pen brought us Buffalo ’66 and The Brown Bunny. The real genius here – and trust me, this is genius I’m spouting here, not that other thing I usually spout – is that these are also great names for Mr. Gallo’s puppet sidekicks. The Brown Bunny is your basic fast-talking second banana, a plum role for a seasoned voice actor. Let’s say Billy West. Buffalo ’66 would be more of an Eeeyore character, a naysaying bison with the mannerisms (and hopefully the actual voice) of Tommy Chong. The show virtually writes itself. Trips to the piano factory or the veterinarian could be replaced with long, drawn-out sequences of motorcycles speeding through the desert, and Mr. Gallo could take a few moments each week to teach the kiddos a little something about… say, frank depictions of self-destructive behavior in the media, or graphic sex scenes, all in sensitive terms the whole family can enjoy. The icing on the cake would be convincing Roger Ebert to play the neighborhood postman, who delivers daily care packages and Valentines, instead of hate mail for Mr. Gallo’s latest outrage on the festival circuit.
Bear in mind that these are merely one man’s crackpot speculations. The true course of future events will no doubt be tenfold more horrifying. In the meantime, keep a close eye on your favorite art house mavericks. If the Mayans could predict 2012 (yet, curiously, not the conquistadors), then we can surely predict 2011 first. Let us join hands in the hope that they will forsake the lure of the spotlight and go back to unsettling, bewildering, and terrifying us the way we expect them to. All I am saying, children, is keep watching the skies.