S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 June 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 


Hit & Run CCXXXIII

 
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We're proud to present Suck Beyond Real! Video — real-life stories of adventure, human drama, and everyday courage. This week's episode, presented in Plastivision: Extreme Kayakers face deadly conditions as they take on The Rock! All bandwidth-capable viewers are urged to tune in.

 
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If you really believe the American Kultur Gesellschaft is solely responsible for our crushing anxieties about age and beauty, consider the story of Tabu. The radiant star of such films as Punjabi Kudi and Pehla Pehla Pyar will appear in the upcoming thriller Tarkeib. We do not know Tabu's age, although we know that her birthday is November 4. And it is reported that her first role was as a "child artiste" in 1985's Hum Naujawan. Even if we define childhood very generously, Tabu by this record couldn't have been older than 18 in 1985, and thus is probably not older than 33 today. Still, when India Express (All aboard!) describes the comely trouper's new role opposite model/actor Milind Soman, it does so with all the pith and evasion of a reborn George Sanders. "People wondered," wonders IE reporter N K Deoshi, "whether it was good to pitch an experienced actress like Tabu against a newcomer." To her credit, Tabu replies to these wonderers with the grace and gusto of a show business professional (who is making something of a "comeback," according to IE). In another interview, Tabu graciously plays humble on the topic of working with the great Amitabh Bachchan (still spry as he enters his 213th year in the business). But that doesn't stop one fan from hitting Tabu with that other insult known to all women. "[S]he never maintains a constant level of weight," maintains Indianfilm.net. "[I]n some movies she look sensuous while in others she looks roly poly..." Listen, all you carping fans and mincing critics: Take a look in the mirror before you start running your pieholes about Tabu and all her flaws. And for the record, we say she's the ever youthful Tabu.

 

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As you undoubtedly know by now, Chicken Run, an animated film billed as a "Great Escape with chickens," is opening at a theater near you. Pre-release hype for the picture — a collaboration between Dreamworks SKG and Aaardman Studios, the house Wallace and Gromit built — has included a special red-carpet premiere walk by 100 live chickens, and a chickens-only screening. In an event of equal or lesser intellectual caliber, Suck finagled an audience with co-directors Nick Park and Peter Lord:

James Garner plays a Canadian in The Great Escape. Why are there no Canadians in Chicken Run's multinational cast?

Lord: Well, our executive producer was Canadian. I don't know; we never thought of that issue, I must say. But really, having said that the movie is The Great Escape with chickens, it's not actually like The Great Escape at all, is it?

Park: We might have got in trouble with Dreamworks' lawyers, actually. Because we almost got in trouble for putting in a Scottish character. The lawyers told us we were on dodgy ground there because there was a Scottish character in The Great Escape and we might be seen as copying that. It's strange. I mean, there's a whole country full of Scottish people. I don't think they have a copyright on it.

Did you base any of the characters on Jeffrey Katzenberg?

Park: No, we wanted to, but...

Lord: Yeah, we should have, but no.

Have people in England been complaining that the hero of the movie is an American rooster?

Lord: In Britain every interviewer asks about that; in America nobody does. People here don't say, "Why did you put Mel [Gibson] in?" They just say, "How great that you put Mel in!" In Britain they ask about it in this slightly suspicious tone of voice. But we don't mind, because his being American worked perfectly well with the story. One of the themes had to do with American GIs coming to England in the last war, being madly rich and seducing all the women. That's a theme people know about in Britain — a certain generation, anyway. It made the writing more fun, too. We were able to play into the cultural differences.

Is there a vegetarian agenda being pushed in the contemporary barnyard comedy?

Lord: Yes, there's a worldwide conspiracy by makers of animated films to turn everybody in the world into vegetarians. Except themselves.

Have People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made a statement on the film?

Park: They have made one or two inquiries about using images from the film. After we made Creature Comforts there were lots of people who wanted to use images, PETA among them.

Why did you make Tweedy's a poultry-only farm?

Park: Partly to stay away from Babe territory. We considered having other animals at first. But we didn't want to make it too colorful a place. We wanted it to be a more intriguing and dangerous place. And quite bleak. But attractively bleak. If it were a place with jolly talking animals, it wouldn't look like a prisoner of war camp.

Lord: Plus if you have a cow, it would have to be many times the size of the chickens — 100 tons of plastic; it would be terrible.

Do the animators ever bitch and complain about having to readjust the arm on some chicken in the background that nobody will ever notice?

Lord: No, never. The animators love doing it, and they're extremely self-critical. In fact, we have situations where one of the animators will be saying "Oh, the whole movie's ruined because of something I didn't do." And you just have to settle them down.

Are you followers of Rube Goldberg?

Lord: Rube Goldberg wasn't really known in Britain. We had an equivalent person named Heath Robinson, who was doing kind of a similar thing in the UK. We love those kinds of things — these complicated machines that do things in the most elaborate way possible.

Why doesn't Gromit have a mouth?

Park: In initial tests he did have a mouth. But it just worked better without a mouth, probably because he doesn't say anything anyway.

Why can't I get Wallace and Gromit-shaped cheese snacks at 7-11?

Park: They have something like that in Britain. There are all sorts of products like that.

Name a potential Wallace and Gromit tie-in product that you've turned down.

Park: There have been so many of them. I was asked to do a coffee commercial in the UK. The idea was that coffee keeps me awake during long hours on the set.

 

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Tonight, one of those broken hearts on Broadway belongs to TV's Frasier. Savaged by critics and bleeding money (to the tune of a McKinley and a half over its very brief run), the latest staging of Macbeth just wasn't a big enough vehicle for Kelsey Grammer's capacious talents. TV star power has long been a reliable Broadway seat-filler even when critics turned nasty, so the fact that the show is closing after only 10 performances (one for each year of Grammer's Cheers career, the Times noted smugly) represents a stunning reversal for the three-time Emmy winner. If we refuse to join in the laughter at Grammer's expense, it's not just because we appreciate the ongoing fall and redemption narrative he spins so memorably at Kelseylive.com. Nor is it the intriguing (and usually unremarked) two-fisted tough-guy quality Grammer — who proved his mettle on the high school gridiron and worked his way through Julliard on a fishing boat (without graduating, sadly) — has always brought to his fussbudget roles. No, the truth is that while he may have played Macbeth, Kelsey Grammer, like Lear, is a man more sinned against than sinning. His family history (detailed in the large, easy-to-read type of his heartbreaking, staggering memoir So Far...) is an uninterrupted run of tragedy that tops Hamlet's bloody last act: an estranged father murdered in the Virgin Islands, a sister raped and murdered in the parking lot of a Red Lobster, two brothers killed in a Scuba accident, coke, two divorces, alcohol abuse, a jail term, more coke, a stay at Betty Ford, relapses, and finally, transcendence. And even here, Kelsey is never truly at peace. So Far... ended on a hopeful note; but its happy ending rang false only a year after publication, when Kelsey and then-wife Tammi went bust. Since then, Grammer has kept sorrow at bay only on the most conditional terms. Howard Stern relentlessly mocked his efforts to contribute essays on international policy to the public dialogue; Grammer offered a gracious retort, but has notably left off essay writing since then. Kelsey Live strenuously highlights the bare-feet-and-sundried-tomatoes happiness the beloved funnyman has found with new wife Camille, but a cloud hangs over a poem Grammer wrote for his two-day-old daughter ("I pray now only/ That I will not corrupt your instincts/ With my personal decisions"). Was it really just the thrill of a new acting challenge that drove Grammer to take on the Scottish play, that notoriously cursed work that brings grief to all who confront it? Has any man ever put more on the line — his money, his career, his reputation — in such a public effort to exorcise private demons? Bloodied but unbowed, this information-age stoic withdraws from the stage. We take solace in Grammer's own words, in So Far...:

If there's anyone who's not spared, it's your narrator. Not because I want to bleed in public. Not because I still take pleasure in being a bad boy. Rather, I've been open here about my failings and my mistakes because that's all they are — failures and mistakes. Apologies are pointless, regrets come too late. What matters is you can move on, you can grow, you can do better in the future.

Take it one day at a time, Kelsey. We're always here for you.

 
courtesy of theSucksters