I Went to a High School Talent Show

This past week I watched the engaging and disturbing docuseries Quiet on The Set, about the awful and in some cases, criminal exploitation and abuse that went on during the Golden Age of Nickelodeon (as I said on this week’s legendary episode of Rain on Your Parade podcast – at 11 years old I was enjoying In Living Color, so I am not sure how children could enjoy the offerings of Nickelodeon, but alas, this was mere foreshadowing of the comedy stupidity that would come to define present day society).  So after watching all four episodes, I thought, “what better place for an unmarried, childless, struggling entertainer to go to than a local high school talent show?!”

Full Hassan Minhaj disclosure – my girlfriend’s nephew was in a rock band participating in the talent show, so it is not as funny or creepy as my set up would have you think.

The show took place at the Glen Ridge elementary school.  Despite the wealth of Glen Ridge, apparently their high school does not have a large auditorium on its campus proper and uses the elementary school across the street (this is particularly galling when you consider that A THE graduate of Glen Ridge High School is the GOAT, Tom Cruise.  The only other factoid I know about Glen Ridge High School is that in the late 1980s a group of Glen Ridge jocks sexually abused a developmentally disabled girl (the first book I read, for pleasure, so to speak, in college was Our Guys – an absolutely tremendous book about that shocking case, which forever imprinted Glen Ridge in my mind in a way that even Tom Cruise could not undo with 40 movies and many more thetans).  So, with that on my mind I went to see the talent of Glen Ridge High!

Piranha performing under a sign that I thought about cropping to make for a controversial social media story.

I will not disparage any of the acts, which other than a dance troupe and a gymnast, were all musical.  I was largely impressed with the talent, and when not impressed with the talent, the courage to be mediocre in front of kids and parents.  My girlfriend’s nephew is only in 8th grade, but played drums in a very competent rock band named Piranha. I would have awarded them 3rd place, but they did not place at all.  Their music evokes Green Day and I was particularly amused by their bass player, who seemed furthest along in his rock identity and enthusiasm (a sort of Flea energy with Buddy Holly look… glasses, he wore glasses).

First place is where the judges and I agreed.  I am assuming the girl was a junior or senior and performed really well at the piano, even doing a non-cliche version of Feeling Good, a song that I have grown to hate due to its overexposure in commercials, singing contest shows and Michael Buble.  She seemed to have the talent and poise of someone who has ambitions and parents willing to fund them.

Second place went to a duet that was good (both were good, but one of the singers might have won first if she was solo – a voice of incredibly clarity and tone and other things that might make me sound like I know what I am talking about).  But here is where I had a big beef with the judges.  There was a small child – I do not know if he was an elementary school kid allowed to compete in the high school show, or if he is just a sort of Gary Coleman-Webster type kid because when I told him after the show that he was great I was alarmed at how small and young he seemed.  Well what he did was perform Piano Man on the piano, with a harmonica in his mouth. His harmonica looked like orthodontist head gear because of his age and size and he was great.  I kept thinking, I cannot do either of those things and he is pulling it off well, and had the savvy to pick a song right in the wheel house of the 40 something judges (I am only saying that to make me and my girlfriend feel better – we were probably older than at least two and possibly all 4 of the staff/teacher-judges.

After the show I felt myself projecting my own indignity and frustration on him, but the kid seemed very happy to talk to his friend and take compliments from giant strangers.

Third place went to a good singer who I had disqualified because she sang the song Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, a song so schmaltzy that the only thing that could ruin it more was having videos released of corrupt New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez singing it to his accomplice then-fiancée as he proposed to her.  I, in fact, have had enough *drops mic*.

So that was my night at the Glen Ridge Talent Show – and on an unexpected positive note – almost all the kids (and parents) were off their phones!  Perhaps that is the key to keeping the youth off screens: make everything about them and their friends.


My Favorite Movies of 2011 (with some hateful comments…

Before the official awards get announced, and between New Year’s Day and the annual January release of a Liam Neeson-against-the-world-action-movie it is time for me to summarize thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours I spent on movies last year with my top 10 favorite movies and assorted other comments.  Per usual, let’s start with the bad news.

The Most Overrated Movies of 2011 (overrated and by coincidence they actually suck as well)

1) Hugo – I fell asleep for five minutes in the middle of this movie (2nd time in my life I have ever fallen asleep in a movie). Critics are gushing over this film that has a plot for children, but a high minded, boredom-inducing style that seems suited for pretentious senior citizens.

2) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – If Colin Firth is involved, being overrated is always a threat (I’m sorry, the “handsome Colin Firth” – this guy is the male Cate Blanchett who is “beautiful”).  But this movie outdoes itself.  The first spy thriller to not have a single thrill.  The conclusion of the film packs the punch of a 4 year old girl.  A major cast, a major disappointment.

3) Drive – We get it ladies Ryan Gosling is wonderful.  He talks like he’s from Brooklyn, despite being Canadian, he looks sleepy and before his abs developed, liking this art house favorite made you feel less shallow than your old feelings for Paul Walker.  And he had a huge year in 2011 (two of his films made the top 10), but Drive was as Adam Carolla so eloquently put it, “a highly stylized piece of sh*t.   The reviews for this film set the bar high.  The opening sequence was so cool it managed to exceed the reviews.  The remaining 90 minutes were a mess of awkward smiles by Gosling (seriously it was a weird performance at best, and an unintentional portrayal of a special needs human being at worst), an awful attempt at a love story and violence that was so gruesome and out of the blue that it seemed to simply be there to evoke a stomach turning reaction.  A weird and dumb movie.

4) Meloncholia – This movie about the possible end of the world and the end of a marriage is part two of the highly stylized piece of sh*t triumvirate.  On the plus side Kirsten Dunst looks incredible naked.  On the negative side the movie is odd and relatively plotless.  And I can still never forgive Lars Von Trier for the film Antichrist. And the Dunst love is for her breasts.  They may say her performance was amazing, but it was one note misery – my blog has more nuance of misery than her performance.  They just were impressed by her rack.  That’s it.

5) The Tree of Life – (the third in the stylized piece of sh*t trio) the only reason this is not the most overrated film of the year is because some critics had the good sense to call it nonsense.  Terrence Malick is nothing short of a cinematic villain.  His movies suck.  I made the mistake of thinking “Oh Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are good actors so maybe this movie will be different,” ignoring the fact that Pitt and Penn are incredibly self-important artists of “the craft” and actually heightened the chances that this movie would be pretentious garbage.  No point in describing this movie because it had no point or plot.

The Movie I Was Most Surprised to Like

Warrior – I actually highlighted this movie’s trailer on my blog as a sure fire crap bucket.  The preview was cheesy and was clearly making a ploy to be the “Rocky of MMA,” which to me is like trying to be “the Rocky of prison rape (see my podcast on January 17th)”  But the movie turned out to be really solid.  Well acted and largely void of sports movie cheese, not to mention it featured the best set of traps in Hollywood history, courtesy of the clearly ‘roided up Tom Hardy.  No movie this year forced me to acknowledge that my pre-conceived notions were wrong more than Warrior.

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

I saw a lot of movies this year and these were my favorites.   I feel no need to justify my choices and I do not care what yours are.  If they are vastly different than mine you are wrong.  So without further adieu:

1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Nothing makes me happier than a high-minded, patiently-crafted popcorn movie.

2) The Ides of March – Nothing new in terms of revelations of how scummy politics is, but I thought this was a brisk, tense, extremely well-acted film.

3) War Horse – if you can look past the (intentional) old school, Hollywood cheesiness you should leave the theater with a smile on your face.

4) Crazy Stupid Love – best romantic comedy since 500 Days of Summer

5) 50/50 – All the humor and sadness you’d expect from a cancer movie.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is going to be 2012’s less ripped, more versatile Ryan Gosling – it is his time to break out big time.

6) The Descendants – Another Clooney flick on the list (Ides was the first).  Really enjoyed just about every minute of this movie.

7) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – might have made the list simply for Rooney Mara’s performance (and her acting was good too), but I really enjoyed the movie – shortest 2 hours and 40 minutes I have spent in a theater.  I think David Fincher is the best director working right now not named Christopher Nolan.

8. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – let it be known that I never abandoned my fandom of Tom Cruise and I was rewarded well with this excellent action movie.  See it on IMAX also – some really great shots.

9) X Men: First Class – The first comic book movie post-The Dark Knight that I felt brought gravitas and high quality to the comic book genre.

10) The Artist – A silent movie that almost turns silence into a foreign language.  If not for War Horse, this would have been my feel-good movie of the year.

Thanks for reading – I hope to have my movie review show up and running by the end of this month ( – you can subscribe now if you like.  So my reviews will hopefully be funny videos this year, or at least videos.  Great news for you anti-readers!

Have a nice weekend.


Valentine’s Day: Maybe The Worst Movie Ever Made

If you have been to a movie recently you have probably seen a preview for “Valentine’s Day,” one of the most trite, shameless and cliche pieces of crap ever produced.  Now I have not seen the film, but let’s put it in perspective:

1) The preview features “I Gotta Feelin'” by the Black Eyed Peas.  The Black Eyed Peas have made a fortune by shamelessly producing song after song that beg to be anthems.  It is one thing if a song becomes an anthem (Welcome to the Jungle as an example), but when you write songs with the intent of forcing them as “Summer songs” or “New Year’s Eve songs” or “Bar Mitzvah songs” then you are no more an artist than someone who composes commercial jingles.  In fact you are worse because commercial jingles make no pretense about what they are.   So bad move Valentine’s Day.

2) The star studded cast of Valentine’s Day is a who’s who of overrated people.  Jaime Foxx – your career highlights are Wanda from In Living Color and a glorified impression in Ray.  Other than that your performances are lifeless as your mechanized singing.  Taylor Lautner – I am supposed to believe that this kid is in a heterosexual relationship with Taylor Swift in the movie or real life?  Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the next generation Tom Cruise, but with less charisma and talent.  Unless he is sucking Taylor Swift’s twig and berries in the movie I don’t buy it.  The list goes on and on (literally the supply of mediocre talent is bordering on endless), but it really just looks like the cast of the 2016 season of Dancing With The Stars.

3) The name of the movie.  Like a Black Eyed Peas song this movie, if it gains any success will lay claim to the “official movie of Valentine’s Day.”  They couldn’t have thought of something better?  If you go see this movie on Valentine’s Day do your self a favor and drive off a bridge on the way home.

Like the U.S military reaching out to former enemies in Iraq to secure peace I have actually offered to see Dear John with my girlfriend as a way of ensuring that I do not need to see Valentine’s Day.  Dear John is a Nicholas Sparks movie starring Channing Tatum so this is no small sacrifice.

Ok, that’s it for today.  Now I am off to see Extraordinary Measures.  See, anything, even cliche medical dramas with over-the-hill actors, seems palatable after the Valentine’s Day preview.