"Away We Go" gains instant indie cred via hand drawn title font

Away We Go is just the latest in a long line of “indie” films to leverage the oh-so-cool “hand drawn title” font, lending it serious street cred and instant indie validation before anyone even sees the film.


Recently popularized by 2007’s JUNO, the quirky hand-made title font brought visions of diary entries and emo-teen angst-filled journal poems, setting appropriate audience expectations by screaming “We’re an honest unassuming micro-brew movie!”


Leveraged again in 2008’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the wacky font inferred the hand written liner notes of a home-made mix tape. Plus, it promises that the movie is probably intimate, personal and low-fidelity-artsy, reminding us of the days of cassette mix tapes and Bic-penned song lists rather than CD’s and laser printered liners.

awaywegoSo then does 2009’s Away We Go not only give us a title font designed in the margins of a high-school English quiz, but an entire poster cartooned/rotoscoped like a modern-day Yellow Submarine (1968) or 1971’s The Point… or more contemporarily, hearkening right back to 2007 and JUNO’s opening title sequence — or the JUNO Soundtrack cover (See below). How quirkily indie-filmishly self-referential and hip. (Do the kids say “hip” any more? Or am I just fixated on “hip” because mine hurts?)


Yes, the same design firm (Shadowplay Studio) did the titles for both JUNO and Nick and Norah (not sure yet about Away We Go, but I’m guessin’). Anyway, sure they do fine work and all. But how long will it be before looking just like JUNO has people saying “What, again?” instead of “Ooh! Again!”.

Got more examples? Please share.

NOTE: In all fairness and in the interest of full-disclosure, I really enjoyed JUNO, plan to see Nick and Norah (love me some Michael Cera – Superbad rocks) and think Away We Go has two of my favorite funny people in it. But come on. This Title design trend is going to become as stereotypically “indie” as the wacky Grampa character addicted to porn.

how fucking old is wilford brimley anyway?

wilfred-brimleySo I’m watching TV tonight and there’s Wilford Brimley (again…always…forever) pimping the medical supplies services he’s been pimping for what seems like an eternity, and I turn to my wife and I say “How fucking old is Wilford Brimley anyway? He was an old man twenty-five years ago!”

I’m thinking, of course, of the Wilford Brimley of “Cocoon” (1985), and “Our House” (1986), either of which starred a 97-year-old Wilfred Brimley, right?

In Cocoon he’s an OLD man in a retirement village. And in Our House he takes in his teenage grandkids… I mean Shannon Doherty is like 14 in that series.

So I check out his IMDB. The man was born in 1934, which makes him about 75 today. Which means that 25 years ago, when he made Cocoon and Our House, he was about 51 or 52 years old.*

WTF? I’m 49! You mean the Wilford Brimley doddering around in Cocoon was two years older than me? The cranky old man in Our House, and shortly after selling America instant oatmeal from behind that grandfatherly mustache, was two years older than me? Holy crap on a stick!

So I got two choices… either I’m way the fuck older than I like to think I am, or Wilford Brimley has made a career out of playing really old dudes when he could have been playing leading men. I mean seriously, Bruce Willis is 55 and he’s still kicking ass and taking names.

Dude, which 50-something guy do I want to be? Which one do you want to be? The Bruce Willis or the Wilford Brimley**? No offense, Wilford, but I’m going with Bruce.

Hey, when I’m 75 I’ll be happy to be the cranky cantankerous old coot. But not before I have to, okay?

*Which means he was 38 when his granddaughter was born… which means he was 20 when his kid was born… which isn’t impossible, I guess, but still… **Okay, maybe with a name like Wilford Brimley you’re simply predestined to be an old man from birth. I mean, really. Wilford Brimley is no action hero name, right?

Excess Chinese

I love all the cool stuff that comes with being in a First World country.

I love the big cars, the expensive but plentiful gas that goes in the big cars. I love the fatty foods, and the huge portions of fatty foods. Just the concept of leftovers is enough to make me smile.

And I love disposable stuff. I especially love disposable versions of stuff that never used to be disposable. Like disposable Tupperware. Remember when Tupperware was worth something? You coveted Tupperware, like a family heirloom, and you wrote your name on the bottom with an indelible marker. I was sure Tupperware was going to be the currency of the post-apocalyptic future, after the bomb, or Y2K.

Nowadays, there’s no need to hang onto anything. We have the privelage of throwing out the stuff that used to be valuable. Our children have no need for our air-tight heirlooms, our fried chicken time capsules, our precious plastic household hand-me-downs, or our time-honored wisdom. So we make even Tupperware a thing to throw away, to use once and bury, like a prophylactic, or a diaper, or a prom date.

Yes, the things that we once thought had value are now disposable garbage. Mind you, we could nevertheless buy some good “permanent” Tupperware, and use it for decades ourselves. Or give it to the Goodwill when we no longer need it. But the beauty of our new disposable Tupperware is that we still get to participate in our culture of consumer excess, yet not be bogged down with owning “things”. We aren’t really enraptured with our “stuff”, you see, we aren’t really addicted to our “crap”, and we can prove it by throwing it away. And we don’t feel guilty, because, of course, it’s intended to be thrown away. To give it to someone else is to give them our trash… and how offensive is that?

Or so I thought. Today, I found myself at Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food. Don’t ask why.

Are you familiar with Mr. Chau’s? Mr. Chau’s looks tempting. The campy little animated Mister Chau entices me from the television with promises of tasty fried rice, chow mien and sweet-and-sour pork baking under a heat lamp behind a sneeze guard in a converted Dairy Queen. So I loaded up, once I finally got there, on a huge steaming pile of boneless beef ribs, or pork ribs, or chicken ribs, or cat ribs, in sauce the color of something for which there is no color in nature, sauce the color of a traffic cone.

It was pretty, mind you, but it wasn’t natural.

The smell sucked. The sauce sucked. The rice sucked. And the meat, if it was meat, sucked. Sauce the color of a traffic cone, it seems, is warning you to eat elsewhere.

Now as it happens, while I’m trying to force this crap down, I observe this homeless guy come by the garbage can outside the restaurant two or three times, checking for anything anyone else may have had too much of. He didn’t have a sign, and he wasn’t sitting on the ground outside a coffee shop, but he didn’t pull up in a Lincoln Navigator, so I know he must be homeless.

So in a fit of newfound humanitarian empathy, it occurs to me that since this food is virtually inedible anyway, I could leave it in a disposable ozone-safe Styrofoam take-out container with a new spork, a pair of plastic chopsticks and a half-empty envelope of brown salty sauce on top of the garbage can for this guy to find when he comes back around, because while I may not have a lot of spare change, I do have plenty of crappy Chinese fast food.

All of us, somewhere, have too much of something we don’t need. There is, in general, an obscene amount of crap. We are a country of excess.

It’s just a distribution problem.

The point is that I learned that I can fulfill my humanitarian obligations and address the issue of distribution by leaving behind the inedible leftovers of crappy Chinese fast food in disposable Tupperware on top of a dumpster. One man’s inedible leftovers are another man’s 3 square meals. You see, while it is indeed possible for one of us to have too much crappy Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food, we cannot, collectively, have too much crappy Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food.

And no matter where I am, no matter what kind of crappy half-eaten entrée, used sneakers or tattered blankets I leave behind, there will be someone out there who can use them. How awesome is that? I get to participate in our capitalist consumer culture, I get a meal, I get to complain about the quality of my excess food, I get to not finish the meal, and I get to feed a homeless guy. I can do my part simply by giving away the crap that isn’t good enough for me, and I won’t even notice.

There really is enough for everybody. And even disposable things, sometimes, are worth passing on.

Is this a great country or what?

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Snap Into A Slim Jim

Y’know, I’ve long held that people are idiots.
But that’s easy to say. What’s hard is finding a good tool for proving it.

One of the gauges with which I measure the idiocy of people is television. More so than movies, and more so than music. Eminem’s success notwithstanding.

Of course, there’s some movies on television. And some music, too. Then there’s music in movies. All that probably skews the results.

But this isn’t science. It’s inference. And I’m okay with that.

Now, before I start, let me acknowledge that we haven’t resolved the question of whether TV reflects our culture, or directs our culture. Do we like the things that we like because we see them on TV, or does TV just show us what we already like? Do we respond to the commercials because we are the idiots that they think we are, or because we are turned into idiots by the subtle influences of mind-numbing, homogeneous pablum, and we become the consumer drones they need us to be?

What we do know is, it works. If it didn’t work, if the demographic suppositions about television shows were wrong, and the ads that were running during the show didn’t really appeal to the people watching the show, the products wouldn’t sell, and they wouldn’t waste millions of dollars running the ads, and the ads would disappear. The fact that they are pumping millions of dollars into those ads infers, if not proves, that people are idiots, because they must be responding to the ads; because these marketing execs may be foul, but they’re foul and smart. They’ve got this crap down to an art.

So if the ads you see on TV are designed to actually appeal to the mentality of the people that are watching the show, and you see a “snap into a Slim-Jim” ad on Big-Ass Time Wrestling Federation Smack Down Thump-fest Mania, and again later on America’s Funniest Home Rescues, you can freely assume that the same kinda people that watch Big-Ass Time Wrestling Federation Smack Down Thump-fest Mania watch America’s Funniest Home Rescues, and that they are assumed to like Slim-Jims.

You won’t see Lexus commercials there. You won’t see Macy’s ads there. You’ll see Daewoo and Kia ads there. You’ll see Bryman School of Orthodontic Assistantship and Dog Washing ads there. You’ll see K-Mart ads there. And if you’re seeing these ads, if you’re watching these shows, you, my friend, fall into that demographic.

Of course, if this were science, we’d ask for causality. In other words, if what I believe is true, it infers some mechanism by which the advertisers can measure the relationship between showing a particular dumb-ass ad, and the increased sales of their dumb-ass products. And although certain paranoid delusionals may argue to the contrary, nobody really knows what you’re watching on your television. So they can infer, from an increase in sales after the launch of an ad, that the ad works.

But how can they know?

Focus Groups.

Those mysterious, privileged groups of select citizens, chosen to best represent a cross-section of our diverse culture, ushered into plush screening rooms where super-secret cuts of unreleased commercials, films and television sitcoms are beamed onto a silver screen, and extensive, revealing personal profiles are assembled from interviews and delicately structured questionnaires.

So I’m in the mall the other day, and this pimply faced kid with ill-fitting loafers and a wrinkled dress shirt with the folds from the package still in it walks up to me with some hand scrawled notes on a lined yellow pad on a dirty clipboard, and he asks me how I’m doing.

We quickly assess my age, my general income, and will I answer a few questions and watch a little TV for an easy five bucks, all paid for by GM?

Pay me to watch TV? Have I died and gone to Heaven?

So he takes me into a little office in the back of the mall and into a small room with one door, a VCR and TV, a computer monitor, and a two-way mirror, and escorts a fat chick in a black dress in to join us.

Suddenly, this is looking kinda kinky, and five bucks is looking like not enough money.

The two of them ask me a bunch of questions, and then inform me that they want me to watch some commercials to gauge my response.

I see a yogurt commercial, an applesauce commercial, one for a Chevy car, and an Advil spot.

“Do you remember the car commercial?” they ask.

Yes, I respond.

They ask me what car it advertised. Malibu, I say. Or Monte Carlo. I’m not really sure.

He sighs. “Let’s look at the ad again” he says. We look at the ad again. I have failed.

It was the Impala.

“Now do you remember the car?” they ask again.

Impala, I say.

This time I pass.

They want to know how the commercial makes me feel, on a scale of one to five. One is good. Three is neutral.

I pause.

“You can just say three” he says.

Okay, three. I just want my five bucks.

They ask how I feel about the character in the commercial. One is good. I can relate to him. Five is bad. I think he’s a “loser”.

“You can say three” he tells me.

Okay, three. I just want my five bucks.

Finally, they hand me three sheets of paper with a list of words. “I was supposed to ask you about these earlier,” he says. “I forgot. Just check off the words that match how you feel about the commercial. You can leave a bunch blank if you want. It doesn’t really matter.”

I check some off. He gives me five bucks.

I’m not sure if GM knows any more about their Impala ads. But I have five dollars I didn’t have before, and I don’t even feel dirty.

But the cool thing is that now I have a new insight on my tried and true mechanism for gauging the idiocy of the American populace, and I feel a little better. Because, you see, while the commercials that play during my favorite show may suck, and may be offensively belittling to their apparently intended audience, they don’t necessarily reflect the nature of the actual audience.

When you see the Chevy Impala ad, what you’re seeing is what the fat chick and the pimply kid thought a 40-something year-old guy with bad knees and no money who doesn’t want to buy a car might want to see, after they’d hurried him up to answer the questions so they could get to the food court and grab a Squishy and a Cinna-Bon. So now I can watch Big-Ass Time Wrestling Federation Smack Down Thump-fest Mania and America’s Funniest Home Rescues and know that I’m not necessarily the kind of person who buys curly fries and shampoo because the Ho in the commercial is bump-grinding to Eminem in short-shorts and a halter-top made out of baloney.

I might become that person if I see it enough. But I didn’t start out that way.
The television doesn’t necessarily reflect our idiot culture. But it may very well direct it.

Because, don’t forget, the audience is still a bunch of idiots. My mind hasn’t changed on that.

We just may not have been born that way.

And I’d have paid five bucks to know that.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Skateboard Pants

Sometimes there’s no love lost between me and skateboarders.

Yeah, sure, already I hear the ludicrous freedom cry of “skateboarding is not a crime, yo”. But ya know what? I don’t hear the bicyclists, the tennis players and the golfers whining and moaning that they don’t get to practice their sports against the side of Civil War monuments, over the tops of memorial park benches and alongside my $20,000 SUV parked outside of the Starbucks. And you don’t hear them crying “Until you build me a mountain bike park, I’m just gonna keep riding up and down the flower beds of the City Arboretum, dude!”

“Skateboarding is not a crime”. You know what? Neither is taking a dump, you punk, but it’s a crime when I do it on the sidewalk in front of the boulangerie at the strip mall, okay?

But that’s not what’s bothering me today. This is not my problem with skateboarders.

It’s not that I don’t get the sport. Hell, I was in one of the first skateboard clubs in Skate City USA (Santa Cruz, Cali, baby) back in 1972, when boards were fiberglass and a handstand was the epitomy of trick. I can appreciate the complexities of their particular brand of athleticism, some of the subtleties between the various tricks they pull. I actually like watching those kids throw themselves into the half-pipe, to the screams of tattooed boys making devil horns with both hands, and the screams of dozens of scantily clad teenie-boppers with Britney Spears breasts.

In fact, I like watching that a lot.

I see the pride in their eyes when they’re cracking a double-ollie half-grind fakie 360 with a moonwalk nose manual. These kids work hard at learning these tricks, and I should have so much patience figuring out how to program my damn DVD player. Hell, I can barely drive and program my cell phone at the same time… God help me if I try to pop a backwards Casper half-and-half and a nose grab all at once.

So you know what pisses me off? I’ll tell you what pisses me off.

It’s those damn pants.

Now I’m not talking about the “loose fit” look here. I’m not talking about your “roomy cut husky boys” dungarees.

You know that crease under your butt cheek that would hold a pencil if you stuck it under there? I’m talking about the pants that hang somewhere South of there. I’m talking about the “hanging below the cheek crease, crotch between your knees, gotta walk bowlegged with one hand holding ’em up got pockets on my knees” baggies. I’m talking about the “put down your backpack and bend over at the waist just to reach the change at the bottom of your pocket for a Mountain Dew while you hold ’em up with the other hand” kind of baggies. I’m talking about the “how the hell are they staying up if you didn’t actually sew them to your underwear” kind of baggies.

You’ve seen these kids, walking down the street in front of you, effectively mooning you on the way to getting their lips pierced shut, looking like they got halfway through getting ready to take a crap when they realized they were out of Mountain Dew and had to get to the Seven Eleven.

Why do I have to stare at this kid’s bony butt hanging out of his Ben Davis Baggies? Why do I have to be privileged to see which pattern of boxers he decided to put on this morning? Why should I have to observe his skid mark skivvies hanging out over his waistband like some kind of freakish twilight-zone beer belly on the backside?

There is nothing as sexy as a guy who looks like he just took a huge dump in his diaper, walking like a penguin with his legs bowed to keep his pants above his knees. Are there really little girls who look at these boneheads and say “Ooh, check out the underwear on that one”?

Are there really little girls who say “I wanna get me a man who has to use BOTH hands to hold his pants up”?

Do they really say “I like a guy who can’t get his knees far enough apart to ride a bicycle”?

Yeah, yeah, I know, youthful rebellion. These pants are an extension of the “trashing private property is not a crime” mentality … this is the “taking my pants off in public is not a crime” mentality … the “screw you, the world owes me whatever I want so kiss my butt” mentality, borne of an utter and complete disregard for other people’s property and privacy, and my right not to have to look at your freakin’ Underoos.

Maybe my real fear is that this is going to catch on… that these poor misguided children will never grow out of it, and one day I’m going to find myself being represented by an Attorney who walks bowlegged up to the Bench in a three-piece suit, one hand on my People’s Exhibit 13, the other hand holding up his pants, his boxers billowing out like a flowing silken sign that says “I’m a complete ass, Your Honor, please send my client to the chair.”

Take it from a guy who spent years in super-bells, parachute pants and M.C. Hammer boxer pants with an elastic waistband. You look like a freakin’ moron, you’re gonna want to burn these pictures, when I was in high school kids with pants like that rode on the little bus and wore a helmet to recess. You’ve adopted a look once reserved for Homeless people, special kids and plumbers.

And grinding the finish off the new Art Nouveu railings in front of City Hall doesn’t make it cool.

Congratulations. Those pants are a crime.

That’s it. That’s all I got.