- - Monday, March 14, 2011

From the start

“‘Drugs’ is the first word Charlie Sheen utters in his only scene from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ a cinematic relic from 1986. It takes place in a police station where Jeannie Bueller (Jennifer Grey), waiting to get bailed out by her mom and fuming about brother Ferris’s charmingly anarchic ways (he breaks all the rules and is happy; she follows all the rules and is unhappy), realizes she’s sitting next to a gorgeous (he was!) sullen-eyed dude in a leather jacket who looks like he’s been up for days on a drug binge.

“But he’s not manic, just tired and sexily calm, his face so pale it’s almost violet-hued. Annoyed, Jeannie asks, ‘Why are you here?’ and Charlie, deadpan, replies, without regret: ‘Drugs.’ And then he slowly disarms her bitchiness with his outrageously sexy insouciance, transforming her annoyance into delight (they end up making out).

“That’s when we first really noticed Sheen, and it’s the key moment in his movie career (it now sums up everything that followed). He hasn’t been as entertaining since. Until now.”

Bret Easton Ellis, writing on “Charlie Sheen Is Winning,” on March 12 at Daily Beast

First steps

“The first time I watched ‘The Simpsons,’ I was so young that I didn’t really get any of the references. When the show did its brilliant parody of ‘The Shining,’ I was still so young that my parents wouldn’t let me see R-rated movies, and Stephen King books were specifically kept in the upstairs bookcase where I couldn’t find them. But I still laughed at ‘The Shinning,’ because the writing was funny. And, even better, it added to my pop culture knowledge. …

“Even if referentiality doesn’t age well, it does provide an incredible education. I know so much about pop culture today because ‘The Simpsons’ gave me a baseline knowledge. Watching ‘Rosebud’ when I was a kid laid the groundwork for my appreciation of ‘Citizen Kane,’ which led me to the rest of Orson Welles’ films. ‘The Simpsons’ and its referential ilk may not age as well as some Platonic Ideal of a sitcom that exists in a vacuum — ‘Fawlty Towers’? But it has so many random British references! — but they do provide an important service to humanity. They’re the gateway drug to the wide world of pop culture. And that will never get old.”

Darren Franich, writing on “Will ‘The Simpsons’ still be funny when no one gets the references?” on March 9 at the Entertainment Weekly blog Pop Watch

Sucker bets

“The conventional wisdom among liberals is that people disagree with them only because they are stupid, uneducated, or have been bought off by the sinister forces of American capitalism. …

“You cannot find a liberal intellectual anywhere who can give you an honest, objective accounting of conservative positions on major issues. All they know is that conservatives are ‘stupid,’ ‘racist’ and ‘scary’ — boilerplate terms but unfortunately the exact words employed by [NPR executive Richard] Schiller on the tape. Practically the only liberal around who has ever been able to give a recognizable presentation of a conservative position is Barack Obama, who was always very good at repeating everybody’s argument before choosing the most liberal point of view. For that we elected him President.

“By assuming they are smarter than everybody else, liberals leave themselves utterly vulnerable to anyone who plays on their sense of superiority. It’s a classic Italian Renaissance comedy — the wily servant who, with cajoling and flattery, outwits his master. It’s been going on for centuries. Liberal intellectuals could write you an unintelligible paper on the subject for the Modern Language Association, but they can never see it happening to themselves!”

William Tucker, writing on “Who Are These Suckers?” on March 10 at the American Spectator

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