Friday, December 03, 2004

Riley McCarthy's Favorite Things.

Oprah has so inspired me in how I conduct my life and my work that I have decided to pay tribute to her by blatantly copying her annual tradition.

So I'm going to present you with the first-ever list of ...


First of all, allow me to welcome you all back to the blog. I'm so happy to see you here each and every day, all six of you who read this thing regularly. It warms my heart so to see that page counter climb its way up into the thousands ... particularly when I realize that it's not just going further up because I keep checking it.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

For my first recommendation, I would like to point you all in the direction of some really, really silly gay-softcore-type horror films, directed by the master David DeCoteau.

If you want good horror, you're out of luck. But if you're looking for ridiculous plots involving vampires that, for some reason, lead to lots and lots of scenes of young men in white boxer briefs, then you can understand why the classic VOODOO ACADEMY appealed to me so much this year.

With one-note, cardboard actors like Riley Smith, Huntley Ritter and Travis Sher on hand to bring down a demonic school headmistress while running around in their underwear, you can't get lower quality cinema or cheaper thrills.

The VOODOO ACADEMY DVD is particularly notable because the director's cut of this masterpiece is available. One special feature allows you the chance of hearing the film without its regular soundtrack. Instead, you get to hear the director's commands to actors from on the set.

At one point, the brilliant DeCoteau can be heard shouting to a gyrating, barely clothed Ritter, "OK, NOW RUB YOURSELF ... REALLY RUB YOURSELF ... ALL RIGHT, NOW WRITHE MORE!!! WRITHE MORE!!!"

For a horror movie, the entertainment value is immeasurable. For one reason or another.

Along that line, allow me to expose you all to one of my favorite coffee-table books of the year, XXX, which was created by renowned fashion photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

Greenfield-Sanders, a very good, very serious photographer, decided for this project that he would find porn stars, both straight and gay, and shoot them both in the nude - and, shockingly, in clothes. The two portraits in the book are juxtaposed, so it allows you to examine the nature of what is pornographic and what about these porn stars really lingers in your memory. Many reviews say that it's not the bodies of the models that you end up thinking of - it's their faces.

The incredibly famous and talented Jenna Jameson appears on the cover of the book.

I found out about this book because there's also a soundtrack for it and an upcoming HBO documentary.

Looking at the soundtrack's back-cover photo, I saw a really good-looking actor in jeans and a sweater who looked familiar, and I didn't know where I recognized him from. I didn't know the premise of the book at the time, and, when I figured out how I knew the actor (whose name I still don't know), I found the premise of the book even more interesting.

And the book even features essays from John Malkovich and Gore Vidal on the nature of pornography.

It's not just some peek-a-boo featuring clothed porn stars.

Speaking of future HBO movies, I again have to recommend EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo. I mean, I know it came out years ago and already won a Pulitzer, but it really was the best book I read this year.

The characters are so well-drawn and funny, and the plot goes in so many unanticipated directions. It's a very satisfying book.

As for DVD box sets, there are so many that I've recommended and talked about here (like FREAKS AND GEEKS and SPORTS NIGHT), and there are so many that I find myself watching. It's strange, to me, that I use my DVD player more to watch TV shows than I do to watch movies, but that's really the case.

It's hard to pick a favorite that I haven't already mentioned repeatedly, but I will say that, in terms of satisfying and original storytelling, I really enjoyed the first season of BOOMTOWN with Neal McDonough and Donnie Wahlberg.

A cop show done using multiple points-of-view, like RASHOMON in a way, BOOMTOWN managed to always craft interesting, compelling puzzles in each episode, and the acting was always top-notch. Watching the episode "Fearless," where Mykelti Williamson appeared as a man overcoming childhood abuse, I actually started crying, which never happens.

Oh, and talking television, my biggest personal favorite television show of the year was not LOST or DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, though I do like those an awful lot. WONDERFALLS, my favorite show of 2004, is no longer on the air, and it was cancelled after only four episodes of the 13 made were aired. But, my God, it was hilarious.

The show starred Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye, a bitter, sarcastic grad student who, despite her accomplishments and intelligence, works at a Niagra Falls gift shop and lives in a broken-down trailer.

Because I'm not the only person who loved this show when it was on, the makers of it are releasing all the episodes, even the ones that never made it to air, on DVD in February, and I'm very happy about that. I highly suggest you check it out when it becomes available.

And, finally, of all the CDs I could recommend this year, I would have to say that my current favorite is O by Damien Rice, which I bought after Marley recommended it and I heard the song "The Blower's Daughter" on ads for the movie CLOSER.

Thus far, it's proving to be a very good album. Light. Upbeat. Good rhythm. Good vocals.

To use my friend Lupo's personal catchphrase, I'm not mad at it.