a blogumn by Ryan Dixon

In Which a Diabolical Crime is Uncovered, Sorority Row re-visited and Michael Douglas dissected


Catching the Can Man

Photo Credit: Ivy Dawned

Photo Credit: Ivy Dawned

They were two men. Both alike in many ways; late middle age, short and stout, beer bellies the size of bowling balls, skin so tanned and dry that it looked more like jerky than flesh, a mutual preference for mesh baseball caps (worn without irony), tight tank tops and two-snap polyester double-knit “gym teacher” shorts. But that’s where the similarities ended and the hatred began for Bill Miller and Bob Felton, the feuding Can Men.

I grew up on a blue-collar public golf course in Western Pennsylvania that my family owned. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of golfers stroll over our fairways every week. This would leave a lot of garbage. And scattered within that garbage would be, without fail, a plethora of aluminum beer and soda cans. Since our area didn’t recycle (Recycle? We couldn’t even get cable TV.), our King Solomon’s Mines-like collection of aluminum gold went to waste until, during the great recycling renaissance of the mid-90’s, Bill and Bob arrived.

As with most cutthroat industries, the competitive fire of those individuals who make it to the top of their professions often encumbers their ability to enjoy the other’s company. And it was no different will Bill and Bob. Even though there were enough cans to go around, whenever I would encounter one of them on the golf course, they never failed to find a single word or innocuous phrase from our introductory greeting to awkwardly segue into a searing invective aimed at other man…

“Bill goes out and interrupts golfers when he’s getting his f*cking cans.”

“Bob steals people’s cans when they’re not looking. With the goddamn soda still in it!”

While the source of their mutual hatred was never revealed– some older golfers claimed that Bill and Bob had competed for the attention of the same girl during their long ago high school days — there was no doubt that it was a blistering animosity. Captain Ahab had nothing on them– they were each other’s white whale.

My father tried to prevent this cold war from turning hot by assigning them specific days when they could troll the course for cans. Bob had weekdays. Bill, weekends. This system worked well until the arrival of Memorial Day 1996 when the weekday/weekend system broke down. Surely enough, right before sunset on that Monday, the two Can Men approached our dumpster at the same time.

By the time I reached them, Bill and Bob were rolling upon the ground, soaking themselves in the black, ichorous gunk that festered around the base of our dumpster, delivering punches with all the fury that those 65-year-old, “early bird special” arms could muster. In between these furious blows, each man tried to grab and pull the other’s hair. This tactic would have worked too, if not for the fact that both men were nearly bald and what hair they did have was tightly sheared.

It took several minutes and three additional employees to pull them apart. We confiscated their can collection staffs (Bob wielded a golf shaft without the head, Bill a long claw) to ensure there’d be no cheap shots. While we didn’t call the police, Bob and Bill were banned forever from collecting cans on our golf course. With their exit from my life, I thought I’d never again have to deal with another Can Man.

And now the past is prologue.

When my roommates and I first moved to Burbank, CA I convinced them that, since our apartment didn’t have recycling, we should collect our cans and take them to the local recycling center and get money for them. We were all heavy consumers of Diet Coke and the riches garnered from recycling would almost cover the costs for the next round of twelve-packs.

This past week I strolled into our garage with every intention of putting the nearly two-dozen can-filled grocery bags we had been collecting over the past several months into my car and take them to the recycling center. But where a fort of aluminum once stood, there was now a solitary, slightly crushed Diet Coke can being rolled gently back and forth by the breeze.

I first thought that one of my roommates had already taken the cans away, but when I asked them about it, neither one of them knew what I was talking about. The truth then became readily apparent: We had been robbed.

Denizens of Los Angeles beware. Hide your cans. Keep them safe. For somewhere within the snaking highways, sandy beaches, desolate slums and sparkling mansions of our great city, a Can Man has turned into a Can Thief. And there’s no telling where he’ll strike next.


Sorority Row

You know when you meet a girl (or guy) at a party and say to yourself, “God, she’s annoying, stupid and unattractive. There’s no way I’d EVER have sex with her.” But then, as the evening progresses, the drinks are consumed and this girl seems to be the only one willing to talk to you, you start thinking that she’s really not that bad looking and begin to plot how to get her in and out of your apartment without the roommates seeing her.

Sorority Row is like one of those girls. I instantly said no way. But after seeing the trailer at seemingly every movie this summer (Does the audience for The Cove really want to see Sorority Row?) it began to grow on me, I mean…

It was shot in my hometown of Pittsburgh!

It stars a host of super hot girls… and a shotgun-wielding Carrie Fisher!

It’s a realistic account of modern sorority life!

Did I mention Carrie Fisher…and the shotgun?!?!

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the 32 other reasons I’ve come up with. As it stands, I’m still not sure if I’ll actually go to a theater to see Sorority Row, but I’ll definitely take it home with me when it comes out on DVD. Check out the trailer below:


Now in Theaters


Michael Douglas in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

reasonabledoubtposterA star is born. A star is successful. A star begins to fade. Then, the star finds a second life by doing a very different type of role usually in a low-budget film or one with an acclaimed director. A glowing New York Times profile follows and, if they’re lucky, so does a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

But then, instead of remaining on that new and exciting career path, the star is reminded by his handlers that he has alimony payments, multiple mortgages and a 25-year-old third wife who either wants kids or several hundred Birkin bags from Hermès.

To get those easy paychecks the star does a series a crappy movies and then, one morning, wakes up to discover that Variety has failed to cover the news that he’s just signed on to a movie where his co-stars are a giant Panda Bear and Pauly Shore. At that point, it’s safe to say, he’s officially no longer a star.

Now desperate, he returns to that one role that made him famous. A press release comes out saying that he’s “reloading the gun”, “getting back in the saddle”, or “putting the hat back on” because after X amount of years (or decades), the perfect script has finally arrived. (A more cynical mind than mine might argue that, opposed to the quality of said script, the real reason he’s returning to the role is because after years of career decline, it’s the only role for which a movie studio will fork over his old asking price.).

Since many of the great baby-boomer stars of the past few decades are now entering their sunset years, we’re seeing this pattern re-occur at rapid pace and with varying results. With this weekend’s release of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and next year’s Wall Street 2, it seems to be Michael Douglas’ turn to hop on the end-of-career carousel. But before we dive into Douglas, let’s look at the man who has turned this character Jujitsu into an art form.

The case of Sylvester Stallone.

rambovAfter a series of dull-as-dust mid-90’s action films (The Specialist, Judge Dread, Assassins, Daylight) that were produced in the same aesthetic spirit of his most recent comeback to that point, 1993’s Cliffhanger, Sylvester Stallone co-starred with Robert De Niro in James Mangold’s 1997 art house hit Cop Land. Portraying an overweight, hearing-impaired sheriff, Stallone received some of the best reviews of his career.

But instead of using this new-found critical respect to appear in other prestige projects, he instead tried to reclaim his A-list status by starring in a group of films that amounted to perhaps his worst movie streak ever (when dealing with the ouvre of Sylvester Stallone, that’s saying A LOT): Driven and Get Carter were bearably bad, but then his acting career officially crashed and burned by the back-to-back, essentially straight-to-DVD releases D-Tox and Shade. The combined box office gross for these two films ($104,193–that’s thousands not millions) probably wasn’t even enough to cover Stallone’s monthly HGH bill.

With all other comeback avenues closed, Stallone went back to the well-spring and gave us Rocky Balboa, smartly using that film’s publicity blitz to offer one big Mea Culpa for all of his past career embarrassments. Until Mickey Rourke eclipsed Stallone this past year with his own on-and-off-screen performance in The Wrestler, no entertainer had better accomplished this dual feat of artistic and personal redemption. Those who had originally scoffed at the project when it was first announced were now singing its praises—Rocky Balboa was both a critical and box office hit, Stallone’s biggest in fact, since Cliffhanger.

Stallone seems to have learned his lesson– he followed Rocky Balboa with the not as popular, but still viable Rambo. Next year brings us The Expendables, a Freddy vs. Jason-like trip down memory lane showcasing Stallone as the leader of a team made up of the greatest action stars of the last three decades. And, recently greenlit, is the appropriately titled Rambo V where our bandana-wearing hero hunts some sort of supernatural, feral beast (I’m not kidding and I’m so happy that I’m not). A sequel to Cliffhanger is also in development. One can only assume he’ll continue to re-boot his past glories until Dolly Parton turns down Rhinestone 2.

And as for Michael Douglas?

I would hazard a guess that, after giving two very funny supporting performances in two unfunny movies (You, Me and Dupree and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) and an acclaimed turn in the little-seen King of California, his agents said to him, “Let’s go back to the slick and savvy Michael Douglas of The Game, Disclosure, Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction.”

Sadly, the movie they chose for this “return to form” was Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, a witless remake of a 1956 film noir. The trailer’s a perfect example of my “What the hell?” rule– namely, it’s not a good sign if Michael Douglas appears in the trailer for a movie and you say, “What the hell? Michael Douglas is in this?”

To stave off the apocalyptic reviews and box office receipts that will surely be left in the wake of this film’s release, Team Douglas seems to have taken their cue from Sylvester Stallone (and Harrison Ford with Indiana Jones) for a true “return-to-form.” Next year he’ll reprise his Oscar-winning role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street 2.

Every precaution has been made to ensure a box office hit; Oliver Stone is back as the director, Douglas is being teamed up with the mandatory hot young star (Shia LaBeouf, the go-to Robin for all our Baby Boom Batmen) and a host of other acclaimed A-listers (Frank Langella, Josh Brolin). Most importantly, he has given all the right reasons as to why he signed on, telling the NY Times that the magnitude of the financial crisis convinced him to step back into Gekko’s thousand dollar shoes. Of course, as we all know, there’s really only one reason he signed on: Greed is good.

Now in Theaters

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