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September 6, 2011: "Junk Food" 
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
MGamesCook wrote:
JB, I'm sorry, but all you have to do to find the source of the problem is look in a mirror. Modern audiences trust critical consensus more than they ever have before, treating rottentomatoes like the bible. When critics support that kind of hype, what do you expect to happen? People sit through moronic shit like Avatar, but are able to convince themselves that it's a once in a lifetime experience, because "the critics said so." Your observation is sad, but true; 3D will probably never go away now. You may have found the film enjoyable enough to give it 4 stars, but the effect it has had, the only effect it could have had on the industry, is a 0 star trend. It made studios realize that people will pay extra, not just pay but pay extra, for absolutely anything. I wish more critics had realized this at the outset.


Yes, 3-D is a deplorable trend, but I still believe AVATAR is an exception to the rule - the only movie I have seen thus far where the 3-D makes it quantifiably better. Having seen it in 2-D and 3-D, I can definitively say that I would have given it a lesser star rating had I seen it theatrically in 2-D. (I'm on the fence about whether, if I did a "second take," it would still get 4 stars. Probably not, but I generally don't like altering star ratings after the fact. I have only done that three or four times in nearly 4000 reviews.)

I can't blast AVATAR the movie for the horrible things that resulted from its success, any more than I can blast JAWS and STAR WARS for the turn that resulted from their success. There are a lot of die-hard cinema lovers who hate STAR WARS not because they think it's a bad movie but because it ushered in the blockbuster, special effects era. (By the way, I contend that would have happened anyway; STAR WARS was a product of its environment - it just happened to be at the forefront. A lot of the blockbusters of the late '70s were already on the drawing board or even completed by the time SW hit theaters.)

I hated 3-D from the beginning, as much for what the glasses do to the movie-going experience as for anything else. To date, AVATAR is the only movie when I actually forgot I was wearing them. There have been other films to do good things with 3-D, but none have completely eliminated my realization that I have those glasses on. And, with some of 2011's big 3-D movies, I actually skipped the press screenings (which are always in 3-D) to see a film in 2-D.


Wed Sep 07, 2011 10:14 am
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
This column pretty much nails exactly what I've been complaining about for a long time now.

I've got nothing against disposable entertainment. Throughout the history of Hollywood, the studios have made disposable entertainment. But that shouldn't be all that there is. The studios used to make smart films alongside their dumber ones, and now that ratio is so far gone that a smart film is a blessing.

On a related note...If I were a director, I wouldn't mind trying to undertake a project that featured Michael Bay-style action throughout its entire 100-minute run time, and with corporate product placement in every shot. I would think of it as a $150 million experimental film, to see how much bullshit the audience could stand.

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Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:24 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
James Berardinelli wrote:
I can't blast AVATAR the movie for the horrible things that resulted from its success, any more than I can blast JAWS and STAR WARS for the turn that resulted from their success. There are a lot of die-hard cinema lovers who hate STAR WARS not because they think it's a bad movie but because it ushered in the blockbuster, special effects era. (By the way, I contend that would have happened anyway; STAR WARS was a product of its environment - it just happened to be at the forefront. A lot of the blockbusters of the late '70s were already on the drawing board or even completed by the time SW hit theaters.)


That point's 100% on target. Before SW there were mindless blockbusters. Any of the Irwin Allen disaster movies could fall right into that category.

James Berardinelli wrote:
Blame Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. Those two discovered that audiences could be fooled into enjoying vacuous films if they showcased appealing stars, impressive visuals, and popular soundtracks. The least important aspect of any Bruckheimer film is the screenplay. Follow the formula, make a billion dollars.


Back when I first started posting regularly on here (around Oscar time) I linked a GQ article by Mark Harris that talked about the decline of studio movies. In the article, Harris shifted the blame for the decline of said movies from the usual suspects (Jaws, Star Wars) to a later suspect: Top Gun.

While Harris admitted that he was being more or less arbitrary in his selection of the summer 1986 Tony Scott movie as the one that began the decline, in a way a lot of the points he makes are accurate. Jaws and Star Wars were helmed by directors who were making these films because they wanted to see them. In the case of Top Gun, Tony Scott was basically a director for hire doing a job he was contracted to do.

Now Top Gun wasn't the first mindless 80s blockbuster. There were others before it (Rambo First Blood Part II most notably). But it was the one that helped usher in the era of Bruckheimer, the era of producer driven cinema. Guys like Bruckheimer aren't about to hire a director like Spielberg or Cameron or Lucas to direct a summer blockbuster for them. No way. Those guys would bring too much of a personal viewpoint to the films, a personal viewpoint that might get in the way of their mind numbing explosions every five minutes. Instead it's easier to hire a Tony Scott or a Michael Bay. They'll just make the movie from the usually weakly written by someone who can't write script while throwing in enough incoherence to make the audience forget to think.

Another thing to consider: SW and Jaws, despite all the unnecessary sequels (in the case of Jaws anyway) and knock-offs, still hold up as legitimately good movies. Top Gun still holds up. But it holds up more as a nostalgia piece and a historical pop culture artifact than it does as a legitimately good movie.

There was a time when I would have argued that the business simply goes in cycles. The example of what happened in the 70s with Scorsese-Coppola-Altman followed by what happened in the 90s with Tarantino-Linklater-Boyle-PT Anderson not to mention the arrivals of Spike Lee, David Lynch, The Coen Brothers and Oliver Stone in the 80s or Darren Aronofsky and Lee Daniels (omitting a certain one whose last name begins with N) in the 2000s could bear this out. Yet this current cycle does not bode well for the future nor does it bode well for independent screenwriters0filmmakers (like myself and several close friends) trying to get a footing. I doubt seriously that a Tarantino, a Soderbergh or a Linklater would be able to pull off the breakthrough today that they accomplished back in the early 90s. There are times where I feel ready to echo the sentiments of the aforementioned Altman:

Quote:
You get tired painting your pictures and going down to the street corner and selling them for a dollar. You get the occasional Fargo, but you’ve still got to make them for nothing, and you get nothing back. It’s disastrous for the film industry, disastrous for film art. I have no optimism whatsoever.

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Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:35 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Yes, 3-D is a deplorable trend, but I still believe AVATAR is an exception to the rule - the only movie I have seen thus far where the 3-D makes it quantifiably better. Having seen it in 2-D and 3-D, I can definitively say that I would have given it a lesser star rating had I seen it theatrically in 2-D. (I'm on the fence about whether, if I did a "second take," it would still get 4 stars. Probably not, but I generally don't like altering star ratings after the fact. I have only done that three or four times in nearly 4000 reviews.)

I can't blast AVATAR the movie for the horrible things that resulted from its success, any more than I can blast JAWS and STAR WARS for the turn that resulted from their success. There are a lot of die-hard cinema lovers who hate STAR WARS not because they think it's a bad movie but because it ushered in the blockbuster, special effects era. (By the way, I contend that would have happened anyway; STAR WARS was a product of its environment - it just happened to be at the forefront. A lot of the blockbusters of the late '70s were already on the drawing board or even completed by the time SW hit theaters.)

I hated 3-D from the beginning, as much for what the glasses do to the movie-going experience as for anything else. To date, AVATAR is the only movie when I actually forgot I was wearing them. There have been other films to do good things with 3-D, but none have completely eliminated my realization that I have those glasses on. And, with some of 2011's big 3-D movies, I actually skipped the press screenings (which are always in 3-D) to see a film in 2-D.


Really? I don't think the 3D did anything for it in the slightest. I think the movie is just as good (as good as it can be that is) on blu-ray in 2D. Anyway I don't think HOW you see 'Avatar' is the problem; it has plenty more pressing issues!

'How to train your dragon' was a good movie to see in 3D and is probably my favourite, closely followed by a Cadburys advert and the 'Alice in Wonderland' trailer both seen right before 'Avatar'.


Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:39 pm
Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
This hearkens back to our Mark Kermode discussion. Why do blockbusters have to be dumb or disposable? Star Wars and Jaws are neither. The idea that the public will be more accepting of something if it's stupid and insubstantial seems to be movie executive mythology. A fallacious rule of thumb, written on the chalkboard in the effort to reduce popular filmmaking to a set of easy-to-follow steps. But famous faces and big marketing draw viewers to smart and dumb movies alike.

As for quality TV shows, it's a fascinating upward trend, but they're still part of a very tiny minority. The Mad Mens, Breaking Bads, and Wires of this world have a long way to go before they depose the Survivors, the Real Housewives, etcs.


Wed Sep 07, 2011 3:46 pm
Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
JB, this last part couldn't help but catch my eye:

Quote:
"How long until multiplexes and amusement parks merge with a McDonalds next door to each one? Then we can pig out all day on junk food and junk cinema before going home and watching Dancing with the Has-Beens on TV. Who said life isn't worth living?"


There is a Zaxby's that shares the parking lot with our local complex... I've swung through there plenty of times to grab a quick bite before going into a movie, haha.


Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:59 pm
Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Dragonbeard wrote:
As a card carrying 'academic', my favourite movie of the year so far has been 'Sucker Punch' (I've still not seen Thor). I love being the exception to the 'rule' ;)

You know, the word "pretentious" gets tossed around a lot needlessly, but when it comes to you...


Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:33 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Jeff Wilder wrote:
James Berardinelli wrote:
I can't blast AVATAR the movie for the horrible things that resulted from its success, any more than I can blast JAWS and STAR WARS for the turn that resulted from their success. There are a lot of die-hard cinema lovers who hate STAR WARS not because they think it's a bad movie but because it ushered in the blockbuster, special effects era. (By the way, I contend that would have happened anyway; STAR WARS was a product of its environment - it just happened to be at the forefront. A lot of the blockbusters of the late '70s were already on the drawing board or even completed by the time SW hit theaters.)


That point's 100% on target. Before SW there were mindless blockbusters. Any of the Irwin Allen disaster movies could fall right into that category.


I agree with the rest of your post, but I wanted to make a point here. What made the Irwin Allen disaster movies so much fun was that everyone was in on the gag. They were full of thrilling heroics, beautiful women, crazy scientific theories, and monsters aplenty, and they were fun because the audience knew this was all a part of the deal. Most movies today who employ the same basic elements of those classic movies are different in that they aren't in on the gag. These movies are made with serious intent as a "blockbuster epic", in the hopes of becoming the next Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer. So, to me, it's the tone, the intent, that sets up how I am going to receive the movie. Is it going to be a tongue in cheek romp meant to play out some kind of fun and fantastic story? Or is it going to be the filmmaker's attempt to convince me to shut my brain off and hand over the ticket money without question? That makes ALL the difference to me, and I believe that's why they'll never understand the formula of why movies like Irwin Allen's' worked.

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Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:43 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Ragnarok73 wrote:
Dragonbeard wrote:
As a card carrying 'academic', my favourite movie of the year so far has been 'Sucker Punch' (I've still not seen Thor). I love being the exception to the 'rule' ;)

You know, the word "pretentious" gets tossed around a lot needlessly, but when it comes to you...


I winked, winking means I'm being jolly. In the Santa sense of the word :D

I was just responding to James' remark that it is becoming more and more impossible for a thinking person to find something to enjoy in the Cinema. He's right to an extent however whilst I'm no nerd-linger, I do like to think I can outwit the common street-corner dwelling, baseball cap wearing at a funny angle, mobile phone making noise from somewhere on their person - ing chimps who populate multiplexes these days.
I do hope I'm never 'pretentious' enough that I can't enjoy a 'Crow' remake or two :D


Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:44 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
I think we're also coming to a head in entertainment. How many more shows do we need on cops or their proxies...so reality tv to me is almost somewhat succeeding by default...

When 95% of films too are either a sequel, a remake, or reboot, there has to be somewhat of a depression in excitement...

Then you get genre blender films like Cowboys and Aliens...but that can still qualify as rehashing

We're hitting a point where everything has been done over and over and over at the same time the larger audience is being pandered to by pg13 releases for cash grabs...or on the other end we get torture porn. It's not a good era for film and considering the saturation of it, will it ever recover....


Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:50 am
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
I don't want to sound like one of those people who e-mail's James with hate mail whenever he gives a bad review of one of their favorite movies, but I was annoyed with this article. It's not that the whining isn't justified, because this has been a terrible movie going year so far, but I just don't see how it will help anything or improve matters. Critics have always complained about films getting worse, starting from the very beginning, or advent, of the medium. Critics of a certain age and mindset must be utterly depressed at hearing that "Star Wars" is now considered smart, engaging cinema(and I love the Original Trilogy). It's your blog though, sir, so have at it.


And, don't throw eggs at me, but I like reality television. Most of it is junk food, yes, but I think that applies to every genre( "Ninety percent of everything is crud", as per Sturgeon's Law). By my definition, reality television is simply "Putting real people into an unreal environment, and recording it". That doesn't sound so bad to me. Nothing that says the genre is inherently immoral(like snuff films and arguably pornography) or inherently mindless. The shows I like anyway, like Survivor or The Amazing Race, are competition shows. They're no different to me than watching football or baseball, because I pay attention to the editing and try to see through the lines, analyse the contestant's strategy's, and as a fan, I'm harsher on bad episode's or seasons than a normal person would be. As for Jersey Shore, I've never seen it myself, but I'm guessing most people watch it for the same reasons people enjoy camp. Or am I being too optimistic? ;)


Sat Sep 10, 2011 7:39 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
nologo wrote:
As for Jersey Shore, I've never seen it myself, but I'm guessing most people watch it for the same reasons people enjoy camp. Or am I being too optimistic?


Entertainment does have it's gutter though. But, there is a distinction in how it's presented.Like anything else really. There's awesome reality tv like The Joe Schmo Show, or Most Extreme Challenge and then there's the gutter trash Jersey Shore which doesn't have one redeemable quality....

You might call it "camp", I would call it watching a train wreck. Take a bunch of idiots and watch them live their lives....bordering on the "All Suicide Channel" prophecized by George Carlin...people will watch anything, and to really get ratings, make it as trashy as possible...like James said...JUNK food


Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:32 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
nologo wrote:
nologo wrote:
As for Jersey Shore, I've never seen it myself, but I'm guessing most people watch it for the same reasons people enjoy camp. Or am I being too optimistic?


Entertainment does have it's gutter though. But, there is a distinction in how it's presented.Like anything else really. There's awesome reality tv like The Joe Schmo Show, or Most Extreme Challenge and then there's the gutter trash Jersey Shore which doesn't have one redeemable quality....

You might call it "camp", I would call it watching a train wreck. Take a bunch of idiots and watch them live their lives....bordering on the "All Suicide Channel" prophecized by George Carlin...people will watch anything, and to really get ratings, make it as trashy as possible...like James said...JUNK food

Yeah, I enjoyed reality shows like Maximum Exposure because they were genuinely fascinating to watch without being completely low-brow like Jersey Shore and Big Brother, I fail to see what's entertaining about a bunch of drunken idiots fighting with one another.


Last edited by Vexer on Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:46 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Vexer wrote:
Yeah, I enjoyed reality shows like Maximum Exposure because that were genuinely fascinating to watch without being completely low-brow like Jersey Shore and Big Brother, I fail to see what's entertaining about a bunch of drunken idiots fighting with one another.


You really get the sense that we are making the film Idiocracy a bio-pic of our future watching shows like that...


Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:24 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
nologo wrote:
I think we're also coming to a head in entertainment. How many more shows do we need on cops or their proxies...so reality tv to me is almost somewhat succeeding by default...

When 95% of films too are either a sequel, a remake, or reboot, there has to be somewhat of a depression in excitement...

Then you get genre blender films like Cowboys and Aliens...but that can still qualify as rehashing

We're hitting a point where everything has been done over and over and over at the same time the larger audience is being pandered to by pg13 releases for cash grabs...or on the other end we get torture porn. It's not a good era for film and considering the saturation of it, will it ever recover....


On the first part, definitely true. While reality shows are common today because of the simple fact that they are cheap to produce and people flock to them, this wasn't always the case. Survivor wasn't the first reality show. But it was the one that swept all the chips off the table. When it came on, the networks were falling behind HBO and Showtime in terms of edgy fare and their standard cop drama shows were starting to seem played out. So they tried reality TV with Survivor and Big Brother and never looked back.

As far as sequels, reboots and remakes, I find myself reminded of the axiom about there only being 10 original stories (or something along those lines). The main problem is so main films nowadays are just xeroxes of earlier ideas with no room for original or personal interpretation.

No, it's not a good era for film in general. 2011 may (seeing as we still have almost four months left in the year) go down as the weakest film year in recent memory. While I'm still hopeful, mainly on account of the fact that several of 2010's best pictures came out in the final four months, the preponderance of tent-pole movies leaves little room for original films.

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Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:21 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Jeff Wilder wrote:
nologo wrote:
I think we're also coming to a head in entertainment. How many more shows do we need on cops or their proxies...so reality tv to me is almost somewhat succeeding by default...

When 95% of films too are either a sequel, a remake, or reboot, there has to be somewhat of a depression in excitement...

Then you get genre blender films like Cowboys and Aliens...but that can still qualify as rehashing

We're hitting a point where everything has been done over and over and over at the same time the larger audience is being pandered to by pg13 releases for cash grabs...or on the other end we get torture porn. It's not a good era for film and considering the saturation of it, will it ever recover....


On the first part, definitely true. While reality shows are common today because of the simple fact that they are cheap to produce and people flock to them, this wasn't always the case. Survivor wasn't the first reality show. But it was the one that swept all the chips off the table. When it came on, the networks were falling behind HBO and Showtime in terms of edgy fare and their standard cop drama shows were starting to seem played out. So they tried reality TV with Survivor and Big Brother and never looked back.

As far as sequels, reboots and remakes, I find myself reminded of the axiom about there only being 10 original stories (or something along those lines). The main problem is so main films nowadays are just xeroxes of earlier ideas with no room for original or personal interpretation.

No, it's not a good era for film in general. 2011 may (seeing as we still have almost four months left in the year) go down as the weakest film year in recent memory. While I'm still hopeful, mainly on account of the fact that several of 2010's best pictures came out in the final four months, the preponderance of tent-pole movies leaves little room for original films.

Yeah, Survivor was so popular when it first came out that it was beating "Friends" in the ratings. I didn't mind watching Survivor when I was REALLY bored and there was nothing else on, but it's WAAAYYYYYYYYY past it's prime now and should've ended at least 8 seasons ago.


Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:35 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Will Hatch wrote:
The shows I like anyway, like Survivor or The Amazing Race, are competition shows. They're no different to me than watching football or baseball, because I pay attention to the editing and try to see through the lines, analyse the contestant's strategy's, and as a fan, I'm harsher on bad episode's or seasons than a normal person would be.


I have seen my share of SURVIVOR over the years although I rarely sit down and watch more than a few minutes. I see the sports analogy, but there are a few differences. The first one you mention: editing. Each episode of SURVIVOR is in large part created in the editing room. Secondly, sports happen live, in real time. There's nothing more boring (at least to me) than watching any kind of game after it has been played, unless something amazing happens. Baseball/football are all about being "in the moment." Finally, there's the fan participation aspect. I can watch a baseball game in person from the stands. Can't do that with SURVIVOR.


Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:22 pm
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Will Hatch wrote:
The shows I like anyway, like Survivor or The Amazing Race, are competition shows. They're no different to me than watching football or baseball, because I pay attention to the editing and try to see through the lines, analyse the contestant's strategy's, and as a fan, I'm harsher on bad episode's or seasons than a normal person would be.


I have seen my share of SURVIVOR over the years although I rarely sit down and watch more than a few minutes. I see the sports analogy, but there are a few differences. The first one you mention: editing. Each episode of SURVIVOR is in large part created in the editing room. Secondly, sports happen live, in real time. There's nothing more boring (at least to me) than watching any kind of game after it has been played, unless something amazing happens. Baseball/football are all about being "in the moment." Finally, there's the fan participation aspect. I can watch a baseball game in person from the stands. Can't do that with SURVIVOR.

I find most sports to be boring for the most part, for me watching a football/baseball/basketball game is akin to watching grass grow. I may not be fond of reality TV, but i'll gladly watch it over most sports any day of the week.


Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:27 pm
Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
There is one reality show that I enjoy regularly however I cannot recall the name.

Camera crews follow on duty police in various towns around the UK (most often Reading, Slough and Manchester it seems) and we watch with amusement as they arrest drunk people, drug dealers and drunk drug dealers. Enjoyment increases the more the drunk idiot tries to fight and turns drunken disorderly into resisting arrest :D


Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:08 am
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Post Re: September 6, 2011: "Junk Food"
Dragonbeard wrote:
There is one reality show that I enjoy regularly however I cannot recall the name.

Camera crews follow on duty police in various towns around the UK (most often Reading, Slough and Manchester it seems) and we watch with amusement as they arrest drunk people, drug dealers and drunk drug dealers. Enjoyment increases the more the drunk idiot tries to fight and turns drunken disorderly into resisting arrest :D


Geez, I totally forgot about that genre. Cops must have been the first successful prime time reality show that I can recall. Going back 2 decades now...which brought on a litany of copy-cats, chase shows, Rescue 911....looking back, drunken domestic disputes where the camera basically arrives on scene not fully in control of the participants (many intentionally obscured) appeared more real than anything since. Survivor always felt contrived, you knew they would do re-takes etc.

I always looked at it as low brow, but more than that, perpetuating our most negative aspects. Being deceitful, pitting people into false allegiances, your torch is your life now we must extinguish it and now you must do the walk of shame....just so negative. I always enjoyed Most Extreme Challenge for the laughs, The Joe Schmo Show where the concept was to find the nicest guy on earth.


Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:36 am
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