Tom Cruise Will Rock Out With His Weird Self

Ever since I read and wrote about The New Yorker’s expose of Scientology, I’ve half-expected Tom Cruise to surprise me in the night with a gang of Samurai-suited henchmen, and lock me indefinitely in some secret location for my sins again L. Ron Hubbard. So I was relieved to hear that Cruise is keeping busy with his acting career, and probably doesn’t have time to partake in such kidnapping ventures (Besides, he’s done enough kidnapping for one week). I was also excited to hear that Cruise will be playing a Bon Jovi-esque rock star in the forthcoming film adaptation of the Broadway show, Rock of Ages, because he is completely unsuited to the role and it should be hilarious.

I mean, seriously, who could be less rock and roll than Tom Cruise? Sure, he’ll be good at the macho, womanizing aspect, the pelvic thrusts and leather jacket-wearing. And yeah, he lip-synced like a bad mother in Risky Business all those years ago. But by this point Cruise can only successfully play parodies of himself: comically psychotic repressed homosexuals whose eerie, glowing eyes betray violent rape fantasies. Actually, now that I think about it, he’s the perfect rock star.

The Dead Serious ‘X-Men: First Class’ Trailer is Here

You know what I like about the X-Men franchise? It takes itself very seriously, like it’s about Batman or something. Forget the Downey Jr.-ness of Tony Stark, or the goofy antics of a horny Chris EvansFantastic 4; the X-Men do not fuck around. To witness: check out the trailer for X-Men: First Class, a prequel that details the origins of Professor X before he was Patrick Stewart, and of Magneto before he was Sir Ian McKellan. Now they’re played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively, and they’re damn handsome. There’s a sense of gravitas to the whole thing, one that was definitely lacking from director Matthew Vaughan’s previous superhero bonanza, Kick-Ass. The clip seems to imply that Xavier and his school of mutants had some impact on the early days of the Cold War, and we’re totally buying it.

Trailer above.

Weezer’s State Farm Jingle Is Surprisingly Good

To anyone who feels Weezer hasn’t done anything of merit since Pinkerton, I offer you the following video of a jingle the band recorded for a State Farm Insurance ad. It is, admittedly, no “Sweater Song” or “Say it Ain’t So,” nor will it win the band any awards in the integrity department. But this track does bring to mind the Blue Album’s playful catchiness, and is certainly a stronger showing than most of what the band’s produced over the last ten years. Plus, it could be that, deep in their punk hearts, they’re only endorsing the insurance company ironically.” We’re almost willing to believe. You decide after the jump.

Jesse Eisenberg Loves Ween

I’ve always related to Jesse Eisenberg, what with us both being Jewy, nerdy, and good at speed-talking. But now I realize we are kindred souls in another sense: We both dig the band Ween. Ween had their moment in the early-to-mid-nineties, when the duo of fake brothers, Dean and Gene Ween, managed to pump out a few novelty hits for Beavis and Butthead to joke about. But the band was really too weird for mainstream success, though they did develop an obsessive cult-following of college stoners like me and Jesse Eisenberg. Truthfully, I’d kind of forgotten about Ween until I read this interview with Eisenberg on Spin.com.

But where I merely dabbled in Ween-dome, giggling over bong rips at the “Spinal Meningitis” song, Eisenberg is a seriously hardcore fan. This is evidenced by the fact that he hyper-articulately breaks down Weens masterpiece Chocolate and Cheese song-by-song for our reading pleasure, and also the fact that, as he bizarrely explains, the only music he likes is Ween and musical theater. Here’s an excerpt:

How did you get into Ween? Jesse Eisenberg: It was really strange and related to [Chocolate and Cheese], actually. Like, ten years ago I was acting on a television show [short-lived FOX series Get Real], and every week, something very, very dramatic had to happen, because it was an hour-long drama. So for one week, my character got spinal meningitis, which did not carry over from the previous week or to the subsequent week. So the guy who was my stand-in, who’s still one of my best friends, gave me this album, Chocolate and Cheese, because the second track is “Spinal Meningitis.” We were listening to it as a way to just bring some levity to the episode, which was a little overdramatic. I also thought the song was really great, and I started playing it at my mom’s house and she got pissed-off every time that song came on ’cause she thought it was disgusting.

But the album was incredible; I’d never heard music like this before. I never really liked comedy songs, and Ween has a great way of never making specific jokes — you can’t really tell where the joke is lying. But beyond that, musically they were just fantastic. And since then, I have gotten every album that they’ve made. It’s the only band whose albums I buy. I’m not into music — the only music I like is musical theater, but I have every Ween album.

ABC’s New Pilot Is ‘Glee for Conservative Republicans’

Now that Desperate Housewives has breathed its last, sultry breath, show creator Marc Cherry is moving on, and his new project is a pilot called Hallelujah. The show is set in Oklahoma and will feature singing, dancing, and “battles between good and evil.” Cherry has referred to the show as, “Glee for conservative Republicans.”

Probably, Cherry means that the show will feature church-goers who occasionally burst into song, and occasionally confess to some seriously steamy sins. But what if the show actually took all Glee‘s characters, transplanted them, and inserted right-wing loonies to damn our heroes to an eternity of fire, brimstone, and banishment from all things Bieber? What fun they could have sending Chris Colfer‘s character Kurt to hetero-indoctrination camp, or having the school ostracize Lea Michele for her supposed role in the killing of Jesus. The protagonist would undoubtedly be Jane Lynch’s Sue, whose Palin-esque dogmatic ignorance would be worked for indoctrination instead of laughs. Sounds like a great show, Marc!

‘New Yorker’ Exposé of Scientology Summarized

There’s a really fascinating and incredibly long article in this weeks New Yorker about the cult of Scientology, and writer/director Paul Haggis’s brave escape back into the world of secular sanity. In the piece, Haggis and other defectors speak with shocking candor on an institution whose inner workings have always been shrouded in secrecy. Before reading it, I’d considered Scientology stupid, creepy, amusing, and mostly harmless. After reading the piece, I now understand that this institution is all those things, but also evil, violent, and incredibly powerful. Read the piece for free in its entirety on The New Yorker website. But for those of you who don’t have the time or energy to devote a couple hours to Scientology, I’ve provided a synopsis after the jump.

-Paul Haggis—writer of Million Dollar Baby and Director of Crash—recently quit Scientology after thirty-five years of involvement.

-Haggis quit because he was upset about the church’s support of California Proposition 8. Two of Haggis’s daughters are lesbians, and he believes strongly in gay rights.

-Scientology is anti-gay, although they deny this. A lot of people think Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are gay. They also deny this. They deny pretty much all accusations about anything.

-Haggis’s frustration over Prop 8 led him to do some outside research on Scientology, something he’d mysteriously never thought to do once during the thirty-five preceding years.

-His research showed that Scientology was totally whack. -Haggis had gotten into Scientology because a big part of the religion involves special forms of therapy and marriage counseling. Also, Scientology connections did wonders for his career.

-Nonetheless, he never knew Tom Cruise. Apparently Scientology celebs aren’t all buds with each other. The one Time Haggis met Cruise, Cruise was a total humorless dick. Even though Haggis estimates he donated over $500,000 to the church over the years, they were still constantly asking him for money, and pretty much treated him like crap.

-Josh Brolin once saw Tom Cruise try to heal a wound in Marlon Brando’s leg with his bare hands.

-Haggis got to level VII on the spirituality ladder in the church. This is some hardcore shit. Haggis doesn’t think any of it worked. At level three you have to read this totally wild sci-fish thing about the beginning of humanity occurring 75 million years ago, and how dead souls are deposited in alcohol and then seep into your bodies. You must accept this document as truth. Haggis never fully bought it in his heart, but he’d spent so much time and money that he become afraid of asking himself honestly about his belief system.

-There is something called Sea Org that is kind of like a traveling monastery/jail where people as young as twelve are forced to sign contracts offering their dedication to Scientology for "billions" of years. They then are treated like slaves, paid $50 a week, and forced to do all kinds of manual labor like building airports for Tom Cruise.

-Sometimes these people are beaten and tortured and locked up for extended periods of time. Scientology denies this.

-Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard supposedly healed his own war injuries—lameness and blindness among them—by using Scientology methods. There is evidence supporting the fact that Hubbard was never lame or blind in the first place.

-There is this guy called David Miscavige, who runs Scientology, is totally evil, and allegedly beats the crap out of people on a regular basis. He’s also BFF’s with Tom Cruise. They have matching motorcycles.

-The piece ends with Haggis saying, "My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church.” He thought for a moment, then said, “I was in a cult for thirty-four years. Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.”

 

Book Alert: Justin Taylor’s ‘The Gospel of Anarchy’

Justin Taylor’s debut novel, The Gospel of Anarchy, hit stores today, and I recommend you go out and buy it immediately, then head over to Word Bookstore in Greenpoint tonight at 7 for the launch party. Gospel is a beautifully written, insanely intelligent, and ultimately moving novel about both a very specific group of people in a very specific setting — sexed-up Anarcho-Christian stoner punks in Gainsville, Florida at the turn of the millennium — and also an entire generation of young people searching for meaning within a spiritually compromised America.

The setting is a quasi-commune called Fishgut, where cheap beer and gospel are consumed in equal measure, and evidence of God’s eternal love can be found in an ever-willing cadre of hottie nympho-punks. More than any writer of his generation so far, Taylor perfectly captures the feeling of being alive in that transitional moment just after the election of George W. Bush, and just before the full-scale proliferation of online culture. But Gospel of Anarchy is much more than a voice-of-a-generation bildgungsroman; this funny, sharp-tongued book takes us to a world both familiar and absolutely unique as seen through the eyes of a ragged gang of well-drawn and surprisingly relatable characters, whose half-baked ideas about government, religion, love, sex, and friendship turn out to be more complex than even they realize. You’ll be blown away by this book, re-reading it for years to come.

Yo La Tengo Performs Entire ‘Seinfeld’ Episode

Yo La Tengo have always pulled weird stunts — an eight nights of Chanukah concert run, a radio call-in show in which the band played any song requested live on air — but this is by for the weirdest. At a show in Chicago over the weekend, Yo La Tengo did a staged reading of an entire episode of Seinfeld.

Leader Ira Kaplan played Jerry, and dressed for the part. A fan captured most of the performance on video. It’s not terrible — Ira as Jerry is especially good — but I’d be kind of pissed if I’d shelled out to see the band and ended up watching a poorly rendered episode of an old sitcom. Judging from the howling laughter of the crowd, though, I think it went over pretty well. Plus they played a sixteen song set after the performance. Andy Kaufman would be proud.

RIP ‘Redwall’ Author Brian Jacques

Before there was The Lightning Thief and Harry Potter, there was Redwall, and it was awesome. No appropriated Greek myths or penis-bearing Daniel Radcliffe’s in these children’s books, just good old-fashioned rodents living in castles. I used to stay up with a flashlight reading the Redwall books, and remember them (though very few specific plot details) being great. Sadly, Redwall author Brian Jacques passed away today.

The Liverpool-born scribe was 71 years old, and the author of all 21 novels, all part of the Redwall series. Amazingly, not a single one was ever made into a movie (though there were multiple TV series’ based on the the books.) Hopefully, even in this digital age, kids will continue to read Jacques’ books for years to come.