Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cybermania '94!

In the mid-90s, TBS decided to host the "ultimate gamer awards show." The fact they never did another one tells you just how well this one went.

By: Jimbo X

Over the years, numerous attempts at a video game awards show a'la the Oscars and the Grammys have come and gone. Naturally, none of them have had any staying power because, at heart, video game consumers and producers don't really give a shit about elitist affirmation. And really - who cares what Gamespot or Spike TV or EGM thought was the best strategy game of the calendar year, anyway?

Although the one-and-done Cybermania video game awards show from November 1994 wasn't the first attempt at developing a video game Emmys, so to speak, to the best of my knowledge it was the first time a major TV network tried to create a truly multimedia, nationally broadcast "interactive entertainment" tentpole spectacle. Of course, it was a colossal flop that nobody into video games or weird-ass digital entertainment found appealing, and in hindsight, the thing was downright embarrassing for everybody involved with it - the "winners" and performers included.

Still, as one of the first concentrated media efforts to make video games at least partially resemble a respectable, mainstream phenomenon, I suppose it is worth revisiting. I do remember watching it live back in the day - it aired at 4 in the afternoon on a Saturday, which is about as far away from primetime as you can schedule in anything - and even as a third-grader I felt extremely underwhelmed by what I witnessed. I still have vague recollections of the show - which was hosted by the oh-so-random combination of Leslie Nielsen and Home Improvement's Johnathan Taylor Thomas - but by and large, it just felt like a really, really half-assed attempt to pander to the fledgling video gamer subculture. So yeah, reflect on the absolute worst thing you ever saw on G4 around 2004, amplify that by about 10,000, and that's the sort of cringe we're talking about here

But why let my foggy remembrances tell you the story when you can just boot up the original broadcast - complete with its quarter century old commercials - on the YouTube anytime you want and relive the groan-inducing failure of an awards show as if it was actually happening?

Oh, you know you want all of this. You really, really do, even if you keep telling me "no, for real, Jimbo, don't nobody anywhere want this."

Alright, so we begin our TBS broadcast (which, certainly, wasn't aired live) with a quick intro from JTT accompanied by a quick-cut montage of NBA Jam, NHL '94 and Aladdin on the Genesis. Then we throw it to a cold opening with a cutscene from Miramar Productions' The Gate to the Mind's Eye, which looks like a really shitty, Blade-Runner inspired re-do of Sewer Shark. A disembodied announcer lets the viewing audience at home know this thing is coming out of Universal Studios Hollywood LIVE (but not really), referring to the shindig as "a celebration of the best in computer, cartridge and interactive entertainment." He then gives JTT and Nielsen their proper introductions, describing them as our "very live and very interactive hosts."

To "boot up" the show, an actress portraying Hillary Clinton comes out. She tries to turn on a computer monitor in the middle of the stage, and when Leslie plugs in an extension cord, the computer explodes and Clinton walks off with black soot all over her face. The audience ... doesn't really know how to react to this. "I sure hope she has health insurance," Nielsen remarks. Get it, because at the time, she was floating up ideas for a universal health care plan!

Ahhh ... you can almost smell the aspiring school shooter.

We learn that all of tonight's winners were picked by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, which a quick Google search reveals is not only still around, but still running a video game awards show that is probably the closest thing the industry has to a legitimate Oscars-caliber event. Granted, they didn't start handing own their own proprietary awards until 1997, so whether you want to consider the results of this show canon or not is up to you.

But wait, you can also vote online for your favorite games using PRODIGY or calling a not at all toll-free number! Up next, we have our first of many, many cyber-stories bumpers, which are aesthetically similar to all of those old A.D.D.  Sega Genesis commercials with quick cuts and some over-aggressive dweeb yammering on and on about shit you're not really that interested in. Anyhoo, he does the world's worst William Shatner impersonation and talks about the transition from the heyday of the arcades in the '80s to modern gaming in the mid-90s, concluding with a vague description of all the awesomeness the Information Superhighway is going to bring us someday.

The first award of the night is for best action-adventure game, and our presenters are Matthew Perry and The Next Karate Kid era Hillary Swank. And strangely enough, the guy doing the actual nominee voiceover is the REAL William Shatner. 

Alright, the nominees! Doom (uh, I've always thought of it more as a FPS, but since FPS games weren't as commonplace then, I suppose it kinda makes sense to put it in this awards category); Mega Race (which, as the name implies, is actually a racing game); Return to Zork (which is very much a traditional adventure game); Jump Raven (something I've never heard of but the gameplay leads me to believe it is likewise a classical PC adventure game); Critical Path (looks more like bad Sega CD interactive game than anything else); Super Street Fighter II (come on now, it has the word "fight" in its title!); Tomcat Alley (which actually is a shitty Sega CD Top Gun wannabe); and Super Metroid, which Shatner hilariously pronounces like "met-are-oid."

For an added touch of geekiness, the winners are revealed via an old school Newton PDA. The winner? DOOM, and some id Software guy gives an acceptance speech all of five seconds long. 

Time for a transition shot to a Las Vegas hotel's arcade (which include Nielsen namedropping "Goro the Monster" in one of the most surreal moments in TV history.) The host calls the kids at the arcade a bunch of "cyber punks" and cracks a joke about "NFL Jelly" and "NHL Marmalade" being released in the wake of NBA Jam. He then hurriedly reveals a "top secret" tip to play as Akuma in SSFII, but he says it so fast and broken up that it is nearly impossible to decipher what the fuck he is actually saying.

And that brings us to our five nominees for game of the year: Doom, Mortal Kombat, Myst, NBA Jam and Super Street Fighter II. Granted, you can quibble over the technicalities (MK was released in 1992 while all the other games came out in 1993) but you really can't argue against the selections - those are unquestionably the five most important and influential video games of the early 1990s and it's not even close to debatable.

Time for our first commercial break:Paul Reiser hawks IBM. HBO is showing Whitney LIVE in South Africa. Some hot blonde chick with short hair wants you to wear Soft&Dri underarm deodorant.  Little Caesars thinks its cool to use an orangutan ordering two female companions as a metaphor for their better deals than Pizza Hut. And fuck, you haven't LIVED until you've seen the 1995 Toyota Celica.

And we're back. Nielsen does a few quick reviews of game based solely on their box art, at one point picking up a Donkey Kong Country box (presumably) and stating it's a game about monkeys "that need to be spanked." Behind him a midget dances inside a giant balloon, until Nielsen gets sick of his shit and pops it. Yeah, there is a lot of humor like that in the show, so consider yourselves more than warned.

Then we get a quick retrospective on the history of video games and Pong, of all things, gets a standing ovation. Other unorthodox selections for this time filler includes such illustrious offerings as Karate Champ, Pinbot, The Legendary Axe (which I actually kinda' liked) and Pit Fighter. JTT talks about the audience vote again and then this bearded guy comes out and tells you can contact the show this afternoon. His voice also audibly cracks on camera and you will laugh out loud. 

Presenting the award for best CD Game is Saved By the Bell alum Lark Voorhees, who is introduced via a heavy metal riff very, very reminiscent of the iconic SBTB theme song. She stumbles through the intro, but since she looks hot as fuck, we can all let it slide.

Even neo-Nazis want to kiss her. And members of the Ku Klux Klan at least want to smell her hair a little.
The nominees? Myst, The 7th Guest, Mega Race, Return to Zork and Escape From Cyber City, whose mission, according to William Shatner, is "escape from the city and survive!" Shit, isn't that the premise behind half the fucking video games made in the 1990s? 

Anyhoo, the winner is The 7th Guest, which is actually a really forgettable survival horror offering. In fact, it's so forgettable that the real creators of the game didn't even bother showing up, so some limey in all white has to go up on stage and do all the yapping. He's pretty much all over and done with in 10 seconds.

This dude backstage is talking about SimCity with the mayor of Santa Barbara, Calif. and this one kid who is supposed to be the smartest child in America. And yeah, a real shocker here, but he's Asian. If the kid wins, he gets to run the city for a full day, and if the kid loses, the mayor gets to "acquire the services of the kid" for 24 hours. Well, that doesn't sound all #PizzaGatey or nothing.

Time for another commercial break! Stay tuned, and YOU could win a copy of that crappy Double Dragon fighting game based on the Saturday morning cartoon nobody ever watched! Here's a Fuji camera commercial with a white kid in a dashiki. And an ad for the CASIO G-SHOCK ILLUMINATOR wrist-watch. You can get a FIVE DOLLAR rebate if you purchase Speed on VHS. Hey, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is coming out for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Back to back commercials for SteelTec toys and that one truck from Ready Set Go. Every Thursday night TBS shows NBA games. Hmm ... a Seattle Supersonics player superimposed over a crumbling building ... predictive programming about the Oklahoma City bombing, perhaps?

And we're back. Nielsen responds to a car alarm and he runs into Doc Brown next to a DeLorean and then he pulls out a gun, enters one of those Wild West stunt shows, does an entire Buster Keaton routine and then JTT rewards him by giving him a tip to go into "battle mode" on the SNES version of Mortal Kombat. Yeah, I have no idea what the hell that means, either.

We squander some time talking about The Mask video game that was supposed to come out on the SNES and Genesis but never actually got released, and then there's a brief interview with director Chuck Russell. We go behind the scenes of The Mask CGI (which, admittedly, was a pretty big deal back then) and we get yet another cut scene from The Gate to the Mind's Eye, for absolutely no reason whatsoever other than the fact they probably paid a shit ton of money to have their crappy ass game pimped on the program. 

Presenting the award for best portable game is the second Darlene from Roseanne and some bitch that looks like Randy Savage's old squeeze Miss Elizabeth. The nominees? Aladdin (presumably, the Game Gear version although it really, really looks like they are using footage from the Genesis game), Wario Land, Home Alone (the Game Gear version, which, per Shatner, revolves around the exploits of "the world's most dangerous pre-teen"), what Shatner describes as Game Boy Donkey Kong and Link's Awakening. And while it's pretty much a given that the Zelda game is the best of the whole bunch, they end up giving the award to Aladdin, because ... well, I'm not really sure, to be entirely honest.

We throw it to an arcade in New Jersey, where a bunch of kids are shouting ... something. Then the host gives us some tips on Double Dragon V, so if you want to know how to finish Billy Lee, you BETTER use that goddamn standing hard punch, for real.  

Alright, presenting the award for best comedy (no, not best comedy game, just plain old "best comedy) is Charles Fleischer, some French fruit who is prolly best known for voicing Roger Rabbit. After doing a joke in binary, he does a routine about Prince Charles visiting Watts and getting harassed by black dudes, because that is ... uh, funny, I guess. 

The nominees! I'm Your Man (which, to me looks pretty dang close to being a porno), That's News To Me (starring Dennis Miller), The Wacky World of Miniature Golf (starring Eugene Levy as an anthropomorphic golf ball), Bugs Bunny' Rabbit Rampage, and Dating & Mating, which apparently is quite keen on jokes about autoeroticisim.

The winner? That mini-golf game. Picking up the award are two unnamed women who you would never fuck in a million years for any reason.

Eh. Still more tappable than Amy Schumer or Lena Dunham, though.
Hey, did you know you can vote for your favorite game for just 99 cents a call? Well, you can, and we're going to keep telling you that every five minutes. 

COMMERCIAL BREAK! Hey, there's a Double Dragon movie coming out and it's prolly going to suck big time (note: it did suck big time.) A Cartoon Network promo for their Super Chunk lineup, back when they still showed cartoons. Here's a commercial for the 3D0 (when Gex is your most impressive looking title, you KNOW the hardware is fucked). Then a commercial for Gerber Graduates baby food, and then, a brief promo for Earth 2 on NBC. Man, I haven't thought of that show in LITERALLY 20 years. And for very good reason.

We return to the show and Nielsen talks about computer graphics while dwarves juggle and spin plates behind him. Then, a guy lauded as "the leading artist of the Information Superhighway" comes out and reads a telegram supposedly penned by Al Gore and as you'd expect, it's so fucking boring everybody in the audience fell asleep.

On to the awards for best arts and graphics in an interactive product, presented by two people nobody gives a shit about. The nominees are Myst, Tuneland (featuring the voices of Howie Mandell, if you care, and you shouldn't), Oceanlife II AND III, Space: A Visual History and Mac World Interactive Vols. II and III. The winner is Myst, and really, ain't nobody going to complain about that considering its competition.

Presenting the Governor's Award for Best Achievement in Virtual Reality is that one chick from My So Called Life who isn't Claire Danes. It goes to IWerks Entertainment for making this fruity arcade game where six people sit in a plastic bathtub and fly around underwater dinosaurs.

An update: Doom is leading the Prodigy poll, while MK is leading it on the phone polls. 

COMMERCIALS: The Knicks play the Magic this Thursday night on TBS. Hey, there's a different Paul Reiser IBM commercial. ANOTHER Pitfall commercial. ANOTHER Fuji film commercial. That Ready Set Go toy truck commercial AGAIN. That Casio watch commercial AGAIN. And the Speed five dollar VHS rebate commercial AGAIN.

We're back. Some redheaded bitch at an arcade at the Universal Studios' park in Orlando interviews a kid in a "Jesus Freak" shirt about his love for Mortal Kombat and gives us a top secret hint for the upcoming SNES game Ren & Stimpy: Timewarp - use the rubber suction cups to climb over the monkey cages.

Next, Nielsen talks about hackers which leads to a surprisingly cheery PRO-hacking apologia piece featuring interviews with guys with names like "deth vegetable" interspersed with clips of the B-movie Teenagers From Outer Space and a guy eating a pizza with a Mattel Power Glove. Which, naturally, segues into a performance by Herbie Hancock titled "Cyber-Generation," featuring a bunch of Soul Train dancers booty dancing while every camera filtering effect in the world is used. Then some white bitch comes out and does the shittiest rapping you've ever heard and this one black dude starts twisting his neck around like Gumby.

You might be wondering to yourself "what does this have to do with video games?" And if so, the answer is clear - "you're a racist."
Then a breathless Hancock (did you know he did the soundtrack for Death Wish?) walks us through a segue into the next video clip - dedicated entirely to the Aerosmith vehicle Revolution X and some other stupid computer game nobody played. Cue a cheesy video segment within a video segment featuring Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith - who at one point dons a Ronald Reagan mask - congratulating Cybermania for simply existing.

Co-presenting the award for best musical alongside Hancock is none other than Thomas "She Blinded Me With Science" Dolby, who delights the crowd by dressing like the dork from a 2000 teen movie and making a joke about the nonexistent game Mood, which is like Doom except you run away from the monsters.  

The nominees? Peter Gabriels's Xplora I, Video Jam (which, trust me, is the shittiest looking thing you've ever seen), Interactive by the Corpse Formally Known as Prince, Freak Show by the Residents and Uptown Blues, which isn't really a game, but something you listen to when you want to pretend to be a culturally enlightened white person. And the winner is the Xplora I, with two white guys with shitty haircuts who aren't Peter Gabriel accepting the award on Peter Gabriel's behalf.

Backstage, we get an update on the SimCity contest. The mayor says he cut taxes 20 percent and got re-elected, so fuck that little snot-nosed brainiac fuck over there. The announcer guy talks about the academy behind Cybermania, but he gets distracted by some chick who wants to "play in a chatroom" instead.

COMMERCIALS! McDonalds has a "two buck conversion" deal so you can get two Egg McMuffins for just two dollars. TNT airs In Search of Dr. Seuss TOMORROW. There's that Double Dragon movie ad again. And the Soft&Dri underarm deodorant ad again. And here's a Scoopaway commercial with two dogs mad at a cat for getting to shit indoors. Then we get a commercial for Troy Aikman NFL Football, where the premise is that Troy Aikman has LITERALLY had his brain stolen (by Jerry Jones, acting just like Dr. Frankenstein) so he just acts retarded in the huddle, saying "hummunahummanahummuna" over and over again. Knowing what we know about concussions now, this thing is just all kinds of ominous.

Nielsen is back. Two reps from PriceWaterhouse are on stage. They validate Nielsen's tickets and promptly leave.

Yep. Because Twitter has done everything except turn kids into autistic, racist NEETS. 

Up next, the bitch from Mr. Payback (back in the day, touted as the world's first ever "interactive movie," and yeah, it sucked bunches) and some white nigga' from Deep Space Nine hit the podium. The nominees for best strategy and/or simulation game be: SimCity: Enhanced CD-ROM, Dune II (the Genesis version, at least, is fucking great), Flight Simulator 5 (which, yeah, I guess you could blame 9/11 on), Castle II: Siege & Conquest and Forever Growing Garden. The winner? SimCity - a shocker, I know. The bitch almost calls it an "enchanted CD-ROM" and I chuckle a hearty chuckle. Then the recipients hit the stage and give the shortest acceptance speech ever in the history of anything.

JTT is back on stage. He welcomes Shelly DuVall (the bug-eyed ho from The Shining) to the program. For some reason, she's wearing a fruit salad on her head. Cue a video looking at the impact of computers on education. There's a great line early on where a dude says teachers no longer have to throw chalkboard erasers at students' heads to get them to pay attention now that they have the Web in the classroom. "Learning has become something hip," one of the talking heads says. Then he talks about CD-ROMS replacing overhead projectors, and that's literally the first time I thought about overhead projectors in at least two decades and I kinda' had a moment there. And yes, the fucking irony of the dude talking about CD-ROMS being the future of education when, at this point, they are every bit as outmoded as educational tools as the overhead projectors.

And Duvall still ain't done flapping her gums. She talks about calculators being a big deal when she was growing up and then introduces these two kids who designed their own games and then E.A. and a couple of other companies got together and gave them both $25,000 scholarships. Then a video game about a Mexican dude who did a lot of cocaine and ecstasy and another game about a talking dog who really wants a bone on Sundays, especially, get individual awards for e-learning or some shit.

COMMERCIALS, YOU MOTHER FUCKERS. Here's that Thursday night NBA ad again. And another 3D0 commercial featuring a guy in a rubber room having maddened visions of that one Road Rash game that was actually kinda' awesome. The Paul Reiser IBM spot again. That Troy Aikman football game spot again (available NOW at Kay-Bee Toys, if you have a time machine.) And hell, why not one more spot for that god awful Double Dragon movie?

Now we get a video segment on how games are actually made, and you will fall asleep during this, for sure. Then, Marla Gibbs and The Barbarian Brothers from Twin Sitters take the stage to hand out the award for best sports game. And yeah, if you want the ultimate back-to-back dose of misguided '90s cinematic nonsense, I can't think of a better double feature than Mr. Payback and Double Trouble. Anyhoo, Gibbs asks the Barbarian Brothers to bring her a rope and a ball gag to subdue George Jefferson - you know, because she played the wisecracking maid on The Jeffersons back in the day? Then they pretend to get into a huddle, because that's what happens in sports sometimes. 

Alright, the nominees? NBA Jam (no console specified, so I take it this means all of them, the Atari Jaguar and 32X version included), FIFA International Soccer (looks like the Genesis version), NHL '94 (my all time favorite video game ever, and it should be yours, too), Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (although I always preferred Winning Run instead), Caesars World of Boxing, Sports Illustrated's Multimedia Almanac, QB1 and Great Day at the Races

And the winner? Caesars World of Boxing, which officially is the worst winner in the history of any awards show. Shit, not only was that NOT the best sports game of 1993, it wasn't even the best boxing game that came out that year. Hell, it may not have even been one of the top five boxing games that year, for that matter, and that it was selected over the single greatest hockey video game of all time shows you just how little these Cybermania motherfuckers knew about anything.

Up next we've got the only part of the show that's really stayed with me over the years, and to be fair, it is a pretty funny little segment. To showcase WCW Superbrawl on the SNES, Lord Steven Regal and Brian Pillman come out for a demo. While they are playing, Nielsen does a monologue (set to the music from Patton, of all things) discussing the recent controversy over violence in video games. Naturally, Regal and Pillman start beating the shit out of each other and while Nielsen name drops Bad Mr. Frosty from Clay Fighter, a bunch of midget 'rasslers enter the fray so Leslie has to pull out a gun and shoot it in the air to get everybody to stop monkeying around.

Yep. This is the best Naked Gun movie EVER.
And now we're getting down to the acting awards, so you know this shit is going to get tough to sit through. Presenting the awards for best actor, female, are Terri Austin and Robert Culp. The nominees are: Grace Zabriskie in Voyeur, Eileen Weisinger in Critical Path, Tonia Keyser in Man Enough and Virginia Caper in Gabriel Knight. Not that anybody at any time at any point in history has ever or will ever give a fuck, but Zabriskie won. 

We get yet another cutscene from The Gate to the Mind's Eye and hey, what an opportune time for more commercials, ain't it?

There's the Fuji spot (again), that shitty fuckin' toy truck spot (again), a promo for The Lion King video game, that damn Casio wristwatch ad (again), that commercial for the Speed rebate (again), that Gerber's ad (again) and a promo for Thursday Night NBA basketball ... again.

We're back. Presenting the award for best male actor is Dave Thomas (no, not the guy from Wendy's, that guy from Grace Under Fire) and one of those hos from Blossom. The nominees? Robert Culp in Voyeur, Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (although I swore that game came out earlier than 1993), Tim Curry in Gabriel Knight, Christian Erickson in Mega Race and Mickey Rooney in Great Day at the Races. Hey, what do you know, the winner is the guy who was just on stage a few moments ago, Robert Culp. He thanks the Academy and then gives a meandering speech about video game acting probably becoming a big deal int he future and then walks off in a dazed an palpably confused state. 

Time for an update on the SimCity bet. Just so you know, the kid won. Which begs the question: just how do you "beat" SimCity, exactly?

Alright, kids, pull out your game pieces from Sam Goody/Musicland, it's time to see what you won in the super-duper Double Dragon prize giveaway! If you have some blond fruit with a gay man mustache, you won a coupon or something. If you have a blonde bitch with short hair, you won either a Double Dragon action figure OR a cartoon VHS. Have Scott Wolf's picture on your piece, and you get a copy of Double Dragon V and a strategy guide that should've told you to buy a better game. If you have a picture of that other guy in the movie, you won the INTERACTOR, MOTHERFUCKER, and your life will never, ever be the same again. And if you have a picture of a medallion, you won a TV and some other shit.

COMMERCIALS! Time for a different 2-Buck Conversation spot for McDonalds (I don't know about you, but getting two Big Macs for just $2 does sound pretty snazzy.) Now it's an ad for Super Return of the Jedi on the SNES, then Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures, which is like that Pitfall game they kept showing ads for earlier, except way better. We get another NBA on Thursday spot, that stupid toy truck commercial again, and that Troy Aikman football game spot ... again. And coming up next on TBS, its the live-action Masters of the Universe movie, which means whatever you spent your afternoon doing when this thing initially aired was a lot better than watching TBS for the next two and a half hours. Even if you were being raped, prolly.

And now, we arrive at the moment of truth - the announcement of the Game of the Year award recipient. JTT slowly names all of the games again, and our winner is ... Mortal Kombat! Here comes Ed Boon and John Tobias (I think) and they thank Probe Software and then they leave. 

And to wrap up the show? Nielsen says he can't wait to go home, play with his joystick and boot up his hard drive, and then we get a whole bunch of ads for NBA Live '95, NHL '95, Northwest Airlines and Microsoft and we are COMPLETE-O in Hollywood.

"We would like to thank the Academy for forgetting at least 300 better games came out in the 1993-94 fiscal year."
Well, I suppose you don't really need any explanations on why Cybermania was a one and done event, do you? Outside of the fact that video games were starting to make a lot of money at the time and nobody else had tried to capitalize on the rapidly-expanding market, I'm not really sure the producers of the award show knew why they were putting together the gala. The categories were confusing and haphazardly assembled, there was way too much time dedicated to crappily edited together video vignette segments and the emphasis on "comedy" - and yes, you have to put it in quotation marks - gave the entire program a needlessly self-degrading quality. If the whole idea of Cybermania was to turn video gaming into some sort of legitimate pop cultural commodity, they really couldn't have done a better job of instead making it look unsophisticated, juvenile and unrefined.

For the industry of video gaming, Cybermania is certainly something to be forgotten, a truly embarrassing attempt at permeating the mainstream consciousness that couldn't have come off as anymore low brow and amateurish if they tried. As an artifact of video game culture, however, the event, I suppose, is not without some historical significance. This is certainly the earliest I recall any major cable network treating video games like something that at least partially resembled something more than flash-in-the-pan ultra-niche entertainment, and - for better, but mostly for worse - it does do a fairly serviceable job summing up the video game zeitgeist of the times (yes, people really were splooging themselves thinking interactive movies were the next big thing in entertainment even though they rightly died out within a year of this very broadcast.) Naturally, the greatest retroactive appeal of Cybermania is in its snapshot of old-school gaming fandom. As corny and cheesy and hokey as the broadcast may have been, it is pretty fun to travel back down memory lane and reflect on just how gonzo people were for stuff like Mortal Kombat and Doom, and if you can't crack a smile watching Lord Steven Regal toss midgets around while Lt. Frank Drebin cuts a soliloquy on violence in Clay Fighter, I really don't know why you bother continuing to live.

So what more can be said about Cybermania '94? It gave us young Simba from The Lion King reciting the blood code for the SNES version of Mortal Kombat, Herbie Hancock slumming his way through the worst performance of his (or really, anybody else's) career and featured what were - without question - the single worst award recipients in the history of anything being given out ever. Quite succinctly, it capsulized everything lame, stupid and crass about video gaming in the post-SMB3, pre-PS1 1990s ... which, in a weird roundabout way, I suppose, completely loops around the rules of time and space itself and inadvertently becomes, well, kind of awesome

... but only the absolute dumbest kind of "awesome" you can think up, of course.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

DOUBLE REVIEW: 'Logan' / 'Get Out' (2017) Movie Reviews

They're two of the most critically acclaimed popcorn pictures of the year ... but are they anywhere near as good as the Rotten Tomatoes hive mind would lead you to believe?

By: Jimbo X

Alright, time to update my biannual list of phrases only assholes say. If anybody you know or run into uses any of the words, terms or platitudes below, rest assured - without a shadow of a doubt - they are 100 percent bona fide assholes, through and through.

"Due Diligence" - Yeah, I know that, technically, this has to do with following the proper legal steps in order to sell a property or some other shit, but I've heard way too many people use it to describe rudimentary day-to-day affairs in the office. And its always used in this defamatory, condescending manner, too. You never hear anybody praised for doing their "due diligence," it's always used in the context of trying to fuck somebody over for not doing what you thought they were supposed to do in a given situation. That, and if you say it enough times, it starts to sound like the name of a 1980s gay porn star - i.e., Dewey Dylan Gents Stars in Hungry Peckers Vol. 8

"It Is What It Is" - Now here's a term that's just flat out fucking pointless. Traditionally, the idiom meant something was unchangeable so don't bother trying to fix it, but now people seem to use it to simply refer to a predicament as ... well, simply existing. For example, I once heard someone refer to a carton of melted ice cream as "it is what it is" - which is what, exactly? Couldn't you just say it IS melted ice cream instead and you'd get the exact same fuckin' message across with about three or four less syllables? 

"Extenuating Circumstances" - As a general rule, anybody who uses legal or criminal justice jargon in daily conversations are almost universally guaranteed to be assholes. But people who use THIS little phrase are unquestionably sphincters of the highest order. What does "extenuating circumstances" mean in the dictionary? Well, it's basically anything that happens to a person who does bad shit (or is accused of doing bad shit) that can be drudged up to make his or her actions (or accused actions) sound a little less bad. For example, "sure, I robbed that motherfucker, but I really needed the money so I could buy my dying mama some cancer medication that our Bronze plan wouldn't cover." So from the get-go, it's a term mechanically meant to defer blame, or at the very least, lessen the personal responsibility of a given deed. The problem in daily discourse, however, is that people always use "extenuating circumstances" to refer to anything that puts pressure on somebody, whether or not it directly or indirectly leads to someone doing something negative. This one is sorta' the inverse of "due diligence," because you rarely hear people use the term in a disparaging manner: indeed, you are much, much likelier to hear someone praise someone for excelling in the face of "extenuating circumstances" (getting all their work done, despite having to pick up the kids at school early or coming back from a root canal, etc.) than you are to hear stories of people generally fucking up because of "extenuating circumstances." So structurally, it's a term that has a concrete meaning outside of daily life that has been malapropriated in figurative public lingo to mean more or less the exact opposite of what it etymologically means. And a good goddamn, should we all hate people with such a blatant disregard for our cisgendered English language.

"Rushed To The Hospital" - Have you ever heard of anybody not being "rushed to the hospital?" It's never "taken to the hospital" or "driven to the hospital" or "transported to the hospital," it's ALWAYS "rushed to the hospital." I especially hate it when you see somebody on the news use it, as if such were a statement of objective fact. Just how fast do you need to be going to qualify as "being rushed?" Anything above the Interstate speed limit? And doesn't "rushed" itself sorta' imply you're acting in haste and reckless abandon, anyway? 

"A Can Of Worms" - Now this one doesn't make any goddamn sense. To open a can of worms means to cause controversy or disarray, but let me ask you this ... have you ever seen a fuckin' can of worms anywhere in your life? Where exactly does one procure a can of the like, and what is its core utility? Fishing bait? Eating up bad soil? You called just as easily use the term "Pandora's Box" or even the old "Apple of Discord" to figuratively express the same concept, but no, we have to keep using the "can of worms" metaphor because worms gross people out, even though nobody can explain why a bunch of worms placed inside a can somehow represents dissension or disorder. I mean, shit, if some giant 900 times taller than you and 9,000 times your body weight scooped you and your invertebrate kinfolk out of the dirt and jailed you inside a cylindrical container, wouldn't you kinda' expect desperation and disharmony as a logical outcome?

"Beautification" - This one is just P.R. bullshit-speak. Whenever someone says they want to "beautify" something, what they really mean is they want to spend way more money than necessary to clean something up and decorate it. You hear this one a lot in local governance from people who are convinced that the reason gang members won't stop shooting each other isn't because their neighborhood is an open air market for heroin and AK-47s, but simply because there's too much grass growing out of the sidewalk and all the rundown houses sure could use a nice coat of pastel colored paint

"Walkability" - I've heard urban supremacists use this term for more than a decade and I'm still not entirely sure what they think it means. Long story short, there's been this long-running effort to gentrify ... I mean, improve the quality of life ... in inner cities and surrounding suburbs by limiting the number of roads and increasing the amount of "walking" space and, ugh, bicycle lanes, in downtown areas. So, in essence, it's really just a ploy to make certain areas off limits to anybody who doesn't live nearby or isn't willing to pay an ass load of money to park three miles down the road simply to bask in the warm, homey glow of shitty coffee shops and boutique businesses prolly run by wife beaters and drug addicts. Show me a person who has ever used the phrase "walkability" in his or her life in any connotation other than fleeting jest and I'll show you somebody you don't EVER want to talk to, for any reason

"Mixed Multi-Use" - Hey, what do you know, it's another highfalutin term used by people who really, really want to make sure poor people can't afford to live anywhere near 'em. Essentially, "mixed multi-use" is a buzzword for developers who want to build these gargantuan facilities that combine all sorts of things - apartments, stores, restaurants, hotels, skating rinks, etc. - into one massive complex that's really more of a mini city-state than a shopping center. Store this one in your memory banks, folks, in case you hear someone trying to champion the cause in your neck of the woods - primarily, because whoever's planning on building the damn thing is almost assuredly going to demand you and your fellow taxpayers in the city are going to pony up some "local funding" to fiance their shitty little retail Wiemar Republic.

"Dwelling" - Now this one is just classist as all fuck. Really, the only kinds of people who use the term instead of "housing" or "home" are either pretentious fuckwads who think using synonyms for common terms make them look smarter to everybody or prejudiced assholes who think those miserable plebs who live in apartments instead of owning their own property are just the scum of the fucking earth. I actually heard someone use the expression"high-density multi-family dwelling" as a euphemism for apartment complex once, like that was the official Latin binomial nomenclature. I didn't slap him across the face and put him in the old Ultimo Dragon reverse sleeper, but in hindsight, I prolly should have.

"Untenable" - You ever notice how people never use the world "tenable," but you hear "untenable" used all the fucking time? Tenable is basically just a fancy way of say "defensible" or "justifiable," but come to think of it, you rarely hear either of those two words without a big fat "UN" placed before 'em, too. Hell, we might as well just lump in everybody who uses a surfeit of "un-" words to go along with this one. If you ever hear someone talk about things being "uncouth" or "unenlightened," that's pretty much a dog whistle for you to never, ever give one iota of half a percentage point of a fuck what they have to say about nothing

"Taken To Its Logical Extreme" - Also sometimes erroneously expressed as "taken to its logical extent," which doesn't make any damn sense in and of itselfThis is almost exclusively uttered by people trying to take a higher philosophical ground on something. This is a phrase generally used as a counterpoint to an argument they really can't refute, so instead they reframe a person's statement by taking the core thesis of said statement and making it as absurdly totalitarian sounding as possible - you know, as if that highfalutin fantasy consequence in any way, shape or form negates the initial soundness of the original statement to begin with. Example: "Well, Billy, while it is true that some terrorists may be able to sneak into the country from Syria, that kind of perspective taken to its logical extreme means promoting the sort of draconian nationalist immigration policies of Hitler's Germany, and humanity cannot dare stand idly by while another Holocaust takes place." 

"Sold A Bill of Goods" - So basically, this means someone tricks somebody else into investing into something that really isn't worth the investment. But according to Google, "a bill of goods" merely means "a consignment of merchandise," so how exactly is "sold a bill of goods" supposed to intrinsically denote deception or fraud? Is it to be taken hyper-literally, to mean that at some point in time, someone has been stupid enough to pay somebody else for a bill of their own goods? This is a totally illogical idiom that could be fixed with a simple tweak - "sold somebody else's bill of goods." But nobody has the forthrightness to update the old saying to make sense, which means anyone who still uses the expression just don't give a fuck about illogical platitudes because their agreed-upon societal meaning kinda' sorta' makes sense. And fuck those people, hard

"Laughable" - Hey kids, did somebody say something you didn't like but you don't really know how to counter it? No problem, just fire back by calling the statement "laughable," as if the fact you find it hilariously without merit is an actual substitute for tangible proof negating the other person's claim. This is the ultimate self-affirming vocabulary assholery, a term that elevates the speaker's objective antipathy of another speaker or statement to a state of artificial subjective tautology. There is no reasoning here - "x is 'laughable' JUST because y thinks so." Indeed, it's impossible to prove the "laughableness" of ANYTHING as a concrete statement, because it's an entirely objective and non-scientific concept. But I assure you, every goddamn day you're going to encounter somebody using "laughable" as part of their offensive vernacular; alas, these poor, rhetorically-challenged dildo-heads will never grasp what's truly laughable about their go-to linguistic riposte is just how definitionally impotent the alleged "barb" ultimately is.

Forget plot, or character development or nuance or deeper sociocultural contexts: we all know the thing that really held the Wolverine movies back were the lack of "f-words."

Speaking of things that don't have the good sense to die when they should've, the first movie in our back to back double feature this week is Logan, which is supposedly the last time we'll ever see Hugh Jackman in a X-Men movie - which, as we should all know by now, is kinda' like the executives at Paramount swearing up and down the last Jason movie was the last one for real, when they're already making plans for another movie next year.

This one's been getting a lot of hype from fanboys on the Internet, who are praising it as the best X-movie ever 'cause it's rated R and has lots of swearing and blood and shit in it, because "mature entertainment" inherently means people saying "asshole" and limbs getting hacked off, and as apparent by the success of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, not a whole lot else. And if you're wondering just how much the suits at Fox are running with the newfound freedom of the R-rating, rest assured the first line of dialogue in the movie is indeed old Wolvie muttering "what the fuck." And trust me, he gets to say it many more times throughout the film's opening sequence, in which he stabs a good half dozen Meskins to death for trying to jimmy the hubcaps off his pick-up.

Alright, exposition time, kids. It's the year 2029 and Wolverine is now stuck driving limos around the Texas/Mexico border, usually with drunken frat boys in the back screaming "USA! USA!" at that wall. Then the movie's main villain shows up (he's got a metal Erector Set for a hand and speaks with the worst Southern accent this side of the chick in VooDoo) and he asks Wolverine to hand over Professor X 'cause he's got Alzheimer's now and the C.I.A. ain't exactly sure what to do with the world's most powerful telepath running around talking to toasters and trying to mind probe his box of Depends - especially one that's living in a grain silo in Laredo with his albino lizard face live-in boyfriend. 

So anyway, old Wolverine decides to take a break from driving across the border to pick up Metamucil and 5 peso opiates to drive a woman and her kid to Canada for $50,000. Of course, the next tim
e he sees her she's got a giant fist-sized hole in her neck and then that the guy with the robo-hand follows him back to Professor X's silo and the dead mamacita's daughter KO's him with a monkey wrench and that's when Jean Luc Picard says "see, I told you she was the chosen mutant!" Then there's an all out siege by the federales and we learn the girl has claws and knows Gymkata just like Wolverine, and as a result, a good six or seven federal employees have their jugulars sliced open with multiple shish-ka-bob skewer fists. Then Wolverine finds an iPhone and watches a video from the dead girl's mama and he learns that there's this black ops medical research center in Mexico that's experimenting on a bunch of junior high school mutants so they can turn 'em into top secret super soldiers and Wolverine learns the girl is actually his genetic clone so he does what anybody being pursued by an army of covert, cyborg execution squads would do - he robs a convenience store for an extra phone charger and drives the old Prof and Wolverine, Jr. to Oklahoma City so they can read old X-Men comics and make really, really forced allusions to that old western Shane

But Prof. X kinda' gives away their location when he accidentally gives everybody in the Great Plains a brain enema, so the three take refuge in the home of a random rancher family somewhere in the heartland (and yes, for those of you that grade films on multicultural points alone, you'll be happy to know it's an all black family of aspiring rodeo performers and corn producers.) Then pretty much nothing happens for the next 20 minutes, then another Wolverine clone shows up and slaughters everybody in the house except Wolvie and his test tube daughter and naturally there's an all-too-brief claw-to-claw karate fight but there's this subplot about the super metal in Wolverine's bones poisoning him so he has to abandon the fight and steal a rusted out Chevy Blazer and high tail it to South Dakota. And by this point, he looks something worse than half-dead ... he looks like a stunt double for Mel Gibson

So Wolverine Girl drives him to North Dakota where all of the other escaped mutant middle schoolers have set up some kind of outpost in the wastelands and then the mutant-killing army closes in on them and we've got all sorts of great death scenes in the mix, including this one part where a girl freezes a dude's arm and karate chops it off like Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat and another part where a girl slings a couple of pine needles into some dudes' faces at 2,000 miles per hour. Then Wolverine comes in for the save, and he stabs a million billion soldiers to death but not before they shoot him a million billion times, too. And that's when the other Wolverine clone shows up for an encore performance, only this time all the mutant kids band together and mummify his ass in Spanish moss before dropping an ATF van on his larynx. But that still ain't enough to put him down for good, so Wolverine Girl has to load an adamantium bullet into a handgun and pop a cap in Evil Wolverine's ass (you know, for the media to be so virulently anti-gun when it comes to public policy, they sure do enjoy using firearm violence and children as contrived plot devices in their movies, don't they?) Of course, the big question you have to ask yourself if you haven't seen the movie is whether or not Wolverine survives the ordeal, and without giving away the grand finale, let's just say ... oh, fuck it, he gets impaled on a tree branch and dies. But the best part comes at the very tail-end of the movie, when Wolverine Girl is giving an impassioned, tearful eulogy for Logan, but you can't help but laugh your ass off the entire scene because there's this one black kid who looks just like Fat Albert cradling one of those 12-inch Toy Biz Wolverine dolls in his hands throughout the whole procession. And THAT'S how the multi-million dollar Wolverine cash cow gets sent to pasture, folks ... pending, of course, the fine suits at Fox DON'T back up the Brinks van to Hugh Jackman's front door and tell him to take as much as he wants for one more go-at-it ... which, surely, would never, ever happen, right? Right!?!

We've got 53 dead bodies. No breasts (what's the point of even going for an R rating if you ain't going to show us some tit-tays to go along with the f-words, guys?) Two motor vehicle chases. One border fence demolition derby, with train collision. Albino sunlight torture. Gratuitous mind control vibrating camera effects. Gratuitous Shane references. Gratuitous road trip bickering. Throat stabbing. Face puncturing. Arms literally broken off. Random acts of senseless violence against a pick-up truck with a shovel. One exploding armored paddy wagon. Kung fu. Magic bullet fu. And of course, the thing that pretty much makes the whole movie possible, a whole hell of a lot of razor sharp claw fu

Starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who's still walking around in a wife beater and stabbing people, only this time he gets to do so while saying lines like "in real life, people die and no asshole in a leotard can stop it;" Patrick Stewart as the dementia-addled Prof. X, who curses like a sailor, needs help going to the bathroom and almost makes everybody in Oklahoma's heads explode; Dafne Keen as the daughter of Wolverine, who doesn't say a whole lot in the movie but is responsible for at least half its bodycount; Stephen Merchant as the swishy assisted living attendant vampire; and Boyd Holbrook as the movie's central villain, who most certainly ain't no Magneto, that's for damned sure. 

Directed by James Mangold and written by Scott Frank and Michael Green, who I'm pretty sure came up with the idea for the movie after watching Children of Men and Little Miss Sunshine back-to-back one weekend.

I give it two and a half stars out of four. The first hour is pretty good, but after that, things start dragging like the muffler in a 1987 Toyota Camry. Still, its prolly the best X-Men movie ever made, which - I know - is sorta like bragging about being the kid with the highest grades in special ed, but you know what I'm trying to say here. Jimbo says check it out, but be sure to pop open the No-Doz for that slow, slooooooooow second act.

Hey, you know what I bet would be a great way to address white racism? By making a movie that literally hinges on the idea that black people are genetically superior human beings!

And while we're on the subject of vastly overrated movies, our second flick in this week's double feature has been drawing a lot of acclaim from people who apparently have never heard of The Stepford Wives before. Essentially, that's all Get Out is, only with the feminist subtext replaced by your standard Black Lives Matter rhetoric, and with a substantial amount of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-inspired paranoia thrown into the mix for good measure. Of course, this being a movie directed by a guy Comedy Central brought in to play a poor man's version of Dave Chappelle, all of the incessant anti-commie sentiment from Don Siegel's 1956 classic has been subbed out for a "healthy" dose of anti-Caucasian fearmongering instead, but really, would you've expected anything less from the same ethnomasochist pop cultural machinery that gave life to stuff like Dear White People and The Birth of a Nation?

So the movie cold opens with some black dude walking through a subdivision at night, getting chloroformed and chucked into a WHITE car, because goddamn, who needs subtlety, right? From there, we're introduced to an interracial couple living in New York; the black photographer who does nothing but artsy-fartsy black and white photos of the inner city slums asks his white girly friend if her parents know he's black and she reassures him by telling him her dad would've voted for Obama a third time if he could and they are in no way, shape or form involved in any anti-niggerdom. On the way to daddy's woodland estate, they hit a deer and a cop asks to see the boyfriend's ID and his girlfriend acts like that's the most racist shit she's ever seen in her life and then I think about that time my girlfriend's car got broken into by a black dude and when the cops arrived they asked to see my ID and that other time I was a passenger when my cousin got into a fender bender and the cops asked to see my ID and realize "holy shit, I'm a victim of the oppressive white state, too." Then they actually get to the girl's parents' place and the dad keeps talking about how much he enjoys seeing deer die while the black groundskeeper just stares at them like one of those old Magic Eye paintings. Then dad gives the boyfriend a walking tour of the place and talks about how Jesse Owens beat his daddy in an Olympic qualifier and how much of a privilege it is "to experience another person's culture" and then his girlfriend's brother shows up and tells him he would make a great Ultimate Fighter and then the girlfriend apologizes a million times for her folks committing the same prejudicial microaggressions as the cop from earlier. 

Then the main character goes out for a smoke and the groundskeeper runs past him like the fucking Flash and the maid makes the old Chris Benoit throat slice gesture towards him then when he goes back inside his GF's mom asks him if he wants her to hypnotize him into quitting smoking so now every time she taps a teacup with a spoon he falls into coma and he starts falling into a BLACK abyss and then ... oh never mind, it was all just a dream sequence. Except the next day, he goes out to talk to the groundskeeper and he asks him what he was doing so long in the tearoom last night but before he has time to dig into the matter any deeper a whole bunch of people show up for the annual extended family get-together and all these rich white people keep touching him and telling him how "black is in fashion" and then he talks to this blind art gallery dealer played by the dude who voiced Bill on King of the Hill and later that night he calls his buddy who works for the T.S.A. (who is also dog-sitting for him) he thinks some strange shit is afoot and he tells him he thinks there's some kind of sex slavery thing going on.

So the next day our main man encounters this one light skinned brotha' who enunciates very clearly in proper English and prefers to shake hands instead of fist bump and he thinks to himself "OK, now I know something isn't right here" and he takes a picture of him with his iPhone and the flash causes him to have a nosebleed and he attacks him. Then, while he and his girlfriend go for a hike in the wilderness, everybody else at the estate participate in a silent auction where the big prize up for grabs appears to be ... well, the black boyfriend

Then our primary protagonist sends his T.S.A. buddy a picture of the guy who went crazy on him and he recognizes him as some dude who used to work at a theater in Brooklyn. Then the boyfriend starts snooping through his girlfriend's old photos and finds pictures of about two dozen other black dudes she was boning and when he goes downstairs, his GF's brother wallops him with a lacrosse stick and he wakes up tied up in a Barcalounger in the basement and he watches a video starring his girlfriend's grandaddy explaining what a "coagula" is and eventually, he figures out "wait a minute, what these crazy crackers are doing is taking the brains out of old white dudes and putting them inside the bodies of young black people," and he gets the wise idea of stuffing cotton (of course it would be cotton - it just had to be cotton) into his ears so the mind control audio won't affect him and that's when it's time for his great escape. And without giving away too much of the grand finale, I assure you - there is going to be a LOT of honky blood flying all over the place. 

We've got eight dead bodies. No breasts. One dead deer. One motor vehicle collision. Skull sawing. Attempted trans-racial brain surgery. Scalps roll. Fork to the hand. Knife to the face. One antler impalement. One self-inflicted shotgun blast. Gratuitous white girl strangling. Ear plug fu. Ornamental fruit fu. Lacrosse stick fu. Attempted rear naked choke fu. Repressed memory fu. iPhone fu. And the thing responsible for the entire movie, ironically oversuspicious reverse-racism fu.

Starring Daniel Kaluuya as protagonist Chris Washington, the bug-eyed Sidney Portier wannabe who eventually scores one for Black America by slaughtering three times as many white people in one night as O.J.; Allison Williams as serial coal burner Rose Armitage, who you know is no damned good because she eats her milk and cereal separately and says lines like "you are just so sexy people are unplugging your phones"; Bradley Whitford as Daddy Armitage, the neurosurgeon who says white people are "gods trapped in cocoons"; Catherine Keener as Mama Armitage, who's really only in the movie to keep stirring her black-person-mind-controlling cup of tea over and over and over again; Caleb Landry Jones as the scraggly haired brother that asks his sister's boyfriend if he would like to 'rassle at the diner table (which is actually a customary practice in most Southern families, you uncultured bigots); and LilRel Howery as the absolute best thing about the entire movie, the airport security guard who says lines like "Jeffrey Dahmer was eating the shit outta' niggas' heads," and "they've been abducting black people, brainwashing them and using them as sex slaves and shit," marking perhaps the first time in pop culture history the T.S.A. has ever been shown in anything even remotely approaching a positive light.

Directed and written by Mad TV alum Jordan Peele, whose idea of combating white prejudice is making a movie where every white person in the world secretly wants to be inside a genetically superior black body with the central message that black people should be wary of anybody who doesn't look, sound and act the exact same way they do.

I give it two and a half stars out of four. The build-up in the first hour is pretty good, but the third act just falls apart with too much comedy that ain't funny, too many "jump scares" that aren't even close to being scary and - the backbreaker - a supremely awkward attempt at delivering some kind of "profound" sociocultural statement on black/white relations in post-Ferguson America so damned muddy you're not even sure what point the movie's trying to make chewing up way too much of the running time. Jimbo says check it out, just as long as you heed Public Enemy's advice and go into it not believing the hype.