“Wholly shit” is a bit harsh, but I wanted the word play. I think most “computer movies” are hilarious, and old ones are the best. War Games was made in 1983, thirteen years before SkiFree would blow my mind. The trailer was irresistible, so I went for it.

Things are looking “post-apocalyptic” (read: “dusty”) and now two men are in an air force base and it’s business as usual. Their business is extremely boring. Is that Leo from West Wing? YES!

“I’m shocked that I’m in this movie too!”

They are decoding something with *laminated* code keys. The secretary must be super bored too.

“Rotate launch key to set” Their technical talk is boring to the max. And yet they are launching some giant missile and clicking all the switches… except ONE. They’re like fuck it, I don’t care, we’re going to DO this. Leo is sweating. His co-worker just started pointing a gun at his head because he’s not turning the LAUNCH KEY. WHY?

“You didn’t drink when they said ‘War Games’!”

That might be the most exciting thing that happens. This is starting to smell like Internet M*A*S*H. There’s even a helicopter, and I wish I was hearing “Suicide is Painless” right now instead of these “edgy” trumpets.

Matthew Broderick is in this. Is he related to Betty Broderick? I’m just musing as the credits roll forward, boringly.

Big doors that are like 6 feet thick and sound an alarm when they’re open are a big part of this movie. 2 big door shots so far.

I thought this was supposed to be about an internet whiz kid? It’s just boring old people and big DOS screens.

It was only a test?! Everyone was pissing their panties, sir. They wanted to see if the people could actually turn the key to start a nuclear missile attack, and Leo totally failed. Hence the gun. One guy says he wants the president to make the call, but then COMPUTERS will do the rest. Specifically, the War Operation Plan Response, or, WOPR. It thinks about World War III constantly. It plays WAR GAMES (DRIIIIINK!). It has already fought World War III as a game! It estimates damage, counts the dead…. Basic DnD shit. We are arguing that men should be replaced by computers now. Obviously these real live men have problems with this. They’re going to float it by the Prez and see what he thinks. We cool?

I bet she’s looking forward to men being replaced with WOPRs.

Ah. NOW we meet boy wonder, playing Atari in an extremely 80’s arcade. Running to school, LATE, entering biology class where a bunch of catatonic kids are going over a test. Computer boy, David, is sassy as you please. Equally sassy classmate Ms. Jennifer Mack was talking and got busted. Now she has to answer a question about nitrogen fixation! “Why do nodules attach themselves to the root?” (I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works) She says “LOVE!” NO YOU TRAMP, IT’S “SYMBIOSIS.” Next, “who first suggested reproduction without sex?” David has an answer.: “YOUR WIFE?!” Daaaaamn.

David is now in the principal’s office for obvious reasons, life hacking by looking at post-it notes and remembering information. I’m guessing it will help him woo this sassy Ms. Mack. It’s after school and she’s picking him up on a moped type thing. She’s got the kind of nerd pants a girl has when she is very serious about being a nerd.

“I can tell by your pants that you will like my boring life.”

She’s going to his room, which contains shelves worth of antiquated hardware. “You’re really into computers, huh?” Uh oh, he’s hacking high school and changing grades! She got a D in Home Economics because she’s not a real lady because she’s a nerd! She doesn’t want him to change her grade because she has MORALS. She is super turned off and is leaving. EPIC FAIL.

Meanwhile, back at the airbase, Leo is shaking his head at some baffling machines.

Back at home with David and his family. He is looking at a brochure that speaks to him because it’s computery and there is Are You Afraid of the Dark music. All bad movies seem to have AYAOTD music! Dad (who was definitely in M*A*S*H) HATES the corn because it’s RAW. Mom likes it crispy. I agree with mom. David escaped the table and is pulling some fiendish shit on the phone, conning his way to some information regarding that brochure, and is HACKING.

Ms. Mack is back and seems to have decided she wants him to change her grade after all, in an attempt to win his computer dong. Maybe I was too harsh about the pants. The computer is dialing numbers with the last number going up by 1 each time. He’s mansplaining modems. He already CHANGED her grade! He gave her an A! Aw yeah girl. He’s trying to hack them to Paris? Making fake airplane reservations. Lame. She’s trying to show him her tits by leaning in with an unbuttoned blouse, but he is too computer retarded and cannot sense the nearby tits. She literally has half her blouse open. He just wants free games.

“Why. Won’t. He. Look. At. My. Tits.”

…and some of the free games are WAR GAMES (DRIIIINK!)

Now we are in a very technical looking place with a few nerd boys scattered about. Ms. Mack has to wait outside because the nerd boys can’t handle a GIRL. David is basically an 80’s computer version of Mark Cherry from Arrested Development. A nerd tells another nerd “remember how you told me to tell you if you’re acting rude or insensitively? You’re doing it right now.” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, bitchez. Clearly I missed the whole point of this scene.

Back in his room, David is hacking without his shirt on and I am unokay with this. Bad “Airwolf” music. Baby Broderick chest. Everything is bad right now. There are no pictures available of how bad this is. I am alone with this badness; it is all mine.

Ms. Mack is a power runner. She comes to visit David and he is still shirtless. She’s sweaty in a vaguely alluring way, but seems to have given up on trying to tear David’s eyes away from that glowing screen. He is showing her that computers, by connecting wires to chess pieces (haha wtf), were able to LEARN. Dr. Falken, a clearly amazing wizard of a man, did this way back (10 whole years ago) in the 70’s, and Mack has extremely forward professor hots for him. He had a son and his password is… his son’s name! Now we are hacking like the dickens. “We’re in!” (a phrase that must be uttered at least once per computer movie). Falken’s intelligent computer is chatty and wants to play a game of chess, not war. But David wants to know about this “Global Thermonuclear War” game– chess later! “Fine” says computer.

I PROGRAMMED YOU A SHIRT.

They are playing WAR GAMES (DRIIIINK!) now and he’s on the side of the Russians. They want to blow up Las Vegas first, then they went straight for Seattle. Interesting priorities.

So, I rented this on Amazon. Using money. I don’t remember what happened, but I didn’t finish the movie within 24 hours and I just can’t justify paying another $3.99 to do so. I hope that the rest of War Games contains the following:

- Leo punching Dr. Falken (who clearly wizards his way into the situation somehow) in the face. Or, maybe more ideally, Leo punching a computer.

- San Francisco getting blown to smithereens, like it does in most action movies. In a computer action movie it would especially poignant and thought-provoking.

- At least 4 more big doors.

- So many bad Russian accents.

- Mack ending up with Dr. Falken’s son as her boyfriend, even if he’s just a password. She should end up dating a password.

- David ending up in COMPUTER JAIL for thermonucleating the world. And for shirtless hacking as a pre-pube.

During my undergraduate education I worked in labs that imaged pond scum using confocal microscopy, studied estrogen receptor ligands in rats whose ovaries I removed, and  used yeast to show how errors in the center of the Central Dogma, RNA processing, can potentially lead to the mutation of its parent gene. Then I worked in a poxvirus lab at the CDC for a year, optimizing an old immunodiffusion technique for use as a hassle-free diagnostic tool for monkeypox in the DRC.  In graduate school I rotated in a cryo-electron tomography lab because why not?  It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, and I ended up in a lab that used fruit flies to investigate the neural mechanisms and genes in involved in thermo- and chemosensation; I worked with maggots. I dropped out of the lab and the PhD altogether, rolling up my MS and sticking it in my back pocket.

As is clear, I got to do a lot of cool stuff– but nothing was as cool as this machine is:

Yes, yes it is

Is that the sound of me not doing any actual work?

I’m currently back in the bowels of Brandeis, preparing the needs of a 177-student intro to biology lab techniques. It’s a required course if you are pre-med. Suckers. A couple of the labs they are doing require that they make serial dilutions to measure transformation efficiency, and select for cells that have taken up the antibiotic resistance-confering plasmid DNA. That means their bacteria will need a nutrient-rich substrate, both with and without antibiotic, and that’s where I come in. But really, it’s where PourMatic comes in.

It’s like something Picture Picture would show you and Mr. Rogers, am I right? It makes me so excited I said something as dumb as “it’s the tits!” I don’t even know that means but it seems pretty sexist so I’m sorry I said it. But it can pour 320 agar plates in, like, 5-10 minutes!

You saw how it works, and now you can see the kind of freedoms the PourMatic allows for.

If this were an infomercial, we would also have footage of a scientist trying to pour 320 plates by hand– slopping the hot molten agar around, burning herself, lighting her hair on fire with the Bunsen burner necessary to sterilize the pipet for each plate, running out of room on her bench, knocking shit over and then looking at her plates the next day and finding the surface coated in a thick mold.

And then we cut to 7 years later and she hasn’t gotten her PhD yet.

Since 2009, Folgers has had a lock on awkward, vaguely incestuous, commercial spots.

(Fact: the incestuousness of this ad is so undeniable it even spawned its own [creepy] fanfiction genre. [Cite])

While Folger’s may have been the first to give family-themed marketing a weird sexual subtext, they’re no longer the only game in town. Dear readers, I present to you the ad for Toyota’s newest Prius.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

….

….

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew, right?

Here’s a quick rundown of the various kinds of WRONG featured in this ad.

Wrong thing #1: Clearly the worst part — the dad leaning in to smear some cupcake frosting on the grown daughter’s face. Creepy and makes the Folger’s ad seem innocent by comparison. Also, why is the DAD doing this? The daughter is a teenager — she could easily slap some frosting on her own face if it’s that important. (Which it isn’t.) I know they’re recreating a childhood photo, but who wants a picture of themselves with CRAP on their face? You can’t even see the facial frosting in the original picture anyway. The dad must have a buttercream fetish or something.

Wrong thing #2: The actors playing the parents look a little young and the actors playing the grown kids look a little adult. So when the commercial starts, it’s not totally clear that we’re seeing a father/daughter and mother/son. The first time I saw the ad I totally thought the dad and daughter were a couple doing some sort of flirty cupcake play. Internet: please accept my apologies for just having typed the words “cupcake play.”

Wrong thing #3:These shorts/thighs, and the slow, lingering shot that examines them. It makes me feel like I’m watching an American Apparel ad (i.e., dirty). On a less incesty note, it also bugs me that everyone’s wearing super vintage looking clothes even though the picture they’re recreating is from 2000.

I think I have to take a shower now.

 

Also, protein.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because the word “protein” is stabbing into my brainholes from five distinct locations on the bottle, but when I had a couple minutes to grab something from the store a hand I barely knew reached out from my side and grabbed this Protein Juice Smoothie, ignoring all red flags.

Red Flag #1: Protein Juice?

Yeah, what comes to mind there is “piss.” Protein in your urine is a bad sign; why did I pick this beverage? Oh, you mean protein AND juice? Well it still sounds disgusting. When I think “smoothie” I don’t think of a thin liquid ascending my straw. A fruit broth cannot smooth be.

Red Flag #2: Sediment

This one gave me pause, but my time was running out and I swatted the skeptical thoughts away. I’m trying to get more protein in my diet and exert more control over negative thoughts these days, okay? That kind of thinking must land me smack in the middle of the intersecting Boolean spotlights that Naked calls the “Protein Zone,” because when I turned the bottle upside down (confirming the juice-like consistency) and saw a thick layer of sediment I quickly convinced myself “oh well, you’re just going to have to give it a REAL good shake!”

Red Flag #3: A Bold Choice

It’s my first time drinking Naked (not true in the literal sense, of course. We all did it as babies, and also when we drink beer in the shower) and instead of playing it safe with apple juice or something I go straight for the creamy looking one with tropical fruits and nutritional supplements? What’s next, the voice of God telling me to build a monument out of melted tires in a Walmart parking lot? It’s a slippery slope.

The cashier asked me “are these things good?” and I said that I didn’t know yet. I almost cracked it right there to take a sip and deliver the verdict, and boy am I glad I didn’t. I shook vigorously on my way to the train platform, opened it and took a swig.

My immediate reaction was not to sense a taste but to think “someone shit in my mouth!” As I pushed my gritty tongue against the roof of my mouth the tasting notes became more refined. The overall experience is like someone chewed up a mouthful of Flintstones vitamins and milk, pressed their mouth to yours, opened up and released the suspension. It’s like being the baby of the worst bird.

I’ve been attempting to write my review of The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story for the past week. I was feeling a bit stuck until Lena Webb gave me the encouraging nudge I needed.

 

So here goes.

It was bad, people. BAD. And not the engagingly bizarre type of bad that Lifetime does best (idea: Engagingly Bizarre should be the network’s new tag line). No – it was just regular boring bad, like Dance Moms or that Kim whatever show.

Plus for all the talk about it being “Unauthorized,” it was rated TV-PG. Talk about being set up to fail.

 

Cartoon drawn during intense boredom.

Unauthorized is, as Lena noted, basically Screech’s Story: Please Feel Bad for Me. In addition to making simulated Screech WAY cuter than actual Dustin Diamond (Mr. Max and I had to explain to Lena that no, Screech was not “a little bit cute”), they also frame him as a Mr. Nice Guy Who Can’t Catch a Break. I find this confusing. Is playing a dorky role on network television THAT awful? Even if you don’t make the cover of Teen Beat, there’s still fame and money and stuff. Do it for a couple of years and then go to art school or whatever.

(Fun fact: I went to college with Little Pete from Pete and Pete and everyone acted totally starstruck around him even though he played a chubby little ginger kid. You would’ve thought the guy was Tom Cruise or something.)

Lifetime knew how to market this movie to snarky mid-30s nostalgia hounds. In the weeks leading up to the premiere, my twitter feed was littered with excited/sarcastic anticipatory tweets. The promo certainly seemed to hold promise:

Unlike Lena, I watched pretty much every awful thing on TV as a kid and Saved By The Bell was no exception. However, I ranked it only slightly above Eureeka’s Castle in terms of watchability (i.e., barely). SBTB was just so boring and tame – a soap opera about teenagers written for babies. Why suffer through that when you could sneak out of bed and watch 90210? That shit was at least salacious.

I will note that Mr. Max and I once watched the SBTB post-college TV movie, and that was gloriously awful. But the actual show? Nope.

I’m starting to see a pattern emerge with Lifetime’s “star”-studded premieres. They whip the ironic Lifetime bloggers into a frenzy with something that sounds too good to be true (Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor! Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden!) and then crap out some cheap A&E docudrama and everyone has to try and pretend to be amused because we bought all this alcohol and Chinese food already.

My thoughts on the matter solidified after watching a classic daytime Lifetime movie last Sunday morning. It was A Sister’s Nightmare (Review coming soon!), and it was beautiful in its minimalism. No premiere, no fanfare, no stars – just a cheesy synthesizer score, dumb cops, a washed up 90s actress, and a few weird plot holes. And it was a billion times more entertaining than ANY of the recent crap they’ve been hyping lately.

Cue strings for my closing paragraph.This is my credo: Real Lifetime movies don’t “premiere”, they just… appear. Usually in the afternoon. They hum in the background while you’re folding laundry or surfing the Internet. You don’t even intend to watch them, but suddenly it’s 2 hours later and you can’t get up and take a shower because you have to know whether or not the husband is really evil. Real Lifetime movies don’t have celebrity stars — they have “that guy from that thing,” or the girl who was in a straight to video sequel to Poison Ivy. They don’t need production values or pop music scores or celebrities or social media marketing. They’re lazy and sloppy and confusing and unprofessional and that’s okay because we love them just the way they are.

So stop screwing with the formula.

I often engage in “Lifetime movie stenography” wherein I take real-time viewing notes with the goal of molding it into some kind of review with a point. You know, the way Attempted Blogger does. But I forget about the draft, I forget about the movie, and life hurtles forward.

But then I find it again and am in for a treat, the way a cat eats its own puked up kibble.

The synopsis is what snared me like an innocent hare. Hold on to your hats:

A dramatic and lighter look at breast cancer told from a single woman’s point of view. It’s the true story of Linda Dackman (Ricki Lake), following her as she tries to re-enter the dizzying dating world post-mastectomy. Dackman’s adventures in dating and her intimate and witty insights into appearance, self-image, sex and romance.

Dramatic AND lighter? Oh Lifetime, how you challenge and defy the very meaning of words and how they relate to one another. Let’s go along on this dizzying journey.

What are those monoliths behind her? Is it a… mammogram?

*REALIZATION REALM* I don’t know anything about Ricki Lake (Linda). All I know is that the name sounds “famous.” I’m pretty sure she had a talk show, but beyond that I have no idea. I don’t think this matters.

Already the music is way too cheerful for breast cancer. Linda is telling an ugly blond idiot guy, Kevin, that she doesn’t want to be in a relationship. She’s “always been in a relationship” and she “wants to know why.” Kevin is like “derrrr?” Already there are dialogue issues. It was a ridiculous break-up scene with zero drama and yet she flounces away as the opening credits roll saying “well THAT went well.”

She’s a successful art gallery curator or something, and her underlings are all “didja dump him?” Her sassy Latino male coworker who keeps calling her “chica” tells her she did the right thing. Linda is basically Dr. Cuddy from House.

“I’m doubling your clinic hours.”

We’ve switched to weird documentary interview style filming with her friend saying she dragged her to get a mammogram and she’s got microgranualization which means she’s going to a mastectomy, swiftly laying down the entire conflict in front of out very eyes. Linda laments that this is super ruining her plans to be “free and hot” (like, a fart?). But lo, a swarthy guy named Jacques comes over and wants to buy her a drink. She’s still got it!

Her doctor is hot and he’s laying down some science about her “invasive stage I cancer.” The music is weird clown music. She wants BIGGER boobs, ha ha ha. She is throwing way too much snarkasm at this problem. She’s not going to let this take over her life! She calls the Swarthy Guy! Ohhh, he’s supposed to be French! I guess “Jacques” should have given it away because his accent sure didn’t. Come on, Canada!

Now she’s getting the deets about her mastectomy. Her plastic surgeon’s office makes it looks like it’s going to cost millions of dollars and also like it was cobbled together from crap used in Minority Report, painted white.

All of a sudden Linda’s had her surgery! She wakes up and now seems to be in pity mode; much less snarkasm. Zipping through Lifetime’s plotline wormhole, she’s already whining to her bestie and trying to stuff her bra. She wants to show bestie the [already formed and unbanadaged] scar and asks if it’s ugly. Bestie says “well, it’s not pretty” and “we all have scars, but yours is just showing.” Kind of crappy. Just like this movie.

Her art gallery co-workers don’t know how to deal with her not having a boob. It’s three dudes trying to wrap their brains around how any woman can not have a boob. Pastries will surely fill the void, they think. She shows up and obviously they all act all weird and lame. She doesn’t accept their offering of pastries and goes straight into Power Woman mode– “can we get to work??”

Linda meets her bestie at a coffee shop where she is reading up on how to be a best friend to a… breast friend. She needs to feel like she’s still sexy! She needs a MAN. Bestie suggests Jacques and Linda says “I’m not into him!” Instead, she instantly cougars out and licks her lips over the young barista in the coffee shop and before you can say “but how?” they are making out in broad daylight. He goes straight for her boob and she flips out and runs straight up into her brownstone. When she feels it’s safe to come out, we switch to boob cam and as she walks down the busy city street she is practically assaulted by breasts. Breasts, everywhere!  Some woman calls her out ["HEY!"] on staring at her tits! Oh, she’s dressed up like Carmen Sandiego because she’s on her way to a support group that she can’t bear to go into. There are probably some breasts in there, too.

This is getting so old, so fast. Her boss, Errol, is being supportive and paternal, telling her to buck up. All of a sudden, after all actual danger has passed, she’s finally like OMG WHAT IF I DIE??? Oh but wait.– a super hot guy has come in to buy some art! She runs right into him! His name is GUY. They are having just the worst awkward conversation. He’s weirdly aggressively awkward.

Interview with plastic surgeon who tells her she’s going to crash if she doesn’t accept the depth of what has happened to her. Next scene: she crashes.

She’s massaging her breast at Dim Sum and being a total bitch. “Easy for you to say, you have two real breasts” She’s crashing!!!!! “I need to yell, I need to massage my breast, and I don’t want to drink tea!” STORM OUT. Bestie chases her out and tells her she needs real help and to stop taking it out on her friends and family.

She sniffs out Jacques again and his accent is even worse. He is ignoring his cell phone on their date… out of politeness? NO, it’s his WIFE. He’s married noooo! She is so out of there– doesn’t even finish her wine.

NOW she’s in that support group, you bet. All these actual cancer patients are going to shame her when she bitches about her missing boob. No, they are all being very supportive. They all look like supermodel cancer patients “bald is the new blonde!” One of the cancer ladies remembers her and her “rocking Barbie doll collection” from camp! Now she has a new bestie. I’m guessing she’s going to die and it’s going to be sad for Linda. “Will you be my cancer friend?” asks Linda. Yeesh.

“My chemo is made by L’Oreal”

“She was just trying to get through it, one breast at a time” says the old bestie, interview style, and laughs like that was hilarious. Nope.

Back at work, hottie the art buyer is back and ready to FLIRT. It’s bad, people. “if you can’t think for yourself, I can’t help you.” She’s a great art dealer… and flirt…

Oh good, now she has both besties together and it’s like low-rent Sex and the City (i.e., Lifetime). They recommend she go for exes… Linda dresses like a piece of furniture. She makes out with an old flame who describes her as “the one who got away.”

The ex-sex thing is going really bad. He’s a huge douche and is about to bone her until she says “I had cancer” and he’s all thrown off his game and says “I can’t deal with this. It weirds me out.” I hope she drinks all the wine. Yeah she did.

Depresson montage. Not answering phone. Besties show up with burgers, shakes, and presents. Linda describes herself as “the elephant girl.” Jeez. Cancer bestie got her a DILDO. “Wow, I’ve never seen one of these up close before.” Haha, she says she “can’t accept it.” She says she’d never leave the house (gross). They suggest online dating. How long is this damned movie.

Internet dating montage. Mom doesn’t understand “intercom dating.” Internet date #1 says “I’m no Bob Gates.” Internet date #2 thinks a picture of the Virgin Mary is hot and that she has a nice rack. Nope. Internet date #3, Scott, orders an indulgent dessert and wins her heart. His car is a Hummer with flame details and a plate that says POWRBRKR. More like DEALBRKR.

Oh no. KEVIN from the intro wanders back into her life. He wants to have dinner with “cancer girl who dumped [him]” They skip dinner to bone and he’s a pro when it comes to gently taking clothes off. She turns the light off, but he turns it back on. Smooooth. He probably got the idea from the scene in Pay it Forward where Helen Hunt turns the light back on and makes us watch her undress burn victim Keven Spacey in a sexual manner.

Group picnic with besties and Kevin. Linda says she wants to settle for security and get married. Now he is cooking for her, muy domestico. Her besties are telling her that she needs to be powerful and independent. The “hot and free” tug is too strong. She just hates all these delicious breakfasts Kevin makes her! Kevin made breakup breakfast. I think Kevin is the real victim here.

17 more minutes.

Hot art flirty art man is somehow now playing poker with  Linda and her co-workers. I don’t care if this lady ever has sex again at this point.

I’m going to make an old fashioned.

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