But we’re not in reality (we’re 1/4″ away from it), so what we are left with is a false modesty competition between Marianne and Les that offers nothing we did not already know yesterday. It’s a good example of Les showing his true colors though… If Les really and truly felt guilty about taking the Oscar that Marianne is stupidly and inexplicably giving up, then he wouldn’t wait until she flew across 70% of the country to tell her. I’ll bet he also excuses himself to go to the restroom just before the check comes at a restaurant and then returns to sheepishly offer to pay the bill just as his dining companion is handing their credit card to the waiter. Cue Ben Schwartz saying the thing…
Today’s strip marks Summer’s first appearance since… oh wait, yeah, sorry, that’s (Marianne) Winters, not Summer.
Summer actually has appeared in this strip as recently as 7 weeks ago, which is not something you could often say since she graduated high school. Even so, it’s kind of remarkable that Les and Cayla have interacted more over the past few years with a now-Oscar-winning actress than they have with their own children, both of whom (still!) appear to go to Kent State… less than an hour away from where Westview is generally considered to be.
And by “remarkable” I mean 1/4 inch AU from reality. I think I would have found it more relatable and more entertaining had we focused instead on the adventure that must have been Marianne’s efforts to bring an Oscar stuffed in a small drawstring bag through a TSA checkpoint.
Ah, the classic tug-of-war between privacy-invading exuberance and false modesty… who wins that race to the bottom in today’s strip?
Les’ false modesty does, of course. For one thing, it’s coming from Les, which makes it an additionally off-putting version of an already off-putting behavior. The biggest reason, though, is that Cayla’s desire to “let people know” is essentially moot, everyone already knows. Anyone who cares saw Marianne tell the television cameras that she was coming to give her Oscar away to Les this week. Yeah, if she’s trying to organize a mob to meet Marianne then that might not work if by “on the way” Marianne means that she’ll be there within the hour… but with Marianne’s very public announcement of her planned visit and the relatively specific time frame she gave, the Taj Moore-hal should have been descended upon by pushy celebrity obsessives and Starbuck Jones fans days ago. Where are they? Where’s Lenny and Frankie and (ugh) DMZ? Why am I asking you?
So, Day Two of “Lisa Loved to Feed The Birds.” It’s a nice enough thing to do, sure, but it’s very low cost in terms of time and effort. You put out bird seed. Later, the birds eat it. It’s not like rescuing stray dogs, where you have to open up your home and take actual care of another creature.
Which is the obvious answer to Summer’s question in panel one. “Me? Give a damn about someone other than myself? Not likely! You screwed up, Summer–yes, you did.”
And of course his dialog in the third panel is stupid extraordinaire. “Oh my goodness, there’s a human-shaped form out there feeding the birds! It must be Lisa’s g-g-g-g-ghost!”
At least Summer looks like Summer this time. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I mean, she’s still Summer and will have to live with that.
Les, that is a really, really, REALLY weird thing to say while staring lovingly into the chocolate brown sclera’s of your second wife’s eyes. What are you trying to say here? That you’ve realized you’re lucky your first wife died? Because in the end what you really wanted was both a supportive wife and a sob story? The knockout one-two punch that will win you gold in the victim Olympics in performative grieving.
I get the sentiment, it’s a nice sentiment. You’re trying to tell Cayla that you’re content in your life with her. That Hollywood fame wouldn’t have made you appreciably happier because you’re already happy. But, when talking about this to a second wife, as a widower, you should avoid words like, ‘lucky.’ ‘all along,’ and ‘in the end.’
By Cayla’s tired grimace, I can tell what she’s thinking. “I don’t know if he’s insulting me or snubbing Lisa, but at least he sounds happy she’s dead.”
Many of us this week have found ominous signs that the box office failure of Lisa’s Story might not be then end of this endless arc. That a box office bomb can still go on to be critically successful and win awards. And it would dovetail nicely with Batiuk’s sentiments on popular entertainment, for the true beauty of Lisa’s Story: The Movie, to only be admired by a few.
I fear we’re in for a Marvin’s Room deal. If TomBa is going to use anything as a template for Lisa’s Story’s success or failure, it’s not going to be one of the cancer movies of the last few years. It’s going to be from the glory days of weepy prestige drama. The 90’s.
I’d never heard of this film before my cancer movie research of earlier in the week. And after reading the synopsis, and watching the trailer, it is top on my list of movies to never see. But the plot is Batiukian to the max. A movie about sarcasm in the face of disease, death, and poorly portrayed mental illness, written by a man who was himself dying of AIDS.
For 20 years Bonnie (Diane Keaton) has been taking care of her bed-ridden father, Marvin (Hume Cronyn) following a stroke. When she is diagnosed with leukemia, she reaches out to the sister she hasn’t seen for 20 years, Lee, (Meryl Streep), asking if she and her two sons would be tested for a bone marrow transplant. Lee retrieves her older son, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), from the mental health facility where he’d been kept since trying to burn her house down, and takes her family to see her sister. Much heartfelt sarcasm ensues. Bonnie’s treatment appears to be failing, but Lee is now comfortable caring for their father.
The movie bombed in 1996, making $12 million on a $23 million dollar budget.
And it got Diane Keaton an Oscar nod for best actress, Meryl Streep a Golden Globe nom, also for best actress, and three SAG nominations to boot.
The box office numbers might be in. But awards season is right around the corner.
So after all of Les’ passive aggressive pouting yesterday, he’s actually happy the movie flopped. Peak Les. He’s happy at the failure of others, because it allows him to remain in his own comfort zone. Cassidy Kerr said the movie was going to change his life, and he worried if it was going to be changed for the worse or the better.
And ultimately he’s smugly satisfied to realize that his own life hasn’t changed at all. Millions of dollars of vainly wasted money; hours and hours of actors’ and crewpeoples’ lives; none of that is weighed against Les’ own desire to remain static.
Banana Jr. 6000 posted an awesome video in the comments of Tuesday’s post. It dissects what makes a character unlikable. I’m reposting it in case someone missed it, and I highly recommend it to anyone with writing aspirations.
The most damning criticism in the video, as it pertains to Les Moore, is the subject of repeated, fruitless, character arcs: where a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome as struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.
“The storytelling, in this case, puts our arc and character into the protagonist’s driver’s seat and makes a sort of promise that this is going somewhere. Instead, the wheel is turned all the way left and they’re going in circles. They’re left complaining about the same thing or acting in the same selfish way they have before. And it becomes harder for us to identify with a universal struggle that they’re going through, and instead we start to get frustrated with them personally.”
How many times have we seen Les pulled in circles? Like a dog lazily chasing its tail, half knowing it doesn’t want to catch it. Just killing time because it’s been chained to the same place for years, and it gives it a sense of a goal.
For my Funky/Cranky crossover continuity review a few days ago, I reread an obscene number of Crankshaft strips. And you know what? Crankshaft is so much better. I’m not saying it’s great, or even consistently good. The recent newspaper closing arc was Funky levels of unbearable. But the characters in that strip choose to do things. Cranky has decided he’s going to electrocute a tree using jumper cables and multiple cars, and he’s making it happen. Lillian decides she’s going to write a book, so she does. Then she writes ten more books and becomes famous in the same time it takes Les Moore to write a prequel about his dead wife in the strangest self-own I have ever seen.
While there are always exceptions: Crankshaft characters act, Funky Winkerbean characters react. In Funky Winkerbean there are a few ancillary characters, like Mason and Chester, who present the main characters with life changing propositions to react to. And in general the characters are happiest when they’re NOT moving. Everyone lives above Montoni’s, everyone works at the High School, or the restaurant. Darin, Pete, and Jess would rather take the nepotism hires close to home than capitalize on their Hollywood successes.
Les is happy the movie flopped. Inertia and entropy are the twin suns that warm his withered soul, and his only hope is to decay in place.
I don’t know what she just bought, but Cayla’s jeans magically manifest on her body between panels one and three. Maybe they slithered up her legs in panel two. Maybe that’s why she looks so shocked.
Anyway, she better run out and get dark sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and old-timey high collared coats, because she’s going to have to wade through a picket line to get into the Chateau.
Once again, Batiuk writing a year in advance shoots him in the foot. Last September The Hollywood Reporterput out an in depth investigative hit piece on the hotel. After nearly all the staff was laid off due to the pandemic, many were willing to speak out against the hotel for discrimination, harassment, and general mismanagement. The allegations went all the way to the very top, with owner, André Balazs, accused of using the hotel as his own private playground, snorting cocaine, getting drunk, and groping workers.
Since then there’s been regular protests outside the hotel, as well as calls to boycott the business. A movie cancelled a planned film shoot there. Celebrities like Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuaron, and Lena Headey have all supported the boycott. And when Cersei Lannister is ringing the bell and calling ‘Shame!’ you know it’s gotta be bad.
Not that the controversy has completely killed business, the place looks pretty booked up through the end of September. Sometimes, to my folksy midwestern eye, the entire SoCal area looks like a hyper-charged game of social activism whack-a-mole being played by a manic-depressive. Quixotically clutching their pearls in moral outrage over the living conditions of livestock while snorting cocaine off a dinner plate at a hedonism fueled wrap party.
Shame poor Cayla’s excitement had to be marred by this controversy. I wonder if Batiuk is hoping it will fly under the radar of his normal readers. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if the last news story Batiuk remembers hearing from the Chateau Marmont is John Belushi’s death.
You know, Les and Lisa are horrible, horrible people. But today’s entry makes a strong case that their infection has spread beyond the immediate Moore family, and has made its way into the outer world. Soon, entire cities, entire nations will fall as the Lisa-Worship pandemic spreads to every corner of the globe.
Because here’s Cayla, Les’ current wife, asking Les to make sure that Lisa, Les’ dead wife–dead at least twenty years now, mind–is protected from the machinations of the cruel, uncaring world of entertainment–you know, the slugs who push awful contrived entertainments on the (shudder) masses so they can sell toilet paper and cheap auto loans.
And this is something Cayla cannot stand. Because Lisa’s reputation, Lisa’s legacy, is the only thought she has.
Not a thought for herself remains. Not a thought for herself, her own child, her marriage, her future. It’s all Lisa now. It will never be anything other than Lisa. Lisa.
I thought I was being clever the other day when I referenced “Colossus: The Forbin Project.” (And c’mon, I kinda was. And if you haven’t seen that film, then you should.) But the real reference film here is far more chilling. From 1956.
Well, it started, for me it started last Thursday. In response to an urgent message from my nurse I’d hurried home from a medical convention I’d been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn’t. Something evil had taken possession of the town.
The “Colossus” movie ended with Dr. Forbin’s defiant “Never!” The book ended similarly, but included a final paragraph:
Anyway, that’s all from me for now. Thank you all for your indulgence, your creativity and your knowledge. It always makes hosting this place a treasure, when the actual strips make it a chore. I learn nothing from the strip, but learn a lot from you all. Kudos!
Tune in Monday, when your snarker extraordinaire Epicus Doomus takes the center seat in the Funkyverse’s most-watched game show, “How Bad Can It Get?”
Lots of good speculation this week about what Mason might do, now that he’s learned of the Lisa Tapes, but as always there’s more creativity in the comments here than in Batiuk’s entire studio. Mason just makes his excuses and leaves, and from the looks of it, he’s not doing anything interesting like hiding a couple of the tapes under his shirt. Just another extraordinarily lame “joke” and we’re done.
Think about that for a moment. The Lisa Tapes were mentioned, Les was extremely snotty about them, and the subject was dropped. Mason didn’t even ask what was on them. Long-time readers such as we (and probably only we) know all about the Tapes, but any casual reader is going to be baffled by their mention. “Well, gosh, what are these tapes? I didn’t learn anything about them!” Batiuk probably thinks that since the Tapes are Known to Him, they’re Known to Everyone–something that happens a lot to folks who work on a project for a long time. The details are so ingrained in his mind that he thinks everyone is similarly familiar with them. “Everyone knows Dinkle hates vanilla ice cream, no need to address that at all, the joke works fine as is.”
But the casual reader has to be brought up to speed for a situation to make sense. As Stan Lee famously said, “Every comic book is someone’s first comic book.” Without the background, this mythical casual reader will soon become an ex-reader. Here’s the problem, though–Batiuk can’t talk about the tapes themselves. Batiuk thinks the tapes are cute and endearing and evidence of the great love that Lisa generated.* But any casual reader–and, realistically, anyone else–would find them horrifying, evidence of deep mental problems in Lisa, Les, Cayla, and anyone else caught in Lisa’s web. A casual reader would be repelled–the characters, Les especially, would be revealed in the full glory of their loathsomeness.
The cynic in me has another answer, though–Batiuk hopes this will intrigue a casual viewer into taking the next step–“Since I must learn what those tapes are about, I guess I’ll have to buy the books to find out more!”
It’s right there, between the second and third panels.
*PS: I agree with Comic Book Harriet that a tape left for a child by a dying parent can be a touching display of parental love. But that’s not what Lisa is doing here. She’s never told Les or Summer that she loves them. Every tape is designed to run every aspect of their lives according to her will.
Odd, isn’t it, how much Mason and Dullard resemble each other. Almost as if, on that night when Lisa was “assaulted,” both she and Frankie succumbed to the alcohol and passed out, and a passing student saw an opportunity…nah, Mason was probably five years old then, and besides, it’s too interesting for this strip. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to find out that Mason was a completely terrible person, and this was some complicated revenge scheme? Again, too interesting.
Better to make Mason pretty much clueless about the character he wants to portray, almost as if he’s never read Les’ book or spent any time with him. Nine hours in a sweltering parking lot, that’s enough research for Mason!