Ejected from the Planet of the Apes

Rob and I were ejected from the Planet of the Apes (the movie, not the planet) in 2001. We got a chat going to explain what happened.

When was the last time we IM’d each other?

Probably sometime after we saw Planet of the Apes 2001 but also way before Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out in 2011.

Only a decade between the two? It felt like a lifetime

Right? A lot of these franchises get rebooted or whatever way too fast, but we straight up got into long-term relationships and got married in the lapse between Apes movies.

Sabrina and I had been dating a few months. But I don’t know if she had yet to meet my parents when we first attempted to see the Tim Burton Planet of the Apes.

I had met Marisa the spring before at school and we were chatting online a lot that summer. In fact I think her friends went to go see it the same night that we tried and I’m sure I emailed or IMed her about our misadventure.

Oh you guys were totes in touch, but you hadn’t sealed the deal yet

So this is a Google Hangout?

I don’t know if this counts as a real Google hangout because it’s text only Google hangouts are an insidious plot to get unsuspecting people to sign up for Google+

First: background by way of what I’ve been listening to on a loop for the past 24 hours and am listening to RIGHT NOW: I got my cassette-to-computer device working and ripped the audio of Planet of the Tapes, the mix tape I made for the drive to Crossgates Mall to see Planet of the Apes (2001). At least the intro will be available as a download with the transcript of this conversation.

Ugh, I prepped for this by listening to the Apes jams bonus tracks on Severe Tire Damage. I learned nothing.

But SO DID I, because those bonus tracks are all over the mix! Weirdly, though I had only seen the 1968 original at the time, the two best They Might Be Giants improv’d Apes songs are in fact my two favorite Planet of the Apes sequels: Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

“This Ape’s For You” isn’t one of your favorite Apes movies?

OK, so to fill in, Rob and I and our buddies did this thing where we made 30-minute tapes for the drive to Saratoga to Crossgates Mall outside of Albany, for the movies we were particularly psyched about.

Our buddies was usually Jesse, Me, Chris, Jeff, and whatever girl had yet to realize we weren’t that charming.

I was trying to remember what the other mixtape-worthy movies of summer 2001 were, and I’m pretty sure it was just Moulin Rouge! and A.I.… which is actually pretty spot-on. But in retrospect, it’s weird that Apes was the only really big blockbuster type thing that got the tape treatment that summer. Which actually makes sense because summer ’01 was a bunch of really uninspired sequels and also Michael Bay’s interpretation of Pearl Harbor.

It ended up being low key as it was me, you, Chris, and Ofy. But the ape tape is important to the story.
Continue reading Ejected from the Planet of the Apes

Going Ape

When I think about friends I’ve had throughout my life, one common thread that runs through all of them is the ability to get excited about something. The “something” is only of secondary importance (though I’m sure if you were passionate about something I find loathsome, a friendship might not work out). But the ability to get into something, feel strongly about it, argue about it, write about it, make lists about it, or just generally be about it is apparently something I find important in people.

While it’s essential that you have the ability to get excited about something, it’s even better if you can muster enthusiasm for next to nothing. Which brings us to Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.

If you recall—and Jesse and Rob get into this in more detail—in the summer of 2001, there wasn’t much to get excited about. Before Burton’s Apes, the big blockbuster-type movies that year were The Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Fast and the Furious (surprise hit!), and Jurassic Park III. Okay, we also had Moulin Rouge and A.I., but it was a summer of slim pickings. I still went to the movies often, but there was not that much to really rev up the anticipation engine.

With enthusiasm to spare and nowhere to direct it, and being a bunch of kids on college break living out in the suburbs, Burton’s Planet of the Apes became The Thing We Get Excited About among my friends. I don’t really remember how or why it was chosen. (I do have a theory about how suburban upbringings and unconditional love for Tim Burton go hand-in-hand, but that’s a different post for a different day.) I just remember that it was decided: We Will Go All Out for Apes. And we did.

I love this photo, and not just because you can’t see me in it. First off, you can see that we got big group to go to the movie in the first place (six in the photo, me taking the photo, and at least one more in the photo below). If this movie came out today, I don’t know if I could scrounge nearly 10 people to go see it unless it had a good Rotten Tomatoes score.

Also, we brought apes! And monkeys, of all sizes. (I’m pretty sure that purple one up front is mine, and his name is John Flansburgh because I bought him at Serendipity 3 after a They Might Be Giants concert.) One of my friends brought an ape so big, I was afraid they were going to make him buy a ticket for it.


We were definitely Team Ape. You can’t see it in the photos I think a few of us even drew “GO APES!” on ourselves, homecoming pep rally-style. It didn’t matter that the movie wound up falling into the bottom tier of Apes movies and the bottom tier of Tim Burton movies.

It’s pretty easy to find a friend that will go with you to a critically acclaimed, Oscar-preordained, box office smash. But if you find people who will go with you to a possibly junky, head-scratching Mark Wahlberg vehicle—and bring stuffed animals, and write on themselves, and generally root for the apes, well, then, that’s a friend for life.

Before the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes reportedly takes place ten years after the conclusion of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We’ll have to see the film to find out just what Caesar and his fellow apes are up to now, but in the meantime we’ve watched some short films and read a licensed novel that provide some information about that missing decade and humankind’s struggle with what’s been dubbed the Simian Flu.
Continue reading Before the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Apocalyptic Poetry of Paul Dehn

By 1969, British writer Paul Dehn had spent time as a film critic, a spy during World War II, and as a screenwriter of films including Goldfinger and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. But it was his work as a poet that would ultimately link him inextricably with one of the most inventive and socially conscious film series of all time.
Continue reading The Apocalyptic Poetry of Paul Dehn

Team Zira

Dr. Zaius gets the coolest songs from The Simpsons.  Caesar gets all of the respect. But, if you ask me who my favorite ape is in the Planet of the Apes series, there’s only one possible answer: Zira.

Zira — actually, that’s Dr. Zira — is a chimpanzee, a scientist,  a pacifist, and half of the husband/wife team of Cornelius and Zira.  Still, even though she’s closely associated with a partner, she’s her own ape, and she’ll let you know about it. Here are reasons to be Team Zira.

She’s Basically Right About Everything


In Planet of the Apes, she figures out everything pretty quickly: That Taylor is intelligent, that he can talk, and that he must prove that apes evolved from not-mute humans. She does this through the awesome power SCIENCE! (And, uh, human lobotomies.) A lot of talk is thrown around in that first movie about what makes someone intelligent, and Zira shows by example, taking in the evidence around her and drawing a conclusion that makes sense, even if it changes her worldview.

She’s Braver Than Cornelius

Or at least more outspoken. In Planet of the Apes, Cornelius is afraid to unearth his discoveries in the Forbidden Zone, fearing they’d be charged with heresy. She pushes him into it. In Escape From the Planet of the Apes, she also urges them reveal the truth about where they come from while Cornelius is being wishy-washy. She doesn’t just understand the truth, she advocates for it.

She Becomes a Feminist Icon


And wears a pantsuit. And gets drunk. Pretty much everything she says and does in Escape From the Planet of the Apes is amazing.

She’s Played by Kim Hunter

Kim Hunter

Aka Stella Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire.  She’s an Oscar winner, y’all.

Where’s the Next Zira?


Like everyone else, I was extremely pleased with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, especially the way the climax of the movie seems to go on forever. If there’s one disappointment, it’s that there wasn’t a Zira equivalent. There were hardly any female apes at all, really — one, Cornelia, was pointed out, but didn’t get to do anything — let alone one as strong and confident as Zira. Cornelia is listed in the IMDb credits for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — played by Judy Greer, no less — so let’s hope she’s cast in the Zira mold.

A ‘Planet of the Apes’ Primer

This weekend’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be the eighth feature film (the second in the new series that began with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes) in a franchise that has spanned books, film, television, and comics over the last fifty years. The Apes series, with its popularity, merchandise, and ancillaries, in many ways prefigured the modern franchise era that is generally acknowledged as beginning with Star Wars (and was codified with 1989’s Batman).

That Planet of the Apes became such a sensation is especially interesting because the series is so deeply weird. Full of powerful inversions to go along with the story’s portrait of a world turned upside down, the series was hugely popular with children despite being full of talky moral debate and featuring relentessly downbeat endings. Just as audiences find themselves oriented in a world where the humans are subjugated and apes rule, the series will turn things around and get them to identify with the apes and root against humankind (and then, perhaps, back again). This is a series that extends a further three entries after an ending that would seem to preclude any further stories.

First things first, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you should just go and watch the original series of five films. They’re imaginative adventure films with memorable characters and rich socio-political content, and they’re so full of twists and turns that even if you know the big reveal at the end of the first film there are still plenty of shocking twists and turns in store. Continue reading A ‘Planet of the Apes’ Primer

Ruth Graham, Not Quite Wrong: Why Liking YA Literature Doesn’t Make It Great

Do you read? Do you also read the internet? If so, you might be aware of an article posted on Slate by Ruth Graham, pegged to Fault in Our Stars mania as a film based on that ultra-popular, mega-beloved John Green young-adult novel was poised to make a killing at the box office (it did, albeit in a more Twilight-y way that some might have expected, given its mostly positive reviews). Graham’s piece discussed the phenomenon of adults reading YA literature, and her argument against it. It was dismissive, maybe even a little haughty, and outfitted with a sensationalist headline (backed up by some actual sensationalist prose) about how adults should be embarrassed to read these kinds of books.

And a part of me agreed with her.

Let me be clear: I do not agree with the idea that anyone should be embarrassed by what they read. Though I don’t use my degree in Library Science (I prefer the Dark Arts of Libraries, but that’s not what the diploma says) often, one thing I did take away from my professors, many of them with experience as school or public librarians, was that reading is reading is reading. It is a net positive, no matter what it is that’s being read. We all have things we read that we could, in different contexts or historical periods, be embarrassed about: comic books, Choose Your Own Adventure, romance novels, Garfield books, Animorphs, Twilight, Slate. There is no reason to be embarrassed by what you read because whatever it is, you have it over on someone who does not read at all.

Strangely, although reading is generally seen as a more worthwhile pursuit than watching things, the stigma attached to watching the “wrong” things seems far smaller, far easier to laugh off. People talk about how they watch those Real Housewives shows all the time. As a movie guy who prides himself on having pretty good taste, I’m not embarrassed to have seen Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and I’m not even embarrassed to have seen and enjoyed a number of Resident Evil movies. I’m sure some people would be, but I wonder if the general academic/education notion that sitting in front of the TV (or, now, screenamajig) was generally bad for you (save the occasional ingestion of PBS) was in vogue for so long that some are still working through the distinction between bad TV and just TV, in terms of potential embarrassment. I understand that the alleged extremely high quality of television gets a lot of press these days, but I’m speaking in terms of culture-at-large perceptions here, not necessarily of the pop-culture-studies AV Club audience.

In any event: on the matter of embarrassment, regardless of how tongue-in-cheek and/or attention-baiting its use was intended, Graham is incorrect. Friend of and hopefully future contributor to SportsAlcohol.com Jen Vega wrote a very smart piece further dismantling much of Graham’s argument in a thoughtful, measured way. Graham is wrong about a lot.

That said, again:

A part of me agreed with her.
Continue reading Ruth Graham, Not Quite Wrong: Why Liking YA Literature Doesn’t Make It Great

OK Go Ahead and Watch This Now

When I go see a concert, I hardly ever buy the album from the opening band. It’s not that I never wind up liking the opening band. It’s just shelling out for merch so quickly is a big commitment. I need to go home, consider, do some research, and make sure that band will still sound good to me in the harsh light of day, after the excitement of the gig has worn off.

Except there was that one time…

I hardly ever buy EPs. Maybe I did at some point, before the Hype Machine and SoundCloud and Spotify made it I could have access to the few EP songs that are worthwhile to me.

Except there was that one time…

Those “one time” were the same time. It was a cold November in 2000, and I was at the Bowery Ballroom to see They Might Be Giants–as you do. There was something different about the opening band. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I do remember being excited that they played “Panic”. They had two EPs, and I bought them both.

And then they became famous for doing crazy videos. That’s cool, too. Probably better than being known for a Smiths cover, in fact.

The latest of their crazy videos is out today. Watch it below.


See, I knew they had something. Is that all one take? I particularly like the part with the boxes.

Slow Your Roll, Nerds: Ten Reasons a New Jurassic Park Might Not Be So Good

Hold on to your butts: Jurassic Park 4 (known as Jurassic World) has entered production and is currently slotted for a Summer 2015 release. This announcement should have left me in a drooly nerd-coma, but honestly, it’s left me fraught with worry. I’m talking Timmy-on-the-electric-fence worried. Here are ten sources of my worry, and why I’m not assuming this Jurassic World movie is going to be the second-slash-fourth coming we’re all hoping for. Continue reading Slow Your Roll, Nerds: Ten Reasons a New Jurassic Park Might Not Be So Good

Disney Animated Witches, Ranked

We’re talking Disney animated feature films only, here. No Pixar, no Marvel, no Magica De Spellno Hocus Pocus. We can argue about what constitutes a witch later. For now, in honor of the live-action Maleficent, here’s an up-to-date ranking of the ladies I’ve determined to be animated Disney witches.

10. The Enchantress
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
She sets the events of the movie in motion, but only appears in the stained-glass prologue. Stained glass will never haunt your nightmares. 

The Enchantress

9. Orddu, Orgoch, and Orwen
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Only my sister and I have fond memories of this movie, which our grandma snuck us into after a showing of Flight of the Navigator. Even then, I only remember Gurgi, and nothing of these witches.

Orddu, Orgoch, and Orwen

Continue reading Disney Animated Witches, Ranked