In Ask The A.V. Club, you ask, we answer. For instance…
They Don't, They Don't, They Don't
What are the chances of ABBA getting back together?
Kyle Ryan responds:
Well, pretty slim. In 2000, the band's four members—Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad—reportedly turned down an astounding $1 billion to perform 100 reunion concerts. (That's $10 million per concert, $2.5 million per person per concert.) Not that the Swedes need the money; ABBA has sold roughly a bazillion records, and the musical based on its music, Mama Mia!, is on track to become the highest-grossing stage musical of all time—more than 27 million people have seen it in seven years.
Obviously, there's a demand for the group's music, even 23 years after it broke up. ABBA's members have appeared together off and on since its breakup for special occasions, but not for a full-on concert. They sang the Swedish birthday song "Med En Enkel Tulipen" for the 50th birthday of their friend Görel Hanser in 1999, but that's hardly rocking "Dancing Queen" to a stadium full of people.
Late last year, Lyngstad released a DVD career retrospective in which she confessed that she wanted to do a reunion, but that Andersson and Ulvaeus were too busy. (Ulvaeus has worked on several musicals, and Andersson has a solo career.) Faltskog is also a bit of a recluse. In 2004, all four members of ABBA were supposed to appear together in London to mark Mama Mia!'s fifth anniversary, but Faltskog canceled at the last minute.
To be honest, it's probably for the best. ABBA's members are all in their 50s or 60s now, so their voices aren't exactly the same. ABBA fans hungry for a concert are probably better off seeing Björn Again, the ABBA tribute group.
The Games We Play
I hazily recall watching a movie on HBO back in the late '80s/early '90s that I have been repeatedly unable to identify. This kid runs away from home and goes driving around the Southwest. He gets caught up in this gas-station promotion where they are giving out game pieces with letters on them, and you win if you collect all the necessary letters to spell out… well, I can't recall. At some point in the film, the kid ends up with an eyepatch (which he wears for the rest of the film) because he's siphoning gas out of this guy's car at a motel, and the guy punches him in the face with some sort of gaudy ring on and damages his eye. In the end, the kid gets the final game piece from a weird, mysterious gas station, but when he tries to claim his prize at the company offices, they refuse, stating that the contest was rigged and impossible to win, since the piece he owns was never actually made.
It was an odd, terrible movie, but for some reason it keeps haunting my memory.
Nathan Rabin says:
It sounds like the movie you're referring to is 1991's Motorama, a very peculiar cult artifact written by Joseph Minion, whose career got off to an unbeatable start with his brilliant, Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Martin Scorsese's pitch-perfect black comedy After Hours.
Minion went on to write another darkly comic '80s cult curiosity, 1989's Vampire's Kiss, perhaps best known as the film that star Nicholas Cage, in a fit of Method madness, ate three, count 'em, three cockroaches for. Minion then wrote Motorama, a film that suggests Home Alone reimagined as a bleakly philosophical road movie with strong existential and vaguely Marxist connotations.
As you recall, its pint-sized hero (Jordan Christopher Michael, who may possess the whitest name in all of show business) sets out on a Sisyphusian quest to win a contest he learns too late was designed to be unwinnable, a twist that can be discerned as an oblique commentary on capitalism. It certainly is an odd movie, and perhaps it's more funny-strange than funny-ha-ha, but it's also a strangely resonant little sleeper, if only for the pervasive bleakness of its worldview. It's littered with offbeat celebrity cameos from folks like Flea, Michael Pollard, Meatloaf, Drew Barrymore, and Dick Miller.
If nothing else, Motorama helped establish Minion as a screenwriter with a strong, unique, uncompromising voice. It's too bad he's subsequently all but disappeared from the pop-culture landscape. Since Motorama, his name has popped up only in a few obscure, forgotten low-budget obscurities. Hopefully a comeback is in the works.
If you lined up all the comedians from left to right in ascending order of goodness, who would Dane Cook be standing next to?
Dane Cook expert Amelie Gillette:
He would be on the extreme left between Dat Phan and the guy who held the bucket on Tourgasm.
Next week: We answer more of your questions, and address everyone's favorite topic: smut in cinema! Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.