If you've watched TV in southern California for more than five minutes since the 1950s, you've probably seen one of Cal Worthington's ads. The Oklahoma-born car salesman, who died on Sunday, September 8, at 92, was a staple of the southern California airwaves.
His motor-mouthed pitches, combined with a total earworm of a jingle ("Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!") and the recurring gag of a wide variety of wild animals -- from a tiger to Shamu the killer whale -- that he introduced as "my dog Spot," became so ingrained in the local culture that he became something of a meme. Worthington's commercials appeared in movies ranging from Jack Lemmon's midlife crisis drama Save the Tiger to the John Landis caper Into the Night, and crop up in Thomas Pynchon's early '70s detective-novel pastiche Inherent Vice, now being filmed by Paul Thomas Anderson. With his signature white cowboy hat and genial good-ol'-boy demeanor, he even appeared several times on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in the 1970s and '80s. How many local TV commercial pitchmen could say that?
For one of his most famous ads, Cal — a WWII pilot who kept flying after the war — strapped himself standing upright onto the wing of a vintage biplane which then flew upside down: that insane stunt was so popular that footage from that 1960s ad was still being used in commercials two decades later.
Though Worthington stopped doing the "My Dog Spot" ads in the 1980s, his more recent ads still used nostalgic clips from them. Remember, camels are always a guaranteed laugh.
So are sea lions. (You can tell it's a sea lion and not a seal because it has ears.) Also: holy crap, 1980s cars were ugly.
And finally, if you really want to get that insidious jingle wedged into your head, check out this full-length version set to various clips from vintage Cal commercials. By the way, many folks claim that they've always heard the "Go see Cal!" hook as "pussycow." I think they just like saying "pussycow." Can't really blame 'em for that. Pussycow! [Ed. note: it even inspired a raucous and popular L.A. band!]
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As we gear up for the latest Pixar installation, Monsters University, we recall our own experiences on the college campus. Game-changing parties, vengeful deans, life-affirming frat hijinks. And since none of those things actually happened in real life, we soon come to the realization that we're actually thinking about Animal House. yes, the John Landis comedy that set the precedent for all college films thereafter... Monsters University included. Even though it's a children's movie, the Monsters, Inc. sequel takes a few pages from the Delta House book, churning out a very similar story indeed.
But Monsters University isn't the only Pixar flick to remind us of another classic live-action feature. With movies ranging from sweeping science-fiction (WALL-E) to road trip movies (Finding Nemo) to stories of artistic self-discovery (Ratatouille), Pixar touches upon enough genres to boast similarities to some of the greatest films in cinema history. Check out our gallery to see which movies lent particular inspiration to the animated tour de force that is Pixar.
Pixar Movies and Their Non-Pixar Equivalents
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I Am Number Four a sci-fi action drama from D.J. Caruso (Disturbia Eagle Eye) about a teenage alien’s earthly travails has the look and feel of a CW series – i.e. lots of attractive young people some of whom possess supernatural abilities and superhuman amounts of angst and alienation. This is not a coincidence: Two of its screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar happen to be the creators and executive producers of Smallville a series chronicling Superman’s youthful pre-Metropolis years that’s now in its tenth and final season on the CW. (The script is adapted from a novel by Pittacus Lore.)
Unlike Smallville’s solitary Kryptonian I Am Number Four’s hero is not alone. Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) is one of nine gifted residents (each branded with a number for reasons not sufficiently explained in the film) from the planet Lorien who fled to Earth after their civilization was annihilated by the Mogadorians a race of mumbly trenchcoat-clad goons with tattooed scalps hell-bent on ridding the universe of its water polo players. (Indeed Pettyfer’s hair in the film perpetually bears that fresh-out-of-the-water look common also to surfers and lifeguards.) Together with his anointed guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) he travels from small town to small town adopting assumed names and trying to keep a low profile so as to avoid detection by the Mogadorians who have followed the Loriens to earth to finish the job.
I Am Number Four skillfully mines much of the same emotional territory of the Twilight saga and its variants albeit from a slightly geekier less melodramatic more male-oriented angle. (Michael Bay produced the film.) Four’s itinerant lifestyle and otherworldly heritage make the adolescent struggle to fit in all the more difficult; he’s anti-social broods a lot and acts out toward Henri telekinetically. (Kudos to Caruso for the unorthodox but effective choice of Olyphant a guy who always looks to me as if he’s about to stab someone as the father-figure). This is likely because Four is in the middle of that awkward alien superhero stage: special powers like hands that glow brightly and emit beams of energy spontaneously reveal themselves at inopportune times causing him to flee from physics class mortified. Pettyfer's really got the tormented bit down; if he can master a few more expressions he's really gonna go places.
Despite these difficult public moments and despite Henri’s repeated warnings to avoid earthly relationships Four manages to strike up an inter-species romance with fellow attractive outcast Sarah (Glee's Dianna Agron) Bella Swan’s blonde equivalent a former cheerleader who has since disavowed her popular-girl past. This in turn invites the fury of Sarah’s former boyfriend and current stalker a bullying jock named Mark (Jake Abel).
Soon however Four’s rites of adolescence must take a backseat to the more pressing matter of defending his species – and his adopted planet – from the Mogadorians who’ve tracked him to his Paradise Ohio location via that advanced alien technology known as YouTube. An apocalyptic battle set at Four’s high school ensues during which he is joined by a fellow Lorien Number Six (Teresa Palmer) a hot-blooded Aussie biker chick whose powers include the ability to communicate exclusively in double entendres. Four is also aided by Sarah a UFO-obsessed sidekick (Callan McAuliffe) and a shape-shifting puppy.
I Am Number Four’s climax largely abandons its appealing Smallville ethos for something more suitable of a film bearing the name of Michael Bay but made with a fraction of the effects budget. The orgy of destruction involving CGI beasts and laser guns and explosions and tons of acrobatic stuntwork comes off a tad cheap if not a little tacky. Hopefully the filmmakers will get a bit more cash to make the sequel which I Am Number Four's ending rather blatantly labors to set up.