Jeff Smith 7 a.m., March 30
Bully for Me
Review duty for the much hyped-documentary Bully, opening this Friday at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas and AMC La Jolla, fell on Elliott's watch. Good luck, Dave. Rumor has it producer Harvey Weinstein -- already jockeying for a 2013 Best Documentary Oscar -- is insisting that critics award the film at least three stars lest their heads be placed in a toilet and given a swirly.
The film's promotional campaign perplexes me to no end. At the screening, pin-back buttons flashing the following key-art were handed out to the crowd:
Doesn't the presence of a universal circle-backslash symbol automatically suggest an embargo? (God knows Harvey is no stranger when it comes to issuing review embargoes.) One look at this button screams "See Wrath of the Titans! See Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance! See anything but Bully!"
It can also be said that the Weinstein Company employed bully tactics in order to persuade the MPAA to reduce the film's rating from R to the kid (and box office) favorable PG-13. Now comes news that Bully will breed its own brand of torment.
In a patently uncontroversial move, teen sensation Justin Bieber continues to denounce schoolyard persecution by allowing his song Born To Be Somebody to be used in Bully's newest TV spot. Good boy, JB, singing out against bullying and all. Let's all breathe a sigh of relief. For a second, I thought Bieber was a schoolhouse ruffian similar to a third grade antagonizer who made two days of my life a living hell.
His name was Johnny Pizarro -- bullies always have the coolest monikers -- a short Eye-talian scrapper from Chicago's North Side. The kid was always itching for a fight and eager to take on the entire third grade class at Swift Elementary School, one punch at a time.
An altercation with Johnny Pizarro helped to prepare students for the endless wait they'd eventually encounter at the DMV. No long lines for Johnny Pizarro who saw his victims by appointment only. In both cases your numbers would eventually come up.
"Meet me in the schoolyard after class tomorrow" was my invitation to a knuckle-sandwich.
I learned early on that if you can make your enemies laugh, chances are you'd forever avoid a sock in the puss. Johnny had no sense of humor and was intent on holding a meet and beat the following day after the final bell rang.
Legend had it that the ring with his initial on it that adorned Johnny Pizarro's right hand left a permanent mark on whatever part of his victim's body it violently came in contact with. The thought of going through life with a giant 'P' permanently embedded in my forehead was too much to bear: I called on dad to intervene.
The next day I sat in class, watching and waiting until the hands on the clock slowly got to 3:15. Dad was standing outside puffing on a Lucky Strike. As soon as he saw Johnny come near me, dad was on the kid like a cheap suit.
"What's the idea of threatening Scotty?" he said bending down in the boy's face. "But dad," I said trying to intervene. There was no stopping Larry Marks once he was on a roll.
The lecture lasted for about 30 seconds before I was able to finally inform dad that the pandemic Johnny Pizarro was a no-show and the kid he was scolding was my friend Johnny Mendel.
Suddenly the old man sounded like Mel Blanc trying to jump-start Jack Benny's Maxwell. 'Well...err...uhh," he sputtered, "I guess that's different." Ambassador Marks then proceeded to pat the lad on the back, but not before extending an invitation to dine on the cuff at his epicurean oasis, Larry's Grill, the finest beanery in all Rogers Park.
On the walk home -- and in his best Moe Howard -- dad turned and had the audacity to ask, "Why didn't you tell me he was the wrong kid?" He was right. I should have written it in braille and shoved it down his throat.
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