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Friday, January 4, 2008

Swag

click to enlarge panda.jpg

I get my share of movie swag.

There's the Kung Fu Panda punching bag that has the lingering chemical funk of a dry cleaner’s. We had to move it to our recycling nook over the holidays, and every time I opened the door to recycle I was startled anew by its hulking form. There’s the goth black candle for Stardust. I never saw the movie, and most appropriately, I have not lit the candle. There’s the cheapo Kite Runner kite emblazoned with the move title that I could never fly out of shame I would somehow be engaging in a subtle promotion of the movie passing as random daily recreation. The Ray Liotta honey sent out to promote Bee Movie remains in my cupboard as a novelty item. But I can’t bring myself to ingest the stuff, which suggests a substance excreted by Liotta himself. I thought he was great in Goodfellas. But I don’t want to eat his nectar, if you know what I mean. But no swag has of yet measured up to my hamburger phone, care of the Juno publicity machine. Juno (Ellen Page) calls the Women Now clinic to procure a "hasty abortion" on the hamburger phone in the film.

I got a giddy thrill over Christmas out of announcing to anyone in my family within earshot, “I’m going to get the hamburger phone,” and then experiencing a cheap meta-sensation by announcing to whomever’s on the other end: “I’m on the hamburger phone!” as Juno does in the film. I forced members of my family to pose for photos with the hamburger phone. It is the worst phone ever in terms of communication: It emits a piercing squawk when you dare to open its sesame-seed top to reveal the old-timey push-button numbers on a bed of faux cheese.

My mother kept telling me it was actually a “cheeseburger” phone, and I would tell her, “That’s not what they call it in the movie. They call it a HAMBURGER phone.” Every time I referred to the “hamburger phone,” she would say, “cheeseburger phone,” which began to sound like the endless, volleyed, idiotic arguments of my teenage years. Using it feels close to talking into one of those tin cans tethered to string that passed for old-fashioned fun in the 1970s. But it is the odd bit of swag that is both functional and gives one a goofy frisson of connection to the film itself. It also looks hilarious sitting in my living room. For these reasons, I guess, those people dreaming up movie swag have succeeded in their nefarious business.

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