'Obsessively Specific': The A.V. Club's Book Of Lists Inventory, the new book of pop-culture lists from the publishers of The Onion, celebrates and skewers topics like pretentious musical instruments and songs about the horrors of bus travel. A.V. Club Managing Editor Josh Modell talks about some favorite lists with Scott Simon.
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'Obsessively Specific': The A.V. Club's Book Of Lists

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'Obsessively Specific': The A.V. Club's Book Of Lists

'Obsessively Specific': The A.V. Club's Book Of Lists

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Lists abound this time of year: 10 best, 10 worst, the most overlooked or overblown 10. Just in time, the people who bring you The Onion, which is one of the 10 most overpublicized and underappreciated influences in American culture of the past 10 years, has brought out a new book, �Inventory: 16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls, 10 Great Songs Nearly Ruined By a Saxophone, and 100 More Obsessively Specific Pop-Culture Lists.� Josh Modell, managing editor for the Onion's AV Club, joins us from our studios in New York. Mr. Modell, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JOSH MODELL (The Onion): Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: And before I forget, name a couple of songs ruined by the sax.

Mr. MODELL: The most controversial one is David Bowie's "Young Americans." And I have to take full credit and/or blame for putting that on the list. Everyone else was very much against it.

(Soundbite of song, "Young Americans")

Mr. DAVID BOWIE (Singer): (Singing) But she was a young American.

SIMON: Let me ask you about some of the other lists that you have been kind enough to compile for us here.

Mr. MODELL: Great.

SIMON: "Sixteen Career-Jeopardizing Labors of Love." Because a lot of these turned out to be worth the risk, didn't they?

Mr. MODELL: Yeah, absolutely. There's a little bit of each, I think, on this list. There's something like "Apocalypse Now," which drove Francis Ford Coppola crazy on the one hand, and made, you know, one of the greatest pieces of art of the '70s. And then there's more obscure stuff on that list, like the movie "Southland Tales," that just came out last year, which is the weirdest movie. And people rightly hated. It stars Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Sean Williams Scott - not exactly the greatest actors in the world - in this sort of sprawling, three-hour, sort of sci-fi epic.

(Soundbite of movie, "Southland Tales")

Mr. DWAYNE JOHNSON (Actor): (as Boxer Santaros) This is an epic Los Angeles crime saga.

Mr. SEAN WILLIAM SCOTT (Actor): (as Roland Taverner) And you're researching your role, you play a cop? You want to do a ride-along?

Mr. JOHNSON: (as Boxer Santaros) Yes, exactly. But I'm also directing the film. It takes place in the near future.

Mr. SCOTT: (as Roland Taverner) Right.

Mr. JOHNSON: (as Boxer Santaros) The basic concept is this: I play an LAPD cop who isn't who he seems. He's a paranoid schizophrenic who has a supernatural gift.

SIMON: Another list: "Six Keanu Reeves Movies Somehow Not Ruined by Keanu Reeves."

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, there goes any chance we'll ever have of booking him. But name a couple of those movies that you think were good despite Keanu Reeves's contribution.

Mr. MODELL: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," which is perfect for Keanu Reeves because it's essentially, Keanu Reeves playing Keanu Reeves - just kind of this dumb, nice guy. He's really great at being kind of this empty guy, which is why he's great in "The Matrix" as well. But when he tries to get any deeper, with the exception of another movie on the list, "My Own Private Idaho," he's just - there's a lot of Keanu Reeves on the screen.

SIMON: OK. Another list: "22 Ridiculous Horror Movie Adversaries." And I'm afraid, you know, I thumbed through this list of 22, and I don't believe I've seen any of them, but I'm dying to now.

Mr. MODELL: Some of them are so, so worth seeing. Some of them you should watch one minute of, like "Death Bed: The Bed That Eats," in which essentially, people go and lay on this bed and often there's some hanky-panky on the bed, and then the bed just sort of sucks them in and turns them into a skeleton with some yellow goo. And just incredibly bad acting. It's just one of those movies that you watch and you feel sorry for the people that made it but at the same time, you're watching some of the greatest unintentional comedy ever.

SIMON: Page 187: You have "The McRib Has No Bones: 13 Particularly Horrible Fast Food Innovations."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MODELL: We have a few writers who are very interested in fast food and unashamedly eat fast food. And when new ones come out, we're really compelled to try them. And I don't think anyone eats a lot of them on a regular basis. But when Oreo pizza comes out at Domino's...

SIMON: Number four on your list, yeah.

Mr. MODELL: The thing about the Oreo pizza...

SIMON: What is - what is an Oreo - I mean, is it like an Oreo crust and the white goodness creamy filling spread all over or something?

Mr. MODELL: It's almost scientifically interesting in a way because they took all of these ingredients that separately, would taste delicious and put them together. And it's just kind of gross.

SIMON: Now, Krispy Kreme, according to this list, came out with a drinkable doughnut?

Mr. MODELL: They did. It was shortly after they kind of overbuilt Krispy Kremes all over the country.

SIMON: Yes, right.

Mr. MODELL: They thought they were going to be the next huge thing, and then people stopped buying doughnuts because - partly, I think - because of the Atkins Diet. So they started coming out with drinks that were supposed to taste like doughnuts. And they did taste like doughnuts a little bit, but I think they then discovered that people didn't want to have doughnut drinks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MODELL: Just, you know, they maybe wanted some coffee. They didn't want a blended-up, frozen doughnut.

SIMON: I do want to ask you before we close, you were kind enough to include a list of "50 Things You Considered Before You Decided Not to Waste the Time to Compile a List About Them."

Mr. MODELL: There are 50 items on that list and about four of them were actually considered, and the rest of them were just kind of jokes, such as "21 Classic Country Songs that Objectify Men" - of course, we couldn't probably couldn't find that many - and "14 Rock Bands that Had No Business Playing Reggae," and that sort of thing.

SIMON: Yeah. Josh Modell, managing editor for The Onion's entertainment section called the A.V. Club and AVClub.com. The book is called "Inventory," with a subtitle that's much too long to repeat. Mr. Modell, thanks so much.

Mr. MODELL: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

SIMON: And you know, somehow Josh Modell and the staff at the A.V. Club have a few more lists in them. We got a list they wrote just for NPR: "Songs About Hating the Radio." It's on our Web site, NPR.org.

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