Saturday, March 12, 2005
I will readily concede that the movie's plot is little more than excuse to allow us to watch beautiful people do goofy things in exotic places around the world for two hours. If you've seen any romantic comedy, ever, you will not be surprised for a moment here. But so what? Sometimes you want a stately cocktail, and some days, you want a delicious milkshake.
And, my goodness, Aishwarya Rai has a milkshake that brings the world to her yard. There is nothing I can say about her that has not been said (or that would get me into trouble with my wife), so I will leave this truth universally acknowledged at hubba, hubba. The rest of the cast is solid, with particular kudos to Nitin Ganatra's willingness to make an ass of himself as a California-based player-in-training. (Also, is Martin Henderson playing the poor man's Breckin Meyer, or the poor man's poor man's Noah Wyle?)
One final moviewatching note: in a crowded theater, we were stuck with a very loud older couple behind us, that talked nonstop for the first fifteen minutes of the movie, and not even the tradition Older People Have To Explain Things To Each Other kind of nonsense. They were talking about shopping and their friends.
Glaring at them didn't do anything. Saying "Excuse me?" or "Could you keep it down?" didn't help. Which, after a few more minutes of their obnoxious distraction, left me saying this, loudly: Could you please give me your address? I'll send you the DVD when it comes out, and then you can talk all you want.
That shut them up. Swear to God.
Friday, March 11, 2005
The Contender is reality tv stripped to its essence: 16 men trying to eliminate each other the simplest way possible: beating each other up. (Which, if you saw Survivor this week, you know how much fun it is.)
All the Burnett trademarks are there -- clear structure (training/challenge/family/fight), high production values, solid challenges, great personalities in the cast, hosts that occasionally need to be overdubbed for clarity -- but what's new here is the level of family drama that's involved. When you see these guys boxing in front of their children, man, it hurts to watch.
(One minor note: so far, Jackie Callen has had as much a role as original Joe Millionaire host Alex McLeod, but that's neither here nor there.)
Stallone is as iconic as Trump, only he's willing to lend his expertise throughout the show and not just swoop in at the beginning and end. And Sugar Ray . . . that's a legend.
Yes, I'm fine with Burnett getting even richer off this. And I'll be thrilled if the show has some impact in cleaning up the sport, bringing back fans, making it a legitmate attraction again. I've spent some time at the legendary Blue Horizon and down the shore for fights with my dad, and at that level, it's a lot of fun. As the PTI guys love to point out, there used to be a time when boxing and horse racing were two of the premiere sports in this country, and I wouldn't mind at all seeing boxing make its way back to the top.
So watch this show. Because someday soon, Ahmed and Ishe are going to wail on each other, and it's going to be awesome.
edited to add: For readers interested in detailed analysis from a boxing fan as to who should win this competion, this TWoP post will be most educational.
But that's not the point of the movie--the point of the movie is the performances. Although they're frequently given mediocre material to work with, the four young actresses playing the daughters (Evan Rachel Wood, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, and Alicia Witt) all acquit themselves quite well, especially Wood and Russell (who, admittedly, have the most to work with as the narrator of the piece and the anorexic(?) ballet dancer). But the heart of the movie is the lead performances. Kevin Costner is at his best, playing a modified version of Crash Davis--if Crash had made it to the majors and then flamed out spectacularly, and now, 10 years later is looking for meaning in his life.
The really good news is that this is a role that may finally win Joan Allen an Oscar. Allen has three nominations under her belt already, having lost to Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, and Mira Sorvino, and should've had a fourth for "Pleasantville." (Judi Dench's 8 minutes in "Shakespeare in Love" are unquestionably great, but Allen in "Pleasantville" was spectacular.) Allen is just spectacular as a woman who slides into a deep depression and anger, and spends the entire movie clawing her way out of it. Her performance alone is worth the money you'll spend seeing the movie, and I hope she's not forgotten a year from now when Oscar season comes around.
(That said, anyone who's seen the movie and can explain the ballet sequence, where a character appears to be in two places at once, can you do so?)
Terry Gross: I would like to think that the personality you've presented on our show today is a persona that you've affected as a member of KISS, something you do on stage, before the microphone, but that you're not nearly as obnoxious in the privacy of your own home or when you're having dinner with friends.
Gene Simmons: Fair enough. And I'd like to think that the boring lady who's talking to me now is a lot sexier and more interesting than the one who's doing NPR. You know, studious and reserved, and -- I bet you're a lot of fun at a party.
Of course, the Anthem, with all its flaws, remains superior to Maryland's state song (enacted in 1939), featuring such lovely moments as "The despot's heel is on thy shore!," "Huzzah! She spurns the Northern scum!," and other pro-South Civil War sentiments.
Disclaimer: I have never seen this show.
The premise is wickedly clever: Randomly kidnap ten delusional skinny girls from the malls, cafes, and Cingular stores of Los Angeles, baldly lie that one of them is going to be a star, and lock them in a room to claw each other to death while being judged by two actresses who apparently have a little free time plus the casting director from Project Greenlight. The reward: two or three years of unsuccessful auditions and a bus ticket back to the small town where the winner was the most attractive girl in her high school. In other words, same as every waitress in LA. Premise aside, this show really runs on the realistic challenges. Last week, and I'm not making this up, the contestants had to do the girl-on-girl kissing scene from Fastlane. Future challenges: reenacting artistic nude scenes from John Byner's Bizarre, "How Much Blow is Too Much Blow?" and "Brian DePalma's Casting Couch."
While on the topic of shamelessly exploitative reality TV, Defamer sadly reports that Paradise Hotel is not returning to Fox. Defamer sums it up better than I could: "the beloved reality show in which 'contestants' were locked away in a luxury resort with nothing to do but drown themselves in margaritas, screw, and tear out their hair at the capriciously-shifting rules concocted by sadistic producers." That gimmick -- changing the rules with no warning at all -- never got old. I don't know why nobody else uses it.
He's a famewhore, just like the rest of them. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But don't pretend he's not going after the same thing as Mario Vasquez, Jessica Sierra and Vonzell Solomon -- yes, as one TWoP reader put it, to stand on stage at the Kodak Theater and sing a song called "I Believe That A Moment Like This Flying Without Wings All This Time Evergreen This Is The Night While Angels Brought Me Here To Listen To Your Heart As You Take Me Tonight While She's So High And Awake In A Dream".
Thursday, March 10, 2005
I mean, I like Angie And Her Magically Blurred Nipple too. So far, good season.
Unlike "Joan," "Wonderfalls" revels in the question of whether Jaye is sane, and rather than giving our heroine a generally happy family, places Jaye as the odd one out in a family of extroverted overchievers. Furthermore, the directions given by the talking animals are usually less than clear about what they want. I've been running through the episodes on DVD (the DVD's on special at Target this week, and for $29.99, you get all 13 episodes, which, honestly, is a pretty darn good deal), and on a second viewing, I think that "Karma Chameleon" is actually one of the best hours of TV of last year. In this one, the title stuffed animal orders Jaye to "Get Her Words Out!," which results in Jaye taking a stutterer under her wing, who winds up going all "Single White Female" on her. In the end, Jaye winds up learning about herself, and making a surprisingly thoughtful statement on the life of the twentysomething in America today. It's top-tier TV.
(All that said, I'm still watching "The O.C." tonight, not just because of the brilliant title "The Mallpisode," but because of that little "Star Wars" trailer, for unlike Adam, I am a "Star Wars" geek of some degree.)
Any of you loyal ALOTT5MA fans in the greater Scottsdale area, you can recognize me as the guy playing a round of golf, watching the Cubs minor leaguers tussle with those of the Athletics for innings 3 to whenever I decide to cut my kids off on the stadium food and they realize they are at a baseball game and are bored, admiring the cacti, trying to decide which of the four books I brought to read before deciding to just tackle the Dan Rather profile in last week's New Yorker, thinking how we really should drive to the Grand Canyon but not making it much north of Sedona, craning my neck at every intersection trying to figure out if this is the right strip mall where my destination lay as I make another trip to buy something I forgot or overlooked or was too lazy to pack (baby shampoo, Legos and the like), trying to avoid chain restaurants and still ending up at the Cheesecake Factory at Kierland (though I do have Friday night reservations at Cowboy Ciao) and spending some quality time with my family.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
As of now, I do think we're looking at the reverse of last year, and we'll have a final six with five men and just one woman -- Nadia Turner -- unless Mikalah Gordon figures out where she left her personality or Bo Bice joins an ashram. Lord knows, I'm looking forward to his take on Neil Sedaka night or, God forbid, the return of Gloria Estefan night.
One prediction I feel comfortable making: some night in mid-April, Anthony Federov will deserve to be eliminated, but Vonzell Solomon will go home instead. Book it.
And now, Shaq Daddy delivers again. Upon being told that his listed measurements classify him as among the most obese players in the NBA according to body-mass index (did Oliver Miller and Shawn Kemp both retire?), the Big Aristotle responded: "I've read that same formula, but as an athlete, I'm classified as phenomenal," O'Neal told The AP. "You can look it up. You think that [I'm fat], stick to science. . . . Top 50, three rings, lot of money, two mansions."
The blessings of an LSU education . . .
Panhandle Health Spokeswoman Susan Cuff said the chance of the students’ health being affected would be “extremely remote.”
“Semen wouldn’t survive the stomach acids and digestion process,” Cuff said. “Anything that’s in it would not survive being out of the body for any period of time.”
Cuff said the only possible concern could be the spread of Hepatitis B, but for students to contract the disease, she said the semen would have had to come into contact with an open and bleeding sore.
Kids, let this be a lesson: do your own baking. (Via ObscureStore.)
In an interview published in the March edition of Australia's GQ magazine, Crowe said FBI agents told him of the threat in 2001, in the months before he won a best actor Oscar for his role as Maximus in "Gladiator."
"That was the first (time) I'd ever heard the phrase 'al-Qaida,'" Crowe said. "It was about — and here's another little touch of irony — taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as sort of a cultural destabilization plot," he added.
Certainly, French culture would collapse without the keystone strength of Gerard Deparideu. But this threat leads the Pathetic Earthling to ask: what icon's absence would most destablize American culture? Brad Pitt? Gene Hackman? Abe Vagoda? Show all work.
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
So I'm not entirely sure what happened on this leg of the Race, only that I assume that [The Team That I Didn't See That Whole Time] took a Fast Forward. But other than that, I need you to clue me in. And, if you're in the Philadelphia area, do you have it on tape? I feel like my week's going to be somewhat incomplete now.
(Also, a minor note on AI -- as of now, I think we'll have a field with five men and one woman after a month, and that one woman's got to be Nadia Turner. But more on that separately.)
Tell us when Shemp's new show will be cancelled by ABC, and what it's being replaced with. Winner gets the same considerable fame and glory that Marsha did for winning the ALOTT5MA Oscar Pool (#5 in the world, she was!)
My call: dead on April 20, 2005, to be replaced for sweeps with some kind of Swapping show.
Some other highlights from the Leach profile...
Before he launched his film-watching effort, Leach was at best a casual moviegoer. Even today he knows almost nothing about film history or film theory. He rarely turns on the TV except to watch a film. He and his housemates don't subscribe to cable.
So, he's watched some 500 movies and still doesn't know anything about the history of film? Umm, I'm not sure if I really want leach filling my next prescription.
After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia almost a decade ago, Leach realized that as a math-and-science type he knew virtually nothing about literature. So he found a list of essential novels and started reading.
He put that project on hold when he discovered the first AFI list issued in 1998.
Think he's read a book since?
"I realized I'd seen maybe 25 of these great movies," Leach recalled. "I didn't know who Grace Kelly or Humphrey Bogart were. I'd never seen a silent movie."
He was presumably born in 1974 or 1975 and didn't know Kelly or Bogart? I weep for the youth. The 25-year-old receptionist at my last job had never heard the song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." Shouldn't there be some kind of pop culture studies requirement in our high schools?
Now as soon as the latest AFI list is issued, Leach scans it for titles he hasn't seen and devotes the next few weeks to filling the gaps.
And when he's done, he sets new goals. He has worked his way through Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. He has created his own must-see lists: the films of Paul Newman or Walt Disney's animated features. And he only recently discovered Westerns.
Among the films on the original AFI list are: Treasure of the Sierra Madre, High Noon, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Stagecoach, Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven, The Wild Bunch, and The Searchers. A better student of film history may have been able to find a common link between those movies...hmmm, horses, guns, cowboys hats, good guys and bad guys, Indians, the West, you know they really should group these movies in some kind of genre.
There are other lists in Leach's life. For several weeks he got up each morning and cooked a different type of omelet from a list of recipes he compiled. Another time he decided to buy and sample every type of fruit juice available in Kansas City groceries.
OK, the fruit juice thing is a little strange.
Asked where this behavior comes from, Leach said he traced it back to his last year at MU and the deaths of two close friends in separate auto accidents.
"At first I was drinking a lot, staying out all night. Then I got sort of philosophical. I decided that life's short. If you like something, drown yourself in it."
Ummm, wasn't he already doing that? Still that's an interesting leap of logic. You hate to think that among his dying friends final thoughts were, "Damn, I wish I had seen Amadeus."
"The more movies I watch, the less critical I become. Now I just sit back and soak it up. I always find something that validates the time spent...How do you compare 'Braveheart' to 'Forrest Gump'? It's like looking at two supermodels. They're both great in their own way."
Wow, it's hard to get much more uncritical than that. Based on that, I'm guessing if this article were written in five years, Leach might be saying, How do you compare Weekend at Bernies 2 and Mannequin 2?"
Leach said he was especially blown away by "Casablanca," the Judy Garland version of "A Star Is Born" and anything with Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn, "these fantastic women I'd never seen before."
I was willing to give him a pass on Kelly, but he'd never seen Hepburn before his movie-watching binge?
Still, he says, he enjoys the feeling of accomplishment more than the actual act of watching the movie..."And watching old movies is a nice way of figuring out how the world came to be the way it is. If you watch an old movie, you can see what the people who made it and watched it were thinking."
What can I really say at this point?
Congrats to Colin, moviewatcher, list-completist, and a hero to all of us here at ALOTT5MA.
Best high concept? Craft Corner Deathmatch! Think "Iron Chef" meets a sewing circle, or "Wickedly Perfect" meets A Good Show.
Monday, March 7, 2005
A) Millennium Park
B) Donald Trump's new skyscraper
C) The pre-Broadway run of Christina Applegate in Sweet Charity
D) the new McDonald's in the River North area which features 60-foot high golden arches among other tasteful design elements
Travolta, however, is just a pretender to the throne of Your King of Sequels. Look at that -- two Star Wars sequels, two Indiana Jones sequels (with a third in the works), a Jack Ryan sequel, and for good measure an uncredited cameo in the American Graffiti sequel, a reprise of a long-running television show, and -- omitted from the IMDB resume -- an appearance as "himself" in Hearts of Darkness, a feature documentary about another movie he did.
Not counting Sylvia Kristel in the Emmanuelle series, does anybody else even come close?
Sunday, March 6, 2005
And he likes it, but he finds flaws:
I can’t think of another film that has won so much acclaim for being “deep,” while given only the most superficial exploration by even its most ardent partisans. For a while in December and January I began to think “Million Dollar Baby” was less a movie than a religion, a sacred object beyond criticism of any kind. I couldn’t find anybody – even professional film critics – who wanted to talk about it. It was as if you either drank the “Million Dollar” Kool-aid or you didn’t, and that was all there was to say about it. . . .
But, to me, “Million Dollar Baby” seems a little too calculated to be convincing; it’s so self-consciously “classical” and fussy in its austere design, that it seems clinical – more of an exercise in filmmaking than a fully reazlized film. At times it made me think of a paint-by-numbers masterpiece, if there can be such a thing.
To find out why, read the article. His analysis covers many of Henry's concerns here (spoiler-link!), and I tend to agree with him, especially on Eastwood's take on Maggie's family. Take a gander.
1. Fuckin' Germans. Nothing changes. (Lebowski)
2. I'll get you yet, my pretty. And your little dog too!
ThoseThese aren't the droids you're looking for.
4. All I have to do is stay black and die. (Lean on Me)
5. I'll meet you at the place where we did that thing that time. (Broadcast News)