Saturday, May 28, 2005

UNSURPRISINGLY, ALLY SHEEDY WASN'T BOOKED: In case you needed an additional reason to watch the MTV movie awards, it will feature a reunion of at least 5 of the 6 members of The Breakfast Club (Emilo Estevez remains unconfirmed) and a performance by Yellowcard of the classic theme song "Don't You Forget About Me." Breakfast Club is (IMHO) unquestionably the best of the Brat Pack movies, and is one of the only movies that I think could benefit from a "20 years later" sort of sequel--don't you wonder what happened to those kids down the road?
A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N: As we draw closer to the start of this year's National Spelling Bee on June 1-2 (and, of course, the liveblogging which will accompany it), there's a deluge of competitor profiles in the local papers.

So meet Nektarios Vasilottos, who hopes his fluency in Greek will catapult him in his third DC trip; Larisa Pachuta, a sixth-grader who really just wants some of that Air & Space Museum freeze-dried ice cream; and Morgan Gilliam, the Bee's youngest entrant at age nine. Says Morgan, "My main goal is just not to miss the first word they give me."
THE ONLY WORLD IN WHICH 'WICKEDLY PERFECT' DID BETTER THAN 'THE OFFICE': Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, the #1 (Idol) to #156 ('Big Man on Campus') ranking of all network primetime series in 2004-05, based on average viewership.

Pam Anderson's 'Stacked' did better than 'Will and Grace'. 'Amazing Race 7' > 'Law & Order: Original Recipe' > 'Law & Order: D'Onofrio's Massive Cranium' > 'Amazing Race 6'. And more.

Friday, May 27, 2005

IT'S LIKE THIS BLOG, EXCEPT WITH MORE PRETTY PICTURES: Well, in spite of (or is it because of) its inecessant hype in the form of creative vandalism, and Gawker's unhealthy obsession with it, I picked up a copy of Radar this evening. And you know what? Wing Chun was dead right. Radar is the bastard child of Spy and Talk, and that alone makes it worth reading, especially when you get articles like the fascinating one about the dark side of Disney World employment, and Dan Radosh's hysterical questioning of how we've been defining "fameworthy" downward. I'm not sure how long it'll last, given that there are plenty of new routes for immediate pop cultural snark, and given that neither Spy nor Talk lasted that long, but it's well worth picking up for your airplane reading this Memorial Day.
MY NAME IS TONY ALVA, AND I'M A 47-YR OLD PROFESSIONAL SKATEBOARDER: If you don't have Dogtown & Z-Boys in your Netflix queue, you should, just to hear Tony speak those words in the promo material for the upcoming Lords Of Dogtown feature film fictionalization of the characters (and they were characters) in that memorable skateboard retrospective. Especially if you experienced the skateboard sub-culture primarily as a derivative merchandizing phenomenon during your own mid-80s adolescence, you will find Z-Boys a heartening tale of young outlaw maniacs lovingly living their manifold manic American Dreams in a land where the thrasher esthetic was just life on a Tuesday afternoon. Yes, before it was ready-made vanilla cream rebellion for the bored-in-the-suburbs set, skateboarding had a soul.
MEANWHILE, I ALMOST ENDED UP ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE TWICE TODAY WHILE TRYING TO FIND THE EXPLORATORIUM: Congratulations to Minnesota's Nathan Cornelius for winning the 2005 National Geographic Bee.

Meanwhile, our S-P-E-L-L-E-R of the Day is Samir Patel of Colleyvile, TX, about to hit the Bee for his third try:
Words tumble out of his mouth so quickly that adults sometimes struggle just to keep up. His hands fly when he talks, and his vocabulary might lead you to believe he is actually a very short college freshman.

"My son does not want for words, does he?" Jyoti jokes.

But he is 11 years old. Video games are big. He devours Harry Potter books, shoots baskets in the driveway, throws the football around and invents elaborate games using sticks he finds in the back yard.

One day, he swears, he will own the Dallas Cowboys.

Last year's error? This little "man in motion" whiffed on KOR-puh-zuhnt, meaning "flamelike electrical discharge from ship's masts, steeples, etc., in thundery weather; St. Elmo's fire."

Also on her way to D.C. is New Zealand's Charlotte Roose, her nation's first representative in this competition.
THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH ATTACKING THIS MOVIE IS LIKE KICKING A DOG FOR NOT BEING BETTER AT CALCULUS: Roger Ebert gets downright philosophical in his three-star review of The Longest Yard:
I often practice a generic approach to film criticism, in which the starting point for a review is the question of what a movie sets out to achieve. "The Longest Yard" more or less achieves what most of the people attending it will expect. Most of its audiences will be satisfied enough when they leave the theater, although few will feel compelled to rent it on video to share with their friends. So, yes, it's a fair example of what it is.

I would however be filled with remorse if I did not urge you to consider the underlying melancholy of this review and seek out a movie you could have an interesting conversation about. I have just come from 12 days at Cannes during which several times each day I was reminded that movies can enrich our lives, instead of just helping us get through them.

As someone much smarter than me once wrote (and I forget who), if Roger Ebert gave 90% of the movies he reviews the 1-1 1/2 stars they probably deserve, people wouldn't listen to him anymore.
CONSPIRING: Adam and I (along our respective and lovely brides) are having dinner together tonight. No live blogging, but I promise a full report on the number of Lemon Drops consumed.
REALLY? MY SIGN IS CANCER, TOO. WE MUST FIND A QUIET PLACE TO GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER BETTER: If you are (a) reading this; (b) feeling a little frisky; and (c) a spider crab, get yourself to Port Phillip Bay and join in the world's most bafflingly gigantic crab orgy.
C-SPAN'S NOW USING THE "CHUNG-CHUNG:" I've never been a fan of Law & Order: Man, Vincent D'Onofrio is Creepy, but I may have to start watching now. As you may have heard, on Wednesday's season finale, Det. Eames (Kathryn Erbe) quipped about a judge killer that "maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay t-shirt." Of course, Rep. DeLay got a little upset, and correspondence ensued, in which DeLay slams L&O for failing to (among other things) live up to the standards set by "responsible journalist Brit Hume." Well worth your time.
FULLFILL ALL YOUR WISHES: As her career spirals like a moth into an ether jar, we begin the taxonomy of the fame of Jennifer Lopez:
LAST WINTER, Kimlan Fong Wong and her boyfriend of several years, Anthony Taveras, stopped talking to each other for three days after she threw a vase at him during an argument. The subject: Jennifer Lopez.

"He kept calling her J. Ho," says Wong, 29, an office manager and college student in Queens. "It was 'J. Ho this' and 'J. Ho that.' He knows I like her. I felt like he wasn't respecting me."
I've never understood the attraction to this woman and I'll happily see her relegated to the ash heap of Hollywood. Of course, the last time I hated someone's career this much, he was elected to the United States Senate.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

SPECTACULAR SAND: Hitting the beach this holiday weekend? Consider yourself lucky if that beach happens to be the North Beach at Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg, Fla., because it just got named the top beach on Dr. Beach's Top 10 U.S. Beaches.
BUT SHE WAS VERSACE'S MUSE! Sad day in Top Model Land -- Janice Dickinson is leaving the show, being replaced by The World's Other First Supermodel, Twiggy.

However, there is a bright side: Nole Marin is off the panel, being replaced, on a permanent basis, by the flawless Miss J. Alexander.
NOT ENOUGH O's in COOOOOOOOOOOL: CNN confirms something we at ALOTT5MA have known for a long time. Spelling bees are cool.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS: Tonight marks the end of the 2004-2005 TV season. After celebrating or lamenting the AI result, and almost certainly wondering "The hell...?" with the Lost and Alias finales, it's time to look back at the season, and I want to start with a question that's been a problem even last year: How do you fill the Best Lead Actress in a Drama category in a year without eligible performances from Sopranos (I was not particularly impressed with the female acting on Six Feet Under last season)? Let's make two assumptions. First, let's assume that ABC and the WB appropriately keep Desperate Housewives and Gilmore Girls in the comedy category, where they belong, taking out four serious contenders (Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Lauren Graham). I expect they will, since the field for nominations is much more open in comedy, where the chief competition is likely Raymond. Second, I assume that the following three nominations are done deals:
  • Jennifer Garner, Alias (The glamour girl who kicks ass, and she can act and direct, too!)
  • Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU (Defending Golden Globe champ, and consistently solid.)
  • Allison Janney, West Wing (Duh.)

OK, so who fills the category? I see the following contenders, all of which have their problems:

Christine Lahti, Jack & Bobby

  • Upside: Lahti’s an Emmy darling, and her performance was critically acclaimed by those critics that watched it, in particular Virginia Heffernan of the Times.
  • Downside: The character was written to be highly unlikable, and no one watched the show, which was canned.

Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy

  • Upside: She’s the clear lead of the most successful reinvention of the medical drama in quite a while.
  • Downside: Love the show, love the writing, but Pompeo’s performance is frequently a little bland.

Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia

  • Upside: She sings, she acts, she’s previously been nominated, and carries a show at a young age…
  • Downside: that had a dramatic critical and commercial downturn this year, resulting in its cancellation.

Mary Steenburgen, Joan of Arcadia

  • Upside: She has an Oscar, and her performance throughout has been good, even giving her a “dealing with past trauma” plotline that would seem to be Emmy bait.
  • Downside: Has all the same problems that Tamblyn has, coupled with her part being subordinate.

Bebe Neuwirth, Law & Order: Trial By Jury

  • Upside: Lilith returns! And this time, she’s let her hair down.
  • Downside: Not in a particularly impressive role, and not having been given much to do.

Marg Helgenberger, CSI, Emily Procter, CSI: Miami, Melena Kanakeredes, CSI: NY

  • Upside: The shows are immensely popular and these actresses are well-liked and well-respected.
  • Downside: No one watches these shows for the acting, none have apparently had a hugely impressive plot this year.

Emily Van Camp, Everwood

  • Upside: Great performances, especially in the final few episodes of the season, and a real break-out year for her and her character.
  • Downside: On the WB, may not be considered a lead, and may suffer from the fact that even more worthy castmates (Tom Amandes) are unlikely to be nominated.

Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars

  • Upside: The show and her performance are unanimously critically acclaimed, and she’s young and pretty, always a plus.
  • Downside: The show’s low-rated, a genre piece, and on UPN.

Evangeline Lily, Lost

  • Upside: The show’s hugely popular, the acting throughout has been very good, and there’s not much competition here. Lily’s pretty, which doesn’t hurt, either.
  • Downside: Lily’s probably the weakest link in the cast, and while she’s the closest thing the show has to a female lead, it’s an ensemble piece.

Who'd I miss, and who ya got?

SHE'S A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY, HE'S A LITTLE BIT ROCK AND ROLL: After four months of cloture, Americans were finally allowed to cast up-and-down votes on their American Idol last night. And, yes, the woman from the red state was allowed to triumph, harumphing from us East Coast liberals be damned -- because, screw it, a Constantine/Nadia final would've been much more fun.

If there's anything left to discuss, let's do it.
AND THERE WAS RIOTING, UM, SOMEWHERE IN TEXAS: In a journalistic oversight almost as deeply offensive as that whole "flushing the Koran" thing in Newsweek, apparently, for a brief period last night, E!Online was reporting that America's favorite "Newlyweds," Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, had filed for divorce. E! subsequently retracted the story. I'm just wondering exactly why E! apparently had a draft report cued up and ready to go announcing a Lachey/Simpson split.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

STILL DOESN'T BEAT JOHN SMOLTZ BURNING HIS CHEST BY IRONING A SHIRT HE WAS WEARING: Your random sports injury of the day comes from crafty Twins southpaw Terry Mulholland, who "scratched his right eyeball on the sharp end of a feather that pointed through his pillow" at the team hotel.

This was, no lie, the Twins' third hotel injury of the season: Last month, shortstops Juan Castro (stiff neck from sleeping) and Jason Bartlett (tore the fingernail off his left pinky while trying to rotate his hotel room TV to watch the NBA playoffs) were both hurt at the team hotel in Detroit.
I BELIEVE THAT AT A MOMENT LIKE THIS, BEFORE YOUR LOVE, I AM FLYING WITHOUT WINGS: This space open for all commentary regarding the AI4 finale.
BEATLES CAUGHT IN A LANDSLIDE: Ground control to British music fans, how, in making a list of the Top Five Songs of the Last Five Decades, could you ignore the Fab Four? In case the references were not obvious enough, among those picked were "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Space Oddity," as well as "You Really Got Me," "West End Girls," and some Robbie Williams song called "Angels."
"I'M A PRETTY LADY:" Since I know at least one person around here cares deeply--Undeclared arrives on DVD in August, so your wait is over.
HE FOUND SOMEONE NEW TO GO LESSIG ON: I can't make light of it, because the story's a tragic one, but this New York article, which tells the story of cyber-law king Lawrence Lessig and his unexpected (but very personal) fight for victims of sexual abuse at the American Boychoir School in New Jersey is worth the substantial time commitement reading it entails.

Also worth reading is this profile of Gossip Girl queen bee Cecily von Ziegesar, which explains some unexpected influences behind the trashy and utterly addictive series (both Sweet Valley High and The Age of Innocence are referenced), and answers the burning question of "exactly what body part of Serena's was pictured in those photos?"
Hair Bear vs. Phil Spector

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE'S DEAD! : Thurl Ravenscroft, for fifty years the voice of Tony the Tiger, is dead at 91.
SO EXPERTLY JUST-SHY-OF-ANNOYING: Virginia Heffernan asks a good question -- did Cameron Diaz steal the career that was supposed to be Jenny McCarthy's? (Do people even remember how she became famous in the first place?)
YES, BUT HOW'S HIS RICK JAMES IMPRESSION? Comedy Central is developing a show around Jeopardy! master Ken Jennings:
"What I want to explore is Ken Jennings as Peter Parker or Clark Kent, Spider-Man or Superman -- the normal man-superhero parallax, the normal, meek guy who, put in a competitive situation, becomes a killer," [producer Mike] Davies told The TV Column. "Think 'Price Is Right' with games of skill and intelligence in a multi-game format. Explore Ken against . . . the rest of the world and in national costumes when we can get it."

He declined to discuss any more details, citing "international format theft."

Monday, May 23, 2005

SOMETIMES YOU'VE GOTTA BREAK THE RULES: It only took a decade, but the American Idol recapper on TWoP has finally caught up with what The Baffler's Thomas Frank was saying a decade ago.

First, Frank, from "Why Johnny Can't Dissent":

"Nobody wants you to think they're serious today, least of all Time Warner. On the contrary: the Culture Trust is now our leader in the Ginsbergian search for kicks upon kicks. Corporate America is not an oppressor but a sponsor of fun, provider of lifestyle accoutrements, facilitator of carnival, our slang-speaking partner in the quest for that ever-more apocalyptic orgasm. The countercultural idea has become capitalist orthodoxy, its hunger for transgression upon transgression now perfectly suited to an economic-cultural regime that runs on ever-faster cyclings of the new; its taste for self-fulfillment and its intolerance for the confines of tradition now permitting vast latitude in consuming practices and lifestyle experimentation.

"Consumerism is no longer about "conformity" but about "difference." Advertising teaches us not in the ways of puritanical self-denial (a bizarre notion on the face of it), but in orgiastic, never-ending self-fulfillment. It counsels not rigid adherence to the tastes of the herd but vigilant and constantly updated individualism. We consume not to fit in, but to prove, on the surface at least, that we are rock `n' roll rebels, each one of us as rule-breaking and hierarchy-defying as our heroes of the 60s, who now pitch cars, shoes, and beer. . . . In television commercials, through which the new American businessman presents his visions and self-understanding to the public, perpetual revolution and the gospel of rule-breaking are the orthodoxy of the day. You only need to watch for a few minutes before you see one of these slogans and understand the grip of antinomianism over the corporate mind:

  • Sometimes You Gotta Break the Rules --Burger King
  • If You Don't Like the Rules, Change Them --WXRT-FM
  • The Rules Have Changed --Dodge
  • The Art of Changing --Swatch
  • There's no one way to do it. --Levi's
  • This is different. Different is good. --Arby's
  • Just Different From the Rest --Special Export beer
  • The Line Has Been Crossed: The Revolutionary New Supra --Toyota
  • Resist the Usual --the slogan of both Clash Clear Malt and Young & Rubicam
  • Innovate Don't Imitate --Hugo Boss
  • Chart Your Own Course --Navigator Cologne
  • It separates you from the crowd --Vision Cologne
"In most, the commercial message is driven home with the vanguard iconography of the rebel: screaming guitars, whirling cameras, and startled old timers who, we predict, will become an increasingly indispensable prop as consumers require ever-greater assurances that, Yes! You are a rebel! Just look at how offended they are!"

And TWoP, on Bo's going a capella:
There's a spooky kid that looks like Peter Pan over Ryan's shoulder as Ryan mentions, for the first of one million times tonight, how "courageous" Bo's next choice is going to be. The reason it's "bold" and "courageous," of course, is that he's going to sing a cappella, without accompaniment. . . .

But damn, though. I mean, come on. It's so fucking overselling it. Like now all of a sudden somebody that didn't like Bo is going to like him and start voting? Based on them telling us over and over what a fucking amazing accomplishment it was for him to go up against these two other people -- who are not as good as he is -- with yet another tweak to his position on the show? We get it. Simply by loving and voting for Bo, we are giving the show a certain kind of finger. We also get to take a stand -- courageous of us, isn't it -- against boy bands, and Britney Spears, and the corruption of the entertainment industry, and any time we've been embarrassed because we've been duped by the media and felt like jerks for it later.

But this is a fucking onion, this is like fucking eXistenZ, because inside the bubble is another bubble. It's like The Matrix. How do you know there's not a Matrix outside the Matrix? If they are selling rebellion, then how can it still be 'rebellion'? This revolution is being televised. You're assimilating the transgression back into the spectacle, which means it's not revolution, just a new kind of strategy, and I hate it, because I want him to be famous and not care about the rest of it, but I really hate the way they've chosen to market him. It's like punk. Marissa Cooper listens to punk, and she bought the albums at Virgin records. On CD. Elvis was punk once too. You know?

All we need now is for Thomas Frank to explain why there's only been one blue-stater in four years of AI finals, and for Bo to sing "Dust In The Wind" Tuesday night so that Simon Cowell can resolve, once and for all, what the matter is with Kansas. (And, by the way, who ya got?)
VOICES THAT CARRY: The folks over at have picked The All-Time Top 100 Voices in the Movies. No. 1 with a bullet is Clint Eastwood, who ironically is known for playing reticent characters. The list is actually fabulous from top to bottom, highlighting both film icons such as Marilyn Monrone, Al Pacino, and Humphrey Bogart right alongside such memorable voices as Scatman Crothers, Fred Gwynne, Don Knotts, and even Charo and Mr. T.
GENERATION (S)WINE: Vince Neil's getting into the wine business.
MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE FI-AHED: To return to a topic discussed last year, the end of the season has come for cultural institution/comedy show "SNL," and there have been no officially announced depatures for next season. That leads us to a simple question--who's staying, and who's going? More importantly, who should be staying, and who should be going? Season premiere isn't till October, giving Lorne Michaels et al time to plan.

Fred Armisen: Should stay. Will stay. "The Prince Show" and his bits on "Update" (the deaf comedian, at "The Gates") have been pretty much consistently funny, which is far more than can be said for pretty much anyone else on the show.

Rachel Dratch: Should go. Will go. I'd like to begin by thanking Dratch and the writers for not beating "Debbie Downer" into the ground, realizing that just because a sketch is funny, even hysterically funny, once, does not mean that it will be so for all eternity. However, Dratch has run out of stuff--her truly great characters haven't appeared in a while (largely because they played off of people already gone), and her bits have diminished.

Tina Fey: Should go. Will go. The grind of "SNL" is no place for a new mother. Tina, stay at home, work on your next screenplay (the second ever movie that I know of based on a "This American Life" story), and enjoy a quiet life for a while.

Will Forte: Should go. Will go. Completely and utterly bland, aside from "The Falconer," which, honestly, huh?, and Zell Miller, a character that was kind of funny once, but now, just bores.

Darrell Hammond: Should go. Will go. He was needed this year because "Hardball" provided a convenient way of getting into political jokes during an election year. He needs to go off and do something else. His role model should be the late, great, Phil Hartman, who escaped his impressions by creating a wonderfully memorable character on "Newsradio."

Seth Meyers: Should stay. Will stay. At first, I thought Meyers was useless, but he delivered pretty darn well earlier this season as John Kerry and may well provide SNL something it's sorely needed--the ordinary looking straight man, a role previously filled by Hartman and (to a degree) Will Ferrell.

Finesse Mitchell: Should go. Will stay. Hi, Finesse? Tracy Morgan called. He said you're going to have to wait to be a second banana in quality films like "Are We There Yet" a little while longer. Sure, you're not funny, but you fulfill the "obligatory minority" quota.

Chris Parnell: Should go. Will go. He's already got a sitcom lined up, and, well, the only question I have is if he's coming back after that show's almost assured failure.

Amy Poehler: Should go. Will go. With Tina leaving, it's just a matter of time. She'll have a movie career, and will (hopefully) continue to make appearances on her husband's sitcom. Hell, maybe her joining that show would provide it a much needed and deserved ratings boost.

Rob Riggle: Um. Who's Rob Riggle?

Maya Rudolph: Should go. Will go. Donatella Versace was tired two years ago. Now, it's beating a comic dead horse.

Horatio Sanz: Should go. Will go. I repeat the same stuff from last year: "If you cannot keep a straight face during an unfunny sketch, you must go. Also, he wears out his welcome quickly--see, e.g., Gene Shalit. 'I'm fat and Hispanic and stoned!' is not a joke, Horatio."

Kenan Thompson: Should stay. Will stay. Marginally more funny and diverse in his talents than Finesse Mitchell, and the Cosby impression is decent. I'll give him another shot, especially since he works well in conjunction with Armisen.

I think "Update" will have to be handed off, and there's no one in the current cast who I can see doing it effectively. Two thoughts:

1. Bring in an "old guy" to do "Update." A former cast member (Chevy Chase, for instance) could work.
2. Bring in an unknown--hell, I'd be glad to do it, Lorne.
THE BEST ONES AREN'T AS GOOD AS YOU THINK THEY ARE AND THE BAD ONES AREN'T AS BAD. NOT NEARLY AS BAD: Time magazine critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel present their own unranked list of the 100 greatest movies of all time, and since the list includes Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. and Dgiza Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, it's legitimate.

Feel free to compare it with the American Film Institute's ranked list, or, of course, your internal sense of injustice over the fact that Finding Nemo was their lone modern animation choice -- not Toy Story, not Shrek, not Lion King?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

YES, WE TAKE REQUESTS: Reader RPH wanted to know -- so, what concert do you most regret not attending?

For me, it's probably that Superchunk/Jawbox/Velocity Girl show down at UConn that various friends went to down in 1991; it gave them a headstart on their music crushes. I wish I had worked it out to see Prince last summer; those shows were supposed to be awesome.

And I wish I had headed downtown with my friend Craig back when we were in high school when he and some friends of ours saw They Might Be Giants, and it had to be before Flood came out ("a brand new record for 1990"), I think, when it was just the two Johns and a drum machine. Like, they all got their t-shirts signed afterwards and everything. It was cool, and I was jealous.