Saturday, June 11, 2005

THREE HUNDRED AND TWELVE? To understand Mr. and Mrs. Smith, whose screenplay was after all someone's film school Master's thesis, you need to understand the cinematic genre which Stanley Cavell dubbed 'the comedy of remarriage':
The title 'remarriage' registers the grouping of a set of comedies which differ from classical comedy in various respects, but most notably in this: In classical comedy the narrative shows a young pair overcoming obstacles to their love and at the end achieving marriage, whereas comedies of remarriage begin or climax with a pair less young, getting or threatening their divorce, so that the drive of the narrative is to get them back together, together again. The central idea is that the validity or bond of marriage is no longer assured or legitimizing by church or state or sexual compatibility or children but by something I call the willingness for remarriage, a way of continuing to affirm the happiness of one's initial leap, as if the chance of happiness exists only when it seconds itself. In classical comedy people made for one another find one another; in remarriage comedy people who have found one another find that they are made for each other.

(Cavell lists some contemporary examples here; one I'd certainly add as an exemplar is Peggy Sue Got Married.)

Anyway, so that's where we are, and, in so many ways, Mr. and Mrs. Smith could have been as good as Face/Off when it comes to Summer Action Movies With Great Overarching Metaphors -- spouses who are literally trying to kill each other; the physical destruction of the home mimicking the emotional destruction of the marriage, etc. Many of the dual meaning lines are quite witty, and Pitt and Jolie have good chemistry. Their Movie Star-ness carries them a long way, and some of the action sequences are kewl.

But. But while it's laid out perfectly on a structurally level, it just doesn't work emotionally. You understand that they're going to get back together somehow, but you don't really care about either of them. The movie wants to be The War of the Roses with a happier ending, but the resonance just isn't there. Compare it to Face/Off, in which you really are worried about Joan Allen and the marriage, as well as caring for the Gina Gershon character and the kid -- none of the depth is felt here.

Also big flaw: the movie's bad guys are never seen. We're left with the Smiths fighting an anonymous hitman/ninja army, and we never get to The Big Battle With El Jefe or find out how, exactly . . . [well, I can't spoil the whole thing.] You don't get the satisfaction that the genre would seem to require.

More: can we declare an official moratorium on Vince Vaughn still playing the role of Vince Vaughn? One comeback performance was enough, and he no longer adds anything to a movie. Nor is Adam Brody (the O.C.'s Seth Cohen) ready to take on a role of any significance in a movie, though some might be amused by the scene in which he's wearing a Fight Club t-shirt in front of Pitt. (I wasn't.)

Nor do we need to see another movie in which lots of stuff gets blow'd up and many people die but in which not a single police officer appears. (A final goof: for a movie set in the NYC area, you'd think they could have gotten rid of the "Los Angeles City Limits" sign in the middle of the three BMW chase scene.)

It's not as bad as Jeffrey Wells said it was. It's not a dumb movie; it's just not smart enough to work through its central conceit properly. You will occasionally laugh, and occasionally smile (any movie using an Air Supply song can't suck too badly), but you will leave disappointed.

There is one bonus, however: you'll probably see a really neat trailer first.
CHARLIE MANUEL MAY SUFFER FROM REGULAR BRAIN CRAMPS, BUT HE SEEMS TO KNOW HOW TO MANAGE PEOPLE: The Philadelphians among us should enjoy a new site added to our blogroll, Shallow Center, a website dedicated "to baseball, pop culture, and other important matters".
TOM BRADFORD HAS EIGHT FREAKIN' KIDS AND HE CAN'T EVEN GET AN HONORABLE MENTION? Now usually I think TiVo users are a sharp lot, but I'm at a loss trying to figure out this list of TV's 25 Greatest Dads that was culled from responses by 1,000 TiVo owners (related news story complete with worthless quotes from men and women on the street here). I'll grant you that the names on the top of the list like Cliff Huxtable, Andy Taylor, and Mike Brady were all pretty positive role models in a fatherly way, but things get disturbing starting with No. 11, Mr. Drummond (I don't like to confuse fact and fiction, but you can't ignore the way Willis and Kimberly turned out, can you?). Other dads of questionable repute on the list include Red Forman, Frank Costanza, Al Bundy, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Tony Soprano, and Ozzy Osbourne (but not Ozzie Nelson).

Might I offer a list of my own suggestions of TV dads deserving more consideration?
  • Uncle Bill--taking in those three kids like he did and keeping his "relationship" with Mr. French behind closed doors as not to scar them.
  • Mr. Eddie's Father--come on he called his kid "his best friend."
  • Steven Keaton--dealt with Alex's conservatism, Malorie's idiocy, and his youngest daughter's ugliness with class and aplomb.
  • Laverne's Dad--owned a bowling alley.
  • Captain Stubbing--looked the other way when Isaac would slip a little something extra in Vicki's virgin coladas.
  • Fred Sanford--he deserved better than Lamont, someone nice like Boom Boom Washington, JJ, or Rerun.
  • Gomez Adams--creepy and ooky, all together spooky, how cool is that?
  • Herman Munster--do I need to even explain?
  • Rob Petrie--never yelled at Richie for leaving the Ottoman where he could trip over it.
  • Tom Bradford--eight freakin' kids?
  • Ben Cartwright--named his kid Hoss.
  • Hank Hill--a better animated pick than the father from The Family Guy.
  • Pops Racer--he built the Mach V and despite the heartache of never knowing that Racer X was his son, he soldiered on, treating Chim-Chim like his own kin and becoming a model for simian stewardship later inspiring BJ McKay to treat his best friend Bear as an equal.
  • Jed Clampett--rich and less creepy than Mr. Drummond.
  • Geroge Jefferson--worked hard so Lionel could live in a deee-luxe apartment in the sky.
Any other TV dads you think deserve more recognition?

Friday, June 10, 2005

I FEEL LIKE KEVIN ARNOLD: For those of you who weren't already in love (or lust) with Danica McKellar as Winnie Cooper or as Elsie Snuffin, or found her math proof (warning, incomprehensible PDF) oddly titilating, now, she poses for Stuff Magazine in her underwear. (You probably have an idea whether or not that's safe for work.)
NO, HE DOESN'T SAY "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" Cinderella Man is by no means a bad movie. Like most of Ron Howard's movies, it's completely competently made, with a minimum of flair. In fact, Howard's attempts to “flair up” the movie by quick intercuts of flashback material during the fight sequences are the weakest part of the movie. That said, it's also a movie where several of the performances wind up being better than the movie.

Both Crowe and Giamatti, as they pretty much invariably do, deliver fine performances, mixing rage, indignation, and anger that help to temper the film's general sentimentality. Zellweger fares less well, though that's largely a function of her generally underwritten part. The movie's also a little long. In fact, the entire subplot involving Braddock's friend who becomes a fiery labor organizer feels out of place, either needing to be cut out entirely or developed more so as to draw a more effective contrast with Braddock's own story. Right now, it just kind of hangs out there.

So is it an Oscar frontrunner? For the moment, yeah, at least for Crowe, Giamatti (who I think has a very good chance at winning this year), and Thomas Newman's score.I doubt it'll hold up, as it's a weaker boxing movie than Million Dollar Baby was and a weaker inspirational movie about a Depression-era underdog than Seabiscuit.
THE LAWYERS ARE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT: Now, I'm a touch confused as to why this weekend's release of Robert "Story? What story? It looks cool!" Rodriguez's The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D would bear any interest for people above the age of, say, 12 (though I'll admit that I think Spy Kids is a wonderful little film which balances the "cool" factor with having a storyline). That said, sometime professional wrestler Dean Roll has sued various entities and individuals involved with the film, claiming that the film infringes on his federally registered SHARK BOY mark for his professional wrestling personality.
THE FURNACE, SHE ISN'T BURNING: This is turning out to be a very fruitful discussion, teasing out minority opinions about movie and music. To wit, what recording artist do you simply not get? I have only fallen asleep at paid entertainment twice. Once, when I saw Bob Dylan in concert (Oakland, July 24, 1986), the other time watching Alien 4. Maybe I don't like Dylan because I'm always told -- as some tribute to my Baby Boom cultural masters -- that I must. I don't, but that may be simple reactionarism.

What I really don't get -- and for this I might lose posting privileges -- is Bruce Springsteen. I don't know that I have a great explanation for this. I know he's significant and important and great. But, gwah! I haven't listened to a Springsteen song straight through in 20 years. I just find it so damned tedious.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE CATEGORIES WAS NOT THE POLICE RECORDS OF EACH CITY'S PRO BASKETBALL PLAYERS: Portland, Oregon, is the nation's cleanest city according to a new list in Reader's Digest of the country's 50 Cleanest (and Dirtiest) Cities. The 50 largest U.S. cities and their surrounding metro regions were ranked based on air quality, water quality, industrial pollution (toxics), Superfund sites, and sanitation. Last place? None other than Chicago.
LIZ PHAIR'S SON TO PLAY THE DOUBLE DOOR IN 2014: Chicagoist is reporting that the venerable Chicago music club located in the heart of Wicker Park will not be closing after all, which no doubt will sadden all those people living in $1 million-plus townhouses nearby who were salivating over the thought of not having to hike all the way to Lincoln Park or the Mag Mile to find those stylish and smart fashions. In fact, it looks like the Door will be around well into President Obama's second term.
WAS THAT A SECRET MESSAGE? Okay, one last Bee note: here's the video of speller Dominic Errazo randomly quoting Napoleon Dynamite before spelling 'chinook'.

We gave him something of a hard time last week, but this makes up for it.
525,600: Broadway fans -- of whom we have many here -- will be interested to see the trailer for Chris Columbus's film adaption of RENT, now online.
MAYBE IT'S JUST ME, BUT FAKING GOLF SWINGS WHILE SPEAKING ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE THIRD-PERSON AS IF YOUR JAW WERE WIRED SHUT IS NOT FUNNY THE 100TH TIME: We've talked about the music and movies that you're embarrassed to like, but Marsha poses a good question: what about the movies that everybody loves but you're embarrassed to say you didn't like?

A true story: I got a huge laugh once by saying that I thought "Schindler's List" was emotionally flat. My deep dark secret: to this day I am not sure if I was joking. Others on my list: the Two Movies That All Males Aged 15-27 Must Quote Incessantly (see title for one of them).
MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA: Just when you thought VH1 had run out of lists to air in one hour segments over five nights with classic clips interspersed with quips from commentators, the network is back next week with a promising list The 100 Greatest Kid Stars. With six Bradys (no Oliver, please), three Partridges (the two youngest don't count), three Drummonds, the four Facts of Life gals, three Eddies (Haskell, Courtship of, and Munster), and countless precious kids from the movies (ET, Poltergiest, Willy Wonka, Kramer vs. Kramer, Bad News Bears, Goonies, Stand By Me, etc.), there's a huge pool to draw from. So any predictions for the top 10?
I CAN'T BELIEVE I GAVE MY DEPENDS TO A GEEK! Despite our rigorous fact checking here at ALOTT5MA world headquarters, we fell for the Prettier in Pink prank back in early April, but that's not going to keep me from getting excited about rumored prospect of a Sixteen Candles sequel.

This columnist, though, thinks Thirty-Six Candles is a bad idea, and she has a list of ten reasons why it and other teen classics should never be sequelized.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

HEY, IT'S THAT DORKY, BUT LOVABLE GUY! He's not a character actor in the vein of true H!ITG's like Bob Balaban and Phillip Baker Hall, but I think this generation has its first H!ITG! in Justin Long. Long specializes in the "dorky but lovable guy who is pining after the hot girl, and..." character. Witness his filmography:
  • "Galaxy Quest"--OK, there's no love interest in this one (except for, arguably, Long's character's lust for Sigourney Weaver), but this begins the "lovable dork" character.
  • "Ed"--Long's Warren Cheswick is a dorky but lovable guy who pines first after teacher Carol Vesey and then class fox Jessica Martel, but ultimately realizes that he's in love with his best female friend, Diane Snyder.
  • "Crossroads"--Long plays Henry, Britney Spears' dorky but lovable lab partner who's deeply in love with her, but who is let down easy when she realizes she's not in love with him.
  • "Dodgeball"--Long plays Justin, a guy whose goal in life is to become a cheerleader so he can win the love the head cheerleader. Ultimately, after being hit in the head with a red rubber ball repeatedly, Long's character gets the girl.
  • "Herbie: Fully Loaded"--Long apparently plays the dorky "boy next door" in love with Lindsay Lohan. Mind you, you couldn't pay me to see this, but I'm going to bet that this will ultimately lead to dork getting girl.

Long's great in the roles, often being better than the movie--but is a guy with almost no apparent range--it's dorky hangdog or nothing for him.

MOVE OVER APPLE: I usually dismiss the unique and cutesy names celebrities give their babies as some cheap gimmick meant to remind the world and their own offspring that they are different from the unwashed masses of Toms, Dicks, and Harrys. Still, you have to admire magician and stage performer Penn Jillette's, err, moxie, in naming his first born Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette. Says the proud papa: "We chose her middle name because when she's pulled over for speeding she can say, 'But officer, we're on the same side. My middle name is CrimeFighter.' "
A POCKET FULL OF MUMBLES: Perhaps the only thing more predictable than Ron Howard's new boxing movie Cinderella Man is the appearance of lists timed to coincide with the films release of the top boxing movies.
BREAKING: ALI G PRANKS U.S. IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS: By now you've no doubt read the stories about chain saw-wielding murderer Gregory Despres being allowed to enter the United States at the border crossing in Calais, Maine, despite having on his person a homemade sword, hatchet, brass knuckles, and the aforementioned, blood-stained chain saw.

Is it possible this crazy story is just the latest caper from Bruno, one of the alter egos of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, a.k.a. Ali G?

ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU: A very angry public defender in SanFran has posted a few tips for criminal defendants on Craigslist that those planning to commit a criminal offense would do well to heed. (Note that this blog does not endorse criminal conduct.)
THERE IS SOME JOY IN MUDVILLE: On the radio, I heard that - as AL teams are visiting NL parks, for the next six days no designated hitter will come to the plate in major league baseball.
NOW THEY ACTUALLY CAN AFFORD TO ROCK & ROLL ALL NIGHT: AC/DC's "Back In Black" has joined an elite group of albums--the top 5 sellers of all time (actually, tying with Billy Joel's "Greatest Hits Vol. I and II" with 21 million copies sold for fifth place). Bigger sellers? "Led Zeppelin IV" with 22 million, "The Wall" with 23 million, "Thriller" with 27 million, and "Eagles/Their Greatest Hits" with 28 million. Interestingly, I only own one of those albums.
I NEVER SAVED ANYTHING FOR THE SWIM BACK. Following on our previous discussion of albums that you, alone, seem to appreciate, I offer a similar discussion about movies. What movie do you find brilliant but to which your friends are indifferent? Here it's more about the yawning gap between you and your people, less about a unique acceptance of a film. So unless you find Shawnshank Redemption to be an unparalleled achievement, on par with the Immaculate Conception or Thomas Keller's salmon tartare coronets, where your friends find it merely great, move along.

For me, it's 1997's Gattaca, probably the finest science fiction movie ever made. I mean that, first, in the fact that it's science fiction, not an action movie with lasers. There are rules to how that universe operates -- genetic material drives that society like petrochemicals drive our own -- and those rules operate as both background to and backbone of the story. Without the science, there is no story. But it's a tale, as all good movies are, that's been told before, of the underdog, the outcast, doing more than even the annointed.

But more than that, the movie is beautifully shot, sparesly told, and compelling. Vincent is given nothing, not even his father's own name, but exceeds by human will -- and, in the end, a very human mercy -- alone.

I don't know why people don't rave about this film. It was one of the first DVDs I bought and one of the few movies I feel I need to watch at least once a year. Sure, if you know me, you know that I-Want-To-Go-To-Space thing is enough to draw me in to begin with. But the cast is great (Ethan Hawke, Jude Law) but with terrific small performances by Gore Vidal (playing someone other than Gore Vidal), Ernest Borgnine, Tony Shaloub, and Alan Arkin, the movie just sings.

Also, Uma Thurman naked.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

WE TALKIN' ABOUT CANDLES? Allen Iverson, subject of one of the very first posts on this weblog (and occasional subject thereafter, turned thirty today.

(This also means that yesterday marked four years since the Iverson Stepping Over Tyronn Lue game, one of the greatest in Sixers history.)

Happy birthday, A.I. I don't know that I'll ever see a player with more heart in this town, one whose constant effort and passion for the game was so evident. I know that non-Philadelphians often see him as a thug. You just weren't here for the 2001 Playoffs -- seriously, that earned a lifetime pass from me.
YOU HOUND ME FOR MY OPINION AND THEN CONDEMN MY DIAGNOSIS. COOL: Of course, Grey's Anatomy is still The Official Medical Drama of ALOTT5MA, but I have to say that I am really enjoying the opportunity to watch House, M.D. now that it's no longer competing with The Race in the time slot.

Paul Attanasio, the creator, gave us Det. Frank Pembleton on Homicide: Life on the Street, so it should be no surprise that Hugh Laurie's Dr. Gregory House is similarly an absolutely compelling mix of Arrogant Bastard and Brilliant At His Job. Each episode's central mystery has been well set up, and it's a great mix of dark humor, tension and smartitude.

Is it finally time for me to figure out how to TiVo one show while watching the other? And is there a show you're happy to check out this summer that you missed during the year? (Yes, I'm going to start watching Lost; haven't had a chance to sit down with the pilot yet.)
QUIZ TIME: In honor of my first air conditioner-induced head cold of the summer, it's time for another list quiz. The rules are simple, match the numbered item with the correct description.
  1. Seattle
  2. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  3. The Communist Manifesto
  4. Kingda Ka
  5. Provo, Utah
  6. Lupa
MAKING A GO, MAKING IT GROW: I guess he didn't need the Stratton Toys fortune after all if Rick Schroder has a $29M ranch to sell.
THE ROOM NUMBER, BENJAMIN. I THINK YOU OUGHT TO TELL ME THAT: Sad day in Hollywood: Anne Bancroft has passed away from cancer.

I love the fact that she pulled off playing Mrs. Robinson at the age of 36, only six years older than Hoffman at the time, and it's just a brilliant performance, cynical, sexy and complicated. (And, as Ebert noted, "The only character in the movie who is alive--who can see through situations, understand motives, and dare to seek her own happiness--is Mrs. Robinson".) I admired her work as a farceur in her husband's remake of To Be Or Not To Be, and her-practically-a-cameo in Honeymoon in Vegas when she makes Nicolas Cage promise never to get married.

Bancroft had five Best Actress nominations to her credit, with one win (The Miracle Worker). She was 73.
YOU'RE FROM MEMPHIS AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHO WROTE GONE WITH THE WIND? Adam may not have had a chance to watch "The Scholar" yet, but I did. First, the good--the concept remains great, and the casting, as you'd expect from a Jon Murray production, is nicely demographically diverse in terms of race, gender, geography, and personality type. But the show has some serious, serious, problems:
  • The casting: Yes, they did great on the whole "diversity" thing, but I'd rather they have something other than traditional "top student" types. Throw in a few underachiever folks and folks who aren't the very tip top of their class but who have specific talents. 10 brownnoser-types just aren't all that interesting. One of the things I loved about the Academic Decathlon program was that you had to find not just "A" students, but also students with lower GPAs. Those underacheivers were where teams won and lost.
  • The challenges: It can be fun to work a cryptogram or do a logic puzzle. It's not particularly fun to watch someone else work a cryptogram or do a logic puzzle. Challenges need to be designed to make good TV, including having a "play-along" value, as much as to assess the candidates' intellectual acumen. Want to see how to do this? Old episodes of "The Mole" were almost always brain games, but made much better TV than "figure out how these lights are connected." ("The Mole" also featured Anderson Cooper, who's one of the most underappreciated reality show hosts ever.)
  • Show structure: Without eliminations until five weeks in, when the axe falls for five competitors, there's not really a lot of tension or investment in the players, especially in the first few weeks. Everyone's going to get four more chances to be a finalist, and where's the tension in that? In addition, the teams have no real incentive to win their challenges, since only the team leader directly benefits from a team win. For instance, let's say Davis (who appears to be generally loathed among the players) is again a Captain--what's in it for the team members not to sabotage him so he doesn't get a second chance? It's easy enough to fix--create a reward for every member of the winning team (say, $10,000 in scholarship money) so there's an incentive to win as a team rather than just turn in a great individual performance.
  • No catchphrase: As I've observed before, the truly great reality shows generally have their episode ending catchphrase--"The tribe has spoken!," "You're fired!," "Either you are in or you are out," etc. We got nothing here.
  • Hosting/Paneling: The three "admissions officers" that make up the Scholarship Committee are bland, bland, and bland. This renders the "Committee deliberation" segment bland. Have them pick favorites and advocate for them rather than just sit around a table and say "yes, yes, no, yes." And the host is this guy, who's just not flying. Personality matters in a host--you have to make the balance between being a strong enough personality to guide while not overpowering the contestants and panelists. Nelson errs far too much on the "fade into the background" side.

It's by no means a complete failure. The idea's good and the kids are personable. It just could have been so much more. Next week is going to be interesting, since it looks like they're doing a "non-academic" challenge. My structure would have been for those sorts of challenges to be reward challenges, and have academic challenges determine immunity.

THE JUSTICES OF CHOCOLATE CITY HAVE RENDERED THEIR VERDICT: And they responded favorable to George Clinton's petition entitled Make the P.Funk My Funk -- I Want My Funk Uncut.

Monday, June 6, 2005

THINGS I WOULD BLOG ABOUT MORE EXTENSIVELY IF I HAD THE TIME RIGHT NOW: This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but, well, it's been a busy day. Many of these items will eventually be expanded upon:
  1. I had the good fortune of being invited onto the blogger conference call earlier today with Sir Bob Geldof and director Richard Curtis to discuss their efforts to eradicate poverty in Africa through a combination of debt relief, doubling of foreign aid and fair trade. Me. On the phone with a Boomtown Rat. On a Monday. Which he doesn't like. Both men were incredibly impressive with their knowledge of and commitment to these issues, which they handled with a level of complexity and honesty that blew me away. To be quite honest, I'm not quite sure how much I want to talk about this stuff on the blog -- we've been very good about staying apolitical here, and I don't want to upset the mood too much -- but this is serious, important stuff, and you should visit the One Campaign or DATA sites to educate yourself. And then do something. (They're not asking for money.)
  2. No, I haven't made my way through The Scholar yet, but I do like one thing structurally: a show in which you want to get to the boardroom at the end is a nice idea.
  3. Hell's Kitchen was solid tonight. Not spectacular, but solid. The narrative made sense, start to finish, and there was actually technique being taught, which was good.
  4. Are they going to rename CNN's American Morning as The O'Brien Factor?
  5. This Slate article on Worst Songs Ever Used In Ads gets it right.
  6. Remember that list of weird baseball injuries? Add Clint Barmes, who just broke his collarbone while carrying groceries upstairs.
  7. Say what you will about this study on Ashkenazi Jews and genetic intelligence, but it sure doesn't explain half the membership of The Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (recently opened). And the dreidel will rock, indeed.

We are thankful for all our new visitors lately, from USA Today, Instapundit, TVTattle and various conservative locales. Stick around for the nonsense still to come. (new slogan: ALOTT5MA: More Than Just S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G.)

SATISFACTION OOZES FROM MY PORES: A topic for discussion. What album or albums do you regularly listen to that none of your friends do? That is, I don't care how much you and your pals think its cool that you know about Liz Phair or the The Smiths or whatever gets you an Indy Cred Service Ribbon with an E-for-ennui. If you can enjoy it at a party without explaination, don't bother. Tell me about that album that you can't make your friends care about, despite years in the attempt or that you listen to like a Prole, fearful of discovery.

For me, David & David, Boomtown and Guadalcanal Diary, Jamboree both spring quickly to mind.
YOU'RE LIKE THE ONLY GUY AT SCHOOL WHO HAS A MUSTACHE (SPOILER WARNING): The MTV Movie Awards were handed out Saturday night (the show will be broadcast on Thursday) and for some reason I'm happier this morning knowing I live in a world where Napoleon Dynamite is someone's best picture.

Rlated: Get your Vote for Pedro T-Shirts here.

Sunday, June 5, 2005

EXILED IN GUYVILLE: Even though I now live 764 miles away, I will be really disappointed if Chicago's Double Door club is shut down to make room for a Banana Republic.

First the Lounge Ax, now this? Where will Number One Cup play now?
WHERE WILL THEY FIND A 7 FOOT 350 POUNDER WHO CAN SING? Two-time Tony winner tonight, Adam Guettel, is beginning to whisper about his next musical. He refuses to give the title "for legal reasons," suggesting it's an adaptation, but says it's a "fairy tale" with "a lot of swordfighting." Now, I can't be the only one who immediately thoughout of this, which would be a guaranteed blockbuster.
MAYBE NEXT TIME, A WALLACE BEERY WRESTLING MOVIE? Anyone have a theory on why the exceptionally well-reviewed Cinderella Man, with Academy Award winners as co-stars, director and writer, finished fourth in the box office race this weekend?

I mean, Russell Crowe is probably my favorite movie star these days, in terms of his combination of on-screen talent and off-screen-interestingness-in-interviews. (Okay, I didn't like A Beautiful Mind, but I certainly admired his performance. Until the end, with the Nobel scene, where Jennifer Connelly just looks so ridiculous in the Now I'm Old makeup.)

So why did so many more people go see one of the two Chris Rock movies now playing?
CO-HOSTED BY BILLY CRYSTAL'S EGO: A few thoughts on tonight's Tony Awards:

1. The award for Outstanding Performance by a Garment in a Supporting Role goes to Bernadette Peters' brassiere.
2. I know the scenic design awards are presented in the pre-show, but could you maybe show us a quick shot of the design work? And I'm shocked that the brilliant design work in Act II of Glengarry was not recognized.
3. Anne Hathaway, you need to talk to a hairstylist. Bangs may work on Ian Somerhalder or Benjamin McKenzie, but not you. Also, green flower? Not a good idea.
4. I know it's hard to do snippets of the nominated plays that work on TV out of context (especially when one of those plays is a Mamet play in which every third word is not TV-safe), but is it too much to ask for something from the play?
5. Wow, this is David Mamet's first Tony award? Yep. Glengarry got beaten by Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing in 1984, and Speed-The-Plow got beaten by M. Butterfly in 1988. American Buffalo didn't even get nominated.
6. I don't know what was more shocking about the necrology--the general lack of applause or the lack of inclusion in the main necrology of Jerry Orbach? And could the post-necrology number have been any worse photographed?
7. The shocks of the night? Bill Irwin beating Brian F. O'Byrne and James Earl Jones in Lead Actor in a Play and the complete shut out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the tech categories.
8. I was not overly impressed by any of the musical performance numbers. While the Spelling Bee number was hysterical, it was not particularly strong on the singing. And Spamalot's supposed to be hysterical, but the number turned into a generally uninteresting AI sendup. "Great Big Stuff," from Scoundrels, was so heavily bleeped and edited as to be incomprehensible. This is in sharp contrast to last year, in which Avenue Q's "It Sucks to Be Me" had the audience in stiches, and Wicked's "Defying Gravity" tore the roof off the sucker.
9. Dan Fogler's acceptance speech for Featured Actor in a Musical is a solid contender for the coveted "acceptance speech of the year award."
10. It's a pleasure to watch an awards show that spreads out the love rather than letting one show sweep everything. While Doubt dominated the play side of the awards, the musical awards were spread out over a wide variety of shows.
11. What's unusual about the Tonys is that the obligatory "you're great!"s to the other nominees never feel forced, as we saw with John Patrick Shanley's and Cherry Jones' acceptances for Doubt, both of whom gave due dap to their chief competitors.
12. Aretha Franklin does not look well.
13. Man, David Yazbek has a really big head. Maybe even bigger than a fivehead, it could be a sixhead.
14. Show most likely to be announcing a quick closing? Sweet Charity, which got shut out, despite being in what may be the least competitive category in years--revival against La Cage and the long-closed Pacific Overtures.
15. Worst taste in jackets for the night goes to Python Eric Idle, who didn't get an acceptance speech at all.

All in all, an entertaining show, but certainly a step down from last year, which was oodles of fun and comedy.
THE NAME IS LYRICS BORN, BABY AND I TRULY MEAN IT: I've proselytized previously in these pages about Bay Area hip-hop phenom Lyrics Born, aka Tom Shimura. Perhaps you believed the hype and bought the record 18 months ago, but perhaps not. If not, providence now presents the opportunity to amend the error of your ways, so please try again!

I just picked up the most recent Lyrics Born disk, "Same !@#$ Different Day", and it could hardly be making me happier. It's brilliant, beautiful and not the same shit at all despite containing fistfulls of completely worthy remixes of the material on LB's 2003 effort, "Later That Day". If you just wanted a little taste, to make sure before jumping in for the price of a CD, you can get it here. (Up to the minute info, here.) Or for that matter, just download the original version of "Stop Complaining" from your favorite electronic media vendor. A dollar well spent, I promise.

But fortunately, you don't have to take the word of a recreationally caustic pseudonymous blogger for the quality of these recordings, since New York Magazine Film Critic and NPR Media Assassin Ken Tucker is all over 'em too.
STRAIGHT TO THE RUSSIAN FRONT: Leon Askin, who played General Burkhalter on Hogan's Heroes, died on Friday in Vienna, aged 97.