Saturday, June 18, 2005

OTHER PROBLEM--LACK OF "NA NA NA NA, BATMAN!" THEME SONG: So much of Batman Begins is so good (the heroes, the villains, the film's smart and not-overly-heavyhanded political message) that the one misstep sticks out like a sore thumb. The problem? Katie Holmes. Holmes' character is supposed to be the last good, hardass, ADA in Gotham City, and slightly older than Bruce Wayne (who's 30). Given that Holmes' acting range is pretty much limited to "nose-wrinkling cute" and that she's not yet 27 (and looks younger still), she just doesn't work. I'm not sure if Natalie Portman would have been any better, though Sarah Michelle Gellar might've worked out nicely. (According to IMDB, they were finalists for the role.) Holmes comes off as convincingly as an ADA as Elisabeth Rohm did, which ain't sayin' much, but at least she doesn't ask if it's because she's a lesbian.
ALL THE COOL KIDS IN THE SENATE LUNCHROOM TOTALLY WANT TO SIT AT HIS TABLE NOW: In a makeover not the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Plastics took Lindsay Lohan under their tutelage, that skinny kid with the funny name now tops the list of the most popular U.S. Senators (which is, yes, a little like being the tallest midget given the current makeup of the Senate). Barack Obama has a 72 percent approval rating, just topping a group of four other senators (North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy and Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe), who come in at 71 percent.

Interestingly of the 12 senators in the top 10 (three tied for 10th place), nine are Democrats, while of the 12 senators in the bottom 10 (three tied for 89th place), nine are Republicans, including No. 100, John "Stinky" Cornyn.

edited to add: permalink fixed. --ab
I WONDER IF EMILIO ESTEVEZ WILL BE THE BEST MAN AGAIN: Nicole, Mimi, Penelope, and Chris--it's aList of the Past Loves of Cruise and Holmes. And given Tom's predilection for his co-stars, I'm betting he's announcing his divorce to Katie and subsequent engagement to Keri Russell around November.

Friday, June 17, 2005

SWEET AND SOUR: The central problem with the current Broadway revival of Sweet Charity can be summed up with one word-"-pop." This is precisely the sort of show that's supposed to pop off the stage, grab the audience by the lapels, and make the audience love it. There are moments when that “pop” happens, most notably in Denis O'Hare's performance as dweeby accountant Oscar and in the “I Love To Cry at Weddings” number. But Charity herself never pops, and that's where the show ultimately fails.

You've probably read or heard about Christina Applegate's travails to play the role of Charity. First, Marisa Tomei and Jane Krakowski had the part before her. Only asfter they dropped out did Applegate get a chance. Then, during the show's tryout run in Boston, Applegate fractured her foot, and it didn't look like she could open the show. The show was cancelled, but due to Applegate's efforts, got put back on the calendar. It was the perfect setup for a fairy tale ending if Applegate triumphed. Unfortunately, she doesn't. Her comic timing and physical comedy are (unsurprisingly) top-notch, and her dancing is technically very good, though not particularly interesting. The problem's with the singing. Charity has to be able to stand on stage alone and command the theatre with her voice and presence for the show to work, and Applegate just can't do that. She's not helped by her costume, a red dress that's obviously intended to pop, but due to lighting and staging, never does.

The show itself has several problems of its own--it doesn't really get going until the leading man appears in the last scene of Act I, the resolute ambiguity of the (apparently new) ending doesn't give the audience any sense of completion, and the Act II opener, “The Rhythm of Life,” has not aged well.

All that said, I still enjoyed myself. It's a show where people are clearly passionate about what they're doing, and I found it far better than the listless La Cage revival that beat it for Best Revival at the Tonys. I just wonder if there could have been a better show with someone else in the lead (I think Krakowski would have been great, and to suggest a Broadway couple--Amy Spanger as Charity and Michael C. Hall as Oscar).

Also, a couple of reality TV related notes. First, I saw a TAR on GSN cabtop on 8th Avenue, indicating that the airing will begin in a few short weeks. Second, on the A train downtown, there was a guy wearing his "Project Runway: Backstage Access" pass--perhaps filming has already begun.
TRUE, IT DID ALSO YIELD TIM MEADOWS: Some potentially good cultural news -- Lorne Michaels is looking for fresh talent in Chicago to restock SNL.

It was pretty much exactly a decade ago that I saw Rachel Dratch doing the Denise character at Second City. (If I saw Tina Fey during my three years -- and I went to SC shows fairly often, esp. the free late-night improv sessions -- she didn't make an impression.)

Given the Second City alumni track record, we can only hope for better things from 30 Rock this year -- so long as most of the current cast leaves, mind you.
$275,000 WOULD BARELY PAY FOR A WEEK'S WORTH OF BIZ-DEVELOPMENT RAILS A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PLASTIC SURGEON BLOWS OFF THE FAKE BOOBS HE INSTALLED: I have serious problems with's list of the salaries of top TV dads. First, the top five are the heads of family-founded and principally family-owned businesses -- Carrington, Ewing, Drummond, Gioberti, Jefferson -- who would probably take low base salaries and make their money on stock grants or sales of previously-owned stock. Second, a guy who makes $527,000 annually doesn't live in a cheaply-built demo model house and drive a stair car.
THEY WERE THE BEST OF TEENS; THEY WERE THE WORST OF TEENS: Everybody who knows me knows I love teen culture (to be more accurate, I love the culture that fully-grown adults attempt to peddle to teens as if it were teen culture). TNBC, Cruel Intentions, Real World/Road Rules Challenge, slutty-era Xtina -- these are my specialties. My favorite slice of this genre is teen-oriented TV fiction, which shares a rigid set of rules with kabuki theater and full drag: stylized costumes and garish colors, characters that are little more than reified tics and impulses; exaggeration of emotion and certain human weaknesses; ritualistic pantomime and performance. The acting us usually pretty comically wooden too. I eat this stuff up.

Over the last couple of weeks, freed from obligations to supposedly better TV, I tuned in to two teen shows that I hadn't seen before. Superficially, these two shows -- Smallville and DeGrassi: the Next Generation -- bear a lot of resemblance to each other (and to another of my favorite teen dramas, Just Deal). They are shot cheaply in Canada with a lot of local actors and extras, and they follow -- frequently with a 10,000 Maniacs-like focus on the social ill of the week -- a bunch of teens around their high school.

Don't be fooled. These shows are the exact opposite of each other. DeGrassi shows teens as they are: pimply; frequently stupid; awkward; fucking up in ways glorious and mundane. Characters you're supposed to like do reprehensible things. You have to admire the balls of a show that builds a special Christmas episode around breakups of two long-term relationships after dual infidelities. That's the holiday spirit, Canada! I have two chief complaints. First, there are about 100 regular characters. Are there that many people in Canada? Second, the kids are not attractive enough for TV. I don't mean they're midwestern-state-fair ugly; just Canadian unattractive. (Have I ever mentioned that I have infallible Canadar?) That kind of look has its place (Canada), but I live in California, people! We have standards. It's a serious breach of the teen-kabuki rules.

In total contrast, as far as I can tell the principal plot arc in Smallville is that impossibly, unbelievably, mind-alteringly hot teens (or teen-ishes) bounce around until their clothes fall off. I cannot for the life of me explain what happened in the episodes that I saw -- something about magical Gatorade and forgiveness and turning people scaly with a kiss -- but I can say that Kristin Kreuk, ostensibly Canadian but looking like if she stepped on the set of DeGrassi it would instantly cease to exist out of deference to her magnificence, has huge green sad-clown eyes and rosy cheeks and should never under any circumstances try to act. Erica Durance's breasts flounce around solving mysteries, foiling malfeasors but being foiled -- barely -- by the valiantly straining threads of her tops. And lest you think the eye candy is only the fairer variety, Clark Kent has apparently joined a football team comprised of ambisexual A&F Quarterly models whose uniforms consist entirely of sweat and towels and who conduct all team business in an overheated locker room. In short, there is not a single actor from DeGrassi anywhere near hot enough even to play Ugly Bystander on this show.

So why is DeGrassi more watchable?
HEAVEN, I NEED A HIT: With his criminal trial perhaps only a month away, R. Kelly's "Trapped In The Closet" get the DeRo treatment:
"Trapped in the Closet" is Kelly's boldest step yet in a career that includes such risque landmarks as "Bump N' Grind" and "I Like the Crotch on You." In a masterful marketing move, the elaborate story-song was released to radio and on Kelly's Web site in installments, building suspense as listeners wondered what would happen next in the 16-minute soap opera, which he has described as "a ghetto 'Desperate Housewives.' " . . .

The other "TP.3 Reloaded" tracks issued in advance -- the first single, "Sex in the Kitchen," and the third single, "Playa's Only," which was released on Tuesday -- also explore sexual topics. Some of the titles of other album tracks promise more of the same, including "Sex Weed," "(Sex) Love Is What We Makin'" and "Girls Go Crazy."

I like the . . . come again?

As always, Chappelle got it first.
DAWSON, BREAK IT UP! Oh, no: they're "engaged". There have been proposals on 'The Bachelor' that were more likely to result in lasting marriages than this.
LIKE ROBINSON CRUSOE, IT'S PRIMITIVE AS CAN BE: If you've been following Lost this season, you're probably aware that theories abound as to what the heck the deal is with this far-from-idyllic island. Some of the leading theories include: (1) everyone actually died in the crash and now they're all in purgatory (which J.J. himself has denied), (2) alien abduction (please dear Lord no), (3) a dream (repeat prior comment), (4) time-travel (meh), (5) a scientific experiment in which our castaways are the unwitting guinea pigs (not terrible), and my personal favorite, (6), they're all trapped in a game of Zork.

Setting aside the macro-level issue for the time being, there remains, of course, the more immediate question: um, dude, what's down the hatch? I will confess that I don't have a clue. All we know is that it lights up, it's really hard to get the door open, and that it's down down down.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

BILL GATES WOULD THROW HIMSELF OUT THE WINDOW IF HE WOKE UP WITH OPRAH'S MONEY: So goes the Chris Rock routine about the difference between rich and wealthy, but even so, Oprah tops this year's version of Forbes Magazine's Celebrity 100 List, which "ranks famous folk according to their power, which in turn is determined by the size of their paychecks combined with their media presence."

Here's a look at the top 10 most powerful and how much filthy lucre they bled from us the last year:
  • 1. Oprah Winfrey, $225 million
  • 2. Tiger Woods, $87 million
  • 3. Mel Gibson, $185 million
  • 4. George Lucas, $290 million
  • 5. Shaquille O'Neal, $33 million
  • 6. Steven Spielberg, $80 million
  • 7. Johnny Depp, $37 million
  • 8. Madonna, $50 million
  • 9. Elton John, $44 million
  • 10. Tom Cruise, $31 million
IF IT'S GOING TO BE LIKE THIS, BABY, YOU CAN KEEP HITTING ME OVER AND OVER AGAIN: I am watching Wang Chung covering Nelly's "Hot in Herre" on NBC right now. Still to come again are Howard Jones, Irene Cara, Sophie B. Hawkins and Cameo. I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of along journey whose conclusion is uncertain . . .
HEY, IT'S THAT GUY WHO TRIED TO SUBMIT MARISA TOMEI TO A DAUBERT HEARING: Noted character actor Lane Smith, who you'll either remember from playing the DA in My Cousin Vinny, Perry White on Lois and Clark or as President Nixon in The Final Days, has passed away from the effects of ALS at the age of 69. You'll recognize him once you see him.
LIKE A RHINESTONE COWBOY: An old friend of mine has (at long last) pledged to return to the blogging game, and I expect you'll enjoy the work of Douglasse, "Professional Homosexual," which finally answers the question "What if Carson Kressley went to law school and started blogging?"
BY THE TIME I GOT TO PHOENIX... I had huge pit stains, because the city, rising like a mythical bird whose name escapes me right now, has reclaimed its title as The Sweatiest City in America. Phoenix, previoulsy the sweatiest city in 2003, lost the title to El Paso last year. This year, El Paso slipped to No. 20, while America's least sweaty city is San Francisco.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING LIGHT? How about this list, the 50 greatest Israeli basketball players.
FORTUNATELY, TOM CRUISE IS ONLY PRODUCING: Though we still don't know much about the plot and storyline, there are now photos up from Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown at the film's official site. While Vanilla Sky was unquestionably a misstep of colossal proportions, it's hard to find a wrter-director whose other films I've enjoyed more and more consistently (...Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous are all great). September and October are looking like a great season for movies this year, gotta say, with a nice mix of Oscar contenders and popcorn stuff.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

WHO DIED AND MADE YOU THE NUT POLICE? We shouldn't take The Daily Show for granted. Great Ed Helms piece tonight on the repeal of Cape May's speedo ban, and Stewart just eviscerated one Congressman's defense of the treatment of Gitmo detainees. "Noodles Jefferson"?
YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. YOU HAVE NO IDEA: I have no idea how to talk about Paul Haggis' film Crash intelligibly without either going deep into spoiler territory or speaking in the kind of cliches that had deterred me from seeing the film before tonight: it is an Important Film about Race, Power and miscommunication in Los Angeles, in which The Interconnectedness Of Us All is demonstrated in occasionally suprising ways, in which guns are shown and all eventually go off, and in which Don Cheadle, again, is The Only Decent Person In The World. (Or is he?)

And so I understand the objections of David Edelstein and others that it's all too connected, too improbable, too manipulative, too convenient. I had no interest in seeing Grand Canyon II: Electric Boogaloo.

But this is not that movie. This is a confident, nuanced, compelling film. It did not, to me, scream Message! like Keenan Ivory Wayans' character in Don't Be A Menace . . .. It just told its story in a gripping fashion, overturning expectations even while you're trying to think one coincidence ahead.

I don't know where to start in hailing the performances -- Terrence Howard? Matt Dillon? Ludacris? Sandra Bullock? All solid.

I can understand people not liking this movie; there's a certain amount of disbelief you have to suspend. But this is a good movie about decency and indecency emerging from surprising places, and I strongly recommend you give it your time.
COPYCATS: Laura Leighton (of Melrose Place and Eyes) and Doug Savant (also of Melrose Place as well as a little artsy indie show called Desperate Housewives) had their fourth child last week. The Leighton Savants welcomed a daughter, named Lucy Jane. Hm.
YOU KNOW I WISH THAT I WERE J.J.'S GIRL: Before there was Sydney Bristow, there was Felicity Porter. And J. J. Abrams never forgets a muse.

Keri Russell, newly back in the biz after a post-Felicity hiatus from having people ask her why the hell she cut her hair, has recently been cast in MI:3 (directed by the omnipresent Mr. Abrams) as a trainee agent being mentored by Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt. Curly girls everywhere are thrilled to see Keri again. The timing is useful for J.J., too, as he obviously couldn't cast Jennifer Garner in the role -- is there a suspension of disbelief sufficient to allow for the possibility that Sydney Bristow would need to be trained by Tom Cruise?

And I think I speak for all of us when I deeply and profoundly thank J.J. for not casting Katie "I'm just loving being in love" and "I'm so proud to be his woman" Holmes.
YOU CAN'T TAKE THE SKY FROM ME: But you can get ready for the upcoming movie Serenity without shelling out for the Firefly DVD's--Sci-Fi Network will begin airing repeats of the 14 episodes in July. For those of you who haven't checked this out, it's well worth the effort--it takes a few episodes of exposition and background to get going, but turns into some mighty fine television. (And this comes from someone who's far from a hardcore Whedon-ite. Angel in particular just leaves me cold.)
I'LL STAND BEFORE THE LORD OF SONG WITH NOTHING ON MY TONGUE BUT HALLELUJAH: It never occurred to me to tell Adam that I'd be blogging about Leonard Cohen, because who knew there would be something relevant and timely to say? But happily, it's not yet closing time.

The Sundance Channel has just bought the rights to a documentary based on Leonard Cohen's career, including interviews with some of the many many artists who have covered Cohen's songs over the decades, as well as filmmakers Wim Wenders and Robert Altman. (Interestingly, Mel Gibson is apparently executive producing, in a move that couldn't be further in spirit from Passion of the Christ.) Sadly, Janis Joplin is not available to participate. Cohen's own involvement in the project isn't clear -- although this certainly indicates that he's involved.

I saw Cohen perform twelve years ago at a little venue outside of Philadelphia, and the experience stayed with me in a way that no other concert ever has. At least one of us here at ALOTT5MA will be eagerly awaiting the story of a songwriter who has tried, in his way, to be free.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SURE, BUT DOES IT HAVE A SOUNDTRACK BY PRINCE? Holy haberdashery, Batman! The movie which I figured might have competed for Most Irrelevant Sequel of 2005 is, according to Manohla Dargis, "the most successful comic-book adaptation alongside Terry Zwigoff's 'Ghost World'."

And Roger Ebert raves: "This is at last the Batman movie I've been waiting for. . . . more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment. There's something to it."
HAD TO GET AWAY: Due to a couple of settlements in cases that affect my life (one of which you can read about here, or in your local paper tomorrow morning), I'm actually likely to have time to take a long weekend-type vacation in July. Any advice for a single guy looking to travel someplace interesting but not price-gougey at the last minute? Among the destinations I'm considered--San Francisco, L.A., and Vegas. Any thoughts or suggestions from the peanut gallery?
THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE: Jamaican Asafa Powell hit a new world record in the 100-meter, clocking in at 9.77 seconds. I don't follow track events, save during the Olympics itself. But that's pretty damned quick.
MAJORLY, TOTALLY, BUTT CRAZY IN LOVE: Someone needs to explain this actress/rock star thing to me. Joining the ranks of Liv Tyler, Gwyneth Paltrow, Renee Zellweger, and perhaps one day Cameron Diaz, Alicia Silverstone apparently married S.T.U.N.'s Chris Jarecki over the weekend. Would Cher (edited to clarify: Cher Horowitz) have gone the scruffy musician route? As if.
11. AS FAR AWAY FROM THE NEVERLAND RANCH AS POSSIBLE: Marketwatch's list of the top 10 places to raise kids.
NEXT ON MSNBC, BILL PRESS IS TOO OLD FOR THIS S***: In the worst title for a news show since the short-lived Alan Keyes is Making Sense, last night marked the premiere of MSNBC's The Situation With Tucker Carlson. Didn't watch? Don't worry, the fine folks over at Gawker did (one point of disagreement--I can think of at least one program with a countdown clock for point-counterpoint debating that works). However, they didn't mention some rejected titles, which included:
  • What's The Deal With Tucker Carlson?
  • Tucker Carlson--What Is With Him?
  • The Carlson Bow-Tie Factor
STILL A LEGAL HOLIDAY IN PENNSYLVANIA: Today, June 14, is Flag Day. Respect your flag. Respect this flag too.
HEY, IF R. KELLY CAN HAVE HIT AFTER HIT . . . The Washington Post's David Segal (also the name of my accountant) tries to figure out if there's still a career in music for Michael Jackson.

One potential first step? A "surprise" appearance at Live 8.

Monday, June 13, 2005

KEEP THOSE RAGS AND MACHINES HUMMING: Something I've long wondered about: when you take your car to a car wash, does it make any real difference what level of wash you purchase? Do the extra services -- the waxes, the wheel stuff, the Gold treatment -- mean anything? Is the $1.99 computerized car wash in the back of the gas station any different qualitatively from the $10 wash at the standalone fancy center?

Obviously, if they come inside and vacuum your car, that's a plus. But does anything that happens once the car's on the conveyor belt make a difference?
WHATCHA TALKIN' BOUT, VH1: The good folks over at VH1 know we don't want to wait until Friday night for the conclusion of the five-night countdown to find out who the Greatest Kid Star of All-Time is. So, they've published the entire list from 1 to 100 and you're all-time greatest kid star is none other than...Gary Coleman.

Other observations on the list:
  • Without being specific, it's clear this list excludes any pre-70s child stars like Shirley Temple, Jerry Mathers, Little Stevie Wonder, or Mozart.
  • All six Bradys and cousin Oliver make the list, with Marcia ranking the highest at No. 9, followed by Peter at a surprising No. 20 (until you take into account that Christopher Knight is hosting the special), Greg (No. 22), Cindy (No. 34), Bobby (No. 42), Jan (No. 61) and Oliver (No. 76).
  • Coleman's TV brother Willis is No. 40, while the late Dana Plato squeaked in at No. 90. Dudley and Sam are omitted.
  • All four Facts of Life girls also make the list: Tootie (No. 23), Blair (No. 30), Natalie (No. 43) and Jo (No. 81).
  • Michael Jackson will no doubt be celebrating his inclusion, along with his brothers, at No. 10 on the list. Jackson's young friends did even better: Macaulay Culkin is No. 2 and Emmanuel Lewis is No. 6, and Corey Feldman is No. 8.
  • The other Corey is No. 26, while two of Feldman's Stand By Me co-stars make the cut (Wil Wheaton (No. 62) and Jerry O'Connell (No. 70), but no River Phoenix.
  • Dustin Diamond (No. 16) is the only one of the Saved By the Bell gang to make the list.
  • It's hard to judge where the line between child and teen is. For instance, there's no Keith or Laurie Partridge, but Danny made it. None of the 90210 gang is here. Jennifer and Andrew (!) Keaton make it, but there's no Alex or Mallorie or even Skippy. It seems to be somewhere around 15-16, with perhaps Molly Ringwald's Samantha Baker (movie stars are picked for one or two roles, while many TV stars on the list began as children but ended their careers well into adulthood), who we can pin down at 16 for obvious reasons, perhaps being the oldest star on the list.
So, who are the biggest names missing (given the list's vague criteria)? Your thoughts, as always, are encouraged.
SMOOTH CRIMINAL? The verdict in the Michael Jackson criminal trial will be revealed around 4:30pm eastern today.

Make no mistake: when the man who was once the world's most popular entertainer is up on child molestation charges, it is a story worth of pretty much all the attention it will receive over the next few days.

My prediction: he will be found not guilty of all the serious charges; I think you needed "perfect victims" to defeat Jackson's legal team, and this family was not. As to whether he's factually innocent, well, that I doubt highly.

updated to add: Party at Neverland tonight! -- innocent not guilty on all charges.
AND PAUL RUSESABAGNIA THOUGHT HE HAD PROBLEMS: With his phone-tossing incident last week at Manhattan's Mercer Hotel, Russell Crowe joins Rob Lowe, Courtney Love, and Sid Vicious on the list of celebrities who have behaved poorly in hotels.

Not on the list: the time commedian Yakov Smirnoff was caught by motel staff tipping a Diet Rite vending machine in the stairwell of Jefferson City, Mo., Red Roof Inn.
WELL, FOR STARTERS, MY NAME ISN'T KIM COSMOPOLITAN: Thanks for the introduction, Adam. I’ve been looking forward to joining the exalted ranks of ALOTT5MA contributors for a long time.

As Adam noted, I believe that the work of J.J. Abrams has gotten short shrift on the otherwise fulsome and incisive television coverage around here. What does that mean? It’s time to bring the Alias. And the Lost. And no doubt a bunch of other stuff. But definitely the Alias.

If you don’t watch Alias yet, let me get you up to speed on what you’ve missed for the last four seasons. (No, there is too much. Let me sum up.) Sydney Bristow is a spy. And so’s her dad, and her mom, and her fiancĂ© (but not her dead fiancĂ©), and her half-sister, and those of her best friends who haven’t died two or three times or else been forced into the witness protection program. Oh, and there’s a guy named Milo Rambaldi – a 15th century inventor, prophet, and all-around MacGuffin. (That’s it for the back-story. TWoP will, of course, be happy to provide you with more detailed reenactments of each and every episode.)

So here we are. Hanging out for the summer after J.J. Abrams’s cliffhanger du jour. Traditionally, J.J. gives good cliffhanger:

Season One: “Mom!?”
Season Two: “You’ve been missing for almost two years.”
Season Three: “Sydney, you were never supposed to have found this.”
Season Four: “Well, for starters, my name isn’t Michael Vaughn.”

Only one of these has been a clunker so far: Season 3. After a fantastic set-up, the ABC honchos delivered an ultimatum: ATTENTION J.J.! PLEASE MAKE THIS SHOW MORE ACCESSIBLE TO THE LAW-AND-ORDER-CROWD-THAT-DOESN’T-WISH-TO-FOLLOW-PLOT-ARCS-SPANNING-MORE-THAN-A-SINGLE-EPISODE. IN EXCHANGE FOR THIS FAVOR, WE WILL GIVE ALIAS THE PRIMO SLOT RIGHT AFTER THAT OTHER KICKASS NEW SHOW YOU’RE CREATING FOR US. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION TO THIS MATTER. NOW GO SCREW UP YOUR CLIFFHANGER. So a top secret CIA document about a project initiated on Sydney’s date of birth and run by Jack Bristow (almost certainly intended to include further insight into the brilliant Project Christmas that so tantalized us and Will Tippin back in Season Two) somehow became a document explaining simply that Jack had killed Irina Derevko, Sydney’s mom, in 2004. Uh huh.

Which brings us to the latest season-ending HUH? Vaughn isn’t Vaughn? Then who is he? And perhaps more importantly, does J.J. himself know, or are he and a gaggle of Alias writers sitting off in a conference room for the summer saying, “Ok, what if he’s actually his dad, BILL Vaughn, and he drank some of that Rambaldi green stuff to transform him into an eight-year-old so he could protect The Chosen One from the Messenger?” “No, I’ve got a better one: maybe the real Michael Vaughn died in the Big Red Ball of Goop Incident from the Season One finale and Sloane used the DNA duplicating device from Season Two to turn someone into a new Faux Vaughn to keep an eye on Sydney!” “Wait, what if he’s actually a fourth Derevko sister?” “Dude, what if Vaughn is actually Rambaldi??”

Personally, I think there are a number of paths they could take to give this cliffhanger a really satisfying resolution. The thing that concerns me is that most of them require a whole lot of knowledge of the Alias universe, which isn’t the path that the ABC brass have been looking for from the show. Then again, rumors abound that Season Five will be Alias’s last. So if you’re already a lame duck, why not make the show’s curtain call the kind of complicated, convoluted dance that the party faithful will love? Tell us what the hell Arvin Sloane, Jack Bristow, and Irina Derevko have really been up to for all these years. Bring back Francie/Allison. Let’s see Sark and the purloined test tube of green goo (said green goo may be necessary to deal with Jen Garner’s unfortunate-on-so-many-levels pregnancy, anyway). Bring back Will Tippin and let him get to the bottom of Project Christmas. Get Kendall off that island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for a little while. And no one actually thinks that Lauren is dead, do they?

I guess it’s time to see whether there’s a subset of ALOTT5MA’s readership that actually cares about Alias. So who’s this not-Vaughn guy, anyway? And how would you like to see J.J. handle Season Five? Remember, J.J. and the gang are hanging out in that conference room, looking for inspiration wherever they can get it. Perhaps they'll find it here.
YOU'RE TOO YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND IT NOW, BUT NOTHING CAN KILL A WEBLOG LIKE TOO MUCH EXPOSITION (OR A BAD TITLE, EVEN): There exists a gap in A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago. At one end of the spectrum, Adam and Matt report the reality television programs of the day; at the other, Alex and Phil publish large-scale works of pop culture discourse. But there is nothing in the middle -- no place for a woman to toss out a creative thought, or make an argument about J.J. Abrams programming that merits more than a comment to a prior post but less than a desire to establish a separate blog. The solution: invite Kim Cosmopolitan.

Kim is new to ALOTT5MA, but not to the business of opining on matters pop cultural. She’ll be joining the fracas on The Amazing Race and American Idol while bringing back nuanced discussion of America’s Next Top Model. Her passion, however, is the oeuvre of J.J. Abrams, and thus we may expect to hear a great deal over the coming months about both Lost and Alias. She’ll also discuss both current theatre and the occasional work of fiction, as the mood strikes her.

Ultimately, Kim’s presence on the blog is narrowly tailored to further compelling blog interests: the representation, at long last, of overeducated urban females in their mid-30s. Welcome aboard.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

HER MILKSHAKE BRINGS ALL THE BOYS TO THE MORGUE: She could teach you, but she's since been charged.
YET I'VE SEEN CRUEL INTENTIONS ABOUT 6 TIMES: In a kind of follow-up to the series of "stuff you never really got" threads, I submit to you this--what are your yawning and shocking gaps in cultural knowledge? The stuff you're scared to admit. For instance, until last year, when it was serialized in the Times, I'd never read The Great Gatsby. (No, really--somehow I had teachers in 10th and 11th grade that didn't assign it.) As for some still-existing gaps?
  • Books--While I read more chicklit than I should probably be willing to admit in public, I've never read anything from chicklit's literary mother, Jane Austen, and the only Dickens I've ever read is Tale of Two Cities. Heck, the whole 19th Century novel is more than a little bit of a vacuum. So is medieval British literature--nope, never read any of the Canterbury Tales or Beowulf.
  • Movies--Among the movies I've never seen? Casablanca, Psycho, Citizen Kane, and Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Music--I have never owned nor listened to (at least all the way through with any degree of deliberateness) an album by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or pretty much any of the major "classic rock" acts.
  • Television--I don't think I've ever seen an episode of Thirtysomething, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or The Honeymooners.

So, folks, spread your secret shame here--what's your scary gap?

STEWARDESS? I SPEAK JIVE: We have clearance, Clarence -- the movie Airplane! turns 25 this summer.

There is much trivia about the film which I didn't know. David Letterman in the lead role? Would have loved to see that. And we are due for another movie to pick up the mantle of kitchen-sink-parody . . . I can't think of a good one since Not Another Teen Movie.

Suggestions of favorite lines and moments are, of course, welcome.