Saturday, April 29, 2006

COINCIDENCE OF THE WEEK: An observation apparently no movie critic has made--aren't the plots of Akeelah and the Bee and Stick It both fundamentally the same? Both could be summarized as follows:

Misfit outcast heroine has natural talent for an endeavor, but does not wish to use it due to a personal trauma. Due to circumstances beyond her control, heroine is forced to work with a coach who at first seems to be a hardass, but actually turns out to be a good guy, fighting a personal demon. With help of coach, heroine inspires her teammates and competitors to achieve far beyond what they were expected to, and heroine's chief rival, who is involved in the endeavor for the "wrong reasons," ultimately learns the joy of playing again.

What's fascinating is that while both films are cut from that same cloth (and they're both pretty good), it's hard to imagine two more different movies. Akeelah is an earnest inspirer, designed for families, that treats the competition involved with a lot of respect and fairness. Stick It mixes its moments of inspirational hoo-hah with subversion against the very concept of gymnastics (in particular, the silliness of judging standards) and broad teen comedy. So here's a challenge--come up with two other films that share the same broad outline, but wind up being utterly divergent.
AND PRINT IT! Twenty-three years ago today, Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia produced easily the greatest postgame tirade in the history of not just baseball, but organized sports, making today Lee Elia Day here at ALOTT5MA.

You can read the unedited transcript here and also download an MP3 version.

Lost over the years has been the exact circumstances that led to the rant. Here is the boxscore from that game, in which the Cubs lost 4-3 to the Dodgers with the winning run scoring in the eighth on a Lee Smith wild pitch. The loss, in front of 9,931 fans or as Elia liked to call them the "dumb 15 motherf--kin' percent that come out to day baseball," dropped the Cubs to a robust 5-14. And who do you think was batting third and playing left field for the Dodgers that day? None other than current Cubs skipper Dusty Baker, whose team is appropriately down 13-0 to the Brewers as I type this.

And let's not have this day pass without a hat tip to local broadcasting legend Les Grobstein, whose trusty tape recorder that day captured Elia's colorful words for all eternity.
PUMP THIS! Denizens of the Garden State strenuously object to the thought of the possibility of even considering, on a limited trial basis, the prospect of pumping their own gas.

Somewhere, in a parallel universe, Christopher Moltisanti is figuring out how to make a profit here.
OH MY GOD, THE BEARS HAVE WON. THE BEARS HAVE WON. I don't know if this is a real Sony commercial or not. But this freaking rules.

Friday, April 28, 2006

METHOD ACTOR: This morning, watching HBO while home sick, I happened to see two actors at opposite ends of the spectrum in verisimilitude when it comes to portraying a basketball player. In White Men Can’t Jump, Wesley Snipes looks like a good player. In Catwoman, Benjamin Bratt looks utterly ridiculous playing basketball.

I can’t stand watching an actor try to depict a baseball or basketball player when he simply has no feel for the game. The worst in recent memory? Matthew Lillard in Summer Catch.

Casting directors should try tossing a ball to anyone under consideration for a role calling for athletic grace. Lillard and Bratt would probably have dropped the ball.

What other examples come to mind, good or bad?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

DRAWING THE INSIDE STRAIGHT: We officially defer to Mr. Sepinwall on tonight's Survivor talk, since he's thought more about tonight's power play than I've had a chance to.

My thoughts, all spoilerish, will be over there.
!*#$%^?!!><$%>%^ PART II: Apologies for this, but everyone was so helpful last night that I thought I'd try again. I downloaded last night's Alias from iTunes, and what I have now is an .m4v file that appears to have no sound. My iTunes and Quicktime (running on a PC) are both the latest version. So, um, what do I do?
WILL THERE BE KOOSH BALLS AND A LIVE BAND? So Rosie O'Donnell is going to replace Meredith Vieira on The View? An interesting choice, to be sure, and certainly, O'Donnell will keep up Vieira's political tendencies--will be interesting to see her butt heads with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, at any rate.
"HE WOULD GRIP ME WITH HIS BARE RIGHT HAND IN DIFFERENT WAYS ...": Sports fans will probably enjoy this.
SPEAKING OF HEAVY METAL...: Greatest high school athletic nickname ever.

Thanks to Deadspin for the link.
PROGRAMMING NOTE FOR ALL YOU FUTURE MAJOR LEAGUE CLOSERS: Next week over four nights VH1 will air the "40 Greatest Metal Songs" of all time, hosted by Sebastian Bach. A list of the top 30 are available here and though I am hardly a metal aficionado (this despite my second real concert ever being the double bill of Triumph and Foghat at the Rosemont Horizon), it seems like there are a lot of classics left for them to jam into the top 10. I guess a lot depends on how narrowly they define metal (Led Zep? Van Halen? Spinal Tap?) Any metalheads care to venture a guess on what will win?
GEE, IF THERE WAS ONLY SOME CURRENT POP SONG THAT USES THE WORD "BEAUTIFUL" THIS COULD BE A REALLY CLEVER HEADER: People Magazine has gone out on a limb to name Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, her two children, and their unborn child as the "World's Most Beautiful Family." Other shockers on the mag's "Beautiful" list: Clooney, Berry, Roberts, Reese, Eva Longoria, and Ryan Seacrest(?!?).
ALMOST AS GOOD AS OK COLA: You're currently third place in a three-way battle for dominance in a billion dollar industry, and your new product has huge buzz because of legitimate innovations in design, and will apparently have a substantial price-point advantage over its competitors. And then you name it "Wii?" (pronounced "whee!") This is almost as bad an idea as Nestea's Tea Whiz.
I'M HAVING SO MUCH FUN THINKING OF SONGS FROM 1980 THAT DAUGHTRY WILL NEVER EVER SING -- TURNING JAPANESE, ANYONE? THE ROSE? FAME? For next week's AI theme, we kick into two-songs-per-person mode: one from the year the competitor was born and any song from this week's Top 10 Billboard Charts. I will be amused if someone sings that "You Had a Bad Day" song -- just completing the metacircle.

Assuming my powers of subtraction have remained stable since elementary school, here are the relevant years:

Daughtry: 1980
Elliott: 1979
Taylor: 1977
Paris: 1989 (eek)
Katharine: 1985
WHEREIN THE FAIR-HAIRED MAN LAUGHS RUEFULLY AS THE DARK-HAIRED ONE MAKES A CRACK ABOUT HITTING ON A PRETTY GIRL; THEN THEY PUT ON THEIR SPEEDOS AND CAVORT, GLISTENING, IN THE SUN. SAYS THE BLOND: WHY YES, I'D CARRY YOUR CRAWFISH ANYWHERE: By request, a TAR thread to discuss the antics of your favorite tired oldsters, self-loving beardsters, quietly-bickering tracksters, and belligerent yellster/misshapen headster, and the non-antic palpable yearning of one Eric (or Jeremy) for the unsuspecting Jeremy (or Eric).
ALL WE NEED IS A DRUMMER? Yeah, that was me dancing last night on the stage of Philly's World Cafe Live at WXPN's dance party celebration. It was a terrific event. On the way home, my wife and I pondered a question that I suspect the readers of this blog might be inclined to answer -- why don't people go out dancing more often?

Is it possible to dance and not end up feeling happy? Given my love of athletic activities and music, dancing is the perfect synthesis.

Amy and I go out dancing about twice a month, which I suspect is above average. But I think back to my days in college and the first few post-college years when I would go dancing about twice a week. Now, it seems I spend way more time making clever conversation at dinner parties and cocktail parties. Clever conversation is swell, but it's a poor substitute for dancing.
I'VE BEEN TAKING KRAV MAGA CLASSES: Nice to see Alias bringing back some old friends as we play it out. And by "old friends," I mean the terrorist operations center housed in the VIP room of a European techno club, the promo/episode title/episode structure designed to ensure that there is not one single surprise, and the hideously unconvincing accents. Guys, guys, we've missed you.

Most interesting part of the episode -- the "Riders on the Storm"/"Rapture" mash-up in the zip-line scene. I am generally opposed to the Doors and largely indifferent to Blondie. I do love "Rapture," however, for any number of reasons: great bass line, wonderful use of chimes to convey menace (probably, I think, one of only two times chimes have been successfully used in top-40 music, the other being "Always Something There to Remind Me"), probably the first time I ever heard rapping (even if this is somehow a precursor to white-people rap), and a line (supposedly "and it's finger popping") that to this day my sister and I swear uses a different word instead of "popping" that makes it one of the seamiest lyrics ever to get past the FCC censors. Surprisingly, the marriage to the Doors works -- it supplies a lot of the things that the Doors always lacked, including (a) an actual bass line to speak of; (b) a groove; and (c) a sense that the band is not utterly disinterested in the music.

Commenters, spoil away.
ALEX KOZINSKI WOULD BE PROUD: The NYT reports that the judge who decided the Da Vinci Code copyright case in the UK apparently embedded his own "Smithy Code" in his 71-page opinion. Anyone want to take a shot?
WHOA, NELLIE: After "retiring" in 1998 but still working a full, largely west coast schedule, this time college football broadcasting legend Keith Jackson means it for good, having ended his career with his broadcast of the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

GET YOUR MOTHER&*$#!@ BADASS GEEK ON: Snakes On A Plane: The Roleplaying Game is now available for your gaming pleasure. But is 25 points enough to give Samuel L. Jackson his appropriate stats in the system?
NICE JOB, AMERICA: Sometimes America does manage to get these things right. So now we're left with five finalists -- all of whom can actually sing. Has that ever happened before?

(Oh, and Andrea Bocelli? The man certainly can sing.)
I'M PRETTY SURE THERE WASN'T SOME GUY SNIFFING THE NAKED LADY, TO START: Tom Ford, Keira Knightley, and Scarlett Johansson, I (now) know Edouard Manet's Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe. Edouard Manet's Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe is a friend of mine. And despite what letters in this month's Vanity Fair say, that photo was no Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe.

(Note that joke is likely largely impenetrable unless you read or are familiar with the material at the first link.)
#@$^#$!!%^&*%?^$%^$&?: Did anyone happen to record tonight's Alias using a method that can be sent to me or burned to DVD and then sent to me? Pleeease?
GIRL, I HEARD YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED: Maybe you think Sgt. Pepper's, jukebox musicals, and Britney getting married are some of the best things, but to Blender, they are among the 50 Worst Things to Happen to Music. (Apologies to The Brooklyn Bridge.)
THERE'S NOT A TRAGIC CAR CRASH: That said, it looks like Law and Order is losing at least one of its six primary cast members at season's end. (That article says who's going, so click at your own risk.) Rumors abound that at least one other is departing. Let's assume that at least three folks are safe (Martin, Merkerson, and Thompson). How do you recast those other three roles. My immediate thought is that if Conviction doesn't return, Stephanie March could readily come back to the mothership as (potentially) the senior DA, and I'd be very interested to see a female cop to partner with Martin.
CAN YOU DO A .357 WITH A BAYONET? What if you hired Wes Anderson to make an action movie about international espionage starring Jason Schwartzman? That's the question this Anderson written and directed AmEx ad asks and answers. Count the number of recurring Anderson themes that show up in two minutes.
OKAY, SO "BEND AND SNAP" COMES LATE IN ACT ONE, RIGHT? Rob Gordon, meet Elle Woods -- Legally Blonde will open on Broadway in the spring of 2007, and I don't believe I'm the only one here who believes it can be adapted more easily than the more "musical" High Fidelity.

As always, suggestions on potential songs ("How To Be A Pro in Civ Pro"?) and production numbers are welcome.
SOME OF THESE CHARACTERS MAY BE TOAST EVEN BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION OF HEIDI KLUM THE CAT: After last night's Gilmore Girls, I have to confess that I am increasingly skeptical about the creators' vision for this season. To be more specific -- what have they done to Lorelai?

Let me first state that I have no problem with how Rory has been written, which I know has been a hot button topic for others. She's 21 years old. No matter how smart, grounded, and astute she is, the notion that she's too smart to get herself involved in a perhaps-less-than-well-advised relationship is just silly. 21 year old girls typically do not make savvy relationship decisions. (And I'm a Logan fan in any event -- I think he's a great character and exactly the right sort of character for Rory to have taken up with given the central conflict of the show.)

But Lorelai? She has let Luke walk all over her, repeatedly and with dirty shoes, on this daughter issue. She has agreed to be banished from the diner whenever April is around. She didn't let Luke have it when he made clear that the reason he wasn't letting her get involved with April was because he was afraid April would like her better. And now it looks like Lorelai thinks Luke was right all along -- because April's mother has her own (albeit previously uncommunicated to Luke) reasons to keep Lorelai away. Lorelai has more self-esteem than this -- at least, that's the way she was written prior to this season. This is just embarrassing -- much more so, in my view, than the drunken speech she gave at Lane's wedding last week.

Edited to add: Hm. Apparently David Rosenthal (the new guy / Klum playwright) wrote last night's episode. Hm.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

AS HOUSE V. GOD ENTERS EXTRA INNINGS: I don't blog about Dr. Hizzy every week, but if I don't acknowledge a week in which former Greatest American Hero William Katt is a prominent guest star, I'm not doing my job.

Also, House v. Wilson and Cameron v. Foreman are both a lot of fun these days, and I'm in a good mood because I won the weekly "what's the patient lying about?" bet with Jen that we have within the first five minutes of each episode. Because, as any fan of the show knows, everybody lies.
YES, BUT WHERE'S ANDRAE? Project Runway 3 will debut July 12.

The other reality show I'm (tentatively) excited about this summer? Treasure Hunters, an apparent Race/Mole/DaVinciCode quest from the folks who brought us Projects Runway and Greenlight.
FIVE MILLION, TWO HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT THOUSAND, EIGHT HUNDRED EIGHTY MINUTES LATER**: The original cast of Rent reunites on stage to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its Broadway debut.

(** Can't forget the two leap days.)
H-I-G-H-W-A-Y R-O-B-B-E-R-Y O-N R-O-U-T-E 3-0-9: We've discussed problems in spelling bee judging before, but what happened last week in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton (PA) regional may take the cake.

Here's what happened: seven spellers left for the semifinals, competing in alphabetical order. All seven get their next word wrong -- so, okay, maybe none of them are a serious threat for Nationals. Still, judges summon back the last two from the round and only the last two, deciding, "You're the final two," and have them square off for the championship, completely screwing over the other five spellers who also should have been summoned back for a second chance. This is so obvious that I can't believe the parents and coaches in attendance allowed it to happen.

Making matters worse, some d-o-u-c-h-e-b-a-g columnist in Easton who apparently served as a judge has to be a dick about it.

edited to add: Bad Dad is right -- it's time to send emails to and demand that all seven semifinalists be brought back. Look: we don't ask you to send money to political candidates on this blog, and we're not big on petition drives or anything like that. But there's a Spelling Bee Injustice going on, and maybe we can do something about it.
DOESN'T IT BITE FIRST, THEN SUCK? We love bad reviews and worse puns around here, and tonight marks the opening of Lestat on Broadway, which provides us with an ample opportunity for both. The Hollywood Reporter is the first to take a bite (sorry) out of the production, beginning with "They're not making it any easier to refrain from the inevitable comment that 'it sucks.'" This post'll be updated with further reviews as they arrive.

Next up is Ben Brantley at the NYT, who manages to stay away from "bite" and "suck," but says that it "join[s] the ranks of Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, and other prescription lullaby drugs. . . . Dare to look upon 'Lestat' and keep your eyelids from growing heavier and heavier and heavier."
ELVIS COMING, HIDE YOUR HEART GIRL: Nothing I like more than a good Elvis theme night. Tonight, of course, we will be filling the world with silly love songs and Andrea Bocelli, of all people. And what's wrong with that?

Predictions and suggested set lists welcome. (And consider this the post-show comments thread as well, unless and until I or someone else post a real one.)
LIKE A FREAKING NIGHTMARE: Does anyone other than me react to Michael Ausiello's extensive interview with now-ex-Gilmore-Girls-gurus Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino with a big oh poor you?

Edited at Matt's suggestion to note that about halfway through the interview, a BIG HONKIN' SPOILER provides information as to how the season apparently ends.
KIDS' SUPER POWER HOUR -- WITH JACK BAUER! After watching last night's 24, I find myself wondering how they're going to wrap up the season in any sort of non-anticlimactic fashion. (Recall that I am unburdened by knowledge of prior seasons.) The resolution of the chopper-following-the-car incident was nicely unexpected, which I appreciated, but really, how do you wrap this up in an exciting and fulfilling way? I am optimistic, however, that whatever they've got in mind will involve Rocket Romano.
ONE HAS SAVED THE WORLD FIVE TIMES IN SINGLE DAYS, THE OTHER HAS A KICKASS ROUNDHOUSE KICK: So, who's tougher? Chuck Norris or Jack Bauer? Bauer has a slim lead at this time.
KEN DORSEY, WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS ROSE? Ken Dorsey, one time University of Miami great (or, good, that is, defended by a great offensive line), now has to battle it out with Jesse Palmer for the third QB spot on the 49ers.
YES, BUT CAN IBEN HJEJLE SING? BECAUSE I BELIEVE SHE'S AVAILABLE: The much-beloved Nick Hornby novel and generally admired-if-not-loved Stephen Frears film High Fidelity is coming to Broadway.

Suggestions on potential songs ("Patchouli Stink Boy, I'm Kicking Your Ass") and on how you stage the break-up flashbacks are welcome.
IF YOU THINK THE SEATS ON AIRLINES ARE TOO NARROW . . . would you prefer to stand for the length of your flight?

Monday, April 24, 2006

THE ONLY AWARDS SHOW NOMINATING BOTH PARIS HILTON AND CILLIAN MURPHY: As usual, the MTV Movie Award nominations recognize heavily both the movies we wish were nominated for Oscars and weren't (40 Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers lead the field, with 5 nominations each) and movies that shouldn't even be nominated for these awards (Dukes of Hazard, Underworld: Evolution, Fantastic Four) to a few genuine "huh?" moments (Rob Schneider as "Sexiest Performance?" Nelly for "Breakthrough Performance?" Rachel McAdams for "Best Performance?") In an interesting decision, no categories are split by gender, leading to a race in which Steve Carrell, Reese Witherspoon, and Terrence Howard are facing off for Best Performance.
THEY'RE WORKING ON A SPINOFF--SHERMAN ACT: Monopoly is getting an update, which will turn the four railroads into LAX, JFK, ORD, and ATL, and spaces that may include everything from the Vegas Strip to the Dallas Arboretum. (Seriously, the Dallas Arboretum and not, say, the Fort Worth Stockyards or the Fort Worth Water Gardens?)
ON THE NEXT GILMORE GIRLS -- THE LIFE AND DEATH BRIGADE GOES A-STALKING: I suppose that in a certain sense it's poetically appropriate that the new showrunner of Gilmore Girls should be someone whose personal idiosyncracies place him squarely in sync with Stars Hollow's population of cuddly but quirky denizens -- someone who fits in nicely with Kirk, Miss Patty, Taylor, Mrs. Kim, Michel, Babette, and so forth. But there's eccentric, and then there's something else entirely.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

CONIGLIO: Tonight's episode had, by my count, four of the most shocking episodes of violence in the show's history, and that's setting aside the one human death which occurred during the episode. "Convivial host," indeed.

This episode may not satisfy those looking for Major Plot Developments, and a lot of major characters basically took the week off (from Meadow and AJ to Paulie, Dr. Melfi and Vito) but we got some nice additional shading on New Tony, as well as confirmation on a bad development for Christofuh.

So STFU, Artie, and let's get on with the Comments.

edited to add: Sepinwall's take: "'Luxury Lounge' worked because it took Tony's oldest friend seriously. For the first time since the season one finale (which got referenced both with Artie's hunting rifle and Tony's story about Vesuvio being his port in that storm), Artie wasn't just the clown good for nothing but making antipasto. He was the honest man in the dirty town, the guy who struggles trying to do things the right way while his pal Tony is rolling in crooked cash. . . . Artie's usual feeling of inadequacy compared to the mobsters paralleled neatly with Christopher's latest Hollywood humiliation. Christopher has always viewed himself as a top-of-the-food-chain kinda guy, but when he got a look at the kind of bling available to movie stars, he realized he was a guppy, not a shark. Basically, Ben Kingsley is to Christopher as Tony is to Artie."
NO "MATHEMATICIANS DISQUALIFIED" ON ITS FACE: The Deal or No Deal contestant application is fascinating. I think my favorite free response question is "What is the next milestone in your life if you do not make the show?" Apparently, the producers assume that appearing on Deal or No Deal would, in fact, be a "milestone in your life." Also bizarre is the request for a drawn self-portrait and a "short poem or rap." Most interesting, though, is the disqualifer for "professional gamblers, or [people] who are employed in the gaming industry." Guess they want to avoid people who can, y'know, do the math.
REJECTED TITLE--BRIAN, WHAT IS WITH HIM? Having now watched both episodes of What About Brian that aired this week, I can say that it follows in the steps of a minor pattern J.J. has established--Alias is "what if Felicity were a spy?" and What About Brian is "what if Felicity had actually gone to med school and left college single?" Successful pediatrician Marjorie, Sarah Lancaster (best known for playing Madison on Everwood, and, before that, for Saved By The Bell: The New Class) is torn between two people--creative n'er do well Ben...I mean Brian (Barry Watson) and slightly uptight lawyer Noe... I mean Adam (Matthew Davis). This is complicated because Majorie is engaged to Adam, who's Brian's best friend. Brian's sister and her limited English-fluent husband, and Brian's business partner and his hot blonde wife make up the remainder of the circle of friends. The problem (much like How I Met Your Mother) is two-fold. First, the title character in both is an utter bore, while the supporting characters are far more entertaining. Second, the relationship you're rooting for and emotionally invested in from the pilot (Ted-Robin, Marjorie-Brian) is plainly ultimately doomed.

That said, the writing is reasonably sharp, the acting above-average, and given that your other options on Mondays at 10 are CSI: Caruso's Sunglasses and Patricia Arquette Sees Dead People, it's worth checking out.
INSTEAD OF 'I DO,' THE GROOM WILL SAY 'GAME ON' AND THE BRIDE WILL RESPOND 'YAHTZEE': Sadly, a Turkish hacker has destroyed Dave Karpen's web site. I will one day forgive you for forgetting that Dave Karpen was a participant on the greatest reality television program of all time, Paradise Hotel. If you, like me, fondly recall Paradise Hotel as a lovingly-staged allegory of American history, complete with modules on territorial expansion and manifest destiny, the Civil War (or, if you were a supporter of the original cast, the War of Northern Aggression), postwar consumerism, and McCarthyism, then you already know that Karpen represented The Ethnic Immigrant Experience. Karpen and a few others joined the show after its founding ethos had been established, were originally marginalized, but ultimately became, collectively, the dominant political group. Karpen, however, had more trouble than others -- his doughy and perspiring schlumpiness represented insularity and orthodoxy amid the sultry, chiseled assimilationism of his castmates. Thus, although he was an important part of the rise of Modernity -- and by that I mean Charla, Keith, and Tara -- his otherness prevented him from reaping its rewards.*

Anyway, Karpen is still gamely pursuing the American Dream, even if his rightful share of the prize money still resides in suburban Illinois. According to an email I received from his listserv:
Tickets for the July 8th Cyclones game and post-game wedding go on sale this Sunday, April 23rd, and are available online at The first 2,500 adults present that day will get free bride/groom collectible bobblehead dolls.
Shrewd, very shrewd, Dave Karpen. You may be opposed, in principle, to the predictability of a reality-TV has-been shilling tickets for his own wedding, but who doesn't need a Dave Karpen bobblehead doll and a, um, Mrs. Dave Karpen bobblehead doll?

By the way, if you're wondering if Dave's bitterness has subsided, he also has this to say: "you can still catch reruns on air on the Fox Reality Channel in the US, and reruns continue to air in 16 countries worldwide. And every time, I make it to the end and Charla doesn't share."

*Caution: Joke appropriate only for historians who watched Paradise Hotel.
YES, BUT COULD A WIZARD SUFFICIENTLY ENCHANT A CAVALIER IN A SEVEN-GAME SERIES? No doubt building off our own NCAA MascotMatcher Protocol, one website dares answer the question, "What city, based solely on the mascots of its major sports teams, should most rightfully be feared?"