Saturday, June 17, 2006

DON'T YOU REMEMBER YOU TOLD ME YOU LOVED ME BABY? If there were a yearbook category for "American Idol most likely to be grievously taken advantage of by his manager," would there be any doubt that Ruben Studdard would win it? Nah.

Friday, June 16, 2006

DID SOMEONE MENTION THAT WE HAD PROBLEMS WITH ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY? We are not, sadly, one of the 100 best entertainment sites, as reported in the current issue.

I am glad to see sites like TVTattle and Reality Blurred recognized, however. Both are absolutely essential.
YOU WANT TO TALK SOME JIVE? In his decidedly mixed review of Nacho Libre, Jeffrey Wells makes a comparison worthy of a bit of teasing out--he says Libre is Jared Hess's The Life Aquatic, while Napoleon Dynamite was his Rushmore/Royal Tenenbaums. I adore Wes Anderson's first three films, and sort of get the comparison. Both Hess and Anderson have a tendency toward quasi-picaresque films with strange characters, usually with one quasi-normal person caught in the middle--Deb, Miss Cross, Henry Sherman. The big difference, in my view? Hess treats the strange characters with a detached contempt, while Anderson clearly loves his characters.

Everyone in Napoleon Dynamite is idiotic, unsympathetic, and one-dimensional, while the strange characters in Anderson's films are clearly beloved--they're also generally highly intelligent, deeply sympathetic, and multi-dimensional. Sure, Anderson may have Owen Wilson running around in a funny hat and fringed jacket, but you're not laughing at him because "it's Owen Wilson running around in a funny hat and fringed jacket," you're laughing because you recognize something there. In contrast, Hess seems to think Jack Black + stretchy pants = comedy gold without more, in a variation of Jon Heder + strange clothes = comedy gold. Give me Anderson any time, and I think (along with Fastest and Furiousest, and Garfield II) Nacho goes on the dumper pile for this weekend.
I MYSELF HEREBY ANNOUNCE MY INTENT TO RETIRE IN 2041 -- BEGIN THE PREPARATIONS: Does anyone besides me find it a trifle weird that Bill Gates has announced his intended retirement from day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft -- two years from now? Let's be clear -- he hasn't been CEO for a while, and he will remain non-executive chairman even after his "departure."

I'm not underestimating the significance of Gates' role at Microsoft by any means -- those are some seriously large shoes needing filling -- but two years?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

AND YET, THEY LIKE THE CARTOON CAPTION CONTEST: For the fourth consecutive year, the Chicago Tribune has released its list of the fifty best magazines available in America, topped by The Economist, and with a mix of usual (New Yorker/Atlantic/Harper's) and the odd (Men's Vogue, VegNews, Whole Dog Journal). As always, your comments, critiques and whatnot are welcome -- I'm always happy to see ESPN: The Magazine recognized, especially for its coverage of athletes with mental illness.

(Kingsley's take on the 2005 list.)
YES I SAID YES I WILL YES I WILL SUE YOU: The New Yorker has a fascinating piece this week that manages to explain what Larry Lessig, a bunch of James Joyce scholars, and the last living descendant of James Joyce are fighting about--just in time for Bloomsday.
SO I THINK I CAN GO TO BED EARLY ON WEDNESDAYS: Not to step on Kim's SYTYCD post, but I was home in plenty of time to watch TV last night, and there was nothing else on but a TiVoed Real World/Road Rules Challenge (possibly my favorite original programming this summer, by the way, so I watched it and then caught up with SYTYCD), and Kimsmopolitan has been pimping this show hard, so I gave it a shot. Her ten rules look accurate to me, but I think she left off two:
11. The DeGrassi Exemption from Normal Rules of Television-Attractiveness Has Been Granted. On network television, the tradeoff is something like one percentile of hotness for five percentiles of talent. This is why Malin Ackerman and Bonnie Somerville and Cobie Smulders (yes, I said it, you want to make something of it?) and Ian Somerhalder aren't going to starve any time in the near future, even though maybe they really should be pharmaceutical sales reps or Office Depot managers. I would have guessed that a show featuring lots of sweaty folks in dancy-pants would play up this angle (particularly after Stacy Keibler's success in the other dance show), but no -- we get what I'll call "talent-face" (to be nice), creatively self-trimmed hair, and some seriously liberal application of what I thought was lipstick but what now understand is general-lip-region-broadly-definedstick. Even Cat Deeley, who I'm told is a famous British "television presenter," is the postergirl for Pretty For British Syndrome (for historical examples, see Dawn Tinsley, Baby Spice, Samantha Fox). Don't watch this show in HD.

12. The Degrassi Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Rule is In Effect. Does Cat Deeley add another stiff drink after the show for every time she has to ask a male contestant about an ex-girlfriend or comment on a pairing's chemistry? My favorite part of last night's program was when the sad, sad Mormon boy said something like "that's as close as I'm ever going to get to a female. [Long pause; slowly-dawning realization] Until marriage, that is!"
WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN ON THE FARTING BRIDGE IN "UNCLE F***A:" Dave Poland has managed to get a hold of Matt Stone's memo to the MPAA about cuts required to South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, which is well worth a moment of your time.

But the AFI, yet again, has chosen to reify a film canon that is based on the lives and preferences of middle-aged men, and if you wanted to place high on this Top 100 list, you best not be starring a woman or a teenager.

Lord knows, it's not like I'm doing some kind of early 1990s/PC canon-wrecking exercise by introducing films that no one paid attention to the first time around and are only being introduced now for reasons of race/class/gender. But, seriously, yo? There are not a lot of inspiring heroines on that list, nor are there stories of relevance to young people.

One example to prove both points: Dirty Dancing, despite its grip on our generation, didn't make the list at all. Back to the Future, which had an inspirational-as-hell message about ingenuity and the ability to change one's life, did not make the list. Nor did Legally Blonde, to choose a pure comedy.

There's more, when I have a chance, but this is where I'm going with this one today.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

THEY TOLD ME TO THROW SOME MORE COAL IN THE BOILER: Okay, so I think I've got the brand-new SYTYCD system down:
  1. The judges/producers pair dancers up.
  2. The judges/producers select a style for each pair.
  3. The judge/producer-selected pair learn a dance in the judge/producer-selected style and perform it on the air.
  4. The judges comment.
  5. America votes for their favorite pair, or at least the pair containing their favorite dancer.
  6. The bottom three pairs are announced on the results show.
  7. The six dancers comprising the bottom three pairs dance solos for the judges.
  8. The judges pick one male and one female dancer to go home.
  9. If your partner wasn't eliminated, you remain with your judge/producer-selected partner indefinitely, until one or the other of you is eliminated.

And it would seem by deductive reasoning (although no one has expressly said this yet) that:

10. The dancers whose partners were eliminated become a new pair.

Got it? This is, of course, a total 180 from last season, during which partnerships were random and forged anew each week, dance styles were chosen at random, the judges picked the bottom three couples, and America selected the bottom two based on the subsequent solos.

There's a one-word reason why they've made these changes: Blake. Blake, for those of you who aren't quite the SYTYCD historian that I am, was last season's clearly delineated frontrunner until he randomly drew his own preferred style -- lyrical -- week after week and was randomly partnered with the same couple of partners week in and week out. Although Blake doing lyrical was magnificent to behold, it got a little old by the umpteenth consecutive week, especially when other dancers (like eventual winner Nick) had the chance to show their versatility every week with a different partner and a different style.

So the new system theoretically prevents the problems with the old system. But of course, as with all planned economies, the new system comes with its own set of problems. And frankly, the new problem could easily have been averted, so I'm a little surprised at how tonight went down.

Most of the partnerships seem to have been based on the pairing of people with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Benji the Mormon Swinger and Donyelle the Jazz/Hip-Hopper (whose pairing could not possibly have been more actively pimped by the producers), Musa the Untrained Break Dancer and Natalie the Heavily Trained Lyrical Dancer, Ben the Contemporary Specialist and Ashlee the Popping Specialist, and so forth. Here's where the problem comes in. In nearly all cases, the dance style assigned to each pair was at least somewhat familiar to at least one of the dancers. So wholesome Benji had to do a raunchy Shane Sparks hip hop routine, but Donyelle was in her element, and Benji could feed off of her. Erin the jazz dancer had no idea how to do partnered ballroom dancing, but Stanislav the ballroom guy got her through the paso doble. In the few cases where the style was entirely new to both partners, the combined inexperience inevitably showed through, and the judges slammed them for it. Best example: Ben and Ashlee doing 80s disco (that's a genre?) when he'd never done a lift and she's a popper. It just seemed odd to me that you wouldn't either screw every couple with something brand new or throw every couple a bit of a bone by ensuring that at least one person had a clue. I guess that once you get rid of the more marginal dancers, this will be less of an issue, but I did find it rather jarring tonight.

Most enjoyable of the night: a tie between Benji/Donyelle's hip hop routine and Travis/Martha's Broadway Baby version of "Steam Heat."


We'll try to keep the face of the site spoiler-free tonight, but once you're in the comments, everything is fair game.

edited to add: And here's your final list. Have you seen ninety-seven films more inspiring than The Karate Kid?
THEY'RE SO VERY SPECIAL: Okay, I'll admit it -- I've never really gotten Radiohead, other than "Creep". Anyone care to explain what I'm missing, and whether/how to dive in?
THEY MAY NOT GET YOU JOBS EVEN IF THEY'RE YOURS: Courtesy of Althouse, here's an interesting WaPo article about D-cup discrimination on Broadway. Apparently the Bs are golden and the Cs are safe, but the Ds are SOL in a post-Fosse world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

FERRIS BUELLER, YOU'RE MY HERO: Since this week approaches the third anniversary of Alex's foray into list-blogging, that means that it's time for our fourth annual prediction/dissection of the American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 [Something]"which will take up three hours of CBS listmaking and programming tomorrow night.

This year, it's "100 Years, 100 Cheers" for the Most Inspirational Movies Ever, and here are the 300 nominated films.

So who's going to be up in the top ten, folks? Here's five I'm comfortable predicting as close-to-locks: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Pride of the Yankees, The Shawshank Redemption, Rocky and It's A Wonderful Life. If the world were a just one, Hoosiers would be in the top ten, but since it isn't, I'll wager with anyone that Dead Poet's Society tops it on the list. One of the Jimmy Stewart ones wins the whole thing.

No matter how sucky the ultimate list is, it's always a good night of television (and blogging). For our previous coverage:
JOHN CLEESE IS NO LONGER FUNNY: At least, he's retiring from writing and performing because, he says, he'll never top Fawlty Towers.
NEXT ON THE LIST OF THINGS THAT NO ONE EVER WOULD HAVE BOTHERED TO DO IF THEY COULDN'T BLOG ABOUT IT: Eat nothing but monkey kibble for an entire week. Props to Brokentype for breaking this important story, and especially for the incisive coverage of the vital civil liberties and intellectual property issues some lawyers and lobbyists imagined it to raise.

Edited to add: the link to The Big List, which you should visit if you haven't recently. Among the best features of the kibble-enthusiast's The Last Angry Young Man website. But then, I do like me a rant. Or sixty-four rants, in this case. Right on, most of them.
COME ON DOWN! In case you were wondering when the New York Times was going to cover the real issues, it offers tips for how to get on The Price Is Right. Also, study up on your guide to pricing games--you want to play Cliff Hangers, not Double Prices.

Monday, June 12, 2006

SHE WILL CONTINUE TO REMIND YOU OF THE MESS YOU LEFT WHEN YOU WENT AWAY, NAMELY, THOSE DIRTY SOCKS OVER THERE: Ryan Reynolds and Alanis Morissette have split. No word on which of the 21 things she wants in a lover Reynolds lacked.
IF YOUR WILDEST DREAM CAME TRUE, WOULD I BE IN IT? I watched the encore of the Windfall premiere last night on the plane, and left intrigued enough that I'll probably give it a second shot. The concept is simple enough--a group of neighbors and friends hit the lotto, and their lives change in both expected and unexpected ways. Of course, some threads appear to be eminently predictable (there's already been a blackmail attempt, and we have one person running around attempting to be a good samaritan), while others could be a bit more interesting. My biggest question is how long the show can sustain itself. It doesn't seem to me that this concept can go for more than 10 or so episodes before needing to resolve itself. Anyone else watching?
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS: Tonight's Tony Awards are sitting on my TiVo, but I have a feeling some folks would like to discuss the results, led by two shows which do not contain the Denyse Austin (as pointed out in the comments, it should be Deniece Williams--lesson learned in re blogging at 1 AM) classic referenced above. I have only two initial thoughts (having seen only one of the shows that won something tonight):
  • Wow, was anyone else expecting more in the way of wins from Sweeney Todd? The direction win was a big one (and an obvious one), but not having a single acting win and getting beaten by Pajama Game in the top category?
  • That History Boys set had better be incredible, because the set for Rabbit Hole was astoundingly effective, managing to put three full size rooms on stage using interlocking turntables.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

HEARTS FULL OF YOUTH, HEARTS FULL OF TRUTH: The NYT did its annual round-up of commencement addresses Sunday, but since they didn't take the logical step of posting online links to the full transcripts of such speeches, I had to find Ellen Degeneres at Tulane, Billy Joel at Syracuse and Melissa Etheridge at Berklee College of Music myself.

Two notes:
  • Is there no greater sign that your school didn't get its first, second or third choice commencement speaker than that you landed Cokie Roberts?
  • Surely, the 2006 winner for Least Essential Live Album is going to be that fact that there's a third fourth Billy Joel live album, no? I mean, we're not exactly talking about Phish or Bruce Springsteen here . . . (corrected; thanks to 'looking italian')