Saturday, January 27, 2007
- Both feature something that's fairly unique in films -- antagonists who aren't villains. Both The Fugitive's Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) and Say Anything's James Court (John Mahoney) exist to thwart the protagonist's ambition, but neither is intending to do evil to them. They believe their heart's in the right place, and (with the obvious exception of Court's business improprieties) are acting in a way that, objectively, seems sensible as a method of protecting the country/the daughter. And both performances are pretty awesome. (Add as a third in this category, if you want, Tom Hanks' role in Catch Me If You Can, which I mention because it's on ABC as I type this.)
- Both are intensely Chicago movies. I don't need to make the case for The Fugitive on that count, but Say Anything is full of Chicago actors -- John Cusack, obvs, from Evanston, and his Evanston buddy Jeremy Piven as one of the boys outside the Gas and Sip. John Mahoney's a Steppenwolf Theater Company member, and Lili Taylor's a Glencoe native who went to New Trier High School. It's uncanny.
Friday, January 26, 2007
I didn’t actually need what Lexus calls an Advanced Parking Guidance System to help me park. On the other hand, even though I consider myself pretty good at washing pots and pans, I wouldn’t hesitate to hand that chore over to an advanced scullery system. So I told the Lexus man to bring the car around to my house. I said that I’d stand on the sidewalk nearby, say “Park!” in a commanding tone, and watch the Lexus LS 460 L do its stuff. He told me that wasn’t how the Advanced Parking Guidance System worked. I told him to bring the Lexus LS 460 L around to my house anyway: I had already alerted the neighbors.However, the technology's not quite there yet: "The Advanced Parking Guidance System works only if the spot is six and a half feet longer than the car — the sort of spot, in other words, that the average Manhattan parker comes upon about once every 14 or 15 years."
As a manipulator of the medium, Spielberg ranks with the greatest — king of cute Walt Disney and master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. In a sense, Spielberg synthesizes Disney and Hitchcock. Astoundingly attuned to mass-audience psychology, he is at once ruthlessly sadistic and cloyingly saccharine, a filmmaker who opened his first blockbuster by implicating the audience in an aquatic sex-murder committed by a giant serial-killer shark, and the only filmmaker since Disney who might sincerely employ “When You Wish Upon a Star” (the original closing music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Naturally privileging sentiment above reason, Spielberg’s movies are shamelessly dependent on such cues. But music is hardly his only means of persuasion. Jaws amply demonstrated Spielberg’s willingness to inflict pain upon the spectator.
Different as Disney’s Snow White or Hitchcock’s Psycho might be, each film exhibits a rage for control readily attributable to its maker. And yet, one doubts Disney ever questioned the purity of his intentions or Hitchcock lost sleep pondering the psychological implications of his films; as the world’s preeminent maker of entertainments for children, the former was a priori virtuous while, as the professionally ghoulish virtuoso of on-screen murder, the latter had no need to demonstrate his moral virtue. Spielberg, however, is the representative of the aging “movie generation”—and thus acutely self-conscious, if not downright anxious to do the right thing.
There is a sense in which Spielberg’s oeuvre is divided against itself, characterized by the Good Steven’s feel-good movies and the more hostile entertainments devised by his evil twin. . . .
Via The House Next Door, where Matt Zoller Seitz thinks Hoberman's political claims are completely daft, and the resulting conversation is fascinating.
As for the day job at WaPo, Wilbon is showing some serious loyalty, saying, “I might write columns for the Web. I might have a blog. I might do something with Tony [Kornheiser] on the Web. I’ll do whatever Don Graham and Len Downie want me to do. ESPN did not create the Wilbon-and-Kornheiser brand. The Post did.”
Thursday, January 25, 2007
EW has a second fun list this week, The 25 Most Shameless Paycheck-Grabbing Roles in History. DeNiro's turn as Fearless Leader in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Movie takes the top spot, but I know, you, the ALOTT5MA reader can come up with some more good examples.
TiVo Alert! The US National Figure Skating Championship kicks off with televised coverage tonight on ESPN2, at 9:00 pm. Tonight we'll see the men's and ladies' short programs. Tomorrow brings pairs and dance finals, and Saturday features the mens' and ladies' long programs.
The ladies' competition should be very interesting. In some ways, this is a breath of fresh air for women's skating. For the first time in over a decade, the US Nationals won't be dominated by Michelle Kwan, who was a major player even in her absence last year. And Sasha Cohen, the heir apparent and silver medalist at the Olympics, won't be there either, because she's too busy taking acting classes and going to parties with Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise.
The problem is that without a big name to generate media attention and TV coverage, figure skating is losing viewers and becoming less popular. This competition will be an interesting referendum on whether figure skating can retain its prominence in the post-Michelle era. Among the ladies who are there, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Kimmie Meissner, our reigning World Champion. Kimmie placed second at Skate America and third at Trophee Eric Bompard, but hasn't been defeated this season by an American skater. Emily Hughes and Katy Taylor, last year's third and fourth placers, will be there. But I'm really cheering for Alissa Czisny, a gorgeous skater with amazing spins who suffers from performance nerves and never seems to be able to pull it out in competition.
Tragically, Stephanie Rosenthal, who did an awesome techno short program last year, won't be around. But if anyone is going to do something equally new and interesting, it's going to be in the shorts.
As for the men, it's all about Evan Lycasek, who had a thrilling recovery in the Olympics, and Johnny Weir, fighting for a fourth US championship. Tragically, this year, Johnny does not have a program that features a single red glove named Camille, who gives quotes to the media. But no worries! This year, Johnny's long program features him acting out the life of Jesus. If that doesn't make all y'all want to watch, I don't know what will.
Meanwhile, the folks in Indianapolis, destined to be disappointed in ten days or so, can console themselves with a good book or two, seeing as this is the Year of Vonnegut in Naptown. Here's a Q&A with the author, whose latest and perhaps last book, A Man Without a Country, was just released in paperback. I'd love to make it down there for some of the events, especially if there is a screening of Back to School.
And occasionally when the subject of the Beatles' greatness comes up, there are those whippersnappers among our readership who inevitably say they just don't get it. If that is you, Stylus has compiled a list of the Top Ten Beatles Songs for Lapsed Fans.
In other Rock Hall news, the AV Club speculates on the chances of some future inductees, including some we've already examined here in depth -- John Cougar Mellencamp and The Replacements.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
On the other hand, in the "it's all about the food" world of Top Chef where we, the viewers, can't taste the food that it's all about, there is no palpable proof in the proverbial pudding and I remain steadfastly unimpressed. Irritated, even, and unsympathetic. Plastic toolchests full of arcane cooking devices and magic emulsifying elixirs are cool, no doubt, but if that's all Bravo's got for a redemption edit then they've no hope of rallying me to Teen Wolf's side.
Otherwise, surprised and a little bit sad to see tonight's second elimiation. The Viewer's Choice/Congeniality award may provide the eliminee some consolation. Then again, how much consolation can you get for $10,000 in today's market?
And how about Padma's snarl on the night's first "pack your knives and go"? Delicious.
Apparently, the Academy is more likely to nominate an Asian if he is in a supporting role mentoring a younger Caucasian actor, like Ken Watanabe in 'The Last Samurai' or Noriyuki Morita in 'The Karate Kid.' Even when the Asian has the most screen time in a film, like Haing S. Ngor in 'The Killing Fields,' he gets bumped down to supporting actor, while the better-known Caucasian star (Sam Waterston) gets positioned for best actor. In the Oscar world, Asians still have a long way to go.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
For those who haven't read the Caro book, read it now if you have any interest in cities, power, highways, parks or American life in the 20th Century. For those who have, check out this 1998 essay from Caro on why he wrote it.
To save the Oscar gabbers from having to sift through our children’s book gabbing in the Oscar thread, here is a quick and dirty rundown of the major children’s book awards announced yesterday at ALA Midwinter:
Printz: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang! Big win for new imprint First Second and graphic novels everywhere! The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, widely buzzed to be the winner, got an honor.
Caldecott: David Wiesner for his wordless picture book Flotsam. No big surprises there. It’s his third medal.
Newbery: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, which no one I know had heard of before yesterday. General consensus: at least it wasn’t The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (which did not even get an honor).
Here’s the full list of winners and honorees.
You will undoubtedly find more specific hemming and hawing from me in the comments thread. Oh, and this post does not reflect the opinions of my employer. Not that I’m going to tell you who my employer is.
Yes, that's right -- the film which would have been the first one with an almost entirely black cast to receive such a nomination** -- Dreamgirls. I thought something weird was up when Bill Condon didn't receive a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, and didn't even notice he didn't get a Best Director nod when I was just jarred (pleasantly) by Paul Greengrass' nomination for United 93. Wow. Nevertheless, Dreamgirls received more nominations than any other film, on the strength of its three Best Original Song nominees ("Listen", "Love You I Do", "Patience").
Other surprises? Borat for Adapted Screenplay, Ryan Gosling for Best Actor, Djimon Hounsou (Hollywood's favorite Magical Negro) receiving his second career nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Mark Wahlberg (yay!), not Jack Nicholson, getting the Best Supporting nod for The Departed. And none of the Best Cinematography nominees (including both dueling magician films) are Best Picture Nominees.
The full list of nominees is here.
**edited to add: Other than The Color Purple (1985). Oops.
Monday, January 22, 2007
- I'm not in love with You're The One That I Want, but I'm not giving up on NBC's American Idol For White Non-Southerners either. Now that we're down to the Talented Twelve, we'll see what happens as we try really hard not to just compare the performers to Travolta and Newton-John.
- Jon Stewart just referred to the Vows Section of the Sunday Times as "where you find out which Ivy Leaguer married which other Ivy Leaguer . . . and at which temple." Hee.
- Did you know that the same actor, Kenneth Mars, played crazed Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in the original version of The Producers and later voiced King Triton in The Little Mermaid?
- For the Philadelphians in the audience, I probably shouldn't tell you that today was the twentieth anniversary of Budd Dwyer's demise. I have nothing but bad, nauseating memories from that day -- saw the events live, stuck home from school on a snow day.
- It has, thankfully, been more than a year since we've had to host our Dead Wrestler of the Month feature, having skipped John "Earthquake" Tenta's death from cancer last summer, but word has come in over the transom from Titan Towers that former WrestleMania headliner Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow has passed away. No cause of death yet, though Bigelow admitted a longtime OxyContin addiction in a 2005 interview. It's hard to think of a wrestler who combined size and agility like the Bigelow, and to learn that he (of the legendary tattooed skull) was reduced to living off his disability payments, well, that's just depressing. The "Beast from the East" was 45 years old.
- Finally, gang, while some may believe that “All first- and second-year attorneys are pretty terrible,” they're probably still better than the ones who aren't really attorneys at all.
To me, this isn't really all that different from the Mel Gibson / Michael Richards outbursts except that, unlike the other two, Washington has an ongoing gig from which he can be fired. Firing Washington would seem to be a perfect example of biting off one's nose to spite one's face, and I hope that termination won't be the outcome. Not that I'm in favor of letting the congenitally stupid thrive and prosper (I mean, seriously -- denying something that tons of people witnessed, cavalierly employing the exact same offensive term in one's denial?), but I think it's pretty safe to say that if Washington is terminated, this year's Golden Globes will forever be known as the night Grey's Anatomy jumped a bundle of sticks.
There are some other interesting lists down the page, including the top 10 words the kids are using nowadays, which I intend to begin working into my postings here in a bid to improve our demographics. Hopefully all my references to ya-ya papaya's won't get up your nose.
- Neal LaBute, for writing Wicker Man
- Ron Howard, for directing Da Vinci Code
- Lindsay Lohan, for Worst Actress for Just My Luck
- M. Night Shymalan, for various things connected with Lady In The Water, including Worst Supporting Actor (actually, his performance wasn't bad, it was his casting of himself in that particular role which helped turn the movie into a festival of onanism)
- Kristin Chenoweth, for Worst Supporting Actress, for everything she did this year except Running With Scissors.
Sadly, Sly Stallone (though eligible) did not break his prior record and hit 30 nominations for the Razzies.
Battlestar Galactica is back with the tail end of Season 3, and for our troubles we've got a clue (perhaps) into who the remaining five Cylons are, an interesting development in the love quadrangle, and the makings of a new riff between Adama and Roslin. A damned fine episode (although not enough Tyrol). Plus, a really, really big explosion.
Consider this thread to be your space to make your last, best pleas to include your favorites within the finalists, focusing on those films, performances, scripts and such which aren't being predicted for inclusion right now.
I, for one, would like to see Mark Wahlberg or Alec Baldwin -- not Jack Nicholson -- get a supporting nod for excellent work in The Departed, and I am also pulling for Bill Nighy (Notes on a Scandal) to get a "you're on a nice run" nomination in the category. But you've seen more films than I have this year, so this thread is now open for me to learn a bit about what I've missed.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
- Catch and Release, the much delayed directorial debut of writer Susannah Grant, featuring Jennifer Garner and Kevin Smith, filmed back between Seasons 4 and 5 of Alias, finally arrives.
- Epic Movie, the "let's throw jokes at the wall and see what sticks" spinoff of the Scary Movie franchise, features Kumar, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, Hiro's girlfriend from Heroes, and, in perhaps the most brilliant casting decision ever, Crispin Glover parodying Johnny Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka.
- Smokin' Aces, with Affleck, Bateman, Liotta, and Piven in an apparently ultra-violent hitman caper pic.
I've already seen all but Babel and Letters From Iwo Jima from the list of likely Oscar nominees, so there's no rush for me to catch up on Best Picture possibles (I probably ought to see Last King of Scotland and Pan's Labyrinth, as well) so I expect I'll partake of a couple of those this weekend. Anyone else?
Utley, age 28, was arbitration eligible this year, and FA-eligible in 2009. Compared to $136M/8 years for Alfonso Soriano (31 y.o.), it feels like a bargain. (Oh, and Utley got married yesterday.)
Jim DeRogatis' mild original review of Hootie and the Blowfish's Fairweather Johnson ("Hootie music never rocks, and you certainly can't dance to it; at best, you just sort of do the awkward white-person wiggle so prominent at Dead and baby Dead shows alike"), which nevertheless got him fired from Rolling Stone, can be found here.
To me, a science fiction fan from before I can remember,* the thing I like best of all are when the rules of the universe -- however created -- remain rules. This made quite clear in the miniseries, when a third of the fleet lacked faster-than-light drives and suffered the necessary consequence. No last minute warp field expansion, no hiding in the gullet of a giant space worm with no possible ecological niche. The Cylons show up. The fleet that can leave, does. And ninteen thousand stragglers are vaporized, outgass into hard vacuum, or -- perhaps least mercifully -- wedged in some compartment of a broken ship silently promising to Laura Roslin "I kill you filthy."
Nevertheless, with the conclusion of the first half of Season 3, I'm a little annoyed. Yes, Adama made it clear that they themselves had nuclear weapons -- he lent one to Dr. Baltar after all, and we know where that left us -- but they seem to have been forgotten until convenient. You think Galactica's (nor less so Pegasus') atomics might have come in handy during "Exodus", no? But now that we need a big mid-season cliffhanger, and there's a big to-do about deploying the atomics, we don't even get a John Spencer-Michael Madsen standoff, just a schoolmarmish eyeroll.
Anyway, I'm hoping for a solid Chief Tyrol episode tonight who -- to me at least -- has become one of the most interesting characters on the show.
I'll put up a thread on the episode later tonight.
Also, I am totally going to try to make the Fideos with Clams and Saffron at some point.