Saturday, July 21, 2007

BLESS THE CHILDREN, GIVE THEM TRIUMPH NOW: This thread is open for all Deathly Hallows spoiler talk. I haven't started it yet, but some of y'all have finished already. So all is fair in this thread, but keep it here.
AND SO THE END BEGINS: I have just returned from my neighborhood Barnes & Noble, where I photographed Cosmo Girl standing in front of an orange mountain of Deathly Hallowses before sitting down in the cafe with both kids and an iced coffee to finish re-reading the last hundred pages of Half-Blood Prince. (In case anyone's wondering how I pulled this off, Cosmo Girl munched on a cookie while reading a couple of Pigeon books and Cosmo Boy politely amused himself with a straw and an array of chompable toys.) And now we are home: the boy is off for a nap, the girl has some new books of her own, and I am preparing to ensconce myself on the couch with a nice big book. See you soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

WORLD SERIES OF NONSENSE: So, the WSoPC was decided on a tiebreaker -- "name the six characters on the bus in Little Miss Sunshine." It can't just me who believes that question to be incredibly biased against the player going last, because the first five are easy, but that last one is un-guessable. Argh.

Still, want to see an awesome tiebreaker? There was an absolutely incredible performance by both teams on this one in the finals -- name the 14 shows to win the Emmy for Best Drama since 1982. That's how you ask a finals-worthy question.
SUGGESTED SUBTITLE--"ELECTRIC BOOGALOO:" Yes, Hairspray is a lot of fun, though I miss Harvey Fierstein's Edna, regret that as great as Amanda Bynes is, her voice isn't particularly strong, and really wish they'd given Allison Janney more to do (that role was originated by Jackie Hoffman, who also played a variety of other supporting roles in the show). Perhaps even better was that the theatre I saw it at had the title listed on tickets, the ticket board, and outside the theatre as Hairspray 2. Use this thread to discuss the film or to provide suggestions for the plot of Hairspray 2. I suggest Penny and Seaweed joining as plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia and the crew getting back together to deal with the crisis through song and dance. There is, of course, a big climactic scene in which they teach Earl Warren and Hugo Black how to dance.
BECAUSE MOMMIES ARE SAPPY: For anyone who needs something about which to get a little sniffly other than the looming demise of the joy of anticipation of a new Harry Potter book, here you go.
I'M PAYING FOR IT WITH MY GRINGOTTS GOLD CARD: I realized one last pre-release Deathly Hallows thread is probably in order--with various midnight launch events and other celebrations worldwide (even where retailers are forbidden from doing so), I'm sure at least some of y'all have exciting plans. My office remains closed today, so I'm thinking I may take in the late afternoon 3D showing of Order Of the Phoenix to refresh information before picking up the book. Not sure if I'm going to do the midnight launch thing, though a Barnes and Noble near me is going the full distance, with costumes, audiobook reader Jim Dale, and yes, live owls.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

DOES THIS MEAN I'LL GET A THURSDAY OPENING NUMBER TO CANDYMAN ONE OF THESE WEEKS? Grumble grumble. Not the decision I would have liked on tonight's SYTYCD, and a decision that I think was particularly unwise on the last week before the tour company was frozen. This week's dances were definitely not the strongest we've seen this season, from Dan Karaty's choice to choreomorph Lacey into his old dancing buddy Britney to the weird jazz hands routine Pasha and Sara got stuck with to Mia Michaels' foray into goggledom. I did like the Sabra/Dominic jive outing as well as the Danny/Anya foxtrot, but on the whole this week was a bit of a downer.
DOES MY LIFE REALLY NEED TO BE SPICED UP? Despite NBC's efforts tonight, I assume I am not the only one left with the burning question of why exactly Victoria Beckham is famous and why I should care about her.
BECAUSE I'LL BE DAMNED IF I'M GOING TO LET PEOPLE MAGAZINE SCOOP MY OWN BLOG ON THIS: In case you didn't learn this from Jen, I did want to let everyone know that my wife is indeed "in a delicate condition" and we are expecting an addition to the family in the late fall. Jen, Lucy and I couldn't be happier.
THE CHILDREN ARE RIGHT TO LAUGH AT YOU RALPH: The Blogzarro Web site makes a noble attempt at collecting the 101 Greatest Simpson Quotes, but misses some great lines like "So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time," "No one who speaks German could be an evil man," and "You choo, choo, choose me." They get kudos for staying away from catch phrases like "Exxxxxcellent," "Eat my shorts" and "Mmmmmm..." (with the notable exception being No. 1).

Anyway, you know the drill, use the comments to add your favorites.
HBOUR TOWN: Back in the days of the studio system, studios would cast their movies almost entirely with players under long-term contract to the studio. To this day, there are a lot of criticisms of the studio system (many unjustified, one might argue), but if you were a mid-level working actor back in the day -- a proto-HITG -- it could provide you with a steady paycheck and more or less regular work.

Does it seem to anybody else that HBO is trying to resurrect this aspect of the studio system? It's almost like HBO shows are shot in a small village populated entirely by character actors willing to drop everything and put on a show. To wit:
  • Dayton Callie delivered goods on the frontier (Charlie Utter, Deadwood) and drugs and beatdowns in Imperial Beach (Steady Freddie, John from Cincinnati);
  • Paula Malcomson slung hash in IB (JFC) and slung something else in Deadwood (Trixie, Deadwood);
  • Branka Katic proposed sex for financing to Vinnie Chase (Nika, Entourage) and pie for a date with a polygamist (Ana, Big Love);
  • Paul Ben-Victor ran a studio (Alan, Entourage), a cargo-smuggling enterprise (Vondos, The Wire), and drugs (Palaka, JFC);
  • Jim Beaver married for a woman's honor (Ellsworth, Deadwood), shopped his gambling machines to warring polygamists (Reese, Big Love), and struggled with Vietnam guilt (Vietnam Joe, JFC);
  • Garret Dillahunt killed Wild Bill (Jack McCall, Deadwood), got killed in a case of mistaken identity (Slippery Dan -- or maybe Bummer Dan; I can see the problem -- Deadwood), came back as a self-deprecatingly psychopathic Hearst advance man (Wolcott, Deadwood), and gave up his medical practice because of a miracle (Dr. Smith, JFC);
  • Willie Garson had man troubles (Stanford Blatch, Sex and the City) and woman troubles (Dickstein, JFC);
  • Luis Guzman tended a shithole (Ramon, JFC) and possibly was incarcerated in one (El Cid, Oz*);
  • Austin Nichols started shit (Morgan Earp, Deadwood) and ended it (John, JFC);
  • Matt Winston won the lotto (Barry, JFC) and also did something* (Terry, Six Feet Under) and something else* (Jeremy, Arlis$)
  • Edie Falco investigated crimes* (Detective Whittlesey, Oz) and looked the other way (Carmela, Sopranos);
  • Lance Reddick kicked ass in a usually but not always politically-sensitive way (Lt. Daniels, The Wire) and had somethign to do with a prison* (Desmond, Oz);
  • Luke Perry wore the collar (Rev. Jeremiah, Oz) and wore a collarless leather jacket (Linc, JFC);
  • Malin Ackerman went topless a lot (Juna - The Comeback) and had a threesome with E (Tori, Entourage) (along with nympho hillbilly in Harold & Kumar, typecast much?)

Granted, a lot of this is just David Milch, Tom Fontana, and David Simon sharing a stable of actors, but I suppose that's exactly what I'm talking about. Plus, I kind of like this. It permits a sort of interim emotional connection to the characters until the new characters seem real.

*Note: did not watch this show, so I don't know exactly what the actor did.
THE MEN FROM PRICE WATERHOUSE SPEAK: It's Emmy nomination day, and the list is out. Some preliminary notes:
  • Studio 60--5 nominations (casting, cinematography, Direction ("Pilot"), and guest actor for Eli Wallach and John Goodman), Friday Night Lights--a mere 2 (casting and Direction ("Pilot")
  • SYTYCD fans will be glad to see Wade Robson and Mia Michaels both nominated for choreography.
  • Unexpectedly competitive category? Original song, which pits "D**k in a Box" against "Everything Comes Down To Poo" and "Guy Love" (and for the first time in many moons, no nomination for The Simpsons there).
  • Favorites from around here nominated? Steve Carell, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Laurie, Denis Leary, Sally Field, Kyra Sedgwick, Felicity Huffman, Tina Fey, Mary Louise Parker, Neil Patrick Harris, Rainn Wilson, Michael Emerson, Terry O'Quinn, Masi Oka, Jenna Fischer.
  • Grey's gets 4 regular acting nods (Heigl, Wilson, Oh, and Knight), and 2 guest nods (Kate Burton and Elizabeth Reaser as "Jane Doe"), plus numerous nods across the board. Congrats, Shonda!
  • Best Comedy? Entourage, Office, 2.5 Men, 30 Rock, Ugly Betty. Best Drama? Boston Legal, Grey's, House, Heroes, The Sopranos.
  • Top Chef in, Survivor out for "Reality/Competition."
  • Zero love for anything on the CW--nothing for Gilmore or Veronica.

I'm sure there's much more out there--analyze away.

ONLY ONE OR TWO WILL LAST: I'm not sure what's more frightening--that there exists a vaguely Hawaiian-inspired cover of "Mmmbop," featuring a piano intro, or that it's actually kind of good.

Summer Songs - Music - Rihanna - New York Times

HYDROPLANE INTO FAME: The NYT's Kelefeh Sanneh writes that Rihanna's "Umbrella" is the Song of the Summer, but that it's probably about time we stopped looking for one every year.
HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I: Gamasutra offers a fairly complete history of Civilization. No, not the concept, but the massively addictive computer game. Just one more turn before I get back to studying, OK?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

“WHO’S THE BITCH ON THE SHOW?” I’m pretty sure it’s Gail, myself, but it might be Tom. The NBC-owned cross-branding ramped up tonight with the chefs catering a Glad-encased lunch for the cast and crew of a Telemundo telenovela—with a “surprise” change in the cooking schedule. In my world, last-minute phone calls usually end up presaging tedious delays, not frantic braising. I was disappointed by the results—I’ve liked what I’ve seen of that particular chef and thought she seemed to be getting more interesting, as opposed to more dramatic—but I had a sinking feeling about the rainbow trout and polenta from the beginning. As Latin cooking goes, those are about as authentic as muktuk.
COLLOPORTUS: The NYT's Michiko Kakutani was able to snag a copy of Deathly Hallows today at an undisclosed NYC retail location, and her review is already online. Don't read it. I did, and it told me more than I wanted to know about this book. I won't even tell you here what.

That said, if you do end up reading it, and want to complain (or speculate) about its contents, we're here.
I KNOW WHY HIS NAME IS DMX. BECAUSE HIS REAL NAME IS EARL. IMAGINE IF HIS NAME WAS 'EARL THE RAPPER': Since I'm the one who did Shaq v. Nietzsche, I am thrilled to present yet another edition of "basketball player v. German megalomaniac" -- CharlieChu's "Who Said It: Charles Barkley or Werner Herzog?" (Via The House Next Door.)
I HOPE IT WASN'T OPTIMUS PRIME: In what's either the weirdest case of film cross-promotion ever or just an unfortunate electrical malfunction, is reporting that a "giant transformer" has exploded near NYC's Grand Central Station.
WHERE'D YOU GET THIS JACKET? Retrocrush takes a look at the 10 Greatest Super Villain Costumes of All Time, noting that No. 5, the Riddler, inspired real-life super villain, Matthew Lesko. (Don't ignore the Lesko link, it's a fascinating profile of the man with 15 question-mark suits from the Sunday Washington Post.)

via Pop Candy
WE'RE MISSING SOMETHING: While Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, and Jennifer Morrison will all allegedly be back to torment Dr. Hizzy, he's getting some temporary Cottages, with the two most notable being Kal Penn (Kumar!), and noted showkiller Olivia Wilde (Skin, The Black Donnellys, The O.C.).
PAGING SYBIL TRELAWNEY: There's a second Potter thread we ought to have up for the remainder of the week -- speculation, hopes and fears regarding how Deathly Hallows is going to play out. So let's do it here.

No spoilers regarding the actual contents of the book will be tolerated.
CURE LIGHT WOUNDS: So last night, I notice that my law school classmate (and now Dominican Deacon) is using the term Rev. Br., rather than just "Br." ahead of his name in his emails. His explanation:

"Yes. A deacon is considered a Cleric. That means I can use the title 'Rev.' and that I can no longer used edged weapons."
I never thought of the ramifications of Gary Gygax on the Priesthood, but if my friend doesn't use a sermon to someday explain the fact that Satan is the source of all Lawful Evil in the world, I'll be mighty disappointed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

101 Summer Express: Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less - New York Times

#75 BEING AMONG MY FAVORITES: Mark "The Minimalist" Bittman has 101 simple summer meals that can be prepared in 10 minutes or less.
THE NIGHT HANUKKAH HARRY ISSUED A BEATDOWN: OMG, this is the greatest story ever -- Jon Lovitz beat Andy Dick bloody at a comedy club last week.

Afterwards, he had sex with his wife . . . Morgan Fairchild . . .
IN MY FATHER'S CAMERA, CHARLIE UTTER PLAYS THE SAXOPHONE WHILE AL BUNDY ASCENDS A STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN ABOVE STANFORD BLATCH WOOING HEY IS THAT REALLY BABY FROM DIRTY DANCING?: Okay, now that I'm finally caught up on John from Cincinnati for the first time since the first episode, and since Benner, Carmichael Harold (p.s.: Giants SUCK), and especially Jordan are standing up to defend it, I'd like to know: WTF was the "my father" speech all about? I'm not saying I didn't like it, but I think I liked it in the way that I liked Sacred Emily when my sister and I found it and I was in a goofy mood and my sister was almost certainly high, which is to say, WTF?

Also, Milch seems to be taking the "how many clowns can fit in a Volkswagen?" approach to casting this infernal show.
EXPELLIARIMUS THREADICUS: Since there's clearly demand for it, and (AFAIK) none of your bloggers have gotten around to it yet, what with the saltpeter and pin extravaganza of last weekend, we give you a thread to discuss Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.

A warning--Deathly Hallows spoilers are in circulation in other parts of the Interweb, and they will not be tolerated until the Deathly Hallows spoiler thread is opened later this week (and then only in that thread). Failure to abide by the spoiler policy may result in you being subjected to the Avada Kevadra Curse.
IS THAT AN ORGANIC ZUCCHINI IN YOUR POCKET? I don't know whether to be disturbed or excited (or some combination thereof) that the New York Sun is reporting that my primary grocery (for convenience more than the organicness) is now one of Manhattan's hottest pickup scenes.
A FIRST STEP... BACKWARDS: With all the 1776-related saltpeter last week, we neglected to note that Larry Lessig had an an article on Thursday in the Washington Post (sub. req.) addressing George Lucas "innovative" plan to open some of the Star Wars content to mixing and mashing. Reading the derivative content provisions of the Star Wars Galaxies EULA a few years ago made me wonder if a blog posts about the game wouldn't arguably become Lucas' property. This "plan" for the films is apparently similarly sweeping. The gist of it:
Upload a remix and George Lucas, and only Lucas, is free to include it on his Web site or in his next movie, with no compensation to the creator. You are not even permitted to post it on YouTube. Upload a particularly good image as part of your remix, and Lucas is free to use it commercially with no compensation to the creator. The remixer is allowed to work, but the product of his work is not his. Put in terms appropriately (for Hollywood) over the top: The remixer becomes the sharecropper of the digital age.
From WaPo.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'M SORRY, BUT HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THE LYRICS TO "FREE FALLIN'"? Despite some very neat tiebreakers, that was a disappointing quarterfinal hour of the World Series of Pop Culture for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that I feel like I now constitute the upper edge of the age range for competitors, and yet I still would have blown the St. Elmo's Fire question. Still, there are worse ways to use one's TiVo on a summer night.
I'M WAITING FOR THE ZAC EFRON ENDORSEMENT: CNN has beaten us to the punch on reporting celebrity giving to political candidates for Quarter 2. Who's Ben Stiller so eager to give to that he inadvertently exceeded the legal maximum? Why did Peter Coyote give the oddball sum of $1,054 to his chosen candidate? What candidate are both John Lithgow and Christy Carlson Romano behind? Which campaign could trot out Pauly Shore, Fran Drescher, and George Takei as celebrity surrogates? Is my respect for Mark Ruffalo as an actor diminished by the fact that he gave $700 to Mike Gravel? I'm sure there are more to be asked once OpenSecrets goes back up, and use the thread for your discoveries.
THE SCHEDULING TANGO: NBC announced a bunch of schedule changes for the fall today which will be of note/interest around here:
  • Josh Schwartz's Chuck (which they've certainly been promoting heavily over the summer) replaces Deal or No Deal in the lead-off slot on Mondays (against HIMYM), making Monday an all sci-fi affair for NBC.
  • The Biggest Loser gets extended to 90 minutes on Tuesdays and The Singing Bee follows, filling the original Chuck slot.
  • Isaiah Washington to have a recurring role as a government agent on Bionic Woman.
  • Friday Night Lights and Las Vegas swap places on Friday nights (FNL moves to 9 EST), and get Deal Or No Deal as a lead-in.

Smart moves by NBC, especially moving Chuck out of a nasty timeslot (against Dancing With The Stars, House, and the generally well-buzzed Reaper) into something a little lighter, though I'm not sure about NBC's decision to apparently just put up its hands on Tuesdays at 8.

SORT OF LIKE CASTING JASON LEWIS TO APPEAL TO THE STRAIGHT MALE DEMOGRAPHIC: L&O: Criminal Intent is losing its current female lead, Julianne Nicholson, for a time this fall due to maternity leave. The president of USA Network (the new owner of CI) thinks that her network has of late been "a little too focused on guys," and so she's looking to create strong lead female characters for USA's shows.

So who's the actress who's been chosen to lead this charge, this laserlike focus on strong women, this quest to make casting decisions so as not just to appeal to guys?

Um, Alicia Witt.

(full story in The Hollywood Reporter)
WE WANT KELLY KAPOOR ON TEAM VERSACORP: Does the concept of Celebrity Apprentice with at least some folks from The Office appeal to you? Personally, I'd prefer it if it was done in character (seriously, Kelly vs. Ryan on The Apprentice? High comedy). Any celebrities you think need to face The Hair?
YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE: With news that Mandy Patinkin is bailing on inexplicable CBS smash Criminal Minds, after having previously bailed on Chicago Hope, and after having (IIRC) difficulties with certain co-stars in the Broadway productions of The Wild Party and The Secret Garden, has your goodwill for Inigo Montoya been lost?
YOU COULD BE A PART-TIME MODEL: Matt's right -- Entourage is just going through the success-porn motions right now, with even lovable loser Johnny Drama's TV success cresting and Vince's career seemingly, inexplicably, off of fraud hold (though Matt gives too much credit to the Elvis Mitchell cameo, since the show didn't convey any sense that it knows why Elvis Mitchell is so cool; the Brian Grazer cameo outside the Grill was much more knowing). John from Cincinnati, which I fought everybody on this blog to claim as my own, has packed about an episode's worth of plot twists into six or seven episodes, but has counterbalanced that by packing six or seven episodes' worth of totally random screaming and wooden acting into each episode. Big Love, and I know I'll get some dissent here, just seems like it's content to be a mediocre show, taking its cues from its fervently beige leading family and moderating both its humor and its conflict so that it is only pleasantly subversive.

To me, there is no doubt that the best show on HBO right now is Flight of the Conchords. Yes, I find it annoying that so much of the material comes straight from the duo's stand-up, but the deeper they get into the season -- and the further from being able to sketch literally around the songs -- the better the show becomes, I think. I find myself repeatedly chuckling at the exaggerated cultural differences (the Americans mistaking "dead" for "did" and "Brett" for "Britt"; the Heger-like awe and hatred of Australians), the reversal of the characters' expected roles (lumbering band-leader Jemaine, who looks like what you'd get if you spliced together the genes of Mick Jagger and Eric Bogosian, is flighty and passive-aggressive; frail Brett is sensible and aloof), and just the dumb exchanges between the leads and the supporting cast (especially Mal, or perhaps Mel, the band's lone fan). The show is not brilliant, but it's consistently amusing and it may be the only reason not to cancel HBO until Curb returns.
DOES TYLER FLORENCE HAVE ANY RECIPES INVOLVING BOYSENBERRY SYRUP? IHOP is purchasing the strugg-a-ling Applebee's chain (sub req'd). ("[T]he chain's bigger problem is that it didn't change quickly enough while a raft of competitors copied it. In a business where fashions shift -- fashions in food, in decor and in general restaurant ambience -- Applebee's stayed too long with a formula that had worked for it in the past. Attracting diners these days are newer eateries with sleek interiors, a contrast with Applebee's busy walls full of photos and sports paraphernalia. Menus at many newer-generation restaurants stress the freshness or naturalness of their food, a contrast with the fried-and-breaded fare at traditional bar-and-grill chains like Applebee's.")

Sunday, July 15, 2007

SUITS SUCK: Just when Entourage comes close to losing me (between the "Dude Looks Like A Lady" plot last week and this week's interminable "Johnny and Turtle's Quest For Weed" plot, darn close to the edge), and starts to be repeating itself (yes, Billy's a loon, we get it already), it manages to score big points with a cameo from ALOTT5MA fave Elvis Mitchell, who really ought to find something better to do than appear on Entourage.
LOOK ME IN THE EYE, HENRY, AND TELL ME YOU DON'T WANT TO BE A PART OF IT: A feature in today's NYT regarding his acting choices in Hairspray raises the interesting question of just how good of an actor John Travolta is.

By my math, he's had three great performances (as opposed to great roles -- a longer list) in his thirty-year career: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, about which I don't need to say anything; Gov. Jack Stanton in Primary Colors, in which he goes beyond mere impersonation to channeling both the charisma and the weaknesses of a certain Southern governor; and as Sean Archer/Castor Troy in the awesome popcorn movie Face/Off, where his bad-guy-with-the-good-guy's-face performance is a wonderfully over-the-top hoot. It's not a long list, but it's a list, alright.