Saturday, February 23, 2008

AND NOT ONLY BECAUSE IT DESCRIBES A DANCE I'D NEVER WANT TO PERFORM: On this Oscar eve, let's collect a list -- best film songs not nominated for Oscars. I'll start with this one, almost every song in Purple Rain, and the theme from New York, New York. Oh, and "Let It Be" was apparently eligible in 1970, but not nominated.
I WAS ROOTING FOR CHUCK AND LARRY: In addition to the much publicized photogaphs, it's not been a good week for Lindsay Lohan--tonight, I Know Who Killed Me racked up 8 Golden Raspberry Awards, a new record, including 3 for Lohan herself (a tie for Worst Actress, for her dual roles in the film, and Worst Screen Couple). Other "winners" included Eddie Murphy (worst actor, worst supporting actor, and worst supporting actress, all for Norbit), and Daddy Day Camp (Worst Remake or Sequel).
SEND NOT TO KNOW FOR WHOM THE MONTAGE ROLLS, IT ROLLS FOR THEE: I have no question that if Heath Ledger is included within the traditional Oscar Necrology package, as opposed to receiving a separate tribute as I predict, he will lead the pack by a country mile. There's nothing to really debate -- if he's in the montage, he'll be the last name, and receive a long and enthusiastic standing ovation.

Beyond Ledger, here's your noteworthies in the running in the annual applause-o-meter-of-death rankings: Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ousmane Sembene, Deborah Kerr, Roy Scheider, Marcel Marceau, Jane Wyman, Roscoe Lee Browne, Brad Renfro, Tom Poston, Joel Siegel and betting pool super-sleeper Jack Valenti.

So, Ledger to the side, I'll go with Scheider to win, Valenti to place and Renfro for show -- recency counts for a lot, and them furr'ners never get the props they deserve.
PAYING ANYTHING TO ROLL THE DICE, JUST ONE MORE TIME: Journey's got a new singer and, damn, he really sounds like Steve Perry. But he doesn't sound like he's trying to sound like Steve Perry, if you know what I mean.

Check it out.

Friday, February 22, 2008

MOUNT RAPMORE REVISITED: Bill Simmons has reconsidered his choices for "Mount Rapmore", which we analyzed last week. His revised selections (look for "Issue No. 3" in the newer Simmons link) are:
  1. Tupac
  2. Dr. Dre
  3. Russell Simmons (which should please our commenter dp)
  4. Rakim (which should please Kevin and Tim Something)
While pondering the question, feel free to listen to this groundbreaking tune or this one from 1974 long before any of the people listed above were famous.
PWNED BY BRETT MYERS: The Phillies' Kyle Kendrick was told this week that he was traded to Japan -- which, given that he was actually being punk'd by his teammates, makes for a good weekend video.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN ... I'VE TRAVELED OVER HALF OUR STATE TO BE HERE TONIGHT: Traditionally, this is about the part of Oscar Week when we finally sit down and talk about our rooting interests for the show -- not predictions of what will happen, but what we're hoping to see happen. And since the best film I saw from 2007 was the not-nominated-for-anything Zodiac and I've only seen two of the nominated films (Clayton, Blood) and four of the twenty nominated performances ... well, I'm mostly hoping that Jon Stewart puts on a good show (and that the milkshake joke is a good one), that Roderick Jaynes gives a kick-ass speech if he wins for Best Editing, and that Ratatouille be honored at least once. You?

[Necrology predictions and other wagering will come in a separate post.]
ELEVEN HOURS IN THE TIN PAN, LORD THERE'S GOT TO BE ANOTHER WAY: As noted in comments recently, just over one year ago, we had the epic "getting to know you" thread, and we're due to do it again, especially with many of us snowed in today. Folks who've been around for a while--tell us what's new with you. New folks or lurkers--welcome! Drop into the comments and say "hi"--let us know where you're from, how you found us, and something interesting about you. Really, we don't bite. I know we've got at least a couple of readers and friends who have books coming out in the near future (here and here, both of which I'm looking forward to), and even some of us, your loyal bloggers, find time to write about more substantive things.

Universal, Hasbro team for films

STARRING DAVID HUDDLESTON AS MR. MONEYBAGS? Universal Pictures has inked a four-picture deal with Hasbro, promising to take to the screen such works as Monopoly, Candy Land, Clue, Ouija, Battleship, Magic: the Gathering and Stretch Armstrong. As one of my co-bloggers emailed, "I'm not quite sure what the plot of a Stretch Armstrong movie would be, but I'm quite confident it would involve a great deal of stretching."

I just hope there's room in the Monopoly film (for which they're talking to Ridley Scott) for Damon Wayans.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BE MY BABY: So, it looks like Locke's got at least two things on the Craphole Island breakfast menu, but neither seem to be terribly well-received. We learned quite a bit about the Oceanic Six this week, and Alan asks a good question: how does this intersect with Desmond's vision? Also, where are the rest of the Others?
WHY DON'T WE DUET IN THE ROAD? Retrocrush has a great list of the 25 Greatest Duets of All Time, an excellent mix of the sublime ("Ain't no Mountain...," "Don't Give Up," "Fairytale of New York") to over-the-top goodness ("You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "Islands in the Stream" "Endless Love"). Lots of video goodness here, but still, no Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra, no Johnny and June Carter Cash, no Mike Reno and Ann Wilson?

Here's an earlier list of the top 50 Duets that gives Lee and Nancy their due. (Also, the worst duets are here.)

Which of your faves didn't make the cut?
MUSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF: Warning: Long rant follows. There was so much -- so much! -- hype about the quality and professionalism (or ringerism) of this year's American Idol crop that the show almost convinced us to forget that it's not necessarily the best singers who make the best pop stars -- it's the ones best able to connect with the current pay-for-downloading audience. It's a good thing that we had Simon to remind us, ever-more desperately, that he can't make money off of kids who do a great "Moon River" or "Where the Boys Are." One of the problems is that a lot of these kids are over-trained, and therefore have musical tastes that are wildly out of touch with pop music. The kids buying music don't want immaculately-performed songs that remind them of their grandmothers; they want music that will help them get laid, which is exactly what AI's audition process doesn't test for.

So there were a lot of structural problems with this round. The stage is built for AI v.1.0 performances -- the Justin/Kelly-model, back when Britney and XTina were huge recording artists and people were okay with disembanded singers marching around by themselves on a cheeseball stage with a dorky clip-art animation background. Now you can only do that if you're 14 and you have a show on the Disney Channel or you're 50 and you have a show at the MGM Grand. Allowing instruments is a nice concession to the modern era, but why not bring the band onstage and let the performers interact? And if you want "current" and "relevant," as TwoP points out, perhaps you should not make everybody sing 40-year-old songs (and you shouldn't let them be arranged in the worst Las Vegas way, with the tinkly 1980s synthesizer front-and-center).

But, as the panel pointed out, there are songs from the 1960s that can be covered in a way that is passably relevant. What is shocking is that not a single performer picked one (though Lushington at least tried). It probably is impossible for anybody but an expert, confident musician with an established musical personality to update 60s top-40 pop ("Happy Together"; "One is the Loneliest Number"; "Shop Around") successfully. How on earth could two of the top 24 think that the road to current rock stardom runs through "Happy Together"? Preposterous.

So fix it. Match a performer to a 1960s song that would best showcase his or her talents (or, for that matter, just pick a 1960s song suitable for covering). If you want to be realistic, try to pick one for which AI could get clearance -- meaning no Rolling Stones songs (they are iffy and take forever to clear), no Beatles (too expensive), and no Led Zeppelin (always rejected, unless you're Cameron Crowe).
TRAMP STAMP: Is it wrong that my immediate response to this article in today's Times (and the feature photo that accompanied it) was that someone could use some Turlington's Lower Back Tattoo Remover?
[YOU ARE STILL IN THE RUNNING/FOR YOUR CRIMES I SENTENCE YOU] TO [BE AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL/STAY IN THE HOUSE AND ROCK BRET'S WORLD]: Let's play America's Next Top Model Cycle 10 hopeful or Rock of Love 2 contestant (note: some descriptions apply to multiple contestants):
  • Ivy League ESL student
  • Helium-talker
  • Dead ringer for the daytime hooker from My Name is Earl
  • Female circumcision
  • Molested
  • Bronzer-fetishist
  • Unattractive punk
  • Elvira, Mistress of the Night's older non-goth sister
  • So much plastic surgery you can't tell if she's Asian or not
  • Well-rehearsed eccentric
  • Lapsed Mormon
  • Single mom
  • Voluptuous girl next door
  • Voluptuous skank
  • Stereotypical dumb blonde
  • Pretending to be bisexual
  • Anorexic
  • Cannon fodder (will be eliminated/recuse self for insufficient fawning over Tyra/Bret)
Sadly, no Spontaniouse in either house. Incidentally, this season proves once again my theory that every other cycle of ANTM (and for that matter every season of Rock of Love) features a cast of women who are not remotely attractive enough to be models. Does anybody think that Heather, Lisa, Chantal, or Jenah -- all Cycle 9 also-rans -- wouldn't instantly be the favorite among this group?
DON'T COME IN HERE WITH HALF A THING: The fine folks over at Bartlet4America have created a section that is called "The Page About The Thing," in which they attempt to both chronicle the many and varied uses of "thing" in TWW dialogue and attempt to explain what each and every "thing" is. The thing is worth some of your time.
CLEAR EYES....AH, YOU KNOW THE REST: Apparently, NBC/Universal now really wants to try and save FNL, and are seeking a "sharing" deal much like the one currently in place with L&O:CI as a possibility. One of the rumored homes is the CW, which makes a lot of sense. Demographically, it's a nice fit, the CW has abundant holes to fill, including two hours on Fridays, and with an average 6.2M viewers this season, would likely immediately become the CW's highest rated program.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

  • Those I Love: Asia'h Epperson! Ramiele Malubay! Brooke White!
  • Not As Much Love But Still Good: Alaina Whitaker, Alexandrea Lushington (and her Angela-Bassett-doing-Tina-Turner shoulders), Syesha Mercado
  • Person Who Scared Me: Amanda Overmyer
  • Underwhelmers Despite Pimpery: Joanne Borgella (it took me a looong time to figure out what the heck she was singing -- never a good sign); Carly Smithson (Randy is praising her because of her mike technique??); Kristy Lee Cook (really lucky that she's super cute and super pimped); Kady Malloy (who might -- might -- be saved by the Britney thing)
  • Cannon Fodder without Mitigating Factors: Amy Davis

And let me just reiterate (or maybe I'm just iterating it -- have we made this point before?) that crooning without having preestablished a fan base is never a good AI strategy. Amy Davis and Jason Yeager, I'm talking to you.

THE ARTICLE WAS ACCOMPANIED BY A HEARTY CHUNG-CHUNG: Jesse L. Martin is leaving Law & Order: Mothership and will be replaced by former comedian Anthony Anderson. This means that the only cast members to have more than 2 seasons of appearances on the show will be S. Epatha Merkerson (now in her 14th season) and Sam Waterston (now in his 13th season).
THE AUDACITY OF JOKES: Two interesting SNL tdibits from the Post:
  • They've apparently been holding open calls for a Barack Obama impersonator, unhappy with their current options. Notably, the only Obama appearance this season? Obama himself.
  • Maya Rudolph may be done with the show. Though she appeared pre-strike, it was apparently only on a day-player basis, not with a season contract. She won't appear on this weekend's Tina Fey/Carrie Underwood episode, and may not return at all.
ONE LESS REASON TO GO TO THE MALL: The Sharper Image has declared bankruptcy. Wherever will I buy animatronic robots that look like Elvis, extremely expensive massage chairs, or my very own R2-D2?
PRESS A, B OR C NOW: If you owned a 2-XL Robot growing up, that is.
THERE IS NO RETREAT BUT IN SUBMISSION AND SLAVERY! OUR CHAINS ARE FORGED! THEIR CLANKING MAY BE HEARD ON THE PLAINS OF BOSTON! THE WAR IS INEVITABLE – AND LET IT COME! I REPEAT IT, SIR, LET IT COME: Look, an onslaught of Zombies is inevitable. Nanotech, viri, necromancy. Something is going to put zombies in the streets in our lifetime. Fortunately, like the late Senator Alan Cranston and his translation of Mein Kampf, someone has raised the alarm: Max Brooks’ work World War Z : The Oral History of the Zombie War, along with its companion piece The Zombie Survival Guide, offers a chance to do something about it, perhaps in time.

For those of you who have not read the book, Mr Brooks interviews survivors of the Zombie War, which began in the early 2010s, including doctors who treated Chinese peasants near the Three Gorges Dam -- as near to patient zero as the book gets -- retired leaders of the South African apartheid regime – who figured out how to beat the zombie menace, individual American soldiers who held the line at the Rockies, German officers who abandoned everything south of Kiel to save Germany herself.

The book is horrifying in the same way that Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone is horrifying. You assume that, should this all come to pass, you’ll live – scarred until your dying day, yes, but alive. I’m not so sure. I have means for self-defense, and a decent supply of food and water, but beyond that – I’m not sure I’m ready enough.

Nevertheless, there’s much to talk about, so feel free to raise your own topics, but for now I ask our dear readership a few things based on the observations of Mr. Brooks (the “Studs Terkel of Zombie Journalism”):

First, what have you done lately to prepare for the Zombie onslaught? And do you, the readership, have any skills that will come of use during the war?

Second, for those inclined, what is your preferred means of self-defense? If someone can point me to a better option than the Marlin Camp Carbine in .45 ACP, I’d like to know about it. More than enough oomph to decapitate a zombie, compact enough to use in close quarters.

Third, Mr. Brooks alludes to a number of folks who were famous before the Zombie War. I’m pleased that Michael Stipe, apparently, was willing to pick up a rifle at the end of the world, whether he felt fine or not. Come the Jubilee, what famous person do you want there on the firing line?

Fourth, if there is a more dramatic way for the world to end, whimper, bang, or otherwise, what tops a zombie attack as a vehicle to allow you to go down fighting? Best you can do with an asteroid strike is drink a beer as you wait for the shockwave to swing at you from the horizon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SUCH UNNAMED IDOL STARS AS MANDISA AND TRENYCE: Seriously, Chikezie? Get your last name back (it wasn't claimed by Ike Turner's estate or anything, was it?), and for Lord's sake find a new clothier and send that suit to a needy student at Clemson.

It's Young David Archuleta's world, and we're just living in it. Sure, Michael Johns and RastaBoy will be around for a while to entertain us, but if you're asking me if I saw a potential winner tonight it's him -- and certainly not the reincarnations of Johnny Weir and Plushy as weak teenyboppers.

Feinberg and I agree on David Cook giving off a serious Constantine Maroulis "you and I know this is silly" vibe, and on YDA: "He doesn't show very much vocal range and he has some rough high notes toward the end, but does anybody honestly believe this guy isn't going to be around through May? Maybe by that time we'll see if he performs every song with the same semi-robotic enthusiasm."

Likely gone: Luke Menard, Jason Yeager. If no one knows you yet, don't wuss out on a sleepy ballad.

e.t.a. de Moraes: "David Cook's hair no longer looks like my taxidermy rooster but it's still unnerving to watch him deliver a pseudo-rock version of the Turtles' 'Happy Together' while trying to sex it up with long looks at the camera that we think are supposed to convey smoldering sexuality but really scream 'homicidal.'"
ALBERT ALSCHULER 4 COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: In a year that's already proven more fruitful electorally for my University of Chicago Law School professors than I could have ever imagined, Larry Lessig is seriously considering a run for an open Congressional seat from California. [More from The Hill.]
PLAYING TAPS: As we mark the end of the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray War, let's take a moment to mourn the other casualties of similar wars:

Provide your own in the comments.

I KNOW IT WAS YOU FREDO, YOU BROKE MY HEART: Hey, Fidel Castro resigned. And there's a picture of Castro on CNN's entry page, except it's not Fidel, it's Ivan, a sightless Iraq war veteran taking a ski lesson. I guess it says something about the state of the world when the last revolutionary communist leader resigns and he still can't steal the top story from "Blind Vets Learn to Ski."
YES, BUT WILL HE CALL SOMEONE "FIRECROTCH?" So, after rumors that Jason Street would be playing Superman in the upcoming Justice League movie, the latest FNL/superhero gossip is that Tim Riggins is set to play beloved X-Man Gambit. What's next? Lyla Garrity as Wonder Woman? Smash Williams as Black Panther?
WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? Today marks the 40th anniversary of the national premiere of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. In addition to all his wonderful work connected with the show, let's not forget that he arguably played a crucial role in one of the biggest copyright law cases in years.

Princeton Plans for an Early Year Abroad - New York Times

HOLD SEND THAT TIGER: Princeton University has announced plans "to send a tenth or more of its newly admitted students to a year of social service work in a foreign country before they set foot on campus as freshmen."

Monday, February 18, 2008

A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

SLURP, GULP, SLURP: Five years and one day ago -- and it feels like only yesterday -- this blog celebrated the final episode of Joe Millionaire, truly one of the more inspired offerings of the reality tv era.

Four years ago was the start of my Hoeffel-induced hiatus, so not much to talk about. Three years ago today, TPE joined our blog while Kingsley predicted an Anwar Robinson-Mikalah Gordon final on American Idol; two years ago was Kim's fervent praise of the Olympic biathlon pursuit event; and just one year ago I first posted the phrase "Britney, okay, WTF?" in the wake of her new adventures in hairstyling. Time flies, indeed.
ONE HIPPO, ALL ALONE, CALLS TWO HIPPOS ON THE PHONE: The NYT looks at the amazingly successful worlds of Sandra Boynton, including the books, the CDs, and her estimated 4,000 different greeting cards designed (resulting in 500,000,000 sales).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

WE'RE ALL DRIVING ROCKET SHIPS, AND TALKING WITH OUR MINDS: It would be hard to find a blogger, at this site, at least, more anxiously awaiting our new robot overlords. I do not need robot insurance, for I know that the robots will intend only good, good things, for the ugly bags of mostly water that are currently tinkering so furiously to bring them to sentience. Still, the complete hooey, the unsupported speculations and febrile fantasies about advancements in this area that get reported as straight science are a ready and reliable source of amusement on any slow news day.

This weekend's example is from the BBC, which is touting Raymond Kurzweil's claims that by 2029 we can expect computers with near human intelligence and "intelligent nanobots [that] go into our brains... to make us smarter." The technical mechanism for the realization of this latter prediction goes so little explained that anyone taking it seriously might be attributed obvious, perhaps desperate motives, for wanting to believe it to be true.

But that's not the point. The point is that futurists can be fun no matter what the hooey quotient of their musings might be. Space-filling "news" about futurists and their predictions never does justice to the full blown ravings of the futurists themselves, to say nothing of their friends and hangers-on. I love these guys, and gals, who can't bear to confine their fantasies and speculations to the realm of science fiction or fantasy, but insist -- sometimes at high levels of research and complexity, but often at sub-Ronco levels of presentation and persuasiveness -- that what they imagine will one day come to pass.

So, if you have a lazy hour this afternoon, I invite you to poke around at Kurzweil's site (ravings, above) or the Wikipedia link (Kurzweil's name, above -- and I particularly recommend the "External Link" to the debate with David Galernter at MIT) and see if you can't imagine the approximate probable date of our assimilation into the cybernetic hive mind.
C IS FOR COOKIE: Cookie Monster being interviewed on NPR is certainly worth a moment of your time.
HE'S A TIGHT-ASS! HE'S A SADIST! HE'S AN ABSENTEE LANDLORD! WORSHIP THAT? NEVER! Jim Emerson takes at great moments in overacting history:
Sometimes Big Acting can be quite enjoyable. Other times, of course, it can be cringe-worthy, irritating, risible, embarrassing. Only you can decide which is which.

Take for example the story of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" -- she of "No wire hangers!" and "Eat your meat!" (both precursors of "I drink your milkshake!"). Pre-release publicity reports claimed that Dunaway was giving a serious dramatic performance. But from the very first screenings it was painfully (yet fasciatingly) clear that somebody was going off her rocker -- but which actress was it: Crawford or Dunaway?...

In Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," Jack Nicholson plays a guy who, as one wag said about Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood," starts off insane and goes even more insane. The End. But this raises the question: Isn't "too much" precisely the point in some movies? One of my favorite scary-funny moments in all of cinema is when Jack Torrance puts his hands over his face in alcoholic anguish and desperation, then drops them and, startlingly, gazes straight into the camera at an off-screen bartender: "Hi Lloyd. Little slow tonight, isn't it? Hah-hahahahahahahahaha!" (Let's not forget Shelly Duvall's famously frazzled and hysterical performance, either.)

So, friends, your favorites in the overacting department? My first nods go to Al Pacino -- admittedly an obvious choice -- for "Scarface" and the source of this post's title, "The Devil's Advocate," in which you just have to accept the over-the-topness of his performance (and Keanu's silly accent) and enjoy the ride. I also think William Hurt's small role in "A History of Violence" is a masterpiece of bombast, and for a final initial nod on the comic side, Nicolas Cage in "Honeymoon In Vegas" (not that I couldn't have chosen five other roles of his). His discussion with Sarah Jessica Parker on the implications of holding a straight flush is, like, unbeatable.