Saturday, March 8, 2008

HE FIXES THE CABLE? Ten years ago this week, The Big Lebowski was released in theaters, grossing all of $17,451,873 during its domestic run. [Check out this contemporaneous CNN review, which seemed to miss the point.]

I highly recommend (but that's just, like, your opinion, man) that all fans purchase the recent book I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You by the Lebowski Fest organizers, which interviews almost all the key participants, both in terms of the actors and the real-life people who inspired the Coens in writing the script -- including the three people upon whom Walter Sobchak is based, and the real-life son of Hollywood, Jaik Freeman, whose homework was found in a recovered stolen car, and what have you.

I took Lucy to a bowling birthday party last weekend, and I can't tell you how often I was tempted to say "Mark it zero" when seeing the five-year-olds' feet crossing the line. Come on, Donny, let's go get us a lane.

Midnight Train To Georgia - 30 ROCK from coka

AND YOU SHOULDN'T TORTURE WHALES: Y'know, at the time I thought that there wasn't much to say about "Episode 210," the last 30 Rock to air before the strike. But I find myself really missing that "Midnight Train to Georgia" performance at the end, and so apropos of nothing but warm feelings and a desire for new episodes that are still a month away, I'm linking to it here.
THREEPEAT: Spurred by this week's SNL hosted by ALOTT5MA fave Amy Adams and how much press SNL's "four straight new episodes!" plan got, I was wondering when the last time three women hosted the show in a row was, thinking it might be a record. It's not--three times before has there been a three-peat for the ladies:
  • April and May 1976--Raquel Welch, Madeline Kahn, and Dyan Cannon host in a row
  • February 1981--Sally Kellerman, Deborah Harry, and Charlene Tilton host in a row
  • February 2004--Megan Mullally, Drew Barrymore, and Christina Aguilera host in a row (preceded by a Nick Lachey/Jessica Simpson hosting duo).
Had there been a fourth in a row, it would be a record. Instead, next week, Jonah Hill hosts. Who'd you like to see host in the rest of the year? Justify your answers. (My thoughts--John Krasinski, with guest appearance by George Clooney, selling Leatherheads, Jason Segel and Kristen Bell selling Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Robert Downey, Jr., selling Iron Man.)
THE SEA TRAVEL MENAGERIE: As a companion to Isaac's prior post and to update you on my week of vacation on the high seas, I provide you with a selection of folks I encountered over the past week on the lovely Norwegian Gem:
  • Large hordes of Quebecois (apparently, last week was Quebec Spring Break)
  • Excessively perky cruise director (named Julie, natch)
  • Overly friendly middle-aged couple
  • Old people attempting to play Wii Sports offered as activity by ship staff (and, amusingly, not being particularly successful at doing so)
  • Comedian who desperately wants to be Lewis Black
  • Production show singer with frightening resemblance to Jack McBrayer (among the songs he sang were "Pinball Wizard" and multiple Elton John pieces)
  • No, You Should Not Be Wearing That Bikini
  • People who want free t-shirt, and will do anything to get it
  • Decent slight-of-hand magician
  • Older woman who insists on describing everything decent slight-of-hand magician is doing to her male companion during the show
  • Solid group of folks from The Second City
  • Seriously drunk girl and seriously drunk boyfriend who manage to highjack Second City "adult" show with description of their day, punctuated by moments such as rubbing the Second City performer's chest and shouting "I love your boobs!"
  • People who, after a week on board, still cannot figure out which way they need to go to reach their stateroom/the casino/the pool
  • Large group of drunk Spring Break-ers complaining about excessive difficulty of trivia questions
I'm tanned, rested, and ready to clean out my TiVo (even if I lost a few things, including my recording of Great Performances: Company and the antepenultimate Wire due to my travels).

Somewhere, I have a draft of a CYOA for the entire law school experience.

Friday, March 7, 2008

THE ANSWER, TENTATIVELY, IS FIREMAN TOM WESTMAN. MAYBE HUNG HUYNH: Complete this sentence -- Christian Siriano's win in Project Runway 4 constitutes the most authoritative beginning-to-end seemingly inevitable ass-kicking in a reality tv competition since _____________ .

[A word on spoilers: we've discussed this in-house and agree that once you're outside a 48h window of the initial airtime, it's okay to discuss results openly like this. Maybe sooner, depending on circumstances.]
VENTURA HIGHWAY IN THE SUNSHINE, WHERE THE DAYS ARE LONGER, THE NIGHTS ARE STRONGER THAN MOONSHINE: A map to Tom Petty's L.A. Also, the cartography of New Jersey, according to Bruce Springsteen.
MIGHTYBIG NEWS: Via tipster Gameon, big doings are afoot at Television Without Pity: Wing Chun, Sars, and Glark have tendered their resignations. Since this comes a year after the buyout, I assume the lock-up is expiring. Beyond that, my speculation crosses from educated to idle, so I don't know whether they were dissatisfied with the direction, what is to come of Ms. Alli and TARCon, and whether, with respect to this particular event, God is in the tub. Blah blah new directioncakes.

ETA: Here's the founders' announcement, also via Gameon. 100% content-free!
HERE I AM BABY -- SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, I'M YOURS: I speak of Lost, of course. And by signed, I mean in the semiotic sense. And by sealed, I mean figuratively sealed up in this prison of an island. And by delivered, I mean delivered from an inspecific kind of evil, perhaps of a certain person's making, perhaps not.

Overall, an unimpressive but densely plotty episode (and yet: only one not particularly-surprising reveal), with Ben acting creepily out-of-character and the writers hastily adding sides to our love triangle. Right now I read it as a love pentagon, except that might require that Sawyer loves Ben and I'm just not there yet. And just for good measure, by the way, they added a partially-historical love square that shares a point with the pentagon. At this stage the show is just one giant love-shape-sorter, which of course means that in a couple of years when you're moving out of your house you're going to find a love trapezoid or love ellipse under the couch.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

HALLELUJAH! PRAISE THE LORD! Blake Lewis's Pet Shop Boysy opening number might be my favorite immediately-post-Idol single ever in the history of the show. (The qualifier is necessary only to make it clear that I'm not saying that Blake trumps the really good Kelly Clarkson stuff, but it did take her a while to get there.)

As for the results: once again, it was the third ouster that brought the drama, and I'd consider it a pretty serious mistake, particularly given that the person who outlasted that bootee hasn't sung anything memorable since the initial audition round. The demographics, however, made the outcome pretty much a foregone conclusion. (Less obfuscating in the comments.)

And did anyone catch the parental prayer meeting going on after it became clear who the last eliminee was not going to be?
THE OTHER DAVID (LARRY) OFTEN FEELS LEFT OUT: ALOTT5MA friends Alan Sepinwall, Matt Zoller Seitz, and Andrew Johnston sat down over a bite to eat (my guess: crab cakes, rabbit stew, and cannoli, respectively) to debate which show is the greatest drama in television history: The Wire, Deadwood, or The Sopranos? As much as I love each of those shows (and have loved X-Files and early West Wing, and also, does Band of Brothers count? Because that was pretty great too), I am already on record as a Deadwood adherent, with the first two seasons of that show being about as perfect as television can get.

Anyway, it's a fun, thoughtful read. Anybody care to put their two cents in for one of the three shows or for a write-in?
THREEPEAT: In news that is exciting, but not as exciting as it was a year ago on account of a certain forgotten rapist-murder, NBC found a way to renew Friday Night Lights. NBC and DirecTV will cost-share the show, with DirecTV showing it first on one of its proprietary channels and then NBC getting rebroadcast rights. It's a good fit for John Malone's Liberty Media -- one of the few original-content things that DirecTV will air that neither is nature-porn nor has the word "bikini" in the title. And we get to find out what happens with Street and his baby mama; who ultimately wins the title of prettiest belle at the ball in the Tim, Lyla, and Logan triangle; how colleges react to "killed a man with an iron pipe" on the college essays; and, oh, yeah, whether the Panthers can win state with two (three?) losses already.

For all his loose talk, hasn't Ben Silverman done everything realistically possible to make you happy?
AND AS I STILL WALK ON I THINK OF THE THINGS WE'VE DONE TOGETHER WHILE OUR HEARTS WERE YOUNG: Consider this the open comment thread for Project Runway. None of us have seen the finale yet, and half of us who were watching this season quit weeks ago, which itself makes for an interesting discussion.
APPARENTLY KISSING A GIRL IS NO LONGER ON THE MENU: Singer Jill Sobule needs $75,000 to record her next CD, but in lieu of taking an advance from a recording company, as she has done in the past, she has elected to ask her fans for financing. For example, for a contribution of $500, she will mention your name on the CD and maybe rhyme with it. She's nearly reached her goal.

I love two of her songs: Cinnamon Park (ignore the rudimentary video and enjoy the song) and, of course, I Kissed a Girl (check out Fabio's cameo!).
THE WHITNEY SANDWICH: Hey, look, bullet points:
  • Right out of the box, three AI rules broken: No Whitney; No Freddie Mercury; the Jennifer Fuentes rule.
  • I think I liked Asia'h Epperson, but I missed a chunk of the song trying to figure out whether that was a jumpsuit made out of a top sewn into ultra-high-waisted satin jeans. Do you know that there is nothing in the world less sexy than ultra-high-waisted jeans? Not even lemon parties. Hey, what's being contracted in the name "Asia'h"?
  • Kady Malloy: hit exactly none of the notes (and it's a good thing she's not long for the show -- one gets the sense that of all the women, she's the one most likely to be a train wreck three weeks after hitting the big time; also, in her interview, I think she was wearing a plastic fez);
  • Spacewoman: "Who's voting for Amanda Overmyer?" Me: "Chain-smoking midwestern biker nurses?" Spacewoman: "All of them, I guess." I hated it. I'm 0 for 3 with Simon so far tonight. Adam is right that she's a cut-rate Dilana, right down to the stiff foot-stomping dance. I didn't like Dilana either.
  • Three Bystanders Critically Injured as Randy Jackson Fires Excitement Gun at Carly Smithson
  • "Faithfully" is not a song that was begging to be slowed down (or half-assedly countrified). Spacewoman: "Wow, her tongue is so red. Did she just have a lollipop?"
  • If you've never heard the "This American Life" story about "Against All Odds," you really must.
  • Really nice understated reinterpretation of "Love is a Battlefield" by Brooke White. Brooke White is the second-sexiest married prude in America -- and Cindy McCain had better watch her back.
  • If one is going to wear a tie to work, cinch it up and button the shirt. Ryan looks like a salaryman at two a.m.
  • And we finish with another Whitney, nicely done.
The good: Syesha, Brooke
The good enough: Asia'h, Kristy Lee, Carly, Ramiele
In danger of another embarassing moment tomorrow night: Kady
Please put me out of my misery: Over My Er.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

BOUGHT A BEAT-UP SIX-STRING AT A SECOND-HAND STORE: A comment by Erin in the Swayze post below made me wonder: what was the first album (or, if you are wee, the first tape or CD) you owned? Mine: owned - Sgt. Pepper (appropriated from my dad); bought - Elton John's Greatest Hits (purchased mostly with pennies at Oswego Plaza, to my dad's amusement and my sister's mortification).
IF I'M SAM ELLIOT I'M MAKING A DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT TODAY: With rumors flying around the Internets about Patrick Swayze (see previous post), we should mention the passing Monday of Swayze's "Road House" co-star, blind guitarist Jeff Healey. While to those of use who watched way too much MTV in the late '80s, Healey will always be associated with his one hit, the bluesy "Angel Eyes," he was also a jazz aficionado and owned a nightclub, appropriately named Jeff Healey's Roadhouse, in his native Toronto.
IT'S NOT ON THE ONE, IT'S NOT THE MAMBO, IT'S FEELING A HEARTBEAT: The National Enquirer is reporting some very sad news about Patrick Swayze. It's a little too specific to write off as tabloid drivel, so I'm mentioning it here. As one of the many people in the world who was a sixteen year old girl the summer that Dirty Dancing hit the theaters -- my cute little brand-new car spent many of its first couple thousand miles taking my friends and me back and forth to the movie theater that summer -- I'm hoping it turns out not to be true.
GARY GYGAX, 69, REDUCED TO A FETID POWDER: Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons, died yesterday at the age of 69. Rather than try to write something significant about the thousands of hours I spent on this, I offer you -- in proper homage -- a series of tables. If you have your polyhedral dice, feel free to divine brief snippets of my youth as I present to you my:

Top 4 Modules (1d4)

1. B1: In Search of the Unknown
2. S2: White Plume Mountain
3. D2: Shrine of the Koa-Toa
4. G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King

Top 6 Dragons (1d6)

1. Red
2. Silver
3. Tiamat (Chromatic)
4. Green
5. Blue
6. Black

Top 15 pieces of equipment (2d8)

2. Battle Axe
3. War Horse
4. Iron Spikes
5. Dart
6. Two-Handed Sword
7. Polearms
8. Plate Mail
9. The 10' Pole
10. 50' of Rope
11. Morning Star
12. Holy Symbol (Wood)
13. Iron Rations
14. Compound Bow
15. Mace
16. Dagger

Top 12 Monsters

1. The Gelatinous Cube
2. Xorn
3. Lurker Above (and its cousin, the Trapper)
4. Giant Wasp
5. Lich
6. Wyvern
7. Kobolds
8. Bugbear
9. The Color/Gunk Series (Black Pudding, Grey Ooze, Yellow Mold, Green Slime, etc.)
10. Shambling Mound
11. Demogorgon
12. Orcs

Top 10 Magic Items (1d10)

1. Bucknard's Everful Purse
2. The Bag of Holding
3. +4 Defender (Sword)
4. The Wand of Orcus
5. Rod of Lordly Might
6. +2 Scimitar
7. +5 Vorpal Blade
8. Gaseous Form (Potion)
9. Wand of Magic Missiles
10. Bracers of Defense

Top Six Mythos in Deities and Demigods (1d6)

1. Egyptian
2. Melnibonian
3. Japanese
4. Norse
5. Sumarian
6. Indian

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

THE JITTERBUG! Two ironclad golden rules of American Idol were violated tonight: (1) if you there's no natural endpoint to your song, don't randomly shout one of its words at the end. This, of course, is known as the Jennifer Fuentes rule even though, strictly speaking, she didn't violate it herself. (2) Don't sing anything that would really painful or ironic if it were your farewell song, and Michael Johns, you're tempting the Idol gods with "Don't You Forget About Me" tonight.

Beyond that? Young David Archuleta is, as Simon said, almost a lock for the final two already, though like him I'd have preferred it all on solo piano. Clifford the Crunchy Muppet undersold just lovely again, this time on"Hallelujah". He doesn't have a big voice, but he knows what to do with what he has, and he just wins with charisma and warmth.

I'm increasingly fond of David Cook, whose take on "Hello" made clear he's staking out Constantine's slot as the "I'm too hip to be here, but I'm here" grownup, even if he didn't take it as far as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes did. Junior Johnny Weir has fully embraced his swishy side, and it works for him as a performer. And Chikezie successfully pulled off the gender swap on Whitney's "All The (Wo)man I Need," but I still think he's in real trouble tonight.

Oh, speaking of irony? David Hernandez shouldn't have chosen this week to sing about "when you touch me like this," but given that I assume this was taped yesterday, it's not his fault. You can't go wrong with Jim Steinman on this show.

Luke Menard should be gone. None of the other seven deserved to go after tonight, so Thursday's going to be tough.

Fienberg: "Luke seems to think that the world just loves a lilting falsetto. Vocally he's inoffensive and whiny, but his stage presence is dreadful. If you can't get the audience clapping along to ["Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"], you're not even good enough to share the stage with Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm and Luke is satisfied with standing in place and smiling."

Sepinwall: Actually, I'm going with a commenter there, Linda, who just floors me with this -- "Like, what's more PAINFULLY earnest than 'Imagine'? 'Another Day In Paradise,' is what. He can't top himself next week unless he does a monologue as the therapist in Good Will Hunting."
EARL WARREN WASN'T A STRIPPER! Yay, time for our first real Idol competitor scandal of the year: David "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" Hernandez worked as a fully nude male stripper. And not "years ago," but as recently as last September at "Dick's Cabaret" before a mostly male clientele, two months after the Idol audition at which he won the Golden Ticket.

I thought the line between Frenchie Davis' ouster and Antonella Barba's remaining in the competition was that Davis was compensated for her adult photographs (which were previously disclosed to the producers), while Barba was not. If that's the case, even with no prurient photographs (and the odds of none ever surfacing are slim at best), consistency would dictate that Hernandez has to be removed from the competition, no?

(And replaced by Josiah the Street Urchin, of course.)
NOW A YOUNG MAN HAS GONE, BUT HIS LEGEND LINGERS ON: Brett Favre has announced his retirement. He leaves the NFL with the records for passing TDs (442), passing yards (61,655), wins by a starting QB (160), and interceptions (288). Including the playoffs, he played in 275 consecutive games.

I loved Favre's indomitable spirit. Peter King's thoughts are here and here (both worth reading, although the first story is long on the sugar).
THEY SAID YOU WAS HUNG: I've previously linked to one of Odienator's trenchant "Black History Mumf" 29 features in 29 days on race and popular culture; now I can link to all of them at once, including a take on Blazing Saddles that includes things I never knew:
You would think Richard Pryor wrote a lot of the Black jokes in this movie, but Brooks says that Pryor was fascinated with the character of Mongo, creating him, his dialogue and his scenes with Bart. If this holds true, then Pryor wrote my favorite line in this movie. The duo question Mongo about why Hedley Lamarr would be interested in a podunk town like Rock Ridge. Mongo has a newfound respect for Sheriff Bart--"Sheriff Bart only man whip Mongo, Mongo impressed!"--and he wants to be on Bart's team. "Dunno," says Mongo, "got to do with where choo-choo go." When Bart asks why Hedley would care, Mongo doesn't know. Then, as earnestly as he can, former football player Karras milks his closeup and delivers my favorite line:

"Mongo only pawn in game of life."
Other highlights of the month include is Hollywood Shuffle review and his appreciation of The Jeffersons: "Good Times was closer to my reality; The Jeffersons was closer to my dreams. The folks on Good Times acted like people I knew, and despite all his money, George Jefferson acted like people I knew too. I think this is where the confusion about his character lay. What made George such an inspiration to me was that he was a self-made man, someone who pulled himself up, but who also acted exactly like he did when he was broke."

Monday, March 3, 2008

THE LUCKY AND THE STRONG: When I read this morning about the opening of Bette Midler's Las Vegas residency, it occurred to me that there's a word that's increasingly absent from our popular culture: entertainer.

Not that long ago, America was replete with those who could sing, tell jokes, dance ... folks who were so eager to please that they would do whatever it took on a stage to blow away a crowd. I'm thinking of Sammy Davis Jr. in particular as an exemplar of this tradition (Liza Minnelli and Peter Allen too) and Martin Short as a ersatz version ... there's a certain ethos and group of talents that I'm not quite describing right, but I feel like the Divine Miss M and her brand of vulgarity, sass and talent are a perfect fit for Las Vegas. Long may she reign.
"I DON'T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER": Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner has been made a member of Red Sox Nation. Strangely enough, hell did not freeze over.
SCRATCHING AN ITCH: In The Wire's TV-season-as-novel structure, the last chapter is reserved, mostly, for denouement. That means that the climax comes in the penultimate episode (see, for example, the end of Bodie, Poot, and Wallace's childhoods; Stringer impatiently surrendering to Omar and Brother Mouzone; and Sobotka's fortunes changing in the few short steps from his car to the meet, as the Greek mutters to Vondas, "your way won't work"). This season's second-to-last episode, Late Editions, was right on cue. The first draft of this post just read "shit, that was some powerful TV." We finally see the end of Season 4's middle-school boys, not that we didn't know, or just pretend not to know, exactly where each one was heading (though it was nice for the show to wave goodbye to Bunny and Naiman), as well as one or two other old friends. And all that's left is for principle to get in the way of police work, or vice-versa

Plus the arraignments. But of whom?