Saturday, June 21, 2008

THE WEBSITE IS DOWN: Funny short film about working tech support. Not particularly safe for work, but funnier than The Love Guru with significantly fewer penis jokes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

DUMB DORA'S MAKING A COMEBACK: Yes, get ready to match the stars--Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald, Super Dave Osborne, Scott Thompson, Rashida Jones, and Niecy Nash as we play the star-studded big money Match Game 2008! And, now, here's the star of Match Game 2008--Andrew Daly (best known for playing Benjamin Franklin on The Office).
IS OUR CHILDREN LEARNING? These excerpts from AP American History essays may provoke that question. I'm also reminded of the write-on papers I graded for law journal writing competition as a 3L--the subject that year was the regulation of digital/artificial child pornography--one of the essays began with the statement "Child pornography often provokes a negative response."

This week's summer cocktail series comes from Maggie. If you (yes, you!) want to provide a recipe for a tasty summer beverage and an amusing anecdote, send it along to the contact email and we'll put it up.


When my parents moved into their new house, my dad was able install the grill of his dreams. Last summer, he planned a cookout just to showcase his grilling skills. He casually mentioned his newly acquired margarita recipe, which he got from one of "his guys." We thought he was joking because (a) my dad is not a laid back margarita kind of guy (he's more Boston Brahmin than Parrothead) and (b) he's known for his strong traditional cocktails - Manhattans, martinis (Bombay Blue Sapphire with blue cheese-stuffed olives), gin and tonics, etc. In fact, his cocktails, frequently served in over-sized glasses, have been the downfall of many a significant other meeting our family for the first time. Seriously, one sister's (now ex-)boyfriend fell off a chair during Thanksgiving dinner because no one told him that you have to keep adding ice or pouring some down the sink to avoid getting plowed.

Anyways, we though it was so cute that he was trying to cater to my college-age sister who had not yet acquired the taste for martinis, so egged him on. Two hours and 4 pitchers of margaritas later, my entire family was smashed (but in a good way). These margaritas are now a staple at family events (summertime or otherwise). My dad loves that we request them whenever we're home and we even made them this Thanksgiving to accompany the turkey my mom let him grill.

Maggie's Dad's Margaritas
16 oz white tequila
8 oz triple sec
4 oz key west lime juice (regular lime juice is okay, but not optimal)
12 oz limeaid frozen
1 beer (slid in at the end)
salt (optional)
lime wedges

Pour the tequila, triple sec, lime juice and limeade in a large pitcher. Stir until the limeade is thawed. Carefully "slide" the beer into the pitcher so it doesn't foam too much. Serve on the rocks, with a lime wedge, with or without salt.

Be careful - these are more potent than they seem at first sip. The key lime juice and the beer put them over the top.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

GURU IS DOO-DOO: That's what the Seattle Times headline reads, and as it turns out, the opposite of The Love Guru is neither hate nor indifference; the opposite is "funny". Ebert:
What is it with Mike Myers and penis jokes? Having created a classic, funny scene with his not-quite-visible penis sketch in the first “Austin Powers” movie, he now assembles, in “The Love Guru,” as many more penis jokes as he can think of, none of them funny, except for one based on an off-screen “thump.” He supplements this subject with countless other awful moments involving defecation and the deafening passing of gas. Oh, and elephant sex....

Myers has made some funny movies, but this film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents. Every reference to a human sex organ or process of defecation is not automatically funny simply because it is naughty, but Myers seems to labor under that delusion. He acts as if he’s getting away with something, but in fact all he’s getting away with is selling tickets to a dreary experience.
Tony Scott, NYT:
[The repeated Mariska Hargitay "joke"] might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

And this is, come to think of it, something of an achievement. What is the opposite of a belly laugh? An interesting question, in a way, and to hear lines like “I think I just made a happy wee-wee” or “I’m making diarrhea noises in my cup” or to watch apprentice gurus attack one another with urine-soaked mops is to grasp the answer.
Perhaps Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune had the nicest thing to say: "[W]e're talking 15 or 20 minutes of decent material. The movie runs a little longer than that."

e.t.a. One more, as we approach Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio-level bad. Via Slate's Dana Stevens: "There are good movies. There are bad movies. There are movies so bad they're good (though, strangely, not the reverse). And once in a while there is a movie so bad that it takes you to a place beyond good and evil and abandons you there, shivering and alone. ... the most joy-draining 88 minutes I've ever spent outside a hospital waiting room."
SELF-SELECTION OF THE FITTEST: There's an interesting experiment underway at LAX (Terminal 1, anyway). At the security-checkpoint bottleneck, there are now two lines: one for "expert travelers," and one for everybody else. The only instruction on which line to use is something like "don't use the expert line if you don't know what you're doing." The non-expert line snakes around six or seven times; the expert line is probably 1/3 as long. In addition to being shorter, the expert line moved faster (because everybody knew enough to untie their shoes and have their laptops out of the bag before reaching the front of the line).

Surprisingly, most people chose the non-expert line. I only saw one cheater -- there's always one; this one didn't know that you couldn't take a water bottle through security, that they'd make her take off her shoes, or that she didn't have to unzip her bag for a manual inspection (what is it with airport line-jumpers that makes them think that after getting caught cheating, a public "whoops, I'm cheating!" is going to endear them to everybody else? I think the appropriate punishment here is extra security attention).

It's possible that this experiment was only working because people didn't understand what was going on. It's also possible, though, that people will actually self-select into the proper category (like 10K runners getting into into starting groups depending upon how fast they expect to run the race). I don't know -- is this going to work?
NOT A GIRL, NOT YET A WOMAN, BUT DEFINITELY A MOMMY: In procreation news, 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears had a baby girl this morning in McComb, Mississippi.

Maddie Briann Aldridge and Jamie Lynn Spears will be starring in the remake of Gilmore Girls, premiering in 2024 on the WB.
NO FOURTH WIFE -- YET: When I saw this, I thought that maybe Big Love was coming back soon. Sadly, everyone's favorite polygamists aren't slated to return until January 2009 (according to the video, anyway), so it'll be a wait before we find out what's next for the Henriksons.
EVERYBODY HURTS: Sometimes, in the body-change genre of movies (Shrek, Nutty Professor, etc.), when the hero gets to be somebody else for a period of time, there is a moment just before the clock strikes midnight where the hero's fantasy body (and persona) starts to recede and his or her ordinary body (and persona) starts to poke through. I get the feeling that Cat Deeley is perpetually stuck in that moment. She's like a gangly adolescent nerd relishing every moment in a towering, shimmering, glamorously-dressed fantasy body with fantasy hair and fantasy shoes, with her seconds-to-midnight dorkiness endearingly piercing the illusion. She takes compliments as if surprised by them, her unguarded grin pulling her head into her neck like a turtle; she doesn't fear the wrath of the wardrobe department as she pulls sweaty dancers up to their tip-toes and into her shoulder for a hug; she squats in dangerously retreating hemlines to buckle her charges' shoes; she makes a 10-year-old joke ("pretty fly for a white guy") and then repeats it twice because she's so proud of herself. She's so vital to the show that she deserves to be at least on the ballot for our reality host of the year, but so un-self-conscious that it's not surprising that we keep forgetting her.

As for the rest of the show, it's bullets for you:
  • Joshua/Katee and Twitch/Kherington are perfectly paired for almost opposing reasons. Twitch is immensely likeable, Kherington has an outsized enthusiasm, and the two have palpable chemistry. By contrast, Joshua is withdrawn, Katee is petulant, and they don't seem to like each other. Yet they seem to have a symbiotic competitiveness where neither one is willing be outdone on anything, including the energy of the performance.
  • Mia: "18-year-old Kherington, it is inappropriate for you to smile through a dance about Rhett's Syndrome." Nigel: "Mia, STFU. Kherington, you give me that funny feeling, like when I used to climb the rope in gym class." Mia: "Ew."
  • I didn't think Left-Dimple was all that bad. The problem with her routine with Will was that they weren't both good at the same time, so everything seemed a little off.
  • Was it just me, or was Nigel unusually buffoonish this week, especially with the Tom Cruise impersonation after the Joshua-Katee routine?
  • Crying tally this week: Kherrington (mild criticism), Susie (harsh criticism, lack of competence), Jessica (self-doubt), Mary (Rhett's Syndrome sympathy), Jean-Marc (agony at judicial bickering over how hot and/or smiley the girl dancing his Rhett Syndrome dance is).
  • Nigel's advice to 18-year old girl, not paraphrased: "You are not sleazy enough. You need to be more sleazy."
  • I think I've said this before, but this is a performing arts show, and some of the performers are going to be gay. The show (Nigel) should just get over it. There is, however, one unnecessarily gay feature of the show that it can and should dump: the constant obsessive focus on who is or isn't masculine enough. Just to be clear, by definition, trying not to be gay is gay.
  • Can we all agree that Susie is the worst woman left and then there's a log-jam of pretty good women; and that the bottom tier of men is Gev, Thayne, Marquis, and the white guy who dances in Comfort's shadow?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

reality blurred + Omarosa leads list of top 10 reality villains

JUSTIN SEBIK, YOUR AGENT IS ON THE LINE: TV Guide -- or what's left of it, anyway -- has presented its list of the ten worst "reality tv villains" of all time. Even beyond neglecting a guy who held a knife to the throat of a fellow contestant, who surely should have led the list, what about Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire's Rick Rockwell? ANTM 6's Jade? And what of Dat Phan?

P.S. Does Nancy Zerg count?
DID YOU MEAN "O.J. SIMPSON?" Leaving aisde whether Google search history is useful evidence in a criminal trial, who exactly needs to run a Google search to determine "how to kill with a knife?"
BOSTON'S POET LAUREATE SHARES HIS OBSERVATIONS: Bill Simmons, ESPN's Sports Guy, offers his thoughts on last night's game here. Note No. 10 in his essay got me choked up.

Also not to be missed, this piece on Rajon Rondo.
YOU CAN TELL BY THE WAY I USE MY WALK: Perhaps some of you have seen the film Staying Alive, the ill-conceived sequel to the sublime Saturday Night Fever? I happen to like the movie (like, not love), although Roger Ebert loathed it.

Our friends at The House Next Door are hooking up with Movie Geeks United! for a look back at films from the Summer of 1983, including, you guessed it, Staying Alive. The analysis of the film is simply priceless.

I do wonder why Cynthia Rhodes never had all that much of a career. I find her effective as an actress and she certainly was a good dancer and singer. [EDIT, per Jennifer J.] Here she is singing
(as a member of Animotion) her big hit "Room to Move" a song that has stood the test of time reasonably well. She is now married to pop singer/songwriter Richard Marx.

Kurtwood Smith, best known for his work on That '70's Show, plays a choreographer in Staying Alive! Who knew?

I do agree with the bloggers at The House Next Door that the soundtrack to Staying Alive is weak. Here is Frank Stallone (aka "Sly Stallone's brother") singing what is perhaps the key song from the film, "Far From Over,"a song that has not stood the test of time all that well.

I will note that Travolta looked great in the movie (he appears in the "Far From Over" video).
GREEN IS GOOD: Last night, on the seventeenth day of June, with John Havlicek in attendance, the regal gentleman who wore #17 when he served as the captain of the team, the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA championship by defeating the LA Lakers 131-92. It was largest margin of victory in any clinching game in NBA Finals history.

In winning, the Celtics displayed a beautiful approach to the game of basketball, playing perhaps the greatest defense in NBA history while setting the NBA record for steals in a Finals game with 18 (much maligned Rajon Rondo had 7 himself), outrebounding the Lakers 48-29, and playing unselfish offense resulting in 33 assists while the Lakers managed only 16. In losing, the Lakers, their star Kobe Bryant, and their coach the uber-lauded Phil Jackson, revealed themselves as flawed.

The story really begins 22 years ago. On a sunny day in June of 1986, I stood in Boston’s City Hall Plaza as the Celtics and the city of Boston celebrated the Celtics winning the championship that year with a team that many consider the greatest basketball team of all time. I remember wincing, though, when it was reserve guard Sam Vincent’s turn at the podium. Brazenly, Vincent “guaranteed” that the team would not only win the championship the following year, but also the year after that and the year after that. “That can’t be good karma,” I thought to myself.
Perhaps it was not.

  • A few weeks later the team drafted a person whom many considered to be the top college player in the country. The man, Len Bias, died of cocaine intoxication two days after the draft.
  • Shortly after Bias died, the late Alan Cohen, a part-owner of the Celtics during the glory days of the 1980s, wrote a letter to then-general manager Jan Volk, warning of the sin of hubris. Cohen reminded Volk that it was important to remain humble. “Just when you think you're invincible, somebody can come along and tear down your house.”
  • Bill Walton, the Hall of Famer who had been such a key part of that 1986 team, broke his foot and would play only 10 more games in his career.
  • Kevin McHale risked his career in the 1987 playoffs by playing on a broken foot. Boston ended up losing the NBA Finals in six games. McHale’s career was never quite the same. To this day, he walks with a limp.
  • Reggie Lewis, who was drafted just one year after Bias, blossomed into an All-Star and a beloved part of the Boston community thanks to his tireless work on behalf of local charities, died suddenly of cardiomyopathy in 1993.
  • The team went 15-67 in 1996-97.
  • Nearly every trade went poorly for the Celtics, losing the likes of Chauncey Billups, Bruce Bowen, and Joe Johnson, while gaining “players” such as the alcoholic wreck Vin Baker.
  • Just last season the Celtics endured an 18-game losing streak en route to a 24-58 record.In the 14 seasons prior to this one, the Celtics had an average winning percentage of .429. In the 14 seasons prior to Vincent’s fateful remark, the team had had an average winning percentage of .618.
In gyms throughout the world, from elite college and NBA programs to CYO leagues for youngsters, basketball coaches everywhere will tell you essentially the same thing. To win at basketball, you must play unselfishly. Defense and rebounding win games. In an astonishing series of moves, Celtics GM Danny Ainge assembled a team last summer that made manifest these creeds. The green way is the way to win basketball.

The key move, of course, was landing Kevin Garnett, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year this year and a former MVP. Known for his intensity and unselfish play at both ends of the court, Garnett set the tone for the entire team, while he led the Celtics in rebounding. Last night, in the biggest game of his career, he had 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Another key move was trading for Ray Allen. Accustomed to being the #1 star on his former teams, the 8-time All Star adjusted his game to suit the “team first” approach of the Celtics. Allen defended against Kobe Bryant during much of the Finals. Despite suffering an injury and enduring a family medical crisis, Allen essentially shut down the Lakers star, while Allen set or tied several NBA records for 3-point shots.

Like Allen, Paul Pierce was accustomed to being the #1 player in Boston before the arrival of Garnett and Allen. Yet, in the words of Michael Wilbon last night, in sublimating his personal goals in favor of team goals, Pierce “blossomed”, transforming himself from excellent to “truly great.” Pierce was named the MVP of the Finals. While playing on a severely injured knee (just watch him limp on the sidelines), his defense against Bryant in Game 4 was simply astonishing, leading the Celtics to the biggest comeback in an NBA Finals game in history. With last night’s victory as well as his performance throughout the year, Pierce presumably ensured that he will one day be enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame.

The supporting cast was stellar and unselfish. Playing despite an injury that left his status in doubt at game time, Rajon Rondo outplayed Kobe Bryant. Rondo had 21 points, 7 steals, and 8 assists, while he outhustled every member of the Lakers team. And, well, this is as good a place as any to make the point. This “Kobe is the next Michael Jordan” talk is, I assume, as dead now as the talk that Steve Forbert is/was the next Bob Dylan. Last night, Bryant went 22:20 without a field goal. He scored his fourth field goal to put LA ahead, 13-12. When he scored his fifth, it reduced the Laker deficit to 25 (73-48). You can’t imagine MJ doing that, right? Heck, I wonder if even Steve Forbert might have been able to play better than that? Not to mention that Kobe is the most repugnant person in the NBA, between the way he treats his teammates, his coach, and a certain hotel maid in Denver.

The Celtics bench was magnificent. James Posey came through once again last night with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting. Eddie House also shot 4-for-4 and finished with 9 points. P.J. Brown played his usual amazing defense and scored 6. Notably, he was on the floor during most of the second quarter, when the Celtics outscored the Lakers 34-14. As was Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who excelled in his only appearance in the Finals. Leon Powe contributed 8 points.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was a strategic genius. Nearly every move he made in the Finals turned out to be the right choice (although I still am wondering why Sam Cassell got so much playing time).

And while we’re at it, let’s also end permanently any discussion that might compare Phil Jackson to the immortal Red Auerbach. Auerbach never had a player as good as MJ and probably never had a player as good as Shaq or Kobe. Yet he won 9 NBA championships by leading the Celtics to play the green way – unselfish basketball, with a focus on defense, rebounding, assists, and team offense.

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that green, for lack of a better word, is good. Green is right, green works. Green clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Green, in all of its forms; green for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And green, you mark my words, saved the Boston Celtics. Thank you very much.

Interesting footnote -- Seven out of eight ESPN analysts had picked the Lakers to win the NBA Finals.
AND THEY COME UP WITH FUN NICKNAMES LIKE TWITCHINGTON, TOO: It took me the better part of four days to watch last week's SYTYCD -- for lack of time, not lack of interest -- and tonight, attendance at my first baseball game of the season will once again preclude timely viewing or posting. And so, while I do hope to eventually get around to posting on actual individual dances one of these days, today I will simply offer up my own macrolevel list of things I love about the show.
  • Dancing is Hard, Yo. I hate to perpetually define SYTYCD in terms of its relationship to American Idol, but in this case it's necessary. Singing is one of those things that a person either can or can't do. We all sit here and talk about smart song choices and stupid song choices, but at the end of the day, AI competitors have the pipes their mama gave 'em. But while every dancer in the SYTYCD top 20 is indisputably talented, they can't all do it all. The dancers' abilities to learn types of movement that they've never done (or often even seen) before, to perform those moves with a partner, to not drop that girl they're flinging around in the air -- this is not easy.
  • Nigel is Really, Really Good at This. I'm always impressed by Nigel (and, presumably, the other producers) and the degree to which he takes his job seriously. When he praised the Tabitha/Napoleon choreography last week, you could all but hear the unspoken "oh thank God that we've got Tabitha and Napoleon on board to do something other than the same tired stuff that Shane Sparks was dishing out all last season." His comments to the dancers reflect both his own dance expertise as well as an acutely tuned sense of what it takes to do well on this TV show. (Dancing plus personality plus getting a little lucky in the random selection of genres plus the all-important secret nudging to vote for certain people by virtue of what the judges do and don't say.) And, of course, he has fun -- could you see Simon Cowell agreeing to be tied up for some big AI group sing?
  • The Dancers and Choreographers are Amazing. On the subject of AI group sings, can you think of a single one that didn't suck to some degree or another? In contrast, the SYTYCD group dances are almost always really creative and interesting, as are a solid percentage of the partner dances. True, there are some clunkers here and there, but for the most part -- great stuff, great to watch.
  • Cat Deeley. I love Cat. Everyone loves Cat.
  • Fabulous Self-Referentialness. I've said it before, I'll say it again: SYTYCD constantly rewards the long-time viewer. From Cat pausing for the audience to shout "jidges" on the very first live-audience episode of the season to the invocation of the tamale express without a moment of explanation to the casual mention of Wade Robson getting revenge on Nigel for last season's mama/baby fox (get it? FOX?) dance in the finale (oh, and speaking of Wade, oh my God), SYTYCD is a homey little club where everybody knows your . . . well, you know.
JUST WHAT HE NEEDS -- MORE STUFF: Last year, you may recall, I loudly complained when the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts decided to award the 10th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor -- a lifetime achievement award -- prematurely to the undeserving Billy Crystal. In listing those who had not yet received the award but deserved it, I started with George Carlin, a true master of standup whose brilliant HBO specials -- thank goodness -- my father started letting me watch when I was 11 or 12.

The 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor will be awarded to George Carlin in a ceremony to be held on November 10, 2008. Let's watch Carlin talk about stuff, or the difference between baseball and football, or discuss the seven words (NSFW, SFTSCOTUS).
GIVE 'EM THE AX, THE AX, THE AX! A few months back, I told some UC Berkeley development folks that despite my time* they wouldn't get a dime from me until they removed these morons from the trees. Apparently, the UC Police are on the job.

* Larry Lessig's commentary on my need for an additional year at Berkeley hereby noted.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A DINGO ATE MY TOP TEN LISTS! And with Finding Nemo as the #10 Animated Film of All Time, we're off to the races...

e.t.a. 11pm or so: The final AFI Top Ten Lists are here, and for every "Wow! They finally remembered that Blue Velvet was awesome!", there's a whole lot of "how exactly does this category cohere?" ("fantasy"), and with only sixteen films not having been listed in a previous AFI canonization, you'll be forgiven if you feel like you've seen these lists before, just in some different order.

Biggest omissions, top of my head?
  • Animation: Toy Story 2
  • Fantasy: Well, if they're going to list The Purple Rose of Cairo here, so can I. Take a look at the ten they chose and you tell me if it's a coherent category.
  • Gangster: The Departed, Out of Sight, Reservoir Dogs and Touch of Evil ahead of the Cagney/Robinson films. It's one genre in which the modern films really surpass their predecessors.
  • SciFi: Aliens over Alien, and if this is where they're listing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (it's not a romcom?), this is where I'll take it.
  • Western: No quarrel with the given list. Lone Star deserves to be remembered, though.
  • Sports: "It's just occurred to me what they've been chanting for the last few minutes. It's the name 'Rudy'!"
  • Mystery: Voters were invited to vote for The Big Lebowski here. Other worthy nominees included House of Games, LA Confidential and The Fugitive; this is a deep category.
  • RomCom: We say it every time they do a list: His Girl Friday. (Also: The Lady Eve, 40YOV?)
  • Courtroom Drama: I'm quite fond of Reversal of Fortune and The Insider, but it's hard to find something to cut from this top ten.
  • Epic: A weird, unfocused category, but I'll vote for Apocalypse Now wherever it's eligible.
OMIGOD YOU GUYS: There are many ludicrous things about the Teen Choice Awards nominations. They include:
  • The sheer number of categories (I think I counted 63, including such high-quality ones as "Choice TV-Reality Dance" and the questionable division between "Chick Flick," "Comedy," and "Bromantic Comedy"--if someone can explain how Superbad is just comedy, while Made of Honor and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are "Bromantic," I'd appreciate it)
  • The number of things nominated that were rated "R" or are otherwise not teen-appropriate (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Sex and the City, Superbad, Rock of Love) is stunning.

Hostess Miley Cyrus has 3 nominations (TV comedy actress, single, female artist), and various folks affiliated with Gossip Girl have 14. Anyone want to take bets on the over-under for how many HSM3 racks up next year?

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF THE INDIAN GAMING REGULATION ACT: Now, I'm not averse to bands selling out their music to companies to promote products and services, but someone needs to give Mohegan Sun a firm talking to for managing to create commercials that are an affront to The Knack, Rick James, and even, somehow, Toto.
I OBJECT, YOUR HONOR! THIS TRIAL IS A TRAVESTY. IT'S A TRAVESTY OF A MOCKERY OF A SHAM OF A MOCKERY OF A TRAVESTY OF TWO MOCKERIES OF A SHAM: This programming note: tonight is the night that every year CBS turns its airwaves over for three hours to the American Film Institute to reify a canon of 100 films that underrates the last twenty years, undervalues comedy, ignores the work of minority actors and generally does random weird things. But it's a list, and it's summer, and so we watch.

This year, they're not content to screw up one category of film, but are instead ranking 10 Top Tens in various genres -- "epics," mysteries, gangster films ("a genre that centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting"), romcoms, sports films, courtroom dramas and the like. You can see the lists of nominated films via this link (may require registration, but they don't spam), so feel free to predict now, and then we'll come back tonight to liveblog.
YOUR STORY HAS BECOME TIRESOME: Is it not just that The Love Guru looks like crap, but that Hollywood hates Mike Myers and is hoping for him to fail? EW's Josh Rottenberg investigates, reviewing such disfavored behavior as his late switch to a Scottish accent for Shrek which cost Dreamworks $5M in wasted animation and his walking away from a planned Dieter movie:
His unique brand of humor — driven by outsize, absurdist characters, sight gags, and elaborately constructed and at times esoteric wordplay — may be falling out of fashion as audiences drift toward more grounded, relatable comedies like Knocked Up. ''Mike's one of the smartest people, but he does characters, not real people,'' says one high-ranking studio executive. ''If the audience relates to the character — a goofball in his basement, like Wayne, or a James Bond send-up, like Austin Powers — you're off to the races. But there's so little margin for error.''
Since 2003's The Cat in the Hat, Will Ferrell has appeared in 10 screen comedies and Adam Sandler seven. This is Myers' first since that travesty.

Monday, June 16, 2008

YOU'RE TELLING ME THIS THING CAN IMITATE ANYTHING IT TOUCHES? Stan Winston, the multi-Oscared special effects and makeup wizard behind Aliens, Jurassic Park, Edward Scissorhands and the Terminator films (gallery), has passed away from multiple myeloma. He was 62.

One of his first job was developing the Wookies of Kashyyyk for the Star Wars Holiday Special. More recently, he did the armor suits for Iron Man. Just a hell of a career making the fantastic and the unreal seem very real to movie fans.
WE'RE WATCHING IT LIVE. LIKE ANIMALS! Our good friend Joanna Weiss of the Boston Globe explores the question of whether it's a good thing that our kids can always watch what they want, when they want:
But imagine what live TV sounds like to a little kid: not quaint so much as absolutely alien. If you were born into an on-demand world, every form of media - not just TV - seems ever-available and malleable. Satellite radio offers a playback option, in case you need to hear The Wiggles's "Big Red Car" two or three more times. Computers represent a wealth of "Sesame Street" games. TV shows can be paused mid-stream if you need to use the bathroom, or Mom is pestering you to feed the fish. The 15-second-rewind button lets you relive that funny thing Curious George just did.

It's a nice world, when you're 3. Yet I sometimes wonder if my daughter is missing something if she isn't forced to wait for precisely what she wants. Is there some deep psychological benefit to waiting another day for "Dragon Tales"?
It's not just the instant satisfaction that's an issue. Our not having that much age-appropriate material on tv between the end of the school day and dinner time meant that our generation was raised with a common culture of reruns from the previous generation -- "The Brady Bunch," "McHale's Navy," "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.," and then more recent programs like "Happy Days," "Laverne and Shirley," "What's Happening!!" and "Three's Company". These were programs about and pitched towards older teens or grownups, giving us a wide aspirational window (not that I wanted to join the Marines or work in a brewery), while I think that our kids are being so microtargeted that they're rarely seeing anything about the grownup world. Yes, Lucy's watching "High School Musical" at 4 and now 5, and so she now has this fantasy-view of what adolescence is like, but I feel like she's not going to be as immersed in the general culture as we involuntarily were because there's always going to be something better calibrated to where she is, and I want to figure out if that's a problem. Is it?
EYE OF THE TIGER: Now, I'm not normally much for televised golf, but damn if those last few holes weren't captivating, exhilarating, and heartbreaking all at once.
BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN GONE: Bryan Garner, Garner's Modern Usage (Oxford University Press 1993) at 725-26, on "since":
This subordinating conjunction may bear a sense either of time or of logical connection. Despite the canard that the word properly relates only to time, the causal meaning has existed continuously in the English language for more than a thousand years.
James J. Kilpatrick, Making a Case for "Because":
Let it be conceded, up front and without a single quibble, that "since" can function as a conjunction meaning "inasmuch as" or "because." Thus, it is permissible to say, "Since we ran out of Scotch, we'll have to drink gin."
Yes, Kilpatrick prefers "because" because -- or since -- it is usually clearer and less casual (though not necessarily less causal). That doesn't mean that "since" is wrong. A capable writer is entitled to use his or her judgment.
AS AN ALTERNATIVE, I SUGGEST 'EPIC FAIL': I'll be dealing with a couple of linguistic irritants today. First, lawyers must stop using the phrase "fatally flawed." I think that because people use this so often (and I used to do it early in my career, until somebody pointed this out to me), it's easy to miss the clumsiness of the metaphor. I would never have written in a brief that an argument was "DOA," "on life support," or "preparing to shuffle off this mortal coil." So why isn't something flawed just "insuperably" or "insurmountably," or better yet, why isn't it just "incorrect"? And that's to say nothing of the fact that none of us will ever concede that an argument is merely "injuriously flawed" or "flawed such that it must go on the 15-day DL and probably will not be 100% for the rest of the litigation season" -- omissions that essentially render the "fatally" superfluous.

Second, and I freely admit this is based on etymology and not current dictionary usage, I hate the fact that many people (especially radio journalists) use the words "meanwhile" and "meantime" interchangeably. The root of the former is (or can be) a conjunction; the root of the latter is a noun. You might say "while I went to the store," but -- unless you were writing some kind of archaic play -- you wouldn't say "time I went to the store." Thus, in my opinion, one can say "meanwhile, I went to the store," but one should say "in the meantime, I went to the store."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A REVIEW OF A BOOK I HAVE NOT YET READ: In the animation thread a few weeks (days? I'm getting ready for trial, here, people) back, I mentioned having been involved in some litigation about the pictures of a studio whose work I love. Though a few people expressed interest, largely because they also love the work of this studio, I declined to say more.

On a thoroughly unrelated note, among several great father's day presents I received this morning was a book entitled The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, by David Price. For no reason at all, the first thing I flipped to was an accurate -- if unnecessarily dry and hyperbolically-titled -- chapter called "Crisis in Monstropolis." (There appear to be other chapters in this book that are missing, perhaps because I would find them far more interesting than other people would.) Beyond what I've already skimmed in that chapter, my review of this book goes as follows: "If it is to be judged by its title, this book is about Pixar, and may also contain some ruminations on the makings of companies, or perhaps the making of a single company that is no longer a company. I would expect, therefore, that there would be some mention of the unmaking of this company." And yet despite my presently poor grasp of the subject matter of this book, I would nonetheless recommend it to anybody who expressed interest in the matters described in the first paragraph above.
BECAUSE STEPHEN SONDHEIM HASN'T GOTTEN ENOUGH AWARDS YET: I was away from the keyboard and television for the evening, so apologies for the tardiness of a thread to discuss the 2008 Tony Awards, which, based on the results, appear to be unsurprising (though the only nominated show I've seen so far is Sunday In The Park With George, which would have done very well in just about any other year, based on what I've read). You can almost hear the closing notices going up in the distance already (Cry-Baby, Xanadu, likely Passing Strange).
THEY DID GET "OBAMA" CORRECT: I just got polled about a variety of local issues (what I think was a quasi-push poll in association with a September State Assembly primary), which featured numerous questions about my approval or disapproval of "Mayor Boomberg" and "Mayor Boomerang." Perhaps pollsters would be well-served to provide a pronunciation guide to their callers.