Saturday, October 4, 2008

HOUSE OF PAIN: OK, when Alan Ball, Carter Bays, Marc Cherry, Tina Fey, Larry Gelbart, Marti Noxon, Shonda Rhimes, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Matthew Weiner, and Larry Wilmore all tell you you're making an inappropriate writing management decision, might you want to listen, Tyler Perry? (Related--does anyone want to see Perry's threatened Obama biopic?)
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE: Although "movie about patent law starring Lauren Graham" may sound like it was cooked up in one of the conference rooms of ALOTT5MA Plaza, Flash of Genius was not created by us. Points are awarded for giving the story a more or less truthful ending, and not an artificially happy one. (No spoilers here, though the New Yorker story on which the film is based is online.) Yes, it's a little too long for the average viewer (though folks with patent knowledge will probably find much to nitpick), and makes Kearns and his cause far more sympathetic than the original article paints him to be, but it's still a fine film.

Friday, October 3, 2008

AWRIGHT AWRIGHT AWRIGHT: I'm all for the proliferation of e-commerce sites, but an e-commerce site run by Matthew McConaughey seems like something we didn't need. (Yes, they do sell hemp products.)
I'D SAY IT MAKES ME LESS LIKELY TO SEE THE MOVIE, BUT MULTIPLYING A PERCENTAGE BY ZERO LEAVES ZERO: Apparently, it's pronounced ro-DAN-thee, not RO-danth as I had thought, and the Wiki page gives away all the suck for those interested.

So, what's your expected cultural consumption for this weekend? I'd like to see Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, but between a trip to NYC tomorrow to visit my new nephew and Sunday's Philadelphia Eagles-Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons game, I'm not going to have any movie time, so it's more likely that Jen and I just continue our run through the Mad Men DVD instead.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

ACTUALLY, YOU CAN STOP THE BEAT: Broadway's Hairspray will close in January 2009, after welcoming back Harvey Fierstein for a return engagement as Edna. Scientific studies on the following issues remain ongoing:
  • Whether one can stop an avalanche as it races down a hill.
  • Whether one can stop the motion of the ocean or the sun in the sky.
  • Whether one can stop a river as it rushes to the sea.
  • Whether one can stop the hands of time.
I'VE FOUND THE SIMPLE LIFE JUST AIN'T SO SIMPLE: Have you ever wondered what classic Van Halen would sound like if you silenced all of the annoying Van Halens (and Michael Anthony)? So much better than you imagined. Ah huh. AAAAAAAAA ya. Gadamababyaknowiainlyintoyuhimonlygonnatelyuhonemotime [whistle].

Sorry, lost control there for a sec.
I STILL WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO GOTO DENGO: Neil Neal Stephenson's Anathem came out a few weeks ago. I haven't read it yet (I thought it was due in November), so I can't tell you much about it except that it is awesome. How do I know? Because Neil Stephenson wrote it.

I think I can think of only two brands that can do no wrong: Pixar and Neil Neal Stephenson. Am I missing anything?
THIS IS THE WHITEST SPORT EVER: Welcome back, Friday Night Lights. This post is a bit of an experiment, since I'm not sure how many of our readers are both FNL fans and DirecTV subscribers. I'll try not to be too spoilery.

Yes, this episode suffered from the season premiere malady that manifests itself in inflamed exposition and arrhythmic pacing. Yes, there were contrivances (Tami, whose educational and job history is mysterious, going from unemployed to guidance counselor to principal in three years; Tami just now noticing that the football team is better funded than the school's educational mission). Yes, there are retread plots (the star QB from out of town coming to take Saracen's job; the question of whether Smash will get a scholarship).

But you know what? Any hour in which Tyra Collette delivers a smack-down, a withering stare, a spin-and-walk-away, and a despite-herself smile is a good episode. Plus, it's possible that the greatest college essay of all time would be entitled "The Time I Dumped My Attempted Rapist's Lifeless Body in the Creek."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ALOTT5MA AFTER HOURS: Remember how last week, when we were talking about the Thursday night tv traffic jam and y'all were, like, what's there to see on Survivor that we've never seen before? Apparently, the answer is "a penis". (Initial link SFW, but then you're on your own.)
TULLE TIME: So, after Philomena explained to me the difference between tulle and toile, and Kenley made her version of Maleficent's costume for the IceCapades' Sleeping Beauty -- okay, maybe it was more like a Thulsa Doom meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert sort of thing -- and the producers nonetheless ran a reprise of last year's Chris/Rami run-off (with a twist that sadly fails to disguise an all-but-foregone conclusion), and I thought briefly about whether an updated form of toile might be successfully painted or embroidered with Archies/Happy Days/American Graffiti type scenes for Kenley to use in future designs, and then remembered that it was tulle she always uses and not toile, and then tried for half an hour to find a suitably humorous linkable exemplar of Thulsa Doom only to settle for the imdb placeholder page, I'm just about out of gas for this rotation of Project Runway. I know there's more to be said. I just know it. Who's got it?

Edited at 11:20 pm to add: So, what'd you think? I thought parts of it worked better than others -- not sure about the whole Lucy Liu thing, for example, but will reserve judgment until she's got something else to do. I thought the bookended party scenes were superbly done, am wildly glad to have misanthropic Brian out of the church ("that was fun"), miss Juliet, didn't like Nick's hair, think Donald Sutherland is a treasure, and am on the fence about Karen. But I really do love this show, and am hoping its return will be well worth the long wait.
MY SHOW IS ON, MY SHOW IS ON: 10 years ago this week, a little piece of television called "Sports Night: The Apology" aired (YouTube has it), and in honor of that momentous occasion, the good folks at Shout! Factory have come out with a new edition of the complete series. Sure, many of us own the original version of the DVDs, but this is probably worth it for fans in any event, as it includes a bunch of new stuff:
  • Cleaned up transfers and new menus.
  • 8 Commentary tracks (on "Pilot," "Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee," "Small Town," "Sally," Eli's Coming," "Kafelnikov," "The Local Weather," and "Quo Vadimus")--featuring in various combinations 4 of the 6 principal actors (Huffman and Guillaume do not participate), several recurring actors, Sorkin, directors Tommy Schlamme and Bob Berlinger, and editor Janet Ashikaga. (The two I've listened to are both great--in the Pilot commentary, Sorkin reveals he used to bartend with Peter Krause and Camryn Manheim--that's a bar I'd like to go to.)
  • Gag Reels
  • A featurette with new interviews with the whole cast except Sabrina Lloyd.
  • A featurette profiling the similarities between Sports Night on CSC and SportsCenter
  • A separate interview with just Sorkin and Schlamme.
  • A booklet with an episode guide, trivia, and the plan for the show's very complicated set.
Worth the upgrade? Maybe not on its own, but my old disks tend to skip and have horrendous quality. Worth buying if you haven't seen the whole series? Absolutely.
HIS SKIN WAS PALE AND HIS EYE WAS ODD: I'm still not sure if Fringe is "there" quite yet, but last week certainly introduced some nice mythology elements. However, I'd missed, until pointed out on a theatre message board I read, that "The Observer," who I assume we'll be seeing again, is played by well-known theatre actor Michael Cerveris, who's played Sweeney Todd, John Wilkes Booth, and a certain deaf, dumb, and blind kid (who sure plays a mean pinball) on the Great White Way. Nice use of his creepiness to strong effect.
CHUCK VS. THE GIRLS OF CONSTANCE BILLIARD: I have probably never made a greater DVR mistake than leaving Gossip Girl higher in the season-pass queue than Chuck -- a relic of the order in which I heard about the shows and programmed them in. With the Spacewoman-mandated HIMYM at the top of the Monday 8:00 to-do list, Chuck got bumped, and it took me another day to remember that I thankfully had a backup subscription on the other box.

Even if I didn't know that Sepinwall is raving about the step forward the show has taken this season, I would say that Chuck is exactly the kind of TV that we need right now. There's a lot of heavy stuff on TV, from the apocalyptic Heroes to the jittery Fringe to the dyspepsic CSIs. Even the lighter fare is kind of a downer: Gossip Girl is angsty and navel-gazing; The Office is melancholy slapstic; 30 Rock reruns are sharp-elbowed and caustic; and even HIMYM gets me down because so much of it is shot at night or in cramped, poorly-lit places. And don't get me started on the news. I'm not opposed to the indulgently serious -- I love Lost, for example -- but sometimes you need some sorbet to cleanse the palate.

Chuck is loose, nimble, and good natured, and it never takes itself too seriously. The season opened with a deft meta joke: A bad guy hangs Chuck by his ankles out a window and asks a pretextual "who are you" question so that Chuck can deliver a previously-on-Chuck monologue that is pure exposition, but we never find out how Chuck ended up hanging out the window in the first place. An hour of fighting, bantering, and blowing-up later, Zach Levi can still play up the show's central conflict -- Chuck is trapped in a life he may not want -- without compromising his everyman charisma. No, the show doesn't always make sense, and yes, it would be nice for there to be a sense that the show is moving toward something, rather than enjoyably standing still, but I'll take an hour of Chuck over an hour of Dan and Serena and Blair and the Duke any day, and I have the DVR season-pass amendment to prove it.

Incidentally, I haven't watched last night's Friday Night Lights premiere, but I will tonight and will report the results in a similarly untimely manner.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MEET ME IN THE LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS: Last year, it was a rollercoaster ride for a team that finally reestablished Philadelphia as a two-sport town, one that was thrilled to make the playoffs and from which we didn't expect a championship yet. This year, however, they're into full mojo reversal with a Mitch Williams appearance, and the expectations are higher. Much higher. And so, reusing a literary device one more time ...

The fundamentals we use to measure this Phillies team's strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this city great - a promise that is the only reason I am typing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young players who came up from Scranton Wilkes-Barre and Reading, I see Garry Maddox, who was traded over here from San Francisco for Willie Montanez, marched in Ozark's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful city with the chance to go to the playoffs six times in eight years.

In the face of that young college student (wearing a t-shirt saying "College") who sleeps just three hours after attending a night game, I think about my dad, who grew up a Yankees fan but raised my brother and me in the red and white, who once turned to reluctant support for Ricky Jordan but was still able to keep our partial season ticket plan through the years so that we are now attending half this year's playoff games.

When I listen to another fan tell me that Kyle Kendrick was shut down, I remember all those men and women in South Philadelphia who I stood by and cheered with a decade ago when it was Matt Beech, Garrett Stephenson and Carlton Loewer we were complaining about.

A city of boo-ers? Tell that to the proud fans of 1986 who, 20 games out of first, kept showing up every day and cheering as hard as ever when the Mets came into try to clinch in September, because we knew there was nothing that would suck more than seeing them celebrate on our artificial turf. (And we swept them.) Tell that to the fans that suffered through 1964 and didn't see a playoff game between 1950 and 1976, or 1915 and 1950. These are not boo-ers. They work hard and give back and keep going. These are the Phillies fans that I know.

It's not because Bob Uecker doesn't care. It's because Bob Uecker doesn't get it.

I don't know what kind of lives Bob Uecker thinks that Phillies fans lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I will be cheering my ass off to keep the promise alive as a Phillies fan.

What is that promise? It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to boo whenever we want, but for whatever reason always treat Pat Burrell with dignity and respect no matter how badly he slumps.

It's a promise that says that beer prices at Citizens Bank Park can keep going up, but that the organization has an obligation to make said beer plentifully available, and with a decent selection too.

Ours is a promise that says Pat Gillick cannot solve all our problems, but what he should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from overpriced middle relievers and provide Jamie Moyer a decent pension; keep our outfield healthy and our stolen base attempts safe; invest in young arms and young ballgirls and young fans in the next generation.

Our team's ownership should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure playoff seats not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every fan who's willing to camp out.

That's the promise of the Phillies - the idea that we are responsible for our behavior when they lose, but that we also rise or fall as one city. We are the franchise of Schmidt. We are the franchise of Carlton. We are the franchise of Tug McGraw. So don't tell me that Phillies can't win in October. Don't tell me that Phillies won't win tight games and close out leads. The Nick Leyva-John Felske-Larry Bowa managerial policy squandered the legacy that a magical run from 1976-1983 had built, and we are here to restore that legacy. Phillies in four.

ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP: In honor of Stephen Colbert's upcoming webslinging adventure with Spider-Man, the LA Times reminds us of two classics--Spidey's team-up with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players and The Avengers on Late Night With David Letterman. Almost as awesome as Archie Meets The Punisher.
TAKE THAT, WOLFGANG PUCK: In a world where celebrity chefs now seem intent on tacking their name on any place where they might have spent 5 minutes looking at the kitchen, it's refreshing to see that Craft/Craftbar/Craftsteak/'Wichcraft mastermind (and Top Chef judge!) Tom Colicchio is opening a special restaurant where every other Tuesday, he will cook for and serve 32 guests a seven or eight course meal. Prices will range from $150-200 for the full dinner, and every plate will be personally overseen by Tom himself.
LET THERE BE ROCK, BUT ONLY IN CERTAIN STORES:AC/DC has a new album coming out, as well an exclusive Rock Band expansion (tempting, if just for the ability to "play" "Back In Black," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," and "Highway to Hell"), but it seems at least at bit off that they'll be exclusively available at Wal-Mart. When I think RAWK!, I don't think of Wal-Mart, which even refused to sell a record by Sheryl Crow due to problematic lyrical content.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A COMPREHENSIVE GRASP OF AMERICAN SONG: Sorkin alumni have been doing a lot of stage work of late--Bradley Whitford and Mary McCormack in Boeing-Boeing, Allison Janney in 9 to 5, Stockard Channing in Pal JoelJoey, and even Sorkin himself with last season's Farnsworth Invention. But the idea of Joshua Malina singing (in Grumpy Old Men: The Musical) just seems a little off to me.
CHIHUAPOCALYPSE NOW:The Hollywood Reporter gives a surprisingly positive review to Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
BURGASM:With Adam absent, I must note that tonight's HIMYM had much to recommend it, be it Marshall's interview strategy, the first appearance of Barnac the Magnificient, Marshall's discourse on the Corner Bistro (though minus points for very inaccurate depictions of both it and Paul's, which are both tiny, smoky joints, neither of which is actually that great), Regis Philbin's series of insults (and giving NPH an opportunity to bust out his Regis), the hot new game show, and the surprisingly timely depiction of the bankification of New York. Proceed to the nearest GNB ATM or the comments for discussion.
L'SHANA TOVA TIKATEVU! As the final moments of 5768 tick away, on behalf of the entire ALOTT5MA team I wanted to wish all our friends in The Tribe a year full of joy, happiness, warm feelings and good health. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Awesome for 5769.

[Not that I'm not wishing good things for everyone else, of course. But the rest of y'all don't care about what happens at sundown tonight.]

[And until then, I don't know whether today is more like Speaker Pelosi shouting Turn those machines back on! or America demanding Sell, Mortimer, sell! And, yes, FCOJ at a three-year low today.]
CHARCOAL MONDAY: Think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts think happy thoughts
LITTLE BIG MAN: As the Red Sox begin the playoffs with a series against the Angels, I can't say that I am optimistic about the team's prospects.

Beckett is hurt, Lowell is hurt, and Drew is hurt. Big Papi has been hurting all season long, as has last year's star of the playoffs, Jacoby Ellsbury. Jed Lowrie, thrust into a key role in mid-season, has been showing obvious signs of fatigue. Varitek is no longer an elite catcher and let's just say that Kevin Cash is no one's idea of a good backup at that position.

The Sox do have a strong run differential, but they have struggled mightily all season long against that team from southern California with the comically long name.

Yet when I look back on this season, I have a feeling of delight, thanks largely to the extraordinary season of Dustin Pedroia. He is truly an amazing and inspiring player.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

GIVING 'PISS DRUNK' A WHOLE NEW MEANING: I haven't been posting on Mad Men in any kind of time-sensitive fashion -- mostly because that darned Alan Sepinwall manages to post these incredibly thorough analyses within about 30 seconds after an episode ends, leaving me very little to talk about -- but I just wanted to mention how great these last couple of episodes have been. Tonight, I was particularly intrigued by the Peggy plotline: nice for a change to see Peggy neither being mired in the Catholic church nor wearing vibrating undergarments. What have the standout moments been for you this season?
DON'T DROP YOUR BLONG: While I'm totally happy to have my Race back, this was not the most satisfying way to start things off -- and it's a structural thing. Basically, this leg was "mandatory split in half" with the flights, followed by a few tasks not prone to shuffling the teams, then a mandatory "break them into three groups" for the morning start, and find-a-route-marker, detour, finish mat to close the leg the next day, and with no real opportunity for the teams to use their physical or mental skills to separate themselves. I like my Race to provide teams with a way to use their talents to elevate themselves, and especially in the second half of this episode I wasn't feeling it.

So. We've got somewhat creepy New Yorkers, a somewhat creepy sibling team and a pair of nerd teams seeking our favor. And we need a good name for Team I'm Sorry I Cheated, But I'm Even Sorrier That I Thought Brazilians Speak Spanish. Andale!