Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Let's be clear about something: What Makes Sammy Run is my second-favorite book about Hollywood, and the first (The Grove Book of Hollywood) is cheating because it's an anthology. I've read a bit about the controversy over whether Sammy Glick was the product of anti-semitism or just a garden-variety monster, but to me that fight misses the point. I loved Sammy Glick. He had a view of who he wanted to be and the world he wanted to inhabit, and he made it happen. If he wasn't that great a guy, so what? He was both more realistic and less troubling than the controversy made him seem, a close approximation of virtually every titan of industry who built, rather than inherited, his role. It is a literary injustice that "Sammy Glick" is an epithet and "[Roy] Hobbsian" a compliment.
As for why the movie could never get made, I think it gets made all the time. There are more-or-less faithful Sammy Glick reproductions all over the place. Ari Gold on Entourage is the most obvious, but you could find more than a little Sammy Glick in guys as different as Tony Montana and both Don Draper and Pete Campbell, for example. So What Makes Sammy Run doesn't really need to be made -- and let's all take a deep breath and thank our lucky stars that it never got made by Ben Stiller, who I believe once optioned it. No movie means that Sammy remains a perfect novel unsullied in our memories by an imperfect adaptation.
ETA: I guess I'm supposed to mention that he was a communist, then a HUAC testifying informant, and that he wrote On the Waterfront.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Join me in the comments?
And let's not fail to give him credit for his sillier works -- there's a reason Home Alone made such a ridiculous pile of money; it's a Bugs Bunny cartoon perfect brought to life. National Lampoon's Vacation shows a bite he didn't reveal as much later on, and Mr. Mom is an unappreciated gem; at least, I remember it well.
But it's really about those core three films -- Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. When they're on, I don't change the channel. Thank you, John Hughes, for delivering such wonderful, empathetic movies to me at the right time in my life for them.
Matt: I'm a little too young to have seen the classic 1984-1987 Hughes films in the theater, but they were on basic cable every weekend (in admittedly sanitized versions), and The Breakfast Club in particular is an enduring film that might even earn the title of "classic." Yes, after that, it's a downslide--Uncle Buck? Curly Sue? Baby's Day Out? But those films in the mid-80s? It's hard to imagine a streak more significant than the Brat Pack series--Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind Of Wonderful? Not all were great, but they endure.
But the Hughes-driven film with most relevance to my age group has to be Home Alone--still the highest grossing live action comedy of all time. But what made Home Alone, along with all the other Hughes movies, was not just the slapstick comedy, but that there was a heart there--be it Catherine O'Hara's desperate quest to get home to her child, Kevin McAlister's realization that he really does love and miss his brothers and sisters in spite of what they put him through, and the actually moving subplot with Old Man Marley reconciling with his daughter. Hughes had withdrawn from Hollywood in recent years, though a concept from him was the basis for the bomb Drillbit Taylor, but his influence goes on.
Occasional Guest Shonda (Via Twitter): "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stick around once in a while you could miss it" -- my teen years were Ferris and The Breakfast Club.
Isaac: I had no idea that he wrote screenplays for Mr. Mom and Vacation, no idea that he was only 34 when he made Sixteen Candles, and no idea that he only directed eight movies in his career. I think his core body of work actually is Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, the movies set principally in high schools while I was in high school, since Ferris Bueller and Weird Science are focused more on things external to high school and Home Alone, of course, is something completely different. Hughes's window opened on a pretty narrow backyard -- that of an outsider born to and among insiders, and distinguishable from them only by some trait more subtle than appearance or wealth. If the resolution of those '80s movies -- mild individualists finding common ground or romance with people not actually much different from themselves -- was too easy, it was not less comforting, and it made for good parent drop-off date movies. To me, the greatest thing in any John Hughes movie was in the the scene where Sixteen Candles's Jake talks it out with a friend at the chin-up bars in the gym. In the background, there is a one-sided wrestling match between a hulking brute and a sickly-looking kid. The kid struggles, the brute clobbers him, and you get the sense that Hughes knew that the underdog's chances weren't as great as his movies would make it seem.
Adam: Worth noting – at a time when “teen movie” meant horny guys and gratuitous nudity, John Hughes gave us movies centered around Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. With the possible exception of Sloane in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, women weren’t sex objects in his films or empty slates, but fully-formed central characters. Compare that to today’s Apatovian universe.
Alex: It's fall of my senior year in high school and distinguished alum John Hughes is on campus filming scenes for a new film starring the guy from "War Games." Interiors are being shot nearby at a shuttered high school, Maine North, which was also used for "The Breakfast Club." We are given permission to miss school to appear as extras in the film, but, unfortunately my football coach is not as understanding, and when I explain to the production assistant that I will have to leave early for practice, I am told it is either all day or nothing. I chose football over film, a decision I regret to this day whenever I happen upon "Ferris" and see dozens of my big-haired classmates roaming the halls of Shermer High School or sitting in Sloane's history class.
It's simply impossible to imagine my teen years without Hughes' films and the music featured prominently in them. Beyond Hughes' uncanny ability to perfectly capture life on Chicago's North Shore in the mid-80s, his films serve as a tour to my teen years, be it the local mall featured prominently in "Weird Science," the grocery store I worked at in "She's Having a Baby," or the football field where I helped lead our team to a 3-6 record and Bender triumphantly pumps his fist at the end of "The Breakfast Club." Even today I live less than a half-mile from both Cameron and Jake Ryan's house.
For a generation, Hughes was the cool uncle who still remembered what it was like to be a teen in a world full of Rooneys, Vernons, and Grandma Helens.
Kim: I'm chiming in a little late, and so have already read many of everyone's comments. What's interesting to me is that while everyone here considers Hughes to have been personally seminal in some way or another, the subset of his work driving that view is so different for each of us. For me it's just Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller -- everything else is at best secondary. Along with just generally being the most perfect teen movie ever, Breakfast Club gave us the most fully realized "bad boy" of any film of my youth. For every girl who had the tendency to ignore the nice boy sitting next to her in class in favor of the guy cutting school to smoke under the bleachers, John Bender validated us. As for Ferris, it's not that it spoke to us all the way Breakfast Club did -- it's more that it provided us with a universe of common pop cultural experience to share together in the pre-look-up-all-the-funny-lines-on-imdb-and-find-lists-of-seminal-moments-on-random-blogs-like-this-one era. Each of us has seen the movie a million times, and we know that everyone else has as well. Who doesn't occasionally spout an "anyone? Bueller?" when faced with an unexpected silence? So that's how it is in their family . . . do you have a kiss for daddy? . . . pardon my french, but you're an asshole! . . . let my Cameron go . . . Ferris Bueller's on line two . . .
(Also: it is now 8:43 pm and no one has realized that Matt left "a princess" out of the tag line. For shame!)
So help me out here. What exactly are the rules, not just for language and skin, but also for drugs, teen sexual activity, etc.? If I were a TV writer, I would have no idea what's okay and what's not -- which seems to be a common complaint among TV writers.
LenDale White, claiming to lose 30 pounds off-season based on one simple change in his diet: "I really got to be honest. It wasn't a lot of major diet changes. [It was] watching what I drink. I was a big Patron consumer. ... That's what it was. I was drinking a lot, drank a lot of alcohol. I cut that out of my diet all the way. I don't drink at all. I cut the drinking, I stopped drinking for six months. It started falling off."
Vince Young: "I will be the next black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. And I will be in the Hall of Fame."
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Anyone who's a veteran of this show knew during the shopping period just what this week's central question was going to be; while I was happy with its resolution, I couldn't help but wonder if the producers placed their thumb on the judging scales just a bit.
Meanwhile, here's the details on Hubert Keller's $5000 burger from The Burger Bar. (But from that, you make Phila's Good Dog burger?)
added: Judge James Oseland defends meat-free dining (and challenges); Scott Tobias recaps for the A.V. Club: "Over on the Twitter, Movieline (and erstwhile Defamer) writer Mark Lisanti and I have been exchanging alternative vegan titles for Zooey Deschanel movies. A few of my suggestions: (500) Days Of Sunchokes, Failure To Lunch, The Non-Food-Related Happening, Bridge To Arugula. A few of his: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Carnivore Robert Ford, Vegan Elf, and (my personal favorite) Almost Flavorless. See how a social networking tool like Twitter can enrich your life?"
Why Evan may win: Benji Schwimmer. Personality and polish can take you a long, long way in this competition. And the jidges could not have done more than they did tonight to galvanize Evan's fan base into voting.
Why Evan cannot win: He's no Benji Schwimmer. Even when he's gotten styles that should have been squarely in his wheelhouse, Evan has rarely nailed a dance outside of his solos. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that his obviously steadfast fans carry him to a win, but it's tough to make any legitimate argument that he deserves it.
Why Kayla may win: The jidges have been behind her from moment one. She has never flubbed a dance. And she is a truly lovely dancer.
Why Kayla cannot win: Jeanine. Jeanine has everything going for her that Kayla does and then some. And even when Kayla was dusting other dancers earlier in the competition, she still regularly found herself in the bottom three. Kayla, like last season's Will Wingfield, is the jidge-adored dancer who never quite connects with the audience. I think she is the #4 finisher tomorrow night.
Why Brandon may win: The strongest guy usually wins, and this year that guy is Brandon. He is powerful and graceful and explosive and contained. Plus he seems like a sweetheart, and although Evan has been getting all the lovability kudos, he is adored by many, especially after that fantastic winning-Mia-over edit he's been getting all season.
Why Brandon cannot win: There's such a track record of dancers like Brandon on SYTYCD, and the super-technically proficient contemporary dancer so rarely captures the hearts and souls of the voters. See, e.g., Danny Tidwell and Travis Wall. (And even though he outdanced Evan, he looked only marginally less goofy during that dopey pocket-sized Nasty Boys number.)
Why Jeanine may win: Girls don't normally win this show, and I bet the producers would love to see a girl win this one. Jeanine matched or exceeded the quality of her partner's dancing in all three of her partnered dances tonight (including both Kayla during that glorious onion striptease as well as Brandon during the paso matrix), and it's hard not to love a girl who dances to the True Lies tango. Plus she got the big cute personality edit and lots of discussion about peaking at the right time, both of which weigh in her favor.
Why Jeanine cannot win: Girls don't normally win this show. Sabra Johnson, the only female winner in the show's history, beat out Danny Tidwell, the previously mentioned super-technically proficient contemporary dancer who so rarely captures the hearts and minds of the voters. But both Brandon and Evan are loaded for bear with personality, and the tweeny girls like them some boys. Also, while Jeanine has been great most weeks, prior to tonight she has never really had any of those big memorable breathtaking moments (except for maybe the Travis Wall contemporary number with presumptive behind-the-scenes hookup Jason). Talk about peaking at the last possible moment.
I haven't cast a single vote all season, so I feel a little phony making predictions, but I'm going with Jeanine for the win and Kayla out of the money. I don't have a view as between Evan and Brandon for the two spot -- neither one would surprise me.
added: PopWatch lists and provides YouTube for its favorite 15 performances in SYTYCD history.
On the Sifton thing: what's interesting about it is that photographs of him are readily available, while the Association of Food Journalists' guidelines advises:
Reviews should be conducted anonymously whenever possible. Critics should experience the restaurant just as ordinary patrons do. Reservations should be made in a name other than that of the reviewer and meals should be paid for using cash or credit cards in a name other than the critic. Take care to make reservations from telephones outside of work; many restaurants have caller identification systems. Just because a workstation telephone has a "blocked" telephone number doesn't mean the call won't be tagged as coming from the publication. Reviewers who have been recognized may want to make note of that in the review, especially if the treatment they receive differs markedly from what nearby tables are receiving. While anonymity is important when dining out, reviewers should write under their real names, not a pseudonym. Readers should also be able to respond to the reviews; a work telephone number or e-mail for the reviewer or the supervisory editor should be included with the review.Emphasis added, because that's the key, right? While there's only so much truffle oil a bad chef can employ to cover up his failings, a restaurant critic is most useful to his readers when there is no special treatment whatsover. Perhaps in this day and age it's impossible to find anyone under 35 whose photograph can't be found ...
Sitting here contemplating my general degree of blahness (extremely high levels of blahness are being reported from all precincts), I can't help but think of the final round of AI for each of the last two seasons. The battle of the Davids and the Lambert/Allen showcase showdown each had infinitely more watercooler discussion potential than I'm expecting from this week's performances and outcome. But setting AI aside entirely and just thinking about SYTYCD, this is by far the least interesting finale the show has ever had.
I started out writing a post with lots of bullet points comparing particular aspects of this season to prior seasons, but just trashed the whole thing, because the problem with this season boils down to one thing: a lack of wow moments. I don't care how many times Nigel and Mary try to tell us that these are the most talented dancers the show has ever had -- the dances just haven't been that memorable. (Actually, this "examiner" reminds me that I liked more of the dances than I thought I did, although I'd add in the butt, the crash test dummies, and the cracked Chorus Line and excise anything having to do with Melissa or disco.)
You all know how much I love this show, and so it makes me a little sad to be snarking about it. I'm therefore going to stick with my sandbaggery theory and attribute all the blahness of this season to a dastardly plan by my once-and-future BFF Nigel to keep all the interesting dancers and the best choreography for the inaugural fall season of the show -- a season in which Tabitha and Napoleon will be sent on one of those 120-day world cruises along with Tyce Diorio and Doriana Sanchez.
But let me ask it again: do you care?
[In his career, he's 41-99 in such situations with 7 walks, 9 doubles, 0 triples and 11 HR, producing 136 RBI.]
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My point is that I've been staring at the logo for the N a lot, which is relevant because The N's younger parent (wrap your head around that), Nickelodeon, just changed its logo. EW doesn't like it. But I have to disagree. True, the squat, rounded 80s-style fonts look better on shorter words, because the length of "Nickelodeon" tends to create its own straight edge. Still, it's a nice clean look, it goes well with the font for The N, and it was long past time to dump the old logo, which used one of those fonts that irritatingly half-parroted free-hand lettering, and the main feature of which was the old Nick splat. The splat really needed to be retired. How long has it been since the slime was Nick's calling card? The old logo looked dated, seemed to skew even younger than the network's target audience, and had the added detraction of looking like you parked your TV under a tree.
[30 Rock, L&O: SVU parodies linked here. And I didn't know that they had done A's Anatomy, RSI: Rhyme Scene Investigation (with Muppet Caruso/Proctor) and Meal or No Meal. Oh, and Pre-School Musical.]
So, what else we got? Gratist tennis playir evir Roger Federer is now the daddy of twin girls Charlene "Yes, Dammit, I Cried When Eddings Died" Riva and Myla "I'm Home Again" Rose. (And if you think I'm Bermanizing any more of these names, you'd be wrong.) Tobey Maguire and Jennifer Meyer gave Ruby (resisting . . . urge . . . . ) Sweetheart a little brother -- Otis Tobias Maguire feels like they were trying just a leetle too hard to come up with something less trendy than Owen.
Matt already posted about little Tabitha and Marion Broderick -- proof positive that someone really liked to watch TV back when we were kids. Grey's Chyler Leigh is more of a 90s TV gal, naming her third baby Anniston Kae after dubbing her son Noah Wilde. (Yes, there's another daughter, Taelyn Leigh, which I realize kind of kills my effort at a TV theme.) There are other names we haven't discussed -- we could talk about Adele Georgiana and Roman Stylianos Gianopoulos (not to mention their big sister Mathilda Ereni Gianopoulos), but my lung capacity is insufficient to permit me to recite all of Molly Ringwald's kids' names at once, so I'm putting that one on hold.
But here's an odd new trend -- what's with people announcing baby names to the press months before said names will be attached to actual babies? Some woman who had the good fortune to hook up with Jude Law will be naming a baby Sophia come sometime around October. Um, ok. And the first Duggar grandchild will be getting an "M" name instead of a "J" name in October, giving me as long as three months to wonder why, with all the resources of a brand new initial at their disposal, the inaugural niece of John-David (cheating!), Jana, Jill, Jessa, Jinger (I've always felt bad for Jinger, who so clearly lost the J-naming lottery) Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna (cheating again!), Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, and Jordyn-Grace (still more cheating!) couldn't get something a little less fakey-spelly than Mackynzie. Just think of the possibilities! Ah, never fear, they'll get through all of them.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Of more interest to Isaac will be that Van Halen's show-closing set from the night before -- an appearance for which Steve Wozniak paid them $1.5 million -- is also all online, including David Lee Roth calling out ... The Clash?
We learn things watching these cooking competitions, but they’re not things about how to cook. There are no recipes to follow; the contests fly by much too fast for viewers to take in any practical tips; and the kind of cooking practiced in prime time is far more spectacular than anything you would ever try at home. No, for anyone hoping to pick up a few dinnertime tips, the implicit message of today’s prime-time cooking shows is, Don’t try this at home. If you really want to eat this way, go to a restaurant. Or as a chef friend put it when I asked him if he thought I could learn anything about cooking by watching the Food Network, “How much do you learn about playing basketball by watching the N.B.A.?”I dunno; I've definitely gotten some cooking ideas via Top Chef, and occasionally will try to recreate one of the show's recipes directly. But Pollan's more right than wrong, sadly.
What we mainly learn about on the Food Network in prime time is culinary fashion, which is no small thing: if Julia took the fear out of cooking, these shows take the fear — the social anxiety — out of ordering in restaurants. (Hey, now I know what a shiso leaf is and what “crudo” means!) Then, at the judges’ table, we learn how to taste and how to talk about food. For viewers, these shows have become less about the production of high-end food than about its consumption — including its conspicuous consumption. (I think I’ll start with the sawfish crudo wrapped in shiso leaves. . . .)