Thursday, December 30, 2004

PLAYING AGAINST TYPE: Over the holiday, my TiVo picked up the lovely "Weekend" episode of "My So-Called Life" (the one where Graham and Patty spend the weekend on a vacation while Angela and the gang attempt to liberate Rayanne from her position handcuffed to the bed), and shock of shocks, it's Laura Innes in a guest role. Even more shockingly, Innes, now best known as crochety Kerry Weaver on "ER," plays the utter ditz who's Graham's brother's "girlfriend of the weekend." The "MSCL" guest-star list is littered with the quasi-famous (Kaley Cuoco from "8 Simple Rules" appeared in several episodes), the under-appreciated (Mary Kay Place as Sharon Cherski's mom), and the infamous (Shar Jackson, Kevin Federline's baby mama, showed up in one episode). What are your favorite "Wow! That's him?" moments of guest-stardom?
DISASTER RELIEF: As the bitterly sarcastic one, I was kind of waiting for somebody else to pass the hat, but whatever. It has never been easier to give a little of that Chanukkah gelt (or Christmas money, or Kwanzaa forints) to relief efforts. Amazon, for example, has a simple one-click donation process. Over 89,000 people have already donated over $5.5 million -- over $61 apiece -- to the Red Cross through Amazon alone. As all good hipsters intuit, 89,000 is a large enough number to give some credibility but still small enough that it's not uncool. All I'm saying is that for maximum cred you should catch this donation thing at the Outlandos d'Amour stage, before your parents make you take your little brother to the Synchronicity tour and way before your mother-in-law asks for "Brand New Day" for her birthday.

I now return you to your regularly-scheduled traffic jam, courtesy of the President of Synagogue. Anyone? Is this on?
AND THIS IS THE GREATEST AND MOST ASTOUNDING BLOG POST PRESENTLY BEING POSTED: You know, I've been wondering if the fine staff over at the New York Times Arts & Leisure section is beginning to lose it. Leaving aside references to airborne masculine anatomical features, the first real sign of losing it came when lead movie critic A.O. Scott wrote:
We are so hung up on blue states and red states that our only hope may lie in the primary color that has been left off the map. We need something -- or someone -- yellow, and also absorbent and porous enough to soak up the ill will and scrub away the lingering bad feelings. Now more than ever, the country needs SpongeBob SquarePants.
I wrote this one off to post-election angst along with (possibly) a heady dose of whatever drug makes people enjoy "SpongeBob" (I, for one, don't get it). However, the weirdness returns today, when Virginia Heffernan asks whether "Jack & Bobby"s Grace McAllister could cut it as a real college professor. The piece is good, but one note struck me as off--Heffernan writes:

Oh, why are television's humanities professors so banal? The late, lamented belle-lettrist Asher Fleming of "Gilmore Girls" is a possible exception, but only because he was sleeping with Paris Geller (played by Liza Weil), the greatest comic character currently on television.

Now, I love "Gilmore Girls" as much as any straight man does, but referring to (the admittedly quite amusing) Paris as "the greatest comic character currently on television" seems a stretch. How about any character with the last name "Bluth" or "Funke?" Or Dr. Perry Cox from "Scrubs?" Or even Lorelai Gilmore herself? Who's on your list for great comic characters currently on television?

(And as great as Liza Weil is as Paris, let's not forget that she can also be an excellent dramatic actress, as her single great scene with John Spencer on The West Wing demonstrates.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

SQUANDERING THE REMAINING GOODWILL: I don't hand out a lot of lifetime passes. The only present holders of ones from me are playwright/TV genius Aaron Sorkin (as a result of "Sports Night" and "The West Wing"), actress Parker Posey (if just for her work as slutty Dairy Queen attendant Libby Mae Brown in "Waiting For Guffman" and as "Jackie-O" in "The Houst of Yes"), and writer/directors Wes Anderson and Christopher Guest. However, I do hand out "10 year passes." And I'd like to highlight two people who have 10 year passes, which they are rapidly squandering.

Jason Schwartzman (pass expires 2008) earned his pass for "Rushmore." And what have you done for me lately? "Slackers?" "Simone?" "Spun?" A sitcom co-starring Molly Shannon? None match. Schwartzman's showing a bit of a sign of rebound lately, with "I Heart Huckabees," and upcoming movie choices like "Bewitched" and Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" showing some promise. I'm hoping he can make a rebound.

Julia Stiles (pass expires 2009) earned her pass for "10 Things I Hate About You." Stiles is a little different from Schwartzman--rather than making almost nothing in subsequent years, she's been constantly in action. Her problem is a lack of selectiveness. While there are highs (Michael Alymareda's "Hamlet," David Mamet's "State and Main," Tim Blake Nelson's "O"), they've been mixed with lows ("Save the Last Dance," "A Guy Thing," "Down To You," "The Prince & Me"), movies in which she's been good but the movie hasn't ("Mona Lisa Smile"), and the two "Bourne" movies, where you get the feeling she got largely left on the cutting room floor. A smart script will help her, but she needs to avoid crappy romcoms and chick flicks.
TWO SEPARATE BUT EQUALLY IMPORTANT PARTS: "Jerry Orbach Dead At 69." That's how CNN headlines the obit. At least they didn't go as far as VH1 did a few years ago, referring to him in a promo as simply "That guy from 'Law & Order.'" To be sure, Orbach's work on "L&O" is worth remembering--there probably is no truer depiction of either the criminal justice system or the city of New York than the one "Law & Order" has been offering for years now. As a New Yorker in law school, the show's great both for H!ITG! spotting and for H!It's That Place! spotting. Furthermore, the show would invariably be the topic of discussion in Thursday's criminal law class during my 1L year, and the antics of Briscoe and McCoy would lead us into many discussions in other classes as well. Orbach was (and even now, still is) the face of the "L&O" franchise, and that's worth remembering.

But in his image as "That guy from 'Law & Order,'" it's Orbach's other work that gets lost. His filmography is littered with memorable roles, from a bit part as a baseball manager in "Brewster's Millions" to Baby's father in "Dirty Dancing" to singing and dancing candelabra Lumiere in "Beauty and the Beast." Orbach's Broadway work is often forgotten as well. Did you know he not only originated the role of Billy "Mr. Razzle Dazzle" Flynn in "Chicago," but also originated the role of Julian Marsh in "42nd Street," and even played Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls."

I'm sure tonight's "L&O" will pay tribute in some way, and I expect the franchise will, in some way, commemorate his passing, but I pay my own humble tribute here.
THREE LAST BESTS: Admittedly, "Best Romantic Comedy" is kind of like "Best Diet Soda". It might also be admitted that I do not like diet soda, so to speak. Undeterred, I offer the following end-of-year kudos:

BEST ROMANTIC COMEDY: Shaun Of The Dead. For obvious reasons. Also a strong contender for Movie Of The Year and Best Zombie Movie Ever. I want my ZOMBAID t-shirt, like, now. Zombaid, the zombie game shows, the hundred little ways in which people were zombified before the "outbreak" occurred and the compromise by which the protagonist's externalized cro-magnon / zombie impulses are retained but exiled to the shed so that he may have an adult relationship were all extremely freaking brilliant. A movie to live by. See it with someone you love.

BEST ROMANTIC COMEDY NOT FEATURING HORDES OF FLESH-HUNGRY UNDEAD: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Also obvious. Really just brilliant. The missing letter in the "Lacuna" logo on the company truck? Brilliant! As this film has been adequately fawned-over elsewhere, I'll say no more. Not to be missed.

BEST ROMANTIC COMEDY WITH NO SCI-FI PREMISE WHATSOEVER: Sideways. Though I've never been to a winery where anyone, uh... pours, yeah, quite like Sandra Oh, the whole film was touching, hysterical and true to life in a way that most (all? counter-example? comments? Beuhler?) in this genre are not. Some might argue that they've never felt like Miles (Giamatti) or known anyone like Jack (Church), but I have and I do (or I do and I have) and this is one of the best romantic comedies ever made (despite a conspicuous lack of space aliens).

All told, a good year for a tired genre.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

92: Reggie White, the most dominant defensive player to don the green and white in my lifetime, passed away today. He was 43. I'm just stunned.

All the other Philadelphia sports stars of my formative years were decidedly unemotional types -- Mike Schmidt, Julius Erving, Steve Carlton, Randall Cunningham and Ron Jaworski were all players who directed their energies towards the field. They all had a certain kind of asceticism to their game -- for them, it wasn't about displaying emotion, or playing to the crowd. They did their jobs, and did it well, but they were all more admired than beloved.

Not so Reggie White. The Minister of Defense was larger than life -- on the field and off. His game was intense, with a power/speed combination few have ever had on the defense line, and a battery of moves to skirt offensive linemen that was just stunning to watch. That swim move? Wow. He had nine straight seasons with double-digit sacks to start his NFL career, retiring number one all-time despite spending his first two seasons in the USFL. (Bruce Smith ultimately totaled two more sacks, but needed three more years to do so.)

But it was off the field that he galvanized a city. He showed us his sweat, his fury, his emotion. His heart. Randall Cunningham was exciting to watch, but it was Reggie and that defense we loved, never more so than that 1991 season in which Randall went down, and the defense rose to #1 against the run, #1 against the pass, #1 overall, bringing the "house of pain" to Houston and obliterating all that lay before it.

And when his teammate Jerome Brown died in an offseason car wreck, it was Reggie who comforted us.

Sure, he had his controversies -- whether deciding as a free agent to go "where God told him" (which happened to be the city offering the largest contract), his three separate retirements or his outrageous remarks before the Wisconsin legislature in 1998, which made John Rocker seem mild. Even today, I cannot defend any of what he said, but can only accept the sincerity of his commitment towards bettering the urban poor, that he did not simply abuse the language of religion in order to further political or personal ends. As he would have us do, I suppose, I detest the sins of that speech, but still loved the sinner and hoped he would change.

Five straight seasons with ten-plus wins in Philadelphia, then a Super Bowl ring in Green Bay. Thirteen Pro Bowl selections. I can't believe he's gone.

Just before I moved to Chicago for law school in 1994, Reggie came back to Philadelphia for his first game as a Packer. No one booed. They welcomed him back with the kind of open arms and loud cheers that this city never extends to anyone who leaves. Except Reggie.

SI's Peter King has more.

Friday, December 24, 2004

LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER, WHILE WE DO OUR THING: Maybe it's the spirit of The Holiday Season. Maybe it's the residue of too much lambic. Maybe it's just nostalgia. But, most likely, it's just from a profound sense of gratitude.

It is hereby ordered that no criticism of the film Fat Albert evermore appear on this blog.

Yes, I know, it's gotten some harsh reviews. Okay, most of them.

But if there's any living American comedian who's earned a lifetime pass on his creative works on account of the combination of his good work and good deeds, it's William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D.

(Okay, fine, criticize his political activism if you dare, but this is a kid's movie we're talking about.)

I'm still awfully fond of the old Fat Albert cartoons. And the Brown Hornet. And Picture Pages, picture pages, open up your picture pages . . . and then there's The Cosby Show.

I've got a soft spot for the guy. So, too, does the WaPo's Desson Thomson. So until there's a Leonard: Part VII, save your haterade for those who deserve it, and leave Bill alone.

Who gets your free lifetime pass?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

ON SECOND THOUGHT, STAY MISSING: You know that item we posted regarding the career disappearance of Natasha Lyonne?

Well, she's been located, alright. Maybe twice.

The American Pie curse continues . . . .
MR. ROBOTO AND THE INFINITE SADNESS: Dennis DeYoung (former lead singer of Styx, a band that peaked in 1979) and Billy Corgan (the guy who sang "1979") apparently have a little too much time on their hands these days. How else can you explain this note from today's Chicago Sun-Times?
Two of Chicago's best known rockers -- Billy Corgan and Dennis DeYoung -- will team up for the first time to sing a Christmas song live on WGN-Channel 9's morning newscast during the 8 a.m. hour Thursday.
I believe WGN's news is broadcast is on the nationwide superstation feed, so just remember that's Central Time.

Word is that if the pairing is successful, an entire series of washed-up Chicago-area '70s rockers will be teamed with washed-up Chicago-area '90s rockers for duets. Look for Peter Cetera and Liz Phair, Kevin Cronin and Nash Kato, and others coming to your morning news in 2005.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

THAT'S NOT A WHOLE LOTTA CAR: Tonight on TAR6: an ending the likes of which you've never seen before in an episode. And I'm not sure that I liked it.

Let me ask you this: did you find that car challenge fair? All this, and the merits of male shirtlessness and oddly-placed bunches, are open to your commentary.
A LITTLE FREE LEGAL ADVICE: If you were thinking of asserting that the Housing and Rent Act of 1947 is "an incubator and hatchery of swarms of bureaucrats to be quartered as storm troopers on the people" in violation of the Third Amendment, don't. United States v. Valenzuela, 95 F. Supp. 363 (S.D. Cal. 1951).
QUICK BELATED REMINDER: The Race airs 8pm tonight, an hour early, so that CBS may broadcast The Kennedy Center Honors, one of my personal favorite programs every year.

Speaking of which: so, what other living American performing artists deserve the honor? My list starts with Woody Allen, Richard Pryor and Robert Altman. Yours?

Monday, December 20, 2004

THE ROOF, THE ROOF, THE ROOF IS ON FIRE: Yes, apparently the Love Shack has burned down. No word if it was caused by the glitter on the highway, the glitter on the front porch, or maybe even the glitter on the mattress.
ALOTT5MA FOREGONE CONCLUSION OF NEXT YEAR, OR: GO THE OTHER WAY. IT'LL LOOK WORSE This list will fawn over TAR while distancing itself from Jonathan and early-round exitees Rob and Amber. We (really, just Adam) will continue to be your most comprehensive source for mukluk coverage. Britney will end the year a mother (or mother-to-be) but not a wife and we will pencil in 2017 for the combination bat mitzvah/seance/implant imbroglio/Nickelodeon debut/denial of canoodling with Wilder Valderrama/Us Magazine "too sexy too soon" cover for Kabbalah Juicy Spears-Federline. Either Dean or Ickes McClinton08 will take over the Democratic helm, thus reinforcing the Republican stranglehold on government.

But those are the runners-up. Arrested Development is the best show on network television. Therefore, my own ALOTT5MA Foregone Conclusion of Next Year is that it will be cancelled. Let's review the math. Tonight's episode of Arrested Development featured (a) incest jokes (2); (b) a joke about a "colored man" (blue); (c) double entendres about sex, oral sex (2), infidelity (many), and anal sex; (d) the ingestion of drugs; (e) a wicked stab at fundamentalist Christians; and (f) for the second straight week, a plot point featuring the public exposure of male character's genitals. At a time when Michael Powell's FCC, prompted by exactly nine complaints (apparently from people who weren't actually watching the show), is investigating NBC's coverage of that gay burlesque show known as the Olympic opening ceremonies, we probably have to thank the confluence of two factors for the fact that AD hasn't been fined into oblivion: (1) nobody is watching it; and (2) Rupert Murdoch owns Fox. Anyway, there is more comedy in the editing and reaction shots of this show than there has been the entire season of, say, Joey, so get it while it lasts. But I'm preaching to the choir, right?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

MIZZLE TO DISMIZZLE: As someone with far more familiarity with certain of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure than I might wish, I really can't resist this Civ Pro-centric parody of Jay-Z's "99 Problems." Based on the fact pattern provided, there may well be 99 problems, but I'm not so sure that surviving a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6) "ain't one."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

AS HOSTED BY PAST WINNERS MIRA SORVINO AND NATE NEWTON: The following 2004 ALOTT5MA Awards were handed out in ceremonies prior to broadcast:

Saddest Celebrity Death: Spalding Gray

Best-Orchestrated Celebrity Comeback: Prince

Favorite Recurring Joke On 'Pardon The Interruption': Trampoline Bear

Least Favorite Recurring Joke On 'Pardon The Interruption': Beano Cook.

Reality TV Competitor of the Year: Rob Mariano, Survivor All-Stars

The and then nothing turned itself inside-out Award for Indulgent, Non-Essential Television Programming: VH-1's Best Week Ever

Television Program That Most Ought To Hire Several of the Bloggers Here: VH-1's Best Week Ever

Saddest Involuntary Departure from the Blogosphere: The late Doug Pappas, who'd be having a field day analyzing the Washington Nationals situation right now.

Saddest Voluntary Departure from the Blogosphere: Alex Balk, The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

Best LawProf Addition to the Blogosphere: Ann Althouse

Best Question That No One Is Quite Ready To Ask Yet: Is Nancy Reagan dating again?

Reality TV Host of the Year: Tyra Banks is, again, a runner-up (too much Tyra's Mom!), Phil Keoghan gets enough praise, and Jeff Probst, apparently, is getting all that he needs right now.

So, this year, we single out Ralph Garman of SpikeTV's Joe Schmo 2, who, in the role of Last Chance for Love host Derek Newcastle, had to manage a fake British accent, two duped competitors, a major scenario shift and a wayward trained falcon, and did it all with great class, style, humor, and, given all the nonsense, the straightest face possible.

Congratulations to all the winners and their families. Complaints can be registered at the usual location.
ON THE COVER OF THE MAGAZINE: Before handing out my next ALOTT5MA Award, gotta recognize the winner in the last category. I'm overruling the popular vote winner in the Most Overexposed Female "Celebrity" category (Paris Hilton) and give it Toni Bentley. As Kingsley put it in the comments:
The woman wrote an entire book about how much she enjoys getting, as the South Park kids might say, F'ed in the A, and how transformative it is to render oneself a nullity, blah blah blah, and that kind of conscious self-exploitation deserves credit.

I agree in toto, and Ms. Bentley can contact us to pick up her trophy.

Turning to our next category, this week's EW does not contain Lohanboobies on the cover, but it's nonetheless time to give some awards out to one of this blog's favorite magazines. The Best New Feature In EW is hard to give out, because the magazine hasn't introduced a whole lot of good new features this year, but one stands out--What Would Have Happened. This sidebar feature in the TV section asks creators of late lamented cult classics how the shows would have turned out. They've covered shows like "John Doe," "Popular," and "Cupid." It's a clever idea with a good, solid series of show selections. The only other real contender I can think of is the now-regular appearance of Great American Pop Culture Quiz.

Unfortunately, where there is a best, there must also be a Worst New Feature in EW, and the fact that it takes the place of Pop Culture Quiz is just strike one against The Pop of King, perhaps the worst new column of this year. Stephen King's rambles about "why aren't there any good movies anymore?," "why don't I get any respect?," and "I loved this pop cultural thing!," give a unique combination of being utterly self-aggrandizing and boring.

One last note on this week's EW--is it just me, or does the picture of ALOTT5MAA nominee Tara Reid on page 60 look creepily like fired "Apprentice" candidate Jen Massey?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

EVERY VOTE COUNTS: Some ALOTT5MA Award categories are easy for us to resolve on our own. Some aren't, and such is the case with the 2004 award for Best Daily Show Moment. I'll just share my nominee, and then, please, suggest your own in the comments.

Let's take you back to Wednesday, July 28, 2004, in the middle of the Democratic National Convention. Late during the headlines, and I'm paraphrasing here, we saw the following during the first segment:

[Stewart:] Of course, the highlight of last night's convention speeches was the keynote address by Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, who inspired the crowd when he said the following about the American dream:

[Obama Video:] It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. The hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. The hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

[Stewart:] Well, that skinny kid with a funny name happens to be with here with us tonight. [dramatic pause] Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Doodle von Taintstain!

[Out walks a talk, skinny white guy, probably an intern on the show. Applause, laughter.]

[Stewart:] Actually, I understand that his family's name was originally pronounced "von tahnt-steen". We'll be back.

I look forward to seeing everyone else's nominees.
HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISMUKKAH: I'm slightly ahead of the fine folks over at Low Culture, who claim to never have watched an episode of "The O.C.," having watched a sum total of one episode (last season's finale), but even I am aware of how "Chrismukkah" is sweeping the nation. And that leads me to a question I pose to you: which artifically-created TV holiday is better--Chrismukkah or Festivus?

Chrismukkah: Born (at least arguably) from "The O.C."
Festivus: Born from "Seinfeld."
Edge: Festivus

Chrismukkah: Features the "Yarmulclaus"
Festivus: Features the metal pole of Festivus.
Edge: Chrismukkah

Chrismukkah: Features Mischa Barton's inability to act.
Festivus: Features Jerry Stiller screaming.
Edge: Even

Chrismukkah: Features beautiful people punching each other.
Festivus: Features the "feats of strength."
Edge: Festivus, because it's not over till you pin him.

Chrismukkah: Wide-ranging merchandising
Festivus: Was a Ben & Jerry's flavor
Edge: Chrismukkah. (Were it a summer holiday, maybe Festivus would have a shot.)

Chrismukkah: "Oy! Humbug!"
Festivus: "I've got some problems with you!"
Edge: Chrismukkah.

Chrismukkah: 59,600 Google hits
Festivus: 113,000 Google hits
Edge: Festivus

I think that gives the slight edge to Festivus, but I'm open to discussions. (Thanks to this transcript of last season's O.C. Chrismukkah episode for much of the information I rely on.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

MORE THAN A MOUTHFUL: This is not been the easiest year to award the ALOTT5MA for Most Difficult Challenge In A Reality Competition, because of the existence of so many worthy nominees. In a year that saw Survivor All-Star's one-on-one logrolling competition, Survivor Vanuatu's hang-on-a-totem-pole and hold-the-bow-and-arrow endurance tests (see this remarkably comprehensive chart of all past Survivor challenges for more), TAR5's final episode race up a Phillipine cliff, ANTM3's do-a-commercial-in-transliterated-Japanese and The Benefactor's Elimination Jenga, winning this one was going to be tough.

But we do have a winner, and I don't think anyone who saw this challenge would contest its difficulty, or its entertainment value. The Amazing Race 5. Episode Four. Pushkin, Russia. One kilogram of caviar. And the bodies started dropping. Never before have so many tv viewers learned so much about the need to replenish electrolytes so quickly.

Great challenge. Great television. ALOTT5MA winner. Tell me I'm wrong.
LATE BREAKING COMPETITOR: It may still wind up behind Scott Peterson in the Foregone Conclusion of the Year sweepstakes, but the fine New York City medical examiner has revealed that ODB overdosed on a mixture of "cocaine and a prescription pain killer."

Also, to clarify, as far as I know, the "Cherry Jones" who is ODB's mother, is not the same as noted stage and film actress Cherry Jones, the Soderbergh/Shaymalan regular whose performance in the massively underrated "Cradle Will Rock" should have been award nominated.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

THIS IS A RACE. THIS ISN'T ABOUT COMPASSION: It's interesting the things you learn in a leg of The Amazing Race. Like that there are things worse than racism and the white woman's burden -- namely, Jonathan, as the gulf between his behavior and simple human decency has widened to epic proportions. Like that watching sausage being made isn't that interesting after all. Like that Gus enjoys his beer, and we continue to enjoy us some Gus McLeod. Like that Germany still has an active soap box derby circuit.

But mostly, that our hatred of Jonathan knows no bounds, and that Phil Keoghan rules. You?
THE AMBIGUOUSLY GAY NEWSPAPER: The Chicago Tribune began a new ad campaign this week designed by TV Funhouse's J.J. Sedelmaier. You can see the first TV spot, which advertises the paper as a marital aid, but cautions against its use as birth control, here, or download the print ads here, including this one, which seems to imply that non-Trib readers are so dumb they wipe their asses with money. No word on whether Ace and Gary will star in future spots.
"SO DON'T WORRY IF YOU WERE A COMPLETE MORON UP TILL NOW:" TAR5 Racers Colin & Christie share their thoughts on TAR6 so far here (unsurprisingly, via TV Tattle). Among their thoughts? Team Hellboy is "not 'America's Sweethearts.'" Christie claims that those seeing similarities between Jonathan and "my beloved Colin are sadly falling into the trap of creative editing." Colin unloads on the "stupid 'luck' challenge" with the hay bales as well as bunching generally, and demonstrates a superficial understanding of probability. There's also a decided undercurrent of bitterness, such as Christie's suggestion that Gus and Hera can win if they "learn from Chip & Kim, and latch onto" stronger teams. In the words of Phil himself--"Who wil be" Thread's open for all pre-show discussion.

Monday, December 13, 2004

NO HE DI'INT! The companion piece to the ALOTT5MA for Foregone Conclusion of the Year is, of course, the award for the WTF?!? Moment of the Year, given to that instance -- whether in fact or fiction -- that most caused Americans to pick up their phones, call their friends and say, "Hey! I didn't just see that, did I?"

Certainly, the nominees this year were legion. Janet Jackson was the presumptive favorite, of course. Soon, the Dean Scream followed, and other events like the Red Sox comeback, Rick James' passing, Howard Stern leaving broadcast radio and "Hey Ya!" not winning the Grammy for Record of the Year tried and failed to raise the shock-meter. Even in the world of fiction, learning that The Village was really set in a hamlet and seeing Aleksandr slap Carrie wasn't going to top Janet's escapade.

But then something did, on the night of May 2, 2004. If you were watching The Sopranos ("Unidentified Black Males") that night, you remember where you were when Meadow's boyfriend, Finn DeTrolio, stumbled on the construction site in the wee small hours of the morning only to find Vito "Wide Guy" Spatafore in a nearby pickup truck in a way we've never seen him before. And a nation of millions rewound their TiVos and watched it again. And again.

(previous winners in this category include OJ Simpson's Bronco chase; Dr. Kimberly Mancini pulls off the wig; the Pine Tar game; "Wu Tang Is For The Children"; and the death of Dana Plato.)

What did I forget?
FOREGONE CONCLUSION OF THE YEAR: Apologies to the annual Pagonging of the doofuses, to the east- and south-biased BCS's annual screwing of a west coast team, and to the fact that at 3:00 on a sunny day my west-facing office will be 95 degrees. This year's Isaac-sponsored ALOTT5MA Foregone Conclusion of the Year was ratified today, when the jury recommended the death penalty for Scott Peterson.

Leaving aside the circumstantial evidence of guilt and lack of remorse so clear that it became sort of an E! News Extra primer on "Anatomy of a Case," this one was in the books before it started. The rule is simple. If you have no personal stake and you've heard about the case, the jury will vote for the death penalty. It is a near-scientific certainty that if you have been identified on the cover of Us Magazine as a capital defendant, you should feel free to take up smoking and fatty foods. There are two decent explanations for this. First, protestations to the contrary aside, juries may be affected by the media coverage or by people who have been affected by the media coverage. Second, the things that make a case sexy to the media are the same things that make it revolting to a jury.

I can think of only two occasionally successful exceptions to this rule: (1) you had a co-defendant worse than you are (Nichols; Malvo); or (2) you got a jury to hang the first time (Menendez brothers). Corollary to (2): Juries generally don't give the death penalty while acquitting (Simpson).

Anything I'm missing?

BAD DIRECTIONS: Shyamalan, Stone, Spielberg, Sayles...Newsweek's David Ansen isn't too fond of this year's films from big name directors whose surnames begins with S, though to be fair, Lars Von Trier and Jean-Pierre Jeunet take it on the nose, too, in his Ten Worst Movies of 2004. Ansen's ten best are here, and just my luck, I've seen two on the worst list and none on the best list, though let the record show that I didn't have to pay for a baby sitter the night I saw The Village and we took the kids to Sky Captain.

Also, just got the EW with Lohanboobies on the cover, and I should note that they, too, are jumping on the Modest Mouse bandwagon, naming it their the CD of the year (or at least the Listen 2 This insert's CD of the year). Just get the thing already.
SWEAR TO GOD, I WAS THE NEXT CHOICE: Although it'll still apparently be called "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," Regis Philbin will host this year's big ball drop while "The World's Oldest Teenager"continues to recover from his throat. Regis' cohost will not (thank God!) be the ever-annoying Kelly Ripa, but rather, he'll be "joined" in pre-recorded West Coast bits by hostess Ashlee Simpson. For obvious reasons, I love Regis, but couldn't they have chosen someone a little
THEY'RE SPECIAL: Ladies and gentlemen, you're newest Rock Hall of Fame Inductees--U2, Percy Sledge, The O'Jays, Buddy Guy, and The Pretenders. Sadly there was no posthumous nomination for Dimebag.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

MAKING LEVITY OUT OF INAPPROPRIATE SUBJECTS: I'm fairly certain most of our readers have read of the murder of "Dimebag Darrell," former guitarist for the metal band Pantera. According to some news coverage, his assailant screamed "You broke up Pantera" before beginning to pump bullets into his head. What's next?

Fan storms stage during Scott Stapp concert and nails him to a crucifix, shouting "You broke up Creed!"

Fan storms stage during Trey Anastasio concert, steals his weed, and shouts "You broke up Phish!"

Fan storms stage during Natalie Merchant concert and force-feeds her non-vegan foods, shouting "You broke up 10,000 Maniacs!"

Further "Fan storms stage during (artist) concert and (does ridiculous thing), shouting 'You broke up (artist's former band)!'" jokes are invited in the comments.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

YES, BUT DO THE SNOZZBERRIES TASTE LIKE SNOZZBERRIES? We've wondered for more than a year whether Johnny Depp could fill Willy Wonka's shoes. Well, here's the first trailer for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, director Tim Burton's summer 2005 release. You tell us.

Friday, December 10, 2004

TMI. WAY TMI: Well, based on the voting in the earlier thread, the winner of my first ALOTT5MA Award is (drum roll!) Comedy Central (applause!). If a representative of Comedy Central contacts us (e-mail address is on the left), we'll make arrangements to get you your statue, which I'm sure will be every bit as lovely and valuable as a Golden Raspberry statue and which an ALOTT5MA representative would be happy to present to you on "The Daily Show," especially if you offer us one of those sweet correspondent gigs.

And now, we turn to another category--Most Painfully Overexposed Female "Celebrity." This award is designed to award the person about whom we've learned far more than we need--be it in interviews, photography, or even through literary achievement--particularly in proportion to any actual achievement or talent (which is why Lindsay Lohan is not on the list). The nominees are:

Toni Bentley--I've not read her book, but this Salon interview more than qualifies her for the category, as did her incessant publicity junket for the book, covered by every "alternative" magazine and website in America. Minus points for using a "butt double" on the cover of her book by stealing the opening shot of "Lost In Translation."

Jessica Cutler--AKA "The Washingtonienne," whose blog caused a stir in Washington when she disclosed more than you or I might like to know about her nighttime activities. Wonkette straddled and rode the story throughout.

Paris Hilton--Gawker archives chronicle Hilton's series of tabloid adventures, ranging from hooking up with apparently every B and C list actor in America and the release of her film debut "One Night In Paris."

Tara Reid--E! Online eloquently summarizes the basis for her nomination, though Reid does buy a little goodwill as a result of her recurring role on "Scrubs" earlier this year.

Anna Nicole Smith--Basically a "lifetime achievement" nomination, but worthy of a nomination for that incident at the American Music Awards.

There are folks who came close (Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Mischa Barton), but these are my five. Vote and say what I missed.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

THAT WASN'T THE KIND OF "EXPERIENCE" I WAS LOOKING FOR: Now, really, I can’t be the only one wondering how “Apprentice” candidate Jennifer managed to tout her management expertise based on law firm experience when her law firm experience was at the late Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, a firm which collapsed due to utter financial mismanagement, and more recently at Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, which has had financial mismanagement problems of its own. In any event, I think the outcome of next week's live finale is already clear.
A/K/A "WELCOME TO THE UA RIVERVIEW": Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney wants to make it illegal for parents to bring their screaming kids to evening movies.

Tell us about a movie you saw in the theaters where it was really inappropriate for parents to have brought their children.
AND FOR THAT MATTER, THAT DIMAGGIO GUY HASN'T DONE MUCH LATELY: It is the traditional end-of-year awards time here at ALOTT5MA, and each of the five of us will, as befits his fancy, be nominating and/or presenting in whatever categories he sees fit.

My first one is Most Disappeared Celebrity of 2004, given to the formerly famous person who has most completely vanished from the public's consciousness. Past winners include Matthew McConaughey, Joe Pesci, Dana Carvey and 2003's winner, Rupert Everett, who quickly moved from Leading Man to Host Of Primetime Lingerie Special.

For this year, as I've previously hinted, I can find no more worthy celebrity than Winona Ryder, who has gone from Gen X goddess to leading lady to convicted criminal to . . . who? oh yeah, her. With the shoplifting. She still in jail?

The last movie she was in that anyone saw was the failed Adam Sandler vehicle, Mr. Deeds, and before that you have to go back almost five years to when she had any significant work -- Autumn in New York (a/k/a Sweet November But With Two Other People) and Girl, Interrupted (a/k/a It's Like Prozac Nation, Except That It Made It To Theaters and, boy, did I come close to giving this award to Christina Ricci).

You don't think of her as an actress any more, and barely even think of her as a personality. Go ahead: do you still remember everyone she dated?

There was once a time that Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were equals. Today, he's still a mega-star, and the tattoo that once read "Winona Forever" on his arm has been edited to read "Wino Forever". He's long moved on, and so has America.

Goodbye, Winona, and wherever you've gone, please give Natasha Lyonne our best.
WHEN WE KILL ALL THE LAWYERS, THEY'RE AT THE TOP OF THE LIST: Our legally-inclined readers may want to vote in Legal Affairs' "Top 20 Legal Thinkers in America" poll here, which includes people I've taken classes from (Derrick Bell and Stephen Gillers), people to whom I've cited in publications (Bruce Ackerman and Cass Sunstein), people whose blogs I read regularly (Eugene Volokh) and occasionally (Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and Larry Lessig), and the rather inexplicable (John Grisham). I haven't voted yet (you choose 5 from the list), but I think I'm going to go with Ackerman, Lessig, Bell, Lawrence Tribe, and Richard Posner, not all of whom I agree with, but all whom are worth reading. Discussion is invited.
LATE TO THE PARTY: When I used to work in an office, the editor in the adjoining cube was, for lack of a better description, a hipster when it came to new music. This was a boon to me, as he re-invigorated my ossifying music tastes, introducing me to many great bands such as the Shins, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, and the Avalanches. There was one CD he'd play though, whose odd syncopation would somehow constantly cut through the office's white noise and irritate me, Modest Mouse's "The Moon & Antarctica." So, when Modest Mouse released "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" to widespread acclaim earlier this year, I ignored, reminded solely of having to ask Scott to turn the volume down on his computer. Finally, I picked it up at the local library (which has turned into my property-tax funded personal version of Napster), and if this isn't the best CD released in 2004 not by a faded country legend, I don't know what is.

All of this is a roundabout way to say that The Onion's best albums of 2004 are up, and Modest Mouse, along with Kanye West, are the only artists to show up on at least three of the six critics lists.
THIS SHOW WILL NOT BE HOSTED BY BRUCE VILANCH: Adam may have been semi-joking in the comments to this thread when he made reference to the "2004 ALOTT5MA Awards," but I'll take it and run with it. Categories are to be created by whim and desire (and, as always, your suggestions are invited), and winners will be determined in a way that in no way involves the fine folks at Ernst & Young. I offer you the following first category and nominations--in the category of Cable Television Network Offering Most Significant Contribution to Pop Culture, my nominees (along with a list of selected programs that give rise to the nomination) are:

Bravo--"Celebrity Poker Showdown," "Queer Eye for The Straight Guy," "Project Runway"

Comedy Central--"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," "South Park," "Chappelle's Show"

MTV--"Pimp My Ride," "The Real World: Philly," "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County"

The N--"Degrassi: The Next Generation," "My So-Called Life" repeats, "Daria" repeats

VH1--"Best Week Ever," "I Love The 90s," "Totally Obsessed"

Vote and share what you think I missed in the comments.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

WE'RE NOT THAT KIND OF BLOG: Looking at our site meter, I feel compelled to tell you that this blog is currently the number 5 Google hit for people searching for "Denny Neagle hooker picture." We also remain the only hit for those who, for some reason, are searching for "Gary Cherone Wanksterous Extreme."
STORM STORY: Earlier this week I questioned the extraordinary "About the Series" note that accompanied Julia Keller's compelling three-part series in the Chicago Tribune about a tornado that ripped apart town of Utica, Ill.

Well, prominent Tribune columnist (and blogger) Eric Zorn has responded to my musings with his own theory, and it make sense to me. In a nutshell, Zorn says the note allows Keller more freedom in her narrative. If notes like this are what it takes to get more gripping stories in the Tribune, then I'm all for it, and as a writer myself I was fascinated with the inside baseball the note provided, but on some level I think these kind of notes speak to the general mistrust of journalists these days. Reading the note was a little like seeing a "making of" featurette; fascinating on one level, but on another knowing too much of the process spoils a little of the magic.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

ROCKY MOUNTAIN VALUES: Okay, let me get this straight. Denny Neagle is arrested for an illegal-but-consensual act -- not yet convicted -- and the Rockies terminate his contract.

But back in 2000, the same Rockies signed free agent reliever Bobby Chouinard in the middle of the season, despite the fact that he had been arrested the prior Christmas (and subsequently released by his then-team, the D'backs) for spousal abuse -- Chouinard had been charged with hitting his wife and holding a loaded gun to her head while she begged for her life. Chouinard pled guilty following the 2000 season, agreeing to serve a year's worth of jail time spread out over four offseasons, and the Rockies welcomed him back the following season.

Seems to me the only "values" at stake here was the $19,000,000 pricetag remaining for Neagle's services, and some opportunism on the part of Rockies ownership.
THE BATTLE OF WILL VS. MAY: I don't have much to say about this episode. Yet, anyway. Sure, there was the standard haggling with African taxi drivers (did anyone from this season watch last season?), but nothing too unique, save the fact that the first clue in Senegal was, in fact, a clue -- a puzzle that needed solving. Thank goodness.

I liked that the fact that the detour choice of deliberate v. take-a-chance had a different calculus than last week at IKEA, and appreciated the tiny glimpse into Jonathan's possible humanity, but other than watching Hellboy being even more of a wuss, there wasn't much there there. Still, my brother spent a few weeks in Senegal, so it was good seeing a bit of Goree Island and Dakar, but what did this episode do for you?
OH, MY NOSE: Marcia Brady taking the pigskin in the proboscis is just one of The 100 Most Memorable TV Moments, yet another five-night countdown show, this time from TV Land and TV Guide. The show began Monday and only moments 100-61 are supposed to be up, but being the hacking genius that I am (replacing a single digit in the URL), I can link you to the top 20 here. I won't spoil the results in case you want to be surprised, but overall the list is intriguing, perhaps just because of the odd juxtaposition between fictional moments Ross and Rachel's first kiss (No. 66), reality moments (Clay v. Ruben at No. 80) and news/sports moments (John Dean's Watergate testimony at No. 86/Christian Laettner's shot vs. Kentucky at No. 92). It's TV Land, so the guess is there will be plenty of chances to catch it.
SADLY, NO NODS FOR HUCKAPOO: As promised, here are the 47th Grammy Award nominations. A few preliminary thoughts:

1. I've never heard "Here We Go Again" by Ray Charles and Norah Jones on the radio--what is it doing in Record of the Year, snubbing "Breakaway," "Redneck Woman," and "This Love?"
2. Green Day's "American Idiot" got a surprising (to me) amount of love for the Grammys, which tend to be relatively conservative in taste.
3. A very strong Best New Artist field this year, with nominees running from country (Gretchen Wilson) to white girl neo-soul (Joss Stone).
4. Interesting to see Modest Mouse get quite a few category nominations, but not a Best New Artist nod--apparently Los Lonely Boys edged them out.
5. Is it possible for there to be two more different songs than melancholy "You Will Be My Ain True Love" and the foot-stomping "Redneck Woman" competing in the same category?
6. Steve Martin, David Sedaris, and Bill Clinton square off in Spoken Word, and Jon Stewart and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog square off in Comedy Album--eclectic.
7. The "Original Song From A Movie" field doesn't give us much in the way of clues for the Oscars, since 4 of the 5 nominees are from last calendar year, but "Accidentally In Love" may well get an Oscar nod as a result.
8. Interestingly, the only nomination connected with Ashlee Simpson's megaselling "Autobiography" is for engineering/production. Draw your own conclusions.

Share your thoughts below.
DON'T LOOK BACK: Look forward instead to this Sunday's announcement of The New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of the Year. Gawker has the leaked list here, and I won't comment further, lest you wish not to be spoiled.
LE TIGRE IS THE NEW UGG: Remember a couple of years ago when all of a sudden Burberry plaid was all over the umbrellas and necks, then shapely asses, of the stylish trendsetters? I remember thinking, "you cannot make me think Burberry plaid is sexy." Now the new old thing is Le Tigre polo shirts. Remember Le Tigre from when you were in middle school in the early 1980s? It was kind of like Garanimals for the 14-year olds who had made it to second base but hadn't yet taken up cocaine and whose parents were experimenting with non-American luxury cars.

Of course, if Anne Hathaway is to believed, Le Tigre is back. Since our culture likes to sexualize and infantilize at the same time – are you listening, Debra Lafave, aka Teacher of the Year? – the style is apparently to wear the shirt two sizes too tight. Or, if the ads currently running on Gawker and the less brainy, more superiorer Defamer are any indication (look to the vertical ads at the far right), more than two sizes too tight and without pants. I have to say, if I knew that clothing so stiflingly square and sexless was gateway wear to threesomes, I might have started a bit preppier.

Then again, maybe anything can look sexy if you bunch it around the midsection of a lasciviously tousled model and hint (or pretty much demonstrate) that there's nothing underneath. Except this. Go ahead, Brooks Brothers, the ball is in your court.

Monday, December 6, 2004

TOO MUCH INFORMATION? First, I recommend you read Julia Keller's remarkable series about the events leading up to and the aftermath of the deadly tornado that swept through the town of Utica, Ill., last spring. But almost as remarkable as the story itself is the 431-word "About the Series" note that is accompanying it. At the beginning it seems as if the note is meant to show us the great lengths Keller went to to get the story:
"To report this story, Tribune reporter Julia Keller interviewed the nine survivors of the Milestone collapse, and their friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues; and the friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues of the victims of the Milestone collapse; over a seven-month period, beginning a week after the tornado."
By the end, though, after passages like this...
"Scenes that were not witnessed by the reporter were assembled through multiple interviews with people who were present, both named in the story and not named. When thoughts and emotions are presented, those thoughts and emotions come directly from the reporters' interviews. Descriptions of the activities and thoughts of people who died in the collapse were compiled through interviews with those who were present, or those to whom the deceased had confided their thoughts and emotions."
...I was expecting to see a paragraph describing how Keller eventually took all of her notes and sat down at a computer and began to write the stories by interspersing direct quotations with her own narrative of the events to arrive at a rough draft, which she then sent to her editor for editing, after which she had a bagel and a cup of coffee before getting a revised copy of her story back from the editor, etc., etc.

Anyone have any theories about why the Trib would go into such detail about the reporting process in this case? Is this a pre-emptive strike against any criticisms? Is it an attempt to impress readers or potential prize judges gone a few steps too far? Is it there for legal reasons?

LIMBURGER LINES: We had some fun here a couple weeks back with the AFI's list of great movie quotes, so I wanted to point to this British list of the 10 Cheesiest Film Quotes. Titanic's "I'm the king of the world" tops the list and Patrick Swayze is the only actor to appear twice, getting nods for "Nobody puts Baby in the corner" from Dirty Dancing and "Ditto" from Ghost. It should be noted that none of the top 10 pre-date "Top Gun," which must mean the movies were pretty cheese free prior to 1985, right?
C'MON "BEST POLKA ALBUM:" Grammy nominations arrive tomorrow. I open this thread for predictions and discussion. Don't forget the odd eligibility year--October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004. A few guesses of what may come up--Ray Charles' last album "Genius Loves Company" in the Album of the Year category, Evanescence's "My Immortal," the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started/Let's Get Retarded," and something by Maroon 5 (most likely "This Love") in the Record of the Year category. I also expect to see Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" in the Song of the Year category, with that single and her album nominated throughout the country categories. Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" also seems likely to rack up the nods, including a possible songwriting nod for Avril Lavigne. Best New Artist should be an interesting race, with my expectation that it'll be a fight between "Jesus Walks" rapper Kanye West and neo-hippie rockers Maroon 5. What am I missing? Let me know.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

EAT, SLEEP AND MINGLE: There has been much discussion you may have been missing in last week's TAR comments thread regarding the amount of bunching on the show, and it deserves a separate post.

So let's open it up. Is frequent bunching a good thing for building the drama? A bad thing for deterring risk and not rewarding consistent success? Or just a bad-but-necessary thing?
"KING TUT WAS NOT A HONKY:" In today's Times, Steve Martin sets straight some misunderstandings about King Tut and "King Tut." As usual with his short humor/opinion pieces, it's well worth your time.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

LIFE IS LIKE...: Why doesn't every box of assorted chocolates come with a map/glossary explaining which piece takes like what? When a man's looking for his nougat, it's damn frustrating to have to guess.

Just saying. Is all.
THERE'S MORE TO IT THAN THE NSFW STUFF: As Alex pointed out earlier (with photos) Closer contains some spectacular shots of Natalie Portman (in a variety of well-designed wigs) in her underwear and taking off her underwear (nothing non Maxim suitable, though), but, fortunately, that's not all there is to like about the movie. Now, this is not a movie where there's much of a plot--the best summary would be to say "two men and two women in London fall into and out of bed with each other and argue." There's one clever character twist at the end (allegedly modified from the stage) which makes you rethink who's been "in charge" the entire time. Portman will get a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this, a role adult not merely in what she does (and doesn't) wear during the course of the film, but in terms of the emotion and gamesmanship involved. Clive Owen is a revelation, and would seem like a sure fire winner at the Oscars, were it not for Thomas Haden Church's bold reinvention of himself in Sideways. Roberts and Law are also good--Law playing his frequent cad character, and Roberts playing a character far far removed from her recent roles. This isn't a hooker with a heart of gold, or a brassy paralegal with a heart of gold, but a woman with a heart of ice and steel.

Two downers--the beautiful song "The Blower's Daughter" in the trailer and the film isn't Oscar-eligible because it's not original to the film, and I'm left wondering how on earth Mike Nichols will go from this well-made "downer" of a film to his next project--"Monty Python's Spamalot."
IT'S LIMA TIME, INDEED: How do (married) veteran baseball pitchers stay active during the long off-season?

Some, like Jose Lima, give the gift that keeps on giving, while others, like Denny Neagle, drive around in their Escalades and return with a Hummer.

Pitchers and catchers report in less than eighty days.

Friday, December 3, 2004

U2'S 'BOMB' RAINS FLAMING DOOM UPON HELPLESS BYSTANDERS; SCORES FLEE IN ABJECT TERROR: I just wanted to get in on the headline-writing fun.
  • Today's Times has an intriguing look back at how if not for the almost accidental actions of the essay's author, then a Columbia Records employee, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," recently annointed the title of greatest song of all-time by Rolling Stone, might have never been released as a single. (Yes, you have to register.)
  • H&R Block isn't the only company cashing in on Ken Jennings' Final Jeopardy flameout this week. Today, FedEx ran a print ad featuring KenJen at the Jeopardy podium with the tag line "There?s only one time FedEx has ever been the wrong answer."
  • Boondocks has the final word on the Ron Artest melee.
  • Just finished A.J. Jacobs' very funny new work, The Know-It-All, in which Jacobs, an editor at Esquire, recounts his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from a-ak to Zyweic. Ignore what the Times had to say about it and read it for yourself.
  • She's no princess on a steeple, but there are NSFW shots of Queen Amidala on strip pole from this weekend's big release, "Closer," circulating out there if you're the kind of pervert who is in to looking at nekkid pictures of beautiful young starlets.
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 2, 2004

WORK IT, GIRL: Maybe I'm the only one 'round these parts watching (though I doubt it), but Bravo's new "Project Runway," which might be called "The Apprentice" crossed with "America's Next Top Model," already looks like appointment TiVoing--I pick up the midnight EST airing so as not to interfere with "Law and Order." Unlike some folks, I've never gotten hooked on "Top Model," in part because I refuse to watch television that is led by a contestant named "Yaya," but this is good stuff. The contestants are sharp and funny to watch, and refreshingly diverse in age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. The challenge in the first episode (make a dress for a night out from $50 of materials bought at the local Gristede's) is smart, truly challenging, and generates some clever stuff. And Miss Heidi is on a par with Miss Tyra in terms of an easy on the eyes hostess. Worth checking out as Bravo reruns it an infinite number of times next week. Also, the incessant "Significant Others" promos are a reminder that that very funny improvromcom returns on Sunday night, so you've got something to watch while "Desperate Housewives" and "Boston Legal" are preempted by the sure-to-be-schmoopy "Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven."
AFP:"U2's 'Bomb' blows away competition in US"
USA Today: "U2's 'Atomic Bomb' blows its rivals away"
Reuters: "U2's 'Bomb' Explodes at No. 1 on U.S. Charts"
Houston Chronicle: "U2's 'Bomb' lays waste to competition in album sales"
E!: "U2 Bombs the Charts"
VH1: "U2's Atomic Bomb Explodes Onto Albums Chart, Taking #1 Spot"

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING: I need to acknowledge a little shout-out from tonight's episode of the steadily-regaining-its-footing West Wing.

The episode was co-written by Josh Singer, a Philadelphia area native, and the local press has already noted his references in the episode to our National Constitution Center and a Pennsylvania Governor named Ed.

But here's the one that made me smile. Back in late June, Josh visited the Joe Hoeffel for Senate campaign for a week to learn more about on-the-ground politics, in preparation for this season's electoral plotlines. The campaign gave him pretty much complete access, as I recall, to whatever meetings and events he wanted to sit in on.

A few weeks after Josh left, we had a 67-county statewide bus tour to take Joe across the Commonwealth. The theme Joe himself chose for that tour -- and what served as the closing passage for every speech he'd give from then until November 2 -- was the old Sam Cooke soul standard "A Change Is Gonna Come".

And that's the song James Taylor sang to close off the episode.

(Well, I thought it was cool.)
UP NEXT, A MUSICAL WITH GREEDO: I can't be the only one to have noticed that actor-of-the-moment Peter Sarsgaard has co-starred in successive movies with Anakin Skywalker, Queen Padmé Amidala and Qui-Gon Jinn.

There's having a good agent, and then there's having The Force on your side.
YO, PRETTY LADIES: Blog is the Word of the Year, based on searches at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Web site, beating out a host of election-related words such as incumbent, electoral, and partisan. And while the Webster dictionary definition of blog as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks" is sufficient enough, I think I prefer the description of a blog offered further down in the Reuters story: "Freed from the constraints that govern traditional print and broadcast news organizations, blogs spread gossip while also serving as an outlet for people increasingly disenchanted with mainstream media." I think the other interesting nugget is the fact that the people who determine the word of the year at Merriam-Webster automatically disqualify such perrenial favoriters as "affect/effect and profanity." I'm assuming that by "profanity" they mean actual profane words, which--admit it--we all looked up in the dictionary as kids, and not the actual word profanity itself.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NOW YOU UNDERSTAND THAT "NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK" EXPRESSION: For this week's obligatory TAR thread, you can discuss the following: a surprising penalty imposition, the idiocy of several team's detour choice, the joy of Hours of Operation, the simmering hate we all feel for Jonathan, the return of the Yield, and tonight's unusual (yet somehow moving) Phillimination.

I'd also like to submit this, based on the first three episodes--this season's challenges are better, but the players are far less interesting. I'm still having trouble discerning between "dating/models," "engaged/models," "formerly dating/models," and "models/models," but the challenges and general race structure have been even better than last season--lots of self-navigation, clever challenges, and a minimal premium placed on finagling flight updates.

Finally, tonight's episode demonstrates why being first to a roadblock may not be the best thing. This week, the first team could easily have been fooled by the clue into thinking it was a physically "easy" task, and, as we saw, it clearly was not. Further, the later teams had a number of search spots eliminated for them, making the task (theoretically) easier.

Further commentary is a spoiler, so take a detour over to the comments.
AND YOU THOUGHT ROGER EBERT WAS OPINIONATED: Who knew Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit was such a movie buff? His IMDB comments profile is here (hat tip to A3G for the link). Perhaps the true surprise are what Kozinski likes and dislikes. "Signs" is "a major disappointment," "Garden State" is deemed "the worst movie of the year," and he assails "The Godfather Part II" as "confusing, unfocused, repetitive, predictable and most of all interminable." On the other hand, "Cabaret" is "perhaps the best movie ever made," and the 2004 "Dawn of the Dead" remake is deemed "a masterpiece."
THE BEST OF THE BEST: As the "List" guy in the what was once a temporary but is now beloved mouthful of a blog title, you (and here I put the obligatory joke about "you" being the five or so regular readers of this blog and not the poor saps who arrive here looking for this kind of information) may be wondering how I will be handling the coming onslaught of "Best of 2004" lists. Last year, when I was solo blogging, I set up a sidebar to handle all the best of lists, but ended up discovering a blog that was doing it much better. Happily, Fimoculous is once again taking care of the "Best of 2004" list heavy lifting, leaving me to cherry pick the lists that pique my (an hopefully your) interest.

Monday, November 29, 2004

TO PARAPHRASE WEIRD AL, "KEN LOST ON JEOPARDY": More specifically, Ken Jennings will "eat it" tomorrow on Jeopardy and Kottke even has the audio to prove it.
HUCKASCOOP: Daniel Radosh turns his unhealthy obsession with the tarted-up teens of Huckapoo into a feature story in this week's New York magazine. The details and your chance to pester Daniel for more poop on Huckapoo is here.
NEXT YEAR, GET READY FOR "FALLUJAH:" Well, since there's apparently not a Holocaust movie in contention for the Best Documentary prize at the 2005 Oscars, we must have the obligatory fictional film to serve as Oscar bait. But this year's contender scores with what I submit is the worst title ever. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Aryan Couple, which, honestly, sounds more like racist propaganda than a sensitive and moving film about the Holocaust. Here's the synopsis. It opens in New York on Friday, Los Angeles next Friday, and (I expect) video stores nationwide a few weeks after that.
AW GEEZ: I watched the first installment of Bravo's 100 Greatest TV Characters last week, and perhaps put off by the what seemed to be a 10-minute tribute to No. 81, the cast of Will & Grace, I wrote it off as a subtle NBC infomercial and forgot to tune in or Tivo the rest of the countdown. The whole list is now online and No. 1 is Archie Bunker, a deserving pick. And I'm sure the whole thing will be replayed VH1 style for months to come. I'm disappointed none of the Bradys made the cut.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

FO' SHIZZLE, I'M GOING TO GET HELLA CRUNK TONIGHT: Noted lamestain cob nobbler Bill Safire went swingin' on the flippety-flop yesterday in pursuit of the latest dope slang.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

PROTECTING US FROM THE REAL RISKS: Prior to my 9 hour flight between New York and Houston last night (by way of an unplanned layover for refueling in New Orleans due to weather and a delay there because of the airline "losing" our plane), I witnessed true bizarreness with the Transportation Security Administration. The person in front of me in line at the security check had (for reasons unbeknownst to me) decided to carry about 4 or 5 hard core gay pornographic magazines on the airplane with him. Apparently, these magazines in some way pinged security, as they had to be unwrapped, re-run through the x-ray machine, and then laboriously gone through, page by page, by the TSA employees in order to make sure there were no weapons or contraband contained between the photos.

As for the flight, two lessons. The Notebook stinks regardless of what time you're watching it or whether or not you're watching it on a plane. Dodgeball is perhaps funnier still on second viewing, even at midnight on the airport tarmac in New Orleans as you wait for refueling.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

RULES OF THE ROAD: Another top-notch episode for the second leg of the sixth edition of The Amazing Race. We got to know the teams a little better -- liking a few some more, hating The Hateful Team even more -- as we move from Iceland to Norway in a tightly bunched hour. In particular, the older-person team revealed themselves to be among the smartest racers we've seen, and if they don't get hurt by an endurance task, they may go far.

If I ever did the Race, Lord knows I'd learn to drive a stick shift before leaving. One of tonight's teams didn't, and it was not helpful. Also, there's nothing quite as fun as a series of ass-over-teakettle falls, and this episode had them in abundance. And something many of us have been waiting for -- an actual team penalty for rules violations, but it may not be the one you expected.

Beyond that, we're getting into spoiler territory, so let's all make a left turn for the Comments, and take it from there.
BINIONS ALLEGED KILLERS DRAW TO GUT-SHOT STRAIGHT: Readers of James McManus's compelling Positively Fifth Street (an instant classic of gambling folklore, along with A. Alvarez's Biggest Game in Town and some of the older editions of Edwin Silberstang's Winner's Guide to Casino Gambling; honorable mention to the first 100 pages or so of Mario Puzo's fictional Fools Die) know the story about how Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish allegedly murdered Vegas royalty and Binions Horseshoe heir Ted Binion. You know, the story that involved a best pal, a shitload of heroin and Xanax, a backhoe digging up buried silver, all kinds of wildly conflicted lawyers, and somebody being (allegedly) suffocated by an ex-stripper's mud flaps? The story ends with a pair of acquittals. Um, I guess we'll never know what happened to Teddy Binion in the hours before his wife and buddy hustled out to the desert to dig up his buried treasure. Given the legend of patriarch Benny Binion's itchy trigger finger, I guess you could just say that one bad beat deserves another.

By the way, if any of this arouses your prurient interest, or might possibly do so for your Chrismukkah-needy loved ones, I do highly recommend Positively Fifth Street. Anybody have any suggestions for other book gifts, and descriptions of the target demographic? This one's already on the list.
FOR THE GUY WHO HAS EVERYTHING: Buy these autographed staplers signed by the Dixie Chicks, Michael Phelps, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Newhart. And there are more here. Current highest bid? $507 for the stapler autographed by Cher. Personally, I'm waiting for the red Swingline autographed by Ron Livingston and Stephen Root. And with that, I'm outta here.
YES, BUT IS HE INTENSE? TAR host Phil Keoghan discloses in this interview that much-loathed "entrepreneur" Jonathan has "analyzed every challenge, he knows what worked and what didn't work. This is a guy who's on a mission to win The Amazing Race." However, he's also "without a doubt the loudest person we've ever had compete on the race." I'm wondering how long until he breaks his ox.

Sadly, I'll be in transit to Texas this evening for my family's annual tryptophan-fest, so will have to wait on TAR, and will probably not be blogging over the long holiday weekend. I wish all our readers a happy Thanksgiving--enjoy your turkey, your football, and parade-watching.

Monday, November 22, 2004

STRAIGHT OUT OF CAMDEN: The New Jersey city of Camden, one time home to Walt Whitman and current home of the battleship New Jersey, can now lay claim to another title, that of Most Dangerous City in America. Perennial favorite Detroit fell to second, though the rankings were determined before last Friday's Pacers-Pistons game, while Atlanta, St. Louis, and Gary, Ind., rounded out the top 5.

On the safe side, Newton, Mass., was the tops, with San Jose taking the title for cities over 500,000 and Appleton, Wisc., being the safest metro region.
"THE CONTEST" BEATS OFF GEORGE'S SHRINKING MANHOOD: AOL subscribers, a lot who know a thing or two about the hilarity that is onanism, have chosen Seinfeld's "Contest" episode as the Favorite Seinfeld Moment of All Time. George's post-swim shrinkage came in second, followed by the Soup Nazi (one of three episodes by not overly religious parents actually called our local NBC affiliate to complain about, the other two being when Jerry makes out during "Schindler's List" and actually the shrinkage episode when Kramer feeds the Kosher girl lobster), Elaine dancing, and Yada, Yada, Yada (yes, the episode, I wasn't just tired of listing the moments).
THE PATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS MAN IS BESET ON ALL SIDES BY THE OCCASIONAL FORMULAIC STINKER: If you really liked Hoosiers but wanted to see it with an all-black cast and more of an afterschool special feeling, Samuel L. Jackson has just the answer for you: check out the Coach Carter trailer.

Sadly, it probably won't be his worst movie of 2005.
I AM SHOCKED -- SHOCKED -- TO FIND OUT THERE IS COMPLAINING ABOUT A LIST GOING ON HERE: As we started last week, it's time to compile a list of (at least) 100 quotes representing serious omissions from the AFI 400 list. The criteria, as with the list of nominees, is as follows:
The jurors have been asked to consider the following criteria in making their selections:

A statement, phrase or brief exchange of dialogue spoken in an American film.* (Lyrics from songs are not eligible.)

Movie Quotes that viewers use in their own lives and situations; circulating through popular culture, they become part of the national lexicon.

Movie Quotes that viewers use to evoke the memory of a treasured film, thus ensuring and enlivening its historical legacy.

I'll just ask that you number your comments so we can keep track of how far we've gone, and feel free to copy ones over from that thread so that we've got it all in one place (and can forward it to the appropriate cultural authorities. I'll start it with these two:
1. Paul Moore: It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room.

Jane Craig: No. It's awful.

Broadcast News

2. I don't wanna sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't wanna sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or ... process anything sold, bought ... or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed, ya know, as a career, I don't wanna do that. So uh, my father's in the army ... he wants me to join ... but I can't work for that corporation. Umm, so, what I've been doing lately is kickboxing.

Say Anything

We can either fill half this list with Lebowski quotes, or show restraint and use none of them. It's up to you.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

FROM ABBA TO THE ZOMBIES: Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs is now online and after a quick look over the whole list, my only thought is there might be 50,000 songs I would list above No. 476., Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is." WTF?? Otherwise, the list seems to be a lot of the same old, same old, broken up every now and then by some truly insipid choices ("I Believe I Can Fly," "Free Fallin'" "Brown Sugar" "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" "Buddy Holly").

Saturday, November 20, 2004

FINDING A "NATIONAL TREASURE:" So is the new Bruckheimer/Cage vehicle "National Treasure" a good movie? No, not really. It's utterly formulaic. We have the intrepid hero (Cage), his doubting father (Jon Voight), the plucky sidekick ("Gigli" refugee Justin Bartha), the love interest/plucky female with critical skills/information (Diane Kruger), the competing treasure hunter (Sean Bean), and the misguided, yet ultimately well-meaning, FBI agent chasing them all (Harvey Keitel). The premise has been beaten to death in promos, so I won't recount here, but it is what it is, and, for what it is, it's entertaining, and Kruger, as a plucky National Archives historian, gets a part that may do for her what Sandra Bullock's part in "Speed" did for her.

I'm sure Adam and Kingsley will have high fun with this one, though, given that there's a lengthy chase sequence through the streets and rooftops of Philadelphia which is assuredly riddled with both geographical inaccuracies and "Hey, it's that place!" moments. Heck, even I wondered how Kruger and Bartha managed to get from Independence Hall to the 9th Street Italian Market in mere seconds on foot.

For those looking for a more intellectual variant on this (and similar works/crazes like "The Da Vinci Code"), check out The Eight, which weaves together the French Revolution, the late 70s oil crisis, and a mystical chess set into a coherent story with one "Holy crap!" reveal 2/3 of the way through the book.
MALICE AT THE PALACE: For those interested in seeing video of the Ron Artest-led Pistons/Pacers/fan brawl from Auburn Hills last night, click here.

It's one of the ugliest such incidents I've ever seen. Artest has some mental health issues that need addressing, and maybe this will force him to do so.

And yet again, another town's sports fans behave worse than Philadelphia's, but we're the only ones with a reputation.

(Also, I didn't notice, but did Darko Milicic even get off the bench for this?)

Friday, November 19, 2004

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS AN AIRBORNE SCROTUM: Saw The Polar Express in IMAX 3D this evening. I really don't have much positive to say about the film--it's a narrative mess with utterly unnecessary sequences including a couple of "roller coaster" sequences inserted just for the visual purposes and a musical performance from Steven Tyler. However, the visual, in IMAX 3D, is absolutely spectacular. The images, which seem flat in TV ads or in a normal 35 mm trailer, jump out of the screen (literally), and decrease the "creepy artificial" issue that has oft been remarked on.

The film nails Van Allsburg's illustration style, at least when there aren't people on screen, and the film looks great. However, Zemeckis should have learned in making Who Framed Roger Rabbit? a lesson he hasn't--the screenplay should drive the technology, not vice versa. Here, it seems like they came up with the technology and the look and then tried to stretch Van Allsburg's short and touching story into something far longer. I think the film might have worked better as a short, just telling the heart of the book rather than the ridiculous plot contrivances that have been introduced.

And yes, while I wouldn't have noticed it before reading the review, Santa's sack does look suspiciously like an airborne scrotum.
UMA BOSHI: I haven't been blogging about America's Next Top Model (After The First Two We Chose) this season because I've been playing the catch-up game for a bit, but, golly, for those who are watching, it's quite a treat. Again. Miss Tyra continues to rock the house (please, please, by 2006 let her and Trump switch shows), and the competition is fun and fierce.

If you can, check out this week's episode, which re-airs on UPN tonight at 9p. It features two of the hardest challenges you'll ever see in a reality show, far more difficult than the Phillipine cliff-rope-climb on TAR5 or a Survivor hands-on-the-idol challenge. Trust me. It's good tv.
THE COPS' FIRST CALL WAS TO THE BUTTERBALL HOTLINE: Or perhaps it should have been in this case involving "turkey hurling." Interestingly, Butterball now calls it the "Butterball Turkey Talk-Line." Of course, there have been more memorable calls to the Hotline in the past.
THE FIRST STEP IS ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM: So, I'm reviewing an escrow agreement at the office is the morning, and somehow, I can't resist constantly thinking that "I'm in Es-ca-row!" (Note: I suspect this joke will make no sense to much of our audience even after the link, but that's OK.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT: With so many of you coming here hoping to find a link to the Nicolette Sheridan and Terrell Owens Monday Night Football towel dropping clip, I figured I might as well deliver. Enjoy.
HE'S SO RONERY: Is life imitating "Team America: World Police?" Apparently, North Korean "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il has gone into seclusion following the death of his beloved consort, and he might well now be singing "I'm so ronery, so ronery, so ronery and sadry arone."
NOTABLE QUOTABLES: According to the AFI, these 400 movie quotes are the top 400 of all time. From "All-righty then!" (from "Ace Ventura") through "What hump?" (from "Young Frankenstein"), it's a collection of moments that you're sure to remember. Some notable omissions? Nothing from "Almost Famous" at all (no "I am a golden god!" or "Opie must die!"), even though writer/director Cameron Crowe scores 5 entries (including three from "Jerry Maguire"). The only line from "Princess Bride" making the cut is "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." with no love for other great lines like "As you wish!," "Inconceivable!," or even "She does not get eaten by the snakes at this time."

Inexplicable finalists include "Good night you princes of Maine, you kings of New England," from "Cider House Rules,""Help me! Help me!," from "The Fly," and "Damn!," from "Friday." I will give them points for not excluding profanity, as John McLane's "Yippee-Kai-Yay, Motherf****r!" has a well-deserved spot on the list of finalists, as does "Sometimes, you gotta say 'What the f**k.'" from "Risky Business."

Trivia (to be answered in the comments)--two performers score perfect in the finals, getting recognition as sole actor, writer, director, and producer for a quote. Can you name them without cheating? Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen both almost make it, but they're not the two.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

VISITOR OF THE DAY: Congratulations to the lucky fan who came across us via a Google Search on "jerry hopes to someday complete the film".

What film? This one, of course.