Saturday, July 17, 2004

I'M A LAWYER, SO DOES THAT MAKE ME LIKE CLARENCE DARROW? Martha Stewart compared herself to Nelson Mandela in her interview with Barbara Walters last night. Now, I'm not part of the "Martha Stewart is Satan" crowd in New York, but seems to me that this is pushing it for the reasons Sarah Vowell eloquently states in her essay on Rosa Parks, available in this book, or you can listen to her read it at the end of this episode of This American Life.
ONE MONTH TO GO: Y'all should be warned, and perhaps not surprised: I'm an Olympics fan. Yes, the Games can be weird, ridiculously self-important and corrupt, but the amount of drama generated in two weeks is tough to match.

Two items of note: first off, this year's mascots, Athena and Phevos, have been unveiled. Says the website:
Through their laughter, their lively presence, their freedom of movement and their will to cooperate and stay united, Phevos and Athena will be with us from now on to express with enthusiasm and optimism our will to be united and to share the joy of the greatest celebration of humanity: the Olympic Games.

Did I mention self-important? It's unclear whether P&A will make us forget about Whatizit (warning: scarily comprehensive site) or The Snow Imp "Magique", but we've got a month to find out.

Second is a question about the Opening Ceremonies: given that the Greek athletes traditionally enter first -- as the originators of the Games -- but that the host country's athletes traditionally enter last, when will they enter this year?
THE ODD SERENDIPITY OF BLOGGING: While Adam was off listening to peppy songs about a boy wanting to have sex with a much older woman, I spent the evening seeing The Door in the Floor, an ultimately depressing movie about a boy actually having sex with a much older woman. This is the fifth film to make it to our screens based on the novels of John Irving, and proves a truth--that in order for movies based on Irving's books to really work, the books have to dramatically abridged and simplified--this time, director/screenwriter Tod Williams chose to adapt only the first third of Irving's "A Widow For One Year" and winds up with one the few Irving adaptations that balances the tragedy and comedy that are found in Irving's books.

There's not much of a plot. 10 years ago, Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges), a successful children's book writer, and Marion Cole (Kim Basinger) lost their two sons in a tragic accident, the nature of which is not made clear to the audience till the very end. In an effort to "replace" their sons, they had a daughter--Ruth (Elle Fanning, Dakota's little sister, and a dead ringer for her sister). Now, four years later, as their marriage is falling apart, Ted hires a new assistant for the summer (relative unknown Jon Foster). Slowly, the marriage unravels as Ted and Marion both unravel. It's hard to explain because not much happens--it's a character study. Fine performances all around--Bridges delivers a fantastic performance, with a long monologue at the end, revealing the truth about the accident that made me teary-eyed, and Basinger proves that she actually DID deserve that Oscar she won a few years ago.

I wasn't that fond of "Widow For One Year" when I read it, but by compressing the action and telling only a part of Irving's perhaps overly sprawling story, Williams has created something touching and fascinating--recommended.
THE SUN STILL SHINES IN THE SUMMERTIME:  Saw Fountains of Wayne last night at the WXPN Singer-Songwriter Weekend.   A good night of pop music, as they played almost everything off Welcome Interstate Managers and seemed to be fun doing it.  Surely, they're the best thing ever to emerge from the dark place
(Okay, maybe it's directors John Sayles or John Frankheimer.)
Anyway, weird thing about the show, and maybe it's just me, but when a song like "Stacy's Mom" starts playing, isn't is sorta incumbent on people to stand up, dance, sing along and clap along?  Instead, this yuppie-leaning crowd kinda enjoyed the whole show passively, and it was odd.  A decade ago, wouldn't there have been at least a large group of people pogoing in the front?
I'M ASKING AMERICA -- WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? Prof. Althouse reports on a change in store for the next American Idol season, raising the maximum age from 24 to 26.

While that all well and good, I again echo her suggestion that the minimum age is the one needing raising. As a contest, if the judges are going to keep complaining that competitors lack the maturity to handle the emotions in the songs, you either have to change the songs to match the singers or change the singers to match the songs.

That said, as television program, the Will Diana Make The Leap and Find Her Zone? stuff makes for good ongoing narrative. (It also has to help attract the teen and pre-teen demographics, who can more easily relate to the competitors.)

Still, when I'm King of Reality TV, the teenyboppers are gone, though I'd love to see one of these younger pairs (John Stevens/Camille Velasco) try to make it to one pitstop on The Amazing Race.

Friday, July 16, 2004

A real-life book publisher has contracted us to write a real-life book, tentatively titled Hey! It's That Guy!: A Field Guide to Character Actors. It will profile 150 of your favourite character actors, from the all-time greats to the up-and-comers. And it will be published by the fine people at Quirk Books, who previously brought you The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide and The Brick Testament, so we'll be in fine company.

Expected release date is Fall 2005.
IS THERE A CHANCE THE TRACK COULD BEND? The Las Vegas Monorail has opened.
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Thursday, July 15, 2004

SO, WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO GET TO THE ONE WHERE THE GUY GETS TO SWING THROUGH THE AIR LIKE SPIDER-MAN? Gotta say that Into Character on AMC is well worth checking out on Wednesday nights, even in spite of the incessant promos that seem to have been before EVERY movie I've seen in the past few months. The concept is solid enough--movie fanatics are given a chance to live their "movie fantasy." Now, that alone could be entertaining, but over the two weeks of "prep time" (all chronicled), the fanatic is sent on a cross-country odyssey to understand their goal. In the first episode, two frat boys DESPERATELY want to be The Blues Brothers, and they are sent not merely to learn how to sing, dance, and play harmonica, but also how to drive really fast and cook soul food. This week, an Italian-American fashionista gets to live her dream of singing Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter" in front of an audience of hundreds, and has to learn how to "speak southern" and journey down into an actual coal mine. Now, if this were even in the remotest humiliating, it'd be bad--but these people take such joy in getting a chance to live their fantasies, it's enormously touching.

Coming up? A guy who wants to live his dream of being "The Karate Kid" and the guy who wants to be "Rocky." Check it out.
WE PROMISED ANALYSIS, YOU'RE GETTING ANALYSIS: A few thoughts on this morning's Emmy nominations from my perspective.

1. Major sins of omission? Only one nod for "Gilmore Girls" (and in MAKEUP, of all things?). The general snubbing of "Everwood" and "Scrubs." No Glenn Close for her guest role on "West Wing," a masterpiece of subtle acting, and rewarding Sharon Stone for her bad Anne Heche impression on "The Practice?"

2. One of my favorite categories is always "main title theme music," which is one of the few ways theme composers can really get recognized. This year's nominees are "Deadwood," "Monk," "Monster House," "Nip/Tuck," and "Two and A Half Men." I'm not a big fan of "Deadwood," but that theme is clearly the best of the nominees.

3. There were a lot of chances for sympathy nods this year, with "Sex and the City," "Frasier," and "Friends" all leaving the air. But nominating John Ritter for "8 Simple Rules?" Little much. Apparently counterbalanced by neither "Frasier" or "Friends" getting a comedy series slot, though.

4. Shocker nominations? Bonnie Hunt from the canned "Life With Bonnie" beating out Lauren Graham, Courteney Cox, and last year's winner, Debra Messing, for the fifth slot in the Best Actress in a Comedy race.

5. Possibly the strongest category this year is Best Actress in a Drama series, which pits Jennifer Garner, Amber Tamblyn, Mariska Hargitay, Edie Falco, and Allison Janney against each other. I didn't watch much of "Sopranos" last season, but, these ladies are all great. If I were a voter, I'd probably throw my vote to Tamblyn, who's had one of the hardest jobs on TV this year, and who pulled it off wonderfully.

6. Two underappreciated performers get much-deserved nods this year--Kristin Davis from "Sex and The City" (who's never been nominated before), and Janel Maloney from "West Wing." Both richly deserve it.

7. Interestingly, Matthew Perry doesn't get a comedy actor nod, but does get a drama guest actor nod. As usual, that category is a heavyweight one, with James Earl Jones, Bob Newhart, Martin Landau, and William Shatner fighting for it. Yes, you can finally refer to "Emmy nominee William Shatner."

8. Predictions? Unsurprisingly, I expect an "Angels in America" sweep in the movie/mini-series division, with the question in most of the acting categories being which person from "Angels" will win. The drama series races should be closer than in recent years, but I expect "Sopranos" to finally win its first drama series Emmy.

I'm sure Adam will chip in with more shortly, but work is slow this morning, so I decided to slip in the first word.
EMMY NOMINATIONS ARE IN: In Word and PDF formats. Analysis to come.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

OOH, AAH, ALPHA BETA: Ken Jennings has a detractor.
SOME PEOPLE WERE JUST BORN TO SPREAD JOY: If you haven't been following yet, Fametracker has been spending its fifth-anniversary week combing the "archives" from its pre-Internet past, focusing on prescient articles from the early 1980s.

Among the highlights? An analysis of career prospects for the 1983 SNL cast and its memorable Fame Audit for 1982's top pop superstar. Snarkalicious.
NAIVE, BUT BEAUTIFULLY NAIVE: What ever happened to mid-80s Phillies speedster phenom Jeff Stone?

Andrew Miller of checks in on Stone in a well-done piece, finding the 43-year-old former outfielder working 12-hour shifts as an inspector at a steel mill in Blytheville, Arkansas.

Stone is remembered for his off-the field words as much as his deeds:
For example, during a minor-league night game (the location varies by publication), he allegedly asked, "Is this the same moon that shines back home?" Asked once if he wanted a shrimp cocktail before dinner, Stone reportedly replied, "I don't drink." Another time, after a season of winter baseball in Venezuela, someone asked Stone why he wasn't taking his television back to the states. He supposedly responded, "It only gets Spanish stations."
"Not often does a young player take one step back after another after another," says baseball analyst Bill James in the article. "This was what was unusual about Stone's career."

Worth reading.
IT'S GOING TO BE A DITKTATORSHIP: The Sun-Times tracked down SuperFan Bob Swerski for his thoughts on Da Coach running for Da Senate.

Says Swerski, "I have a prediction for the race -- Ditka: 118.4 percent of the vote, Obama: -4."

Even though Barack Obama has the support of one Michael Jeffrey Jordan?
FOAM DANCING, HUMPING DOGS AND THE TAXI STANDOFF: Open thread to discuss all things Amazing Race.

Me? I'm firmly in the anti-Team HiLo camp. If there's one thing worse than teams talking about how they are under a deity's protection, it's the incessant We've Got Something To Prove shtick.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

SPOILER-FREE JEOPARDY! SNARK: Ken Jennings tempted the Jeopardy! gods tonight, and was punished appropriately as a result. Will discuss the spoilered details in the comments.

By the way, great final Jeopardy! question, which I'll also post there.
NEXT WEEK: IAN ZIERING TO HAVE PRESS CONFERENCE ON WORLD HUNGER: I have enough trouble with celebrities being involved in politics, but washed-up former celebrities giving their views on political events of the day? That's too much. Yes, four "stars" are speaking out in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment:

Darrell Green: According to the press release, "Green played for the Washington Redskins for twenty years, earning seven trips to the Pro-Bowl. Once the fastest man in the NFL, he retired as the oldest defensive back ever in the NFL." Still doesn't mean I have any idea who he is.

Dean Jones: Actor in various bad movies, as his IMDB listing indicates. Of course, his most memorable film role was in "The Love Bug," currently being remade with Lindsay Lohan, which gives me a transparent excuse to link to this cheesecake photo of her.

Marvin Winans: One of the members of award-winning gospel group The Winans. Apparently somehow related to Whitney Houston. I don't care.

Pat Boone: Yes, the maestro behind "In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy" is speaking out.

Of course, we can't neglect the host: Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who we all know has deeply intelligent things to say about this subject.

Also scheduled? Carson Kressley to speak with Dick Cheney about the need to tsuzuj his wardrobe.
HE'S NO WINK MARTINDALE: Ken Jennings, the new co-host of "Jeopardy," delivered the Top Ten List on "Late Night" yesterday.

Among the highlights of Jennings' "Top Ten Ways to Irritate Alex Trebek":
9. "Instead of responding, get his attention by throwing nickels at his head"
8. "Buzz in without using your hands"
6. "Whenever he says the word 'potpourri,' you mumble, 'Woman'"
2. "Your only response: 'Who gives a rat's ass?'"
1. "Insist on buying a vowel"

WELL, SINCE THE PROCEEDS DO GO TO A GOOD CAUSE: Heiress, socialite, reality TV star, and generally overexposed individual Paris Hilton has made the announcement that she's settled her suit with ex-boyfriend/smut purveyor (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) Rick Salomon over the infamous tape titled "One Night In Paris." More amusingly, she's proclaimed that funds will go to "worthy charities." I assume these "charities" do not include "The Paris Hilton Foundation For Skank Prevention." Of course, Hilton's success at becoming rapidly overexposed has led to other tapes, including one from "Survivor" Jenna Lewis. I suppose it's a better fate than what happened to "Survivor" and schoolteacher Gretchen Cordy, who merits a brief mention in the pages of "Esquire" this month--having served as a taste-tester for their "what does it taste like?" feature. Sadly, Cordy gets less play than the large photo which answers yet another burning question--"What does it look like inside Carmen Electra's panty drawer?"
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME: For those of you not watching tonight's game from the stadium formerly known as Enron Field, MSNBC suggests its Top 5 Baseball movies. Hard to quibble with their choices (though I'd probably replace "Major Leagure" with "A League of Their Own" and expand the list to include "The Rookie"). Nonetheless, I leave it to you to quibble and discuss.
BY THE TIME PAUL MCCARTNEY'S MICROPHONE HAD FAILED . . . : Today is the 19th anniversary of Live Aid, and the first anniversary of my noting the 18th anniversary of Live Aid on this blog.

Monday, July 12, 2004

$972,960 AND COUNTING: 29 straight for Jeopardy! God Ken Jennings, and there's no reason to think he won't crack [pinky to mouth] one million dollars on Tuesday.

I admire Jennings' steadfast refusal to break the $52,000 record for one-day winnings; it's a humble honoring of tradition, and that's pretty cool.

So far as I can gather, Jennings' success demonstrates four things I think are true about the show:
1. It's better to be the fastest than the smartest. Jennings' ear-finger coordination is exceptional, and you don't need to respond right away, anyway. But you need to have a chance to respond.

2. You don't need to know everything to succeed in Jeopardy!; what you need to understand are puns and wordplay, because a lot of the time you can get the question based on obvious clues in the answer.

3. Still, between being really smart and not being really smart, it helps to be really smart.

4. Your success can breed failure in others. When Jennings rolls off eleven in a row, as he did tonight, it forces others to respond too quickly (locking themselves out) or guessing when they really shouldn't. But what it hasn't provoked -- yet -- is people constantly going for broke on Daily Doubles. They're playing too timidly against him, and when you want to kill a dragon, you can't just knock it on its back and hope it stays down -- you have to chop its head off.

Stat via a poster the official Jeopardy! board: through 28 games, Jennings has correctly answered 966 times, an average of 34.5 (out of 60) per show. Whoa.

Also, apparently, we're nine shows away from the end-of-summer hiatus. Will we be seeing Ken in September?
ONE ACCUSES BUSH OF A COVER UP AND ONE COVERS UP A...: Am I the only one who after seeing last week's issue of Time with Michael Moore on the cover holding up a small American flag folded in a triangle didn't instantly think of the cover of the Black Crowes' 1994 album Amorica?
STAY CLASSY, EVEN WHEN A LIZARD ATTACKS YOU: Or Andrew Dice Clay starts swearing like, well, Andrew Dice Clay, or when a streaker runs by or a woman starts beating you with her purse. Salon collects 10 classic anchormen and reporter flubs, complete with the original video clips.

Yes you'll have to deal with the Salon daypass. Link via Snap Culture.
YOU SAY DEFUSE, I SAY DIFFUSE: And chances are one of us is using either word wrong according to the folks at the Oxford University Press, who report that confusion between defuse and diffuse has replaced the its/it's mistake as the No. 1 word crime, with 50% of people confusing the two words in their writing. Other common word crimes on the Oxford list include: rein/reign (26%), tow/toe (21%), pouring/poring (12%).
MOVIN' ON UP . . . TO HEAVEN: Weezie is dead.

Isabel Sanford, "The Jeffersons" star and Old Navy pitchwoman was 86(!). And apropos of our earlier thread about "Was that really him (or her)?", Sanford showing up in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is one of the all-timers.

Godspeed Weezie. I think I speak for everyone here at ALOTTFMA when I say I hope you'll finally get that piece of the pie.
PUPPIES, PUPPIES, PUPPIES, PUPPIES! Yes, those are the lyrics to the theme song of The Puppy Channel--the proposed cable network that features nothing but puppies cavorting over soft, relaxing music. Sadly, the Puppies have not yet found a home, but honestly, wouldn't it be more entertaining than QVC? Tip of the hat to the fine folks at This American Life, who had an extended piece on TPC on this week's show.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

IS IT OKAY IF I CALL YOU A CAMEO? So, I was watching Rocky II last night on tv. It's early on in the movie -- Rocky's finally leaving Pennsylvania Hospital post-match, going across the courtyard with Adrian near 8th and Pine.

There's a teenager in a wheelchair, wrapped up in a cast from head to toe, with just a bright section of red-headed afro poking out of it. He wants an autograph, and Rocky signs the bandages around his head.

But I know I've seen that tuffle before, and IMDB proved me right: it's Philadelphia's Paul McCrane -- a/k/a Fame's Montgomery MacNeil and ER's one-armed man, Dr. Paul "Rocket" Romano.

Up there with knowing that the kid in the barbershop chair in Coming to America is a very young Cuba Gooding Jr, and that Lewis' dad in Revenge of the Nerds was pig-farmer-in-waiting James Cromwell. What's your favorite was-that-really-him?