Saturday, October 9, 2004

HOPE STAYS ALIVE ON SATURDAY NIGHT: H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights is an undisputed classic of sports journalism. It's been a couple of years since I read it last, but as someone who grew up in Texas and who's been on the sidelines of numerous high school football games, it's a book I can strongly recommend. That said, I was a bit afraid of what might happen with the film adaptation that arrived in theatres. The book is (in my view) a somewhat scathing indictment of the athletic system and the obsession with it in Odessa, and I was afraid it might turn into a cut-rate version of Remember The Titans ("Remember the Mojo?").

Fortunately, my fears were abated with the film, which is gripping (if dramatically simplified from the book). While Billy Bob Thornton is the lead of the film, he has a total of one long inspirational speech rather than many, and that one is well-written and well-delivered (to the extent I can judge it, since someone decided to chit-chat on their cell phone in the theatre during the speech). The young actors (mostly unknown) playing the members of the team are all solid, and Peter Berg brings a surprisingly gutsy approach to the film.

For football fans and fans of the book, this is a must-see.

Friday, October 8, 2004

SUPERMAN HAD COME TO TOWN TO SEE WHO HE COULD ROCK: I have really been enjoying the new VH-1 five part documentary series And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip Hop this week.

Starting from DJ Kool Herc setting up two turnables in the South Bronx in 1973, it has been a smart, reverential-but-not-fawning take on the history of hip hop music, with great use of archival video and interviews from just about everyone who ever mattered.

And, if you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done: like that the Sugarhill Gang was thought of as the Spice Girls of their day, or that Nas' Illmatic was the first album ever to be awarded 5 mics (i.e., 5 stars) from The Source, or how much the 1995 Source Music Awards in New York became the Gavrilo Princip of the East Coast-West Coast war.

It's on VH-1, so it'll be on constantly. Give it a try.
QUEEN LATIFAH IS THE MAGIC: I don't have quite the loathing for "magical negro" movies that Kingsley apparently does--I enjoyed both Bringing Down The House and The Legend of Bagger Vance--but that doesn't keep me from ridiculing movies that deserve it. And man, judging from Rotten Tomatoes, it sure looks like the Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon vehicle Taxi deserves it. Some high points from RT's reviews?
"About 60 or 70 jokes fall flat in this movie, which wouldn't know comedy if it was written in block letters on the side of the Empire State Building."

"Jimmy an astrophysical wonder...a black hole of funny, a yawning void of charisma."

"Fallon needs to learn that funny sometimes needs to be played straight; jokes aren't funny when the actor is laughing at them."

"The most embarassing SNL vehicle since Pootie Tang." (Yes, I know Pootie Tang wasn't SNL related, but I'm just quoting here.)

It's a safe guess that Roger Ebert's quote "wall-to-wall idiocy" will not be on posters, but who knows?

That said, even the negative reviewers say some nice things about Queen Latifah, and one reviewer notes:
Giselle Bundchen is called upon to lean over in low-cut shirts and have long legs, both of which she does very well. She is also called upon to act, which she does not do well.

Pssst--the new issue of Vanity Fair has plenty of cheesecake shots of the (very pretty) Miss Bundchen, including one where she's nude, and it has good articles. It's also cheaper than your ticket to Taxi. Just a suggestion.
NEXT UP, THOMAS HADEN CHURCH REMEMBERS JOHN RITTER: Let's pretend for a moment--you're the New York Times, and you're going to publish a story about memories of Marlon Brando. With whom do you begin? Those who acted with him, like Val Kilmer, Johnny Depp, or Martin Sheen? Or those who are considered his heirs, like De Niro, Pacino, and Crowe? No, no. You start with Ed Begley, Jr. And it gets weirder from there, as Begley explains Brando's brilliant idea to harness the power of (I'm not making this up) electric eels.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

THE LEGEND OF BAGGER DAH: I'm not sure if I'm the only one watching Survivor 9, but, wow, a Survivor first tonight: the winner of the reward challenge got a day's worth of service from Dah, an Actual Magical Negro of Vanuatu, who taught them how to forage for food, construct more comfortable beds, and, in footage not shown but surely filmed (right after Dah helped Matt Damon with his golf swing), gave all the tribe's members advice on their relationship problems.

Really, really uncomfortable to watch.

(Also, this season's boring.)
THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN EYED PEAS: The Wall Street Journal, of all places, tries to figure out how "Let's Get Retarded" became "Let's Get It Started".

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

DON'T SAY I GAVE HIM NO RESPECT: Rodney Dangerfield Dies At Age 82. Really got nothing more to say about that, but worth noting, at any rate.
I FEEL SO DIRTY THAT I MUST WASH MYSELF WITH MURPHY'S OIL SOAP: According to the LA Times, the MPAA is not budging on its intent to give Team America a dreaded NC-17 rating. (I could give you the link, but it's subscription-only.) This may be the most high-profile ratings battle over simulated puppet sex in the history of the business. Says producer Scott Rudin:
There's nothing we're asking for that hasn't appeared in other R-rated movies, and our characters are made of wood and have no genitalia.
So the MPAA is going to protect children from accompanying parents and guardians (that's what "R" means, right?) to a movie involving neutered puppets clapping together with all the seductive tawdriness of percussion blocks.

In other news, a few weeks ago I drove down Sunset past (1) a billboard featuring Jenna Jameson as "The Masseuse"; (2) the Hustler Store; (3) a billboard depicting Vincent Gallo getting serviced by Chloe Sevigny; (4) a billboard with three stark naked models advertising Joe's Jeans; and (5) hookers. I'm assuming, anyway.
SIX DEGREES OF FRANK PEMBLETON: I refer you to this lengthy file. It comprehensively chronicles how 166 different TV shows are apparently taking place in the same universe (that is, inside Timmy Westphal's head, as revealed at the end of "St. Elsewhere"). Try this one series of connections:

Sports Night on CSC is playing on a TV at the end of an episode of Spin City. Spin City made mention (in Michael J. Fox's final episode) of the existence of Alex P. Keaton, from Family Ties. Andrew Keaton, from Family Ties, showed up on an episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Eddie Haskell (from Leave it To Beaver) showed up on Parker Lewis. Beaver's June Cleaver showed up on an episode of Hi, Honey, I'm Home! Hi Honey, also featured a cameo from Gomer Pyle from Andy Griffith, which was a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show. Buddy from Dick Van Dyke appeared on Danny Thomas. Alan Brady from Dick Van Dyke narrated a film made by Paul Buchman on Mad About You. Mad About You ties into Friends through Phoebe and her twin Ursula (among other ways). Caroline In The City and Friends crossed over in an episode where Caroline's Annie was hit on by Chandler. Niles and Daphne from Frasier read the Caroline in the City comic strip. Frasier is, of course, tied to Cheers. Westphall, Craig, and Auschlander from St. Elsewhere all visited the Cheers bar.

Thus, every single one of those 15 shows takes place in the same universe, and there are still more connections. Everything from The Geena Davis Show to Becker to The White Shadow can be tied in somehow. The sound you just heard? That's my mind...blowing.
"I FEEL LIKE I'M AT HARVARD:" While waiting for Britney Spears' promised "Letter of Truth" to appear on her website, which will explain many things, including her recent marriage and the "epiphanies" she experienced after her visit to the Broadway musical "Wicked," you need something Britney-related to do, right? How about reading the Boston Globe's unflattering take on the Britney Spears Suite in the Onyx Hotel in Boston? That'll tide you over until Britney delivers her "ultimate truth," which has apparently been such an experience that she made the statement in the headline. Of course, some starlets actually did go to Harvard and actually acted on Broadway, but that's another story altogether.
THE YANKEES ARE, ULTIMATELY, DEAN WORMER, AND IT'S TIME FOR BLUTO: The Black Table previews the baseball playoffs, mixing sports analysis and pop culture in a way this website was supposed to, a long, long time ago.

(My take: Twins in 4, Sox in 5, Cardinals in 3, Braves in 4; Sox over Twins in 6; Cards over Braves in 5; Cardinals over Red Sox in 7, at Fenway on Halloween.)

Monday, October 4, 2004

SEARCHING FOR A TRUER SOUND: Philadelphia's WXPN 88.5 FM let their listeners vote on the 885 All Time Greatest Songs, to commemorate the opening of XPN's gorgeous new studios on Walnut Street.

The ongoing results (they're playing them in order all week), plus some famous people's top tens, can be found via this link. Enjoy.

Survey question: which Famous Person/XPN DJ's list most closely adheres to your own? For me, it's program director Bruce Warren's.
OSAMA, ON THE OTHER HAND, FILED CORRECT PAPERS: Because it's a slow day at the office, I was flipping through today's Supreme Court Order List. Because it's the first one of the term, it's lengthy. I was taken aback by one order on page 3:

"In Re Saddam Hussein--The motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis without an affidavit of indigency executed by petitioner is denied."

Important practice note--even deposed dictators must follow the rules of procedure. The AP has more details about the case, which was apparently filed by a DC attorney who has never met Saddam. Not sure why the attorney's not paying the $300 out of his own pocket.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

BEAR IN MIND THAT I LIKED "GIRLS CLUB:" David E. Kelley's new series, "Boston Legal," tries to answer an interesting question--can you make a successful series in which every single regular character (save maybe one) is a craven, amoral one? And the answer, at least thus far, is "yes." They made a smart move by changing the name, because the show is far less "The Practice" than it is "L.A. Law" by way of "Ally McBeal." The center of the show are characters we came to know last season on "The Practice"--James Spader as Alan Shore, Rhona Mitra as Tara Wilson, last year's second most memorable Santa-boffer Lake Bell as the unfortunately named Sally Heep, and William Shatner as senior partner Denny Crane. The two new additions are Julia Roberts clone Monica Potter as Lori Colson, and former "Keen Eddie" Mark Valley as Brad Chase, the one quasi-moral one in the bunch.

Like in the pilot of "L.A. Law," one of the name partners of the firm goes out of the picture in the opening scene, though this time it necessitates a "partial nudity" warning rather than a man passing out in a plate of spaghetti. From there, we push into a series of cases, including a custody dispute, a young African-American girl suing to get the lead in "Annie," and a rich man who's convinced his wife is cheating on him. Like "L.A. Law," they spin together, and it works. It's not perfect--the balance between humor and drama isn't quite level (though it seems like this will be far more comic than "The Practice" was), but the performance, except for Potter, are all high-level, and Potter's apparently leaving in the not-too distant future. Worth checking out, especially given that your alternatives are "Crossing Jordan" and the "CBS Sunday Movie."