Saturday, November 6, 2004

AFTER "AFTER THE SUNSET:" Visited the sneak preview of this comedy heist film, starring Pierce Brosnan, Woody Harrelson, and Salma Hayek's breasts. It's not spectacular, but it's entertaining, albeit rather predictable. Brosnan is playing Remington Steele yet again, Woody pulls out his standard "dumb hick" schtick, and Salma's breasts, as always, deliver a nice performance (although Hayek herself still can't act). Don Cheadle, as usual, seems to have wandered in from another movie to deliver a couple of strange monologues, including one about "the free love philosophy of the Mamas and the Papas" that makes almost no sense whatsoever. Naomi Harris, who disappears completely at the end of the film, has a nice part as a local cop, but seems to be there for an unexplored and unnecessary comic subplot involving the local police chief.

The plot, revolving around a retired jewel thief, his girlfriend, and the FBI agent chasing them in the environs of (product-placed resort casino), is fairly predictable, and suffers (like many heist films) from the difficulty of ending it. Do the bad guys get away? Does the cop get them? Are the bad guys actually moral? The ending chosen by the movie tries to make everyone happy, but winds up being an increasingly ridiculous series of double-crosses. All told, though, it's a decent time at the movies, but it's no "Thomas Crown Affair," which is probably the best heist film of the last 10 years, with "Ocean's 11" being a very close second.

Friday, November 5, 2004

ONE WAY TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY: Here's a list of 28 Congressional candidates who each spent over $1 million of personal money to fund their campaigns. The funny part of it all, is that only one the candidates, Michael McCaul, R-Texas, actually made it to Capitol Hill.

In my fine, home state of Illinois, four candidates (one Democrat and three Republicans) for Senate spent over $38 million of their personal wealth only to see one party put sacrificial nut job Alan Keyes on the tracks in front of the locomotive that was Obama.
I JUST WANTED THE ODDS ON "WHITE CHICKS" FOR BEST PICTURE: British betting markets have opened for the 2005 Academy Awards. They currently put overlong but well-acted biopic "Ray" as an 8:5 favorite for best picture, but don't scrimp on oddball contenders--"I Heart Huckabees" is open at 22:1, and the Portman-nudity-free "Closer" is in at 11:1. Oddly, "Sideways" isn't even on the board, and at 20+:1, that might be a bet worth taking.

Jamie Foxx is a 5:9 favorite for best actor, with the next closest contender being Liam Neeson for "Kinsey" at 3:1. I actually like the possibility of Jeff Bridges, who's 22:1 for "Door In The Floor," or Bill Murray, at 20:1 for "The Life Aquatic," as longshot bets. Best actress is a horserace, with Annette Bening a slight 5:4 favorite for "Being Julia" over Imelda Stanton at 13:10 for "Vera Drake." Want to play a longshot? Kate Winslet at 22:1 seems likely to be nominated, and they may decide it's her time.
MANDATE? I THOUGHT 11 STATES JUST MADE THAT ILLEGAL: Michael Moore offers a list of 17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists, including the added joy of watching the (Go) Blue state of Michigan defeat the Ohio (Red) State in football in a few weeks. Other positives from the election outcome include four more years of the saucy Bush Twins, and all the money we'll save not having to buy wedding gifts for our gay friends.

Meanwhile, if you are still determined to leave the country until 2008, Harper's has a list of expatriating options.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

TENTATIVE TITLE IS "WHO'S FUNNIER THAN HORATIO SANZ?" The Hollywood Reporter suggests that we can look forward to Lorne Michaels' own variation on "The Apprentice" this summer. Michaels will put aspiring comics through their paces with the prize being a performer slot on "SNL." Anyone got any competition suggestions for Lorne?

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

FOR THOSE OF YOU READY TO FLIP OFF MSNBC: For those of us who live in Blue America (or are Blue in Red America), I'd like to offer a few cultural recomendations for you to view for hope, heart, and thought in these next few trying days. (Or, honestly, for anyone who's trying to find answers about this election and hope for the future.)

The West Wing: Season 2--A much more hopeful and better version of what's airing on NBC right now. Particular attention should be paid to "In This White House," and "And It's Surely To Their Credit," featuring Emily Procter as fundamentally decent Republican pundit Ainsley Hayes, and the deeply moving "Shibboleth," which explains just how faith and religion can be Democratic values. It's a show that reminds us of what our government can be, and that inspires hope that maybe our government can be that good.

Pleasantville--This is an underappreciated gem from six years ago that's probably the best parable of tolerance, trust, and change of the past decade and one of the best films of the past decade to not be nominated for any major Oscars. Watch it and be reminded that even a small act of kindness and caring can have profoundly liberating effects for a community. And watch relative unknowns (at the time) like Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, and Jane Kaczmarek all deliver top-notch performances. Also, mourn original H!ITG J.T. Walsh, in his last performance.

Gilmore Girls: Season 1--The story of a dysfunctional family finding a way to put it together again, divided between the conservative parents and the daughter who ran away from home at 16 and her daughter. Leaving aside any political metaphors that there may or may not be hidden in the show, as Salon discusses, the family dynamic will have you laughing and crying. And the frequent town-meeting sequences restore faith in democracy. And despite TWOP's Pamie's dislike for it, this season's episode "Tippecanoe and Taylor Too!" is an eloquent tribute to the power of the democratic process (and how can you not like a show that uses puns about William Henry Harrison and features guest star Norman Mailer).

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou--Yes, I know it's not arriving in NY/LA until December 10, and not arriving in the rest of the country until Christmas Day, but it's advertising on places like Atrios, Political Animal, and This Modern World. Mind you, I'd be seeing it anyway, but that advertising makes me even more interested making sure I'm there opening weekend.
AS GOOD A REASON AS I'LL FIND TO RESUME BLOGGING: Today, of all days, NYT food critic Frank Bruni explores the exciting world of Native Alaskan cuisine:
Back to the mammals. A dried strip of seal meat confirmed what the whale blubber had so potently demonstrated: if a mammal ingests enormous quantities of aquatic creatures, and those creatures are not coming in glistening fillets from Citarella, it will taste like the outrageously funky distillation of an entire ocean of the kind of seafood that Manhattan restaurants are most definitely not turning into sashimi or crudo.

Yes, as recurring readers of the blog know, it's been an interest of mine.
PUT ME DOWN FOR £100 ON HILLARY: The tin soldiers had barely left Kerry for dead in Ohio before talk turned to the list of potential 2008 presidential candidates. European bookies have set the early odds on the list of contenders and Hillary is the early odds-on favorite, coming in at 6-1. Following the junior senator from New York, is Rudy Guliani at 7-1 (think the sound bite of him blaming the troops for the weapons looting in Iraq last week might come back to haunt him), John Edwards, Tom Ridge, and Bill Richardson are at 10-1, Bill Frist is 12-1, Jeb Bush 14-1, Barack Obama 25-1 (no pressure or anything), John Kerry 40-1, and at 66-1 Dick Cheney and the Constitutionally ineligible star of Kindergarten Cop.

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE: A last post before I head for bed, in a long night where there's been few surprises and a lot of bad news (at least for people who believe as I do), one story has slipped through the cracks--and that's the Pennsylvania Senate race. In a race where incumbent Arlen Specter was viewed as a "shoo-in" as late as yesterday, Rep. Hoeffel kept the race shockingly close--despite his apparent concession an hour ago, CNN actually still hasn't called the race. That's been a bright spot in what has been a long and (thus far) somewhat depressing night. Congrats to this blog's own Adam and the rest of Hoeffel's campaign staff for taking a race that wasn't supposed to be competitive and making it far closer than anyone could have thought.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

7 IS THE OVER/UNDER ON WHITEBOARD APPEARANCES DURING PRIME TIME: So, folks, what are your plans for election night? I'm thinking I'm going to head home, turn on one of the networks (probably NBC) on my small TV from 8-9 as I do laundry and as my cable box and TiVo record the new episode of "Gilmore Girls" (the only TV show on which Al Gore is currently President), flip to CNN at 9, and (hopefully) watch Jon Stewart call the election on the hour-long "Daily Show" live special from 10-11. If necessary, back to CNN for the long haul. The thread below is open for discussion of coverage, lunacy, and other excitement is we move in to the evening.
VOTE, DAMMIT! I've stood in a lot of lines. A near-riot line before a Metallica concert in 1985; a four-register line for 5000 undergrads to buy college textbooks in the pre-Internet days; a series of surreal Moscow cafeteria lines; garden-variety DMV lines; grocery-checkout lines with senior-citizen express-lane scofflaws; amusement-park attraction lines with the far left part of the American bell curve on any criteria imaginable. I had never stood in line with as many people as giddily proud of standing in line as I did this morning. When you have to wait to vote, it just feels more like democracy.

How long did it take you to vote? You did vote, right?
SHOWING DREAMWORKS WHAT ANIMATION IS REALLY ABOUT: Spacewoman and I saw The Incredibles last night and had a blast, pun unintended. The animation is sometimes distractingly good -- at times I was thinking "this is basically indistinguishable from claymation," and the hair is jarringly less cartoonish than almost everything else, although it's nice to see cartoon characters with pores. The heart of the movie, though, like all other Pixar movies, is a set of fully-developed characters functioning within a cute idea with a lot of completely unexpected gags throughout.

Monday, November 1, 2004

NOW THAT'S BROTHERLY LOVE: According to Zagat, Philadelphia shares an interesting pair of distinctions. First, the average tip is the highest among major cities in America (19.1%), well above my standard of 17.25% (double the NYC sales tax). Oddly, Philly was the place where people ate out the least (2.6 times a week), while those over in L.A. ate out 3.8 times a week. I'm doing my part to bring up the eat-out numbers, given how rarely I eat at home.
NO CAINE, NO GAIN: The remakes of Get Carter and Alfie, two films in which the esteemable and unblinking Michael Caine starred in the original, have topped a list of worst film remakes. What's your least favorite remake. For me it's the Marlo Thomas version of It's a Wonderful Life.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

SCHOOL DAZE: No less an authority on film history than John Farr, a freelancer for the Stamford Advocate, weighs in with a list of the best school movies. Ummm, no Ferris, Breakfast Club, or Sixteen Candles? No Dazed and Confused, Lean on Me, or My Tutor? No With Honors? All right, maybe Joe Pesci as the Harvard Bum doesn't deserve a spot on the list, but there are countless others from the 80s alone that do.

Which of your favorite education films failed to make Farr's grade and what are some of the worst school films ever made. I'll nominate Jim Belushi as The Principal and contemptible Oscar-winner A Beautiful Mind for the worst list off the top of my head. And let's limit this to movies mostly in and about the classroom and leave the playing field out of the discussion, since all school athletics film lists begin and end with Rudy.
PUNDIT POWER: Jon Stewart tops this list of 2004's 10 Top Election Pundits. That dick Tucker Carlson doesn't even make the list, but ol' Falafel hands Bill O'Reilly comes in at No. 3, just after the master of the dry erase board, Tim Russert.

And speaking of Russert, was it me, or was the skit with him and Brokaw making subtle color changes to the NBC's electoral map on this weekend's SNL one of the subtlest (and funniest) bits on the show in ages?
LEGAL REALISM IS DEAD: Jerome Frank and Karl Llewellyn fans need not worry; I just mean that Fox has shelved 'The Partner', its planned Who Wants To Be A Lawyer reality competition.
CAKE. EATEN: So, SNL made fun of Simpson's lip-synching in its opening sketch and during Weekend Update, and, in between, Eminem blatantly lip-synched "Mosh", even pulling the microphone away from his face during parts of the chorus.

He's not dancing. He's got teleprompters. There's no excuse for not kicking it live.