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.