Saturday, October 22, 2005

HEY HEY HEY! Set your TiVos, because HBO has now added Fat Albert to its rotation. As to why I have disproportionately strong feelings about the movie, click here and here.

Also, for what it's worth, Alex isn't the only one around here having published pieces outside the blog.
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING: George Clooney's Good Night, And Good Luck is, among many things, a cautionary tale about the dangers of nicotine addiction. There is a serious amount of cigarette usage in this movie, and if one took a swig of scotch every time a puff was taken on-screen, one would be seriously drunk by the end.

The movie makes incredibly effective usage of the original kinescopes of Edward R. Murrow and Sen. McCarthy. David Strathairn makes for an excellent Murrow, and Clooney sets the mood well with the black and white photography.

But beyond that . . . there's not much of a story. I just wasn't gripped by the movie dramatically, and didn't feel any of the intra-CBS tensions with Paley, Friendly and Murrow.

Maybe it's just because that story, of the conflict between journalistic integrity and the needs of a corporate-run media, was told so much better in Michael Mann's The Insider, which still stands for me as one of the most underappreciated films of the past decade (and I say this despite the fact that it was nominated for seven Academy Awards).

Good Night isn't an actively bad movie, and may be worth seeing just for the historic footage. It's just not the great movie it could have been.
WORTHY CCAUSE ALERT: In order to secure continued status as a tax exempt organization The Creative Commons is in the midst of it's First Annual Fall Fundraising Drive. These are the fine folks that bring you CCMixter and the flexible licensing scheme that is slowly working to free up media (just a little) from the lowest-common-denominator whims of money and marketing.

If you're wondering "what's in it for me", here are 10 concrete (digital) examples free for immediate download and enjoyment.

If you do not crave such concrescence, but would like an extended theoretical explanation of why the Creative Commons movement is vital and necessary, you might check out Prof. Lessig's book on The Future of Ideas. And if you're thinking "okay, I'm curious but that's more than I really want to read right now", then just hit his blog. (Please, hit his blog!)

Friday, October 21, 2005

THE MOVIE WAS RATED "G," BUT THE SHOUTING WAS AN "R:" I finally got around to Wallace & Grommit this evening, and I echo all the good things that have been said about it elsewhere. What was truly bizarre, however, was the moviegoing experience. I had two empty chairs on either side of me, on which were coats and the like. Trailers rolled, as did the reasonably cute Madagascar short that preceded our main feature. Then the movie proper started. About 5 minutes into it, and about 30 minutes into the show, a family of four noisly wanders in to the theatre. First, they ask me (quietly) if the seats are taken. I respond that they're not, and remove my stuff. I was not asked to move over.

Children lumber over me as the parents take one of the seats. The mother proceeds to stand directly in front of me and talk loudly to her child. I then whisper that I'd like to watch and hear the movie. The mother then launches into a profane tirade (joined by the father) about how I "hate children." The couple on the other side of me angrily stares at them and "Shhh!"s them. After a moment, they calm down. The children are remarkably well-behaved, not fidgety or talky through the whole movie, though mother spends much of the movie staring daggers into me.

At the conclusion of the film, I remain in my seat and let the kids out (I'm a credits-watcher). Daddy then proceeds into a lengthy, profanity-fueled tirade directed toward me ("tough guy") as he's walking out of the theatre, inter alia, claiming that I needed to go home and look at porn on the Internet like a "good faggot." I took the smile and nod technique and attempted to ignore him. I'm actually still a little shaken, and actually spent my whole trip home looking over my shoulder to make sure daddy wasn't around the corner to beat me up. Just me, or was that perhaps a bit of an overreaction?
ISN'T IT ICONIC? Variety is marking its 100th anniversary by naming the 100 top entertainment icons. By the looks of it, it appears the list is one of those rare ones in which actual thought went into making it. Topping the list are the Beatles, followed by (in alphabetical order) Louis Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse and Elvis Presley.
TO ADD TO THE INVENTORY ON CRAPHOLE ISLAND: ONE ACCORDIAN, ONE TUBA: Well, if nobody else is going to post it, I'll point you all to the pitch-perfect hyper-literal flash animation of Lost, set to Weird Al's version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (I had forgotten how much I loved this song -- the original version -- before it was coopted by Mike Myers). Favorite line assignments -- "I don't wanna die/Sometimes wish I'd never been born at all."

Edited to reflect T. Jaxon's clarification re the version of the song used. I guess I could have figured out that it was Weird Al, what with the accordian and nasal whine, but it never occurred to me that anybody would actually own a Weird Al album.

NO DOUBT SPICE WORLD WAS NO. 51: I've been a little busy doing actual for-profit list-making (in this case a list of the 50 worst moments in Chicago White Sox history since their last World Series victory), but wanted to point out that I added a few new links to the side over there you should be checking out and also to mention that Mike Leigh's Naked has been picked as the greatest London film of all time, topping a list of the 50 best movies made in and about the Seat of the Her Majesty's Empire that appears in this week's Time Out UK.

Also, I've got Tivo backlog like you wouldn't beleive, but I want to put my plug in for the American version of The Office on the Must-Flee network. The first episode of the season, which revolved around the annual recognition awards ceremony, the Dundies, was the funniest episode I've seen of a show this side of Arrested Development, since the salad days of The Simpsons.

AND THE ROBERT TAYLOR HOMES WERE THREE YEARS FROM COMPLETION: One helpful Primate lists some things that were true the last time a Chicago team played in the World Series:
  • There was still one Civil War vet alive.
  • The tallest building in Chicago was just a bit over 600 feet, the Chicago Board of Trade building
  • Bob Dylan had just begun his freshman year at University of Minnesota.
  • The teamsters were run by Jimmy Hoffa.
  • No one had heard of the phrase "serial killer."
  • Only 13 major leaguers had ever hit 300 homers.
  • The name of Chicago's mayor was Richard Daley.

Alright, people, White Sox v. Astros -- who ya got? (Do you care?)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

LOOK EVERYONE, IT'S THAT A**HOLE JEFF PROBST! There is little redeeming, and much to be offended by in the season two debut of the "reality" cartoon "Drawn Together". Between the Holocaust references, the gay jokes, Jewish jokes, and pedophilia references, there was something vile for everyone to find completely appalling.

And yet I was transfixed. Go figure. It made me laugh, and I know that it was wrong, but it did. Like "Family Guy" but only more so, if you throw enough jokes and pop cultural references at me in a certain key (A Shawshank reference and Microsoft's Clippy in the same scene), enough will hit the right note to make it worth it.
WE JUST GIVE IT 120 DAMN PERCENT, MAN. WHATEVER IT TAKES, WE'LL GIVE IT: Just when I was ready to give up on Survivor: Year Of The Trickster Owl, then, holy crap, Top Five Gratist Tribal Councils Evir.

Now, I just have to figure out what the rest of the list contains. Certainly, Jerri's boot from the Outback season makes the list. The tie at four in the Neleh/Paschal/Vecepia/Kathi season, with the debut of the Purple Rock of Death? The one last season when Stephenie convinced Janu to quit? Work with me, folks.
RIGHT NOW, EDDIE VAN HALEN IS TALKING TO HIS ATTORNEYS: Strike that story from yesterday -- Van Halen is no longer Hot for TV.
AMAZING RACE, HOW SWEET THE BLOG: This is a little meta for me.
"I'M FOND OF THE 1910S" JUST DIDN'T TAKE OFF: Is it just me, or shouldn't VH1 long since have run out of things to love about the 80s?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I ONCE WAS LOST BUT NOW AM FOUND: I'm having trouble thinking of anything profound to say regarding this week's Lost. The pace of this season is really very very very slow. Which is fine and all -- any week with a Jin and/or Sun flashback is a good one, regardless of what else happens. This is a show about characters, not about plot, and I am deeply grateful that ABC has not taken the old NBC's-promos-of-ER-approach of declaring "Next Week on an ER that Will Change Their Lives Forever!" every single week (the "In Three Weeks" promo notwithstanding, of course). There is, though, a certain artificiality to the Other Others' refusal to explain what they're so afraid of, which seems pretty clearly intended to draw out this particular plot line for some number of episodes.

A few bulletpoints:
  • I forgot last week that there's a character who annoys me as much, if not more than, Charlie -- Michael.
  • Jin's English seems to have improved exponentially over the last, oh, 24 hours or so.
  • Getting Locke and Mr. Echo together ought to be fun.
  • Legs o' Others (at least, I assume they were the Others, rather than the Other Other Others). Hm.
  • Did anyone ever have any doubt as to where Sun's ring had gone?
  • It seems a little weird that Locke is back to being the Sage Dispenser of Fortune Cookie Platitudes despite the fact that we now know that he doesn't know anything, but his appearances are always a highlight of any non-Lockecentric episode.
  • The actual Sun / Jin meeting was rather sweet, no?

To preempt what I suspect will be a recurring question: I believe that Jin's comment to Michael at the waterfall was "you'll find Walt." If anyone disagrees, speak up.

LOOKING OUT A DIRTY OLD WINDOW: I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoy stupid teen comedies. My DVD collection includes 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, and 13 Going on 30. So how did I miss the upcoming Kids In America, which looks like a solid entry into the genre, with an interesting and eclectic cast led by Gregory Smith and Julie Bowen, and what seems like it may be a political commentary. Mind you, I still have a lot of filmgoing to catch up on (Wallace & Gromit, History of Violence, Good Night and Good Luck, Squid and the Whale, Mirrormask, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, North Country, Shopgirl, and maybe Stay), but this gets a place on the list.
NO, HE DIDN'T OPEN WITH "MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC:" At tonight's NYC ACS Chapter talk by Prof. Cass Sunstein, who I know many around here are a fan of, he said a number of interesting things about the law. More germanely to this blog, Prof. Sunstein observed that the law firm sponsoring the talk shared not merely a building, but an elevator bank with Entertainment Weekly, which he briefly gushed over, calling it a "great magazine." So you can feel better about your subscription.
YET AGAIN, A REALITY TV PRODUCER REACHES INTO MY BRAIN AND PLUCKS FORTH AN IDEA: Reports indicate that if Mark Burnett's "Rock Star" returns for a second season, the band seeking a new lead singer will indeed be Van Halen.

This, I'd watch. Great song catalog, and unlike INXS, band members who we already know.
SOMETHING WE CAN ALL AGREE ON--NOBODY SHOULD BE WATCHING THE WAR AT HOME: Say what you will about about the Parents Television Council's crusade to clean up the airwaves, but what they think is "good TV?" Ewwww. According to today's release--this season's best and worst are as follows:

  • Best: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Three Wishes, American Idol, Ghost Whisperer, Everybody Hates Chris
  • Worst: The War At Home, Family Guy, American Dad, The O.C., Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Cold Case, Two and A Half Men, That 70s Show

Edit: The full list is out, also including Reba, Bernie Mac, Dancing With The Stars, and 7th Heaven. (Did they forget about Kelly Monaco's wardrobe malfunction and Playboy past, which was a not-inconsiderable portion of the show's appeal?)

OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED VAUGHN! YOU BASTARDS! Joey is outperforming Alias. Oof.

I guess this means that Michael Vartan's price per episode for proving that he's not actually dead would go up -- if anyone at ABC actually cared about extending the show past this season. As it is, Vartan fans can console themselves by watching him guest star as Chef Michel (parlant Fran├žais, naturellement) on the similarly ill-fated Kitchen Confidential. (Air date TBA.)

Hmmmm. Perhaps Will Tippin's new alias is Jack Bourdain. And Michaux has gone into the witness protection program, and in a display of administrative incompetence has been placed in the very same restaurant where Will was stashed after his construction gig didn't pan out. Hey, a girl can dream.
IN AN OLD POOL HOUSE IN CONNECTICUT...: In honor of Madeleine Albright's upcoming guest appearance on Gilmore Girls next week, EW's Popwatch comes up with its own list of the Weirdest Guest Stars Ever including Richard Nixon on Laugh-In, Nancy Reagan on Diff'rent Strokes, and Thomas Pynchon on The Simpsons.

There are plenty of other good ones out there, so share your favorite odd tv cameo in the comments. I'll start with the Flaming Lips and Barry Bonds both on Beverly Hills 90210.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

DUDE, YOU TOTALLY JUST CROSSED THE RUBICON! Have I mentioned that I'm totally digging HBO's "Rome", which is a pulpy, bloody, funny and yet largely historically accurate take on Caesar, Brutus, Pompey and the whole gang, including Cato as an adorably bitchy old man. The acting is all excellent, especially scenery-chewing Polly Walker as Atia of the Julii, master plotter (or so she thinks), and it's a great study of power, desperation, greed and the many ways in which someone can be killed with a blade.

Plus which, you've got the fictional soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, who are a cross between the Rosencrantz/Guildenstern and Chandler/Joey of the time when men were men, women were frequently naked and numbers were letters. And if anyone complains about the blood and the nudity, just respond: but I'm learning!

Next week, you can catch up on the first eight episodes. Do so.
ODDS ARE ONLY 1 TO 146,107,962 AGAINST YOU: Bought your tickets for tomorrow night's Powerball yet? At $340 million annuitized and $164.4 million cash value, it's getting close to the point where your expected value of a ticket (after taxes) is positive.
THE SECRET DIARY OF J.J. "DYN-O-MITE" PFEIFFER? NBC is currently developing a sitcom "about an upper-middle-class white family that moves into a restored house haunted by a black family from the early 1970s".

Apparently, it's based on a comic book. But that's no excuse . . . unless the family in question is Sly and the Family Stone.
STOP CRYING! Between Stassi and the Schroeders, Christine of the Housewives and the entire Weaver clan, this was a tear-filled, suck-filled leg of The Less-Amazing-By-The-Week Family Trek Around America.

The Talladega task was reprehensibly tasteless; the "find Les at [our advertiser]" task reprehensibly tacky.

I will say this about the "play" detour: the only way all four people on your team are likely to beat the dealer at blackjack is if the dealer busts. So, quickly, everyone should stand on every hand, and just see if the dealer busts. It's the most efficient way to win.

(That said, why do a task you have to canoe to rather than one that's right in front of you?)

Grr. Worst. Season. Evir.
NOT TO MENTION HE HAS TO ACT LIKE HE DOESN'T NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT EVERY TIME GOLDIE HAWN COMES BACK FROM THE PLASTIC SURGEON'S OFFICE: Kurt Russell gets a little love from the folks over at the Onion A.V. Club as the most Underrated Working Actor, which is just one category in their Underrated List. Others shining in the Onion's spotlight: King of the Hill, user comments on IMDB and Martian Manhunter.

Feel free to add your own underrated in the comments. I'll start with Underrated Condiment: Yellow Mustard. After turning my nose up at the French's and its ilk in favor of Dijon, brown, honey, and all the other variations, I've come back around to the yellow stuff.
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T SPEND SUNDAYS WATCHING THAT GAME WITH A DISTURBINGLY NON-SPHERICAL BALL: FX will be airing a marathon of the first seven episodes of Prison Break on Sunday from noon - 7. (Is it okay that I only just this minute realized that Fox and FX are affiliated?)

As I've mentioned more than once, this show is worth your time. Set those TiVos.
PUTTING THE "FUN" BACK INTO "DYSFUNCTIONAL:" Heather Havrilesky of Salon (probably my favorite of the Reporters Who Write About Television) has some interesting things to say about the dysfunctional families on both reality TV (yes, Paolo family, I'm talkin' to you), and on sitcoms (the ever-lovable Bluth family).
YES, BUT WILL IT FEATURE CHRISTOPHER WALKEN? In truly odd news, David Byrne of Talking Heads and Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) are collaborating on the new musical Here Lies Love, which they describe as "a theatrical music event inspired by the phenomonon of Imelda Marcos." This is, of course, the second most anticipated theatrical news of the week, after the reviews for Thursday's opening of In My Life, the heartwarming new Broadway musical from the composer that brought us "You Light Up My Life" about the love between a guy with Tourette's Syndrome and a girl with OCD. (No, seriously.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

OUR BAD--WE THOUGHT STEALTH WAS GOING TO BE HUGE: Can someone explain to me how Esquire managed to name Jessica Biel the Sexiest Woman Alive when, on a good day, she's (IMHO) at best the second sexiest woman alive named "Jessica" (after Jessica Alba)? Adding insult to injury, Lauren Graham gets picked to offer "10 Things You Don't Know About Women" only 40 pages earlier without even making the list of "Women We Love."
READ THIS BLOG ENTRY OR WE'LL KILL THIS DOG: The American Society of Magazine Editors have picked the 40 greatest magazine covers of all time (see hi-res shots of the winning covers here).
BUT NONE OF THEM HAVE KOPPEL'S HAIR: So, apparently, ABC's going to stick with Nightline once Ted Koppel leaves in November, but a three-anchor format, one of whom is "Living With Michael Jackson"s Martin Bashir? Doesn't seem like the smartest idea. So, aspiring network programmers, what would you do? The most sensible choice, IMHO, would be "Nightline with Jon Stewart," but that's precluded by contract.
AND OVER THE NEXT WEEK, DAVID DYE AND BRUCE WARREN WILL BE READING PORTIONS OF EACH ON THE AIR: Time Magazine has selected the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Oddly missing are the Harry Potter books (given that Judy Blume and the Narnia books made the list). One graphic novel made the list, but it wasn't Maus, and overall, the list seems to lean more towards the Serious than the Entertaining. (And what of the Entertaining-Slash-Serious-At-Times, like Bonfire of the Vanities or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay?)

You know your job, folks. Go to it.
EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, WE WALK THE LINE: Does anyone happen to know anything about the Mississippi College School of Law? I don't know whether to be reassured that I finally got a faculty interview, or somewhat scared that this has been the only response thus far. (Also, Sheryl Crow's cover of Dylan's "Mississippi" is yet another example of why covers of Dylan songs are so often better than Dylan's own versions.)
THUS EXPLAINING THAT STEPHEN HAWKING CAMEO: Am I the only one who finds it weird that the writing room for The Simpsons contains not one, not two, but three mathematicians?
THE CHICKENS EMPLOYED, TOO, WILL BE VIRGINS: Two major changes have been announced for Wing Bowl 14, scheduled for February 3, 2006:

1. Admission will be charged ($5) and tickets sold in advance, for the first time, in an effort to stem the crowd control problems of the past. Last year, they had to open the doors at 3am to accomodate the massive herd waiting outside, and all 20,000+ seats were filled by 5:30am. All proceeds to go to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; tickets on sale Sunday at 10am.

2. Bring on the virgins! Wing Bowl 14 will be dubbed the "Virgin Wing Bowl", as each and every past Wing Bowl contestant will be barred from the competition. In other words, no Wingador, no Sonya Thomas, no IFOCE ringers. I like it; it brings the competition back to its amateur roots.

Previous coverage here, here and generally here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: Combining the WXPN album countdown through #11, Who's Next with this helpful list from commenter Adam C. reveals the following ten albums as our likely final ten:
  • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, Revolver, Rubber Soul, The White Album
  • Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Born to Run
  • The Clash, London Calling
  • U2, The Joshua Tree
  • Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

Anyone care to produce a predicted final list? Anyone want to line up behind Bob and decry the all-male, and, other than Clarence Clemons, all-white nature of said Top Ten?

And all but the U2 album are at least 25 years old, and even the U2's not that old. So what we've got is a Classic Rock list from a station that is not really thought of as one, but, I guess, that's why they call these albums classic . . .

edited to add: I've set up an Instant Runoff Voting booth via this link for us all to rank and ultimate determine the best of the top thirty-two (that's the site's limit) from the WXPN list -- only, okay, I used executive privilege on a few albums to replace things like Counting Crows with Purple Rain. Go. Vote. Now. Rank 'em all.

JUST SAYING. IS ALL: I was at Lincoln Financial Field today for a season ticket holder focus group the Eagles were holding regarding gameday operations issues. Afterwards, we were able to visit the team's ultra-spacious locker room. Without naming names (though at no point were we told anything we were seeing or saying was confidential or off-the-record), I can still report that one of the team's star players is a big fan of Milo's Sweet Tea and Secret Aerosol Deodorant Spray, which was, apparently, strong enough for this man.

I just like the fact that a team that's got a season ticket waiting list a mile long would be holding three focus groups this weekend to try to figure how to do things even better. Total. Class. Organization.