Saturday, November 5, 2005

IT WAS ON THE WAY TO CASA DE SUSHI: Well, since we're posting weird videos today, I must draw your attention to the weirdest political ad since Wes Clark's "Outkast isn't breaking up" ad--ladies and gentlemen--Al Sharpton salsa dancing for NYC mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer. (No, really--that is the entire content of the ad.)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR? You can stream Neil Diamond's new 12 Songs disc at this site in advance of its relase next week. This is Neil's colloboration with producer Rick Rubin in the vein of the stripped-down work we did with Johnny Cash. All the songs are originals, but say what you will about Neil, there's no denying his songwriting chops, which date back to the hey day of the Brill Building. Give it a few listens and I think you'll find it to be easily the best stuff Neil's recorded since the hits of the early '70s (pre-Greek Theatre and Seagull era). Favorite tracks so far are "Oh Mary," "Evermore," "Save Me a Saturday Night," and "Delirious Love," a Beach Boys inspired track with backing vocals by Brian Wilson. This one will have me go out and actually purchase my first CD in a store since Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, which was my favorite album of last year.
AREN'T THE FANGS ON TYSON REDUNDANT? How did I not know that the real Bobby Brown and the real Mike Tyson went on the Jimmy Kimmel show to do Monster Mash? (Watch the commercial, then click on the picture that says "Bobby Brown and Mike Tyson Perform the Monster Mash".)

Friday, November 4, 2005

ALL DAY LONG I'D BIDDY BIDDY BUM . . . Some smart people cross-tabbed the Nielsen ratings with demographic data, and ranked all the television shows in terms of which audiences skewed most towards an audience full of of wealthy 25-54 year olds. Your top ten:

  1. The Apprentice (NBC)
  2. Desperate Housewives (ABC)
  3. ER (NBC)
  4. Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
  5. The Office (NBC)
  6. Will & Grace (NBC)
  7. Lost (ABC)
  8. My Name Is Earl (NBC)
  9. West Wing (NBC)
  10. Gilmore Girls (WB)
Note the complete absence of police/law/forensics show in that top ten. CBS's top show, The Amazing Race, is down at #17, and Fox's top placer is the "Princeton" set Dr. Hizzy, at #21.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

ALSO A CLUE--THE DENIM CUTOFFS: David Cross has a tip for how to detect David Cross impersonators. (And, yes, apparently, there is a David Cross impersonator attempting to take advantage of women's love for glasses-wearing bald guys.)
TAKE THAT, ABC AND NBC: If you're like me, you're frequently annoyed by ABC and NBC's newfound habit of running shows from 9-9:59 and then 9:59-11:01 because it screws up your TiVo, TiVo's getting smarter and solving the problem. Now, when Lost ends at 10:01, I don't have to worry about appropriate flipping to Law and Order being cancelled completely--instead, TiVo will just hop over to Law and Order a minute late. (I've had the problem with ER and Everwood this season, though I'm uncertain if I will take back ER at this point.)
WILL MARY-KATE, ASHLEY, OR STAMOS APPEAR? I don't quite know what to think about the story, but I know some folks here will celebrate--Bob Saget is at work on an R-rated March Of The Penguins spoof which he will write, direct, produce, and provide vocal work for.
STILL NO RECOGNITION FOR MANNY THE STUNTMAN: In an interesting column, movie pundit Kristopher Tapley suggests the addition of three categories to the Academy Awards:
  • Best cameo performance--designed for people who with one or two scenes, steal a movie. Of course, "cameo" performances have won Oscars before--e.g., Judi Dench for Shakespeare in Love and arguably Jack Palance for City Slickers--so is this category really necessary?
  • Best ensemble performance--I've always been a fan of this award, especially since more and more films and TV shows don't neatly break down into "lead" roles and "supporting" roles, but a valid question can be raised as to whether it really adds anything beyond awards that are already there.
  • Best voiceover performance--I certainly see the point of having this award, but it doesn't seem like it should happen every year, and like it would be more appropriate as a juried award (kind of like the sci-tech awards are).

So, what do you think of the suggested new categories? Are there others you'd add? Discuss.

FOR WHAT IS A MAN, WHAT HAS HE GOT? IF NOT HIMSELF, DOES HE HAVE NAUGHT? If you've ever been dying to ask a professional philosopher an answer any question related to philosophy, the AskPhilosophers website is for you.

From "Is happiness (eudaemonia) possible? to "What is not art?" to "Is it unethical to move loyalty to another sports team just because the current team you're rooting for isn't doing well?", there's a wealth of pondering for you to explore.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

ONLY 8 TO GO UNTIL I HAVE A FULL COURT: For readers who may be attending, I will be at the AALS conference in Washington DC next Friday and Saturday (or at least I will if I can find a reasonably priced hotel)--if any readers are attending as applicants (or better still, as interviewers, I'll have a mesage folder. Also, if anyone needs help picking up their Scalia bobblehead, let me know, and I will be willing to serve as proxy.
ONE LESS TIRED SNL IMPRESSION: Aaron Brown is leaving CNN. The winners? Anderson Cooper 360, which gets extended to two hours (though without the logical title change to Anderson Cooper 720) and moved to the 10-midnight EST slot, and, yes, Wolf Blitzer, who gets an additional hour of The Situation Room.
ALSO NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL--THE "LEO HAS A RELAPSE" EPISODE: OK, while we still haven't gotten our hands on a copy of the Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip script (anyone with knowledge is invited to forward the script to the address on the sidebar), a few more details have leaked, so it's time to play fantasy casting. According to New York magazine, the cast will include:
  • The long-running executive producer of the show, who gets fired in the pilot after delivering a "Network-style anti-TV tirade live on the air."
  • A "young writing phenom" with a cocaine problem (not that this is at all autobiographical).
  • A "sexy redheaded op-ed columnist who is 'gonna win a Pulitzer'" (not that this bears any resemblance to Sorkin's ex--Maureen Dowd).

Apparently, those last two are the leads. Obviously, we don't have much to work from with those barebones descriptions, but who's got the look and can bring the Sorkinese? Do these fit members of the Sorkin Family Players?

RUFUS AND CHUCK, CHUCKING RUFUS! One of our regular readers/commenters, Ticky, has now seen the new R. Kelly "Trapped in the Closet" DVD, which goes all the way to chapter 12 in this drama. She files this report:

Trapped in the Closet --- Chapters Six through Twelve

To recap: Sylvester was caught in Cathy’s closet by Pastor Rufus, was introduced to Rufus’s lover Chuck, fired a shot into the ceiling, picked up a speeding ticket and had a round of energetic sex (while fully clothed) with his wife, Gwendolyn who’d been screwing around with the cop that gave Sylvester the ticket. Oh, and Cathy introduced Gwendolyn to the cop. Got it?

Chapter Six

Sylvester and Gwen share a hearty laugh over their escapades, because nothing is funnier than confessing adultery to your spouse. “And then? He was a gay guy and I got a ticket!” Oh, belly laughs and snotty noses galore.

Meanwhile, Brother Twan is released from prison.

Back at Casa del Crazy, Sylvester and Gwen apologize to each other for all the cheating. And we recap the last five chapters, because R. Kelly’s gotta stretch this out by another 120 seconds.

But then! The Traffic Cop gets a funny feeling and drives back to Gwendolyn’s house to make sure everything’s okay. Oh, but Sylvester’s car is parked funny with the lights on, and the dogs are barking and the back door’s broken down! This highly trained police officer goes into the house, gun drawn. Warrants? Back up? Not in R. Kelly’s universe!

The cop hears Gwendolyn and Sylvester still laughing over their exploits, only to the lawman, it sounds like crying. Matters are exacerbated when the cop hears Gwen say, “Sylvester you’re killing me!” Yeah, this is going to go well.

Guns are waved around, there’s a lot of dramatic posturing, Sylvester puts down his gun, but then tussles with the cop over his service revolver and then, “All of the sudden, POW!” It’s nice to know that even R. Kelly obeys Chekhov when it comes to firearms.

Chapter Seven

The set decorator decided to go for an “Aftermath of Carrie’s Prom” theme for Chapter Seven. Blood is smeared everywhere, the three are arguing about the dead guy, but there really? There isn’t a body. Gwendolyn, Sylvester and the cop argue for a couple of stanzas more, before we see the body of some random guy splayed out on the floor, covered in enough pink Kayro syrup to give the viewer pause. Brother Twan! And he’s alive!

Don’t worry, it’s only a flesh wound. All he needs is a band-aid and five minutes in the bathroom and he’ll MacGyver that gunshot wound right up. I’m sure he learned that skill in prison.

And then we’re given another 90 seconds of recap so Twan knows why a cop was pointing a gun at his nearest and dearest, but then! There’s rapid knocking at the door! Sylvester and the cop argue about who is going to open the door! Guns are drawn! Oh, god! The tension! Oh, it’s just Rosie the Nosy Neighbor, curlers askance, holding her spatula. “Spatula” is harmonized and ...? scene.

Chapter Eight

The Cop leaves Casa del Crazy and calls his wife. Now here’s an unexpected twist: The Cop is married to a white girl! Named Bridget! Who talks with a trailer trash accent! That R. Kelly forces through his nostrils! This is better than “I Believe I Can Fly,” people. Bridget tells the cop that she made him a cherry pie, and he promises to be home soon.

But then we have to cut back to Casa del Crazy because we have to know what Rosie the Nosy Neighbor was going to do with the spatula, because we’ve got to tie up that plot line.

Meanwhile, back at the cop’s domicile, Bridget is looking guilty and blaming it on that time of the month, and then she tries to distract the cop with an offer of pears. R. Kelly tells us that she slept with another man that very day. They argue. The camera work lingers over a closet. And inside? R., acting as narrator, telling us there’s a guy in the house. I’m starting to suffer from twist fatigue.

Chapter Nine

In a reprise of Rufus looking for Sylvester in earlier chapters, we get the cop ripping the kitchen apart, looking for the new guy. Checks the stove, pushes back the fridge, and then notices there’s a slice missing from the cherry pie and we get a line about food allergies! This is a classic! This is better than Rent!

Bridget is standing in front of the sink, and refuses to move, but the cop manages to move her and opens the cabinet. Now, this next reveal is so shocking, R. Kelly freezes the scene, Matrix-like, comes out of the pantry and tells us the next reveal is going to be shocking. How shocking? The man in the cabinet? Is a midget!

Bridget. Midget. R. Kelly needs to have his rhyming dictionary privileges revoked.

Chapter Ten

There really is a midget hiding under the sink. He’s wearing a rather natty blue suit, but the cop doesn’t care. That bastard’s got pie crust on his face. They scuffle, and the midget admits to pooping his pants, because he’s so afraid. Bridget runs upstairs and grabs a phone number out of her bag.

Meanwhile, at Casa del Crazy, Sylvester, Gwendolyn and Twan are sitting around, playing cards. The phone rings, Gwen picks it up and Bridget pleads with her to help break up the cop/midget fight (oh, but we have to have a verse of exposition as to where Bridget got Gwen’s number). With the cavalry summoned, Bridget goes downstairs, leveling a shotgun at the cop’s chest. The midget (seriously, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but thinhaler?t give him a name) starts sucking on his inhaler and complains all this excitement isn’t good for his heart. Sylvester and Twan burst into the house, guns drawn and boom! The midget is down for the count. Dead?

Chapter Eleven

No worries. The midget just fainted and rouses easily. Sylvester asks the midget if they know each other because he looks familiar, because every hip-hop posse isn’t complete without a half-dozen little people. Here, the narrative speeds up: the midget is well-endowed, the cop refers to Twan and Sylvester as Chuck and Rufus, Bridget is three months pregnant, she met the midget at a strip club, and he’s the baby daddy! Only, it takes R. Kelly another two minutes to get all this story development out, because he is an artist!

And then? The midget faints again. Well, that’s one way to handle impending daddyhood.

The most impressive part of Chapter Eleven is R. Kelly’s ability to stretch out the word “daddy” out for eighteen and a half syllables.

Chapter Twelve

“Now let’s just jump back to Cathy’s house.” Yes, let’s, because the laid-out midget on the kitchen floor wasn’t compelling enough. Chuck and Cathy are trying to work out their differences. Chuck (a deacon! Shocking!) favors knife fights. Oh, and then the phone rings, because the phone is always ringing when you’re trapped in the closet. Only, this time, R. Kelly makes mouth noises on the soundtrack in lieu of actual ringing. Gwendolyn is on the other end, and recaps the entire soap, from the time Sylvester hooked up with Cathy at the club, straight through to the pregnant-by-midget twist we never saw coming. And while Rufus and Chuck look on, Cathy admits “that ho was me."

That’s it, folks. That’s all he sang. I’m absolutely convinced the cliffhanger ending a clever ruse by R. Kelly to avoid prison. Why, how can we send him up for statutory rape when we don’t know what’s going to happen with Rufus! Chuck! Cathy! The midget!

And for an added bonus, there’s a commentary track where R. Kelly offers a master class in the intricate backstory, the characters’ motivations and his story craft. It is as bad as it sounds. You have to see this.

I [heart] our readers. This is awesome.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

FOR THE WANT OF A BEAN: And now we're back to the bad kind of Amazing Race episode that we've gotten used to this season -- a half-hour's worth of bunching that negated any chance to, y'know, race, followed by an interesting Frustration task (see: bales of hay, unrolled; digging for scarabs in Egypt), and then no possible way, it seemed, for teams to pass each other save getting ridiculously lost.

Sure, the haterade poured on the Weavers was fun, and I do believe they set a Race record for most invocations of a deity's grace within one episode, but that's not the way you structure an episode. Grr.
ASK A STUPID QUESTION, GET ...: Sometimes the questions answer themselves. Betting has been suspended on the outcome of Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings v. Metabolite Laboratories, Inc., after the Supreme Court framed the issue as to which it granted cert as follows (italics mine):
Whether a method patent setting forth an indefinite, undescribed, and non-enabling step directing a party simply to ‘correlat[e]’ test results can validly claim a monopoly over a basic scientific relationship used in medical treatment such that any doctor necessarily infringes the patent merely by thinking about the relationship after looking at a test result.
As a colleague mused -- perhaps infringing a cogitation patent or two in the process -- "I'm going to guess that the patentee will try to reframe that issue statement in briefing."
BECAUSE I'M ALLOWED TO BREAK THIS SITE'S NO-POLITICS RULE ON OCCASION: I don't care if you're D or R, liberal or conservative or libertarian or an actual, true "moderate" (do you exist?), but it'd be awfully nice if you could take a minute on Wednesday to call your Congressperson and ask him or her to support the Online Freedom of Speech Act, which will be voted on during the afternoon. Thanks.
OF COURSE, IT SHOULD INCLUDE A LIVE SPELLING BEE, WHICH WOULD PUT THIS WEEK'S WEST WING LIVE DEBATE TO SHAME: Congratulations to ALOTT5MA guest contributor Shonda Rhimes, whose show Grey's Anatomy has won ABC's coveted post-Super Bowl slot this year.
JUST WAIT UNTIL THE WEEK IN WHICH HE PLAYS AGAINST STAR JONES REYNOLDS: There's comedy, high comedy, and then there's Bill "Sports Guy" Simmons doing a fantasy NBA league with Samuel L. Jackson, Cedric the Entertainer and Pamela Anderson. I have to hope there will be a draft diary at some point.
LIZZIE RETURNS: This site usually doesn't go heavy on the free-standing procedural shows, but I thought Without a Trace was worth a mention this week. (Excellent show, by the way, but there's too darn much serial drama out there demanding my first-run attention. I watch it religiously during the summertime in reruns.)

This week's episode, entitled Viuda Negra, features guest star Alex Kingston as a woman who witnesses her husband's kidnapping. Kingston's appearance is reason enough to tune in, but here's the kicker: the episode is directed by none other than Paul McCrane.
CONSIDER THIS A GET WELL SOON CARD: Production on Arrested Development has been shut down for a couple of weeks while Jason Bateman recovers from throat surgery. We here at ALOTT5MA wish the heart and soul of Arrested Development all the best.

To my knowledge, Bateman's surgery was not necessitated by any events taking place in Wee Britain.
GUTEN TAG HOP CLOP GUTEN TAG HOP CLOP ADOLF ELIZABETH HITLER? According to Ben Brantley, lightning has not stricken twice for Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (with a soup├žon of Brad Garrett) in The Odd Couple, which opened on Broadway last week. (Clive Barnes of the NY Post gave it a rave, but then again, he also gave Fiddler on the Roof -- with Rosie O'Donnell -- 3 1/2 stars, so go figure.)

Frankly, the critical response is entirely irrelevant -- the show is sold out for its entire limited run, courtesy of an astonishing $20mm in advance sales. I mention all this simply because Mr. Cosmopolitan and I are off to see the spectacle for ourselves tonight.

I'm something of a tabula rasa on the subject, never having seen the play, the movie, or the TV show. Heck, I've never even seen The Honeymooners. I do adore Nathan Lane in pretty much anything (this will be the fifth time I've seen him on Broadway), and I find Matthew Broderick insufferably annoying in pretty much anything except Ferris Bueller and Election. (Don't even get me started on his performance in the otherwise transcendent Glory, or the travesty that was his effort at portraying Professor Harold Hill.)

A report of the evening's festivities to follow.

Monday, October 31, 2005

MEGAN MCCAFFERTY, CALL YOUR AGENT: Apparently, it is still impolite in America to use the term 'sloppy seconds' in referring to a Supreme Court nominee.

In the only other pop culture-related SCOTUS news, I can report that the nominee's 90-year-old mother is named Rose Alito. She indeed lives in New Jersey, but she knows a pretty little place in Southern California, down San Diego way, where there's a little cafe [piano fill] where they play guitars all night and day . . .
YES, BUT HE DIDN'T MENTION THE WAY CONSTANTINE MAROULIS LOOKED AT ME THROUGH THE CAMERA THAT TIME: In the spirit of the day, the Star-Ledger's Matt Zoller Seitz reviews the most terrifying moments of the last year of television, both intentional and not, including "the Pat O'Brien sexual harassment voicemails, which were only played in part on that awful Dr. Phil intervention special. (If you heard the whole thing, just look at me and say "Yes.")"
HASTA LA VISTA, VOLDEMORT: Those list-loving Brits are back with another list, this time ranking the greatest screen fantasy heroes of all time. Harry Potter was named the greatest hero, finishing well ahead of the Terminator 2.0. Darth Vader got the nod as the greatest villain.
IF THINGS REALLY DO HAPPEN IN THREES, I SHOULD EXPECT TO HEAR "RICO SUAVE" AT SOME POINT TODAY: Among my AP Entertainment Headlines this morning: "Geraldo's New Daily TV Show Debuts Monday" and "[Gerard] Depardieu Says He's Ending Career."
Interestingly, Geraldo is five years older than Gerard; and Gerardo is 40 years old.
SO IS HE PLAYING PIGPEN? I think we may have a winner in the "unusual cast of the year" sweepstakes. The Off-Broadway musical Dog Sees God, in which the Peanuts gang reunites for Snoopy's funeral, will feature Ian Somerhalder (Boone from Lost), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch from American Pie), Eliza Dushku (Faith from Buffy), and America Ferrara (from Real Women Have Curves and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). Be afraid. Be very afraid.
AT LEAST YOUR GRANDPARENTS WOULD HAVE FINISHED RECORDING CHINESE DEMOCRACY BY NOW: Readers of Ellegirl magazine have named 43-year-old Axl Rose the second coolest old person, with the lead singer of Guns N' Roses being edged out only by the generic grnadparents, some of who might recall when Guns N' Roses last released an album. Other cool old folks in order were: Clint Eastwood (75 years old), Elvis Costello (51), Julie Andrews (70), designer Karl Lagerfeld (67), Madonna (47), Mick Jagger (62) and designer Vivienne Westwood (64).
THE HORROR, THE HORROR: It's seven minutes into Halloween here in the CST, so why not get things rolling with a list of the Top 25 Highest Grossing Domestic Horror Films of All Time.
IT'S THE ONE THAT THEY WANT, OOO, OOO, OOO: Grease is the word when it comes to hopelessly devoted UK theater goers, who named the play their favorite musical of all-time in a new poll (and yes, I know that two of those references are to songs that are only in the movie version).

The entire top ten (three of which as a red-blooded, steak-eating, Midwestern heterosexual I am proud to say I have never seen live):
1. Grease
2. Rocky Horror Picture Show
3. The Phantom of the Opera
4. Les Miserables
5. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
6. West Side Story
7. The Lion King
8. Cats
9. Chicago
10. The Sound of Music

Sunday, October 30, 2005

TREND ALERT! At this very moment, Jack Klugman, Ed McMahon and Jerry Lewis are all selling memoirs based on the theme of I Really Miss My Dead (And More Talented) Comedic Partner.

(Okay, Jerry Lewis was more talented than Dean Martin, but the general theme stands, okay?)
SO, WILL THEY TRY "A HISPANIC WILL BE PRESIDENT" AS A TAGLINE? Here's a challenge, readers--I think fans of The West Wing have to admit that this season has been the best since at least Season 4, especially after generally mediocre Seasons 5 and 6. So why has West Wing tanked in the ratings, while Commander In Chief has soared? I finally got around to watching the CiC pilot, which had been sitting on my TiVo, and it reminded me of nothing more than the horribly un-nuanced "Bartlet gives peace to the Mideast and saves the world" plotline of Seasons 5 and 6, though better written (if Rod Lurie knows anything, he knows how to write emphatic speeches).
BETTER THAN THE LAST BOY SCOUT: If someone asked me to explain the plot of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, I probably couldn't, at least not without making it sound like exactly the type of generic action movie it sends up. Suffice it to say that it involves a small-time thief who inadvertently walks into a screen test (Robert Downey, Jr.), the PI retained to give the thief "detective lessons" (Val Kilmer), and a young actress (Michelle Monaghan) who get entwined in an increasingly ridiculous series of crosses, double-crosses, and conspiracies. The secret is that it plays like a big thriller having been given a full rewrite by Charlie Kaufman, with Downey narrating, rewinding, and reversing himself to "fix" and "explain" the story. Sure, it's ludicrous, but intentionally and self-awarely so, unlike truly awful action flicks I've seen (XXX: State of the Union, we need to talk). If you enjoy action flicks, this one's well worth your time--Shane Black, who pretty much created the contemporary buddy action comedy with Lethal Weapon, has interestingly turned the genre pretty much inside-out, to great effect. Check it out.