Saturday, November 19, 2005

REMEMBER GERVASE X: A short illustrated history of Survivor spoilers.
SUE ME, SUE ME, PUT BULLETS THROUGH ME: Once or twice a season, Matt Stone and Trey Parker come through with a South Park episode worth everyone's watching. This week's "Trapped in the Closet", featuring Stan's exploration of Scientology while Tom Cruise and John Travolta refusing to vacate his enclosed bedroom clothing recess, despite R. Kelly's encouragements . . . yeah, this one's worth setting your TiVos for.

Speaking of TiVo settings, a few Turner Classics worth your time: Sunday features Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve at 6pm, perhaps the greatest romantic comedy ever, followed by Harold Lloyd's Safety Last at 8pm, which indeed features the most famous shot in silent film comedy history. And Wednesday morning, starting at 6am, it's five straight Marx Brothers movies, culminating with Duck Soup -- which I think is the most laugh-packed movie of any during the pre-Mel Brooks era, and also feels pretty relevant given our present circumstances.

But first? Watch the South Park.
THIS BLOG IS A VAMPIRE, SENT TO DRAIN: Our DeRo [Heart] Uncle Fester Watch continues with the most bizarre shoehorning yet -- a Kanye West concert review in which the Sun-Times' Jim DeRogatis calls West "as much of a notorious perfectionist and workaholic as fellow Chicagoan Billy Corgan". Whuh?
IN WHICH CONFIRMATION FOR THE TITLE OF THIS POST REVEALS TO ME THAT THE GUY'S NAME WAS "BIG BONES BILLY" AND NOT "BIG BALLS BILLY", WHICH IS HOW I ALWAYS HEARD IT: GOP Senate leaders have refused to allow a vote on a resolution by Sens. Corzine and Lautenberg to honor Bruce Springsteen on the 30th anniversary of "Born To Run".

Groaner two-error quote from our nation's only bearded Senator, however: "We'll never surrender looking for ways to honor our local hero, who made it big in this land of hopes and dreams."

(Better/worse: "Though I had reason to believe this resolution was just around the corner from the light of day, we found living proof that I might have to prove it all night with a filibuster to ramrod this bill, but that's the price you pay if we should fall behind having a Senate majority which operates under a code of silence."

Friday, November 18, 2005

NO, CORN DOGS AND COOL RANCH DORITOS ARE NOT "FANCY CHOW:" So, the Broadway revival of Sweet Charity isn't doing so well, so what's the solution? Bring in Britney! And more frighteningly, bring in Kevin Federline as a dancer.
IT'S METATASTIC! Anyone for an episode of television that is, in fact, about the television show you're watching? For that's exactly what one of the next episodes of Arrested Development will be. The episode, titled "Save Our Bluths" (after a fan campaign website), revolves around the efforts of the Bluth family to get the Home Builders Organization to put up money to save their company, and when that fails, George, Sr. notes that "I guess it's showtime. We'll put on some kind of show." One potential piece of good news--if AD is actually dead, and Fox is willing to release Bateman from his contract, I think Bateman would be very good in one of the lead roles on Studio 7.
FOR A NECESSARY FOLLOWUP: As a sequel to the TV's Five Nerdiest Characters list that TV Squad provided and we heavily supplemented, the folks at TV Squad have now offered up their list of the Five Most Accurately Portrayed Geeks on Television. And once again, I have the utmost confidence in our collective abilities on this subject. Seth Cohen in the pre-Summer days? Ralph Malph? Who ya got?
WHAT ARE THE ODDS I CAN GET RIGHT NOW FOR CARS BEING NOMINATED NEXT YEAR? There are 10 animated films eligible for this year's "Best Animated Film" Oscar. Unlike in most recent years, there's not a single film that was both a critical and commercial smash (did anyone doubt that Incredibles would win last year, or Finding Nemo the year before?). So, who ya got? There will be three nominees and one winner. In my view, no-brainer that two of the nominations go to Wallace & Gromit and Corpse Bride, but the third one is an interesting ballgame. Do they go with the edgy Steamboy, the critically loved Howl's Moving Castle, or a big commercial hit that was reamed by the critics like Madagascar or Chicken Little? My guess is that the third slot goes to Howl, because the Academy loves Miyazaki, and the award foes to W&G.
"ROG, I'M GOING WITH KING WORLD: In honor of her 20th anniversary, Ebert tells the story of his magical date with Oprah Winfrey, and how he persuaded her to go national.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"NOW THAT'S HOW YOU VOTE SOMEONE OUT!" Another solid, well-done episode of Survivor: The Flowers of Guatemala tonight, in which everything you think you understand about how the show gets edited to thwart your expectations is used against the viewer. Or is it? A reproachful parrot eyes Judd's nudity, and it's time for the Hoge-BOOM to be brought down. Or is it?

It's hard to match last season, with Fireman Tom, Ian and Steph, but it's still good television.
SKATERS ONLY WANT PARTNERS WHO HAVE GREAT SKILLS: In the "Of Course It's Produced by Ben Stiller" category, casting is underway for Blades of Glory -- a movie about two disgraced male figure skaters who exploit a loophole in the terms of their suspensions by teaming up to skate pairs together. Who should star in such a work of cinematic depth and power? Why, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, of course. Better news: Will Arnett and Amy Poehler may be on board to play Our Heroes' archrivals.
WELL THEY BLEW UP THE CHICKEN MAN IN VEGAS LAST NIGHT: And so the inevitable has become official -- Country Music Television is taking Miss America to Vegas.
NATHAN ROME FROM CANADA, CAN YOU PLEASE BE MORE SPECIFIC? I.E., STUCKEYVILLE, CANADA? Spacewoman and I thought this episode of Lost was great -- menacing from the beginning, more answers and hints than questions (though a few good questions), and great subtle use of the monotone pulse soundtrack. I'll open it up for comments, but if anybody can help me with three questions, I'd be grateful: (1) What's Mr. Eko's job; (2) What's Ana Lucia's job?; and (3) Have we seen the arrow in the Dharma logo before?
AND I'D ALSO LEARN TO TO THE TRIPLE-LINDY: Slate is spending this week asking noted academics "what should undergraduates leave college knowing?", so let me ask this related question: what's the one course you wish you took in college but didn't?

For me, it's Art and Architecture of Europe from 1400 to 1800. Because my advisor, Hadley Arkes, kept pushing me to take it but I didn't, overloading on political science, history and film studies instead where I was more confident about my ability to succeed. And that has left me lacking ever since. I was fortunate in my post-college years to spend a good deal of time with people who were happy to ramp up my arts learning curve, but still, I'm a few steps behind.

You? Links to actual courses from your actual alma mater are welcome.
GOODNIGHT SMOKING: HarperCollins has digitally removed the cigarette in Clement Hurd's author photo in the back of Goodnight Moon, and a minor kerfuffle has ensued.

One bookseller calls it "a censorship tactic most famously associated with Joseph Stalin, who falsified the archival record of the Soviet Union by literally removing images of his political enemies from photographs in an effort to recreate history in his own image," but, seriously? The money that went into building that website could've been spent buying children's books to donate to public libraries.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

OK, I'LL ADMIT TELLING BRAD PITT TO GO SUCK AN EGG IS PRETTY COOL: The New York Daily News looks back on 20 years of Oprah by coming up with 20 reasons Oprah Doesn't Suck.

Thanks to TV Tattle for the link.
RACE MATTERS: I know a lot of the regulars here are big fans of The Amazing Race, so I wanted to point out that when you are in a checkout line this weekend you should pick up the latest issue of TV Guide and turn to page 42 for the show's 10 Most Memorable Moments (the list is not online, sorry).
IN PREPARATION FOR TAILIE NIGHT TONIGHT: According to Lost's executive producers, here are some things we will learn this season on Lost:
  • Why Ethan kidnapped Claire
  • What Kate's big crime was
  • What happened to Jack's marriage
  • Why the plane crashed

One thing we definitely will not learn this season on Lost:

  • What the heck the numbers mean
WELL, AT LEAST IT'S NOT CHARLIE O'CONNELL: With the demise of Taradise, E! is in the market for more CelebReality. Having split with Dweezil Zappa, Lisa Loeb will be the object of men's affection on a dating series.
NO, NOT THE MOVIE WITH MEL GIBSON, OR THE SONG BY CHRISTINA AGUILERA: Well, there have been multiple requests in the comments on Alex's earlier posting for this, so I open up a thread for all the ladies to tell us what women really want this holiday season for the benefit of our male readers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

GOBBLE GOBBLE HEY: Since the Times' food section this week is devoted to Thanksgiving, let me take this early moment to share with you the world's greatest turkey recipe. Via Bon Appetit, Sage-Roasted Turkey With Caramelized Onions And Sage Gravy. Trust me on this one, and verify for yourselves next week.
CAN I JUST TAKE LANCE ARMSTRONG FOR BOTH? Speculation regarding Time's Man (Or Some Big Concept) of the Year and SI's Sportsman of the Year has begun. It will continue here, no doubt.

(My predictions? The Angry Earth; The Manning Brothers.)
KILLER GRACES AND SECRET PLACES: Sure, the NYT article on the new "Born to Run" anniversary DVD is fine, but what you'll really want to do is load the multimedia extras to watch a 1975 performance of "She's The One" with an absolutely killer backbeat. (Also, Little Stevie just looks ridiculous, but in a good way. Actually, all the headgear.)
EDDIE GUERRERO: I have gone well past the point of sadness of the death of wrestler Eddie Guerrero into full outrage.

How many men must die before the age of forty under his watch until Vincent K. McMahon Jr. feels some responsibility and takes some responsibility? Let me remind you of the scope of the tragedy:
Since 1997, about 1,000 wrestlers 45 and younger have worked on pro wrestling circuits worldwide, wrestling officials estimate. USA TODAY's examination of medical documents, autopsies and police reports, along with interviews with family members and news accounts, shows that at least 65 wrestlers died in that time, 25 from heart attacks or other coronary problems — an extraordinarily high rate for people that young, medical officials say. Many had enlarged hearts. . . .

Wrestlers have death rates about seven times higher than the general U.S. population, says Keith Pinckard, a medical examiner in Dallas who has followed wrestling fatalities. They are 12 times more likely to die from heart disease than other Americans 25 to 44, he adds. And USA TODAY research shows that wrestlers are about 20 times more likely to die before 45 than are pro football players, another profession that's exceptionally hard on the body.
Much of the blame can be placed on the wrestling lifestyle -- unlike professional sports, there is no non-contact offseason, no rest period for aching bodies. Painkiller abuse is inevitable, and, obviously, the steroids. And for what? For a company that faces no competition in its industry, dwindling crowds and tv ratings?

That said, a few words about Eddie Guerrero, whose past turns with drug and painkiller addiction led to his death at 38. In an industry of 6'8" 300lb titans, he was 5'8" 220lb. He succeeded by entertaining us better than almost anyone else -- through daring aerial manuevers, a real sense of drama to his matches, and through character. Guerrero generally portrayed The Sneaky Latino, and yes, it was a total cartoon heel stereotype, but my goodness did he have fun with it. "Cheat To Win" was his motto, and if that meant getting ready to deck another wrestler with a steel chair while a referee was "knocked unconscious", then, seeing the ref reviving, tossing the chair to the other wrestler so that he could be disqualified for its illegal use, so be it.

Guerrero didn't use bloody fights or physical strength to impress fans; it was athleticism and humor. Perhaps you could say that he was the Jeremy Irons of the industry, a consumate professional character actor who the smart fans grew to idolize, while rarely being as beloved by the masses as a Mel Gibson, say. (Mind you, it's been 4-5 years since I've watched regularly, so this could be wrong.) (Also, last week marked the eighth anniversary of The Montreal Incident, and if that phrase means anything to you, enjoy this link.)

Curt Hennig, The Big Bossman, Crash Holly, Brian Pillman, Chris Candido, Road Warrior Hawk, Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, and the list keeps growing. Shame on the WWE, its ownership and its shareholders.
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE: The fine folks at AMPAS have announced the 15 films that are semi-finalists for Best Documentary Feature this year. Interestingly, in a category that's normally riddled with movies that are just now coming out and which folks have never heard of, 5 of the semi-finalists (which are also likely to be your 5 finalists), got significant critical and commercial love:
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
  • Mad Hot Ballroom
  • March of the Penguins
  • Murderball
  • Rize

Surprisingly, Werner Herzog's much-acclaimed Grizzly Man didn't make the short list, and perhaps even more shockingly, at least judging from titles, there doesn't seem to be a Holocaust movie on the list.

WHAT A GUY WANTS: OK, faithful ALOTT5MA readers, I need your help. I'm working on a men's gift guide for a local paper, and I need some guy gift suggestions. The angle is what men really want (stop snickering, you), rather than the lame-o gifts women get us like shaving kits and ties. I'm trying to be stereotypically guyish, without being to over-the-top Maximesque. Some ideas I came up with off the tp of my head: iPod Nano, portable XM radio, XBox 360, Warriors video game, Beavis and Butt-head and Arrested Development DVDs, and the Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

So, anyone have any good ideas? Leave them in the comments (with links if possible). Thanks!
NO TOUCHING! NO TOUCHING! Simply put, there is no excuse for you not to buy both seasons of Arrested Development if you haven't already, especially now that Amazon is selling them as a two-pack for just over $30, with free shipping. Hat tip to TMFTML for bringing the great deal to my attention.

Monday, November 14, 2005

DEPARTMENT OF THE OBVIOUS: Perhaps the AP needs to hire some new headline writers so we avoid headline observations like this one--"In Hate Crimes, Race Is Likeliest Motive."
GUERRERO GONE: Adam must be busy, so seeing as at one point I derived income by editing a pro wrestling magazine (you know I bold and star that one on the old resume), it falls on my shoulders to report the news that another wrestler has died before turning 40.
THE FOOTBALL. THE FANTASY. THERE MUST BE SOME JUSTICE FOR THOSE OF US WHO DRAFTED THIS MAN TO SEE: Jesse Jackson has T.O.'s back. So -- the obvious question -- did he foolishly take him in the first round of the Rainbow Coalition FFL Draft, or just way too high in the second?
THIS IS THE THEME TO BATEMAN'S SHOW: Though Arrested Development continues to appear doomed, the current hot rumor is that Showtime may pick it up. Although Showtime has, of late, been a ugly stepsister to HBO in the original programming department, remember that Showtime originated the brilliant It's Garry Shandling's Show, and I've heard good things about both Dead Like Me and Weeds. Hell, it might just get me to subscribe to Showtime.
NEXT WEEK'S HOST--LARRY LESSIG: While SNL may not be able to determine the difference between a patent and a trademark, the Weekend Update story about "Jesus Juice" was 100% for real. The trademark's about to issue, and the label they showed on SNL is for real too (click on "Specimens").
NO WORD ON IF MANDY MOORE WILL APPEAR: Smallville continues to do well for the WB on Thursdays, so what's next? Aquaman, the series. Of course, the lameness or coolness of Aquaman is a raging debate, which you are invited to engage in in the comments.