Saturday, January 7, 2006

TEN TIMES AS BIG AS A MAN: If you live in the Chicagoland area or the greater Midwest, pick up a copy of the Sunday's Chicago Tribune and turn to page 5 of the "Arts & Entertainment" section, where you will find a story by this blogger on "All Things Kong."

edited to add: here's the link.
LORELAI THINKS HE'S TOTALLY SPONGE-WORTHY: In yet another "before they were as well-known as they are now" moment, in the (in)famous Seinfeld episode in which Elaine attempts to find her preferred form of birth control, the boyfriend who provokes the question of whether he's "sponge-worthy" or not is played by an almost unrecognizably clean-shaven Scott Patterson, now better known as avuncular diner owner Luke on Gilmore Girls.
KILL THE PIGS: Albert Hofmann, the man who invented LSD, drops his 100th year on Wednesday. Groovy.

Friday, January 6, 2006

SCOOBA, SCOOBA DEE DOO: If you always dreamed of owning a Roomba except for the fact that your floors at home weren't carpeted, you're in luck -- meet Scooba, which sweeps up dirt and then washes, scrubs and dries floors.

Not to be confused with Woomba.
I HAVE MADE A DECISION, AND IT IS MINE ALONE: There is much to be said about Steven Spielberg's Munich (and much to recommend in it), and I may well have more to say about it tomorrow, after I've slept on it, but two immediate thoughts:
  • I haven't seen a movie with this many endings since Return of the King. Yes, I understand the desire for the final 10 or so minutes set back in Brooklyn, but I think a much more powerful ending could have been had just by ending with the closeup on Avner's daughter's face, and we would have been spared the awkward sex scene intercut with flashback. Spielberg knows how to shoot many, many things (and a sequence in the aftermath of a bomb blast in this ranks among his best work), but this is almost painful.
  • Is it just me, or does Munich share one of its major themes with Serenity? Namely, the following question--"In order for civilization to survive, do we require the existence of people who commit uncivilized/merciless acts?" Interestingly, I think Serenity's decontextualization/recontextualization of that question is, in many ways, more effective than the historical docudrama of Munich.
PLEASE ASK GOD TO LOVE HIM: The Sports Guy has the final word on what was one of the, if not the, greatest college football games ever played, including this great, great line about USC running back and Heisman-winner Reggie Bush:
"[Bush is] so close to Gale Sayers in so many ways, I would almost be afraid to be a white fullback on his NFL team next year."
FRANKLY, I THOUGHT JUDE LAW DESERVED IT. OTHER THAN ACING DICKIE GREENLEAF, WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Sure we're excited, but the Gold Derby's Tom O'Neil is crapping all over the idea of Jon Stewart hosting the Oscars:
Stewart has the potential of being a catastrophe of Cecil B. DeMille-sized epic proportions when he holds forth on the stage of the Kodak Theatre on March 5. Sure, he's edgy and full of the kind of defiant 'tude that attracts young hip TV viewers, but he's a comic assassin. When Stewart aims his jokes, he goes in for the kill.

That's what Chris Rock did last year when his potshot at Jude Law backfired, causing Sean Penn to rally to Jude's defense by going off script during the ceremony to insist that Jude is "one of our finest actors!" It was a snafu that's still talked about today and one that threatens to haunt Rock for eons. . . .

Comedians like Jon Stewart exult in their own cockiness, not humility. . . .

Oscar's chief gag writer Bruce Vilanch once described the perfect host: "It's best to have an insider who the live audience is comfortable with. You don't want them to feel like this is a person you jobbed in."

But that's what Oscar bosses have done this year by jobbing in another cocky New Yorker — much like David Letterman — who has never been chummy with the California film crowd.

Are they crazy?

"Oh, what could Jon Stewart possibly do wrong?" you ask.

Stewart, let's face it, is famous for insulting his hosts — and without an affectionate follow up.

Remember what he said to Tucker Carlson when he appeared as a guest on "Crossfire"? . . .

Keep reading. It'll anger up the blood.
MORE PROOF THAT MAYBE I SHOULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL: Kim has referenced the need for an ALOTT5MA TV Watching Fellowship, but perhaps that isn't necessary, at least in light of this Master's Thesis about TWOP, which is possibly the only academic document you'll ever see that cites a TWOP recap of Gilmore Girls immediately before proceeding to a citation of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone.
BRING BACK TAMYRA: I've never been a fan of American Idol, but there are interesting questions raised by the announcement that reruns of the first four seasons will arrive in weekend syndication this fall. Now, I'm not quite sure how this will work from a purely logistical standpoint, given that episodes are of varying length, making it difficult to run a consistent weekly schedule. Also, unlike TAR and Survivor, which have been big successes in repeats, isn't there not a whole lot of drama beyond "who will be eliminated?" AI doesn't have personal relationships, interpersonal conflicts, or unique challenges to watch, and you can probably download audio of most performances. Is there any reason to watch?

Thursday, January 5, 2006

NO, I CAN'T IMAGINE ANY READERS OF THIS BLOG WILL CARE ABOUT THIS: Apparently, Aaron Sorkin may be returning to 'The West Wing'.
SHE BANGS, YOU KICK ASS: Having sat through the two-hour premiere of Dancing With the Stars, it's pretty clear that in 80% of cases, the "stars" who elected to go through this process did so because they had a real enthusiasm for dancing, or learning to dance, or becoming the next career-resurgent John O'Hurley or Kelly Monaco. Then there's Master P Miller, who apparently subbed in for his injured son Romeo (who is purportedly a teen rap sensation, according to ABC's official website, although I will confess this is an area in which I don't even have a vocabulary, much less any expertise) and sleepwalked through his entire cha cha. And while it's clear that ABC thought it would be fantastic cross-promotion to have ESPN's Kenny Mayne on the show, wouldn't it have been better to cherrypick some other -- any other -- ESPN personality, one who might have had just the littlest eensy bit of coordination?

As for everyone else, they all did at least a decent job -- even Tia Carrere, who brought her six-week-old baby to rehearsal and readily concedes that DWTS is her plan for post-partum weight loss. After P and Kenny return to their day jobs, there isn't an obvious next-to-go based on this week's waltz and cha cha.
SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER AND TEL AVIV: Can a musical about "the true Hitler, the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart" make it in a country where one in three citizens is a Holocaust survivor or descended from one? It may seem like a surefire flop on account of tastelessness, but that's the point, after all -- tonight, The Producers is coming to Tel Aviv. In Hebrew.

There are a few modifications: fewer swastikas, for one. And then one that I really like: the first few times Hitler's name is mentioned, the entire cast will intone "Yimach Sho Ve'zichro" -- may his name and memory be erased -- a bit of drama normally reserved for the mention of Haman during Purim. The staging theater's artistic director is hoping that the audience will chime in and keep cursing Hitler's name throughout the show.

I don't purport to be an expert on Israeli culture, but an appreciation for black humor has always struck me as fairly standard. So I'm thinking that The Producers should find a comfortable -- if somewhat uncomfortable -- home among the Middle Eastern branch of the Chosen People. At a minimum, the pigeons ought to get a decent laugh.
NEXT IN THE SERIES, AN EXPOSE OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL NUANCE AND SELF-ESTEEM RAMIFICATIONS OF "THE SURREAL LIFE": Newsday seems to have decided that Dancing With the Stars is worthy of serious scholarship. Personally, I'll be tuned in tonight to see how much additional collagen has been squirted into Lisa Rinna's lips. Oh, and more importantly, to try and figure out what the heck prompted Kenny Mayne to take up ballroom dancing.
DENNY CRANE. COO-COO FOR COOCA PUFFS: There aren't a whole lot of surprises in this year's SAG Award nominations for films, with the possible exception of Hustle & Flow getting an "ensemble performance" nomination without a nomination for Terrence Howard individually. The TV categories are interesting, in part because there's no supporting/leading distinction, which leads to a dramatic actor race that includes Alan Alda, Patrick Dempsey, Ian McShane, Hugh Laurie, and Keifer Sutherland. Two interesting notes on the comedy side. Unlike the Emmys and Golden Globes, which are apparently contractually obligated to recognize each of the Desperate Housewives, SAG recognizes only Felicity Huffman (who's also nominated for Transamerica). More oddly, Boston Legal picks up three individual acting nominations (Spader, Shatner, and Bergen) and an ensemble performance nod in the "Comedy Series" category. Now, I'll agree that Boston Legal can be a very, very funny show, but is it accurately a "comedy series?"
GONE THE WAY OF THE McDLT, CRYSTAL PEPSI AND THE ARCH DELUXE: As I confirmed yesterday at my local Starbucks, the much-hyped Chantico has been poured for the last time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

A POTTY DRESS? Oh, this was a fun Project Runway. First half-hour may have been the most smile-filled part this whole season, between the increasing Nick-Santino warfare and, yo, it's a walk-off.

But the elimination? Was ass. Can't justify it on this episode or cumulatively.
GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR HUNGRY, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE: While I realize that the population of people who care about New York restaurants constitutes but a small subset of the ALOTT5MA population, that small subset is probably still larger than the even-smaller subset who care about New York theatre. And since I feel no compunction about posting about theatre, I feel perfectly justified mentioning New York Magazine's first-ever ranked restaurant ratings and the introduction of their new 5-star rating system. It takes a fair amount of effort to keep oneself plugged into the comings and goings of restaurants around here -- many many people = many many restaurants -- and so this kind of biased-but-thorough piece gives lapsed fooderati like myself something to talk about. And so:
  • I have never understood the decades-long mania for Le Bernardin. It's FISH, people! Ditto all the fanfare for wd-50. It's fine, but #4? Above Craft, Jean-Georges, Daniel, Blue Hill, and so on, and so on, and so on?
  • A few of my favorite restaurants received suitable adulation: Craft, Wallse, Alto, BLT Steak, and the transcendent lobster roll at Mary's Fish Camp.
  • And most importantly, I now have a list of ten or more must-try restaurants to visit this year. Yum.
HE'S WAITING FOR THAT GUEST GIG ON JOEY: In our continuing Sorkin obsession around here, TV Guide is reporting that Matthew Perry (rather inexplicably) passed on Studio 7 On The Sunset Strip, as has Amanda Peet. Currently, the leading man shoes are apparently set to be filled by king of the mediocre sitcom Steven Weber. I'd be worried, but two words to give you comfort--Jason Bateman. (Also, TV Guide indicates that Sorkin approached Bradley Whitford, who passed due to his West Wing contractual obligations.)
SHE REMAINS TIRED OF RUMORS STARTIN': La Lohan confesses her broken heart in the new issue of Vanity Fair, and the New York Post has the shocking details, which include:
  • Lohan has used drugs "a little."
  • Lohan is a recovering bulimic, who only got help after Lorne Michaels staged an intervention.
  • She admits that one dress she was photographed in was a "great whore's dress."
  • While writing "Confessions of A Broken Heart (Daughter to Father)" she "literally had a breakdown in [a] hotel room."

According to the Post, the article also features "alluring, bare-breasted photos of the 19-year-old Long Island native," which will render Vanity Fair a must-buy among the the 14-19 year-old male demographic.

PEOPLE LIVING IN GLASS HOUSES: In preparation for the return of Lost one week from tonight (recap at 8 pm, new Eko-centric ep at 9), here's a pretty nifty timeline of events both pre- and post- crash. The pre-crash schematic is more enlightening, but the whole thing is kind of fun. Lots of other good stuff on the site as well, including an investigations section detailing all those little Easter eggs that are easily missed on a first viewing -- Sayid's face on the TV screen at Kate's Dad's army recruiting office, Walt's face on a milk carton, and so forth. And, of course, there's a truly manic section on the numbers.

Just another impressive display of what people with lots of free time and a healthy obsession can accomplish when they set their minds to it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

PERSONALLY, I'M A STOUFFER'S MAN: Wednesday's NYT tackles another important question -- what's the best packaged macaroni and cheese?

I have a feeling y'all have an opinion on this, and one more question -- with Kraft's, powder or the "deluxe" squeeze-cheese?
I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH HOW I MET YOUR BIOLOGICAL MOTHER, THAT BITCH: Joss Whedon has predictions for the future of television ranging from the obvious (there will be still more CSI series), to suggested Lost spinoffs (my fave, Not So Much With The Whereabouts), to the next proposed project for Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. It's well worth a few minutes of your time.
GOSSAGE, SUTTER TO JOIN BASEBALL IMMORTALS IN COOPERSTOWN: According to my exclusive research, I have determined that when the Baseball Hall of Fame announces its next class on January 10, it will be comprised of two of the premiere relievers of the '70s and '80s--Rich "Goose" Gossage and Bruce Sutter. Falling just short of the 75% threshold for inclusion will be fellow reliever Lee Smith and 1987 MVP Andre Dawson.

My research consisted of perusing columns and stories from the past week written by 25 of the 550 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who are eligible to vote for the Hall. Granted it is a somewhat biased sample, since 10 of those writers work for the Chicago Tribune, but the other 15 are pretty geographically diverse group.

Here are the complete results of my poll (excuse the poor formatting):
  • Bruce Sutter...........20 votes (80%)
  • Rich Gossage..........20 (80%)
  • Andre Dawson........17 (68%)
  • Lee Smith................17 (68%)
  • Jim Rice...................11 (44%)
  • Bert Blyleven..........11 (44%)
  • Jack Morris...............8 (32%)
  • Alan Trammel...........7 (28%)
  • Tommy John.............6 (24%)
  • Steve Garvey............4 (16%)
  • Don Mattingly...........3 (12%)
  • Albert Belle................3 (12%)
  • Dale Murphy..............1 (4%)
  • Orel Hershiser........1 (4%)
  • Dave Concepcion........1 (4%)
ARE WE LIKABLE AND RELATABLE YET: Following up on Adam's reference to Khrystyne Haje, there's yet another reason to love Arrested Development. Former child star (and now real life casting person for films including Jarhead, Dreamgirls, and Fun With Dick & Jane) Tannis Vallely played the casting director who got coated with glitter in last night's meta-tastic "SOBs."

Monday, January 2, 2006

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION TIME: A lot of you apparently saw a lot of movies during this holiday weekend, both rented and on-screen. Tell us about them in the Comments.

(I saw Syriana today, and if I can get my head around the whole thing, I may post something about it. Recommended, but confusing. Hell of a great Bar Exam ethics question in the middle, by the way.)
BEE HAPPY: ESPN2 has a spelling bee marathon until 2am tonight. Indeed, they just showed the kid collapse during the 2004 Bee and then spell 'alopecoid' . . .
CHUCK NORRIS DOES NOT SLEEP. HE WAITS: A few weeks ago, regular reader Adam C. suggested that I look up The Chuck Norris Fact Generator, and today's WaPo reminds me that I hadn't done it yet, putting us now behind the curve in sharing with you such useful information as:
If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris once ate three 72 oz. steaks in one hour. He spent the first 45 minutes having sex with his waitress.

Once a grizzly bear threatened to eat Chuck Norris. Chuck showed the bear his fist and the bear proceeded to eat himself, because it would be the less painful way to die.
A STILL POINT IN A TURNING WORLD: Virginia Heffernan muses on the New Years' Eve return of Dick Clark
The adolescence of America's Oldest Living Teenager - Mr. Clark's hyper, chipper, fun-loving persona - had, in his 76th year, finally abandoned him. In its place was another, more ambiguous holiday figure: the couchbound relative who, maudlin and exhausted, weeps at how lucky he is to be around his family one more year.

Tom Shales has more on the night that was.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

BLUE, YOU'RE MY BOY: If there's a wrestling ring with lubricant and bikini models in heaven, then veteran H!ITG! character actor Patrick Cranshaw -- who played That Really Old Guy in films ranging from Everyone Says I Love You to Best in Show and, of course, Joseph "Blue" Palasky in Old School -- is now there.

Also, I finally saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin last night, and, holy crap, is that a great movie. Leaps and bounds ahead of similarly popular R-rated comedies like Wedding Crashers and Old School, because of its breadth of characters and depth of emotions. The others have some occasional good jokes or funny set pieces; this is a great movie. Thank goodness the studio didn't say, "Great script, let's do it . . . but we need a star. How about Adam Sandler or Rob Schneider as the lead?" Go rent it.