Saturday, January 14, 2006

DON'T MAKE ME WAKE THIS BABY; SHE DON'T NEED TO SEE WHAT I'M ABOUT TO DO: Eminem and his ex-wife Kim Mathers, have remarried.

Given all that Marshall's been through this past year, I don't quite know what to make of this. He's an exceptionally talented lyricist and emcee, and I hope this is another step in his road to recovery, and not a sign of further problems.

Friday, January 13, 2006

NEXT UP, GREEN DAY COVERING "CLOSER TO FINE:" Yahoo! Music is home to an interesting experiment, which they're calling "Cover Art," in which various artists do covers--some more unexpected than others. Thus far, the collection includes:
  • Natasha Bedingfield (whose "Unwritten" and "These Words" are currently guilty pleasures in heavy rotation) covering Maroon 5's "This Love."
  • Ray J covering Coldplay's "Clocks."
  • Liz Phair and a guy with an acoustic guitar covering Stevie Wonder's "Saturn."
  • Jason Mraz covering The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" (bizarrely, as a lilting acoustic ballad).
  • Tori Amos covering Jim Croce's "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)."
  • Big & Rich covering Madonna's "Like A Virgin."

Worth your investigation.

PUT DOWN THAT PHYLACTERY, WE'RE EPISCOPALIAN: Kim's previously written about The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and I want to add a few notes about the joys and problems of the show. The chief joy is that this is a funny show. A very funny show. In fact, it's the closest I think we'll ever see to a Christopher Guest movie onstage, with large portions clearly improvised. (Tonight's performance featured a lengthy discourse from Sarah Saltzberg 's (f/k/a Wendy Wasserstein's nanny) character about the appropriate celebration of Martin Luther King day, involving a visit to the "MLK white sale at Bed, Bath, & Beyond." Attention to detail is everywhere, with banners hanging in the theatre lobby celebrating Putnam's athletic achievements and announcing club meetings.

The problem is that the show is too damn long. This would be an extraordinarily funny 50-minute half of a pair of one acts. Indeed, it's the opposite of the standard Broadway musical, where you can't wait for the singing and dancing to commence, taking you away from a frequently tired book. Here, you want the singing and dancing to stop so you can get back to the book (which deservedly won a Tony). Indeed, the songs, with a couple of exceptions ("My Magic Foot," "My Unfortunate Erection") are utterly bland and unmemorable. Would that this had been the first half of a night, with the ensemble playing different parts in the second half (say, in a play about elementary school plays), we would have had one of the funniest nights on Broadway in a long, long time. Instead, we get a mere trifle. It's worth seeing, especially for the Bee-obsessed among us, though I woulda been disappointed had I paid full price.
DID I DO SOMETHING WRONG, LORNE? SNL is taking an oddball route for next week's episode. Rather than asking someone with something to sell to host, like Kate Beckinsale, James Franco, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, or Albert Brooks, indie god Peter Sarsgaard, who has nothing on his plate, will host with musical guests The Strokes. This could either be brilliant or a trainwreck. I'm not sure which it'll be yet.
PSYCHE, SOUTH KOREA SOUNDS EVER SO MUCH NICER: Well, it's official. Everyone at NBC, from Bob Costas to the mailroom guys, will be saying Torino instead of Turin for two weeks in February. Why? "It sounds better on the air."

Had this logic taken hold earlier, we could have had the last same-year summer and winter Olympics in Barthelona and La Ville d'Albert, respectively.
HE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT TO LAST TWO HUNDRED YEARS: Director Robert Altman (7 nominations, 0 wins) will, at last, be receiving an honorary Oscar this year.

Altman's work combines two seemingingly disparate traits -- a deeply naturalistic, unforced shooting style which allowed for overlapping dialogue and action occurring all over the frame, but with exceptional control over the narrative itself, allowing films like Nashville and Short Cuts to have 20+ characters of equal significance, all colliding over each other's lives.

If he had only made those two films, dayenu. But M*A*S*H? The Player? Gosford Park? "Tanner '88"? A worthy honor.

Just as long as they don't harp on Popeye too much.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

YOU MAY NOT BELIEVE THIS COLUMN IS 'DOUBLE TRUE': Is the "Lazy Sunday" video racist?
TO THE DELIGHT OF SOCIALLY AWKWARD HIGH SCHOOLERS EVERYWHERE: I'm not a particularly big fan, but I'm sure some of our readers will care--the recent BBC Doctor Who will make its way to our shore, joining Sci-Fi Network's "Sci-Fi Fridays" to support the much-acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, which I really ought to give a shot and repeats of Firefly. Interestingly, Coupling maestro Steven Moffat wrote two of the episodes in the first season, which could be quite interesting.
DONTCHA WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS ON REALITY TV: I don't know how I missed this, but burlesque "musical group" the Pussycat Dolls apparently announces in the interior cover of their CD "all lead and background vocals by Nicole Scherzinger." And who, you might ask, is "Nicole Scherzinger?" Why, she used to be a member of Eden's Crush, a/k/a, the band from the WB's short-lived pre-AI attempt at a singing contest called Popstars (notable also for being the reality show on which actress Taryn Manning was an unsucessful contestant).

You may be wondering how I discovered this--which is, of course, a fair quest. iTunes is currently touting a new "vingle" from the Pussycat Dolls. I felt obliged to determine what this neologism meant--apparently, it's an attempt to mash-up "video" and "single," thus giving us a "vingle." I came across this information in my research. (To be fair, I would not have made the Eden's Crush connection were I not alerted to it by iTunes.) I'm scared. Very scared.
WHILE DANGEROUS LITERARY MEMOIRISTS ARE UNMASKED AS BOOKSTORE CLERKS AND HARMLESS FRAT BOYS, THE EXPOSES ON MOVIE DIRECTORS GET A LITTLE MORE INTERESTING: You already knew some of this stuff from other places, but according to Rolling Stone, Matrix co-creator Larry Wachowski is a cross-dressing and possibly sexually reassigned philanderer who broke up his dominatrix's marriage to an above-the-waist female-to-male transsexual/below-the-waist still-female husband. (I didn't know the last part was legit in California, actually.) Anyway, beat that, James Frey!
A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR TRUMP: In the "most obvious legal conclusion of the year" sweepstakes, we have an early frontrunner. The DOJ is apparently saying that LoewsCineplexOdeonAMC must sell one of the two theatres it owns across the street from one another in Times Square before the merger will be finalized so that it doesn't own 39 screens on the same block. Unsurprisingly, they're opting to sell the smaller Loews, rather than the larger, newer, and nicer AMC, which is the #1 grossing theatre in all of America. I'm actually surprised that Loews hasn't gotten into antitrust trouble before now, because they are almost totally dominant over Manhattan movie theatres, especially in the "mass exhibition" area. I expect Regal Cinemas to swoop in, as I'm sure they'd love to expand their empire to theatres above 14th Street.
BANG BANG BOOGIE SAY UP JUMPED THE BOOGIE: Today's NYT (registration required) has a terrific article about the #1 song in the country, "Laffy Taffy" by D4L (aka Down For Life). "Laffy Taffy" is perhaps the best known example of snap music, "a dance-centric form of hip-hop, defined by light but propulsive beats and lyrics that often revolve around playful chants."

This development, which I happen to love, calls to mind the enthusiasm and clever wit of many early rap songs, such as The Sugar Hill Gang's “Rapper's Delight” and Young MC's "Bust a Move.”
MY ONLY REGRET IS THAT MY BUILDING HAS ONLY 13 FLOORS BETWEEN WHICH TO WATCH TELEVISION: I won't say that I love everything about the Captivate Network -- the service that puts LCD screens with ads, co-branded content, and factoids into office-building elevators -- but there's sure a lot to like:

  • Truth in Labeling. I guess they also could have called it Imprisonet.
  • The word of the day. This is almost always an eight-penny word that should never be used in ordinary conversation, accompanied by an examplar sentence using the word in the most stilted, inappropriate, and sometimes incorrect manner imaginable. Hypothetical example: "Nictitate: To wink. Ex.: The randy housewife nictitated at the pool boy to indicate her amenability to an amorous encounter." I should stop now -- I'm getting all recalescent.
  • The PSA about domestic abuse. Sometimes what happens in the background is better than what you're seeing in the foreground. Paradigmatic example: the gym scene in Sixteen Candles, where Jake carries on a boring conversation about Molly Ringwald while in the background, there's a really funny giant-vs-pipsqueak wrestling match going on. Well, I had probably seen the PSA two dozen times before I noticed, in the background, a tiny little kid completely smothering a pass by what looks like the playground bully (it's at the end of the 30-second spot). If you're the kid who's a foot taller, how do you live this down? Do your parents point you out to their colleagues when they see this on their elevators, or do they pretend not to notice?
  • Avoidance. I may never be forced by cramped quarters into another entire conversation in which my counterpart fails to inform me that references to "my boys" means her Welsh corgis, not any nonexistent children. For that, thank you, Captivate.
BROWNBACK STEPS ON THE PUNCH LINE: I don't intend to take up the political or doctrinal questions here, but I did have to make one comment on yesterday's Alito hearings. I believe that Brownback became the first person in over fifty years to discuss Buck v. Bell without using the phrase "three generations of imbeciles." For the non-lawyers, that's like reviewing Brokeback Mountain without saying "gay" or "cowboy," or, if you prefer, like trying to have a discussion about Chuck Norris without using the words "ass" or "kicking." It's (shrewdly?) ironic that Brownback broke this precedent in an attack on the doctrine of stare decisis.

In fact, I challenge anybody on this list to identify a case that is more associated with a single phrase -- as opposed to the principle underlying the phrase -- than Buck v. Bell and "three generations of imbeciles."
PAGING SAM I AM. PAGING MR. SAM I AM: No comment as yet from the Geisel estate, but the BBC is reporting green ham on the hoof at a the National Taiwan University. Your glow-in-the-dark eggs will, presumably, be up in a minute, hon.
HAVE A LITTLE PRIEST: After a six week hiatus, the Lost faithful are entitled to a few answers, doncha think? JJ and the Gang delivered big. We've got monster (with definite rumblings of The Abyss), we've got things going on in the hatch, we've got a cohesive and engrossing flashback, we've got the untimely death of an innocent jar of ranch dressing, and we've got a Jesus stick! What more do we need from a single episode?

See ya in the comments.
I KNOW WOMEN WHO KNOW BANANA REPBULIC BUT DON'T KNOW MICHAEL KORS: Yes, we need a thread for last night's Project Runway, because the chaff now has been separated from the wheat in the Banana Republic. Daniel/Andrae v. Santino/Nick is proving to be a heck of a fun long-term battle, and the Zulema/Kara stuff some great drama. Chloe? Still the sleeper to beat.

This was a great double-challenge, again showing the massive level of talent among the designers. Who knew Emmett could throw together that drawing so quickly?

Obvs, I will miss one of those cut, but she was out of her depth at this point. But Tim Gunn served them a healthy dose of truth during the design phase, and they didn't make the fixes they needed. Remember, kids: Tim Gunn is always right. Always.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A BOOTSY COLLINS IDENTITY THEFT SUIT WAITING TO HAPPEN: Clinton Portis, the second-tier star running back for the first-round victorious, second-round about-to-lose Washington Redskins (note: name not yet proven disparaging), is crazy. I picked this guy second in my fantasy league last year -- why didn't anybody tell me this? I mean, I knew that he had a stripper pole in his bedroom, but I had no idea that he features a picture of himself on his web site in a zorro mask and Billy Dee wig, or that all season long he has been doing incoherent press conferences in a series of costumes involving fright wigs, 1970s-era Elton John Glasses, and fake teeth. Joe Gibbs is okay with this?
STILL MORE REASONS TO LOOK FORWARD TO FALL 2006: Aaron Sorkin's been busy enough with plays and TV series that he hasn't done any credited film writing since TNT perennial The American President. However, it looks like his screenplay for Charlie Wilson's War is finally moving forward, with an interesting group of folks involved--Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts as the leads, and Mike Nichols directing. A Sorkin action-thriller flick about Middle East politics could be very interesting, and this could be Syriana, except, y'know, not confusing and messy. The tricky part is with Roberts' theatre comittments and Hanks' promotional commitments, in order to arrive for Oscar consideration (which you know would be part of the plan), it would have to be shot and edited on an express basis, much like Munich was this year, so we may have to wait till 2007.

FARKIN' iHOLES: Not yet. No, not yet. But thanks to Levi Strauss we are one step closer to sliding that wireless network card into the base of our brainstems, as the BBC reports:

The RedWire DLX Jeans will have an iPod remote control and docking station fitted in its pockets, and comes complete with attached headphones.

So, can I get that integrated into a nice office-appropriate ensemble like ASAP please? You know, while y'all are working on the wireless network card thingy?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

ARLI$$ MIGHT CONTEND FOR WORST, BUT IT WENT ON, AND ON: A competition, dear readers--name the worst/shortest-lived sitcom you can think of with the best cast. Extra bonus points for if the cast members had substantial later success in the sitcom realm. My nomination--short-lived (3 episode) NBC SATC knockoff Leap Of Faith, with a cast including Sarah Paulson, Lisa Edelstein, Regina King, Jill Clayburgh, and Tim Meadows, all of whom have done excellent work since. I'll also put in a plug for Imagine That, a similarly short-lived NBC sitcom with Hank Azaria, Katey Segal, and Joshua Malina, and for Good Morning, Miami, with Mark Feuerstein, Ashley Williams, Jere Burns, and Constance Zimmer.
AND THE REWARD REMAINED UNCLAIMED: The Second Avenue Deli, a NYC institution for eons, and one of the very few super-kosher delis remaining in the city (seriously, you can't even get cheese on your sandwich) has met its end. Katz's (aka the deli in When Harry Met Sally), remains open a few blocks away, perhaps because its pastrami is, seriously, the best I've ever had.
INTO THE FIRE: James Frey, whose next memoir will recount his years spent in a Burmese P.O.W. camp where he befriended an elderly Amelia Earhart who revealed the secret location of the lost city of Atlantis, will be appearing on Larry King' CNN show tomorrow night.

Look for King, he himself being a torchbearer of lofty ethics, to lend the author a sympathetic ear.

TONIGHT, TONIGHT, LORELAI IS BACK TONIGHT: Okay, so I should have saved that tagline for tomorrow, when Lost finally returns. But as a public service, I wanted to offer up the next week's slate of returning shows that people around here have been known to care about:

1/10: Gilmore Girls and House (as well as The Shield and Commander in Chief)
1/11: Lost
1/12: Beauty and the Geek and The O.C. (also Smallville)
1/15: 24 and Grey's Anatomy
1/17: American Idol

Edited to note that: The O.C.'s return on Thursday will be an homage to the famous Donna Martin Graduates! episode of 90210. Not to be missed.

Oh, and: On February 28th, an actual Race Around the World involving Teams of Two will commence. Thank God.
BRUUUUUUUUUUUCE: A year after his biggest nemesis, Ryne Sandberg, gained entry to Cooperstown, flame-throwing fireman Bruce Sutter has been elected to the Hall of Fame. Sutter was the only former player elected this year, having been named on 400 of the 520 ballots cast for 76.9% (75% is required). Rounding out the top five were: Jim Rice (64.8%), Goose Gossage (64.6%), Andre Dawson (61.0%), and Bert Blyleven (53.3%).

Tidbits: Sutter's election should be good news for Gossage, Lee Smith, and other relievers who have been unjustly kept out of the Hall...With Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, lead-pipe locks for election next year, the big question will be how voters treat the first of the suspected 'roiders, Mark McGwire, on next year's ballot...Which hat does Sutter wear?...Thirteen players did not receive the necessary 5.0% to stay on the ballot with Gary DiSarcina and Alex Fernandez being the only players to receive no votes.
IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR THE TRIBE: Sure, this is an impressive biography of one of the new Survivors. But I think it's more impressive in the original.

Monday, January 9, 2006

REASON WHY NOT TO WATCH #3: I know you've been wondering: There are so many midseason shows premiering lately, so what should I watch? Well, here's a run-down thus far:

  • The Book of Daniel--Too dull to be worthy of controversy, this "Desperate Housewives with an Episcopal Priest!" meanders around to no real accomplishment or notable acting, despite a distinguished cast. A disappointment.
  • Four Kings--Until Survivor: Exile Island starts, your non-Dancing With The Stars options on Thursdays from 8 to 9 are slim, and this utterly formulaic, but nicely cast and acted sitcom seems a pleasant enough way to while away 22 minutes before Beauty And The Geek, though Seth Green, with his character that seems like a knock-off of How I Met Your Mother's Barney, can grate. (And speaking of HIMYM, didn't Ashley Williams look much better with the pixie cut than she does with the flowing locks?)
  • Emily's Reasons Why Not--Sure, it's merely servicable, and way too dependent on Heather Graham's voiceover, but there are funny moments, and the show has a nice visual style, what with the "Reasons Why Not" getting visual depictions, and a few moments of surrealism and fantasy. If the writing can be as sharp as parts of the promotional campaign (such as the poster that simply says "Reason Why Not #47: Because It's Mean. Funny, but mean."), this could have potential, especially if they're willing to bite on some of the more surreal moments in the pilot. Unless you're a 24 addict (which I've never been), it's probably the best option in the timeslot.
  • Courting Alex--Well, if you're going to be watching Emily, this looks like a decent option at 9:30, though I remain uncertain of Jenna Elfman's ability to play the "uptight" character in a sitcom.
  • Love Monkey--Yes, it has a murderous timeslot (Scrubs, House, and Commander in Chief), but Tom Cavanaugh + Judy "Kitty Sanchez" Greer in a dramedy that's filmed largely in my neighborhood? I'll be checking it out, especially since I get my House fix through the USA reruns.
JAMES FREY IS A BIG FAT LIAR: I trust a good many of you have read Frey's best-selling A Million Little Pieces. I just did, having picked up my wife's copy while sick in bed a week or so ago. It was a great read. Addictive, if you will. I guess, Frey was such an engaging character and his style so immediate that I had my b.s. detector turned off. It wasn't until I read the first 20-25 pages of his follow-up, My Friend Leonard, in which he recounts his felon book club in the Ohio jail and the suicide of his rehab sweetheart Lily that I began to doubt elements of his story.

Well, in case you haven't heard, it turns out that both books are filled with, as the Smoking Gun says, "A Million Little Lies."
OUR FAMILY IS GROWING: As you may have noticed, we've decided to add regular commenter Bob Elwood to the formal ALOTT5MA gang of posters.

I first met Bob in the summer of 1996, as a summer associate at a Philadelphia law firm at which he was a partner. Someone -- and I forget who (Carol Miller?) -- believed that we'd have something in common. And, boy, did we -- from movies to music to baseball, it was the first of many long lunches spent talking about those things which make the days fun. We expect him to be a frequent contributor on these topics, as well as the relative merits of the various beaches of Cape Cod.

I will have to check my wedding photos, but I believe that Bob displaces Phil as our tallest blogger.

Bob is married to his high school sweetheart, Amy. They have two sons, both of whom love hip hop and loathe the Yankees. Welcome aboard.
FROM "ADAMS WAY" TO "ZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE:" There are 311 films eligible for this year's Oscars. Thus far, I've seen 80, and am likely to add about 5 more at some point. What's your number?
YOU'RE GONNA MISS: Lou Rawls' amazing voice. Rawls passed away on Friday, a victim of cancer.

Lou Rawls had 6 songs hit the Billboard Top 40, including the sublime "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" (#13, 1966), his best known hit "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" (#2, 1976), and the memorable "Lady Love" (#24, 1978).

The latter two hits resulted from his work with Philadelphia International Records, better known as "The Sound of Philadelphia." With the assistance of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Rawls achieved his greatest success in the tight but heavily orchestrated Philly sound. Prior to his work with Gamble and Huff, Rawls had settled into a niche focusing on mature, adult music (I thought of him then as "one of those guys who is always playing in Vegas"). But "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" had a solid groove that led to the song getting substantial play in discos. Rawls had about 23 other songs hit the R&B charts.

Rawls released more than 70 albums, sold more than 40 million records, toured with The Beatles and appeared as an actor in motion pictures and on television, and voiced-over many cartoons. I find it noteworthy that his greatest success came after age 40, which would appear to be quite an unusual accomplishment in the music industry.

I will miss him.
PRETTY MAN, WALKING DOWN THE STREET: If Heidi Fleiss has her way, one of the few remaining divides between men and women will be eviscerated -- she wants to service the female population by opening an all-male bordello in Nevada.

Far be it from me to belittle another person's recreational choices, but have a look at the guy who's been identified as the first "stud" in Fleiss's stable. Do women really want this oily unknown actor (acting credits here) as their ticket to paradise? Yick.

It seems to me that Sydney Biddle Barrows might do a better job of making this thing work than Heidi Fleiss.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

IT REALLY DOES BLOW, WHEN A LONG-RUNNING SERIES DOES A CHEESY CLIP SHOW: So can someone explain to me why, over the past year, we've had to endure 2 Desperate Housewives clip shows, a Grey's Anatomy clip show, and 2 (counting this week's upcoming "Revelation") Lost clip shows? Now, I completely understand the point of clip shows, and there have been great ones, such as The Simpsons' "All Singing, All Dancing, " and Alias' "Q & A." However, those clip shows used the clips in service of a storyline or similar, while the recent spate of clip shows don't even bother putting together a narrative throughline, but simply try to abridge 15 or so episodes into an hour. I know they don't want to do a rerun, but should we be subjected to this mess?
WHO IS JT LEROY? At last, an NYT story about an author this month that doesn't mention Ana Marie Cox. Intriguing.

(Seriously, yo: she had two book reviews, a profile and an op-ed last week. I was waiting to read the Night Out With column in Sunday Styles, a piece about her playing poker against James McManus, and the How Does Ms. Cox Invest? piece in Sunday Business.)

But read the Leroy piece. This can't be good for the career.
GAME THEORY: A well thought-out article on the practice and practical consequences of paying real-world dollars for game-world money or property is among the 2005 Retrospective offerings over at The Escapist.