Saturday, March 11, 2006

I DID IT LIKE THIS/I DID IT LIKE THAT/I DID IT WITH VH1'S PICK FOR THE 10TH BEST TOY OF ALL TIME: People, people, VH1 has a week-long countdown program looking at the 100 greatest toys of all time and no one tells me? VH1's web site is annoying and I can't find the entire list, but the top 10 are:
  • 10. Wiffle Ball & Bat
  • 9. Slinky
  • 8. Yo-Yo
  • 7. Star Wars Figure
  • 6. Monopoly
  • 5. Mr. Potato
  • 4. G.I. Joe
  • 3. LEGO
  • 2. Barbie
  • 1. Hula Hoop

Friday, March 10, 2006

THE POSTMAN RINGS TWICE: Yesterday, in honor of the world premier of a colorized version of Plan 9 From Outer Space, SFGate mused about what makes a bad movie truly great. Of course, I simply don't agree that The Postman was a bad movie. It succeeded in a very particular (and perhaps as yet unlabeled) genre: as the motion picture insert to a perfect entertaining novel.

I don't know if publishers still do this, but back the heady days of Clash of the Titans and Outland, you could count on an Alan Dean Foster novelization with eight pages of movie stills. Very cool when you couldn't convince your Mom to send you to a rated-R science fiction film about violence and dead prostitutes on a mining colony on Io. (But, Mom, it's about Jupiter!).

Suggest a movie adaptation of a novel that, on its own merits, sucked, but which you appreciated nevertheless for a glimpse of a movie that might-have-been.
MAKE IT WORK, OR I'LL WHACK YA: CNNMoney takes a look at the contrasting leadership styles of Tim Gunn and Tony Soprano. Personally, I'd rather work for Tim.
THERE'D BETTER BE TAUNTAUN RACES: Join the Alliance (or the Empire), and support the campaign for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Hoth.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

I'M JUST MAD ABOUT SAFFRON: Am I the only one who's finding it awfully amusing that Christina Hendricks showed up as a Carrie Bradshaw/Carolyn Hax-esque advice columnist on Without A Trace this week? Sadly, the first question wasn't: "I've seduced the entire crew of a small Firefly-class transport vessel, but I kind of feel bad about it. What should I do?" I'll also argue this--Saffron was one of the best and richest sci-fi villains in years.
I HAVE TO WATCH A WHOLE WEEK OF STEVIE WONDER?? I'm a little disgruntled with America right now, or at least with the Vote for the Worst crowd. The lowest vote-garnering guy and girl were the right choices -- I think we all agreed that those two needed to hit the road. I was bummed (although not terribly shocked) about the second female elimination -- but I am honestly aghast at the second male ouster. This is the first time in these semifinals that someone was eliminated who deserved to have made the finals. Permit me a small grumble before I start muttering about how I'm going to have to hear not one, not two, but twelve people sing Stevie Wonder songs next week.
IT GIVES YOU VINGS: Ladies and gentlemen, please bid a fond welcome to what (I believe) is the United States' first entirely product-placed sports team--Red Bull New York. Interestingly, the NBA rejected proposed team nickname "The Memphis Express" as it would be a product placement for FedEx, thus explaining why the "Grizzlies" play in a city where there are no Grizzly Bears anywhere in the area.
DAMN IT FEELS GOOD TO BE A GANGSTA. NOT: What happens to an actor on The Sopranos after the decision is made to have him whacked? The WaPo's David Segal investigates. Remember the death of Gigi Cestone? The actor, John Fiore, was not amused to receive that call from Sopranos creator David Chase:
Fiore did what anyone confronting a killer would do -- he begged for his life.

"I said no, no, no, you do not have to do this," he recalls. "You do not have to do this. You are the writer, you are the producer. This is [bunk]. Kill somebody else!"

Chase was apologetic but unmoved. Nothing personal. It's just what the story demands.

Easing into the acceptance stage of death, Fiore asked how he would expire, and suddenly the news went from merely awful to absurdly awful. "At first," he says, "I thought it was a really bad joke."

It wasn't. Chase wanted Fiore's character to die of a heart attack on the toilet. On the toilet. No machine-gun ambush, like Sonny Corleone, murdered at a tollbooth in "The Godfather." No, for Gigi Cestone, it'd be a coronary on the throne. Does it get more humiliating?

"It was highly disagreeable to me," says Fiore, who sounds surprisingly bitter, five years after leaving the show. "But David said, 'No, this is memorable, this is different.' " So Fiore sucked it up, died on cue, and on his last day, the cast and crew handed him a signed toilet seat, which he didn't find very amusing. A year or so later, he ran into Chase, who asked if the "Sopranos" stint had helped his career.

"I said, actually, it didn't help me at all. And my kids have to listen to people in school say, 'Ha ha, your dad died on the toilet.' "

Favorite Sopranos death, anyone?

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

I HAVE A FEELING MAYOR BLOOMBERG WILL NOT BE CRAZY ABOUT THIS: There's only one thing which can stop sous vide, says the Times: The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

As with something else I'm working on, this seems to be regulation in search of a problem. No one has gotten sick yet, right?

(Okay, I'll fess up: I haven't eaten anything sous vide yet that I know of. You?)
THE BOOBS WERE NEVER WHERE THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE: Oh, but we were. We were! At least here at the Throckmorton Manse we were sitting slavishly on the couch for the finale of Project Runway just like every other Wednesday this season, soaking the haute couture into our yokelicious provincial lives.

Santino does great televisi -- I mean layers. Layers! And I was pretty much into the "boudoir" elements he worked into the line. Daniel does great collars, but if the girls with the patches on the dressfronts had been wearing little sailor hats it would have been Donald Duck in the house FTL. Chloe coherently coordinates and plays deliberately on different recognizable themes but ... but what else is she really doing??

Final decision? Um, no. Actually we'd have given it to either of the other two. I didn't think the competition was about "business sense", and for what it's worth I was in the hate-to-love Santino camp by the end. Getcha comment on.
I AIN'T BLIND AND I DON'T LIKE WHAT I THINK I SEE: Highlights from tonight's Y chromosome-infused edition of American Idol:
  • Once you rid the world of Kevin and Will, you're left with six talented and distinctive guys for the finals. I preferred Will to Kevin tonight -- I know I've made the church choir reference before as regards Kevin, but it's all I can think about while he's singing. It just shouts "Amateur! Amateur!"
  • Definitely Ace and Taylor's best performances to date. I actually didn't know that Ace had that kind of performance in him. And Taylor made me smile hard.
  • I still, still don't get the Elliott love. Why do they pimp him so mercilessly? He was unnecessarily vibratoing all over the place and was just generally meh.
  • Daughtry is lucky that he's got frontrunner good will, because tonight he sounded like one of those indistinguishable Kurt Cobain/Eddie Vedder knockoffs that were so ubiquitous on the radio during the early 90s.
  • I can't believe Bucky has a twin brother named Rocky. I find him much sweeter and more appealing than Kellie's Jessica-Simpson-in-Appalachia thing. Good performance tonight, too.
  • Gedeon wasn't as good as last week, and I found myself obsessing over the perfectly level horizontal perfection of his hairline throughout his performance. But all in all, he's been remarkably consistent throughout the semifinals.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE UNIVERSE WITHOUT A CONSPIRACY THEORY? Payola is back in the news today as Eliot Spitzer hits Entercom Communications Corp. with a new lawsuit. From the NYT:

Spitzer also accused the company of ''falsely promoting records up the music charts'' in reports to the magazines Billboard and Radio & Records about the play time of songs that was supposed to be based on popularity.
You don't say? I guess that could explain some of the omnipresent sucking on the pop charts, and it is indeed comforting to have a theory for it that doesn't involve millions of people deeply enjoying ad nauseum repetition of Jessica Simpson, Laffy Taffy or *INSERT YOUR OWN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING THAT NEEDS HATING-ON HERE*.
CUE THEME FROM JAWS? A major plot point for Sunday's (long-awaited) return of The West Wing to the airwaves is now officially confirmed. Since it's a spoiler, I won't post it up here, but will say that while what happens is completely unsurprising (and much anticipated by a subset of fans), I'm still not sure if it's appropriate for the characters. I'm just hoping it won't lead to an episode like this one from Moonlighting or this one from Mad About You. (Warning--clicking on those links with a little bit of thought will result in spoilage.) Also, note that (as is traditional) the comments are a spoiler zone.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? OK, so maybe it wasn't Team USA beating the Russians, but the Best Picture victory by Crash over Brokeback Mountain definitely ranks up there with the top Oscar upsets. Here's a list of some of the other biggest Best Picture upsets.

And speaking of Best Picture, while I in no way think Crash deserved to win, I was happy at least that I had seen it in the theater. In looking over past winners, Chicago is the only Best Picture winner I haven't seen in the theater in about two decades. The last winner I first saw on VHS was 1986's Platoon and the last winner I have never seen was 1985's Out of Africa. In my lifetime (I was born way back in 1968), there are only four Best Picture winners I have never seen: Africa, Chariots of Fire, The Deer Hunter, and Patton.
NEXT, ENYA GOES TO FEDERAL PRISON ON RICO CHARGES: "International New Age icon" Yanni was arrested for domestic violence at his home in Florida this week. In bizarre Yanni trivia, he apparently composed the CBS and NBC golf coverage themes. I'm only mildly ashamed to note that I own Yanni Live At The Acropolis on CD.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

TEAM CHEMPROFS WOULD HAVE DONE QUITE WELL: Another solid leg of The Race tonight, with minimal bunching and people distinguished not just by "first in, first out," but by their ability to navigate and find their way. No team really distinguished themselves in like or hate. Also, while this was a standard issue physical/mental Detour pairing, it seems like for once, the mental end of the Detour actually required some mental skill rather than just patience. Next week's going to be an interesting test, since it seems like the last team is about 4-5 hours behind and may miss the flight out. Also, a satisfying (and much deserved) Phillimination, was it not?
SURE, GREAT, BUT WHAT IS 'YAY', AND HOW DOES ONE SMOKE IT? Let us not be the only website that fails to link to the Natalie Portman rap video from last week's SNL. If they're going to run this joke into the ground, at least they're doing it well. (And stolen from the best: Eazy-E's "No More Questions" is, apparently, the basis.)

Lyrics here. And is it just me, or is Andy Samberg the first SNL cast member so young-seeming as to make you feel old, too?
"DOCTOR JOHNNY'S FEVER"; OR, "THE CATTLE ALL HAVE BRUCELLOSIS, WE'LL GET THROUGH SOMEHOW": I haven't opened up a House thread in a while because, well, Idol's been wreaking havoc with Dr. Hizzy's schedule.

On a How Much Of A Bastard Was He? rating, he gets an 8.7 for this week, especially for the con outside the O/R. But will we ever have an episode in which Nobody Lies?
I'M A MINK! Simon is obviously correct that Kellie Pickler has more charisma in her pinky finger than Carrie Underwood has in her entire being. None of which changes the fact that Kellie's most obvious career move post-AI would seem to be starring as Elly May Clampett in a remake of The Beverly Hillbillies. Sheesh.

As for the rest of the crowd, some burning questions: what is the matter with Paris Bennett that she and all her songstress relatives can't pick a decent song? (And why aren't the stylists doing a better job with her makeup?) Why are the judges so inexplicably biased against Ayla Brown? Why do I just not get the Mandisa insert-last-name-from-days-before-prematurely-deciding-to-become-a-single-name-diva love? (Although I heartily respect and applaud her song choice, I just don't think she's heads-and-shoulders above the crowd, as the judges have indicated for the past two weeks.) Will Katharine McPhee's magnificently controlled performances ultimately prove too subtle for AI voters? And who besides Kinnik Sky will be going home on Thursday night?
30 DAYS TO MORE POWERFUL SWEARING: Yes, a fuller and more work-safe ability to swear can be yours with the help of Wikipedia's "List of Fictional Expletives." It runs all the way from "asstard," which means exactly what you'd think, to "Zlorfik!" Build your vocabulary the fun and easy way.
YOU LIKE-A DA JUICE? A prelude of things to come in this week's Sports Illustrated and at the end of the month in Game of Shadows. Yowch.
NEXT UP IS THE CASE OF BARKER V. GILMORE: For a variety of reasons, I'm none too fond of Bankruptcy Court, but the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas gets snaps for citing the "I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul" speech for Billy Madison in an order.

Hat tip to the Conspirators.
PULL THE LEVER, CONAN! Paul Haggis now has two Oscars, two Emmys, a WGA Award, and a BAFTA Award, but does that outweigh that he co-created Walker: Texas Ranger?
YOU'VE GOT ME? WHO'S GOT YOU? Dana Reeve -- actress, wife of Christopher Reeve, and chair of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation -- died last night of lung cancer at the age of 44.
WOKE UP THIS MORNING, GOT YOURSELF A GRID: The Star-Ledger's in full Sopranos Hype mode -- Alan Sepinwall has reviewed all the dream sequences in the processing of rewatching every episode. Also, you could play Sopranos Sudoku.

Let me offer this question: if you were putting together Previously, On The Sopranos for Sunday's season premiere, what would you want to remind us of?

Monday, March 6, 2006

IT ONLY TAKES FOUR MINUTES TO DRIVE TO AN L.A. HOSPITAL IN RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC, BUT SIX TO FIND A TIMER ON A DEAD GUY: So that twist on 24 tonight? Telegraphed in really big letters visible from miles away -- I am usually the last person to pick up on these things, but even I nailed it during the first hour -- but still nicely executed.
ENTHUSIASM, KIRBED: Kirby Puckett has died.

The affable Minnesota Twins Hall-of-Famer, whose career was cut short by glaucoma at the age of 34, looked to be emerging from a dark personal period, which involved a nasty divorce and some ugly incidents with women, when he suffered a massive stroke over the weekend. He was 45.

I'm sure it will be replayed over and over on SportsCenter tonight, but if you can't wait, has video of Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, which ended, of course with Puckett's 11th inning home run off Charlie Liebrandt to force Game 7 (the Jack Morris masterpiece) here.
THERE'S ANTIMONY, ARSENIC, ALUMINUM, SELENIUM: Today is the 137th anniversary of the Periodic Table's debut. What better way to celebrate than with this Flash animation, which gives you a quick review. (Make sure you've got speakers.)
THEY MADE IT WORK: Both Project Runway and How I Met Your Mother will be back next season. Suit up!
WHILE WE WAIT FOR CRASH II: RACISTS IN PARADISE STARRING MAC DAVIS, JASON PATRIC, AND JACKIE MASON: Take a look at the Oscar Igloo's list of the top Oscar Contenders of 2006.
I'M WAITING FOR KIDZ 2PAC: The Times makes the interesting observation today that last week's top 3 selling albums were all children-oriented (#1 was the soundtrack to High School Musical, #2 was Kidz Bop 9, and #3 was Sing-A-Longs And Lullabies From The Film Curious George). More frighteningly, it notes that Reggaeton Ninos (featuring a Kidz Bop-esque version of Daddy Yankee's already annoying "Gasolina") is already on shelves and that Disney plans to follow up the successful DEV2.0 with the "Po-Go's," which are children singing the songs of the Go-Go's. Your challenge, should you chose to accept it, is to come up with the most nonsensical and inappropriate "children's album" possible.
EVERYONE'S A LITTLE BIT RACIST: I suppose there's at least two lingering questions after last night's awards:

  • Did anyone out there, after seeing Crash, say to him- or herself, "Gosh, that's a truly Great Movie which will stand the test of time!" Lookit: I really liked it -- but to award it Best Picture says more about how the Academy wanted to view itself than how posterity should regard the film. If it was a "challenging" movie, it was through gentle, comforting pokes -- not like A History of Violence, which really slapped viewers around with its take on the relationship between sex and violence and the pleasures we generally reap from the latter onscreen.
  • If Tom Shales is right, we're not going to see Jon Stewart invited back. Should he be?

The floor is open.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

LIVE FROM THE KODAK THEATER: Okay, not me -- I'm live at Tampa International Airport, on the way back from a few spring training games. (Which explains, but does not excuse, my failure to post the group's Oscar picks. I'll have that later.)

It's Oscar time. Comment as you see fit. For what it's worth, I'll make my Necrology Applause prediction as Richard Pryor #1, Anne Bancroft in second.