Saturday, May 13, 2006

WEST WING WEEK OPEN THREAD: And now, this thread is available for your praise of anything West Wing-related that hasn't been covered by other posts this week -- favorite episode titles, favorite characters, narrative arcs, character quirks, relationships, you name it. Been waiting to discuss C.J.'s rendition of "The Jackal" or the Leo-Margaret relationship? Want to discuss where The West Wing ultimately places in the overall Television Pantheon? This is the place, so, what's next?
I LEAVE IT TO ADAM TO PROVIDE THE LYRICS: Since we're coming to the end of West Wing Week here, I figure it's time for a post about one of the most unsung heroes of the show (as well as television over the past 10 years). It's a man you wouldn't recognize walking down the street, and who doesn't get a whole lot of media attention, but he deserves it. I speak, of course, of composer W.G. "Snuffy" Walden. Of course, his work on TWW has been exemplary, with the majestic orchestral theme and the orchestral piece that follows Leo through the White House in the pilot (now the end credits theme on Bravo and elsewhere where they show full screen closing credits) being high points, but it's Walden's diversity that deserves special mention.

Among his other credits? The strummy guitar character themes from Felicity, the whispered "Go now, go now!" that began My So-Called Life, the distinctive quick blues-y guitar chords that marked another episode of Sports Night, as well as themes and/or scores for Thirtysomething, Once and Again, The Wonder Years, and I'll Fly Away. He's won 13 straight BMI TV Music Awards, including the lifetime achievement award. There are many things I'll miss about not having new West Wing to watch any more. Not hearing his scores is near the top of the list. The good news is that Walden will be among the TWW alums joining Studio 60. Personally, I can't wait to hear what he comes up with.
YOU MEAN, WE DON'T NEED 2 HOURS TO OPEN 50 BRIEFCASES? Folks, just an advance warning--remember to set your TiVo's correctly Monday morning, because programming is getting reshuffled on Monday night due to POTUS's address, affecting finales of How I Met Your Mother and Prison Break, the next-to-last episode of 24, and (potentially) the Grey's Anatomy finale. My favorite is NBC's implicit acknowledgement of just how heavily Deal or No Deal is padded, as they'll be editing down the original two-hour episode to fit into an hour and a half time slot.
THERE'S AN INDIA EXPERT I WANT TO BRING IN. YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO LOVE HIM: Favorite obscure, minor or recurring West Wing characters, anyone?

(Or we will send you to Mandyville.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

TOBY, IF WE START PULLING STRINGS LIKE THIS, YOU DON’T THINK EVERY HOMELESS VETERAN WOULD COME OUT OF THE WOODWORKS? As we head into the home stretch of West Wing Week, it's time to acknowledge that one of the thing the show's unique strengths was that it was unafraid to bring the Serious, and bring the Dramatic back to prime-time drama.

So go ahead and pick your favorite examples of episodes, plots, quotes -- from Two Cathedrals to Sam Seaborn's agonizing over a pardon to a scene that ends with the four words "Because I could die" -- from the times when Aaron Sorkin tugged you some place special.

You might enjoy this resource.
AVA ASCENDANT: It's one of the most wonderful times of the year -- the day when the new Social Security Administration baby names report is posted for all to peruse. And today we can check out the top names of 2005.

Looking at the top 20, the boys' names are fairly static. The only name new to the top 20 this year is Jonathan, coming in at #19. Dylan, last year's #19, is out of the top 20. And there was no movement whatsoever among the top 7: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Ethan, Andrew, and Daniel.

Not so much movement among the girls' names as between last year and this year, either. The big news is Ava, which leapt from #25 last year to a red-hot #9 this year. The only other name new to the top 20 is Mia at #17. Dropping from the top 20 are Lauren and Kayla, last year's #16 and #18, respectively. Emily, Emma, and Madison remain the top 3 girls' names for a third consecutive year.

Of course, the real entertainment value of the list lies less in monitoring the top 10-20 names than in watching the trajectory of individual names over time and assessing whether a particular name has jumped the shark or will have jumped the shark by the time one's wee offspring hits the first grade. Have fun.
KEEPING HAPPY THE DOG MAKING GOOD MONEY: I don't know what's worse news--that the CW somehow worked out a deal for an 11th season of "Seventh Heaven," or that it's almost assuredly a death knell for the far superior "Everwood."
ONLY 3 HOURS PROGRAMMED BY DICK WOLF: As most readers here probably know, next week marks network upfronts, with NBC leading off on Monday. In some ways, NBC has the hardest job of the big 3, since it's got almost nothing to work with, but the easiest, because it only has 5 nights to fill in the fall (I assume Saturdays will remain movies, and Sundays are football). So, what's the schedule? My gutsy prediction:
  • Mondays---8 PM, "Friday Night Lights" (to get the football fans), 9 PM, "The Black Donnellys," 10 PM, "ER"
  • Tuesdays-- 8 PM, "Heroes," 9 PM, "The Singles Room," 9:30 PM, "Untitled Tina Fey," 10 PM "Law and Order: SVU"
  • Wednesdays--8 PM, "Deal or No Deal," 9 PM, "Kidnapped," 10 PM, "Law and Order"
  • Thursdays--8 PM, "My Name Is Earl," 8:30 PM, "20 Good Years," 9 PM, "The Office," 9:30 PM, "Scrubs," 10 PM, "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip"
  • Fridays--8 PM "Raines," 9 PM "Medium," 10 PM, "Law and Order: CI"
  • Midseason replacements on the bench: "Crossing Jordan," "Conviction," "Dateline," "The Apprentice: LA."

I really think that Thursday lineup from 9 on could be NBC's best shot at regaining its prior glory, and I think they're insane if they don't try "Friday Night Lights" on Monday.

HULLO, GUV'NOR: So there was a Gilmore Girls finale this week. Alan Sepinwall has blogged about it at length and gotten a fairly fulsome nuanced (a post on the word "fulsome" is forthcoming) discussion going, so hop on over there if you need help id'ing some of the troubadours or want a moment to vent about the blowing up of Luke and Lorelai. (Here's one of my own: why does Rory need Logan to pay for the apartment for her senior year when Christopher is now Super Loaded Dad? Was it just to avoid having to make it a plot point for next season?)

I actually just wanted to take a moment to offer up a little bit of praise for two scenes from the season's final two episodes. #2 is Rory's goodbye to Logan. Say what you want about the Sherman-Palladinos' lead foot this season, but they do know their stuff when it comes to capturing the hyperdramatic angst of being a college girl in love. #1 actually came last week, when Lorelai finally realized why Emily and Richard had been skulking around Stars Hollow secretly meeting with real estate agents. The scene was one of those heart-wrenching Emily-Lorelai moments that, while doled out sparingly, hit the mark every time. Especially Lorelai's reaction.

So go ahead, Amy and Dan, blow up Gilmore Girls and run for the hills. I can't stand Lorelai and Luke together anyway. Let's just hope that the Klum-stalker has a little of the magic pixie dust lurking somewhere within.
?: A bit of a Lost lore roundup for a quiet Friday afternoon.
  • First of all, this is sort of interesting. Note the latitude and longitude coordinates.
  • Here's a nice long bit of reading about all things Dharma-related.
  • Suzanne Ryan over at the Boston Globe's TV blog points out an interesting tidbit that I'd missed: in the Swan station's orientation video, one of the narrator's arms appears to be fake or dysfunctional, the film is dated 1985, and it was shot in black and white. In the Pearl station's video, the same narrator seems to have two working arms, and the video is dated 1980, but it's in color. (Also -- and this is the only part of this that I can actually take credit for thinking up -- wasn't this week's orientation video in VHS format, versus an actual reel-to-reel film for the Swan one?) The narrator also introduces himself by two different names in the orientation films -- Mark Wickmund vs. Marvin Candle. (Does anyone still have "Orientation" saved on their TiVo to confirm all this?)

If anyone's found any other entertaining minutiae, pass it along as we get ourselves revved up for the final three hours of the season.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

IN SOVIET RUSSIA, SCAV HUNTS YOU! Matt reminded me that the 2006 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt list is out, and, as always, it's a doozy:
80. Marzipander to our marziphantasies! Your marzipanoramic marzipanoply should include marzipansies, a marzipanzer, marziPeter Pan, a marzipanda, a marzipangolin, a marziPan paniscus, marzipanpipes, a marzipancreas, a marzipanther, and marzipots and pans, but should by no means create marzipandemonium. Presenter must be suitably attired in marzipants. [23 points]

94. An Obama-signed Obama sign. A Keyes-signed Keyes sign. An Obama-signed Keyes sign. A Keyes-signed
Obama sign. [2 points; 2 points; 4 points; 4 points]

124. Who wears short shorts? Why, tenured faculty members, of course! [10 points]

167. Hostess Pie ads featuring the characters and styles of the following: Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Alan
Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Frank Miller's Sin City.
Mmmm, pies. [5 points per ad]

211. That's a hell of a book, Dr. Seuss. What do you call it? "The Aristocrats!" [12 points]

Past lists going back to 1987 are available here, but go find us some more goodies for 2006.
MY BRIEF THOUGHT ON THE OFFICE: Damn you, Steve Carell and Greg Daniels, for giving us what we wanted, and making us wait four more months before we learn whether you know what to do with it.

More in the comments.
MY BRIEF THOUGHT ON SURVIVOR: Damn you, Mark Burnett, for not giving us what we wanted.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES STARRING MARY-LOUISE PARKER, DANA DELANY, AND ROSALYN SANCHEZ? Among the things I managed to do during the downtime when not hanging out with 7,000 legal professionals from around the world in Toronto (and even before I got stuck at "lovely" Pearson International Airport for 6 hours and through two flight cancellations) was to read Bill Carter's Desperate Networks. Sadly, I was disappointed. While there are interesting threads (the various major metamorphases of Desperate Housewives and Lost, the panic at NBC over losing its lead, and the time they gave Simon Cowell scripted put-downs), the book has two big flaws. First, while it was a novelty only a few years ago, almost every newspaper now has a Reporter Who Covers Television (though only the Washington Post, as far as I know, has a Reporter who Covers The Reporters Who Cover Television), so there's not a lot of novelty or revelation of the "behind-the-scenes" materials. Second, unlike The Late Shift, there's no single hero, villain, or major "fight" at the center of the story. Sure, there are threads (the struggle of Lloyd Braun to get Lost on the air over the objection of his various bosses, Marc Cherry's vision for Desperate Housewives, and NBC's plummet), but the book has too many stories to tell, and loses a narrative thrust as a result. (For what it's worth, all of the above were seriously considered for Housewives roles, as were Mary Louise Parker, Calista Flockhart, Sharon Lawrence, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jeri Ryan, Roma Downey, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Alex Kingston.)
INEVITABLY, THEY WILL LEARN TO DO THE BARTMAN: Lots of people are blogging about this engrossing NYT piece about the Nukak-Mak├║ tribe of Colombia, which has abandoned its isolated Stone Age-like existence for modernity, but I haven't seen anyone yet pick up on how they've already learned from Western culture.

All live in shelters now, enjoy constant medical attention and, on weekends, stroll into town to take in the sights. "Nukak life is hard in the jungle," Dr. Maldonado said. "You wake up thinking about food and you go hunt, you go search for nuts. So when they see us they think their food problems are over."

That is not to say the Nukak do not have plans.

Ma-be explained that the idea is to grow plantains and yucca and take the crops to town. "We can exchange it for money," he said, "and exchange the money for other things."

With this passage from the Simpsons episode Boy Scoutz 'N the Hood:
[Homer searches under the couch for a peanut]
Homer: Hmm . . . ow, pointy! . . . Eww, slimy . . . . Oh, moving! . . . . Ah-ha! [finds twenty dollar bill, then says remorsefully:]
Homer: Aw, twenty dollars . . . but I wanted a peanut!
Homer's Brain: Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts!
Homer: Explain how!
Homer's Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.
Homer: Wh-hoo!

Relatedly, the Flinstones meet Alloy Entertainment.
BELOVED BELOVED: The New York Times asked a couple of hundred prominent writers and other literary types to name "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." Toni Morrison's Beloved took the top spot on the list, with Don DeLillo's Underworld, John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels, Phillip Roth's American Pastoral and Corman McCarthy's Blood Meridian rounding out the top five.
BEING GOOD ISN'T ALWAYS EASY: Maxim Online lists the Five Worst Managers in baseball. The man who occupies the spot on this list shouldn't surprise any of us fans of a certain Northside franchise that hasn't won a World Series in a century or so and since a certain October evening in 2003 has had to endure not only being tantalizingly close to the Fall Classic, only to see its chances collapse not so much because of an overzealous fan but a shortstop failing to field a routine grounder, but also having to watch as the Red Sox and White Sox ended their own historic futility streaks in that span.

Edited to add: Apparently a few of you can't access Maxim Online at work, so until you get home, here is the list: 1. Dusty Baker; 2. Ron Gardenhire; 3. Mike Hargrove; 4. Buddy Bell; 5. Bob Melvin.
MAYBE YOU'D LIKE TO SEE A REAL MAN: Philadelphia's famous, oft-derided Rocky statue may well return to the Art Museum, though to the foot of the steps this time.
MAN OF REASON, MAN OF FAITH: Where have you gone, John Locke? This is a very different character than the Locke of Season One. But this was one of those episodes that advanced the ball through both the flashback and the on-island events, and so it should make everyone happy. (Everyone caught who the Aussie girl's father was, yes?) Sawyer continues to be perhaps the most interesting character on the show. And I am feeling rather drained after my evening of Alias, AI, and Lost, so you'll all have to take it from here in the comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

MONKEYS, CRICKETS AND TASTEFUL FRUIT DISPLAYS: I believe that's the type of Race episode that got us hooked early on. Travel difficulties in foreign lands, airport intrigue, a Fast Forward that multiple teams could attempt simultaneously and physical comedy? Yes, yes, yes and yes, plus the always-amusing addition of friendly, hungry monkeys.

One episode, two hours to go, and they've never had a bad finale. Even in the season we'll pretend never happened. So even if your attention has lagged a bit over the past few months, come back next Wednesday.
FRANCIE DOESN'T LIKE COFFEE ICE CREAM REDUX: Two Aliaii to go, and I have to say that despite the general inadequacy of Peyton as ultimate villain (although I guess I should call her the penultimate villain, because I frankly have no doubt that there's going to be some big reveal in which Peyton's pawnness is illuminated), I kind of like how they're handling this. That is, except for the classic spy tv/movie maneuver in which a normally slick and shrewd operative inexplicably fails to make sure that the intended target is actually dead before walking away. Oh, and the conveniently easily breakable window into the unbreakable bunker. Did I mention that no one bothered to check the phone lines after Sloane went all eeeevil again? And let me not complete this list without mentioning the fact that the mystery chips seem to have nothing to do with Project Christmas, but that's just the Cosmopolitan family's own little obsession.

But there are certainly things to like, and like them I do. Sloane's conversations, although a rather hackneyed technique in the abstract, do solve the customary "what the hell is he thinking and are they ever going to tell us?" Sloane problem that we've suffered through for nearly five seasons. It's also always nice to see a couple of folks from the good old days. (Even though Mr. Cosmo told me the other day that all TV stubble is apparently fake stubble concocted with glue and dyed sawdust, or something like that, which has seriously damaged my affection for certain permashadowed television characters.) And Cartagena is awfully nice this time of year.

I, in my eternal Alias optimism, feel that we're well positioned for a blowout last three hours of one of my all-time favorite shows. I will maintain this view unless and until I'm proven wrong. Let's hope I'm not proven wrong, eh?
WE CAN'T GO ON TOGETHER: I am much more despondent about tonight's AI results than I thought I'd be. (And it's either a sad statement on my life or a good statement about the appeal of AI that despondent is actually the right word.)
SHONDA, OF COURSE, HAS DIBS ON SAMIR: When you're getting ready to pick your entries in the 2006 ALOTT5MA Spelling Bee Pool, realize that there are five spellers in it for at least the fourth time this year: five-timers John Louis Tandy Tamplin of Kentucky (seen here prematurely wearing the orange and black) and my 2005 pick, New Jersey's Katharine Close; as well as four-timers Rajiv Tarigopula (#4 in 2005); muesli victim Nidharshan Subra Anandasivam, who started prepping again the moment last year's competition ended; and, of course, 2005 runner-up and all-around-cutie Samir Sudhir Patel. Your pre-Bee scouting begins with this quintet.

(Tentative rules for this year: select three spellers, at least one of whom must be a first-timer and only one of whom can be a 4x entrant or higher, and you get one point for every word spelled correctly in the oral rounds. As always, eternal fame and glory are your sole prizes.)
TOP ARCHITECT? PLEASE? Having succeded in bringing successful reality professional competitions with Project Runway and Top Chef, this fall Bravo will roll out Project Decorator, Project B&B Owner and Project Hairstylist.
AND NOW, THE MOMENT EVERY POPULAR GUY WHO'S MADE A BET TO TURN A REBELLIOUS GIRL INTO PROM QUEEN HAS BEEN WAITING FOR: How, exactly, do we feel about high schools running unauthorized criminal background checks on their students' prom dates and banning those who have any kind of criminal history?

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

I ONLY MENTION THIS BECAUSE THERE WERE NO BLOGS BACK WHEN EDDIE FISHER DITCHED DEBBIE REYNOLDS FOR ELIZABETH TAYLOR: So who, exactly, are we supposed to be rooting for in this magazine-dominating love chain linking Charlie Sheen to Denise Richards to Richie Sambora to Heather Locklear to David Spade? (David Spade?)

Well, probably not Charlie Sheen.
JUST DON'T YOU DARE SING IT IN SPANISH! You can have your "Star Spangled Banner" in whatever language you want. All the cool immigration rights kids are singing a Neil Diamond song.
WITH CHARLOTTE RAE AS MRS. LANDINGHAM? This week's EW reveals that had West Wing casting taken a slight turn, we could've had Eugene Levy as Toby Ziegler, CCH Pounder (or Janel Moloney) as Claudia Jean Cregg, Bradley Whitford as Sam Seaborn, Judd Hirsch as Leo McGarry, and Sidney Poitier as The President.

I think things ended up okay, especially given the Levy film roles we presumably would have missed had he taken this job . . .
LIKE THE SWEET SONG OF A CHOIR: And it's Elvis night on AI! A few song selections:

Elliott: Always on My Mind
Katharine: Trouble
Taylor: Jailhouse Rock
Daughtry: A Little Less Conversation

And while we're at it, what's your favorite Elvis song? I'm kind of partial to Burning Love, myself.

(Feel free to use this thread for post-AI reflections as well, including your thoughts as to who should make the final three based on the strength of their entire oeuvre.)
SCARY AND DAMAGED: I've pretty much had my fill of the West Wing tributes, much as I enjoyed watching the first few seasons on Bravo. So I must tear myself away from the actual workplace work that needs doing so as to talk about something else.

Things I enjoyed about this week's Grey's Anatomy:
  • The actual storyline. Big-haired southern family was great, particularly mama of big-haired southern mama-to-be. This is twice that GA has gotten me crying with the mother-daughter speeches (the other one being the mother giving her teenage daughter a speech about what to do after the mother dies of cancer, back a few weeks ago). What's with this show and the mother-daughter speeches? Do they not know that they make pregnant mothers of Cosmo Girls weep in front of their TVs?
  • Izzie and Meredith in the bathroom discussing life, the universe, and everything whilst white-stripsing their teeth and plucking their eyebrows, respectively.
  • Christina in a punchy mood. Particularly the cheerleading before the arrival of the ambulances. Self-explanatory.
  • Cranky imperfect jealous McDreamy. He's being violently unfair to Meredith, in my view, but it's much more McHuman than his usual toothy-grinned McPerfectness.
  • Meredith not backing down in the face of cranky imperfect jealous McDreamy.
  • McVet's "scary and damaged" speech.
Things that bothered me about this week's Grey's Anatomy:
  • Callie. I don't like Callie. I'm sorry. It's not her fault. I think I just have a thing about Sara Ramirez. I didn't like Spamalot, didn't particularly care for A Class Act. She just doesn't do anything for me, and I just don't care about the character or her weird living arrangements. I do, however, think that the Callie Peeing scene was magnificently played by all three parties involved. (But dude, you know your boyfriend lives in a house with two women -- why would you assume that no one was home in the morning and that it was therefore not worth throwing a t-shirt on before wandering off to the bathroom? Seriously.)
  • McVet. I like McVet as a character, but thus far he's being treated the same way as Patricia Clarkson was handled during the first season of Murder One -- the significant other outside the scope of the "real story" whose air time is limited to a one-on-one scene at the end of every episode. I realize that as a non-Seattle Grace employee, he's unlikely to show up at the hospital and start horse-birthing in the middle of a surgical floor, but still. He at least needs to make an appearance at the bar or the house or something.

The last couple of episodes have felt a little disjointed to me, so here's hoping that next week's big three-hour finale (two of which hours fall on my birthday, which is a pleasant treat) is an epic blowout worthy of the show at its deeply enjoyable best!

THE SHOW COULD HAVE USED SOME MORE CHUNG-CHUNG AS WELL: Unlike Law and Order, The West Wing (fortunately) rarely, if ever, steered itself toward being "ripped from the headlines." Sure, there were moments (the invasion of Kazakhstan, Jed hiding his MS) that had real world parallels to a degree, but the storylines were mostly original (especially during the Sorkin years). However, the characters are largely torn from real life--Sam Seaborn is an obvious Stephanopolos mirror, C.J. a mirror of Dee Dee Meyers, and Jed is Bill Clinton without issues. So, continuing our tribute this week, offer up your own real life parallels from the show. (And the two judges in The Supremes are Reinhardt and Kozinski, right?)
PLEASE TELL ME I'M NOT ALONE: Someone else watched David Blaine's failed stunt last night, right? For whom have you lost more respect -- David Blaine, or host Stuart Scott?

Monday, May 8, 2006

IN HONOR OF THE ORGANIZATION OF CARTOGRAPHERS FOR SOCIAL EQUALITY: Let's begin our West Wing Farewell Week by turning away from the characters and focusing instead on the politics and policy. Quite often, Sorkin's show was a wonk's dream, the first time a network show tried to take the workings of government seriously. (For real? Benson doesn't count.)

So whether your thing was the Peters Projection Map, the rules of presidential succession or Qumari politics, this thread is open for all discussion of the times that the show got the politics right and made wonky stuff interesting and cool . . . or for reminding everyone when the show got things wrong.
WHAT DO J.R., JACK BAUER'S WIFE, AND MR. BURNS HAVE IN COMMON? All three were gunned down in season-ending episodes on the Boston Phoenix's list of the Ten Best Season Finales. Interestingly, all three were felled by female assailants: Sue Ellen, Nina Myers, and Maggie.
PARDON ME? Well, we've only got two more chances to do this, so . . . .

You're President Josiah Bartlet. It's your last day in office. Do you pardon Toby Ziegler, commute his sentence, or do nothing? (As a viewer, what would you like to see happen, as as a student of the show, what do you expect?)

Odd that for the penultimate episode, there was no Jed and no Josh, but for those who demanded one last C.J.-centric hour, well, there you are. (And in this light, are you happy about the flash-forward which started the season, or is the connecting of the dots just not that interesting?)
WE ARE THE DINOSAURS (MARCHING, MARCHING); WE ARE THE DINOSAURS (WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?): So Bruuuuuce! has a rawking new album of folk tunes, Paul Simon's working with Brian Eno on an apparently-impressive new collection of songs (out Tuesday), and Neil Young is hating on the President while trying to get Barack Obama to run for the post.

Does there come a time when one is Too Old To Rock, or are you fully encouraging of such developments?

Sunday, May 7, 2006

NEW JERSEY HAS VERY STRINGENT LIABILITY: An episode of The Sopranos that no doubt disappointed those fans of the show into such things as "whacking" and "major plot advancement", but an hour spent mostly in one-on-one conversations gave us new wrinkles on a number of characters, but especially the mostly-ignored-this-season Christopher and Paulie.

Ultimately, though, I'm guessing the most important conversation of the week was one Carmela had at the Festival. Who broke up with who when, Tony?

edited to add: Sepinwall's take: "Over the years, people have complained that this show glamorizes the mob. Whether you buy that or not, David Chase and company are making sure to clean up any mess on the way out the door. These guys have always been pathetic, selfish losers, a fact being hammered home more than ever. . . . All these characters are on a ride, all right, but it's not a roller-coaster with dips and curves and loops. It's the baggage carousel at the airport, and they just keep going around and around in circles, seeing the same disappointed faces as they pass, waiting for someone or something to take them somewhere interesting. Pretty soon, that ride's going to crash just like those teacups at the St. Elzear feast, and when it does, the damage is going to be a lot worse than a kid with a bloody mouth."
DO YOU THINK I WON'T DO THIS? Memo to movie studios--go watch M:I:iii. That's what we want in a summer blockbuster--a twisty plot that's not just twisty for the sake of being twisty and doesn't feature the villain giving a long expository speech, depending on the audience to work it out, jokes that are funny without being obvious (any film that requires knowledge of who Ralph Ellison is to get a joke is OK by me), authentically stirring action sequences (a break-in in possibly the world's only place more secure than the CIA or the casinos heisted in Ocean's 11 is a particular high point), characters who actually have motivations for doing what they do beyond "money" or "it's the right thing to do!," actual performances (after seeing Capote, you wouldn't think of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a badass, but he is), a political message that's present, but not heavy handed, and a couple of Abrams regulars turning in nice work (you wonder what Alias starring Keri Russell would have been like, and Greg Grunberg has a very funny cameo). My only regret is that we don't get more with several members of the supporting cast, all of whom are excellent. Also, Lost-ies, make sure to stay to the very end, as there's a potentially significant "Special Thanks To..." at the very end of the film.