Saturday, February 17, 2007

HAVE YOU BEEN IN MY BRIEFCASE? One of the first things I blogged about many moons ago was Billy Ray's film Shattered Glass (Adam is a fan as well). It's not surprising then that I made time to see his new film, Breach, this weekend. The good and bad things about the films are almost exactly the same. Lots of great "how they caught the guy, and how the guy managed to avoid detection for so long" material, solid performances all around (though Christensen and Phillippe are both the weak links in their films' ensembles), but little or no "why?" Sure, Robert Hanssen gets a speech while in custody enumerating several reasons he might have done what he did, but the movie doesn't explain or take a stance. The other weakness specific to Breach is that Glass was cast almost entirely with unknowns who could surprise us by delivering a good performance, especially folks like Hank Azaria and Steve Zahn, known primarily for comic work. In contrast, Breach is filled with actors like Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, and Dennis Haysbert--from whom excellence is expected, not a surprise. The most misunderstood performance in the film, though, comes from Caroline Dhavernas, playing Phillippe's shy East German wife--those not familiar with her work on Wonderfalls may see it just as bad acting rather than recognizing that she's calculated just how tightly wound her character is. Well worth seeing, and a far better spy flick than the interminable Good Shepherd was.
ALSO, LET'S GET HUGH LAURIE HIS: Having finally watched this week's Gilmore Girls, and noting that 4 of the 5 nominees for Best Leading Actress in a Comedy Series at last year's Emmys were from shows that are no more, can we all join together in a campaign to finally get Lauren Graham at least nominated for an Emmy, especially since none of the Housewives really deserve it this year?
PERHAPS MAXIM DOES HAVE HIGH JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS: While walking through Barnes & Noble this afternoon, I noticed this new packaging for the audiobook of The Nanny Diaries on shelves in plain display. Perhaps the audiobook company needs to employ some horny teenage boys as proofreaders?

Friday, February 16, 2007

THAT'S NAMIBIA, JACKASS: TARstars begins Sunday night. Who ya got? I'm not rooting for a team as much as I'm hoping for a competition that's decided by skills and not dumb luck, and by brilliance over competence. I want to see teams that try to out-think the Race itself to gain advantage, building from their experience to do those things we didn't think of, sitting at our coaches.

Okay, and I want to see a lot of Team Cha Cha Cha again, and, yes, I do want to see if Rob Mariano has any new tricks left in the tank. He's an ass, but he's a clever one.

Also, Phil chatted with WaPo readers today.
KEN OBER WEEPS: Dr. Robert Adler, inventor of the remote control, has died at the age of 93. His Zenith Space Command was invented back in 1955, and now the average American has 4+ remotes at home. Don't get up.
WE MET AT STARBUCKS. NOT THE SAME STARBUCKS BUT WE SAW EACH OTHER AT DIFFERENT STARBUCKS ACROSS THE STREET FROM EACH OTHER: I think we've all learned a solid lesson this year about getting your hopes up when a revered writer puts together a hotly anticipated new show with an all-star cast. Nonetheless, I did wriggle in my seat a bit when I read that Parker Posey will be starring in Amy Sherman-Palladino's new show, The Return of Jezebel James. More than a few fans have been hoping that Lauren Graham would sign on for the role, but I'm glad to see a new face spouting AS-P's dialogue -- particularly when the new face is Posey's.
CROSS OFF THE RUG-PIDDLING/WHAT RHYMES WITH HERMIT OF MINK HOLLOW? Much Office-love below, so I won't touch that, but we should also mention that the rest of NBC's comedy block was strong tonight as well. Alan loves Bad Earl, so this episode seemed like a love-letter to him, a Whitman's Sampler of Bad Earl misdeeds that could be recounted without trying to build a Good Earl episode around them. Lots of really funny moments, with an especially strong performance from Young Earl, who is really nailing Jason Lee's mannerisms.

Even with a strong Earl and a solid Office, the show of the night for me was 30 Rock. After a couple of weeks where I thought it was merely good, not great (I wasn't a huge fan of the Paul Reubens episode) I laughed all the way through this one. 30 Rock is not a show that I think will ever develop the kind of broad, emotional appeal of HIMYM or The Office, probabably because where those shows are centered upon blossoming or doomed relationships, 30 Rock takes its cues from Seinfeld's no-hugging-no-learning aloofness. When it's working, though, it is in Arrested Development territory, piling jokes, pop-culture reference jokes, inappropriate jokes, wordplay jokes, and random in-jokes upon each other. I laughed out loud in the pre-credit scene last night as much as I've ever laughed out loud in an entire episode of HIMYM (except maybe Slap Bet), and the show sustained the pace throughout. I think it hit on 95% of its material (basically everything except the Rachel Dratch stuff), which is astoundingly high, and which I read as support for my belief that the Jenna character is the weakest part of the show.

Chicagoist: Chicagoist Grills: Intelligentsia Coffee & Roasting Works CEO Doug Zell

KING CRIMSON'S REIGN: During those portions of my third year in law school in Chicago when I still cared about studying (the AlAl Crim Pro trilogy, that skinny guy with big ears and a funny name) , I'd head down two blocks in Lakeview to the new independent coffee/tea place, Intelligentsia, which was the first place I ever saw loose tea brewed for customers in those individual Bodum tea presses. Based on this interview with the Chicagoist ("In its twelve years, the company has grown from a small storefront café on Broadway to a booming wholesaler capable of recording nearly $12 million in sales annually"), I'm glad to see they're doing well, and, Spacepeople, expanding to Silver Lake soon.
YOU DO, HOWEVER, GET TO HEAR A LOT OF THE CBS ORCHESTRA: The NYT's Ben Sisario endures the process of scoring free tickets for the studio audience of Letterman, Conan, The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. Having attended one Letterman episode, I can confirm that the process involves waiting, waiting and waiting.

retroCRUSH: The World's Greatest Pop Culture Site

HAVE YOU SEEN THE LITTLE PIGGIES? In honor of the Year of the Pig, RetroCrush list the 30 Greatest Porkers in Pop Culture History.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

M. NIGHT SHYMALAN OR MITCH ALBOM? To say more would be to spoil, but there's desire for a spoiler thread for tonight's Grey's, and lord knows, we give the people what they want. Also, despite prior posts, we (or at least I) had no idea that something posted about quite a bit over the past few days would connect in...

Edit: Shonda's thoughts are up at the writers' blog, including a classy note about her enjoyment of FNL.
INDUCTION JUNCTION: All the recent Hall of Fame talk around here about the Baseball, Football and Rock and Roll Halls made me think the a semi-regular feature rounding up some of the recent developments in Halls big and small was in order. So, here is the first installment of a little feature I like to call "Induction Junction":
  • The National Inventors Hall of Fame, located in that hub of invention, Akron, Ohio, (seriously, you knew about all the tire stuff, but there's much more) recently announced its 2007 inductees. Joining Edison (he was the lone inductee in the Hall's first class in 1973), Whitney, Bell, and the Brothers Wright are the inventors and developers of the soft contact lens, automotive airbag, Cat scan, MRI, and LP record (the inventor of the 8-track, William Lear, is already in, though not for that beloved recording medium or the jets that bear his name, but rather for the car radio). Maybe next year, Elisha Gray (for whom the street I live on was named).
  • The finalists for the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame are going to be announced on Friday. Among those eligible for the first time are Chris Mullin and Phil Jackson, but not Dennis Rodman.
  • Disappointingly, Gary Cherone is gracious about not being included as part of Van Halen's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy lineup.
  • When you think jazz, cities like New Orleans, Chicago, and New York probably come to mind. It looks like it might be a little bit longer until Tulsa joins the list after a recent fire damaged the future site of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
  • This week's "Small Hall" nugget highlights the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame, which will welcome eight new members this May including the beloved 1938 men’s foursome from Glenboro, skipped by Ab Gowanlock with Elwyn (Bung) Cartmell, Bill McKnight and E.R. (Tom) McKnight. About time, eh?
YOU KNOW HIS NAME: As Rage Against The Machine reunites, Chris Cornell has parted ways with Audioslave. While I've never been a big fan of Audioslave or of Soundgarden, Cornell's first solo single, "Sunshower," from the underrated Alfonso Cuaron "Great Expectations," is a favorite of mine.

Check the Fien Print: "Idol" Top 24 Quick Thoughts: The Guys

[W]hat happened to all of the vocal diversity of past seasons? Last year we had a rocker and several country singers and it would have made sense to continue in that direction given that the two biggest stars from the past two seasons are Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry, who has somewhat surprisingly outsold everybody else from Season 5, thanks to an annoying catchy rock song that's constantly on the radio. But nobody this season rocks and nobody this season seems to be country-fied. With the vast majority of this year's Top 24, in fact, we don't have any real indication of what, exactly, their strengths might be.
Also, Chris Sligh has shut down his blog, meaning that he's probably giving up Idol to blog for the Edwards campaign or just that 19E asked him to.

Also, not related to this post necessarily, but the lurkers out there should know that you're totally welcome to join us in the conversation whenever and wherever you want. I know it seems like we all know each other, but, really, we don't, and all it takes is a first comment to break the ice. Go ahead -- the more, the merrier.
SATISFIED? Bats, b-schoolers and bitchy art comments this week on The Office, in an episode that gives us the rare opportunity to force Michael Scott to see the world as others see him. But once we understand that Michael sees the world like an eight-year-old boy, everything makes sense.

Meanwhile, whoever coordinated the stunts this week deserves a bow, and Philadelphia's Kate Flannery (Meredith) deserves some serious hazard pay.
STEP AWAY FROM THE PYLON: Fondly reminisce about your favorite childhood mute hissing zombie reptile pre-Columbian society at Rued Morgue's Sleestak: An Appreciation.

Old link via Matt Zoeller Seitz's The House Next Door, co-starring ALOTT5MA valentine Alan Sepinwall.
I JUST STAND IN THE BACK AND YELL STUFF: I wasn't completely satisfied with the resolution of Mac McGill's racist comments, and I don't believe that football-obsessed Smash knows who Angela Davis is, and I'm skeptical that a band of high-school kids can just walk into a strip club dressing room without getting violently tossed by gigantic bouncers, and I'm not sure how a tiny town like Dillon supports a strip club anyway, and even if it could, I question whether anyone would actually go to a place called the Landing Strip (this show does have its fun with below-the-radar racy wordplay, like Stigmatalingus), and I marvel at the kind of coordination it would take to get a full crew of presumably neutral refs (and county police) to condone or support race-baiting and rule-breaking, and I'm pretty sure that Smash needs to break up with tone-deaf Waverly. Still, if you give me enough Landry ("think about the Africans, you know, blood diamonds"), enough Saracen stammering his way into Julie's heart, and enough of Coach Taylor fumbling through what he thinks is the right way to parent and Mrs. Coach having none of it, I'll walk away happy. And it was a nice reprieve from the Jason-and-Lyla plotline.
SEE YOU IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE, BROTHER: Best episode of Lost this season, for my money, and it's no coincidence that the show delivered when it went back to the beach, focused on the mythology, and did a flashback of something we didn't know about someone we actually care about. Also nice to know: Charlie's middle name is Hieronymous, as in Bosch, as in 15th- and 16th-century painter of the freakish (and freakishly before its time -- coincidence, or not?) Garden of Earthly Delights, a nightmarish depiction of purgatory, and Ship of Fools, a finger-wagging caricature of the seven deadly sins (off-topic: the main panel of Ship of Fools was broken in half at some point, and scholars, working only from the top half, completely misunderstood its meaning for hundreds of years; only after the other half was found in a church basement did people figure out what was going on). Sounds like Cuse and Lindelof are egging on the island-as-purgatory theorists.

Incidentally, who cuts bangs on the island?
I AM SORRY TO SAY ... THAT WE WILL BE HAPPY ... TO SEE YOU LEAVE THIS COMPETITION . . . AS THE WINNER : And then there were 24 Idolists, and this seems to be a significantly older crowd than the norm. There are no kids like Diana DeGarmo or Paris Bennett, nor are there wussy boys like Anthony Federov and Kevin Covais.

Yes, we'll be rooting for a lot of people, including the former backup singers (and against Antonella Barba), but let's not kid ourselves: Chris Sligh, fellow tuffle-head and fellow blogger, starts with a significant lead in our hearts. His favorite song list is heavy on Muse and MuteMath, neither of which I know, but anyone with Ben Folds' "Army", S&G's "The Only Living Boy In New York" and Everclear's "AM Radio" on such a list is clearly someone to be watching. He writes on his website today:
Hey guys,

Thanks so much for all your support and love . . . I am undeserving and eternally thankful. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is a near impossible one: vote the chubby kid to #1. It is your love and support (and voting) that will ultimately give me the chance to fulfill all my dreams and vow to never forget how much you all have helped me. One day, in May, I hope to look out into the Kodak and see half the crowd wearing afro wigs.

Fro Patro'

With love,
And it was awfully comforting to see the ritual Line Dance of the Semifinalists to wrap up tonight's show. Next week, it's on, America.

edited to add: And here they are. Eight competitors are 27 or older; only three are under twenty.

edited #2: Per Blurred, this also is the least Southern of the semifinal groups we've seen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I BROKE MY SHOE: Fantasia Barrino will be the first American Idol winner to make their way to Broadway in a lead role, as she's apparently going to be taking over the lead in The Color Purple. Other Idol finalists have appeared in legit New York stage shows (Diana DeGarmo in Hairspray, John Stevens had a cabaret show, Constantine Maroulis in Wedding Singer), but Fantasia will be the first winner and the first lead role.
DOES THIS MEAN TONY STOPS TAUNTING HIM? Dan Le Batard may be "hateable," but he deserves credit for calling Tim Hardaway on being hateful.

HR Hero Blogs

THIS IS MY LAWYER, JAMES P. ALBINI. I BELIEVE YOU MAY RECOGNIZE HIS FACE FROM THE BILLBOARDS: There may not be a narrow-focus website better suited to the readers of this site than That's What She Said, a blog by Atlanta employment lawyer Julie Elgar which seeks to calculate, on a weekly basis, how much it would actually cost Dunder Mifflin to settle all the legal claims created by Michael Scott's behavior, e.g.:
“Ben Franklin”, February 1st, 2007


If an executive learns that a regional manager has sponsored a bachelor party in the warehouse, hired a stripper, offered to “deflower” the bride, taken an employee to a sex store, received a lap dance, and allowed a pervert dressed up like Benjamin Franklin to make a lewd statement to the receptionist, she should fire him. As soon as possible. Anything else and the company is looking at significant liability. Of course, at Dunder Mifflin, Jan is likely caught in a Catch-22. As soon as she fires Michael, she could be facing a charge for her own conduct in having an affair with her subordinate. Ah, what a tangled web we weave...

As this week’s episode colorfully illustrates, it is not enough to have an anti-harassment policy. Dunder Mifflin has one (as Michael mentioned -- twice) and look what happened. Rather, employers must demonstrate that they take the policy seriously and that they are committed to stopping sexual harassment in the workplace. If they can’t, a court is likely to find the policy ineffective. And when it does, the company can say goodbye to its affirmative defense and say hello to punitive damages.
SURFEIT TO BE TIED: We're lucky, I know. It's easier than it used to be to write a letter, take a picture, have a phone call, get a good cup of coffee, get the background facts on a fake news anchor, research a brief, find a dentist, and map a car trip. Our food, cars, malls, and children's music are better than what our parents had, and we watch better TV on better TVs. I love the choices we have.

And yet, if you don't get to choose, it's not a choice. What's driving me crazy now is that everybody has adopted the Microsoft Windows model of bundling everything together and making you take it all. Sometimes, as with Windows, I could care less. I don't see the marginal cost of the bells and whistles, and I'm capable of uninstalling the AOL and Symantec offers, so I'm okay.

Not so okay with one electronic feature, though: the camera. I have a phone/PDA that's about a year old, but it only comes with a camera. Now, I have a perfectly good digital camera that I like and use, so I don't need one on my phone. So don't use it, you say? I don't. But that still doesn't stop the US Marshals at the Central District of California from telling me to leave my phone -- and now my laptop, standard camera included -- in the car, because cameras are not allowed. Grrr.

Another, more low-tech example. I'm a white dress-shirt kind of guy. I like what I think of as the standard white dress shirt: white, with buttons. Given my druthers, I prefer the buttons to be thick with smooth edges, the collar to be stitched close to the end (to avoid the stitches looking like piping), and a breast pocket on the left side, but I am a reasonable man, and I'm willing to compromise on these things. Yet a trip through Bloomingdale's and Macy's today revealed not a single qualifying shirt in my size without unwanted bells and whistles: stripes galore, white-on-white herringbone patterns, spread collars, double-button collars (what the hell?), french cuffs, tuxedo fronts. I guess the only people buying dress shirts these days are mafia lawyers and NBA players.

Maybe someday there will be a Dell (or, if you prefer, a Build-a-Bear) for phones, and maybe I can find a tailor to make me the sartorial equivalent of roue for a reasonable price. Just seems like a waste to me that a guy can't find what he needs unless it's glued to something he doesn't need.
MUSIC AND LYRICS: I lamented the overabundance of Grammy categories this week, but can we all agree that the Grammy For Best Rock Instrumental Performance is one we can lose? Sure, it's provided the Flaming Lips with their only Grammys, and The Police, Sting, Metallica, Santana, and Eric Clapton have all won the category, but looking at that list of winners, the only song you've probably ever heard of or would recognize is the Allman Brothers' "Jessica."
MEANWHILE, IN MORE CEPHALOPOD-RELATED NEWS: Seven foot long luminous attack squid are reported off Japan. As usual, the story is a couple of foam rubber suits short of a Godzilla movie and there's no credible threat to the citizens of Tokyo.

Inventory: 15 Pop Songs Owned By Movie Scenes | The A.V. Club

LEND ME AN EAR: Hopefully you've recovered from those Daily News lists yesterday to appreciate a good one from the folks wheeling the filmstrip projectors from room to room at the Onion AV Club, who list 15 Pop Songs Owned by Movie Scenes, such as "Stuck in the Middle With You" (Reservoir Dogs), "Layla" (Goodfellas) and "Sister Christian" (Boogie Nights). Any other non-obvious pop songs you can't separate from a movie scene (by non-obvious, I mean you can skip listing "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Unchained Melody," etc.)?

Link via Largehearted Boy, a site I probably never credit though mean to because I find so many interesting things there that I bookmark to read later and then never recall where I first saw them.
I DON'T THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS: I was briefly listening to the new "Fresh" station this morning (officially, "soft music without the tired old stuff" or, less so, "hits without all that rap junk"), when "Against All Odds" as performed by Phil Collins came on. In what alternate universe can this song be defined as "Fresh?"

Stiller, Cruise as 'Hardy Men'? - QUICK TAKES - Los Angeles Times -

BRILLIANT OR TRAINWRECK? Everyone's reporting today that Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller will co-star in "Hardy Men", a film about the Hardy Boys detectives reuniting for one last case.

My only question is which YouTube clip to go with, and I think it's Dress Casual.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

THE MAN IN BLACK FLED ACROSS THE DESERT: So, does the concept of "J.J. Abrams' Stephen King's The Dark Tower" fill you with excitement, dread, or some combination thereof?
AMEN TO YOUR OY: Alright, so since there may not much else to do during the day tomorrow other than watch Jen on tv with Martha Stewart and see the snow fall, I'll run with a suggestion from the comments: the Edward Norton/Ben Stiller/Jenna Elfman rom-com "Keeping the Faith" -- an endearing triangle between three people and God, or 30 minutes of shrill physical comedy followed by 90 minutes of charmless, sentimental yammering?
I'VE GOT TO GET SOMETHING RIGHT OR THEY WILL SEND ME HOME: Alan was lied to; Hollywood Week on Idol never, ever disappoints. From the most kick-ass, beat-boxed "How Deep Is Your Love" you'll ever hear (featuring Jack Osborne's Taller Doppelgänger) to the ritual drama of the middle-of-the-night group fight to a little bit of Sun and a whole lost of Adios, You're-Not-Shakira, this was an hour (that could have been two hours) worth savoring.

Come to the Comments, but for the love of god, don't forget your words.
WHO WANTS TO BE LLL'S NEW "L"? Creative Commons is hiring a new general counsel.
YOU'D THINK THAT PEOPLE WOULD HAVE HAD ENOUGH: Of silly lists of the 100 Greatest Love Songs of All-Time, as compiled by the Don Juan of tabloid journalism, the New York Daily News.

Via Pop Candy, where Whitney rightfully points out that the list appears to be compiled by someone who has just emerged from a 20-year coma.

Edited to add: If you hated this list (and by the looks of the comments, you did), than you're likely to also not enjoy the Daily News' list of NYC's 100 Most Romantic Movies, including such heart- string-tuggers as Coyote Ugly, Ghostbusters (I can only assume for the romantic tension between Annie Potts and Rick Moranis), and Keeping the Faith at No. 9.

More fun is Cracked's list of the The 10 Least Romantic Love Song Lyrics. I never noticed the little snake rattle that comes after the choice from REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Loving You."
SHOULDN'T WE BE FIGHTING CRIME OR SOMETHING? Couldn't let a Monday go by without a Tuesday TV post, though I haven't much to say. Actually, I do. Although Monday is the most scheduled night we have at the Spacehold, it is increasingly disappointing. I know that I'm in the minority here in thinking that HIMYM isn't really must-watch (to be clear, I think it's amusing, just not the next anything); I gave the Class an episode plus a couple of other stabs and found it painfully unwatchable; Prison Break is trying to break the Alias record for most stunningly implausible plot devices; I haven't watched 24 since the first couple of episodes of Season 3; Heroes is in a stall and is the kind of show that I can get through in 30 minutes by fast-forwarding through all the speeches and Parkman bits; and [redacted]. As a result, even though the TiVo tells me that there's 3:30 of TV for me on Monday nights (and up to 4:30 or 5:00 for some of you), I cleared it all and still had time for the only thing I was really looking forward to last night -- Episode 2 of the Season 3 DVD of the Wire (and I can't believe Kima is cheating!).
DON'T WANT TO MISS IT WHEN THEY HIT THAT HIGH: In other "reunion news for British bands of the 1980s", George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! may be throwing on the matching Choose Life t-shirts one more time. Still to come: Frankie goes back to Hollywood, and Samantha Fox reunites with Full Force.
YOU'RE GOING TO HOLLYWOOD, BABY: For those people waiting for American Idol to separate its wheat from its chaff before hooking up with Season 6, tonight's your night. Based on past experience, this week's pair of episodes, when we sift down from ~200 to 24 contestants through a series of individual and group auditions, is as good as Idol gets. Any favorites yet?
ROOTSUCKERS: Sorry for the delay in getting up the BSG thread, just caught up on the episode on TiVo. As we discussed a couple of weeks back, it was nice to see a bit more on fleet logistics. I'm afraid I don't have a lot to say about the episode, since it was mostly a stand-alone. Except for that one thing, which I'll mention in the comments.

Most importantly, Sci-Fi Channel has ordered up a 13-season Season 4.

Monday, February 12, 2007

:: :: Oscars :: OUTGUESS EBERT CONTEST (xhtml)

WILL WIN/SHOULD WIN: Ebert breaks it down.

Style Editor Trip Gabriel -- Talk to the Newsroom -- The New York Times -- Reader Questions and Answers - New York Times

YES, I'M ASKING ABOUT ONE OF MY FAVORITES: Trip Gabriel, NYT Styles Editor, is answering reader questions this week. What would you like to learn?
BLING BANG: Today's proof I've been staring at the computer screen too long--I have now noticed that Microsoft Word's spell check does not recognize "bling" as a word. Perhaps this makes the fact that I had to explain that "bling bling" was a generic term to someone today make a bit more sense.
WHEREIN THE AUTHOR PARAPHRASES AN OLD CHESTNUT: A woman in the Harvard President's office? What's next, men in the dorms?
HOW TO WASTE AN OSCAR: Movie studios, I'd like to reiterate an important suggestion I've made before (and one borne out by King Kong and Hollywoodland). Under no circumstances whatsoever should Adrien Brody ever, ever, ever be cast as a badass, tough guy, or action hero. This would include casting him as The Incredible Hulk (for all the sins of Ang Lee's adaptation, Bana brought both the nerdiness and the toughness to Banner).
WAITING FOR THE SHOW TO CHANGE: So I'm still thinking about "last night's Grammy Awards, lameness of" and it struck me that the overall problem was that there was very little, in terms of performance, that could fall under the category of "you'll never see that again", compounded by the fact that a number of performers (Beyonce, RHCP, Gnarls Barkley) went with songs or arrangements which sapped the room of its energy.

Step one to fixing the show? Bigger James Brown tribute. You've got Prince in the room, Usher presumably available, and, hey, why not invite Jacko in from Bahrain? The Godfather of Soul is dead; more could have been done to honor that in an entertaining way.

Second: here's some of the nominated artists who didn't perform but could have brought some energy to the proceedings: Madonna, KT Tunstall, Pink, Macca, The Fray, Pussycat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, The Raconteurs, Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, and The Flaming Lips. Are you going to tell me that Wayne Coyne in a bubble wouldn't have gone over with this crowd? How about letting the Raconteurs cover "Crazy" and let Gnarls do "Gone Daddy Gone"? A Dolls tribute to the tenth anniversary of the Spice Girls invasion? And give us some collaborations we've never seen before -- Carrie Underwood with Rascal Flatts is not enough.

Or: was this just a fairly lame year in music, and if they're going to give the most-nominated artists the spotlight, a show like this was inevitably to follow?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

BUT YOU LOOK GREAT IN AUBERGINE: So apparently our Dannys and Sandys don't get to pick their own songs. Unless, of course, all six girls happened to suck up to awesomely prestigious guest judge Andrew Lloyd Webber by picking his songs while not a single guy could be troubled to pick an actual showtune, and unless it is the norm to whinge about your song selection in your weekly backstory clip. (To be clear: in my book, preexisting songs that were subsequently incorporated into Broadway musicals do not count as songs from shows.) I did appreciate that whoever picked this week's songs did so in a consistently thematic fashion -- big belty ballads for the Sandys and boppy doo-woppy numbers for the Dannys (except for the fluridden Ambitious Danny, for whose sake the Song Selectors apparently exercised a little pity).

For me, the performance of the night title goes to Austin. I am not normally an Austin fan -- having practically needed a shower last week to cleanse myself of his oogy sliminess -- nor can I bring myself to refer to him as "Hot Danny" given both the aforementioned sliminess and the fact that Wholesome Danny's little sojourn in the cut-off flannel shirt lets me note with some gusto that the hotness sobriquet has been applied to the wrong guy. All that being said, he both sang and danced the hell out of "Ease on Down the Road" -- after complaining about the song choice, presumably because it eliminated any possibility of behaving slimily while singing it -- making literally every other guy on the stage look like he was performing in a college production.

Having no interest in the Grammys whatsoever, I have more to say:

  • Wholesome Danny (Our Danny of the Biceps): I hate that bounce-up-and-down move he has now done two weeks in a row, but I think he can be choreographed out of it. I thought he did a really nice job with "Footloose."
  • The Danny Formerly Known as Slacker: Nice work with the hair -- all vestiges of slackerosity are now gone. I hate "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," just hate it -- Max is one guy who I thought would have been better served by a true show song. "High Flying Adored," anyone?
  • Big Hair Bellhop Danny: The comments were totally on point. This guy is a black hole of charisma, and no quantity of back-up dancers can solve the problem. Did anyone notice, though, that he was by far the best guy in the Phantom number? He's just not a Danny. Bottom two and probably going home.
  • Ambitious Danny: They're not sending home their best romantic lead just because he's got the flu. Next.
  • Eggplant Danny: This is where I got confused about the whole song choice thing. It seemed clear to me that people hadn't picked their own songs, and that Boy Band Danny had gotten stuck with the entirely unsingerly "That'll Be the Day," which was not only a poor song choice in general but also totally failed to address the comments the judges had made the prior week about his "Faith." But then the judges complained about the song choice. So I'm just befuddled. Be. Fudd. Ul'd. Bottom two.


  • Small Town Sandy: See, when she sang, I was giving her all sorts of kudos for picking "Superstar." All that Lord Webber (Lord Lloyd Webber?) "I've never heard a girl sing this song" and all that. But now I don't know who was doing the picking. Regardless, after her featherweight "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" last week, this was exactly the kind of song she needed -- challenging and with some real heft to it. She got three out of four judges' picks this week -- she's not going anywhere. (Don't you think she'd make a great Narrator in Joseph?)
  • Spiritual Sandy: I love her. I just love her. I do think it's a little unfair to say that she had the hardest song of the night, though -- there are easily three or four of the Sandys who could have sung the heck out of "Memory."
  • Serious Sandy: Now here is someone who didn't get full credit for the difficulty of her song. During the first low-pitched "little touch of star quality" part of "Buenos Aires," Mr. Cosmo commented to me that they should have transposed the song into a slightly higher key for her. But then she got to the high parts, and we just sat there agog at how crazy hard that song is -- Patti LuPone apparently had a zillion octave range back in the day. I agree with the judges that it was nice to see her doing the flirty stuff. I think she's likely to get out-charismaed by someone else down the road, but the girl can sing.
  • Ballerina Sandy: Poor thing got stuck with some song no one's ever heard of from Tell Me on a Sunday. I'm all in favor of obscure theatre songs making an appearance on the show, but not when every other song performed by every other Sandy is totally iconic. I don't think she's going anywhere, but the song choice has me a little concerned.
  • Whiny Sandy (who I guess was named Rock Chick for some reason that is not remotely evident from the show thus far): How can you say that you're not in love with your song when your song is "Don't Cry for Me Argentina?" It's not like you got stuck with poor Ballerina Sandy's song, for God's sake, it's "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"! The coquette approach totally didn't work -- I guess that ALW was trying to get her to connect with the material somehow, but that was jarringly off. Bottom two and going home.
  • America Doesn't Like You, Sandy: I was pleased to see Baby Sandy in the bottom two -- her "I Love Rock and Roll" might have felt big if you saw it in person, but it just didn't translate on TV. I didn't think her "I Don't Know How to Love Him" was much better. She sang it well, but there was no emotional weight to it whatsoever. To me she ought to be bottom two again, but Ballerina Sandy might sneak in there instead.

Last comment, I promise. I found the singout of the eliminatees to be fabulously cheesy. The poor man's Sandra Dee with the tears streaming down the face and the "Why-y-y-y" -- just loved it. Cheese-o-rama. I hope they do it every week.

WITH 2006 GRAMMY AWARD WINNER FOR BEST SPOKEN WORD, BARACK OBAMA, AS YOUR WARM-UP ACT ON 60 MINUTES: The time of Grammys is at hand. I'll update this post with bullet points as the night progresses.
  • Awards already presented are listed in orange on this page -- Peter Frampton has won the first Grammy of his multi-decade career for an instrumental album; Springsteen and Dylan won the traditional and contemporary folk awards, respectively; Timberpants already has two -- one for "Sexy Back" (dance), one for "My Love" (rap/sung); Dan Zanes won the children's award; Rick Rubin for Producer of the Year.
  • More prior-to-broadcast: "Mary Jane's Next-To-Last Dance" "Dani California" wins best rock group over "How To Save A Life", the U2/Green Day charity number, Coldplay and the Raconteurs, as well as best rock song; Gnarls for best alternative, besting Flaming Lips and Arctic Monkeys; and Ike Turner -- yes, that Ike Turner -- wins best traditional blues album, his first since 1972.
  • And we're live. Rooooooooooxanne! But, Sting, 1982 called, and it said when you turned 55, you had to start wearing sleeves again. Also, note to producers: don't pan over the crowd if they're not up and excited.
  • Hate the disembodied host. And I'm sure the producers, seeking young viewers, were thrilled to see Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder beat Nelly Furtado and Timbaland in the first award.
  • Dixie Chicks: yay. Not much to say about the performance. Prince introduces Beyonce with three words ("One word: Beyonce"), who proceeds to campaign for the Oscar for "Listen". They're due February 20, Academy members.
  • The timekeepers show no mercy tonight -- Tony Bennett and Mary J. Blige both get the "wrap it up" music.
  • And now, the Polite Young People Who Aren't Scary segment: Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer.
  • Shakira's hips speak for themselves. I've got nothing here. I expect my mom to call any minute to ask me if she does that often.
  • Natalie Maines: speechless? And apolitical in their first acceptance speech of the night.
  • Gnarls Barkley with the nice rework on "Crazy" with a martial beat. Tonight's theme: "Catch Me If You Can".
  • Ludacris wins, with shout-out to Oprah and Bill O'Reilly. Heh.
  • I realized what the problem is with tonight's show: since "Roxanne", there's been an hour and a half with no rock music, and still no rap. Pop, soul, r&b . . . but nothing with the remote possibility of danger. Not that Mary J. Blige didn't sing the hell out of "Be Without You", but this evening's not soaring.
  • Only one song from The Police, but a two three-song Eagles tribute? Still, Carrie Underwood's take on "Desperado" might be the highlight of the night.
  • Cheap joke alert: Given how much work he's had done, Smokey Robinson should no longer be singing a song containing the line "Take a good look at my face." Just saying, is all.
  • On Lionel Richie's "Hello", I have to go back to what Pitchfork said about the video -- "Every time Richie mimes 'hello' like it's the most sincere hello ever offered in the history of hellos. When he gazes longingly at his blind student with those cradle-robbing eyes, I get that feeling of enjoyment that one can only get from watching quality crap like a straight-to-Sci-Fi-Channel thriller about Frankenfish."
  • Chris Brown's mini-mes just stole the show. And then Xtina stole it again on "It's A Man's World". A nice homage to James Brown, style-wise.
  • Necrology applause-o-meter: Billy Preston > Gerald Levert > Ahmet Ertegun > Buck Owens > Ed Bradley > Syd Barrett.
  • The mix is kinda ruining it, but Ludacris' "Runaway Love" is one of the most depressing songs you'll ever hear on the radio.
  • That was weird -- a Prince "thank you" ad for the fans who enjoyed the Super Bowl.
  • JT is a trooper; that "Grammy Idol" performance was mighty nice. Yes, if you're counting the performances at home, that's three for Timberpants, one for The Police. But, y'know what? He's good.
  • I've never been bored by a Red Hot Chili Peppers performance. Until tonight, on "Snow (Hey Yo)". Anyone ready to run the Keltner on them?
  • Al Gore? Praising the music industry for being pro-environment (ahem: the cd longbox?), with no one mentioning his wife's war against the industry two decades ago on decency grounds.
  • Well, I guess that's what vindication looks like -- Dixie Chicks have won everything except Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album.
Wrap-up thought: a "meh" evening, with the Dixie Chicks getting the most opportunities to speak but declining to say anything of interest. Five awards won tonight, almost as many as the seven Jacko won for Thriller or Santana's eight for Supernatural. Performance-wise, nothing on the level of all the links below, so I'm sorry if I raised expectations too much. Reserve your seats today for the 2027 Kennedy Center Awards tribute to Rick Rubin.
A QUESTION FOR THE ATTORNEYS GENERAL: While at Toys R Us in Times Square this afternoon (doing some informal research for a matter), I was sorely tempted by the large stage of Nintendo Wii that they had in stock, but resisted (my TV is already overtaxed, with a TiVo, VCR, DVD Player with speakers, Playstation 2, and XBox 360 all wired in, and, where appropriate, connected to my home network, already). This led me to a question--what is the proper pluralization of "Wii?" Is it "Wii?" "Wiis?" "Wiii?" Are multiple Xbox 360 consoles "Xboxes 360?" Are multiple Playstation 3 consoles "Playstations 3?" The mind boggles.
LUDACRIS TRACES HIP-HOP'S ROOTS: In yesterday's WSJ (no link since it's subscription only), Ludacris picked the five funk and soul albums that he considers the forerunners of hip-hop. It's a good list and I happen to own all five of these:

Sly and the Family Stone - "Stand", which Ludacris notes has been widely sampled by acts such as Tupac and Public Enemy. "Stand" features the title cut as well as the hits "You Can Make It If You Try," "Everyday People," and "I Want to Take You Higher," along with a little ditty called "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." I would also recommend the 2-disc compilation "The Essential Sly and the Family Stone," which includes the oh so funky "If You Want Me to Stay."

Earth Wind and Fire - "Earth Wind and Fire". The debut release from the immensely successful group, this album does not sound all that much like the pop hits you know so well from their days on the Columbia label. This is essentially pure funk with a hint of jazz-rock. I particularly like the song "Bad Tune."

Marvin Gaye - "What's Going On". An awesome album. Every reader of this blog should own this disc (it's only $6.97 at amazon!). Ludacris mentions this as an album that influenced him a great deal as well as rap pioneers such as Big Daddy Kane.

Curtis Mayfield - "Superfly". Full of streetwise songs about pimps and dealers, Mr. Bridges notes that Mayfield "had the sound from the time that really stuck." There is a recent compilation of Curtis Mayfield's work that is also worth owning called Definitive Soul, which includes many of the key songs from Superfly as well as my own favorite Mayfield song "Move on Up."

Parliament - "Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo System". The synthesizer-based riffs became a key part of the sound of West Coast rappers of the 1990s, especially Dr. Dre, notes Ludacris. The album features a song that I seem to recall that Adam likes a lot: "Flashlight." The CD is only $7.97 at amazon.