Saturday, June 30, 2007

INSTASTALGIA: Thanks to a genorous donor at the Truro Swap Shop, I now have a chance of Entertainment Weeklies (Entertainments Weekly?) from 1997 and 1998 to peruse. The November 27, 1998 issue is pegged to the release of Stepmom and has Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon on the cover, promising a list of "Hollywood's 25 Greatest Actresses" inside. Who were the other 23? Let's break it down:
  • Still Stars: Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep
  • Solidly Working, But No Longer Stars Like They Once Were: Emma Thompson, Angela Bassett, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Solidly Working Character Actresses: Helena Bonham Carter, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, Alfre Woodard
  • Of A Certain Age: Gena Rowlands, Vanessa Redgrave
  • Where Have They Gone? Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Lili Taylor, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laura Dern
  • Showing Your Cootie Is Not Acting: Sharon Stone

There's also a "Who's Next?" list that did pretty well for 1998: Cate Blanchett, Ashley Judd, Catherine Keener, Laura Linney, Thandie Newtown, Mary-Louise Parker, Christina Ricci and Jada Pinkett Smith, but see Janeane Garofalo, Anne Heche, and what-ever-happened-to Emily Watson?

Also in this issue: actress Jeri ("7 of 9") Ryan announces her divorce from Chicago-based investment banker Jack Ryan, surely the last time that marriage will make the news...

:: :: People :: Joel Siegel: In Memory (xhtml)

R.I.P. JOEL SIEGEL: The genial film GMA critic passed away from colon cancer yesterday at the young age of 63. Roger Ebert remembers his friend today, and Matt Zoller Seitz dug up this 1988 clip of his review of the Broadway musical "Carrie" which will make you smile.

Friday, June 29, 2007

COREY KEMP WAS UNAVAILABLE: I don't know whether I'm amused or horrified by these pictures of Philadelphia Mayor John Street camped out all day in his rain suit for a new iPhone. You'd think that being the (lame-duck) mayor of a city of 1.4 million carried with it a little more juice, either (a) the ability to have one provided to him by the company, or (b) at least a lackey to wait in line on his behalf...

edited, 12:10pm: A lackey has been found, says the Inq: "The mayor has left the sidewalk. After sitting and standing in line since 3:30 a.m. waiting for the Apple iPhone to go on sale - at 6 p.m. at an AT&T store - Mayor Street deferred to critics who lambasted him for wasting city time. Before he left at 11:30 this morning - he was third in line of about 15 people waiting - he defended himself and declared: I'm taking care of my business. By 4 a.m., I sent my first e-mail to my chief of staff. I was doing my job while the city was sleeping. I have my Blackberry with me."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

FOR THOSE OF YOU SCORING AT HOME, THAT'S AN E-NIGEL: Seriously, has Nigel never watched that other TV show that he produces? How can two judges rail on a dancer to a degree surpassed only by some of the Sanjaya rants of earlier this year on AI and then be shocked when that dancer's fans do nothing but sit there hitting redial for two hours? Based on their total body of work, I would have sent home a different guy from the bottom three, but I am comfortable (although sad) that tonight's solos, viewed in isolation, gave rise to the correct result.

As for the ladies: well, the silence was deafening, was it not? Without giving anything away about the followup to Wednesday's big dramatic twist, I will simply note that I would have sent home the dancer who took 20 of her 30 seconds to walk on stage and remove her jacket.

I have a lot more to say, but will do so in the comments.
LIGHTNING MCQUEEN(tm) SALMON CORONETS: When Pixar does research for a movie, they really, really don't screw around.
YOU WERE DANCING WITH BETTE MIDLER! What is it with the awesome bird routines? Last week, I decided I was over Wade Robeson and his dead people dances. But after last night's SYTYCD, I want to have a celebrity bird danceoff between Robeson and Tyce Diorio. So many great moments in Hok and Jaimie's dance, from the flower struggling to open under the weight of the morning dewdrops straight on through until the end. Loved it loved it loved it. I couldn't imagine what Pasha and Jessi had in store for us that warranted getting the pimp slot over that hummingbird dance -- until I saw what Pasha and Jessi had in store for us that warranted getting the pimp slot over that hummingbird dance. As for Pasha, let me just note how unbelievably lucky he is that Jessi pulled a Latin dance from the sorting hat. I can't imagine how he would have pulled off what he pulled off in the face of, say, a krumping routine.

And now, in honor of special guest judge Debbie Allen and her fake lashes and hair, I have some percussive thoughts on the rest of the show.
  • Can we please, please send Cedric home already? If the best Mia Michaels can do for him is to let him sit in a corner crying for 20 seconds of a 90 second dance, then it should be clear to all parties involved that Cedric's time has come and gone. Let him enroll in the Debbie Allen Dance Academy for young . . . men. (Which was one of the best moments of the entire show -- can Debbie Allen go for two whole hours without using the words "black" or "of color"?)
  • It's interesting, is it not, that Jesús (ok, I finally added the accent) outkrumped Sara?
  • I have finally come around on Mary Murphy. I love how she whips out the ballroom expertise in between bouts of screaming. I mean, "Kameron, you were a little tight in the right shoulder"? "Tango is danced down into the floor"? She's really upped her game this season.
  • Things I Don't Get, Part I: Lauren. I think she comes across as amateurish and juvenile every time she dances, and it doesn't help when she opens her mouth. I can't think of a single girl left on the show who isn't more deserving than Lauren of continuing in this competition.
  • Things I Don't Get, Part II: The rumba. It's always been one of my least favorite dances on Dancing with the Stars, and I thought I'd enjoy it more on SYTYCD. But no. I do love little John Leguizamo guy, though -- although I think Dominic's getting a little overpraised compared to, say, Hok, who's equally untrained and equally (if not more) talented.
  • Things I Don't Get, Part III: Dan Karaty's routine for Anya and Danny. Did anyone else find it underwhelming? I was surprised by all the adulation.
  • Things I Don't Get, Part IV: Why is Nick Lazzarini nowhere in the opening credits?
BELIEVE THE HYPE: The WSJ's tech guru Walter Mossberg has spent two weeks with his iPhone, and he is pleased:
We have been testing the iPhone for two weeks, in multiple usage scenarios, in cities across the country. Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions.

The Apple phone combines intelligent voice calling, and a full-blown iPod, with a beautiful new interface for music and video playback. It offers the best Web browser we have seen on a smart phone, and robust email software.
He concludes: "Expectations for the iPhone have been so high that it can't possibly meet them all. It isn't for the average person who just wants a cheap, small phone for calling and texting. But, despite its network limitations, the iPhone is a whole new experience and a pleasure to use."
IT IS NOT COOL TO TELL ME THAT LOBSTER IS HIGH IN CHOLESTEROL RIGHT BEFORE THE SUMMER STARTS: I suppose we should have a separate Top Chef thread so that the Throckmortons won't be spoiled as to the results in their post right below here. I don't have much to say about the episode -- the eliminated chef clearly deserved it, and Hung is still a dick, albeit a much more entertaining one to watch and less hate-worthy than Marcel was (IMHO), and not just because he hasn't busted out any molecular gastronomy yet. So far, I am really enjoying this season.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

GO ON. YOU WERE SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT "BEST INTENTIONS"?? We really meant to watch Top Chef tonight, but it got lost in the mix. Here's what we did instead:

Slightly Savory Salmon w/ Red Pepper Rice

Chop 1 onion and carmelize slightly on stovetop in 1/4 stick butter with fresh thyme
Place 2 1/4lb portions of salmon in pan atop 2" sprigs of rosemary
Dump onions, thyme and butter atop salmon
Place in oven at 350 degrees for 30 mins

Chop 1 red pepper and soften on stovetop in 1/4 stick butter with bay leaf and fresh thyme and dash salt
Raise heat to not-messing-around and add 3 cups water and 1 cup rice
Cut back to a simmer as it boils
Remove from heat in time to plate with salmon

Suggested pairing: Castelli di Luxxano 2006 "Tasto di Seta" Colli Piacentini Malvasia

So did we win? I bet Tre won...
I GET PAID TO BE SUSPICIOUS WHEN I'VE GOT NOTHING TO BE SUSPICIOUS ABOUT: Philadelphia Weekly's Matt Prigge today lists Six Great Performances By Actors Cast-Against-Type, such as Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy (though, arguably, he was just playing his true self) and Catherine Keener in The 40 Year-Old Virgin.

To me, however, any such list is incomplete without including the previously ultra-serious Leslie Nielsen in Airplane! and the sine qua non of the category, Wilford Brimley's evil security chief in The Firm. There's also an asterisk for the political drama True Colors, in which James Spader plays the noble guy and John Cusack is morally compromised. What else are we missing?
MIGHT "BREW" AND "VIEW" BE AMONG YOUR OPTIONS? The Chicago-area folk have indicated an interest in organizing their own get-together along the lines of ours in Philadelphia on July 13. Feel free to discuss and plan it here.
BEST MAGS, EXCLUDING THE TIGERS OUTFIELDER: The Chicago Tribune lists its 50 Favorite Magazines again, including old stand-bys such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair alongside some more intriguing picks like Us Weekly, Lincoln Lore, and Southwest Airlines' Spirit Magazine. I subscribe to five (New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone [it was like $5 for three years], Esquire [they routinely have $3/year sub specials], and Us [fulfilling a sub to Premiere, which was free in the first place].
WE'VE BOTH GOT TWO ALL-BEEF PATTIES, SPECIAL SAUCE, LETTUCE, CHEESE, PICKLES AND ONIONS, BUT THEIR BUNS HAVE SESAME SEEDS. MY BUNS HAVE NO SEEDS: Can you steal the intellectual property of a restaurant? The NYT investigates today, but for more, the go-to piece is this recent Food and Wine article on Chicago chef Homaru Cantu and whether his recipes can be copyrighted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Phila.’s famed Melrose Diner changes hands | Inquirer | 06/26/2007

EVERYBODY WHO KNOWS, THINKS IT BLOWS: Philadelphia-area diner magnate Michael Petrogiannis, not satisfied with the crappy "Michael's" chain and ruining the Country Club Diner, now owns the fabled Melrose Diner.
IF YOU USED TO HAVE AN EMPIRE, CLAP YOUR HANDS: I've never been to Spain, but I kind of like the music. So why they'd bother straining to put lyrics to a National Anthem that has been, by all accounts, serviceably patriotic (if conspicuously prediscursive) since King Carlos III first blessed it in 1770 is completely beyond me. Whatever committee approved the effort should be sent *ahem* walking Spanish down the hall.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE GOD LAUGH, TELL HIM WHAT TIME PRINCE IS COMING ON: The LA Times' Ann Powers and EW's Chris Willman review Prince's new house party/residency at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

On a related note, now that we're at the half-year point of 2007, I figured it was time to compile a list of the Pop-Cultural High Points of the year, so far -- the three that leap to mind are the Sopranos and Lost finales, plus the awesomeness of Prince at the Super Bowl. What else from these first six months constitutes the peaks by which you'll remember 2007?
WOLVERINE: Without having Internet access at home during the move, I wasn't able to blog about the death of wrestler Chris Benoit until now, and the more we learn, the less I want to talk about it. It's just gruesome and horrible, and bears no connection to the gifted athlete I had enjoyed for more than a decade. So I will try, paraphrasing OJ Simpson's suicidal voicemail to Robert Kardashian, to remember Benoit as the Canadian Crippler, to remember him as a good guy, and not as "whatever negative that might end up here."

Here's what you need to know about Chris Benoit: he was a lousy interviewee during an era in which microphone skills were at least as important as physical skills, and not much of an acrobat, but no one (except perhaps former Olympian Kurt Angle) was as skilled as telling a story in the ring with his body, with the sequences of seeming brutal physicality and technical prowess. Indeed, there are an annual awards given out by the wrestling fans on the Internet for "Best Technical Wrestler" and "Best Worker" -- whose arsenal of moves was the most varied and convincing, and who extended the most intense effort in the ring -- and no one has won those awards more than Benoit. In an era of "sports entertainment" in which most wrestlers were half-spokesman, half-stuntman, Benoit was defiantly, wonderfully Old School, and there was a large segment of the fanbase that adored him for it.

It's hard to remember him that way today, and I've yet to hear of a murder-suicide that had an explanation which wasn't depressing, disgusting and demoralizing. For most people, all they'll ever know of Chris Benoit is how he died. I'm glad I got to know him before last night. As Bill Simmons wrote today, "Benoit was one of the 12-15 greatest wrestlers of the past 30 years. For the wrestling world, it's like the OJ thing all over again - only it's worse because his little son was involved. It might be the single worst sports story since the Rae Carruth thing."
CULTURE SHOCK: After a week and a couple of days living in the Bay Area (by the way, should that be capitalized? Or is it just the bay area, or even the Bay area?), of all the things to which I need to accustom myself -- the abundance of fine food in restaurants, the serious and pervasive inferiority of grocery stores to those in LA, the politeness of the drivers, the Asian people in the Fruitvale stores speaking with inner-city Oakland accents, the inability to tell whether this is a pedestrian-scofflaw region (like NY or Chicago) or a pedestrian-law-abiding region (like LA and San Francisco), and the giant robots superintending both the Financial District and the Oakland Harbor -- the weirdest one for me is BART. Specifically: on BART, where each train car has seats facing each direction, why do the people standing (because there are no seats available) orient themselves in conformance with the seats next to them instead of in the direction the train is traveling? I always face the way the train is traveling -- that way I don't get queasy. I don't get the idea of riding backward just because the stranger in the seat next to you with an iPod and a copy of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is also facing the wrong way.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I HEARD WHAT YOU WERE SAYING. YOU, YOU KNOW NOTHING OF MY WORK. YOU MEAN MY WHOLE FALLACY IS WRONG. HOW YOU EVER GOT TO TEACH A COURSE IN ANYTHING IS TOTALLY AMAZING: Daniel Johnson's Film Babble blog has a nice pair of lists up featuring the best cameos in modern movie history, from Orson Welles in The Muppet Movie to Neil Patrick Harris in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle to the genius of Gene Hackman in Young Frankenstein.

Still, no Samuel L. Jackson as Hejira Henry in Out of Sight? ("You broke out?" "I prefer to think of it as an exodus from an undesirable place.")
HAVEN'T YOU EVER SEEN A GREAT MAN BEFORE? Let's firm this up: the first official ALOTT5MA get-together and hootenany will be Friday, July 13 in Philadelphia for the sing-a-long performance of "1776" at the Independence Living History Center. And then we'll find a local bar to hang out afterwards, though my knowledge of the Old City bar scene is about as dated as mine for the NHL at this point.

Advance tickets for the 7pm performance may be ordered via this link. Let us know if you're coming, and we look forward to seeing you.
BONG HITS 4 SHADYAC: The AV Club lists 10 Directors You Didn't Know You Hated.
COME TO LOS ANGELES! THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT, THE BEACHES ARE WIDE AND INVITING, AND THE ORANGE GROVES STRETCH AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE: Edward Copeland has his own list of the 100 greatest movies of all time. It's a good one.

e.t.a. See, also, Andrew Dignan, "Addressing This AFI Bullshit": "Titanic makes the list but L.A. Confidential doesn’t, proving once and for all nothing makes a film a classic like bilking millions of teenage girls out of their allowance. And can someone please explain to me how Tootsie keeps showing up on these lists (boy is that film attracting buzzards) but Broadcast News, which just gets more prescient with each passing day, is a no-show?"

[Also, I know I already raised the His Girl Friday issue, but I realized today that Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve didn't make the list either, and we're only talking about one of the best female performances of all time there from Barbara Stanwyck.]
SHE'LL SPREAD HER WINGS AND SHE'LL LEARN HOW TO FLY: But in the meantime, is Kelly Clarkson in "career meltdown"?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, 9:33 AM: I had to come in to work today and passed through the staging area for the Gay Pride Parade on my way from the train. I am pleased to report that Dykes on Bikes will be followed by a group of gay men on bicycles, Mikes on Bikes.

Also, even from twenty stories up, I can hear one kick-ass marching band.

I love America.