Saturday, August 4, 2007

GET SOME REST, PAM, YOU LOOK TIRED: Much has already been said about the brilliance that is Paul Greengrass' The Bourne Ultimatum, but a few points I want to make/add:
  • One of the great things about the series is how it's been cast--primarily with actors who you don't normally see in "big blockbusters," and typically against type. David Straithairn is the the big addition in this one, and he gets to play the polar opposite of Edward R. Murrow.
  • It's a movie resolutely set in the here and now, with political resonance (though some of the parallels are a bit too "on the nose" and blatant), but it doesn't feel the need to remind us of that every five minutes--I don't believe the words "9/11," "Patriot Act," or even "terrorist" are even uttered by any character.
  • None of the characters are "clean." Everyone is morally compromised in some way. On the flip side, even the "bad guys" are (for the most part) not wearing purely black hats. They are people who mean well, but get carried away and cross a line.
  • The use of practical locations is astounding, and (mostly) done with substantial accuracy. You can tell that they actually shot the final act in NYC, including an amazing car and foot chase sequence through the Port Authority.
  • Even though Damon and Greengrass have both strongly indicated that this is it for the series, and the film gives a lot of closure to the Bourne storyline, there's one huge loose end (I'll discuss in the comments) which gives massive opening for a sequel.

If you were thinking about seeing this one, do--I think, beyond question, it's the best of the summer "three-quels."

SERIOUSLY, THIS ALMOST BECAME THE NETROOTS EQUIVALENT OF THROWING SNOWBALLS AT SANTA CLAUS: I am relieved this evening that the NYT has clarified that I did not, in fact, encourage a crowd last night to boo Mother Teresa and, in fact, "meant to be funny".

You can see the Pub Quiz questions themselves via this link, and both Matt and TPE were invaluable resources in putting it together.

Friday, August 3, 2007

THAT THE SCORE BRAVE SOULS INSIDE, FOR MANY A LONELY DAY, SAILED ACROSS THE MILKY SEAS, NE'ER LOOKED BACK NEVER FEARED NEVER CRIED: Queen's Brian May turned in his dissertation yesterday for his Ph.D. in astronomy. In this case on radial motion of zodiac dust clouds, but since there's no link to the Ph.D., you can't enjoy his work, but I imagine is about understanding this kind of stuff.

WHATEVER YOU DO, TAKE CARE OF YOUR SHOES: Spurred by our lack of content, let's give you, our loyal readers, the chance to create some, by playing what (if I recall correctly) is a popular parlor game in the Cosmopolitan household--please provide the Director from Phish's "Cavern" with some stuff to go with his (inter alia) serpent deflector, viral dissector, mudrat detector, and picture of nectar.
HOLD MAMA'S WAFFLES: So I took Cosmo Girl to see the "singalong cut" of my new BFF* Adam Shankman's movie today. Our verdict: under no circumstances can the beat be stopped. I wasn't remotely surprised by how much I enjoyed it, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed John Travolta's performance once I got past the fact that he had the only Baltimorish accent -- it's pretty brutal -- in the entire movie. It's a totally different Edna than Harvey Fierstein's, but (a) it was awfully sweet and (b) it was clear that Travolta had spent a lot of time thinking about how he wanted to portray Edna. And if you're gonna have Travolta play this part, then you might as well crank up the dancing, and Shankman did a fabulous job choreographing so as to use his dancer to his best advantage while maintaining her inner Ednificence.

(For those wondering how four-year-old Cosmo Girl enjoyed herself, I can report that she loved all the music and the dancing, and sat still more than she ever has for any movie in her entire life. The racial storyline was entirely lost on her; the sole plot element that gave her any pause and provoked any questioning was when Prudy Pingleton tied Penny to the bed. Cosmo Girl was aghast that anyone's Mommy had done such a thing.)

As for the singalong aspect of the film: I specifically called ahead to see which screen was showing the singalong version. I strongly suspect that no one else in the theatre (a midday matinee in the middle of Times Square -- things might have been different in, say, Chelsea) had the foggiest idea that they were attending a singalong screening and as such were probably very confused as to why all the songs had subtitles. No singing.

* After watching Adam Shankman on four different episodes of SYTYCD,** Mr. Cosmo and I now feel that we have a special friendship with him. I thus deemed it my duty as his friend to go see his film today.

** I was too tired this week to post my SYTYCD thoughts. Suffice to say that the eliminations were the right ones, although I will miss Dominic's self-deprecating sense of humor. (I have to admit that I was touched by the raw carried-away sincerity of the kiss.) My own responses to some of the dances were unusually out of sync with the judges': I liked Nick and Lacey's Latin Jazz routine, and wasn't particularly blown away by their Mia & Daddy dance. I did agree, however, that the normally exceptionally talented members of the wardrobe staff had apparently been abducted by Martians when it came time to costume Danny and Sara for the Salt-n-Pepa routine, and I would add in a big raspberry to Shane Sparks for the choreography. But there are no raspberries to be directed at the glorious Sabra -- I had no bid for her early in the season, but she has grown on me to the degree that I think she could potentially win the whole thing.***

***I think I've run out of things to talk about. Have a great weekend!
A FEAT OF RIPKENESQUE OR LARGENTIAN IRRELEVANCE: I post only because I don't want to break our streak of consecutive non-holiday weekdays with original content. And by "original," I mean "something to put under the 'Friday, August 3' banner, even if it is only a link to something else."

Ergo, a query: Ichiro! keeps saying really weird, really funny things (and this doesn't include the one about the tree and the roots, or about a half-dozen other doozies, though thankfully it does include the one about ugly bowlers). Is he making fun of us, or should we be making fun of him?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

DIDJA KNOW THAT SANDY COHEN WENT TO UC BARCLAY? I had a little free time in London yesterday, and decided to indulge in a little afternoon tea at my hotel. I hadn't realized how veddy chichi this particular tea was, but as you know if you ever read the side of a Manhattan bus, it's not in vogue until it's in Vogue. The hotel's own website actually doesn't include pictures of the loveliest of the delicious pastries, but you get the idea.

(Incidentally, can someone explain to me how it came to pass that the Berkeley Hotel is pronounced "the Barclay"? For years I have heard of the fabulous Barclay, but didn't realize that I was actually, you know, staying there, until one of the vast cadre of impeccably dressed doormen welcomed me to the Berkeley. Oopsie.)
THE MAN IS A MIDGET! MIDGET! MIDGET! MIDGET! It's a big upcoming month for R. Kelly. First, on August 21, he will unleash upon the nation 9 new and exciting chapters of "Trapped In The Closet." Personally, I've been holding my breath for the further adventures of Sylvester, Bridget, Ruuufuuus!, and the rest. Second, on September 17, trial in the ongoing saga of his child pornography charges will commence in Chicago.
WHO BROKE MY WINDOW?: I never realized that it was Alfonso Ribeiro in the Latter-Day Saints classic PSA.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

TOP CHEF, TOP TOP CHEF, TOP CHEF, TOP TOP CHEF: Please feel free to get your Top Chef III: Revenge of Top Chef, commentary on in this here thread. As Philomena is away tonight and I had a long, long day, I will be doing the eating/sleeping thing instead of the watching/blogging thing.

Peace be upon you, my reality-tv culinary competition internet homies.

A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BELIEVING AND PROVING: David Fincher's Zodiac is now available on DVD. For all the reasons I said in March, it's worth your time.
I KNOW EVERY STEP, I KNOW EVERY SONG, I KNOW THERE'S A PLACE WHERE I BELONG: Sing-a-long screenings of Hairspray are coming to a theater near you this weekend.
HIDE AND SEEK: Having starred in a pair of disastrous disaster flicks (Day After Tomorrow and Poseidon), what would you think actress Emmy Rossum would do next? Certainly "make music that sounds like a knockoff of Imogen Heap" would not have been my first thought, but that actually kind of makes sense. Still not as cool as Danica ("Winnie Cooper") McKellar's Math Doesn't Suck, though.
THE WEAKEST 'I ASK YOU NOT TO THINK ILL OF HER IN ANY WAY' IN THE HISTORY OF 'I ASK YOU NOT TO THINK ILL'... Look, none of us (presumably) knows what it would be like to have a spouse leave for the loving embrace of Ted Turner -- or, apparently, to be one of many sharing the loving the loving embrace of Captain Outrageous -- but I'd like to think we'd show a little more class than did Pulitzer-winner Robert Olen Butler in this email to his graduate students, the details of which I'll leave for you to discover. He attempted to justify this unchivalrous act on NPR today, and he's not exactly helping his case.
SUMMER LOVE: With the arrival of August, the time is ripe for the readers of this august blog to choose the "song of the summer" for 2007. To get things going I have listed eight contenders, but if I happened not to mention your favorite song of this summer, just add a comment below.
  1. Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's (the #1 song at the moment)
  2. Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne (what can you say about a song featured on the soundtrack of the film "Bratz"?)
  3. Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani featuring Akon
  4. Umbrella by Rhianna featuring Jay-Z (a former #1, but, well, I don't love it. See here.)
  5. Rehab by Amy Winehouse (my main question is whether this peaked too early to be a "summer" song?)
  6. Summer Love by Justin Timberlake
  7. Because of You by Ne-Yo
  8. Makes Me Wonder by Maroon Five

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ON A PERSONAL LEVEL ... "BRANDED", ESPECIALLY THE EARLY EPISODES, WAS TRULY A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: I don't know what's more amusing in the Eagles training camp packing list -- that two players (Westbrook, Dawkins) brought their own hyperbaric chambers, or that Takeo Spikes requires his own private stash of toilet paper. "Toilet tissue - preferably Charmin," Spikes said. "You have to have at least 300 or better thread counts. That's very big to me because if you don't have that, I don't know if I can go out and perform up to my level." Via DMac.
THE INTERRUPTION OF MY FAVORITE INTERRUPTION: Or, "not-Happy time, people," as PTI has gone from a Wilbon/LeBatard pairing for two weeks to going silent last week, to Bob Ryan and Patrick McEnroe yesterday, and now the wholly unhelpful McEnroe paired with J.A. Adande today.

Bring back my Bald Brotherhood! At the very least, bring in people with actual opinions during their absence. Would a week of Bill Simmons & Bill Walton not have been amusing as hell? Who would you like to see as PTI substitute hosts?
IT'S NOT THE RATING THAT COUNTS; IT'S THE PLEASURE OF THE JOURNEY: One trend that gets infinite thumbs down? Local newspapers cutting their movie critics and using wire copy instead.
JEEZ, DOESN'T ANYONE [ ] KNOCK ANYMORE? The AV Club chronicles 14 film scenes in which an act of self-love ends badly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cinema Fusion

EVERYONE GETS EVERYTHING HE WANTS. I WANTED A MISSION, AND FOR MY SINS, THEY GAVE ME ONE. BROUGHT IT UP TO ME LIKE ROOM SERVICE. IT WAS A REAL CHOICE MISSION, AND WHEN IT WAS OVER, I NEVER WANTED ANOTHER: After the general blogosphere dissatisfaction over the AFI 100 list, the good folks at CinemaFusion worked their asses off to survey the online film community to determine an alternate list of the top 100 movies of all time, including the foreign films and documentaries excluded from the AFI's list. I did participate, and here's their results. As you might expect, it's a younger and more fun-focused list than the stodgy AFI, and I think y'all will like it.

I'll post my top 33 from the ballot in the comments, but beyond that, as I told them, I have no confidence in my ability to rank, and things kinda fell apart.
ANOTHER GREAT LOSS: Gifted Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman has died at the age of 89. Bergman directed many great films. My favorite is Persona, but The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries are also uncommonly good.
IT WAS JUST SITTING THERE, AND I THOUGHT, I'M TIRED, AND IT'S LIKE AN EIGHTH OF A MILE TO THE BAGGAGE CLAIM, PLUS MY HOUSE HAS REALLY LONG HALLWAYS, SO: We've been informed here at LAX that the reason we're late in boarding our plane is that somebody stole the wheelchair of a woman waiting to get off the inbound flight, and they're calling in a replacement. Maybe she's wrong -- I wouldn't put it past Delta to misplace it -- but assuming she's not, I'm having some difficulty imagining a worse petty crime than this.
BILL WALSH (1931-2007): The smartest coach ever to patrol an NFL sideline, architect of the West Coast offense and three Super Bowl wins, mentor to a generation of head football coaches . . . Bill Walsh's passing today from leukemia is a sad one indeed.
BILLIE JEAN IS NO INFRINGER: We know Michael Jackson as a singer, dancer, entertainer, and person with an unhealthy preocupation with his pet chimpanzee (among other things). But don't forget Michael Jackson, co-inventor of U.S. Patent No. 5,255,452--"Method and Means For Creating Anti-Gravity Illusion."
PLEASE, CALL HER MRS. STEVE MARTIN: Steve Martin married in a ceremony surprising not just the media, but his guests. In a truly bizarre combination, Lorne Michaels served as best man and former Senator Bob Kerrey officiated.
AND BEN BRANTLEY ON THE WSJ BUYOUT AS THEATRE: It's normally the Arts & Leisure section of the NYT that occupies our interest around here, but this Monday, it's the Business section that has an unexpected bounty of interest:
THE LAST COLORTINI: Tom Snyder, anchor of the first noon news show and long-time late night host best known to my generation as David Letterman's choice to follow him with The Late Late Show for four years on CBS, has passed away from leukemia-related complications. He was 71.

Here are some highlights from his tenure with NBC's Tomorrow show, which preceded in the NBC late-late slot, as well as an interview with John Lydon that, um, went awry, and his 1981 interview with U2 ("Why do they call you 'The Edge' ... what the heck's up with that?")

Sunday, July 29, 2007

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME: I've been watching the recently released Picket Fences: Season 1 DVD's, and it's really remarkable how well the show (15 years old come fall) has held up. Fences was David E. Kelley's first solo creative effort (he co-created Doogie Howser and had run L.A. Law beforehand), and you see a lot of his standard themes coming up--the nobility (if annoyingness) of the criminal defense attorney, the absurdity (and simultaneous nobility) of the law, and a view of government that is simultaneously highly idealistic and deeply cynical. Yes, the pacing is often far slower than we've become used to, but it's well worth spending time with this, which is a parent not just of the subsequent pieces of the KelleyVerse, but (less directly) of shows like Gilmore Girls, Everwood, and even C.S.I.