Saturday, September 6, 2008

LET THE WILD RUMPUS START: I'm sure Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers are fine and talented people, but whose bright idea was it to make a big budget movie of Where the Wild Things Are:

Jonze's initial idea was to shoot the wild things in nine-foot suits with animatronic faces in the jungles of Australia and New Zealand. CG-faces would be required. After a disastrous December 2007 preview of Jonze's first cut, the studio shut down the project. The movie is "dark, adult and deep," wrote Cinemaniac1979 on aint-it-cool-news, "heart-wrenching and scary. This isn't a movie for children -- it's a movie about childhood."
AND INTRODUCING TORI SPELLING: In honor of the premiere of 90210, I give you some guy playing an acoustic guitar version of the theme, and some guy playing it on the piano, where it sounds oddly like a John Tesh composition. Also, try the Season 1 opening from the original version, which replaces the opening "clap clap" with a Miami Vice-esque intro.
CURRENT MADDEN IQ IN THE MID-500S: Professional football season is upon us again, and your predictions for the current season are welcome -- with a strong preference for anything phrased in the increasingly popular form of "Yeah, I said it."

As in: the Browns and Bengals will both be sub-.500 while the Ravens make the playoffs. Yeah, I said it.

Kurt Warner will start at least 12 games and lead the Cardinals to the playoffs. Yeah, I said it.

And a Florida team will be in the Super Bowl. Yeah, I said it.
I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE UNDER MY FEET: We had a little 4.0 here this evening, just about 5 miles from Casa Earthling. A good swift jolt followed by about 10 seconds of roll. The Little Earthling was a bit worried, but liked the idea better once realized he could play up his concern and parlay it into the right to fall asleep on the couch with me and the Mrs.

Friday, September 5, 2008

LOOKING TO THE SKY TO SAVE ME, LOOKING FOR SIGNS OF LIFE:Having spent time in six different airports during the course of this week, ranging from the "so tiny, there's no real need for any services" (Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids) to the "large enough to be a small city where I could live for several months if need be" (DFW, O'Hare) to the "under incredible amount of construction, making everything in the airport highly inconvenient" (San Jose), I think it's time for a thread for best and worst airports to go through, get to, and transfer through. Personally, I'm fond of DFW, which has an abundance of good services inside security, making it perfect for a layover, and dislike those airports that turn post-security into a wasteland (LGA, certain terminals at EWR and JFK) or those that have very nice services outside security but much less so inside (Washington National).
THIS IS WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE WHEN THE DOVES APPLY...FOR SOCIAL SECURITY: Excuse my inner Weird Al, but in honor of Prince, Madonna, and Michael all turning the big 5-0 this summer, Hypeful has compiled 50 cover versions of the trio's hits. Highly recommended are The Chapin Sisters doing "Borderline," Lavender Diamond's "Like a Prayer," and Crooked Fingers' "When U Were Mine."
STAR WARS, NOTHING BUT STAR WARS: I note, via BoingBoing, a new anthology of MAD Magazine Star Wars parodies: Mr. Doctorow notes "The book is liberally sprinkled with sidebar anaecdotes telling stories of MAD and Lucas's relationship to each other (for example, the Lucasfilm legal department sent a threatening letter to MAD about one of their parodies; the same parody generated a personal fan-letter from George Lucas -- MAD simply sent copies of each letter to the other sender and the problem went away)."
HUMAN SACRIFICE, DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER, MASS HYSTERIA: On a scale of 0-to-as-awesome-and-logical-as-Alan-Rickman-as-Severus-Snape, where are you on the concept of a Ghostbusters 3 (which is apparently being scripted) starring Seth Rogen, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, McLovin and/or other members of the Apatovian troupe?

e.t.a. Variety now reporting that "The Office" writer-producers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (their eps include "Dinner Party," "The Convention" and "Michael's Birthday") will script, with the original cast being involved. Yes, including Ernie Hudson.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

SITTIN' BY THE DOCK OF THE BAY: When I was growing up, the big family summer vacation was almost invariably a long car trip, typically punctuated by side trips (sometimes lengthy) to see specific, yet ultimately disappointing, historical sites. (The 2.5 hour diversion so we could reach Montpelier and check off one more state capitol and the anticlimactic visit to Kitty Hawk were "highlights.") One of the many memories of those trips involves us trekking through the winding hills of Virginia to see Monticello. The road was windy and the car bouncy, and one member of my family (who will not be identified, since they read this blog) wound up puking in a plastic cup due to the ride, with the contents of said plastic cup disposed of out the window at high speed.

Why do I tell you this? Because I'm sitting in a hotel room in San Jose, CA, having had to do a deposition in Santa Cruz earlier this evening, and that drive made me wonder how common the vomit is on that route, which adds to the windingness pretty massive increases and decreases in elevation--while you start and end at sea level, you're a good quarter-mile high at points in the trip. (Also, is it just me, or does Bay Area radio kind of stink?)
AS LONG AS WE'RE GOING IN THIS DIRECTION, PLEASE BRING BACK DR. DAVID MORGENSTERN AND HIS HAGGIS: No, it wasn't enough for "ER" to subject Dr. Mark Greene to the most prolonged death in television history, a multiyear progression of brain cancer that made the "NYPD Blue" heart infection death of Det. Bobby Simone seem abrupt. They're bringing him back (in flashback form) for a sweeps-month episode for scenes with a new attending physician played by Angela Bassett. (Yes: Ike and Tina are both doing tv this year.)

(Also, how old is Reese Benton by this point -- twenty? And did we ever find out who gave Greene the bathroom beatdown? Because it wasn't Chris Law.)
ELEVEN NATURAL-BORN WOMEN, ONE TRANSGENDERED WOMAN, AND MAYBE TWO MORE TRANSGENDERED WOMEN: I really wish ANTM had picked an even-numbered cycle, not an odd-numbered cycle, to break the attractive/fugly pattern.

Is there anything left to be said about any part of ANTM that hasn't been said, right here as well as elsewhere? Audition 1000 women, send the 485-most attractive and 485 out of the 500 least-attractive home, whittle it down some more, make sure you have at least one that walks like a George Romero extra, three or four possibly fabricated sob stories (actual dialogue between show and me: Model -- "it was 50 below zero all winter and my house doesn't have heat and there's no way to heat it up"; me -- "so you died?"), ten-to-thirteen delusionals, a social, physical, or neurochemical malady curable only by divine Tyravention, the dialogue and plot from a 1970s porn movie, a lesbian, a Southern Baptist, and every gay man that ever raided Tyra's fridge, and presto, it's so easy you don't need union help. I think the only new thing this cycle is that Tyra's attitude is "plus-size? We pulled off that band-aid last year, so don't let the door hit you in your Huskeroos on the way out." About the only reason to watch this show is to ogle the cast house which, as usual, is stunning.

And by the way, the reason that Isis does not belong on the show has nothing to do with her (trans)gender, CoverGirl aside. It is that Isis is catastrophically ugly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

IN THIS CRAZY PARADIGM, YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH PAIN: There is Project Runway, and then there is Project Runway, and the only way to know which one is on is to tune in. On some weeks, contestants playing it safe produce mediocre wares despite stimulating material, fail to grasp something crucial about the challenge before them, or swing artlessly for the fences when subtlety is instead required. On others, even recycled ideas and misplaced products manage to inspire. Routinely, each season, some unimaginative tasks are set that lead inevitably to unremarkable results, despite the star power of inspirational guests and/or Olympian feats of contestant creativity. This was none of those weeks.

This was a week for heavy hitters, inspired designs, and a challenge so well conceived and impeccably presented that I’d bet good money that Bravo’s producers had nothing to do with it.

We were generally in heaven, even with Kenley off her meds and weeping the whole time and that bizarro-cutesy montage of Leanne “spying” around the workspace. Minimal Suedage. Minimal Blaynage — and how awesome was it that they went from his Mary-Kateliciousexpialatrocious nothing-happened-before-1990 hopes to Kenley’s Diane von Furstenberg / Marlene Dietrich dreams in ninety well-edited seconds? I was hoping for a reaction shot of Blayne that said “Who in the world is Marlene Dietrich?,” but I suppose that would be asking too much. Anyway, he’s some kind of man, our Blayne. But what does it matter what you say about people?

Speaking of which, either someone finally talked Stella into letting them help her with her makeup or she grew out of her Bride-of-Chucky phase into something more Morticia Adamms. Just in time, natch. If I were a more suspicious type, I'd say she knew what was in the cards.

Bummer about the winning design, which we were thinking about buying, is that it looks like you don’t get the little coatlet with your purchase, just the dress. I quite liked it with the coatlet. Quite liked the whole outfit, in fact, in a sweetie-hold-onto-me-so-I-don't-follow-that-woman-home sort of way. Really better if we get one, on that level at least. But I can't decide what it would mean, culturally, to get a DvF dress as a BravoTV tie-in. Can't even decide what it means that I need to decide what it means. Know what I mean?
HI! I'M THE DELIVERY MAN: The Zack and Miri Make A Porno redband trailer is now available (NSFW), and it's full of ALOTT5MA not-quite-faves-but-we're-fond-of-thems including Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, The Office's Craig Robinson, the guys who played Silent Bob Jay & Randall Graves and, of course, writer-director Kevin Smith, who has indeed cast The Schwalbach in another film.
ADVENTURES IN DOUBLE NEGATIVES: I've been listening to a stripped down cover of Poison's "Nothin' But A Good Time" featured in the Rainn Wilson bomb (but actually decent flick) The Rocker, and now believe I've given entirely too much thought to the lyrics. At one point, the singer explains that he "don't need nothin' but a good time." Obviously, the lyric is commonly understood to mean that all the singer requires is "a good time," though Bret Michaels' definition of that may well differ from yours. But literally speaking, isn't it the opposite by virtue of the double negative? If the singer proclaimed "I need nothing but a good time," that's clear. But, the singer is explaining that he "don't need nothin' but a good time," so there's apparently something else he requires apart from "a good time." Perhaps a bath in rubbing alcohol to remove the stench of skank?
SADLY, NOT AVAILABLE AT ARBY'S: For those who thought that the KFC Famous Bowl was the apotheosis of American fast food dining, I give you the Hot Beef Sundae, which, according to its poster, is "a delighfully satisfying meal that you will crave time after time, year after year."
HE WAS LEAN AND INTENSE, AND HAD CHEST HAIR IN WHICH ONE COULD LOSE A TELEPHONE: Go -- right now -- and read Ian Parker's profile of Alec Baldwin in the new New Yorker. Some highlights:
  • Baldwin really wanted Russell Crowe’s role in The Insider.
  • “Baldwin had a precise, self-contained style: his performances suggested that although he might accept an audience’s attention, he cared little for its approval. Even in Beetlejuice, some inner killjoy seemed to pull against the innocent, newlywed scampering required of Baldwin’s character. This was the last time a director asked Baldwin to play a blameless square — a Darrin Stephens — and one can survey Baldwin’s twenty-odd-year film career without finding a fully persuasive rendering of happiness.”
  • Baldwin on his post-Hunt for Red October choices: “After that, I did Glengarry Glen Ross, where I only had a very small role, regardless of how appreciative people are of it. Then I did Prelude to a Kiss [] and that was a bomb. In 1992, I did Malice, with Nicole Kidman. And that movie was a very cookie-cutter thriller. It did pretty well. In ‘93, I did the remake of The Getaway, with my wife. That was a bomb. I did The Shadow. That was a bomb. In ‘94, I did Heaven’s Prisoners. That was a bomb. In ‘95, I did The Juror. That was a bomb. In ‘96, I did The Edge and Ghosts of Mississippi. And that’s when you hear the sound of the wheels of the train screeching to a halt. The Edge and Ghosts of Mississippi were my last shots at the arcade, so to speak. Both movies were out in ‘97. They bombed.”
  • And on his ... appeal: “He bought a coffee at Starbucks, where a young woman said something nice about '30 Rock'. ‘I do feel I’m entering that Clinton phase,’ he said after we left. ‘I’m fifty. There are women who’ll go up to a young movie star and they’ll look at him, like, There are certain things I really want to do with you, and it’s pretty plain to anyone why I’d want to do them with you. And then there are people who look at me now, at my age, and they’ll look at me and the look is I can’t explain why, because it’s kind of strange . . . It confounds and perplexes even them. In spite of the fact that you don’t look like a young leading man anymore, I’d quite like to throw you down on this blanket right now. A bit of that.”
e.t.a. Sepinwall locates a representative Baldwin chest hair photo. Here's another. "Devon, I'm straighter than you are gay, and I leave particles of guys like you in my wind. I'm not afraid of you."

A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

UNTIL THE DOLPHIN FLIES AND PARROTS LIVE AT SEA: Having last year awarded the inaugural Gershwin Prize for lifetime achievement in popular songwriting to Paul Simon, the Library of Congress has listened to many of you and will next award the honor to Stevie Wonder. As Wonder himself wrote:
Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
But just because a record has a groove
Don't make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter "A"
When the people start to move
An all-start tribute concert will be held on February 23, 2009.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

THE ONLY THING BETTER THAN A CRAWFISH DINNER IS FIVE CRAWFISH DINNERS: Country music singer turned actor Jerry Reed has passed away. While most properly remembered for his songs and for his appearances in films like Smokey and the Bandit (I - III) and The Waterboy, we cynical Gen X'ers will instead remember him for a particularly flat performance of his.
"THAT'S WHAT BLOGS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. CAUSE PROBLEMS": If the name "Hannah Zuckerman Vazquez" does not make you smile, 90210 2.0 might not be for you. (The line that followed her introduction? Even better.) Also, the notion that Mel Silver and Jackie Taylor's little girl Erin grew up and learned to design vicious flash animations? I can roll with that, and the matching tramp stamps, even if the notion of a gossipy blogger in an elite high school sounds a bit familiar.

There are a lot of balls in the air right now, and I'm at least hooked enough to watch again. That said, the one named Naomi? Shouldn't look like (and have the morals of) Nomi Malone as much as she does. Really disconcerting. Also, the soda-related product placement in the cafeteria? Wow, was that well-lit and obvious. Okay, folks: to the Peach Pit!
IT’S COSMOPOLITAN-INSPIRED BABY NAMES MONTH! This just in on the ALOTT5MA baby names desk. Rescue Me and Numb3rs’ Diane Farr is the proud mother of twin girls. Sawyer Lucia Chung and Coco Trinity Chung joined big brother Beckett last week. Dr. Drew is expected to send Loveline onesies.
IN A WORLD WITHOUT THE GUY WHO SAYS "IN A WORLD..."*: Don LaFontaine, who did voice-over movie trailers starting with the phrase "In a World..." has died.

* I noted this event, and stole this title, from John Scalzi. Because, like most things he writes, it could hardly be improved.

Also, if you haven't seen it: Five Guys in a Limo.

ETA: Here's a video about his career.
FINALLY, A MEANS OF DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THE 16 DIFFERENT ROCK STATIONS: Partway through my eleven hours of driving this weekend, I noticed that XM Radio has added a couple of single-artist stations to their rotation. In and of itself, this isn't so strange -- a channel of nothing but Bruce, for example, would have supplied me with perfect road trip music. My desire for constant Kenny Chesney (channel 18) and/or non-stop Metallica (channel 51), however, is significantly lower. In fact, it's almost impossible for me to come up with two single-artist channels I am less likely to listen to. (I totally missed the existence of channel 59 -- XM LED -- and thus presumably missed out on the extended dance mix of Stairway. Quel bummer.)

Edited to add: Adam has just informed me that Sirius has an all-Bruce channel. My car, however, only speaks XM.
DUH NUH NUH NUH, DUH NUH NUH NUH [CLAP CLAP]: Today is 9-02, and it being 90210 v2.0 launch day, I can't imagine anything better to do than to open up a mammoth comment thread for everyone's fondest and/or most random memories of the Walsh years in Beverly Hills. Should we start with doomed mob heiress Toni Marchette? Cowboy Scott Scanlon and proper gun safety? Kelly Taylor's overlapping lessons in fire safety, gay tolerance and cult awareness? Or debate the superiority of Valerie Malone to Brenda Walsh. Floor's open.
TWENTY-TWO YEARS LATER, CHARLIE BROWN MARRIED THAT LITTLE RED-HEADED GIRL AND THEY LIVE HAPPILY JUST OUTSIDE SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA WHERE HE COACHES -- OF ALL THINGS -- POP WARNER FOOTBALL: In an ending even more stupid and pointless than Matthew Modine in Birdy, Lynn Johnston has finally brought For Better or For Worse to an end. For me, this marks the departure of a houseguest who had long overstay her welcome. The San Francisco Chronicle adopted FBOFW pretty early on and for more than twenty five years, with only a very few exceptions, I caught every panel of this strip the day it was published. It was, originally, a brilliant strip. Subtle, witty, sweet, and occasionally poignant.

And yet, in the last few years, it had begun to read like a fanfic version of itself and, occasionally like a Monty Haul session of Dungeons and Dragons: it was not enough that Michael Patterson struggled as a professional writer and an editor -- a seemingly rich vein for stories -- but he did battle with an evil editor, saved the magazine, and went on to write important literature that was accepted within moments. It was not enough that John and Elly Patterson wanted to downscale, but that through the magic of -- what, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? -- that Michael and Deanna could scoop up the old homestead. Deanna wasn't just a decent seamstress, but Vera-f'ing-Wang. It wasn't enough that Gord had a nice business, it had to become the greatest business in all of Middleborough. Elly's shop wasn't just a nice little side business, but a crucial part of the town. April's band, of course, endured -- as all high school bands do, of course. Mira Sobenski did not just disagree with Elly about things, but was a hideous troll out to ruin the charmed life of the Patterson clan. And always, without the slightest work other than waiting for Divine Providence as revealed through Elly Patterson.

But with the final strip, the joke is complete. Not a gentle end to a perfect strip hinting and more to come, or a strip with a dignified goodbye, but of a fetid claw reaching out and demanding acceptance of some fixed future for once-decent characters, extending well into the 2020s from the Deanna and the kids panel. Johnston's writing had long since descended into hideousness, so it was -- I understand -- impossible for her to trust the readers on anything. And we are left with this: that everything worked out more than perfectly for anyone who ever found favor with the Patterson clan.

At least we were spared the denouement that -- no doubt -- Lynn Johnston had in her head: Warren killed in a helicopter crash; Paul Wright cheating on his newly pregnant wife; a diabetic Mira Sobinski blind and with an amputated leg; Jim suffering yet another catastrophic trauma without the sweet relief of death.

I'm glad this thing is over. At last.
THE IRONY IS THAT IT'S A SHOW ABOUT A WRITER: During the first season of The N's Beyond the Break (one of the worst shows on television, and I mean that in the best possible way), there was a regular two-minute-or-so commercial featurette that ran in the middle of each episode. Sponsored by some feminine product (I cannot remember which, I am proud to say), it was momentarily indistinguishable from the show itself, in that it featured a generically pretty cast of bikini-clad surfer girls draped over the Hawaiian scenery while debating the merits of various boys with the solemnity of Yalta conferees. The most memorable thing about these commercials is that they sounded as if the dialogue were overheard in one language, manhandled into a simulacrum of English by outsourced translators, then delivered phonetically by head trauma survivors.

Take that model, move it to the Hamptons, and replace the swimwear with diaphanous period gowns, and you have the Season 2 premiere of Gossip Girl. This is a show whose dialogue frequently consists for long stretches only of sardonic asides, and for other scenes only of pithy retorts unmoored from anything to which to retort.

If you were unable to follow this linguistic pointillism, or if you happened to miss this episode, let me tie it up for you: Last season expended prodigious effort, culminating at the :50 mark in the last episode, in bringing together several couples (the princess and the pauper; the delicate flower of a prince and the sassy handmaiden; the ineffectual bitch and the guy who dresses like a circus clown) and then spent the last 10 minutes junking it all and confusingly mixing and matching the couples. This episode spent about the same amount of time unjumbling them, as if the cliffhangers never happened, except that in the A-plot, the circus clown doesn't yet get the girl because when he tries to say "I love you" it comes out like when Fonzie tries to say "I'm sorry." And there was a prince pretending to be an American commoner and also Madchen Amick looking like she's aged all of three years since Twin Peaks. And all of this with an un-Schwartzian tone: if Chuck often feels like Elmer Bernstein, Gossip Girl is all Fall Out Boy, mopey and self-indulgent.

Oh, and that reminds me -- there was some bad music. As a guy whose taste is eerily in lockstep with the soundtracks of The OC and Chuck (Apples in Stereo, Of Montreal, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, New Pornographers, etc.), I find the music on Gossip Girl befuddlingly dull. So, to sum up, welcome back TV; I hope you get better quickly.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

STUDIO 8-H, SEPTEMBER 13, APPROXIMATELY 11:30 PM EDT: Open on Lorne Michaels' office. Michaels, of course, is having his portrait redone, while being manicured. The door opens:
Michael Phelps: [He's topless. Audience cheers.] You wanted to see me, Lorne?
Lorne Michaels:
Yes, come in. Are you having a good week?
Phelps: I'm very excited about the show tonight. I've been doing my practice, working on my lines, and I'm just thrilled for the opportunity.
Michaels: How's the opening monologue coming along?
Phelps: Actually, I'm a little nervous about that. I've never done this sort of thing before. Can I try some of it out for you?
Michaels: Sure, Mike.
Phelps: Where do ghosts like to swim? [pause] Lake Eerie!
Michaels: [pause] Okay, that was awful. But there is something we can do.
Phelps: Just tell me. I really want to do my best.
Michaels: About a year and a half ago, we had Peyton Manning come in to host, and he told us he wasn't much of a comic. So I called up GE's research scientists to see if there was anything we could do about it, and they came back to me with an answer. [Opens closet door. And he pulls out ...] They came up with this suit. Yes, I know -- looks like a basic two-piece men's suit, but it's not. It has been specially engineered for maximum comic potential, using space-aged fibers and polymers. This shirt has been woven with special threads that subliminally creates a laughter reflex in 80% of female viewers aged 18-34. All you have to do is put it on, and I guarantee it will make you 15% funnier than anyone else out there.
[Enter Andy Samberg. Audience cheers.]
Samberg: Lorne, I couldn't help overhearing something about a suit to make me ...
Michaels: No. Nothing will make "Laser Cats" funny.
[Samberg makes pouty face, leaves.]
Phelps: How long does it take to put the suit on?
Michaels: About a minute. You'll have just enough time if you...
Phelps: Live from New York, it's Saturday Night! [Bolts out Michaels' door.]