Saturday, April 25, 2009

WHO ELSE BUT A BOSOM BUDDY WOULD TELL YOU THE WHOLE STINKIN' TRUTH? Bea Arthur, star of stage and screen -- caustic truth-teller of Maude, Mame and The Golden Girls, and star of The Star Wars Holiday Special -- has passed away.

Via Comedy Central, her roast comments on Pamela Anderson. Meanwhile, Rue McClanahan and Betty White take one step closer to the Golden tontine ...
THE JETS MUST KNOW SOMETHING THE PEOPLE UP HERE DON'T KNOW: In honor of today's festivities in New York, one of the best montages ESPN has ever compiled -- J! E! T! S! FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!
THE UNCANNY VALLEY: According to today's NYT (and the Time article on which it's based), James Cameron's upcoming 3-D film Avatar (12/18/09) may mark a Jazz Singer-level leap in the possibilities for cinema. Writes Josh Quittner: "I couldn't tell what was real and what was animated -- even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn't possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real."

In terms of movie hype, all I can report is that in my household, I was asked yesterday morning about the day that the new Star Trek film is released: "Do they start running it that night, or will there also be showings during the afternoon?" Upon explaining that it'd probably start at midnight the night before, The Wife was sated, asking "Will you skip work to watch it with me, or should I see it the first time by myself?"

Friday, April 24, 2009


According to SSA, Declan (a fifth-century Irish saint: translates as "full of goodness") has made a steady climb up the boy's name charts over the past decade, from #569 in 1999 to #431 in 2004 to #349 in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, putting it on a par with Louis, Silas, Anderson, Easton, Alfredo, Dean and Kingston.
DON'T BE SAD -- 'CAUSE 73 AIN'T BAD: I know this isn't accurate, and it's incomplete, but it sticks into my head that murderers get into Harvard, douchebags go to Duke, and liars go to Chicago. Today's legal newspapers report that the latter is taking a bar-imposed three-year vacation from legal work (but since he's already in business school, it's really the millstone that counts).

ETA: First, apologies to anyone with a professional aversion to this post. Second, was Mary Rosh supposed to have been a student at Chicago?
FRAMPTON'S STILL ALIVE? Wow, it's a charity auction (for Riverkeeper) that hits almost every imaginable ALOTT5MA topic!
  • Music--Dave Matthews Band tickets and a signed guitar from Peter Frampton.
  • Joss Whedon--The pilot script for Dollhouse signed by Whedon and Amy Acker.
  • Broadway--House seats for Rock of Ages, followed by drinks with star James Carpinello and wife Amy Acker.
  • Battlestar Galactica--Lunch with Katee Sackhoff on the set of her new show.
  • HIMYM--A walk-on/background role, with chance to meet the cast.
  • NPH!--"The world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood will play host to a delightful dinner filled with magic and mystery. Dinner is served in an atmosphere of Victorian elegance where you will enjoy food, magic and the company of Neil Patrick Harris!"
  • Lawyering--"Spend a day with Glenn Close on the set of Damages."
Despite these awesome items, the current top bid for anything is $18,000 for someone to have lunch with Richard Dean Anderson of Stargate and MacGuyver fame.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OUR BALLS ARE IN YOUR COURT: I take back every skeptical thing I said about The Office last week. That was beautiful. I do love it when Michael demonstrates his intelligence.
WENDY? YES LISA. IS THE WATER WARM ENOUGH? has a fascinating interview with Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman -- a/k/a Wendy and Lisa formerly of (Prince and) the Revolution -- in which they come out of the closet as a longtime couple, and answer a few questions:

Did you first think Prince was gay?
He was little and kinda prissy and everything. But he’s so not gay.
Wendy: He’s a girl, for sure, but he’s not gay. He looked at me like a gay woman would look at another woman.
Lisa: Totally. He’s like a fancy lesbian.
Wendy: I remember being at that “Sexuality” video shoot and him on stage with that little black jacket and that tie thing around his neck and his black pants with white buttons on the side. And we looked at each other for the first time and I thought, “Oh, I could so fall in love with that girl easy.” It doesn’t matter what sexuality, gender you are. You’re in the room with him and he gives you that look and you’re like, “Okay, I’m done. It’s over.” He’s Casanova. He’s Valentino....

Regardless of what you went through and what came after, I’m sure there is a generation of women who saw you two in Purple Rain and went, “Huh, maybe this is what I am.”
Wendy: I remember getting a lot of letters from young girls: “I wanna play guitar just like you,” and you could tell in some of the writing that they were little young lesbians and their parents were freaked. And I would write back and just be like, “Just go for it. Live it. You’ll work it out.” It doesn’t come our way much anymore except from people who are just a few years younger than us. You know, “You made such a difference to me growing up and I wanted to be just like you. A lot of straight girls are like, “You’re the only gay girls who I’d wanna screw.”

RIGHT TED? WE OUTTA HERE: Anoop Desai, beloved around here but falling ultimately shy of ALOTT5MA Fave status, makes clear in his exit interview that the life of a folklorist (his senior thesis? the impact of barbecue on southern culture) is not where he sees himself any more:

What is your dream? What do you see in your future?
I want to be a pop and R&B star. That's what I feel I'm best at singing. That's what I feel will be the most successful commercially and that's what I have the most fun doing. And I think that I've showed that side. My favorite comment of the entire season was when Kara said on Tuesday that "Dim All The Lights" -- the fast part -- could be on the radio because that's what we really tried to do with the song. We tried to give it a sort of Ne-Yo-esque beat. And that's what I'm really striving for. That's the kind of music I want to make. Ne-Yo is someone that I think epitomizes the R&B crossover into pop. I really look at him, and artists like him, as examples of where I want to go. And the thing is I have a different voice than all of them.

Different voice than the rest of the Idol contestants?
I have a different voice than the rest of the Idols but I also have a different voice than other people on the pop/R&B game. Although R&B is my game, I am very influenced by the Brit Rock that's out there right now. I think that's a different feel. So I'm looking forward to getting some songs and taking to producers and talking to people I'm going to collaborate with and really getting that album out there. I really do think that I have something that can be successful in today's market.

Predict Desai's ultimate level of success -- or answer this question: three years from now, Anoop Desai will be ....
SADLY, "BRICK HOUSE" IS NOT YET ON THE SONG LIST: I'm still not persuaded of the necessity of Lego Rock Band, a version aimed at "family friendly" audiences, with Lego graphics. However, if there's one song that might get me to shell out for the game, it's the already announced "The Final Countdown." Also already announced--"Song 2," "Kung Fu Fighting," and "So What." Please provide other suggestions. Personally, I'd like to see Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You," and, as previously expressed, can we please finally get "I Want You To Want Me?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ERIC CARTMAN WANTS TO BE A SOMALI PIRATE: I think that's all I need to tell you about the essential awesomeness of this week's South Park. Oh, and there's a Susan Boyle joke. Sweet!
HOW ABOUT AN UNDERWIRE OF GOLD, FREDA? I'll give the kids some credit -- lip-synched though it was, that was clearly the most effort the show put into the Silver Platters Medley all season. Kudos to Paula for some choreography that took advantage of the fact that they no longer have to carry a blind guy. Also, kudos for Thelma Houston for removing from Allison Iraheta the crown of worst-dressed Idol performer of the year. Hot. Mess.

And the dead, dead eyes are back, America!

As for the eliminations, the first one was unsurprising. The second, however, was a stunner given what we know about what usually makes a performer safe. And (though I'd have been stunned a month ago to be saying this now) thank goodness, though it does leave the remaining five a bit ... odd.
SCRAMBLING TO COMB OVER THEIR $295- TO $2,625-A-SEAT BALD SPOTS: The Mets and Yankees may have overestimated demand for their premium seats.

e.t.a.vaguely.related. ESPN picks up the Lenny Dykstra: NAILED story, with details of even more lawsuits, attempts to leverage off others' credit cards for his private jets and family woes. "The lawsuits suggest that one of two things is going on here: Either Lenny hates to pay his bills, or he’s a financial train wreck."
SUPERFUNBIGLIST: For the second in an occasional series of fantasy American Idol theme nights, Adam and I have chosen The Songs of SubPop.

SubPop is a national treasure, though it frequently reminds us that it is worth practically nothing (t-shirt mottos -- in 1990: "What Part of We Have No Money Don't You Understand"; in 2008, "Going Out of Business for 20 Years"). It started as a 'zine, then a column in a free weekly, then an infrequent mail-order cassette compilation, and didn't become an actual record imprint until the release of the seminal SubPop 100 compilation. Much of what we associate with SubPop's heyday actually isn't -- Geffen bought out Nirvana's contract and released Nevermind (with a SubPop sticker and some royalties); Soundgarden released its first album on SST and everything thereafter on A&M, using SubPop only for a few singles, songs on compilations, and an EP; SubPop’s Green River never reached the popularity of its progeny, Pearl Jam and Mother Love Bone; etc. Meanwhile, SubPop soldiered on, collecting bands that moved the label away from its early homegeniety, tentatively at first (Afghan Whigs, Velocity Girl) but eventually completely (Postal Service, The Shins). Can a bunch of kids who grew up at the same time as, but not with, the label do it justice? Probably not, but here's how we suggest they try:

All she wants to do is belt. Fine. "Bear Up Bison," Shonen Knife, which has the Lil-appropriate lyrics "He's on the way to extinction/We only want what's best for him." Or Velocity Girl's lead single off Copacetic, "Crazy Town", which is going to take some effort to bring from Sarah Shannon's opera-trained register to be Lillified, but since Lil can't do anything else well why not give shoegazer pop a try? -- Adam

For someone who yells so much, she's remarkably difficult to assign a SubPop song. Mudhoney, no. Blood Circus, no. Tad, Spinanes, Hazel, SDRE, no. Iron & Wine, God, no. I guess I'd slow the poppy, featherweight "Sliver" by Nirvana down just a touch, give it a shuffle beat, and pray for the best. -- Isaac

Highlights from "Flower," Soundgarden. Does he have the stones? Arranged correctly, this actually probably wouldn't need to be much different from this week's "Stayin' Alive." -- Isaac

Um, yeah. I clearly haven't figured him out at all. I'm going to recommend the pop standard "Cry Me A River," which the retro-lounge band Combustible Edison recorded for their first album, and since Susan Boyle sang it too he's going to get some residual dap. -- Adam

"New Slang," the Shins. This is an easy song to sing, and a nice crowd-pleaser. Anybody who says "it will change your life" will be referred to with derision at ALOTT5MA headquarters. – Isaac

"When It All Comes Down," Unrest, off the Afternoon Delight compilation. (Listen here.) Just a silly little pop song, which is about all he's got left -- Adam

L7, "Shove". If L7 is ever getting on the show, it's through the Magenta Spitfire. Either that or Velocity Girl's "Crawl" off the split single with Tsunami -- one day I'll make a boy cry, one day ... -- Adam

"Ohio," Damien Jurado. To please KCosmo, this would be a complete 180 for her. Can she show a softer side? I'd like to hear those pipes wheezing softly for once. -- Isaac

I'm going to hate myself for doing this, but I'll give him a good song -- Sebadoh's "Soul and Fire", which on the album is about 1/3 slower than this live version, and gives him more chances to be plaintive and beseeching, which is totally his ballpark. Either that or "It's So Hard To Fall In Love." -- Adam

"Love Buzz," Nirvana. I don't think he can pull it off. But they can't do a SubPop night without it, and other than Lambert he's probably the one most capable of the shameless overthetopousity this song requires. It would probably sound like every other uptempo song he's done. – Isaac

"Such Great Heights," Postal Service tempo; Iron & Wine instrumentation. I just linked to the delightful uke tube version of this a few days ago. I'd rather hear him doing this than anybody else on this list doing anything else listed. – Isaac

"In A Ditch," Scud Mountain Boys. Really, most of the album Massachusetts is perfectly in his acoustic Americana wheelhouse. So would the new Fleet Foxes LP -- "Winter White Hymnal"? -- Adam

It would be wrong not to give him a Nirvana song. "Negative Creep" gives him plenty to work with. -- Adam

"The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room," Flight of the Conchords. A pretty song, funny without being kitschy, and plenty of opportunities to go back and forth between falsetto and regular voice without screaming (seriously -- watch the damn video and imagine Lambert singing it). Though if he wanted to go old school, "Aneurysm" by Nirvana would work just fine. – Isaac
BELL-BOTTOM BLUES, YOU MAKE ME CRY: Oh, George Will. You make me titter a pitying laugh. It isn't just that you believe that adults should not, must not, wear jeans, or that you yourself have only ever worn a pair once (to a dungaree-themed party), or that you believe that the sight of a family all wearing jeans is "a sad tableau," or that it is appropriate to infer immaturity from the wearing of jeans, or that all adults should dress like Fred Astaire (but not Ginger Rogers, she of the short shorts, fur bras, and micro-minis) or Grace Kelly.

It's that you don't even understand the wearing of jeans. People who wear jeans do so to avoid "lookism [defined as] believing that appearance matters" and don't think there is such thing as "good and bad taste"? Citation, please. Perhaps Will may be forgiven for not knowing that Glamour and its cousins fell trees annually in a hunt for jeans that make women of all shapes look good (not merely like "society's most slovenly") or that there are entire stores dedicated to identifying and selling the precise pair that will best lift, shape, and flatter one's caboose for the cost of a used car. But does he really not understand that people who believe in "good and bad taste" can nonetheless differentiate between this and this? Or this and, well, anything else? How sad it would be to live in a world where one looks at Alessandra Ambrosio or Tyson Beckford and thinks, "ugh, how slovenly."

Or maybe I'm being punked, though Astaire would have called it "made the subject of a light-hearted jest."

Gawker, Warming Glow, etc. No politics!
FACING NEWSQUIZ WITHDRAWAL: Which Person in the News said this on Tuesday, and why?
In my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear. [Pause.] Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don't know. I mean, I don't think it's beyond human experience.
[Serious answers unwelcome. By way of clarification, because not everyone here did NewsQuiz, here's an example or two of Randy Cohen's enterprise.]
WHO WANTS TO THANK DIKEMBE? Following a knee injury suffered in last night's playoff game, the NBA's greatest humanitarian and finger-wagger has announced his retirement.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MARCOTTE'S THEORY OF WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS: The likelihood of a hotel having free WiFi bears a relationship to its cost in an inverse parabolic curve formation, such that both very cheap (I'm talking Memphis Admiral Benbow cheap) and highly expensive hotels are both highly unlikely to offer free WiFi. The apex of the parabolic curve appears to be approximately $139-149 a night, at which point a hotel almost certainly will offer free WiFi. Higher and lower cost hotels are less likely to offer free WiFi.
THE NIGHT KRIS PLUGGED IT IN: So that's what happens when they strip out the nonsense and just let the singers sing! Pretty good show on the road to Adam v. [Kris, Danny or Allison and likely Kris], and I won't be shocked if any of the bottom four tonight go home. Yeah, even RDJJ -- that song's not a helpful one in this competition. Kim and I both have some thoughts (hers began with "I must be in a good mood or something. Other than Lil, I thought that everyone else kinda nailed it"), and we'll do it in the order that I have them ranked, just because I can:

The Lambert: Lovely. We're spoiled, because we now know what his voice can do, but that doesn't make any less impressive the way he closed this one. But enough of Crooner Adam -- for the Finals can we see him like in the Zodiac show? (Adam)

Gorgeous vocal as always, but not my favorite. I found it to be a little too squirmily dramatic, and I hated both the suit and the hair. But those are small nits in the grand scheme of things. He’s fabulous, but the slow falsetto croony thing no longer has the power to surprise us. Nor does the Mick/Axl/Tyler commanding of the stage. We expect these sorts of things from Adam now, and there are more than a few weeks between now and the finals. What’s he going to do to keep us dazzled and voting? (Kim)

Kris: Just perfect. It's about time we actually heard the guitar, and Kris demonstrated himself to be the artist we kinda sorta thought he was the whole time. I remember when I saw Liz Phair during the Guyville tour and her opening act was some random skiffle duo that rearranged Nine Inch Nails' "Sin" like that. Did you know that like Adam and RDJJ, he's never been bottom three? (Adam)

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly a solo acoustic performance, but it came pretty damn close. I think he beat out Adam tonight – not necessarily because it was better, although it was rather spectacular, but because it was new and unexpected. This is the kind of performance that gets people talking and voting. I continue to pat myself on the back where Kris is concerned. I feel personally responsible for his success. Is there anyone in America who doesn’t think that Kris Allen seems like a helluva nice guy? (Kim)

Allison: I'm not entirely sure why you'd combine "Hot Stuff" with a "Dirty Diana" feel, other than to slow it down. Did little for me artistically, but she's just so good at what she does. The only question is how wide the range of "what she does" is. (Adam)

Yes, yes, you can sing. But no, no, you can’t dress. (In a competition where everyone else looks pretty good week in and week out, her ridiculous get-ups are starting to wear on my nerves.) And I have to say it: I’m bored. The singing was great, the performance was good, the same as it almost always is week in and week out. But to answer Adam’s question as to how wide her range is: it goes from A to maybe A-and-a-half. What is she going to do when we hit the multiple-song weeks? (Kim)

You Do the Hokey Gokey and You Turn Yourself Around: "September" is the song that eliminated Anwar Robinson, and RDJJ wasn't any better -- hoarse, stilted, unexciting. Taylor Hicks would have done it better, and I despised Taylor Hicks. (Adam)

I liked this performance a lot. Here’s the thing. Danny never surprises me, but he manages to pull off singerly performances of not-very-singerly songs. I mean, “PYT” is a pretty silly song, but in Danny’s hands it was a perfectly legitimate performance. And here, with “September,” Danny took a song that just isn’t very melodic and performed it well. “Hoarse” isn’t really a criticism where Danny’s concerned – that’s the “sexy” to which Paula (correctly) referred. He’s not an artist by any stretch, but he’d be a great front man for a wedding band. He shouldn’t win, but he does what he does well. I continue to await his Christian album after the competition ends – I suspect it’s going to be huge. (Kim)

Anoop Desai and His Playoff Beard: I did not at all get his half-assed attempts at maybe-I'll-clap-eh-never-mind. Because the vocals, until that last note, were fine -- but his unfulfilled efforts to be entertaining were bizarre. If he goes home, well, he's due. (Adam)

Not sure why Anoop got the pimp slot on this one, except that it was his turn for some pimping. It was a good performance, although not a spectacular one. I kept hoping for one or two of the little up-notes that Donna Summer did – “Dim all-LL the lights” – and was kind of disappointed that Anoop didn’t take a swing at them. I also wondered why he changed every sweet darlin’ to a sweet baby or whatever he did. (Bad, bad choice in my book, because I love a guy who can throw a darlin’ out there effectively.) If I had to pick two to go, based solely on this week, I’d send Anoop home rather than Matt. But life would be better if it were just a one-shot week. (Kim)

Matt: I could barely hear him during the first chorus. Weird falsettos. Karaoke in a hat is still karaoke. (Adam)

This was my favorite performance of his, ever. Well, maybe it’s a tie with “Part Time Lover,” but I really liked it. During the first verse, I had my one and only “OH, this is where people get the Justin Timberlake comparison” moment. It was funky and fun and different from the Bee Gees version and I had a rocking good time listening to it. Yes, it got a little creaky during the “ah-ah-ah-ah Stayin’ Alive” stuff – which, incidentally, is the kind of thing that Danny would pull off seamlessly, per my prior comments – but on the whole I thought it was surprisingly good. (Kim)

Lil: Shouty and random and bad. Sang around the song rather than singing it, and let the backup singers carry her. Gone. (Adam)

Um, bye. She just doesn’t get it. (Kim)
ALL RIGHT, I'LL TASTE THE SOUP. WHERE'S THE SPOON? The Times of London makes its picks for the world's 100 Best Restaurants, with two American spots (Per Se at No. 7 and Chicago's very own Alinea at No. 10) cracking the top 10.

Also of interest at the Times is its picks of the 50 Best (Semi-) Current U.S. TV shows. It's amusing to see how your favorite shows seen through British eyes. For instance:
  • The Office--"To be honest, it’s a different beast entirely, but laugh out loud funny."
  • HIMYM--"The show doesn’t break any boundaries but sees Neil Patrick Harris, better known as Doogie Howser MD, on fine form".
  • Mad Men--"I defy anyone to get through a single effortlessly cool episode without wanting to light up a smoke, or resist the urge to neck a Scotch...Made by the relatively obscure AMC network, pointing to the depth of quality across schedules."
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm--"If you found David Brent difficult to watch in The Office, you’ll probably chew your own face off watching the former Seinfeld man’s fictional portrayal of himself."
  • The Wire (the paper's No. 1 pick)--"Be warned, episodes are like Pringles, and perfectly reasonable people have been debilitated into muttering 'just one more' as they rock back and forth in their pyjamas after an extended Baltimore-fest"
KING KONG AIN'T GOT S**T ON THIS LIST; HE'S ONLY DIED ONCE IN EACH VERSION: Premiere Magazine ranks Hollywood's biggest male stars based on how many times they've died on screen. (Contains spoilers, assuming you haven't seen every movie ever made, though if you don't know how Malcolm X ends, I can't help you. Also, I don't know that you can spoil the ending of Vanilla Sky.)
YES, BUT WHO GETS TO PLAY THE VILLAIN, JOE MORGAN? Steven Soderbergh has cast Demetri Martin to portray Paul DePodesta alongside Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in his film adaptation of Moneyball, which will be lensed this summer. If ever there were an example of the Moneyball philosophy in Hollywood -- let's cast the lesser-known, cheaper option who'll give us 90% of the value of a big name at 10% of the cost -- this is it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

KITCHY-KITCHY YA YA YA YA: Fred App posed a fair question after the last Idol results show: is Disco Night really the right way to go from the top seven to the top five? Disco is not a singer's medium – it is the music that accompanies you while you enjoy a different activity (dancing). It’s the opposite of Idol's "sit on your couch and watch me sing" model. The most plausible response is that Idol likens its audience to the people who watched Fear Factor (and who gave William Hung his 15 minutes). Like Adam says, Idol does only what's right for Idol, so it must have figured out that people will tune in if you promise them a gruesome spectacle. Yet there is a fairness to Disco Night. These contestants want to be professional musicians. Is it too much to ask that they be able to choose from a limited menu of completely inappropriate songs and rejigger them into something that people want to hear? (Ricky Minor will be no help here.) Sure, that gives people with practice songwriting, arranging, and playing their own instruments an advantage, but it's crazy to think that there's something wrong with that in a musical contest. I'm no disco fan, but presumably anybody who can't mine something worth singing out of whatever crap the Idol producers clear doesn't deserve to last another week. So we propose:

This is a tough week for the guys out there. Here’s a thought for Matt: maybe this is more funk than disco, but I’m finding sufficient refererences to “disco-funk” to support my suggestion of “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” for Matt. Let the backup singers do the actual bombdropping, and Matt can do all his bluesy funky riffing on all the other stuff. Might suck, might work. And if anyone on the show could maybe pull off the Dana Whitaker special, I think it might be Matt who could bring a rockin’ “Boogie Shoes.” -- Kim

This week is so far from his bailiwick. "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," I guess, but I don't like his chances. I'm guessing he's not going to do the Cake cover of "I Will Survive." -- Adam

I don't know, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love"? (For a change of pace, Afghan Whigs version.) I'm trying to give him something without sustained notes, so he can avoid his bleating vibrato. Giraud is somebody who would benefit from really reworking an unexpected song, because I just can't see him busting out of the bottom two with a faithful rendition of anything that can colorably be called disco. -- Isaac

This night a genre saved her life; if she can't ace this week, she ought to go home. Take your pick -- I'll go with "Lady Marmalade." Anything but "Last Dance", under Adam's Song Choice Rule #3: don't pick something that's too ironic or on-point as a farewell song. -- Adam

Adam's pick of "Lady Marmalade" is a good one -- I loved the version by the Wee Prostitutes, especially when Xtina came in and just started yelling like bitch poured beer in her weave. As with everything else Rounds does, though, it's going to pale in comparison to a version we know. But what are her choices? Mostly stuff that would be funny if she were (or when she is) eliminated, like, as Adam said, "Last Dance," or "I Will Survive" or "Never Can Say Goodbye." Rounds, by the way, has never shown a shred of inventiveness -- she has done everything straight up, which is danger this week. -- Isaac

Same comments as everyone else regarding Last Dance, of course (I cannot hear the song without envisioning my white roller skates with the purple pompoms and the dimmed lights at United Skates of America during the slow part of the song). I think she’s toast tonight if she can’t find some way to distinguish herself from the pack. This suggestion won’t be the way to do it, but here’s one that hasn’t been suggested for her – “Dim All the Lights.” -- Kim

I have no idea. “Don’t Take Away the Music”? I’m kind of yawning just thinking about it, but I’m not coming up with anything better. -- Kim

He's going to want to tap into his falsetto, and I don't think he wants to dance. I guess it's a lock that he'll want one of the slower Bee Gees songs. "Too Much Heaven" might be a good song for him. It gives him the opportunity to stand with his legs at shoulder width (knees slightly bent -- don't want to faint) and hold the mic to his mouth with his right hand while he raises his left. His pleading eyes and bullying eyebrow will almost distract you from the bead of flop sweat on his quivering upper lip. -- Isaac

In trouble, because he can't really dance. It's time for low-key Crooner Anoop again -- "To Love Somebody," wearing one of those douchey cardigans? -- Adam

I'll be extremely disappointed if she doesn't do Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," and I'll be equally disappointed if it is not choreographed and costumed exactly like in the Donna Summer Special. Incidentally, it's fashionable to complain about how trashy our current culture is. 30 years ago Donna Summer had a prime-time network variety special featuring hookers having back-seat sex with cops. She also recorded a song that was nothing but her faking an orgasm. -- Isaac

Disco night is a lot easier for women than for men; there are so many diva songs of the era for them to belt on. Diana DeGarmo had one of her best nights with "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)"; Allison can do it even better. It's hard for her to go wrong this week; she just had to do a crowd-pleaser that keeps her away from the bottom. -- Adam

She’s starting to bore me (ah, the perils of consistency), but this is probably not the week for her to change things up. “Knock on Wood”? -- Kim

I feel like all my suggestions for Kris start out with “how about a solo acoustic version of . . . “ and this week will be no different. How about a solo acoustic version of “MacArthur Park”? -- Kim

Bee Gees. Must be Bee Gees. "Nights On Broadway" or "To Love Somebody" would be fine; anything requiring him to dance isn't. -- Adam

I have no ideas at all, none, so this might be a good time to mention that I apparently can recognize the choruses of only about 25 disco songs (none appropriate for Allen), and for most of them I don't even know if they have verses. Like it could just be that irritating disco high-hat and a bass and a couple of people chatting in French about the latest general strike, and then suddenly: "DISCO … DISCO DUCK!" For the record, I am not advocating that Allen do "Disco Duck." Yet by the process of elimination of disco songs I know and have already assigned to others, I am. -- Isaac

Has sung three ballads in a row. Make it stop, have some fun. He can't screw up "Everlasting Love." -- Adam

Up-tempo, up-tempo, up-tempo. I like Adam’s choice, “Everlasting Love.” Who doesn’t like that song? He sings well enough that he shouldn’t mangle it like, say, Scott Savol or Jasmine Trias. And it will give him plenty of opportunity to do his little lateral “I know how to work the mike properly” microphone move that is starting to piss me off with its preciousness. (He could also do “Boogie Shoes,” but I’m offering it to Matt instead so that I don’t give all my fun growly ideas to Danny just because I like him better.) -- Kim

I think Gokey will zero in on something recognizable, uptempo, and safe, since he has no incentive to do anything other than survive this horrible week. Something very Greatest Hits of Disco. "Stayin' Alive" would make sense, or "If I Can't Have You." I really want him to do a 3:4 "Disco Inferno," but I know that's not possible. -- Isaac

The Lambert:
It's an easy week for him, except that it isn't: he can't re-do the same style in which he did "Play That Funky Music" (it's easy to imagine his "Funkytown," say), or "To Love Somebody" in the stripped-down way he did "Tracks of My Tears". On the other hand, I'm assuming that the producers' (and possibly his own) desire to keep the lid on explicit discussions of his sexuality keep The Village People, "I'm Coming Out," "It's Raining Men" etc. out of play. So, um, "Don't Leave Me This Way". Why? Communards! -- Adam

I realize this is his falsetto week, but I think for disco night he'll switch it up and do two belters in a row. If Rounds doesn't do "Marmalade," he should (or: I'd rather hear him do "Marmalade" than Rounds, and I'm not a Lambert fan). If not that, I can completely hear him doing "I Love the Nightlife," especially the end of the chorus. Lambert is a man who lives for the "oh yeahs" in "I Love the Nightlife." I'm guessing that he loves the nightlife. Incidentally, I disagree with Adam -- I see no evidence that Idol would try to censor him if he wanted to do an overtly gay anthem; I just don't think that kitsch like "It's Raining Men" is where Adam wants to be as an artist or performer this deep in the competition. It's been a long time since did that Cher song.-- Isaac

I don’t want any of us to be right – I, like many people, am deriving 95% of my enjoyment this season out of hearing what Adam comes up with week after week. However, focusing on the what-I’d-like-to-hear-him-sing angle: “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” with a nice slow open before the tempo picks up into full-on dance party mode. But I agree with Isaac – this probably isn’t the week for him to slow things down – do we really need to hear him do his riff on one of those yawny ballads from the Brothers Gibb? -- Kim
THE BACKLASH? IT'S ON: Maureen Callahan, let's get it started:

[T]here is something disturbing about the collective rejection-embrace-elevation of Susan Boyle. There is the element of self-congratulation in the viral spread of this link around the Web, the idea that we, the secondary viewers, the judges of those who are judging, are far more evolved. There is the clip itself, suspiciously ready-made for online consumption: A 7-minute movie, slick and pithy in its perfect execution of the underdog narrative. (That something like "Rocky" took two hours to tell now seems antediluvian.) There is the classic David vs. Goliath subplot, the primal satisfaction of seeing the bully (Cowell) slain by such a seemingly inferior force. And there is the profound desire for this entire thing to be authentic, which in and of itself suggests that it probably isn't. Not since P.T. Barnum has there been a show business master of the trompe l'oeil like Simon Cowell.

This isn't to suggest that Boyle herself is a hoax (though she does seem a bit too comfortable on that stage, parrying with Cowell, to be a complete naif). But the notion that Cowell was unaware of Boyle's existence, let alone discordant looks and talent level, before she ever took the stage, is flatly ridiculous. And the song Boyle chose - if she, in fact, chose it - so seamlessly provides the meta-narrative that it's easy to miss how calculated it is. From "Les Misérables" ("the miserable," the way we are meant to perceive Boyle), she sings "I Dreamed a Dream." Boyle opens on the second stanza: "I dreamed a dream in time gone by/When hope was high/And life worth living." In "Les Misérables," it's sung by a lonely, unemployed character on the fringes - just like Boyle, who sang with the undignified descriptor "unemployed, 47" slung across the bottom of the screen....

Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is that not since Saturday has Susan Boyle been Susan Boyle. It's a permutation of the Heisenberg principle: That 30 million people have heard her, seen her, embraced her has already changed who she is. The shy churchgoer who said that her recently deceased mother encouraged her to "take the risk," who admitted in her audition that she has never been kissed, who has forever lived as something of an accidental outcast - she now seems too much of this world. "I've been for a meeting with Sony BMG, but I can't say much about it," she said this week. "It's early days." Susan Boyle is now one of us. And that is really a shame.

Miss Alli explains where the backlash goes from here.

e.t.a. The WaPo's Robin Givhan, on whether Boyle should have a makeover: "The politically correct answer: Only if she wants one. The honest answer: Yes.... The point of a proper makeover, however, is not to look like someone else but the best version of yourself. This is not a recommendation for an "Extreme Makeover," but rather the Tim Gunn or "What Not to Wear" version. ... The tale of Susan Boyle will not be complete until the shy spinster blossoms. Those who have been entranced by her story so far should let Boyle's fairy godmother finish her work."
HA HA! YOUR MEDIUM IS (STILL) DYING: 2009 Pulitzer winners just announced. If a local official got involved in a sex scandal this year, it helped your chances of victory, as the NYT (Spitzer) and Detroit Free Press (Kilpatrick) learned. Our No Politics Rule suggests, however, that we leave all the reporting awards to the side, though it's neat to see the St. Pete Times' PolitiFact honored.

In categories of noteworthy interest for this site, Biography/Autobiography was awarded to Jon Meachem for “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House", with runners-up being “Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” by H.W. Brands and “The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century,” by Steve Coll, a book I read with great interest and about which I can't say anything.

History goes to “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” by Annette Gordon-Reed, besting “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” by Harvard's Drew Gilpin Faust and “The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s,” by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot. The General Non-Fiction winner is “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II,” by Douglas A. Blackmon, edging past “Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age” by Arthur Herman and “The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe” by William I. Hitchcock.

The award for Fiction went to “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout "a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating." Other finalists were “The Plague of Doves,” by Louise Erdrich and “All Souls,” by Christine Schutt.

The award for distinguished criticism went to the NYT's Holland Cotter "for his wide ranging reviews of art, from Manhattan to China, marked by acute observation, luminous writing and dramatic storytelling," with runners-up being the Inq's indispensible architecture critic Inga Saffron and BoGlo art critic Sebastian Smee.
MOXIE CRIMEFIGHER? AMATEURS: Name of the Year, a blog that annually selects the name of the year (from a pool comprised of all real names, though there is a heavy emphasis on people from the sporting life), has announced the finalists for this year's Name of the Year. After online voting whittled down a 64-name bracket, it's Barkevious Mingo vs. Iris Macadangdang for all the marbles.

Even though Macadangdang was a #1 seed (probably because she's been a good sport about this whole thing; Mingo was a #4), this seems like an upset to me. Read the bracket. You're telling me Barkevious and Macadangdang are better than Crystal Metheney, Nutritious Love, Velvet Milkman, Uranus Golden, Dr. Shasta Kielbasa, or, says the 14-year-old me, semifamous football player Shavodrick Beaver?

Some Name of the Year history here.
COME ON, HOMER, JAPAN WILL BE FUN! YOU LIKED RASHOMON. THAT'S NOT HOW I REMEMBER IT: In recognition of its 15th anniversary, Turner Classic Movies suggests a list of the fifteen most influential films of all time. "These are not necessarily the most important films, nor representative of “firsts” in film history," they explain, "These are the movies that shaped the cinema and the audiences that viewed them. "

It's not a bad list, though I don't understand why two Westerns would need listing, even with the latter one (The Searchers) being among my all-time favorites. I think the list has a serious gap in terms of silent comedies, which I'd fill with Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925), because of its phenomenal mix of gags, plot and pathos; I'd also try to make room for Slacker, Clerks, Reservoir Dogs or sex, lies, and videotape, any one of which would be representative of the DIY aesthetic and business model launched during the past twenty years of film.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

STATE OF LOVE AND TRUST AND BLOGGERS AND EVIL DEFENSE CONTRACTORS: It's been 24h since I saw State of Play, and I still don't have much interesting to say. It's not a bad movie; it's just not nearly as good as it could have been. The thrills aren't that thrilling or shocking, and none of the film's primary tensions -- in-house blogger v. experienced journalist; private military contractors v. traditional military; Russell Crowe v. American accent -- were quite intelligent enough or where they needed to be to elevate the film from pedestrian to recommended. It's especially disappointing given the pedigree -- Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray and Peter Morgan all had a hand in the screenplay.

If you want to see a truly great movie with Russell Crowe about contemporary tensions in journalism, rent The Insider. This one, you can wait for cable.
I CALLED HIM A 'BITCH' BECAUSE IT WAS A BITCH MOVE: We learned that "fowl is fish." We learned that in Chinese school, calligraphy lessons need rapt attention, but they don't teach cormorant calling (and speaking of which, there truly is a Wiki page for everything.) We've finally found a country on the race for which the judges on "do a local dance" mean business. But we didn't see much in the way of skillful or interesting racing.

I was mostly agnostic on the Big Fight issues of this leg -- Luke was more wrong than Jen, I thought, at the clue box altercations. But there was no question in my mind that Margie correctly seized on the laugh/smile from Kisha during Luke's rant -- whether it was from condescension or unintentional discomfort, I'm not sure, but it was there.

Help me out on this: how did the first four teams all arrive in Guilin at night but not find the first route marker until well past dawn? And next week: something we've never seen before in a reality show!

Leonard Cohen's victory march: but please, no more Hallelujahs.

IT GOES LIKE THIS: Leonard Cohen, on That Song's ubiquity:
Well I was happy that the song was being used of course. There were certain ironic and amusing side bars, you know, because the record that it came from which was called Various Positions - that record Sony didn't wouldn't put out. They didn't think it was good enough... It had songs like Dancing to the End of Love, Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will. But it wasn't considered good enough for the American market and it wasn't put out. So there was a certain sense of a mild sense of revenge that arose in my heart. But I don't, you know, I was happy about it but it's I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it and the reviewer said - "Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?" And I kind of feel the same way.
Aidin Vaziri of the SF Chronicle honors Jeff Buckley and nine covers of other Cohen songs.