Saturday, August 22, 2009

DUDE, YOU CAN'T START A SLOW CLAP AT ANY TIME AND EXPECT EVERYONE TO JOIN IN: Except, sometimes, when they do in this fantastic montage.

See, related, this ridiculously comprehensive list of similar "super montages" -- every "dude" in Lebowski, every F-bomb in The Departed or Scarface, every "McFly" in the BttF trilogy, etc. Oh, lord. (HT: PopWatch.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT'S MY BOOBS! Does the concept of Megan Fox hosting the SNL season premiere make you excited, angry, bored, or something else? And speaking of that, who'd you like to see host this year?
THIS COULD BE WICKED SMAHT OR WICKED STUPID: In an interesting move, Nikki Finke is reporting that Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island is moving its release date from October 2 to February 2010, in spite of aggressive promotion that's already begun and Oscar buzz, due to budget constraints. With this and the fizzle of the Avatar trailer yesterday, the fall film season just got a bit less interesting.
PUT A BELT AROUND IT AND CINCH IT! According to the full-page ad on the back of the main section of today's Times, 40 years ago today, the first Gap opened in San Francisco. Even though Gap's corporate siblings, Old Navy and Banana Republic, have now taken the forefront for me (and I suspect, most of our readers), it's hard to think of another clothing chain that has more effortlessly embodied and influenced American casual style over the past few decades, even shaping our culture. For instance, take a look at their 2008 holiday ads, featuring Jon Hamm, the men of SNL, and Jason Bateman, or the minimalistic "Everybody In..." commercials from the mid-90s (leather, vests, cords), or the subsequent dancing commercials (khakis swing, khaki country, and Claire Danes and Patrick Wilson selling "boyfriend trousers"). And of course, there are the parodies--David Spade and Adam Sandler come immediately to mind. How has the Gap affected you?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

OH, AND I ALSO SPENT A LOT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT HOW MUCH RACHEL McADAMS WAS REMINDING ME OF JENNIFER GARNER: So I went on opening night to see the movie adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books, The Time Traveler's Wife. The early reviews were sort of heavy on the meh, so I was a little dubious. I shouldn't have been -- I really, really enjoyed it.

I think the movie was successful on two critical levels. First, the narrative flow had to make sense. I remember reading the book back a few years ago and constantly flipping back and forth between the chapters to see how old Henry was during this part, and whether this other thing happened before or after that thing in Claire's lifetime or in Henry's lifetime, and did this happen already back a few chapters ago? Can't do that in a movie. But the movie didn't need it. Partially through stripping down the subplots and partially through some good casting and makeup for the various Claires (which makeup was entirely unhelpful when it came to Henry, incidentally -- there was one dramatic haircut and one burst of grey hair, each at an important moment, neither of which was repeated, and both of which should have been), they managed to avoid the problem of getting people hopelessly brain-tied. (Incidentally, I wondered after the film whether a viewer who hadn't read the book would feel the same way about the followability of the plot -- anyone here see the movie without reading the book beforehand?)

But the most important thing about making the movie work as well as the book did was this: it had to make me weep weepily for at least half an hour. Mr. Cosmo spent lots of time laughing at me when I was reading the book, because starting at a point maybe two-thirds of the way through, I started crying and did not stop. (Red-nosedly and with lots of shuddery sad breaths of the sort three-year-old Cosmo Boy utters when he's getting over a weepfest of his own -- it was quite glamorous, really.) I am not normally the soggiest of readers, but the thing that got to me was the inevitability of the conclusion. In a book about chronodisplacement, you end up knowing things before you're really supposed to, and when those things are sad, well, all systems are a go for the waterworks. And I am pleased to report that the movie had the same effect -- tears galore. I think the point at which I started crying was different (book: the flash of recognition as to where all this is heading for Henry; movie: Alba's first appearance), but the impact was the same. In fact, three out of the four of us at the movie together had the same soggy experience. (The hard-hearted stalwart, incidentally, was ThingThrower KR, who I'd never had the pleasure of meeting before.)

So I know there are sophisticated critiquers of film who have shredded the acting and the writing and the whatever else they're griping about, but I got to sit in a totally sold-out movie theater with a couple hundred other Audrey Niffenegger enthusiasts and bawl with soggy enthusiasm. Worked for me.
BRINGS LOVE AND LAUGHTER EVERYWHERE:I'm not quite sure who was calling out for it, but Shout!Factory, purveyors of pop cultural artifacts both essential (the recent MSCL and SportsNight reissues, the newly issued thirtysomething and The Paper Chase DVDs) and exceedingly inessential (Mr. Belvedere, Blossom, Punky Brewster) will add another to the latter category, with Small Wonder: The Complete First Season arriving on DVD "early next year." Everybody sing along!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HOLY MOLE: A satisfying end to a satisfying Top Chef Masters season -- well-chosen challenge, , smart judging, and a result wholly justified by the cooking we've seen and the editing. As Jay Rayner writes, it was "a meal that was, depending on your point of view, either the kisses of angels and the delicate beating of butterflys' wings made nourishment, or an outrageously decadent gustatory assault course, from which it was a miracle that we escaped without a gushing embolism each."

And, in summary, "What struck me about the vast majority of the food cooked for me by the chefs involved [all season long] was that it could only have come from the US.... It was there in the fascination with provenance, the commitment to how things tasted, and mostly in the lack of prissiness. Over here in Europe there is too often a grotesque fascination with painting pictures on the plate, as if creating dishes was advanced therapy for people with obsessive compulsive disorder. On this show there was elegance and control, but nobody went all painterly on us. It really was all about flavour, flavour, flavour."
FROM THE BFTJ CHRONICLES: Those of you familiar with my wife's work may recall her theory (via Anne Lamott) that it's okay to write about ex-boyfriends in fiction -- because they'll never fess up to being a character's inspiration -- so long as you change the character's name and give him a small penis.

Well, apparently, if you're writing a memoir about being Bernie Madoff's mistress, not only do you not have to change the name, but ...
SAMSONITIS: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick lists the nine worst efforts by baseball players to cover up the true cause of their injuries.
HUBIE! HUBIE! HUBIE! Show of hands -- for whom are you rooting in tonight's Top Chef Masters finale? Have you -- like me -- become increasingly annoyed by just how thoughtful and kind Rick Bayless is? And are you ready for tonight's for-now-Toby-Young-free return of Top (Other) Chefs?
FREE F. MURRAY ABRAHAM! Did strep throat kill Mozart?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

EDDIE FEIGNER SADDENED: Still catching up on last week's stories, and can we agree that it's nonsense that golf will become an Olympic sport? Really. For reasons previously stated, this is unnecessary, especially with women's softball on the outside again. At least rugby made it, and with that, I'll gratuitiously add Isaac's comment of fifty-one weeks ago:
Squash would be great. We never really get a chance to see whether our rich people are as good as the rich people of other nations, except in Olympic sailing, kayak, dressage, eventing, equestrian jumping, fencing, rowing, and skiing, plus the Ryder and Davis cups.

One year ago today on the blog: we wonder about Michael Phelps' post-Beijing career. The word "Swimkata" is invoked. Two years ago today, while we're at it: four square makes a comeback, and three -- yes, already three years ago today, America finds out what happens when you put monkey-fighting snakes on a Monday-to-Friday plane.
BOIL H20 ADD KRFT MC&CHZ 10M DRAIN & ADD POWDER, MILK & STIR: The James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation) is now taking your votes for the best twitter-sized recipe from among the top 15 submitted. Currently leading: "10quahogs,steam,chop/ chopchorizo,onion,greenpepper,saute 1/4#butter, add quahog,clam stock,ritz crumbs, putinshells, bake10@400."

updated: Your five finalists, including "SEAR>1TclrfdBttr+CScallps+dashSlt/Ppr~WSK>2T:RceVngr/H2O/ Lime+1T:GrnNyn/Clntro/ Jlpno+1t:FshSauc/ Grlc+2tSugr+dashSlt ~SRVEw/Scallps."
WHAT KIND OF DOCUMENTARY FOLLOWS YOU TO YOUR HOUSE? Family Guy makes its case for your Best Comedy Emmy vote over The Office and Flight of the Conchords.
THROW A LIST OF FIVE: Translation Party translates between Japanese and English (and back) until there is a steady-state translation. A fine time sponge.

Monday, August 17, 2009

CHUCK ROCHA STOLE HALF MY ACT: Two links covering some of what went on while Matt and I were away -- here's the trivia questions Matt and I used during the third annual Netroots Nation Pub Quiz; and if you missed my hailing the W.F.C. Philadelphia Phillies and other remarks on C-SPAN, start at about 1:06 of this video. [Sadly, C-SPAN cut this opening video which AFSCME asked us to play before its president's remarks.]
NO. YOU ARE THE FROG: Video game developers' pitch meeting, c. 1979. (Mildly NSFW.)
GET LENA OLIN ON BOARD AND THEN WE'LL TALK: Starbuck and Sark on 24: Eight Days a Week? I still probably won't watch, but I must say it's getting tempting.
JUST A CLICK AWAY, NIGHT OR DAY: Felicia Day has a question for you.
STOP! HAMMERTIME!: They've announced this season's contestants for Dancing with the Stars. Most of these make some sense, of course. Others, like former Majority Whip Tom DeLay, not so much. Without stepping on the Rule, is it reasonable to note that actors and swimmers and such are a little bit better at this sort of thing than politicians? Or is this just part of a strategy to put out some really awful talent to make folks like Natalie Coughlin look good at this?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

THAT'S SOME DARNED SENSITIVE GAYDAR: Mad Men is back! Mad Men is back! Take a hearty slug of some Stolichnaya, enjoy your birthday in anonymous solitude, wink at Moneypenny, keep your eyes peeled as you make your way down the fire escape, knock over a few flowerpots on your way out, use the secret code when you call down for some A/C repair, do a little victory dance behind your door, and for gosh sake try not to fall asleep while you're warming milk late at night.

See you in the comments.