Saturday, December 4, 2010

DID YOU DO THE MONKEY?  In Sunday's NYT, Steve Martin defends himself:

I'M THE BEAVER, WALTER. AND I'M HERE TO SAVE YOUR DAMN LIFE:  Please attempt to watch the trailer for the new Mel Gibson movie without giggling in ways not intended by the filmmaker, Jodie Foster.

Friday, December 3, 2010

IF I COULD HAVE ONE WISH THAT I COULD WISH THIS HOLIDAY SEASON:  Steve Martin has a new novel out about the art world, a milieu in which he has much personal and direct experience.  So when NYC's 92nd Street Y promoted an event with Martin in conversation with an art critic/historian (who also does the NYT Mag's condensed/edited interview page), you'd expect that most of the conversation would be about that.

Which, as you probably know by now, caused something of a shitstorm on the Upper East Side, with angry emails during the event prompting an organizer to interrupt the talk to, basically, demand that the band stop promoting the new album and play "Freebird" already, as Linda Holmes put it:
It is exactly — exactly — like demanding your money back because Elton John didn't play "Rocket Man." Too bad, so sad. Nobody promised you the cookie-cutter experience that every other audience seeing every other similar event has ever seen. When you see an artist perform — and even more so when you hear an artist interviewed — there is no guarantee of the content; that's the exact point of going. Why would you go to hear someone speak if you already knew what he was going to say? If you want to read about how Steve Martin feels about acting and comedy, couldn't you find several looseleaf binders full of that stuff? The guy is not a recluse.
Worse, the 92nd Street Y wholly undermined Martin and Solomon by offering refunds to the disgruntled, essentially saying "your talk was worthless."  That's just something you don't do -- it's basically a Pander Or Die notice to every future speaker, and a red flag against doing anything challenging or new.  Even if the interview in fact wasn't going well, that's just the risk you take as an audience member at a live event.  Sometimes Springsteen's going to play the hits; sometimes it's all "Devils & Dust" and "Dream Baby Dream" on the pump organ.  You might not love it, but you can't ask for your money back either.

I saw a lot of standup comedians live growing up, and I was always disappointed when they'd just do the same routines from their HBO specials and tv.  I didn't want that; I wanted to hear something new.  If you want to attend events where you know exactly what you're going to receive, go see Gallagher.  Steve Martin is not Gallagher, and he's not going to smash the watermelon every night. Thank goodness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WELL, YOU COULD ALWAYS ADD BILL MURRAY: Could the current Tommy Hilfiger commercials be any more Wes Anderson-y? (I suppose you could also replace the Vampire Weekend song with a British Invasion one, but tonally, the song is very Anderson.)
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! Although the eternal child Bart Simpson was EW's first Entertainer of the Year back in 1990, this year's Entertainer of the Year is Taylor Swift--the youngest real person to ever obtain the title--and in my view, it's certainly a defensible choice, given that she's had achievements in music (the armload of Grammys, Speak Now), film (Valentine's Day, which wasn't terribly good, but I found her hyperactive performance interesting), and TV (hosting SNL surprisingly well) over the course of the year. Unsurprisingly, the comments at EW are ablaze with how this is horrible, with folks arguing for (among others) James Franco and Jon Hamm. Make your arguments.
WHATEVER DRAGONS SHE'D BEEN CHASING, SHE CHASED THEM AND TRAPPED AND SLEW 'EM BETWEEN ACTION AND CUT:  After a few years away from the business, Kirsten Dunst is back.  Thank goodness -- between Dick, Bring It On, The Virgin Suicides, Spider-Man and, for what it's worth, her stint on ER, this is an actress with a remarkable ability to convey sincerity, who draws your sympathy every time -- and I am rooting for her comeback.
EGOT WATCH:  Among the nominees for Grammy Awards announced last night, in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children, is Emma Thompson for Nanny McPhee Returns.  She's already got the "E" for her guest spot on "Ellen" and the "O" for starring in Howard's End and for adapting Sense and Sensibility.

[Feel free to comment about the nominees in any of the 109 categories here.]
CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG. IS THIS THE CRAFTIEST [TWELVE-LETTER WORD FOR INCEST] WHO'S EVER BEEN ON THIS SHOW?   Sometimes, Anthony Bourdain doesn't need to be fancy.  Sometimes, all he needs to say is "Didn't look good. Didn't taste good.  Wasn't cooked right," and as much as one might have expected a different outcome, this first Top Chef All-Stars result certainly makes a certain amount of sense.

That said, Bourdain's blog is already up.  As to the dish I thought seemed the worst, he wrote: "Whatever the f--- it was, was diabolical. A pu-pu platter from Hell. If Hell was a bad tiki bar in a Long Island strip mall."

I'm already ready to be rid of the subject of the title quote, as well as Mikey, and Sepinwall's right that Fabio's got a nasty case of Rupert-itis. Count me on Team Blais for now, but there are plenty of chefs (Somerton's Own Jen Carroll, Angelo, Hootie Hoo and Jamie) for whom I'm rooting.  Welcome back to the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PLEASE GO ON. REGALE ME WITH A STORY, WOMAN:  Oh, Survivor.  No, we've never quite seen that before.
I'VE BEEN TO HOLLYWOOD; I'VE BEEN TO REDWOOD: In Los Angeles, we aspire to be scandalously sexy. In DC, unscandalously sexy. In San Francisco, scandalously unsexy. Discuss.

(I've been traveling a lot.)
YOU CAN'T STOP THE BIEBER: Tonight, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees in the 109 categories for the Grammy awards. For reasons explicable only to someone who's not me, the eligibility year is September 1, 2009-September 30, 2010, meaning that big recent albums (Speak Now, The Incredible Machine, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) are not eligible, though early release singles may be ("Mine" would seem a safe bet for nods in at least the country categories), and older albums are (Susan Boyle, Michael Buble, Jay-Z's most recent). HitFix has a preview, suggesting we're in for a big year for Gaga, Lady Antebellum, and Eminem. Anyone you're rooting for or against?
HOOTIE HOO: We don't blog about every permutation of Top Chef here, but its first All-Star season? Hells yes. Starting tonight, we'll be seeing the return of the following folks who didn't win, but sure seem like fun to have around again:
Season 1: Tiffani Faison, Stephen Asprinio
Season 2: Marcel Vigneron, Elia Aboumrad
Season 3: Dale Levitski, Casey Thompson, Tre Wilcox
Season 4: Richard Blais, Spike Mendelsohn, Dale Talde, Antonia Lofaso
Season 5: Fabio Viviani, Jamie Lauren, Carla Hall
Season 6: Michael Isabella, Jennifer Carroll
Season 7: Angelo Sosa, Tiffany Derry
WEDNESDAY MORNING, 3 A.M. (EXPERIMENTAL INTERNET ENTERTAINMENT EDITION): Hey. Got 10 minites? How about 8 minutes and 53 seconds? If you're still up, man, there's no reason not to give it that much longer.

First, open this DJ QBert YouTube scratch freestyle in a new tab, but just for the audio (no need to watch DJ QBert throw down at this time). Then, while he works over Kool G Rap, go here, and scroll down through the cornucopia of variously compelling artworks, faster or slower as interest dictates.

Mabye click some links. Maybe read some of the titles. Ponder the pretty pictures. Relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten. Waxin' and milkin' all of y'all squareheads. Mmmm... that's good internets!

Sweet dreams, sleepy people.
ECONOMY OF (FOUR LETTER) WORDS: Baby. That'll do, really.

I was sitting here trying to express my frustration and disappointment with the just-concluded season of Sons of Anarchy. The screed was getting longer and longer. The tirade was getting more and more torrid. The rant was veering from the vaguely literate to the indulgently vulgar and consuming punctuation conspicuously (primarily of the parenthetical and interrobang varieties).

Then I remembered a comment from one of our worthy readers (Amber, here) that adequately captured the general disappointment with Shoot 'Em Up a few years ago. It seems to me that it applies equally well to the Sons of Anarchy situation this season: simply put, it had too many babies in it.

Cut Abel The Kidnapped Wonder-MacGuffin out of the storyline and it could have been perfectly serviceable run of episodes. There would have been time for so much more of the good stuff about law vs. order, practice vs. principle, love vs. lifestyle, that previously threatened to make this show more than a bad soap opera dressed up in black leather and dirty denim. In fact, if Jax Teller hadn't gone all Sally Field on us this season, it would have saved cast, crew, audience, and production company the time, expense, strain, and embarrassment of that thumpingly ill-scripted and implausible trip to Ireland. None of that was remotely necessary, and it was all done at the expense of more interesting themes, plot lines, and characters--the very things that drew me in last season.

Really, my list of gripes is profanity-laced and never-ending, but that sums it up: too many babies.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BETTER WITH REWRITE: As I clean out my DVR from last week, I finally figured out why I keep watching Better With You. I recognize it's not terribly good, but almost every performer is exceedingly likable and better than the material (the exception is Jake Lacy, who, not surprisingly, is the only member of the cast without a laundry list of prior credits). In that way, it reminds me of The Class, another show with wildly scattershot writing, but a solid and very likable cast, including many who went on to things that made much better use of their talents--Lizzy Caplan (Party Down), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Jason Ritter (to the extent The Event works at all, he has a lot to do with it), Andrea Anders (Better Off Ted), and Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead). I hope Better With You is likewise the gateway to better projects for its cast (particularly Joanna Garcia, who's well past due for a big hit--Privileged was arguably the last really good show on the CW, even if I'm still watching Gossip Girl).
WHAT ABOUT THE F**KING KIDS? We all recall the joy of the infomercials for the Gathering of the Juggalos, but it's time for Juggalos to celebrate the holidays--yes, Sugar Slam hosts an exhortation for all good Juggalos to give back (NSFW).
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK: Yes, it's basically Chess: The Musical: The Roleplaying Game Module.
"LEADER OF THE SAINTS, INSPIRATION TO HIS CITY":  The editors of Sports Illustrated have named Drew Brees as their 57th annual Sportsman of the Year.

Other SI writers penned essays on their nominees, including Chris Nowinski, Roy Halladay, Rafael Nadal, Ndamukong Suh, Armando Galarraga, Mike Krzyzewski and the San Francisco Giants.
COLLECTIVELY, "AWWWWWWW":  Via today's WaPo comes word of a new site,, which is devoted to pictures of newborn animals at zoos around the world.  They're all tagged by category, so children's music fans can indeed isolate the baby belugas and other adorables by species.
LET THE SUN SHINE IN: In the spirit of WikiLeaks, it's about time this blog stepped-up and, you know, exposed some stuff.

Secret Stuff!

Like this super secret list of Secret Societies of the Morning F Train over at Heading East.


Monday, November 29, 2010

HEY, YOU! I KNOW YOU! I KNOW YOU!   The NYT reports on how Cirque du Soleil is putting a lot of former synchronized swimmers to work in Las Vegas.
WHY, I'D CUT OFF MY RIGHT ARM TO GET THAT GIG!  Next year's Academy Awards will be hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco.  If it's like recent years, you'll see a lot of them in the first half-hour and then they'll disappear because the show has fallen hopelessly behind schedule.   I'm sure they'll both be charming, but this doesn't much matter.
ALOTT5MA RECIPE DEPARTMENT: To make one Hallmark Hall of Fame film, mix the following:
  • Adorably precocious child, ideally suffering from serious, yet vague, malady.
  • Cantankerous older man played by beloved character actor who is taught that he can love again in part through the activities of adorably precocious child.
  • Parent who wants to care for child in unorthodox way, played by recognizable, yet not particularly famous/costly, actor.
  • Other parent, who at first disagrees with first patent's unorthodox plans, also played by recognizable, yet not particularly famous/costly, actor.
  • (Optional) Add additional adorable/precocious children to taste.
  • Framing device to reassure viewers all works out on the end.
  • Self-evident Canadian filming locations.
  • Cloying commercials about greeting cards.
IT'S NOT GOOD WHEN A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD KNOWS HOW THE EPISODE WILL END BEFORE IT STARTS:  But such is the way of the too-predictably-structured Amazing Race, which as soon as it determines its final four teams ... yeah.  Fienberg ably recaps it here, and I just want to note two things: (1) I do admire the ingenuity of combining Needle in a Haystack with Volume Eating as a challenge, and (2) if you didn't perform the Needle in a Haystack/Volume Eating challenge, you can't be a quitter on the teammate who did.  It's time to wrap up this season, and God willing we'll get to see good racing, and not random luck, decide things.

FWIW, we haven't yet discussed next season (have we?).  It will be an All-Star Season, which is filming now, and the eleven exceedingly amiable teams are listed here.
FOLLOW THESE INTREPID ANTIPODEAN EMU WATCHERS (or THE PLATONIC WORLD OF THE STATIC [BOOK] AND THE HEGELIAN WORLD OF PROCESS [INTERNET]--HOW GREAT THE CONTRAST!): Ed Park, of, muses on his transition from the 14th Edition (print) to the 16th Edition (on-line) of the Chicago Manual of Style.

I'm sure that, if I subscribe, the new edition will tell me how to make an en-dash in HTML.

Via C-Monster

Sunday, November 28, 2010

SURELY YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS:  But I am serious: comic actor Leslie Nielsen has died at the age of 84 of pneumonia-related complications.  Few performers made such brilliant use of oblivious deadpan as a comic tool.  Thank goodness the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team recognized it, so we could enjoy exchange after exchange like this one in The Naked Gun:
Frank: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.
Jane: Goodyear?
Frank: No, the worst.
And one more: