Saturday, September 3, 2011

IN ADDITION TO BLACK TIE, RED LEATHER SUIT WILL BE ACCEPTABLE: Unsurprisingly, after last year's debacle, the producing team for next year's Oscars is again looking at a comedian-type to host, and apparently, Eddie Murphy is in talks, with Billy Crystal likely to play some sort of role (I assume doing a musical bit near the open, as NPH did a few years back. Given that the production team is led by Brett Ratner (no, I don't know why, either), it's not exactly a surprise, but it's certainly an interesting choice.
AND HULL HOUSE FOUNDER JANE ADDAMS, WHO HAS VOWED TO DONATE ALL OF HER WINNINGS TO THE LAME AND THE IRISH: Slate's Josh Levin recounts great casts in Dancing with the Stars pre-history.  Still, I'm surprised he didn't talk about that great 1975 cast with Fannie Foxe, former Brady Bunch star Barry Williams, Young Frankenstein's Marty Feldman, "Captain" Daryl Dragon, and Brett Somers, no matter how inevitable it was that Steelers rookie sensation Lynn Swann would win.

okay, another: 1984's season with Night Court's Richard Moll, The Love Boat's Ted Lange, Laura Branigan, Katarina Witt, Zola Budd, Police Academy star Michael Winslow, and former Interior Secretary James Watt.

Friday, September 2, 2011

THE TEMPLE OF PURE COLLEGE BASKETBALL HAS GONE RECONSTRUCTIONIST: That was the reaction of a friend of mine when I shared the news that The Palestra—the 84-year-old University of Pennsylvania gym-slash-sweatshop which has hosted more college basketball games than any other arena—has replaced its fabled fixed-digit, kid-has-to-change-the-letters-manually scoreboard with a modern video display.

In other death-of-Philadelphia-tradition news, farewell to all-rock 94.1 WYSP-FM, and good riddance, Howard Eskin.
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY PLAYLIST:  This idea hit me while listening to "Hazy Shade of Winter" on my iPod on the way home from work yesterday: songs which sound that much better while listening with headphones (or otherwise stereo-enhanced).
WE CAN ONLY ASSUME NPH AS MARIUS IS THE NEXT TO BE ANNOUNCED: Allegedly, Anne Hathaway is in talks to play Fantine in a movie version of Les Mis as her next role, which will give her the chance to do "I Dreamed A Dream." The article also suggests that Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are close to signing to play the Thenardiers, with Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe already attached as Valjean and Javert, respectively. I'm still not sure that it works transitioned from stage to film, but the cast is certainly shaping up nicely.
BUT WE WENT RIGHT ON WITH THE SHOW:  Next Sunday at 4pm, VH-1 will rebroadcast without commercial interruption the six hour Concert for New York City held on October 20, 2001. It's a varied setlist which reflects the music of 2001 (Five For Fighting, Backstreet Boys) but also contains some timeless, great performances from pop/rock legends in front of a passionate crowd. Below the fold, Billy Joel, "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)":

Thursday, September 1, 2011

GOOD NEWS: Remember last week when we advised commenter Kate on a travel bucket list for her and her father? Kate emailed me today to let you all know that things have changed:
I wanted to offer a sincere thank you to everyone for such wonderful ideas of what my father should do, he is planning on doing a number of them. I also wanted to give everyone an update. The good news is that although we were told a cancer diagnosis was almost certain, as it turns out, "almost" doesn't mean "always". He did not end up needing surgery. He came home from the hospital yesterday, the diagnosis is not cancer but something much less serious and non-life threatening. He is currently shopping so he can cook dinner tonight, which he will eat. We hope to experience many more years of his presence. In the meantime he has a new lease on life and a "no time like the present" attitude to take away from a couple of scary, scary weeks.

Obviously we're a little shocked and thrilled. We're still going to do some of the travel ideas. Two weeks ago I was asking him about funeral arrangements, tonight he is planning on making me dinner.
THE BEAUTIFUL IDEA THAT A WASHED-UP FORMER ALCOHOLIC BALLPLAYER OF LIMITED INTELLIGENCE AND A PERENNIAL PH.D CANDIDATE CAN FALL IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER: Michael Schur discusses in great detail the brilliance of Cheers, noting (among other things) the importance of Vera:
They did such a good job establishing this place at the bar where they spend all this time, and in certain ways, all the characters need it as a place to be. [Vera served as a] genuine reminder that there’s a life that exists outside the camera. If they didn’t have that, it would be The Iceman Cometh and it would be incredibly depressing: These awful fat alcoholics who didn’t leave the stupid bar, but they did a great job reminding you that these people have lives outside of the bar.
And in the midst of discussing his favorite characters:
I loved Coach and Woody because Coach and Woody are very stupid and stupid is the nuclear weapon of comedy. In terms of pure belly laughs, nothing will ever beat stupid people.... On The Office it was sort of half Michael and half Creed. Creed’s all crazy and stupid but Michael’s really the moron, and on Parks and Rec it’s Andy. You know pretty much every comedy show has one character whose primary character trait is stupidity, and they always are really funny.
ETHICAL REALITY! (ACT UP, FIGHT BACK!)  Our Friend Linda Holmes -- herself a former attorney -- proposes a code of ethics for reality tv producers to avoid the more exploitative aspects of the genre.  Much of it is common sense for the health of the participants -- reducing alcohol, increasing sleep, providing access to mental health professionals when needed -- but what I want to focus on are her suggestions for reducing the manipulative nature of the shows as edited:
IF YOU WANT TO READ A REAL HISTORY BOOK, READ HOWARD ZINN’S A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. THAT BOOK WILL KNOCK YOU ON YOUR ASS: Time Magazine purports to list the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books written in English since 1923, when the magazine debuted.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I READ ABOUT IT IN TIME MAGAZINE:  BBC Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch fulfills the need you didn't realize you had of hearing someone impersonate Alan Rickman singing "Candle in the Wind."
WHEN IN BELGIUM, FIND THE LOW-GRADE NARCOLEPTIC WHO CLAIMS TO HAVE INVENTED THE QUESTION MARK: Former Survivor winners Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca are among the teams in the new season of The Amazing Race. Also new this season: visits to Belgium, Denmark, Malawi, and Indonesia; one of Isaac's least favorite FFL tight ends; and new game element called a "hazard."
DRAWBACKS OF A CLASSICAL EDUCATION: I list five iconic male roles in which Helen Mirren would have been terrible:
  • Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is not a role that would benefit from a dignity (quiet or otherwise) that announces itself as it fills the room. "You dick!" is a lamentation of injury, not a cry of defiance.
  • Mookie, Do the Right Thing. There is a smallness to Mookie, a nibbling-about-the-edges that is essential to convey his relationship with his neighborhood and to the flimsy racial detente within it. Also, what would the Italians have against Helen Mirren?
  • Ennis Del Mar, Brokeback Mountain. I don't know, it just feels like casting Helen Mirren here would have changed the whole dynamic.
  • Dirk Diggler, Boogie Nights. Anybody can wear a 12-inch prosthetic penis, but not everybody could pull it off. I don't mean literally. Literally, if there were a prosthetic penis attached to Helen Mirren, I think she would be able to remove it, barring unusual methods of adhesion or I suppose if it had been attached at the exact spot in her back where she can't quite reach it. So please read that sentence figuratively.
  • Howard the Duck, Howard the Duck. In fairness to Helen Mirren, imagine anybody not sucking in this role.
BENEFITS OF A CLASSICAL EDUCATION: Linda Holmes lists Twenty Iconic Male Movie Roles In Which Helen Mirren Would Have Ruled.
IT GOT REAL:  You know how we've had an interesting interaction or two this year with folks whose appearances on tv we've criticized on the blog?  Back in the day, so did Pamie for Mighty Big TV, and you will want to read her story which fulfills one of this blog's four recommended daily food groups.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WHAT ARE CULTURAL SHIFTS, ALEX? GQ has an interesting piece on how Jeopardy!'s writers have shifted over the past 10 years from traditional "straight knowledge" questions to questions that rely much more heavily on wordplay, puns, and jokes, thus at least making Watson a little weaker of a competitor.

(HT: Ken Jennings' Twitter feed.)
DANG! Apparently, it takes a Fermilab astrophysicist to determine the most efficient way to line people up when boarding a plane.
IF I DON'T MAKE IT, DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME: Current TV tries to count down the most must-see documentaries of all time, only "all time" apparently starts in 1988 and therefore doesn't include Frederick Wiseman's classics like Titicut Follies and High School, Dgiza Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, or for that matter any of Michael Apted's Up series.  Or, as a friend pointed out via email, Shoah.

That said, they got #1 right.

Monday, August 29, 2011

BUT I, SAID THE BACHELOR TO HIS BRIDE, AM NOT WAITING FOR TONIGHT: Allow me, please, a few words about Bachelor Pad. I don't pretend to be an expert, since I get only about 45 minutes (or 37.5%) of it a week, which may or may not be 62.5% less than certain other people who will not admit to watching this in my bed. But in any event, this show, I think, is both a stroke of cruel genius and a self-inflicted wound.
SHE WENT TO THE DOCTOR, BUT YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HE TOLD HER (GUESS WHAT HE TOLD HER!): Sinéad O'Connor can see whomever she chooses, and currently is looking for love online. NYMag has the highlights of her quest, and she is quite specific how important it is that her suitor be a gentleman willing to open doors for her. Below the fold, one of several clips from which I could have chosen:
MAYBE IT WON'T BE WORSE THAN CRYSTAL SKULL: ALOTT5MA Unnecessary Remakes Week may be over, but we may have to consider adding a permanent Unnecessary Remakes Desk with news that the remake of Romancing the Stone remains alive, with Katherine Heigl attached to play Joan Wilder and producers wanting Gerard Butler or Taylor Kitsch to fill Michael Douglas' shoes.
FAIRNESS DOCTRINE: Given some of our past experiences, I'm obligated to say something nice about USAirways when I have the chance to do so.

Friday afternoon, Southwest texted to alert me that my scheduled 3pm return flight the next day from my Mountain West location to Philadelphia had been cancelled because of Hurricane Irene; indeed, they had cancelled all their flights in and out of PHL for the weekend.  But from my aging Blackberry (Curve 8320), I was able to remain at my desk in the conference room and rebook myself through their mobile site on a 7:05am flight on USAir which took off on time and ended up being one of the last flights permitted to land here, giving me enough time to restock at the supermarket and otherwise prepare for the deluge.

Southwest, for its part, also was great. Between the text alert for the cancellation and offering full refunds (or waived change fees) for all affected flights, they performed exactly the way you'd want. Heck, when I called them Saturday afternoon on the phone to request the refund, I expected a prolonged wait period but was connected to a cheerful, helpful representative immediately. So thank you, America's airlines. You did alright.
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO, MONDAY REQUEST EDITION:  Commenter Rick has a question which I've kept neglecting to post:
Does the term 'out' -- the common one-word corruption of the phrase 'out of the closet' -- require quotation marks in context? For example,
The plaintiff was not yet out to her grandmother.

The plaintiff was not yet "out" to her grandmother.
Over here, we are all agreed that quotes are not needed when using the whole phrase 'out of the closet' in context, nor are they needed when using the verb phrase 'to come out'. The one-word term, though, has us bitterly divided.
DOES IT HAVE DUDES FLYING ON OSTRICHES WITH LANCES? Barcade, "a combination craft beer bar and old-school video arcade with 30-odd 80′s vintage cabinet games," is coming soon to Philadelphia. I want to go to there.