Saturday, May 26, 2012

RETURN OF THE BOSTON STRANGLER:  A history of 76ers-Celtics Game 7s.  Can't believe the Beat LA game is thirty years ago ... as for tonight, why not? Why the hell not?

Friday, May 25, 2012

SOMETHING STUPID:  Maureen Ryan did not care for this weekend's HBO biopic Hemingway and Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman:
Now that the first season of "Smash" has ended, this is the best hate-watching fodder we'll probably have for many months. 
Why is hate-watching the only realistic option? Because loving or even liking this expensive misfire is simply not possible. Even more than last year's turgid "Mildred Pierce," "Hemingway and Gellhorn" is a gigantic missed opportunity, a jaw-droppingly trying waste of time. Don't let the fancy names in the cast fool you: This is a stupid, stupid movie. 
We don't hate-watch Syfy's Saturday movie offerings -- "Sharktopus," "Mansquito" and the like -- because they know they're trash and they good-naturedly embrace their energetic lack of quality. Not only is "Hemingway and Gellhorn" wretched, it is bathed in pretentiousness and pseudo-intellectual delusions of grandeur. It's not just crap, it's expensive, painfully "artistic" crap starring a lot of actors who should have known better once they took a look at the script, which is hilariously awful.
Yes, but does it feature a scene in which Ms. Kidman urinates on one of the stars of High School Musical?
CUE RANDY SAVAGE'S MUSIC:  I met up last night with an old friend -- and do see Valerie's movie, Losing Control, when you have a chance -- and we got onto the subject how miserable the whole high school/class rank chase made both of us back in the day, a decimal-point driven battle (did you get a 99 or a 98 for the class? was the multiplier 1.15 or 1.2?) that occasioned four years of unnecessary tsuris and helicopter parenting.

I was going to do a rant about this here, but turns out I already did so nine years ago with regards to a controversy I've mostly forgotten, and since almost none of y'all were reading this site back then I'll just reproduce the key grafs:
[W]hy have one valedictorian in the first place? When I was in high school, we had one valedictorian from a class of 600, and it was nuts. Lots of us tried every angle we could to raise our averages -- some had their Science Fair work counted as an independent study, AP-level class; I had my co-teaching of a 10th grade Telecommunications class so credited, etc. 
We all ended up within decimal points of each other. We all ended up at good schools -- our year, it was MIT, Brown, Amherst, Wash U and Penn for the top kids. And none of it was worth the resentment, bitterness or competition. ... 
Just take the top 10-20 students, honor them all, and select the best speaker from among them for graduation. Life's too short for this bullshit.
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO:  Ben Yagoda, no stranger to these parts, has been writing a great deal about commas online for the NYT of late. He notes, regarding The New Yorker's "scrupulous, bordering on fetishistic" rules regarding commas, the following example from a Jane Mayer article:
Before [Lee] Atwater died, of brain cancer, in 1991, he expressed regret over the “naked cruelty” he had shown to [Michael] Dukakis in making “Willie Horton his running mate.”
"No other publication would put a comma after 'died' or 'cancer,'" he explains. "The New Yorker does so because otherwise (or so the thinking goes), the sentence would suggest that Atwater died multiple times and of multiple causes."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Seven Pounds was the last movie [Will] Smith appeared in, and it's difficult to blame him; I'd hide too.... So I looked forward to his return. Perhaps the time off would have left him energized, and ready for the next act of his career, in which he would retake the mantle as the most interesting global movie icon of our time. That has not happened. Instead, next Friday, Smith reappears on movie screens with a Men In Black sequel absolutely no one was asking for.... But it's not just that. Take a look at Smith's next five projects:
Men In Black 3
After Earth, a sci-fi drama about a father and son (Smiths Will and Jaden) investigating an alien planet, directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Hancock 2
Bad Boys 3
I, Robot 2
Seriously? This is what Will Smith has decided to do with his career? That is some real Nicolas Cage-esque laziness right there.... Smith's movie stardom is now a matter of maintaining the brand, which is always when the brand begins to fade.
So, um, you going this weekend?
THEN, TRAGICALLY, YOU WILL HAVE WASTED YET ANOTHER DAY IN THE LIFE YOU'VE ALREADY MISSPENT IN THE SERVICE OF THE CITY OF BALTIMORE:  Unfortunately, I missed Wire Wednesday yesterday (and still haven't seen "Duck and Cover"), and next week is day two of the spelling bee -- and we don't want to cross those streams, I would think -- so let's do this: in two weeks, on Wednesday, June 6 (Wire Wednesday D-Day), we'll cover three episodes at once. Be prepared to discuss "Duck and Cover," "Stray Rounds," and "Storm Warning," and we'll be caught up, and obviously by that point crime and corruption will be gone from Charm City, and all the working class of all races will have good, stable jobs with bright futures.  Except for Ziggy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AMERICA VOTED:  It was prophesied, by me in March and by Fienberg as soon as he auditioned, and so it has come to pass.  Phil^2 is your fifth straight WGWG to win American Idol.

So here's my question: can Idol fix the WGWG problem?  If so, how?

added:  Is Phil^2, as the NYT's Jon Caramanica asserts this morning, "easily the best" of the five WGWGs, "not a dullard or a mook or a boy made good ... steadily great throughout the season, never once in the bottom three, and even when he underwhelmed, he came off as a bored genius in a remedial class, going through the motions and hoping to sneak through."
FLOYD:  Famous for his SNL roles as DJ SuperSoak, the dancing guy in the track suit in What Up With That?, and something else (maybe?), Jason Sudeikis' fee-fees may have been hurt because he didn't get a super-sweet sendoff like Kristen Wiig and now he's not sure if he's leaving, or whether he just wants to keep having sex with January Jones, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Wilde, Eva Mendes, or someone else clearly above his pay grade.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ALSO, WHAT BUS FROM OHIO DROPS YOU OFF AT GRAND CENTRAL? As Ryan McGee over at Hitfix notes, I suspect how you felt about tonight's Glee finale is largely driven by how you feel about watching The Rachel Berry Show next year.  It does intrigue me where we go from here--do we turn into an anthology series each week following a different regular spread out all over the country, with plots that only sometimes intersect (Finn joins the Army Choir!  Mercedes gets discovered in Hollywood!)?  Do Ryan Murphy and crew hit a giant reset button in the first episode, miraculously centralizing all the characters into a couple of locations?  Do they actually figure out some way to make this work?  Given the new timeslot and how completely unlikable Rachel has become, I'm not terribly interested in tuning in.
THE SONG WITH THE WISHES AND THE DREAMS AND FAIRIES AND THE RAINBOWS AND THE BELIEVING: Dan Fienberg thought the Idol finale wasn't close in the end, and I agree.
BOMBSHELL:  Two Three of your least favorite characters (and one who we liked, but was underused) are not returning to Smash, while three new roles are being cast.
DANCE MOMS 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: We've previously noted that forthcoming ABC Family show Bunheads seems to be designed for the ALOTT5MA demographic (Sutton Foster! Dancing! Amy Sherman-Palladino! Imperious and disapproving Kelly Bishop!), and there are streams of the pilot available, which I watched yesterday.  A few thoughts:
  • Unsurprsingly, Foster is pretty fantastic with the Sherman-Palladinoese (a related dialect to Sorkinese--similar speed, but more pop culture references), dances quite well, and looks fantastic (to borrow from Todd Van Der Werff's Glee reviews, the opening sequence, in which Foster is in a Vegas showgirl costume, is worthy of a "straight guys, watchin' Bunheads" recurring segment).  As a result, the show gets a little messy during the brief periods when she's off-screen.  There's a group of four teenage dancers who she's clearly going to become a mentor to (they are the other four billed regulars, I believe), and the stuff with them, while brief, is weaker.  It may improve as the various dancer characters become better formed, but right now, they're kind of boring.
  • Man, this is a lot like Gilmore Girls (this is a good thing)--strummy strummy la la transition music, wacky characters in a small town (plainly, a dress shop owner introduced in the pilot will be back), and Foster's Michelle is close kin to Lorelai Gilmore.  Kelly Bishop basically gets to play Emily Gilmore again, though the dynamic between Fanny and Michelle is somewhat different from that between Emily and Lorelai.
  • Alan Ruck shows up as the vaguely creepy (yet ultimately good-hearted) guy who has a crush on Foster's showgirl character and marries her (this is all dispensed with in the first act of the pilot), and I had questions about how the show would work given that he's a guest star.  The show unambiguously (and somewhat surprisingly) answers that question in the last scene, which will, I expect, provoke some divided reactions.
Even had the pilot been terrible, I would have given it a few episodes, but this is good enough that I'm assuredly in for the full 10 episode first season, though I'm hopeful the show will broaden its horizons a bit.
CLAP YOUR HANDS EVERYBODY:  Flipside of yesterday's question -- fictional artistic works within artistic works that are just as good as the characters want us to believe they are, whether Keith Carradine's "I'm Easy" in Nashville; the Tri-Lam/Omega Mu performance at the Adams College Greek Games; Stillwater's "Fever Dog" (a big step forward for the band, and the guitar sound was incendiary); the production of "Little Shop of Horrors" on Head of the Class; the student performance of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" in Love Actually; and, of course, the climactic dance number in Center Stage.
"PART OF THE BEE IS LUCK, AND LUCK FAVORS A READY MIND":  A week from right now, five-timer Nicholas Rushlow will be among the 278 spellers ranging in age from 6 (?!) to 15 competing in the preliminary written round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Among the other spellers will be Richelle Zampella, an extraordinary Okie from Muskogee who is legally blind; Texas' Ruth Ansawi, who's there to win and not to see the sights; Jennifer Mong, who now holds the title of Canada's Greatest Speller and is one of three Spellers of the North this year; and Arvind Mahankali, the NYC champ who just schooled Anderson Cooper and is back for a possible third straight primetime appearance.

[I also hear Shonda in the background asking about this year's Jamaican entrant: it's Gifton Wright.]

Monday, May 21, 2012

THIS IS THE TRUE STORY OF SEVEN STRANGERS: Want to feel old?  The Real World debuted 20 years ago today.  Now, 26 seasons later (Season 27: The Real World: St. Thomas, arrives this summer), let's take a moment to share favorite seasons (how big a gap is there between Hawaii and the next best one?), favorite plotlines, and favorite personalities.  I gave up around New Orleans 1, but maybe you kept watching.
WE'LL BE THE VERY MODEL OF A MODERN NETWORK TV SHOW:  Great AV Club inventory today -- fictional works of art, within a film or tv show, which aren't nearly as awesome as the characters want us to believe, such as Roger's "one great song" in Rent, Katherine McPhee's performance in Smash, or the titular composition in that Richard Dreyfuss teacher film.  [Basically, the opposite of The Wonders' one hit in That Thing You Do!.]
THREE GUYS WALK INTO A CLINIC. THEIR LEGS HURT. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM?  I guess I stopped watching House, M.D. at the start of the 2009-10 season. The formula had run its course for me; a show that's committed to proving that nobody changes and everybody lies can only do variations on that for so long.  And so I walked away.

That said, I'm coming back for the Big Finish tonight. I have no idea what has happened on the show in the intervening three years; I just love what Hugh Laurie does in that role, the dark places the show has been willing to go, and the joys some of the show's puzzles have brought in the past. I trust them to end the series well.
HARRY, KRISHNA:  It sure sucks to be Lane Pryce.

Well, everyone's frustrated on Mad Men this week -- Don and Megan with each other, Pete with his lack of recognition, Joan with her husband's legal moves, Roger with his thwarted efforts to support his son, Harry with the line between translucent and opaque -- but it's Lane who seems to be way-downest in the hole, as every effort to cure his UK tax failings is inadvertently thwarted, leading him in the end to become the second character on the series to decide to adopt the identity of "Don Draper" to get out of his jam.

Yes, Kinsey is further down in the hole, and it's rewarding to see Harry Crane's conscience emerge with a simple, decent measure to try to pull him out of it, even if it likely means he's falling into another hole later on -- because Hollywood is not a good place to be if you're vulnerable to the promises of a cult.

[Um, does Peggy Olson still work at SCDP?]

Still, Don-Joan scene!  Rousing Don speech!  Swim the Channel!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SMILE! GIRLS, I'M NOW YOUR BUNNY MOTHER:  A Necrology for the cancelled shows of 2011-12.
STILL, I'M GONNA MISS YOU:  In my memory there have been three perfect season-ending skits on Saturday Night Live -- "Summer Lovin'," which bade farewell to Jimmy Fallon;  "Goodnight Saigon," which ended season 34 and proved to be Darrell Hammond's last; and now last night"s Graduation Day, which for similar musical rights issues you'll never be able to find online legitimately long-term**, but used the Rolling Stones' "She's a Rainbow" and "Ruby Tuesday" to allow an emotional goodbye to Kristen Wiig.

As much as some of her characters may have grated from overuse, her seven-year tenure certainly deserved as capper like this, and her departure leaves a deep void.

** updated: Well, I'll be darned.  Also, cut from dress: Kings of Catchphrase Comedy III.