Saturday, June 16, 2012

I JUST DON'T THINK I CAN DO ANYTHING IN 140 CHARACTERS:  Aaron Sorkin talks (and talks, and walks-and-talks) with Mark Harris about The Newsroom, the status of his John Edwards film, why he won't let his daughter watch Sports Night, what makes writing for cable better (N.B. to Matt: all ten episodes will be in the can before the first one airs), and why he can't watch any episode from the last three seasons of The West Wing:
[T]he day before the season-five premiere aired, a copy was messengered to me. I stuck the tape in, and I did not get even 60 seconds into it before I had to shut it off. Not because it was great, not because it was less than great, but because it was like watching somebody make out with my girlfriend.
NOTHIN' BUT A MEH TIME:  So, Rock of Ages.  I haven't seen the stage production, but the movie is kind of a mess.  Yes, the songs are fun, but they're so mashed-up with one another and cut down you really don't get a chance to appreciate them.  Also, we have three major plot threads, with dramatically different tones:
  • Two young naive kids come to the city to pursue fame and fall in love--this is played fairly straight, and is arguably the a-story (the actors in it have top billing).  It's also hurt by the fact that Diego Boneta is a charisma vacuum, and the script doesn't give Julianne Hough a chance to show the sass she got to show in the Footloose remake.
  • The Mayor of LA and his wife embark on a campaign to "clean up the streets" by shutting down the rock clubs.  This plot can't figure out its tone--it's too winking to be played straight, and played too straight to be parody.  The performers also don't have much to do.
  • Rock star Stacee Jaxx faces a crisis of confidence/conscience triggered by his manager and a comely Rolling Stone reporter.  This is the most overtly comic plotline, though it's a bit unclear how much Tom Cruise is in on the self-parody rather than just playing a strung-out rock star.
It's not great, but if you've got nostalgia for the songs and era, there are worse ways to spend 2 hours this weekend in air conditioning.

Friday, June 15, 2012

THEY'RE STARTING TO SHIMMY: Related lists -- PG/PG-13 movies with more nudity than expected, and eight movies that should never have been rated PG. Really, it was okay for kids to know that this house is clean?

As a parent -- the alleged target market for the MPAA -- I find their ratings to be basically useless, and rely more on social networks, as well as commercial sites like Common Sense Media, to tell me what I actually need to know in assessing a film's appropriateness for children, especially the specifics on what language is employed.  YMMV.
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO: I am hopeful that the Associated Press will change its mind regarding loosening its rules on an adverb which formerly only connoted "in a hopeful manner. Do not use it to mean it is hoped, let us hope or we hope."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

WELL, THIS ISN'T MY WAY:  How is Burger King fighting back after having fallen behind Wendy's in sales volume?  Two words: bacon sundae.  (Time to bring back Herb? Sir Shakes A Lot?)
ONE TIME WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, A GUY'S MOM CALLED ME AND BROKE UP WITH ME FOR HIM:  Via Linda Holmes, Amy Poehler imparts a valuable lesson to the readers of Seventeen magazine as part of a Q&A:
What is the craziest thing you ever did to get a guy to notice you?

I had no idea how to get guys to notice me. I still don't. Who cares?
HE GIVES YOU MORE THAN YOU WERE ASKING, MORE, PROBABLY, THAN ANY SANE ACTOR WOULD OR SHOULD:  Will Leitch grades the performances in Rock of Ages based on each actor's demonstrated capacity to rock. Having not seen the Broadway show, am not sure how to prioritize this film. Thoughts?
WE CAN'T WELL HAVE OUR PRODUCTS TURNING AGAINST US, CAN WE? No, they don't have to remake RoboCop, but I'm not going to complain if Hugh Laurie is cast as the villain.
CAIN IP 9.0 H 0 R 0 E 0 BB 0 K 14:  I'm sure it doesn't hurt to have 10 runs in support and some great defense in the field, but that was one hell of a performance.  I am informed that 14 strikeouts ties Koufax's record for K's in a perfect game.

And, in all events, the first perfect game in Giants history.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

RELAX. THEY END THE VIDEO BEFORE ... THAT:  No, I don't believe an eight-day old boy has ever made an entrance to his bris quite like this before.
WHENEVER WE NEEDED MONEY, WE'D ROB THE AIRPORT. TO US, IT WAS BETTER THAN CITIBANK:  Henry Hill, the real-life gangster turned FBI informant whose life was captured in Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy and then Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, has died after a long illness at age 69.

Hill was kicked out of witness protection during the early 1990s for committing too many crimes; once a gangster, always a gangster.
EVEN FOR A SUPREMELY FUCKED-UP POLICE DEPARTMENT, THIS TAKES THE PRIZE:  As we learn in The Wire's season two penultimate episode, "Bad Dreams," one fax can make the difference between life and death. But why was Frank Sobotka there in the first place?  Why would he trust the Greeks over the authorities, or even weigh two competing offers?  Did he really believe that the Greeks could do anything for Ziggy? That he was so willing to open up to Beadie (who gets the Real Police star of the week, though it would have been even better without our seeing someone tell her "look at the mirrors/use the city", and just show) and then everyone else, but he still ... oh, god, it hurts.

Help my union? For 25 years we've been dyin' slow down there. Dry dock's rustin', piers standin' empty. My friends and their kids like we got the cancer. No life-line got thrown all that time, nothin' from nobody, and now you wanna help us? Help me?

And from the other side, the police were so close. Landsman couldn't connect the dots, and he realizes it. The Greek walks right past Kima. The police has Sobotka ready to confess, but Ronnie sends him home until his lawyer can show up.

Which makes the Omar-Stringer-Brother Mouzone story the minor part of the episode, and it's so weird seeing Omar being outplayed so easily for once. I imagine there will be consequences.

At this moment, I don't get why folks see this as a "lesser" season of The Wire ... it must speak volumes about what's left in 3, 4, and 5.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

COLLINS ISN'T EVEN GOOD-LOOKING FOR AN ACCOUNTANT; THERE ARE TAXI DRIVERS WHO RADIATE MORE NATURAL MAGNETISM AND CHARISMA: The AV Club's Steve Hyden looks back at Phil Collins' No Jacket Required: "I don’t claim to have any insight into Collins’ soul, but if you listen to his records, an obvious pattern emerges: Every time he says something sick and possibly ugly about his own life, he’ll rush to minimize it. He got so good at this, it eventually made his music appear empty and soulless, which is partly why he said sick and possibly ugly things about his own life in Rolling Stone."
THEY DON'T WANT TO LOSE A DRILL, DON'T WANT TO LOSE A SHOOTING GAME, DON'T WANT TO LOSE ANYTHING:  The oral history of the 1992 Dream Team which Bill Simmons wishes he had written. From Branford Marsalis (of all people):
I saw a lot of the guys around the hotel. I saw Jordan sitting watching Angola on tape, just staring, looking for weaknesses. I said, "I don't even want to bother you, but why are you watching this game?" And he said, "I always take my opponent seriously. I never underestimate anyone." It wasn't lost on me that he was the only guy watching the game.
DINGO ATE MY BABY: After all that, the Dingo really did eat her baby.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A WEARY MAN WITH MANY MILES STILL TO GO:  Go read Amy Wallace's GQ profile of D'Angelo, as he prepares for a long-awaited comeback.
OUR FAIR CITY:  Nathan Heller explains why we'll miss Car Talk:
[W]hat saves Car Talk’s backward striving from condescension and minstrelsy is—has always been—the honest yearning that appears to underlie it. The show holds a place in a broader nostalgic tradition, one that praises the local work of hands over the shady reach of corporate industry, the mechanical over the abstract. Craftsmanship is a dying skill, we sometimes hear, and in some sense Car Talk was one of its last public defenders. To host a car show heard largely by people in their cars is to underscore the physical fruit of physical work; to talk about the failures of cheap recent models is to emphasize what’s lost. There’s not a lot of Detroit in Car Talk but enough to make us realize what has gone.
PAIN FROM AN OLD WOUND:  That didn't quite work for me. Even the part where Pete Campbell kept getting hit in the face, but that's one of the many new wounds in Sterling Cooper Draper (Pryce? -- we didn't see the firm's full name mentioned at any point, did we?) this week, from Don's literal one in his mouth to the metaphorical one as his marriage has become more transactional, to the firm's wound of not having a female voice in creative, to the presumed is-that-all-there-is-ness of the view outside Peggy's Virginia motel room, to Sally's growing up last week.

So where are we, compared to where this season started? Not much further than where we started, except for Peggy.  I guess we're about to find out whether Don Draper only likes the beginnings of things, and my assumption is that it wasn't much of a cliffhanger at the end of the episode, was it?  Temptation will always be there, and if it's not this woman, it'll be the next one.  Pete Campbell is too punchable for me to care about his inner sadness (as the fun-house mirror version of Michael Scott), and Roger's acid trips are only fun when they're happening. And compared to other seasons, I didn't feel like the clients (and potential clients) were used in nearly as interesting ways in trying to reveal things about the characters, or the era.  (Weiner said yesterday he regrets that Jon Hamm's charisma made his Dow pitch last week seem not as ugly as it was supposed to be received.)

Season 5 did some great things with mood -- the paranoia around the Speck murders, Sally's disappointing introduction into the adult world at the Codfish Ball, and there were a lot of satisfying scenes along the way. (The Peggy-Roger negotiations! "Chewing gum on his pubis.")  But this was not a Great Season in the way others were, and things were a bit too explicit the whole way -- Cool Whip and toxic smog as metaphor, and the return of Adam Whitman in particular.  Oh well.  (It's still better than almost anything else.)  Maureen Ryan:
It's not that "'Mad Men' is no longer a worthy show, but it's hard to avoid the feeling that "Mad Men" didn't live up to its enormous potential this season. I still love these characters and this world, but, let's face it, this year, as least for a subset of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce fans, something was a little off. Or, at times, a lot off. 
It wasn't just the self-absorbed, unpleasant behavior on display that was off-putting -- I certainly expect a generous amount of that on the show, which is, after all, about the sordid and sad realities behind the shiny facades created by the advertising world. But the sheer amount of selfishness, frustrated peevishness and ruthlessness in "Mad Men" Season 5, combined with the generally downbeat tone that pervaded every episode, made for a uniquely dour season... Is "Mad Men" going to go its whole run without taking on race in a meaningful way? Because that's starting to seem pretty unrealistic, and kind of a bait and switch, given that the season began with an ugly racial incident involving ad men.
added: Weiner speaks.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

BECAUSE MIKE NICHOLS NEEDS MORE HARDWARE FOR HIS MANTLE:  We won't be liveblogging tonight's Tony Awards, but we will, as always, give you a thread to discuss.  It's actually an unusually competitive year--even though it's all-but-certain Nichols will take home a few awards for his uber-faithful Death of A Salesman revival, and quite likely that Audra McDonald will take home her fifth Tony, most of the other races are at least somewhat competitive.  Unlike recent years, there's no clear favorite going in--no Book of Mormon sucking all the commercial and critical air out of the room, so anything can happen.