Saturday, June 12, 2004

C'MON, DUDE, HE WAS THREATENING CASTRATION. ARE WE GONNA SPLIT HAIRS? Apparently, it's still bad to do Nazi stuff in Germany -- even if you're a professional wrestler, a world in which many have made careers out of geopolitical enmity.

(The Iron Sheik was unavailable for comment.)
THIS JUST IN: Danny Almonte, who you may remember at the center of a Little League age-falsification scandal a few years back, can still pitch really well, even against age-appropriate competition.

Friday, June 11, 2004

RONALD AND ME: Of the 12 celebrities listed below, six were sighted at this week's L.A. premieres of Michael Moore's latest film, "Fahrenheit 9/11" and six were sighted at the National Cathedral today for Ronald Reagan's latest funeral "Last Rites 6/11."

Can you guess who was where?
1. Charlton Heston
2. Larry David
3. Kirk Douglas
4. Martin Sheen
5. Tom Selleck
6. Viggo Mortensen
7. Bo Derek
8. Demi Moore
9. Dolores Hope
10. Sharon Osbourne
11. Barbara Sinatra
12. Leonardo DiCaprio
No fair clicking on the links and cheating. The answers are in the comments.
WHERE'S YOUR MESSIAH NOW??? "Star Wars," "The Truman Show," and "Groundhog Day" all made the Web Site Arts & Faith's list of the The 100 Most Spiritually Significant Films, but where's the love for the film that taught me more about my faith than years of religious schooling and sedars at my cousins?

Thanks to Daniel for the link.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

WE MADE OUT UNDER THE DOCK: Whether your romantic summer plans include kickin' down the cobblestones, staying up until 10 o'clock, or figuring out just how the hell all that jasmine got in your mind, you'll no doubt want to have MSN's Top 10 Summer Love Songs programmed into your IPod. Oh, and don't forget a Y jack.
NO MORE, NO MORE, NO MORE, NO MORE: CNN is reporting that Ray Charles, a man who defines American music, has passed away at the age of 73.

It's hard to even conceive of popular music without him. He sang the definitive versions of such classics as "Georgia On My Mind", "America The Beautiful", "Hit The Road Jack" and "What'd I Say," smashing the boundaries between soul, gospel, r&b and jazz.

When you talk about people who are the living embodiment of the American dream, and who represent the best that 20th-Century America had to offer, you're talking about Ray Charles.
COCAINE'S A HELL OF A DRUG: David Chappelle is in talks to portray Rick James in an upcoming biopic. No word on who will be cast in the critical role of Charlie Murphy.
AND SOON, WE'LL HAVE THE BLOG THAT'S A COMBINATION OF BOP, CATFANCY, and KNITTING DIGEST: I can't tell if Bashman's condemnation of it is sarcastic or not, but I must link to Underneath the Robes, the new blog that describes itself as "a combination of People, US Weekly, Page Six, The National Enquirer, and Tigerbeat, focused not on vacuous movie stars or fatuous teen idols, but on the federal judiciary." The first two features, a playful analysis of Supreme Court financial disclosure forms and a "diva showdown" between three fillibustered court nominees are priceless.
SADLY, BECAUSE THE DOLLAR VALUES WERE NOT DOUBLED, DOUBLE JEOPARDY DID NOT ATTACH: According to Page Six, Alex Trebek is doing jury duty in L.A. this week. Can't you picture him in jury deliberations? "Yes, but his answer was not phrased in the form of a question, so we'll have to find against him."

On a side note, I've always wondered if other methods of phrasing an answer as a question on "Jeopardy!" would work. If the answer were "This Senator has quoted from every one of Shakespeare's plays on the floor of the Senate," would they accept "Is it Bob Byrd?," or even "It's Bob Byrd, isn't it?"

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

YOUR FLIGHT'S DELAYED, BITCH! The only episode of "The O.C." I've watched was the season finale, which, honestly, didn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me, having never seen an episode before. (My sole exposure to early episodes was the priceless moment on "Ed" this season when Ed and Carol in different cities, watching the show while talking on the phone, and Ed casually remarks, "Man, they sure do punch each other a lot in Orange County.") Still, I must link to this story, which discusses plans afoot to rename the Orange County airport "O.C. Field." No word on what the cast of the classic O.C. and Stiggs thinks of the potential name change, though the article quotes "O.C." creator Josh Schwartz's approval of the name change.
EVEN IF I'M THE ONLY PERSON WATCHING THE SHOW, I DO WANT TO MAKE THIS POINT: I'm just going to hypothesize that if you've already been on Letterman and had your own HBO special, or already had a sitcom on Fox, you shouldn't be on a television show ostensibly designed to identify undiscovered talent.

That'd be like having Taylor Dayne, Patty Smyth and Rick Astley competing on American Idol which, come to think of it, might be entertaining in its own way.

Shecky has more on the professional backgrounds of your "competitors".
VERDICT--MISTRIAL! Unlike some folks around here, I did not spend the evening accusing my wife of violations of Levitical law. Instead, I spent it watching the first episode of the new Fox show The Jury. Fox, apparently desperate to find a new hit not dependent on the rapidly diminishing pool of people willing to humiliate themselves on camera, hot chicks in bikinis, or tempramental voice actors, has decided to try something new--quality. So, they commission the team behind the late, lamented, Homicide to come up with a new crime drama. The result is The Jury. Honestly, the concept isn't bad--we watch a jury come to a verdict in a criminal case each week, with the case being mapped out in flashbacks during the jury deliberations. Two major difficulties arise immediately:

1. The jurors, who play the major roles in the episode, are only around for one episode each. We are (in theory) supposed to become attached to the DAs, PDs, and court officers we see each week. However, they have so little to do that it's difficult to form an emotional connection to any of them.

2. Some EXTREMELY clunky dialogue. Especially in a first episode, you don't want to drop a "Scooby-Doo" type clunker five minutes in, like the following (slightly paraphrased):

Juror #1: Well, who ordered the can of room deodorant? That's a mystery to me!
Juror #2: We do have a mystery to solve. This murder!

Sadly, Juror #2 was not dressed in an orange turtleneck sweater, or the snark would have been priceless.

The cases are cleverly designed, and the writing team has a good history, so I'll see how it develops before giving a final verdict on future viewings, but the first episode is not exactly awe-inspiring.
HEY, WHA'HAPPENED?!? Our efforts to export democracy may sputtering, but never doubt the good ol' USA when it comes to exporting pop culture. Case in point? In a poll conducted by the UK's Nuts Magazine (me, neither), "D'oh," Homer Simpson's signature utterance, was named the all-time greatest TV comedy catchphrase, beating out such British favorites as "Don't panic!" "You plonker," and "Loadsamoney!" In fact, "D'oh" was the only non-British catchphrase on the entire list.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

LIKE BEING DENIED PASSAGE ON THE TITANIC: So, ER's Alex Kingston is upset that they've axed her from the show, and is claiming age discrimination.

Truth is, it's the best thing that could've happened to her.

Why? Her character, Dr. Elizabeth Corday, was given nothing interesting to do for the past two seasons, and the show itself is a shell of its former glory.

Think about the good Corday plots: the relationship with Dr. Benton, tension with Weaver, the malpractice suits, and all that that glorious, unresolved tension with Rocket Romano. Even all the Mark Greene stuff feels better in retrospect, except for the longest death in tv history, but it's made up for by fond memories of Mark's older daughter getting their infant daughter hooked on 'E'.

Since his death? Random hookups. Occasional mourning. Her daughter basically disappeared from the show. And months went by without her being involved in a plot, or even on-screen.

They just never figured out what to do with her after Anthony Edwards left the show, and in all likelihood, she should've left then too. I wish her well.
THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT DAT PHAN: If you enjoyed NBC's Last Comic Standing tonight -- or, even if you didn't -- don't forget that the judging was rigged.

I've got to say -- if this is what future winners have to look forward to, it's a waste of time. I hope they can fix the fundamental structural flaw from last year -- namely, that the weekly showdowns featured the two least talented performers each week, giving them more exposure than the funnier comics we'd rather be watching. We shall see.
MY COUNTRY 'TIS A THEE: Inspired by Francis' attack on the term "aptly named," I want to take up the cause to have another cliche abolished: "Only in America."

In this day and age is there really anything that could happen in this great nation of ours that couldn't happen in, say, France, New Zealand, or Somalia? After all, when you read something like this, you never think to yourself, "only in Zambia."

Now granted, some things are very unique, but are we really so nearsighted nationally to still believe that"only in America could a guy take a movie that cost a mere $65,000 to produce and use it to embarrass and wig out a multibillion-dollar international corporation" or that "only in America" could an actor be elected president. Didn't Italy elect a porno star as its prime minister?

Rags to riches? Only in America. A few bad apples spoiling the bunch? Only in America. A paid public speaker with a speech impediment? Only in America.

And speaking of "Only in America," Don King is out stumping for Bush? WTF?
AND THEN, WE'LL HAVE "THE SAVAGE NATION FOR KIDS!" Our mandate around here is to cover pop culture, but when politics and pop culture collide, it's time for fun around here. This article mentions that we can look forward to The O'Reilly Factor For Kids in better bookstores everywhere this October. Apparently, HarperCollins was pimping the book shamelessly at last week's BookExpo, at which, ironically, Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker. And, yes, you can pre-order it from Amazon. Truly interestingly, according to the Amazon page, those that have pre-ordered O'Reilly's new book also ordered books by both conservative pundit Ann Coulter and Da Vinci Code writer Dan Brown.
ELI'S COMING: You fans of the New York football Giants can have your prodigal son Eli, we Cubs fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our Eli, son of Garth and nephew of Dane. Eli Iorg was selected yesterday in the 14th round of baseball's amateur draft, which is perhaps the last sporting event not to be televised. Now, if only Harry Carray were alive to do the play-by-play of Eli Iorg's first major league at-bat.

Eli, though, wasn't the only familiar name taken yesterday in the first round of the draft. And of all the names on that list, I am most anxious to see if Auburn outfielder Sean Gamble can not only one day reach the career numbers his father, Oscar, accumulated, but also match his hirsute father in another department.

Monday, June 7, 2004

KUDOS, INDEED: Congratulations, and then some, are due to my classmate and good friend (and, really, he does read this blog) Dave Gossett, who won a 9-0 decision today in his first case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the youngest advocates to appear before the Court, Dave's victory in Central Laborers' Pension Fund v. Heinz is a victory on behalf of workers nationwide, as the Court held that employers are barred from cutting back on pensions for workers who retire early from one job, then later find other employment. Even Nino was forced to agree with Dave that a worker's expectations cannot be messed with like this. That's advocacy of the highest order, and this is just the first of many such victories to come.
SACRIFICE BUNT: And so, with both drama and comedy, Season 5 of The Sopranos ended last night.

It stands, in my estimation, as the second best season in the show's history, a thirteen episode stretch of drama matched only in recent years by the second half of season two of The West Wing, as the MS scandal heightens, cantakerous cartographers invade the White House, Marlee Matlin and Adam Arkin start showing up and the President starts screaming in Latin.

But back to The Sopranos. I can't say enough good things about this season, and I've said them enough. The season finale brought something I didn't anticipate -- some endings to plots, as the Continuity Fairy sprinkled her magical pixie dust over everything from the Pie-Oh-My portrait to A.J.'s declining college aspirations to the big black bear lurking in the backyard.

One way to look back at this season is to remember what creator David Chase laid out before it started:
[I]t's really very easy to write "The Sopranos," because everything that everybody says is untrue. Complete falsehoods, self-justifications, rationalizations, outright lies, fantasies and miscommunication. For that reason, I think there's always sort of a joke going on, which is that these people aren't communicating at all. These people are kidding themselves, and lying to themselves and to each other all the time.

If that's the case, worry about Christopher. Just not until 2006.
A YEARBOOK FULL OF MEMORIES, A TIME TO SPEND WITH FRIENDS: Andrea from the Real Live Woman blog passes along word that we've got Another Valedictorian Lawsuit.

(Last year, I blogged at length about this region's controversy, regarding valedictorian/plagiarist Blair Hornstine, whose 2003-04 academic whereabouts remain unknown. Kudos to her and her parents for keeping her out of the limelight, and I continue to wish her well. Kids are allowed to make mistakes, and the hatred heaped upon her was disproportionate to her actions.)

This time, scandal moves down the eastern seaboard to Crisfield High, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, home of the Mighty Crabbers. The Baltimore Sun sums up the story: (1) Girl from the wrong side of the island is presumptive valedictorian; (2) School administrators prevail on six teachers to make "grade corrections" to put Miss Goodie Two-Shoes the new valedictorian; (3) Scorned Sally Sues.

Students of this genre will note that this is the flipside of Hornstine's case: there, administrators sought to reduce Hornstine's home-taught grades and otherwise compensate for her lack of a gym grade weighing down her GPA; here, they seek to (artificially?) inflate #2's grades to accomplish the same goal.

I merely pass this story along, and hold fast to several principles about these things:
(1) Schools should not have sole valedictorians determined by statistically meaningless distinctions, but should instead recognize all of their elite students fairly;

(2) It's not worth suing over, reflecting as poorly on the plaintiff than as on the administrators being charged with poor conduct; and

(3) Any school administrator who things that the selection of a valedictorian is so important that it's worth futzing the grades for needs to find better things to do with his or her life.

Seriously, it sounds like this oyster shucker's daughter got screwed.
"IT'S NOT TV, IT'S THE TONY AWARDS!" Yes, I watched that Tony, since I'm sure Adam will cover the other Tony quite amply. Honestly, I think I can say that this year's Tony awards were the best "mainstream" awards ceremony in years.(I'm omitting the various MTV Awards, which are always entertaining, but belong in a different category.) Performances were mostly great, there were just enough upsets, and Jackman's hosting was tons of fun. Particular high points?

1. Both segments of "host chat" with Jackman--first with Kristin Chenowith in character as G(a)linda from "Wicked" and later with John Tartaglia as Rod from "Avenue Q." Both had me rolling with laughter.

2. Really, across the board, the acceptance speeches. With the exception of one political rant (that was appropriate to the play and the award being accepted), folks were extraordinarily classy, thanking their castmates, their fellow nominees, and the "right" people.

3. I haven't seen "Avenue Q" yet (though I've listened to chunks of the score), but by all accounts, it richly deserved its awards. My one thought is that unlike "Wicked," it seems to be more a collection of songs than a complete score with recurring themes, but I may notice that more on repeated listenings.

4. Though "Not The Boy Next Door" is a fairly awful song (as is most of the music from "Boy From Oz"), Jackman tore the roof off the sucker with his performance of the song, most notably when he drags a bewildered Sarah Jessica Parker up on stage, saying "I Feel like a little Sex and the City!," and quipping about whether Matthew Broderick is "bi-coastal." Parker's quip that she didn't want to dance because "this is the wrong network!" was equally priceless.

5. The production numbers from "Avenue Q," "Assassins," and "Wicked" were all quite strong. This in spite of Jimmy Fallon hyperactively introducing "Avenue Q." Sadly, the number from "Wonderful Town" didn't come off as well as it could have, and I expect a closing notice to be posted on it shortly.

6. Gutsiest moves of the telecast? Daring to have a pre-planned bleeped word during "It Sucks To Be Me," and (just in New York) the producers of generally snubbed and panned musical "Bombay Dreams" spending the money to buy a 30 second spot that at least bordered on incoherence.

I simply must add one thing I just discovered over at TWoP. Anika Noni Rose, who won the Tony for supporting actress for her work in "Caroline or Change" was a co-star of "From Justin To Kelly." Her IMDB filmography proves it.

Sunday, June 6, 2004

"YOU'RE BACKSLIDING INTO THE FIRES OF HELL!" Heavy movie-going weekend here in the NYC metro area for this blogger.

Friday night's feature was "Saved!," which can probably best be described as an attempt to make an 80's John Hughes movie with a very 21st century sensibility and set it at a fundamentalist Christian high school. The setup? The summer before her senior year of high school, Mary (Jena Malone, who doesn't get nearly enough work in Hollywood) is told by her boyfriend that he's gay. She becomes convinced that she's had a vision of Christ telling her that to cure her boyfriend, the only solution is to have sex with him. So, she does. On the first day of school, she discovers that her boyfriend's parents have sent him away to be "cured." Chaos ensues. What's particularly great is the cast--Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon's daughter) as the one Jewish girl at the school, Patrick Fugit as the preacher's kid who's rebelling, and (rather shockingly) both Macaulay Culkin and Mandy Moore are REALLY good and really funny in their roles. Check it out as it expands (though it's not for everyone, as some may be offended by the heavy-handed satire of religion).

Yesterday's feature was "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Honestly, there's not much to say about it--though I miss a couple of the cuts they made, and the final freeze-frame is godawful, it finally hits almost the level that the books do, and the kids are growing as actors. The film may be a bit confusing for those not already familiar with the books, but, to be honest, who isn't familiar with the books? Highly suggested.

I went into today's feature, "The Day After Tomorrow," with modest expectations, especially in light of David Poland's massively negative review. But you know what? It's a lot of fun. Yes, it's more than a little uncomfortable to watch New York City get destroyed on screen, and there are a number of tiresome sequences (most notably a bizarre "Jake Gyllenhaal vs. Escaped Wolves" chase/fight). In fact, several plots, most notably a boring segment involving Ian Holm and his cronies at a climate-change monitoring station in Scotland and Sela Ward playing a doctor waiting for a rescue team to retrieve her and her young cancer patient (perhaps she's doing penance for turning down the role of Laura Bristow on "Alias"), become extremely tiresome and could be omitted altogether, but still, if you liked "Independence Day" as a trashy disaster movie, you should enjoy this one.