Saturday, April 22, 2006

BEE SEASON: If there's two things you know I like a bit too much, it's good formula films and spelling bees. So you're damned right I was at a sneak preview for Akeelah and the Bee tonight, and whether you want to call it Drumline without the drums or Lean On Me but with only one kid taking the test, well, that's fine.

Because if you're the kind of person who was considering seeing this movie, then, yes, you should see it. It's a warm, smart, inspirational film about a girl from Crenshaw who wants to make it to the National Spelling Bee, and it works. When I say that people were cheering in the audience, I'm not shitting you.

Look: the formulaic elements are in abundance -- characters using each other to replace missing family members, concerns about Keeping It Real, and, perhaps regrettably, The Evil Asian Speller With The High-Pressure Dad as the stock nemesis. But as a whole, the movie works: accept it on its own terms, and let it manipulate you well.

The cast is superb, from Keke Palmer as the serenely poised Akeelah Anderson all the way down to Dr. Jacques Bailly as himself, chief pronouncer at Nationals. It is disconcerting to see a grown-up Curtis Armstrong playing the well-meaning principal and not winning belching competitions, but it's even weirder to see a movie starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett where he's not beating the crap out of her. (Yes, there's one or two times in the movie where you're just waiting for him to call her Annie Mae.)

I want to say a few words about accuracy in the movie. First off, those of you who follow the Bee will recognize that they're re-using a lot of recent competition words throughout the movie. Nice verisimilitude. It's capped with the re-use of a word from the 2004 Bee which made Jen and I laugh out loud because of its association with a prior work of Mr. Fishburne's, and if you insist on having the in-joke spoiled, click on this link.

There were three problems in terms of strictly obeyeing actual Bee rules, though, but since they're spoilerish I'll make you highlight below if you want to know: first off, there's no rule at Nationals which states that when you're down to two spellers and one gets a word wrong, the other does not have to spell that word correctly to proceed, but, rather, the rule is just that you have to spell the next two other words correctly. (But this is invoked with a really nice twist, so I didn't mind in the end.)And obviously, the kids don't get to confer with their coaches again in the middle of the competition. Lastly, the final word used was not exactly a Championship Words caliber word, but I understand why it was used to pull the plot back to square one.

All in all, though, it's done with good heart and good intentions, and it's a good piece of entertainment in a season sorely lacking in joy. Grade: Bee-Plus.
IF YOU THINK YOUR CABLE BILL IS TOO HIGH NOW, JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL THEY'VE GOT STANDARD VS. PREMIUM BROADBAND RATES TO ARBITRAGE YOUR *SS WITH: Is it too late to stop it? I'm still amazed at the lack of awareness / concern / outrage about this particular issue. Granted, there's plenty to be angry about, what with Nick and Jessica breaking up and Britney's baby's skull fracture and David Hasselhoff's divorce all that, but c'mon! Most of the users of this medium don't even know what's about to be done to it.
PIMP MY RIDE? Hell no. Pimp my snack.

Friday, April 21, 2006

YOU'VE BEEN OMER-IZED: Let's start with the good about American Dreamz--the original songs by Stephen ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch") Trask and Paul Weitz are brilliant, nailing silly country cliches ("Mama, Don't Drink Me To Bed Tonight"), inept "rockers" ("Rocket Man," performed by Trey Parker), and even sappy ballads like "A Moment Like This" ("Dreamz With A 'Z'"), and consistently nicely performed. Mandy Moore is also good as a cocktail of Kellie Pickler, Kelly Clarkson, and Britney Spears--a girl smart enough to use her perceived stupidity to her own advantage with an amazing set of pipes. A couple of folks do nice work in supporting roles (Seth Meyers is shockingly funny, and Judy Greer has a couple of hysterical scenes.)

So what's wrong? Pretty much everything else. The "political" material amounts to little more than an extended "Bush is Stupid!" joke, which stopped being funny sometime around, oh, 2003, and POTUS is miraculously changed during the course of the film, apparently as a result of reading volumes of Federal Reporter and West's Federal Practice Digest, straight through, from an oblivious idgit idgit aware that he's an idgit. (My experience indicates that reading volumes of Federal Reporter straight through has little effect on a person other than putting them to sleep.) The biggest problem is that rather than firing the satirical gun at one target, Weitz has chosen about 20, ranging from American Idol to Xenophobia, with stops along the way at Us Weekly, Terrorism, and Matisyahu. Because Weitz hasn't focused his script like a laser, rather than hitting hard and punchy, he's fired birdshot at a big target. Sure, there's some pellets that hit, but they're not focused enough to make an overall impact. One of the big disappointments of this year.

Another mystery, born from a trailer before the film--why is Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn writing a screenplay for a Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock Somewhere In Time knock-off? Actually, Auburn's involvement might actually get me to see this one.
BUT SUPERMAN BATTLING THE PRADA-CLAD DEVIL, THAT I'D SEE: Quotebot 5000, alias Joel Siegel, has this to say:
The summer's best counter-programming is "The Devil Wears Prada," set for release the same weekend as "Superman Returns." The assumption: No one in America wants to see both movies.
True, but there are plenty of us who want to see neither.
LEGISLATE...TRY NOT TO HATE: Time magazine chooses the 10 Best and Five Worst U. S. Senators. Among the surprises, one of the picks is from Illinois and is not named Obama. Also missing from the list are the junior senators from New York and Massachusetts though the latter's senior senator makes the cut.
RIGHT NOW, SOMEONE IS SPEAKING WITH HIS ATTORNEYS: David Lee Roth has been let go from his East Coast Howard Stern replacement gig. Roth's replacement will be a (presumably heavily censored) version of "Opie and Anthony," who return to the airwaves after an unpleasant dustup involving a contest in which listeners "scored points" for having sexual relations in strange places.
24 REDUX: I thought this was witty.
HE GOES RIGHT NEXT TO SCALIA: Yes, you too can own a Dwight Schrute bobblehead. And seriously, y'all, if Rainn Wilson and John C. McGinley aren't nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Comedy) at the Emmys this year? Heads will roll.
SO JJ HAS APPARENTLY EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE AN UNMITIGATED GEEK IF HE WANTS TO BE: JJ Abrams will be directing, writing, and producing a Star Trek prequel, currently targeting a Fall 2008 release. According to Variety (subscription required), the film will "will center on the early days of seminal 'Trek' characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer space mission." Interestingly, JJ's producing partners are Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk -- a/k/a his Lost production team.

I have to confess that I find this idea strangely compelling. Then again, I will follow JJ anywhere. Even to a Tom Cruise movie.
REALLY, HOW OFTEN DOES ONE GET TO USE THE WORD VERFREMDUNGSEFFEKT IN A POST? While I don't know that I'll get around to seeing the new Cabaretized (with Alan Cumming and at Studio 54, no less!) production of The Threepenny Opera, it certainly sounds like a fascinating train wreck. My problem with Brecht is more my problem than his -- I tend to like my theatre at least a little bit enjoyable, and most of his plays quite intentionally don't fall into that category. But there is the whole Weill music thing, and I do love Alan Cumming, and it even has the more-unusual-than-ever-she-was Cyndi Lauper, and it's a new translation by Wallace Shawn . . . I just know I'll be annoyed at myself if I actually sit through it.
THE MINIMALIST: Isn't it about time that we all acknowledge that Mark Bittman is by a wide margin the best food writer in the world? The recipe referenced in the article is here.

I make his weekly recipes nearly every week, usually on Thursdays when my local farmer's market is open. Get in the habit of reading Bittman and trying his recipes. You'll be happy you did.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

FREE BUCKETHEAD: While I won't be attending, I eagerly anticipate reports from some people on the sure insanity that will follow from Guns 'N' Roses' first regularly scheduled shows in the U.S. since 2002. So, how long are the odds that both of these shows actually happen?
NO, THAT'S NOT HOW I'D WANT TO LEAVE THE ISLAND: And beyond that, I think we learned, again, that Aras and Cirie may be among the smarter people who've played Survivor (Aras, for the "don't let this game splinter us" line plus realizing last week that If Terry Wants Me On Exile Island, He Knows There's No Idol There; Cirie just for general perceptiveness regarding her fellow competitors), but if Shane really is faux-crazy-just-to-firm-alliances and not really loony given the lack of nicotine, he's even smarter. I still think he's really crazy, and his whining about not going on the reward tonight was pathetic.

But, still, the highlight of the episode was finding the producers finding ways to multiply just how awesome the "smash the plates"/"chop the coconuts" reward challenge is at precisely the splintering Aras feared: not only did they have to eliminate each other from the game, but they had to do so within the context of filling out and then revealing their answers to a virtual slam book about their castaways ("Like, who do you think has cooties?"), and then the winner had to figure out which two people to bring along on the reward. If people weren't thinking pecking order before, they sure are now, and, finally, we may have a season on our hands.
A BIGGER BUMMER THAN LANE CHOOSING TO MARRY ZACH RATHER THAN KILL HIM: Ugh. Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino will not be returning for Gilmore Girls' presumably final season. Snappy patter requires the Palladinos, so all I can say is mumble grumble.
FORMER DAWSON'S CREEK STAR JOSHUA JACKSON CURRENTLY HOLDS THE NORTH AMERICAN RECORD FOR THE FARMER'S WALK: In what sounds like something suitable for the popular Asterisk feature on Fametracker, apparently, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright discloses in Sunday's NYT Magazine that she can leg press 400 pounds. Your challenge? Come up with amazing feats of strength for governmental officials or pop cultural figures.
A HORSE GALLOPING ACROSS A PLAIN IN BHUTAN CAN ONLY MEAN ONE THING: The manic enjoyability of Isaac's Alias manifesto has earned him the pole position in posting analysis of last night's re-premiere. However, as a baseball game prevented him from watching in a timely fashion (priorities, boys, priorities!), I am opening up the comments for Alias discussion. A few non-spoilery thoughts:
  • Could the difference between really-pregnant Jennifer Garner and pretend-pregnant Jennifer Garner have been any more stark?
  • Did Dixon age 15 years since we saw him last, or what? What exactly has Carl Lumbly been doing with himself?
  • Irina Derevko would appear to be the single smartest, most powerful, and wiliest person on the planet.
DESPITE AN UNSURPRISING LACK OF SCHADENFREUDE: Not so much with the theatre thing for Julia Roberts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

JUST ONE OF THE MANY QUESTIONS RAISED BY "UTAH JAZZ:" To join two of our obsessions around here--grammar and sports--a question spurred by a discussion on PTI this afternoon. What is the appropriate singular term for a single player from the Boston Red Sox or Chicago White Sox? Obviously, for most team names, you can simply drop the "s." Iverson is a 76er. A-Rod is a Yankee. But is Curt Schilling a Red Sock? A Red Sox? A Red So? Has this ever been definitively resolved?
A RECAP OF A TELEVISION PROGRAM I BARELY REMEMBER -- PREVIOUSLY ON ALIAS: Inspired by Kim, here's what I think you need to know going into tonight's wind-down.

Bob Balaban taps USC lit student Sydney Bristow to be his super-special weapon for the CIA's black-ops SD6 division, because the best way to find a tireless worker with infinite focus, superlative athletic chops, and loads of free time is to raid the grad schools. Syd spills the beans to her fake-French fiance, who gets killed for security reasons. Balaban will do the same for Syd if she doesn't get out of bed and back to the ass-kicking, so her dad outs SD6 as a pro-terror syndicate and himself as a CIA/SD6 double-agent and SD6 truancy officer. Syd Run Lolas through the CIA front door and enlists with the legit agency, not realizing that the "6" in SD6 indicates that there may be some other SDs out there.

Syd's colleagues at real CIA include a real French love interest, Vaughn, (not to be confused with the fake French fiance) and Seth Rogen. Her colleagues at fake CIA include by-the-book Dixon and hobbit Marshall, both of whom will later join her at real CIA.

Syd roundhouse kicks her way into the control rooms of a loosely-organized network of terrorist nightclub operators, where she copies discs containing the plans, the lists, the passwords, and perhaps bootlegged copies of "Dude, Where's My Car." Each week Syd defeats what she believes to be the greatest danger known to mankind. Because it's the CIA, or the fake CIA, each week she learns that last week's greatest danger is, in fact, the second-greatest danger, right behind this week's greatest danger. For exactly one and a half years, she kills exactly zero people. Incompetent spy.

Bob Balaban is obsessed with a 13th-century prophet/Leonardo wannabe named Milo Ventimiglia. He invented a magical way of painting a globe red. Syd's part-time job is to steal pages from Milo's collected works so that Balaban can make himself a red globe and rule the world. In discharging her duties, Syd discovers that (a) Milo drew a really good picture of her; and (b) she is the Key Master. She also meets an atelier who hints that Milo is still alive, but JJ Abrams later forgot about this so it didn't happen. Or did it?

For a year, roommate Frenchie and deadbeat Will fail to notice that Syd's bank job requires her to be out of the house for several days a week and that she always returns with three broken legs. Frenchie has a boyfriend who sings, or maybe that was on Ally McBeal. Will has a smoking-hot intern who leaves for The L Word. They congregate in Central Perk behind a sepia-toned camera filter before being killed, replaced by an identical but evil twin who is killed (or is she?), or put into witness protection. Frenchie doesn't like Rocky Road ice cream. Or does she?

On approximately SuperBowl Sunday, Syd's lingerie jumps out of a plane as Bob Balaban takes down the SD network. Syd kills somebody in the basement, thus ending her pacifist period.

Syd's mom, who was previously dead, is in fact not dead, but bad. Later, she is captured, good, and escaped. Still later, she is bad, and dead. Still even later, she is alive, bad, and captured. Yet even still more later, she is good, and escaped. Do I need to tell you that she is now perhaps bad? Or is she? Also, she killed Vaughn's dad, who actually may not be dead, but who in fact may be dead. It's not entirely clear. And she has a whole separate ass-kicking family, including erstwhile Skinemax stalwart Sonia Braga, severe-haircutted Isabella Rossellini, and current bombshell-with-a-porn-name Mia Maestro. That's right, a Russian family entirely played by Swedish, Brazilian, Italian, and Argentinian women. Oh, the betrayal. Which reminds me, Balaban is secretly bad, then openly bad, then through-and-through good but bad-curious (this is his World Health Organization/research into Milo juice phase, if you're scoring at home), then meets the Enlightened Master and drops the whole bad thing completely, then has a bad relapse, then is in jail, then is good and in charge of the CIA, then is bad in the service of saving his daughter (Mia Maestro), then is remorseful, then cuts exactly the same deal to be bad again to help his daughter (except with the sister of the first person with whom he dealt) but reneges. Or does he?

I forgot to mention that some kid named Sark, after the famous Cutty, is exactly like Syd except (a) male; and (b) bad. They are made for each other. He gets beaten up and jailed a lot, but has a pretty healthy attitude about it.

Syd falls asleep and wakes up two years later, with Vaughn married to an unaccountably English-accented blonde. She is a double agent, and is killed. Or is she? Syd discovers that she is a "Project Christmas" kid, meaning that whenever somebody says "Queen of Diamonds," she assassinates the President. Then JJ changes his mind, and this didn't happen. Or did it? Syd gets engaged to Vaughn, who reveals that he's a double agent and then is killed in a car accident. Or is he? He's not, because he is later killed by the bad guys. Or is he? An unwitting bad-guy analyst who conveniently wears the same wig size as now-pregnant Syd jumps the fence and kicks ass with slightly less enthusiasm but more va-voom than Syd. She also has a love interest, Agent Liev Schreiber. And now Mama's back.

Tally: Principal spies: 13 (Syd, Balaban, Jack, Dixon, Marshall, Seth Rogen, Vaughn, Irina, Lauren, Nadia, Rachel, Liev, Sark)
Spies who have not been double-agents or worked for both sides: 3 (Seth Rogen, Nadia, Liev)
Conclusion: internal controls insufficient. Or are they?
RANDOM YUMMINESS BREAK: The crown jewel of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's sprawling foodie empire keeps its four stars.
NEXT, HE AND DET. BRISCOE HAVE A QUIP-OFF: I didn't watch House last night, but judging from this TWOP recaplet and this CNN story, seems like at least one plot point wound up being inadvertently ripped from the headlines.
BOMP II: Alias spoilers are everywhere. Everywhere. The only way to avoid them is to avoid anything having to do with Alias on the internet. I can't even decide whether to share them in the comments. I am so conflicted.

ONE BOWL AND WE'VE GOT TO SHARE IT: ""One life, with each other, sisters, brothers," is in the opinion of British music fans the greatest single song lyric of all time. Ummm, OK. Yes, in a poll conducted by the British version of VH1, that nugget from U2's "One" topped the list of greatest song lyrics of all time, followed by The Smiths' "So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die" and Nirvana's "I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us." And speaking of stupid, VH1's list of the top 100 lyrics just includes the songs, but not the actual lyric being highlighted--and where the hell is "Like a Rolling Stone" on the list?

So, folks, what is your favorite lyric? Mine is probably "Switching it over to AM/Searching for a truer sound/Can't recall the call letters/Steel guitar and settle down/Catching an all-night station somewhere in Louisiana/It sounds like 1963, but for now it sounds like heaven." For some inspiration, watch this "One"-inspired clip from "The Ben Stiller Show."

REQUISITE AI DISCUSSION THREAD: Last night's performances did nothing to change my views on anyone. Elliott still bores me, I still love Katharine, Paris still has not regained her early-round spark, and so forth. I was pleased to hear Daughtry do a straight version of "What a Wonderful World," and thought he did a nice job with it. Taylor's "You Send Me" was horrifically dull until the "you thrill me" verse and thereafter -- until that point, I was scratching my head as to exactly which performance skills Rod Stewart thought he was extolling. I was too befuddled by the bun in Ace's hair to pay much attention to his song. (Mr. Cosmo astutely observed that Ace's hairdo and outfit were a little too Vincent Vega.) And then there's Kellie . . . Kellie Kellie Kellie Kellie. Loved the point when she mangled her first of many notes and Simon hung his head in disgust.

I have to think that Ace leaves us tonight. Kellie's whole "Ah Butchered It, Ah'm So Sorreeeeee" thing probably saves her, and it's not like she's ever in the bottom three anyway.

And did anyone see the commercial for the rapidly impending return of So You Think You Can Dance? Coming in May!
SURI AND GRIER, BFF? In what I would consider a karmically amusing turn of events, both Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields had baby girls yesterday. Or at least Brooke did. I can't vouch for the actual provenance of Baby Cruise.
NO, THEY DON'T REALLY NEED YOU, SO NO ONE WILL BE REACHING OUT AND TOUCHING YOU: The Boston Phoenix lists the 100 unsexiest men in the world. F'ristance:

7. Mike Mills: You'd want to talk music with the bassist from REM. Sleep with? Not unless you're trying to get to Pete Buck.

29. Don Zimmer: The gerbil's got a massive, ivory-white noggin' that never did much thinking to begin with. Ask any Red Sox fan over 35.

60. Joe Lieberman

67. Robert Patrick: Seriously, try lying in bed next to him without thinking about the T-1000

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

BOMP! Lest anyone have missed the news, tomorrow night marks both the return and the beginning of the end of Alias. From what's been not-so-subtly indicated in ABC's surprisingly fulsome publicity campaign, it looks like anyone and everyone is eligible for an appearance, be they alive, dead, or ambiguously in limbo. And now that the show is definitively on its way out, I'm thinking that there's nothing preventing the writers from imposing a little coherence on the Rambaldi story once and for all. Or is that too optimistic?
"SHOULD THE REVOLUTION COME, AN EPISODE GUIDE WILL PROVIDE A HANDY, ILLUSTRATED LIST OF WHO SHOULD GO UP AGAINST THE WALL." So sayeth former Wonkette Ana Marie Cox about My Super Sweet 16. While (as usual) her point's overstated, isn't she kind of right?
YOU CAN ALSO GET EPISODES OF THE BRADY BUNCH: For those of you, like me, who have only one regular vanilla TiVo, tomorrow night's return of Alias presents a dilemma, as you can't record two programs at once, and Alias is in the same timeslot as TAR. The good news? You can pick up an episode of TAR for $1.99 for viewing on your computer from the Google Video store. While you're there, don't forget to watch the pitch by pitch recreation of game 6 of the 1986 World Series in RBI Baseball, fully synched to the play-by-play.
THIS WOULD BE WHAT THEY CALL "BURYING THE LEDE": A few days ago, the WSJ published a story entitled Who Got into College? (Subscription required, sorry.) The crux of the story -- and many many similar stories -- was that this was an incredibly challenging college admissions season, perhaps the worst ever. And so the WSJ took on the groundbreaking journalistic task of reviewing the qualifications of a few high school seniors to see where they got in and what their qualifications were.

One student, from the vaunted Parkway North High School in St. Louis, got into all eight schools to which he applied, including Stanford and Brown, apparently on the strength of his "extra something" -- in his case, a deep commitment to vegetarianism. (Note to self: encourage Cosmo Girl to stop eating chicken nuggets ASAP.)

The article continues in this vein, until we reach my favorite part:

"Amy Seymour is near the top of her class at the Pennington School, a private school in New Jersey. Besides her straight A's, her interests in video and film production took her to Brown University for a three-week program last summer. She also co-founded a mock-ESPN video program featuring her school's sports teams. Her applications to both Stanford and Cornell were turned away. But she was admitted to Princeton, and both she and her mother believe that her father's job as a math professor there may have played some role. Princeton this year took only 17% of the 1,886 valedictorians who applied."

They think it may have played some role, do they? (Note to self: make sure that ALOTT5MA Full-Time Television Viewing Fellowship includes tenure at major university.)
000 000 001 000 000 000 001 000 000 000 001: Twenty-five years ago today, Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs suited up for the respective sides for a minor league game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket PawSox. It did not end until thirty-three innings later, making it the longest game in professional baseball history.

Great story, from reliever Luis Aponte trying to explain to his wife why he was coming home at 3am, to Cal Ripken's "It's the only time I ever remember our postgame meal being breakfast" to the fact that RedWings catcher Dave Huppert somehow caught 31 innings that night. The lede in the next day's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle? "Not since the time they had to shoot the drunken camel at the city zoo has there been this much excitement in Pawtucket."
THE YOUNG'UNS CALL IT COUNTRY; THE YANKEES CALL IT DUMB: The WaPo wants to know why seven of the eight top-two finishers in the first four years of American Idol were from states that once formed the Confederacy, and five of the seven remaining finalists this season are, too. The lone exception? Oklahoma's Carrie Underwood.

This thread is open for discussion of that topic, as well as speculation and recommendation for tonight's performers, in tackling (Rod Stewart tackles) The Great American Songbook.

Monday, April 17, 2006

BLOW IT UP: If we love Allen Iverson, it's time to set him free.

He has truly given his all in ten years as a Sixer, and the two-month 2001 playoff run remains the greatest joy that professional sports has given me as a fan, more than the Phils in 1980/1983/1993, more than the Eagles' stellar 2004 run that ended in Super Bowl defeat.

Night after night after night, he brought it against the Pacers, Raptors, Bucks and Lakers -- 32.9 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.7 RPG and 2.4 SPG, all while in a ridiculous among of pain. Those of us who were here, and especially those of us fortunate enough to be in the arena (I was at 6/13 of the home games) will not forget the electricity he provided, the effort and passion which were manifest every night.

He has been a source of fascination and consternation --the injuries, the hairstyles, the run-ins with the law, and, yes, one of the greatest press conferences in sports history.

But now, it's two straight years without a trip to the playoffs. Through no fault of his own, we aren't getting better with Allen Iverson in the lineup, and GM Billy King hasn't given him the supporting cast he deserves. The nature of the NBA salary structure demands that it's time to move on, time to trade Iverson while his value is still decent and, like Charles Barkley and Curt Schilling before him, time to give him the second chance he's earned to pursue a championship elsewhere.

I am not happy about this, and I do not look forward to the lousy Sixers team we'll have for the next few years. But Iverson gave us everything he could for a decade, and we owe it to him to let him thrive elsewhere.** And I will root for him no matter what uniform he's wearing.***

**That said, if we get a top-three lottery pick, I reserve the right take it all back.

***Because they won't trade him to the Lakers, Celtics or Knicks, right?
BATHOS: Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines the word as follows:
"1 a : the sudden appearance of the commonplace in otherwise elevated matter or style. b : ANTICLIMAX
2 : exceptional commonplaceness : TRITENESS
3 : insincere or overdone pathos : SENTIMENTALISM"

Why am I defining this word? Because it's the perfect word to describe the incredibly overplayed, incredibly inspid song "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. Can anyone say anything favorable about this song?

Here's my basic objection. If a beautiful woman smiled at me on the subway in a situation in which there was no real chance for furthering the connection, then I'd chock that up as a good thing. I mean having an attractive woman smile at you is kind of a rush, isn't it? It would never cross my mind in a million years to moan and groan about how I'll never get to know her.

JAY SHERMAN WAS NOT A FINALIST: Pulitzer Prize winners were announced today. Nothing hugely shocking, with the news categories dominated by Katrina coverage. Sure to be controversial is the National Reporting prize, which was shared by the work of the NYT on wiretapping and the San Diego Union-Tribune on Randy Cunningham. Commentary award to Nick Kristof for his work on Darfur, criticism to Robin Givhan of the WaPo for fashion writing, and a mild surprise of a "no award" for Drama this year.
BUT IS THE KITCHEN SUITABLE FOR A HUGE FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN HIM AND HIS WIFE'S EVIL DOUBLE? Because someone stole my NYT on Saturday (when I get the A&L and Magazine), I didn't get a chance to discover this profile of J.J. Abrams' home until today, in which he opines about his love for Segways, boxes, Jaws, and Shopsin's. Abrams comes off as a decent, normal, and sane guy.
I WAS DROWSY, BUT NOT A CHAPERONE: Ron Eldard and Jena Malone, I apologize for dozing off during your fine performances on Saturday evening, especially since I was three rows from the stage--it's just that I'd worked around 30 hours over the previous two days and made the mistake of going to a very dark theatre without benefit of enough sleep or caffeine. It wasn't that the play was boring, or that the performances were bad (though was the Bahstan accent really necessary, Ms. Malone?)--just that I was tired. And for what it's worth, Mr. Eldard, I didn't think your character was guilty.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


I can't imagine I'm the only one here who now believes the answer was 'yes'. Other than the TiVo-freezing "Hey, isn't that . . . ?" from the opening funeral scene, the episode just completely missed the mark. Too much presidential transition plot, not enough sadness. A Very Special Episode was called for, and they failed to deliver.

Leo McGarry deserved better, and John Spencer certainly did.
"BECAUSE THERE'S SO MUCH GREAT TV OUT THERE, YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT'S NOT BEING DONE." This interview with Everwood creator and Jack & Bobby co-creator Greg Berlanti hits on everything from his love of Grey's Anatomy to his fights with the FCC and the WB--it's well worth your time.
LIVE FREE OR DIE: So, a whole episode about that? Really?

After the urgency of the first five Sopranos episodes, tonight was a more comic, less complicated affair. A number of characters had visions of how else their lives could be, we heard a lot of different slang terms for homosexuality, and Finn was put in an awkward position.

But, still? Weakest episode of the season. I prefer my Sopranos to err on the side of obscure symbolism, not thuddingly obvious final scenes, 'k?

edited to add: Sepinwall's take: "Since Tony came out of his coma, I've had a running argument with our other TV critic, Matt Seitz, about whether Tony has been changed by the experience. After last night, I'm with Matt: Tony wants to learn and grow from what happened, but the business he has chosen won't let him. . . . . [A]s we head into the second half of this spring season, I keep returning to something Chase told me last month: 'Once we realized we were doing a show in which characters would and could die, that was very liberating in a way. Because it meant that they could change also.' As I said before the season began, the opposite is true, too: on this show, when people change, they usually die."
"EVER GET THE FEELING SOMEBODY'S MESSING WITH YOUR HEAD?" I'm not the only one who desperately wants to see The Legend of Simon Conjurer even though I have absolutely no idea what exactly it's, y'know, about, right?
IN HONOR OF THIS DAY: The Easter turducken.