Saturday, July 15, 2006

HEY, AND I'M RIDING AROUND, RIDING AROUND ON IT: You've asked if we could have a thread to discuss the Tour de France. Consider it done.

(I have nothing to add to the conversation, unless we get into the Vanity Fair piece on Sheryl Crow from the new issue.)
WHY IS THE RUM ALWAYS GONE? I have a question about the underwhelming-but-still-fun-enough Pirates II: Yo Ho Ho and a Jar of Dirt, but it's totally a spoiler, so meet me in the comments if you've seen the movie.

Friday, July 14, 2006

HIS NAME WAS LOGAN, HE WAS A SHOWMAN: I'm not sure that this trailer mashup provides a more or less convincing Wolverine origin story than did Origin, but it's worth a few minutes of your time in any event.
GEORGE, GOOSE, GARFUNKEL, GARTH, AND GROMIT: With no blockbuster to flog this week (sorry Shawn Wayans fans), EW goes the list route, naming the 50 greatest sidekicks of all time. Who's No. 1? You are correct, sir, if you guessed Ed McMahon.
MY NOMINEES -- "BRAND NEW LOVE" BY SEBADOH, AND JUST BECAUSE IT'S ON MY MIND, "SURRENDER" BY CHEAP TRICK: Bill Simmons' mailbag contains the following question -- what songs would have been better had Bruce Springsteen recorded them? After starting off with a discussion of Bruce's stealing ownership of "One Headlight" from the Wallflowers at the 1997 VMAs, Simmons adds this list:
'See a Little Light' by Bob Mould; 'Taillights Fade' by Buffalo Tom (and just for the record, I absolutely love those guys, but that would have been a top-five Bruce song); 'Way Down Now' by World Party; 'Rain King' by Counting Crows; 'Expresso Love' by Dire Straits; the theme to 'Beautiful Girls'; 'Turn the Page' by Bob Seger; and my personal favorites, 'Santa Monica' and 'You Make Me Feel Like A Whore' by Everclear. Bruce also would have done much better with 'I Am Mine' than Pearl Jam did because Eddie Vedder mailed in that entire album during his 'I don't want to be famous anymore' stage.
What else? (Also, I will take this excuse to link to one or two of my favorite VMA performances.)
YOU'VE READ THE BOOK, SO WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND? I finished Carolyn Parkhurst's Lost and Found last night (which a few folks in the comments have mentioned), and although I barrelled through it, I'm still not sure what to think of it. The book uses a fictional TAR-esque reality show as a prism to examine its competitors, using rotating narrators to follow the teams from place to place. It's a strange book, satirizing reality TV, the idea of "ex-gay," and having some wickedly funny things to say about 80s-90s sitcoms and child stars, while simultaneously going to some very dark places--a mother/daughter team has a secret that's right out of a Jodi Picoult book (seriously, Plain Truth) and a man coping with his son's illness--in Lost-esque flashbacks. I'm still not sure if it works--some of the narrators and plot threads are far more interesting than others, one of the more interesting narrators (the show's host) is given short shrift, and the book goes on a bit after a climactic confrontation in Northern Ireland to an ending that leaves the reader with a sense of "and?"--but it's still worth reading.
AND RED MAKES THREE: Celebrities on the brink can breathe a brief breath of relief now that Red Buttons, a.k.a. "The Yiddish Leprechaun," has passed joining June Allyson and Syd Barrett.
GO AHEAD, CALL IT A COMEBACK: The Onion's AV Club lists 15 True Comeback Albums from Frank Sinatra's "Songs for Young Lovers" to Loretta Lynn's "Van Lear Rose."
AND LIL' JON AS MARY SUNSHINE: I can understand the need for long-running Broadway shows to engage in stunt casting from time to time. The part of Billy Flynn in the current revival of Chicago has been played by, among others, Taye Diggs, Michael C. Hall, George Hamilton, Huey Lewis, Alan Thicke, Wayne Brady, and John O'Hurley. But Usher as Billy Flynn? I just don't get it, and don't see audiences saying "Yeah!" to this one.
IF YOU WANTED USEFUL ADVICE, YOU'D PROBABLY BE AT MANOLO'S SHOE BLOG: Things that you may not realize are extremely dorky, portage and totage division:
1. Wallets with see-through windows for drivers licenses
Another biased and unfounded public-service opinion from Isaac Spaceman.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

H-O-M-I-C-I-D-E: As part of our duty to inform you of all Bee-related progamming, it's compulsory to note that tomorrow night's episode of USA's equal parts endearing and annoying comedy buddy detective show Psych involves the investigation of the death of the local equivalent of Dr. Jacques Bailly.
"YOU PUT MY STUFF IN JELL-O AGAIN!" An interesting thing I noticed during tonight's repeat of the pilot of The Office--the driving force of action in the pilor is that Scranton and Stamford are going to be consolidated. Certainly throws a wrench into Jim's plan for departure, doesn't it? Also, the pilot demonstrates how far the show has come. While the first episode was almost a straight remake of the first episode of the British show, the show's managed to transcend those roots in so many ways.
"BATMAN FEAR BATWOMAN:" Alan Sepinwall notes that the WaPo and PTI's Tony Kornheiser was among the many fools pitied by Mr. T today.
PLEASE, LET THERE BE SCORE BY JAN HAMMER: For those of us who've gotten a little sick of hearing Jay-Z and Linkin Park in movie theatres, the trailer for Reno 911: Miami provides an antidote. (Update: the trailer, which was a spoof of the over-exposed Miami Vice trailer, featuring Lt. Jim Dangle on the meaning of "foreboding," has been removed.)
THEY NEVER TELL ME ANYTHING. I LIKE IT THAT WAY: Don't forget that today marks the start of The Office's 10 episode summer webisode series, which follows Oscar, Angela, and Kevin as they try to track down $3,000 missing from the Dunder Mifflin accounting files. The two minute length limits possibilities for wordless reactions, uncomfortable silences, and cut-away confessionals, but still, pretty funny stuff.
WIMPY, WIMPY, WIMPY: Stereogum reveals Blender's list of the 25 Biggest Wusses Ever (or at least 75 percent of said list), from The Cure's Robert Smith to Sweet Baby James. Plus, check out Blender's mix tape "Now That's What I Call Wimpy!."
I MIGHT HAVE PICKED BIRTH OF A NATION OR TRIUMPH OF THE WILL OVER PORKY'S, BUT THAT'S ME: MSNBC lists the 10 least politically correct movies ever.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

THE RETURN OF THE WICKETY-WACK: Only a minute into watching the first episode of Project Runway 3, and I already wanted to slap Malan. Hard. With something that would hurt him.

That didn't change over the next 59 minutes, but I did also find much to like about our new, considerably older cast. I like the Barbie Guy, like Miranda Hobbes II, and gained serious respect for The One Who Looks Like Jude Law and Michael from the A-T-L on the basis of their work, the latter of whom did something remiscent of Chloe's awe-inspiring garden party dress. Great challenge for episode one, totally in the spirit of what preceded it in the first two seasons.

You'll also want to watch the casting special. Plenty of updates on your former faves, if you haven't been keeping up.

As far as the elimination: if I knew I was going to be on Survivor, I'd sure try to learn how to make fire before I left. If I ever make it to The Amazing Race, I'll finally learn to ride a bike. And . . .
CASH MONEY: Country music's Tupac, Johnny Cash, has the No. 1 album in the country. "American V: A Hundred Highways," sold 88,000 copies in its first week on sale, giving the Hombre en Negro his first Billboard chart-topping album since 1969's "Johnny Cash at San Quentin," proving death can be a good career move whether you are 27 or 71.
IT'S A SIMPLE GAME, REALLY: The main event of the World Series of Poker is the $10K buy-in no-limit Hold 'Em championship, but the 50K H.O.R.S.E. tournament going on now has the highest buy-in of the WSOP. Each time the blinds raise, the game rotates between Hold 'Em, Omaha, Razz, Seven-Card Stud, and Hi-Lo. The mathematical ability alone required to compete (and switch between the games effortlessly) has got to be enormous.
YOU GIVE VIDEO GAMES A BAD NAME: Game Revolution has an amusing list of the 50 Worst Game Names Ever including "Nuts & Milk," "If It Moves Shoot It," and "Booby Kids."
WHEN BAD SONGS HAPPEN TO GOOD ALBUMS: Rolling Stone's blog Rock & Roll Daily comes up with an interesting list today, terrible songs on great albums. Two that come to my mind right away are "Meeting Across the River" on "Born to Run" and "Ten Little Kids" on The Jayhawks' "Tomorrow the Green Grass" (the latter being thankfully the last song on the CD).

So ALOTT5MAers, which clunkers spoil some of your favorite albums?
TAKE TWO TBSP VODKA, 1 1/2 TBSP COINTREAU, 1 1/2 TBSP CRANBERRY JUICE . . . Hearty congratulations are in order for Mr. and Kim Cosmopolitan, who brought into the world a son at 2:23 pm today. Everyone is doing well.

Height, weight and Official CosmoBaby Alias to be announced later. Until then, yippee!
READY FOR ACTION, NIP IT IN THE BUD: My favorite tidbit in the Wikipedia article on OutKast? "In 2005, Outkast turned down a $4 Million USD offer from Ex-Lax to use "The Way You Move" for a commercial jingle." I'm not sure if this is real or simply an Asterisk, but if it's for real, my lord, what were the fine folks at Ex-Lax thinking? This is almost as bad as that Pepto-Bismol dance commercial.
I ALSO HEARD HE DISLIKES JERRY LEWIS AND COMING-OF-AGE STORIES: Cheer up, Frenchies, there's a silver lining! Zizou, it seems, is single-handedly rewriting France's reputation as the world's foremost gracious surrenderer and belligerence-allower. As with so many things, YouTube has the video.
BRING BACK MICHIGAN J. FROG: It's going to be tough for a network to come up with a worse print advertising campaign for the fall season than the CW has done, now barraging subways and busses throughout NYC. The campaign is built around the same hideous limey green shade seen on the website, with the tagline "Free to be (insert word describing show)" accompanying an image embodying the show. Now, the ad for Everybody Hates Chris isn't bad, with "Free to be funny" accompanied by a picture of a bemused looking Tyler James Williams. But the three horrible ones I've seen thus far?
  • Veronica Mars--"Free to be Fearless" (fine), accompanied by a picture of Kristen Bell trying to look cutesy with a "shhh!" finger over her lips. Per Rob Thomas, Veronica "is not cute. She is sexy. Tough. Prematurely jaded. Angelina Jolie at 17."
  • Smallville--"Free to be Super" accompanied by a picture that was apparently quite an effort to get, as it's a shot of Tom Welling in profile that manages to make him look rather unattractive.
  • Gilmore Girls--I could only see the tagline on a bus this morning, but "Free to Be Girlie?" That is quite possibly the worst tagline I can imagine for the subject. Why not go with the alliteration of "Free to Be Family," which is a far more accurate summary of the show's themes and ideas? Grrr. Arrrgh.
SHAVE, AND A HAIRCUT, AND BEER? We welcome to the blogosphere today our good friend Charlie Glassenberg, creator of the fabled MascotMatcher protocol, whose new site The Real Charlie promises to be an exceptional survey of fatherhood, good beer, life in the Hub, and Charlie's regular take on the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Review, among other topics. It is the companion site to While She Naps, his wife Abby's updates on the world of crafts.
YET MORE EVIDENCE OF BLOCKBUSTER'S OBSOLESCENCE: Netflix users who happen to be readers of this blog might be interested in adding this to their queue. Any NYC Netflix members want to have a party to view? I cancelled my membership about a year ago, and am tempted to reinstate just so I can see the DVD.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

THE CHURCH OF TIM GUNN IS SET TO REOPEN: Project Runway 3 starts Wednesday night. Please note your level of excitement, and suggest anything you'd change for our third session at Parsons.

Two things I'd consider changing: (1) give the designers more time for each project. Rushed designers make for good television, but not-as-good final garments. And (2), how about more challenges to design for people other than the models? Like, y'know, men? Also, Tim dishes extensively with the Trib's Maureen Ryan, and explains how Chloe Dao beat out Daniel Vosovic last season, among other things.
DILANAMANIA: CBS' Rock Star: Seriously, His Name Is Gilby got better this week. Not that the performances were necessarily better than week one, but because the members of the band were much more comfortable in their role as judges, much freer with their critiques of the performances. When Tommy Lee said to the guy who sang "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that "Mick Jagger is a showboat, so next week, show some more boat, bitch," I knew the show had taken it to another level. (Seriously? No one on these shows should ever attempt a Rolling Stones song, because you can't out-Mick Mick.)

Top slot this week, IMHO, went to Storm Large (apparently, that's her real name) with Cheap Trick's "Surrender", Dilana for a goth-ish cover of "Ring of Fire", and whoever did "Tainted Love". Some of the performers are too clean and smiling, but they'll go home eventually, and get dissed well and entertain us in the process. Like the woman who attempted Hole's "Violet" -- great, great song, and she blew it by doing a bad Courtney Love impression, but would anyone on Idol even try it?

I should say that I felt uncomfortable during Patrice's "Heart-Shaped Box". Something about that album to me just feels so personal to Kurt Cobain and that point in his life that no one else singing it is ever going to be able to sell the song authentically. I'd feel the same way about someone trying to cover Tori Amos' "Me and a Gun" or Liz Phair's "Divorce Song" -- and, I know, Phair was still single at the time she wrote it. But, still, it'd feel wrong to me. Just saying. Is all.

edited to add: If you can suffer through an ad-filled interface, all the performances are online here. If you can't, YouTube is your friend.
I'M A STAR. I'M A STAR. I'M A BIG, BRIGHT, SHINING STAR: Philly represents in two long-awaited film trailers now online -- Rocky Balboa, scheduled for a Christmas 2006 release, but even better may be the trailer for Invincible, with Mark Wahlberg starring in the real-life underdog story of Vince Papale, who in 1976 at the age of 30 made the Philadelphia Eagles as a walk-on. Due late August. Yes, it's Rudy without all the having-to-go-to-school stuff, but there's a reason why people liked Rudy so damn much.

Also, Greg Kinnear as Dick Vermeil looks as awesome as the CGI work faking the Veterans Stadium seating bowl doesn't.
SEVERAL SPECIES OF SMALL FURRY ANIMALS GATHERED TOGETHER IN A CAVE AND MOURNING WITH A PICT: Syd Barrett, co-founder of Pink Floyd, is dead at 60. He was a troubled man who produced strange music. When I first heard Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Saucer Full of Secrets when I was sixteen, no doubt they were interesting, but they didn't strike me then (or now) as particularly good. Critics may disagree, but I never got it.

Still, Pink Floyd served as a musical backbone to my adolescence so, I suppose, Syd Barrett served as its coccyx. For that, I thank him. I hope he is at peace, at last.
AT LEAST ONE ISN'T A MANATEE: In news that will reassure all of you folks who co-wrote Law Revue or whatever the name of your law school's satirical show was, I believe one of the writers for Family Guy was a writer alongside me for the 2001 and 2002 NYU Law Revue. See, Mom, you can do useful things with a law degree.
AMERICANS THINK YOU'RE THE CHAPERONE AND I'M RUNNING FOR PROM KING: It occurred to me over the weeekend, upon seeing that he just turned 51, that Jimmy Smits doesn't get enough credit for what he's accomplished.

Three major tv dramatic roles in twenty years -- "L.A. Law", "NYPD Blue" and "The West Wing" -- and in the latter two, he joined existing hits and made them better. Yes, all three roles had similarities in their strong moral core and the fact that the man just happens to be really good-looking, but compare, for example, Cong. Matthew Santos' ego and slyness with long-suffering Bobby Simone. (Indeed, take a look at this review of Smits' final "NYPD Blue" episode or this Sepinwall appreciation if you've forgotten how good he was there.)

All in all, eleven Emmy nominations (one win for supporting for "L.A. Law in six tries, no wins in five tries for "Blue" as lead), adoptive father of Princess Leia, and yet, you don't hear him spoken of as one of the great tv actors of the past two decades. Why not? And what would you like to see him do next?

Monday, July 10, 2006

FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD: It says something about The Amazing Treasure Code Quest Hunt Thingy that I didn't set a season pass for it and missed the first ten minutes of it, and, yet, I really enjoyed it while I was watching again. To be sure, the lame parts (stiff narrator, ubiquitous product placement, relentless seriousness, African American team having difficulty in challenge involving following the Underground Railroad) remain annoying, but, damnit, I like the fact that unlike the Race, the clues are clues, and they're not easy. It's not great television, but it's a nice attempt to tinker with the formula.

Speaking of the Race, season nine winner BJ (the darker-haired hippie) did a chat with today.
IT'S NOT LIKE IT WAS DRAGGIN' ME DOWN OR SOMETHING: My 32-year-old sister -- who, like me, grew up in Philadelphia, but is generally more musically literate than I am -- just called me to say that she'd heard a song on the radio that she liked. She'd never heard the song before, but when the DJ announced the name of the song and the band, she remembered that I'd liked the band when we were kids, so she called me to tell me. Here's where I get confused: the song was "I Don't Like Mondays," by the Boomtown Rats.

"What do you mean, you've never heard I Don't Like Mondays?"
"I don't know, I never heard it!"
"But WMMR and WYSP played it every week!"
"I don't know what to tell you, but I never heard it before today!"
"I just don't understand."

So what's the story here? Is this a more obscure song than I thought, or is there some weird deficiency bubble in my sister's musical experience?
THAT'S A SERIOUSLY CRUEL SUMMER: What if Lost were a feel-good comedy movie? As is often true, YouTube has the answer (though, sadly, not particularly professionally done).
O.J. SIMPSON, NOT A JEW: Forget for one moment the ridiculous premise of this Salon essay, which argues that from the late '60s through the late '70s there were many "cool" Jewish celebrities, whereas now there are none (some examples of cool Jews include Randy Newman, Spock, and Sammy Davis Jr., three people I might now think are cool, but never used the term to describe back on the playground). How does one write about "cool" Jews of the '70s without mentioning the very person who made the term "cool," well, "cool"? To quote someone the author deems uncool, the great chronicler of famous Jews himself, Adam Sandler: "Guess who eats together at the Carnegie Deli/ Bowser from Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzerelli." Yes, you're entire premise is celebrity Jews were cooler in the 70s and you fail to mention Henry Winkler.

Even if you agree with the author's premise that we live in an age of no cool Jews, hope in on the horizon in the form of Shia LaBeouf, Liev Schreiber, and Adrien Brody, who Salon deems are part of a list of personalities who could usher in the rebirth of Jewish cool.
"NO, I DON'T SEE IT AS A TV SERIES. MAYBE A MOVIE?" Arrested Development: The Motion Picture? Alia Shawkat says it's a "good possibility." And as good as "The Christmas Party" was and the My Name Is Earl Pilot were, "Development Arrested" really ought to win the Emmy category for writing. (Story might be different if "Booze Cruise" or "Casino Night" were nominated, but with the current nominees?)
COME SCARE ME IN THE THOROUGHFARE: I have resisted putting anything up about this season of Deadwood, because I don't want to be the guy that only talks about Deadwood, Black Sabbath, and the N (there's a post on the N's Friday lineup knocking around in my head, if you're wondering). Frankly, if you're not watching, it's too late to catch up (though you really should at least check out the Season 1 DVDs and see if you like it -- I recommend renting the disc with "Mr. Wu" on it and then, if you like it, going back to the beginning) anyway. I would like to say that if this season has been hampered by a surfeit of exposition and a deficit of Francis Wolcott (the most complex and, as played by Garret Dillahunt, well-acted villain in TV last year), last night's episode was quite the welcome catharsis. Strong performances by a couple of supporting players, a suitable amount of violence in a yet-pigless season (Sepinwall calls it "one of the most amazing fight scenes I have ever witnessed in a movie or TV show"), and a pinch of rare humanity for several of the players.

Also, who knew that Gerald McRaney could play a (somewhat) convincing bad guy?

Anybody else out there watching?

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that if you can't watch comedy without a laugh track, YouTube has made available a Two-and-a-Half Men-accessible Deadwood.
"I NEED MORE FROM THIS RELATIONSHIP THAN I'M WILLING TO PUT INTO IT:" Strangers With Candy is certainly more appealing than Stephen Colbert's last big-screen outing, Bewitched, but it's far from perfect. Sure, Colbert and his cohorts Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinnello, score big from time to time, but the jokes are often pasted together. I will say that Colbert actually proves here that he can play a part of than "Stephen Colbert, pompous jackass," and the cameos are priceless (Allison Janney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as school board members, Sarah Jessica Parker as the school "grief counsellor,"and Matthew Broderick as a science fair scholar). The two best cameos though? Chris Pratt playing the doofy jock who Jerri has a thing for, and a blink and you'll miss it bit from Chandra Wilson as one of the inmates who abuses Jerri in the opening prison sequence.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

I BELIEVE THAT ALSO PUTS IT AHEAD OF JAMES CAMERON'S AQUAMAN: Box office estimates have Pirates of the Caribbean II: YARR! setting a new record of $132 million over the first three days, smashing Spidey's $114M.

To me, the reason is simple: unlike The Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns and even X^3, this movie promised to just be fun, with no pretense to Deep Meaning or metaphorical significance. (And, according to the reviews, it mostly delivers.) And unlike Tom Cruise in MI3, Johnny Depp is creepy in a good way.

You can read my review of the original film via this link, and Elvis Mitchell's boffo rave here ("in the words of Bart Simpson, it takes a knife-wielding maniac to show us the way.") Matt has some thoughts on Pirates II just a little bit below this post.
NERDPLAY: I don't have a lot to say about the charming new documentary Wordplay. It is, essentially, Spellbound for the crossword puzzle fan, with cameos by lots of famous crossword fans like Bill Clinton**, Jon Stewart and Mike Mussina.

First two thirds of the movie is dedicated to getting to know the puzzle constructors (Will Shortz, Merl Reagle) and a cross-section of the better solvers in the country; last third takes us to the 2005 national championships, where much drama ensues.

Basically, if you're the kind of person who was interested in seeing this movie, then, hell yes, you should see it. It's warm, witty and insightful. Still, I'm not going to claim that it's the greatest movie ever made -- just that it does what it does really well. Two things stand out in that regard: excellent use of on-screen graphics to show us what's going on in the puzzles and in the tournament, and a neat narrative pull-through of showing Reagle constructing one puzzle for the Times, then showing all the famous people trying to work their way through it after it's published.

Like the NYT crossword itself, it's a good way to entertain your brain for a while.

** Forgot to mention this before -- loudest cheer at the bar during the second half of the game was when they showed Clinton in the stands. The place just erupted.
AFTERMATH: Okay, so I can't claim to know that much about soccer, but I don't seem to recall Michael Jordan ending his Chicago Bulls career by kicking someone in the nuts during the NBA Finals. Seriously, Zizou, wtf? (link changed to video with French announcer asking "Pourquoi? Pourquoi?")

Watched the game in a beyond-packed pub this afternoon, and it just made me wonder . . . what concrete steps could be taken to boost soccer in the U.S.? Would there be a market for Premier League games on ESPN? Should Major League Soccer actively recruit foreign stars again, at whatever cost? Or do we just have to wait 10-20 years, for the American generation raised on soccer as a major participatory sport to have more disposable income?
NICK NOLTE WAS IN X-MEN? Despite some nasty questions in the "Old School Rap" category (especially the tiebreaker), I have a feeling that the (sadly rejected, perhaps because we didn't have a cool team name like "Lazer Wolves" or silly outfits in our submitted photos) Team ALOTT5MA would have dominated The World Series of Pop Culture based on the first episode. Based on the team listing, I'm going to take a bet on Sexual Chocolate (three smartass lawyers) going the distance. It's worth watching despite the absence of Team ALOTT5MA and a format that has a tendency to drag (no buzzers or similar). Anyone else watching or going to, since it will be repeated ad nauseam over the next week?
BECAUSE "WE WANT A PITCHER, NOT A BELLY-ITCHER" DOESN'T QUITE CUT IT: The WaPo's Desson Thompson explores the question of why do the world's soccer fans sing during games, and why don't Americans at our sporting events?

And, of course, it's gameday, so who ya got? I'll take France 1-0, and, yeah, Zizou with the goal.