Saturday, July 29, 2006

TIPS FOR POLITICAL PROTESTERS: Please proofread your signs. The sign I had waved in my face stating "HAMASS AND HEZBOLLAH ARE NOT TERRORISTS" was not particularly effective at getting across the message.
WHO NEEDS THE KWIK-E-MART? While other parts of Sunday's Times are getting noise in other parts of the blogosphere, the subject that I think is appropriate here is the Times Magazine column in which the Times asks "Why do people love The Wawa so much?" (Also. no link, but Sunday Times readers should take a look at the J&R Ad on the back of the Sunday Arts & Leisure section, which, at least in my edition, contained an amusing editorial typo.)
LIKE THE JETS AND THE SHARKS: Why crossword puzzle experts hate the Sudoku folks.
THEY'RE MADE OUT OF PEO--I MEAN, YOU MANIACS, YOU BLEW IT ALL UP. In the blog-fodder world of ready-made lists, here's a list of the top 50 movie endings of all time.
YOU SHOULD GO VOTE. OH, THAT'S RIGHT: It can seem like a real committment to watch four half-hours of The Colbert Report in the wee hours ever week, so you may skip it some nights. Do not, under any circumstances, miss his "Better Know A District" inteview with Eleanor Holmes Norton of the fightin' District of Columbia.
I CAN FEEL IT COMING IN THE AIR TONIGHT: Given that Michael Mann's last film, Collateral, experienced a lot of critical and commercial success, despite a plot that relied heavily on a coincidence so improbably it almost ruined the film for me (seriously, he just happened to pick up both Jada Pinkett Smith and Cruise?), he apparently made the voice for Miami Vice--"hey, let's see if I can make a film without any real semblance of a plot!" OK--so there's kind of a plot--two Miami/Dade officers are sent undercover to infiltrate a drug ring in Latin America, and one begins to fall for the big bad guy's moll--and that's it, for 2 hours and 20 minutes. And unlike Collateral, the performances are rather meh--although Foxx gets top billing, he plays second fiddle to Farrell's Sonny Crockett for most of the film. Farrell himself plays second fiddle to his mustache, which is fine if you're Jason Lee on My Name Is Earl, but not so good here.

So, the question about the film comes down whether Mann's directorial style is good enough to support the film. There are moments of great clarity and gorgeous shots (planes and helicopters soaring over Miami, boats zipping across the ocean), and moments of genuine tension (a verbal showdown between Crockett, Tubbs, and a drug lord, and a the penultimate showdown in a trailer park involving Tubbs' girlfriend being strapped to a bomb). The problem is that almost the entire film takes place at night and the shootouts wind up being a bit incoherent as a result, a problem exacerbated by Mann's shooting style. The film has almost no sense of "fun" in it--though there are a few "hell, yeah!" moments, it's all very, very, serious. Finally, Mann's theme (the dangers of living a "double life") seems to me to have been far better explored in recent years by J.J. Abrams (it's unquestionably a theme of both Alias and M:I:III).

Guess we'll have to see if Snakes On A Plane can deliver.

Friday, July 28, 2006

IF YOU SET YOUR MIND FREE, BABY, MAYBE YOU'LL UNDERSTAND: Can we top the number of comments from Matt's thread below over this weekend? Our friend Bill thinks so, because he just sent over this list he saw of the Top 13+1 Albums of the 1980s, which is topped by the wrong Prince album, though he defends it well.

War is declared, and battle come down in the comments.
THE NICEST KIDS IN TOWN: Your principal cast for Hairspray is now complete, with James "Cyclops" Marsden set to play Corny Collins. And, yes, he can at least warble--as I believe he demonstrated on Ally McBeal.
WHAT, THEY COULDN'T HAVE ADDED A KISHKE? Tomorrow at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Chorizo joins the famous sausage race.
AND YES, AN IMPERIAL STAR DESTROYER COULD KICK THE ENTERPRISE'S ASS: Man, myth, legend Ken Jennings has an interesting post on his blog today that seems that it'd spark some discussion here (it certainly has on his discussion boards). He asks about personal pop cultural preferences that run in the face of critical consensus--his include that Felicity's hair was better short, that Timothy Dalton was the second best Bond ever, and that Smashing Pumpkins' "Landslide" is better than the original Fleetwood Mac version. So, what are your iconoclastic views on pop culture? I'll offer a few:
  • The Fellowship of the Ring was by far the weakest of the Lord of The Rings movies.
  • Apollo 13 should have beaten Braveheart for best picture in 1995.
  • Cruel Intentions is the best film or stage version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

RESPONDING TO READER DEMAND: Okay, so can someone explain the Floyd Landis allegations?
ELVIS MITCHELL, WHERE ARE YOU? In the midst of a pretty rave-worthy Miami Vice review, the NYT's Tony Scott unleashes one hell of an odd analogy:
[Colin] Farrell, however, is a movie star only in the sense that Richard Gephardt is president of the United States. He's always looked good on paper, and he's picked up some endorsements along the way -- from Oliver Stone, Joel Schumacher and Terrence Malick, among others -- but somehow it has never quite happened. Here he squints and twitches to suggest emotion and slackens his lower lip to suggest lust, concern or deep contemplation, but despite his good looks he lacks that mysterious quality we call presence.

If you have a chance to see a movie this weekend, what will it be? (Alternately, fill out the 2004-8 Democratic presidential contenders' Hollywood doppelgänger list.)
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU CAN SING OR ACT, BUT BROADWAY NEEDS MORE DANCERS LIKE YOU: I'm more than a little behind on my SYTYCD posting, but just a few thoughts to let you know I'm still here:
  • Yes, Heidi and Benji were beyond fabulous last night, but the whole notion that they have chemistry while others don't isn't really fair to everyone else. They're cousins, for cryin' out loud, and have presumably been dancing together their whole lives. So how can you compare their chemistry to people who have been partnered up for all of a week?
  • I wonder why the opening credits were never revised to include the season 2 dancers. I always find it weird to watch Big Poppa, Snow, and Artem this season.
  • Similarly, I wonder why "lyrical" was redubbed "contemporary" this season.
  • Has anyone ever done a decent quickstep on this show? It's getting to be the white whale of reality dance competitions.
  • I have been getting a big meta-kick out of Nigel's weekly braggings about how well the show is doing this season. ("We've been renewed for season 3 without season 2 even being completed yet!" "That kind of dancing is the reason why we're getting 8 million votes and why we're #1 in the ratings!")
  • It's a sign of the relative depth of the female dancers this season that I don't want any of the four girls to go, while the only guy I care about keeping around is Benji. (I have a slight preference for Allison over the other three girls, but I think it's just because she reminds me of Mrs. Isaac Spacewoman.)
  • How ridiculous is it that after the big introductory dancer number of each evening's show, Cat Deeley tries to dance her way onto the stage? Cat moves about as well as I do. Which is not well at all. Just walk onto the stage, honey, one foot in front of the other.

Your thoughts on these issues and any others are welcome in the comments.

YOU CAN'T FIRE ME. I DON'T WORK IN THIS VAN: It's time for the vetting of nominations in the 2005-6 TWoP Tubey Awards for outstanding achievements in television. Let me draw your attention, if nothing else, to Category 53 - Best One-Liner, where it's hard to pick a winner between the title line here, Daniel Vosovic's "It's a m************ walk-off", and Hizzy's "If you talk to God you're religious. If God talks to you, you're psychotic."
SHE'S A PARK AVENUE PRINCESS. IN REHAB: Another fabulous episode of Project Runway, and surely Wendell Weiner's favorite challenge ever. We have learned that SuperMom likes designing for herself; that folks like Michael Knight and Barbie Boy are just going to keep doing solid, clean work and skate through to the second half of the competition; that the chyron folks can change your age halfway through the show; and most of all, we are reminded that if Tim Gunn tells you to design a hoodie for your model, listen to Tim Gunn.

There was a lot of good design work this week, and while I'd have given the win to Allison and auf'd the streetwalker outfit, that's mostly because I believe in cumulative judging, and two straight weeks of pure suck out to be the end of you in this competition.

I am nowhere near being able to predict the final three yet -- there's a lot of talent out there this season. Any predictions on that front, as well as next week's Big Auf'ing, are welcome.
PLEASE LINE MAYOR DALEY'S POCKETS INSTEAD: Philly people, how the hell did you f' this up? I don't want the Olympics anywhere near San Francisco. Now or ever.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

THOUGH I DON'T ACTUALLY NEED ONE, I DO APPRECIATE HAVING A WEATHERMAN INFORM ME WHICH WAY THIS PARTICULAR WIND BLOWS: According to the Captivate Network (motto: "America's Fastest-Growing Source of Non-Consensual News Dissemination, Having Recently Surpassed Lower-Back Tattoos"), today's weather forecast in California is "Deadly Heat and Misery." I'll leave aside, for the moment, the notion that we equate "misery" with "10 degrees outside the hump of the bell curve" (after all, I live in a state where "rain causes large puddle at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda" beats out primary election results on the local news, and no, I'm not kidding). I just like the fact that my weather forecast is now giving me information about my corresponding mental state.

So what's in your meteorological future? A low-pressure zone accompanied by high-pressure anxiety? Partly sunny with a hazy sense of entitlement?
THE BEAUTY OF THIS LIST IS MOST OF THESE CDs CAN BE BOUGHT FOR UNDER $7.00 AT SPUN.COM: UGO lists the top 50 albums of our time (which is apparently since 1990). I'm not saying this is a boring list (well, yes I am), but I'm betting a lot of these CDs are still in the box from the last time you moved. And good lord, please don't read the tortured explanations of why these albums deserve praise.
WHAT IS THE SOUND OF 40 MILLION PEOPLE NOT CARING? In news shocking...well..pretty much nobody, former member of N'Sync Lance Bass has managed to get the cover of People by announcing that he's gay. Also of interest is that Bass officially confirms that he is in a "very stable" relationship with TAR winner Reichen Lehmkuhl.
I'M A COMEDIAN DOING COMIC FILMS WITH THIS BLEAK VIEW ALL THE TIME, AND EITHER THAT'S WHAT MAKES MY MOVIES INTERESTING OR IT'S WHAT TORPEDOES THEM: The WaPo's David Segal sits down with Woody Allen in advance of the release of Scoop, who has much to say about his filmmaking:
"I never wanted movies to be an end. I wanted them to be a means so that I could have a decent life -- meet attractive women, go out on dates, live decently. Not opulently, but with some security. I feel the same way now. A guy like Spielberg will go live in the desert to make a movie, or Scorsese will make a picture in India and set up camp and live there for four months. I mean, for me, if I'm not shooting in my neighborhood, it's annoying. I have no commitment to my work in that sense. No dedication."

"Kubrick was a great artist. I say this all the time and people think I'm being facetious. I'm not. Kubrick was a guy who obsessed over details and did 100 takes, and you know, I don't feel that way. If I'm shooting a film and it's 6 o'clock at night and I've got a take, and I think I might be able to get a better take if I stayed, but the Knicks tipoff is at 7:30, then that's it. The crews love working on my movies because they know they'll be home by 6."
Segal makes with this observation, upon which you might want to comment: "If Allen lives another couple decades and works half as hard, he could easily make another dozen movies. But if he stops tomorrow, he'll have created a filmography that has no precedent. With the possible exception of Charlie Chaplin, nobody has ever directed, written and acted in as many standout movies as Woody Allen, and he did it without anyone else, except for an occasional co-writer, vetting his lines."
I CAN'T SEE YOU EVERY NIGHT, FREE: RockStar: Is His First Name Actually Gilbert? was another fun show last night, with the potential winners (Dilana, Storm, Toby and Lukas) further separating themselves from the folks who just don't belong there because they're not dirty-angry-f'ed up enough to be rawkers -- Patrice, Josh, Phil and Dana, the last of whom still looks like she's Katharine McPhee playing dress-up in the grunge shop. And Josh? If you're constantly being criticized for being too "soft", don't come out with "No Rain", y'know?

Also, it's pretty clear to me that both Jason Newsted and Gilby Clarke are in the running for the ALOTT5MA Award for best reality tv judge/critic, because Tim Gunn can't win it every year.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

WHO WANTS TO GET A STATUETTE FROM RACHEL WEISZ? One thing worth noting--we're already halfway through the year, and has there really been a single legitimate Oscar contender yet? Sure, we've got some solid competitors in minor categories (odds are, we've seen our three nominees for Best Animated Feature already, probably several of the nominees for Best Documentary Feature, and some Special Effects contenders), and one or two potential top category nominees (Streep in Devil Wears Prada leading the way). Anything you want to submit for consideration? I'll offer two:
  • Garrison Keillor, Best Original Screenplay, A Prarie Home Companion. Sure, the story (to the extent there is a story) doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and there's a touch of egomania in the film, but the little character moments and the seamless integration of the real and the fictional are solid. While no single one of the performances is a standout, the ensemble is excellent.
  • "I Need To Wake Up," Performed by Melissa Etheridge, Best Original Song, from An Inconvenient Truth. I found the movie itself (though it's a likely winner for Documentary Feature) a bit preachy and overly obvious, but the song is among Etheridge's best--starting off slow and moving into a driving chorus off a simple riff.
YOUR COMPUTER. YOUR BRAIN. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? Yes. Yes, kids. Kiss that qwerty goodbye. Set your joystick aside and consign your trackball to the dustbin of history. Get ready to step into the interface environment of the future with hardware that plugs right into your brain (hearteningly, for the adware/TIA-types, it sounds like they won't actually have to "plug it in" at all). On the upside, computer-related repetitive stress injuries will likely cease to be a problem. On the downside, we are borg and you will be assimilated.

Link via Pop Candy.
GHOSTTOWN RATS: Sir Bob Geldof canceled his show after selling only 45 tickets. For an arena that held 18,000.

I saw Blue Oyster Cult at a theater in San Diego in about 1992 with about 150 or 200 people. Cool show. Comments regarding big name headliners* in small (or undersold) venues welcome.

* Disclaimer: Yes, I know BOC was only a big-name headliner for about 2 years in the mid-1970s.
Its 548-foot tower — surpassing all the cathedrals of Europe — is topped by the largest statue on any building, anywhere: a 37-foot-high William Penn, the city’s founder, standing as tall as a town house. It is said to have the largest clocks on any building; it would loom over Big Ben.

With about 27 acres of floor space, this behemoth is bigger than every other municipal seat in the nation, all 50 state capitols and the national Capitol. The American Institute of Architects called it “perhaps the greatest single effort of late-19th-century American architecture.”

However, there is still that issue about the Curse.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: What does it meant to still be a clerk, a decade later, and why would a director still make movies about them? These are the questions which Clerks II: The Clerkening seeks to answer, and it does so in surprisingly entertaining fashion.

Let me get the negatives out of the way first: Kevin Smith should never cast his wife in another movie. Nobody else does, and there's a reason. And he still doesn't know how to create a realistic female character -- they're all saints or bitches, with the exception of the title character in Chasing Amy. And Smith still doesn't know what to do with a camera.

But with a pen, writing male dialogue and with the pop culture references . . . he has his moments, and many of them are quite good. Exuberant, even. I will not spoil them here.

What really saves the movie is the third act, because it makes a pivot towards the questions I alluded to above, and handles them in a way that's both true to the characters and, much like Shyamalan attempts in Lady in the Water, explains what motivates Smith as a writer-director after the failure of Jersey Girl.

Also, there's a donkey.

Monday, July 24, 2006

PERHAPS THEY COULDN'T FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT WORK: Wasn't part of the prize for the last Project Runway challenge that Miss USA would actually wear the gown as her "evening gown" in the pageant? Well, doesn't look like she did. No word on Tim Gunn's thoughts on the dress she actually wore.
DECIDEDLY NOT A GOOD DAY FOR DEBBIE DOWNER: While a number of media outlets have reported that Lorne Michaels mentioned during the 30 Rock press session that SNL will return with a slimmed-down cast next year, Alan Sepinwall is, as far as I know, first to report that while SNL press reps tried to walk it back later, Rachel Dratch will be departing to do 30 Rock full time, and Horatio Sanz has departed to spend more time being painfully unfunny off-camera.
AS OPPOSED TO DWIGHT'S REASON FOR DOING SO IN "THE INJURY": While other sites feature tv critics blogging from the annual summer press tour, we've gone in the other direction -- our good friend Shonda Rhimes sent in this note from the other side of the curtain:
I just want to say out loud to everyone at Throwing Things that I met Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office) AND Aaron Sorkin all in one night at the TCA Awards. I almost vomited with excitement. Seriously. I'm sure I came off as a crazed psychotic stalker fan to both men but, since that is what I am, I guess it's alright.

Why was Shonda there, you might ask? Saturday night, Grey's Anatomy received the Television Critics Association award for Program of the Year. Wh-hoo!